Every member of the Seal’s crew was assembled on the deck. Bucc’s eyes drifted across them and upwards towards the full moon above. The usually silver glow was a blood red colour that cast everything in an unsettling light. Even the waves around them seemed muted. The moonspire loomed above them a few feet away from where the Seal was anchored.
A handful of other ships clustered around the moonspire. It was one of the few times that ships would gather without conflict. The moonspires were neutral waters, their protection universally accepted.
The Awakening took place on the bridge of the ship. Only Captain Gus stood there, the crimson light of the moon reflecting brightly across his golden nose. Bucc’s mum was waiting nearby with both Shayla and Namiir resting on either shoulder. Bucc could see flashes of white in the crowd but it was too dense to get a good look at the other children.
Captain Gus raised his hands and the assembled pirates fell silent. The moon inched its way through the sky, finally reaching a position where the moonspire was fully bathed in its light. The pearly white surface became flushed with vivid red that seemed to bleed out into the water.
The captain beckoned for the children to approach the bridge. Bucc was ushered to the stairs by his parents, as were the others. The group climbed the stairs and arranged themselves in a line facing out towards the crew. Each child was presented at the front, with the parents positioned a step behind them.
Bucc felt something touch his shoulders. He looked over to see his parents’ familiars settle into place beside his ears. This was happening across the line, each child guarded by the two familiars that represented their parents. All except for Adward and Jesse, who stood close together and had their father’s small blue hamster nestled in the joint between their arms.
Bucc glanced nervously down the line. As silly as he felt in the clothes, they looked good on the others. Each was slightly different but kept the same general appearance. It was strange to see his friends clean and tidy. Adward was stood up without his usual slouch and there was no trace of ink on his fingers. Jesse’s hair was straight and untangled, and for the first time in Bucc’s memory she didn’t have any dirt or gunpowder smeared across her cheeks. She almost looked like a different person.
“The Moon of Change watches us from the heavens. By its grace we will see a new generation of pirates step forward,” Captain Gus announced. His voice carried easily in the quiet night air.
From a chest at his side, the captain carefully removed a round object that was wrapped in cloth. He unbound it, revealing a clear sphere of glass. One of the crewmen carried a metal stand and placed it in front of the captain. Golden Gus placed the globe into the top of the stand where it caught the moonlight.
The sphere pulled Bucc’s attention to it like a magnet. Reflections warped and twisted as the crimson light filtered through it, creating vague silhouettes that played out unknown scenes. They whispered voicelessly to him, tempting Bucc to reach out and sink into the crystalline depths.
It was an Orb of Awakening. Every pirate ship had one, though no record existed of where they originally came from. Older ships had always seemed to have one, and on new ships they were said to just appear one day. Pirates found few things in the world sacred, but the orbs were treated with the utmost reverence.
“With this Orb of Awakening, the children we have raised and protected will unlock their hidden powers and join us as our brethren,” continued Captain Gus. “Adward Reeds, step forward.” Adward approached the orb as instructed, his face a mask of calm.
“Now, place both hands on the orb and clear your mind. Close your eyes and proudly state the Pirate Code.”
Adward cupped the sphere with his hands and closed his eyes. He stood there in silence for a moment as he tried to clear his mind. His father’s familiar had clung to his shoulder and now ran down his arm to his splayed hands. It lowered its head down and nicked one of his fingers on either hand. Adward barely flinched. Thin trails of blood ran down to the glass which began to pulse excitedly.
“Live free!” Adward declared.
Wind swirled around them, a rainbow of colours appearing and disappearing through the air as the orb and the moonspire flashed in a steady rhythm. All of the colour and light of the world seemed to be drawn into the moonspire, then drained across into the orb. The orb grew blindingly bright, then in an instant, all of the light was transferred into Adward.
Slowly everything returned to normal. The orb didn’t reflect the crimson light of the moon any more but a milky white glow. Adward had an aura of the same colour that burned across his entire body for several seconds before fading.
“Welcome to the crew, Adward Reeds,” Captain Gus announced loudly. “May your affinity with the air guide our sails.”
The crew cheered and clapped, warmly welcoming Adward to their ranks. Somehow he seemed to stand taller than before. Joyful tears glistened in his eyes. He moved to stand beside the captain, facing towards the remaining children rather than standing with them. He wasn’t one of them any longer.
Jesse was called up next. With so many eyes on her she was barely able to function. Her hands shook on the orb, threatening to knock it from its stand, and she swayed perilously where she stood. The process was repeated and this time it was blue flames that enveloped her. Her awakening didn’t calm her nerves, but as she joined her brother with unsteady steps, she seemed to glow with health.
“Welcome to the crew, Jesse Reeds. May your affinity with the water carry us on favourable tides,” intoned Captain Gus as Jesse took her place.
Jim Haddock, then Annie Clyde, went next. For both of them it was a blue light that filled the orb and covered their bodies. Captain Gus welcomed them both then they joined the Reeds siblings.
That left only Bucc alone in the line of children. He tried to steady his breathing but was failing. This was it. His entire future rested on the outcome of the next few fleeting seconds. The thought utterly terrified him.
“Buccaneer Jones,” the captain called out. The words sounded like a death sentence in Bucc’s ears. He stepped up to the orb. His entire body felt numb. It was destiny dragging him forward, not his free will.
He reached out his hands and placed them on the surface of the orb. It was icy to the touch, almost painful against his skin. His eyes were closed but he couldn’t suppress the thoughts that ran amok in his mind, even when he tried to push them away and focus on the tingling of his fingers and the weight of his parents’ familiars on his shoulders. They shifted their positions, making the short journey down his arms to his hands. He braced against the coming pain but still couldn’t help but flinch when the familiars scratched his skin.
A whirlwind of warm light engulfed him. He could feel power coursing through him, bursts of static crackling through his veins. He felt completely weightless and a dizziness danced through his head. There was a warmth in his heart unlike anything he had ever experienced before. It grew hotter until he could barely take the pain. It burned at his core then spread like lava was replacing his blood. He tried to scream but couldn’t make any sound at all.
The pain spread through every inch of him then dragged itself back to his heart like the ebb and flow of the tide. Slowly Bucc’s senses returned to him. He realised that he hadn’t been breathing. The lights had vanished and the orb felt like normal glass. He opened his eyes and blinked uncertainty.
Captain Gus was wide eyed, his mouth open. The crew below them stared in complete silence. Even Adward and Jesse had taken a step back and wore looks of stunned uncertainty. Everything was tinged in a hazy red aura that wasn’t coming from the moon.
The captain opened and closed his mouth a few times before finding any words. Finally he managed to speak, the words falling from his lips numbly.
“Welcome to the crew, Buccaneer Jones. May your affinity with the fire burn our enemies from existence…”