Raiders of the Storm

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

My entry for the out of this world pirate story competition. This is a world of floating countries and impossible creatures under a violet sky. Word count, 4800.

“Hey. Wanna know why you’re still alive?”

“Erm…” Two shifted in his bonds.

“Shh! Don’t give them what they want,” Four hissed.

Slatch – the errant speaker lay dead a second later. “Ah-hem. I suspect you at least have an idea, right?”

Two squinted through the pouring rain, trying to get a better look at them – tough-looking men and women, the glowing edges of their military-grade weapons sizzling as raindrops struck them.

“Hey!” Their leader pointed her laser sword at him. “You wanna be next? I’m talking to you here.”

Two gulped. “Y-you have our airship already, what more do you want? All of our supplies and money are belowdecks,” he stammered.

“I’ll let Sporo explain,” the pirate captain decided, letting an ethereal-looking male pirate step forward.

“So… basically, there’s a crate we found down there, and… it’s got a really strong seal on it,” he said. “We want it removed.”

Two’s mind began to race – how had they known he could undo it? How did they even know one of the crates even had a seal to begin with? It was the exact same as all the others!

“You know, you only need your hands to undo a seal,” a grumpy-sounding male pirate muttered, tapping the deck with his energy pike.

“That’s my line, Pless. I’m certain you know the position you’re in,” the pirate captain said to Two. “And hey – as a bonus, if you cooperate with us without trying anything funny, we’ll let the rest of you go free.”

The other pirates snickered and whispered among themselves. “Ivan’s a man of her word, you know,” one of them called.

“Ngh…” Two looked over at his captain. The old, veteran sky sailor slowly shook his head. “Fine,” Two murmured.

As Two was guided through the small group of pirates, he realized from their glares that they were expecting him to try something funny. They were probably betting money on it!

Captain… would want as few casualties as possible. He values peace over most other things, Two reflected. But it would be easy, wouldn’t it? Overload the seal, take down the entire pirate crew with us…

Were they bluffing? Would they kill him anyway?

“Hey. Reverie time is over,” a demure-looking female pirate said, tapping his shoulder. “Have you come to a decision?”

They were standing in front of the crate. Two could sense the seal near its base.

The fate of his crewmates… the fate of these pirates…

The fate of the old captain…

Two’s hands glowed, and with a quick gesture a hidden compartment popped open.

“Hmhm, you gave it a lot of thought, didn’t you?” The woman handed the item over to a pirate wearing a face-concealing helmet. “You’re a rare breed, then.”

“Don’t humor him, Sharle,” the helmeted pirate grumbled. “I just lost fifty darmas to his admittedly wise decision.”

Sharle looked back at Two as they ascended the stairs to the deck. “Ivan really is a man of her word, you know. Bloodshed isn’t always the answer.”

“That’s rich, coming from you,” the helmeted pirate scoffed.

“Now, Dashe…” her calm smile remained, but something in her eyes set off an alarm in Two’s mind. “Even then, I still hold to what I said.”

“I hear ya.” Dashe pushed open the door to the deck. “He’s clear! We got the item.”

“Yes! Gimme, gimme,” the pirate captain called Ivan called. “The rest of you, load up! Heh heh… if this is what I think it is, we’ll soon have bigger fish to fry.”

“Hey, Daaashe,” a stormy-haired female pirate called.

“Yeah, yeah,” he replied, tossing a smallish bag to her.

“Wait. Shelbree, you wagered against?” A nervous-looking male pirate pointed at her. “Like… I did?”

“Yeah. Fifty darmas. Who’d you bet with?”

“Uhm… Veras. You think he’ll be mad? He’ll be mad, won’t he?”

Wham! A large bag of coins sailed through the rain and slammed him in the face, knocking him to the floor.

“Quit fooling around, pansies,” Ivan yelled. “Is all the treasure accounted for?”

“Aye, sir,” most of the pirates replied.

“Then listen up!” She tapped the item from the crate: a thin, black diary. “This thing holds all the info we’ll need for our biggest target yet. More details in the mess, let’s clear out!”

Soon the pirates had retreated to their ship; a sleek, dark mass mostly obscured by the storm. As it glided away, it seemed to take the rain with it…

The old captain nodded to Two. “You did well, boy.”

