• Orn Batista was named in his mother's language. It meant "father's pride." The name couldn't have been more accurate. As he rowed the boat vigorously to the nearest island, about 2 nautical miles northeast, his heart was filled with revenge. It would be a tiresome and difficult task, but with his well trained muscles he could make it there by the next day if the weather stayed nice. From there, he planned on stowing away on one of the trade ships that would bring him closer to his destination.

    The waves rocked gently, the boat creaked with each push of the ores, the smell of sea water stung his nostrils pleasantly, and gulls called overhead. It was a beautiful day to be out. His mother would miss him horribly, Orn knew. But he couldn't stay on that island a moment longer. Not while his father's body rotted in that grave while his persecutors enjoyed this fine weather. Orn grit his teeth and rowed faster. He'd enjoy the weather after he's had his revenge.

    A few hours later, his arms hurt from exhaustion. Neither his island, or the one he was heading for were in sight. He must be halfway there. From the setting of the sun behind him, he had no doubts of going in the wrong direction. Before him, the sky grew darker. However, he dared not sleep, else he'd drift off course. Orn had went to this island only a couple of times with some of the village men when he had come of age. However, he had never gone alone on a makeshift boat with such little provisions, enough food for two days and his father's most valued possessions. A little coin pouch jingled at his side. There was only enough for more food.

    Despite his determination, Orn drifted asleep, arms locked in rowing position. A quick nap won't hurt...

    The sounds of cannon fire jolted Orn awake. Heart pounding quickly, he jumped up forgetting he was in a boat, and almost toppled overboard. He looked around, trying to find where the sound came from. Another shot rang out in the darkness, this one closer. Quickly grabbing his ores, he tried to row away from the noise. He watched the horizon cautiously, hoping to see a fire of some sort, only glancing at the stars and constellations to map his way. A light flashed to his left, then the sound came. The hostile ship was dangerously close. The cannonball splashed 100 feet away from Orn. He frantically tried to row away. Another shot came from his right, this one passed almost over head. The splash caused waves to push his boat towards the second ship. Quickly, he decided to let the waves carry him that way and used the ores to propel him faster. If that ship was closer, then it would be better to get to it and around it, as the cannonballs would be less likely to hit him.

    Just my luck, I'm caught in the middle of a battle...

    A shadow of a ship loomed out from the moonless night. He could not make out the image that flew on the flags and dared not reach for his telescope to get a better view. He'd see it when he got closer. Another cannon shot came from the ship. This time the ball landed right in front of him. The water sprayed him in the face and the ship floated backwards. He rowed frantically, trying to keep the bow down on the water.

    What the hell?! Are they shooting at me?! His mind raced. Then he remembered his white shirt. Orn tore it from his body and stood up in the boat waving it side to side to show that he meant no harm. Another shot rang out.

    "s**t!" he swore in his father's language.

    He grabbed the bag full of his belongings and dived overboard. No sooner he hit the water did the boat shatter to pieces, splinters flying over head. The shock of the impact dragged him under the water. He struggled to the surface, losing breath fast. However, at the same time, he tried to swim closer to that ship. If he could make himself too close to be fired upon, he could probably explain himself to them.

    Orn's head broke the surface and he gasped for breath. The ship was about 50 ft away. It's black flags blotted out some of the stars. He dived down again, hoping that no one saw him, and swam closer. After about a minute underwater, his lungs began to burn. He risked another surfacing. The boat was a little off from his course, but much closer. Close enough for him to see men in tattered clothes, some without shirts, running back and forth on the deck. They seemed to be looking off in the distance now at the opposing ship, also in view. Some yelled in an incoherent language. Even in the night, their skin was dark. They'd obviously forgotten about him. Slowly, he swam closer, trying to make his strokes as quiet as possible. He wouldn't be able to board the ship unless they threw down a ladder. Orn had an idea.

    He waited for another cannon fire to rock the ship. Some men yelled. In unison with them, Orn yelled in his mother's tongue, "Man overboard!" hoping that one of these men would recognize the language.

