Short Stories

Heroic Hearts"The Dark Ship"
Heroic Hearts
Edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

Ace, May 2022
Print/eBook/audiobook (of the whole anthology)



EXCERPT FROM  "THE DARK SHIP," an Others short story

Copyright © 2022 Anne Bishop. Used with permission.

Last night I dreamed about the dark ship.

People say it's bad luck to be on the water when the full moon rises, because that's when the dark ship goes hunting, its tattered black sails catching a fast wind that touches no other ship. People say it is crewed by monstrous beings that capture hardworking fishermen and honest sailors, and its captain drinks the captives' blood before giving the bodies to his crew, who devour the flesh and suck the marrow from the bones.

People say that if your vessel is suddenly becalmed and a fog rolls in without warning, look to the horizon, and if you see those black sails silhouetted against the moon, it is better to die by your own hand than to wait for the monsters to find you. Because they will find you. They always find you.

***

I lived in Pyetra, a small fishing village on the coast of the Mediterran Sea. According to the grandmothers, it had been a prosperous village, and while the buildings near the water had been built out of the gray stone that had given Pyetra its name, the homes of the more affluent residents had been painted in soft pastels—yellow, rose, green, blue—so that, from the water, the village had looked like a bouquet of flowers set against the hills.

Then the Humans First and Last movement declared war on the terra indigene, and the Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations was torn apart by the Others' fury and power over the world. Instead of an alliance, nations were separated by veins of wild country, and anything human who stumbled into that land never came out.

Small villages like mine were untouched for the most part because the men who fished in the Mediterran or sailed that water to carry goods from one city to another—or sailed beyond our waters to trade—knew that the sea belonged to the terra indigene, and crews that were careful, and respectful, never saw the lethal terror that watched them but let them pass, and those were the men who returned home.

In a world torn apart by war, the vulnerable often fell victim to predators who waited for such opportunities to crack people's sense of right and wrong, using fear as a hammer.

In the end, it wasn't the Others who ruined Pyetra. It was a man called Captain Starr.


The Queen's WeaponsThe Queen's Weapons, in paperback February 2022