Along my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published, indie, and small press works in my reading schedule. But it is difficult to know where to start: so many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes. And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.
With this in mind, I’m turn over the blog to Michelle Lowe, author of the Legacy series.
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Writing Legacy was truly a fun experience. It was my very first attempt at steampunk, which I have developed more of an understanding for as I continued writing the series. My influence for writing Legacy was strictly for the love of adventure/ fantasy stories. I will simply go over the moon for any story that takes me away to another place and introduces me to new and interesting characters. I just wanted to be part of that sort of storytelling and create that kind of magic for someone else.
The first book from the Legacy series has had its ups and downs. The first publisher that had it went under due to poor management, but then the book was immediately picked up by an up and coming publishing house, Nordland Publishing, and after months of revising, Legacy has been re-released! For over a year and half, I wrote nonstop until I had all six manuscripts written. Now that they are, and the first novel is out, I’m working on improving the others. I’ve even recently completed a standalone manuscript for Legacy, titled Boom Time. If the Legacy series does well enough, I’ll begin writing the next series, The Age of the Machine.
And, today, I wanted to share with everyone a short story based off Legacy, as well as an excerpt from the first book in the series. Hope you enjoy!
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That Day at Sea
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This seize and rescue wasn’t meant to be any different than the countless others. But it was.
Chief Sea Wind, commander of the ship, The Ekta, and leader of the crew of Apache Sea Warriors, observed the ship in the distance through his spyglass. He recognized its lines, though it wasn’t a cargo ship used for slave transports.
The Sea Warriors were from America and Mexico. They had been trained by the French as a colonial defense against the British during the Seven Years’ War, many serving in the French navy. After wartime, many tribes took to the sea, attacking European settlers sailing to the New World. On their own, though, they were no match for the strongest naval fleet in the world, and the number of Sea Warriors had dwindled over the course of the last hundred years. Now only a handful remained with a new battle to fight—seizing slave ships and freeing people who’d been taken from their homeland. Instead of fighting against the English, they helped uphold the loosely followed Slave Trade Act that had been put into law in 1788.
Sometimes the Sea Warriors took people back to their homeland, risking being taken themselves; but most often they were taken to a country where they could remain free.
Yet, this chase—this ship—was not the same as the others. Something was amiss.
Chief Sea Wind lowered the spyglass and turned to the young women standing with him at the helm. “Sees Beyond, are you for certain that this ship is one we should be after?”
“I am, Chief,” she said firmly. “My spirits said as much to me last night. They had told me we must seize the ship voyaging through the Middle Passage that will be passing the Western Sahara as the sun touches the center sky.”
Chief Sea Wind glanced up at the sun where it hung directly overhead. Never had he ever disputed Sees Beyond’s guidance. She had joined his crew after they had returned home to Sonora, Mexico, days after a deadly hurricane in the Atlantic had claimed her husband, Cochise. Like her mother and grandmother, Sees Beyond had a connection to the ancestors. She was a psychic, and had helped the crew of The Ekta avoid storms, steered them to the next slave ship as well as away from enemy vessels.
Her tone allayed his doubts to continue with the pursuit.
“They are a great distance away,” he said, folding in the spyglass. He stepped over to the brass speaking tube that made his voice audible throughout the entire ship. “Fire up the fans!”
In moments, the crew emerged from below, carrying bundles of firewood. They brought the wood over to an old locomotion steam engine, located behind the mainmast, and threw logs inside the firebox. Once the firebox was stocked full, the wood was set ablaze. Water from the sea would then be sucked in through the centrifugal pumps, located on both sides of The Ekta, and brought up to the steam engine to boil. The steam would then travel up smaller pipes latched to each mast, and power the incredibly large fans stationed behind the sails.
The ocean winds were calm, which would grant them the advantage to quickly catch up to their quarry.
“Drop canvas!” he ordered loudly to the crew on deck. “Prepare to attack!”
Some of the crew broke away from the pack of busy seamen and clambered up the shrouds to release the sails from the riggings.
“Wind in the Sails,” Chief Sea Wind said to his first mate at the wheel.
