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gaeleth:stories:the_end_of_brotherhood

The End of Brotherhood
Written by Harry McKenzie, copyright 2008; posted with full permissions.

At sea, Davor 3rd, 1331 Avard

Lady Jena soared above the waves, her white wings spread to catch the rising air currents. Her simple silver and white halter top and matching pants a sharp contrast to the blue sky, she closed her eyes for a moment, reveling in the warmth of the sun. She never felt more alive and at peace, since her resurrection, than when she was in the sky on a clear day. She was scouting ahead of Commodore Seamus' fleet, looking to spot their quarry so that Seamus could bring his ships into action against the enemy. His twin brother, Anthilles, the Dread Pirate.

The last six months had seen Seamus concentrating solely on running his brother to ground. They had come close twice before, but the Dread Pirate had slipped away both times. It was frustrating to Seamus and everyone around him, Anthilles was every bit as canny as Seamus, and a lot more willing to kill. He had escaped once by the simple means of loading a ship with hostages and setting it afire, leaving Seamus the choice of pursuing or saving the innocents. Seamus opted to save those he could.

Jena's musings were interrupted when she spotted a smudge on the horizon. She flapped her wings and used the added power to gain altitude. She also changed direction so that she was heading for the smudge. Once she was high enough up, she rolled out into a shallow glide that would conserve energy while bringing her closer to what she had spotted.

Fifteen minutes later, she had identified two ships. A galleon and a brig. Both were running the same course and speed, and both showed signs of hastily repaired battle damage. Jena continued to close on them, she was fairly sure they were the ships they sought, but she needed to be sure, they had already chased down several decoys already.

Jena closed to within a mile or so, keeping an altitude of perhaps a thousand feet. She was checking her memory against what she recalled of the Serpents Kiss from the two times she had seen it before, but she still couldn't be certain. It matched as far as she could tell, but there was a nagging doubt. It was the doubt that fueled her decision to get closer, to avoid the chance that this was yet another set of decoys.

She spiraled to her left, beginning a fast descent, she tucked her wings back and in to add to her speed, intending to flash past the galleon's quarterdeck at about fifty feet's distance and an equal altitude. She had just leveled out at deck height and was turning to run past from bow to stern, when a levin bolt arced from the quarterdeck, striking her full on in her right side.

Her muscles spasmed in pure agony as the electrical power tore through her. She lost control of her flight and plummeted, out of control, to the waves below. She was unconscious before she even hit the water. Fortunately, the shock of the cold seawater woke her almost instantly. Allowing her to struggle to the surface.

She broke the surface, gasping for air, shocked and in pain. Her wings, now sodden with seawater, no use to her. She treaded water, fighting against the weight of her soaked feathers. She was just starting to consider unbuckling her belt and letting her sole dagger sink to the bottom, when a shadow fell over her face. She looked up just in time to see a young man floating in midair above her.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” He asked with a smug grin, “A little bird with clipped wings.”

Before Jena could even formulate a reply, the man, barely more than a boy, really, leveled his hand at her and spoke a word unintelligible to Jena. She had no time to react as another levin bolt arced out at her, flinging her into darkness again.

Aboard the Rattler, later that same morning.

Commodore Seamus Stonehelm, lowered his spyglass after scanning the sky, for what must have been the hundredth time in the last hour, and like every other time, there was still no sign of Jena. He sighed and moved over to where Captain Vladimir Kushkin, the Rattler's master stood near the helm. He stood in silence for a few moments, gathering his thoughts before giving Vladimir orders, “Maintain course and speed Captain, I'm going below.”

“Aye Sir.” Vladimir replied.

Seamus returned a salute and made his way below into the stern castle to where his quarters were. Inside a war council awaited him. Cleo, his bodyguard, wife and closest friend, Sir Angus Stonehelm, his adoptive cousin and Commander of his marines, Maui, the Rattler's resident Cleric of Olorin, Xavian de Lance, combat mage, Storm, Xavian's white wolf familiar, Seraphina, Halfling and combat mage of sorts, and Visik, a Tomanth who led the detachment of his people for Seamus. They all looked up expectantly as he entered.

“Any sign?” Angus asked.

“No…” Seamus replied tiredly, “We'll have to assume they caught her somehow.”

“How could they?” Xavian asked quietly, “Lady Jena is a Paladin of Yatindar and she was flying…they don't have anything that could bring her down.”

“That we know of no.” Seamus replied flatly, “It's what we don't know of that likely we're dealing with here.”

He looked across the table to his wife, Cleo. She was a bit paler than normal, and utterly silent as she sat perched on a chair, her black cloak pulled around her. She had the hood down for a change, otherwise only her lower face would be visible in the shadow of her cloak. She returned his look with a grim frown, “Can we find her?” she asked simply.

“Yes.” Seamus replied. He moved over to a cabinet on the wall and opened it. He removed a basin and brought it to the table. He filled it halfway with water from a pitcher and stepped back. Maui took the cue and stepped up to the basin, producing his holy symbol. He began to chant softly, calling upon his God to grant him the vision of what he sought.

After several minutes chanting, the water in the basin grew cloudy and an image began to form. Slowly at first, then with amazing speed, the image resolved into that of Lady Jena. She was visible from the waist up, she was wearing only her damp white and silver halter top, her face was bruised, with one eye partially swollen shut, and she appeared to be in a dark room of some sort. Her arms were pulled up over her head, and as they watched, someone struck her across the face.

Cleo gave a growl and stood bolt upright from her chair. Her eyes had changed from their normal brown to an all encompassing black. Not even the whites were visible, just two black orbs that made even Angus take a step back. She practically radiated rage. Seamus moved to her side, tentatively taking her by the hand and whispering soothing words that no one else could hear. Xavian began mentally cataloging his spells, though he wasn't sure any of them would help, he had once seen the tiny woman take a fire blast to the side and shrug if off as if it were nothing, if she snapped, he was unsure that anyone in the room could stop her.

As Seamus tried to soothe Cleo, Seraphina came over and took Cleo's free hand in her tiny hands and looked up to her, “Lady Jena needs us to help her. We need you to do that.” She said in that simple way of hers.

Cleo looked down at the Halfling and her eyes slowly bled away the black until they looked normal again, “Thank you for reminding me Seraphina.” Cleo said softly. She bent down to Seraphina's level and gave the little Halfling a gentle hug. Seraphina smiled broadly and returned the hug with interest.

Seamus gave Seraphina a wink from over Cleo's shoulder. He had been worried for a moment there, few things could get Cleo to break her icy cold mask of control, but someone harming those Cleo loved was a sure way to do it. Seamus was unsure sometimes who Cleo loved more, himself, her husband, or Lady Jena, her mistress. “We'll get her back, My Love.” he reassured Cleo.

“Yes we will.” Cleo agreed. She reached back and pulled her hood up over her head, all but her lower face disappearing into it's shadows, “And when we do, someone is going to pay.”

“Right,” Seamus agreed as Cleo seemed to vanish into midair, “Let's get cracking then…Maui, can you pinpoint where she is?”

“Not unless they take her outside so I can see the sea itself.” the big Sholin replied. Seamus shook his head, to most, the seascape looked the same where ever you were, to Maui, each place was identifiable.

“Keep watching then.” Seamus ordered, “I'm going up on deck, we'll keep course in the direction she flew.”

Maui merely nodded and Seamus led the general exodus up to the main deck. If they didn't get a fix on Jena, it was going to be a long and frustrating search.

Late afternoon on the Serpent's Kiss.

Anthilles stood on the quarterdeck considering his options. His thrice-curst brother had managed to chase him into an area he hadn't wanted to go, the Gulf of Chirin, It was large and he would be hard to trap in here without a far larger fleet than Seamus had, but it was an area he did not know as well as many others to the south and east. Seamus had managed to head Anthilles off every time he had tried to move toward the familiar areas of the Alekdan Principalities.

His capture of the Paladin had been a stroke of good fortune. Brylum, the young lightening mage he had taken on a while back had done a fine job of bringing her down. It gladdened Anthilles' heart to see that uppity bitch in chains. Now if he could just break her and find out where Seamus was lurking. He knew the bastard was close. He tossed in another silent curse toward his mother, if she hadn't tried to flee his father, Anthilles and Seamus would likely be partners.

Anthilles shrugged it off, what was past could not be undone, if his brother wished to continue to force the issue, there was no doubt that Anthilles would prevail. Despite several setbacks, the Dread Pirate was still positive of the outcome should he have to face Seamus in battle. He had Prophecy on his side after all.

Once he had finally worked out who Seamus was, and confirmed it during their single face to face meeting, he had figured out that damned prophecy. Anthilles was obviously the 'Lover of the Dark' and Seamus the 'Lover of the Light'. And the prophecy clearly stated that the Lover of the Light was going to be struck down by the Dark. It gave Anthilles the confidence he needed to play out the game of cat and mouse he had run with Seamus for the last six months.

“SAIL HO!” Came a lookout's cry, interrupting his musings. He raised his spyglass and began to scan the horizon to port. Sure enough, there was a sail and the thin sticks of masts visible there. Anthilles lowered his spyglass and turned to Mr Dunwiddie, his First Officer, “General quarters if you please, bring us about to intercept and signal the Moray to break off and meet us in Finnegan's cove in three days.”

“Aye sir.” Dunwiddie replied before moving off. A moment later the ships bell began to ring and a series of signal flags were run up. The brig, the Moray, began a hard turn to starboard to break off from the coming fight. Anthilles raised his spyglass again as the sound of running feet pounded across the decks, “A pity I shan't have time to deal with that Paladin…I was looking forward to breaking her will.” He said to no one in particular.

Same time aboard the Rattler

“Signal the Asp and the Copperhead to pursue the brig.” Seamus ordered, “We'll deal with the galleon with the Krait's assistance.”

“Aye, Sir.” Vladimir replied. He barked orders to his crew and signal flags shot up. A few minutes later, two of Seamus' galleons altered course to pursue the smaller ship. Seamus watched through his spyglass, a satisfied expression on his face. He watched as the enemy galleon altered course as well. He continued to observe before giving another order.

