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         Alric of Westerland sauntered along the beach of a small coastal town far away from his far west home. He had dark brown curly hair down to his shoulders, tied back behind his head and only one shorter strand remained hanging on the left side of his face. His complexion was a tan white, darkened from travel. His face was handsome and kindly although it had been hardened by a tough life of wandering. He wore a cream shirt, a bit worn and tattered from travel. Over the shirt was a black vest, dusty and worn also. He wore a black buckskin belt tightly around his waist and behind him hung a black cloth sheath with a metal tip at the head where the tip of his beautifully jeweled knight sword lay. He wore long brown traveling pants also worn tucked into long black leather boots that reached his mid-calf.
         Alric was in a high mood and he hummed to himself watching the sunset of another beautiful day on the coast. The deep orange sun shone just above the deep blue waters of the open sea, inevitably sinking lower into the horizon. As Alric took his eyes off the mesmerizing sky just for a second, he saw something off in the distance in front of him. The water was rapping against it as the tide creped in, and it looked to be…Human Alric shuffled quickly closer to the dark object being bombarded by the crystal blue waters of the sea.
         When Alric came upon it the thing was face down in the dark golden sand. It was a human. An older man but big and bulky and he wore pirate type clothing that was soaked and muddy. Alric turned him over to see the face and suddenly his eyes grew large with shock and disbelief. He gasped and dropped back away from the pirate lying on the shore. It was his father He had a musket ball lodged in his stomach .He had been lying there awhile already and had lost a significant amount of blood. He stared in horror expecting him to be dead. Alric sat there in the sand; his hands were the only things propping him up from fainting. But after minute or so the still form of his pirate father twitched. He was alive
         After an hour or so of sitting by a warm fire on the shore away from the water, he came to. It was just before the sun went down the orange, blue and purple sky shone dimly on the fire and the father and son.
"Father Are you alright?" Asked Alric, concernedly looking into his father's pale face.

         "Alric? It is you. . . . There ain’t much time". . .

         Alric was quick to answer back. "It’s all right, you'll be ok father! I'll make sure you will be. I’ll get the best physicians, the best medicine men I can find, just hold on!" Said Alric in a shaky unsure tone.

         "No son...I...can't be saved" . . . . "Alric?"

         "Yes father?" Answered Alric.

         "Do ye. . . Do ye remember the story I used to tell ye . . . About The secret island cove?"

         "Yes, but father enough talking, your wasting your energy."

         "Alric Stop it an’ listen up It. . . Ain’t a myth . . The Forbidden Cove. . . Truly exists. . Go there. . .Get me. . Tre. .Treasure. . Keep. . It safe son. I promised I’d save it fer ye. ." Said Alric's father who was struggling to speak because of lack of strength after losing so much blood .

         "Father please don't talk you will be ok!" Said Alric in a shaky disbelieving tone.

         "Stop Alric . . . I ain’t gonna be ok I’m a gonner. . .but as me.... me last request. . . Alric. . . . Take dis ‘er map. . Find the trea. . .sure before. . . that betrayer Callus finds it! He did. . . This to me. . . You must. . . hurry. . . I'm sorry. . . Son . . . I. . . I can't hold on any longer. . . . . I. . . . . .
         The pirate couldn't finish. Former Captain Vallin the Bold moaned with pain one last time and then his head went limp in Alric's arms. “Father No!” Alric bowed his head and for the first time since he had learned the ways of a fighter he wept. He felt ashamed. He was twenty-two years old and a hardened seasoned warrior yet he wept uncontrollably. Alric wiped the tears from his eyes as his face turned from that of a sad stricken boy to a mask of deep anger. He gritted his teeth and looked up from where his father lay in his arms towards the sea still dimly lit by the sun. One thing escaped his lips and he said it with hate and malice.

         “Callus. . . .”

