Chapter One

Where it all began


”Äla Eothren Gerothrik than dor Godhrik älkvadi dor Leunes Than Breastal Beredant!”

   The loud calls of the guards drowned the creaking of the doors as King Gerothrik XIV came out of the palace. Then another deafening roar answered the guards as the huge crowd on the town square answered the guards:

   “Äla Eothren Gerothrik!”

   A faint shadow of a smile adorned his fair features when he faced his people but a moment later it was back to the same old mask of stone. He raised his right hand and greeted the crowd and then he turned to the left flanked by two guards.

   “Äla Eothren Gerothrik!”

   The calls followed him all the way to the carriage that would take him to Port Stedden and the voices echoed in his mind long after the town square was out of sight.


All the while two men had stayed hidden in an alley just within sight of the town square. Silently they had contemplated the scene until the carriage had disappeared among the winding streets of the city.

   “What does that gibberish mean anyway?” the youngest one of them asked. He was a slender man in his late teens with freckles and clever blue eyes hidden behind a brown fringe.

   “Hail King Gerothrik, son of Godhrik, loved by the Son of the Lion, Breastal the Brightest”, the other man replied dryly. He seemed to be a few years older than the youngling and had dark eyes and jet-black hair.

   “But why do they use the ancient speech?”

   “High Tongue it is, Celi, remember that, or you´ll get your head shaved.”  

   “Oh well, High Tongue, but why?”

   “Would the people accept everything they heard if they understood it?”

   “No… of course not, Andres.”

   The man who went by the name Andres nodded absentmindedly and fingered on his pistol; it had three pipes and fired using the new flintlock mechanism. It was one of his most prized possessions, or the most prized possession rather. Andres wasn´t known for being an affectionate person, or to have emotions at all. That´s why “the Wolf” as they called him was one of the most feared pirates to sail the seas.

   “Should we… you know… get on with it then?” Celi asked in a voice that had lost all the confidence it had had moments ago. He tried to catch the gaze of Andres who threw a dark and foreboding glance at him.

   “Are you sure you can do it?”

   “We have went through this about five times already!”

   “But still you haven´t faced a pistol ready to fire or a naked blade for that matter. You haven´t killed, Zidraxa the Younger”, Andres snarled.

   “But my father is in there!”

   “And you might get him killed.”

   Celi swallowed his retort and turned away. “You expect I will be a burden and nothing else, don´t you?”

   “You have finally gotten the point, boy.”

   “Hey! You are just five years older than me.”

   “And I held the decapitated head of my father in my hands when I was a child of six years.”

   Celi cursed loudly and kicked at an empty barrel that rolled away. “What do you want me to do, Andres? I am not my father. I am not Ranceschi Zidraxa. I am not Captain Scarlet, Scourge of the Seas. But I am his damn son and I won't stand here listening to your bloody insults!” He turned around again and faced Andres with his sabre pointing at Andres´ heart.

   A grim smile passed over Andres´ features. “That's the spirit, Celi. I don't want to hear any more cracked voices or childish whines. Let's get it over and done.”



“What a fate for the renowned Captain Scarlet”, Ranceschi Zidraxa laughed bitterly.

   “At least the king came here all the way from Port Stedden to sign our death sentence”, his First Mate Feran smiled.

   The two infamous pirates sat packed together like fish in a barrel in the smallest cell imaginable. The only source of light (and fresh air for that matter) was a narrow opening below the door. All the better though, thought Ranceschi who couldn´t bear seeing their miserable defeat. He was far too proud to rot away in a little cell, or to be hanged as he would tomorrow. No, Ranceshi wanted to go out with a bang, and a huge one at that, at least taking the Steodian king with him. But dying like this… it was wrong! Wrong! It was what he had always feared. To be a nobody, an outcast, like he had been born to. He was a half-blood, a bastard; the son of an Acchian wench and a Xamanišian pirate, brought up among thieves and murderers in Port Stedden together with his younger brother Lavvigi, not knowing the ancient cultures of any of his parents. He had always admired the culture of Xamāniš though, dressed up in their attire, venerated their gods, but not actually knowing anything about it, never coming near its borders. He was a man without an identity, and that was what he had always hated about himself.

   “Do you really think Andres betrayed us?” Feran asked suddenly.

   “I wouldn't put that above him. You have seen the look in his eyes as he tears out the hearts of his enemies. He is cold-blooded and vile… that is what I always respected about him. But still, to betray his captain, and comrades. I didn´t expect him to do that.”