“I’ll have Waban take your place. I want you with me as we intercept.”
“Of course, Chief.”
His first mate was a good leader and one of his most honorable warriors. His keen eye and quick thinking in the heat of battle made him Sea Wind’s most valuable fighter.
“I will fight as well, husband,” announced his wife, Waves of Strength, coming up the stairs toward the helm.
His mood dropped. He hated when she wanted to join the skirmishes. Unlike Wind in the Sails, Waves of Strength fought with too much passion. The woman simply had no fear in her. When she attacked, her red vision kept her from spying other threats around, which made for a number of close calls.
“Not this time,” he told her, already anticipating an argument. “That is a prison hulk ship, and by the size of it, there will be dozens of guards, perhaps even military. There will be chaos when we take them.”
“All the more reason you will need me, Sea Wind,” she pressed. “I believe you shall need all your warriors.”
She left him with little choice.
“I cannot put you in danger like that. Not like last time.” He causally rubbed his arm where he had been shot in order to save her life. He slightly bowed his head and added, “What if I’m unable to protect you?”
He waited a beat before switching his eyes up to meet hers. She was a lovely thing, as he always thought when looking at her. The sun had granted her darker skin without withering it, her high cheekbones meet up to eyes of sandstone. Never could he image his life without her.
Waves of Strength stood before him, a look of disarm and guilt on her face.
In a sorrowful tone that barely broke past a whisper, he pleaded, “Stay on board, wife. Just this one time.”
And the time after that, and the time after that.
The fire in her eyes still blazed, but she yielded with a nod nonetheless.
The water inside the steam engine boiler began to produce steam, and pump power into the fans. The giant steel blades slowly began turning, eventually speeding up to where the blades became one circle. The rumbling roar could deafen anyone too close to them. White steam billowed out from the exhaust pipes on either side of each fan. The Ekta jerked forward as her pace increased, cutting through the water at a rate that could outmatch any steamer.
“Load all guns,” Chief Sea Wind ordered through the speaking tube.
The gunners below would now be at work, preparing the cannons for when the time came. However, those weren’t the ship’s main weaponry. At both the stern and bow there were three-barreled rotary cannons, one to fire upon oncoming vessels, and the other to shoot at any enemy ships in pursuit.
As they drew closer, just out of firing range, the chief said to Sees Beyond, “You should go below now. We will be attacking soon.”
Sees Beyond was no cowered, in fact, she’d fight to the death if need be, however, she was no warrior. She was also a great asset to The Ekta and to their cause.
To his surprise, though, she said, “With your permission, Chief, I prefer to remain at the helm for this one.”
Never had she requested such a thing, and for her to do so there was reason for it. He had no time to ask when a voice of one his gunners from the bow came in through the speaking tube.
“We are prepared to fire on your orders, Chief.”
The prison hulk was coming up fast. The vessel was a monster, 60 meters long. A retired warship, its massive size dwarfed their Spanish galleon. However if she wasn’t armed as she had been in her heyday, taking her wouldn’t be too difficult.
Chief Sea Wind judged the distance, waiting for the precise moment. When it came, a surge of excitement ran just under his skin, raising every hair on his dark-skinned body.
A blast that he felt in his chest, exploded from one of the long guns. The windows of the captain’s quarters, shattered in a mixture of glass shards and splinters of wood. A gunner by the rotary cannons turned the crank, revolving the guns around to fire again.
“Fire!” the chief ordered into the speaking tube.
The second blast hit their target the hardest. The cannonball broke through the mizzenmast, weakening it enough to topple it right over with loud bone breaking cracks. Like a tree, the mast pitched forward, and vanished as it collapsed over the helm.
“Kill the fans! We must broadside them!”
The Ekta came alongside the prison ship as they slowed. The Sea Warriors grabbed grappling hook rifles and took aim. Since the prison hulk was higher than their own vessel, they would need to ride up to the deck. They fired the grappling hooks, letting their crooked teeth catch in the shrouds. Once the lines were secure, the Sea Warriors flicked the retractable latch on the rifles and hung on tight to the handles as they launched into the air. Chief Sea Wind had done the same. The wind flew past him as he soared through the air, heading up toward deck as his line wound itself back inside the bulky rifle. Just as he reached the deck, he caught sight of the helm where the mast had fallen, the rigging suspended over the main deck. The captain had survived, and was shouting orders to open fire on The Ekta. With the amount of firepower that the chief had sadly observed as they came alongside the vessel, the damage to his ship and crew would be great. He needed to stop the captain.
