The Kraken Games
The Kraken Games
story by Geoff Bottone
As she descended the wooden steps into the first floor room, Samantha heard the sounds of early morning activity rattling in the air around her. She recognized the staccato slapping of Micah’s swift and shoeless feet as he set up chairs and tables and broached the first of the Games’ many celebratory kegs. Above her, the ‘Dog’s roof creaked and strained under Schmitty’s weight. Though she always anticipated, and feared, the awful sound of Schmitty toppling onto the boardwalk outside, the old salt kept his balance.
“Ahoy!” Schmitty hollered from atop the roof. “A fleet of ships ahoy, Cap’m! About two score bilge buckets limpin’ across the briny harbor, and their crews are as wall-eyed and snaggletoothed as any a seadog I’ve e’re espied in thirty years at my post!”
Two score. That was… Samantha counted on the fingers of her free hand. Forty. That was a lot. More than last year, even. She supposed that word of the Kraken Games had spread even farther than she had hoped.
She cupped her free hand around her mouth and shouted up at the ceiling, loud enough for her voice to carry to the roof . “Step lively, me hearties! Prepare the ‘Dog to accept boarders! But don’t you be unbattening the hatches ‘til I give the word!”
“Aye, aye, Cap’m!” bellowed Schmitty from somewhere up above. He was closer now. Probably in the midst of clambering through the trapdoor to the third floor.
She descended the last of the steps into the main room of the ‘Dog proper. The wicks of the lanterns were trimmed, fresh sawdust had been spread out on the floor, and the sticky dregs from last night’s revels had been mostly scrubbed off of table and bench. Micah–small, tan, and with an eye to every detail–positioned the last of the chairs and scrubbed away a wayward spot.
“Aye, aye, Cap’m,” said Micah, with significantly less enthusiasm. He was working hard, she knew, no matter how reluctantly he parroted the high seas lingo of the old pirate crews. It couldn’t be helped. He had been born too late to accompany their parents on their naval adventures. To him, the words were just a pointless affectation. They didn’t really mean anything.
“My bosom swain!” shouted Samantha, as she crossed the room and slammed both strongbox and book onto the bartop. “It looks shipshape in here, and no mistake. Not bad for a landlubber.”
“Please, stop,” Micah pleaded. “They’re not here yet, and this is the last time any of us are going to be able to talk normal-like for the next week.”
“Oh, fine,” she said, with mock displeasure. “Everything’s all ready?”
“As ready as it ever gets.”
Shadows crisscrossed the floor of the Scurvy Dog. Samantha looked up. Already, the representatives from the competing crews had begun to gather outside. They waited with bags of gold and bars of silver, to not only register their ships in the Kraken Games, but to bet on the outcomes of each event.
“How are we on game supplies?” asked Samantha, setting down the cash box and opening her betting book to a clean page.
“Schmitty finally struck a bargain with the folks down at Himp’s Ropeworks. They said that we can use their big cables for the ship tug-o-war events, and they dropped their rental fee to only two gold per day.”
Samantha counted on her left hand, the tips of her fingers tapping in quick succession against her thumb. “That’s not terribly generous of them, but at least we have the rope now. Can’t have a proper tug-o-war without it.”
“Yes,” said Micah. “And…”
She looked up at him, saw the mild irritation on his face. “And?”
“They want Schmitty to announce where the rope came from, and where people can get it, every time we use it.”
“By Korash, those rope people are going to be the death of me.”
The rhythmic slap-thud-slap-thud that always presaged Schmitty’s appearance shivered the timbers of the ‘Dog. Her parents’ old first mate had to stoop low, as he always did, to squeeze his big frame in through the door. He was seventy, or damn well close, but he still had quite a few threads of black in his bushy beard, and his eyes were still bright. Over his freshly-washed togs, he wore this year’s commemorative Kraken Games’ apron–a bargain at six gold per. Samantha noted, with no small amount of satisfaction, that Schmitty had sanded and lacquered his peg leg until it glowed with the warm sheen of freshly-cut wood.
