Chris could feel a feral grin form on his face as he fought against the rival captain. These days, it seemed the only time he felt alive was in the thick of battle, and he had to admit that he was getting dark enjoyment out of his current duel. Unfortunately, such duels were always over much too quickly, and this one was no exception. With one last flick of his wrist, he disarmed his opponent and had his sabre to the man's throat. "Do you yield?" he growled.
The other captain glared at him, dark brown eyes burning with fury and frustration. "Not to the likes of you," he hissed.
"As you wish," Chris whispered, and then thrust the sword forward. As the body fell backward, he removed his blade, wiping it off on the dead man's shirt before turning smoothly to find his next opponent.
The sights and sounds of fighting were already starting to die down, however, as his men either subdued or disposed of the crew of the Imperial Frigate who had not succumbed to Nathan's sleeping powder. "Time?" he called out.
"'Bout another ten minutes, Captain. Then the rest will start coming around," Nathan answered as he hurriedly wrapped a bandage around a slice in Buck's sword arm.
Chris nodded in understanding and strode for the captain's cabin. He had no interest in the ship itself, just its cargo and any information he could find about the Queen's plans.
"Chris! Chris!" JD came running after the captain. "Ezra wants you down in the hold. Says it's important," he gasped out.
Swearing softly, Chris turned on his heel, sheathing his sword. "Have Josiah get what he can from the cabin and tell the rest of the crew to get back to the Wolfshead and make ready to sail," he threw over his shoulder.
"Aye, sir!" JD said, and then hurried off to find the mage.
Ignoring the crew members passing by him with stolen booty, Chris stepped over bodies, dead or slumbering, on his way to the hold. His curiosity was piqued. It was rare that Ezra asked for him during a raid. Climbing down, he called out, "Ezra?"
"Over here," a soft voice called to him.
"What did you find?" he asked as he walked toward the scarlet clad man. There was movement in the dark corner and he automatically reached to draw the sabre.
"No, no, you don't need that," Ezra said, keeping his voice low and placing a hand over Chris' hand. He moved the lantern closer to the corner and there was a clinking sound and more movement. "Easy, we're not going to hurt you," Ezra said soothingly.
Chris squinted into the corner, finally able to distinguish a figure in the gloom. "What the hell?" Ezra threw him a warning look and he took a deep breath before speaking again in a softer voice. "Ezra, we've got to move."
"We have to take him with us," Ezra stated.
"What? Why? You know we don't take prisoners," Chris protested.
Instead of answering, Ezra leaned forward and flicked the blanket off the chained figure's head. Chris gasped in surprise. "By the gods, it can't be," he whispered.
"But it is," Ezra stated with satisfaction, his green eyes gleaming in the soft flame of the lantern. "I wondered why the hold was only half full when it was obvious they were headed back with all due speed."
Chris reached out slowly, ignoring the flinch as he gently traced the delicate point of the man's... no, elf's ear. Although, given the curls in the matted hair, it had to be a half-breed. Something he hadn't even known was possible. Huge blue eyes seemed to sear right into his soul and, deep inside, Chris felt something stir. He quickly retracted his hand. Turning to Ezra, he asked, "Can you get the manacles off him? Our time is almost up."
"Of course. Given his current condition, however, I'm not certain he'll be able to walk," Ezra warned.
"He won't have to," Chris stated.
As the first manacle tumbled to the ground, Chris hissed at the sight of the burns on the elf's wrist. Iron, of course. The blanket slipped down from the elf's shoulders, and Chris scowled as he took in the many injuries that had been inflicted upon the elf. A familiar rage was beginning to burn in Chris' belly towards those who had abused another in such a cruel way.
"Time is running out!" Josiah shouted down into the hold.
"Josiah! We need your strength," Chris called back, and as the large man made his way down the ladder, the second manacle dropped to the floor.
Ezra hurriedly pulled the blanket back up to cover the elf's head. The magnificent blue eyes had slipped shut, and Ezra hoped he had slipped into unconsciousness. The wounds the elf had sustained had to be painful, and he was certain the move from one ship to another would only exacerbate the injuries. 'He'll certainly be a challenge for Nathan,' Ezra thought to himself.
"What is it you need me to carry?" Josiah asked as he came up to the two men. Chris stepped back, and Josiah gasped in dismay. Quickly kneeling down, he easily scooped up the slight form. Standing up, he moved quickly towards the ladder. "We need to move," he stated. "You two go up first."
As soon as Chris was back on deck, he could see signs that the previously sleeping crew was beginning to revive. Cursing softly under his breath, he turned to give first Ezra a hand and then Josiah. "Ezra, drop some of your smoke bombs on your way back to the ship. We don't want these fellows to be able to come after us."
"Understood," Ezra said as he began planting the small orbs about the ship. He kept an eye on Chris and Josiah, however, so that he wouldn't hold them up. The rest of the men had already returned to the Wolfshead.
Finally, Chris was the last one on the Imperial Frigate. He was just about to swing back over to his own ship when he heard Buck shout his name.
