Chapter One: Coming of AgeEdit
Two stoats stood in front of the figurehead of the corsair ship, Lady Artemis. One stoat was Solomon the Terrible, Lady Artemis's captain, one of the most-feared pirates ever to sail the western sea. The other was his eleven-year-old firstborn son, Badrang. Today was his birthday. "Ah, Badrang, son, you know I won't be around forever." Solomon was saying in his Salamandastron brogue. Badrang nodded. "I know, and then I'll be captain of the Lady Artemis and the crew and all the treasure will belong to me." He looked dreamy, all the while knowing that his father's would be impossible shoes to fill, when the time came. "What about Malwyze?" Badrang glanced anxiously at his three-year-old little brother, playing with his toy sword on the main deck while a crewbeast kept him entertained with stories about Blackfur, Solomon's deceased rival. Solomon only shook his head. "He'll probably be the first mate, and you can divide with him the treasure you get." The sea breeze whipped Solomon's black cloak back, and he smiled wryly at his two sons. He produced a spyglass and handed it to Badrang. "Here. It's time you had a go." Grinning ear to ear, Badrang put his eye to the spyglass and squinted hard. At first he saw nothing but ocean and seagulls..... But then, he could make out the faint shilouette of.... A speck of land, and trees. An island. "LAAND!" He exclaimed, and handed the telescope back to his father. Solomon looked through the spyglass to see if this was true, and then yelled to everybeast on deck "All right, ya scurvydogs, put yer backs into it! We're nearin' land!" Cheers arose from the main deck and Badrang smiled. Still grinning doggedly, the young stoat tore his father's hat right off his head, went over to the main deck and put it on his little brother's head. Malwyze could barely see over its wide brim, but he laughed crazily, like he often did. "Look at us, Daddy!" Malwyze called in his little voice, and Solomon had to smile. Normally he would chastise Badrang for such behaivor, but today was different. After all, it WAS his birthday and his coming-of-age day as well. One day in the future the same would be done for Malwyze. Solomon grinned in anticipation of that.
Chapter Two: The RitualEdit
Two hours later, the Lady Artemis docked on the tiny island that Badrang had spotted himself. Badrang, of course, was first to step off the gangplank, clad in a black cloak and sword-belt that were miniatures of his father's. Next off was was Solomon himself, and Gavin, the weasel who was the first mate. Seven members of Solomon's crew stepped down off the plank next. Artemis, Badrang and Malwyze's mother for whom the ship was named, stayed behind to look after Malwyze, who was far too young to attend a coming-of-age ceremony.
Badrang could not keep still with the excitement. He kept a steady lead behind Solomon as his father occaisonally shouted instructions to the crew, like "That's a nasty vine there! Cut it before it strangles somebeast." Or "Keep close to the right now. I've been told there's cannibals down that path." Eventually, they reached a clearing. Solomon smiled his son and said "You stand there, Badrang." And pointed to the center of the grass patch.
A few moments later, the entire crew had gathered solemly over the spot where a faded X was marked with what looked like dried raspberry juice. Or maybe, (though Badrang dreaded the possiblity) it was dried blood. Either way, Badrang knew corsair terminology. X marks the spot. Calico Jack, a calico tomcat who was the master of the crow's nest, stood at the edge of the clearing. He saluted Solomon. "Found this, Cap'n." With a faint rattling he held up a fox skeleton with a cutlass still clutched in its paw. Solomon grinned and said jokingly. "Well, well if it tain't Jeremy Blackrose, first mate under Blackfur. It's been a while, old matey." He sniggered to himself, then said to Jack "Take the body back where you found it. It's good that you did. Shows we're where we should be." Badrang watched, wide-eyed as two crewbeasts got down on their paws and began digging fervently. Twenty minutes later, Branden Wilkes, a cross-eyed wolverine who was one of the diggers called out "Oy, Cap'n! We've 'it somethin'! Me paws are bleedin' like rainwater into a rum flagon!" Solomon brushed Wilkes and his digging partner aside and hauled the treasure chest up himself. It was nothing remarkable; just an old seaman's chest covered with a ratty yellow blanket. "Kneel!" He half-snarled at everyone. They did so. "Look upon my son, Badrang." Solomon whispered. "There was once a time when he was no older than Malwyze, wanting to carry my sword about and get to turn the ship's wheel. Aye, that may've been so, but Badrang was the pride o' my 'eart. Still is. This is a very special day for him and for all of you." Solomon turned to his son. "You do the honors. It's YOUR coming-of-age." Badrang slowly opened the treasure chest. The hinges squeaked noisily as he did so..... What he saw took the stoat's breath away. Every treasure one can imagine was inside the chest! Gold, jewels. Dubloons, pieces of eight. Gold chalices and gold-plaited necklace chains. "Pick whatever speaks to you." Solomon whispered. Badrang stared at the heap of treasure for a long time before selecting a piece of eight on a taut leather thong. He slipped it on his neck and then shut the chest. Solomon stood next to the treasure chest with his cutlass propped against it. "Now," He whispered, voice icy. "In one moment my son shall become an adult." In an onslaught of blades, Solomon killed each and every one of his crewbeasts with a deadly stab to the back of the skull. They were all dead instantly, skeletons in a circle around the chest of treasure. Solomon quietly wiped the blood off his cutlass with his cloak. Badrang stood, slack-jawed. He had never seen his father kill this many animals at once before. "W-why?" He whispered. "Why did you do that?" Solomon put his paw on his son's shoulder. " 'Tis all part of the ritual, son." He said gravely. "And also for legend's sake. Look around you. Do you see the skeletons along the trail we walked down?" Wordlessly Badrang nodded. "Many, many other pirates have tried to find Blackfur's treasure, only to fail horribly. I killed those creatures for a reason. No other corsair other than me must know the secret. That is because I am the greatest corsair ever to roam the sea!" He laughed, and led Badrang back down the trail they'd came.