“Aye, me too, Cap’m. Those hemp-spinning knaves!” Schmitty shook his head ruefully. “Points for us, though, in that Young Micah was able to sweet talk a king’s ransom of cannon balls out of Cap’m Whitehawk’s holds.”
“Yeah,” said Micah. “Bryn’s going to be bringing them over this morning. She said it would take her about two trips.”
“Micah, that’s great! That’s excellent news! I think you just saved the Artillery Toss!”
Micah touched two fingers to his forehead and bowed. “Not a problem, Sammy.”
“Cap’m!” bellowed Schmitty.
“Whatever!” chuckled Micah, before turning to dust off the taxidermied giant crab that stood guard by one of the ‘Dog’s windows.
The press of the crew representatives had, by now, gotten so thick on the front landing that they had all but blotted out the morning sunlight. Even through the thick doors of the ‘Dog, their greetings and boastings were clearly audible. As Samantha listened, she heard someone swear an oath of the saltiest kind. Shoved someone else. The air grew tense.
“All right,” she said. “Schmitty, open the door. Micah, help me tote this table outside.”
Samantha slipped her pencil behind her ear, put her betting book and cash box in the center of the table, and gripped the edge of freshly scrubbed tabletop in her hands. Micah grabbed the other end, and between them, maneuvered it to the entrance as Schmitty threw open the door.
“Step lively, ye curs!” roared Schmitty, his voice cutting like a heavy cutlass through the din. “I want ye to form a line and have yer registrations ready for inspection, savvy? And I want ye to treat one another as gentle as lambs and as kindly as babes, or so help me, I’ll slit the lot of ye from yer napes to yer chaps and fill your rotting carcasses full of angry eels!”
Micah winked at Samantha from across the table. “He sure has a way with words.”
“The lingo, swain,” Samantha shot back, with a smile. “Remember the lingo.”
“Aye aye… captain,”said Micah, with a small, quirked smile and a roll of the eyes.
Between the two of them, they slipped the table through the door and out onto the boards of the Greyport Dock outside. The nearest sailors stepped back to give them room, while the rest formed into something that looked not completely unlike a line.
As the first of the day’s competitors crowded around one long end of the table, Samantha moved behind the other, with the ‘Dog at her back. She looked behind her and found that, despite his sass and borderline insubordination, Micah had already brought out a chair for her.
She took a deep breath, looked at the swaying line of eager sailors, at her hardworking brother, at Schmitty keeping order like a first mate who has seen his share of mutinies, and smiled.
Mom and dad would be proud.
“All right, you lot! It’s time to register for the games. Let’s get Kraken!”
The sailors’ roar of approval was music to her ears.
The registration was almost done. Those crews that had finished going through the process had arrayed themselves into small groups all along the Greyport Docks. Some looked shifty, some looked twitchy, and some looked far too laconic not to be up to something. When the first cannon sounded, they would spring into action, running pell mell down the slips to board their vessels and begin the first contest of the day. It was a simple one—the first ship to reach the lighthouse won. The stipulation, however, was that the crews could use neither oar nor sail to power their ships to the finish line.
She thought, looking over the crews, that the gnomes from Copperforge had the edge this year. They had come down from their hilly lands with a strange, brass and glass monstrosity of a vessel that had an outward appearance vaguely like a cuttlefish. The captain of this weird ship, a gnome named Qualish, proudly informed her that it was, “entirely sub-nautical, pressurized, atmospherized, hydrolized, and propelled by a steam-powered screwdrive located in the posterior of the vessel.” Qualish fully expected to reach the lighthouse in no time at all.
Samantha did believe that. Of course, she also knew that Copperforge was landlocked and, apart from this ship, had no navy to speak of. She had a side bet with Schmitty about whether or not the sub-nautical vessel would fill with water and sink to the bottom of the harbor the moment it was released from its complicated deployment harness.
“Cap’m!” shouted Schmitty. “Late arrival ahoy!”
