Death Pirate Short Story
The Ivory Shore
Rose and Destin clash in this spectacular conclusion.
Will Destin fulfill the will of his goddess,
or will Rose finally get her revenge?
Written By Chris Backofen
Rose coughed saltwater, and raised her head above the surf to take in her surroundings: the Ivory Shore, and the forest of La Sosa in the distance. She’d trained with her mother here long ago. There were more planks and corpses now than on that occasion; fresh spoils of the bone reef. She spit blood and sand from her mouth as she propped herself up. Another wonderful landing.
“Pirate!” The shout boomed from behind her. She turned to see the same ostentatiously gold-clad paladin from the ship. His hair was wild, and his eyes glowed the same amber as the visage of that divine insufferable witch looming over him. He raised a ridiculously-large shimmering mace and trudged toward her.
He’s got a mace, and all I’ve got is a migraine, she thought wryly as she pushed herself off the ground. Wait, that’s not right… Where’s my... Her eyes darted over the sand until they caught the glint of her rapier, hilt-deep in the sun-bleached sand at the paladin’s feet. She reached into the sand and cast a spray at his eyes, then dove and rolled for her blade. Rapier, check! Behind her, the mace crashed into the beach in an explosion of sand and saltwater. She twirled around, rapier at the ready, and shook the wet sand from her chapeau. Hat, check! As the spray settled, she slashed with her rapier; each strike glowed gossamer and gold as it glanced off the paladin’s radiant armor. A second jet of sand flew at her, kicked-up by the brute’s mace. She curled into the blast, letting it glance off her coat. Check! One good shot deserved another. She reached for her sidearm and, relieved to find it there, raised it into the settling mist. Before she could fire, however, she felt a few things in quick succession: an iron-clad grip wrench her her wrist; a hard and hot mace-shaft strike her abdomen; the air leave her lungs; the wind in in her hair and coattails; and, finally, a twirling crash against the sand.
The paladin reared for a follow-up attack, but swung wide as the ground beneath shifted, disrupting his balance. Rose used that opening to kick off from the ground and put some distance between them.
As she straightened her aching body, her mouth contorted into a toothy, translucent grin. That hurt. Beneath her chapeau, her eyes narrowed and glowed icy blue and fiery red respectively. “Looks like your luck’s run out…” she taunted. Unlike most pirates, the Redcoat plundered others’ fortune, the warm aether flowing through her blade and into her clenched hand.
Not that she needed luck. Not here, on the ivory shore. Beneath the surf, she felt the remains of those perished to the reef, their bones ground over the centuries into pale grains of sand. With one eye she saw frigid geists tread the sand. She sensed their pain, their despair and loss… they called to her. They demanded vengeance. Before her, she saw the figure of the paladin breaking, contorting, butchered, and killed a million times over - so many ways she could kill him, any one would do. She swished her rapier, and a gush of pale sand wrapped in spectral blue light buffeted the paladin. He met the strike with his radiant mace, and his strength combined with that of the deity at his back to repel the spiteful blow. Rose flicked her wrist, prompting the ground beneath Destin to give way. She expected him to sink, but by divine grace the paladin found sure footing. How much luck does this fool ha- An astral lance extended from his forearm-mounted buckler, catching Rose in the side. She flew up from the tide, and tumbled to the white shore. She coughed, staining the sand red.
Destin’s eyes shone gold, and he spoke with eerie resonance. “You may have bested me earlier, but before the might of the Goddess, your ploys are worthless.”
Rose was hardly listening. She felt numb. The paladin trudged closer. Not good. Pain shot through her shoulder - probably dislocated - and let it cut through the haze in her mind. While Rose’s pilfered fortune had slipped as quickly as gold through a corsair’s fingers, the paladin seemed to have an endless supply of luck, courtesy of that divine witch, no doubt. He had his goddess, while she was surrounded by the dead. They called to her. Tugged at her. Her rapier was ice, clutched in a death grip as chill swept through her, granting a moment of clarity.
Her pain - her real pain - wasn’t in her shoulder.
