Eomen, Son of the Black Ocean, leaned over over the edge of his boat, peering through the misty waters. Ahead, he could feel the pull of the Elemental Pole of Water, the energies that resonated with his very heart and being. Grinning, he reached down, hanging on the ropes from the mast, and dipped his hand deep into the cool waters of the ocean. He drank in the smells of the salt and wind, the true masters of the world.
“Eomen, where next?”
He pulled himself up slight, hand still in the water, and peered into his boat. His fellow thieves, two of them named Snot and Ragger, were sitting in the center, sorting through three bags worth of stuff. Trinkets were thrown overboard, but a sizable pile of jade coins and more profitable goods were gathered up between them. As he felt the water rushing through his fingers, he considered his options. After a moment, he shrugged.
“I say head home. We aren’t going to find a third boat to rob.”
Snot cleared his throat, “I don’t know, those last two were fleeing the Blessed Isle with all their worldly possessions. Might be a third.”
Ragger laughed too loudly, “Good grub on that last one, and a few pretty bars of jade. Too bad he resisted so much and there weren’t any pretty ladies on board.”
Eomen said, “I fancy myself a nice warm bed, a hearty wench on solid land, and more alcohol than I can drown in.”
Both of his men cheered, “Here!”
“Then set sail for home. We have spoils to spend!”
Inspired by getting off the ship they were on for the last month, the two pirates jumped up and they swung the sail around, pointing the ship toward the small village they called home. Around them, the mist grew thicker as the sun sunk below the horizon and darkness spread out across the ocean. In the distance, a faint shimmer of shoreline light up with the flames of civilization.
They sailed in silence, all three of them sorting through their ill-gained goods. The boat creaked and shifted with the swells of waves and the piles of jade clinked as they fell.
Near midnight, Eomen realized it was late. Yawning, he stood up.
“I’m heading to-”
His voice froze as he stared out over the darkness of the ocean. The thin sliver of light spread a ghostly glow across the surface and he spotted the flapping of a sail off in the distance. It was a small boat, like their own, suited for long-distance travel but with only a very small crew or family.
The perfect prey.
Behind him, the boat creaked some more as his men stood up.
“What… is that a boat?” Ragger’s voice dropped into a low rumble, one that didn’t carry well over water.
Eomen nodded slowly, feeling a strange wariness growing inside him.
“Small boat, no more than two or three on it. Looks like another fleeing the Isle.”
“Sneak up on it and rob them?”
He almost said no, but then cleared his throat.
“You got it. One last job and then we go home.”
They moved quickly, shoving the loot into chests to keep them silence, dousing the lights and working on the thin veil of light through the darkened mist. Around them, the wind rose up and their sail caught it with snap, launching them forward toward the unsuspecting boat.
Snot swore softly, but pulled out his short fighting sword and danced toward the edge of the boat. Ragger drifted back, ready to drop the sails as Eomen hefted their grappling hook.
The distance between the two boats closed with only a ripple of noise, time being passed by the pounding of Eomen’s heartbeats as he watched it come sliding up with ghostly silence. He started to rock forward, counting the seconds before their attack. Just as the boat was coming across, he swung the grappling hook into the other boat. It skittered across the planks, carving out gouges before slamming into the railing. Both boats jerked violently as he yanked hard on the rope, pulling them closer it. Ragger jerked at his own rope and the sail in their boat went slack, fluttering down. Ragger was already diving underneath it by the time it hit the boat. Together, he and Snot took a running leap over the bow and landed hard on the deck of their victim.
The door leading in the belly of the ship slammed open and a woman, wearing a nightgown and wielding a silvered dagger, flew out, swearing in the river tongue. She froze as she spotted Snot and Ragger, then dropped down into a fighting position. Eomen kept on pulling the rope, bringing the boats crashing together as he watched. She was attractive but more handsome than pretty. Her body was covered in scars, barely visible in the dim moonlight, but she held the weapon with the skill of a fighter.
Ragger and Snot spotted her and laughed.
“Oh, there is a pretty on this boat.”
Snot chuckled, “We better not ruin this one-”
He was interrupted as she launched herself. Her silver dagger flashed through the air and Snot gave out an inarticulate shriek as he stumbled back. Instead of pulling back, the woman snarled in rage and jumped forward, pinning him to railing. Eomen was looping the rope tightly on his boat as the silvered dagger flashed up in the air as she aimed for a killing blow. Ragger managed to throw himself into her, slamming with the force of his shoulder into her side. She let out a curse as her dagger flew up into the air. Ragger roared at her and followed through, using his movement to bring his sword glittering through the air to slash at her.
The woman swore again as she threw herself back, rolling up along the edge of the railing. She came up on the balls of her feet, balancing on the edge of her boat. Eomen swore himself as he finished. Grabbing his own sword, he launched himself at her side, bringing it down with the force of his leap.
