After putting Alex into his holding cell, and the moment upon the stairs, Torr and Huff come above decks. The night is still crisp, very tense, but these two seem to be unaffected by it all, despite Torrinda being a major player in all of it.
“Lemme show you what Zahlee made for me!” Huff, pulling Torr’s arm, says excitedly. She winks at him. “Very form fitting I might add.”
“Oh?” Torr asks, his eyebrows raised.
“Mmhmm.” Huff adds. “I’ll grab them and show you how it looks. I’ll meet you back at your quarters in five minutes.”
Torr grins, then looks back towards the door to his cabin. He scrunches his brow and then looks back at Huff who is a few feet away, the woman bounding away. “Wait.”
“Yes?” Huff innocently asks, turning to face Torr
“Why don’t we, you, show me in your quarters? This way you don’t have to grab anything.”
Huff, after thinking about it, shrugs. “Sounds good!”
Her and Torr walk back towards the stairs leading below decks, Torr, still looking confused, stares at his door, trying to figure out why all of a sudden he felt compelled to change the location of Huff showing off her new items where they have been spending most of their time at…
* * * * *
“And that is when one of the chunks of the cavern ceiling fell down upon the wyrm’s head, ending it’s life and putting it in the realm of death.” Red finishes the tale in all it’s detailed glory. With a smug smirk on her face, Red looks to Royal who is leaning against a building, one leg bent behind her to rest against the building.
“A wonderful tale.” Royal replies, sort of uninterested about the means, but still focused on what she said at the tavern. “So you took it’s scales and then what did you do with them?”
“Uh, uh!” Red says, waging a finger. “After the beast was defeated, most of the party ransacked the horde of treasure it kept. Many mounds of gold and jewels. These,” Red grabs the handles of each sword at her hip, the embedded gems what she is referring to. “Are complements of the spoils I chose to take.”
Royal looks upon those gems, then squints as she feels something in them, the red one speaking out to her. “Fete?” Royal asks aloud. “Fire?” She focuses on the blue one, hoping to get the same connection as it’s companion. “Indit?” She nods. “Ice.” She looks back up at Red. “You have a pair of elemental gemstones set within your weapons. A fine company you keep.”
“Eh?” Red looks at Royal as if she is speaking a different language. “What do you mean? They are used for hacking and slashing. ‘Hack’,” She holds up the red gemmed sword. “And ‘Slash’,” she pulls the partner blade up as well. “I don’t know what you mean by ele-metal. Fine crafted steel.”
“May I?” Royal asks with a chuckle. Not many people realize they have magical or sentient relics upon them since they are not capable of sensing them. “I will show you what they are trying to tell me.”
“Tell you?” Red asks, dumbfounded at that remark. She looks at her blades differently, then at Royal, thinking she has lost her mind. “I’ll get them back?”
The red gemmed sword is given first. Royal feels with her two fingers – index and middle – upon the flat of the blade, further examining the magnificent weapon. “This blade has a name.”
“Yeah, ‘Hack’.” Red echoes.
“No.” Royal again shakes her head. “While it enjoys being called that, it’s real name is, Cinder.”
“Shhh!” Royal, fully connecting with the magics of the sword, stops Red from speaking. “Watch.” She whispers it’s name, gripping the handle tightly so the blade is in front of her face, the crosspiece in line with her sight. Suddenly there are symbols and runes that appear along the flat of the blade, etching higher and higher up towards the top of the weapon. When they reach the top of the sword, the whole blade ignites, an intense red flame flowing along the masterfully crafted weapon.
“What in the hells?” Red gasps in astonishment, not knowing her swords could do something like that. The fire is mirrored in her pupils as she stares.
And then the blade extinguishes itself.
“How?” Red asks as she is handed back her weapon. “What did you do to make it do that?”
“I, simply spoke it’s true name. Your sword did what it was made to do.” Rotal answers, holding her hand out to receive the second weapon.
“Cinder.” Red says, after handing Royal her companion blade ‘Slash’.
Nothing happens upon the sword.
“Why does it not work?”