~

“So who’s this target?” Pless sounded indifferent as he sat down in the mess with most of the other pirates. “Is it someone ultra rich, at least?”

“Now, when did I say our target was human?” Ivan opened the diary. “It’s gonna be… a dragon.”

“Hmm? One of those flying lizard things?” Dashe wondered. “I’ve read legends about ‘em.”

“Idiot! They might look like lizards,” Shelbree cut in, “but there’s way more to them than meets the eye.”

“You speak like you’ve seen one before,” Erebus muttered. “U-unless… you have?”

“No way,” she laughed. “But the stories are popular where I grew up.”

“Oy, Virgo,” Veras said to the heavily-scarred woman beside him. “You’ve travelled the farthest out of all of us, right? Surely you’ve happened across a dragon.”

She glanced up at him. “Yes. Once. Wasn’t fun. Nearly killed me.”

“What was it like?” Shelbree asked.

“Not fun.” Virgo sipped some of her juju. “Attacked out of nowhere, then disappeared. Nearly killed me.”

“Seems to line up with what this fella wrote,” Ivan said, tapping an entry in the diary. “Listen to this – ‘it slipped through the land like a bird through a cloud; its domain bent to its will.’ A bit like that, maybe?”

“Maybe,” Virgo nodded.

“Sounds trippy,” Pless muttered. “And bothersome. You sure this’ll be worth the trouble?”

“Ho ho, I’m not even to the best part yet,” Ivan replied. “Ah, here it is – ‘it was then that the entity drew near, a being from beyond the sky. I could see clearly: from its cosmic gem stemmed its impossible power.’ Sounds like a dead-ringer to me.”

“A cosmic gem, huh…?” Veras rubbed his chin. “Doesn’t sound too shabby, I’ll admit.”

“It’s true, then?” Sharle looked intrigued. “Its cosmic gem is the source of its powers?”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Erebus muttered. “Frankly, it sounds suicidal. We have no idea what it’s capable of! Surely you think so too, Virgo?”

She shook her head. “Then I was solo. Now I’m not. I’m in.”

“The reward outweighs the risk, I say,” Shelbree told him. “If we score this thing, who knows what we’ll be able to do. We’ll be matchless, unchallenged!”

“Heh heh.” Ivan stood up. “I like the sound of that. All right, which of you took inventory?”

“Sporo and I,” Veras called. “We kept the sellings in the crates.”

“Ah, good. You two can meet up with our buyers once we reach Kokapaan,” she decided. “The rest of you, back to your stations. We’re doing this!”

~

The pirates’ ship, Stormreiner, sliced through the lavender skies near Hyloa at a much faster speed than most airships its size. At first glance, it looked just like any other schooner some rich person would own.

“Hey Noma! How far to our first stop?” Ivan popped her head into the wheelhouse.

“Sixteen nauts. I see it in the distance,” the pilot replied. A plate of sweetbreads sat above the throttle.

“I see, I see. Won’t be long then,” Ivan nodded. Then she started tousling Noma’s puffy bluish hair with an aggressive hand.

“H-hey. Quit that,” Noma said. “Don’t you have better things to do?”

“I’m captain. I do as I please,” Ivan replied. “Mmgh!”

“Do me a solid and please me by leaving,” Noma retorted.

Ivan slowly munched on the sweetbread. “Touché.”

Suspended in the late-afternoon Baltarian skies was the cloud-wreathed country of Stellaluna, a popular destination for tourists and students of magecraft alike.

“The port’s coming up,” Noma said to her still-present captain. “Go welcome them.”

“Hey! That’s my line.” Ivan then cleared her throat. “Hold steady as we approach the port! I’ll go welcome them.”

“Whatever,” Noma replied.

The port was one of six inspection checkpoints ringing the skyland’s edges, all of them named Tember. As Ivan walked to the Stormreiner’s bow, she put on a floppy, conspicuous-looking hat and a vibrant sun mantle.

A guard rode up on his aeroskiff. “Name and ship ID,” he called.

“Nana Whitley, Whitley One,” Ivan told him.

