For your delectation, the first few hundred words of the opening story from Piracy.
‘We’ll live like kings,’ the captain said. ‘We’ll not want for anything. Even death will turn his face from us.’
That’s what the captain said.
No one has seen him in three days now. He retired to his quarters and locked the door. The first day was all crying. The second day there were voices tangled in dispute, then a scream. We’ve not heard anything since. No one wants to go in there.
We’re becalmed. The sea is as flat as any mirror, reflecting the dull grey of the sky. The sun is a smudge of white light behind indistinct clouds that stretch to the horizon in every direction. Rotting fish float in the water, unholy flotsam, and I know in the marrow of my bones we’ve brought this on ourselves.
The Absent Friend isn’t like most ships, certainly not most pirate ships. Not that I’m an expert. This is my
first time signed on under that shady profession. Still, how many ships willingly let women aboard? Much
less three of them. And the none-too-small issue of them being witches. The captain calls them theurges,
and I dare say there are prettier names, but we all know they’re witches. They were part of the captain’s great
‘We’ll go ashore at night,’ he said, ‘only small towns mind.’ He was a hearty man in his fifties with a tangle of dun brown hair and a beard touched with grey. He wore a patch, but only to cover his cock eye and protect his vanity. His parrot had shed most of its feathers, always sick and withdrawn. ‘The theurges will scale the rooftops and position themselves by the chimneys,’ he looked around, daring us to speak out. ‘Your job will be to carry the dreams back to the ship.’
We all laughed at that. The parrot flapped its stunted wings and shat, jetting foul grey liquid across
the captain’s frock coat. ‘Dreams? What use have we for dreams?’ snarled Horgan. He was as sour as they came; his crimes didn’t stop at pillaging. They said he had cruel tastes to match his temper. ‘You’re all here because you lost something,’ replied the captain with one hand on the hilt of his cutlass. ‘Some of you have a name for the thing you lost, and some of you don’t.’ He eyed Horgan and there was an uncomfortable pause. ‘Some of you might even deny your loss, but no man becomes a pirate unless he’s missing something. Maybe you never lost it,’ his eyes settled on me, ‘perhaps you lacked it from birth.’