List a few phobias you have. When and how did you discover you had these fears?
Smoke filled the young Captain’s nostrils as he ran barefoot and bare chested across the deck, heaving bucket after bucket of water onto blazing timbers to little effect. He shouted over the roar of the flames to his crew, urging them to move faster, haul faster, but that, too, was useless.
They were already loading whatever supplies they could into the rowboats and lowering them to the night-dark waters below. His first mate appeared at his side. “Leo, we can’t stay. She’s being taken by the sea.”
Leo cast his eyes around the beautiful vessel. The fire had raged across the upper deck. The helm was gone, they were rudderless. The Siren’s Revenge was going down. Phineas shouted in his ear to be heard over the din of the blaze, repeating his urging that they had to go.
“Go,” he shouted back. “I’ll be along in a tick.” He dashed back to his cabin, shielding his face from the flames that licked at him and the smoke that tried to choke him. If Revenge was going down, he was not leaving his amulet to go with it. The strongbox would also help them get back on their feet once they reached shore.
He wound his way back out to the main deck as the mainmast finally gave way. He cursed and dove towards the rail, clutching the heavy chest close to his body. “Captain!” someone shouted just over the side.
“Catch!” Leo shouted back, and hoisted the chest over before leaping out into the dark himself. He heard the “oomph” of the sailor who received his cargo just before he dove under the water. The rowboat dropped the final feet to the sea as he surfaced.
“Leo,” Phineas breathed, extending a hand out to the captain as the rowboat drew within reach of him. “You alright?”
Leo coughed, water and smoke dueling in his lungs as he was hauled into the little dinghy. “What the hell happened?” he demanded.
“Sorry sir,” the evening lookout wrung his cap in his hands. “The lantern came loose and fell to the deck. The oil went all over and by the time I got down it was a right conflagration.”
“Was there nobody else on deck?” he rounded on each sailor in turn. It was a hazard of the job, lanterns fell sometimes, but there were procedures to keep fires from spreading. Each man looked to his lap. He cursed under his breath and looked back at the flaming hulk.
Everything he had worked toward for five years, up in blazes just like that. How was a man to earn his notoriety without a ship to command? He glared at it, wondering what siren he had so pissed off to have earned her vengeance. The ship was a giant beacon under the stars.
It didn’t make sense. Jack wasn’t careless. Leo had assigned him the night watch for a reason. There couldn’t have been enough oil to cause a bonfire that massive. The helmsman at least would have seen it and doused it before it could spread. “Where’s Willet?”
They exchanged glances amongst themselves and shrugged. “Another boat maybe?” Oleg offered.
Leo grew uncomfortable. Something wasn’t right, and he would have answers. First he had to tend to his crew. “Take us around to the others. We’ll make sure everyone else got off and head towards land together.”
A chorus of “Aye cap’n’s” echoed back at him. It did not drown the thud of a cannon being fired. The Siren’s Revenge erupted into a volcano of splinters hailing down on them. Shouts and screams rang through the air as men were struck or impaled, splashing as the other rowboats capsized from the force of the explosion.
There was only one pirate mad enough to sink a ship in the dead of night. And particularly only one thirsty enough for Leo’s blood. Samuel “Vulture” Whitcomb and the Shadow Marauder. The survivors would be captured and then paraded on deck, their demise only temporarily delayed while the Vulture dangled them before Leo in an act of retribution.
He would plead for their lives, his cries falling on deaf ears. It was a trivial balance, not worth one life, let alone two dozen. But he had stolen from a madman and the inflation was steep.
The Vulture laughed as he slit their throats. They would make fine chum for the sharks. But not to worry, he wasn’t so merciless as to make Leo walk the gangplank alone. His first mate might even buy him enough time to swim to safety, a noble sacrifice.
Leo opened his eyes and stared at the planks of The Eternity overhead. He sat up and swung his feet over the side of his bunk to the floor. The mess with the bandits had brought back some unpleasant memories. His recklessness ten years ago had cost him a crew and a ship then. Again it had cost him, and while he still had his ship and most of his crew, this time Phineas hadn’t made it out.
How many more times would he risk his home and his family for glory? He cradled his head in his hands. “Forgive me,” he whispered.
Notes: Oh man, this was a tough one. Leo is not mine originally. I got thinking about my characters and the things they fear and it occurred to me I had NO idea what the pirate captain might be afraid of. So I asked my friend some tough character questions to try to understand Leo better. What would break him, etc. So I came up with this little backstory in the form of a dream/memory that comes up while he and his crew are on their way to meet Kita after their battle with the bandits.
I’m not really a fearful person by nature, but I do not like loud unexpected noises. I’m sure no one really enjoys them, but I feel like my body tends to overreact when something loud and unexpected startles me. I get really flustered, particularly when it’s something innocuous like my husband laughing boisterously at a YouTube video in the other room. Sets my teeth on edge.
Speaking of teeth, I also have an irrational fear of being bitten by a dog. I have never been bitten, so it’s a little odd that I have this little anxiety. I’m not afraid of dogs, and I don’t generally dislike them, but I do not like them anywhere near my face.
What things scare you? Are they rooted in past trauma or they unprovoked like my dog-bite fear? Make sure to give your characters something that frightens them. It doesn’t have to be all-consuming, but there should be something. Explore fears/phobias. See what works for your characters and how you can incorporate it into your stories. I know you can do it!
Friday’s prompt: You are a children’s book writer. Write the first few lines of your new book.
I have an excellent little tale for this one for you! See you tomorrow!