“It is not a pet you command to sit.” Royal explains. “You must look into your sword, find that connection. And when you do, it will then come to your call. Like this.” Again Royal holds the sword up before her, searching for the gem’s center. When she finds it she whispers. “Glacier.” The runes begin to form, but these are crystalline and raise to the tip. When it reaches the top, the blade does not ignite into flame. No, this sword is encased in a thin sheet of ice, snowflakes gently falling from the weapon.
“It didn’t do anything.” Red announces, seeing not the dazzling display from this one.
“No?” Royal asks, touching the blade to an empty crate.
The wood grows frost, so much so that it now appears to be a fuzzy crate.
“That is a simply touch from the blade. Go ahead.” Royal prods. “You touch it. See how it ‘didn’t do anything’!”
Red puts her hand on the ‘fuzzy’ crate.
Than instantly retracts her hand.
“Cold!” She gasps, blowing hot breath into her palm. “Damn cold.”
“There. Now you see what they can do. You have, Cinder.” She nods to Red’s now sheathed sword. “And it’s companion, Glacier.” She tosses the blade so Red can grab it at the hilt, the enchantment dissipating as she catches it. “Commonly referred to as Fire and Ice. Relics from a forgotten time. The dragon you had slain must have been very, very old.”
Still looking at her sword, and feeling the stinging numbness in her hand, Red shakes her head.
“So, about the scales? Or anything from the dragon you took.” Royal, returned from her mesmerized state, asks impatiently. “You said you took something somewhere here in this city? I would very much like to see what it was.”
“Glacier!” Red yells, holding her arm up high, but nothing happens.
“I told you. It doesn’t work like that. Give it time. Besides, what are you, some knucklehead from GreySkull? You will learn. Now. Shop? Dragon? Where?”
Red sighs at the defeat and replaces her sword at her hip. “Come. It is not far from here.”
* * * * *
Walking the dark streets,where there aren’t many people out and about, has Ivon wandering around aimlessly. Since there is such turmoil aboard the ship, she had decided to venture out alone, without Tarnaa’s company, in search of that little girl that has come to her several times now. Has she always had the gift to communicate with the deceased? Or has it been triggered by something abnormal? Regardless, she intends to ask the white dress wearing little cherub a few things.
If she can find her that is.
It was different before. The girl was just there. Now, in trying to find someone that isn’t ‘there’, has proven to be a trying task. Ivonelfe sighs, hands on her hips. “Oh little girl.” She looks down a street lane – all seemingly the same as before – hoping to catch any sign of her. “Where are you?” She had retraced her steps – from the inn to Zahlee’s corner shop – but nothing. She has now made her way back to the road where she first saw her out the window of the inn. Looking up to the once occupied window she had looked out of, Ivon begins again, wandering the alleys for the little girl.
She passes a small nook where two buildings had been built together, the tiny space once resembling some sort of shrine, or something of that nature. Once lovely flowers are now dead crunchy reminders, a vase that they might have been in now lies broken and scattered througout the small alcove.
“That’s where it happened.”
Ivon, having bent down to examine the flowers and broken vase, freezes in place. Not by the fear, but by the elation that she has finally found the little girl.
“Where it? Happened?” Ivon says as she slowly turns to look at the little girl, still in a crouch so she is nearly the same eye level as the spirit.
“This is where my body was found.” The little girl clarifies, looking at the flowers and vase, a frown upon her cherub cheeks, not enjoying how it has been forgotten.
Ivon sits down on the ground and motions for the little girl to continue her tale.
“It was at night.” The little girl begins. “I was sleeping in my bed with my brother and sister. I was closest to the window and it was an awful hot night, so we opened it, even when ma and papa told us to leave it latched.” She frowns, the guilt of it all being her fault clear on her face. “A man had climbed into our window, saw us lying in the bed, and took one, me, who was closest to the open window.”
Ivon can feel the shame and guilt the poor thing must have, and still is, gone through. She shakes her head knowing it was not the little girl’s fault whatsoever, but the blame fully sets with the person who abducted her. “You have no blame or guilty feelings to bear in all of this.”
“But we left the window…”
“No.” Ivon says calmly. “No my child, you were doing only what you felt was right at the time. You said it was a brutally hot day, therefore you all wanted the cool night breeze to flow into the room, bringing you all comfort. You cannot account for the actions of a monster.”
