TITLE – HOOK
AUTHOR – K.R. Thompson
GENRE – Fantasy/Fairy Tale/Adventure
PUBLICATION DATE – January 1, 2015
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) - 300 Pages/78,000 words
Archie Jameson dreamed of adventure.
Today, it found him.
Caught in a chilly October storm, he ducked into a tavern, hoping to escape the rain. What he found, was a room teeming with pirates. Shanghaied by the most elderly of the lot, Archie awakens to discover that he is serving on a ship captained by the fiercest pirate ever to sail the seven seas--the man known as Blackbeard.
Through a series of thrilling twists, Archie finds himself captain of another of Blackbeard's ships, the Jolig Roger. In an attempt to flee danger, his ship becomes lost beneath uncharted stars and arrives at a mysterious island.
Determined to save both his crew and the woman he loves, Archie will make decisions that will forever seal his fate.
For in Neverland, not all is as it seems.
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The breeze picked up and was bursting insistent, frigid puffs that threatened to dislodge his hat. Archie clamped one hand on top, squishing it down around his lean face as he resolutely lengthened his stride and marched on, determined to make it home before the storm set in.
He'd almost made it to the corner, to the place where he normally made the left on N. Westburl, and then a right onto 43rd, followed by a various assortment of other long deviations that would get him safely home, when a large crack of thunder shook the air. He decided that just this once he might consider taking the most direct route, albeit dangerous, foreboding, and possibly life-threatening. He stopped right on the bend of the street, uncertain for a split moment, until the next jolting crack of thunder made up his mind for him. He headed straight along Market St that followed the length of the Thames River, hoping that the seedy individuals who lurked around the pier were as mindful of the storm as he and would not cause him trouble on this particular evening, for even though he was quick-witted and could talk himself out of most troubles, sailors tended to be a harder breed of people. They were a sharp and cunning lot, and Archie did not know if he could outsmart anyone else that day and didn't wish to press his luck.
He made it past the pier, hesitating just long enough to glance at the small boats tied to the dock. There were obviously people about, and so far he had been lucky enough not to encounter any of them.
But one final ground-shaking crack and the tinkling sound of bells changed it all. The clouds overhead clashed and he ran for the shelter of a nearby tavern, barely escaping the torrent of rain.
Archie had never been in The Captain's Keg before. He stopped just inside the door and let his eyes adjust to the dark, smoke-filled room. He realized that not only had he run into the very people he wished to avoid, but that he also had a new problem.
These men weren't just sailors.
He was ready to run back out and take his chances of drowning in the street, when he heard the same tinkling of bells from earlier. This time, it sounded like mocking laughter.
Well. He might very well be losing his mind, but a coward he was not.
He straightened to his full height—all six feet and four inches of it—and removed his crumpled hat with a flourish, tucking it under his arm. He walked proudly down the three steps that led into the heart of the tavern—to a bar, teeming with pirates.
A couple of heads turned at his arrival and those who met his solemn, blue gaze were quick to drop their eyes back to their drinks. His spirits momentarily lifted, Archibald nodded to himself more than to anyone else in particular, a slight smile playing on his lips. He was holding his own.
Still erring on the side of caution, he scanned the length of the bar, finding three open seats. Two were between rather burly, shifty-looking blokes with tattoos. The third seat, nearly on the end of the bar, sat betwixt an elderly gentleman with longish white sideburns, a round belly, and spectacles to match that sat precariously upon a rather bulbous nose. The gent on the other side was scrawny, his clothes in tatters, thin face in a scowl as he stared at a leaflet of paper before him. Even though he sat still, there was a nervous energy that pulsed off the small man. He gave Archibald the impression of a jittery, starving squirrel.
Archibald decided his best chances lay between the old man and the squirrel and so he took his seat, nodding in a genial fashion to the old man, whose watery blue eyes barely gave him a passing glance. The squirrel didn't acknowledge his presence.
"What'll it be, mate?" the barkeep asked.
Archibald bit his lip to keep from laughing. Every drink in the tavern was the same yellowish liquid. Why the bald man standing behind the bar bothered to even ask such a mundane question was beyond him. Perhaps he was daydreaming again. He did do that a lot and at times it seemed real. "'Tis all ale, is it not?"
"Aye, but will it be single or double ye'll be havin'?"
Archibald lifted a single finger and waited for his drink.
"Ye'd have much better luck with rum, I should think," the old man said quietly as he stared down into his own glass, "The ale's watered down. Not fit for a fish to drink, it isn't."
One dreg out of the glass, and Archibald was quite certain the gentleman was more than right. It tasted like something poured from an old boot. Not that he regularly drank from old boots, mind you. Thank heavens he hadn't ordered twice the amount of the vile stuff. Deciding it better not to even bother asking for the rum, which most definitely hidden beneath the counter and out of sight, he tossed a couple of coins down on the scarred wooden bar, and sat looking down into the remnants of his glass, listening to the patter of rain on the tin roof.