He let loose the rifle and dropped down onto the deck, ready to fight when a surprising scene nailed him in place. Men were attacking each other, but none involved were Sea Warriors. Was the crew fighting each other? He soon eyed a young man with shoulder length hair, heading up to the helm, armed with a rifle. He appeared as though he was trying to keep from being noticed by the captain. When he reached the helm, he shot the man down, grabbed the wheel, and turned it. Sea Wind nearly lost his balance as the vessel quickly shifted direction, a rumbling beneath his feet vibrated when the guns below exploded. Most of the cannons shot away from The Ekta, missing her completely. Only a few managed to actually strike her.
“Wind in the Sails!” he called to his first mate nearby.
He and Wind in the Sails hurried up to the helm where they found the youth rummaging through the dead captain’s pockets. He brought out a set of keys.
“Shite!” he shouted in English when he spotted them.
No doubt the chief and his first mate looked intimidating to the boy. Chief Sea Wind stood very tall, his body well-built from years of fighting and from a lifetime living out at sea. He looked to the chains on the Englishman’s ankles.
In Apache, he said to Wind in the Sails, “I do not believe this is a slave ship.”
His first mate nodded. “I agree.”
The chief looked to the Englishman. He only hoped he could communicate with him. Like nearly the entire crew of The Ekta, expect for Sees Beyond, the chief understood English, but refused to learn it. Instead, they spoke Apache, or French when around the whites.
Parlez-vous français?” the chief asked optimistically.
“Oui,” the boy replied.
In French, the chief asked with relief, “What sort of ship is this?”
“It’s a transporting ship. It ferries convicted criminals to penal colonies in Australia and New Zealand.”
“Of course,” Wind in the Sails said in Apache to his chief. “The prisoners of this ship were attacking the guards. They must have seized the moment when we advanced upon them.”
“I should have known,” the chief retorted vexingly. “Sees Beyond was wrong. Go back to the deck. Help clean up this mess. I will handle the boy.”
“Yes, Chief,” he said, taking his leave.
“I saw what you did,” Chief Sea Wind said to the Englishmen. “What is your name?”
The boy was quiet a moment, clearly afraid.
With a deep nervous breath, he answered, “Pierce Landcross.”
“Pierce Landcross, I thank you. I am Chief Sea Wind, leader of the Apache Sea Warriors. The man with me was my first mate, Wind in the Sails. You saved our ship and therefore I will give you the chance to take up arms and fight alongside us.”
The young man looked more than willing to do so. He unlocked himself from his restraints with the keys he found, took the dead captain’s rifle, and went back into the fray. The chief stayed at the helm to steady the ship so that Waban could bring The Ekta back beside them again. The scene below was hectic, just as he predicted. Two crewmen tried killing him and reclaiming the helm. Chief Sea Wind killed them both, one he shot, and the other he wrestled and broke his neck. During the scuffle, the battle had turned in the Sea Warrior’s favor, but not without some casualties.
“Chief!” one of his crew shouted, rushing up the stairs.
Winded from his life and death struggle, he said, “What is it?”
“It’s Wave of Strength, Chief. She’s been shot!”
“Shot?” he said, his mouth suddenly drying. “How? She was on The Ekta!”
The informant shook her head. “No, Chief, she came aboard. You must come.”
When he reached his wife, she was lying on the deck floor upon her belly, holding her hip. She was bleeding and cursing very loudly.
“My wife,” he said, dropping to his knees beside her.
Blood soaked her buckskin dress. He couldn’t even tell where she had been wounded.
Oh Great Spirit, please tell me she hadn’t been shot in the back. Would she ever be able to walk again?
“I want him dead!” she seethed at him.