         The sun’s last rays met Alric of Westerland standing solemnly on the seashore watching a hastily made raft with his father Captain Vallin the Bold of the Pearlstreak drift slowly out of sight along the horizon. Alric’s eyes were dried and they were red, not only from tears of sorrow but the hot anger that grew inside him. Callus who at one time was his father’s close companion had betrayed him to take over the pirate crew that he had captained. Alric knew what he had to do. He looked at the buckskin map his father had given to him. The map was in good shape and it seemed easy enough to follow.
                                          CHAPTER I
         Alric could see his father’s ship PearlStreak floating at anchor by a dock not far away. He had his father’s ship, a little bit of money and the map to the island, all he needed now was help. And the best place for that was the inn that was attached to a pub. First Alric checked into the BlackBeard Inn that was just above the pub in the middle of the town that Alric had found his father near. He stayed in the Inn for three days, then one night he went down to the pub and moved over towards the bar that was at the back of the building overlooking the tables where the people sat. Alric sat on a stool and ordered a cold beaker of ale. Quickly the fat gruff barkeeper called Drix who was at the opposite end of the bar from Alric slid a huge frothy beaker full of dark ale toward Alric. He nodded and put down two gold doubloons, then drank the cold ale as he thoughtfully looked at the crowd.
         When he was finished drinking he got up and walked over to Drix and whispered something in his ear. Drix snorted defiantly but then Alric pulled out four more golden doubloons and only then did Drix agree.

         “Yew want me tae show ye trustworthy men fer ye quest? Me good mate Zurock o’er there e’s a man ye kin trust, I’d put me life in ‘is ands’ any day.”

         Alric looked where Drix was pointing. The man whom Drix pointed out looked vaguely familiar, but Alric just couldn’t seem to remember where he knew him from. He seemed around Alric’s age. He wore a white puffy sleeved shirt unbuttoned to his scarred chest, a tattered leather belt where two cross hilted dirks were stuffed, and he wore a pair of weather beaten brown pants that seemed a few sizes to big. They were tucked into black shin-high boots. Zurock seemed to have a fighters physic. Alric smiled and nodded to him but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he knew the man before.
                Alric looked around at all the warriors and drunkards talking and yelling over games of gambling. He spotted two beautiful women sitting to his right talking with each other and looking at him. One seemed older by a few years and the other was a woman about Alric’s age or a bit younger with long light curly brown hair and striking brown eyes. He watched them out of the corner of his eye.

         “What about those two young lassies over there? They seem a bit out of place in a pub full of drunkards and gamblers. Do ye think they seem trustworthy?” Asked Alric as he continued to survey them.

         “Well I don’t know dem good but dey sometimes pass thru ere’ as dey travel ye know, but dey look trustworthy ta’ me.” Alric nodded and then kept his eyes roving about the crowded pub room for other candidates for a ship crew.
He spotted two men sitting by themselves in one corner of the bar. One had bandoliers of small throwing axes criss-crossing his chain mail shirt. Barely visible over the right side of his shoulder was a battle-axe. He had a friendly quiet face, but everything else about him said he was a deadly warrior that you didn’t want to cross. His friend had his back to Alric but he was big and gruff from what Alric could see. His bow was slung over one of his shoulders and the quiver over the other, filled with red tipped feather arrows.

         “What do ye make of them barkeep?” Inquired Alric again.

         “I don’t know much about dem either but yew can invite dem at yer own risk.”

         Alric smiled at Drix. “I was hoping that you would give each one these letters for me. It tells them what I need their services for and where to meet me and when.”