    A sandy head peered over the side of the ship. The eyes looked down into the black water. When they spotted him, they widened. The man rattled something off in a different language to the crew behind him.

    Damn...didn't work....

    "Hold there boy," another, much deeper voice came over the side. The owner of this voice was deeply tanned. He was powerfully built and his face was weathered by years in the sun. He frowned down at Orn.

    "What is your allegiance?"

    Oh now they ask... Orn thought sarcastically.

    He replied, "No one but myself and my father."

    A hearty laugh rumbled from the other man's deep throat. "Ay, your a good lad then." He turned back to the first man who threw down the rope ladder. Orn swam to it and grabbed a hold. Another cannon shot rocked the ship. More scampering could be heard on board. As Orn climbed, struggling to not fall back to the watery pit, the man's voice switched to a different language and ordered the crew around. Orn decided that he must be the captain of the ship.

    Finally on deck, he approached the captain who was looking over some battle charts. Orn reached in his bag for his telescope. The captain paid no attention to him. "Best stay out of the way for now boy if you value life. We'll deal with you later," he mumbled, still not looking at him.

    Orn examined the flags waving overhead. Pirate flags. He then looked out at the enemy ship. It's colors were red and green with a royal sigal. The colors and emblem of his father's ex-country. Orn smiled grimly. Perhaps his revenge would come swifter than he thought. He took a second to marvel at his fortune.

    Orn's eyes drifted to the battle plans lain out on the table before the captain. "May I have a look sir?" He asked politely.

    The captain glanced at him and frowned. "What makes you think I'd let you do that. If a boy like you can read these, then I probably be better off throwing you back overboard."

    "If you throw me overboard, you'll lose this battle," Orn said frankly. A cannon hit the stern's mast as if to emphasize the severity of his sentence. Men dodged out of the way of the falling mast.

    "Well, we don't seem to have much more we can lose, eh?" Orn continued with a shrug.

    The captain slid the parchment toward Orn, staring at him skeptically. A slightly humored smile crossed his face. "Well boy, losing your life is much more than you think."

    Orn glanced over the plans, shaking his head on occasion. "No...this won't work. There are too many opening they'll exploit. And, now that that mast is gone, you don't have the speed to pull off the maneuvers. How many cannonballs left?"

    The captain laughed again, more so in shock this time. "Well your father must have been a very good man if he taught you all this. We have 4 shots left."

    Would have had six if you minded your own business, Orn thought grumpily. He stared at the ship before them. It was obviously more battle ready than this old one. They would not stand a chance against it in a fair fight. Fortunately, these were pirates.

    "First, hit their rudder so they can't turn, and have your men drop any unnecessary weight. Speed to their bow, ram them right there. Fire the cannons right into them."

    The captain hand landed heavy on he table. The men on deck stopped and looked up. In a low voice, the captain seethed, his angry eyes glowed beneath his black hair. Yellow teeth gleamed between his scruffy beard. "Are you telling me to destroy my ship? My SHIP?! On the whims of a upstart boy like you? What makes you think a mad idea like this would work."

    Orn shrugged again, "It's called the element of surprise. First, immobilize your enemy so they can't react, then attack them in a way they won't expect. The cannons will probably take out half the men on that ship, seems how most of them are in the cannon room working all those things. Ships aren't built to take close hits from the front, no matter how many cannons they have."

    The captain stood back, gloomy. He sighed heavily. Then, with great strides, he led his way to the wheel. He ordered his men in that strange language. They all stopped what they were doing and stared at him, then to Orn. Anger and blood lust filled their eyes. For a moment, Orn thought he would be killed on the spot. The captain turned around and shouted to them. They hurriedly threw crates and barrels overboard. With the increased speed, the ship turned slightly, noticeable difference in lag, and a single cannon fired at the enemy's stern. The wood snapped away easily. Orn stared in amazement at the skill. He had not expected this rag-tag band to possess any real ability. Then, making itself a more difficult target, the pirate ship sped forward at toward the enemy. The pirates began firing their muskets at the few men on deck. Orn was right, only enough were topside to maintain the masts. They shouted. Orn recognized their language immediately as the one his father had taught him. He felt quite fortunate for not having greeted the pirates with that tongue. His fist clenched in anger.