He knitted his eyebrows together. “Who?”
She pointed to someone behind him. “That one!”
The chief craned his neck around, his sights snagging on the young man, Pierce Landcross. He stood amongst the throng of Sea Warriors, looking petrified.
Chief Sea Wind rose to his full height, which only made Landcross’s eyes grow wider. He held no weapon, which made no difference to the enraged Apache who would walk through a volley of gunfire to reach him.
“You shot my wife after I spared your life!”
He approached Landcross with the intent to kill, when Wind in the Sails jumped in his path.
“It was an accident, Chief. He was trying to shoot at another prisoner held on this ship before he could harm one of ours, and Waves of Strength ran into the path of his bullet. He wasn’t aiming for her.”
His quick explanation cooled the chief’s bloodlust just enough to halt him a moment. To the panicked youth, he said, “If you’ve killed or severely hurt her, I’ll sail you out in the middle of ocean and throw you overboard myself.”
Landcross swallowed thickly. “She . . . she’ll be fine, I promise.”
“He shot her in ass, Chief,” Wind in the Sail explained, with a hint of amusement in his tone.
The chief’s violent intent drained from him. He looked back at his wife. Someone else nearby pointed to the gunshot wound, nodding. She’d been hit right in the front left cheek. Although he shouldn’t have, he wanted to laugh, and bit hard on his lower lip to keep himself from doing so.
Chewing on his thumbnail to stifle his need to surrender to the hilarity of the situation, he returned his attention on Landcross. “You actually shot her in the rear?”
“Kill him, husband!” his wife demanded hotly. “Cut his throat!”
At this, Landcross clutched his neck. A scar already stretched across his throat. The traumatic look on his face suggested that there was something personal that came with that scar.
“Chief Sea Wind,” came the voice of Sees Beyond.
She stood on the inner edge of the enclosed circle surrounding Waves of Strength. With her was The Ekta’s physician, Heals with Nature, who went to Waves of Strength’s aid.
“Sees Beyond,” he said to her in Apache, “your spirits told us wrong. We should have never invaded this vessel.”
“No,” she disagreed. “We have succeeded in what we were sent to retrieve.”
She approached him, her eyes on his. He did not understand, and then her dark, insightful eyes shifted over to Landcross. She stopped and stood before the young man, seemingly to study him. Landcross looked confused by her actions, and yet a certain spark glimmered in his green eye. He was taken in by her. Chief Sea Wind understood that. Sees Beyond matched Landcross in years and even a married man like the chief could not ignore her perfect beauty. The woman was wise well beyond her years, like her mother and grandmother, but her outer appearance was a blessing from the Great Spirit. Landcross simply could not help but be captured by such a lovely flower.
“Are you telling me that we were meant to attack this vessel for him?” he asked her.
Without diverting her gaze from Landcross, she answered, “Yes. They told me, find the one with eyes of spring, look into his soul, and you will know.”
“Why?” the chief demanded.
She looked away from Landcross, almost grudgingly, to face him. “There is something exceptional about him. It’s in his bloodline. We must bring him with us.”
“No!” Waves of Strength bellowed hatefully. “He is not welcome on our ship.”
To this, the chief stiffened. He went over to her and crouched down so to speak to her privately.
“I had asked for you to stay onboard The Ekta.”
She shook her head slightly at him. “I wanted to help.”
“But you defied my order, and in turn you almost got yourself killed again. You did. Your blame ought to be placed somewhere else, my wife.”
With that, he stood and turned back to Landcross. Whatever reason the spirits had told Sees Beyond that they needed to come for this young Englishman, it must be something important therefore he would respect and honor it.
“Landcross,” he said in the deepest tone he could muster.
He wanted to put a little more fear into the boy, just for fun. It worked. Landcross approached, trembling, looking as though he was getting ready to meet his end.
“Aye, Chief?” he said in English.
Chief Sea Wind took in a breath before saying, “I grant you permission to join us.”
Landcross’s relief could not be hidden in his wide, thrilled expression.
“Aye? You mean it, Chief?”
He liked that the boy referred to him as chief rather than captain like most Europeans did. It just felt more natural.