It slammed into her shoulder, cutting flesh and scraping against bone. She let out a shriek of pain and fell off the railing, hitting the deck with a heavy thud. Eomen landed next to her, his weapon heavy in his hand.
“And that, boys, is how you handle pretty things with daggers.”
Ragger and Snot laughed, but the woman’s head snapped up, snarling at him with a mask of ferocity that sent a shiver down his spine. She swung around, her silk-covered leg sweeping at Eomen’s feet. He barely managed to step back as she swung completely around, standing up. Blood stained her nightgown as she clutched her wound, glaring from one pirate to the other.
“Who dares to invade my home!”
As she spoke, she backed up until her legs brushed against the other side of the boat, the black ocean beyond. Snot laughed, drawing his hand along his side where he kept his throwing daggers.
His dagger flashed in the air, slamming into her stomach. It was a fatal blow and she looked down, blood on her clothing. Slowly, her hand clutched the dagger as she collapsed, falling against the railing. With a sickening crunch, she slipped off the far side, splashing in the ocean below.
Ragger sighed, “Damn it, Snot, she was a pretty!”
Eomen felt a rising battle between them and cleared his throat.
“Never mind that, make sure she’s dead and let’s rob this thing. I still want to go home.”
Ragger looked over the side, “Corpse floating.”
Eomen looked down at the silver weapon, frowning with the strange make, but left it on the deck. He and Snot went below as Ragger inspected the decks. Below, it was a cozy little home, obviously well lived-in. Their victim lived along, with barrels of preserved foods, hundreds of books, and even a cache of more silver weapons. He frowned as he looked at the weapons. They looked more deadly than he thought. With a start, he realized they were weapons of the Anathema, made from the banned material Moonsilver.
Above, there was a thump as Ragger shoved something aside. Eomen swore to himself.
“Snot, check out the place. This may be a jade mine.”
He ran up the stairs, back to the deck.
“Ragger, you need to-”
He stopped at the surface, looking around the tiny boat. His eyes looked for movement, but found none.
Silence except for the creak of the boats and the twisting of ropes.
His eyes dropped down to the deck, looking for the dagger.
It was gone.
Swearing softly under his breath, he drew his own weapon out again, fighting down the storm in his stomach and crept forward.
“Damn it, Ragger, this isn’t the time for jokes.”
Still nothing. He peered over into his own boat, listening for the sound of movement. Hearing none, he cleared his throat.
Muffled, the pirate’s voice rose up from the opening.
“We have a problem.”
“Did Ragger get drunk already!?”
Eomen’s eyes scanned around, looking for a fight. Around him, the air was growing colder as the mist started to rise up again. The wind died, leaving utter silence except for the pounding of his heart. He snapped loudly, spinning around as he thought he heard a creak of movement.
“Just get up here!”
Snot came sprinting up, his fighting sword in his hand. Panting, he looked around.
“Ragger is gone.”
“Gone? Gone!? How is he gone!?”
Eomen shivered from the growing sense of dread.
“Check our boat.”
Swallowing nervously, Snot jumped over to the boat. Eomen watched him as he disappeared underneath, calling out Ragger’s name. Eomen backed up, his eyes and ears straining to hear anything. Then, a soft scuffle of noise below. Jumping, Eomen ran for the stairs down and peered inside.
The warm interior surrounded him, but no sign of movement. His eyes jumped from furniture to bed then to the weapons. He froze as he noticed one of the missing, a short spear from his memory. Frowning, he slammed the door shut, jamming a short length of wood into the opening.
“Snot! We are out of here!”
He ran to the grapple hook. Yanking hard on it, he worked it out of the wood. Just as he went to throw it overboard, the grapple was ripped out of his hand, opening up a deep gash. He jumped as his own boat started to rock away from him. Shocked, he could only stare as the ship careened violently. As it rolled over, the billowing ropes fluttered down to kiss the surface of the ocean.
A low whisper escaped his throat, “No…”
The hull of his own boat came into view and he saw four jagged openings laying bare the guts of his ship. It looked like wounds on the ship, violent angry wounds of some terrible creature biting his ship. Snot’s scream filled the air as water flooded inside. The screams grew more frantic, muffled by water and wood as the boat fell on its side, mast slapping into the water.
The screams grew more muffled and Eomen stared helplessly as he watched his boat start to break apart. Something violent slammed into it and he saw a large hunk of wood being tore away. A crest of water bulged up as something swam away from the boat. Trembling with rage and fear, Eomen took a deep breath, tapping on the elemental energies of his soul. His sword dropped to the ground as a new one formed from the mist surrounding him. It coalesced into a sword of pure water and Essence, shimmering with the salty ocean itself in the moonlight. Streaks of black flowed through the length of the blade as he stepped back.
“Okay, where are you!? I know you are here!”
