The Shrouded Sword (CH 11)
Lancaster and the boys hid behind the cannon and talked about their plan. They discovered a serious flaw; making it across the deck unseen would be nearly impossible.
Ethan said, “If only we could become invisible.”
“Yes, like the stories my mother used to tell,” Lancaster said. Ethan and Amos looked at each other; they’d never thought of pirates as having mothers. Ethan felt bad for Lancaster. He’d left home when he was young and probably never saw his mother again.
“I think I have a way for us to be invisible,” Lancaster said, motioning for them to stay behind the cannon before he left.
“Ethan, where’s he going? I can’t believe he’d leave now.”
“He hasn’t let us down yet,” Ethan said. “He’ll be back.”
They looked at the starry sky through the gun port and savored the fresh sea air. Ethan worried about walking across the open deck, including the danger of being seen by the pirate perched high over the ship in the crow’s nest. What would happen if they were spotted? What if they were shot at? What if they safely got off the ship but the pirates used their cannon? He looked at the iron muzzle of the elongated weapon and shuddered.
While waiting for Lancaster to return, the boys leaned their backs against each other and dozed. Almost an hour later, a bad smell roused Ethan.
Ethan nudged Amos. Lancaster had returned with a bucket of smelly goo, a paintbrush, and some folded sailcloth.
“Why does everything on this ship have to stink?” he asked, wrinkling his nose.
“Shh, it’s pitch. We will be, as you say, invisible,” Lancaster whispered.
Amos asked, “Surely you don’t intend to paint us, do you?” Lancaster smiled and showed them the sailcloth. They understood and soon covered the cloth with black pitch.
Lancaster had warmed the pitch on the galley stove before coming below deck.
“Okay, you two—time to go,” Lancaster whispered.
Reaching the main deck, they waited at the top of the ladder, just below the hatch. Following Lancaster’s plan, Amos got under the canvas and shuffled to the side rail with trembling legs. No alarm sounded as he climbed over the rail and dropped into the wherry. The swaying boat, suspended from davits, made him retch.
Ethan and Lancaster peered down over the ship’s rail above Amos.
Clang! A lone metallic bell rang through the night air. Lancaster and Ethan ducked down in front of the rail, hidden by the pitch-covered cloths.
Jack Toombs stood watch in the crow’s nest above.
The bell signaled the change in the watch, making their plan more difficult. Ethan’s blood pounded through his body. He’d never been so scared, but at the same time so excited. As he hid under the camouflaged sailcloth, every creak and groan of the ship set his nerves on edge.
He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. His cloth lifted, and Lancaster pointed toward the wherry and Amos. Ethan scampered over the railing and dropped into the swaying small boat, making a loud thud as his weight caused the wherry to smack the side of the hull.
“Glasspoole—aye, ya dirty devil—get up here! ’Tis yer watch!” Toombs shouted from above.
To Ethan’s horror, Israel Glasspoole stood over Lancaster, then ripped the tarred cloth off his friend!
“Stand fast, Mr. Brown. What’s yer game?” Glasspoole said, holding his cutlass over Lancaster.
Ethan quickly climbed out of the wherry and back over the side rail. He grabbed the first thing he could find—a heavy club from a rack beside the main mast—and sprinted toward the pirate. The pirate’s eyes widened when he saw Ethan swinging the club. With a sickening crack, it hit the side of Glasspoole’s head.
The pirate’s body slumped to the deck.
Ethan stood holding the club with both hands, his whole body shaking. “Did I kill him?”
Lancaster’s index finger crossed his lips. He bent over the unconscious body of Glasspoole, pressing his hand to the pirate’s grimy neck.
“I feel the blood pumping. He’s alive.”
Ethan whispered, “What do we do now?”
“Ethan, help me with the riggin’, quick-like.”
They hurried over to the sling, and Lancaster motioned to one of the many ropes that suspended the small boat.
A voice made them jump.
Toombs dropped to the deck from the rigging above. “What’s goin’ on here?” he shouted, reaching for the pistol hanging from his neck.