“Formation six, Captain Kushkin.” He ordered, “Rattler to port, Krait to starboard.”

“Aye Sir.” Vladimir replied, again signal flags went up and the Krait altered course. She took up a position parallel to the Rattler on the Rattler's starboard side, about a half mile distant. The two Rakoran ships were making high speed, and unless the enemy altered course, they would pass him between them, exposing him to devastating fire from both flanks.

Several tense minutes passed as the three ships continued to close the distance between them. Just as Seamus was about to order the catapult crew to open fire, the enemy galleon swung hard to port, cutting in front of the Krait. The Krait swung to port as well, in order to avoid colliding with the other ship, they passed each other, port to port and both of them began firing their catapults at each other, neither scored more than a few glancing hits that did no real damage.

Vladimir anticipated Seamus' next order and already had the Rattler's helm hard over to port, swinging clear of the Krait, but temporarily unable to fire on the enemy. “Best speed if you please, Captain.” Seamus ordered. Vladimir reached over to the helm and placed a hand on a carved rune, activating an enchantment, and causing the Rattler to surge forward at a speed few ships could ever hope to match.

Seamus' vessel was one of the new Skate class “super galleons”, larger and faster that the heavy galleon the enemy possessed, the Rattler carried far more armament and a positively huge boarding force. Few ships could stand up to her one on one, even the mighty Nabrolian triremes. With a fleet backing her up, she represented one of Rakore's most powerful naval forces. Seamus had been quite pleased to be given her when the original Rattler was retired from service after being heavily damaged in battle.

Within minutes, the Rattler had completed a full circle and was again closing on the enemy ship. The Krait was about halfway through a hard turn to starboard, as her captain worked to bring her around and back into the fight as well. The enemy, having successfully broken Seamus' formation, was trying to bring his ship around to unmask a full catapult broadside into the Rattler. He was going to at least partially succeed, Seamus noted.

Seamus decided to offset this, at least partially. He reached down to to a small cabinet set into the aft bulkhead and pulled out his bagpipes. After getting them settled under his arm and inflating the bladder, he placed the blowpipe in his mouth and his fingers found their places on the chanter, and he began to play. His music immediately reinforced the Rattler's legendary luck, and raised the crew's morale.

The enemy did their best to aid their own cause as well. As Seamus began to play, a black flag featuring a white skull gripping a dagger in it's jaws, fluttered to the top of their mast, removing all doubt that they did indeed face Anthilles.

As the two ships continued to close, Anthilles' crew opened with the catapults that they could get to bear on the Rattler. Every second they held fire now meant fewer would bear on the rapidly approaching Rattler. Of the six that fired, only one stuck, a glancing hit near the stern that sent a cloud of wood splinters flying across the quarterdeck.

Amazingly, no one was struck by either the iron ball, or the wood splinters. Seamus finished the tune he was playing and carefully sat his pipes aside. He looked across at Anthilles' ship, carefully judging the distance and the course compared to his own. “Plan three Captain.” He ordered.

“Aye Commodore!” Vladimir replied with a savage grin, “VISIK! PLAN THREE!”

At Vladimir's shouted command, a score of Tomanths, led by Visik, Commodore Seamus' longest serving Tomanth, literally lept over the side of the Rattler and vanished beneath the waves. AS the Tomanths executed their part of Plan Three, the thirty archers in the fighting tops stood, drew and loosed, sending a shower of arrows across to rain death and pain on Anthiles' decks. Xzax would have been pleased, Seamus thought to himself.

The Rattler was now almost dead astern of theSerpent's Kiss. Seamus raised a gloved fist and dropped it with a shout of “FIRE!” and all eight catapults on the starboard side fired. Two struck true, one sending an iron ball smashing into a catapult, destroying the weapon, and scattering it's crew like tenpins, the other iron ball glanced off the center mast's main boom, cracking it in half, and ricocheted down through the main hatch, smashing though it like it wasn't there and slamming into several crates of plundered cargo, making a complete mess of the main cargo hold.

The broken boom presented an immediate problem, it fell away, but stopped short of falling to the deck because it was still held up by the sail it once supported. Crewmen in the rigging immediately set to work cutting it free and reefing the now useless sail. Seamus' archers spotted them and began to target them, making an already difficult task nearly impossible.

The Serpent's Kiss fired her two aft facing catapults then. Both struck, one iron ball smashed through the starboard bow, just above the waterline, doing minor, mostly cosmetic damage, the second hit the deck on the starboard side of the forecastle, and knocked a ballistae off it's mount, killing one man and wounding a second.

The Rattler went hard to starboard, swinging around to come up along the Serpent's Kiss' port side. The faster speed of the bigger ship made this a sure thing. As the distance closed, the Kiss tried to turn away, but abruptly, she began to swing to her port, steering gone as Visik and his Tomanths had disabled the rudder from below. The Rattler altered her course so that she would still come alongside, but close enough to board.

It was only a few minutes before the Rattler was alongside, both vessels fired every weapon that could be brought to bear on the other. Iron balls and ballistae bolts crisscrossed the short gap between the ships, clouds of wood splinters sprayed across both decks, and men died on both ships. The Rattler's ballistae bolts had lines attached, however, and as they struck and embedded, winches began to crank, drawing the ships together with a crash of timber.

With a shouted battle cry, Angus led his marines, some five hundred strong, across to the enemy ship. Tor, Bjarne, and Hrothgar in the front rank. The pirate crew surged forward to meet them, and the clash of steel on steel reverberated through the air.

Rattler's Quarterdeck

Cleo appeared next to Seamus, who was trying to spot his twin in the swirling melee that encompassed the Serpent's Kiss' main deck, so far he was having no luck. “I'm going to find Jena.” She said in a tone that brooked no argument.

“Aye Love, I expect you will.” Seamus replied, “Bring her back safe to us…I'll see you when this is finished.” He leaned in and captured her lips with his, a fierce passionate kiss that lasted only a moment before he broke it, reached up, grabbed a rope, drew his rapier and launched himself into a swing that carried him across to the other ship.

“Showoff.” Cleo muttered without any real anger. Seamus was as much a showman as he was a commander most of the time, it was his way. All the world was his stage. It was only around his closest friends and family that you ever saw the man beneath the public mask.

Cleo opted for a more conventional route to board the enemy vessel, she simply invoked her ability to hide herself from view. To anyone on the quarterdeck, she simply seemed to vanish from view. It wasn't magic, a see invisible spell would not reveal her, but it was as close as it came.

Once she was out of everyone's sight, so to speak, she simply jogged to the railing, climbed over it and made her way to the enemy ships stern castle, deftly weaving through the melee that swirled about her. She entered the stern castle and began to check each compartment. She was fairly sure Jena would be held near the officer's quarters, though it was also possible that she was in the brig itself, which was usually located in the aft hold. Either way, Cleo was sure she was heading in the right direction.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck.

Tor charged across the deck, scattering pirates left and right, cutting no less than four down with his axe as he moved. He bellowed his war cry and it was echoed by his battle mates, Hrothgar and Bjarne, as they trailed in his wake, adding their own carnage to his. The three of them were a force that very few creatures could slow let alone stop.

As Tor spun about and prepared to charge again, a pile of chain that he had passed began to move. Like a nest of snakes, it writhed and slithered about on the deck, slowly coming together and forming into a vaguely humanoid shape as more chains slithered across the deck to join it.

“What the hell is that?” Bjarne asked as he hefted his ebonite axe and watched as the chain creature finished forming. It was now barring Tor's path, nearly as big as the Minotaur, with a pair of glowing red eyes visible in it's “face”.

“I'm not sure.” Tor rumbled in reply, “But I think it wants to fight.”

“Fine by me.” Bjarne muttered. The three of them attacked as a single unit, Tor swinging his massive axe at the thing's “neck”, Bjarne aiming his axe at a leg, and Hrothgar leaping onto it's back.

All three attacks failed. Lengths of chain shot out, wrapping around both weapons, entangling them, and in Bjarnes case, pulling it free from his grip. Hrothgar did manage to jump onto it's back, but them he found the chains wrapping around him and pulling him inside of the thing. He gave a startled bark as he vanished from view, and then a yelp of pain was heard as the chains began to constrict around him.

“HROTHGAR!” Bjarne shouted as he heard more yelps from inside the thing. Tor was struggling to keep a hold on his axe with one hand, and fending off Bjarnes axe with his shield using the other. Bjarne managed to grab his axe, but couldn't get it free from the chains wrapped around it. “How do we kill this thing?” he growled out.

“Find it's weakness.” Tor guessed in reply. This was going far from well.

Serpent's Kiss, quarterdeck

Seamus' rope swing had landed him on the quarterdeck, where he had immediately attacked three pirates guarding the helm. He had quickly dealt with two of them, but the third was proving to be an expert swordsman. The two of them parried blows back and forth for several minutes. Before Seamus spoke, “Your blade work is superb but you are fighting a losing battle…look around you…my crew outnumbers yours and it's only a matter of time…so why don't you save yourself and yield?”

“I have never yielded a fight, and I don't intend to start now.” the man replied as he launched another attack, “Should I lose to you, I lose nothing but my life, should I win, I gain the fame of having defeated the famous Commodore Stonehelm.”

“Ahhh…so you seek fame then.” Seamus asked as he parried the attack and launched one of his own, “Fame is a fleeting and fickle mistress, you know…here one moment and gone the next…a good woman is a far better thing.”

“A woman forgets you once you're gone.” The man snapped back, he dodged Seamus' attack, and countered with an attack that got past Seamus' defense, the blade of his cutlass biting into the flesh of Seamus' left thigh. “Fame is something that will keep my memory alive once I'm gone. Killing you will make me famous.”

Seamus knocked the cutlass blade away and staggered back away from him. His left hand went down and clamped over the cut, that was welling blood. Already Seamus' blood was running down his leg to stain the deck. He chanted a quick prayer, and a neon orange glow formed on his hand, and the faint sound of bagpipe music seemed to float upon the air for a moment as his wound closed.

He pulled his hand away as the other man gaped in surprise, “I cheat.” Seamus explained. The two began to cautiously circle each other in preparation for resuming their fight.

