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Shadowflame: Prisoner


by brains03

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Dearest Reader,

A long time ago I wrote stories involving the exact same character you are about to read about (or so I assume you are, you've made it this far, haven't you?). To keep this relatively brief, this story is about said character, but you may consider this a franchise 'reset', if you will. This is to say, none of the character development, events, history, or other fun things that happened during the two other stories I wrote ever actually happened.

And with that unpleasantness behind us, I invite you to enjoy.

Yours truly,

Brains

Her sword sat just feet away from her, sitting propped against the wall atop a wooden crate. If it wasn't for the tight leather bonds keeping her tied up like some filthy pig, she knew that she could get her hands on it and get sweet revenge on the miserable wretches responsible for her situation. But this time, she was sure her goose was cooked; her simmering desire, almost greed, for wealth had lead her too far astray this time.

      She was Shadowflame Darkhunter, an enigmatic Shadow Shoyru who made her fortunes as a treasure hunter. Her only major possession was her beloved Shoyru Sword, an ancient blade with a past as murky as hers and an edge that could cleave the air faster than wind. And it sat, just out of reach, her only salvation from the circumstances in which she found herself.

      Shadow was below deck on an enormous pirate schooner, Tempest Tradewinds, in one of the many secondary cargo holds. Around her, stacked to the roof, was crate after crate of treasure looted from coastal villages and tradeships with foolish captains. Inside a crate in this very hold, she was sure, was the item she sought. Inside one of these blasted boxes was the crystal tiara of the High Faerie Hera, a kind soul who had lead the Faerie people untold ages ago. Inside her goal was ensconced next to stolen underwear and a bottle of grog. It was beginning to wear on every thought she formed.

      The leather that bound her so helplessly on the rolling floor must have been treated with some kind of solution to strengthen it, she decided. Otherwise she would have been free and away with the prize hours ago. As it stood, she was getting raw around her wrists and any hope she had of wriggling to the sword was fading fast.

      But her silent pleas for help had gone unanswered. The sword just sat, gleaming, on the crate. Gleaming. Was it gleaming happily? Was it shining angrily? Shadow didn't know. What she did know, however, was that she would soon go mad with frustration, and that alone was enough to set her wriggling again.

      As a treasure hunter, she found that she had become something of a realist. And her realistic side was telling her that there was no way for her to effect her own escape. All that Shadow could really count on now was either something in the way of extraordinarily dramatic, or extraordinarily lucky.

      Tempest Tradewinds rolled and bucked again, flinging Shadow across the floor into another crate. The treasure inside bumped together, and it sounded an awful lot like it was nothing but dubloons. Somehow, Shadow saw, her sword had managed to stay in the exact same position it had always been in. It appeared now that at least the tip of the blade had been embedded in the wood. She groaned in mixed pain and frustration.

      Time was running out.

      Above deck, it had become obvious to the crew that a horrendous storm was brewing on the horizon, just beyond Krawk Island. Where they were headed. Of course.

     The captain, a great grimy beast of a Blumaroo who answered to the name of Prexan Briggs, had begun to fear that they would not outrace the storm by any stretch. It was already abundantly clear to him that it would hit them well before they could make port. And what scared the Captain reduced his crew to sick blubbering messes. He spun the wheel around to adjust for the current, angling for home as fast as he could.

     "Aye, fight me, Lady Ocean, FIGHT ME!" he roared to the sky.

      Waves were pulsing and throbbing, rolling across the water in great walls of water. So far they had levelled out somewhat before reaching the ship, but Briggs knew that they were soon to cross the threshold into what he liked to call 'flavor country'. Because he ate salty waves like this for breakfast. And a nice roast for dinner if he could manage it.

      The first mate approached him and saluted.

      "Cap'n, we've got trouble ahead!"

      "Aye lad," grinned Briggs menacingly. "What lead ye to this mighty fine conclusion of yours?"

      "Er... " the mate gulped, "Gouch in the crowsnest says he's spotted debris from the old Maraquan whirlpool dead ahead an' we're aimin' right for it!"

      "Well'n give Gouch a stern word, because this here lady of ours' don't be turnin' on a dime," Captain Briggs shot back, gripping the wheel in iron fists. "We're gonna head right through it real quick so if I don't sees the both of ye out front with poles to deflect debris you're going over the side the lot of ye and I ain't comin' back for ye."