    The enemy shot some more cannons. However, for the most part, they missed. Only a few scrapped the side. The pirates rammed the ship bow to bow. The impact shook the ships. With a quick turn, the pirates dropped the anchor onto the enemy's ship. It took out what was left of the front. The ships now hooked together, the pirates jumped over to the enemy. More men came from below to try to fend off the pirates. That left less below deck working the cannons.

    "Now!" Orn yelled to the captain. The captain yelled to his men below. The cannons shot into the enemy. Multiple explosions from below rocked both ships. Bodies flew from the enemy ship down into the watery depths. The horrific sight sickened Orn. He had never seen so many dead bodies, now floating to the top. He fought off a wave of nausea. The enemy was on fire now. There was little harm they could do. The pirates looted and killed what was left of them. Orn turned away from the gore. He looked up at the captain who was staring at him from behind his wheel. Orn realized that the captain must have been in his early to mid 30s. He suddenly looked more youthful than when Orn had saw him brooding over his charts. Their eyes met and the captain nodded solemnly.

    "Follow me boy," he said and turned away to his cabin.

    Orn trotted up the stairs in pursuit. The captain's cabin was royally furnished. There were maps of the entire world hung up on the walls along with different types of swords and guns, possibly from opponents around the world. Trinkets that Orn couldn't even begin to described lay everywhere, most probably for mapping. The bed was hid behind thick black curtains. A feast was lain out on the oak table. Orn stared at the food hungrily. The captain closed the door behind them, blocking out much of the victorious noise.

    "Have a seat boy," he said, motioning to the table.

    Stubbornly, Orn turned around to the captain. "I'm not a boy. I'm 20 years old and my name is Orn." He decided not to give his last name until he found out more about his situation.

    "20 huh? You're still young. And you're hardly a man of the sea...yet," the captain sat down in his chair and poured a glass of wine.

    "Well Orn I'm very interested to know who your father was." From over the rim of his glass, he looked up at the young man on the other side of the table. When Orn said nothing, he continued.

    "You see, those plans you were reading weren't in the language we're speaking," the captain smiled. He switched to his father's tongue, "In fact, I think you knew about who was on that ship we took down much better than any normal island boy."

    Orn smiled. He figured the captain would have noticed. He responded in the same language, "Hugo Batista. That is the man who taught me."

    Orn didn't know what reaction he expected from the captain. Either way, when the captain started to laugh, Orn wondered if he believed him or not.

    "Hugo the Great, huh? Well, your suppose to be his son? That man died a long time ago on an island not far from here. I suppose that would make your excuse very plausible," the captain got up and rounded the table on Orn. His sword flashed out from its sheathe. Orn flinched and fell back against the wall. The cool blade pressed against his throat.

    "If Hugo really is your father, then I should cut you open right here," the captain's voice was level. His eyes stared straight into Orn's. Orn did not look away. He would not back down from this man.

    The captain sighed. "I'm really tired of this blood shed...I've had enough for one day. Besides, I and my crew do owe you our lives. And I suppose in a way, Hugo Batista's..." his eyes drifted off as if he was remembering something distant. After a moment, they snapped back to Orn.

    "My name is Konrad von Pierre. That'll be Captain Konrad to you," he said while sheathing his sword. "You are now my first mate."

    Orn stepped forward. "Wait a minute. What if I don't want to be your first mate?"

    Captain Konrad turned away nonchalantly, "Well it's either that of deckhand. Which would you prefer? Otherwise you may as well jump overboard. If you want to stay on this ship for any amount of time, you have to work."

    Orn stared at his feet. He was cold, wet, and hungry. Konrad was right. He really didn't have a choice in the matter. Besides, these pirates would definitely be useful to him. Also, this Captain Konrad was a bit of an enigma. Orn was very interested in getting to know more about his new found comrade.

    (To be continued)