“Welcome back, Miss Whitley,” the guard said. “The inspection bay is just over there.”

As the ‘Whitley One’ moved on, Ivan clicked her intercom: “prep the bypass fee.”

“Way ahead of you,” Veras’s voice replied. “Sharle’s bringing it up as we speak.”

“Let’s see… en route to Kokapaan, two-way.” The inspector landed in Ivan’s ship with a puff of super-compressed air. “Anything to declare before I take a look?”

Ivan handed over a smallish case. “I’ll have the expedited service.”

“Mmm-hmm…” the inspector briefly perused its contents. “I see. All right, you’re clear. Enjoy your stay.” Whoosh!

“For all the technology they’re allowed to use, inspectors are surprisingly down on their fortune, aren’t they,” Sharle mused.

“I heard it’s because management takes the operating fees out of their wages,” Ivan replied as they watched the inspector fly to the next ship. “I’d say we’re doing them a service.”

~

A little while later, the Stormreiner approached its destination.

Under the dark violet twilight, Kokapaan had already lit up to welcome the night – the outer city, ringing the dark waters of its lake; and the volcanic island in the lake’s center, which held an even brighter mass of buildings and noise around its glowing crater.

The ship calmly touched down in the lake, just west of its south bridge.

“So many lights,” Erebus muttered. “This place never changes, does it?”

“No way. Something is different practically every time we arrive,” Shelbree told him.

“Setting course for Delta Bay,” Noma said through the intercom.

“The outer city? Thank goodness,” Sharle sighed.

“What, is the island too cramped for ya?” Pless threw a look behind him. “I’ve heard you get used to it after a while.”

“I think it’s more so the fact that impending doom awaits them all,” Sporo said. “The volcano is active, after all.”

“Trust me, they don’t care,” Shelbree stated. “Whenever it erupts, the residents hold viewings. I remember going to one with my uncle, but his girlfriend dared him to cross a lava flow and they both died.”

“Ugh, no wonder they call this place the city of chaos,” Dashe grumbled.

“We’re at the dock, guys. Sporo and Veras are off to the red market,” Ivan called. “Who’s coming with me?”

“Me, me,” Shelbree replied. “And you too, Virgo.”

“Uhm. Sure,” Virgo said. “Have stuff to do anyway.”

“Hey, did anyone else live here besides your uncle? I’m a little curious now,” Dashe wondered, walking along with them.

“I grew up here with my parents. They’re probably bunkered down right now, now that I think about it,” Shelbree answered. “The mayor got assassinated recently, so the central city’s gonna be ground zero for a while… a new mayor usually pops in a month or so later, but frankly, this place goes through them like snacks.”

“Erm…” Dashe fell silent as the four of them walked down the road. “You ever think about visiting? You know, during calmer times.”

“Heh! Kokapaan is never calm,” Shelbree declared. “Also, my parents think I’m dead. At present, I’m not really sure how I’m going to convince them otherwise.”

“A person,” Virgo pointed out.

“That’s the one,” Ivan nodded as the person approached. “Hoy there! You find anything?”

“It was almost too easy. I kind of feel bad, considering your down payment,” the informant said, handing over a map.

“Call it a vote of confidence,” Ivan nodded. “So what are we looking at?”

“There’s a certain dragon tribe in possession of a weapon capable of piercing a dragon’s astral veil. That’s your key to victory.”

“A dragon tribe with an anti-dragon weapon? I thought they worshipped dragons,” Ivan muttered.

“Strange, right? I’d say it’s worth investigating.” The informant looked around; face shrouded by a hood. “All right, I’m out. Hit me up if you need anything else.”

“Anytime,” Ivan replied, pocketing the map.

“Who was that?” Shelbree asked.

“Who was who?” Virgo now had a large, bird-like monster following her.

“Oh, Nico’s back! Hi, Nico,” Shelbree excitedly said. The monster cooed as she rubbed its silvery feathers.

“I swear Ivan was talking to something,” Dashe muttered.

“Hm? Ivan was talking to something?” Shelbree looked over at them.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ivan replied. “Virgo, tell the others to be ready by midday tomorrow. We’ll be going nonstop, so make sure you lot are prepared.”