         Drix laughed sarcastically again. Alric slide four more doubloons to him. Drix nodded.
         “I’ll pass it on ter others I see also. Wish ye luck on yer quest, once ye get rich I hope ye come back an’ buy lot’s o’ goods from ‘ol Drix. he he he!" Laughed Drix. Alric thanked him again for his help and then exited the pub to his inn room. It was up the stairs from the pub and down four doors to the right.
         It was a simple room with only cot for a bed and an old wood dresser. The candlewick was next to the cot on a small end table. He lit the half burned wick, kicked off his black boots and lay back in the old cot. He looked at the wooden ceiling faded with age and he thought about all that had happened to him in the past weeks. He was wandering aimlessly through the towns along the sea trying to find any job that he could find. He had earned a few doubloons from sailors that needed help fixing the rigging on the mast of their ship. He earned some more helping drag the seabed for clams, oysters, shrimp and fish. He hadn’t had any direction in his life since his father had become a pirate, the only job that he could find after a farming accident that cost him his left leg in the fertile green pastures of their Westerland home. Alric’s father was the only parent he ad known, his mother died a few months after his birth of some infectious disease that was new to the doctors of Westerland, so there was no hope for saving her. Alric’s aunt helped raise him when his father went of to a life of pirating. Alric was eleven years old at the time. He was unhappy living with his aunt who knew nothing of raising children with no husband of her own, and he had a thirst to wander. On top of that the counselors of the countryside of Westerland had expressed disgust with the news that Sandrik Vallin, Alric’s father had become a pirate. Their decision was to rid themselves of the link to Vallin. His son. So one cold night in the dead of winter Alric left the cottage his cottage in Westerland and never looked back. Alric was troubled again by the images of his father weak and helpless after his own comrade had betrayed him with a hot ball of lead to the gut. Alric shook his head trying to rid himself of the visions.
         Then his mind brought him to something else, the young woman from the pub. Alric lightened up a bit. She was beautiful and her face seemed so inviting. Alric never looked at a woman like her before. Not only was she beautiful and young but also she was brave enough to stay in a dirty old bar filled with nasty deadbeats that would jump at the chance to take advantage of two girls like themselves. But he had promised himself he wouldn’t think of women at the age he was, and seeing as he didn’t have anything but the clothes on his back and his sword, he thought no woman would want him anyway.
                After a few hours of not being able to sleep, Alric got frustrated with trying to clear his mind and gave up. He decided a nice stroll along the streets of the town would do him a world of good. He also hoped he may get a glimpse of the woman again. Alric got up from the squeaky uncomfortable cot, found his boots and slowly dragged them on, pulling them up to his calves and then he tucked his pants into them. Alric slowly walked to his room door.
         Once he closed the door to his room he walked along the dimly candle lit hallway of the Inn, he could hear commotion down in the pub still. He walked down the stairs and back into pub. At the bar sat Zurock the man whom Alric was sure he knew, the woman and her older companion. He walked slowly over to them as Zurock talked to them.

         “I’m sorry, I ain’t much good at talking to a couple o’ lasses such as yerselves, er Drinks ‘er on me. Drix me friend, round o’ yer best red wine o’er here ” Said Zurock to the women. As Alric sat down Zurock offered to buy him a drink too and Alric accepted.

         “So you must be Alric, I saw you talking with the Barkeep earlier. Tell us about yourself. You said in your letter that you are Alric of Westerland. Where exactly is Westerland anyway? I’ve never heard of it before. Oh I’m sorry, my manners are horrible My name is Aluin La’Forge and this is my good friend Finduilas. ” Said Aluin, trying to bring Alric into the conversation. Finduilas scolded her.

         “Oh don’t bother the man Aluin can’t you see he’s tired?” Alric introduced himself and then assured Finduilas it was ok for her to inquire and then answered back.

         “Well of course my lady it is in the west It’s the farthest land to the west on the coast of the mainland. It’s a beautiful green country with rolling hills, from what I remember of it.” Said Alric.

         “Remember of it? When was the last time you were in Westerland?” Asked Aluin, intent on hearing Alric speak. He smiled.

         “Oh my lady it’s been a long while. About sixteen years now. I don’t think I’ll ever be goin’ back there.”
Aluin wasn't done with the questions.

         “Why wouldn't you be going back there? If I may ask. Alric smiled at the forwardness of the woman,

         “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to Alric.” She could tell that what he had to say would be painful Said Aluin not wanting to hurt the man.

         “Tis fine My Lady, it’s a long and painful story but I guess I owe it to you all to let you know, it all connects to why I have asked for yours and others help.”
Alric proceeded to tell them his complicated past. They would interject every once in awhile with questions.

         “You left at night in the dead of winter with just the clothes you had on?” Alric would just nod and say,
         “Yes indeed.”