The ship sailing toward the dock was a fancy affair, with gold scrollwork adorning boards fairly shining with polish. Its sails were all furled and tightly tied against its spars. Despite the ubiquity of the ropes and knots, portions of the sails bubbled up between their restraints, as if blown by the wind.
Micah, who stood next to her, leaned down and whispered. “Does that ship look familiar to you?”
She looked at it again, narrowed her eyes, and nodded. It did, in fact, look very familiar. She couldn’t quite place it, though.
Samantha put the puzzle out of her head for a moment and focused on registering the sailors that still stood before her. She had just about gotten through the last of them when the captain of the late-arriving vessel pounded down the docks to join the back of the now very stubby line.
She glanced up at the man. He was tall, athletic, dressed in a lumpy old felt hat that compared rather unfavorably to the rest of his finely made attire. His hair–at least, what she could see of it–was jet black, but his beard and moustache had the color–and the consistency–of straw. It also appeared to be shedding. As Samantha watched, the wind tore a small hank of it from the man’s chin and sent it fluttering gently out to sea.
The other teams of sailors began pointing at the straw-bearded man and whispering behind their hands.
“Cap’m,” said Schmitty in a hoarse whisper. “I’m fair sure that’s…”
She glanced up at her first mate. “I know. I’ll handle it.”
The late arrival seemed to be either unaware or unconcerned by all the furtive whispers and worried looks. He took a hefty sack of coin out of his belt pouch and let it fall heavily onto the table.
Samantha shut her betting book with a snap. “We’re full.”
“No you’re not. I’ve seen the broadsheets. They say ‘all comers’ welcome. Additionally, I arrived within the specified time frame and I brought sufficient funds for the entry fee.” He pushed the weighty bag toward her with the tip of one finger. “You can count it if you like.”
“Criminals, pirates, and people who have attempted to destroy Greyport with dragonsfire are not welcome at the Kraken Games.” She shot out of her seat, pointing an accusatory pencil at the man standing in front of her. “Viceroy Lapentius!”
He sighed and crumpled inward just a tiny bit. “How did you know it was me?”
“We’d be knowing ye anywhere, ye high-flying dandy!” Schmitty shouted.
“Well then… In that case.”
With a flourish, the man tore off his false beard with a theatrical gesture, revealing his real–and apart from a few flecks of straw–immaculately groomed black goatee beneath. With his other hand, he removed his shapeless hat and tossed it into one of the knots of nearby sailors.
“It is I, Viceroy Lapentius! And I am here to register in your little games. Through them I shall prove to you, once and for all, that my ship, the Dragon’s Fist, is the greatest ship to ever sail the sea or the sky.”
At this, the sailors on Lapentius’ ship cut the lines holding the sails in place. The sails unfurled in an instant, running up the masts of their own accord and filling with the freshening wind. With its enchanted sails now free, the Dragon’s Fist steadily rose up into the sky, until its dripping, clockwork driveworks just cleared the waterline.
“I’m not taking your money, Viceroy,” said Samantha, staring the egotistical air pirate down. “Now get in your ship and leave before I call the guard.”
Viceroy Lapentius sighed, this time theatrically, and shook his head. “Ah, my dear Captain Samantha, I was afraid that you might say that. That is why I have already taken the liberty of having a backup plan ready, in case registering for your games like some commoner didn’t work out.”
His smile was oily and predatory. “Your first event is the lighthouse race, is it not? Well, would you like to see what special prize awaits the ships once they cross the harbor?”
He produced a silver whistle, put it to his lips, and blew. The shrill note echoed across the water. Before the sound had a chance to die, it was answered by a not terribly distant, but terribly deafening, roar. Two leathery, batlike wings uncoiled from behind the bulk of the lighthouse. The assembled contestants screamed and pointed as Imperia, the Viceroy’s black dragon mount, lifted her head into view and blew twin jets of flame from her nostrils.
Samantha looked from Micah to Schmitty and back again. Both of them stood in stunned awe at Imperia’s sudden appearance. She realized that, for the moment, she was alone, and that she needed to take control of this situation before it got completely out of hand.
