Scarlet Shadow: Secrets and Reunions - Part Seven
Captain Mizzen stared silently at the islands that dotted their destination. He was no sea-faring captain, oh no; he was a Captain of War now. His duty to the Lady Betrayal was simple enough. All he was to do was find the island those stupid Meridellans had fled to and end them... permanently. Although, this had proven harder than anticipated once he and those under his command had found the spot was full of islands, all unmarked on the map.
A fit Blue Lupe strode beside the Desert Shoyru. Mizzen decided to have a spot of fun with the newest addition to his regiment. “Well now, Jeran, what will the Lady Betrayal say once we return, eh?” he jeered. “I’ll bet she’ll be quite mad at you for not informing us how many islands we were supposed to search.”
“I had no knowledge as to which island they were to flee toward,” Jeran hissed. “The Lady Betrayal knows this, and I am sure it will not be I she will be displeased with, should we come back empty-handed.”
Mizzen grit his teeth. “Well, we’re not going to come back empty-handed now, are we? We’re going to find that island, grab that pesky Princess, and return to her immediately!”
“Now you’re merely repeating her orders,” Jeran responded, the red glint in his eyes shining slightly as he watched the Captain squirm in annoyance...
Crystal and Cenoal watched silently from within the forest as the thieves began to come down from the ship. They all had the same strange glint in their eyes. It seemed most likely that they were searching for the main escape camp. Thankfully, they were far from finding it.
Crystal shook her hand while forming a semi-circle. Cenoal shook his head. It was far too risky to try and attack them without planning. He opened and closed his hand thrice, issuing the command he thought best. He saw Crystal’s annoyance, but he knew she’d obey. Silently, the two crept back to their campsite.
Once back in the clearing, the two told all to Shade. “Looks like it was a good thing we decided to camp on this island,” he stated.
“Good?!” Crystal hissed. “If they find us here, we’re dead!”
“Well, it’s better than them finding the main camp, isn’t it?” Cenoal countered.
The Princess was forced to agree. “True, but what exactly can we do to stop them?”
“You’ve got a point there,” Cenoal concurred. “If we try to fly back and warn them, their lookout on the ship’s bound to see us.”
“Do we have any other choice?” Shade questioned.
“I suppose we don’t,” Crystal stated. A grin quickly slid to her lips. “Unless you two want to blow up the ship?”
Cenoal stared at her, truly thinking the Acara had lost her mind. Shade had other thoughts. “Where there’s a ship, there must be cannons.”
Cenoal caught on quickly. “And where there are cannons, there’s gunpowder,” he concluded.
Crystal’s grin grew mischievous. “Here’s what we’ll do...”
Captain Mizzen was growing annoyed. Nothing had been found on the island so far, and his temper was beginning to shorten. He turned on the captain of the fine vessel. “What on this world convinced you to dock HERE?!” he yelled.
The Bruce was speechless, unsure as to what reply he was to give. Jeran answered for him. “I ordered him to dock here,” he replied coolly. “Something’s here, I know it.”
“Oh, and we should all bow to the powerful knowledge of the Champion of Meridell!” Mizzen scoffed.
“Listen, Shoyru, I’m enjoying this as much as-” Jeran stopped. The bushes on the shore had rustled.
“As much as what, Lupe?” Mizzen mocked. He had the Champion speechless now, or so he thought.
As he opened his mouth to say more, Jeran grabbed him by the collar and pulled him down, just as a dagger spun in and dug itself into the mast...
Crystal’s eyes grew wide as she watched a familiar blue Lupe pull the egotistical Captain down to safety. Her whole body shook with realization. Had Cenoal been off by even the tiniest bit, Jeran might have-
“SCARLET!” Cenoal’s voice echoed into her ears. She glanced to her right to see him pursued by a large number of thieves. The Acara stared numbly at him for a moment. Cenoal shook his head, making a sharp turn to where she was...
Cenoal rushed to where the young Princess sat. She was shaken, and he knew very well why. He reached down and grabbed her hand, pulling her up and forcing her into a run. Their plan had been so perfect in concept. All he was to do was lead them all on a wild chase around the island while Crystal set up the ship for some ‘fireworks.’ Now he feared she was too shaken to do a thing.
Right then he made a decision. “You think you can manage my part of the bargain, Princess?” he questioned.
The urgency in the Aisha’s voice seemed to snap Crystal back to reality. Her eyes grew dark. “I think so,” she replied quickly. She chanced a look back at their pursuers. “Won’t they notice you changing direction?”
“We’ll lose them in the woods first. You can get them to follow you again once I’m out.”
Crystal nodded. “I’m so sorry for messing it up...”
Cenoal darted up the ramp of the ship. No one was on the deck at the time, thank goodness. He knew, however, that the sentries were somewhere. He could only hope it wasn’t in the gunpowder room. Voices from below the deck were rising quickly. Cenoal darted behind a stack of crates, not anxious to see who was coming up.