         He told them how he would walk around with no particular place to go and find lodging with different peoples along the way and learned much from them He stayed with a tribe of natives for a few months as a teen and learned how to track even the most elusive creatures and humans. They taught him to be observant of the earth and what herbs to use to heal wounds and plants to eat if there was nothing else to find.
                Once he met up with scholar who loved to travel and write about his experiences. Alric learned correct grammar and how to read and write poetry and literature. He learned swordplay from three knights on a long quest that they had been sent on for their queen from a faraway land. Then Alric traveled with them back to their kingdom and the royal court was so impressed with his quick learning that they knighted him, but by that time Alric was accustomed to the life of a wanderer and so he moved on. Alric had learned much in his sixteen years of travel. When he explained about the map he was given, he also told them what it was a map of.

         “ The Forbidden Cove did ye say? Tis an old pirate’s tale me friend I’ve wasted three years of my life chasin’ after it. I had heard tell of it from Cap’n Callus the Cold o’ the ship called Varmint. But all o’ my searching turned up nothing Ye say you have a map o’ dis place? If so ah want proof of it ” Said Zurock challenging Alric to show evidence of the myth island’s authenticity. Alric’s eyes flared at the mention of the pirate but he said nothing yet of it her just pulled the map out of his right vest pocket and unfolded it to show Zurock, holding just out of reach of him, just in case.

         “Oh my what an old thing that is. But I think it’s proof enough for me, I’ll join you in your search sir Alric. I’m in for an adventure. An adventure that pays is even better. What do you say Finduilas?” Asked Aluin.

         “Och, I guess if your hearts set on goin I’ll have to tag along too, I am your guardian after all.” Said Finduilas reluctantly. Aluin rolled her eyes at Finduilas’s statement.

“          Zurock you said you knew Captain Callus? How did ye come to be in with the likes o’ him?” Asked Alric indignantly. “I was a mercenary aboard ‘is ship a couple o’ months back. Well, back then it was captained by a peg leg by the name o’. . . Alric cut him off. “Captain Vallin, right?”

         “Yeah that’s right, ow’ did yew know that?” Asked Zurock surprised Alric’s interjection. “He was my father.” Said Alric bluntly. His face became solemn and serious when talking about his father’s death. Zurock raised an eyebrow in surprise.
              “Ur, the son o’ Cap’n Vallin the Bold? Small World. Vallin was a good man, well as good a man as a pirate kin be. He never ‘urt anybody who didn’t deserve it. In my book e’s a good man.” Said Zurock.

         “Too bad Callus betrayed my father and killed ‘im. Now I must avenge my father by keeping is treasure from the filthy ‘ands of Callus and his men ”

         “I’m with ye then my friend, well as long as there’s adventure and booty in it fer all o’ us.”

         “From what my father says, there’s enough to satisfy all of your wants forever. Anyways I have written in the letters where to meet me tomorrow afternoon, I hope Drix gave my letters to more than this. I’ll take my leave for tonight. Goodnight my ladies. Goodnight Zurock.”
         Alric still felt some familiarity between him and Zurock and the connections between him and Zurock through his father just made it even more complicated.
                Alric went back to his room and finally got to sleep. He was sound asleep when he was jerked awake by a startling feeling. He opened his eyes and lifted his head just slightly so he could scan the darkened inn room. He detected a movement at the door to the hallway. The door was slightly ajar and he could barely make out the shape of a face looking in. Then the door opened wider and more candle light streamed in from the hallway. It was a pirate for sure, if couldn’t tell by the look of his clothing and body piercings he could certainly tell by the smell. The pirate had a revolver in his hand poised to aim and fire at any movement from Alric.
         He came forward toward the bed creepy closer to Alric, who had layed back down and was faking sleep, waiting for an opportunity to get the gun from the pirate. The man came closer yet to the bed, apparently looking for the map. He knew it was in Alric’s vest pocket, which Alric still wore, so he creped closer until he was leaning over the cot. He stood there for a moment, and then he pointed the revolver at Alric’s head as he reached ever so slightly for the buckskin map. That was his grave mistake. Alric grabbed the pirates arm and pushed it upwards with such force that the revolver misfired into the ceiling. Wood splinters came raining down on Alric as he connected with the pirate’s jaw with a right hook, knocking him back a step and making him drop the revolver.
              Alric leapt off the cot right into the pirate sending flying into the wall near the hallway door, which was still halfway ajar. The pirate lunged past the door to the other side of Alric’s room and straight for the knight’s sword that lay by an old wooden chair. He unsheathed the blade and swung at Alric who was charging for him in one fluid motion, but Alric ducked just in time to miss a kiss from the lethal blade.
         Alric backed towards the bed on the other side of the room facing the pirate. He stalked Alric, moving into the doorway and blocking his escape. Not that he was going to escape anyways. Alric was watching for the right second when he could rush in and wrestle the sword away. The pirate held the sword high looking to strike at Alric's unprotected body. he saw his chance.
         As the pirate readied to swing the sword there was a sudden loud crack, and he fell poleaxed with a dumb expression on his face. standing in the doorway was Zurock with a lamp stand in his hand and a sly smirk on his mouth.