The little girl tries to smile, but shrugs.
“How long ago did this happen, deary?”
“Six years ago, I think.” The little one answers. “It is hard to keep track of the time as a ghost.”
“So you have been wandering about the streets for six years? Why have you not, you know…” Ivon points up to the night sky.
“I don’t know why I have not left this place to join the others in heaven. After I had awoken from the ordeal, I went back to see my family, to tell them I am fine and that I had returned…” Her face goes deathly grim. “But when I had come home, it was like they couldn’t see me. No matter what I did, or how… loud I was…” Little droplets of tears fall from her cheeks, hitting the ground only to disappear. “That’s when I knew something really bad had happened to me. I came to realize that I had become a ghost.”
Ivon, her heart near to breaking at it all, wipes the moisture from her own eyes. “Tragic end to a beautiful angel. After you had realized what you had become, what did you do for the next six, or so, years?”
The little girl looks passed Ivon to the remains of the memorial site. “I would come here every day and wait for my ma and papa. They would bring flowers and things of mine I cherished.” Her smile is in her ears as she remembers, but it slowly fades. “But, after a while, the visits came fewer and farther between until it was only on my birthday.” In a voice barely above a whisper, “Then they were no more…”
“Oh my stars…” Ivon sniffles. “I would give you a hug if I could.”
“I have dealt with it.” She says slowly, a feeling she might not have done so yet. “But then I saw you that night with that crippled woman. And you saw me! Actually saw me.”
Ivon nods, remembering the night by Zahlee’s shop. “I did.” She smiles. “Who could miss a pretty thing in a beautiful white dress?”
The little girl smiles and does a curtsy.
“But my question is, why me? Why can I only see you? I am just a shipmate with no standing. I’m not much of a fighter, I am not nearly as strong and powerful as my friends, yet here we are, Ivonelfe…” Ivon points to herself. “And..?”
“Oh my!” Ivon’s eyes grow wide. “That is a mouthful! Many-Walkie-Ta? Did I say it right?”
The little one smiles, but shakes her head. “Minowah’Keelah.”
“Mmhmm! I butchered that one all right. Lets see.” Ivon puts her index finger against her chin. “How about I call you ‘Minnow’? Kind of shortens up your name. And it references you are my little fish in a great big pond. Sound like something you are OK with?”
“Very much!” Minnow, while hopping up and down, replies. “Thank you Ivon-elfie.”
“Oh…” Ivon puts her hand to her heart, the moisture coming back to her eyes. “You can call me whatever you want my dear.”
“I like Elfie!”
With a great grin, Ivon nods. “Elfie it is!”
* * * * *
“Do you see how it hugs my curves?” Huff asks Torr as he is watching Huff display her new garments. “It is sooo comfortable! And flexible too!” She puts her hands on her hips, the leather material covering her body expertly made. “What do you think?”
Torr, looking her up and down, can’t help but think she is a goddess – well, at least an ass kicking vampire who looks really good in her new duds. “Amazing. It is as if they were sewn onto you, it fits so well.”
“I know!” Huff, acting like a giddy little girl, says clapping her hands together. “It’s just a shame I have to wait until nightfall to wear it out and about.” A sigh comes to her lips, her posture slumps somewhat. “Do you think I’ll ever be normal again?”
“Normal?” Torr echoes. “Normal, my dear Huff, is overrated. If we were normal, we would not have sailed these seas. If we were normal, we would have found lives of mediocrity. No. I say to hell with normal! Besides…” Torr stands up from the chair and stands next to Huff, looking into her her eyes. “Normal would have never allowed us to be who we truly are. What we have now, you and I, goes so far beyond normal that the gods above must be laughing at the notion.” He takes her hands in his own. “Normal would keep me from telling you that I am falling in love with you…”
* * * * *
“This place…” Royal asks, for the hundredth time. “Are you sure it is this place?”
Red nods, folding her massive, muscular arms over her chest. “Yes. I sold it to the woman inside.”
“Of this place?” She asks, looking – and pointing – to the swinging sign. “It says it is an inn. Inns do not buy dragon relics. They rent rooms.”
