Many of you followed Aiden faithfully (the link to his story is on the right) and now I offer you the chance to follow yet another character on his journey of self-finding. If you have read my book The Guardian Star's True Mark, this is a character you will well be familiar with. His name is Justin and when we left him at the end of that book he was all of sixteen, a new captain of a remarkable ship, and ready to find his way in the world. It is now time for him to do just that. If you have not read The Guardian Star's True Mark, I would encourage you do to so, however, you will be able to enjoy this story regardless. If you would like to purchase it or others I have written, simply click on the link to the right, titled Books, to buy a copy.
I will post chapters of Justin's story, titled The Guardian Star's True Captain, here and you are welcome to comment as you like! I love to hear your opinions. I have through chapter 10 already written and after that I am working on some editing as I write in new chapters. I will attempt to post every week on Monday. On weeks I cannot I will attempt to let you know about the delay. So, shall we begin?
The Guardian Star’s True Captain
Chapter 1 ~ New Beginnings
“Fire!” Justin Falcon shouted over the boom of the other ship’s cannon.
The Guardian Star fired off a volley, but it fell short of its mark. Justin muttered a curse. This shouldn’t even be happening. He had been minding his own business when the other ship had started firing. No one fired on the Black Panther’s ship, unless they were ignorant or too furious to care. Of course, that could mean it was any pirate who operated on the Ula Ocean. The Black Panther had made enemies of most of them and now Justin had to deal with every one. His predecessor had left quite the legacy to follow.
Justin swore again. “Who is that idiot?”
“Someone who doesn’t realize who he is dealing with,” Namid, the helmsman and Justin’s appointed guard, answered grimly.
“Or else he does,” Maath, the first mate, replied to Namid from Justin’s right side.
Justin swung to look at him. “Impossible, no one knows Tommy retired. This idiot thinks he is fighting the real Black Panther.”
“Which you are now,” Namid reminded him.
“Well, yes,” Justin admitted hesitantly as he watched the other, still nameless, ship drawing closer.
“Conversation for a later time. The problem now is you don’t have the Black Panther’s experience,” Maath rapped out.
“No kidding. That’s why I have you two,” Justin said, just as the other ship launched a second volley. “Quit firing on my ship!” He yelled out angrily.
“Yeah, they heard that,” Maath muttered.
Justin swung around to him. “I’m open to suggestions!”
“You are not ready to deal with this. We need to run,” Maath answered calmly.
“Not happening. The Black Panther doesn’t run, he wins,” Justin returned. “Namid?”
“Maath is correct, yet so are you,” Namid answered.
“So helpful,” Justin muttered. “The Black Panther would get under their range, right?
Maath shook his head. “You might be right, but that’s presenting too big a target than I really feel like giving them right now.”
“What if we…” Namid took a hand off the wheel to make an odd motion with it.
“That might work. Can you time it precisely?” Maath questioned.
Namid scoffed. “Of course.”
Maath shrugged. “Then let’s do it, we can teach that arrogant captain a lesson and keep the ship and the Black Panther’s reputation in tack at the same time.
“Which, of course, is the point,” Namid clarified.
“Obviously,” Maath answered as he turned to start calling commands to the deck below.
Justin looked from Maath to Namid and back again. “What just happened?”
“You came up with a plan,” Namid replied in his calm manner.
“Yes, the crew believes you are giving all the orders through Maath as is the normal operation. Therefore, you came up with the plan.”
“But I didn’t. You did,” Justin protested.
Namid shrugged his broad shoulders. “They don’t know that.”
Justin shook his head and watched the action unfold. Namid turned the ship so that they where directly facing the attacking ship. Meanwhile, Maath had all the cannons pulled back, leaving only the front ones in place. They waited as the other ship pulled closer. Suddenly, Namid turned the wheel all the way so that the ship banked hard to the port. As soon as they were abeam to the attacking ship, Maath called ‘fire’ and just as quickly Namid was yanking the wheel in the opposite direction. Justin watched as all free hands dropped anchor on the side that Namid was turning too. Again, as soon as the starboard was facing the other ship the Guardian Star fired. The crew hauled the anchor back up as Namid used the ensuing momentum to continue the churn and shoot the ship straight past the attacking shop. As they went past, the back cannons, which Maath had moved back into place, fired all at once. Just that quickly, the Guardian Star was out of danger and leaving an incredibly damaged ship behind. The crew let out a robust cheer as they began to assess and repair their own ship. Justin tuned to stare at Namid in amazement.
