The Hydra bucked as a hail of cannonballs rained down upon her. The crew were thrown off their feet, landing in untidy heaps about the deck. Cries of both surprise and pain filled the air in the scant moments before the next volley of projectiles fired from the adversary.
“Quick! They’re coming back around with more ammunition!” The shout came from the vicinity of the bow. While he couldn’t be sure which of his men shouted, Captain Drayton knew that there was truth in the words. He saw the large airship double back. It fired upon the helpless pirate ship again. The envelope of the reserve balloon punctured. The Hydra would not fall from the sky; but now escape was of the utmost importance.
Drayton turned to his first mate, a thick-jowled Scotsman named James. “Looks like a bad situation, doesn’t it, man?”
James sniffed the air, acrid with the smell of burnt gunpowder. “Aye. Looks like that ship is Royal Navy. If I was a betting man – which I am – I would bet that ship is captained by Commandant Vernon.”
Drayton’s eyes narrowed. “Aye, James. That would be a winning bet, methinks.” He drew his twin pistols and growled. “That man has given me more trouble in the last year than the entire Royal Navy has in the last ten years.” He fired a shot into the air, an animalistic scream clawing its way out of his lungs.
James drew his sword and let loose a less fearsome, more wounded roar of his own. He looked about, hoping no one had heard him. Only the Captain was close enough to hear, and he was paying him the courtesy of pretending not to hear the pathetic sound.
Captain Drayton reloaded his pistol. “We are going to blow his ship apart. And then-” He paused, panting.
James looked on, expectantly. “And then, Capatin?”
“I’m going to tear Vernon apart, limb by limb.”
Drayton stormed to his cabin and threw the door open. he fumbled and cursed as he rummaged in his cupboard, pulling out his most sharpest sword and extra ammunition.
“Oooo! Are we getting ready to storm the castle?”
Drayton jumped, the whisper startling him out of his enraged preparations. His head jerked about the room, searching for the owner of the raspy voice. If one of his crew had managed to sneak into his cabin without his knowledge, it would be the last thing that fool would ever do-
Except, there was no one. His eyes darted about, searching each corner, each shadow. Still no one. As it occurred to him that there was only one place from which the whisper could possibly have come, a foot shot out of his cupboard, connecting with his chest.
Drayton flew back, hitting his head as he landed on the floor. As he cursed his attacker to the blackest pits of hell, his attacker came into view. The pirate captain Groaned. “Oh, it’s you.”
The man in black chuckled his raspy chuckle and knelt beside the pirate. “Would you like some help up Theo?” The man held out his hand, which Drayton reluctantly grabbed.
As The Man in Black pulled him to his feet, Drayton sighed. “Thank you. But please, don’t call me Theo. I loathe the name.” The man in black snorted, but bowed his head. “Why are you on board my ship? In the middle of an attack, no less?”
The Man in Black shrugged, disinterested in explaining himself. “I needed to see you, and Commandant Vernon was in pursuit. I figured it was the most expedient way to find you.”
Drayton frowned at the mysterious figure before him. “Why? Why are you looking for me?”
The Man in Black chuckled. “You still have a debt to repay, as I recall.” He produced a tattered playing card. It was the Queen of Diamonds. He still had that damnable thing, after all this time? Drayton trembled, in spite of himself.
“I owe you nothing,” he hissed. “I payed my debt to you over a year ago, in full. You said that yourself!” He raised a fist, thought better of it, and lowered it to his side.
“I said no such thing.” The Man in Black raised a gloved hand to his face and tapped his chin. “I believe my exact words were, ‘I have no further need for your services, AT THIS TIME. There is a difference, you see?”
Drayton’s lips drew into a taut line. “That last repayment cost me. It cost me DEARLY.” He brought his hand to his face, lightly touching the eye patch over his left eye socket.
“Oh, come now,” whispered The Man in Black. “I made sure you received the best care, and you came away with a technical marvel in the old eye-hole to boot!” He burst into cruel laughter.
The wound, two months healed, was still quite raw. He sniffed. “What would you have me do, oh master?” He attempted an exaggerated bow, but the ship was tossed again, and he fell to the ground for the third time that day.
“Simple,” said The Man in Black. “There are certain items that a certain man of means requires to perform a set of ‘rites’, if you will.” Drayton scowled. These types of requests were not unheard of , but usually those rites were dangerous, and the items required were often not legal or safe to have in one’s possession. “I will give you the locations of these items. You will then…retrieve them, and store them until such time as you are summoned by me.”
Drayton nodded. “It appears that I have no choice in the matter. Shall I store them at my Villa? Perhaps the farmhouse would be better?”
The Man in Black shook his head. “Neither. They must be stored in a secure location; somewhere protected.”
Drayton stepped around The Man in Black and walked to the fireplace. Strictly for show, it held his most important secrets. He crawled inside and reached around. Producing a rather elegant handbag. He returned to The Man in Black and held the bag out to him. “Will the island do?”
When I have trouble with any of my works in progress, I sometimes find it helpful to take a scene from the story, or even just create a scenario and tell it from the perspective of a character that doesn’t have their own POV within the story. I find that this often helps me overcome whatever block I may have preventing me from writing.
I find it also helps me to get inside of the heads of some of the other, less well developed characters. Sometimes, it even inspires a whole new story in itself.
One thing I’ve been trying lately is to look at a story or scenario from the point of view of the antagonist. Can I make an antagonist the hero of their own story? Can I make a villain an antihero?
I have come to discover that it is fun to play with the antihero archetype. To have a character that ultimately does the right thing, saves the day, but does it against his or her best interest allows for a lot of interesting possibilities in a story. This character can go through the typical hero’s journey, yet at the end of the story goes back to their previous lives and mannerisms, seemingly not having undergone any permanent change over the course of their adventure.
I have done this several times in the last year. The results have been interesting (to me, at least). A couple of them could serve as short stories themselves, should I decide to take the time to polish them up and get them published. But, as I am already juggling several projects, I am limiting myself to first completing at least one of my WIP before I elaborate on any of the writing exercises I’ve been putting out for the last several months.
For the writers out there: Do you like your main characters to be heroes? Or do you ever experiment with dark heroes, or antiheroes?