“Oui. But only if you behave yourself, be useful around the ship, and don’t shoot any more of my crew.”
And like that, Pierce Landcross came into Chief Sea Wind’s life, and never did he ever regret it.
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Pierce knew that if he struggled, it would only earn him a beating. Clearly, they wanted him alive, yet he doubted they needed to deliver him in tip-top shape. He could do without any broken bones. So he allowed himself to be taken aboard without incident, saying and doing nothing as he was unshackled and re-shackled to the ship’s only mast.
As Pierce was forced to sit on the main deck, hands cuffed behind him, the captain approached Archie Norwich. The young man had changed into something more befitting his station, and looked the part of a gentleman now, with a blue frock coat and stylish vest.
“Are you certain you wish to sail at this hour, sir?” the captain asked Archie. “I feel a storm brewing and it’ll be dark by the time we reach shore.”
“I need to get this man to Southampton as soon as possible. On my father’s orders.”
“Aye, sir,” the captain said, then left for the pilothouse.
“Who’s your father?” Pierce asked.
The young man turned as if he was going to answer him. Instead, he shifted his eyes to the tall man with muttonchops. “Keep an eye on him at all times, Sergeant Derby. Make sure he doesn’t try anything.”
Pierce drew the sea air into his lungs, held it for a moment, then released out it slowly. The gig was up. Soon he’d be back in London, facing trial. The Queen herself might just bless him with her presence at his hanging. But something that son of a German bitch had said to the captain prompted him to reconsider. Why is he taking me to his father in Southampton instead of sailing straight to the Port of London?
The steamboat was large enough to hold fifty passengers, yet no one other than the few crewmen, Archie, his sister, and the guards with him were aboard. Black smoke plumed out of the single stack and the stern wheel began turning. The ferryboat made way from the dock, heading for the Channel. The first touch of sea spray reminded Pierce that death waited for him in Southampton. He would wallow deeper in despair if not for the girl.
“Hello, Mr. Landcross,” she said sweetly, as if they were on good terms.
With a frustrating sigh that described his mood, he hissed, “Hello, miss?”
She grinned. “Clover,” she said. “My name is Clover Alice Norwich and I’m ten years old.”
“Hello, Miss Clover Alice Norwich and I’m ten years old.”
She approached and sat cross-legged next to him, resting her chin on her palm, she shook her head. “It’s rather a shame that we have to take you to our father. You’re awfully cute to meet the likes of him.”
“Cheers, I reckon. Who is this father of yours?”
A certain tragedy flashed within her dark eyes. He saw it despite her grin. He felt the same heartbreak in himself from the night when he’d received his scar.
“He’s a lord,” she said at length. “And a distant cousin to Queen Victoria.”
Pierce remembered now where he’d heard the name. Clover’s father was none other than Tarquin Norwich, founder of the British Guardians. They were nothing more than a band of thieves and murderers, turned thief-takers. Norwich had cherry-picked them from prisons in order to hunt fugitives down and dispose of them. They were easily identified by the pins they wore on their vests and coats: a double headed axe.
Any crime received the same ruthless punishment. Without the luxury of a trial, prisoners were usually tortured before death, or sometimes to death, their bodies displayed as ornaments, hanging by the neck from trees on the sides of highly trafficked thoroughfares. There were cases of charred corpses, some still smoking from the fire they’d died in, hanging at intersections. When King William received complaints about the bodies from family members protesting the unjust way their loved ones had died, Norwich had reluctantly disbanded the British Guardians. He’d even had some of them hanged as a show of solidarity, and threw in a promise to end their cruelty.
“He’s a nasty man,” Clover said. “He doesn’t really care for Archie and me much. He never even cried when my mother died.”
“I see. Is your father the one taking me to London?”
“You’re not going to London. My father wants you to tell him where a book is.”
“Yes. It’s a journal that Mr. Peachtree has.”
“Peachtree?” he repeated in disbelief. “Indigo Peachtree?”
Clover giggled. “Funny name, isn’t it?”
