“What,” I asked. It always made the hair on my arms prickle when he talked like that.
“Twelve and fifteen,” He muttered. “That’s twenty seven.”
I nodded, but I was terribly confused as to what he meant.
“It’s about to begin.”
Young Billy Scarlet never knew what her life was about. She was the bastard child of a governor’s daughter and a pirate, but all through her childhood she felt that there was something more to who she was. Having been raised in an orphanage, by a stern head mistress and an old sailor toughen her up well enough, but it never prepared her for the adventure that awaited her.
After the man that raised her is killed, Billy and her friends Clara and Davy turn to a life at sea as ship’s boys, all the while hiding the fact that Billy and Clara are girls. After five years and what seems like a life time the two girls identities are discoverer and they are put off the ship. Their first night on land they meet a mysterious man named Shadowlark who seems to know the two of them better than they know themselves. He tells them of a life they once lived that neither of them can remember. They are soon thrust into an epic battle with an immortal sea captain named Nate Grayheart, who will stop at nothing to kill all three of them.
Targeted Age Group:: 13 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
We spent a lot of time around the ocean when we were children, so we were always making up stories about life at sea. That was what inspired us to write this story. We would hear stories that other people would tell. There were many longs nights where we would sit on the docks where our boat was parked, making up stories. We would listen to the sound of the music from the restaurant that was right up the dock and that would sort of set the scene for everything that we would come up with.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Coming up with characters is always very fun for us. Some of our characters are based on people that we have actually met while others are just ones that we came up with and slowly built on over time. It helps to watch some movies with well developed characters or read other books. Building a character can be a quick snap or it can take months, it just depends on what kind of character you’re working with.
I breathed in the cool night air and leaned my shoulder against a tree. The rhythmic noises of the night were beginning to lull me to sleep. I closed my eyes only briefly, then shook myself and walked a little ways from the tree, so that I would not lean on it anymore. It seemed that, as long as I was standing up straight, I was fine. I had not been away from the tree for five minutes when I felt a cold blade on my throat. I tried to pull away, but I felt an arm snake around my waist and arms. They held me so tight that I could not move my upper body.
“Call him,” a man’s voice whispered in my ear. It wasn’t Grayheart or the rider that we had met earlier. The sound of his voice sent a chill through my whole body.
“Why?” I asked, hoping in vain that my voice would not shake when I spoke.
“Call him,” he repeated. “Don’t make me get forceful.”
“This is already a bit more forceful than I would like.” I wriggled around, trying to free myself, but his grip only tightened. “Why should I call him?”
“Because I said so.” He pressed the blade down harder making it so I could scarcely breathe without it cutting me. “You know that he’ll hear you.”
“It would seem that Grayheart wants us alive, there would be no other way for us to see whatever it is that he wants us to see in that world of yours.”
He laughed. “You still have the same way of reasoning.”
‘Still?’ His saying that startled me worse than his knife at my throat. I tried not to let him see that he had rattled me with his words.
“What will it profit you to kill me?”
“It would profit me a lot. You have no idea.” He breathed on the back of my neck. “But then again, I could take you with me. I’m sure that you would enjoy yourself on the Empress.”
“Newheart,” Shadowlark’s voice rang through the woods and it was hard to tell which direction it was coming from.
I looked over toward the fire and Shadowlark was gone.
“Newheart.” That time his voice was no more than a whisper.
Newheart’s grip on me loosened. He took the knife away from my throat and stepped away from me as if touching me had burned him, all the while looking around nervously.
“Are you frightened, Newheart? Are you afraid because you cannot see me? Or is it that you are afraid that I’m going to do to you what you would do to me?”
“Show your face you gutless bastard,” Newheart scoffed.
Shadowlark laughed. “You dare call me gutless while you are the one that stands there quaking in your boots. You’ve always been a coward, but you pretend to be more than you really are.”
“Your name really fits you,” Newheart huffed. “You hide like this and think that no one can find you, but in fact you’re very foolish. I don’t fear you. Now, show yourself!”
“Gladly,” Shadowlark said. A blade then appeared at Newheart’s throat as if it had seeped out of the night wind. “So Grayheart is still using you for his dirty work? Is it that he no longer has the stomach for it or was he just scared to come get me himself?”
“He’s not scared of you,” Newheart laughed. “Why would you think that? He’s chasing you and all you do is run. So who is more of a coward, the chaser or the chased?”
“What’s going on?” Clara came over to us.
“Stay back,” I told her, stepping back a good ways, myself. The air around the two men felt as if it had turned to fire. I felt as if the air itself might explode at any given moment.
“He says that I rule nothing,” Shadowlark tightened his grip. “If that is true then why is he worried? We aren’t in his world, I don’t pose a threat to him, he can do whatever he wants, what the hell does he want me for?” Normally Shadowlark was very composed, but he was getting more and more angry by the second. The more his anger grew the hotter the air around him got. His composure was held, seemingly, by a mere thread. I knew that if Newheart did not give him a good answer soon, Shadowlark was going to kill him. That much was very clear.
“If you’re that curious, then you need to come with me,” Newheart said.
Shadowlark pressed down on the blade so hard that a small stream of blood showed up on Newheart’s throat. Newheart, gasped and winced, trying to pull away from Shadowlark, but even though he beat out Shadowlark with the size and muscle, Newheart was obviously no match for the other man’s strength. I was almost frightened at the thought. Newheart had been strong enough to hold me so that I could not move, but he could not pull away from Shadowlark’s grip.
