The Scarab and the Sea: Part Ten
Even though Tomos had never had the misfortune to meet Scarblade before, he knew who he had to be. A monstrous green Lupe – Tomos would only have come up to his shoulder, and Tomos was no shrimp – with a patch over one eye and a scar across the other was fairly unmistakable. Tomos said slowly, "Okay, then, we'll take our time. Give the girl her space."
Scarblade only laughed – a cold, harsh noise without a trace of joy. "You're in an interesting position to be making demands, Captain Tomos."
Tomos noticed the scorn in the other Lupe's voice and decided to ignore it. He'd heard far worse. He informed the pirate, "The sailors you pressed into service are rebelling. The Maraquans are going to be on your shore any moment. The bottom line is that you've lost. So get away from her."
Origen murmured in his ear, "I really hope you can back all of that up, Tomos..."
He muttered back, "So do I."
Scarblade's eye narrowed. "Kipras told me about you, you little wharf rat. You're no better than one of my lowliest cabin boys. Just a jumped-up pickpocket who thinks that some freak accident gave you a bit of power."
Okay, now it was getting nastier than anything else Tomos had been told before – Origen even hissed a little behind him – but it still didn't bother him. As long as Scarblade was talking to Tomos, Lura could continue edging along the cave wall behind the evil pirate – as soon as she got out of range of the pirate's blade, Tomos and Origen could bring the fight to him. Tomos walked forward slowly, meeting the pirate's eye with his own, doing everything in his power to distract Scarblade from Lura's escape. "Wow – I guess you really do want to be a pirate king. You're talking like a useless nobleman already. Let's drop the fancy language, okay? Neither of us is that kind of man." He drew his sword, knowing as he did that if this came to a swordfight he wasn't going to last long. Tomos was okay – he'd even been told that he had a bit of natural talent. But talent and a few months of training would mean nothing against an older, more experienced fighter who had used his blade to get where he was today. Tomos would have to use every single trick he knew in order to keep himself alive.
That was probably the goal here. He knew full well that he couldn't hope to subdue Scarblade, to arrest him and bring him to any court brave enough to try him for his crimes. His goal was to get himself, Origen, and Lura out of here with the three gems and the treaty. Scarblade's little kingdom was rapidly being dismantled – it would be years before the pirate could rebuild his power, if ever.
Tomos moved in front of the little sailboat – he wanted it to look as if he were trying to keep Scarblade from escaping in it. If Scarblade did try to get through to it, Tomos wouldn't mind it. Maybe the Maraquans would get him.
He saw Origen try and step forward out of the corner of his eye and kicked his ankle lightly – it wasn't time yet!
And then Lura dove to the ground – Scarblade whirled and slashed uselessly with his blade, since Lura had rolled out of the way. But before Tomos could do anything to stop him, Origen dove at the pirate king.
Garin had mentioned that the pirate king had been wounded in the battle in Maraqua. He didn't show it – he was fast as lightning. Scarblade lashed back at Origen and caught him a blow with the flat of his blade – Origen dropped like a stone, knocked cold.
Oh, sweet Fyora.
Lura was scrambling to her feet – Tomos had no choice but to dive in and block the next blow, aimed at the helpless Origen. Drat that Grarrl's temper!
The strength in Scarblade's strike almost caused Tomos to drop his blade – only years of climbing enabled Tomos to disregard the pain and jarring in his arms and force Scarblade to turn away from his companion and toward him. "Let's keep this between those who can actually fight back."
Scarblade snarled at him, and lunged again – Tomos jumped backward and slightly to the side, avoiding the next strike. Perhaps he could use the old pirate's age to his advantage – Scarblade would tire faster than he would.
He took a second to look at the ground around him as he barely managed to block another series of blows. Between the uneven footing of the cave and the fact that Scarblade was far better than he was, it was all Tomos could do to keep up a defense. He just had to keep fighting – had to hope that Scarblade would decide to cut this short and make good his escape. He taunted, "How long do you want to make this last, old-timer? Long enough for the Maraquans and the freed sailors to cut off your escape?" Banter. Stall for time. Try and give him the idea of getting away.
He noticed Lura coming up from behind Scarblade – he wasn't going to give her away, but then Scarblade turned and, with three strikes, knocked her blade out of her hands and into the water. Tomos's stomach sunk – she was a medic, and she didn't have the sheer strength necessary to stand up to this monstrous pirate. He asked, "Have some Werelupe blood? That'd explain your attitude, too." Make him angry. Make him lose control. Try to even out this horribly lopsided fight.
And as he thought that, Scarblade caught Tomos's sword in a move the younger Lupe had never seen before, and it followed Lura's into the water.