"Chris!" Wilmington stared in horror as one of the Imperial soldiers let loose with an arrow that was headed straight for Chris' unprotected back. Before it could reach its target, however, something hit it, knocking it off course.
Whirling around, Chris saw the arrow and the dagger that had intercepted it both fall to the deck. Without pause, he scooped up the dagger and continued his swing. As he landed on the deck of the Wolfshead, he held out the dagger. "Thanks, Nate," he said, recognizing the blade as one of the healer's.
Nathan shook his head. "Wasn't me." He nodded toward the body he was tending. "It was him."
Chris immediately saw that it was the half-elf and once again found himself captured by the blue eyes. Knealing down, he repeated, "Thank you."
"Welcome," a raspy voice responded.
Smiling, Chris nodded and turned to Nathan. "Better get him down below. We're going to hoist all sails, and it might get a bit rough." His eyes then flicked to the pointed ear that was just peeking out through the half-elf's hair.
Following Chris' gaze, Nathan casually flipped the blanket back over the curly head and nodded. "I'm moving him now."
Chris stood up and strode for the wheel. From the smoke coming off the frigate, it appeared that Ezra's bombs had went off right on time, so it was time to disappear.*****
It was several hours before Chris had the time to go below and check on their "passenger." He was unsurprised to find Nathan sitting next to the bunk in which the half-elf was ensconced. "How is he?" Chris asked.
Nathan shrugged. "Too early to tell. But he's held on this long, so seems likely he'll make it. Gonna have some nasty scars, though."
"Has he said anything to you? Such as where he's from?" Chris asked.
"Nope. Passed out as I was bringing him down and hasn't come around since. The rest is probably the best thing for him," Nathan said.
Chris studied the still form. Nathan had cleaned him up, and the pale skin almost seemed to glow. The delicate bone structure was another clue to his heritage, but his ears had been cleverly hidden by a bandage. "What do you make of him?"
Nathan frowned, looking down at his patient. "Not sure. Didn't think a human and an elf could produce a child, but I don't know how else to explain the ears and the hair. Ain't never heard of no elf having curly hair, and humans don't have pointy ears. That, and, though the iron's going to leave scars, it would have likely killed a full elf. They have no tolerance for it at all."
"Why don't you go get something to eat, Nate. I'll sit with him for awhile," Chris suggested.
"I'll bring you something, and maybe some broth for him," Nathan said, nodding his head toward the still sleeping elf.
Chris nodded. "Anything I need to do?"
"Nah, I've done everything we can do. Just have to wait for him to wake up so we can get some water and nourishment into him," Nathan said. "He's probably going to be in a good deal of pain, though." He stood up and stretched. "I'll be back soon."
Chris took a seat on the abandoned stool. He couldn't take his eyes off the elf. Then one of the pale, slender hands twitched, and he took it without a thought. As soon as their hands clasped, he felt... something, and when he looked up, he discovered the elf staring at him through bleary, blue eyes.
"Hey," Chris said softly. "Are you feeling better?"
The elf blinked and then warily nodded. "Where?" he asked.
"You're on my ship, the Wolfshead."
Fear flickered through the blue eyes, and Chris gently squeezed the hand he held. "It's all right. We're not going to hurt you," Chris said. This was met with silence, so he continued. "I have no love for the Empire myself, so you don't need to worry about that. I won't let them get you again," he promised.
The elf met his gaze steadily for a few moments and then nodded in acceptance. "Vin," he offered.
"Chris," Chris replied with a smile.
Vin returned the smile, but it disappeared quickly when the door opened and another man bustled in.
"Easy, it's just Nathan, our healer," Chris was quick to reassure.
"What do you mean 'just Nathan,'" the healer groused, setting the tray he held down on the table before giving the other two a small grin, white teeth contrasting brightly with his dark skin. "Is that any way to speak of the man who just brought the food?"
At the mention of food, Vin's nose twitched and then his stomach growled, eliciting a guffaw from Nathan.
"Ah, I'd say our guest is hungry, wouldn't you, Captain?" Nathan asked.
"Seems so," Chris agreed, finally drawing his hand away from the elf's.*****
Chris glanced around at his core crew, sans Nathan, who was sitting with Vin. Chris didn't want to leave the elf unguarded. Once they hit port and the hands he'd hired for his last excursion disembarked, then it wouldn't be necessary, but he couldn't chance loose lips letting it be known that they'd found an elf. The Queen had done her best to wipe out the race, and he certainly wasn't going to give her another victim.
"An actual elf?" JD was saying, his eyes wide with excitement. "Then the prophecy could be true, couldn't it?" he exlaimed.
"JD, keep your voice down," Ezra chided. "It matters not whether the prophecy is true or not, so long as people can believe it to be true."
Josiah nodded in agreement. "Belief is a powerful thing."
Chris scowled, but remained silent. He didn't hold in prophecy himself, but Josiah was correct. With an elf, it was possible that the rebellion could be resurrected.
"And only one of elven blood will be able to defeat the magic of the Mage Queen," Josiah quoted softly.