Heavy white-out cannons protected the town of Melville, the chief bottling village on the edge of the Asphalt Sea. Boys earned their manhood stationed at those cannons, scanning the burning horizon for any sign of threat. Pirates pillaged every town on the coast but Melville. The brave city had never, ever fallen.
Until the day Rootbeard attacked.
The dark and foamy sails of the Sarsaparilla rose over the edge of the vast parking lot. Running boys alerted the mayor, who called every able-bodied man to the docks. They sounded the horns to summon every ship to port. The men on the boats lifted their nets from the blazing asphalt, hefting heavy loads of precious bottles.
No one dared sail out when that ruthless pirate threatened the bay. Melville marshalled every force it had. Men held sonic spears and readied their whaling guns. Women brandished cast-iron skillets and trained falcons. Stranger beasts hovered in the air. Even the Great White Ghost floated above, ready to protect its people.
Every eye fastened to the shadow that approached the shore.
The sun shifted and began to fall behind the town. “We’ve got them now, lads!” the mayor called. “They’ll be attacking into the light! Not so easy to aim their cannons, izzit?”
The men lifted a raucous cheer. The women remained silent, waiting to see what would come.
The ship drifted closer, closer.
As it crossed some invisible line, the mayor shouted, “Give ‘em white, boys!”
The white-out cannons thundered and splutted, vomiting up their deadly payload over the asphalt waves toward the encroaching threat. The first and second volley couldn’t reach the distance. The boys reloaded their weapons, swabbing them down to keep the metal cool.
They readied the third volley.
The mayor breathed deeply. “No sense in wasting ammo, boys! Wait for my signal!”
The crowds at the shore fell silent once again.
The mayor noticed the scent first. He turned to his lieutenant and muttered, “Is something… burning?”
The entire town heard the sound of bottles popping, glass bursting, under intense heat. Like a shock wave, the gathered crowd turned. They gasped.
The rebottling plant burned. Flames licked the sky. While everyone waited at the docks, someone had lit the center of their commerce on fire. Some pirate spy, most likely. A landing force had come to attack them from behind?
Falcona cried out, “Save the plant!” She spread her wings and took to the sky, laser harpoons clutched in her talons. She hunted from above, seeking any prey that might present itself.
“If they got to the plant, they might burn anything to the ground! Gotta save my shop!” shouted Willie the Pelican.
“My home!” cried Ramona the Zealot.
Dervish of the Daisies simply cussed up a storm as she raced on her roots toward the village gardens.
The crowd dispersed. The mayor cried into the din, but it was too late.
The defenders of Melville scattered. The boys at the cannons fled. The lieutenants ran. Even the Great White Ghost swam ethereal currents toward its home in the graveyard, where its body lay beside that of its beloved Captain.
Only the mayor and a few boat owners remained to see the Sarsaparilla turn toward the docks, full sail, and rush toward shore.
The mayor raced toward one of the cannon towers. “Get yerselves up to the cannons, lads!” he shouted. “Protect the town! Save Melville!”
Three of the remaining men and women dashed toward different cannons, already primed and ready to fire. The mayor clamored up the ladder and steadied himself in the gusty winds atop the tower. He grunted as he turned the heavy weapon, readjusting its aim. He put the lit tinder to the fuse.
A tightly-packed ball of whiteout sped through the air. It struck the prow of the oncoming vessel. The caustic chemicals ate through the wooden planking. It wasn’t enough.
Even as he heard three other cannons fire, the mayor lifted a heavy whiteoutball into the muzzle, burning his hands on the hot metal.
No. Didn’t prime it. Wasted charge.
He swore. No time to reload.
He turned to see the dark ship crash into the docks, shattering planking and smaller boats in its rush. It finally slowed as it beached itself near the shore.
Boarding planks lowered. Pirates flooded onto land, muskets and swords held aloft. They shouted obscenities and threats.
The mayor drew Deadly Flying Fist, the blade he had discovered many years ago. He leaped from the tower onto the onrushing tide of unwashed bodies. He spun into it, letting the speed of his weapon do as much damage as possible. It danced in his hands, slicing many a pirate’s throat.
One pirate with three eyes leveled a dual-hammer flintlock pistol and fired. Deadly Flying Fist spun, slicing the iron pellet in two. The half-spheres scattered in the air and pierced the eyes of two other enemies.
The mayor grunted a laugh. “You’ll never take Melville, even with your trickery!”
A dark boot crunched the shore. Dark breeches made their way through the crushing rush. A dark, open shirt flared in the wind. Two dark gloves held two dark blades. A foamy white beard under a dark hat approached the mayor.
Rootbeard grinned at the town’s protector. “Mayor. I would be honored if you would surrender the town. There need not be so much bloodshed, should there? We’ll take yer bottles and yer women and be on our way.”
The mayor raised his sword. “We’ll keep the women and the bottles, boy.”
The captain raised his blades in salute to his enemy.
One of his henchman fired his pistol behind the mayor, felling him in one simple action. He was dead before his body hit the ground.
Captain Rootbeard hissed a laugh. “Mayor, pirates only have honor in fiction. Rejects don’t need single combat.” He raised his head. “Get along! We need to pillage the town and be gone before nightfall!”
And thus Melville fell to Captain Rootbeard, who had used a single saboteur to light a fire and scatter the town’s defenders.
Captain Rootbeard had forgotten to watch his rear, though. On the horizon, a new sail rose. A sail made of plastic bags attached to a shopping cart.
The day was not yet done.
This is a Barrelbottom Tale.
The Shopping Cart Pirate was last seen in The Shopping Cart Pirate Pillages!
Melville’s fall continues here.