She set her pencil back behind her ear, swallowed her pride, and picked up the pouch that the Viceroy had dropped on her table.
“You want to compete in the Kraken Games that badly, huh?” she said, loud enough for the other sailors to hear her. “That’s fine. A little pathetic, but fine. Bring your ship into port at dock 94 and tell your crew to make ready. The race starts in fifteen minutes.
“And,” she said, her voice sounding far bolder than she felt. “I don’t want to hear any blubbering or whining from you when these other teams whip your posh, conceited ass!”
“You tell, ‘em, Sammy!” shouted one of the other competitors.
“We’re gonna whip your tiny starched buttocks, Lapentius!” said another.
“Actually, I calculate that our odds of success are…” began one of the gnome sailors, before Qualish gently placed a hand over his mouth.
“Oh, of course,” said Lapentius with a prim little bow. “Consider me preemptively chastened!”
Shortly after noon, Samantha retreated into the Scurvy Dog, sat down in the quiet, narrow space behind the bar, and put her head in her hands.
It hadn’t been a blowout, thankfully. Bryn won the Artillery Toss this year, like she always did, and the gnome’s vessel took the gold–both literally and metaphorically–in the Sunken Treasure Dive event. These victories were heralded with anemic and half-hearted applause, because the Dragon’s Fist had, to that point, won literally everything else.
The Lighthouse Race proved to be an early warning of how the day would go. Samantha was dismayed, because she thought the competing crews had been really clever this year. Unfortunately, none of the ideas the other ships tried–from mule teams hauling them along the shore, to wind control wands “borrowed” from the Collegium’s stores, to the gnomes’ screw drive engine, to the synchronized ogre swim team–was any match for the Fist’s lighter-than-air weight or her wind turbine propulsion system.
The results of the Tug-of-War were even worse, and not just because it had been Samantha’s favorite event in previous years. The event was simple enough: Two ships started at opposite ends of the harbor with a long rope (sponsored by Himp’s Ropeworks), each crew pulled as hard as they could on their end of the rope, and whichever ship was forced across the centerline of the harbor lost. It was always such crazy fun, with people shouting and cheering on their favorite crews from the docks, and with the ships’ crews doing whatever they could to maintain their positions or to give as little water as possible.
Viceroy Lapentius simply ordered his ship to fly straight upward, refusing to stop until his unfortunate opponents had been either pulled across the harbor or above it. Only the Copperforge ship had given him the slightest bit of trouble, as it had been able to fight back against the pull of the Dragon’s Fist for a good long while with its brasswork engines. This had caused a wild spate of desperate, encouraging applause from the crowd until the strain snapped one of the gnome ship’s driveshafts. Moments later, it dangled in the air beneath the Fist, looking like a helpless brass fish.
It was bad enough that Lapentius was going to win. She was already hating seeing the viceroy’s smug, superior smile as he carried off the pewter, eight-armed trophy traditionally given to the overall winner of the games. What was worse was that he had so thoroughly killed everyone else’s enjoyment and morale that Samantha feared she would not be seeing most of the crews back here next year.
She had worked really hard to develop the Kraken Games, to bring them to Greyport Harbor and make them something special for not only the Scurvy Dog, but also for all the people who worked on the docks. Now the people that she had worked so hard to entertain and support might think that the games were rigged, and would refuse to compete. She stood to lose not just their participation, but her reputation, their patronage, and the Scurvy Dog as well.
She looked up. Micah had poked his head over the bar and was looking down at her, concern in his eyes.
“I know I gotta get back out there.” She sniffed. “Just give me a minute, all right?”
“Take all the time you need,” said Micah. “I’m not here to tell you to do anything. I just want to make sure you’re all right.”
“Aye,” said Schmitty, whose round head appeared right beside Micah’s, “me, too, Cap’m. Just want to tell ye that we’re yer life-long crew, no matter what happens out there.”
Samantha stood up, smiling weakly, and reached across the bar to enfold them both in one big hug.