~

The appointed time arrived far too quickly. Some were excited, some were tense. The journey began.

“Laser swords, check,” Dashe muttered. “PZ pistols, shields, check, check. Hey Erebus, who has the vibro glaive right now?”

“Uhm, Sharle. You don’t seriously think we can take on a dragon, do you?”

“About that,” Pless cut in. “I did some reading up at one of the outer city’s libraries. Dragons may be immaterial most of the time, but they are not invincible.”

“He’s right,” Virgo nodded. “At a certain point… hittable. Hurtable.”

“Killable,” Pless confirmed. “In all the legends I managed to find, a dragon always seems to fully materialize before it casts its spells. Not sure why that is, but it’s our best shot.”

“So we won’t be completely helpless without the weapon,” Veras nodded.

“Still not a fan of our odds,” Erebus grumbled, nervously scratching his beard.

“Ohh, grow a spine.” Veras smacked Erebus’s back. “What’s life without a load of risks? Not to mention the spicy reward…”

“Hey, if we’re off to meet a dragon tribe, I think we’re headed the wrong way,” Shelbree said. “Isn’t Taraper to the west?”

“An astute observation,” Sporo nodded. “Apparently this tribe breaks a lot of norms. Their turf is in Derringer, for starters.”

“Derringer? Isn’t that sealand mostly desert? Seems like a pain to try settling there.”

“Indeed. There is no way they aren’t hiding something.”

Some time later, the Stormreiner descended over the low, hot continent; its crew scanning the darkening horizon for anomalies.

“They should be in one of the oases around here,” Ivan called. “Keep your eyes open!”

~

“Chief!” a tribesman entered the building. “It just started raining out of nowhere.”

“I can see that much,” the chief retorted. “What of it?”

“Well… our witch just left. What if it’s something bad?”

“You saying we can’t protect ourselves without her? Grow a spine,” the chief scoffed.

“But it’s rain, Chief. In a desert! Don’t you think it’s strange?”

“Of course it’s strange! But I’m not going to lose my head over it.” The chief gazed out the window at the steadily increasing deluge. “Tell the other warriors to keep a lookout. We’ll see what becomes of this soon enough.”

As the chief stepped outside to survey the situation, he suddenly felt a presence in the clouds above.

A mass had descended, wreathed in water and shadows… it resembled some kind of ship.

Pirates??

“What the hells?! What are pirates doing this far inland?” The chief whipped out his shotgun and took aim.

“Wait, Chief. I know this legend. It’s the storm raiders,” a tribesman called as shadowy crewmen descended.

“A legend, huh? Doesn’t make a difference to me. Light ‘em up!”

The pirates quickly fanned out, brandishing weapons of their own. One pirate approached the chief—

BANG! His shotgun blasted the assailant square in the chest, but the woman didn’t fall. “Hmph! Tougher than you look, eh,” the chief muttered, quickly reloading.

Suddenly the pirate had him by the throat, her eyes glowing red. “There’s no need to resist. We’re just looking for something,” she stated. “Perhaps you have an idea?”

The weapon? “H… how did you…”

“It’s true, then. But where would it be, I wonder?”

“I’ll try tracing something from his abode,” another pirate said. “I’m sure I’ll find a connection somewhere.”

“Ngh…! Stop them, at all costs,” the chief shouted.

 

“Don’t make me apply more force,” the red-eyed pirate warned, forcing him to his knees. “You can feel it, can’t you? I can break your brittle body before your tribe can react.”

“Getting excited, Sharle? We still need him alive,” a new voice said. It belonged to a shorter, energetic female pirate. “I guess you can tie him up, though.”

“You… storm raiders,” the chief growled at her. “You’re their captain, aren’t you? How did you know our witch would be gone?”

The pirate captain looked over at him. “You guys have a witch?”

“I’ve never seen a witch up close before,” the pirate called Sharle said.

“I… see,” the chief muttered. “It all makes sense now. I was a fool to try to defy you lot.”

The tribesmen that had assembled all stopped in their tracks. “Erm… Chief?”

“The secret room under my fireplace, inside the biggest chest,” the chief sighed. “There lies my treasure, the legendary dragon-piercing scythe, Wiskcith.”

