by Laurie Hilburn
Captain James Hook, edge still earning him more than a crown ever could. Out of all of his bastard children, Beatrice was the only one to bow and bide her time.
Gerard was clever, but he could never put his intelligence to proper use, too distracted by sparkling baubles, ancient treasure maps, and impatient harlots. Caxton was blunt, bludgeoning where there should have been deft precision, while his twin Hawes could slice through anything were he not such a spineless whelp, too afraid to complete the cut. Oswin was confident and conceited, thinking himself the main character and never once considering what lurked outside his purview. Though Stroud schemed and scavenged in the shadows, he refused to leave them, rendered impotent by relying on the inept to do his work. And Thormond was a formidable boy at over six feet yet a boy he was and always would be, muscle and might not enough to inspire competent thought, as dim and unreliable as the flickering lamps that decorated Skull Rock Harbor.
Then, there was Beatrice. The only girl. The only daughter. The only bastard who knew better.
Though not strictly defined as a whoreson like the boys, Beatrice still grew up under Hook’s patronage, or what counted for it. As pirate king of Neverland, he saw to his scions as much as he saw to his mistresses: when it afforded him great pleasure and admiration. With a malicious rhythm, Hook would return from plundering with ravaged trophies, wilder women from the Neverland Plains to forest nymphs found in the Neverwood, and he would keep them until they bore his fruit, his legacy, his retribution.
Beatrice was schooled alongside her brothers, taught strategy and politics like her brothers, learned to fight and fence with her brothers—against her brothers. In exchange, Smee paraded each of them around the Jolly Roger and other brigs throughout the Neverseas as evidence of Hook’s laudable progeniture, his ability to shift and shape even the inferior to greatness, and to guarantee—to make sure everyone knew and saw with their own eyes—that Neverland would never go without a Hook to lead their wretched souls.
But he never showed them off so much as to emphasize his mortality. They were still bastard children, after all, and he their king.
When once more, for the last time, the scoundrel from the sky crowed in victory—when the crocodile, always in the periphery, scented something red and familiar, consuming the screaming meal it had so long ago been denied—when the purged remains, meat and bone and one iron hook, sank into the gray depths of the sea, the very one he had for so long claimed as his—the degenerates of Skull Rock Harbor turned to Hook’s bastard children. The unthinkable had occurred. With broken cries, they begged for protection from feral lost boys, shaman trickery, starved mermaids, fairy bewitchment—from the perpetual, unrelenting life of Neverland. Please.
And after Beatrice took her dagger and slit each brother’s throat, one by one, slick and succulent, she crowned herself. Not as bastard, not as daughter, not even as Hook, crooked and cursed by a ticking clock, but as a new name altogether under the skull-and-crossbones flag. Captain Beatrice Dagger, edge still wet with blood.
About the Author
Laurie is an editor by day and a writer by night (when she’s not sleeping, reading, or playing video games, which is always). She’s a Southern transplant without the accent, and attending Emerson College has been her dream since she was 15 and thought it was named after her #1 guy Ralph Waldo (it’s not). She’s kicking and screaming her way into the publishing industry, and stories — writing them, improving them, sharing them, seeing them evolve — are her passion. She can’t wait to tell more.
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