Badrang was the main subject at dinner that night. Him coming-of-age, of course, meant that Badrang got to drink a WHOLE FLAGON of rum instead of fleeting sips like when he was younger. "No more tonight." Solomon said firmly, wagging a claw at his son. "You're not drinking more than one flagon till you're sixteen. I'm not having an obessive drunkard for a son." Badrang's face fell, but at the same time he knew his father was right.
Later that night, Badrang felt like he had enough patience to play with Malwyze on the deck, telling stories he made up as he went along. "What happened next, what happened next?" Malwyze crowed, bouncing up and down. Badrang didn't answer. He was preoccupied with staring at another ship on the horizon. Suddenly, Badrang's mouth went dry. "Go to your cabin, Malwyze." He whispered. "Don't ask why. Just go." "Okay!" Malwyze said cheerfully, running off. "FATHER!!!!" Badrang exclaimed, running inside to his father's quarters. "IT'S JOSIAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" By that he meant Josiah Clogg, another stoat who was Solomon's archenemy after the death of Blackfur. "Josiah?!" Solomon growled, picking up his cutlass. "Tell me. Has he brought the Emerald Sun?" The Emerald Sun; formerly a captured privateer ship, was one of Clogg's two ships. The other one was being housed at a shipyard in a place called Mossflower for the summer. "Badrang, come with me." Solomon took his son's paw and together they hurried onto the deck. Clogg and the Emerald Sun were waiting for them.
Almost immeadietly a brutal fight broke out between Solomon, Clogg, and their respective crews. The clashing ships were so close together that one could easily jump from one deck over to another. Badrang watched worriedly as Clogg and his father engaged in a sword fight. "Ha! You missed, Josiah! You couldn't hit me if I stood in fronta yer face!" Badrang had to smile at his father's antics. The two stoats kept dueling. "Solomon, Solomon!" Clogg was saying. "You get a little more boastful eve'ra time we see each other." Slash! Clang! The duel continued. Badrang was enraptured by the clacking of sword on sword. It sounded like music. And then, an astonishing Riiiiip! In a trice, Josiah had Solomon run through. Badrang immeadietly leapt over to the other ship to be with his father. Solomon's blood was spilling out onto the deck, but the pirate still had enough strength to grab at his son's paw. "Badrang..." He whispered, voice rasping from a throat-wound. "Take.... Care of your brother. Take care... Of Malwyze." Suddenly, Solomon gasped in pain and died quietly. His eyes began to glaze over, and Josiah Clogg turned to Badrang, who immeadietly stepped back in fright: Josiah Clogg was every boy's dream of brute masculine strength: Large muscles and a shiny pelt of fur glistened on his bare front legs. He was clad only in tattered pants and a sleeveless leather tunic. "D-don't kill me." Was all Badrang could think of to say. Clogg only laughed; a sound that sounded like summer thunder. "Kill yeh, laddie? Why would I do that? Ah now, laddie, killin's too good fer yer. From now on you'll work as a cabin boy for me." "What if I don't want to?" Clogg drew out his bloddied cutlass. "Then ye'll join yore old man over there...." Badrang gasped. "I'll do it! I'll do whatever you ask!" Clogg ruffled Badrang's fur in an almost good-natured way. "There's a good lad now." Badrang watched wordlessly as his father's body was tossed to the sharks. How can I ever live up to Dad's promise now....? He thought. Malwyze was nowhere in sight and the Lady Artemis had been shot down by flaming arrows. Now she was slowly sinking down into her watery grave. "Mom," Badrang whispered. He knew he'd never lay eyes on his mother again. As Badrang gazed out into the horizon, he saw Malwyze, frantically clinging to a piece of driftwood. "MALWYZE!!!!" Badrang doubted Malwyze heard him over the screaming wind and thunder. When Badrang looked, Clogg had reappeared on deck. A younger stoat who was as muscularly built as he was was standing beside him. The younger stoat looked to be around Badrang's age. "Badrang; my son Tramun. Tramun; this is Solomon's precious boy." Tramun only laughed and said "Hey, little loser. Gonna wind up like yer old man there?" Badrang grimaced. This was the beginning of a deadly relationship.