Pierce quickly put the pieces together. He understood why Norwich would want it. Yet he wondered how in the world he had even found out about the journal, much less that Pierce knew where it was. Had Indigo told him that he’d taken it? Did Norwich have Indigo?
“I knew it was you the moment I saw you in the tavern,” Clover said.
“Why? Because of my likeness in the newspapers?”
“No, because you were eating soup.”
“Soup? I beg your pardon?”
“Yep. My father said to look for a man eating soup and wearing a coin as a necklace.”
Pierce looked down at the silver stater lying against his chest. Never had it been mentioned in any of his descriptions before. In fact, he’d only had the damn thing in his possession for a couple of years, and he hadn’t been arrested during that time. Aside from the coin being a protective talisman against someone he’d crossed in the past, he’d started to consider it his little good luck charm. That apparently had changed. How the hell had Tarquin Norwich known such a detail?
He opened his mouth to ask that when Archie returned. “Clover, don’t sit so close to the prisoner. He’s a dangerous fugitive.”
“He’s not dangerous,” she protested. “He’s merely a thief.”
“Yeah, Arch, I’m just a thief,” Pierce said with a dash of resentment. “We were just havin’ a little chat about a certain book.”
Archie crouched down next to him. “Is that so? What’s in the journal?”
Pierce tilted his head and arched an eyebrow at the lad. “You have no idea what’s in the bloody book, yet your father sent you off to catch me for him to . . . I can only assume, torture me until I tell him where it is?”
He did know where the book was and he feared for the person who now had possession of it.
“I couldn’t care less,” Archie said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Then why did you ask, you whore pipe?” he asked tersely.
Archie shrugged. He really didn’t seem to care. It appeared that he had other things on his mind aside from his father’s interests.
“What about Indigo?” Pierce asked. “Does your father have him?”
Archie seemed to notice the concern in his tone, making Pierce cringe. As a fugitive, it was best not to show vulnerability of any sort, for it could very well come back to haunt him later.
“No,” Clover chimed in. “Mr. Peachtree was at our house a while ago, but he absconded during the night. Father is searching for him right now.”
If it hadn’t been for Indigo, Pierce and his brother might not have survived the winter of 1826; a harsh, bitter bastard of a winter that had proven too much for a pair of orphaned kids. Indigo had not only taken them into his home, but he’d cared for them.
The Toymaker was a peace-loving man who wanted to spend his life making remarkable toys for all children, no matter their background. If he’d run away from Tarquin Norwich, it was because Norwich must have wanted him to do something Indigo didn’t want to do. And since Norwich was searching for the journal as well, Pierce could only imagine what he needed from the kindly old man.
“Sorry, chum, but I don’t recall where the journal went.”
“I don’t care,” Archie said, rising to his full height. “Tell it to my father when you meet him.” He held out his hand to his sister. “Come, Clover, you need to get inside.”
“Aw,” she whined. “I want to stay here.”
“We need to get you out of this cold,” he said almost pleadingly. “Please, Clover.”
The girl huffed petulantly. “Oh, all right,” she said, slipping her hand into his and allowing him to pull her to her feet.
Archie led her to the passenger lodge and she went inside. When she was gone, he turned back to Pierce as if he had something else to say, but then went to the railing instead. Sergeant Derby suddenly loomed over Pierce, his arms crossed over his chest.
“How’s the face?” Pierce asked with a grin.
“I’m going to request of Lord Norwich that I be the one to hurt you if you fail to cooperate,” the man said, his voice as deep as the English Channel. He seemed rather excited at the thought.
Pierce looked away. So, this was it. The end. For the sake of the journal’s keeper, he hoped that whoever tortured him would botch it, killing him before he cracked.
Half hour into the voyage, and everything was quiet, expect for the rhythmic thump of the stream engine. The sun slid slowly across the sky towards the horizon. Rain clouds from England casually rolled their way. A chilly breeze caressed Pierce’s neck. He shuddered, staring forlornly down at the deck.
The breeze grew stronger, stirring up the waves, causing the steamboat to buck. Pierce looked to the stern. Were those sails? He had good eyesight, one of his blessings. Seeing another ship on the Channel did nothing to raise any eyebrows, yet this particular one appeared to be chasing after them. Soon he heard the deep rumble of blades chopping air.