Red, waiting for Royals blow up to end, smirks.
“You think this is funny?” Royal asks in all seriousness. “Need I show you who I am!?”
“Relax.” Red responds. “This building is not what it appears to be.”
“What, so it is actually a brothel? I mean I wondered if you were…”
“No. This place, this inn, is a front.” Red explains. “You walk in, it is an inn. You leave, still an inn. But,” Red adds dramatically seeing Royal’s bored expression. “You come back in, it is magic shop.”
Royal cocks an eyebrow and looks again at the building, seeing the sign slowly swaying in the breeze. “Red, have you lost your mind? If this place were magical I would sense… It…” She cocks her head to the left, getting a small tingle of magical energy coming from the dwelling.
“See.” Red says, standing taller now that she has proven her truth. “The woman inside, I think her name was, is.. Penny? Or was it Pony… I don’t remember. But she changes when you come back in. She has markings on her face. Stars. Three of them.”
Stars… Royal’s eyes light up as she puts things together. “Did she say her name was Penelope?”
“Yeah! That is what she had said.” Red laughs. “Pony. What in the gods was I thinking.”
Ignoring her companion’s chuckle, Royal clears her throat, this next question very, very important. “Red, you said her name is different when the inn changes, and she has tattoos, on one side of her face?”
“Yes. And Yes.”
“Three?” Royal asks, nervous anticipation creeping in.
“Is what I said.” Red clarifies. “She said to call her…”
“Star.” Royal mouths along with Red, further identifying the woman, no, sorceress inside as a woman she has crossed paths with before. And not under graceful circumstances.
“Let us go in.” Red announces, making her way to the door.
“Wait!” Royal calls out. Her mind whirls through several scenarios upon Star seeing her again. Suddenly a wicked grin spreads over her face, a devious idea coming to mind.
“Why must we wait?” Red asks, growing rather impatient with her sudden mood swings. First she doesn’t care, then she seems obsessed. Now, she wants to wait.
With no answer coming, Royal claps her hands together and brings them up to her face where she then splits them apart to rub both sides of her face, changing her appearance as her hands travel down to her chin. Where Royal once was, now stands an elderly looking woman with one eye having a milky pupil, long scraggly gray hair coming out of the cowl of her now dirty, stained cloak.
“What the?” Red asks, shocked at what she sees. “Royal?’
“Yes.” She replies in her own voice still. “I am merely changing my look. There may be people around that know of me, including the one inside, and because of my somewhat, unforgivable reputation, I do not want to cause any alarm. I simply wish to enter with you, buy back what you sold, and be on my way.
Red looks at her again, wondering why now, when she has been walking the streets without a disguise. Not fully understanding her new friend – if that is the word – she simply shrugs. “I’ll go in. When I come back out, we can enter together.”
“Couldn’t be any simpler than that. I’ll wait for you here.” As she waits for Red’s return, she grins a toothless smile. Star has not seen her in many years. And in those years, she has only gotten stronger. Rubbing her hands together, Red exits the inn and nods for Royal to follow.
* * * * *
A bleary eye opens up to see that it is in line with the floor. With each aching muscle movement, the eyelid is able to open fully, seeing the place for what it is; a jail cell. Alex grunts as he tries to get up, but the explosion of pain at the back of his head makes him fall back down to the floor. Feeling the massive lump on his skull, the pain only intensifies his anger towards Torrinda.
“You conniving, tricking bastard!” He roars from his cell, what few mice are out and about scurry for safety and shelter.
* * * * *
“It is good to see you back so soon, Red.” Star says with a smile. “Come to sell me more dragon pieces I hope?” With her smile at Red’s entrance, her face soon washes to a blank state as an old lady gimps into the store behind the massive woman. Upon looking at the beleaguered hag, Star can see life did not deal the woman too good of a hand.
“She’s with me.” Red announces, seeing Star’s emotional switch. “This is R-”
“Regina…” The old hag puts in, her voice now that of her appearance; old, crackly and dry. “Me friend,” Royal shoots a glare Red’s way. “Says she been all over the world. All over! Oi, wish me old rickety bones were young again so that I may accompany this fierce warrior. But alas. Me eyesight is fading and my knees be wobbling. You know how it goes, Missy.”
