certainly changed, thought Cruz as he watched the slave trader unloading
the children. Lowthian was at his side. He'd decided to keep her with him.
No trusting women, he figured.
He had sold the children - all of them - sight unseen, right off the boat for a great profit. Apparently a mining camp to the south had just started to boom and all manner of slaves and indentured servants were in demand.
He'd decided to keep Zeke as well. Cruz had grown rather fond of him, he gave great head and he worked. Rare combo.
The last of the children unloaded, he slung his arm around Lowthian's neck, ‘Let’s go get a real meal, Princess.’
Zeke was staying on board to watch the ship. Not that there was a whole lot to watch. No food left, no crew, no cargo, no money. That he knew of. Zeke decided to have a look around.
Cruz and Lowthian stopped in every shop that caught his eye. In spite of herself, she was having fun. It was so wonderful to be off the ship. Cruz was buying them clothing. Expensive and black. They were attracting attention, she noticed. He didn’t seem to care.
is my princess?’ he asked. She looked kidnappable, with a long,
low-cut, backless gown and black gloves.
‘This is an unexpected surprise, he said, what brings on the change, my dear? Are you losing your mind again?’
'No. She looked at her plate shyly. No, I've accepted things as they are. I've been thinking, here I am...I've no family to speak of. My father sold me to a horrible man; my half brothers barely acknowledge me. I don't know what my life would be if I was with Vekna.’
She looked at Cruz, ‘…worse than you, is my guess,’ she finished.
‘We'll stay here for a day or 2, he said while I hire a new crew, and then we're going to take a holiday. I own a little place not far from here, over on the island. You'll like it there. Artist’s, painters, music - all that crap.’
He smiled a disarming grin. ‘We got off to a bad start, Princess, but everything's going to work out.’
If we're going to the island in a few days, she thought, I have to make my escape before then.
‘Cheer’s’ she held out her glass and he clinked it.
From the bar in the corner, a man in gray studied them. He was a bounty hunter and he couldn't believe his luck. He had just arrived from Chem where he had learned there was a price on the head of each pirate of the Black Ship. And here was their Captain. Alone and unprotected, sitting with a bleached hair whore. He fingered the dagger in his sleeve and waited.
Cruz lit a cigarette and glanced at the man as he tossed the match. Fucking bounty hunters. He could spot them a mile away.
want you to get up and go towards the bathroom. At the end of the hall
is a back door. Go wait for me in the alley.’
When Lowthian got out the door, she bolted, running blindly down the alley. Wait for him indeed! This was a perfect opportunity for escape. It couldn't have worked out better if she had planned the whole thing. She ran headlong into the man in gray. He clamped a hand over her mouth and pulled her to the wall.
When Lowthian left, the bounty hunter had slipped out the front door. He knew he’d been made. Cruz went through the kitchen and climbed out the window. Dropping cat-like to the pavement, he hurried around the side of the tavern.
were. Cruz put his hands in his pockets and sauntered down the alley toward
Cruz walked closer.
The Bounty Hunter twisted Lowthian's arm cruelly and she shrieked. He threw her down and drew his broadsword. Cruz pulled a long chain out of the lining of his coat. It had a leather handle and the links were covered in spikes.
The man in gray attacked, aiming a skull splitting blow to the head. Cruz jumped back and caught him across the face with his chain, ripping a gash in his cheek. The bounty hunter roared and lunged again.
Cruz ducked and hooked out a leg, tripping him. He leaped onto his back and wrapped the chain around his neck. Yanking it with his right hand, the chain was like a saw and tore a hole in the bounty hunter's flesh.
Still, he struggled and managed to get to his knees. Cruz stood and kicked him in the face. The bounty hunter blacked-out. Cruz then pried the sword from his hand and sliced his head off with it.
He dropped to his knees and tried to catch his breath. His lungs felt on fire; spots were swimming in front of his eyes. He looked around the alley. No Princess.
Cruz pulled himself together and went back into the tavern and paid his bill. ‘So you've accepted things,’ he thought. He was angry at himself for believing her. No more Mr. Nice Guy. He told the men at the bar that whoever returned the pretty blonde he had been sitting with to the Black Ship would receive a fist of gold.
like the wind.
It was an easy task. Saria had grown considerably over the past few years. Cruz hired twenty men, all sea-veterans. They all looked like murderers. Filthy, unwashed, hardened criminals, Cruz thought, pleased.
He bought them a couple rounds of drinks then headed for the Hills of South Saria. Up to the wealthy elfin sector. Time to pursue his favorite ‘sport.’ Time to waste some elves.
Princess Lowthian was all the way to the outskirts of town near the sea before she noticed her broken arm. The bounty hunter must have done it. Now it was throbbing hellishly. Her right wrist was swollen to nearly twice its size.
She sat on the side of the road, catching her breath. She had run for over an hour. In spite of the pain, the cold, her eyes closed. Her chin slumped to her chest.
‘I just need a little rest, she thought. Just a little nap for a few minutes, then I'll go on.’
She slept there like a black and silver stone as the evening ticked by.