“Uhm… I can’t tell if he’s bluffing,” Sharle muttered.

“It’s no bluff… this is fate. The weapon is yours,” the chief growled. “It was the Dragon’s almighty will that you should meet her in battle.” He rose a finger, pointing southwest. “The domain you seek is called Dinobasileia. I pray she kills you all.”

“Heh! Fate, you say?” The captain grinned. “We’ll see soon enough.”

~

The chief had not been bluffing, it seemed. As Ivan held the legendary scythe in her hands, it seemed to shimmer with an unusual extraplanar energy, slowly resonating along its curved blade.

“Dinobasileia, huh…” Pless consulted a map. “That’s the sky isle near Seramona.”

“Let’s hope there really is a dragon there,” Veras said. “Hey, what are the odds it’ll be an ambush?”

“Not that far out. It’ll be most of the night just getting there,” Noma answered.

“We can use the time to prepare,” Ivan decided. “Sporo, make sure everyone has the special armour equipped. And Sharle, make this feast a grand one.”

As the Stormreiner approached its destination, Ivan’s crew prepared their equipment.

“Think I should crack out the rain?” Shelbree looked over at Ivan.

“Not this time. I want to try catching it by surprise,” Ivan decided.

The floating island drew closer, its centre covered in a mass of dark trees. Soon the Stormreiner had docked with no incident.

“Hmm… I don’t see anything, even with infrared,” Veras muttered, surveying the area with his scope. “No dragons; no normal animals either. It’s just trees and gravel.”

“Stay alert, crew. Virgo, aerial support. Dashe and Noma will cover our flanks from the ship. Erebus, how well do you think you’ll work as bait?”

“You know me,” Erebus glumly replied.

“Cool. The rest of you, stay near me. Don’t let your guards down!”

“When am I going to head in?” Erebus whispered as they approached the forest.

WHEN INDEED? The ground below them began to glow with a supernatural light.

“Guys, it’s the dragon,” Shelbree shouted.

JUST WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING, MUCKING ABOUT LIKE THIS? A giant, serpentine creature slipped in and out of the trees, gliding through the ground like it was water; but leaving no ripples. It glared at them with three eyes: two on its right side, one on its left.

Cosmic gem, cosmic gem… there were radiant crystals sticking out of its arms, it legs, random parts of its body, the sides of its head— there! Right where the diary said it would be, a pure white orb of unimaginable power.

HMM? The Dragon glanced down at Ivan. YOU SEEK A FIGHT, THEN? I SUPPOSE I CAN HUMOUR YOU PEOPLE FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

“You’ll eat those words,” Ivan declared. “Crew! Prep your guns!”

BOLD. IT’S INTERESTING, HOW CONFIDENT YOU SOUND, the Dragon mused. PERHAPS YOU THINK WISKCITH ENOUGH TO TAKE ME ON?

“It doesn’t seem intimidated,” Erebus pointed out.

“I can see that. Hold your ground,” Ivan hissed.

WELL, TO FORMALITIES. YOU HAVE BEEN GRACED WITH THE PRESENCE OF THE SOLE QUEEN OF DINOBASILEIA. The Dragon coiled and uncoiled, almost leisurely in its movements. IF IT’S A FIGHT YOU SEEK, THEN I, THE STELLAR DRAGON SAEBORAS, WILL BE YOUR OPPONENT. DON’T DISAPPOINT ME.

Her first attack was instant: black spikes shot out from the ground, flying towards everyone’s hearts—

“Wargh! That was too close. Guys, counterattack,” Ivan called.

TOO LATE, Saeboras sang, sinking into the ground. THOUGH I AM A LITTLE SURPRISED AT HOW MANY OF YOU SURVIVED THAT. DUMB LUCK, PERHAPS?

Ivan threw a look behind her – Shelbree and Erebus had collapsed, unmoving.

NOT PAYING ATTENTION? A wave of force knocked Ivan flat.

No! Can’t lose the scythe. “We can’t face it head on! We have to be tricky,” Ivan shouted, running around the Dragon’s flank. “No holding back or we’re dead!”