      The mate saluted again and scampered off to locate Gouch and two stout poles. Prexan Briggs chuckled to himself and clutched the control tighter as they crossed over into 'flavor country'. Immediately the ship rolled up one side of a wave and dropped down the other side into the trench, which prompted several sailors to grip nearby ropes and bits of wood. Two who had nothing else to hold grabbed each other and started calling for their mothers.

      "Quiet down there, you two, yer mothers ain't no reason to be out in a squall such as this!" Briggs yelled. "Snap together or ship out when we reach port, cuz'n I don't need crewmates who can't handle a breeze!"

      The two saluted and began to help tie down the sails tighter as it began to rain.

      "Terry, Nott, Albrech, grab some rope and secure the cannons! If they break loose it's yer pay or yer life! Yuri, Kaylan, Dula, Muffinpaws, get in the rigging and check the pulleys! If they break loose we may as well jump off the ship because we'll have better chances of makin' land that way! And for goodness sakes, Atrus, get some pants on!"

      Tempest Tradewinds began climbing the other side of the wave, flying high into the air with its flag waving frantically on the mast. Briggs could see the Maraquan wreckage Gouch had reported some ways off, throwing itself about in the turbulent water. The wind was picking up and the black clouds over Krawk Island had spread well past. To make port now would be impossible. It was enough to hope that the storm would blow far enough past Krawk Island by the time they arrived that they could throw anchor and find a pub post-haste.

      Briggs' crew gritted their teeth and hunkered down for what was sure to be a ferocious and deadly fight against nature.

      Shadow felt a rough shudder pass through the ship as it passed from relatively calm waters to the choppy waves of the storm's wind. It threw her back across the hold, and in a strike of unusual fortuity, into the crate upon which her sword was perched. It came loose from the wood and fell over the side, slicing apart the leather cord that bound her legs, arms, and wings in one fell blow.

      Her freedom came at a price, however, as the blade cut neatly through her tunic in two places and left several seemingly shallow cuts all along her smooth black skin before tumbling to the wooden floor with a clang. A yell echoed from the hall outside to check the hold, so she flipped over and held her limbs beneath as though she were still hog-tied. A pirate Krawk poked his head through the door and glanced at her. He could see nothing wrong, so he began to stick his neck in further. He immediately pulled it out again as the ship rolled and flung a crate of treasure towards the door. None of the crates had been tied down in the lesser holds, and they were now bouncing around all across the ship. The flung box exploded in a crash of wood and gold, proving that Shadow had not been wrong about the dubloons.

      She rolled back over and grabbed her sword as more crates slid across the shifting floor. In the same motion she nabbed a handful of golden dubloons and shoved them into a pouch that was located on the belt that held on her tunic. Money was always welcome, especially when borrowed from fellow outlaws. She winced as the cuts down her back twinged, reminding her that now was not the time to sit around and dig for gold.

      The Krawk pushed a tentative eye to a crack in the door again and yelped in alarm as another crate sideswiped the wooden planks and ripped it right off its hinges. He saw at once that Shadow had freed herself and drew steel, hesitantly stepping into the maelstrom that was the cargo hold.

      Shadow ignored him and pried the lid off the nearest crate. Nothing but statuettes and a few coins. The coins disappeared into the pouch but the rest sat there as she moved on. Her pursuer did not look at all happy to see her taking plunder, so he advanced quicker. She kept searching, finding everything from heretical scrolls about faeries to vast quantities of fake paintbrushes.

      Finally she located the crate with the tiara in it, right next to a bottle of fine grog. She snatched it out of the wooden box and dove over top as it slid across and pinned the Krawk against the wall. He swore violently but could not free himself.

      Here at last was the one thing she needed to locate Neopia's ultimate treasure. At last! She gave a cry of joy, then turned back to view the unlucky Krawk.

      "There's grog in that box, I suggest you use it," Shadow told him over the roar of crashing waves and breaking boxes.

      The pirate reached in and uncorked the bottle sadly, taking a long draught from it. He may as well enjoy it, because when Briggs got to him about this... IF Briggs got to him about this, he'd be on an island languishing in the sun until -poof- he was dead. Or rescued, but that was unlikely.