   “No, that would be me, wouldn't it?” Feran chuckled in his usual unsettling voice. And Ranceschi couldn´t but agree. Feran who had once been a Steodian admiral and betrayed his brother was the only one that he had feared, and never truly trusted. And here we are sitting like brothers, waiting for our doom. How did this happen? Those kind of questions was what had plagued Ranceschi in the endless hours of waiting for his execution. How had he, the young and proud half-blood seeking an identity, ended up among cold-blooded murderers and traitors? The thought that he was one, as well as his men, hadn't really got hold of his mind though… yet.

   “At least I hope they paid him well, we'd be worth our weight in gold, no?” Feran said.

   “Or maybe we weren't useful to him anymore. We owed him a lot…”

   Feran sighed deeply. “I just hope my brother won't be there tomorrow. To see his confident smirk as I stand there before the gallows…”

   “Of course the swine will be there to witness the execution of the men he have hunted for over five years. If only I could have taken him with me…”

   Feran nodded in the dark and leaned back against the wall.



Lieutenant Arbed couldn't help but pity those pirates. He had heard so much about them, lost a brother to their plundering, but seeing them like this; broken and wounded, holed up in tiny little cells. And their gazes, the shattered pride looking upon him each time he opened one of their doors to give them food. He tried to tell himself that they deserved it; but no one deserved to rot away in the stench of their own sweat, blood and excrement like that.

   But now it was time again, sunset was approaching and they needed their supper, their last supper. Two guards were flanking him as he walked through the dark and dank corridor, in the deepest caves below Fort Erestan.

   “Does that even deserve to be called food?” he asked loudly as he stopped in front of the first door and started fumbling with his keys. The soldier who held the tray with the bowls was silent as the grave. Bah, simple brutes, he thought to himself. He found the right key and opened the lock.

   “Give me two of those bowls”, he mumbled absentmindedly.

   “I don't think so.”


   There was a vicious snarl, the crashing of broken pottery and the sound of metal tearing through flesh. But no one could hear the death screams of poor Arbed as the flame of his life went out in the caverns below Fort Erestan.



The city of Aterielli was the largest in Acchia except the capital itself. While being famous for its size and beauty, most often it was renowned as being a haven of thieves, prostitutes and pirates. The inhabitants were used to it, most of them even enjoyed a drunken brawl every now and then. But some nights were different, some nights were worse, and as the inhabitants saw the black and white sails of the Inquisitor against the sunset they knew that this would become such a night. Captain Rochar had arrived.

   “The Red Shark as usual, Cap’n?” a swarthy sailor in his late 20s asked as he put out the gangplank.

   “Of course, Arkon”, the Captain replied dryly. Captain Ean Rocharson was tall and imposing, with weather-beaten features and a red beard. He had lost both an eye and a leg but the wooden clanking, and the fiery gaze of his remaining eye made him seem more menacing rather than frail. Slowly and with a loud clank for every step he walked ashore followed by his First Mate Šaryad; an elderly man with foreign features and dark eyes, and his Quartermaster Hurricane; who had never revealed any other name; he was dressed up in elegant attire and had jet-black hair and weren't it for the sickly pallor of his skin he would have been very beautiful. A wickedly smiling woman and five other men followed the three ashore.

   “No one seems to be here to welcome us”, Šaryad said in his strange accent as he surveyed the empty harbour. He chuckled loudly and scratched a scab on his chin.

   “And you are surprised?” Ean smirked. “I am content as long as they have rum at the Red Shark.


“Diggha atta, rei cazzianat?” a young and attractive barmaid asked as they entered the stuffy tavern.

   “Cut that Acchian crap, wench”, Ean snarled. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards him. “Rum. For all of us. Nine”, he hissed.

   “Eight”, Hurricane added. Ean glanced at him and shrugged his shoulders. Then he pushed her away violently and continued striding into the tavern. It was quite large with about a dozen tables but the blazing fire seemed to suck out all air of the room.

   “Get the damn out of here ye bloody landlubbers! Captain Rochar has come”, Arkon shouted from behind Ean and as one the guests stood up and left, careful not to get too close to any of the pirates. The innkeeper sighed deeply and shrugged his head.

   “What be that good for, Ean?” he asked in a thick Acchian accent. “Tonight those could have drinked much.”