“I know your style, Newheart. I haven’t trusted you since I first saw you with Rossaletta. I’m not as ignorant as the men that you’re used to dealing with. You tell Grayheart that if he wants me then he’ll have to come get me himself.”
“Are you suggesting that I go back to Grayheart without you?” Newheart asked.
Shadowlark nodded. “Yes Newheart, or I’ll take this knife and pierce your new heart with it and you won’t return to him at all.”
“The captain may not like that,” Newheart laughed a little. “I don’t think your message will go over very well.”
It was then that we heard a pistol cock. “It won’t.” Grayheart stood behind Shadowlark with a pistol held to his head.
Shadowlark released Newheart and dropped his knife.
“You’ve put on quite a show here tonight little brother,” Grayheart scoffed. “Then again you were always good at that. It would disgust me to see the way that people loved the tricks you did with water, fire and all of your circus style antics. They loved you. I would say that they hated me, but they didn’t know that I existed. No one knew me when I was Nathaniel Grayman.”
“You were their king,” Shadowlark huffed. “The greatest king our people had ever had. They loved and trusted you. They trusted you with their lives. Those people would have followed you to the end of the earth and beyond, and you threw all of that away and for what? Immortality that means nothing.”
“Do not mock me brother,” Grayheart hissed.
“It seems you can no longer tell praise from mockery,” Shadowlark said. “I praised you for being a good king and scolded you for destroying our people with your own lust for power. You have lost all your former wisdom, brother and all I can do is pity you for it.”
“I have gained more wisdom through my immortality than any of you could ever dream of having.”
“Wisdom, brother, or ignorance?”
Grayheart thrust his pistol in Shadowlark’s face. “I see life more clearly than you could ever dream of. It is you who is ignorant, but it is by your choosing.”
“You have chosen to live blinded to everything but the will of the Dragon’s Empress.”
“My life is what I have made it. No one controls me.
“Is that what Rossaletta told you?”
Grayheart laughed. “Everyone knows who Nate Grayheart is. They all know and fear me. I rule our world now, just as I always should have.”
“You always ruled our people,” Shadowlark huffed. “Who put it in your mind that you never ruled anything?”
“I now rule how I should have all those years ago,” Grayheart smiled. “You of all people should know that.”
“You think that the only way to rule effectively is to make them fear you?”
“If someone fears you, then you control that person,” Grayheart answered. “Fear means control. They may have their kings, but even they bow to me. In the end you will bow to me as well.”
“I will be smote dead before I bow to what you have become,” Shadowlark spat. “You are a tyrant and a monster. The kind of man that Nate Grayman would have killed. You are a heartless wretch and the only way I can stand the sight of you is to remember the man that you used to be.”
“All the same, you’re coming with me,” Grayheart shrugged as if Shadowlark’s words meant nothing at all to him. “It’s been a while since you’ve been home and Rossaletta has just been dying to see you.”
“Then let her die,” Shadowlark said. “It’d save me some trouble.”
“The Dragon’s Empress,” I whispered.
“Yes, my dear.” He rubbed my cheek, but I jerked away from him. “You will get to meet my lovely Rossaletta. I’m sure she would love to see you as well.”
“Enough of your talk,” Shadowlark snapped. “I’ll go with you, but the girls stay here.”
“What?” Me and Grayheart asked at the same time.
“I’m not leaving them here,” Grayheart told him. “They know too much for me to leave them behind, but then again I could just take Billy and not worry about Clara. You know Billy’s importance in all of this, if you know nothing else about it.”
Shadowlark clenched his jaw and gave Grayheart a cold stare. I wasn’t sure what he had meant by that comment, but it seemed that he had hit Shadowlark where it hurt.
“If you take Billy then you’ll have to take me,” Clara crossed her arms across her chest. “I’ll just follow you if you don’t.”
“I advise you missy, it’s not wise to get strong willed with me,” Grayheart told her.
“Call me ‘missy’ one more time and you’ll see the meaning of the term ‘strong willed’.”
“I’m not a very patient man. I’ll take you along, but not because you asked to be taken. You may be of some use.”
They bound our hands and led us and our horses through the woods. We were led to a place with a small dock that was off by itself.
I could not help but stop and stare at what was lying in wait for us. A ship loomed ahead in the darkness. Its masts reached toward the starry sky as if they were trying to unveil something that the night sky wanted to keep concealed. All was silent except for the waves breaking on the shore and the wind blowing eerily through the riggings of the Dragon’s Empress.
I was forced forward, none too gently. A feeling of dread crept into my heart as I stepped onto the deck. It was as if I had left one world and stepped into a completely different one.
Grayheart came up behind me. He was close enough that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. “Welcome,” he whispered into my ear. “Aboard the Dragon’s Empress.”
About the Author:
We are a brother and sister writing team. We have been creating stories since we were very young, it wasn’t until about 2003 that we started writing our stories down. Billy Scarlet was not our first story, but somehow this story entangles itself with just about every other story we have written in one way or another.
We grew up in a large family and spent a lot of our childhood around the water. This story being one of the many that came from our time around the ocean. We live in Georgia on our family’s farm. I (Savannah) am getting my associates degree in art while Zeke finishes high school. All the while both of us continue to learn more about and delve deeper into the worlds that we have brought to life through the written word.
Savannah and Zeke Parker have been writing together since they were 11 and 6 years old. The Secret of Nautilus Island was the first story they wrote together. The story began to develop when they would spend time around the ocean as children. Every time they would get the chance the two of them would be off to themselves spinning more tales about Tylar Morgan and Jonny Ford’s adventures at sea.
Have you read this book or another by this author? If you have, please scroll past the book sample and tell us about it in the comments!