Tales from Thac: The Emerald Blade
Updated: Sep 22, 2019
This month we will look at another excerpt from the upcoming anthology Tales from Thac. The Emerald Blade is the first story in a series that takes place along the Pirate Coast. While not strictly in Thac, these tales depict characters and events that will have a marked affect on the isle's future.
The Pirate Coast stretches nearly a thousand miles along the southeastern shore of the great mainland, Laurentia. It is the unofficial home of the thirteen clans of the pirate nation. The Clans of the Coast rule the waters along that shoreline, demanding tribute from all who sail passed, and sinking those who are foolhardy enough to refuse. They are a tough lot of privateers, but also live by a strict code of honor.
The Emerald Blade is a legendary ship's captain of the clans. Feared up and down the coast, he has sunk many a ship that refused tribute. Yet, his reputation remains strangely bloodless. Never beaten in a duel, he has also never killed an opponent, instead disarming them with a simple wooden practice sword.
Who is this Emerald Blade really? What drove him to the life of a buccaneer? What strange code of honor risks him to duel with a simple wooden blade?
All these questions and more will be answered in the upcoming anthology. For now, here is an excerpt from The Emerald Blade:
The merchantman cleaved through the blue coastal waters like a fox on the run, but it was no match for the pirate vessel. The three-masted galleon slowly gained on them ‘til they could see its colors—an ebon stingray on a field of white. As it drew closer, they could read the name etched across its deep brown hull—Dark Halo.
There was a brief exchange of cannon fire as the vessels drew alongside each other, but the pirates were expert marksmen. They took out the couple of guns the merchantman carried in a few shots. After that, things moved quickly. The Dark Halo drew beside them, and hooked lines were used to draw the ships together. Fighting broke out at the starboard rail as groups of brigands swung across to engage the crew.
Gil and Harget were among those assigned to protect the cargo hatch. They stood there now, swords in hand, though neither was very good with them.
Harget squealed in terror as one of the sailors went down to a pirate’s blade. “We’re gonna die here, Gilly! I jus’ knows it.”
Gil cast a sidelong glance at his quaking friend. “Get behind me, Har. You’re no good to anyone with that pig-sticker.”
Harget grimaced as he shuffled behind him. “I’m—I’m sorry, Gil. It’s my fault we’re in this mess.”
Gil shrugged, not taking his eyes off the fighting. “No use blamin’ yerself now. What’s done is done.”
The sailor in front of Gil fell to another brigand’s blade. The pirate withdrew his sword, then set his sights on Gil. A wicked grin split his grizzled face as he slowly advanced on him.
Gil held his blade up stiffly, but he knew it was a lost cause. It wouldn’t be long now till both he and Harget were food for the fishes.
Just then a commanding voice boomed over the fracas. “Dasati, fall back!”
As one, the brigands halted in their tracks and withdrew a few steps.
Gil’s heart pounded in his throat. By some miracle, he and Harget had been spared from immediate death. But who was their mysterious benefactor, and what did he want?
The rest of the crew appeared as confused as Gil. They all watched with growing apprehension as a lone figure crossed over on a plank from the pirate vessel.
The newcomer was a squat, powerfully built buccaneer wearing a green coat and tricorne hat. Thick red hair covered most of his lower face and draped across his broad shoulders. The lone brigand strode with the utmost confidence onto the main deck. He finally stopped near the mainmast and glanced around ‘til his eyes fell upon Gil.
“Where’s your captain?” the pirate asked in that same deep, commanding tone.
The question caught Gil completely by surprise. Before he knew it, he was pointing up at the quarterdeck.
“I’m the captain.” The captain of the merchant vessel cautiously descended the stairs from the upper deck. His eyes darted around carefully as he approached the lone brigand, but no one accosted him. He drew within a few feet of the man, then stopped, his voice amazingly firm for the situation. “What are you planning on doing with us?"
The squat buccaneer regarded him carefully before speaking. “That depends. You travel our waters without paying tribute.”
The captain arched a single eyebrow, somehow finding the nerve to scoff at the newcomer. “Pay tribute? To pirates?”
“He’s gonna get us all killed for sure,” Harget whispered frantically. Gil hushed him with a wave of his hand.
The buccaneer appeared unfazed by the remark. “Pirate is such a harsh word. These waters are ours by the grace of Zesstara. Those who see the wisdom of this have an accord with us. Those who do not are trespassers and are dealt with accordingly.”
Those last words sounded like a death sentence. Unable to control himself, Harget squealed so loud that Gil had to clamp a hand over his mouth.
The blood drained from the captain’s face, yet he still managed to stand his ground. “So, do you mean to slaughter us all, then?”
A deathly silence fell over the deck as the squat pirate mulled over their fate. Gil felt beads of sweat form on his brow and trickle down the side of his face. After what seemed like an eternity, the red-haired buccaneer spoke again. “I will give you one chance to prove your worth. Face me in single combat and the rest of your crew will be spared.”
Harget pulled Gil’s hand away from his mouth. “Does this mean we ain’t gonna die?”
Gil hushed him again as the captain responded. “And what of my ship?”
A round of evil laughter broke out among the pirates, but the lone brigand silenced it with a single gesture. His expression remained stony. “If you win, you and your ship can go on its way.”
The captain eyed him with clear disbelief. “And I’m supposed to take your word for it?”
“I don’t see as you have much choice,” the brigand rumbled.
“Do you really think he’d let us go?” Harget whispered in Gil’s ear.
“Shhh.” Gil waved him off.
The captain swept his gaze around the deck. He clearly did not believe the pirate, but truly had little choice in the matter. “Very well.”
He drew his sword and fell into a fighting stance, waving the brigand forward. “Let’s have at it, then.”
Murmurs went through the crowd as both pirates and sailors made room for the two combatants. A hush fell over the crew as the squat buccaneer drew his sword.
The light of the afternoon sun glinted off what appeared to be a blunt-edged blade. As if that wasn’t curious enough, the blade was painted vivid green and decorated with violet lotus flowers.
“Is this some sorta joke?” Harget whispered, mirroring Gil’s own astonishment. Yet their skepticism quickly died as nervous murmurs spread among the crew.
“The Emerald Blade.”
“It’s the Emerald Blade.”
“No one’s ever beaten him.”
The captain visibly paled, but managed to hold his ground. The Emerald Blade set himself into a casual fighting stance, then waved the captain forward in turn. The captain eyed him uncertainly at first, but then set his jaw and lunged at the brigand. The squat man parried the captain’s blade with relative ease. The captain had obvious skill, but the pirate’s defenses were very solid.
The battle exploded into a whirling dance of flashing blades. Both men moved with amazing grace and dexterity. Lunges, feints, parries, and counters were all executed with expert skill. Parries were met with counter-parries. Counters were met with reverse-counters.
Gil had never seen anything like it. Both men seemed evenly matched until the Emerald Blade executed a lightning-fast move. He caught the captain’s blade with his own, then abruptly sidestepped. In one swift motion, he was through the captain’s defenses and his blunt-edged sword slammed into the man’s midriff.
The captain doubled over in pain as the wind was knocked out of him. Had it been an actual blade, he would have been cloven in half.
The captain’s sword clattered to the deck as he fell to his knees. Cheers rang out amongst the pirates, but quickly subsided as the Emerald Blade placed the tip of his sword underneath the captain’s chin. “Do you yield?”
Tears of pain streamed from the captain’s eyes as he stared up at the man who had bested him. The brigand prodded him with the tip of his blunt sword. “Do you yield?”
The captain nodded fervently as he gasped his response. “Yes… yes… I yield…”
“Good,” the pirate said simply as he sheathed his strange sword. The Emerald Blade then turned on his heel, his deep voice void of emotion as he strode back toward his ship. “Give them the lifeboats. Make sure no one is left aboard.”
A short while later, Gil and Harget found themselves in a long boat filled with a good portion of the crew. Three other long boats with the rest of the crew floated not far from them. The four boats had made it nearly halfway to the distant shore when the sound of cannon fire exploded behind them.
Harget nearly jumped out of his seat. “They’re firin’ on us!”
Gil spun around to see their ship in flames. “Easy, Har. It’s not us they’re firin’ on.”
The entire boat had stopped rowing. Everyone watched as the roaring fire overtook their vacated ship. In mere minutes, what was left of the charred hull had sunk beneath the waters.
After the last volley, the pirate ship set sail. Gil watched the dark vessel as it receded toward the horizon, thankful to still be alive.
That's it for now. For more of the Emerald Blade and other exciting stories, look for the anthology to be published this fall. And stay tuned for more excerpts from Tales in the coming months.