“Ethan, in the boat!” Lancaster shouted.
Ethan saw the wherry swinging violently below him and started for the side, but then stopped. “Lancaster, come on!”
“Boy, get in the boat now!”
Toombs had his pistol cocked and pointed at Lancaster’s head. Ethan froze, the long wooden club still in his hand. Sounds echoed from other parts of the ship, and taking advantage of the distraction, Ethan threw the club as hard as he could at Toombs’s head. He missed, hitting the pistol instead. The gun went off with a deafening explosion. The bullet just missed Lancaster.
Toombs cursed violently and swung his sword at Lancaster, who ducked to avoid the blade. Lancaster grabbed Ethan and in one swift motion dropped him into the swaying wherry. Toombs swung his sword again, but Lancaster landed a solid blow to the left jaw of the pirate, causing him to drop the sword. Lancaster snatched the weapon up and cut the ropes suspending the small boat. Ethan’s stomach did a flop as the boat fell and then slammed onto the surface of the water. The wherry bobbed on the waves, the strong current pulling it away from the ship.
Above them they heard running feet as the rapid clanging of the ship’s bell sounded the alarm. A sliver of moonlight showed Lancaster climbing onto the ship’s rail—he would jump for the wherry to escape Kidd’s ship!
Lancaster balanced on the rail, poised for the right moment to jump. The small boat was now ten yards from the ship and moving fast with the current.
Essex Hynde appeared near the railing. Lancaster glanced over his shoulder and saw the pistol in his hand.
Ethan shouted, “Lancaster, jump!”
“Ethan, Amos: start rowing now!” Lancaster shouted.
The gun shot startled them. Lancaster swayed, then fell into the sea.
Ethan frantically searched the water surrounding the small boat but couldn’t see Lancaster.
“Amos, grab an oar, and hold it out for Lancaster. We’re not leaving without him!” Ethan looked up and saw pirates standing at the ship’s rail.
“Ethan—your side. There he is!”
Lancaster struggled to swim in the rolling water. Ethan swung the oar toward him, straining to hold it steady. Lancaster grabbed the oar.
Amos and Ethan steadied the oar so Lancaster could climb in the wherry. Shots fired from above them. Ethan felt a searing sting.
“Ethan, your arm!” Amos shouted.
“Amos, help Lancaster!”
Lancaster tumbled into the boat, the moonlight showing his eyes were almost closed.
The wherry was now too far from the ship for the pirates to jump for them.
“Amos, grab that oar and row—row hard!” Ethan shouted.
The boys rowed with all their strength, and Lancaster sat up, spitting sea water onto the bottom of the boat.
A shower of splintered wood exploded from the top edge of the wherry as a bullet slammed into it.
Lancaster shouted, “Amos, give me that oar!”
Amos and Lancaster changed positions, and in moments they were distancing themselves from the Adventure Prize, and out of range of the pirates’ muskets.
“Ethan, your arm’s bleeding; you’ve been hit! I’ve got to bandage that,” Amos said.
“Later,” Lancaster shouted. “We have to get much farther away. They will fire the—”
Lancaster couldn’t finish his sentence. A cannon blast deafened them. The shot landed close to the boat, soaking them in the spray.
“Row!” Lancaster shouted.
Amos sat low in the bow and was squinting to see through his water-splattered glasses. The oars were pounding the small waves at different times.
“Row!” Amos shouted.
After a few more well-timed shouts from Amos, Ethan and Lancaster were rowing together. The small boat picked up speed.
Another cannonball exploded thirty yards away from them. “They’re not using the other small boat,” Ethan shouted.
“They can’t. It’s got a large hole in it,” Lancaster shouted, smiling.
“That’s awesome!” the boys said in unison. Their relief was short-lived; two of the cannons roared, their shells exploding in the sea near them.
“Lancaster, why do they even care if we escape? We haven’t stolen anything,” Ethan asked.
“I think I know,” Lancaster said.
“Guys, look—we’re getting closer to the island,” Amos said. “Good. Can we switch? I need a break,” Ethan said.