Serpent's Kiss, Forecastle

Maui, Cleric of Olerin advanced across the enemy's deck with a confident stride. He was escorted by some twenty of Sir Angus' marines, and his sole job was to secure the forward decks. He actually had very little to do as the marines dealt with whatever pirate crew they encountered.

They had just reached the center of the deck, when suddenly, a burst of sound sent most of them to their knees, stunned. A few were even bleeding from their ears. Maui was fortunately unaffected, and he moved forward to aid the stricken men. Before he could, a man stepped out of the hatchway leading below decks. He wore the robes of a holy man, but with the symbols that identified him as a Quitzara, one of the most hated orders in the land since the destruction of Tulish. Maui's family had perished there.

Neither man spoke, instead, both began chanting and praying. A curse was flung at Maui, but his faith was strong enough to defeat it, Maui countered by summoning a greater magic weapon, in his case a trident, which began to attack the Quitzara on it's own. The Quitzara dodged the trident and cast a circle of protection against good, forcing Maui and most of the marines back from him. Maui performed a dispel, breaking the circle, and the two holy men rushed each other, each intent on dismembering the other.

Serpent's Kiss, aft hold

Cleo finally found Jena. Her mistress was indeed secured in the brig. A moment's work with a pick and probe opened the lock, allowing Cleo entry. She had to suppress a surge of anger, Jena's wrists were shackled to a beam above her head, her ankles secured to a ring set in the floor, her wings appeared to be strapped flat to her back, and a black cloth hood covered her head.

Cleo ghosted over to Jena and removed the hood, revealing a battered and bruised Jena blinking her eyes to adjust to the sudden light. “Mmmph?” She mumbled from behind the black leather ball strapped into her mouth.

“Well…here you go letting complete strangers tie you up…” Cleo whispered to her playfully, “Last time I suggested this you said no…”

“Cwoo?” Jena mumbled as her eyes began to adjust and she recognized her lover.

“Well..who else is gonna come rescue you?” Cleo asked, “Of course it's me.” Cleo leaned in and ran her hands down Jena's sides, eliciting a slight shudder, “Of course…I could leave you like this…it has possibilities…”

“MMMRPH!!! CWOO!!!” Jenna protested. This was not the time for Cleo's teasing.

“Alright…spoil all my fun then…hold on while I get you loose…” Cleo sighed as she reached behind Jena's head to unbuckle the gag.

As Cleo leaned in to see to work the buckle, her head moved alongside Jena's, giving the Paladin a clear view behind Cleo. She tried to scream a warning but all that came out was “MMMMRRRPPHH!”

Cleo instantly realized that something was wrong. She began to spin around, a dagger already in hand, when a levin bolt slammed into her back. Her small body was flung against Jena hard enough to knock the wind from the Paladin, before falling off to the side, a smoking hole the size of a fist in the center of the leather armor over her back.

Anthilles' pet mage, Bylum stepped forward, a cruel smirk on his young face, “Your girlfriend was quite pretty…a shame she had to die before I could have any fun with her.” He reached up and grabbed a handful of Jena's hair, pulling her face close to his, “But I'll get to have all kinds of fun with you once Anthilles kills that fool brother of his.”

Jena was trying to catch her breath back, a difficult task thanks to the gag, and tears from both Cleo's sudden death before her eyes, and the pain of having her hair pulled, were nearly blinding her, but she still managed to head butt him as soon as he released her hair. He staggered back cursing, “You're going to pay for that you whore.” He promised.

“I don't think so.” Came a tight, angry voice from behind him. He spun around and found himself face to face with Cleo. She appeared utterly unfazed by his best levin bolt, though her eyes were twin black orbs. She smiled a smile that showed enlarged canines and promised him pain. “You should really make sure of a kill before you ignore it.”

“DEMON!” Bylum yelled and launched another levin bolt into her chest at point blank range. The bolt impacted, knocking her back a step and leaving a smoking fist sized hole in her armor above her heart. Through the hole he could clearly see her unmarked creamy white skin.

“These are my favorite leathers you little prick!” Cleo growled in return as she looked down at the hole. She looked back up at Bylum…and vanished.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck

Sir Angus Stonehelm was a happy Dwarf. He was leading his marines across the main deck, cutting down pirates left and right with his beloved axe. In the process, he had managed to coat himself from head to toe in the blood of said pirates. The overall effect was to scare the living hell out of any other pirates he came face to face with.

As he chopped the legs out from under yet another pirate, he saw Tor and Bjarne nearby. He looked closer and saw that they were struggling with what looked to be an animated pile of chains. Not something you saw everyday, even sailing with his adoptive cousin Seamus. He decided that this bore further investigation.

He led the closest group of marines over to where the Minotaur and his pals were struggling with the chains. As they got closer, he could hear the panicked sounding yelps of Hrothgar coming from inside the chain creature, “Tor, how can we help?” Angus asked.

“Grab a piece of chain and pull.” Tor suggested, not pausing in his struggle with no less than four lengths of chain that were wrapped around his axe.

Before Angus could try that, the chain creature whipped several lengths out, wrapping around swords and axes, tearing them from the grasp of their owners. The weapons then were pulled in and put to use against their former wielders. The net effect was that after several tries, Angus and his men were kept at bay.

“We can't get close enough!” Angus shouted in frustration, ducking as a sword took a swing at him.

“Take a deep breath Hrothgar!” Tor shouted as an idea occurred to him. The Minotaur bellowed and abruptly ceased trying to pull his axe free, instead, he surged forward, his arms outstretching. He caught the creature square in it's center and continued to power forward, driving it back toward the railing.

The mass of chain, Gnoll, and Minotaur was too much for the railing, it gave way with a snap and all three went over the side and into the water.

Serpent's Kiss, Quarterdeck

“You know quite a bit about me…but I don't know your name.” Seamus observed as he swung his rapier in a vicious slash at his opponent's face, “A man should always know the name of a worthy opponent.”

“Robert.” The man replied as he blocked Seamus' attack and countered with a slash to the Elf's midsection, “Robert of Niro.”

“Ah…so you've been with Anthilles for a while then?” Seamus asked as he leaned back to avoid the slash. He trust his rapier at Robert's side, “Niro is the region Anthilles started out in from what I understand.”

“Since the beginning.” Robert replied. He knocked Seamus' blade aside and thrust his own at Seamus' face, “I sailed with his father…your father…and I went with Anthilles when he got his first ship and crew.”

“Loyalty, an admirable quality indeed.” Seamus allowed as he ducked under the thrust, swinging his blade in a sweep meant to take Robert's legs off.

“Something your mother knew nothing about.” Robert snarked as he leaped over the swung and brought his own blade down at Seamus's head.

“Wait a minute…how could you have sailed with Anthilles' father?” Seamus asked as he blocked Robert's blade and shoved him back, “You'd have to be well over a hundred…and humans just don't live that long.”

“Ah…there's a good question indeed.” Robert replied with a smirk, “Perhaps I'm not really human?”

“You look human enough.” Seamus replied as he launched another attack, he swung at Robert's head, but when Robert brought his blade up to parry, Seamus allowed a dagger he kept up his sleeve to drop into his off hand. He rammed it home into Robert's chest, piercing the heart. Robert staggered back, the slim blade pulling free as Seamus retained his grip on it, “And you die human enough.”

Robert gave Seamus a kind of grin as he went to his knees and then finally dropped to the deck, quite dead. Seamus shook his head at the waste of it all, the man had been an excellent swordsman, a shame he had chosen the wrong side. The Elf turned and started away, intent on finding his brother and finishing this.

Some inner danger sense made him turn back around. He tried frantically to bring his blade up to block the cutlass Robert was swinging at him, but he was only partially successful, he deflected it and prevented a killing blow, but it still bit deep into his side. “How?”

“Maybe I'm not quite human, eh Commodore?” Robert asked as he drew back for another swing.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck

Xavian had been delayed getting into the fight by the fact that he had to physically lift Storm, his familiar over the railing and onto the deck of the enemy, since the otherwise fearless wolf had a strange aversion to jumping across any water filled gap. Xavian was pretty sure that it stemmed from that unfortunate boarding mishap last year. Still, he was aboard and ready to lend whatever magical firepower might be needed by Sir Angus and his men.

He looked up at a commotion in time to see Tor drive some sort of chain creature over the opposite side. A heart beat later, Bjarne lept over the side after them. Xavian shook his head in wonder, since being rescued by Commodore Seamus, he had seen some truly bizarre sights. He began to move over to see if he could lend any assistance, when he heard three distinct clicks. Storm stopped dead and growled a warning, followed by a mental image of a small lizard of some sort.

Xavian turned to see Storm facing off with a small blueish lizard of some sort. The wolf's hackles were raised and the lizard was hopping about in a state of agitation. Xavian wasn't sure what the little beast was, but Storm seemed unusually wary of it. Deciding not to waste a spell on it, he swung his staff at it in an attempt to knock it back a bit. This turned out to be a mistake.

The lizard dodged back and emitted a shock that arced over to Xavian and knocked him on his backside. As he sat there trying to gather his wits after the potent shock, Storm charged in and tried to bit the lizard…and promptly got a stunning shock for his troubles. The wolf yelped and danced back, his fur momentarily standing on end from nose to tail.

Xavian finally recovered his wits enough to fire off a magic missile at the little beast. His missiles struck, knocking it back behind a mast and out of his sight. 'So much for that distraction.' Xavian thought to himself as he got to his feet. Storm came over and snorted as if trying to get rid of a bad scent.

He started forward again, but the little lizard reappeared, this time in mid-jump. It landed squarely on Xavian's chest, delivering a massive shock attack that sent the mage to the deck, fighting to stay conscious.

Serpent's Kiss, forecastle

Seraphina made her way past Maui and the strange man as they fought. She had no interest in getting involved in that mess. She was by nature not a confrontational creature. She would usually run when faced with a fight, she would fight back if cornered, however. For the last year or so, she had become a bit more sure of herself and her abilities, thanks in large part to Jena and Cleo.

