Rain driving down in torrents. A kaleidoscope scene painting flashes o’ smoke, scream, and shadow. Ship after ship surging in. All o’ them crumbling into darkness. Explosions shuddering across the Phoenix. The thousand year-old vessel splintering. Timber long extinct breaking free o’ final form.

The entire crew a memory by morning.

Drassiter holding fast to the Phoenix’s helm, steering the broken beauty as only a captain could. Bright sparks blasting into the night, flares into the maw o’ an endless beast. Smiling wide. Long black hair plastering her face. Blood pouring down her coattails.

Hardly standing yet standing forever. Feeling the call o’ darkness, but shining on through the night.

A captain in her place.

Seeing the shell and throwing the helm wide. The ship lurching right. Cold steel cannonball glancing wood inches above one o’ her crew—a Brightwin.

The Brightwin smiling up a’ her captain as she aims her own volley skyward.

Fighting for three days. Once proud pirate armada smoldering in Darksky. Twelve vessels, captains, and crew lost . . . only the Phoenix remaining.

Cannon flashes blooming in through the night. Drassiter cutting the Phoenix hard across the clouds. Thunder and lightning shattering the sky open wide. Two ships closing in. Seeing their names:

Windraker.

Forgotten Melody.

From the distant bow, o’er the wind and rain and cries o’ death, a mad laugh peeling out. Fareday.

In every Drassiter story, Fareday having his say.

The fan to her flame. The windy chaos in her silent shadow.

The Fleetfoot’s crimson hair dancing through the gloom. Crowing into the night as he loads cannons. Grinning the fool in his heart. Drassiter feeling the press o’ his luck. The warmth filling her veins as he burns it bright.

That luck buying them seconds a’ best.

The familiar twinge o’ fortune guiding her hand. Following it true. Ducking the instant she felt the urge. A twelve-foot ballista bolt tugging her hair, burying into the deck but a yard away.

Drassiter throwing her shoulders back, mismatched eyes glaring as the ships pour in. Fury in her purple eye matching glee in her gold. Fear leaving every limb. Truth rattling in her bones. Changing course, now aiming straight a’ Forgotten Melody. The broad galleon turning about. Cannons threading out to tear them to shards.

Someone calling to Drassiter from far off. The captain shaking away the warning even as her own thoughts scream. Words beyond hearing. Lungs lacing with honey warmth. Invincible.

The feeling when a Fleetfoot’s shine is on you.

Even Fareday’s smile breaking. Fear cracking his wild nature.

Drassiter finding herself again in that final moment. Knowing her folly.

It being too late.

Deep within the Phoenix’s bowels, a shockwave erupting. The moon shaking loose. The great mast launching into the sky. Rigging and sails ripping away like vines from a window pane. Wood hailing down heavier than the rain. Every scream stifling in an instant.

Whole moments passing like stone teardrops. Rewriting second after second, trying to make sense o’ calamity. The Phoenix nearly splitting in two but somehow floating still. Drassiter staggering to her feet. Gash after gash crisscrossing her body. Her entire crew lying dead on the deck.

Scattered leaves on a forgotten page.

Wood ‘neath her feet beginning to vibrate. Seeing movement among the ruins. Fareday rising. Drassiter leaping the rail down to the main deck. Sprinting toward her last and dearest friend. Havoc echoing all around. Vibration in her feet growing hotter. The ship beginning to glow. Fareday’s eyes finding hers. His feet matching stride for stride. The gap between them evaporating. Cracks tearing open even wider. Flight core flickering. The whole mass plummeting down. Fareday staggering as he leaps the widening chasm, bare inches on his heels. Being there in her arms. A huge sphere o’ light bursting up from the depths o’ the hull.

The orb rising, azure embers trailing like fireflies, growing brighter than the sun . . .  somehow brighter still. A tremendous whirring filling the air. Light reaching its pinnacle high in the sky. Erupting. Shards o’ blue swallowing everything in their might. Friends holding each other close. Drowned screams in a world tearing asunder.

Everything going dark. The end coming.

The final moments o’ Herwick Drassiter and her crew

—Threepwin’s Treasure and Tales, page 7