A strange thought came suddenly. For a bar filled with pirates, it was most unusual. It was rather quiet, an odd comment here or there, but otherwise there was nothing but silence. Surely they weren't all sitting around listening to the rain. Archie couldn't figure it out. But he knew one thing, these people certainly weren't living up to his expectations of the loud, fearless persons he always thought pirates to be.
The squirrel on his left shifted around on his stool, staring even harder at the parchment. Sweat popped out on a face that was now a color that reminded Archie of the paper in the print shop, a colorless, pasty white. Good for paper, not for squirrels.
"Well?" a low, deep voice rolled out from a dark corner and broke the silence so suddenly that it startled Archie. "Give us the news then, Harper."
Ah, well now. Things may get lively yet, Archie thought, casting a quick look to the corner from where the voice rumbled. It was too dark to see the man who sat against the wall, but Archibald got a good look at the pair of worn, dark leather boots propped up on the table, and the curling wisps of cigar smoke that floated up to the rafters.
"It says a r-roy, royy…" the squirrel named Harper stuttered, the paper shaking in his hands.
"Ach! The man canna read it anymore than the rest o' us." A complaint hurtled from one of the tattooed blokes at the opposite end of the bar.
As if he were getting more anxious, Harper tried again, his voice in a near squeak, "A royy-alll…"
Archie spied the lettering, and against his better conscience, whispered just loud enough that Harper would hear, "A royal pardon is offered to those pirates who surrender on or before the fifth of September, this year of 1718." He waited as Harper relayed the message, then continued, "Being limited to crimes committed before the fifth of January. All other crimes committed after such date, will be considered for a death of hanging."
Archie sensed the old man on the other side of him shuffle about, as if he were searching for something on the insides of his pockets, but Archie's attention was fixed on the squirrel he saved. Harper turned and gave him a toothless, yet thankful, smile and set to guzzling the contents of his glass as quickly as possible in an effort to calm his shaking nerves.
"Well, that counts us out, lads," a dark chuckle came from the corner, "'No pardon for the likes o' us, I fear. We all be hanged."
"Aye, but they must catch us first. I won't be finding me neck in a noose," a shout rang out, followed by the murmur of agreement from all the others as they lifted their glasses in salute.
Feeling rather in-tune with the pirates, Archibald picked up his glass as well and toasted the luck of the now boisterous lot, draining the last contents of his glass. Some small part of his brain noted that while the ale was certainly vile before, it also became bitter the longer it sat. The bitterness left nearly as soon as he noticed it, having been replaced with a rather calming sensation.
Pirates truly weren't a bad lot, he thought sleepily, just people like everyone else. They were only misunderstood. He turned to convince the elderly gentleman on his right of exactly that, when the darkness came and took over. The last thing he heard was the old man chuckle, singing softly,
"Yo-ho, me mateys, yo-ho…"
"Careful now, lads, mind the poor lout's head, aye? He'll be having a dreadful headache come morning without any extra bumps ye'd be givin' him along the way."
The voice was familiar—rather achingly so—though Archie couldn't quite seem to get his faculties in order to remember who the owner of the voice was. The few times he could open his eyes, nothing at all made sense. It all came and went in blurs with distorted figures he couldn't quite make out. The darkness came and went, so in the end, he figured it better to keep his eyes shut for the time being and try to concentrate on other things, foggy and confusing as they might seem. He thought he was being drug along the rough boards of the pier, and while that familiar voice seemed to care about the condition of his head, his legs and backside seemed to be another matter entirely of which the man cared not a whit as they bumped him along each splintering plank. Luckily, the drug slipped in his drink deadened the pain, and he only registered the faint, odd pricks and scrapes where the wood had its way with his flesh.
"He's got hair like black candles, he does," a crackling voice snickered by his head.
"Aye, Smee, are we taking this poor soul aboard for his long locks? Did the Cap'n order you fetch him a wifey, then?" another voice chimed in, followed by raucous laughter, and a low retort from the man named Smee that Archibald couldn't make out.
"A good bit heavier than he looks," the first voice by his head huffed, "Slow ye down a bit, Murph. I'm losin' my grip. Oh drat, there he goes!"
And those were the last words Archibald ever heard on the shores of bonnie England as his head hit the pier and the darkness crept over him once again.
K.R. Thompson lives in southwest Virginia with her husband, son, three cats, and an undeterminable amount of chickens.
An avid reader and firm believer in magic, she spends her nights either reading an adventure or writing one.
She still watches for evidence of Bigfoot in the mud of Wolf Creek.
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