Lancaster said, “Be quick now.”
Ethan’s upper arm hadn’t hurt when he was rowing, but now that he wasn’t, the muscles in the injured arm ached. Ethan wondered how long Amos would be able to row, not being athletic. His doubt went away when he saw how easily Amos worked the oar. Lancaster also noticed.
“Not much difference between an oar and a shovel.” Amos smiled at Ethan. “When your dad’s the town undertaker and church sexton, you get used to using a shovel.”
Helped along by the strong current, Kidd’s ship became smaller and smaller as they rowed. They could now see the shoreline, and the waves were getting larger.
“We’re nearing land, Amos. Pull up your oar,” Lancaster shouted over the roaring surf. He steered them ashore, and soon they were pulling the lightweight wherry onto the sandy beach.
“We’ve got to hide it, quick,” Lancaster said. “Then we cover our tracks, so they can’t follow the path the boat made in the sand.”
“I thought you said they wouldn’t be able to get here. You know, the hole you made in the other boat?” Ethan asked. “They’ll only be slowed down. Sailors are good carpenters. That boat will be repaired later today.”
As Morgause sat at her desk, she watched the translucent skin peeling away from her fingers, hands, and arms. When her old skin lay on the stone floor around her, she gazed into the mirror at her new perfect skin. She flinched at the sight of the horrible scar around her neck and remembered the incident, as she called it. They thought they could kill her by cutting off her head. The fools.
A human skull, the top cut off, sat on her desk. Her perfect orange fingernail traced the rim as delicate steam floated out of the skull. Pale white fingers lifted two strings and drew the teabags from the strange human cup.
“Bags. This is what I’ve been reduced to.” She threw the teabags across the room, hitting Dwaine, who was slumped against the wall.
“You failed me miserably, Dwaine,” she said calmly. “What’s the use of having you as a henchman if you can’t properly hench? You were bested by two children.”
“Marm, they’re clever. They solved it—solved the riddle,” he said.
“Riddle!” she shouted. “Why always a riddle? You didn’t ask that roach a riddle before you gobbled him up.”
“Marm, it’s my way,” Dwaine replied.
“Let’s see if I can develop a new way for you, Dwaine,” Morgause said, picking up her cat. She snapped her fingers. Instantly, the redcap swung upside down from the high center rafter, while the red eyes of the cat followed the arc of his movement. Dwaine’s nervous giggle broke the silence of the chamber.
“It’s your own fault, Dwaine,” Morgause said.
“Yes, benevolent Marm. I know. You are so wise and merciful.”
“Now, what shall we do with you, Dwaine?” she said, lovingly scratching her mangy cat beneath one of its red eyes.
Dwaine’s bare head smacked against a stone wall.
“We let me go back to me wee home on the border?” Dwaine answered. His head hit the other wall.
Morgause stroked the cat’s tail and then pointed it at Dwaine. The rope holding him up dissolved into black smoke, and the redcap crashed against the base of the wall. He lay still, panting.
“Charitable Marm, once again you are so very gracious. At your pleasure, I shall take my leave, dearest lady.”
Dwaine and his stupid riddles. How droll, she thought. A vivid pink eye reflected the dancing flame from the candle sitting on her desk. Her old master, Bleise, loved riddles. In fact, he had concealed the identity of the next preceptor oculus in a riddle. Without it, she would be trapped in her tower for eternity. Try as she might, she couldn’t solve it.
Then, she had an idea.
“Dwaine, you stay right where you are.”
Morgause floated across the room and stopped in front of the heavy oak door, where Bleise’s riddle was tacked. “You love puzzles and such nonsense. Listen to this:
I cover your coat when you are not cold;
I’m not what I seem, a green-and-blue globe.
To find what you seek, you sit under me;
Your shining bald pate is not what I see.
“Bleise was never a poet. Anyway, solve it, Dwaine, or I’ll boil you alive,” she said.