Something slammed into his boat again and he heard the mast snapping from the force of the blow. Snot’s screams were gone as the boat bubbled violently, shuddering as air escaped from the doomed ship.
Eomen spun around, trying to find his attacker. When he completed his circuit, he froze as he saw a shape rising up out of the water, crawling up along the broken remains of his pirate ship.
It was the woman, and yet it wasn’t. Her skin was smooth, rippled with the jagged skin of a shark. Even a large fin grew out of her back as the water streamed off the ragged remains of her nightgown. The dusky white and blues of her body were splotched in the moonlight, but his eyes were drawn to the shimmering tattoos that covered her body and the pale disk of light that appeared on her forehead. He started to tremble as he stared at it, his mind flooded the horror stories of the Anathema tearing through his thoughts.
She spoke, a growling hiss that easily reached him.
“You stole from the wrong boat, Dragon-Blooded.”
The sound of her voice sent a ripple of cold fear down his spine, pooling in his stomach with the growing fear. He flexed his hands around his magical blade and crouched down. His throat swelled up and dry, but he didn’t want to speak.
The shark creature hopped easily over to the railing, balancing on it as it glared at him. In one hand, she carried the Moonsilver spear and in the other, her dagger. To his surprise, they looked more… alive than when they were on the deck.
Finally, he found the ability to speak.
“Get ready to die, Anathema!”
They both lunged. His magical blade barely parried her spear, then twisted around to knock the dagger out of place before he levered it along the haft of the spear to score against her. It left a dark line that welled with blood but she was already slashed again. This time, the dagger cut again him and he felt the burning wound cutting into his off-arm. Swearing, he spun around and dropped for a slash toward her knees. It barely missed as did her slash toward his chest with the spear.
Following his sweep, Eomen swung himself up and stepped back from the fight. She circled around him, her teeth bared and filled with sharp points. He felt a shiver as he swung forward. His sword slammed hard against the haft of her spear, sending a shock-wave through his arm. He hopped back to avoid a double strike from her, frowning.
She growled again, “Worried about this fight, little man?”
He held himself lightly, his eyes flashing to find another attack of opportunity.
“Not yet, monster.”
“Should we change the battlefield then?”
With a flash, she spun on her heel and leaped off into the water. Eomen swore, running after her but stopping at the edge. Around the boat, he saw the fin slicing through the water as it swam around the far side.
Swearing again, he ran around, then jerked at the boat shuddered from an impact.
“Damn! She’s going to sink her own boat!”
A moment later, another impact slammed into the boat, sending glass shattering below and barrels rolling along the deck. He threw himself at the railing and looked down at the inky darkness.
His hands shook for a moment, then he started to whisper to himself, silent prayers to the gods as he drew on his elemental power. Water rose up from his body, black mist and salt, spinning around him as a storm surrounded him. His body shook from the energy, the storm’s rage growing with every passing second. When it began to tear into the wood of the deck, he leaped off the edge and into the darkness.
Cold water slammed into him, but he drank it in, unhindered by the sluggishness of the water or suffocation under the sea. He focused his will and came bobbing just below the surface, his sword dancing lightly in the waters. His eyes scanned the darkness, the reflected moonlight on the surface casting the battlefield in a surreal glow.
He spotted her as she charged, a shark-like creature cutting through the water. Eomen grinned to himself, preparing to attack. As she rushed closer, he brought his sword down. It sliced through the liquid gracefully, tearing open a ragged wound. His foot came up and he kicked it against her, using the force of the blow to throw himself out of the way of her charge. The bright disk on her forehead flared even brighter as she spun around in the water and charged again.
Eomen laughed in the water, the stormy fury of his anima banner exploding in a violent whirlwind of powers and rage as she struck. He twisted away from the claws, aiming his sword at the beady black eye. It missed, but he felt bone scraping as he laid open a wound that blossomed in a plume of blood and darkness.
She jerked back, swimming quickly away and circling around him. He called out to her, mockingly.
“Ready to give up now, Anathema?”
Her answer came in a charge as her entire body flared up with a brilliant silvered light. The brilliance of the unnatural fire flooded their fight and he called on the powers of his essence to defend him. Her charge left a streak of after-images, a long and terrible river of Moonsilver as she rushed up to him. Her teeth flashed, her body blurring as she attacked again and again. He felt jagged teeth tearing into his body, tearing away at his arms and legs. He aimed a weak blow at her, but she threw him aside, then burst into light again as she charged, a ghostly image of a shark rising up behind her. Her mouth grew huge, almost enveloping him as she ravaged him, tearing off arm and leg, shredding the Dragon-Blooded pirate in a matter of seconds.
He felt his very body torn apart by the supernatural powers of the Anathema. As he felt the howls of the Underworld rising up to claim him, he wished he never found this creature’s boat.
One Regret Notes: