By David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna
This is an excerpt from the upcoming novel Waters of Darkness by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, presented by Black Gate magazine. It appears with the permission of Damnation Books, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part. All rights reserved. Copyright 2013 by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna.
I wrote the initial draft of Waters of Darkness in the spring of 1977, a few months before The Witch of the Indies was released by Zebra Books. Waters of Darkness was planned as a sequel to that novel, but the story never progressed beyond the first few drafts.
Last year, Joe Bonadonna expressed interest last year in looking at that draft with the idea of possibly turning it into a collaborative story. Joe read through those ghostly, old typewritten pages, wrote a thousand notes, and started reworking the story. So Waters of Darkness is no longer a Terence Vulmea novel: it is a Bloody Red Buchanan novel, based on my rough draft of 1977. Together Joe and I fleshed out Buchanan and Kate, added Mose Cooper, and a number of Joe’s original chapters — and then he and I went back and forth a couple of times polishing what had become a 60,000-word nonstop, old-fashioned pulp adventure yarn. (I told him a couple of times in emails, “Man, that’s a good action scene in that chapter! You wrote that well!” Joe would reply, “Um, that was you.” And when he emailed me with, “I like the twist you did on that dialogue,” I would have to tell him, “Uh, that was dialogue you added.” So it all evened out!)
This is a wordy introduction to our adventure story, but I hope that it takes you longer to go through this than it does to read Waters of Darkness because, honestly, I think the novel is a page turner. It is a joyous romp! Tough, spooky, full of action and swordfights, blasting cannons, demons, sorcerers, cursed treasure, and… romance! And it is due to the energetic enthusiasm Joe brought to my youthful enthusiasm of 35 years ago, when, in 1977, I wrote a sequel to a novel that was the pirate story I’d always wanted to write.
Here’s another pirate story I always wanted to write — Waters of Darkness.
David C. Smith
Monday, March 4, 2013
With the Raven in the lead, the three ships tacked in a wide arc and sailed northerly, intending to return to Gallant’s plantation, where they would rest and divide the loot. Kate and the Frenchman were back aboard their own vessels.
Questions roamed Buchanan’s mind, questions that would not let go of him. What was the meaning of the two coins — one gold, one lead? Who or what was Bidex? Was her master the same man with whom Selim did business? Would fate provide Mose and him with the opportunity to rescue Fatimah? Would providence point the way? When would Selim attempt to abduct Kate? Surely he would, for he desired her greatly. Arrogant men such as he did not give up so easily when they coveted a woman. Events thus far, starting with the Isle of Shadow and four chests of lead coins, all argued in favor of some predestined order. The conspiratorial attitudes of Selim and Bidex also weighed heavily on Buchanan’s mind, that air of plotting, of deceitfulness and traps being set.
Buchanan growled in frustration and leaned over the quarterdeck rail, smoking his pipe and staring out to sea as a new sun rose on the horizon. He felt that he and Kate, Mose and Gallant, and all their hearties were being drawn into the center of some action yet to come. How, he could not fathom — and that galled him. Not having any solid hooks on which to hang his musings, he could not adequately prepare for whatever might come.
Big Mose joined him. “You look troubled.”
“M’brain’s been harried by all that’s happened — and it all has a stink to it.”
“That’s what I’m thinking. I don’t trust Selim or that woman of his, that Bidex — she has the taint of witchcraft about her, like the juju mothers we’ve known back in the Carib. I’ve a feeling she may be something even more than that.”
Buchanan looked at his friend. “She may indeed be witch or demon beneath her robes.”
“She was certainly eager to buy that gold coin I found.”
“There’s the rub, m’friend. That coin is twin to the lead coins we found on that damn cursed island. What and where’s the connection?”
“I’ve been thinking that alchemy could be part of it.”
“The turning of lead into gold?”
“Could be.” Mose spat over the ship’s rail. “That would explain some things.”
“Yet how did Bartelmaine come to have such a coin?” Buchanan tapped out burnt tobacco from his pipe, made to refill it, but changed his mind. “Too bad we had no opportunity to search his farm. Maybe there was more of that gold there.”
Mose shook his head. “That farm was raided and gutted, and every man and woman there murdered. Whatever gold there might have been is long gone.”
“I wonder how deep and how far stretch the chains between Gallant and Selim. There’s something between them I can no’ put m’hand on.”
“And Fatimah, still aboard that Arab dog’s ship — a slave to his every wish and whim,” said Mose.
“God damn him to a watery hell and let the dead feast on his soul!”
Buchanan wrapped an arm around the big man’s shoulder, offering what comfort he could. “Have faith. We’ll win her free — by God and Robert the Bruce, that’s m’promise.”
The three ships sailed on, not dropping anchor for the night, Buchanan being eager to reach Gallant’s farm so that they could take their rest there.
Just before dawn, the galleons passed the ruin that was Bartelmaine’s plantation. The sight of it unsettled Buchanan with a cold stone in his gut. Even Mose, ever at his side, looked away from that site of devastation.
The pirates sailed on, and all went well until they rounded a jut in the island beach and sighted Gallant’s docks stretching from the shore.
“Ahoy! Cap’n Buchanan!” Mister Kibbee shouted from the crow’s nest, pointing with his spyglass. “Five ships fast approaching from the north!”
“Can you see their colors?” Buchanan called out.
“The flagship flies a winged skull above two crossed swords, Cap’n!”
Mose started to say, “The Lark of the Dutchman—”
“Van Rijn!” Bloody Red shouted with glee, interrupting his friend.
Mose quickly ordered their hearties to prepare for battle.
“Danny Boy! Fire the shots to warn the Witch and the Falcon.”
“Aye, Mister Cooper!” Callahan acknowledged from the poop deck.
A moment later, three muskets fired into the air.
Buchanan could plainly see his enemies now: van Rijn and four Arab galleasses, coming head on to make the killing.
The Witch and the Falcon soon laid on all canvas and swept wide, sailing abreast of the Raven to present a combined threat to the Lark and her sister ships. Swiftly the Dutchman closed the gap between them and unloaded her forechasers. On either side of the Lark, Gallant’s crew and Kate’s uglies opened fire with their muskets. The Witch, off Buchanan’s starboard, passed the Raven and led the attack. Her guns exploded with smoke and flame, blasting the waters and sending up misty shields of crystal foam.
Two of the enemy ships returned musket fire while the Lark answered with cannon shot.
Two other Arab vessels ran free to charge the Witch and the Falcon, the scourgers of both ships whipping the slaves at the oars.
A second later, the Witch opened with her foreguns, discharging grapeshot and chain-shot, and one galleass paid for its arrogance.
The Witch’s shot smashed its prow with a sudden chaos of flame and smoke, blood and cinders. Lengths of oar blew into the air and fell slowly like matchwood to the sea. Sailors and pieces of sailors littered the waves with a red stain. Kate’s ruffians howled, and the crews of the Raven and the Falcon roared with approval.
The Arab ship quickly sank under, the men in her waist and stern jumping overboard. The uglies aboard Kate’s vessel rushed to the gunwales with musket and pistol and fired upon the men in the water.
The Lark then let loose with a thunderous broadside.
The Witch’s side guns answered, as did the Raven’s. The Falcon’s cannon blasted a second galleass under the waves, her shot striking below the water line and sending the Arabs aboard her to desperate measures, attempting to caulk and repair the wound and return the Falcon’s fire.
Gallant’s crew sent their foes down to a deep grave with a blistering salvo of cannon shot once again aimed at the water line.
Zeus van Rijn’s curses could be heard rising above the din of battle as the Lark swept the waves and bore down upon Buchanan’s ship.
Aboard the Raven, Bloody Red’s boys loosed a resounding series of explosions from their foreguns. Fire from the Lark came dangerously close to the Raven. Small-shot stippled her canvas as great iron balls whooshed past her sides to spew wildly into the waves. Then a ball from one of the Raven’s cannon shattered the bow of the Dutchman. Flames and screams rose into the air as men toppled overboard.
Owen Marsh rushed forward, pointing with cutlass in hand.
“Look there, Captain!”