“Thanks,” she said, softly. “There’s only a few events left anyway. Then there’s the Grand Melee, the awards ceremony, and we can send everyone home. I suppose we’ll get some points from the City Council for not letting Lapentius burn the docks, but…”
“Well,” said Micah, “but keeping the city intact is, you know, really important.”
Samantha wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “I know, I know. I’m just so mad. That nitwit has taken all the fun out of the games, and I hate him for it. I know it’s impossible, but I wish we could really stick it to him before the day is over. Find some way to show him that nobody messes with the Games or the Scurvy Dog.”
“Ah, but there is,” said a voice from the Dog’s front door. “Or, at least, there will be.”
Samantha looked past her brother and Schmitty to see Tara, the navigator of the Crimson Drake, standing at the door. The navigator favored her with a smile and an unblinking gaze from her white and sightless eyes.
“You’ve got a plan?” said Samantha running out from behind the bar.
“Not me,” said Tara with her usual mysterious serenity. “I’m just here to keep morale up until the rest of the fleet arrives.”
“The rest of the–?”
Tara deftly stepped aside as the door to the Scurvy Dog swung open. A group of representatives from the competing ships marched in. At the head was Qualish, the captain of the gnomish underwater vessel.
“We’ve been talking,” said Qualish, “and we think it’s a real shame that this pompous pirate has been running roughshod over your games. We’d like to help you put a stop to him.”
The rest of the assembled representatives grunted their agreement.
“Thank you,” said Samantha, relieved. “I agree. I was just saying the same thing, in fact. I just wish I could think of a way to do it. He’s got that bloody dragon, and his ship is so much more powerful than everyone else’s. I don’t think we can…”
“Ah,” said Qualish. “Perhaps not individually, but together, we could overwhelm him and send him packing.”
Samantha looked around at the hopeful faces. She did not want to let them–or the Dog, or her crew, or her parents–down. She pushed the uncomfortable feelings of misgivings back into the darkest corner of her mind, switched her pencil from one ear to the other, and smiled.
“All right,” she said. “I think the Grand Melee might be the best time for us to do it. Let’s talk tactics!”
The sky had clouded and the water had grown choppy as the day wore on. From her place in the Officiating Sloop, Samantha stood up, stepped over the heavy, unpleasantly wet bag that was stowed amidships, and grasped the single mast for support. Beside her, the black and white striped sail strained against the increasing strength of the wind. Schmitty leaned on the tiller with all his strength, trying to keep the little sloop steady in the water. Meanwhile, Micah squatted up front by the tiny signal cannon, his muscles tense.
She nodded to both of them, then reached into her vest and pulled out a bright square of many-times folded fabric. She shook it until the wind unfurled it, then cupped her free hand to her mouth.
“Competitors!” she shouted. “This is the final event of the day! The one you’ve all been waiting for! The Grand Melee!”
Fitful cheers went up from a few quarters. The crews of the ships stood silently on their decks, ready for action. Only Viceroy Lapentius looked at all relaxed, alternating between polishing his nails on his lapel and idly swishing at the air with his broadsword.
“Each one of you has been given a pennant just like this, which you have strung up on your mainmast! When the cannon sounds, you fight to board other ships and take their flags while making sure no one takes yours. The last ship to keep its flag wins the melee! Do you all understand?”
A few shouts of assent.
“Right, then!” She nodded to Micah, who took a burning wick out from his tinder box and held it over the small cannon. “I want a nice, clean melee. No cheap shots. No lethal force! That means you, Viceroy! Put that damned sword away!”
The Viceroy sighed theatrically and sheathed his blade.
“On my mark! One! Two!”
She released the pennant. It fluttered out of her outstretched fingers and into the water.
Micah fired the cannon.
All around them, the battle began in earnest. Samantha clung to the mast as she looked around, trying to observe as much of the battle as she could. To someone who didn’t know what was really going on, it seemed as though small boarding skirmishes were breaking out on every deck in sight. Salty oaths sailed through the air as fists flew and oars swung. A couple of sailors splashed into the water, only to surface moments later, shaking their fists.
