Ghost Pirates


Angelica cradled her nephew close, shushing him with meaningless platitudes as if he were conscious and could hear her soothing words. His ashray wounds were extensive. Covering such a vast span of his mottled skin that she couldn’t say for sure if he would survive. Unlikely. She knew that deep down. But she refused to let the truth surface. Better to stuff it down deep with all the other pain. But pain had a limit. Loss could break a person. Grief was a physical thing. Guilt was another entity altogether. A nasty, dark, hard, growing thing made of nothing but meanness.

She squeezed her eyes shut against her morbid thoughts and sang to him, even though her voice trembled and didn’t carry its usual timbre. What else could she do? There was no cure for an ashray wound. The ghostly rays attacked during the dark, burning human or orca flesh – it didn’t make a difference to them – and left angry wounds that lasted for at least a year. If you didn’t succumb to infection, the pain itself was enough for many to have thrown themselves from the tallest icebergs or drowned themselves in the deepest seas. Her own sister…driven insane by the pain. But she wouldn’t let that happen to her nephew, Frost. Not if it was the last thing she did.

The small ice shelf they rested on rocked with an unseen force. Angelica braced herself and held onto Frost, careful not to touch his wounds. As the ice shook beneath them, she cast a quick glance at the remainder of her resting clan. They were dotted among the icebergs, most of them with their orca tails still visible, but a few had transformed into their human forms. Not long ago there had been over fifty of them. Now their numbers were a mere twenty-five. The war. The ashrays. The dark mutterings of the deep.

A few acknowledged her panicked look, noted her trembling iceberg, and jumped into the frigid Antarctic water to come to her aid. Who knew what new monstrosity might arise? But before any of her clan reached her, a familiar head breached the surface of the water. Zale.

“You scared the shit out of me,” Angelica said.

Treading water, Zale raised both palms. “I apologize.”

Angelica relaxed back onto the ice, but didn’t lessen her hold on Frost.

“What do you want, Zale?” Angelica eyed the enormous selachii. His size was a new thing. All the time he’d spent with the Denizens of the Deep had finally paid off. According to him. Granting him not just their trust, but an extraordinary size. Megalodon size. No wonder the ice rattled when he swam. “I’m not in the mood.”

“Is it not enough for me to enjoy your scintillating conversation?” He smirked.

“I’ve got other things on my mind.”

His gaze fell to Frost, still unconscious on her lap. Zale shuddered. “Ashray, huh? Nasty fuckers.”

“More than one.” A wall of tears built behind her eyes, but it would do no good to shed them. “I don’t know what to do. His wounds are so extensive. After my sister…I can’t lose him, Zale.”

Zale leapt out of the water and landed on the ice beside Angelica, rocking it again. His great white shark tail dangled in the water. He lifted both Angelica and Frost into his arms. “It’s going to be okay.”

She rested her head against his chest. “No, it’s not, and it’s all my fault.”

His hand brushed the back of her head, a rare tender gesture, nothing he’d ever done during the nights they’d been intimate. “It’s not your fault. You’re only doing what you need to do to survive.”

“Diving into uncharted territories? Taking him to dangerous or forbidden zones? Hunting the ashrays because all our food sources died after the war?”

“You’re the clan leader. You must make difficult decisions.”

“We’ve lost over twenty in five years,” Angelica said, pulling back from him to look at his dark eyes.

His expression hardened. “You can blame the humans for that. And the mermaids. And the selachii.”

You are a selachii.”

He shook his head. “Not anymore. I’m something else. Something bigger. Something better. Something far more powerful.”

“What difference does that make?” Angelica glanced at Frost. His lips were blue. His skin ice-white, even the mottled bits that made them so unique. The vitiligo that marked their human flesh when they weren’t in their orca form. Distinct, beautiful, elegant. Yet on Frost, the markings were fading. A sign he was near death.

“I’m sorry.” Zale lifted her chin with his finger so her eyes met his. “I know of a way to help him.”

“You do?” Angelica curled her fingers around his wrist, squeezed, trying to wring the answer out of him. “What is it?”


Angelica’s heart sank. “Atlantis is a myth.”

“I assure you, it is anything but a myth. It is entirely real.”

“Then why aren’t you there?”

“I have no interest in being there. Not yet.”

“How can an island help Frost?” Angelica asked.

“Because the Fountain of Youth resides on Atlantis,” Zale replied.

Hope pricked a thorn in Angelica’s heart. “It’s real?”

“It’s real. And it can cure ashray wounds.”

Angelica looked at Frost, at his frigid appearance, at the life leaching rapidly from him. “Tell me how to get there.”

Zale grabbed the back of her neck, a gesture meant to intimidate, one she was more familiar with. “You must do something for me first.”

Angelica raised her gaze from her dying nephew to meet the ice in Zale’s eyes. “If it will save Frost.”

Zale placed an object in her palm. A small hard thing with rough edges and glints of obsidian. A rock of some kind. “When you get to Atlantis, put it in the fountain.”

“What is it?”

“Nothing you need to concern yourself with,” Zale said. “All that’s important is healing Frost. The rest will take care of itself.” He slipped off the ice into the water, rocking the iceberg once more. “That is what you want, isn’t it? To heal your nephew?”

Angelica nodded. Zale gave her directions to the hidden island, then slipped away beneath the frigid waves.

The rest of her clan surrounded her small ice shelf, casting her worried looks. Angelica kissed her nephew’s forehead, then held the rock high in a tight fist. There wasn’t a single member of the orcana that hadn’t been wounded by an ashray. “To Atlantis. To heal all our wounds.”

“To Atlantis!” They cheered back at her, smiles brimming with hope.

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