“Indeed.” Star replies, looking the old woman up and down. She turns back to Red, the smile back on her face. “What can I do for you?”
“I sold you the tail of the dragon I killed. Do you still have it?” Even though Red was the one to ask the question, Star watches ‘Regina’ to see her emotions in all this. Something seems out of place, but she cannot figure out what it may be.
“I remember the tail. Fine specimen it was.”
Royal’s keen perception catches the ‘was’.
“Do you still have it?” Red asks. “Roy… Regina wishes to see the fruits of my glorious deeds and gaze upon her first ever dragon, even if it is just a piece of it.”
Still keeping an eye on ‘Regina’, Star begins shaking her head as Red finishes. “I wish I did, Red. If you had been but a few minutes earlier. A dragon’s body part goes for a lot of coin, as I paid you, and demand for them are even higher. A man came in and purchased the tail and said something about making a spear out of it.”
Royal, feeling the tingle of magical spell-casting, blocks out Star’s persuasion spell, seeing the story as a lie. She cackles and grins at the woman. “Now, now, my pet. Ye thinking we be some idiots? I call yer bluff and say ye have it here, still.”
Star looks at the old hag, more intrigued than angry, despite the glance she is throwing her way. “I assure you, madam, I do. Not. Have it.”
“She doesn’t have it.” Red, not understanding she has been tricked by the spell, fully believes in the lie. She turns to exit the magic shop, but Royal stops her.
“My friend here is a novice to the ways of magic.” ‘Regina’ says, her voice returning to normal, the old woman’s appearance still the same. “But I do.”
“Who are you?” Star demands, several spells coming to her mind to be used if she needs to.
The old hag looks hurt. “Oh, Star. It pains me to see you cannot remember who I am.” She laughs. “After all, we know each other so well.”
“I knew it!” Star cries, casting a dispel around the main room, many of the weaker magical devices becoming useless trinkets with the spell’s power. Regina, letting the spell fall upon her, changes in appearance, back to Royal, the grin ever present upon the assassin. “Royal…” Star says with a snarl.
Royal bows, mockingly.
* * * * *
“Where have you been!?” Tarnaa asks Ivon once the woman is finally back on the ship. “You had me worried! I was about to go looking for you.”
“You,” Ivon begins, then smiles. “Well I am glad you didn’t.” Ivon says, patting Tarnaa upon the shoulder. “I was fine. I went back to see if I could find the little girl again and talk with her.”
“And did you?”
“Indeed I did.” Ivon answers as she walks over to the ship’s rail. “Indeed I did.”
“And what?” Ivon echoes, not following along.
“And then what? Did you figure out why this is happening to you all of a sudden?” Tarnaa, having joined Ivon at the rail, asks, leaning heavily upon the railing.
Ivon sighs. “No.” She turns around so her back is resting on the railing. “But, I never really thought she would tell me.”
“So, what did she tell you?” Tarnaa, still leaning on the rail, asks, truly wondering what a ghost might say.
“She told me of how she died.” Ivon sighs again, feeling the pain of the story setting in once more. “And how her family would visit her site often, bringing fresh flowers.”
“It was.” Ivon smiles. “Until they moved on with their lives.” Ivon says with sorrow on the edge of her voice. “So she wandered the streets for six years now.”
“Six years!?” Tarnaa asks, standing up straight. “She had been walking around this port city for six years? How on Earth did you manage to find a wandering ghost who had six years of, of, nothing to live for?”
“I found her at the place she died.” Ivon shrugs as if the six years means nothing. “It seems logical. Finding a departed soul where their mortal lives… ended?” Ivon, getting an idea, ends the comment as a question because of what is in her mind. If a soul is haunted by the traumatic experience, does that make it unwilling to enter the heavens above? And, if that holds true, will others be found the same way?
“What’s with that look, Ivon. You look as if someone passed wind, one of Greg’s flatulences.” Tarnaa asks, her mind bringing up the smell in her own nostrils. “Ugh!” She gasps, wafting the air away from her nose.