“How… Where did you learn that?”
Namid laughed. “The Black Panther used that trick once a while ago.”
“Yeah, it scared everyone senseless when he did it. But it is a trick you do not easily forget. You need experienced hands to pull it off though, which, luckily, we have. As soon as I told them to pull back the aft cannons and put all extra hands on anchor, they knew exactly what they were doing,” Maath explained as he stepped off the quarterdeck steps and took his place next to Justin.
“Wow. I have got to talk to Tommy! He’s been holding out!” Justin exclaimed.
Maath and Namid both laughed. “Kid, you have no idea,” Maath eventually managed to say.
Justin had the feeling he was right. He walked to the front rail and watched silently as his crew worked. Yes, he had much to learn and he would learn it all. It had taken him only a few weeks to learn how to live by himself on the streets. This would be no different. He watched two crewmen doing something complicated with the sails. Well, it might be a little harder, but that meant he would work harder. He was no longer the street rat that was a worthless nobody. He owned this ship. He was in command. He was the Black Panther…. The Black Panther, just like his idol.
Tommy had been the best pirate on the seas, feared and hated even by other pirates. Now he was retired with his wife, Kiliki, and he had given his ship and title to Justin. That moment had defined Justin more than any other in his life. Tommy believed in him enough to give him his own ship. Without exaggerating, it was easily the fastest ship on the Ula Ocean. Justin’s only goal was to prove himself worthy of Tommy’s trust. He would be the best pirate on the sea. No one would ever call him street rat or worthless again, no one would dare. Justin grinned as scenes from the previous battle floated through his mind. Not only would he be the best, but he would have fun and adventure doing it. This he vowed.
“This is ridiculous,” Justin muttered as he stared up at the intimidating house. It was a large two-story white and sky blue house. It had three white wrap-around steps, which led up to the large front porch. The porch itself had a grand bay window on both sides of the main double door. Four white pillars held up the stately porch roof. The second floor had a balcony with double doors in the middle and a large bay window on both sides. The roof had a black gate going around it with a dome in the center. On both sides of the house there was a verandah with a second story balcony on top. The right balcony he knew used to be Kiliki’s. The left veranda had a large bay window and the one on the right side had a glass double door. On the left side of the house, there was an addition that had only a single window on the second floor. The left wall of the addition faced Ula Ocean and was covered in clinging ivy, which hung gracefully down the entire wall. “Why did I ever agree to this? What was I thinking?”
It was a rhetorical question, half because there was no one with him and half because he already knew the answer. Kiliki had asked him to as a favor to herself and Tommy. Justin sighed now. He should have said no, but it had seemed so easy at the time. However, now that he stood in the front of the plantation house ready to take the young girl away from irate parents he wasn’t so sure. Kiliki had said forewarned him at this was not going to be easy.
Justin pulled his cuffs uncomfortably to straighten it and started reluctantly up the steps. He had promised after all, and in the long run it was better just to get it over with. He only hoped Dabria would not be as much trouble on the ship has her older sister, Kiliki, had been.
He checked one last time for the letter from Kiliki explaining his visit to her sister’s parents and then knocked loudly. It was only a few minutes before a young girl opened the door. She looked up at him expectantly.
“Hi there. I’m here to see Dabria and her parents.”
The girl looked at him in surprise, then supposition, but she finally opened the door enough to allow him to enter. He followed her into a large foyer with a wide staircase in the center. The girl scurried off to the left, and a few minutes later a different maid appeared to escort him into the first door on the left, which turned out to be the main parlor.
“The master and his lady will be down in a few moments,” she informed him politely.
“Thank you,” Justin replied.
She gave him a strange look and glanced him over before nodding and exiting.
Justin looked himself over trying to figure out what the maids seemed to find so offensive about him. He had purposefully put on his best clothes so that he would be free of the pirate look, but perhaps he hadn’t succeeded. After all, his black hair was still long. He wore it in a ponytail, the same way Tommy did and Kiliki had often commented that his green eyes told that he had been through a lot in his years. Still, he had on a white cambric shirt with laced drawstrings, black breeches, Hessians boots, and a cardigan, which was like a frock that buttoned down the front. He also wore a tri-corn hat with a Benjamin, a loose topcoat worn for traveling. He desperately wished for his own normal clothing, anything to be more comfortable. He had even left his sword behind, but only because Maath and Namid had insisted. It had to do with something about being intimidating. Justin figured he’d have to be intimidating if they were ever going to let Dabria go with him.