Tomos immediately threw himself into one of the heaps of treasure, to give himself some time to breathe and to look for something else to defend himself with. Lura was doing the same thing, but she didn't appear to be having any luck where she'd fallen.
There – a sword with a golden hilt! Tomos grabbed it, and was able to bring it up just in time to protect himself. He was just trying to survive from one attack to the next – he reminded himself of hot, dry winds and the smell of the marketplaces and the faces of each of his beloved Scarabs.
And then, from above, he heard the sound of horns. Someone was coming – lots of someones.
Scarblade dodged away from Tomos and straight to the sailboat. As he jumped in, the momentum pushed him away from shore and out toward the entrance to the cave. He said, "I'll remember your face, Lupe – we'll meet again someday!"
Tomos sighed. There was no use contradicting him and telling him that Tomos wouldn't be going any closer to a ship than he could help after this. He saluted sloppily and smiled as he said, "May every storm and Krawken seek you out, my less-than-friend."
Soon, the tides had carried the pirate away. Lura sighed. "I wish we could have held him here."
Tomos shrugged. "He would have killed the lot of us. How's Origen?"
He turned – Lura was already kneeling by their unconscious companion. "He'll be fine, once he comes around. Grarrls have thick skulls."
Tomos said drily, "Well, I knew that."
Then Origen moaned. "Oh – is he gone? What's happened?"
Tomos said, "He got away, but we're all alive, and we got what we came here for." He helped Origen to his feet. "Now come on, you big lug. Let's get back to the sunshine."
Origen chuckled, and they began to head back up the tunnel and into the light.
The moment she walked in the door of the receiving hall in the Meridell castle, Nabile ran straight into Tomos and hugged him tightly, half-knocking the wind out of him. "Ow! Nabile, you're going to destroy that dress." No Scarab liked seeing valuables treated that lightly.
Nabile looked down at the fine gown she'd worn for the opening talks with the leaders of the Three Kingdoms – this was the first time they'd taken a long enough break that she could get some food and see Tomos. Tomos ignored the quaver in her voice as she said, "Gowns are replaceable. Best friends aren't. Tomos, when that Tonu captain brought us the news... we've all been worried absolutely sick, and when we got word that you reached Meridell safely..."
She sniffed, and Tomos leaped in quickly to spare her crying like a girl in front of all the other Sakhmeti and Qasalan dignitaries who were milling about in the room. There was dinner laid out, and there were several things he hoped he'd get a chance to try when he had a little time himself.
Princess Amira had followed at a more sedate pace, and she said, "I don't think I'm going to let you four near the meal until you've told us this whole story. I've read your report, of course, Saiban, but I get the sense that it makes for quite a tale."
Tomos looked around – Origen and Jaryth were paused holding forks and heaping plates, looking slightly guilty. Saiban merely continued to dig into his bowl of soup. Tomos took that as an opportunity to grab several pastries from the nearest table.
That was when King Jazan walked over, apparently having heard the conversation. He asked, "What became of the others? The pirates of the Pawkeet, the leader of the Thieves Guild?"
Tomos was chewing, now – Saiban informed them, "Kanrik, Hannah, and Armin stayed with the Maraquans to help find Scarblade."
Tomos swallowed his pastry and finished, "The Pawkeet's sailors repaired the damage to the ship from when Benny the Blade attacked them – he escaped too, more's the pity – and then bore us to Brightvale harbor. They scampered before any law enforcement got the chance to catch wind of them. Garin said that there was no need to give them medals – they liberated enough gold from Scarblade to make themselves a dozen each." Nabile and Amira both snickered. Tomos grinned, too, remembering watching the crew go through the treasure room like a bunch of children who'd received their Day of Giving presents.
Tomos had walked off with a few gold coins himself, and the second sword he'd used against Scarblade as a souvenir – he figured he'd earned it.
Jaryth said, "Seems a little unfair that they don't get any of this official credit when they earned it."
Amira shrugged. "If we were to have a ceremony honoring them, we'd have to use it as a front to arrest them. It's how the law works."
King Jazan merely sighed. Tomos said, "Come on – we thieves aren't all bad, right?"
Nabile elbowed her cousin, who grinned wryly. "Let me take one type of criminal at a time, please?"
Tomos said, "Well, should I start the story with all the good parts from the beginning, then?" He took another bite of his pastry, and noticed that a lot of the nobility were looking his way with interest. That was rather cool. He leaned against a table and took a drink of water, savoring the moment.
Then Nabile swatted him with her napkin. "Stop dramatizing and start telling the story, you silly Selket!"
Tomos grinned, and took one last look around his rapt audience before he began, "When we left Sakhmet, it was all the usual business, until we woke up and realized that the sentry had hit the road and left us all high and dry..."