A bit of fun writing just for the hell of it.
Interlude on the High Seas (by Heather Killough-Walden)….
She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman Slade had ever laid eyes on. That she had been seated next to the man he hated more than anyone in the nine seas when he’d first seen her had only increased her value to his way of thinking. Captain Jorgen Rose of the Thunderstorm sat beside her, his white-blue eyes ever watchful. She was a treasure who was treasured by his mortal enemy. Which made her priceless.
And then she’d smiled at him and she’d shaken his hand, and he’d felt the stirrings of something… potential beneath her fair, soft skin. She began asking questions about the anti-magic field around the island and her expression was wistful. Naturally, he’d asked whether she was a magic user. Something sparked in the storm gray of her eyes as she said, “yes,” and he knew he had to have her.
So he’d taken her. It worked precisely to plan.
The next day, The Thunderstorm sailed out. While it was out of port, Slade began to do his homework. The Magic Free Zone was a useful port for sailors and pirates who worked devoid of the aid of spells and incantations or the protective and healing powers of clerics and priests. However, beings such as the young Leiah Lenore were not only possessive of such powers – they seemed intrinsically made of them.
It was well known amongst people who had lived on the island for generations that those like miss Lenore more often than not felt bereft in this tiny area of the world. Mages could never truly be happy here. They felt as if some essential part of them were missing, peeled from their spirits like a layer of their soul. The inhabitants of the island even had a name for magic users like this: nalu. Leiah Lenore was nalu… lost.
If her fervent queries into Slade’s sailing schedule and her questions as to whether or not he would ever be sailing out of the Magic Free Zone were any indication, she was desperate to feel whole once more.
Which was exactly how Slade wanted her.
It didn’t take long for the captain to acquire what he needed to see his plan to fruition. The bottles of injectable magic hadn’t come cheap. In fact, the value of his ship’s last three conquests combined had gone into securing enough of the sparkling vials to last him several months. Now all he needed were the veins of one lovely little magic user to inject them into.
When the Thunderstorm returned to port a few days later, Slade kept his distance and remained out of sight, content to watch and wait. It was clear to him that Captain Rose had become ever more enamored with his own charge, despite the other captain’s reserved behavior. Rose never strayed more than two feet from her, he offered her his elbow at every opportunity, and Slade was fairly certain Rose hadn’t taken his eyes off of her for longer than ten seconds since they’d disembarked.
It was grating, of course. Slade felt increasingly irritated as he waited for the right moment to arrive. He hadn’t felt jealous with regards to a woman in a very long time… in fact, never. But he also had to admit to himself that the thought of bringing Captain Rose further pain by taking this woman from him was a profoundly satisfying notion. The more Jorgen Rose cared for Leiah Lenore, the hotter it would burn when she was no longer his.
Slade planned to have the party arrested for quarreling in the street, but he couldn’t have hoped for the blessing of what actually occurred. Apparently he wasn’t the first pirate captain to want Leiah on his ship enough to take her from someone else. The female mage was already officially “missing” because she’d been abducted from a ship called the Rime and Reason. It had been bound for the Land of the North Dragon Kings when the Thunderstorm struck. Rose lifted her, forced her into membership amongst his crew, and absconded with her to the island.
But her people hadn’t given up, obviously, because they showed up on the island not a week later, despite all odds.
The captain of the Rime and Reason was a tall, painfully thin man with a hooked nose and an almost irritating sense of honor. That one of the people depending upon him for safe passage had been abducted while under his captainship had to have been killing him inside. Once the Rime and Reason docked, the captain and his crew, along with an elven warrior and a druid gnome with a shock of orange hair and blue-tinted skin, began moving through the island’s city to look for their lost mage.
Slade saw the opportunity for what it was and planned accordingly. When the elf asked whether Slade had seen a woman to the description he put forth, Slade was incredibly helpful. Why, yes he had. And he showed him exactly where.
Not an hour later, the elven warrior and Captain Rose were battling in the street. Right on schedule, the city’s law enforcement arrived and the fighters were gassed into unconsciousness, along with the young Leiah Lenore, and sequestered in the city’s jails.
The rest was so easy. Slade paid the mage’s bail, making certain that the jailer told her only that “her captain” had done so. Thinking that Captain Rose had paid to have her freed, Leiah left the jail house. As soon as she stepped out into the light of day he and his men made their move.
As Slade carried the struggling woman into his cabin and thrust her into his leather-backed chair, his blood was pumping hot. He wasn’t alone in the cabin. His first mate had accompanied him, as was customary when dealing with prisoners or trouble makers. However, Slade had been very clear that no one was to touch Leiah unless he gave the order.
He wanted that privilege for himself.
