The Osprey and the Kraken
The storm had just started when Iron-Eye Cordelia pointed her gun at Sal’s head.
“This isn’t a game you can win,” she said calmly. “Even if you were stone sober.”
Sal cocked a half smile, then spat on the floor. He lowered his gun. Thunder cracked above deck.
“All in good fun. No need to make threats,” Sal chuckled.
“You brought your gun into this first,” Cordelia said, sliding her gun back into the holster on her hip.
The two of them were the only players left in a hard-fought game of dice. Gold coins were piled up in front of both Cordelia and Sal, but the first mate—being far less drunk—had her coins neatly stacked. Sal’s, on the other hand, were a messy pile spilling onto the floor little by little each time the ship rocked in the storm. A group of their fellow pirates were watching the game, their coins long since lost to either Cordelia or Sal. Most of them wanted Cordelia to win and they weren’t afraid to admit it. During their time together on the One Winged Osprey, she’d saved all of their lives on one occasion or another. And Sal? During their time together, he’d stolen money, food, or guns from all of them on one occasion or another.
“Maybe,” Sal said. His eyes were glazed over. He took a long pull of rum from his cup and rolled the dice. “But all that really matters is who has their gun out last.”
The ship lurched, sending the dice and all of Sal’s coins sliding to the floor. Even Cordelia’s perfect towers of gold came crashing down. Sal—as if he wasn’t drunk at all—seized the moment. In a single fluid motion, he redrew his weapon, hoisted himself onto the table, and shoved the barrel of his gun onto Cordelia’s forehead. Several of the onlookers drew their guns and pointed them at Sal.
Just then, the sound of Henry Miles’ voice—muffled through the deck and the storm outside—interrupted what would have been Cordelia and Sal’s end. This would not be their time to die.
“There! There! Demon!”
Sal looked up at the ceiling. “Bloody kid.”
“In the storm! It’s a Kraken!” This time, Henry Miles’ words were loud and clear.
Cordelia grabbed Sal’s gun by the barrel and pushed it aside, sending Sal falling to the floor. Cordelia stood and snapped her fingers at the crew, already awaiting their First Mate’s orders. “Ravenrose, Hines, Tiny – you’re with me. Christopher, Sal – get to the cannons. And keep an eye on this one,” she said, kicking Sal as she ran up the stairs and into the storm. “And Betsy – find out where the hell the captain is.”
The crew sprang into action. Even Sal, drunk and disjointed, got to his feet to follow Cordelia’s orders. He was well aware that a Kraken doesn’t care about the amount of money sitting ownerless on the floor of a ship.
On deck, it was clear that the storm was worse than anyone knew. Poor Henry Miles was standing in the crow’s nest, gripping the ropes for his life. A flash of lightning revealed the terror in his eyes. Cordelia saw it too—the cause of his terror—the silhouette of something massive and serpentine leaping in the air over the ship.
For a moment that stretched as long as the Kraken itself, it seemed as if the rain had stopped. The Kraken’s body arched overhead, extending from the port-side to the starboard-side, creating a canopy that shielded the ship from the pouring rain.
It dove into the water, disappearing underneath the waves. And then came the crash.
The Kraken’s tail—itself the size of a whale—reappeared above the water and snapped the One Winged Osprey’s main mast as if it were a matchstick. Splinters hailed onto the deck, and the sail swept down like a slingshot, taking three of the crew into the water along with it. Henry Miles clung to the side of the ship, screaming obscenities until Cordelia yanked him on board. The Kraken was nowhere to be seen.
Cordelia wiped her matted hair from her face and shouted, “Are those cannons ready? There!” She pointed into the distance, squinting her one eye. Christopher Cross and Sal—each manning one of the ship’s two cannons—took aim. Though they saw nothing, they knew that Cordelia would guide their shots. She’d been entangled with Krakens before. The one that took her eye—the one that gave her the nickname Iron-Eye—always seemed to reappear at various points in her life, as if it were following her. This very Kraken bore the same yellow teeth and scarred tail. Could it be? Sal wondered. Could it be the same monster? Cordelia didn’t wonder. She knew this beast.
“It’s gone,” young Henry said, scanning the black horizon.
“No, it’s not,” Cordelia replied. Then, to Christopher and Sal, “Wait for my signal! Aim high!”
Christopher tilted the cannon on its mount, and Sal followed suit.
Suddenly, out of the blackness, the Kraken shot forth. It rose from the waves like a gargantuan monument made of black marble and hate. Sal trembled at the sight of the beast; he wasn’t sure if it would leap clear over the ship again, or if it would come thundering down right upon him. Lightning split the sky, but the thunder that followed was drowned out by the cacophony of the ship’s two forward masts being ripped apart by the Kraken’s enormous jaw. At that same moment, Cordelia’s heart was ripped apart as well; she knew that without the ship’s masts, they were as good as dead.
Christopher and Sal shot the cannons. Whomp. Whomp. Two balls of lead pierced right into the belly of the beast as it arched above the ship. The Kraken contorted and it loosed a blood-curdling scream that sounded like the hissing of a million rattlesnakes. The Kraken’s head snapped backwards on the water. Its body smacked down next to the ship, all its grace gone from the pain of being struck by the cannons.
“Got it!” Sal shouted.
Cordelia stood firm as the cascade of water from the Kraken’s colossal belly flop poured over them. “I wouldn’t count on it.”
Slowly, the Kraken sank beneath the waves. Slowly, slowly, slowly, until it was gone. A rush of air bubbles to the surface seemed to seal its fate.
“But that had to kill it.”
Cordelia shook her head and put a hand on Sal’s shoulder. She ran over to Betsy, who was standing outside the door to captain Nine Fingers’ quarters.
“Locked,” Betsy said. “The only ones with keys are you and the captain.”
Cordelia pulled the ring of keys from her pants pocket and held it up. “You mean the key that I gave back to the captain?”
“Oh, hell,” Betsy muttered.
Captain Nine Fingers was known to hole himself inside his quarters – after successful raids, during long periods of travel, whenever the ship docked to restock at a port. But if there was ever a time to leave his quarters and rally the crew, now was it.
Cordelia banged her fist on the captain’s door. There was no answer.
“Come out of there, you bastard,” Cordelia yelled. She banged again. Still no answer. “That thing’s coming back,” she said to the crew who were now assembled on deck, shaken but determined.
“But the cannons. It’s dead. That thing wasn’t moving. Went right under—“
“All we did was make it mad,” Cordelia said. “It’ll be back as soon as it regroups. Maybe in an hour, maybe tomorrow, maybe a week from now.”
The entire crew looked out toward the waves, trying to steal a glimpse of the demon with each strike of lightning that lit up the sky. But it was no use. The Kraken was biding its time, and the One Winged Osprey was now nothing more than a floating piece of wood. The ship’s sails were gone, all hope with them.
They were cursed to drift in the storm until rescue came, or the Kraken returned to finish them off.