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Demons of the Ocean, p.1

Justin Somper

Text copyright © 2005 by Justin Somper
Illustrations by Jon Foster
All rights reserved.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Visit our Web site at hachettebookgroupusa.com
First eBook Edition: October 2006
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
ISBN: 978-0-316-04190-4
Contents
Crescent Moon Bay, east coast of Australia. The year 2505.
Prologue: THE STORM, THE SHANTY, AND THE SHIP
7 YEARS LATER
1: THE FUNERAL
2: THE UNINVITED GUEST
3: THINGS GET WORSE
4: HELL OR HIGH WATER
5: JOURNEY’S END
6: PIRATES
7: LORCAN FUREY
8: MOLUCCO WRATHE
9: CABIN FEVER
10: THE LIFE OF A PIRATE
11: SOME KIND OF DANGER
12: A GENTLE WAY TO DIE
13: BROKEN MIRROR
14: THE DAWNING
15: CONFLICT
16: UNDER ATTACK
17: THE VAMPIRE
18: PUNISHMENT TO FIT THE CRIME
19: THE CAPTAIN
20: SAFE HAVEN
21: SWORDS
22: BREAD AND SOUP
23: ACTION STATIONS
24: THE NIGHTFALL BELL
25: RAID
26: THE FIGUREHEAD
27: THE SLOW PARADE
28: THE DIVIDING OF THE SPOILS
29: DRESSING FOR DINNER
30: THE FEAST
31: THE HUNGER
32: MA KETTLE’S TAVERN
33: THE END OF MY STORY
34: THE STRANGER
35: IT BEGINS
For my dad, John Dennis Somper,
with love and thanks for sheltering me from the storm
Crescent Moon Bay, east coast of Australia. The year 2505.
Prologue
THE STORM, THE SHANTY, AND THE SHIP
As the first crack of thunder broke over Crescent Moon Bay, Grace Tempest opened her eyes. A flash of sheet lightning broke behind the curtains. Shivering, she threw back the bedclothes and walked over to the bedroom window. It had broken free and was wide open, beating in the gale like a glass wing.
Grace reached out to pull it back. It required some effort and the rain drenched her in the process, but she managed it. She fastened the window but left it just slightly ajar — not wanting to entirely shut out the storm. It had a strange, rough music with too many drumrolls and clashing cymbals. It made her heart race from excitement as well as fear. The rainwater was icy cold on her face and neck and arms. It made her skin tingle.
Across the room, Connor was still asleep — his mouth wide open, one arm flopping over the edge of his bunk. How could he sleep through such a racket? Perhaps her twin brother had clean exhausted himself playing soccer all afternoon.
Beyond the lighthouse window, the bay was empty of ships. This was no night to be out sailing. The lighthouse beam swept across the surface of the ocean, illuminating the troubled waves. Grace smiled, thinking of her dad up above in the lamp room, watching over the harbor, keeping everyone safe.
Another sheet of lightning cracked and splintered outside the window. Stumbling back, Grace careered into Connor’s bed. Her brother’s face suddenly crinkled and then his eyes opened. He looked up with a combination of confusion and annoyance. She stared down at his bright green eyes. They were the exact same shade as hers — as if an emerald had been cut in two. Their dad’s eyes were brown, so Grace had always thought that they must have taken after their mother. Sometimes, in her dreams, a woman appeared at the lighthouse door, smiling and looking down on Grace with the same piercing green eyes.
“Hey, you’re all wet!”
Grace realized that she was dripping rainwater onto Connor.
“There’s a storm. Come and look!”
She grabbed his arm and pulled him out from under the bedclothes, dragging him toward the window. He stood there, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, as another vein of lightning danced in front of them.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Grace said.
Connor nodded but was silent. Although he had lived all his days in the lighthouse at the edge of the shore, he had never gotten used to the raw power of the ocean — its ability to change from a calm millpond one moment to a raging furnace the next.
“Let’s go and see what Dad’s up to,” he said.
“Good idea.” Grace grabbed her dressing gown from the bedroom door and wrapped herself up all snug. Connor pulled on a hooded sweater over his T-shirt. Together they raced out of the bedroom and climbed the spiral staircase up to the lamp room.
As they made their way up, the noise of the storm grew louder. Connor didn’t like it one bit, but he wasn’t about to share that with Grace. His sister was quite fearless. It was strange. Grace was as thin and bony as a rake, but as tough as an old boot. Connor was physically strong, but Grace had a steely mental strength that he had yet to gain. Perhaps he never would.
“Well, hello there!” said their dad as they emerged into the lamp room. “Storm woke you up, did it?”
“No, Grace woke me up,” Connor said. “I was in the middle of a really good dream! I was about to score a hat trick.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can sleep through a storm like this,” Grace said. “It’s too noisy and too beautiful.”
“You’re weird,” Connor said.
Grace frowned and jutted out her lip. Sometimes, though they were twins, she felt they were polar opposites.
Their dad took a sip of his strange-smelling tea and beckoned to them.
“Grace, why don’t you come over here and get a ringside seat for the show. Connor, come and sit by me.”