The Lark’s bowsprit snapped free and dragged into the waters, taking with it sheared lines and shattered planks and boards.
“We’ve got her now, Angus!” Mose shouted, drawing his sword.
“Aye — and van Rijn’s all mine!”
The Raven came slowly about and waited on the Lark.
The Arab galleasses kept up their assault. With two of them destroyed, only two remained. One was angled toward the Witch, but the Falcon swept around toward the other.
The Dutchman’s flagship, damaged as she was, stayed on course, heading for the Raven.
Gallant and his crew closed on the Arab and gave her a broadside that shattered her gunwales and stove in her decks before her crew had the chance to fire their cannon. The muzzles of the Falcon’s own cannon were then lowered, and a second fusillade blew holes in the Arab’s hull at the waterline. She fast took on water and began to sink. The Falcon swung around made for the other Arab galleass attacking the Witch.
Aboard the Witch, Harry Gray’s ears rang with the musketry and pistol shot thundering over those grim waters. The Arab taking on Kate’s ship carried catapults upon her decks and launched flaming satchels of oil-doused refuse. Like fiery comets these flares screeched through the mid-day air, glowing over the waters and sizzling as they struck the waves. Again and again this flaming debris bombarded the Witch. One flaming heap smashed full upon her amidships, and Kate’s men worked frantically to stamp it out before the lines and canvas burned.
The second Eastern galleass quickly moved in on the Witch’s starboard side, and their hulls scraped against one another. The Arabs threw out their grappling hooks, closed with the Witch, and rushed to board her. Crimson Kate’s uglies were caught between fighting the fires that swept her ship and engaging the boarding pirates.
Kate’s howls were a banshee’s war cry as she drew her sword and led her lads into battle with the marauding Arabs. “If it’s living to a ripe old age you’re after, my uglies, then you’ve gone and picked the wrong profession!”
“But you only live once — and I’d as soon make the best of it!” Harry shouted.
Curses and strange Arabic outcries echoed across the deck.
Silver sparks from flashing swords flew free to explode in the harsh rays of sunlight.
Harry battled his way toward his captain. His cutlass struck many an Eastern devil, sending them down to be buggered by the devil’s pitchfork. The Arab corsairs spread across the decks of the Witch, their steel naked in the sunlight. Harry grabbed a fallen bucket and threw it at one Arab, and in that moment of distraction, he drove his cutlass in and out of the man’s breast. From the corner of one eye, he saw the glint of steel as the scimitar of a second corsair jumped for his head. He ducked, spun, and split the dog’s belly from hip to hip. Blood and bowels coursed onto the deck. A third Arab slipped in the stinking mess. Harry’s sword crushed the man’s skull, breaking it like a husk to let out the fruit. He reached Kate’s side and stood with her against every bastard who worked to capture and plunder the Witch of the Indies.
“Did you ever think you’d be in for such as this when you signed on, Harry?”
“No, but I did swear to stand with you through the thick and thin of it all!”
The crew of the Witch threw back the Arabs, sending them over the side or back to their boat. Kate’s uglies cut the lines that held them, hull to hull, to the Arab vessel, and soon the easterners began to drift away, unable to control their craft.
The Lark managed a last shot against the Witch, heedless of her allies still fighting Kate’s uglies. Cannon fire struck the Witch’s boards full upon the lower deck, near to the forecastle, where Kate stood with Harry, yelling commands. Instantly both the lower and upper decks of the Witch were a mad tableau of fire and black powder, shattered timber and flaming canvas, and the screams of wounded and dying men.
Closing fast on the Arab vessel, the Falcon trained her guns on the galleass and fired, blowing a great hole in her stern, though too high above the waterline to cause any real damage. Left alone to square off with two pirate vessels, the Arab turned hard to starboard under full canvas, her slaves rowing double-time, and showed the Falcon her stern as she sailed away. Gallant’s men fire a second round at the ship, but she had cruised beyond cannon range.
