Heart of the Kraken

By: A. W. Exley

Chapter One

The Razor's Edge drifted with the ebb and flow of the Sanguine Ocean. The light wind crafted small peaks that slapped against the hull with a regular beat. Seagulls circled and dove into the slow wake, looking for scraps thrown from the galley. Not a single cloud obscured the pure blue sky and the harsh sun beat down without any filter. The crew sought what little shade the sides of the vessel offered. There was never any down time on a pirate ship. Life revolved around maintenance and a myriad of tasks, occasionally interrupted by the jostle of action. Today several crew sat to one side of the deck to perform quiet, mundane duties. Some men mended nets, a few polished the brass fittings until they shone and the mechanic undertook routine maintenance. While the vessel appeared to be lazing in the sun, she was really a predator scanning the horizon. Like a tiger waiting in the jungle for the rustle of vegetation to give away its prey, the crew waited for any sign of another ship.

So they could creep up unseen and unheard on their target, the Razor's Edge ran by sail. Their engine slumbered, even the fires were dampened so as not to emit a tell tail puff of smoke. Steam powered merchant vessels plied the oceans, their holds laden with cargos from other lands and provinces. The trick was to find one to plunder before a Regulator airship dropped from above like a vulture. Regulators were lawmen who patrolled sea and land, but they were often little better than sanctioned pirates, stealing in the name of taxes and fines.

Fenton sat at the peripheral edge of the group of sailors. The others swapped crude jokes but he didn't join in, preferring to let the conversation wash over him. With long fingers, he ran a whetstone over his sword, honing the edge to razor sharp. These quiet moments gave him time to contemplate his life. With each day that passed, he loathed his path in life a fraction more. He preferred the chaos of battle with no time to think, only to react. Kill or be killed and each time he wondered why he bothered to raise his sword.

Dying should be easy but he couldn't do it. Was it ego? A tiny desire for his life to have meaning before he threw it away? Once he slipped from the earth, there was no one to mourn him or comment on his passing. Or could he face eternal sleep if he had something worth dying for?

He had no name other than Fenton and didn't know if it was his first name or last. The day the captain purchased him as a lad, he gave him those two syllables and never any more. He had no memory of his life before, only of the captain checking his teeth, looking behind his ears and muttering, I'll take him. Ever since, he lived his life on board and rarely ventured onto land. Fate and his nature separated him from other men and the life on shore that filled their dreams. His dreams were cold and empty, like his soul.

When he trod the earth, his stomach churned with the same nausea that afflicted some men at sea. The fates anchored him to the ocean and the ore-mancers of Darjee chained him to Captain Dragut Reis. His freedom would come with death, there was no other way to break his bond. Except death eluded him even if he had the courage to reach for it. He was too valuable a tool for Captain Reis to ever let misfortune befall him.

He laboured alongside the other men, but called none his friends. Their eyes held distrust and fear. Not because he was one of the largest or strongest men of the crew. They feared him because of what he could summon. Circumstance beyond his control made him the captain's pet and the others hated him for it. He raised his sword arm in their service for years and they still whispered about him behind his back. He huffed back a laugh, he would trade his lot for their normal lives in a heartbeat, but none would chose to be shackled to the demon that ruled Fenton's life.

He flicked his gaze up and sheltered his eyes from the harsh sun. High up the in the crow's nest, little Timmy searched as far as his telescopic eye could reach. Back and forth he scanned the ocean, his slight body shadowed by the bright light. Fenton hoped he had an adequate water supply up there. No one wanted to clean up if the poor child succumbed to the heat and fell over the side of his perch. Such an accident would make a damn mess on the freshly swabbed deck.

"Cap'n," Timmy yelled from far above. "Nor east." His arm shot out in the direction of the faint trace he found.

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