Raiders of the Dark Coast: Swashbuckler
Artist, swashbuckler, and thief of hearts, what shadows from this elf’s cursed past drive his wanderlust and devil-may-care approach to life?
Donatello is a bit of an enigma. The companions first crossed paths with the itinerant artist back in Ravenford, just prior to the Lady Andrella’s eighteenth birthday extravaganza. Donnie swiftly proved to be far more than he initially let on, showing both prowess with the blade and a knack for stealing both items of value as well as hearts. Yet beneath those boyish good looks and flamboyant charm lay a dark and brooding side to the gregarious elf.
Donnie carried the heavy weight of what he believed to be a curse upon his soul. Any woman he ever cared about had met an inexplicable demise. From his life as a young thief on the streets to his days along the pirate coast, those closest to him had either been struck down or disappeared without a trace. Alana had been the last of those casualties, a grim reminder to not let anyone near his heart.
Between the curse and his sordid history, Donnie talked little about his past. Even so, he could not sit idly by when the companions learned of the great runes of power. Sorely needed for the fight against the demon hordes, the powerful scrolls had been stolen by pirates. With his intimate knowledge of the dark coast and the pirate clans that sailed it, Donnie felt he had little choice but to join in the quest for them.
How will the tormented elf fare when the ghosts of his past rise up to meet him? Will he falter when his shady history is laid bare? The events that unfold in Raiders of the Dark Coast delve into the source of Donnie’s guilt and manic attempts to bury it even further. Here is an excerpt which highlights the elf’s struggle as his past rises to haunt him:
The area around the docks bustled with people moving about at this time of the afternoon. Passengers disembarked ships. Dockworkers moved goods between vessels and dockside warehouses. Patrons frequented the bars and shops along the quay.
Donnie also noticed a fairly significant presence of those priestesses dressed in red robes. Accompanying them were armored guards wearing the insignia of a flaming red bird. Silyna had been right; the Church of Zharpita definitely held a tight grip over comings and goings from Kaniron.
The slim elf weaved his way through the crowded docks, leading both Cyclone and Ruka toward the pier where he’d spied the Galocerd ship. Donnie decided to try the tavern nearest to that clan and asked Cyclone to go with him for backup. Surprisingly, Ruka decided to go as well, though the way she phrased it stung a bit. “I want to be there when he makes a fool out of himself again.”
The first tavern off the Galocerd dock bore the curious name of The Red Cauldron. Donnie supposed most of the businesses around here used words like ‘Red’ and ‘Fire’ in their names. The inside was laid out much like the Drunken Dragon with a long bar against one wall and a dozen or so tables in the center. The main difference appeared to be a separate area in the back filled with private booths.
The clientele here also appeared a bit seedier than those in Lanfor. Besides reeking of rum and ale, the scent of unwashed bodies wafted throughout the tavern.
Ruka wrinkled her nose in an unpleasant manner. “Smells real nice in here.”
Donnie spied a group that could be the Galocerd off by themselves at the booths in the back. Before he could point them out, however, Cyclone headed to the bar. Donnie followed close behind trying to remain inconspicuous. He slid into the seat next to the hunter while Ruka parked herself on the other side.
A burly looking man covered in tattoos stood behind the bar wiping down an empty glass. He strode up to them his eyes settling on Ruka. “Ain’t you a bit young to be sitting in here, girly?”
Donnie winced, expecting Ruka to explode. He stood to jump in, but Ruka surprised them all with her response.
She put her elbow up on the bar, her voice deadly calm. “Tell you what. You beat me in arm wrestling and I’ll leave.”
The barkeep eyed her for a moment, then burst out laughing. “That’s a good one. You’ve got guts, kid. I should let you stay here just for that.”
For a moment, Donnie thought things had been settled, but Ruka wouldn’t let it go. Her eyes flashed as she growled at the barkeep. “What’s the matter? Chicken?”
The barkeep’s brow knit into a frown, his gaze narrowing. “You can’t be serious, lass.”
“Deadly,” Ruka replied, holding his gaze without blinking.
Taken aback, the burly man put down his glass and raised both hands in front of him. “Look lass, I don’t want to break your arm.” He glanced at Cyclone, then gestured towards him. “What if you let your friend here stand in for you. He looks kind of sturdy. At least he’d have a fighting chance.”
“Tsk,” Cyclone clicked his tongue at the man. “You must have a death wish.”
By now, some of the other patrons had begun to gather around them. This was exactly what Donnie wanted to avoid. He leaned across the bar and caught Ruka’s eye. Flashing her one of his best smiles, he tried to reason with her.
“Do we really need to do this here and now?” He nudged his head toward the gathering crowd.
Ruka stared him straight in the eye, her pupils momentarily flashing yellow. Thunder rolled somewhere off in the distance.
Donnie knew better than to argue with her when she was angry. He threw up his hands in defeat. “Okay, okay.”
With the crowd egging him on, the barkeep finally gave in. He leaned an elbow on the bar, his thick arm dwarfing Ruka’s in comparison. Since her arm was so much shorter than his, someone gave her a wooden box to rest her elbow on.