T’WAS FOOLISH OF YOU TO HOLD BACK IN THE FIRST PLACE, COCKY HUMANS. A void opened up in the sky, and Virgo quickly swerved as spear-like projectiles streaked downwards, stabbing into the ground.

Sharle jumped forward, stabbing into Saeboras’s arm with her vibro spear. Strange, ethereal dust burst out of the wound – OH? IT SEEMS YOU DO KNOW HOW TO DAMAGE MY KIND. MAYBE THIS WILL BE FUN AFTER ALL.

The crystals on the Dragon’s body suddenly changed color, and Sharle jumped back as rays of bright energy shot out in all directions, burning through trees and gouging holes in the ground.

A severed arm hit the ground, cauterized by the intense heat.

Sporo’s arm?!

Ivan saw him on the ground a bit farther away, a sizable hunk of his torso burned away.

CAREFUL NOW. YOU GET DISTRACTED FAR TOO EASILY, Saeboras chided. A second later, the spears in the ground violently exploded, turning into orbs of blazing light.

Argh! Focus on the dragon. Focus on the Dragon!!

ZLASH, the scythe went.

HMM, THAT ONE ACTUALLY STUNG A LITTLE, Saeboras said. WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO GET SERIOUS NOW?

“You think you’re all that and a cup of juju, don’t you!” ZLASH, ZLASH!

HEH! The Dragon’s eyes flashed, and the ground below Ivan ruptured in a strange pattern—

Sha-boom! Saeboras withdrew as cannonbolts pelted her. The Stormreiner’s forward guns? Noma and Dashe!

“Eat this,” Sharle yelled, throwing a hyper-energized energy pike. It exploded against one of the crystals on Saeboras’s head, shattering it.

HEY! THOSE TAKE YEARS TO GROW BACK. The Dragon glared, and the space around Sharle warped and imploded. OH, IT’S AN AURA. SMALL WONDER YOU’VE LASTED THIS LONG.

“Keep going,” Sharle grunted, “Captain! You’ve got the weapon. We’re helping as best we can!”

Virgo was still overhead, aiming with her megalaser rifle while Nico kept safely out of range.

Pless looked injured and worn, but his eyes remained sharp as he hung back with Sharle, waiting for another opening. She couldn’t spot Veras…

Bigger spikes of darkness shot out of the ground, stabbing into the Stormreiner’s armoured hull. It held steady, however, and fired back with another volley.

Then the Dragon’s mouth opened wide, gathering a massive amount of energy…

“Blast it,” Ivan shouted, dashing forward again. A second later, a shockwave blasted her back as Saeboras exhaled a blinding ray of pure destructive force. The beam cut straight through the Stormreiner, causing a massive explosion that ripped the entire ship to shreds.

This is bad… this is really bad. Ivan forced herself to accept this fact. But retreat is no longer an option. It’s do or die… do or die!!

NO HUMAN HAS BORNE WITNESS TO MY DRAGON BEAM AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE, Saeboras mused, UP UNTIL NOW. I’LL GLADLY LET YOU LEAVE WITH THIS HONOUR.

“You know why we’re here,” Ivan retorted. “And I know we’ve got you on the ropes.”

BOLD WORDS… I WONDER IF YOU CAN FINISH THE JOB. Right away, spears of darkness and light shot from above and below.

Her remaining crewmates moved in, stinging Saeboras with their combined weaponry.

“It hasn’t gone astral since it took out the ship,” Pless realized. “Captain! Now’s your chance!”

The blinding force from the spears’ explosions stunned Ivan for a moment. When her vision returned, she found herself in Virgo’s arms as her mount Nico dodged them past the beams from Saeboras’s prism attack.

“We’re with you,” Virgo told her.

“To the bitter end,” Ivan grimly agreed.

IS THAT ALL THE FIGHT YOU HAVE LEFT? Saeboras’s eyes glinted, and the space around them warped—

Zwoof! Ivan escaped the attack with a swing of the scythe, landing on the ground below. But Virgo and Nico… no, stay focused. I can’t let them down. Do or die!

“Get back, Pless,” Sharle shouted, running forward. Ivan noticed the intense red glow in her eyes – her aura was at its limit! But before she could say anything, Sharle launched at the Dragon with a flurry of supercharged attacks.