   “Well, I guess that means we have to drink the more then”, Ean chuckled.

   “So hope I. And hands off girls mine!”

   Ean nodded absentmindedly as he sat down at one of the tables. On the other side sat the only person who had not went out as they entered. He had long black hair and a wooden leg, just as Ean. He sipped calmly on his glass of wine as the others sat down around him.

   “Diggha atta, Iriel. Any news in Aterielli?”

   “There are always news in Aterielli”, Iriel replied with an enigmatic smile.

   “Of course… so what do you have to tell?”

   “The news yes”, Iriel smirked. “I bet you will like this; The Wyrm has been intercepted.”

   “What?” Ean nearly flipped over the table. The barmaid who had carefully approached with their rum quickly took a few steps back. “When? How?”

   “Now, calm down a little”, Iriel smiled. “She was taken about two weeks ago. A certain Commodore Dreagan (a young upstart from what I´ve heard) caught them off guard as they were boarding an Acchian cog somewhere south of New Erestan.”

   “And what happened to Captain Scarlet?”

   “He was taken alive, along with most of his comrades according to my sources. They are probably rotting away in New Erestan right now, if they haven't been hanged already.”

   “And the Wyrm?”

   “Maybe they will make a Steodian schooner of her, I don’t know.”

   Ean sighed deeply. “Not a fitting end for Captain Scarlet.”

   “What would have been a better fate then?”

   “The edge of my cutlass for example.”

   “If you would have gotten there before me that is”, Šaryad grunted.

   “Oh, I always thought ´blood was thicker than water` as they say”, Ean chuckled.

   “True that is”, Šaryad glanced at the hook that replaced his left hand, “both for affection, and hatred.”  

   Iriel chuckled and took a sip of his wine. “I bet none of you two would have matched his fencing skills anyway.”

   “You´d better watch your tongue, landlubber”, Ean replied with a slight smile.

   “Landlubber? It´s just been… oh well, three years.”

   “Yes, don't you miss life at sea?”

   “Nah…” he knocked on his wooden leg, “with this I feel better ashore.”

   “Bah, you´re just lazy. I have one as well.”

   “Yes, indeed. But you are obsessed.”



The door to the cell slowly opened with a loud creaking. Ranceschi sighed deeply and glanced at Feran who shrugged his shoulders with a smirk adorning his face.

   “Probably the last time we have to eat that worthless food”, Ranceschi whispered.

   “Why not die hungry instead?”

   “Indeed…” Ranceschi laughed bitterly and stood up as the door opened.

   “We don't want no bloody food”, he shouted in the face of the soldier who opened.

   “Stop that shouting”, the soldier retorted in a spine-chilling hiss. “Or do you want the guards to hear?”

   “The…” At that moment Ranceschi saw that the guard’s hand was covered in blood. He stepped back and nearly fell over Feran who lazily looked up. Then he saw the dead body of a lieutenant lying in its own blood just outside the door. “What?”

   “Explanations later, you are free, be content with that”, the man said. Then he took off his hat and let a long mane of dark red hair fall down on his shoulders. “My name is Gwyddaen. Well met, Captain.”

   Ranceschi just stared stupidly at the stranger called Gwyddaen for a moment. Then he nodded and strode out of the cell. “Come on, Feran, time to go.”

   Feran chuckled loudly and shrugged his head as he stood up. “Now that was unexpected… thanks I guess.”

   Gwyddaen just shrugged his head and handed a cutlass to Ranceschi and a pistol to Feran. Meanwhile another man was opening the other doors and within a minute seven others had come out. All of them were battered and bruised but nothing too serious by the looks of it. Ranceschi quickly embraced his brother Lavvigi and then he turned to Gwyddaen:

   “And what now?”

   “I know of a secret passage out of here”, Gwyddaen said. Then he looked at Ranceschi’s bare chest. “You can take that unfortunate fellow’s coat”, he said with a glance at the dead lieutenant.

   Rancheschi stood silent for a moment and remembered how Commodore Dreagan had humiliated him in front of his men. “I won’t take no damn Steodian filth”, he hissed between gritted teeth. Gwyddaen just shrugged his shoulders.

   “Let’s go then. I´ll take the lead, Aerydd, guard our rear.”

   At that moment the shot of a gun, the shattering of broken glass and the cry of a dying man was heard. Then the door to the corridor burst open and Andres and Celi came stumbling in.

   “You!” Feran growled as he raised his pistol.