Chapter 2: The Master light,
“Don’t move!” cried two of the sailors who were leaning over the railing looking at Match-Rat who landed tail first in the still half melted wax. Panicked, Match-Rat thrashed in the goopy liquid and tried to stay afloat. Then he heard the harsh cry of the captain.
“Don’t move, Rat!” he yelled over the bow. Match-Rat stopped moving. The sun dipped below the horizon and the wax hardened and he was frozen in the sea of wax with only his head above the waves.
“Heave a ladder over. Mitchy, get down there’n start chippin” the captain barked. Mitchy, one of the pirates, threw a shovel over the starboard and it landed with a dull thump next to Match-Rat.
Match-Rat had never been more scared; his movement was completely restricted from the neck down. His body was in constant pain from the burning wax, which now kept him from moving.
Mitchy quickly climbed down the ladder and with the shovel, began to chip and dig into the sea surrounding the frightened rat.
“Hurry Mitchy or it’ll be the death of you both!” The captain yelled down. “Get that mast secured.” he said to the rest of the crew on deck.
Match-Rat didn’t understand what the captain meant by “the death of you both”, but when Mitchy heard this he seemed to speed up his chipping with a newfound fervor. He chipped, hacked and carved away at the wax and soon Match-Rat’s arm was free. Then his leg and soon enough he was able to wiggle and scratch his way out of the wax. The pirate and the rat then ran to the ship. It was hard for Match-Rat to run because there was still plenty of wax stuck to his fur.
“Here she comes!” one of the crew members cried out. Then Match-Rat looked down beneath his paws and saw a dim blue light which seemed to glow brighter. It was coming closer and as soon as Match-Rat climbed onto the ladder the captain ordered Griffin to get this ship moving. Match-Rat heard the behemoth belch fire over the metallic underbelly of the ship. Then the wind caught the sail and they were skipping across the sea. The blue light, which illuminated the depth, was fading behind them.
“When we make land I want this rat off my ship.” the captain said then stormed off to his cabin. Rosey looked at Match-Rat who was shaking from fear and shock. His skin was burned and his fur still had clumps of wax which stuck and tore at the little hairs on his body. The pain and fear was not the worst of it for Match-Rat however. The emotion that tugged at him more than all the others was the disappointment which he felt in himself and that which he knew Rosey, the captain, and all the crew felt towards him. Somehow the idea that he was a failure and a disappointment was much more hurtful than the burns.
“You didn’t tie the sail off well enough.” Rosey said. He knew that this was a very important moment for Match-Rat. He needed to drive this moment into his mind like someone hammers down a nail with a sledge hammer. “You do that again and I’ll personally throw you overboard, to hell with what the captain says” He said harshly. Match-Rat turned to Rosey, saw the anger and disappointment in his eyes and wept.
“Get down to the hull, clean yourself up, and rest.” Rosey said.
When Match-Rat was below deck. Rosey thought to himself, “I know his heart. He will learn quicker now. He must.”
A few days passed and Match-Rat’s mood didn’t lift. Captain Marek was still determined to drop him at the nearest village as soon as they made land. Match-Rat was desperately trying to remedy this. He left the ship spotless of candle fodder, tied his knots better and faster, and never stole rations again. He wanted to prove his worth to the captain and crew.
Rosey continued to watch over him and teach him. He never let the poor rat forget his mistakes. He needed to learn that the sea is a harsh place and surviving would require vigilance and strength. Rosey could see the fervor in the rat’s heart; the strive for purpose.
One night, Match-Rat was awoken earlier than usual by Mitchy who stirred him and said
“Rosey has requested your presence on the deck.”
Fearing he had made a mistake again and dreading the punishment that was to befall upon him, Match-Rat rushed up to the deck. There he saw Captain Marek turning to see him. Match-Rat felt a shiver run down his tail at the man’s expression, but the captain turned and looked toward the horizon.
“Match-Rat, come up here” Rosey called out from his hut. He obeyed and found Rosey to be smiling.
“Look,” he said.
Still wary that he was about to be punished, Match-Rat hesitated at first. When he turned and saw another ship, much like theirs, sailing parallel to them. There appeared to me other candle pirates who’s small flames illuminated their presence in the night sky. Upon seeing this, Match-Rat realized he wasn’t in any trouble and felt a wave of relief come over him.
