Walking quickly across the deck, I scooped up Tooth from his perch near the wheel, tucking him into the crook of my left arm. This caused Rummy, Smee, and Slim to draw their swords and surround me. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “Relax, I’m not going to hurt him. I need to have a private conversation with your esteemed captain.”
They all looked at the black pug, who nodded. They sheathed their swords. “Capt’n, you need anything, just bark,” Slim said seriously. “I’ll be glad to run this fool through with my sword.”
Hermes snickered behind me. Reflexively, I threw my arm up, tilting it back slightly and hitting him in the face. His hands flew up over his nose, golden ichor trickling between his fingers. I heard some of the crew gasp at the sight. He followed us below decks to my cabin, cursing at me in ancient Greek.
Setting the pug on the desk, I tossed a cloth at Hermes. “There was no need to do that, Ares,” Hermes grumbled.
“It was an accident,” I told him. “I had a sudden cramp in my arm.” I don’t think he believed me.
“Why have you dragged me in here?” Tooth demanded.
I sat down in my chair so I was face-to-face with the little troublemaker. “You have got some serious explaining to do,” I told him. “You have taken over my ship under false pretenses, and now you have dragged me into a fight with a very notorious pirate, de Bastille.”
The pug scratched his ear. “Well, I might not have been completely truthful…” he began to say.
I just looked at him.
“So I left out a detail or two,” he snapped. “What’s the big deal? I needed a ship, and yours was the closest one.”
“A detail or two? You knew this was my ship before you boarded it, which means you spent a little drachma for the information. This wasn’t an accidental meeting. You want me to help you take down de Bastille. Right now, you have two choices: you can start telling me the truth, or you can start swimming.”
Tooth laid down on the desk. “We were in town one night, and Teacup had a little too much rum in his teacup. He blabbed to someone about the buried treasure on the Isle of Man. Waves saw the man go over and tell de Bastille. The next morning, they were gone. It wasn’t hard to figure out where they’re headed.”
“So, you want us to help you keep de Bastille from the treasure,” Hermes said.
“Aye,” Tooth replied.
“Go back out with your crew,” I told him. “I need to talk to my brother for a minute.”
Tooth jumped down off the desk, then looked up at me. “You’re still going to help us, aren’t you?”
I got up, walked over and opened the door for him without answering him. He trotted up, and I closed the door. “Well, this is a serious mess you’ve gotten us into,” Hermes said.
“Me? Why are you blaming me?”
“If you had killed them all when they first boarded the ship, we wouldn’t be sailing into a disaster!”
“Since when is a fight a disaster?”
Hermes crossed his arms and glared at me. “You know I don’t fight much anymore. My skills are rusty.”
“It’s like riding a horse. Once you’ve done it, you never forget,” I said. “But I would prefer we didn’t drag this out any longer than we have to. There has to be a way we can get to that damn island faster.”
Hermes walked over to the map on the wall and studied it. “I don’t think we’re that far off at all. We’ve been traveling nonstop for several days, and a bit faster than we should have been able to.”
“You think Waves has been using some of her magic?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Anything is possible. Maybe she has more skills than she knows. Anyway, I put us about here,” he said, pointing to a spot off the English coast.
“Why don’t you pop out and take a look?” I suggested.
“You really trust me to do that?” He seemed shocked.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“For all you know, I might not come back.”
“For starters, I’ll know where to find you when this is all over. Second, you could have left at any time, yet you stuck with me. You want to see how this is going to end. This is probably the most excitement you’ve had in a while.”
“Well, I’m not going to lie, it is,” he admitted. “All right, I’ll take a quick flight.”
We went back on deck, and Hermes took to the skies while the crew watched, their eyes wide in surprise. “What’s going on?” Tooth trotted over to ask.
“My brother and I believe we’re closer to the Isle of Man than we should be,” I said. I looked over at Waves. “It’s possible someone has been helping the ship move faster.”
Blushing, Waves wiggled her fingers and smiled.
“Hermes is scouting things out,” I explained.
The ship lurched and sped up, the bow cutting through the water like a spear. The sails billowed and stretched to their limit. As the others tried to steady themselves, I walked around the railings, looking into the water to see what was going on. I didn’t spot anything, but I had a feeling I knew who was helping us out.
Hermes landed back on the deck just as the ship slowed down near a small island. “Did you have something to do with our sudden increase in speed?” I quietly asked him.
“No,” he replied. “But, I might have sent out a request for assistance.” He pointed at the island. “This is it, and there are several pirates already on shore with shovels and pickaxes.”
“Is de Bastille among them?”
“Lounging under a coconut tree giving orders,” Hermes confirmed.
“Well, there’s no way they don’t know we’re here,” I said. “Slim, drop anchor, and drop the rowboats. We’re going ashore.”
Slim looked down at Tooth. “Is that alright with you, Capt’n?”
“You heard the man, get to it!” Tooth barked.
Twenty minutes later, we waded ashore. I didn’t see anyone coming to greet us, which I took as a good sign. Tooth quietly gave orders to his crew, and they split into two groups, going in opposite directions. Hermes, Tooth, and I went straight up the middle.