The door opened and two figures walked in.
“Who are you?” The man spoke in a tone that said he felt Justin as beneath him.
“My name is Captain Justin Falcon,” Justin replied calmly.
The woman looked from her husband to Justin and finally spoke, “This is my husband William Richerson and I am Stacia Richerson. We are the Lord and Lady of this house,” she said rather unnecessarily, Justin thought.
“What is your business here, Mr. Falcon? You said something about our daughter,” William spoke loftily and slowly.
“Actually, the title is Captain, Mr. Richerson, and yes, I have come about Dabria. I have been commissioned to escort her to her sister’s house in Triger,” Justin explained.
“Kiliki sent you?” Stacia asked incredulously, dropping her haughty façade.
“The Duke and Duchess are anxious for her to visit,” Justin said putting emphasis on the titles.
“Duke? Duchess? Then it is true,” Stacia whispered.
Justin looked at them in surprise. Tommy and Kiliki’s marriage and Tommy’s assumption of his title last year had been the biggest news in Zerlinda for years. “You have to be kidding!” Justin paused and started again, “I mean you must have heard the news.”
“We heard the rumors of course. But who was to say it was our former ward?” William responded.
“You ‘ward,’ as you call her, has done very well for herself and, not that you care, but she is very happy. Her only request is to see her sister and I have come to see that it is fulfilled,” Justin spoke, barely managing to keep the dislike for the pompous people from his voice.
“You are not taking our daughter anywhere. Especially to that…” William thundered, but trailed off as if he couldn’t think of a word bad enough to call Kiliki.
“Kiliki wants to see her sister and I’m not leaving until I have Dabria,” Justin stated firmly.
“Yeah! I’m going to see Sissy!” A new, young, and very excited voice broke in.
A small girl followed it. Justin knew she was nine, indeed almost ten, but she looked much younger. She had a very petite build and could only have been a few inches above five feet. Justin guessed by measuring to his own height, which was slightly taller than six feet. She had fair skin that was made paler by her white blond hair and light blue eyes; the latter were bright with excitement. Justin thought she looked like a little pixie he had heard tales about.
Dabria come to a stop between her parents and Justin. She looked up at him expectantly and suddenly seemed to remember her manners. She curtsied quickly. “Are you the one who will be taking me to see my sister, sir?”
Justin smiled. “Yes.”
“No,” both her parents said firmly.
Dabria turned to them. “What?”
“There is no way you are going with this man anywhere. We don’t even know if he speaks the truth,” Stacia said as if that settled it.
“Oh!” Justin said suddenly. He held out the letter. “I almost forgot. Kiliki wrote to you to explain everything.”
William and Stacia looked at the envelope as if it held poison, but Dabria plucked it from his hands.
“That was smart of her,” she said, tearing it open.
“Dabria, no!” Stacia exclaimed, but it was too late.
Dabria already had it open and was scanning the contents. “She did remember her promise. Oh, you use to work for Tommy. How cool! Aw, it’s only for a few months. Good, Salena can come too.” Dabria’s commentary flowed as she read. “Ahh!” She screamed suddenly, causing everyone to jump. “She’s having a baby! I’m going to be an aunt! How cool! She wants me to help!” Her eyes shown as she looked at her parents. “Oh, you can’t say no. I have to go. She needs me. Please, Mother! Please, Father? Don’t say no.”
Stacia looked stunned, but William was already shaking his head no. Dabria looked at them crestfallen.
“No, Dabria. She is a bad influence for you. I will not have my daughter gallivanting across Zerlinda to be with...her,” he finished.
Dabria held the note out to her parents. “Read it,” she asked pleadingly.
William didn’t move, but Stacia took the note slowly. She read so slowly, Justin was beginning to get antsy and was desperately wishing he was back on his ship by the time she was done.
“Well, she certainly thought of everything,” she commented as she handed the letter to her husband. “However, nothing had changed. She is not your real sister and you have no obligation to go to her.”
“She is my real sister.” Dabria insisted as her eyes filled with tears. “I have to go to her. She needs me and she’s ex…ex’pect’n…me...”
