The Battle of La Bucca
by Dana DeVries

Part One

   The lighthouse of La Bucca was a spire of granite barely large enough to hold a narrow spiral staircase that peered blindly out at the harbor as its light slowly circled. A lone figure climbed up into the tower room and glanced around. Two men slumped against the tower room's walls while a bottle lay on its side between them. The figure nodded and a small smile crossed his lips. He glanced out of the window and saw far out to sea several ships sailing directly towards the harbor.

   As he shuttered the light for a moment, a fly lazily landed in the pool of liquid spilling from the bottle. Then the figure opened the shutter as a light answered from the incoming ships. As the figure descended back to the ground floor, it stepped over the bottle and the dead fly beside it. Three ships glided through the darkness, coming closer and closer to La Bucca. All their sails were raised and her oars steadily drove her forward. A strangely sweet smell hung over them, a mixture of fermented grapes and leviathon oil. No alarm was raised from the lighthouse and the ships surged closer and closer.

   Captain Wazi Al Kassir stood in the bow of his ship beside a complicated wooden contraption. A tear clung to his cheek as he stared towards the lights of the port ahead. When the ships were only a hundred yards out, Wazi shouted over his shoulder. The pounders began drumming out double time and the rowers increased their pace. Beside him, one of his men struck a match and lit a torch. The captain nodded.

   As the ship surged forward, the crewman touched the torch to the railing and flames raced along it. A small troop of slaves worked at the wooden contraption for a moment. It launched a barrel of oil high into the air. Behind it a small trail of fire followed.

   As this fuse burned down, the oil smashed into the Buccaneer's Grin, one of the ships of the Brotherhood of the Coast. Within seconds, flames began to eat into that deck, just as the flames ate at the lines, sails and decking of Wazi's ship, the Sweet Water.

   The other two ships burst into flames and all three ships continued at full sail for the docks and ships of the Brotherhood of the Coast. High above, the guns on the walls surrounding the La Bucca harbor fired a volley that landed just beyond the Corsairs ships. Seconds later, the walls to the west of the harbor shattered. Masonry rained down into the harbor as a ball of flame slowly rose into the dark sky. Random casks of gunpowder continued to explode from the burning mass of the wall.

   Captain Wazi nodded. "The traitor has done his part. Now we finish with ours. Ramming Speed! Fire the catapults and the cannons! When we crash into the docks, release all of the prisoners and drive them into the heart of the town! For the Second Prophet!" A cheer went up from the officers of the Sweet Water and the men quickly followed their orders.

   The pounders quickened the pace of the rowers to triple time, a pace that quickly would quickly drive the men to exhaustion. Two more barrels of leviathon oil arced out through the night sky and smashed into Brotherhood ships.

   Only a handful of men had appeared to fight the fires that now claimed the brotherhood ships and the volleys of grapeshot that burst across the decks killed most of them. The night sky glowed scarlet with flames as La Bucca burned and the Corsairs ships smashed into the docks.

   Moments later, waves of slaves leapt from the inferno that had engulfed the ships and docks and thronged the streets, keeping anyone who wanted to fight the fires from reaching them. Chaos and smoke filled the air.

   More Corsairs ships appeared through the smoke and flames and drove towards the eastern most docks where the fire had not yet reached. The Corsairs streamed onto the docks led by their massive leader. His men called out, "For Kheired-Din!" A lone ship flying no colors appeared as well. It drove straight through the flames which parted for it.

   Ernesto Castillus stood at the tiller of that ship and screamed out, "For Vengeance!" The Brotherhood's men slowly gathered from and led by Allende and his officers.

   The call from them rang out clearly, "For Freedom!"

Part Two

   Screams and smoke filled the air as the Corsairs pushed their way into the small town surrounding the port. Officers drove groups of chained slaves forward with their whips and fired pistols over their heads. Buccaneers trying to free the slaves quickly found themselves trampled underfoot by those they tried to aid. Shala pointed towards a burning tavern where a group of defenders poured out into the street. "Faisal. You must kill them all.

   The enormous bald man at her side nodded. Stalking forward he whipped a sword before him in precise strokes and cut deeply into the defenders. He kept pushing forward and fighting one opponent after another without pause or hesitation as if he were some inhuman machine instead of normal flesh and bone. Only the sweat pouring off him proved him human.

   In a nearby alley, near the docks Invar Anderson parried blow after blow as the Corsairs pushed in towards him. He cut down two of them, but another six rose up in their place and in that moment, he knew that the battle was lost. He turned and fled down the alley with several of them followed directly behind. He dove towards a dark corner behind a row of crates.

   One of the Corsairs laughed and dove after him. An instant later, the Corsair stood up completely confused. The other two seemed startled when he told them that the man was gone.

   Before they could do anything else, Invar stepped from a nearby doorway and cut them all down from behind. He turned back to the head of the alley and as he strode out, he swore. "I won't stay to watch them slaughter all of my friends, but I will stay long enough to make these heartless villains pay."