         "I'm in the room across the hall from yours and when I 'eard the commotion I came ta check it out. I remember seein that scumbag in the pub earlier. I eyed him when ye were showing off the map, he was pretty curious about it it seemed. Mayhap ya better be more careful about revealin things like that in public!" Said Zurock in an almost condescending tone.

         "Well thanks friend, I shall remember that next time, yes that was a lapse in judgement on my part. But I have a feeling this was no random thief looking for a map. I think that someone is after the treasure besides us, It has to be Callus." Said Alric .
                                            CHAPTER II
        Morning came to the small port town, the sun shined through the window of the Inn room where Alric had slept. He awoke groggily and he was surprised that he had fallen asleep at all after his ordeal during the night with the pirate. He checked to make sure that the map was still safe in his pocket, seeing it was he then got up from the cot, and opened the ratty shades to let in the light of the morning sun. If what happened the night before was a foreshadow of what was to come, it was about to be a long trip, Alric thought. He put his boots on and his sword and straightened his clothes from lying in the bed all night, then walked down to the pub where Drix was serving early drinkers their ale and rum. That man never seemed to sleep at all, thought Alric.
      After grabbing a drink and eating less than fresh bread for breakfast from Drix, Alric walked to the Port, where the Pearlstreak sat at anchor looking strong and beautiful as ever. A man came down the walkway leading to the ship and walked over to Alric. He was hired by Alric to watch over the ship while Alric stayed in town.

    "Thank you my good man, was there any trouble at all while I was gone?" Asked Alric as he handed the scraggly looking man a few golden dubloons.

    "Nones really ta speak of sir. Wheel now dat i tink about it, some pirates hung around ur ship, scoutin like they were. I tol' em ta skidattle and dey left, slowly, but dey left indeed sir. Dunno wat ter make o' dem. I'll be takin me leave now sir, good day to ya sir!" Said the man in a strong accent. Alric nodded to the man as he sauntered off down the dock to a small ragtag boat house at the end of the dock, where he apparently lived.
    Alric didn't have to wait long before his crew started to arrive, it was around mid morning. Zurock, Finduilas, Aluin all showed up soon after he had. There were two men that Alric hadn't seen before that showed up along with Aluin and Finduilas. Aluin quickly introduced them.

  "Sir Alric, meet my brother Chernic, and this is his friend Durin. Don't worry, They are trustworthy and hardworking, well at least Chernic is!" She said

  "Hey now missy! Bide yer tongue when talkin bout Ole Durin liok that! I kin 'old me own when it comes ta workin cap'n donchya worry!" Retorted the fat medium heighted man. He had an extremely long beard and looked every bit like a wandering mountain man. He had many small throwing axes on the belt around his waist, and also on the strap that he wore along his chest. His voice was gruff and he didn't smell the greatest, but he seemed a cheery fellow.
  Chernic seemed to be a reserved quiet young man. A man of few words if you will. He had long light brown hair, he had grey eyes that didn't seem sure about anything. He wore a green and brown tunic with a dark brown over coat with a hood over it and dark green pants. he seemed to be a man of the forest, and carried a Saracen type bow, with a quiver filled with red tipped arrows at his back.
  "Nice to meet you sir Alric, I am Chernic, Aluin's younger brother. I am willing to help in any way I can sir." Said Chernic. Alric could sense the lack of confidence in his voice.