She adored Jena. The Celestial was the closest thing to a mother that Seraphina had ever had. Cleo was more of a mischievous older sister to her sometimes, but mostly she was something of a mother as well. A fiercely protective one at that. Seraphina had learned a lot of dirty tricks form her. The two of them had made sure that the little Halfling was capable of defending herself should she need to.

She knew that Cleo was looking for Jena and she had decided that she would look as well. She had seen a padlocked door up her on the front part of the ship and she knew that padlocks usually meant something or someone was being kept inside. Where better to look then? She carefully skirted past the two men as they fought, neither of them noticing her as they were too involved in their fight. Once she was past them and standing before the door, she studied both the lock and the door itself.

Painful experience in the lab she had spent a good portion of her life in had taught her to be wary of traps, both magical and mundane. After finding no sigh of mundane traps, she called forth one of the spells she had learned would reveal magical traps. It showed nothing as well. She furrowed her small brow in concentration and called up a final spell, this one caused the lock to spring open and fall to the deck.

She opened the door just far enough to slip herself inside, and then ducked inside. She found herself in a dimly lit room that smelled of incense and candles. An old human woman sat in a chair behind a table. She was looking at Seraphina with an expression that the Hafling couldn't decipher. Seraphina returned the look with her own look of open curiosity.

“Ah…welcome young lady.” The old woman greeted her, “Am I to presume my deliverance is at hand? Judging from the sounds of the fight outside, I would say as much.”

Seraphina made a face as she tried to understand what the woman meant, she sure talked funny, “Commodore Seamus is kicking those pirates butts.” She replied as she figured that the old woman was asking about the fight.

“Then it is nearly time.” The old woman said with a contented sigh, “I've been a prisoner here so long…I had nearly lost hope…and then Brigane sent me the prophecy…”

“Someone kept you prisoner?” Seraphina asked. She knew how awful that was, “A bad man kept me prisoner for a long time. But I got away.”

“Sit then young one, I will tell you of my troubles…we have some time yet before we are to play our parts in what is to come.” The old woman said. She patted her hand on a second chair next to the one she sat upon, “It has been so long since I could sit and talk with anyone civilized.”

Seraphina smiled and climbed up onto the chair. The old lady talked funny and it was hard to understand what she meant, but Seraphina's natural curiosity got the better of her, and besides, something about the old lady made her feel as if she could be trusted. “How come you're a prisoner?”

“It all began some years ago…a bad man named Anthilles captured the ship I was sailing on…”

Serpent's Kiss, brig

Bylum looked at the spot where the demon-girl had vanished, invisibility was something he could easily counter. He invoked his mage sight and smirked confidently, he would let her think he couldn't see her, right up until he fried her ass with a scorching ray. She might be resistant to his favored levin bolts, but he was betting a fire based spell would cook her.

He scanned the small room, confident of spotting her…except that she wasn't anywhere to be seen. Perhaps she had actually teleported out? That thought was rendered invalid as suddenly he felt a sharp pain to his back. He felt a tiny set of hands shove him forward and off balance as he reached to the site of the pain and his hand came away bloody.

“Now I'm going to teach you all about pain.” a disembodied sultry voice promised.

Bylum frantically looked all around for her, but he still couldn't find her. “Show me your face again, bitch, and I'll teach YOU about pain.” He snarled.

“Aww…what's the matter tough guy?” She whispered, seemingly right in his left ear, “Can't you see me? I'm right here beside you.” Another searing pain as a blade laid open is left arm. He hissed in pain and spun away.

This wasn't right, she had to be visible to his mage sight, even the most powerful invisibility spell could be countered by it. He concentrated for a moment and performed a dispel, if he couldn't penetrate her invisibility, he would remove it. He waited for her to appear, but she didn't, instead, another knife cut opened up on his right thigh.

“If I aimed a bit higher, you'd be a eunuch.” she laughed.

He clutched at the bleeding wound and snarled in anger. This was impossible, she should be visible! He began to get desperate, he couldn't kill her if he couldn't see her. He leveled his arm at the Paladin and snarled, “Show yourself, or I'll fry this Bitch!”

Suddenly she was directly in front of him, the pitiless depths of her black eyes boring into his own, “BIG mistake.” She said. Before he could react, she shoved him, hard. He was thrown off his feet and across the small cell, slamming into the bars with enough force to crack a couple of ribs. He slid down the bars to the floor, and then everything went dark. He wasn't unconscious, he still felt pain, and the rough wood of the floor, it was just dark. Then the real pain began, and he began to scream.

Nearby, Lady Jena stood immobile in the darkness, held fast by her bonds, tears rolling down her cheeks as she listened to the screaming, knowing that her love had given in to the darker nature she possessed, and she was powerless to stop her, and not really sure she could if it came down to it. All she could do was silently pray for Cleo's soul, and her own.

Serpent's Kiss, quarterdeck.

Seamus blocked the next blow from Robert, his entire arm vibrating from the power behind the blow, he scrambled back to gain space and time to begin his own attack, “Perhaps I was hasty in my assessment.” Seamus admitted.

“So it would seem.” Robert agreed, he continued to press the wounded Elf, striving to keep him off balance and on the defensive, “I'll make sure they engrave that on your tombstone.”

“Most kind of you, what would you like me to have them engrave on yours?” Seamus replied politely as he quickly worked a spell that would ensure his next strike would hit just where he wished it too.

“Ah-ah…no more of your little tricks.” Robert growled as he struck out in an effort to disrupt Seamus' concentration and thus foil his spell. Seamus however, continued to backpedal, circling the quarterdeck, and using his own blade to block Robert's strikes.

Robert finally backed Seamus up to the point that the Elf had to jump up and back onto the rail separating the quarterdeck from the main deck. Seamus nimbly jumped over several more strikes before he finally finished his spell. He jumped over Roberts, narrowly missing a swing from the other man's blade as he did do, and landed behind him. His rapier was already swinging in an arc that Robert was out of position to block.

Seamus' blade struck true, encountering surprisingly little resistance as it cleaved through Robert's neck, cleanly removing his head from his shoulders. His body stood in place for a moment, before falling to the deck, rippling and changing form as it fell. Instead of the human form it had been, it was now a grayish form with oversize hands that Seamus immediately recognized, a Doppleganger.

He confirmed that it was indeed a Doppleganger by checking the head, which now looked nothing like a man. He grunted in annoyance and confusion, what the bloody hell was a Doppleganger doing here, serving Anthilles? He had no time to really ponder this as he needed to deal with the wound to his side. He chanted a quick prayer and the relief was immediate as it closed the wound in his side.

Seamus turned and began to cross the quarterdeck, intent on checking below decks, when Anthilles stepped into view from the very hatchway Seamus had been moving toward. “Hello Brother.” Anthilles greeted him in mocking tones, “Did you like my little surprise?”

“I give you points for originality, but it won't help…you're still going tae lose.” Seamus told him as he continued to stalk forward, his blade moving to a ready position, “Why not surrender and we can avoid further bloodshed?”

“I think not, Brother.” Anthilles replied with a negligent wave of his hand, “Bloodshed is glorious and I have yet to kill you. That's the whole point of this exercise, killing you.”

“As you wish then.” Seamus growled, “Have at it then.”

The two Elves, mirror images of each other, began to circle in preparation to attack each other.

Under water

Visik and the rest of the Tomanths were climbing up the hull of the enemy ship when something huge splashed into the water alongside. Visik caught a glimpse of Tor, the Minotaur and he seemed to struggling with a large mass of chain. And he was sinking fast. Visik issued a series of commands in his native language, basically a series of clicks and hisses, that sent all the Tomanths scrambling after the Minotaur.

As he got closer, Visik realized with a start that the chains were animated and were actually fighting with Tor. Visik grabbed onto a length of chain and began to pull. It shifted only slightly, he put all of his strength into it and got no better results. His fellow Tomanths began to arrive and they too grabbed a hold on whatever bit of chain they could and began to pull at it.

The entire time, they were all sinking fast. Visik could see that Tor was already weakening from lack of air. The huge creature was nearly unstoppable above water, but here in the Tomanth's domain, he was already nearly helpless. Visik figured that if they could break the chain creature's grip on Tor, it would continue to sink to the bottom and they could return Tor to the surface. He issued another series of orders, and the Tomanths redirected their efforts, focusing on the lengths of chain that were entangled about Tor.

It worked. As Tor was freed from the chains, his descent slowed and the chain creature continued toward the bottom. As soon as the Minotaur was clear, the Tomanths slipped free as well, their scaly hides having nothing the chains could really get a solid grip on. Visik and several other grabbed Tor and began to stroke furiously toward the surface.

They broke the surface, and Tor coughed and began to suck in deep breaths of air. Bjarne was treading water nearby, “Hrothgar?” He asked.

“Couldn't get him loose.” Tor coughed in reply.

“Visik, can you go back down?” Bjarne asked plaintively, “That thing had Hrothgar wrapped up inside it.”

Visik didn't bother with a reply, he gave a series of hisses and clicks, and all the Tomanths disappeared below the surface almost as one.

Serpent's Kiss, quarterdeck

Seamus made the first move. He stepped in, swinging his blade at Anthilles' midsection. Anthilles, easily parried the swing and responded with a low cut at Seamus' leg. Seamus hopped over it and Thrust at Anthilles' face. Anthilles leaned to the side, allowing the blade to pass by his head, and swung a wicked upper cut at Seamus. Seamus deflected the cutlass using his dagger still held in his off hand. The two of them stepped back from each other, and began to slowly circle again.

Anthilles darted in, swinging his cutlass low, Seamus parried it and thrust his dagger at Anthilles' face, only to have it parried on a dagger that Anthilles produced from somewhere. The two broke into a fast and furious series of strikes and counter strikes, moving with a grace no human swordsman could hope to match. The clash of steel on steel rang across the deck, and for the two brothers their entire universe shrank down to each other and the small patch of deck they fought on.

Both of them were excellent swordsmen, both quickly utilized every spell they had to improve their luck and skill, and both quickly realized that they were almost evenly matched. This fight was going to come down to who made the first mistake.

Serpent's Kiss, brig

Lady Jena felt a small pair of hands cup her face, and then felt them move back and unfasten her gag. As she spit the leather ball out of her mouth she asked, “Why?”