   Several streets away, Hamish growled and ripped into a group of slaves who had come too close. Long hair, almost like fur clung to him as he lifted one of them up and swung the screaming slave above his head with ease. Then he brought the slave down onto a pirate who came rushing for him with a bared blade. He slammed the limp slave down onto the pirate again and again until both were reduced to piles of bloody mush.

   Further in, Kheired-Din himself strode through the desperate combats without effort. Dressed in loose silk pants alone, he ripped a bloody swatch through his opponents with a giant scimitar. Splatters of gore covered his body, but he ignored it as if he focused on something beyond the sight of normal men. Slaves and pirates alike cowered before his calm destructive force.

   A woman dove off a roof above the Corsairs leader with a cutlass in her hands and shrieked out. "Now you die!"

   Kheired-Din paused and stared into her face for a moment. "Who do you think you are to face the chosen of the prophets in this manner."

   The disheveled woman shouted out, "I'm Gillian the Razor and you're dead." She slashed out wildly for him. He didn't even bother to parry.

   As her sword cut deeply into his shoulder, he lunged forward and rammed his own sword through her chest. She collapsed without another word. He calmly reached up and plucked her sword out of his arm and stared down at it for a moment. The muscles and flesh of his arm swam before his eyes for an moment.

   When he looked away, his arm was fully healed with no trace of the injury. All around flames shot into the air as slave ships and docks engulfed the town in a furious inferno. In the midst of these chaotic flames, a low concentrated form gathered. When it reared up, grown men screamed in fear and slaves collapsed in terror. A fiery python swayed slightly above the town.

   White heat and smoke rippled across its form and it grew larger by the moment. Cannons volleyed from the ships in the harbor, but the men on shore ignored it as their eyes fixed upon the creature above them. Without warning, it raised its head and shrieked with the roar of a thousand bonfires. Then before the staring eyes of the men below, the things head split into a dozen fiery stalks.

   In the breath that fell across the city, the thing ripped itself apart into a dozen smaller pythons. They still stood as tall as a two story building but they lacked the power of the first creature. As the slaves below watched, the creatures dove towards the water.

   Half a dozen Corsairs ships burst into flame at the touch of the dying creatures and a wall of steam filled the harbor, blocking sight beyond arms reach. Shouts filtered through that wall of steam. The cracking whips of the officers and the screams of the slaves couldn't drown out the shouts as buccaneers rushed for the docks.

   Timbers began to creak and sails rustled. Within moments as the breeze blew the steam cloud apart, three ships could be seen slipping out of the harbor. The one in the lead flew a Corsairs flag that writhed and twisted in an unending blaze without being consumed. The other two ships flew the colors of the Brotherhood of the Coast. They moved sluggishly, as if the men were unused to working together and large char marks showed where flames had cut into them.

   Close to a dozen Corsair ships waited beyond the harbor, but they seemed unprepared for the desperate rush of the oncoming ships and within minutes the ships were gone. On La Bucca, the buccaneers fought desperately against the Corsairs slowly advanced. Those who fell were dead or in chains within minutes. Over the course of an hour, they slowly retreated back through the streets and into the interior of the island. But still the Corsairs came onward. The retreating men set traps and sent volleys of musket fire back, but the slaves absorbed the damage and the officers drove them onward.

   Suddenly shouts drew the attention of the defenders. Turning to the west, they continued retreating. But now they ran towards something rather than simply away from death.

   As they stumbled out of the low forests and marshes that filled the interior of the island, they saw a beautiful sight. A dozen Castillian sailors stood beside three enormous grappling hooks imbedded deeply into the rocky clifftop. The exhausted Brotherhood nearly wept at the sight and rushed towards the cliff. One man stepped in front of the others and declared.

   "Alright men. We heard you were in trouble and we came to get you out of here. But I need your word. Castille hulls are safe from you." The tall, thin figure of Allende pushed through the crowd of buccaneers.

   The Brotherhood leader called out loudly. "What are you going to do if we refuse? Leave us here to die?"

   "No. But the nice lady I convinced to come pick you up would feel better if you'd agree to these terms. Otherwise, she's going to have to clap you in irons once you're aboard."

   Allende nodded. "Alright. You know me, Joaquin Orduno. On my honor, Castille will be safe from us and ours."

   Orduno nodded and gazed around to the others. "So says he. What say the rest of you?"

   "Aye!" The Brotherhood's desperate voices called out.

   "Then let's get away from those damned slavers." Without another word, he turned and scrambled down the thick cables that connected the grappling hooks to the Castillian ships below. The Brotherhood's shouts were far more joyous as they descended to freedom. And they grew even louder when a group of Corsairs burst from the woods and rushed forward, straight into a withering volley of Castillian muskets.

   By the time the remaining pursuers had regrouped, the remnants of the Brotherhood of the Coast had descended down the cables and disappeared. Across the island, a slight figure slipped through the marshy ground and the darkness towards a crooked obelisk. Already paid for this night's work, now the traitor sought to gain more.