  "It's great to have a good archer along on our journey Chernic, I'm alright with a bow, but I'm sure you could best me on a bad day my boy. Welcome to the crew!" Said Alric heartily to Chernic, trying to raise his spirits a little.

  "Friends, thank you for coming. I am on this quest to fufill my fathers last request, to keep all that he has worked for away from the dirty hands of his murderer. That is why I am here, All i ask is for your trust, and your trustworthiness. You will be richly rewarded I promise. Let's go aboard the Pearlstreak and we can talk about how we will complete tasks.
    They all boarded and Arlic explained that they would all take turns with everything in shifts. He would take first watch at night, then Zurock, then Durin and then Chernic would take the last shift until morning. Zurock, who had the most experience with sea faring was the navigator and would man the steering. The woman, along with the others would all take care of up keep.
  Once the chores and tasks were all assigned, Alric untied the rope attached to the shore from the mast of the ship and then they uped anchor and by late afternoon the Pearlstreak was pulling out of the harbor and catching the current of a huge river that led to the open ocean. Zurock was at the helm, he seemed happy and at peace at the wheel of the ship. Alric stood up in the bird's nest, the look out high up on the mast above the sails watching the horizon ahead of them with a golden telescope left by his father. A strong feeling of excitement was coming over him. He already felt at home on the water. Alric was taking to it so quickly it almost seemed like it was in his blood, and he could now understand why his father would love this life above toiling as a dirt farmer all his life.
    The Pearlstreak sailed strong and true through the rushing current as they came to the delta of the river where ocean met river, where fresh water met salt water and the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.
    The sun shone high at noon on the horizon, which was all ocean as far as the eye could see. The Pearlstreak moved swiftly along the current that Zurock the wheelman had steered them into. He stood at the wheel watching straight ahead as the ship sloshed through whitecaps that it overtook.
    "The ship flies straight and true, doesn't it my good friend?" Said Alric, coming to stand behind Zurock.
    "It is a good ship, your father knew how to pick em' I'll give im that! I handled this beauty a time or two when I was in yer father's crew. Good times they were piloting a ship such as this."
    Alric looked at his newfound friend. He was already trusting him, figuring if his father trusted him in his crew then he could also. But then Alric had a rude awakening, His fathers crew betrayed him even though they were handpicked to be apart.So this wasn't going to be as easy as it seemed at first. Thought Alric. He planned to keep his eyes wide open at all times the rest of the mission.
    It was now late in the night on the high seas, most of the crew was asleep, save for a skeleton crew, manning the ships duties. Alric was at the helm of the ship staring out at the blackness beyond, holding the wheel straight and true and enjoying the crips night air against his face. down below on a balcony over looking the right side of the Pearlstreak, Zurock and Aluin talked.
    "So mi lady, how does one so beautiful 'ave sucha knack for adventure eh?" Asked Zurock, flirting smoothly with Aluin as she looked out at the ocean
  "Well fine sir, I guess I got my adventurous side from my uncle. He was a great explorer. He was one of the first sailors to reach the New World", she looked at Zurock's skeptical face and smiled, "Ahh I see you dont believe the New World exists, I didn't take an avid sailor as yourself to be a skeptic! Do you not believe in Alric's fantasy Island then?" She said playfully.
  "I dunno, I've sailed these seas a good long time, and I never seen Hide nor Tail O' the New World everyone keeps talking about. Could be true enough I guess", Zurock changed the subject abruptly, "So what about, SIR ALRIC OF WESTERLAND?" Zurock said in a slightly mocking tone. "You like his type o' man?" Zurock's blunt sailor nature shown through. Zurock could see Aluin blush a little, as if he had surprised her with his forward questioning.
  Alric could feel the wind shifting, turning from the soothing, calm breeze it had been to a much sharper wind that whistled through the night, and the sails went taught. "Hmm seems a storms a brewin capn', an' from the looks of 'er she's comin in fast an' strong!"......more to come

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