But all of that was just for show. What was really happening, and what the little skirmishes here and there were trying to screen, was that all of the crews of all of the other ships were leapfrogging and climbing and swimming ever closer to their real target–the deck of the Dragon’s Fist.
Amidst all the commotion, the gnomish vessel, which had so far gone without attracting boarders of any kind, sealed all of its hatches and quietly submerged beneath the churning waves.
“Now?” whispered Micah.
Samantha surveyed the naval battle one last time, then nodded.
She and Micah tacked the sail while Schmitty operated the tiller. In no time at all, they were up alongside the still waterborne hull of the Dragon’s Fist. Above them, Viceroy Lapentius surveyed the battling crews all around him and laughed.
“Look, my lads! See how they fight one another instead of daring to challenge us? They know full well that we are their betters, and not one of them has enough courage to dare bring the fight to us. Let their fear of us be our greatest weapon. Let them fight like mongrels amongst themselves until they are all but spent! Then we shall swoop in and claim the last, fair few flags for our own.”
“Um, captain,” said one of the crew of the Fist.
“Um. Viceroy. Captain. Sir? I’ve been watching the other crews with my glass, and…”
And it was at that moment that the first wave of angry competitors poured onto the Dragon’s Fist, shouting dozens of battlecries.
“Air!” shouted the Viceroy, half-drawing his sword before he remembered. “Give us air! Full sails! Take us up!”
By this point, Micah had primed the small cannon and had poured a fistful of grapeshot down the barrel. He aimed it at the sails looming above and fired, blowing several large holes in the canvas.
It was not enough, but fortunately, Micah wasn’t acting alone. The other ships had brought their own signal cannons to bear. Aiming high, so as to hit only the sails and not the crews beneath, they fired a fusillade into the canvas. On the prow of the Crimson Drake, Bryn added to the cannonade by hurling full-sized cannonballs into the fray. Her reach, as always, was both very long and very accurate.
The tattered sails began to sag as their magics failed. Gravity slowly, inexorably reclaimed the Dragon’s Fist, and it settled in the water with a heavy splash that just about swamped the Officiating Sloop. “Engage the engines!” cried Lapentius. “Get us out of here, now!”
“That’s our cue,” said Samantha.
“Aye,” said Schmitty, who had just secured the sloop to the side of the Dragon’s Fist with a quick half-hitch. “I just pray that our wee gnomish friends have done their work, and well enough.”
Samantha hefted the large bag from the sloop and slung its strap over her shoulders. Its leaky contents stained her trousers, but that was, hopefully, a small price to pay for what was about to occur.
She set her pencil in her mouth and bit down on it. Talking around the wood, she replied. “Whether they did or not, we still have to do our part, come on!”
“Aye, aye, captain,” said Micah, grinning as one of the other crews lowered a rope from above.
With Samantha in the lead, the three of them joined the boarding party aboard the Viceroy’s ship. No sooner had they gained the decking than they heard a long expected, satisfying, and very loud clunk that reverberated all across the Dragon’s Fist. It sounded for all the world like a single drumbeat made by an impossibly large giant.
“Cap–Viceroy!” cried the sailor at the wheel. “We’ve lost our engines! The clockwork mechanisms are jammed.”
It was at this moment that the gnomish sub-nautical craft surfaced quietly, and perhaps a little guiltily, just astern of the Fist.
“No! No no no no!” Viceroy Lapentius, now at last realizing what was happening, drew his sword the rest of the way out of the sheath. “Fire at will! Blow their ships to matchwood! Leave just enough of them alive to keel–”
He would have said more, but, at that moment, Schmitty charged across the deck and smashed Lapentius in the jaw with a beefy fist. The sky pirate’s ornate hat and sword went flying in two different directions as Lapentius collapsed in a heap on the decking.
The Viceroy snapped up into a sitting position, fire in his eyes and a whistle in his hand. “Why you…ingrates. You dare?! I will burn you all!!”