The crew gathered along the portside and waved at the other ship. Even Captain Marek waved once or twice. Match-Rat joined them and saw that the ship, while similar in design, was different in every other way. The wood was a cherry red, it’s sail black, and on board candle pirates of a deep scarlet. The candles he sailed with were all yellow; apart of course from Griffin, who was a stark white, and Rosey, who oddly enough matched almost exactly the color of the scarlet pirates.
“Hello, Gentlemen…” One of the pirates said “…if that’s what you can call your band of unwashed wicks.” She was female. That’s when Match-Rat noticed all of the candle pirates aboard her ship were as well.
When the yellow pirates heard her say this they whooped and booed her laughing all the while. Then Captain Marek stood on a barrel and spoke to his men. “Look lads, it’s the ladies who’ve come to steal our hearts. Too bad they don’t have any for us in return” He said and the men continued to bellow with laughter.
“We haven’t got any hearts? How absurd. The size of your wits must have caught up with your wicks.” One of the lady pirates retorted. At this, the ladies went into complete histarics and the men, who could not think of a more clever response grumbled and rolled their eyes.
Soon enough the men and women were mingling on the decks of both ships, which had been tied together and kept steady by the frozen sea. Match-Rat gazed in wonder at the Scarlet pirates and the interactions between the crew. Several of the Scarlet pirates were speaking to Rosey and Captain Bêlit, the queen of the Scarlet pirates, was speaking in hushed words with Captain Marek.
Match-Rat wondered if the Scarlet pirates had their own Match-rat, but judging by how they marvelled at him and crowded around him when they first came aboard, he guessed not. He was just getting a little bored when the pirates cleared a space on the deck and started singing. At first their ramblings were confused and muddled as everyone appeared to want to sing something else. Then after one or two pirates agreed on a song two or three pirates lead in a song unfamiliar to Match-Rat. It seemed to be an upbeat ballad. The lyrics went something like this:
See with eyes the blackened night;
filled to the brim with burning light
Certain death for sure awaits
if we slip beneath its rays
Let me tell you whence it came
Listen to this tale of shame
The mighty Sün was his name
The title fool was his claim
He was a pirate of the Sea
He always feared the afterlife
He sought that all would die to see;
the magic flame, eternal life
As fate would have it time was on his side
The sea still hard and black beneath his stride
This all would change the day he reached his goal
The keeper of the fire was an ugly troll
Who breathed down stench and asked his toll
“What is… your… wish..”
The pirates who sang gradually grew quiet. Match-Rat didn’t know why. He saw them all turn their heads away from the merry band and towards the sea with expressions of awe. Match-Rat turned and looked as well. There above the waves was a bright light. It wasn’t the yellow-red color of flame, but rather a completely white light that shawn outwards towards them. It was floating and bobbing high above the waves. As it drew closer Match-Rat could hear a metallic screeching and thumping like footsteps of a terrible beast. The thing came to the side of the ships and now it’s form was illuminated by the candlelight which seemed meager in comparison to this magnificent light. It’s frame was a skeleton of metal joints and long limbs which supported a head like a telescope of light. It stood on two long stilts of black. Hands like mighty vices hung from his unnatural arms. The mechanical wonder gazed down at them and everyone was in silent fear.
Captain Marek was the first to speak.
“Bêlit, get y’ur crew to y’ur ship.” he said.
“Aye, Scarlets, to the ship.” Captain Bêlit said and she and her crew slowly walked over to the starboard rail and across the bridge.
“Men, untie the ships and get to y’ur stations. Match-Rat, when I give the word, tell Griffin to start ‘is bellowin” Captain Marek said.
Match-Rat went to the steps leading to the hull; close enough to yell down to Griffin and close enough to hear the captain. From this point, he could still see the great light which loomed over the deck.
Captain Marek called out to the light. “What are you?” he said with a hand on his sword, still sheathed, but ready if necessary. The creature did not speak at first, but then with a great creaking of metal it kneeled down level with the deck of the ship as if to get a closer look at the captain.
With a voice as alien as the light which shone on their deck, the metallic entity said: “I am the Master Light, Muen.”