The redcap scurried over to a dark area away from her. Dwaine sat with his knees drawn to his chest, muttering rapidly to himself and pausing only to pop a stray roach into his mouth. He whimpered and giggled as he struggled with the riddle. A wide grin spread across his face, and he stood up. “We have to find something blue and green; I mean a green-and-blue . . . globe. Um, Marm, what’s a ‘globe’?” he asked.
“A globe is a round object. You do know what ‘round’ means, don’t you?” she asked.
“Oh yes, tolerant goddess, like an orange or a pretty bubble.”
“Uh, yes. Remember, a round object,” she said through gritted perfect teeth.
Dwaine made many frantic trips to the dungeons for round objects, and a large pile of green-and-blue junk accumulated in the middle of the room. Morgause sat elegantly on her bed of bones, holding different objects over her head and looking up at them. She tried a round glass bowl, a bowling ball, and a football helmet. In desperation, she reached for the last object, a large turquoise plastic dome, which turned out to be a hair dryer from the 1960s. When she pulled on the top handle, it came apart in two sections connected by a plastic tube. She had never seen a hair dryer before.
“Please be the right bloody one,” Dwaine whispered.
She carefully studied the object. “Perhaps one places one’s head under the carapace?”
“A shell, a dome, you fool. Aren’t there books in Scotland?” Having placed the object on her desk, she positioned her chair and regally sat under the hollow upper shell. She waited. Nothing happened. She began to tap her foot. The longer she waited, the faster she tapped. “Dwaine, why doesn’t something happen?”
“Perhaps this white wire serves a function, my lady? I once heard mention, you know, from their world, of some special power which they call ‘electrics.’ ”
“Electrics, you say?”
“Most certainly, Marm,” Dwaine replied.
Morgause said, “Silly little man—I have no need for electrics.”
She snapped her fingers, and a tiny purple bolt of lightning shot from her fingernail, hitting the wire. The object began to hum and emit a bad odor, like burning rubber. A scene appeared on the clear plastic shield in front of her eyes. Pleased with herself, she snapped her fingers again, sending Dwaine spiraling down the stone staircase to the dungeons.
She stopped laughing when she looked closer and saw the two boys—along with a dark-skinned man—pulling a small boat up a deserted beach.
“Those disgusting children are proving resourceful. Maupin has his hand in this.” She spit into her grotesque cup, creating a nasty hissing sound. “I think I need a new tea cup, and Maupin’s head will suit perfectly.”
Ethan, Amos, and Lancaster struggled to pull the wherry between some dunes and hide it in a small gulley. They covered it with branches and pieces of driftwood. If the pirates found the wherry, they would take it back to the Adventure Prize, and the three of them would be marooned on the island.
Ethan cleaned his wound with ocean water, despite Amos’s warnings of infection. With a strip of his T-shirt, Amos fashioned a bandage. After he wrapped Ethan’s arm, he tied it off.
“That’s pretty cool,” Ethan said, admiring Amos’s work. “Thanks, Amos.”
Amos replied, “You’re lucky I don’t have to sew you up. I can do it, you know. Anyway, the bullet just grazed you.”
Lancaster said, “Come on, you two. We’ve got a head start on them—best make use of it.”
The boys peered into the dark evergreen forest. They jumped when a bird screeched nearby. Ethan certainly wasn’t thrilled to follow Lancaster into the brush, where any nocturnal creature could be lying in wait.
“Come on—I say we must move quickly,” Lancaster urged. “Do you really want to wait and greet Toombs and Glass- poole as they make shore?”
“There are laws, you know. What can they do to us?” Amos asked.
“Amos, any of those men would slit your throat faster than you can say ‘Lillibullero.’ ”
“Why?” Ethan asked.
“They don’t want us getting their treasure.”
“Treasure—no way! So choice!” Ethan said.
“Ethan, you’re excited by this? Listen to me—these men would murder their own mothers for that treasure. Killing people means nothing to them,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster’s words left them in stunned silence. Ethan wished he’d never seen the maze or touched that stupid painting. A fierce “Come on now!” shot through the trees, and they hurried to catch up with Lancaster.