It can’t be, he thought.
Sergeant Derby heard the noise too. “Looks like they’re in more of a hurry then we are,” he remarked. “What the devil is that sound though?”
The ship was catching up at a rate that belied the advantage its extra masts gave it. White smoke billowed from the smokestacks.
“Lord Norwich,” Sergeant Derby hollered.
Archie craned his neck around. “What is that ship doing?”
A wicked grin stretched clear across Pierce’s face. Perhaps his coin was lucky after all.
The rumbling sound, which had become nearly deafening at this point, slowed until it finally ceased completely when the ship came close enough that the Apache symbol on the sails could be seen.
A battle cry screeched out, letting everyone on the ferry know that Death had come for them.
The other three guards rushed over to the stern. “Best get ready, lad,” Pierce warned Archie.
Archie tore his gaze away from the ship and saw the grin on his face. All the color drained from his own.
Archie shouted to the guards, “Get away from the railing!”
They stood gawking. The guards were military trained but they weren’t true soldiers. They served only as escorts and protectors to a home that even Pierce dared not intercept. None of them had ever been in a life-or-death situation before—until now.
A group of Sea Warriors rose from behind the Ekta’s railing with rifles and opened fire on the men. Two went down; another wounded in the arm. Sergeant Derby grabbed the wounded man and pulled him away as the Sea Warriors reloaded.
“Take cover!” Archie ordered, pulling his pistol from its holster and running across the bow.
Pierce tripped him as he passed. Archie hit the deck, firing a shot into the air.
“Let me go, boy,” Pierce demanded hotly. “They’re here for me.”
Archie aimed his gun on him. It shook in his face. “No! I must take you to my father!”
A handful of Sea Warriors aimed large, bulky rifles at the sky and opened fire. Iron grappling hooks launched into the air, their ropes falling in a spiraling arch towards the deck. The men on the other ship hauled the lines back, scraping the jagged flukes of the grapplers across the deck until they caught the railing in their hooked teeth.
The Sea Warriors slid down the lines, landing lightly on deck.
Archie had no time to take a precise aim before the tribe scattered over the deck. Everything happened so fast. Clover came outside and Archie rushed to her. The two Norwich siblings vanished into the passenger lodge. Behind the pilothouse there were shouts, then gunfire, and then quiet.
The storm clouds steadily rolled over them and dark spots dotted the deck as rain began to fall.
“If it was my decision,” a woman said in French as she rounded the corner of the passenger lodge, “I’d let them take you away.”
Pierce grimaced. “Waves of Strength,” he said with contempt. She was the last person he wanted to see while he was in this position. She approached with a smug look on her face, relishing the moment.
She knelt beside him, holding the keys that Sergeant Derby had carried, as well as a blood-soaked knife in her other hand. For a moment, Pierce wondered if Waves of Strength was considering which to use.
“Mind unlocking me?” he said.
She narrowed her eyes. If I did not love my husband as much as I do, I’d jab this knife into your chest and claim you were a casualty.”
The key finally slid into the lock and Pierce was freed. He stood up, rubbing his sore wrists. “Cheers,” he said icily.
With a snarl, she walked away. He could practically feel her hate like a physical presence.
“Landcross,” came a strong voice.
Pierce turned. “Chief!” he exclaimed.
Sea Wind approached him with arms wide open. They embraced, patting each other’s backs. Chief Sea Wind had ten years on him, yet his brawny embrace reminded Pierce of the man’s strength.
In French, Chief Sea Wind said, “I see that you’ve gotten yourself into trouble again.”
“Just the usual,” he replied in kind. “How did you find me?”
“I saw you being led away,” came another familiar voice.
Pierce caught sight of The Ekta’s first mate, Wind in the Sails.
“Fuckin’ hell,” he exclaimed, hugging the first mate as well. “Merci, mon ami. Merci!”
Relief overwhelmed him. By sheer luck, Wind in the Sails had spotted him being shipped off to face a horrible and painful end. He turned back to the chief and said gleefully, “Merci, Chef.”