      With a final nod to the poor sailor, Shadow dodged out into the hall and took up blades with the second guard. He had only a dagger, but put up a tremendous fight until Shadow gave a yell of frustration and threw a chair at him.

      He ducked, but caught the edge of the leg on his shoulder, forcing him to toss the knife to his opposite hand. He parried Shadow's next few blows, leaving a small cut across her left arm. She swung the Shoyru Sword haphazardly past his head in anger, slicing the knifeblade in two. Without hesitation, she walked past him, slamming him into the wall so hard he passed out.

      She located the hatch to the deck without any trouble after that, until it occurred to her that they were in a storm and that to 'just fly off' as she had planned was unlikely to prove so easy. So that meant she may have to fight her way off the deck, if she couldn't get over the wind. The pirates were going to have to choose which was more important to them- keeping the ship sailing or keeping her under lock and key.

      Briggs felt it when the crates in the hold began to cut loose and fly about deep within his ship. Or rather, he felt it when the untied crates began to fly about deep within his ship. Because there was no doubt that his crew hadn't bothered to lash the booty tight. No doubt at all.

      "Tyson, get yer soggy hind end down to the secondary holds and lash some of those crates down before we end up swimming in more gold than water!"

      Tyson, thus singled out, headed for the hatch to below. Before he could make it, the small door flung open and a dark figure shot out into the wind. It was buffeted about like a ragdoll, and finally gave up, returning to the deck. Three pirates abandoned their posts instantly to draw swords and investigate.

      Briggs knew instantly that it was the prisoner, Blackskin. She had, naturally, refused to tell him her real name. That little lady had almost ripped him off of a lovely piece of his collection before the first mate had snagged her digging through the crate. Personally he was interested as to how the blazes she'd gotten onto his ship and into his holds undetected, let alone back out again.

     He was sure that the Shoyru knew they were in a storm, and that she'd be hoping he wasn't willing to spare the men he'd need to take her back under. Not so; he was almost positive she had his grog with her at the moment. And that stuff was expensive, no question, so she was going to give it back no matter what it took him.

     "GET HER!" he roared to the crew, "No, not you, Gouch! Get back to the stem and pole that debris! Atrus, I want to see you in PANTS! NOW!"

     Captain Prexan Briggs had never lost a ship to a storm, ever. There had been times where it had been close, yes, yet here he was on the same ship he'd always sailed. But now he could feel his control on his rig slipping. If the crew didn't take that blasted Blackskin out soon he'd have to let her go. His blue fur was matted to his body as he tried to see through the increasing rain, and within moments thunder and lightning had started up as well.

     He began to contemplate what kind of horrible torture he could inflict on Blackskin for the trespass aboard, and theft she had undoubtedly committed, on his ship.

     And then he saw what he knew would be the most unlikely, and probably fatal, accidents of his career.

     Shadow was surrounded on all sides, no matter how much she ducked and dove around, parrying a dozen skilled swords at once. One unfortunate fellow without pants kept wandering through the fight muttering to himself and cursing loudly. The rain made her already slick skin untouchable, so she could not be grabbed. But she also couldn't grip the deck of the ship at all.

     The cuts on her back had apparently been deeper than she thought, because they were screaming in protest with every acrobatic she performed to get out of the way of an incoming blade.

     Shadow dropped into a crouch, the tiara safely in her tunic, and struck out with her feet. A half-dozen pirates dropped to the wooden deck as her foot swept underneath them, levelling the playing field somewhat. She was in the midst of dispatching another three or four when the ship raced over the crest of the wave and flew silently down the side, crashing into the water again and gliding back up recklessly. A piece of the Maraquan debris was flung from the water, up over the sails and right into a pulley near the top of the mast. It snapped loose and flapped in the air along the rope it was tied to. Instantly the sails began to sag and lose support, sliding downwards.

     Shadowflame Darkhunter was no fool. She knew at once that the loss of the sails had doomed them all. Maybe she could get off because she had...

     Wings. Briggs had nobody on the crew with wings. Why sail when you could fly, honestly? In this kind of weather to send a grounded creature up there in order to reattach the pulley was nothing short of a death sentence. Now there were certainly pirates aboard his ship he wouldn't mind sending up, but this was a very serious problem and sending somebody to die was not an appealing thought. Especially when he was about to sleep amongst the fishes himself.