By now half the tavern had gathered around the bar. Donnie gave up all hope at that point of eavesdropping on the Galocerd. Cyclone officiated the arm-wrestling match, holding both opponents’ fists in place until he barked the word, “Go.”
At first the barkeep barely tried, but Ruka started to bend his arm backward. His thick brow raised, he began to fight back. He managed to bring her arm back to center, but didn’t get much farther than that.
Donnie’s sharp eyes detected the faint golden glow that suddenly appeared around Ruka. A moment later, she gave a sharp push and slammed the burly barkeep’s hand into the bar top with a tremendous thud.
The crowd around them went deathly silent as the barkeep yelped in pain. “Ow!” He pulled his arm away, staring at Ruka incredulously as he cradled it. “I think you broke my arm.”
A moment later, the crowd went wild. Folks cheered, gathering around and slapping Ruka, Cyclone, and Donnie on the back. The next thing they knew, everyone was offering to buy them a round. The barkeep waved them all off, however. “Drinks are on the house for these three!” he yelled over the din.
“What’ll you have?” the barkeep asked Ruka as everyone started to drift away.
Ruka pursed her lips together for a moment until a sly smirk crossed her lips. “I’ll have a glass of Ole’ Dragon Fire.”
“Make that two,” Cyclone agreed, holding up two fingers.
Donnie blinked. Ole’ Dragon Fire was like drinking pure alcohol. Of course Ruka wouldn’t be affected by it and neither would Cyclone most likely. Still, he wasn’t about to let them outdo him.
“Make that three,” he said, holding up three fingers.
Having created a makeshift sling with his bar towel, the barkeep pulled out three glasses with his good arm. He then grabbed a bottle from the back of the bar and filled their glasses, setting the bottle down in front of them.
Donnie cautiously sipped his glass, the few drops of liquid practically searing the inside of his throat. “Smoo—th,” Donnie croaked, wiping off the sweat that broke out across his brow.
Ruka gave him a wicked grin, then lifted her glass and downed it in one gulp. Slamming the glass down on the bar, she let out an extremely loud burp. “Ah, that’s the stuff,” she exclaimed, wiping her arm across her lips.
Her performance elicited a huge grin from the barkeep. “Lass, you are something else.”
“She certainly is,” said a voice from down the bar. Donnie turned in his chair to see a blue-haired woman approaching them. Two large sailors trailed behind her.
Donnie recognized them as folks from the group in the back of the tavern—the group he had assumed were Galocerd.
The woman parked herself in the seat next to Donnie, her eyes squarely fixed on Ruka. “You wouldn’t be looking for work now, would you, hon?”
Ruka regarded the woman dubiously, but did not immediately answer. That gave Donnie the opportunity he needed.
“Sorry, she’s with us,” he said, pointing a thumb toward the reluctant teen.
The woman shifted her gaze to Donnie and stared him in the eye. “And who is us?”
Donnie dropped his voice down to a whisper. “A fellow clansman.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed, her face clouding over with suspicion. “What clan?”
“The silver barracuda of course,” Donnie responded glibly.
The woman sat back in her seat and laughed. “So you can memorize a flag. Big deal.” She sat forward in her seat once more, her eyes locked on his. “Do you know the name of that clan, I wonder?”
Donnie glanced over both shoulders. Everyone else had stepped away except for Cyclone, Ruka, and the woman’s two escorts. Even the barkeep had adjourned to the other end of the bar, knowing better than to listen in on clan business.
Donnie leaned in until his face was less than a foot from the woman’s. “Sphyrena,” he said in a soft voice.
Her eyes narrowed even further. “What ship?”
“Spirit of the Sea,” Donnie replied without missing a beat.
The blue-haired pirate sat up on her stool and let out a loud laugh. “Hah. Mor’Findl’s ship.” Her eyes fixed on Donnie once more, but her expression had changed to one of curiosity. “And just who might you be?”
“Dodger,” Donnie said simply.
“Tsk,” the pirate woman clicked her tongue. “There are many of those. Let’s see just how good you are.”
She stood up and Donnie followed suit. The woman made a quick move to disarm him, but Donnie had been ready for it. He caught her wrist, then spun her about, at the same time pulling her weapon from its sheath. She tried to push away, but he used her own strength against her. He spun her back around, then dipped her and tilted her forward until their faces nearly touched.
The two large sailors behind her moved in, but the woman waved them off. “Very impressive,” she said to Donnie, her breath warm upon his face.
Donnie stared into her deep blue eyes for a moment or two before responding. She was quite pretty in fact, her skin smooth and her face heart shaped. Yet, this was neither the time nor the place for that.
Donnie lifted her up and let her go, proffering her weapon hilt first. “That’s because I'm the original."
The woman’s face was just a bit flush and her eyes dilated ever so slightly. Donnie could tell he had sparked her interest just before Ruka ruined the moment.
“Sure. The original idiot,” Ruka scoffed from behind him.
The woman snorted with amusement, the moment passed. “I’ve heard tell Mor’Findl had a special name for the Dodger.” She tapped her chin with her finger. “What was it again?”
Donnie winced. Mor’Findl had a wicked sense of humor. Though they were quite close, she berated him in front of the crew on a daily basis.
