Ravens Cove – Prologue

Ravens Cove
The Supernatural Battle for a Small Alaska Town
An Iconoclast Thriller Book One
By Mary Ann Poll
America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers

The Legend Wakes
May, 1778

Seaman Sweeney Giles lay stock-still in a thicket beneath a stand of leaf-bare birch and willow trees. The full white moon silhouetted the HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, spotlighting their open masts.

Even at this distance, he heard the familiar sound of the ships’ sails snapping and the halyards thumping in an increasing wind. The Resolution bobbed and pulled on its restraining anchors, mimicked seconds later by its consort ship, ready to be gone from this dark place.

“They’s be looking fo’ me fo’ sure,” he muttered to the twisted stump of a long-dead, rotten-smelling birch. Its offspring, along with several anemic spruces, surrounded the stump.

“Mr. Giles,” a far-away voice called.

Holding his breath, Sweeney, or Tooth, as the rest of the crew so nastily nicknamed him because of his large, protruding, white tooth, pushed up on both hands to locate the author of the voice.

“He’s close. I’m havin’ to move soon.”

Sweeney inched up to the stand of birch and spruce trees, peeking through late-autumn branches. Branches which moments ago danced in the calm breeze, snapped backward and slapped him as the wind increased.

“They’d want to be settin’ sail soon.”

“Mr. Giles,” a different crew member’s voice echoed through the wraithlike moonlight.

Boots cracked the dry leaves and grasses no more than thirty feet to his right.

Sweeney shoved, hands slipping as dry leaves gave way to slimy wet ones. He landed nose first in the decay. He jerked his head up and listened, fearing he would be discovered.

No footsteps.

Sweeney peeked through the tree branches. Faceless silhouettes dotted the landscape, black against the silver spotlight of the moon. The countryside to his right and left consisted of dead grass and marsh, which did well to hide his tracks when he ran to the thicket.

“But not now,” he whispered.

His shipmates were so close now, the crack of the dead grass would only serve to reveal his whereabouts. He jerked his head to the rear. An opaque mist shrouded the landscape behind him.

“I know not where I are goin’, but I ain’t gettin’ caught. I are free at last!”

Sweeney’s past flooded his mind. At 17, he knew far too much about the fear of pain and death. Guy Tillmooth saw to it. Every day of Sweeney’s young life testified to it. But the torture ended with the death of the old man.

Sweeney smiled when he remembered the day his father decided to lash him again—this time with the mare’s halter.

Sweeney didn’t remember grabbing the pitchfork hanging inside the broken-down shanty of a barn. He did recall small shafts of light illuminating Guy Tillmooth’s hulk and the old man’s face—sweat running into the wild, excited red eyes.

All the beatings, all the venomous words spewed at him, all the preaching and drinking and beatings his mum took in his place, crashed through his brain in a vengeful wave.

He lunged.

The pitchfork caught Guy Tillmooth in his gut, throwing the elder Tillmooth backward into the hay, dirt, and filthy wreckage of the barn.

“Glory, killin’ him were good,” Tooth muttered, remembering the satisfying pop of flesh giving way to the fork. His smile widened when he thought of the smell of blood mixed with dirt, sweat and hay.

Winded and shaken, he leaned on the wall, a hand still on the pitchfork in his father’s belly.

Recovering from the initial shock, Guy Tillmooth howled, stood, and made an unsuccessful attempt to pull the tool out of his body.

“But I are a vigrus one, Mum always said.” In actuality, the fear of his father’s rage renewed the younger Sweeney’s strength.

He loosed the fork and drove it in again.

“His bones cracked and the old screw gurgled a yell and dropped to his knees. He weren’t able to speak, so ‘is eyes pleaded with me to spare him.”

Tooth’s sneer widened, the white dagger shining from his lips. “Old fool! He ne’er showed me any niceties. Turn about’s fair play!

“So I done him off, then. I kicked the old man’s head so hard
it cracked.”

Guy Sweeney fell with a satisfying thud.

Tooth sprung off the ground and came down, both feet, on his father’s head.

“It popped like a melon,” Sweeney whispered, reveling in the memory.

All too soon to his taste, the cold reality of survival replaced the headiness of vengeance. Sweeney ran to the old, run-down shack of a house, grabbed a butcher knife, a shirt, a meat pie and never looked back.