Ethan asked, “Lancaster, do you know where we are?” “Captain didn’t give us our bearing—never does, come to think on it. I did see the chart, though, and I reckon we’re on Oak Island, Nova Scotia.”
“I don’t even know where Nova Scotia is,” Ethan said.
Amos looked at him and shook his head. Ethan shrugged his shoulders.
“Um, Lancaster, do you know where we are on Oak Island?” asked Amos.
Ethan asked, “Do you know where you’re leading us?” Lancaster said, “Yes, we are going as far from the beach as possible, and we’re going to find shelter and hide until they get their treasure and leave. After that, I don’t know what we’ll do.”
No one said a word. The boys trusted Lancaster.
With the moon as their only light, they hiked deeper into the interior of the island, reaching the top of a small ridge. In an outcropping of boulders framed by thick tree cover, Lancaster said, “We stay here.”
The flat open area in the middle of the jagged boulders became their campsite, and from the top of the boulders, they saw that the Adventure Prize had moored offshore.
A nearby spring provided fresh water. The boys gathered firewood and built a lean-to for protection from rain. When they finished, the boys relaxed against the boulders. They hadn’t noticed that Lancaster had disappeared until he emerged from the woods with three squirrels and a large rat dangling from his hands.
“Boys, I cook excellent squirrel—rat, not so much.”
They hadn’t realized just how hungry they were. After his first bite, Ethan agreed with Lancaster; the squirrel did taste better than the rat. He threw a leg bone into the fire and asked, “Lancaster, you never told us about the treasure.”
Lancaster settled against a large boulder and warmed his feet by the small fire. “Remember I told you how my ship, the Quedagh Merchant, became the Adventure Prize? Well, we were carrying priceless treasures from the Holy Land—rare and magically powerful treasures, my shipmates said. Over a year ago, we moored off this very coast. Only Kidd, Barleycorn, Glasspoole, and Toombs went ashore with a strongbox Kidd found in the captain’s cabin. Kidd hid his treasure on this island. But Toombs let it slip one night. There’s treasure all right; Toombs even mentioned an enchanted sword.”
In silence, they watched the fire. Ethan thought about the treasure, especially the sword. What was an enchanted sword? What could it do? What if they found it on the island? He couldn’t remember being so exhausted. He snuggled under his parka and fell asleep.
A cold breeze woke Ethan; a starry night sky came into focus as he opened his eyes. Might as well get up and see if I can find some more firewood.
“Wait a minute,” he said, kicking Amos’s foot to wake him. “Wha . . . What’s happened?” Amos muttered.
“Amos, get up. Lancaster’s not here. He must still be out hunting.”
“I’m still hungry,” Amos said. “I hope Lancaster can get more food. A pizza would be awesome.”
“Let’s not talk about food, especially pizza. My stomach feels funny; we really did eat rats, didn’t we? Anyway, let’s get more firewood.”
Ethan put the last piece of firewood on the stack, but Lancaster still hadn’t returned. “He’s not back.”
“You don’t think the pirates . . . ?”
“Amos, that’s exactly what I’m thinking—we have to help him.”
“Ah, the cudgel before the brain,” sighed Amos. “So we rescue Lancaster and fight bloodthirsty, murderous pirates. That’s your plan? Look, I want to help Lancaster—I really do—but we don’t know how to fight pirates; they’re really nasty men. We’re kids—there’s no way we can win.”
“Amos, it’s cool if you don’t do this—really it is—but I’ve got to help him.”
The breeze rustled the nearby trees. Amos stood up. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world—to paraphrase Dr. Watson.”
“Sherlock Holmes, again?” Ethan asked.
Amos gave a slight grin. “Okay, which way?”
“I say we head for the beach where the pirates landed. Maybe they left tracks that will lead us to Lancaster.”
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Owen R. Minter was inspired to write The Shrouded Sword, a fantasy story filled with ancient magic and time travel, after creating a drawing based on Arthurian legend. The Shrouded Sword is the first book in the Gramarye Cycle series. When he’s not writing, Owen makes paintings with a leaf blower, reads, and enjoys coaching Special Olympics Athletics.
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