“Little fool,” he said in a soft voice.
“What was that again?” the woman said, putting a hand up to her ear.
Donnie huffed. She had heard him the first time. Still, if he could get them on their side, he might be able to find out what he needed to know about the scrolls.
“Little fool,” he repeated louder.
Behind him he heard a loud thump followed by raucous laughter. Ruka had fallen off of her chair and now rolled around on the floor laughing hysterically.
Donnie grimaced and tried his best to ignore her. “And to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?” he asked the blue-haired pirate.
A thin smile spread across the woman’s lips. “Captain Burke, but you can call me Illyria.” She stood aside and gestured toward the back of the tavern. “Why don’t we go somewhere where we can talk more privately?”
It was not how Donnie had originally seen things going, but he could roll with it. He gave her a gracious nod and ushered her forward. “After you, Illyria.”
A few more Galocerd pirates sat in the back booths. Illyria sat in the empty booth next to them, and waved for Donnie and his friends to sit across from her. Donnie did so, but Ruka and Cyclone chose to remain standing.
Illyria gave them both a brief nod, then turned back to the slim elf. “So what can I do for you, original Dodger?”
Donnie had been thinking about how he would spin this on the way from the bar. Knowing the clans as well as he did, he decided to use the mercenary approach. “We were sent by some buyers to find a certain item. They’re not concerned about how we find it.”
Illyria’s eyes sparkled with interest. “Sounds like my kind of buyers. Go on.”
Donnie leaned in closer across the table, dropping his voice to a near whisper. “The item in question is a set of scrolls—the works of a certain well-known blademaster.”
Illyria leaned in toward him as well, her voice also low. “And just how much is this buyer of yours willing to pay?”
Donnie glanced around. The rest of the Galocerd appeared to be minding their own business. “One hundred thousand gold crowns. More if necessary.”
Illyria’s eye twitched ever so slightly. “That’s the right ballpark. Unfortunately the scrolls were already sold.”
Now they were getting to what he needed to know. Donnie looked through narrowed eyes. “To whom? The Parthians?”
Illyria snorted. “No, at least not quite yet—though rumor has it they’ll be here any day now.”
Donnie breathed a sigh of relief. At least the scrolls were still here in Kaniron. “So the Church of Zharpita then.”
Illyria glanced around, then nodded. “Bought and sold by those accursed Dasati.”
“For a pretty penny I'd wager,” Donnie pressed.
“Twice what you just quoted me from what I hear. And the Parthians are willing to pay two and a half times more than that,” Illyria expounded, her expression wistful at the thought of all that money.
Donnie let out a soft whistle. “That’s a small fortune.”
Illyria snorted again. “Tell me about it.”
Donnie sat back in his seat and mulled over what he had just heard. The crew of the Gossamer Lady had done an excellent job getting them here, but they might need something more for what would come next. He gently rapped his fingers on the table of the booth. “How fast is your ship?”
Illyria pressed her lips together and shrugged. “We can outrun anything in this harbor short of the Black Cat,” she said confidently.
Donnie had heard of the Black Cat. It was a Dasati ship. It had to be the one they had spotted in the harbor.
“Good,” Donnie said with a subtle nod. He leaned forward once more, his voice low and tentative. “Say we were to liberate these scrolls. Would you be interested in splitting the profits? I’m sure I could get my buyers to match the Parthian’s bid.”
Illyria tilted her head to one side and eyed him dubiously. “Why not just sell it to the Parthians?”
“I don’t deal with Parthians,” Donnie said vehemently. He really meant it too. The Parthians were conquerors and destroyers. He had already lost so much in his life, he wasn’t about to give more power to people like that.
“Suit yourself,” Illyria shrugged. “Fifty, fifty,” she said, her eyes twitching again ever so slightly. If there was anything the clans loved almost as much as making money, it was bargaining about it.
Donnie rapped his fingers on the table once more. “I was thinking more sixty, forty.”
Illyria fixed him with a smug stare. “I have the ship, unless the Spirit of the Sea suddenly pulled into port.”
Donnie winced. “Not likely. Mor’Findl and I parted ways awhile back.”
A satisfied smile crossed Illyria’s lips. “Well then, assuming you can even get the item, you’ve got no chance of getting away without my help.”
Donnie waved a nonchalant hand at her. “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll get the item. I’ve got a guy who’s practically a ghost when it comes to this sort of stuff.”
Illyria sat back, put her feet up on the bench, and folded her arms across her chest. “Well then, my offer still stands. Fifty, fifty.”
Donnie hesitated a moment, then finally shrugged. “You drive a hard bargain.” He held his hand in front of his mouth and spit in his palm. He then stretched his arm out across the table toward Illyria.
Illyria hesitated a moment, then swung her feet back down again. She spit in her hand as well, reached out and gripped his hand with hers.
“Done,” she declared, giving his hand a stronger shake than he had anticipated.
We'll have to stop there. If you'd like to read more, the ebook is now up for pre-order at multiple book stores and will be released June 7th. Also, in the coming months we'll meet more characters and I'll share further experts from Raiders here in this blog.