Justin watched the drama unfold silently. He had known this would not be easy, but somehow he hadn’t imagined this either. Especially since he had the feeling it was just getting started. He had almost thought Dabria was trying to hold her tears in, but suddenly there seemed to be no stopping them and the girl could not breathe.
“Dabria!” Her mother practically shrieked. She rushed to her and sat her on the couch. “Salena! Now!”
A new girl, the same age as Dabria by looks, appeared at the doorway. She took one look at Dabria and raced away. She was back in a few seconds with a glass of water and rag.
“Here, miss,” she said as she placed the glass in Dabria’s hand and put the cloth on her head.
Dabria focused on the young maid’s face and seemed to gather strength from it. Her breathing became less frantic and she was able to take a sip from the glass with her mother’s hands steadying her own. Justin realized the maid must be Dabria’s famed partner in crime and her best friend.
“I feel sick,” Dabria managed.
“I know, sweetie, drink slowly,” Stacia answered, her face grave.
Dabria obeyed until the water was gone. She sat silently for a second then looked up at Justin with a worried face. “I’m okay. You’ll still take me to see Kiliki, right?”
Justin knelt beside her, knowing not it would be almost impossible to convince her parents, but he had made a promise. “Of course I will.”
Dabria grinned relieved,” Oh, good.” She turned to look at her father. “Daddy?”
“You are far too young to be in charge of my daughter,” William muttered as he crumpled Kiliki’s letter in his hand. He looked at Dabria, sitting on the couch, still weak, and then at his wife, crouched undignified, in front of her. He looked at Justin, then to Dabria again and muttered, “Yes.”
Dabriea squealed. “Salena, we are going to see Kiliki!”
And that it seemed was that.
It had been three days, there were six left, and the girl had been all over the ship. It was highly doubtful there was an inch of the ship she and her maid had not seen. Justin had a very hard time believing this was the same girl who had been sick enough for Kiliki to rush home to over a year ago or the one who could barely breathe just a few days ago. He had seen many people faking it during his years on the street and knew the difference. She had truly been sick. Justin wondered idly where the sickness had gone.
He watched her race across the main deck again with her maid and friend, Salena, not far behind. He went back to his musings as he watched. Today alone she had: inquired Namid on how he steered the ship, asked Maath if she could help swab the decks, explored the sweltering room with the cannons, and begged him to allow her to climb the rigging. But perhaps the worst part was that she hadn’t slowed down. Justin had explored the ship all over when Tommy had first brought him on board, but it hadn’t even taken two days. Justin was worried how she was going to occupy her time for the next six days. The following day he found out, when she attached herself to his side.
“What happens when the rudder breaks?” Dabria asked.
Justin looked at her in surprise. ~ She comes up with the oddest questions. What does happen when the rudder breaks? ~ Justin shook his head. “It doesn’t break.”
“But it could. You are in fights all the time. A cannon ball could hit and then what would you do?” Dabria persisted.
“We fix it,” Justin finally answered.
“In the middle of the ocean? How?” she asked.
“Don’t you have a book to read or something?” Justin asked, exasperated.
Dabria shook her head. “No, we finished them all.”
Justin looked at her amazed, and then slid his glance to Salena, who was standing behind her. Salena nodded her agreement with a shy smile. Justin swung his gaze back to Dabria. “When did you manage to do that?”
“We’ve been on the ship for three days. And we do need to save some for Kiliki’s house,” Dabria replied practically.
“Right,” Justin finally said. ~ Now what? ~
“Ship off the starboard bow,” a voice from the crow’s nest called.
“Neat!” Dabria exclaimed, looking around wildly.
Justin laughed, “Try looking over there.” He pointed to the right side of the ship.
The two girls raced to the rail and scanned the sea line. Dabria soon turned back to face him with a disappointed look. She looked so sad Justin almost wanted to laugh again. Instead, he smiled and walked to her side.
“You can’t see anything?” he asked sympathetically.
She shook her head and looked at him hopefully. He reached into the pouch at his waist and produced his spyglass. He pulled it out to its full length and searched the horizon. He soon spotted the ship. Once he had it located, he handed the glass to Dabria and helped her angle it the right way. He knew she had spotted it when she let out a small squeal. In a few minutes she handed the spyglass to Salena. As she watched, Dabria turned to Justin.
“Wow! That was so much fun. Thank you,” Dabria smiled at him.
Justin looked down at the pixie face and smiled back. ~ Maybe she isn’t so bad. ~