Standing fast on the quarterdeck of his ship, Buchanan was howling like a wolf, his wrath unleashed. As the Lark came close on to the Raven, he endlessly hammered cannon shot into her sides. The two ships moved alongside each other, too close now for any further cannon fire. Grappling lines were thrown and boarding planks, too. Grunts and heaves ripped the day apart, and the air grew thick with acrid smoke and flying lead. The singing of swords and the oaths and screams of men were a symphony of slaughter and death.
Buchanan leapt atop the rail, hung by one hand to a guideline, and waved his sword in the air. “Have at it, m’hearties! The tables have turned on van Rijn!”
“Follow us to victory or follow us to Hades, you Argonauts!” Mose shouted.
Then the gates of hell opened as the pirates of both ships stormed each other’s decks with harsh cries, striking savagely with cutlass and knife.
Buchanan, Mose, and their hearties were a wave of flesh and blood and steel as they closed with the crew of the Lark. The screech of metal and the crack of gunshot were a rhythmic but discordant sea chantey. Fire and smoke and the bitter stench of gunpowder clouded the air. The decks were red and slick with blood. Many a man slipped and fell to the boards, making him an easy target for sword or pistol.
Without pause, Buchanan’s good and trusty broadsword flashed as it grated against the swords of two hardy Dutchmen. Silver sparks flew, glittering in the rays of sunlight. The first wretch shrilled insanely as Bloody Red’s sword rammed the man’s belly and swept in and out, carrying his guts with it. The other dog fell awkwardly, stepping and sliding in the blood that sprayed from his neck and washed the boards. His head sailed through the air, turning in all directions, and clattered over the gunwales and into the waves.
Mose moved like a panther, a black shadow that struck everywhere at the same time. The glint of sunlight on his cutlass flickered and blurred with speed as it leapt for a man’s chest and ran it through. A brazen ring sounded out as steel kissed steel in a duel with his second adversary. The Dutch corsair was quick and deft, and even so an experienced a swordsman as Big Mose had some difficulty with the rogue, hacking and parrying, thrusting and returning blow for blow. Nicked and scratched and cut though he was, Mose pressed his advantage in size and strength and speed.His blade danced in his hand, disarmed his foe, and sent him howling into perdition with an open skull. Two more Dutchmen were on him then, and his cutlass wove a web of bright steel as he squared off with the duo.
As the killing raged on, Mose and Buchanan were separated in the mad rush of battle.
Bloody Red was everywhere. He never paused, never stilled in his attack. His steel was a silver rush, dipping, slicing, sliding in and out and then striking again. He cursed when a sword nicked his shoulder, and he grunted in pain when another licked his side and scored a wound. Still he fought on to live up to his sobriquet. A press of a half-dozen men bore down upon him, looking to slaughter him. Those Dutchmen died — armless, headless, their chests carved open or their backs broken — thinking they had faced Satan himself.
Finally, Buchanan spied his nemesis, the murderer of the Red Crow, Zeus van Rijn himself, and two score of his good lads. The traitorous Dutchmen stood forward in the waist, protected by a wall of stout rogues as he wielded his slightly curved Dutch saber — a Marinierssabel. Buchanan howled to his men, who swarmed behind him… and then he made for van Rijn.
Gunshot rattled around him. Swords leapt for him, knives appeared from the swirl of faces and bodies to strike at him. Buchanan swept through them all, his broadsword playing about him in a murderous wheel. Gasps and screams burst in his wake as he broke through lines of defense and charged the stairs to the waist. Steel clattered to the decks, sea-dogs fell and were trampled under, but Buchanan kept his eyes on his foe. Van Rijn saw him coming. A sneer lit the Dutchman’s lips, and mockery glowed in his eyes. As Buchanan cut down the last man and charged, Zeus ordered his men back, and then he stepped forward, ready for swordplay.
Sword met sword and bright sparks flew all about. Buchanan pressed close. The Dutchman skipped in circles, laughing. Angus howled blasphemies against the rogue. Zeus van Rijn cursed Bloody Red for having murdered his ally and comrade: Claude Devateur.
“You did lose me good men and boats, Buchanan dog!” shouted van Rijn.
Their swords clashed and clanged.
“It’s a debt I owed you but only partially paid,” said Angus.