It didn’t take long to find de Bastille. He was just where Hermes said he was, under a coconut tree. He had one half of a coconut in his hand, taking a long drink from it. When he lowered it, I was standing in front of him, my arms across my chest. “Who be ye?” he snapped. He started to get to his feet, but I used a booted toe to shove him back down. He sat down with a thud, glared at me, then looked over at the pug. “Tooth, you old seadog! What are ye doin’ here?”
“Protecting what is mine, you backstabbing…” he ran over, his teeth bared, intent on biting de Bastille in the leg.
I snatched him up just before he chomped down. “Settle down, Tooth,” I chided him, handing him off to Hermes, who wasn’t thrilled about having a dog thrust at him. He held the pug at arm’s length.
de Bastille spread his hands wide. “Tooth, my friend, I have no idea what yer talkin’ about. Me crew and I came here for a little rest. Nothin’ more, I assure you.”
We heard some yelling, followed by a loud explosion. A minute later, the two Barrys appeared, dragging a skinny man between the two of them. “We found this one in the cave,” Barry #2 said.
“And the explosion?” I asked.
“That was Teacup. He tried to throw an explosive near some guys we found diggin’ on the beach on the other side. He…um…missed and blew up some trees.”
“There’s some rope in the bottom of a rowboat,” I said. “Tie him up and then bring some back for our esteemed captain here.”
“You’ll not be tyin’ me up!” de Bastille roared, jumping to his feet. He drew his sword out of his scabbard and took a swing at me. Hermes, still holding Tooth, scrambled out of the way. Pulling out my own sword, I knocked his second swing to the side and sliced his left sleeve.
He thrust his sword toward my midsection, and I quickly stepped aside and watched him stumble forward. I gave him a boot to his behind, sending him tumbling. “You know, you’re supposed to be this big, bad pirate,” I said, “but you fight like a baby. My sisters would have beat you already.”
“Don’t say much for yer sword skills, do it?” de Bastille said, grunting as he got to his feet.
Hermes started to say something, but I just shook my head as another explosion rocked the island, followed by screaming. “Well, if that’s the way you feel about it…” I waited for him to turn around, then unleashed a series of moves on him that made him parry as he moved backwards. When he backed into another coconut tree, I hooked his sword with him, spun his arm a couple of times, then jerked my arm up. The move sent his sword flying into some bushes off to the side. As he watched it fly, I moved one step closer and put the tip of my sword at his throat. “You were saying, Captain?”
His hand snaked down to his waist where his pistol was, and I pressed the tip a little harder into his neck. “If you want to live, you won’t do what I think you’re about to do. Brother, get his weapons.”
Hermes put Tooth down, rushed over, and disarmed de Bastille. Barry #1 came out of the trees with some rope and tied the captain’s hands together. “We rounded up the rest of ‘em, Capt’n,” he said, giving Tooth a salute.
“Good job, Barry,” Tooth said, nodding his head. “I say we kill ‘em all.”
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
“I’m in charge around here, and I say we take them back to the ship, sail to deep waters, and make them all walk the plank.”
I pointed my sword at the pug. “You are not in charge. I let you borrow my ship. But you’ve lied to me at every turn. You can tell your crew what to do, but what happens to de Bastille and his men is up to me.”
“And just who the hell are ye?” de Bastille demanded.
His mouth dropped open. “As in the God of War Ares?” He slid down to the ground. “I was nearly murder’d by a god?!”
“Your lucky day.”
A third explosion was heard, this time a bit closer to our spot. I looked at Barry #1. “Would you tell Teacup to stop trying to blow up the whole island? The ‘battle’, such as it was, is over.”
Barry nodded and ran off. Leaning over, I grabbed the captured pirate’s arm and hauled him to his feet. I marched him in the opposite direction, toward our rowboats. When we got back to the beach, I saw my ship on fire. What the hell happened?!” I yelled at the crew.
“Well, ya see,” Teacup said, looking embarrassed. “I accidentally left some explosives onboard in the galley. I just went down there to get a drink before we came ashore. I guess I forgot about them, and…”
“Where is your ship?” I asked de Bastille.
He looked over his shoulder. “Back there, in the lagoon.”
A loud cracking noise drew our attention back to my ship, and we watched it sink. Grumbling, I dragged de Bastille toward the rowboats. “Bring the rest of them.”
We loaded the crew of twelve men into our two rowboats. I sent a silent message out to the seas, asking for a strong wind to send them far away from the island. I tossed a dagger into the bottom of the captain’s rowboat. “Don’t come back here, or I won’t be so kind next time,” I warned him as the Barrys set the boats adrift.
Once they were out of sight, I turned around and faced Tooth and his crew. “You will pay me for my ship, is that clear?” I glared at the pug.
“Oh, aye, aye,” he agreed. “‘Tis the least I can do.”
“Damn right,” I muttered. “Let’s go find this treasure of yours and get out of here.”