Ivon chuckles, glad that her and Tarnaa have become such good friends. “No, no passing of wind. I was thinking. I may have an idea, but I am afraid to see it through and find it was wrong.” She frowns.
Having no more ‘smell’ in her nose, Tarnaa shakes her head. “Nonsense. Besides, what would happen if it turns out that you are correct, and it does work?”
The idea still frightens her, but Ivonelfe nods confidently. “Come, Tar, I have to see if my theory holds true.” They both leave the railing and enter the stairwell, leading them down below decks.
* * * * *
“You have a lot of nerve to show yourself in here.” Star says through gritted teeth. “After you killed my master.”
“Our. Our master.” Royal interrupts. “Do not forget where you came from Star. I sure haven’t.”
“Leave.” Star demands, extending her arms so her robe sleeves are not covering her hands. “Or I will make you myself.”
“Ladies, please.” Red, trying to intervene, calls out.
“Shut it, Red.” Royal snaps. “This is something that needs to be taken care of. Star, here, has forgotten how powerful I was when we were young. She needs a refresher in how much I have gained since we parted ways.”
“Ha! Fool!” Star chimes in. “I believe it will be you who will be mistaken. I am not that quiet little girl you used to bully.”
Feigning surprise, Royal gasps. “Oh. Did you taking over Alejandro’s shop suddenly endow you with untold powers? Ha! While you were sucking up, I was surpassing you in our studies in every way. All your efforts fell by the wayside when he finally saw my potential and your shot commings.” Royal releases a lightning blast, not as powerful with the dispel still lingering. Still, Star has to jump out of the way, the strike blasting the counter, sending shards of glass to rain upon Star’s prone form on the floor.
“You see!” Royal boasts, Red’s hair sticking up in some spots from the charge of the lightning bolt. “Your pitiful level of a dispel is no match for me. What do you honestly believe? That your powers are still above mine?” She sends a second line of lightning a few feet to the right of the first blast – where she believes Star to be – and is grinning as it hits the counter again, shards of broken glass covering the floor of the shop.
Long gone from the area of the first blast, Star had scrambled away in time before the second lightning strike found its mark. Taking deep gulps of air, Star centers herself before she suddenly stands up, a full ninety degrees from where Royal had enacted the blast, and clasps her hands together. Pulling them apart slightly at the palms, she brings them up to her face and blows into them.
The whirling vortex of wind erupts from her hands, the tornado catching Royal by surprise and knocking her twenty feet to crash against a wall – thankfully avoiding the case of magical swords – and slumps to the ground.
“I warned you.” Star says menacingly, coming around a counter and stepping through the destroyed portion of another. “My powers and spell repertoire rival even your own.”
“Oh, Star…” Royal, still lying on the floor replies. “While you may have some tricks up your sleeves, you are no match for me.” As she says it, the floorboards under Star’s feet suddenly feel less substantial as they change from solid wood to sinking quicksand!
“Well played!” Star announces. “But not so fast.” She enacts a freezing spell to stop the sand from sinking, unfortunately playing right into Royal’s trap.
With a sudden moment of immobility, Royal rolls over and tosses a fireball, nearly point blank, in Star’s face!
Red watches, backed against the wall, as the hot ball of fire melts away the other sorceress. The heat is intense, but now, too, is her respect for Royal. She begins to see why all the others at the tavern had feared her when she had made herself known.
The fireball continues to burn, Royal unaffected by the blazing heat, and grins as Star was unprepared for such raw magical talent.
Until magical swords appear above her head.
The enchanted blades hack and slash the air above her head, several swipes nearly hitting their mark. With quick thinking, Royal punches the weakened wood and calls up the earth beneath the structure. It answers the call in the form of a wave of mud flowing up through the floor and surrounding Royal so the sword swipes are slowed by the thick sludge.
As the fireball dies away, steam pours forth as a silhouette emerges through the blaze. Star, enacting an ice shield around her body, appears as the fires burn away. Other than a few singed parts upon her clothing, and a red mark on her cheek, Star is relatively unharmed. So much so that she dissolves the ice shield.