“Because he threatened you.” Cleo replied softly, “And I'm too weak not to give in to my urges.”

“That's Orc dung and you know it!” Jena replied. She felt the leather straps holding her wings loosen and fall away, “You are stronger than you think.”

“Not when it comes to my dark urges.” Cleo whispered back. Her voice was calm and steady, a far cry from the excitable and emotional girl of a few years ago. “When it comes to them, I'm a weakling…and besides…I wanted to make him pay.”

“You tortured him.” Jena said angrily, “Killing him is one thing, torturing him to death isn't justice, it's revenge! And we both know revenge is wrong!”

Cleo didn't reply, she bent down and went to work on the shackles holding Jena's ankles. After a moment, they sprung open and she stood back up. She was still holding her darkness, so Jena couldn't see her…or what she had done. But Cleo could see the hurt in Jena's eyes. The hurt that Cleo herself had caused by giving in to her dark urge for revenge.

Cleo reached up and began to work her picks on the shackles holding Jena's wrists, tears flowed down the tiny woman's cheeks, but no sound gave her away to her Lady Love. Jena still did not understand that Cleo was darkness to her light, Jena had made her this way when she had resurrected her all those years ago. The price for Cleo's life was that Cleo would dwell in the darkness, while Jena lived in the light.

Cleo could bask in the warmth of Jena's light for short periods, but the dark always demanded her payment for such pleasure. She could defer the payment from time to time, but it always had to be made in some form. Usually Cleo tried to make sure Jena did not find out, but this time, this time it hadn't worked out that way.

With a click, the shackles came open and Jena pulled her arms down. She wrapped them and her wings around Cleo and pulled her in against herself, “Show me what you've done.” Jena whispered.

“I can't do that.” Cleo whispered back, a tiny tremor in her voice.

“If you ever loved me at all, show me.” Jena demanded quietly. She felt the smaller girl begin to tremble in her arms. Jena thought that perhaps Cleo was going to argue further and she would have to dismiss the darkness herself, but them the darkness vanished and Jena was able to see again.

The first thing she saw was Cleo's face. Her eyes were their normal brown again, and her face was tear streaked, as badly as Jena's own. But she was standing calmly, awaiting Jena's judgment for her crime.

Jena looked down and saw Bylum's body over near the door. He was a mass of cuts from head to toe, as far as Jena could tell, there wasn't anyplace he hadn't been cut. She didn't look any closer, just in case she was right about the anyplace not being cut.

She returned her attention to Cleo, “Did you enjoy it?” She asked.

“No.” Cleo whispered, “I did not enjoy it. He needed a lesson and I gave it to him.”

Jena was silent for a long moment, “Cleo…we will have to talk about this…but it will keep for later, I think. Right now we need to go find Seamus and see if he actually found Anthilles or not.”

Cleo cast her eyes down and nodded. She didn't trust herself to speak. How do you explain to someone that you didn't enjoy torturing someone to death, but that you'd happily do it again to anyone who threatened the ones you love the most? Cleo wondered if this was the end of the relationship between herself and Jena, she hoped not, but she was sure that she had just crossed a line that Jena might not forgive her for crossing.

Serpent's Kiss, quarterdeck

Seamus was beginning to tire. He had already fought a hard fight with Robert, the Doppleganger, and this fight was making that one look easy. His arms were starting to burn from fatigue, his leg and side throbbed from the quickly healed wounds, and his chest was beginning to tighten up and make his breathing a bit more difficult. Anthilles, on the other hand, seemed quite fresh. The power and speed of his attacks had not diminished at all. For the first time since he had made the decision to hunt his brother down, he began to wonder if he would come out on top.

Anthilles noted that Seamus wasn't attacking as quickly as he had been before, and several of his strikes had actually seemed to have a bit less power behind them. Perhaps the ploy of using Robert to tire him had paid off? He grinned and began to speed up his own attacks, pleased to note that Seamus was beginning to sweat and have trouble keeping up. It was time to finish him off.

Anthilles made a thrust at Seamus' chest, and it was countered, but he stepped inside Seamus' guard and slammed his left fist into the side of Seamus' head. Seamus saw stars as he staggered back, off balance and slightly stunned. Anthilles stayed close, his cutlass blade catching Seamus' off arm, cutting deeply and causing him to lose his grip on the dagger he wielded, it went spinning across the deck away from the two Elves.

Seamus gathered his wits and spun away after the hit, his own blade swinging up and catching Anthilles right arm, laying it open and causing him to drop his cutlass. He instinctively spun away also, opening up the distance from his twin. For a moment, they stood staring at each other, blood flowing freely from each wounded arm, and then Seamus gave a Dwarven battle cry and charged. Anthilles was armed only with a dagger now, this would be his best chance to finish him.

Serpent's Kiss, forecastle

Seraphina stepped out the door, holding Lysette's hand, the tow of them made their way over to Maui, who stood over the body of the Quitzara. Maui gave her a slightly bemused look, since the little Halfling had joined the crew, she had displayed an uncanny knack for discerning the trustworthy from the untrustworthy. Maui simply assumed that the old lady was someone he did not have to worry about. “I see you found a new friend.” He said.

“This is Lysette.” Seraphina replied happily, “She told me about the bad men on this boat. We have to go save Dianta now…would you help us please?”

“Lead the way.” Maui replied as he indicated that the marines with him should follow as well, “Perhaps we can locate Lady Jena as well.” Lysette nodded and began to lead them down to the main deck.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck

Xavian tried to focus enough to cast a spell at the little beast, but he was still addled from the massive jolt he had taken. Storm cam to his aid, grabbing the lizard in his jaws and biting down hard. It retaliated with another shock that caused the wolf to drop it and dance away from it. Xavian managed to sit up and began to clear his mind, focusing on reaching his inner power.

Abruptly, the beast screeched and fell over. Xavian focused and unleashed his power in a magic missile that tore the creature nearly in half. Xavian got unsteadily to his feet and moved over to check on Storm. The wolf sent him a mental face lick to indicate that he was alright. He checked the wolf over just to be sure, and then turned his attention to the fight on deck again. It appeared that Commodore Seamus' marines were overwhelming Anthilles' crew. The only resistance that appeared to be left was a large fight going on near the aft castle.

He spotted Sir Angus near the rail, helping a group of marines as they helped Bjarne back aboard, he wondered when Bjarne had fallen overboard. His attention was next drawn by Maui and Seraphina coming from the forecastle, lacking a better plan, he moved over to join them.

Under water

The Chain Golum had passed below the depth where light reached, there was nothing but darkness, only the faint glow of it's red eyes provided enough illumination to spot it's face. Visik was using his arms, legs and powerful sweeps of his tail to try to catch it. He was almost there.

Suddenly, the glowing red eyes vanished. Visik strained to see in the now total dark, but without any illumination at all, it was hopeless. As he slowed to a halt, something large passed him headed for the surface. Visik changed direction, uttering a command in the Tomanth language to let the other Tomanths know to head for the surface as well.

As he rose and light began to reach his eyes again, he made out the familiar shape of Hrothgar above him, stroking strongly for the surface. Within seconds he was alongside the Gnoll, and they broke the surface together. Hrothgar took in a deep breath and then began to swim toward the side of the ship, “Chain-Man not swim so good.” The Gnoll observed.

Visik hissed in laughter at the Gnoll's understatement. He noted that the humans had managed to get Tor and Bjarne back on the ship, so he began to scale the side of the hull using his claws. Perhaps there were still pirates to fight aboard the ship?

Serpent's Kiss, quarterdeck

Seamus closed the distance to Anthilles rapidly, his rapier blade raised and readied for a powerful swing. Anthilles backpedaled to the railing separating the quarterdeck from the main deck below, he hopped onto the rail and scampered to the left until he came to the stairs leading to the main deck, Seamus changed course to follow, but Anthilles stepped over the post that joined the stair rails and the deck rail, and slid down to the main deck. At the bottom of the stairs he hopped from the rail to the deck itself.

Seamus growled in frustration, but continued to pursue. He jumped over the railing, grabbing a rope, and slid down the rope to the main deck. He landed some twenty feet from Anthilles, and then he charged again. Again his blade went up to position for a powerful swing. Anthilles saw him charge and simply stood in place waiting.

Suddenly, Anthiles dropped down and snatched up a pike that Seamus had not noticed lying on the deck. Anthilles braced it between his foot and the deck and leveled the business end at Seamus. Seamus' eyes went wide as he realized the he was not going to be able to stop or dodge it in time. Antilles had swung the weapon up too quickly for him to react and his own momentum impaled him on the sharp head.

Anthilles grinned savagely as the pike punched into Seamus' abdomen. He stood and began to force Seamus back. Seamus backpedaled in a desperate effort to keep from being completely run through. His back suddenly struck the bulkhead behind him, stopping his backwards movement, and Anthilles put all of his weight into a shove that sent the pikes head completely through Seamus and into the wooden bulkhead behind him, pinning him in place.

Seamus looked into Anthilles' eyes, seeing the hatred and triumph in them, and he knew that he was about to die.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck

Seraphina was cheerfully chatting with Lysette as they made their way across the main deck, Xavian had just joined them and they were almost upon Sir Angus, Tor, and Bjarne, who were looking over the side and carrying on a conversation with someone in the water. Just as they came up to the other group. Sir Angus turned to greet them. Maui and Xavian asked what had happened and who was in the water.

Seraphina tuned them out and looked around for something else to do. Her eyes were drawn to movement near the stern castle. She watched as a dark haired version of Seamus slid down a railing, and Seamus jumped down to the deck nearby. She blinked in confusion, as the concept of twins was alien to her. Then she saw the dark haired version impale Seamus. She screamed in horror and dismay.

She started to run to help her friend, when she suddenly found herself unable to move. Lysette was standing next to her, and she spoke to Seraphina in a voice that did not belong to her, a man's voice, “Hold Little One. You must not interfere in what is to come here. Should you or anyone else here interfere you shall undermine a prophecy and likely cause your friend's death.”

“NO!!!” Sir Angus roared as he too saw what was going on. He raised his axe and turned to charge.

