The enemy ship boarded us under a beating noonday sun. They swarmed like ants, shouting, onto the Calliope while I watched from behind a barrel, my palms sweating so much that I almost dropped my sword. I had escaped slavery only to meet my worst fear: pirates.
But twelve years old is almost a man. I jumped into the fray with an emboldening yell. I slashed right and left, shocked when anyone fell, dodging blades with the nimbleness of skinny youth, images of blood and gore searing into my brain but not yet my consciousness.
To my right, the first mate Cosmas laughed as he slashed, his face crinkling along the deep scar won long ago. Ahead by the stern, the captain’s iron-gray hair flung loose in the breeze as she battled, a fierce war-cry breaking from her lips. With shock and relief I realized we had killed or put the enemy to flight. It was over as soon as it had begun.
There was the cleaning up, while the stench of death rose in the shimmering heat.
“Boy. Come here.” I spun around towards the rasping voice. Who had called for me? Darting over to starboard, I nearly tripped over a body. It was Captain Nyx. A red stain spread from her side. Her face was pale and her breath jagged, but she gripped my scrawny arm with a ferocity that forced me to kneel beside her.
“You must take this to Dion.” From her vest she withdrew a brown phial and pressed it into my palm, leaving a sticky red smear on my fingers. “Shove it down his throat if you must, but he shall have it.” She coughed, and blood spattered her chin. Her deep green eyes grew cloudy. Still she clutched my arm. “Do not fail me, Judas.”
I nodded. The captain took a shuddering breath and lay still, loosening her grip on me. I looked at the brown phial. I dared not shake it, but I wondered: what did it contain? Poison? A secret scrawled on a parchment shred?
The only thing I knew was that when we docked at the next port, I and the phialwould belong to Captain Nyx’s long-sought after son.