- 7 Years Ago
Fear exploded in the old butler’s eyes as Lamia made his way up the long, broad stair to the wide, glass doors on the backside of the McNab mansion. Lamia was surprised to see only three men on the deck. Each of them were alarmed, but none so much as the terrified doorman. The illegitimate McNab passed the butler briskly; not looking at the doorman at all while he ignored the door he’d opened and opened one of his own.
Father’s fools show fear, he thought, but nowhere near enough respect!
His father, of course, was not in his study waiting, but would grace Lamia with his appearance when he was “good and ready.” The fair-skinned lady of the house entered the room and, upon seeing Lamia leaning against the center table, made a face like she’d just sucked a lime and stubbed her toe at the same time. Just as Lamia was about to bless her with a snide comment, the blond haired, fairly tanned Master MacNab entered the study.
The master of the house carried the regality of high class like a palpable cloak around his shoulders. He shot a sideways smirk at Lamia before taking his lady’s hands and planting a kiss on her cheek. Still not looking at his ill-begotten son, McNab blurted, “What have you got for me?”
This question filled Lamia with an uncharacteristically mild rage. “For you!” he spat, “The Southern Seas are yours.” Lamia was easily a foot taller and a great deal burlier than his father. Today was not the first day he’d thought of crushing the man’s skull between his fists, “The deep routes are yours. My men have just taken-”
“My men.” McNab corrected.
Lamia ignored this, “Even the routes through the wide bay that no one up here knows about are yours.” Lamia balled a fist at his father, “I’m here to find out what you’ve got for me!”
Master McNab sighed audibly and grabbed a glass of fresh brew his servants had prepared for him, “Was I ambiguous with you, Pirate? You get to roam the open waters with near impunity. You get to keep an incredible percentage of your spoils.” He made a satisfied sound as he flopped into the chair behind his desk. “You get your freedom.”
“Freedom to what?! Keep to these waters so you can have your profits? I’m no son or even a servant. I’m your slave.”
The annoyance on McNab’s face was so pronounced, you could have sold it to a troupe of actors for their practice. “What you’re describing, Pirate, is your purpose. I brought you into this world for everything you’re complaining about.” At that, Lady McNab shot her husband an unsavory glance; the expression melted from her face as quickly as it had appeared. “I gave you those men,” he continued, “and your authority.” He sighed and shook his head, “Do you even know what you want, Pirate?”
Lamia took a step closer to him and the High Chief gave him a warning glance. “I want freedom beyond these seas. I want a kingdom of my own, since you will give me no part of this one.”
“Correct!” McNab entered quickly, “I built this one so it is mine. Really, Pirate you have to learn how to ask for things. What lies beyond all that you’ve seen?”
“That’s why I want it, Father.” That last word carried a hint of spite, “Whatever is out there would be truly mine, since no one has been there to claim it.” Lamia was convinced that his father wouldn’t see through his lie. The High Chief of the Patrician Force was far too preoccupied with his self-proclaimed “kingdom” to really see beyond it. Lamia had gone farther than his father could have expected. Much farther! He’d found lands rich with resources and inhabited with folks who were all too happy to aid him. The goods he brought were useful novelties to them, and they built towns and farms and made his pirates elites in their culture.
The one thing Lamia was missing was the key to it all. The stones his father had been searching for all of Lamia’s twenty years. He didn’t know exactly why, but he’d learned enough to know that it would give him the power to command both kingdoms… once his father was out of the way.
The high lord sat with his fingers pressed to his chin before, “All right, let’s do this.” McNab stood and sauntered over to his snuff table, “I’ll give you extended leave for a probationary period. During that time, you’ll scout as far as you can.” He pinched a wad of snuff, but instead of huffing it sprinkled it into a dried leaf with spiced tobacco in its center. “You’ll bring me the same percentages of whatever you find, and make secret maps for me. “He lifted the leaf, and began to roll it gently between his fingers. “After a year of this, you’ll claim the outer barriers and whatever you find beyond those, and I’ll claim the maps.” He lifted a slender rod with a handle from the table and struck it against a small block of granite. The tip of the rod burst into flame and he lifted the rolled leaf to his lips and puffed. “You will do this, and these are the conditions: you’ll pick up a reserve of raiders I have on the Baha islands, you’ll send one of them to report to me four times a year, you yourself will report to me twice a year. That gives you more leave than you’ve ever had by far.” McNab strolled over to his son and offered him the leaf, “It’s a good deal, isn’t it?”