The sentries were above the deck now; he could hear them. Their footsteps were loud and their voices louder. He paid no heed to their conversation. Instead, he busied himself with watching the doors to the deck below. If he timed it right, he would-
“See? Over there! By the tree!” one of the sentries raved.
There were sounds of creaking wood as the other sentry made his way to the first. Assuming they were both looking out, Cenoal took the risk. He ran forward, making a beeline to the doors. His steps were silent as the shadows as he descended the creaky steps to the lower deck.
He drew his saber as he scanned his new surroundings. It was damp and smelled of rotting wood. Cenoal turned his attention to the large door at the end of the level. The door seemed to be made of much better wood than the rest of the ship, so as to assure its waterproof quality. Cenoal smiled. The one place that must always be kept dry was where the gunpowder was stored.
The Aisha quickly ran to the door and opened it wide. The light from one of the portholes caught on metal and a sword thrust forward, barely missing the agile Guild Master. Cenoal had stepped back in time, only to come face to face with the blue Lupe that was the Champion of Meridell.
Jeran’s haunting grin was made evermore intimidating by the strange glint of red in his eyes. “I see you’ve come ready, Thief,” he stated, casting a wry glance at the small pouch strapped to Cenoal’s belt. It contained flint, steel, and a coil of thin, dried vines, perfect for lighting up a soon to be explosion.
Cenoal smiled disarmingly. “Well, looks like you have me there, Jeran,” he stated, twirling his blade in his hand. “Now the question is-” He stood straight with one foot in front of the other, pointing his saber forward as though issuing a challenge. “-are you to stop me?”
Jeran stepped out from the small room, shutting the door behind him. He stood his ground, both feet planted equally upon the floor. He raised his blade, and began the deadly fight with a single swipe from his magnificent sword.
Cenoal brought his saber up to meet the double-edged blade, feeling the full force of the Lupe as he did so. The Aisha was forced to pull his sword back. His hand had felt so much pain in those moments, worrying the thief. If a single blow like that could tire his hand so, then another like it could cripple him. But then again, Cenoal guessed, the Lupe could only execute such a blow a few times in the span of the fight. He just had to keep him occupied, as he so often did with other adversaries, until the Champion exhausted himself.
Wordlessly the two fought on, their faces painted grimly as the light within their battleground began to falter. The sun was setting. Cenoal looked out of the window, allowing his mind to slip for the slightest moment to wonder about what had become of the young Princess. That one moment was all Jeran needed.
Skill had brought this Champion through many a battle, and it was quick learning that had won over many fights. Now he studied the Aisha carefully, not finding any flaws within his movement. As he watched the warrior’s icy blue eyes, it seemed to him as though each move was calculated with the utmost precision. And yet, he was weakening. All the dodging had caused him to slow gradually. The blocks were becoming struggled. The movement of the saber no longer displayed as much care.
Then the lights began to dim and the few golden rays of the sun shone into the deck. Jeran watched as the Aisha’s sharp eyes seemed to loose their concentration. He saw a wondering gaze come upon them. In that one window of opportunity, Jeran lashed out with all his might.
Saber met sword as pain surged through Cenoal’s arm. He held on to the blade for as long as the Champion continued his relentless trust. Finally, when he thought he could bear it no more, he gave one last, desperate shove, putting all his remaining strength into the motion. It worked. Jeran was pushed back, but the saber dropped from Cenoal’s hand.
The Aisha gripped his right hand tightly with his left, falling to his knees. The pain was beyond any he had felt before. He looked up to see Jeran, the spark in his eyes glowing brightly with pleasure. The Champion walked to where he knelt, grinning as he saw how hard Cenoal fought to hide the pain.
The Champion of Meridell lifted up his sword. It came down hard, and Cenoal looked straight at it, as though daring it to do what he knew its master would no doubt command. There was another glint of metal as another blade met the Lupe’s sword. Cenoal smiled. He knew she wouldn’t let him down. A single butterfly sword kept the deadly edge from the Aisha as he dodged quickly, grabbing his sword from the ground with his good hand. All unfolded in seconds.
Crystal withdrew her sword quickly. She had felt the impact of Jeran’s full blow, but only for the crucial seconds Cenoal needed. Now the Champion’s blade was allowed to come down upon the floor of the deck as the two thieves ran back up the steps to the upper deck.
They reached that deck safely. Immediately, however, they stood with backs against each other. The crew was all there, with Mizzen before them. He sneered at them. “Well now,” he jeered, “it seems half of my assignment has been completed.” The Shoyru’s smile was cold, as though stolen hope was all he had to live for. “Soon, you two shall tell me all...”
Crystal knew she had to stall for time. Her voice was clear and unconcerned as she responded to the Captain’s taunts with little torments of her own. “Huh, I doubt that,” she stated. “I mean, you were foolish enough to follow me into the woods, and well, get lost.” She gave a small smile. “Weren’t you?”
