Bargains and Blood
by Rob Vaux

   Reis slid the Setine key into its slot and felt it click into place. The Castillian was right all along, he thought to himself. A pity he didn't want to share. It had taken some convincing to leave the rest of the crew behind, but in the end, they  remained aboard the Roger as he ordered. Riant had given him several suspicious glances, but the bosun wouldn't dare cross him, and even Andre had looked nervous at the notion of entering Cabora's alien landscape. Only the captain had entered the island, and only he would claim the prize. The machinery beneath him begin to hum, and he was suddenly filled with an inexplicable sense of power. He flexed his fingers and smiled with delight.

   Was that all it took? Javier had said nothing about further steps, only when and where the key must be inserted. Perhaps there was no more to it than that.

   "Immortality," he whispered quietly, "All mine." He suddenly became aware of a presence behind him.

   Bonnie stared up at her nemesis as he slid the Syrneth artifact into place. She saw him as if in a waking dream - near and yet distant. The man who had sunk her ship, butchered her crew, slain her captain. The terror of the seven seas, turning to look her in the eye as she approached the conical structure on which he perched. His murderous scythe hung at his belt, but she wasn't afraid. She drew her blades - it felt like the most natural thing in the world - and met his gaze with steely resolve.

   "Let's finish this, you and I."

   He leapt down from the top of the structure to land a short ways away. His scythe was in his hands almost instantly. "You have proven quite troublesome, my dear. Had I more time, I would love to question you on your remarkable tenacity."

   "Me father always said I dinnae know when ta quit." His lips curled in a sinister smile.

   "I suspect he lived to regret such stubbornness. A pity you won't. Are you ready to conclude our business, little girl?"

   "Are you?"

   In answer, he raised the scythe and charged. She dived out of the way of his first blow, lashing out with her blades. They spun around in a slow arc, sizing each other up before launching another flurry of attacks. She moved in time with him, seemingly anticipating his strikes before they came. It was meant to be this way, she thought to herself. They want it this way. She cut to the side just before the scythe fell, and pressed him backwards with a fierce series of blows.

   "Yer done, Reis!" she shouted. "It was inevitable."

   "Are you sure about that?" Suddenly, he changed tactics. She shook her head and tried to adjust - he wasn't supposed to do that! - but he cut high, and she felt the Syrneth blade make a shallow gash across her forehead. Wincing in pain, she staggered backwards, only to barely avoid another swinging blow.

   "This island doesn't belong to your Sidhe masters," Reis shouted. "It belongs to the Syrneth, and that means that Sidhe rules don't apply." He was reacting differently now, not following the pattern. He moved left when he should move right, advanced when he should have retreated. She tried to adjust, but he moved with more confidence, and his scythe delivered another nasty cut along her arm before she could duck out of the way.

   "Did you really think the Sidhe were the only powers in the universe?" Reis growled. "The Syrneth have bargains to grant as well." He swung the scythe low, catching the hem of her kilt. She winced as the  blade bit into her flesh and felt her eerie confidence begin to fail.

   "Farewell, McGee," he raised the scythe high above his head. "You should have quit when you had the chance."

   Fear took over as his blade fell, and she reacted on blind animal instinct. She crossed her knives  defensively in a futile act of defiance and blocked the blow.

   Reis snarled in frustration and swung the scythe again, only to watch her dodge out of the way at the last instant. It wasn't possible! Nothing could parry the Syrneth scythe! She spun on her heel and raised her knives a second time, deflecting his blow harmlessly to the side.

   "What's the matter?" Bonnie asked. "I thought yer wee blade could cut through anything."

   "You cannot stop me McGee," he tried to cover his shock with bravado. "I am immortal now!"

   "Ye sure about that?"  Her dirk caught his shoulder and his felt his arm go numb. "The Syrneth had power, but they're been dead fer eons. Yer dependin' on ghosts to save ye. The Sidhe, on the other hand, are very much alive. An' they've decided it's time fer you ta go!"

   "I am the terror of the Théan seas, and I will not be vanquished by the likes of you!" His voice roared in anger. The scythe rose for a devastating blow, but the blow never came.

   With blinding speed, McGee plunged her dirk into Reis's chest. "The story's over, ye butcher! Ye cut, ye bleed, ye die!" He fell to his knees, blood spilling from the mortal wound. Another blow knocked him flat on his back, and though he struggled to rise, his limbs wouldn't move properly.

   "No!" he whispered. "That's not right - I am immortal"

   "Of course ye are. Just not the way ye think"

   She watched his body shudder and lie still, wiping the blood from her face. Suddenly, she felt very tired. The energy drained out of her and the pain of her injuries came roaring to the front of consciousness. She looked down at her vanquished foe. He seemed to shrink into his clothes as the life fled his body. His face was seemed so old, so sad. This frail creature had terrorized the seven seas? This wrinkled visage had filled countless nightmares with visions of horror and blood?

   "You have done well, my child," a voice spoke behind her.

   "Aye," she spoke without looking around, "Thanks te you."

   "We did nothing but provide you with the tools. You had to wield them."

   "If ye say so," her shoulders slumped with exhaustion. "I'm just glad it's finally over."

   "It's never over, my child. Not where my people are concerned." The presence behind her seem to expand, filling the space surrounding them with its power. "This place troubles me, " the voice boomed. "The ghosts here do not rest quietly. I have fulfilled my end of the bargain. Are you prepared to fulfill yours?"

   "Aye," Bonnie nodded, her eyes filling with tears. "That I am."

   "Then let us be on our way." Bonnie felt a chill descend as the creature wrapped her in its cloak. The pain vanished, the city around them faded away, and she felt the rush of wind as she was transported somewhere else.

   "Oh, my child," the Queen of the Sidhe whispered to her, "we have such wonders to show you"