“Stay your hand, Follower of Galgarin.” Lysette commanded in that male voice, “Else your cousin's death shall be upon your hands.” Angus paused, shock and the desire to aid his cousin warring in his eyes. The rest of them stood, hesitating, weapons readied, but held back by the power in that voice.

“We have to help him.” Seraphina said in her bravest voice, “Seamus always helps us, we have to help him.”

“He is beyond your help, Little One.” Lysette said gently in the male voice, she knelt next to the Halfling and laid a gentle hand on her arm, “His fate is already decided, but you have proven your love and loyalty…as have you all…many eyes are upon you at this moment, and all are pleased by what they have seen.”

The entire group shivered slightly, Angus recalled feeling this sort of power once before, but the rest of them had never felt what it was to be in the presence of a God. Lysette gestured for them to watch as Anthilles pinned Seamus to the wall.

Serpent's Kiss, quarterdeck

Jena and Cleo had made their way up to the quarterdeck, unknowingly using the very same hatch Antilles had used a bit earlier. As the two of them came out, they were just in time to see Seamus disappear over the railing. “Come on, let's go see what trouble he's gotten himself into this time.” Cleo grumbled.

“Like as not he's found some sort of trouble.” Jena agreed. Cleo pulled her rapier out and Jena picked up a discarded cutlass from the deck. The two of them made their way to the rail and looked over. Both screamed in horror.

Directly below Cleo and Jena

“Now you die, Brother.” Anthilles snarled, spitting the word brother out like a curse. Seamus felt his life blood flowing away though the horrible wound, his energy starting to fade, darkness began to creep in on the edge of his vision, and right then and there he resolved that he was NOT going to go without taking Anthilles with him.

He focused his formidable willpower and dropped his free hand, he reached down and grasped the shaft of the pike that held him pinned to the wall…and pulled. Using all his strength, he pulled his body up the shaft towards Anthilles. He braced his feet and used them as well, stepping forward. He gritted his teeth against the agony the move caused him, as a length of his intestine was pulled out of his back, it dangled behind him, pinned to the wall by the pike's head, like a pink and bloody rope connecting him to the wall.

Anthilles face went white and his mouth opened in shock as Seamus reached up and gripped the pike again, and pulled, moving ever closer. Seamus raised his blade and began to swing it as a pair of female screams came from above them. The blade caught Anthilles in his left upper arm, cutting deeply. Seamus drew back again and Anthilles knew that the next strike was going to be at his neck. But the strike never came. Seamus' eyes rolled up into his head and he slumped down, his rapier clattering to the deck.

Anthilles released the breath he had been holding without realizing it. That had been a near thing, Seamus had very nearly managed a killing blow even after being mortally wounded. Impressive…but ultimately futile. He relaxed slightly and stood up straight. And suddenly felt a horrible pain in his chest as a small arm burst out the front of it, gripping his heart in an almost dainty hand.

“He was your last victory ass-hole.” A female voice growled in his ear, “I hope you enjoyed it.”

Anthilles tried to speak, tried to fathom how this could be happening, but no words would come, and all he could think to himself was that he couldn't be dying, the prophecy foretold of his victory. He tried to see his killer, but her arm through his chest held him immobile. He tried again to speak as he saw the Paladin drop onto the deck in front of him.

She said nothing as she reached down and yanked the pike from his lax grip, her eyes were devoid of pity or mercy as she looked into Anthilles' face. She turned her back to him and pulled the pike free of Seamus' body and lowered him to the deck. Anthilles finally managed a coughing gurgle as he died.

Cleo braced her free hand on Anthilles' back and pulled her other arm free of his body, letting him fall to the deck with a thump. She kept the heart gripped tightly in her hand, seemingly having forgotten it as she came over and knelt next to Seamus' still form. Tears flowed freely down her face as she rolled him over so that his head rested in her lap. She began to slowly rock back and forth, sobbing loudly as her grief began to overwhelm her.

Jena knelt down and used her wings to shield the three of them from view, their grief was not something for public consumption just yet. She reached down and gently brushed a stray lock of hair from Seamus' face, allowing her own tears to begin flowing.

She almost missed it, her eyes were blurred by tears and the motion was so slight. She blinked to clear her eyes and quickly placed her ear to his chest. She saw an almost imperceptible rise in his chest, and could hear a weak beat from his heart. Her eyes went wide and she raised back up, “He's still alive Cleo!”

Cleo looked up at Jena, her face a mixture of confusion and hope, “What? How?”

“Help me.” Jena ordered, “Hold him up.” Jena raised him up and directed Cleo's hold on him so that he was held in a roughly sitting position. Jena then carefully got up and removed the intestines from where they were pinned, trying not to tear them any more than they already were. She carefully pushed them back inside his body and then began her prayers.

Cleo sat holding Seamus up, watching as Jena carefully pushed his organs back into his body. She suppressed the urge to vomit, not wanting to add to the already smelly mess on the deck and coating all three of them. They were already covered by a mix of blood and gore. As Jena laid her hands on Seamus and began to pray, Cleo lowered her head, and joined in. She noticed that she still held Anthilles' heart in her hand, with a slight grimace of distaste, she dropped it to the deck.

By now Angus and most of the rest of the group had joined them, the fight ending as Anthilles had died. His few remaining crew surrendering. Angus came forward and knelt down, adding his prayers to Galgarin to the mix. Seamus had once helped bring Angus back from death, Angus could do no less for him. Maui moved in and added his prayers to Olerin, Xavian reached into a pouch and produced a scroll, saved for dire emergencies, it contained a powerful prayer of healing, he passed it to Maui, who nodded and began to recite it.

Seraphina came over and latched onto Cleo with a strong hug, giving support in the best way she knew. Tor, Hrothgar, and Bjarne stood by, each silent and hopeful, Lysette seemed to be herself again. She watched for a moment, and then disappeared below decks, she still had one small part to play in the events unfolding.

Belowdecks, Anthilles' quarters

Dianta sat on the bed in the center of the room. She was nude save for her slave collar that was connected to a chain that was fastened to the headboard. She had enough slack in the chain to move about the bed, but no further. Anthilles, her master had told her that he would be back after he killed Seamus to “celebrate” with her. She shuddered at the very thought of the twisted Elf's idea of celebration. The door opened and her heart began to pound in her chest from fear.

But it wasn't Anthilles, it was Lysette, the seer. Dianta wondered what she was doing here, she had never seen the old woman outside of her cabin prison. Lysette merely gave a smile and continued into the room, making her way over to the small wardrobe that contained Dianta's few items of clothing.

Lysette opened th wardrobe and began to lay out items, “Anthilles is finished.” she informed the younger girl, “It's time for you to meet the people who will be your future.”

“Finished? Is he dead?” Dianta asked with a glimmer of hope, “And what people?”

“The ones who defeated him. Yes, he is dead.” Lysette replied as she held up a dress and examined it with a critical eye, “And with him dead, you need to get dressed so you can present yourself to them…after all…if it weren't for you, they wouldn't have defeated him.”

“I…what? How am I responsible?” Dianta asked. She began to dress as Lysette handed her clothes.

“You made him vulnerable girl.” Lysette explained as she helped the younger woman dress, “Until you came along he was evil perfected. He never allowed anything or anyone to distract him from his goals…you changed that…he fell in love with you…or at least what passed for love with him…and he lost his focus…his edge…and that was enough.”

“He…he loved me?” Dianta asked as she finished dressing and began to pull on a pair of boots. The thought that that monster could actually love her made her slightly sick to her stomach. If the way he had treated her was love, she didn't want to know what his idea of hate was.

“In his own way…yes.” Lysette replied, “But that doesn't matter anymore. Here…let's get that collar off you.” She rummaged through a pouch and produced a key, which she fitted into the small lock on the collar and used to open it.

“I thought Anthilles had the only key?” Dianta asked.

“I made copies of every key he had years ago.” Lysette replied with a shrug, “Now let's get you up on deck…they should be reviving Seamus by now…”

“Who is Seamus?”

“Anthilles' twin brother.”

“WHAT?!?!?”

“He's as good as Anthilles was evil…two sides to a coin they were…” Lysette explained, “And in time you will see that. Come child…it is time for you to meet them.” Dianta's head was reeling, this was a lot to take in, but she squared her shoulders and followed Lysette out of the cabin, never looking back.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck

The combined prayers worked. As they took effect, the gaping holes in Seamus' abdomen closed and healed over. His color returned, his pulse strengthened and quickened, and his breathing deepened. He would live. Cleo wrapped herself around him and cried with relief. Jena slid down to the deck, exhausted. She wrapped her arms and wings around Cleo and Seamus and allowed herself to begin to relax, the nightmare was over, she wasn't going to lose her friend.

“He's going to live.” She announced to the gathered friends, “But he's going to need a better place to rest than on this deck.”:

Jena's announcement was met with a gruff laugh from Angus, “Too right he will!” The Dwarf stood and gestured for some of the close by marines to come over, “He's a Stonehelm by Galgarin! Tough as they come!”

Angus quickly ordered a path cleared to Seamus' cabin and the marines set out to make it happen. Debris, bodies and anything that might get in the way were removed quickly. When Angus received the word that the way was clear, he let Jena know. She leaned down to Cleo, “Let's get him into a proper bed.”

“Alright.” Cleo replied tiredly. She stood up, cradling her husband in her arms, “Let's go then.”

Jena lowered her wings to their resting position and the two of them began to make their way across the deck. Marines and crewmen had formed a sort of corridor for them to pass down, as they walked, men reached out to touch their fallen Commodore. Some of these men had been with Seamus for years, all of them respected him, most would follow him anywhere, all were quiet and respectful as he was carried past.

As they moved to the railing, Lysette appeared with Dianta in tow. The two of them fell in behind the small procession and followed as it made it way aboard the Rattler. As Cleo stepped onto the Rattler's deck, a bosun's pipe shrilled and Vladimir announced loudly, “Commodore on deck!” All the crew snapped to attention and saluted. They held the salute until Cleo and Jena disappeared through the door to Seamus' cabin.