It lay in the loss of everyone she held dear. Maybe that was why she hated the paladin and his damned goddess so much: they represented the love, the family, the sense of security and safety that had been torn from Rose - that they’d torn from her. Not that Rose would ever let anyone know. She put a grin on her lips and a swagger in her step and exuded a sense of confidence that won her the best crew in the blue and made enemies reconsider crossing her. She’d made her own luck, and a new family. But had that ever been enough? Still, she held on to the memory of her father and his crew, and to the mother she’d barely known. In her darkest hours, she clung to his last words: “You’re never alone.”
If she was going to win - or get through this, take your pick, she thought grimly - then that was the pain - no, the belief - that she’d have to seize. As she always had, she’d hold on. She didn’t have a god on her side, but she did have a family, and they’d never let her down. She hoped this time would be no different. With a deep breath, she focused on her family: on her memories of them; all the times she’d sailed with the crew of The Redemption; all the lessons they’d taught her, all the fights and all the laughter, and all the joys and woes that’d forged a bond even death couldn’t break.
The paladin drew closer, but Rose ignored him. Instead, she dove into her pain and loss, let it flow over her until she could swim in it. The world around her faded until all she could hear was the call of the dead. She answered, and cool magic coursed through her. In the moonlight, she could see them now: the spirits of the departed, ghostly blue along the pale shore.
She rose. Her pain and dripping rouge proved she was still alive. It was a life her father’d died to preserve- a life she wasn’t just going to forfeit. She closed her eyes. Dad… no, everyone... I need your help. She could hear heavy bootfalls in the sand, and some cocky refrain about obliterating a heathen. But from the cool darkness, she felt a warm light reflecting and resonating with her own emotion, responding to her fear, her longing, and her determination to kick that religious bastard’s ass and drive a burning stake through his goddess’ heart. The blood in her veins frose, and her skin flushed red. Rose opened her eyes, a grin on her lips.
The paladin towered before her now, great executioner’s swords spread golden from his baton and buckler. His words were laced with disdain. “Any last words, pirate?”
Her grin turned a vicious smile.
“Sure, why not. Fire at will, boys!”
The ground trembled as a geyser of spectral energy erupted behind Rose. From the waves breached hulk of a ghostship, prow translucent against the darkening sky: The Redemption. Cannons fixed on Destin, it fired a deadly salvo. Rose twirled out of the line of fire and the paladin dove for cover as the beach erupted in bone grit and otherworldly shrapnel. Rose laughed heartily as her ship righted and settled on the green tide now flooding the Ivory Shore.
“He’s still moving, boys! See that he doesn’t!”
A second volley flew by Rose, decimating the beach. As the sand settled, Destin rose from behind his aegis and began sprinting over the smoldering craters at Rose.
The sound of the pirate and paladin’s swords clashing was barely audible amidst the ghost crew’s jeers and the thunderous cannonades. The dueling pair weaved and fought through the besieged battlefield, Rose evading, twirling, and cutting with gleeful grace, while her foe used brute force and divine luck to avoid direct hits and weather the maelstrom. Swords struck and rang, cannon shots broke like sparkling firecrackers on astral aegis’. Holy gold and eerie pale light swirled through the fog of gunsmoke and settling grit.
Rose fought smiling, a deadly glint in her eye. She relished each parry, each dodge and thrust at her sanctimonious opponent. If this kept up, he and his divine mistress would be cut down to size before long. But despite the thrill and fervor of the battle, cold swept through Rose’s body. Spectral blue ether swirled over her rapier, her grip and forearm simply bone as the necrotic energy coursed through her, rendering her skin transparent. A gastly grin graced her vaguely skeletal face. To her, it was a reminder of the inevitability of death. She couldn’t fathom what that would mean to a member of the Order.
“Rose!” A familiar voice broke her revere. She followed the gaze of the ghostly figure over the cliffs and the water below to where ocean and mist met. Through the haze, Rose saw it: a gilded ship piercing the fog and making for the bay. A second emerged, then a third, all shimmering gold and filled to the brim with Faithful. Rose and her crew had failed to stop them. When they landed, they’d slaughter everyone on the island and claim it for their bloodsoaked goddess. Flaring hatred was doused by cool certainty: she had to warn her people, or they’d all die.
