Done Waiting - Part One

by Rob Vaux

   She was dancing again. Her lithe form twisted and spun as her twin blades twirled through the air. Her dark hair trailed behind her, struggling to keep up as she moved faster and faster. He saw himself lower his rapier in surrender - not to her sword - to her beauty. He allowed himself to be captured just to be near her and watch the sun shine on her golden skin and her midnight tresses.

   He watched as the sun went down, and shadows gathered around his love. The moonlight gave her flesh a pale glow as she fought to keep the shadows at bay, but there were too many, and they carried her away, leaving only a slight bloodstain to show that she ever existed.

   Espera listened as Kheired-Din gave her up for dead, and screamed out his denial, "Dalia!" Then he felt a heavy boot in his side, and woke up.

   When his eyes opened, Espera was greeted by a sneering face, twisted and deformed by the cruelties of chance. When Edahgo saw that he was awake, he smiled down at the captive.

   "Good evening, lovebird. I'm tired of waking up in the middle of the night listening to your pathetic mewling. It's time to get your dainty little tongue clipped."

   With that, the hulking brute unchained Espera, threw him over his shoulder, and began to carry him down to his chamber of horrors. As he struggled, Espera's foot lashed out and caught the hunchback in the stomach. Edahgo grunted in surprise and squeezed the pilot hard until he stopped moving.

   "Just for that, I'm clipping one of your dainty little feet as well."

   Stomping down the stairs to his cabin, he lifted his captive just a bit, so that the man's head thumped against the ceiling with each step.

   "You're lucky you can pilot, little lovebird, or I'd do away with you this evening. Such a sorry excuse for a man. Always mooning over that dancing girl like a fool. She never even looked twice at you except to cut a notch in your neck, and still you kept after her, month after month. If the decision were up to me, I'd say that you were too stupid to live."

   Closing his cabin door behind them, Edahgo threw his burden onto the wooden floor with a loud thud, then turned to his brazier and began heating up a brand. Groaning, his captive managed to sit up, cradling his forehead in his hands. He could feel the hatred for the hunchback that had built up during his captivity burning deep in his heart. He watched the sneering, twisted man reach gleefully for another pair of brands and then he heard her, echoing in his mind like the coo of a dove. The time is now, my darling.

   Before he could stop them, the words flew past his lips, "Not that a freak like you would know anything about love, hunchback. I hear your mother killed herself the first time she saw you. Not that I can blame-"

   Edahgo spun around furiously, holding the burning hot iron in his hand. "Hold your tongue, little songbird. You'll have your chance to sing for me soon enough."

   With a sudden motion, he pressed the red hot tip to Espera's cheek. The pilot smiled. There was no sizzle of flesh. Instead, tiny flames began to dance within Espera's eyes as he laughed. Edahgo squinted at him in confusion for a moment, then backed away in fear.


   Espera stood up and began to slowly walk towards his tormentor. "You can't burn me, you fool. I am Fire." The fires in his eyes flared up, "I am Passion. I am the blood of kings. I. Am. Castillus!"

   Edahgo stared in horror as the fire in the brazier reared up and formed itself into a serpent, then began slithering towards him, leaving a scorched trail in its wake. Espera leaned in close.

   "Make a sound, and my serpent will climb down your throat and burn you to ashes from the inside out."

   His only reply was a tiny, strangled noise from deep within the hunchback's chest. Picking up a handful of burning coals from the brazier, Espera made his way up to the deck.

   Within a few minutes, tiny, controlled flames licked at strategic places on the ship - the anchor rope, the lines lashing the sails to the masts, and the ship's wheel. In the meantime, Espera was cautiously moving among the rowers below deck. Most of them slept as though dead, exhausted after their day's trials. However, one battered and bruised man with matted red hair peered at the pilot with hope in his eyes.

   "Hey, you!" he called softly, his voice thick with an Inish brogue, "Pilot, get me loose!"

   Espera motioned for him to be quietly, but the man's benchmate woke up, looking around him blearily. Donovich. The captain's lapdog. Espera cursed under his breath.

   "What do you do?" the Ussuran muttered sleepily. He spied Espera, and his eyes lit up in alarm, "Escape! KHEIRE-"

   His shout was cut short as the smaller man next to him leapt on him, wrapping the chains that bound them both around the would-be traitor's throat. A grim smile formed on the small man's lips as he choked the life out of him.

   "Time ta go, Andres, me boy sorry ye can't come with me."

   Espera leaned over him, "Hush. You'll wake the others. We need to do this quietly." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a coal and fanned it with his magic until it was white-hot. The other man just stared.

   "Doesn't that hurt?"

   "Would you rather stay here?" snapped Espera.

   "No, no. I'd sign on with Legion if it would get me out of here, or my name ain't Mike Fitzpatrick." He tried not to stare as blood began to run from his rescuer's nose, concentrating on the rapidly melting chains holding him in place. With a soft tearing sensation, the chains parted, then cooled immediately as Espera laid his hands on the molten ends. The Castillian absently wiped the blood from his nose.

   "You stand watch, I'll start freeing the others..."

to be continued...