The Rattler, Commodore's cabin

Cleo gently laid her husband down on his bed, wincing a bit as blood stained the sheets. “We really need to clean him up.” She said as Jena closed the door, “Us too, come to think of it.”

“We are a mess, aren't we?” Jena asked as she came over and laid her hand on Cleo's shoulder.

Cleo was silent as she stood there watching Seamus sleep. After a long few moments, she turned to Jena and took the taller womans hand in her own, “If I hadn't let my temper get away with me like I did, we would have been there in time to help him…my want for revenge did this.”

Jena pulled Cleo close, wanting to comfort her, but realizing that she had a valid point, “You committed an evil act…perhaps this was a reminder that doing evil has a price. I can't pretend that I know for sure…but it would seem to me that maybe you need to let us…” She gestured to Seamus and then herself, “Help you deal with those dark urges you get.”

“Maybe I do.” Cleo admitted quietly. She melted against Jena and sighed, “I've been trying to deal with it for so long by myself…maybe it's time I tried getting someone else's help. If he had died because of me…I dunno if I could live with that.”

“We don't want to find out either.” Jena agreed. She guided Cleo over to a bath tub that occupied a corner of the cabin. Cleo released her hold on Jena and reached up to a pipe overhead and opened a valve allowing seawater, stored in a tank on the deck above them, to begin flowing into the tub. It was cold and left a residue that would require a bit of scrubbing to remove, but it was better than dried blood and gore.

The two began to undress without speaking. They piled their bloody clothes aside, Cleo frowning at the damage to her leather armor, “These were my favorite leathers.” she grumbled.

“They can be fixed.” Jean reassured her, “I might as well throw these overboard though…I'll never get the bloodstains out.” She indicated her own garments on the floor.

“Should we clean him up first?” Cleo asked moving back over to Seamus, “If we don't we're just going to get bloody again doing it.”

“True.” Jena replied. “Bring him here then, “I'll get him undressed and in the tub, you strip the bed.”

Cleo lifted Seamus off the bed and carried him over to Jena, she handed him off to the taller girl and went back over to the bed and began to strip off the sheets. Jena carefully removed Seamus' torn and bloody clothing, tossing it aside before picking him up and lowering him into the now filled tub. He stirred slightly as he came in contact with the cold water, but did not wake.

Jena began to carefully wash the blood and gore off him, and was soon joined by Cleo. Between them, they had him clean in just a few minutes. Cleo examined the scar on his stomach, magical healing could do wonders, but if the trauma was sever enough, it could leave scars. Seamus was going to have a matched set in this case, one in front, and one in back. Jena noticed Cleo attention to the scars, “It could have been a lot worse.”

“I know.” Cleo replied in a small voice, “How long do you think he'll sleep?”

“At least a day, maybe two.” Jena decided after a moment, “There was a lot of internal damage we couldn't see, I would wager.”

“Being impaled would do a lot of internal damage.” Cleo agreed, “Especially if you're fool enough to drive yourself up the impaling object…damned fool Elf.” The last was spoken in a loving tone, not one of anger.

“He is certainly that at times.” Jena agreed. She lifted him up and out, and Cleo toweled him off. Once he was mostly dry, she carried him over and laid him out on the freshly made bed. Once she was certain he was as comfortable as she could make him, she returned to the tub, where Jena was refilling it after having drained it.

Cleo came up behind Jena and wrapped her arms around her, not an easy task, given Cleo's rather limited reach and Jena's wings being in the way, “I'm sorry for earlier.” She whispered.

“You are forgiven.” Jena replied as she pulled her wings in tight to allow Cleo a better hold. She leaned back slightly as well, “But we do need to work on your controlling your anger.”

“I know.” Cleo sighed. Jena reached up and closed the valve, shutting off the water and Cleo released her. The two of them stepped into the tub and seated themselves at opposite ends. Fortunately the tub being rather large accommodated them, though it was a cramped fit. They began the task of washing the blood and gore from their bodies, tabling further discussion until later.

Serpent's Kiss, main deck

Angus had returned to the scene of his adoptive cousin's near death as soon as the women had closed the cabin door behind themselves. He retrieved Seamus' rapier, wiping it clean with a scrap of cloth, and located a dagger that he recognized as Seamus'. He then turned his attention to Anthilles, he used his boot to roll the body over onto it's back, taking a good look at the face. The resemblance was incredible. Aside from having dark hair where Seamus' had gone white, and missing the mustache and goatee, Anthilles was perfectly identical to Seamus.

“You poncey bastard…I hope ye burn in whatever hell you end up in.” Angus muttered. He bent down and began to carefully go through pockets and pouches. He found s few coins, several keys, and an odd pendant around Anthilles' neck. He pocketed all of them. He stood and stroked his chin as he considered what he should do with the body. His first impulse was to just toss it overboard.

But he just as quickly came up with a better idea. He turned to go locate Maui, noticing that there was a heart lying on the deck as he did so. He stopped and picked it up. He hadn't actually realized that Cleo had ripped his heart out when she put her arm through him. Angus smiled in his feral way, sometimes Cleo was a girl he could really love, she knew how to kill with style. His cousin definitely knew how to pick them. He laughed and tossed the heart back down onto the deck. He was still laughing when he found Maui and explained what he wanted.

The Rattler, just after sunset

Things were quite aboard ship after sundown. The glow of her running lamps reflected off the waves, creating a series of dancing lights on the water. The fleet had reformed, with both prize ships manned by prize crews, and course had been set for Terras. The few pirates who had been taken prisoner were secured in the aft hold of the Serpent's Kiss, where they could cause no trouble. Seamus was sleeping in his cabin, and Jena had convened his officers on the quarterdeck for a council of sorts.

“So with Seamus out of action for the foreseeable future, I feel the best plan is to return to Terras, let him rest and complete his healing, then he can resume his duties.” She was saying.

“But what of the fleet, Lady Jena?” Vladimir asked politely, “Do you wish for me to hold the fleet in Terras until he resumes command, or proceed back to Gridolyn?”

“Proceed to Gridolyn.” Jena decided, after a moment's hesitation she decided that Gridolyn would be a better place for Seamus to rest up anyway, “As a matter of fact, we may as well go directly to Gridolyn, I think the Commodore would be more comfortable there anyway.”

“He'd be most comfortable back at the Hearth, but I dunno if he's up to that trip just yet.” Angus observed. The Dwarf was idly sharpening his axe as he spoke.

Jena nodded her agreement, in all likelihood, Seamus would probably want to take some time to return and visit with his adoptive family. But that was a matter to be discussed when he was awake and capable of such discussion. Her eyes drifted to the forward deck, and though it was fairly dark , there was enough illumination for her to see Anthilles' body hanging from the mast. Angus having Maui cast a spell of preservation on it, followed by Xavian casting a permanency had been a bit of inspired madness.

The Dread Pirate Anthilles final resting place was to be a gallows on the waterfront in Terras, a reminder of the foolishness of testing the might of Rakore's navy, for all eternity. A rather fitting end to his evil, Jena thought. She decided that she really didn't want to ever get on Angus' bad side, he had a clever mind that could come up with some truly fitting punishments for his enemies.

She returned her attention to the discussion at hand, noting that Cleo was without her customary cloak and leathers. Tonight she was dressed in simple white dress that was so out of the norm for her that most of the gathering was casting the occasional odd look her way. Jena thought she looked rather fetching, it might be worth the effort to try to get the girl to dress nicely more often.

As Angus, Xavian, Vladimir and Tor worked though the tedious but necessary details of inventorying the contents of both prizes, Jena noted that Cleo suddenly seemed quite distracted. Her posture suddenly changed, becoming tense and alert, and she began to surreptitiously scan the immediate area. Jena took a fast look herself, but saw nothing out of place.

She was just about to ask Cleo what was wrong, when suddenly, a dark apparition with glowing red eyes seemed to rise up out of the very deck itself, directly behind Cleo. “LOOK OUT!” Jena cried in a warning. The quarterdeck exploded into motion.

Maui, recognizing it as a shade, pulled out his Symbol of Olerin and ordered the undead creature back, which had no effect whatsoever. Angus roared and started forward, raising his axe. Tor made a grab for Cleo to get her out of harm's way, but oddly, she evaded his grasp. Xavian began to draw his power, in preparation for casting a spell, Vladimir drew his longsword, and Jena lept into the air, wings beating furiously to carry her aloft.

“WAIT! EVERYONE STOP!” Cleo yelled as the shade moved to stay behind her. It seemed to meld to her body and then vanish into the openings in her clothing. Everyone halted where they were, taken off guard by both her sudden yell and the creature's vanishing within her clothing. “He won't hurt you.” She said as she frowned in concentration.

“Cleo…what's going on?” Jena asked as she allowed herself to slowly descend back to the deck, “How do you know it won't hurt us?”

“Because he told me.” Cleo said simply. She paused for a moment and then explained further in a slightly shocked voice, “He's mine…I called him forth.”

“YOU WHAT?” Jena demanded angrily, “You summoned an evil undead thing?”

“He's not evil!” Cleo retorted angrily, her eyes boring into Jena's for a moment, “You can sense evil, you tell me you can sense him and I'll send him away.”

Jena paused for a moment, taken off guard by her mistress' sudden anger. She shook off her indecision and opened herself to her divine gift and looked for the evil she knew she would see…and saw nothing. “I…I sense no evil here.” She said in a surprised voice.

“How could you have summoned such a creature?” Xavian asked, “You are no necromancer.”

“I don't know for sure.” Cleo admitted. She had the grace to look slightly embarrassed, “But he told me that I summoned him earlier today…when I thought…when…I wanted to kill Anthilles for killing Seamus…he said he…heard my summons…and the rage and pain behind it…oh ! What have I done?”

“He speaks to you?” Angus asked suspiciously.

“I hear him in my head…” Cleo explained, “He says he is my shadow companion…here to do my bidding as long as I chose to keep him.” She looked slightly scared now.

“There are stories of such.” Lysette interrupted from nearby. No one had really noticed she was there until she spoke, “Mostly legends from before the War of the Undead…it was said that Shadow Dancers of great power could summon and control the shades of men.”

