Read Blue Sea Burning Online

Authors: Geoff Rodkey

Blue Sea Burning (6 page)

“It tells a story,” she said.

“I thought you couldn't read it.”

“I can't. Just a few symbols. But look—” She pointed to a squiggly
X
with two circles over it. “These crossed slings mean there was a battle. And these two here—” She indicated a pair of symbols, a boat over water next to an eye inside a cloud. “The first is a journey over the sea, and the second is Ma, Thunder God. They journeyed to Ma—the god of our enemies.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don't know,” she said. “But the whole story is about the Fist. Its symbol shows up over and over again. When we get this translated, we can find it.”

The hope in her voice said she still believed the Fist of Ka had all the power the legends claimed for it. And that if she found it, she could save her tribe.

“How on earth are we going to get it translated?” I asked her.

She looked at me like I was an idiot. “The same way we are going to stop Roger Pembroke. By finding the Okalu.”

“But how would that help?”

“There are warriors among my people,” she said. “Plenty of them. And we have no greater enemy than Pembroke. It's our tribe he uses as slaves in his mine on Sunrise. And the Moku hold our land because of guns he gave them.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And he ordered my father's death the same as yours. If we can find my tribe, every Okalu alive will help you against him.”

“But what if the Fist isn't—?”

“Fist or no Fist. My people will help.”

I nearly leaped up and hugged her. “That's fantastic! I'd never even thought of it.”

She laughed. “What—did you think we were going to stop Roger Pembroke by ourselves? Just the three of us?”

I let that go without answering. As Guts joined us, taking a seat on the porch next to Kira, I started to puzzle over how we might get to the Okalu. Our last attempt to reach their base in the Cat's Teeth Mountains had been foiled by both the Moku tribe and Roger Pembroke's Rovian troops.

“How are we going to reach the Okalu?” I asked. “We can't go overland again. It's too dangerous.”

Kira had already figured that out, too.

“We'll go to Edgartown. My old tutor from when I lived there, Mr. Dalrymple, is a friend of my people. He will know how to reach the tribe.”

“Just gotta get to
pudda
Edgartown,” said Guts.

“It's just a few days' sail from here,” I said. “How hard can it be?”

PLENTY HARD, IT TURNED OUT.

“Only ships out o' Deadweather that put in at Edgartown,” Quint explained to us as he pulled a tray of breakfast biscuits from the oven, “are merchantmen. Most of 'em carryin' ugly fruit fer yer dad . . . may the Savior watch over him.” Quint kissed a fingertip and raised it to the heavens. He'd taken the news about Dad's death harder than I'd expected.

“A merchantman's fine,” I said. “We've got some money—we can pay our freight.” It was the same way Guts and I had gotten to Pella Nonna.

“In that case . . . next one's due in three months.”

“We've got to wait
three months
to get a ship?”

As I said it, the door to my bedroom opened, and Adonis entered along with a strong whiff of monkey poop.

“Sounds just right,” he said. “Three months be 'nuff time to help me get this plantation runnin', thank ye please.”

“What were you doing in there?” Kira asked.

“Feedin' Clem.” He showed her a handful of tree nuts. “He ain't so bad after all. Make nice to 'im, he's a right good monkey, please.”

The last thing I wanted was to be stuck on Deadweather for three months.

And there was one other option.

I looked at Guts and Kira. “Burn Healy's headed to Edgartown,” I reminded them. “What if we hop a ride with him?”

“An' get sunk when he runs into
Li Homaya
and Ripper Jones?
Blun
to that!”

“But the way Healy talked, it sounded like he was going to make for Edgartown
before
he tried to fight them. And he's leaving right away.”

Kira shook her head. “His crew would never let us board again. Unless one of us was a carpenter.”

Quint looked up from his biscuits.

“I'm a carpenter.”

CHAPTER 8

The Legless Carpenter

“SORRY I SLUGGED YE,
thanks.”

I fingered the bruise on my cheekbone. It had swelled up pretty good over the last few hours.

“That's okay. Guess I would have been angry, too.”

When it dawned on Adonis at breakfast that we were not only leaving right away, but taking with us the only person in the house who knew how to cook and do laundry, he'd exploded. Like most of his rages over the years, it had been directed at me—only I'd been lulled into a false sense of security by the new, trying-to-be-nice Adonis, so when the old one had suddenly reappeared, I hadn't gotten my arms up in time to block the punch.

After Quint and Guts had pulled him away, he'd spent some time screaming, “SORRY SORRY THANKS!” at me, but it hadn't exactly sounded like he meant it. Then he'd gone into a heavy sulk, and for the next several hours, he'd refused to speak to any of us, or to do anything at all except sit on the front porch and feed tree nuts to Clem the monkey.

I don't know if it was just the tree nuts or what, but my brother and that monkey had really hit it off. Clem screeched and bared his teeth at everybody who came within a few feet of him except Adonis, who was now sitting on the porch steps and scratching Clem's nut-swollen belly as the monkey lay on his back, dozing in the stifling afternoon heat.