When night fell, a shaking, tired and disheveled Sweeney slept in the woods. Before sunrise, he bolted upright, hands to his throat and gasping for breath.

The dream had been too real for his liking—he could still feel the noose tight on his wiry neck.

“Think, Tillmooth, think.” Tooth banged his forehead with the palm of his hand, then stopped.

“I knows what I must do!”

Sweeney Tillmooth had none too much for brains but made up for it in a shrewdness born from the desire to live.

He found his salvation in a Mr. John Giles at the local pub on the docks.

“Couldn’t help but overhear,” Tooth said.

Giles turned his head left to scrutinize this stranger. Repulsed by the razor-toothed grin, he swung around on the bar stool and concentrated on the dark ale in front of him.

The disgust in the man’s eyes did not escape Tooth. The rage rose. He took a deep breath to relax.

“None to ‘appy ’bout sailing, huh?”

“None. No way ’round though,” Giles growled. “Can’t find no other job. The family ‘as to eat.”

“Bad way. Leavin’ those ya love for so long.”

Giles grunted. He looked at Tooth again. “What ‘appened to yer teeth?”

“Bad luck. Just bad luck.”

Giles scrutinized Tooth’s mouth. “Mus’ be hard.”

The rage simmered to a boiling point. Sweeney hated pity more than he hated a beating.

“’Deed.” He choked out.

They sat in silence, each in his own thoughts.

Sweeney glanced sideways at Giles. “Buy you another?”

Giles lit up like a candle. “’Deed.”

Drunk in no time, Giles leaned unsteadily on Tooth, and walked into the night with a newborn murderer, hungry for his next victim. Late and quiet they rounded a building to “relieve his self,” as Tooth explained.

Giles turned his back to give Tooth some privacy.

Now’s my chance.

In one fluid movement, Tooth removed the knife and slit Giles’ neck. He watched Giles drop to the ground in a puddle of blood, thrashing and gurgling in the final throes of death. He felt the power of new life fill him as he watched Giles, eyes glazed in death, become just a bag of flesh.

“Thanks much, Johnny boy.” Sweeney smiled, black gums absorbing moonlight as shadows absorb light.

Tooth became John Sweeney Giles and joined the Resolution crew. The crew called him Sweeney when they weren’t demeaning him as Tooth.

He became a sailor under Captain Cook to run as far as he could from the memory of the drunk, horrid man who fathered him.

Irony raised its ugly head when he again faced a similarly cruel man in Captain Cook.

The Captain seemed fine enough in the beginning but became a raging lunatic during Sweeney’s first voyage. Sweeney cleaned the decks so many times a day his hands blistered and bled.

No one ate or drank until Cook’s specifications were satisfied. When they were allowed to eat, the crew was forced to consume walrus meat, which Sweeney could barely choke down and which caused half the crew to vomit.

To make matters worse, Cook’s obsession with the Northwest Passage endangered everyone. He would not rest. Cook sent the crew into storming seas in small boats at all hours of the day or night, anytime his crazed mind filled with fear of something unknown.

“Mr. Giles! Mr. Giles, where are you?”

The voices brought Sweeney back to the present. They’s close. I’s gotta move— and fast. I’s can’t let ‘em catch me, I be hanged fo’ sure!

Using the palms of his hands, Sweeney pushed and slithered backward in the ravine, putting distance between him and the voices.

Pain seared through Sweeney’s left calf. He stifled the shocked scream. Any noise would reveal his location.

He rolled to his side and searched the darkness.

A blood-red arrowhead protruded from his left knee. The deep cut ran from right below the knee to his ankle. Torn pants gave way to a view of torn skin and muscle. He yanked the arrowhead from his leg.

Sweeney examined the cause of his pain in the pale moonlight.

“Ye ain’t red at all. Ye be glowing!” he whispered.

Tooth examined the arrowhead more closely. “What be you? Are you black magic like the fools at ‘ome are feared of? If you be, I ain’t afeared.”

He stared into the rock. It be beatin’ like a heart! he thought.

With each throb, it emitted a brilliant violet light pulling Sweeney into another world. Visions filled his head. He saw himself king of this barren land, all bowing to him.

“No one here to bow,” he said to the stone.

Sweeney shook his head and remembered the wound. He looked at his leg, gauging how much of his shirt he’d need for the bandage.

Only a purple scar from calf to knee, the color of the pulsing stone, remained.