“Is that what I am now? A Shadow Dancer?” Cleo asked with a touch of suspicion. She recalled only a few memories of the possible future she had seen, she had assumed that she had become some sort of assassin, the Shadow Dancers were myths, everyone knew that.

“So it would appear child.” Lysette replied. She moved closer and gave Cleo an appraising look, “If you are truly such, you would be one of the first known since the War of the Undead…such power in one so young…it is surprising.”

“Just wait…you'll see more surprising around here sooner or later.” Angus said. “With this lot some thing's always surprising someone.” He reluctantly lowered his axe, “Are ye sure your little pet is no danger then?”

“As sure as I can be.” Cleo replied, “If he wanted to attack he would have done so…”

“Perhaps, perhaps not.” Maui said, “I've never had an undead completely ignore a prayer like that before…at the very least they look annoyed.”

Angus snorted in laughter at Maui's deadpanned delivery, while everyone else merely looked curious.

“He um…says that your prayers have no power over him.” Cleo said hesitantly, “No one's do.”

“Well…what do we do about it then?” Xavian asked.

“Nothing.” Jena decided, “Unless it poses a threat, we do nothing.” She turned to face Cleo, “But if you find yourself unable to control it, you had best let me know right away. Understand?”

“Understood.” Cleo said meekly. This was all a lot to deal with on top of everything else that had happened today. She lowered her eyes to the deck and made her way back to the Commodore's cabin. Everyone watched her go, their faces a mixture of concern and unease.

“She will be a force to be reckoned with someday.” Lysette noted after Cleo close the door behind herself, “The Shadow Dancers were all but exterminated after the War of the Undead…many lumped them together with Necromancers as evil to be wiped out…but they were never really understood…most of what was and is known of their powers is mostly rumor and speculation…”

“It would seem that we now have a way to separate rumor and speculation from fact.” Jena replied, “I'm just not sure that doing so isn't going to be messy and painful.”

Epilogue: Gridolyn, 17 Trivor, 1331 Avard

Commodore Seamus Stonehelm sat in a cushioned chair on a battlement of Prat's keep. From here he could see the harbor and smell the sea air. His recovery had been long and somewhat painful. He still got a bit of pain in his abdomen if he moved suddenly or in the wrong direction. But it too was fading as his body continued the process that his friends' prayers had begun. Another week or so and he would be fit to return to the Rattler and resume his duties.

He raised his spyglass to his eye and brought the Rattler into focus. There wasn't much activity for him to see, repairs and refitting had been finished weeks ago, most of the crew had been granted shore leave, only a fraction remaining to do minor upkeep as she swung at anchor. Still, just seeing her there made him feel better for some reason.

He lowered his spyglass, closing it down and placing it back in it's pocket within his cloak. He settled back in the chair and closed his eyes. Things were different now, with Anthilles dead and swinging from a gallows down on the waterfront, his focus of the last year or so was gone, and nothing had come along to replace it. Seamus needed a purpose, and at the moment, he had none. This troubled him.

In addition there were the upheavals among his family, Cleo and Jena in particular. Cleo's newfound power was unexpected, and her shadow companion was something else as well. Seamus had seen it a few times, Cleo had allowed it out on several occasions, and it behaved much like a faithful dog, the way it cavorted and played with her was…well…kind of disturbing. Seamus would never have believed it if he hadn't seen it, an undead creature that wasn't evil, and was devoted to Cleo like a puppy.

Seamus had heard tales of Shadow Dancers, and usually they had been painted in a bad light. They were said to be assassins and necromancers of the worst order. And yet Cleo was neither of these, but she was a Shadow Dancer. It was puzzling, perhaps the stories and legends were wrong? It would not be the first time it had happened.

Jena had also managed to get Cleo to open up a bit more. The two of them had been spending a lot of time together , talking about Cleo's problems, most of which seemed to be related to her resurrection and merging with a demon at the same time. Seamus was pleased by this, she had never really opened up to him about this, and though that bothered him a bit, he was happy that she was doing so finally. When Cleo had come to him after Jena's rebirth as a Celestial and announced that she was taking Jena as a mistress, he had been flummoxed, it was traditionally the husband who took mistresses, not the wife.

Still, it had worked out well enough for all concerned. Oddly, his relationship with Cleo seemed stronger since Jena had joined his odd family. And Jena seemed happy with it as well. She had changed since her rebirth, no longer as distant and aloof as she once had been, death changes a person, Seamus decided, he had come frighteningly close himself, and he was perhaps now changed as well.

His cousin Angus had left for the Hearth a few weeks back, citing the need to see home for a while, Seamus was considering joining him there in a week or so, once he was fully fit to travel. He sighed as he considered it, the Hearth was no longer truly his home. He loved his adoptive family dearly, but they were no longer the center of his life, his wife and her mistress, his ship and crew, that was home now. He really had no place to stay once he was ashore, he had been staying in a suite of rooms at Prat's keep for his convalescence.

He fought back a twinge of sadness, his former liege was two years dead now, and though they had not been close friends by any means, Seamus had respected the man immensely. Seamus wondered privately if he himself would have the conviction to do as Prat had done, sacrificing himself to destroy an army. Cleo and Jena had both been there and even now had difficulty describing the event.

His mind turned to another dilemma, Dianta and Lysette. The old seer had explained the prophecy to him a week or so back, and Seamus had been angered to find that, once again, he had been manipulated by prophecy. Dianta, for all her suffering at Anthilles' hands, had become apparently fascinated by Seamus. He recalled that in the other future he had seen, she had become his wife after he rescued her. He had assumed that by marrying Cleo he would have changed that possibility, but she still seemed drawn to him.

He was actually unsure how he felt about this. She was quite attractive and had a bright and quick mind, but when he looked at her, he couldn't help but wonder, was she attracted to him because she saw him as Anthilles' in a better form? Or did she truly see him as himself? He shook his head and decided to give up on that issue for now.

He reached down beside the chair and picked up a cane, used it to help lever himself to a standing position, and began to make his way back to his room. He entered to find Cleo and Jena both sitting and chatting, they ceased as he came in. He gave them a mock suspicious glare, “Plotting behind me back are ye?”

“What else?” Cleo replied with a raised eyebrow. She was wearing a simple white dress, something she had taken to doing more and more lately, giving up her normal leathers and cloak for more flattering colors and styles.

“Damnable wenches.” He muttered as he sat down on the edge of the bed, “Not even the decency to lie about it.”

“Why should we?” Cleo replied as she glided over to him, a downright predatory gleam in her eyes.

“Uh…to keep me from finding out?”

“What if we WANT you to find out?” She asked as she moved up in front of him. She stepped in close and used a single delicate hand to push him onto his back. She straddled his hips and leaned down, placing a serious kiss on his lips.

“What were we talking about?” Seamus asked numbly once they came up for air.

“The fact that it's been over a month and I'm as horny as a goat.” She smirked back to him, “Jena's great, but there are some things she can't do for me…”

“Should I be insulted?” Jena asked with a smile of amusement from behind Cleo.

“Not at all love.” Cleo replied, “It's just that there's an itch that only Elf-boy here can scratch…” She began to slowly work her hips around in small circles, immediately feeling Seamus' response, “There's my boy.” She cooed.

“And this is my cue to leave.” Jena said as she got up from her chair.

“You don't have to.” Cleo sighed as she ran her hands up and down Seamus chest, “I've never been against sharing.”

Jena stopped and gave the two of them an unreadable look. She was silent for a moment, “That's a big step…are you sure?”

“Jena my love…if I weren't sure, I wouldn't have taken you as a mistress in the first place.” Cleo told her as she reached down and pulled her dress up and off over her head, “When I married the Idiot here…”

“HEY!”

“Hush! I'm explaining the facts of life to Angel-Gal here.” Cleo silenced Seamus with a finger to his lips, “As I was saying, when I married him, I knew that since I can't have children, he would have to take a mistress at some point who could…so I did a preemptive strike, I took one first…someone I love as much as I love him…someone who I owe my life and my sanity to…someone I could share with him and not be ate up with jealousy…you.”

“So you want me to have his children? Jena asked with a frown.

“Not unless you want to…” Cleo replied with a smirk, “I want to share all of my life with you…and Seamus is part of it…but it's your decision…if you're not quite ready to go that far, it's okay.” She was slowly working Seamus' shirt up and off him as she spoke, finally getting it free as she made her last statement.

Jena was silent for a moment as she watched Cleo finish undressing Seamus. She was still hesitant, but she and Cleo had been lovers now over a year, and Seamus had never objected. He had remained a steadfast and true friend. She trusted him. And that was what it came down to, trust. And to be honest, she had occasionally wondered what he was like as a lover, Cleo certainly seemed to think he was one of the better ones she had experienced.

Her mind suddenly clear, she reached down and unfastened her halter top, letting it drift to the floor, she slid her hands into the waistband of her pants and slipped them down, stepping out of them and moving over to the couple on the bed, “You make ANY comments about having an Angel and a Demon in your bed at the same time, and I'll smite you.” She warned Seamus, pointing a finger at him as if scolding a child.

“Wouldn't dream of it.” He sighed as Cleo's hands continued to work their magic on his body.

Another room in the keep

Lysette straightened up, allowing her crystal ball to fade and grow dark, the next piece of the prophecy was now being set, the light, the dark, and the balance were now one…soon it would be time to add the heir to the balance. She sighed in satisfaction, her work was nearly done now, she just needed to continue to nudge Dainta to Seamus, and let nature take it's course. She had given up her entire life to this prophecy, given to her by Brigane so long ago. Her capture and enslavement, all a part of it, Dianta and her role in Anthilles' downfall, another part, Seamus and his family, another part…more was still left undone, but Lysette's part was all but finished now.

She stood and went over to her bed, once she was sure that her part was done, she would retire to someplace quiet, perhaps even stay here in Gridolyn, after all, there were a lot of sailors passing through, and a fortune teller could make a decent enough living in such a place…especially a former High Priestess of Brigane.

END

| Fiction | Seamus | Gaeleth |

gaeleth/stories/the_end_of_brotherhood.txt · Last modified: 2017/08/27 21:57 (external edit)