Not only was Adonis's latest apology the first thing he'd said to me in hours, but it actually sounded halfway sincere. I figured it was okay to get within swinging distance again, so I sat down on the porch steps beside him.

Adonis bit his lip as we watched Mung hitch the horses to the carriage. By now, my brother didn't look angry, or even sulky. Instead, he looked scared. Once Kira and Guts got back from the western slope of the volcano, where they'd gone so Kira could get a look at the Fire King's tomb, we'd be leaving Adonis alone with the mess that was the plantation.

We'd done what we could to make it easier for him. After I'd cleaned the whole house, I'd gone down to the barracks to find Janks. He was the most dependable man among the field pirates who wasn't already dead, and I slipped him five gold pieces to serve as foreman in Otto's place.

Meanwhile, Quint had washed Adonis's dirty clothes and was inside making a fresh stew so my brother would have cooked meals for at least the next couple of days.

“I'll come back,” I told Adonis for the tenth time. “Soon as I take care of things.”

He glowered. “S'posed to take care of things here, thank ye. Swore it to Dad 'fore he died.”

“I'm going to avenge his death. Seems like he would have wanted that.”

Adonis didn't say anything.

“Do you have enough gold?” I'd left him all but three pieces of what Burn Healy had given us, minus what Janks had gotten. “I've still got a bit left if you want it.”

He shook his head. “Don't need it please.”

Kira came out of the house dressed in her own clothes, still damp from Quint's washing. She'd been wearing an old dress of Venus's when she went up the mountain.

“The house looks much better,” she said.

“Thanks.” A sarcastic comment about all the help I'd gotten with the cleaning popped into my head, but I figured it was better left unsaid. “Didn't know you were back. Did you find the tomb okay?”

She nodded, looking sorrowful—and I got a little pang of sorrow myself at the thought that if I'd gone along, I could have paid a visit to my mother's grave while we were up there.

But then the house would still need cleaning, and we had to get down the hill to Port Scratch before Burn Healy set sail. For all we knew, he might be gone already.

“Where's yer friend, thank ye?” Adonis asked Kira.

“He went to the barracks. To buy a hook for his hand.”

“Is Quint ready?” I asked.

“I think so,” she said. She went back inside to look for him.

I stood up. Adonis didn't move, except to keep scratching Clem's belly. It really was odd to see. I didn't know my brother had it in him to be gentle like that.

“Quint thinks Janks will be a good foreman, long as you treat him well,” I told him. “Just . . . remember what Healy said about respect, and you'll be fine.”

I didn't really believe that. Getting the pirates to pull together and put the plantation back on a decent footing was going to take a lot of clever leadership. And Adonis wasn't clever. Or a leader.

I think he knew that, which was why he was so upset.

“You could come with us, you know,” I said.

He shook his head. “This is me place, right here please. Anyway, yer nuts.”

“How so?”

“Gettin' on that ship again. Ripper an' that Lilo bloke gonna blow it out of the water.”

I'd been trying not to think about that.

“An' that's if Healy's crew let ye on to begin with. Probably won't.”

“Well, in that case . . . we'll be back for dinner.”

Quint vaulted through the doorway, walking on his hands. Kira was behind him.

“All squared away. Stew in the pot's ready to eat,” he told Adonis. “Don't let it sit more'n a day. Give ye a bellyache after that.”

Quint had a big grin on his face. Like everyone else on the plantation, he'd been a working pirate before he got too injured to crew a ship, and the prospect of going to sea with Burn Healy had him more excited than I'd ever seen him.

I still wasn't sure how Healy would feel about hiring a legless carpenter, but our plan—to promise Healy that the three of us would be Quint's legs and carry him wherever he needed to go on board—seemed reasonable, assuming the crew went along with it.

Mung signaled to us that the carriage was ready. We'd decided to take it so Quint wouldn't have to walk all the way to Port Scratch on his hands, and Mung was at the reins because our old driver, Stumpy, hadn't survived his last card game.

We had to wait around a few minutes for Guts. In the middle of it, the ground began to shake like a rickety table. Kira looked terrified.

“What's happening?”

“Earthquake,” I said. “We get a lot of them.”

Quint squinted in the direction of the volcano. “Been comin' more regular lately. Coughed up some ash last month, too.”

“Hope she spits lava on ye comin' down,” grumbled Adonis. But he must have felt guilty about it, because a moment later, he added, “Sorry thanks.”

Guts showed up just then. He had a new hook strapped to his left hand under a leather cowl, and his face was twitching hard.

“Ground's shakin'!”

“Earthquake,” I said. “No big deal.” Then I nodded at the hook. “Going to name that one, too?” He'd called his last hook Lucy, which had always struck me as silly.

He grimaced. “Nah. Just make me madder if I lose it.”

After saying our good-byes to Adonis—Clem woke up and screeched at us, which more or less matched my brother's mood—we piled into the back of the carriage and started off down the wagon-rutted road.