“What do you want with the tail, Royal?” She asks, seeing her blades are still cutting – albeit slowly – at Royal who is still pinned down from the assault, even with the mud protecting her. “Looking to summon Tezmekilla still?” She laughs and takes a step closer. “Alejandro, our master, told you how foolish a task that was. If he cautioned you against it, how do you plan to contain a Dragon God all by yourself?” She smirks as she is a few steps from Royal, a blade nicking her opponent’s cheek.
Again, using the notion that Star has gotten the upper hand, Royal mutters something under her breath, the words causing the mud to suddenly solidify into solid stone, the magical blades concealed within. A second triggering word causes the block of stone to come hurtling into Star’s body, the shock upon the young sorcerer’s face genuine and sincere.
A loud crash of stone echoes in the shop, Red covering her head and face with her arms, taking the smaller chunks stoically.
Breathing a little heavy, not winded – rather exhilarated by the duel – Royal props herself up on her elbows to regard the pile of stones and broken swords. “Alejandro, dear Star, only cautioned me when you were around. He didn’t want you getting the idea in your head because he and I both knew the Dragon God was beyond you.” She begins to pick herself up off the floor. “In fact, in secrecy, behind the shadows, he showed me the way to not only summon the Dragon God, Tezmekilla, but to do so in a way that it would be my pet, my slave, my property.” Getting up through her rant, Royal is now at the base of the pile, slowly sifting through the small debris on top with her left foot. She knows that Star – who has shown growth and a knack for resourcefulness – has likely survived the projectile.
Indeed she has.
Hiding, once again behind a portion of counter, Star leans her head back against the hard object, wincing at the pain in her body. While yes, she did survive the attack, she nearly did not. Too consumed by the fear she had been beaten – and her cocky attitude in thinking she had her down, again – caused her to stutter through her teleportation spell. Just as the projectile had struck home, seconds later she was able to complete the spell as her body felt the impact and was ‘rewarded’ safety by appearing behind this counter. Her whole left side of her body, from head to hip, screams out in pain, the red skin quickly forming deep bruises along her body. Still, she is alive.
But, for the first time since the duel began, she wonders for how long?
“I know you are still alive.” Royal calls out. “Well, at least I hope you are.” With a swipe of her arm across her body in the form of a backhanded swipe, the debris on the floor is sifted through to reveal – to Royal’s grin – no body lying underneath. “I’ll tell you what, Star.” Royal looks around the room for any sign of her hiding place. “Give me the tail, I will collect my green scale, and then be gone from your shop and out of your life for good. After all, we both know you won’t be able to stop me either way.”
Looking at her worsening wounds, and not wanting to give in, Star realizes she may have no other choice and hope that Royal, the assassin turned sorcerer, will show pity upon her and spare her life. Using a ventriloquism spell – to throw her voice to make it sound as if she is everywhere – she complies. “On your word?” Star asks, the sound coming from every conceivable crack and space in the shop.
Glad to hear that she is not dead, Royal looks around the room again. “Oh yes. On my very word. You give me what I want, I’ll give you what you want.”
This is it. Now or never. Star begins to rise from her concealment, her hands up in surrender. “The tail is in the box behind that shelf.” She points to the shelf of wands with one hand, the other still up in the air.
“What, no more tricks to play?” Royal smirks while making her way to the shelf.
“The release is under the second shelf.” Star says, her hands still up in surrender. Royal feels around for the release switch and finds the small lever. She opens the hinged shelf to reveal a small cubby behind it, a black leather bound box sitting inside of it.
“Cursed? Or some enchantment?” Royal, ever skeptical of something this easy, asks.
Star, with one last card to play, suddenly wills two swords from the wall behind her to shoot for Royal’s back as she is turned. Each projectile silent as they come in contact with her body, the blades poised in an ‘X’.
Then go right through her body!
Royal – or the image of Royal – disappears as the swords go through and stick into the wall and shelf on either side of where she should have been.
“After image!” Star gasps, shocked at the magical image as it had disappeared. She scans around extremely nervously. Knowing Royal like she does, Star can only imagine the seething rage inside of her knowing her notion of trickery was correct.
“Indeed foolish Star!” Royal exclaims, coming from behind a window shade, her arm out – extended – each finger on her hand out in front of the palm. Five magic missiles shoot from her hand, each one of them hitting and stinging Star’s already bruised body, the jolting barrage taking Star off her feet to slam down on the floor once more.