The twins did as he said, squatting down on the floor on either side of him. Instantly, Grace was fascinated, enjoying the chance to watch the raging bay from the highest vantage point. Connor had a flash of vertigo but he felt his father’s reassuring hand on his shoulder, sending waves of calm through his body.
Their dad took another sip of his tea. “Who’d like to hear a shanty?” he asked.
“Me!” Connor and Grace answered in unison. They both knew exactly the shanty he would sing. He’d sung it to them for as long as they could remember, from the time when they’d been babies — in matching cots, side by side — and couldn’t even understand the words.
“This,” he announced grandly — as if he hadn’t done so a thousand times before — “this is a shanty sung by people long before the new flood came and made the world so wet. This is a shanty about a ship that sails through the night, through all eternity. A ship that carries a crew of damned souls — the demons of the ocean. A ship that has been sailing since time began and will voyage on until the very end of the world . . .”
Connor trembled with delicious anticipation. Grace smiled from ear to ear. Their dad, the lighthouse keeper, began to sing.
I’ll tell you a tale of Vampirates,
A tale as old as true.
Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
And its mighty fearsome crew.
Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship
That sails the oceans blue . . .
That haunts the oceans blue.
As her dad sang, Grace looked out through the window at the bay below. The storm was still raging but she felt perfectly safe, looking down from such a height.
The Vampirate ship has tattered sails
That flap like wings in flight.< />
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They say that the captain, he wears a veil
So as to curtail your fright
At his death-pale skin
And his lifeless eyes
And his teeth as sharp as night.
Oh, they say that the captain, he wears a veil
And his eyes never see the light.
Connor watched as his dad used his hand to mime a veil. He shivered at the thought of the captain’s horrible face.
You’d better be good, child — good as gold,
As good as good can be.
Else I’ll turn you in to the Vampirates
And wave you out to sea.
Yes, you’d better be good, child — good as gold,
Because — look! Can you see?
There’s a dark ship in the harbor tonight
And there’s room in the hold for thee!
(Plenty of room for thee!)
Both twins looked out to the harbor, half expecting to see a dark ship waiting for them there. Waiting to take them away from their dad and their home. But the bay was empty.
Well, if pirates are bad,
And vampires are worse,
Then I pray that as long as I be
That though I sing of Vampirates
I never one shall see.
Yea, if pirates are danger,
And vampires are death,
I’ll extend my prayer for thee —
That thine eyes never see a Vampirate . . .
The lighthouse keeper reached out his hands to touch both children lightly on the shoulder.
. . . and they never lay a hand on thee.
Connor and Grace had known what was coming but still they jumped, before bursting into giggles. Their dad enfolded them in a hug.
“Who’s ready for bed now?” he asked.
“I am,” Connor said.
Grace could have watched the storm all night, but she couldn’t prevent a long yawn from escaping.
“I’ll come down and tuck you in,” their dad said.
“Shouldn’t you stay here and watch the bay?” Grace asked.
Her dad smiled. “It won’t take a moment. The lamp is on. Besides, Gracie, the bay is as empty as the grave tonight. There isn’t one single ship out there. Not even the Vampirate ship.”
He winked at the twins, set down his mug of tea, and followed them downstairs. He tucked them both back into their beds and kissed first Grace then Connor good night.
After he turned out the bedroom light, Grace lay there, tired but too exhilarated to sleep. She looked over at Connor, who once again was sprawled right across his bed, perhaps already back in the throes of his earlier dream.
Grace couldn’t resist one last glance at the bay. Once more, she pushed back the covers and padded across the floor to the window. The storm had softened just a little and, as the lighthouse beam swept across the waters, she saw the waves had lost some of their turbulence.
And then she saw the ship.
It hadn’t been there before, but there was no mistaking it now. One solitary ship, out in the middle of the bay. It hovered there, as if quite unaffected by the storm around it. As if it was sailing on the calmest of waters. Grace’s eyes traced the outline of the dark silhouette. It made her think of the ancient ship in her dad’s shanty. The ship of demons. She trembled at the very thought, imagining the veiled captain staring back at her through the dark night. But truly, the way this ship just floated there — as if suspended from the moon by an invisible string — made it appear to be watching, waiting. For something . . . or someone.
Up above, in the lamp room, the lighthouse keeper saw the same ship out in the troubled waters. As he recognized its familiar shape, he couldn’t help but smile. He took another sip of his tea. Then he lifted his hand and waved.
7 YEARS LATER
1
THE FUNERAL
