Tales of Nautical Fantasy
Edited by W. H. Horner
Illustrated by Julie Dillon
Trade Paperback • 6" x 9"
Direct Price: $18.40
Mermaids. Pirates. Flying ships. Creatures from the deep. Magic beyond your wildest dreams.
The sea is a dangerous and wonderful realm. It calls to many, promising riches, adventure, or freedom. But just as there are beautiful and remarkable treasures to be found upon and below the waves, do not underestimate the dangers hidden within its depths.
So polish your cutlass and prepare your spells for what awaits. Embark upon a journey across leagues of unimaginable adventure. Ride the waves to mystery and magic.
Fantasy Short Stories
Trade Paperback • 6" x 9"
ISBN 10: 0-9713608-9-8
ISBN 13: 978-0-9713608-9-1
Table of Contents
“We Sail with the Tide” by Lawrence C. Connolly
“Return, My Heart, to the Sea” by J. C. Hay
“Sea of Madness” by Jon Sprunk
“Stillworld: Sailing to Noon” by Chun Lee
“Female Rambling Sailor” by Murray J. D. Leeder
“The Bokor” by Jens Rushing
“Albatross Dark” by Jaleigh Johnson
“The Sea in Silence” by Gerard Houarner
“Azieran: Distilling the Essence” by Christopher Heath
“Thief of Hearts” by William Ledbetter
“Beneath the Sea of Tears” by Patrick Thomas
“The Second Voyage of the Stormreaver’s Blade” by Jordan Lapp
“The Drum of the Sea” by Gerri Leen
“Cassia’s Song” by T. Borregaard
“The Duel” by James M. Ward
“Dryad in the Mast” by Leslie Brown
“Balaam’s Bones: A Tale of the Barbarian Kabar of El Hazzar” by Angeline Hawkes
“The Pirate and the Peach” by Robert E. Vardeman
“Hostage” by Renee Stern
“Rum Runners” by Jeff Houser
“Rowing Near Hell” by Jeffrey Lyman
“Currents and Clockwork” by Lindsey Duncan
“The Medusa” by Chris Stout
“The Islands of Hope” by Heidi Ruby Miller
“The Sound from the Deep” by Jack MacKenzie
“Dead Men Tell No Tales” by Elaine Cunningham
“Consigned to the Sea” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
“Tisarian’s Treasure” by J. M. Martin
“The Spinner” by Paul S. Kemp
Afterword by Mark Summers & John Baur, creators of International Talk Like a Pirate Day
“When you hold a pirate book in your hands, the sea between the covers is never quite big enough, or the voyage long enough . . . you want it all to go on forever. But this anthology manages to satisfy the hungriest adventure-craver. Filled with tales of magic, swashbuckling, and more than a dash of danger, it is a feast for discerning readers.”
—Jean Rabe, author of the Finest Trilogy and co-editor of Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms
“What could be better than stories about pirates? A new collection that has pirates and witches and monsters and ghosts and everything else you can throw into a great fantasy anthology. There’s even a shaggy dog lurking in here! Sails & Sorcery brings exciting voices to fantasy, like a freshening breeze lifting the sails of a genre always on the lookout for something new and different over the horizon.”
—Darlene Marshall, author of Captain Sinister’s Lady and Pirate’s Price
“If you’re looking for treasure, look no further. Within these pages you’ll find a literal fortune of stories packed full of adventure and magic. But watch out for pirates. They’re cruising these waters, seeking to capture your imagination and hold you for ransom. So pack your map, hire a good stout ship, and prepare to launch on a whirlwind voyage like no other.”
—Maria V. Snyder, author of Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study
“A grand collection for lovers of mariners and magic. There’s something to delight everyone.”