More chunks of crystal fell off as Sharle unleashed a final burst of energy that knocked Saeboras back several meters, crushing several trees in the process. Then Sharle leaped forward again—

Wham! A burst of force blasted her back, and she tumbled to the ground near Ivan.

“Sharle, don’t move anymore,” Ivan commanded. “Pless, get her somewhere safe.”

“Don’t… worry about… me,” Sharle managed, looking up at Ivan with faded brown eyes. Her aura was gone…

“I’ve got you,” Pless said, carrying her away.

URGH… HAVEN’T FELT THIS SORE IN A WHILE, Saeboras grumbled, sinking into the ground. MUST MEAN I’M OUT OF SHAPE.

“Well? It’s just you and me now,” Ivan taunted. “There’s no escape for either of us!”

A STRONG DECLARATION… VERY WELL! SHOW ME YOUR FIGHTING SPIRIT, Saeboras said, rising up behind her.

“Big mistake,” Ivan yelled – ZLASH, ZLASH!

No more words came from the dragon as she unleashed more attacks.

ZLASH! Saeboras’s attacks were weakening, but Ivan was having a harder time dodging them.

ZLASH! Would she only be able to get the cosmic gem if Saeboras was dead? Would this end up becoming a war of attrition?

ZLASH! With that strike, the Dragon suddenly exploded into a giant cloud of ethereal dust.

Ivan tensed as it washed over her, somehow both hot and cold at the same time.

Did… did I do it? Wiskcith suddenly felt heavy in her hands, and she dropped to her knees.

The dust began to glitter as the first rays of light illuminated the floating island, and Ivan could see a small silhouette approaching her.

Ivan blinked. It was a woman she had never seen before, smiling as if she had just had a satisfying meal. As the dust settled, Ivan could make out the woman’s eyes – two on her right side, one on her left.

That meant the shining orb on her forehead was…!

IMPRESSIVE. YOUR WILL HAS FAR EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS, the woman (Dragon?) mused.

Ivan struggled to her feet. “Wh-what are you trying to pull?”

FEAR NOT. YOU NO LONGER NEED TO FIGHT, Saeboras assured her. I HAVE ASSUMED THIS ALTERNATE FORM SO THAT WE MAY NEGOTIATE AN AGREEMENT.

“An… agreement? So you’ll give me your cosmic gem?”

WOULD A STAR GIVE ITS CORE? WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR BRAIN? Saeboras shook her head. I WILL INSTEAD PROVIDE YOU MY SERVICES.

“Oh.” Ivan scratched her head. “You’re serious?”

I HAVE PRESERVED THE LIVES OF THOSE STILL LIVING. AND… Saeboras looked back towards the Stormreiner’s remains. RESTORING YOUR TRANSPORT SHOULD PROVE NO ISSUE.

Living… Pless and Sharle! Ivan began running towards them, then stopped as she saw Pless standing over a person-sized mound of grey dirt.

I FEEL SHE DESERVES AN HONOURABLE MENTION, Saeboras said. SHE DAMAGED ME MORE THAN WISKCITH DID. MAY HER AURA LIVE ON IN A NEW SOUL.

Virgo had survived as well. According to Pless, Nico had protected her as they fell.

“Told you this was a bad idea,” Erebus muttered. Bits of his remnants still clung to his hair.

“Hey, you have no room to talk,” Pless grumbled. “First to complain, first to die. Coward.”

“Hey, no bickering,” Ivan told them. “There’s a lot we’ll need to do once our ship gets restored.”

“We’re still doing this?” Pless wondered. “We’ll need to rebuild practically from scratch.”

“I know,” Ivan nodded. “You don’t have to come with if you don’t want to.”

“Don’t even start with that,” Pless scoffed.

“Yeah. I mean, there’s nowhere else for me to go,” Erebus nodded.

“Same here,” Virgo agreed.

“Heh. I’ll make sure you guys don’t regret it,” Ivan declared. “I’ll be the greatest pirate this world has ever seen!”

 

The end of a story… and the beginning of an era


Submitted: April 30, 2021

© Copyright 2021 jraed6. All rights reserved.

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