     But that prisoner girl, the Shoyru, Blackskin. She had wings. It was going to cost him a bottle of grog, but she could get up there and reattach that rope. Then the crew could pull the sails back up and they would be home free.

     "Men, stand down!" he bellowed, holding desperately now to the helm of his ship.

     He saw the girl look confusedly at him.

     "Shoyru! Shoyru, I have a proposal for ye!"

     She tilted her head at him, and leaped into the air, gliding over to him in the rain. She was looking rough.

     "I'm listening," Blackskin said to him, her sword held at the ready, watching him as he talked.

     "I have a proposal. If we don't get that pin and pulley back on the mast, nobody gets out of this alive!"

     "So?" she replied, "Just send one of your own precious crewmates up the rigging to fix it."

     "Ye may have noticed, Blackskin, that none of my 'precious crewmates' have wings. To send them up without them right now, t'would be death. What I suggest is that you use yer wings to fly on up and put us aright. I'll let ye go once we reach port, no harm no foul, my life for yers, on my honor."

     "I could just fly away and leave you here," she challenged half-heartedly.

     He called her bluff. "And leave an entire ship of goods, treasures, and fine men to die in the ocean, forgotten? I would hardly think ye've the guts to do such a thing, let alone the ability in this wind."

     She drooped a bit, but grinned despite herself.

     "Fair enough. Tell me how to repair it and I'll do it."

     With a rope firmly attached to a belaying pin on the deckrail, Shadow ascended. It was a small matter to snatch the rope with the pulley on it into her grip, but it was another thing entirely to bring it under control as the mast bobbed up and down beside her. With no small effort she finally managed to keep the pulley from sliding down the rope out of reach again. Flying carefully, Shadow grabbed onto the mast next to the deep holes where the rope had come loose.

     She reached into her pouch and removed two nails. Focussing the rudimentary Faerie Magic she'd been taught when she still lived with humans, she willed them to float in the air beside her. They did so, though the effort required to keep them there was draining her quickly. If she didn't get them in quickly she was going to hit the deck from over thirty feet up.

     Focussing again, Shadow placed the pulley against the mast just above its previous position and held it there with magic. At the top and the bottom of the pulley's rig were two holes perfect for the nails to attach it to the mast, but she was flagging at an incredible rate and it wasn't likely she could hold up long enough to hammer them in as planned. With a grunt she used the magic to fling one nail at the wood, crying in anger when it missed its mark. The second nail managed to stick all the way into the top hole and let the pulley hang fairly loosely in the wind and rain. Shadow stopped holding the pulley to the mast and focussed the magic on ripping the first nail out of the wood.

     Unfortunately, her back was hurting more now, screaming in anger at the stress that it was being put under. When the pain distracted her, she began to slip from the mast and back into free air. The nail flipped out of the wood neatly and into the ocean below, prompting another cry of rage and pain from both her and her back. In a herculean effort, she pulled herself back onto the mast again.

     With no time to waste, Shadow pulled a dubloon from the pouch and willed it into a nail shape. It bent willingly enough, but the energy expended in the process weakened her even further. In a final burst of willpower the bent dubloon struck the pulley squarely in the bottom hole, nailing it firmly in place for the time being.

     And, her task done and her energy gone, Shadowflame Darkhunter fell a full thirty-five feet to the hard wooden deck below.

     ^^^

      Though it had definitely not followed the plan she had set out for it at first, she had managed to relieve the ship of its one truly valuable object: the tiara of Hera- along with a considerable amount of gold.

      As far as she knew, Briggs had assumed she was after his bottles of grog and had been greatly relieved when she informed him she had no such intentions. He then proceeded to fling the crewmember he found drinking it off the ship when they made port. He was now convinced that she was a person of noble character and the whole situation had been a silly mix-up. Last she'd heard, he had left the dubloon nail in as a good luck charm- although Shadow was sure it had more to do with the fact he was having trouble getting it out of the mast than anything.

      She smiled. As a treasure hunter she found herself in some interesting situations, but this one took the cake. But the tiara had taken months to track down, and she was sure to find a buyer willing to pay full price for it. And then... and then she would follow the wind into adventure once more.

The End

 
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