He put the whistle to his lips and blew a long, shrill blast. The sound was high and piercing enough to cut through the battle that was still raging on the deck of the Dragon’s Fist. Most of the combatants stopped fighting at the sound and turned to look–first at the Viceroy, then at Samantha–with horror in their eyes.
My turn, thought Samatha, as she swung the heavy bag down off her shoulders and untied the knot holding it closed.
In the meantime, Schmitty hit Lapentius again, nearly causing the sky pirate to swallow his own summoning whistle.
Imperia the dragon landed heavily on the starboard side of the ship, and nearly capsized it. Samantha threw her arms out, seeking something solid to grab onto before she was pitched over the side. Her hands found purchase on an uncomfortably warm, scaly surface. Her eyes met a golden eye as big as a dinner plate, with a vertical pupil not unlike that of a cat’s.
“Eep,” she said. Then very quickly added. “Nice dragon. Thank you for catching me, dragon.”
Imperia growled. Samantha let go of the black dragon’s neck and retreated to the now untied bag. She grabbed the bag by its soggy bottom and heaved, trying to disgorge its contents onto the deck of the Dragon’s Fist as quickly as possible.
“You’ve been stuck out there by the lighthouse all day, haven’t you,” said Samantha, talking to the dragon in a high, sing-song voice that was partially born of terror and partially the way that she talked to all animals. “You must have been very bored out there. And cold. And hungry. I’m sure Lapentius doesn’t care, but I do…”
The thick mass of raw fish, entrails, and the random cuts of meat that Samantha had been able to acquire at a moment’s notice slid out of the bag and onto the dock. She was relieved to notice that Imperia had stopped looking at her–the black dragon now only had eyes for the food.
“Don’t just stand there gawping, you scaly idiot,” said Viceroy Lapentius, as blood from his broken nose dripped into his goatee. “Finish her. Incinerate them all. I command you!”
Imperia ignored him, and began devouring the mass of meat on the deck with sharp and savage bites.
“That’s it,” said Samantha. “Good dragon!”
“You will obey me! I am your master! You will burn these insolent peasants to cinders and then–”
Before Schmitty could hit him one more time, Micah intervened, holding the blade of the Viceroy’s own sword to his throat.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you, matey,” said Micah, winking at Samantha. “Savvy?”
“Yes,” said Lapentius, his voice thin and tight. “Yes, I do.”
Imperia rested her head on the meat and blood-stained boards of the deck, and let out a satisfied purr.
This year’s awards ceremony was a bit more impromptu than it had been for previous games. It took place not on the platform erected by the Scurvy Dog, but on the deck of the Viceroy’s damaged and motionless ship. The crew of the Dragon’s Fist had been escorted below and confined to the hold, ordered by the City Guard to remain there until the Fist was well and safely out of Greyport’s waters.
Viceroy Lapentius, whose nose had by now swelled and turned purple, was securely tied to his mainmast with rope provided by Himp’s Ropeworks. He had only stopped screaming at and insulting everyone when Samantha had wadded up the Fist’s Grand Melee pennant and shoved it in his mouth.
Throughout all of these proceedings, Imperia had remained perched and docile on the starboard side of the ship. Samantha was the only one who dared to get near her, but was quite enjoying giving the black dragon the occasional reassuring pat.
“Good girl, good dragon,” she said, before holding up the whistle to Imperia’s massive eye. “How do you feel about this, I wonder?”
“Just as I thought,” said Samantha, releasing her hold on the whistle and watching as it plummeted into the water and dropping down out of sight.
Viceroy Lapentius let out one final, enraged grunt.
“I think we can take it from here, ma’am,” said the corporal of the watch. “You’ve just about scuppered his ship, so I don’t imagine he’ll be giving us any more trouble. Our ships will give him a tow and an escort away from here. Hopefully, he won’t be bothering you anytime soon.
“Thank you,” she said, and then, much more loudly, “We’re moving the afterparty to the Scurvy Dog, my friends, in celebration of all of us winning the Kraken Games! But don’t get too rowdy! Drinks are still on you!”
This time, the roar of the sailors was mighty, enthusiastic, and full of unrestrained joy.