Published today in the UK: The Devil’s Looking Glass.
First few lines:
The merciless sun boiled in a silver sky. Waves of heat shimmered across the seething main deck of the becalmed galleon where seven sailors knelt, heads bowed. As blood dripped from their noses onto their sweat-sodden undershirts, they muttered prayers in Spanish, their strained voices struggling to rise above the creaking of hull timbers flexing against the green swell. Harsh light glinted off the long, curved blades pressed against their necks.
At the sailors’ backs, the grey men waited in silence, still as statues, drawing out the whimpering men’s agony before the swords swept down. Ghosts, not there yet there, their bone-white faces were wreathed in shadow despite the unremitting glare. Oblivious to the sweltering heat, they wore grey leather bucklers, thick woollen breeches, and heavy boots, the fabrics silver-mildewed and reeking of rot.
Captain Juan Martinez de Serrano was kneeling on the forecastle, heavy brows furrowed as he watched the row of seamen. Even now he could not bring himself to look into the terrible faces of the ones who had boarded his ship. Aft of the Spanish vessel, the other galleon’s grey sails billowed and its rigging cracked, although there was no more wind today than there had been for the past three. Serrano lowered his head in desolation. What fools they had been. Though they knew the devils of the Unseelie Court were like wolves, the lure of gold had been too great.