The Shoyru grit his teeth as he heard small chuckles from the thieves surrounding him. “You won’t feel as chatty once I’m through with you, Princess,” he hissed, gripping the cutlass that lay by his side.
“I thought you wanted us to tell you all?” Crystal continued, indigo eyes darting about in search of an escape. She found one soon enough – a point where the crew seemed to thin. She clasped her hand twice, then put it up to grab the hilt of one of her swords.
Cenoal caught the quick actions, and knew their meaning. Mizzen, on the other hand, knew nothing, and took the act as a challenge. He drew his cutlass quickly and charged, just as Crystal’s eyes darted to the point they were to escape – the go signal for Cenoal to push forward.
All was confusion as Crystal caught sight of Mizzen. She acted quickly, swooping low and tripping the Shoyru. From there, their fight continued as chaos reigned around them.
Cenoal had to fight his way through a great deal of thieves. The task was challenging due to the forced use of his only good hand. Taken by surprise, the thieves were just swiping at him, not sure what exactly was happening. Cenoal had not chanced a look back, expecting Crystal to be right behind him. Without further thought, he plunged off the gunwale and was soon lifted up by the likes of a Shadow Uni.
Shade smiled at him as the thieves on the ship watched, dumbfounded. Cenoal gave a sigh of relief. Then Shade asked the one thing Cenoal did NOT want to hear. “Where’s Scarlet?!”
Cenoal glanced back at the ship to see the Acara still occupied with her skirmish. Only now, the thieves had turned their attention back to their Captain. They were closing in on her. Cenoal was about to stand, but when he lifted himself from the saddle, he felt pain rush through his arm once more. He knew there was nothing he could do.
Crystal was fully aware of the ever-approaching thieves. She kept them at bay via Mizzen. “Huh, seems you can’t do anything without your crew, eh, Captain?”
Suddenly, a loud chuckling was heard, and all turned to see its source. “She does not fear death,” Jeran stated, twirling his sword in his hand. The blade had been edged into the ship’s hull, explaining the Lupe’s absence. Now he stood there, the red glint Crystal hated so much shinning merrily in his eyes. Jeran ceased toying with his blade. “Allow me this fight, Mizzen,” he continued, “and I shall allow you the privilege of finishing that Aisha yourself.” The Lupe nodded toward where Cenoal and Shade hovered in the sky, far from an arrow’s range.
Mizzen relented, sheathing his cutlass. “It will be as you say, Jeran.”
Jeran stepped to the center of the thieves, giving them a threatening glance. “Should any of you interfere,” he warned, “they shall answer to me.”
Crystal’s heart was pounding. She couldn’t fight Jeran! How could she? He had insured her escape all those years ago when he stayed to fight the soldiers of Darigan. He had stayed behind to protect the land she had abandoned. He had stayed atop the palace’s walls to keep the thieves at bay. She owed him so much. Could she now repay him with a blade?
Her eyes stung with tears, yet she willed them to leave. This was no time to cry, this was a time to fight. Jeran was not himself; he was not the Lupe she knew. He was a pawn, used by the Dark Faerie to make sure their plans were executed. One of that high a rank could be the weight that tipped the scale in favor of one or the other. If she were to fight, it would be to the death.
Twilight was upon them in moments, draping the scene in dreary grey light. Jeran and Crystal stood parallel to each other, weapons held up. Their voices drowned the sound of the waves as they charged. Crystal’s eyes grew darker as her sight was bathed in the strange light. Her blades found Jeran’s and the clang of metal against metal drowned all other thoughts from her mind. Crystal was in her element; few could counter her as, blow after blow, her resentment and anger, her hate and spite came all out.
Yet Jeran was unfazed. The stronger the princess’ blows became, the stronger his returns. It seemed both were equally matched. Jeran could feel the energy transferring to him. It was if the more she vented, the stronger HE became.
Blades crashed together again and both warriors saw themselves through the other’s blade. Jeran’s eyes were glowing red; Crystal’s were black. It was a deep, void-like blackness that startled the Acara more than anything. A thought flashed through her mind – one of a mighty warrior, much like herself. His eyes were as dark as hers and they glowed with a slight tinge of red. In the warrior’s hand lay the King’s Scepter, black flames engulfing it.
“Forget the fools,” he ordered. “Flee to the mountains. My people shall be waiting.”
Crystal disengaged. Her eyes returned to their indigo state as she caught her breath. She stared down to see Jeran, her sword at his throat. Shade had landed beside her. Cenoal waited patiently; watching silently. She couldn’t do it. Crystal redrew her swords, casting a cold glance at the thieves around. She mounted behind Cenoal and Shade lifted off into the dark night.
Author’s Note: As promised, sooner than usual. XD Next one’s in the works. Watch out for Scarlet Shadow: Secrets of a Kingdom.