Cruz broke into a gabled, vine-covered mansion, crept through the airy halls until he found the master's chamber and smothered the old man in his sleep. This one was ancient.
Goddamn them all to hell and back! At least 1,000, he thought. He'd never seen an elf that looked so old. Even when they were antique, they usually looked young. Unbelievable. He felt great! He prowled around the room, looking for loot.
riding tandem found Lowthian in a pile and woke her.
The women were in their mid thirties. They wore simple shifts of tan cotton and plain sandals. Their long, plain brown hair hung loosely at their shoulders. At first glance, Lowthian had thought she was seeing double, then she realized they must be twins.
name is Rose, this is my sister Orchid. It's a good thing we found you...’
could take her to the haven sister, Orchid said, she’s just a child
and I think her arm is broken. Then in the afternoon we can find
out who her parents are.’
On the way down the road they told 'Beth' about the 'Haven' they lived in. It sounded pleasant enough. A group of artists, painters, potters, gardeners. They lived in a commune and sold their wares; they traded for the necessities they couldn't make themselves.
They sounded religious. Lowthian knew humans clung to various religious beliefs and had a condescending tolerance for this. She, like most elves, did not believe in human superstition.
These women however, didn't seem to realize she was not human. So much the better, Lowthian thought. Rose held Lowthian around the waist as Orchid walked beside them and Lowthian nodded off again.
She dreamt of the Black Ship. The great sails billowed in the moonlight and she stood alone on deck holding a pentagram outstretched in her palm; It turned into a writhing serpent and bit her arm. Over and over again, she couldn't pry it off of her.
in a sweat, her arm aching.
goodness you sleep deeply. We were afraid you had the fever.’
None of it
made sense to Lowthian. The pain in her arm screamed at her.
Her stomach warm, she yawned deeply and stared at the stars. Soon she was sleeping again.
Tamat held Vekna's hand and looked into his eyes. Mirrors of her own.
She had been
barred from this material plane for almost three hundred earth years.
Three hundred years was a long time, even to an immortal. Oh, she had caught glimpses of this side from time to time in the eyes and minds of the other demons.
They too however, shunned her. She was the Lord of the Abyss. She could create new life; had indeed created many of them. And she could destroy them just as easily.
Tamat had been dreaming for decades when John called her through. That young beautiful human had done what no one had dared do since ages gone.
But the fabulous
thing, a truly unbelievable occurrence, was that he hadn't followed the
He was such an inexperienced wizard; he wouldn’t have subdued her for long anyway. But his error was her release. The gate was open to her now and any time a demon was conjured she could come through in its place.
destroy the lesser entity, but Tamat didn't care. She could create more
There were a few other demons of Tamat's power, like The Keeper of Time. She did not fear him, though. She hadn't seen the Black One in a millennium and she doubted he cared at all for this world.
Of course, she told Vekna none of this. She merely cradled his healing skull in her long, slender hands and smiled.
Vekna was soothed by her glittering stare. He lay back on his bed and closed his eyes as Tamat continued to caress his face.
John sat in the dining room and contemplated his whiskey. He knew she was up there, he could feel her like a weight on the castle.
He yelled for a servant to bring him another bottle. John felt doomed - get bombed or get hysterical, he reasoned, downing another shot.
Vekna had become nocturnal. He slept til dusk, then roamed the long torch-lit halls. John would lie awake and listen for his clacking boots on the stones. At least he knew when Vekna was around; Tamat floated everywhere she went and John was always running into her.
There was something so sensual and erotic about her it seemed to be a tangible force. He was speechless around her. She was so fucking beautiful.
And hideously frightening.
She scared the hell out of him and yet he found himself imagining what it would be like to have her. To tangle his fingers in her hair, to touch her skin, her perfect breasts. What would it be like to kiss those red lips, to feel her beneath his body?
I'm over the bend, he thought. Totally and irrevocably out of my mind.
When the day passed and the princess had still not been apprehended, Cruz gathered his new crew and sailed across the fjord to Serenity. He didn't feel safe on the coast.
The island was much more defendable. Let the search continue without him. He felt optimistic that she would be found.
Every beggar, thief, wandering rogue and delivery boy on the wharf was out searching for her, eager for the reward.
Then came the dawning realization that Cruz owned this island. How stupid could she be! He had told her that, but she had been too hurt and tired the previous evening to listen carefully to the twins.
The colonists were wandering down to the harbor. The sight of Cruz didn't exactly thrill them either. He hadn’t been there for years. They were terrified of him.
Lord Hectal received the latest message and a grim rage slowly filled him. His oldest brother had been murdered in Saria. The Black Ship had been at port. His informants had seen Cruz and incredibly, unforgivably, Lowthian was with him.
That wizard had double crossed him. Elves were not prone to violence, indeed they abhorred it, but this was the final straw. He would retaliate. He would make sure Vekna paid for his breech of contract.
The thought of Lowthian in the hands of his nemesis plagued him. She was tainted.
He would kill Vekna. He would kill Cruz; and when he found Lowthian, he would exile her to lesser relatives in the Mountains.
He sent a messenger to Dimitri summoning him to his castle.
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