Friday 24 September 2010

Friday Flash - The Dead Calm

Today's Fiction Friday prompt from the Write Anything website was;

Use this lyric from Shore Leave  to flavour your story: “Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels”

I decided to use it to tell the story of how Captain Scarlight got his ship. For more stories about Captain Scarlight, click here.

* * *

The rain pattered on the roof of the makeshift bar. Four men sat around a table. They clutched cards, and glared at each other. Nobody in the bar dared speak; all eyes were fixed on the card game in the corner.

“Whaddya got?” asked one man. Captain Jacob Gnarley. Thick blond hair curled down his back. Scars criss-crossed his face and arms. He kept stroking his goatee beard, and tapping the table. Sam Scarlight suspected it was his ‘lucky’ nervous tic.

“Two pair,” replied another man. Barnabas Welmsley. A bald man who hadn’t so much fallen out of the ugly tree, as chosen to live in an orchard of them.

“You, whaddya got?” asked Captain Gnarley.

He stared at Scarlight. The other man refused to look at him, his sullen face expressing his annoyance at losing so much. Scarlight recognised Sullen-Face as Swein, Captain Gnarley’s First Mate.

“Um…er…um…it looks like I have a Royal Flush. That’s good, isn’t it?” asked Scarlight.

He laid the cards out on the pitted wooden table. Welmsley inspected them, and nodded his agreement. Scarlight did indeed have a Royal Flush. Captain Gnarley roared, and slammed his fist on the table.

“How can ye, a young pup, keep beating me so, eh?”

“Um…er…I suppose you might call it beginner’s luck?”

“Another game!”

Captain Gnarley pounded the table again to emphasise his point. Scarlight hesitated before gathering the money from the centre. Even after 'losing' every third hand, he’d more than tripled the amount he brought with him. It didn’t surprise him. Being the best poker player in London grew boring after a while, and now he hussled card games in Hong Kong. His tender age sucked in the old, grizzly players.

“Captain, you haven’t got much left,” said Swein.

“Nonsense! I am winning! Aren’t I winning?”

The mugs of beer jumped on the table when he slammed his fist down again. Scarlight affected an expression of fear at the captain’s temper, but also respect for his reputation.

It’s just a pity his poker isn’t as good as his sailing, he thought.

Swein dealt the cards. Scarlight paid no attention to his. He chose to watch the reaction of the others to their own cards. None of them understood the concept of bluffing. Swein grimaced at his cards, and Welmsley looked hopeful. The Captain looked confused.

The players swapped cards with those in the central pile. Swein almost twisted his face inside out in an effort to gain extra mileage from his grimace. Scarlight guessed his hands was worse. Welmsley’s hope turned to annoyance, while the Captain remained baffled. Scarlight looked down at his cards. His face fell.

“Are ye all in?” asked the Captain.

“No. I fold,” said Swein.

“Oh what’s the point? I fold as well,” said Welmsley.

He threw his cards across the table. Before they landed face down, Scarlight saw a three of clubs, a nine of diamonds and a six of hearts.

“Looks like it’s just you and me, sonny,” said the Captain. ”What do ye put in?”

“Another forty, I think,” said Scarlight. “Gosh, I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

He glanced from his cards to the Captain, and back to his cards. He pushed his money into the centre of the table.

“I see yer forty, and raise ye sixty,” said the Captain.

“Captain, that’s all you have!” said Swein.

“Argh, quiet, Swein. Look at his face, his hand must be terrible,” said the Captain.

“I don’t know if it’s bad or not...tell you what, I need to go soon so I’ll see your sixty, and raise you the rest of my money,” said Scarlight.

“Fine. My ship is more than equal to yer winnin’s, boy.”

“You can’t bet the Dead Calm!” exclaimed Swein.

“I can, and I am. Do ye doubt me?”

“No, Captain.”

“Show my yer hand, boy,” said the Captain. “I’ll wager ye can’t beat my Three of a Kind!”

He laid out his hand. A two of clubs, a three of hearts and three Knaves fanned out on the table.

“Looks like I’ll be going home in the Dead Calm after all!”

“Um…er….no you won’t,” said Scarlight.

He laid out his Full House. The Captain’s face fell. Swein fought a smirk, and Welmsley spluttered in amazement.

“My Full House beats your Three of a Kind, so I’ll be taking the Dead Calm, thank you very much.”

Scarlight stood up. Swein stood up with him.

“Swein! Ye would leave me here, and go with this young pup?”

“Aye, Jacob, I will. I am the First Mate, I go where the ship goes,” replied Swein. A smile hovered around his thin lips.

“So sorry about this, Gnarley, but all’s fair in love and gambling,” said Scarlight.

He headed towards the door, ignoring Gnarley’s pleas for another hand. Swein held open the door for him.

“Where are we going, Captain Scarlight?”

“The Caribbean!”

Tuesday 21 September 2010

The Second Tale arrives

Honestly, Vertigo City is beginning to take over my life! After the release of The First Tale as an e-book last week, I've begun work on the follow-up, called City Alchemy. The story sees Liss go in search of her missing little sister, Teva, before going freelance as an adventurer-for-hire! There will be lots more of Two, for all those fans of the obedient automaton with a heart of copper.

Still, the focus this week is on the start of The Second Tale. An altogether different beast from its steampunk predecessor, The Second Tale is a more noir-ish yarn about a jaded superhero called, originally enough, The Hero.

This incarnation of Vertigo City is more in keeping with Metropolis or Gotham City, populated by dames and hoods, as well as citizens just trying to get through the day. The Hero will have to fight a battle on two fronts, as he seeks to better his superhero competition in Vertigo, all while trying to track down Le Chat Mystérieux, a mysterious and dangerous thief...

Part One is live now.