A groan escapes from Star’s body, her robe showing the tears – and crimson stains – of battle.
“Alive. That’s good to see.” Royal nods with her assessment, walking back over to the box in the cubby. Throwing the latch open, she lifts the lid to reveal the severed portion of the dragon’s tail sitting on a velvety pillow lining. “Take note, Star. If you are conscious enough, this moment in time will serve two purposes.” Royal gingerly takes the tail from it’s resting place. “One. This gift now belongs to me and it will aid in my quest to resurrect Tezmekilla. The Dragon God will be, once again, alive to torment all.” Red gives a slight scowl at Royal’s back. “And two.” Royal says, now walking over to Star’s battered body. “You now know who the stronger of Alejandro’s disciples are, and always will be.” She laughs at the woman and then looks at Red.
“Shall we depart?” Royal asks.
Red, thinking that she must be exhausted with the magical battle, has a sudden inkling to attack her here and now. Now that her motive has been laid to bare, a dragon – no matter what kind it is – is something she does not want to battle again, in any capacity. Looking at Star’s defeated body, does she want to take that feeling and try to end her? Or is this wicked, magical woman simply too powerful and would end her life even before she, herself, got the chance at a strike?
“Something on your mind” Royal asks as Red’s mind is wandering. “Do you not approve of my tactics in this battle?”
Red, coming out of her thoughts, shakes her head. “No.” After all, it’s best to be on the other side and not have Royal as an enemy. “Your battle, be it with magics I still do not understand, was just and fair. You leaving her alive to relive her defeat will deter her from seeing retribution. You have proven the stronger, thus you have been claimed as the victor.”
Royal cocks her head and nods as she sees the warrior’s logic ring true. “Come than, before anyone else stumbles into this conflict.” Red turns and exits out the door, but Royal, stopping and closing the door, leaves her all alone with Star. Closing her eyes, she recites a spell in her mind, her lips whispering the incantation. As it builds in strength, she moans out the last word, “Intrafinidal!”
* * * * *
Red, tapping her foot, waits impatiently outside, and then grunts when Royal appears out of the open door. “You killed her, didn’t you?”
Royal, a grin on her face, stops suddenly and points at herself. “Me?” She mockingly gasps. “I would never do such a thing!” Red shakes her head knowing the assassin side of her would do just that. “Lets just say that while she has been defeated, I certainly do not want this loss to fester inside of her. Revenge is a powerful tool, Red. I am sure you are aware.”
“Aye.” Red complies, the two of them exiting the area.
* * * * *
One eye swollen shut from the magical missile that clipped her face, Star manages to open the other one ever so slightly. She reaches for her swollen eye, but finds her arm will not move! Nor will her other! She opens the eyelid more fully, seeing the wicked final ‘goodbye’ as the thousand tiny shards of glass from the broken counter are suspended in midair, right in front of her. With her mouth magically sealed, she can only watch as the tiny daggers are released from their hold and enter into her body, the searing slashes tearing through skin and organs alike, to hit the wood wall she is held against…
* * * * *
“Why are we here?” Tarnaa asks Ivon.
“Shh.” Ivon responds, entering the doorway to the room. It’s dark and eerily quiet. “You have to remain quiet.” She whispers. “For this to work, I need you to remain still and not utter a word, no matter what you hear.”
“Ok.” Tarnaa whispers, finding a place out of the way in the room.
“Zoey…” Ivon whispers, moving around to feel the cot she once laid upon. “Zoey, are you here?”
It appears that Ivon’s guess has proven to be incorrect. Zoey’s spirit must have moved on, or worse, is stuck out at sea where it was when the ship was in the water. Blowing a sigh of defeat, Ivon turns to leave the room, about to call out for Tarnaa.
“…I… Ivon?” A female voice slowly calls out. “Ivonelfe, is that you?”
Ivon, grinning from ear to ear – no longer afraid of the spirits of the dead – turns around to face the origin of the voice. “Yes, Zoey. It is me…”
Buried At Sea by Matt Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.atramentous.net.