Once he had the bag off of her head and she went still in the chair, he let go of her and stepped back, taking her in. Once more, he was struck with her beauty. Her silken brown hair was loose about her shoulders and fell to her waist in thick, shimmering locks. Some of it had fallen before her face during her wild struggle and it now moved with each of her frightened breaths. Her storm gray eyes were the color of almost-born lightning, crackling with unspent electricity. They were wide as she looked from him to the cabin to the giant of a man standing behind her.
She had questions, of course, and he couldn’t help but oblige her with answers. But he had demands of his own. He told her his terms, showing her one of the vials of magic he had procured, and waited for her to do the only thing she had any real option of doing – take an oath to obey him in exchange for not being thrown off of the Neptune’s Crypt. Not that he would have thrown her off of the ship. He had a special pair of manacles just waiting for her wrists in his garment chest against the wall of his cabin.
But it turned out they wouldn’t be necessary.
The oath he forced her to make bade her precious soul to Asmodeus should she disobey her new captain. She naturally hesitated, but swore to it all the same, and the unexpected sense of triumph Slade experienced made him smile. The scar Captain Rose had given him years ago made the smile grim, he knew. Jorgen Rose didn’t care for the way Slade conducted business. Slade was a pirate’s pirate, and nothing was beneath him. He’d run everything from stolen silks to stolen people. Rose, on the other hand, had far too pristine a soul for Slade’s liking.
Slade had once been a very handsome man, and the knife wound he had sustained to his right cheek had not necessarily diminished his appearance in that respect. His thick hair was the color of a beetle’s black carapace, and the clouded jade of his eyes could pierce through the will of any opponent. He’d been born tall and strong, and the confidence of his stance was reinforced by his shrewd mind. He had charisma in spades.
But the scar gave him a hard look, as if he were constantly scheming, almost smirking. And when he smiled, it turned his smile into a blatantly sinistral grin. It gave women chills; he knew from experience since he’d felt the effects of these chills in the warm female bodies he often took to his bed. He didn’t mind them in those moments. But he minded them now, for they did little to put his new prisoner at ease.
Still, the fear and distrust in her stormy gaze was enticing. There was no creature more beguiling to the predator than the prey that ran from him. And so it was with a dark kind of thrill that he ordered his first mate to roll up Leiah’s sleeve and hold her arm.
She struggled just a bit. She was surprised – and scared. The needle was not overly large, however it was a needle all the same. “A brief pain, Leiah,” he assured her as his first mate easily got her under control. “And then you’ll feel much, much better.”
The sound she made as he inserted the needle into her vein was lovely. She gasped, moaned ever so softly, and closed her eyes. He felt transfixed, watching her there as the magic made its way through her body. She slowly relaxed as her skin began to give off a warm glow, and Slade was treated to the sight of what happened when a real magic user was given back her power.
A second later, he nodded for his first mate to release her, and Leiah Lenore did the most extraordinary thing. She smiled. Whatever glow she had possessed as the magic infused her long, lithe form was made brighter by that smile. She opened her eyes once more, and he could see that they had lightened considerably, going from gray to nearly white, as if caught within the column of a lightning bolt. Slowly, she rose from his chair and stared down at her hands.
“I feel whole again,” she whispered, and he could hear the very real happiness lacing her softly spoken words.
And then she looked up at him and he went very still. He wasn’t sure what to expect, so he’d made certain not to give her enough of the elixir to allow her to escape. However, she surprised him anyway by promptly vanishing.
One moment, she was standing there before him – the next, she was gone. It didn’t last long, but it was enough to set his teeth on edge and bring out the emerald of his eyes. He didn’t like it when she wasn’t there. It was an uncomfortably vulnerable realization to make. But there it was.
When she reappeared, she was grinning from ear to ear and the sound of her laughter filled his cabin. A kind of levitation came next, and as she floated up into the air, an unseen wind came from nowhere and whipped through her long, dark mane. She was a vision from a nightmare in that moment. A beautiful, wonderful, highly troubling and deeply alluring nightmare.
But the magic didn’t last long, and as she floated back down and her boots touched the floor boards of his cabin, the signs of her weakness became very quickly evident.
He’d expected as much. The elixir he’d given her returned to a magic user that essential part of themselves that they were missing in the Magic Free Zone. Once reminded of what it felt like to be whole, to lose this aspect of their spirit again was frankly devastating. The magic user would become weak and tired. Even sore and miserable.
He took the opportunity to remind her of her oath and to assure her that she would have the magic when she needed it.
Over the next few days, the captain used his power over Leiah to ensure that she remain beside him. He demanded that she sleep in his cabin at night, well away from the prying eyes – and hands – of his crewmen. Fortunately for her, he was kept busy enough during those long, dark hours that she was allowed to sleep alone.
While on deck, he commanded her to the deck as well and kept a keen eye on her even while he maintained absolute order throughout the ship. He knew he was being followed – by not one ship, but two. And putting space between them and the Neptune’s Crypt took almost all of his concentration.