—Jo Beverly, bestselling author of Lady Beware
The longboat's prow lifted with the surf and scudded on loose ground. Captain Pender jumped out with the others to pull the boat ashore. Coldseawater ran over the tops of his boots. His feet squished with every step as he fought the tide to climb the stony beach. Once the boat was secure, he turned to survey the lay of the land. A hundred paces past the shoreline, steep hills rose to the feet of the cliffs towering tall above them. From here he could make out a few breaks in the redoubtable stone wall. A powerful smell fouled the air like rotting carcasses.
“Spread out!” he said. “Find me a spring so we can get off this miserable spur.”
Manck sidled up to him. “This place has a hellish stench, eh?”
Captain Pender clenched the finger and thumb of his left hand. “Water orno water, I want to be off this rock before sundown, Mister Manck.”
As Manck left to lead the search, Captain Pender stared up at the cliffs. He felt like he was being watched by unfriendly eyes. He wondered brieflyif the island had any inhabitants, but discarded the notion. The only vegetation he saw were sickly brown vines clinging to the cliffs. He heardno birdcalls, no chattering monkeys. This place was as dead as a tomb.
Scuffing his boot heel in the gravel, he spotted a bloated fish higher up on the shore, likely washed up with the tide. It looked like a bonefish ofsome type. He paid it no mind until he heard an odd sound, like gentle suckling. He cocked his head and followed the sound to the fish corpse. Heleaned over the body. The flesh was mainly intact. As he watched, the corpse rose and fell in a slow rhythm. Nudging it with his boot, heflipped the body over, and recoiled in horror. He reached to his belt for the sword hilt that was not there and pulled out one of the pistols. Ahuge, blood-red worm had been attached to the underside of the fish, its toothy maw slicing into the flesh while it fed, but it withdrew into ahole in the gravel with startling swiftness. He backed away.
“Captain?” Manck limped over to him, eyeing the pistol. “Is everything allright?”
“Yes,” Captain Pender said. Feeling foolish, he slid the pistol back into its holster. It had only been a worm after all. Yet, something about ithad triggered an instinctive response in him. He couldn't help thinking how it would feel to have the thing attached to him, sucking out his insides. “What have you found?”
“Nothing. There's no water source along the shore here. We'll have to go inland.”
Captain Pender looked up to the cliffs. “Well, let's be about it then. Gather the men. We'll all go together.”
Yells from outside launched Birch to his feet, but opening the cabin doortook great effort against the wind. Once outside, he beheld not a typicalstorm, but like the Dutchman had said, ‘something from the bowels ofHell.’ Toward each horizon the sea was calm, with stars and a near-fullmoon visible, but the waves under and around the Beholder liftedher on ten-foot crests and the sky above her was a swirling black mess.
The captain yelled orders but the roaring wind snatched them away, so he pulled himself along rails and ropes until he found men and sent them totheir tasks. Then, as he looked toward the prow, the dim light silhouetted the strange girl standing with arms spread wide and hair whipping wildly around her face.
Hed been warned and didn’t listen. The girl had seemed harmless yet now,due to his stubborn negligence, his ship may suffer the same fate as Sibylla.
“Stop!” he yelled into the maelstrom, but the girl ignored him and the storm strengthened. The air chilled suddenly and the clouds above them lightened in color, glowing green as a massive whirling column twisted its way down to the frothing waves. The vortex touched water just aft of theBeholder and then separated into three thinner tails.
The air between the three waterspouts crackled with blue light and forjust a second Birch thought he saw two moons in a pale purple sky. Thevision faded as the cyclones separated further, with one moving up thestarboard side, another to port and one remained aft. They grew thick andhissed as they spun. The Beholder’s only escape route was deadahead.
“Look. What the hell are they doing now?” Sureshot drew their attentionback to the totem pole, where one barelegged pirate scrabbled up the rearof the sculpture until he sat atop the highest head. The Rum Runnerspaused in their revelry, and every man among them rose to their feet,faced the totem and raised their drinks in silent salute. The pirate atopthe idol raised two wineskins, removed the stoppers, and began pouringtheir contents down over the top totem head's oversized bottle. “It's notspilling over,” the young topsman said. “The bottle must have some kind ofopening on the top, hollow inside. Why would‹"
“That's it. That's their secret.”