“I’m gettin’ crazy as Cook,” he muttered.

For the first time in a long time, Sweeney felt terror, an emotion he purposely buried in his subconscious long ago.

“Foolishness,” he muttered.

He heard the footsteps of the sailors even closer.

He scurried backward again; the ground beneath him collapsed. Sweeney found himself in an uncontrollable fall.

I be dead fo’ sure, he thought. He tensed, squinted his eyes shut and waited for the end.

He stopped with a loud whack.

A misshapen hag of a tree stood between him and the precipice. Its branches vibrated from the impact of Sweeney’s weight.

“Thank ye!”

The trunk creaked and bent forward, its bony, dark fingers reaching for him.

“Crazier by the minute,” he lamented.

Sweeney checked for injuries. He recoiled in pain when he tested his right foot. The left, however, possessed unexplained strength and stabilized him on the sloping path.

He heard his shipmates still calling his name. Relief flooded him when he realized they were much farther away. To his surprise, the chasm hid him from the rest of the world. In fact, the silence in the ravine reminded him of midnight in the woods close to his home in England.

“I have no ‘ome,” he said. “Sweeney Tillmooth is no more.”

Tooth made a careful turn, so as not to slip again, and looked into the blackness. His right hand pulsed. He unclenched his fingers and smiled to know he still held his newfound treasure.

Dark purple, black, and red swirled through the stone.

“How can this be?” he asked.

The rock’s swirling colors hypnotized Sweeney. He again saw himself the king of this land; the one who they—whoever they were—were waiting for.

He saw his subjects bowing before him, bringing him gifts, bringing him blood gifts, human blood gifts. Sweeney’s mouth widened into a sinister grin. A sneer made even more menacing by the weapon of a front tooth protruding from his upper lip.

He returned from this glorious vision to see a ball of pulsing light, reflecting the stone’s colors, floating toward him.

Sweeney swirled around, using his left foot to scuttle up the ravine.

He slid back to the hag tree, an invisible magnet pulling him farther into the black maw of the gorge.

Trapped, he thought.

The orb bobbed up and down and in a slow, steady pace, advanced toward him, just as his mum said it did when you, “Is gettin’ ready to die.”

“No! The will-o-the-wisp tale is the rambles of a crazy woman, livin’ too long with the devil-man Guy Tillmooth.”

He pushed with his foot again and slid back to the hag tree. He fell, spread-eagle on the ground, his good foot against the trunk.

The orb came closer; Sweeney gazed deep into its light. His brow furrowed, then he relaxed. The orb is my friend.

Counting his beloved treasure, he made two friends today. More than my whole life.

This one confirmed he would be king and the One. He saw it reflected in the purple, red, and black pulsing inside the dirty yellow light. It stopped advancing and hovered over his chest. Its pulse and his were in rhythm.

“Sweeney Tillmooth, you will have all the power, all the respect you have always known you deserved. You will prey on the weak, destroy the ones who think they are powerful and consume them to make you even stronger.” The being dripped yellow light into Sweeney’s welcoming heart.

Tooth felt cold; all emotion drained from him.

The creature pulled its members out of his heart, made a two-fingered hand and pointed him deeper into the ravine. The jaundiced digits shot ochre light out into the chasm of darkness.

Below him, copies of the hag tree lined the path.

“I see my new home!”

Tooth’s new subjects smiled in welcome, exposing sharp, white teeth and flashing red eyes.

He took a timid step forward, stopped and looked over his shoulder.

A small voice warned him away, nagging at him to return to his ship and go home.

“This is my ‘ome; my futurity,” he announced. “Who cares if they hear? I’s safe now and could kill them all. Come for me, my mates.”

Tooth beckoned with his finger, realizing it oozed the yellow bony light. He looked at his chest and recognized it no longer. It seeped yellow, black, and red, which made its way down his stomach, splitting and flowing down both legs. He watched the slimy ebony substance absorb the mesmerizing colors.

A twig snapped.

Tooth spun around and faced the head of the path. He surveyed the darkness. As clear as if it were day, he saw a snow rabbit, turning white for the coming winter.

“A sacrifice!” He seized and devoured it. The satisfying crunch of the bones and the juicy organs refreshed him. To his delight, he also tasted its fear. The terror empowered his soul.

“Yes, come, my mates. Ye’d taste good ‘ndeed.”

He started forward.

A brilliant blue light filled the darkness.