However, he had but to glance at his striking prisoner to be once more reminded that it was well worth it.
The night of their third day out from port, Slade’s watchmen announced that Captain Rose’s ship was closing in. Slade turned to Leiah, who had clearly heard the news. Her renewed sense of hope was written all over her beautiful face. She looked from the crow’s nest to him, and tried not to allow too much of that hope to show in her features, but she failed miserably.
Slade raised the spy glass in his right hand and peered through it to get a better look at the approaching pirate flag. A skull and crossbones – and a rose. “You will take the magic now and use it against the Thunderstorm and its captain,” he told her frankly. She hadn’t asked for any more of the magic elixir since he’d first injected her with it, and he was secretly very impressed with her willpower. It couldn’t have been easy. She was obviously weaker, and hadn’t once smiled since that night. He’d warned her not to waste it, yes, but he’d rather hoped she would at least desire another taste enough to come to him.
Not that it mattered; she was going to take some from him now whether she liked it or not.
She didn’t answer him, so he lowered the spyglass he’d been peering through and turned a hard gaze upon her. She looked up at him with real apprehension in her lightning storm eyes. “Don’t make me do this,” she pleaded softly.
With stark impatience, Slade grabbed her by the wrist and walked her to his cabin, dragging her inside before slamming his door shut behind them and locking it tight.
“Don’t defy me,” he warned, reminding her of the oath she’d taken the night he’d abducted her. “The consequences are dire indeed.” He left her on one side of his desk and moved around it to the other. “Roll up your sleeve, Leiah,” he instructed, his tone cool and hard as he pulled a vial of elixir from the inner pocket of his vest and took the needle from the top drawer of his desk. He looked up at her where she stood frozen to the spot. She still hadn’t moved.
“And sit down,” he added, trying his best to maintain his composure. He could feel the Thunderstorm bearing down on them; it was like a vibration in his blood. And he had to admit to himself that it troubled him. He had never wanted to lose something less in all his life.
But it wouldn’t do to lose his temper with Leiah. She had no choice in the matter and he only needed to remind himself of that. She wasn’t going anywhere. Not without his permission.
“Leiah, I won’t tell you again,” he said as he came around the desk and stood before her. “Roll up your sleeve and sit down. Now.”
She closed her eyes, and he noted the glint of wetness upon one of her cheeks. But she did as she was told and sat down, using her right hand to roll up her left sleeve as she did. He watched her work, her fingers shaking, her skin pale and luminescent as she bared it for him.
There was a slight bruise on the inside of her elbow, a memoir of the last time they had done this. Slade lowered himself to one knee before her and took her arm in his free hand. He wasn’t sure why – it wasn’t like him – but he made certain to avoid the bruise as he found another vein and hesitated. His eyes went to hers.
She cringed and gritted her teeth, gasping softly as the needle slid in. Very slowly, he injected the elixir into her bloodstream.
He knew that once he was finished, she would possess more power than he could personally fight. There was something about Leiah Lenore that screamed of magic mysteries and might. He expected her to follow his orders to the letter due to the oath she’d taken, but that was the problem. She was smart. He’d been able to tell as much within the first few minutes of meeting her back on the island. If there was a way to twist his words around, if there was any way at all to turn his orders against him, she would find it. Then she would use her magic on him and he would either die outright, or live to never see her again.
It was something he needed to correct right here and now. He could hear his first mate shouting battle ready orders up on deck. There wasn’t much time.
“One more thing, Leiah,” he told her as she began to relax and her skin began to glow. He watched her features soften, her eyes lighten until they were nearly white, and moved with her as she couldn’t help but rest against the back of his chair. Having the magic within her veins once more must have felt like being slightly inebriated. The discomfort faded as she became whole, and there was nothing quite so calming as finally being at an end to pain.
“You will not do anything to bring harm to me or my ship,” he told her. “You will not do anything to escape.”
She stiffened, just slightly, as he emptied the last of the elixir into her and his words hit home. But he held her arm fast and kept her gaze locked within his. “Should you find a way to disobey me, then you’d best kill me outright,” he continued. “Because for every failed attempt you make, I will abduct a child from the island and sell them into slavery.”
She gazed at him with a mixture of emotions ranging from relief to terrible frustration to outright terror. He pulled the needle out of her arm and watched as she flinched. Then he put down the needle and leaned forward, bracing himself with a hand on either side of her head against the back of the chair. “You know the reason Rose and I don’t get along,” he told her, smiling that nasty smile. “You know the kind of cargo I can run.” He shook his head, his gaze sliding over her lovely features. His body suddenly ached for her, despite the sounds of ensuing battle from above. “Don’t think I won’t do it,” he warned, moving in so close that his words could no doubt be felt across her lips. “I’m a hard man to kill, Leiah, and you don’t want that on your conscience.” His grin was back. “So be a good girl.”