Desperate Times: part 6

Author: Andorus
Rating: PG (some violence, really brief nudity, only mentioned with the word “nude” though…)

Disclaimer: Ren, Ioz, Tula, Niddler, Bloth, Mantus, and all of that belong to the now-no-more Hanna-Barbera studios. Serril and Cherni are my own original creations.

Author’s Notes: Major apologies for the HUGE delay…I wrote this when putting off studying for finals a few weeks ago, and when I tried to upload it, was having issues accepting it. ^^; And I’ve decided to stay with the name Cherni–it’s kind of grown on me. *grins* I’ll try to be better about continuing from now on. No promises (since I TOTALLY broke the last ones, in terms of time and explaining the Compass thing ^^; ) but I’ll try.
I also need to thank Luna for giving me the idea of the duel–that never crossed my mind. Thanks so much! :o)

And as always, thanks for reading (and hopefully reviewing), and may the Force be with you. *bows* :o)

*     *     *     *     *


The Maelstrom was drifting lazily along the waves, a light and warm breeze pushing it on its way. This breeze, combined with the warmth in the air, lulled all those who spent much time topside into a slight doze before long.

And Ioz, Tula, and Niddler intended to use that lull to their advantage.

Tula had been exercising a bit of her powers to form a slight cloud of fog to conceal the Wraith from view–it would be enough to keep it unseen from casually roving eyes, which was all they needed.

She frowned a bit more suddenly, and Ioz glanced at her, hoping that it wasn’t another attack on her. Instead, she opened her eyes a moment later, a bluish-green color dancing within them as she let her powers work subconsciously. “There’s no Dark Water anywhere nearby,” she declared quietly. “We’re good to go.”

“All right,” Ioz agreed, and handed her one of the two amphecytes in his hands. Behind him, Niddler was squirming as he pulled the rubbery sea creature over his beak, and wordlessly, the two humans exchanged a look and pulled theirs over their faces as well. They slipped silently into the calm water shortly thereafter.

Before long, they were clambering up the wood paneling and leviathan’s skeleton that formed the outer covering of Bloth’s flagship, and sure enough, there were several pirates lounging at their side of the ship. However, unlike last time, when they were grumbling about dagron duty, this time they were speaking in more hushed tones of voices, not nearly as relaxed as before. But the three were still able to grab them and take their places seemingly in the blink of an eye.

They split up, so as not to attract too much attention to themselves. Tula headed forward, while Ioz headed aft, and Niddler took to guarding a barrel of goija, keeping an eye on the central area of the ship.

The amount of goija decreased faster than Niddler would have liked, and he spared a quick moment to duck his head into the barrel to help him sight another small fish to munch on. But as he emerged, a dark shadow loomed over him, and before he could even let out a squawk of terror or begin to identify his attacker, something heavy impacted painfully with his head, and he knew no more.

Ioz lurked in the shadows, torn between striding nonchalantly as if he were a crewman on the Maelstrom again and sneaking about so as not to be seen. As he crept around a corner, he was glad he’d snuck, because Bloth and Mantus were engaged deep in conversation, their backs to him. Their postures, amazingly enough, indicated that all was not well, and that both were troubled about something.

And that made Ioz wonder. First the pirates, now the captain and his commander–what could be bad enough to make them all so worried?

Ioz crept another step, but the board creaked under his feet.

Bloth and Mantus spun around, but Ioz had sprinted back around the corner–silently–just in time.

He made his way towards the door of the quarters that used to be Teron’s, and glanced inside, wondering what was left–

His eyes widened, horrified as the jarring realization struck him of what lay inside and on Teron’s old bed of soil, and he quickly withdrew from the window, but not quickly enough.

The girl who had been in a trance on the bed–an ecomantic trance–her eyes snapped open, the milky white light bathing her nude body disappearing. She called her robe to her, and it wrapped around her in an instant as she stood, and with the wave of a hand, her door flew open and she stalked purposefully outside.

The pirates stopped what they were doing, stared, cowered back into the shadows and out of the girl’s notice as best as they could. But she wanted nothing to do with them. She knew where her quarry was.

He was running, ducking for cover, but with another wave of her hand, a gust of wind shoved the barrels aside, and he had nowhere to run. He glanced around wildly, but there were no other options, so he went for his sword.

A smile crossed her face. She ripped the sword from his hands, levitated it in front of him as she stalked towards him, turned it so that the blade faced him, and sent it falling.