   Kheired-Din's agents had been most insistent about the location of the obelisk and that meant value. Another step forward brought a soft squish of mud. There was an opening beneath the obelisk and that was probably where the goodies were to be found. The figure slipped into the opening and all was silent. Inside, the walls and roof fell away revealing an endless void in every direction. Darkness pressed in on him and his scream seemed to get sucked into nothingness. He flailed wildly, but couldn't find anything to press against. A single ray of light hung in the distance before him, but he couldn't move towards it or away.

   Then, the light moved.


   And again.

   It began to swing from side to side and come closer to him. He tried to scream or cry, but his body didn't seem to exist. Only the ray of light, slowly swaying towards him, existed in this dark void. Hours passed or maybe days. It was impossible to understand how time moved in that impossibly dark place. But as he watched in and trembled the light came closer and closer.

   Finally, he could make out that it was a length of metal glowing brightly in the hands of a man. The man was dark, almost as dark as the void around them. He wore only a tattered loin cloth and he carried a battle axe in his left hand and rested it against his shoulder. The other hand held that glowing length of metal taller than he was. The man stopped before the traitor and smiled. Then he pointed past the traitor.

   For the first time in that eternal blackness, he could move. He whirled about and saw a doorway in front of him. He stepped out into a dazzling brightness.

   He blinked once, twice and when his eyes had cleared, he saw the brilliantly lit night sky above him. A pillar of smoke and lingering steam hung in the air and blocked the starlight to the south. The man who had come to him in the void smiled and then jauntily strode away with the length of light dimly glowing over his shoulder.

   For a moment, the traitor didn't care. The fetid air smelled too beautiful, the sounds of insects softly chirping nearby was too overwhelming. He closed his eyes and twirled slowly, absorbing the joy of the night. A large hand grasped his shoulder and turned him around.

   He found himself facing a bare hairless chest covered in splattered blood and gore. His eyes slowly swept up until he stared into the emotionless face of Kheired-Din.

   "S..s..sir. G...g..good evening. I..I..I'm the one who sabotaged the walls for you. I knew you were interested in this sight, so I decided to come out here. To avoid all the fighting. You know. I'd hate to die because your men didn't know who I was. I thought if I could secure the, the, you know, the treasure. I would have proven myself enough for a place amongst your men. But I was too late. Someone got here ahead of me. They just went that way."

   He points towards the spot where the stranger with the bar of light had gone. Kheired-Din stared down at him silently.

   Then he nodded. "Yes. I have just the place for you."

   The Corsair leader called over his shoulder. "Shala, put this slave in chains." Kheired-Din shook his head slowly and whispered to himself. "Again. Again I have come to late. Will I always arrive to late to achieve my true goals?"

   Barely a mile away, Marcos swore quietly as he stared towards the dark shore. Turning back to Red, he spoke softly. "I guess, you were right. They must have gone around to the west side instead of the east side. I thought they would have wanted to avoid the shoals there. How did you know?"

   The short red head just smiled. "I just assumed that whichever way we didn't take would be the one they went. Just the way things work out. It's like some kind of law. Of course that's assuming they didn't just sail into the harbor and that mess."

   "I doubt even the heroine of Castille is insane enough to want to sail into the center of a war between the Corsairs and the Brotherhood. But maybe that's just hope talking. I'd rather hunt down the Castillians than try to find Don Aldana amongst the Corsairs slave galleys."

   Red agreed. "You have no idea how much I agree with that statement. Now what?"

   "Now we sail west. I said I'd take Owaine to see Utopia. But I'm in no hurry, so if you want to take your time, that would be fine."

   Red nodded. "Because you've heard that Orduno is heading west herself. Figure you'll just let her catch up to you?" Marcos smiled, but before he could answer he heard a wild undulating cry from the nearby cliffs.

   "What? That's not possible." He declared it with a frown but a touch of hope in his eyes flickered in his eyes. A dark figure leapt from the tall cliffside before them and plummeted towards the surf below.

   The impact of the figure into the waves was almost silent amidst the crash of the surf on the rocky shore. Red shook her head. "Probably one of the Brotherhood. Must have decided death was preferable to slavery."

   Marcos absently declared, "I don't think..." He suddenly stabbed his finger out towards the shore. "Look right there."

   The dark figure had popped back from beneath the waves and was slowly swimming out towards them. "It must be him."

   "Who?" Red's voice showed how impressed she was at the courageous dive.

   "One of Phillip's crew. Mabella."

   "Are you sure?"

   "How many people are crazy enough to do that."

   "You've got a point."

   She pulled out a spyglass and peered into it. "He's bringing a present two. He's carrying a battle axe in one hand and some sort of spear in the other."

   "That proves he's one of Gosse's Gentlemen. They always come bearing a gift."

   Marcos smiled broadly and went to help pull his friend out of the surf.