The whole of Crescent Moon Bay turned out for the lighthouse keeper’s funeral. That day, not a single black garment was left to buy at the Crescent Moon Clothing Emporium. Not one flower remained at the Happy Stem Florist. Each and every bloom had been fashioned into wreaths and floral tributes. The largest of these was a tower of white and red gardenias in the shape of a lighthouse, surrounded by a swirling sea of eucalyptus.
Dexter Tempest had been a good man. As lighthouse keeper, he had played an important part in the safekeeping of the bay. Many of those now standing around his grave, their bowed necks burning in the late afternoon sun, owed their life to Dexter’s keen eyes and even sharper sense of duty. Others had Dexter to thank for the safe passage of one or more family members or close friends, rescued from the dangerous waters beyond the harbor — waters teeming with sharks and pirates . . . and worse.
Crescent Moon Bay was the smallest of towns and each of its inhabitants seemed bound to the others as tightly as stitches in a piece of knitting. Such a tight weave didn’t necessarily make for comfortable living. Gossip flowed faster through the bay than the rapids up at Crescent Moon Creek. Right now, for example, there was just one topic of gossip — what was to become of the Tempest twins? There they stood, in front of their father’s grave. Fourteen years old. Not quite kids, not yet adults — the girl tall and lanky with a rare intelligence, the boy already blessed with the body of an athlete. But truly, they had few blessings to count, now they were orphans and — but for each other — all alone in the world.
No one in the bay had ever glimpsed the twins’ mother — Dexter’s wife. Some doubted even that a marriage had taken place. All they knew was that one day, Dexter Tempest left Crescent Moon Bay with a madcap notion to see something of the world. And, one day — a year or so later — he returned with a heavy heart and two swaddled parcels containing his twin children, Grace and Connor.
Polly Pagett, matron at the Crescent Moon Bay Orphanage, squinted in the bright light to better observe the boy and girl. She appeared to be measuring them, much like an artist making a sketch. Polly was preoccupied by the dilemma of which bunks to allocate to her new arrivals. True, no arrangements had yet been discussed, but surely there was no option other than the orphanage for these two children. The boy looked exceedingly strong. He could be set to work in the harbor. And the girl, though slighter in frame, was as sharp as a tack. No doubt she’d excel at helping to stretch the orphanage’s ever-dwindling budget. In spite of herself, a smile crept across Polly Pagett’s tight, papery lips.
Lachlan Busby, the bank manager, turned his head from the fine floral tribute commissioned by his wife (and surely unsurpassed in the churchyard) to better observe Grace and Connor. How poorly their father had provided for them. If only he had glanced across his bank accounts once in a while instead of devoting so much attention to the ships in the harbor. There was such a thing as giving too much. This was not a mistake Lachlan Busby ever intended to make.
Busby had his own plans for the twins. Tomorrow, he would break the news to Grace and Connor — calmly and gently, of course — that they had nothing in this world. That Dexter’s possessions — his boat, even the lighthouse itself — no longer belonged to them. Their father had left them nothing.
He glanced for a moment at his wife, who stood by his side. Dear, sweet Loretta! He could see she found it impossible to take her eyes off the twins. It had been a cruel blow to them that they had never been able to have children. But now it seemed that things might have a way of working out. He squeezed her hand.
Grace and Connor knew they were being looked at. It was nothing new. All their lives, they’d been the subject of gossip. They had never escaped the drama of their arrival in Crescent Moon Bay. And, as they’d grown, the emerald-eyed twins had continued to be the subject of rumor and speculation. There is envy in a small town like Crescent Moon Bay, and people were envious of the curious twins who seemed talented in ways their kids were not.
People found it hard to figure out why the lighthouse keeper’s son was so much better at sports than the rest. Whether it was soccer, basketball, or cricket, he seemed to run f
aster and strike harder, even when he neglected to show at team practice for weeks at a time. And the girl provoked equal suspicion — among her teachers as well as her classmates — with her unusual wide-ranging knowledge and strange notions about things far beyond her age and station in life.
Dexter Tempest, so the rumors went, had been a strange father to the pair, filling their heads with curious tales. Others went further still, suggesting that he had returned home to Crescent Moon Bay with a broken mind, as well as a broken heart.
Grace and Connor stood a little apart from the good folks of Crescent Moon Bay. And now, as the congregation at large sang a stirring hymn about the lighthouse keeper’s final journey to “a harbor fresh and new,” you might have noticed the smallest note of discord in the hot, stagnant air. While Grace and Connor seemed to sing along with the others, the song they sang was a different one, something rather more like a sea shanty than a hymn . . .

Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper / Fantasy / Mystery & Detective / Young Adult / Actions & Adventure have rating

Book 1: Demons of the Ocean

The storm seemed to come out of nowhere. It came at Grace and Connor just when they were at their most vulnerable, out beyond the harbour in the open ocean.

It didn’t give them a chance.

The sky changed colour so fast, it was as if someone had ripped away a sheet of blue wallpaper to reveal a gaping black hole. The heat from the sun vanished in an instant and the rain came down in hard pellets of water that burned and froze them in the same instant.

The water roiled beneath them, like a bucking bronco trying to throw its rider. The boat clung onto the waves, and Grace and Connor clung onto the boat, their harnesses offering little reassurance. What good was it being tied to a boat when at any moment the sea might slice their vessel in two or crush it in its rough, salty fist?

“We shouldn’t have done this,” Connor cried. “It was a stupid idea.”

“No,” shouted Grace, above of the roar of the water. “What choice did we have?”

“We’re going to die!”

“We’re not dead yet!”

Were those tears rolling down Connor’s cheek, or was it the saltwater stinging his eyes? Grace found it impossible to tell. She thought of their father. What would he have done?

“I’ll tell you a tale of Vampirates,” she sang, bravely, “A tale as old as true.”

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Connor grasped this crumb of comfort and joined in.

The two of them were still singing as the boat spun over and the guard rail snapped in two.

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The twins were thrown apart and down, down into the freezing, churning water.

Filled with a strange calm, Connor watched pieces of the boat sink past him down into the darker water below. A strange catalogue of cups and cutlery and books twirled past him. He reached a hand out towards them and watched them dance away. He smiled. Beneath the surface of the water it was calm, a safe haven from the storm that raged above. It was tempting to stay here, and drift with the other broken pieces of his world. This might be a good way to die.

No, he had to find Grace! He tore himself from his trance and with every fibre of his body, pushed upwards through the water. It was hard and it was painful, and it was all he could do not to let go, open himself to the water and sink back down into the darkness.

But Connor was strong and now he used all his strength to fight the shower of shrapnel hurtling towards him as he neared the wreckage of the boat. He burst through the surface, waves lashing him at every turn. Swallowing salty water and retching, he looked desperately around, searching for something buoyant to grab onto. And for his sister.

Connor’s saviour turned out to be a piece of seating. He gripped its jagged edges tightly, pulling himself up onto the plank of wood as if it was a surfboard. It was an enormous effort and his hands were bleeding. The churning saltwater added to his pain. But Connor took a gulp of air and realised he had done it. He was alive.

But where was Grace?

The storm was still raging, but quieter now. Connor scanned the bubbling water, looking for his sister’s face amid the debris. She wasn’t there. Gaining control of the makeshift surfboard, he moved through the water, looking for any sign of her. There was none.

The sea grew calmer but it was becoming harder and harder to see more than a metre or so ahead of him. Connor realised that a mist was settling. It grew thicker, enclosing him in his own personal cloud. No! Now he would never find her. He flapped his hands around him, trying to push the mist away, but all this did was to unbalance him. He brought his hands back down to the float and, defeated, let his head fall onto its surface. What was the point? If Grace was gone, there was nothing for him. He might as well slip from the float and dive back down into the water. At least they’d be together then.

Connor lost track of how long he drifted for. It seemed an eternity, but it might have been only a few seconds, stretched out of all recognition through despair and fatigue. Now, the mist was thinning. Through it, he could see the shadow of a ship. It was faint, but he could not miss the outline. It was like an old galleon. He’d only seen such things in books and as a model at the Maritime Museum. He must be imagining it – hallucinating, as death approached.

But no, it was a ship. As the mist began to lift, he could see it quite clearly – turning in the water. Why was it changing direction in the middle of the ocean? Unless it was stopping for some reason. Perhaps it had come to rescue him?

Buoyed by the thought, he used his remaining strength to wave his arms in the air and cry out hoarsely.

“Over here! Over here!”

The ship continued to turn. But it wasn’t coming for him. He could see no one on board. No one had seen him.

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The mist had lifted to the level of the deck. As the ship completed its turn, a soft golden light fell upon the ship’s figurehead – a young woman. If only she were a real woman instead of a painted sculpture. Her piercing eyes seemed to watch him but, of course, they were nothing more than daubs of paint on wood.

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Connor was at a loss what to do as the ship began to move off into the distance. As it sailed away, he made out sails quite unlike any he had ever seen. They were like wings, glimmering with thin veins of light.

“Hey!” Connor called again. “Help!”

But his voice was weak and the ship was already much too far away. All he could make out was the dark silhouette of its strange, tattered sails. They seemed to flap gently as the ship made its way. It seemed as if, rather than sailing through the rough ocean, the ship was merely skimming the surface, unaffected by the strong currents. His mind must be playing tricks.

It just didn’t make sense. His body felt dull and heavy and now it seemed that his mind was losing the fight too. Grace was gone.The ship that might have rescued him had sailed away. The only option open to him now was to give up and join his sister in her watery grave.

His reverie was broken by a voice at his side.

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“Here, grab my arm. You’re safe now.”

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