One foot poised to step through the arch, he stopped in midstride. Tooth squinted, then covered his eyes with both hands as the glow intensified.

The fire-blue light shot toward him.

Tooth fell to his knees.

“Sweeney Tillmooth do not go in.”

The voice rushed toward him, a cascade of thunder and music flowing over him.

“You can still return to the living.”

“Who are ye. What are ye?” Tooth croaked.

The gooey yellow membrane retreated to a few feet behind him.

“Tell it to go! He is not your friend,” it hissed.

“I am Raphael, a messenger of the One who was, Who is, and Who is to come! Turn back, Sweeney Tillmooth.”

Sweeney considered.

The small voice inside of him spoke again. Sweeney, abide me, turn back, it pleaded.

Sweeney danced, his weight on one foot then the other.

“I needs to think.” He smacked his forehead with the butt of his hand in a one-two rhythm.

The yellow being shot pencil-thin tendrils into his brain and whispered, “Remember the constant beatings, the verbal and physical lashings. On you, your mum. All because you were given a drunkard as a father. “The One this angel speaks of made you Guy Tillmooth’s son.

“I am Gambogian,” the voice hissed through the membrane. “I will give you this land. I will give you power.”

The voice bounced through Sweeney’s mind, injecting malevolent thoughts and visions.

Hatred rose in Sweeney like a submerged buoy rising to the top of the ocean.

“Where were this One when I were a boy? Where?” he screamed.

Gambogian pulsed closer to Sweeney, caressing his hatred.

Raphael spoke. “Always there, Sweeney, watching, loving. He does not will any should perish! You can still choose life.”

Tooth considered. I murdered my own father, another sailor and a rabbit, if I’s can murder a rabbit.

“You can rule this land or hang. Choose!” Gambogian snarled.

“I will not hang! Out of the way,” Tooth said, trembling, “I said out of the way! I have chosen to never be abandoned by your God again!”

“As you wish.”

The blue-white light dulled, and Raphael shot to the sky like a rising star in the night.

“Good, Sweeney,” Gambogian said, “excellent. Now, go through the doorway to your new kingdom and claim the power which awaits!”

Sweeney looked toward the trees arching above the entrance to the flat bottom of the ravine. His hands sweated, heart raced. He hesitated.

“Go through, now!”

“My own kingdom,” Sweeney declared and pulled himself up to his full height and stepped forward.

The darkness absorbed all light. Sweeney felt something in front of him. Sulfur and decay penetrated his nostrils.

The presence growled, then laughed.

“Who’s th-th-there?”

“I always answer a dying request,” it snarled. “My name is Iconoclast, and I am your destiny.”

Sweeney heard the moist sounds of lips being licked.

Sweeney turned and ran, but the darkness engulfed him. Somehow, he made it to the doorway, clawing at the hag trees surrounding it.

He screamed for help, but his shrieks were silent in the evil one’s lair. He continued to yell as he felt the first bite sear through the scar now pulsing an iridescent purple. His silenced screams continued for hours.

When Iconoclast finished eating Sweeney’s soul, flesh, and mind, he belched in satisfaction.

The arrowhead lay on the ground.

Iconoclast scooped it up. His fingers curled around it.

“Good, good Pet,” Iconoclast said.

The stone throbbed black to black and purred.

Gambogian joined Iconoclast and Pet. “Pathetic humans! Give one an empty promise, and we easily take a life.”

They laughed as Iconoclast tossed the shell of Sweeney Tillmooth to the top of the ravine. It fell with a sloshy thud.

Sweeney’s shipmates found his remains. They ran. They ran as if pursued by the hounds of Hades.

None of the crew heard the growls and sniggers echoing around them when they sprinted back to the boats along the shore. And if asked, the crew would say they never found Sweeney. He just vanished.

Yet all who saw him would be forever haunted by the hideous image of Sweeney’s body seeping jaundiced yellow from his pores, black and purple goo from the eyes, and a skeleton’s smile on his face—and missing his prized, sharpened tooth.

Sweeney’s final resting place never grew a living thing. The earth lay tarred and reeked a fetid odor as a warning for all who came near. It became known as Raven’s Ravine—The Haunted Place.

Mary Ann Poll, America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers, is the award-winning author of the Iconoclast series. Mary Ann draws from her real-life experiences, as well as her imagination, to create supernatural thrillers