“Now it’s given in full, for you’ve scuttled your last ship, y’swine!” Buchanan’s features warped into a changeless mask of loathing and deadly intent. The Dutchman held him off, but at a price. Quick and deft with the sabel as he was, van Rijn suffered jabs of pain in his arms and in his sides. The Dutchman never lost footing as he and Angus moved back and forth across the boards in a vicious dance of death and revenge.
“I’m here to do what I failed to do once — what Selim al-Hassur failed to do,” Buchanan said as their swords crossed, locked at the hilt, and he and van Rijn came almost nose to nose.
Van Rijn disengaged and danced backward. “And soon that Persian man will learn to not cross this Dutchman, oude vriend!”
Bloody Red’s sword battered and hammered van Rijn’s saber. The sound of their clashing swords seemed louder than the sea battle still raging around them. The Dutchman scored a cut to Buchanan’s upper arm. The Scotsman’s blade slashed van Rijn twice — on either side of his ribs. At last van Rijn slipped on a pool of blood, stumbled upon the boards, and fell backward. Buchanan closed in for the kill.
“Mijn God!” Zeus cried.
Buchanan thought he had him dead cold, but a Dutch rogue saw what happened. Before Angus could strike, van Rijn’s man stepped in and took charge. Angus spat at the man and struck him cleanly through the breast.
Van Rijn regained his feet and faced Buchanan. Laughingly, the Dutchman pranced ahead, playing as if he were conducting a symphony.
“See you in hell, van Rijn!”
“Ja, by damn! And long time you will wait!”
Buchanan breathed and moved. Like a juggernaut, he came at van Rijn, hammering and battering away at his zwaard like a fiend straight out of hell. The Dutchman’s smile began to dissolve, the mockery in his eyes fled. Buchanan pressed him backward — then feinted, slammed the Dutchman’s sword aside, and showed the swine why he was called Bloody Red.
Buchanan butchered van Rijn. The broadsword punched through his heart, through the belly, and cut off his sword arm. Still, Angus was not satisfied until he lopped off van Rijn’s head, picked it up by its hair, and tossed it, open-mouthed and wide eyed, into the midst of the Dutch pirates.
The voices of his men were a chorus of cheers and jests. Mose joined Angus, breathing heavily and bleeding from a number of wounds.
“Angus — Kate’s ship!” he cried, pointing.
Buchanan glanced to port and saw the horror of it… the Witch of the Indies, aflame and sinking under. The last of Kate’s uglies were swimming toward the Raven. Then, from one of her men, there arose a cry which numbed Angus to his soul.
“Captain O’Toole’s been killed! Crimson Kate is dead!”
Read the rest of the exciting tale in Waters of Darkness, now on sale!
David C. Smith
David C. Smith was born in 1952 in Youngstown, Ohio. In addition to having written many essays and short stories, he is the author of twenty-two published novels, primarily in the sword-and-sorcery, horror, and suspense genres, as well as a college-level English grammar textbook.
Smith has worked as an advertising copy-editor and English teacher and for more than twenty years as a scholarly medical editor. He is currently the managing editor of an orthopaedic review journal. Smith, his wife, Janine, and their daughter, Lily, live in Palatine, Illinois, just outside Chicago.
Photo by Janine M. Smith.
Click on the photo for a large version.
Joe started writing songs and stories in 1970, and sold a few short stories in the early 1980s. So far, he’s published three books: the sword and sorcery collection Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera, Three Against The Stars, published by Airship27; and Waters of Darkness, a sword and sorcery pirate adventure, in collaboration with David C. Smith, and published by Damnation Books.
His first sword and soul story, “The Blood of the Lion,” will appear later this year in GRIOTS 2: Sisters of the Spear, from by MVmedia.
Two new novellas featuring Dorgo the Dowser are also forthcoming: “The Book of Echoes,” coming soon in the anthology Azieran: Artifacts and Relics, from Heathen Oracle, and “The Order of the Serpent,” to be featured in a special sword and sorcery edition of Weird Tales online magazine.
Joe has also written a number of articles and book reviews for Black Gate online magazine.
Photo by Erin Lynn Ransford.
Click on the photo for a large version.