Rose parried a strike from the paladin’s light-forged hammers, then delivered a sharp kick to his midsection. The blow did little to him, but the reciprocal force was enough to let her disengage. A moment later, cannonfire struck the sand where she’d been. Shrapnel clanged off the paladin’s divine wards, which glowed gold through the cloud of grit. As the dust settled, Rose ran for the inland forests. It felt strange. Her whole life, she’d run towards the thrill of the battle, and the specter of her family lost. Now, she’d turned her back on them and ran towards the living. Would her family forgive her?
She glanced behind her, hoping to catch the face of her father aboard The Redemption. But she winced as her vision was assailed by blinding light, pouring from the sky and bathing her foe. The streaming radiance enveloped him, coalescing into astral armor and spreading to form great, golden wings. The crowned visage of the goddess beamed above the paladin as he ran, then soared, deftly evading the fusillades wracking the shore as he charged at Rose at breakneck speed with singular focus. His baton and buckler joined together, light forming, merging, and focusing to become a greatsword of blinding radiance.
Rose braced herself for a meteoric impact, and hoped that her luck would hold out. It did. Rose weathered a shockwave as The Redemption slammed into the paladin. The hull buckled and swallowed the warrior whole. Rose’s sigh of relief turned into a brimming smile as she heard a voice call “Nobody messes with my daughter and gets away with it!” On deck, she saw her father. He turned to her, and leaned over the side rail. “Now go, Rose!” he shouted. “Our people need you.” Sounds of a brawl came from within the ship, as the intruder fought through the ghastly crew. “There’s no time. We’ll hold him off.” her father continued. “Live for us. Live for our people! And when the time comes: get your revenge.” He turned back to the deck, gun and sword in hand. “Now, go!”
Rose tore her eyes from the father, the crew, and the ship that she loved. For the second time, she thought ruefully. But she’d made up her mind, and ran for the dense forests the natives called home. As before, she’d live. She’d warn and save her people. And then, finally, she would get her revenge.
Destin crashed through the deck door, splatterings of ectoplasm sizzling on his glowing armor. His glowing eyes fixed with rage on the spectral pirate blocking his path.
“Yer a lousy stowaway, boy. I heard ya well before I saw ya, even with that ostentatious armor of yours.”
The gold-clad paladin spared no words for the pirate, but charged forward with sword and aegis.
The spectre leveled his gun, but it violently transformed into a dagger before it could fire a shot. The captain flipped it in his grip, then parried the blade’s spitting image in the faithsworn’s hand. “Still up to her old tricks, eh?”
The paladin’s next overhand strike was deftly evaded, and the dread captain’s riposte glanced off the faithsworn’s shield. “Your mistress killed me once, and she may yet again.” the ghost jeered as his rapier locked with his adversary’s gleaming blade. He leaned in close. “But you know what? It won’t matter, not when she turns on you like she did to me and my crew!”
“Lies!” Destin broke their lock with a shove fueled by unmitigated rage, and unleashed a frenzy of fatal blows. The pirate’s rapid parries littered the air with green and gold sparks.
“What’s a dead man gain by lying?” the pirate retorted. “The goddess, though...”
But Destin had heard enough. He turned his shoulder into a mighty tackle that pinned the geist to the top deck, before bludgeoning the rapier from the ghostly hand with his own astral blade.
“The truth is-” The words died on the pirate’s lips as the sword pierced his chest. The paladin twisted the blade for good measure.
“I already know the truth.”
As the emerald light faded from the pirate’s eyes, the ship dissolved into the pale sand. Yonder, Destin saw the golden fleet making shore, hundreds of faithsworn disembarking with fervent purpose.
You’ve done well, my child. The voice of the goddess was infinitely reassuring and succulent, as always. Now, finish your mission. As Destin rallied his troops, he prayed that they’d slay the wicked demons who’d infested this land. As long as your faith does not falter, neither will you.