The Pirate Apprentice

The Sisters’ War, which is slowly getting reposted on this site so I can

  1. remember what I wrote, and
  2. pick up where I left off to finish it,

started as a dream I had a long time ago. Then I took on the challenge of trying to write something for NaNoWriMo in 2014 and decided to try to write up the dream, although I had no idea of how I would get ten-thousand words out of it.

At ten thousand words I found I had barely begun to tell the story.

Then I started a job which, no matter how much I liked and still sort of like it, left me in a state of total burnout, not wanting to craft code or words for years because it is what I did all day. So all my writing got back burnered. The job is still there, but I have finally mastered the burnout.

So let’s go back to the beginning of it all, and talk about that dream. It went like this:

A small, rag-tag group of pirates puttering about in some desert or another in a pirate Winnebago were met by the pirate Queen and her daughter. Just there, on the road, which is apparently where they stay until the very end of the dream. Then they join everyone at the diner.

Her daughter, Zephyr, had a request for them. Her father, the Pirate King, had disappeared and she wanted them to find him because Christmas was coming and she wanted him to be home for the holidays. None of the big name pirate crews would take on a request like that, since there was no profit in it, so they were asking us, since I was the same age os Zephyr and might better understand why this was important.

So we set off to find the pirate King, also known as the pirate Ghost, because he could become insubstantial so that no weapon could touch him. After traveling for a while, high up on a bluff, at a bend in the road, we find the wreck of a pirate ship which belonged to the pirate Ghost. While exploring it, we come upon the ghost of the Pirate Ghost, who apologizes that he cannot make it home for Christmas because he is dead and bound to haunt the place where he was killed until his soul finds peace. He was killed by other pirates, but had no interest in revenge, since killing each other was the sort of thing pirates did.

He told us there was a chest in the ruins of the ship that contained some treasure and a letter to his daughter that he somehow managed to write after he was dead. So we took the chest and the letter back to the pirate Queen and her daughter Zephyr, and there were tears shed over his letter apologizing that, being dead and all, he couldn’t come home for Christmas. Zephyr thanked us and asked us to keep the rest of the treasure in the chest. The only reason there was any left was that it was hidden under a false bottom in the chest, so the looters cleaned out the top but not the bottom.

Then we parted ways.

As we were driving down the road, the credits started to roll, and the music started to play, and the scene turned to colored line-drawings mixed in with the credits. In story told in the images we returned to the wreck of the pirate Ghost’s ship, took what we could from the wreck and gathered other materials and built a rest-stop and diner where people could come hang out with the ghost of the pirate Ghost for as long as he remained bound to that place. As the credits end the parking lot gets more and more crowded with vehicles, then it fades to waking.

It really felt much more like a Children’s story than what I started to write, especially with the line art during the closing credits. After the dream, I even debated whether I could sit down with some artist friends and make a book of it.

If you start reading The Pirate Apprentice, you will quickly find it has nothing whatsoever to do with the story in the dream.

Peri, Ornery, Officer Puppy, and the pirate Periwinkle, as well as the pirate Queen and Zephyr are described exactly as they were in the dream. So are some other characters that will appear as the story continues, including Mr. Tiger and the ghost of the pirate Ghost. But a Winnebago would be a total anachronism and, as you might realize in reading the story, none of the characters have probably even heard of Christmas. Zephyr and the pirate Queen do end up sending our intrepid band of pirates on a quest relating to the death of the former pirate King, but then the story goes off the rails, very much in directions that would never work for a children’s story.

In spite of trying to keep a light tone in the writing, it is a dark world, an alternate earth, where Mesmer’s theories on animal magnetism became the basis of major scientific breakthroughs in biotechnology in the mid-19th Century, which, of course, were immediately applied to the craft of war. As a direct result of this, Peri starts her adventure in what she describes, at one point, as “the largest inhabitable region on the entire planet,” and even then ocassionally comments on what a dangerous and hostile place that inhabitable region is. The significance of these things will slowly unfold as the story continues, and, at some point, some of those historic events may get their own stories. Suffice to say, pirates are not the only bio-weapons created for the wars of days gone by, nor the only ones to rise up against their human masters.

The writing of the story caused it to snap into place in an arc of stories that span thousands of years. Connecting an idea on where it all started with some really horrible stories I wrote in my teens that, looking back, hold promise as long as I keep the core of those stories and throw out all the adolescent fantasy.

Someday I may work on finishing those other stories too.