“You saved our lives. We owe you much,” Chief Sea Wind said.
Pierce didn’t wallow in the reunion for too long. There was something he needed to discuss with Archie Norwich. “Can I borrow your rifle, Chief?”
Chief Sea Wind handed him his weapon and Pierce went inside the passenger lodge. The chief, Wind in the Sails, and two other Sea Warriors followed him. By then, the rain was pounding over the ocean and the skies had darkened almost to night.
“Archie! Oh, Arch,” Pierce called with the rifle’s barrel resting on his shoulder. He grinned, enjoying this turn of events. The lodge was just a small room with a wraparound bench and windows lining the walls. Archie and Clover were sitting in the corner. The lad still held his pistol and it was aimed at him.
Archie had no clue just how fortunate he was. If Clover hadn’t come out, Archie would most likely have done something stupid, like fight back, getting himself killed in the process. But in that moment, Archie’s only objective was to keep his sister safe.
“Stay right there,” Archie commanded. “I will shoot you.”
Pierce stopped and shook his head. “No, you won’t, lad. You kill me and you kill yourself. Do you want your sister to see her brother get cut down?”
Archie remained still, eyes locked on the muzzle of his gun. Clover was sitting right behind him, pressed into the seat corner. She peered over her brother’s shoulder at Pierce but she didn’t appear frightened. Pierce gave her a wink.
“It’ll be all right, love,” he said soothingly to her.
“What do you want, Landcross?” Archie demanded. Pierce returned his attention to him. He took a chance and stepped forward. “We need to have ourselves a little chat, boyo. A kind of tête-à-tête, per se.” He propped his foot on the bench with the rifle resting across his leg. Hawk and crow feathers hung from the long barrel.
“About what?” Archie asked. “Indigo Peachtree and his journal.”
Pierce did his best to ignore the gun aimed at his face.
“I think your father is being a tad greedy.”
“What do you mean?”
“He wants the book and Indigo, eh?”
“What are you suggesting?”
Pierce straightened up. “I’ll help you get the book, but you have to help me get Indigo if your father already has him.”
Archie’s frown deepened. His eyes studied him in wonderment. “You would go after Peachtree rather than escaping?”
Pierce didn’t give him an answer. He understood the risk he was about to take. He had a chance to leave with the Sea Warriors to wherever they were bound.
“Peachtree is a friend of yours, isn’t he?” Archie guessed with some confidence.
“Don’t get any ideas, chum,” Pierce said darkly. “My freedom is also part of this agreement. Once we find Indigo, he and I are leaving without you on our tails, got it?”
Archie finally lowered the revolver and stood up. “I don’t care what happens to you, Landcross. If you can get me the book, I’ll help you save Peachtree.”
“Marvelous!” Pierce held out his hand. “Then we have an agreement?”
Archie studied Pierce’s extended hand for a moment before he took it and shook.
“Well then,” Pierce said. “Let’s get to it, eh?”
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A Georgia born native, Michelle Lowe spent most of her life near Atlanta before pulling up stakes and moving clear across country with her husband, Ben. History piques her interests, especially European. Other interests include oil painting, arts & crafts, and collecting knickknacks.
She has written seven published novels, including The Warning, Cherished Thief, Poe’s Haunted House Tour, and The Hex Hunt. One in which, Atlantic Pyramid, earned a spot on the Best Books of 2014 list. Her latest escapade is a six book steampunk / fantasy series, titled Legacy, published by Nordland Publishing.
Author’s Facebook: http://bit.ly/2fWq6BV
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2h6sPrt
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A thief, a lover, and a toymaker; drawn together by fate; unlikely champions against a powerful and remorseless enemy. When not fighting each other, they must defeat the powerful Lord Norwich, and end his plan to unleash global violence and crown himself emperor of the world. No problem.
But behind the scenes, the Trickster god is manipulating men like puppets, changing history to his own ends and for his own amusement. As an ancient plan is set into motion, the trio are face with events they do not understand and may not survive.
Legacy is the first of an epic new series that combines Fantasy and Steampunk in an unforgettable novel set in Victorian England.