I waved out the window one last time at my brother, and he replied with a hand gesture that would have gotten him shot down in Port Scratch.

“Think he'll manage okay?” I asked Quint.

Quint shrugged. “Probably not.”

THE DOCK AROUND THE
GRIFT
was swarming with Healy pirates, all loading gear so fast that it seemed like they might be casting off any minute. I didn't want to interrupt any of them for fear of getting my head taken off, so we stood around awkwardly on the dock until Spiggs strode by and noticed us.

“Looking for the cap?”

I nodded.

“Went to meet the captain of the
Sea Goblin.
” Spiggs pointed up the street. “Check the Blind Goat.”

We left Mung with the horses so they wouldn't get stolen for meat and started up the street, which was so filth-ridden that Quint rode piggyback on my shoulders rather than walk on his hands.

“Strange thing, Burn Healy in the Blind Goat,” he said, his head so close to my ear I could feel his breath on it.

“Why's that?” I asked.

“It's a Ripper joint,” he said.

The Goat was a big, single-story box with walls made of wood so warped that they looked like they might cave in at any second. We were about thirty feet from the place when two burly men popped out the open front door, clutching pistols, and ran around the far corner of the building.

“Stop a bit,” said Quint.

I stopped. “Why?”

“In case they's runnin' from somethin', instead o' to it. Wouldn't want to get in the way.”

But nobody else followed them out, so after a long moment standing in the muck of the street, we continued on, stepping through the open doorway into the tavern.

The only light in the place came through either the door or the dozens of cracks in the walls and ceiling, so it took a moment for our eyes to adjust to the gloom. The place was empty except for three grimy pirates who were hunched over the bar, sniggering to each other.

The one standing on the bartender's side looked up to growl at us. “Wot ye want?”

“Looking for Burn Healy,” I said.

The men sniggered. “Just missed 'im,” said one.

“Do you know where he went?” I asked.

“Down below, I expect,” said another, and they all sniggered again.

I didn't get it. “Is there a basement?”

More sniggers. Then:

“He's
dead,
boy.”

My stomach fell out at the words.

“Now, hang on, Zig,” growled the bartender. “Deal ain't done yet, or we woulda heard it.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when a shattering crash erupted from somewhere in the back, like someone had just jumped through a window. It was followed by several gunshots . . . and then a
thud
that I didn't hear so much as feel through the floorboards.


Now
it's done!”

“Come beggin' fer help, left with a hole in his head!”

The men at the bar cackled with glee as they slapped hands in celebration. I looked past them, horrified, at the closed door along the back wall.

The sneering bartender turned back to face us. “Turns out Healy weren't so tough after all. Ripper Jones gonna pay a fine bounty for
that
meat.”

He started toward us, pulling a knife from his waistband as he spoke.

“An' as fer your lot . . .”

Quint dropped from my shoulders to the floor. Guts stepped forward, brandishing his new hook. I was getting my fists up, cursing myself for having been stupid enough to walk into a place like this unarmed, when the door in the back opened.

The bartender glanced back over his shoulder, and the color left his face.

Burn Healy was standing in the door frame, a pistol in each hand. In the little room behind him, something heavy and slack slid off a chair, and another low
thud
vibrated through the floorboards.

All three pirates ran past us out the door so fast that they'd vanished almost before the bartender's dropped knife hit the floor.

Healy walked over behind the bar. Through the door he'd just exited, I could see a table, chairs, a lot of broken glass, and several heaps on the floor. Two of the heaps resembled the men who'd run around the back of the building just before we entered.

My uncle set the pistols down on the bar, and then took a bottle of brown liquor and a glass from the top shelf.

“It never gets easier,” he said, shaking his head as he wiped the lip of the glass clean with his shirttail. “You spend years building a reputation, so when you need something done, you don't have to shoot anyone to make it happen.”

He poured himself a drink. “But the minute there's some chop in the water, everybody thinks they can get over on you.”

He drained the glass in one gulp. Then he looked our way. “Why are you here?”

“We've found a carpenter,” I said.

Quint vaulted up onto a barstool, then onto the bar itself. He waddled over to Healy on his stumps and stuck out his hand.

“Quint Bailey, Cap. Honor to meet ye. Understand you're in need of a man with my skills.”

Healy shook Quint's hand with a wary look on his face.

“Carpenter, are you?”

“Prepped by masters, salted with experience. That's me.”

“How much experience?”

“Five years apprenticed in the yard at Safe Harbor. Six on ships: first one press-ganged by His Majesty, next five as chief man fer Warty Creech, rest his soul.” Quint kissed his finger and raised it to the heavens.

Healy frowned. “You were carpenter on the
Crow
?”

Quint nodded gravely. “Me last ship.”

“Why couldn't you save her?”

“Could've—if the shell wot sank her hadn't taken me legs off.” He shook his head at the memory. “I'd been ten feet farther down the deck, she'd be sailin' still. So would I.”

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