Years of torturous training flooded Lamia’s mind. He remembered the fights he had to win to gain his status as captain. He remembered all the friends that fell on his journey for survival. He remembered his mother’s pain, and how he’d had to leave her to die. All because of this man standing in front of him. A man who had never shed one tear for all of Lamia’s loss. The man who would have killed him if he hadn’t succeeded. He took the leaf and pressed it to his lips. After a long satisfying puff, he said, “A better deal than what I was hoping for. Give me directions to retrieve your troop and a better cartographer and I’ll be on my way.” He locked gazes with the master, “Thank you…Father.”
Jumping from the second story of the burning building, Lamia landed upright in the rust-colored, clay clearing facing the St. Johns River. His legs, rather the hydraulic augments in the place where his legs would have been, dispelled any shock he would have felt from his heavy frame hitting the clay. He’d had them made years ago when he happened to find three mechanics fleeing the New Republic in a boat hardly bigger than a canoe. To his great fortune, they were augment mechanics who’d gotten on the wrong side of a wealthy family. In fact, there were enough people fleeing the NR for him to have cultivated myriad enviable resources.
Lamia’s quattuor had narrowly escaped a blast from the window it had wedged through. The bat-like machine was flapping the flames from it’s broken wings ten meters from where Lamia had landed. Realizing that a missile meant intentional assault, Lamia scanned his surroundings to find a large troupe of armed constables. In their center, a Patty was holding a voice cone and speaking calmly to Lamia.
“We have you surrounded, sir. Give us the stone and let’s just make this easy.” He was dressed in all black with an officer’s cap. In his left hand he held a pistol with an unusually long barrel. A sharpshooter, Lamia thought. Glancing toward the river, he supposed it was about the same distance between him and his quattuor. He could successfully make one of the dashes, but not both.
The patty must have suspected what he was thinking. He signaled to his men and four officers moved forward with stunning rifles. “You won’t make it to the river”, he said, “Give us the stone and let’s make this easy, as I’ve already said.” Lamia figured his quattuor was too damaged to make a hasty escape, and maybe somebody in this group of twenty men would know something about the stone. There was no sense in running, he already knew where that lapdog mechanic would go. However, maybe he could do a little damage to his all-powerful father’s name.
A feint, he thought, these men have finally made the mistakes of their lives. In a sudden burst of movement, Lamia dashed toward the St Johns in a line that closed some of the distance between him and the constables. The four men holding the stunning rifles fired beams of blue light in his direction, but each was just a fraction too late to hit him.
Half of the troupe moved toward the river to capture him but as Lamia closed the distance, he changed directions and pushed himself into an aerial assault, swinging his feet out in a flying kick. The crack of augments against bone was sickening, and the closest two officers flew backward, knocking other men down.
As soon as his “feet” hit the earth, Lamia jumped into a spinning leap toward the officers with stun rifles. Shots fired from the men behind them, but all of them missed the self made missile. Each of the officers had already fired frantically, but their beams either hit air or other officers. Stun rifles can do the same job as a stunning rod, but from a distance; the drawback of using them is the recoil and delay before being able to fire again. These men had let off two rounds in the quickest succession possible, and their rods were smoking from the heat.
Lamia landed on one of them in the middle. His feet didn’t touch ground; he used his arms to twirl while kicking outwardly and knocking the closet two away. He sprung up onto a third, forcing him backward into the fourth. He was counting on the remaining men’s hesitation to fire at their own to give him time, but the assault of bullets came before he’d expected. He was already running in an evasive zig-zag, but one of the bullets bounced off one of his legs and made him stumble briefly.
