The following free online ghost story appears in my novel Evermore. It is told by a professional storyteller to a crowd, playing on the fears that the nearby forest is haunted. It is also the basis for a book, The Screaming Moragul (Talon Stormbringer), named after Jonn’s ghost ship.
While it’s always been known that great danger may lurk along our path, and that sometimes such peril comes from beyond the grave, it is only of late that we’ve known such things lie upon the sea, too. The Ghost Ship of Jonn is more feared than even the pirates of Avaway or the Katani Fleet, for one cannot reason with the dead – not when what they want is far dearer to them than your life.
The twin pirate ships of Jonn and his brother always descended together upon their victims, plundering what they wished without fear. But when Jonn learned of an especially wealthy ship, loaded down with gold and other treasures, he decided the time had come to end this partnership. And so it was that he and his crew set sail in the cover of darkness, unaware that his kin followed, having learned of the scheme. When Jonn captured the prized vessel, he took treasure and lives alike, leaving the ship adrift with its dead. Neither he or his joy were long for this world, however, for his brother came on with vengeance filling his sails. The grappling hooks flew beside arrows as Jonn’s vessel and crew were caught fast in the grip of death. Jonn’s men were cut down one by one and thrown dead into the sea, a fire lighting the ship in the night as the treasure changed hands. Jonn was tied to the mast of his brother’s ship as his own roared first in flames, and then in a swell of water that consumed it as it sank beneath the waves. His brother’s twisted laughter did little to calm him as they sailed on, stopping on a sandy beach before dawn.
There, on an island, his brother set in motion a terrible thing that has plagued all who sails the seas since. After burying the treasuer in the sand, he beheaded Jonn and poured his blood over the prize before tossing the corpse into the sea, placing Jonn’e head on the ship’s prow. A ghost ought to prevent any from obtaining this prize, he reasoned. But when Jonn’s ghost saw his own visage approach, he’d let those aboard land safely when only horror would meet all others. His brother then set sail without regret, which was not long to last.
No one knows how much time passed before a ship finally landed on that dreadful shore, or even what truly happened, but the first account of something unholy on the seas came from a half-mad sailor. It seems his ship and crew were becalmed one dark night, resting quietly on the peaceful ocean, not a breeze to stir their sails. The moonlight glistened on the ocean, the scene still like a painting. Then the lookout cried out that a ship sailed toward them, its sails filled with a wind that touched them not. Understanding of how this could be dawned in the most terrible of ways as the ship neared, for standing upon its deck, watching from its yard arms, and steering it through the night were all manner of things from beyond the grave. Sightless eyes stared greedily at them, a ghost of fearsome hate whispering orders to his crew, the voice slithering down their spines. Howls of hate from across the sea echoed their cries of fear.
The living dead came upon the ship that, though becalmed, knew naught but terror. Many a sailor cannot swim so that only one flung himself into the sea; it was to be their doom, for Jonn took their souls for his and left the ship adrift in the night as he sailed away into darkness, searching for revenge still. Tales of such abandoned ships, corpses without a mark upon them, soon sailed through port towns on a crest of fear, dashing the peace of those on land and sea alike, for those who took to the waves were even less likely to be heard from again.
Lest you believe you are safe here ashore, know that they have come to port before. Rumor has it the ship sailed straightaway over the land, slicing through the earth like the sea from which it came, felling the life before its prow like a scythe through wheat. On the winds of vengeance did Jonn seek his brother in a brothel known to both, and all who were cavorting that night perished as the undead swept into port. Only the sun rose the next morning, for all else lay still forever more.
When Jonn’s brother learned of this, he rightly fled far, some speculating he retrieved his treasure first on whatever isle is lies, but who knows what horror Jonn left in his place? Surely he’d let no one have the prize for which he was damned. The ghost ship has sailed onward since, always searching, always sailing, always stealing souls. Only one pirate seeks such a treasure, having no use for any other save that of his missing skull, for until some part of him is buried rightly, he will sail onward forever more.
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- Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge – Costume SuperCenter (costumesupercenter.com)
- Erie pirate ship almost ready to set sail (goerie.com)