He let out a strangled cry and fell, a slash across his mostly bare torso leaking blood that pooled around his mostly still form. He still struggled to cling to consciousness, albeit weakly, sluggishly.

She loomed over him. “The monkey-bird was your friend, I’ll wager?” she questioned. “Well, I’ve already dealt with him.” She hesitated, and took a good look at his face. “Handsome, but an idiot,” she added as an afterthought.

She kicked the side of his head, hard, and motioned to the nearest set of pirates to take him to where they’d taken the monkey-bird and to tie the man up.

She still had one more–the one she was the most excited about finding. The girl. The ecomancer.

* * * * *

“Ren, stop–” Serril gasped, completely winded, tugging on his arm. “I–can’t go any further–”

He stopped, turned, grabbed her shoulders. “We just need to find a hiding place,” he insisted hurriedly but softly. “It’s not much further, I promise.”

She shook her head, and her knees buckled, and he knelt, still supporting her, and gave her a moment to catch her breath. “I haven’t–run this much in at least ten years,” she whispered. “Never–been as scared as this–didn’t know he would ever find me–”

Her head snapped up, her eyes intense and flooding with tears. “Leave me,” she whispered. “Holding you back.”

He shook his head quickly, emphatically. “No,” he insisted. “We’re getting out of here.”

She shook her head. “Too slow,” she breathed. “More important for you to leave–survive. I’ll–be all right–”

“Look,” Ren replied, in a tone that would allow no contradiction, “I promised you I’d get you out of here and back to Octopon, and by Kunda, I’m not going to break that promise. All right?” She didn’t respond. “All right?”

A tear slid down her cheek, and she nodded. He smiled briefly, trying to comfort her, and quickly brushed the tear from her cheek. “We’ll be all right,” he whispered, pulling her towards him in a gentle and quick hug. “We’ll get out. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.”

As he spoke, he realized he honestly had no idea if he could do it again, but forced that thought out of his mind. No. He had to find a way.

A few moments later, they started moving again.

* * * * *

Tula ducked behind several crates as a couple of pirates passed her hiding place, carrying–


Her eyes widened, and it was all she could do to remain completely motionless and still as she watched where they carried his still form. It was to the main mast, more aft, where they tied him up by his wrists and tied another rope around his torso to hold him up. She cringed at their rough treatment of him, their shoving him around and tying him up so roughly, and felt a surge of anger within her at their obvious derision towards him.

Her senses flashed, and she ducked again, and when she slowly lifted her head–

Her stomach lurched.

Several men were carrying Ioz to the mast to tie up next to Niddler. From what she could see, as it was some distance away, he’d been cut somehow, across his stomach, and there was an ugly bruise along the right side of his face. He was unconscious as well, and they gave him the same treatment, tying him up by his wrists and tying another rope around him–not caring if it crossed his diagonal wound, which it did, and they made sure to tie it tight. She felt her stomach flip-flop at how much pain pressing a rough piece of rope into an open wound like that must cause.

And suddenly, as she stretched outwards with her senses as much as she could, she suddenly realized why they had them tied up like that, a moment before the reason openly presented itself. Or rather, herself.

A very pale, very frail girl wrapped in robes clinging almost seductively to her frame stepped casually into plain view of Tula–as if she knew the ecomancer was watching. Tula also didn’t fail to notice the pirates who had tied her friends up were rapidly making their distance from this girl. It sealed her suspicions, as did the resonances.

This was her attacker. This was also the daughter of Salamantha. Being closer to her helped Tula to pinpoint nuances of her ecomantic aura–and it was definitely there.

Salamantha’s offspring.

She shivered involuntarily.

The girl was surveying her surrounding area–a predator attempting to locate her prey, Tula noted wryly but warily. Her eyes skimmed over the crates Tula was kneeling behind, moved on, froze, darted back.

The pirates noted her sudden interest in the pile, and their attention turned that way as well, but none of them moved towards Tula, not even Bloth and Mantus, who Tula realized were standing at the starboard aft end of the ship, surveying the situation silently–respectfully. They had no intentions of standing in this girl’s way–they knew exactly what she was capable of.

Tula knew she had no other choice. It was all up to her now.

She drew a deep breath to steady her nerves, her racing heart, to calm her churning stomach, and stood, brushing herself off, flipping her hair over her shoulder and out of her way, and strode forward to confront the eco-witch.

To be concluded…

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