At times like this, in the heat of battle, Lamia thought of nothing else but his success. He was subconsciously aware of everything around him and would use his environment to his advantage. His stumble hardly slowed him down; he pushed himself from the ground with the tips of his fingers. He was drawing close enough to see the horrified faces of his attackers. Several of them were reloading. One of those dropped his gun and drew a rapier as Lamia drew closer.
Dipping down onto one hand and pushing his feet forward, Lamia knocked one of them into the air. The one with the rapier swung at the space where Lamia’s head had been. The pirate lifted him by one leg and threw him at the Patrician officer who had been talking. He ducked as the man sailed over his head, rapier and all.
Lamia was close enough for their shots to be effective, and three of them ran out in opposite directions to a more comfortable range. The closest to Lamia was a man who’d just reloaded. He pointed his pistol, but Lamia pushed his face in with a devastating jab. Before the man hit the ground, Lamia grabbed him and hurled him hard into one of them running away. Their heads collided in what Lamia thought was a satisfying crunch; both fell to the ground limply.
Four of the officers dropped their weapons and fled. This time, the one closest to him chose to join those that were fleeing, but Lamia scooped him up and used him as a human shield, darting toward the main Patty. The move was another feint; Lamia tossed the man aside and scooped up a heavy branch. The sound of a bullet whirred past his ear, and he swung the branch at the main officer to stop his firing.
Using the swing for momentum, Lamia hurled the branch at another officer just as he was lifting his muzzle. Spinning sideways, he snatched the Patty up by his throat and swatted his pistol away. The man tried to grab another weapon, but Lamia caught him and broke his wrist. As the Patty howled, Lamia turned to face whoever was left holding the officer high like a trophy.
There was no one left. Either everyone had fled, or was lying on the ground. Lamia lowered the officer to face level. “This was easy,” he sneered, “you would never survive in my world.” He tossed the officer down mercilessly while shaking his head, “I get why you fired the missile, but what were you planning to do about that!?”
Lamia pointed back toward the warehouse where a cloud of Mannah was quickly gathering. The scene motivated Lamia to be on his way. He whistled to his quattour as he scooped the talking Patty up and slung him over his shoulder. Lamia took off up the path to the main road while his quattour ran after him.
Pained chuckles intercepted the Patty’s wails, “How? ugh uughh. You saw the bright shining golden light?” It almost seemed as if the officer was desperate to laugh, “Others are on the way, you might *cough* as well… ouhgh, give up the …stone!…” His words choked off in a series of spluttering coughs.
Lamia’s speed carried him up the path and out of the range of the swirling Mannah, “How did you know who’d be there?”
“We followed the stone, fool! Nobody cares who you are!” The words came out in a rushed moan.
“Oh? Then maybe you should know who I am.” Lamia flung the Patty into a cradling hold to gaze in his face, “I’m the pirate bastard of High Chief McNab. Lamia Stormbane.”
The officer glanced at him sharply as if Lamia had said something far more important than his pain, “Impossible! All high bastards are catalogued. If he had bastards, we’d know about it.”
Lamia chuckled at this, “McNab has bastards all over the Democracy…. and beyond! I’ve called him father on many occasions, and met many of his ‘children’. You’re alive for this reason. If what I’m saying is true, wouldn’t the Patties like to know that?” Lamia’s quattour sped past him as he slung the Patty to the side of the road.
A smoking laser erupted from the quattour’s wings and shot past him. Lamia turned to see three reinforcement officers falling to the ground with smoke rising from their burned torsos. “Good job, Terygii.” He hopped onto the thing’s back and rode off to the east: to the secret tunnels and his father’s mansion.
Special Author’s Note
This chapter was intended to build a level of terror in the story that had been unexplored. In everything that’s happened so far, there hasn’t been a clear threat of truly malicious and intelligent intent. My hope is that this chapter meets a good balance of storytelling and suspense. I’d love to know what you think.
Having read this again, I think Lamia’s story is really about Master McNab. At this point, he feels to me like the real villian of this story even though we haven’t met him. I’ve still got a few surprises for you, though.