It was the first time Nelson Terwilliger had spoken since they left therowboat, and all eyes trained on him.
“Don't you see? The Rum Runners, all the legends, all the inhuman thingsthey're capable of. The things we saw when they attacked us, and now we'reseeing men who should be dead, walking around right as rain. This is howthey do it! This is the source of their power! The rum, the idol . . .”
Captain Considine cocked an eyebrow at the scholar. “Nelson, are yousaying what I think you're saying?”
Sean shot a sidelong glance back at the totem. “You're saying that thingis some sort of‹"
“Rum for the rum god!”
The lone climber cried out first, and a deafening chorus crashed back likea tidal wave from every pirate in the clearing: “RUM FOR THE RUMGOD!”
A subtle but noticeable thrum rippled outward from the towering idol andwashed across the landscape, including the explorers. They didn'thear the wave so much as feel it in their bones.
Nelson Terwilliger pointed meekly at the totem. “Yep. Rum God.”
“The man became obsessed with learning her fate, but none could tell him.Had she been slain when her ship was boarded? Was she living unwilling ina New York brothel, or sold in some distant port where her golden hairwould be a curiosity? If she'd come to disgrace, did she yet live? Sinceall the pirates who might answer these questions were dead, the judge wentto certain wise men among the slaves and learned from them how to seek thespirits of the dead.”
Now, I must have made a sound, because the captain looked over at me intime to see me cross myself. “Does this tale trouble you, Little John?”
“I'm not afeared of any man alive,” I said, honestly enough, “but I don'tlike talk of spirits and haints and suchlike.”
“Do you believe in such things?”
He asked this like my answer mattered to him, and I told him truly that Idid believe. Many a man I'd sailed with over the years come from heathenlands. From what they told me, it seemed like their dead stayed close tohand, having no Christian Heaven or Hell to repair to. As for that, therewas ghosts aplenty in the ruins near the village where I was born, eventhough people in that part of Ireland are Christian, or close enough.
The captain turned back to Natty and went on with his tale.
The crewman grunted and continued on.
After he'd gone, Nole asked, "Why do they speak to you with suchcontempt?”
“Because of what I was,” Zhayim said, and held up his stumps. “They takethe left hand as punishment for past acts of piracy, the right thumb toprevent the holding of a blade. I was a pirate, Nole. I was caught,punished, and sold into indenture. I lied when I told you I was not acriminal. I am.”
Zhayim expected shock or anger to greet his admission, but Nole continuedto stare out at the dark western sky.
“Did you hear my words?”
Nole nodded. “I did. But you did not lie. You are no longer a criminal. Soyou said, and so it is.”
The Votaries simplicity bothered Zhayim, challenged him. “How do you knowthat, Nole? We have only met this day.”
“I do not know. I believe. Did you ever kill anyone?”
Zhayim shook his head quickly. “Never. I was the spinner. I just . . .”
He had just told stories to cutthroats and murderers, watched them doviolence to others, partaken in stolen loot. And throughout it all, donenothing to stop any of it.
Nole stood up and smiled down at him. “I knew you had not. You are a kind-hearted man, despite your past. I would like to hear more of your stories, as would the children. The elders have approved it. Is that possible?”
Zhayim felt flattered and . . . strangely nervous.
“I know only sea stories, Nole. The children fear the sea.”
“Perhaps your stories will ease their fears. In any event, they will helppass the time until we reach the Far Shore.”
“Nole . . .” Zhayim started to tell him that the Far Shore was unsettledjungle but swallowed the words. "Bring the children around after yourevening prayers tomorrow."
Nole thanked him, bade him good night, and took his leave.
Zhayim lay wrapped in his blanket, hand aching. When he finally slept, hedreamed that he was telling stories to the underfed, terrified childrenwho lived in the filthy slave pens of Hellhole. They asked him to helpthem, to kill them. He refused. They told him the end of the world wascoming and he believed them.