READ ME! Ok. this story is dark. Like, mentioned rape of a child and implied torture dark. If that's not your thing or you are in any way sensitive to that please take care of yourself and DO NOT READ your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health.
Also, I need some advice: I know what happens after this piece. But it's kinda violent. Should I still post it? Should I post it as a separate story? Is there another option? Other thing, any opinions on if this needs a different rating than I gave it? 's rating system confuses me way more than it probably should.
Aside from all that, let me know if you see anything that needs attention. I would love to hear your opinions and criticisms!
Even on the Isle of the Lost, there were certain crimes too heinous to commit.
Rape was common, though generally frowned upon. Thievery was a fact of life. Murder garnered the highest respect. The victim could always fight back, of course, but it was unlikely anyone was going to come to their aid.
That was how things were. No one double checked where hand shaped bruises on a child's arms came from, or the haunted look in the occasional pretty young woman's eyes, or the dark stain on an apparently sleeping man's shirt. And even if someone were to dig into such common Isle charms, it wasn't as if sides would be taken in the conflict. It wasn't the way things were done.
If you couldn't take care of yourself, you weren't worth being taken care of.
A gang might take retribution, if they noticed.
But even amid the normalcy the world's wickedest had created, there were still some lines that should not be crossed. And once crossed, not a soul disputed what justice was customarily dished out.
When Dizzy Tremaine scrambled into Hell Hall, Mal's first reaction was annoyance. Technically the child, as a cooperative resident of VK territory, was allowed in the headquarters, but she had been commanding a lot of Evie's time as of late (Mal was not jealous. She was petty and controlling, both of which were perfectly villainous) and she was interrupting a Core Four plotting session. Nothing was sacred on the Isle, but plotting was about as close as a dragon to her gold and not to be disrupted lightly.
So when Dizzy appeared in all her pint-sized eclectic glory, the fact that she was sobbing took a minute to register, and even when it did, Mal still found herself at a loss. Crying just wasn't something one did on the Isle. It was proof that something had gotten to you, and that was never good for one's health. Even citrus sweet Dizzy knew that.
Carlos and Jay both seemed to be stuck in a similar state of shock as Mal, but Evie was on her feet and gathering the younger girl into an embrace in the space it took to blink, smoothing tangled hair ripped loose from its usual frizzy pigtails and braids, shushing and swaying an an attempt to soothe her young friend. She had no reason to worry about the rest of the Four using this chink in her armor against her: they all relied on each other's reputations too much to risk it.
Jay was the next to move, his territorial (not protective) instincts demanding he destroy whoever caused this in retribution for daring to lay a finger on a child known to be under VK protection. But when Dizzy saw him approach all Evie's work to calm the girl was undone.
Mal watched Jay's eyes widen in shock as he backed away. He looked to Mal automatically, seeming to her more lost than he had since they were children. Carlos grew so tense across the table from her she worried every muscle in his body would smap, pressing himself back into his chair as far as he could. It was these things, more than any others, that forced Mal's sluggish brain back into focus.
She stood sharply, pointing to the grand double doors at the other end of the hall.
"Jay, Carlos, don't let anyone in," she ordered, immediately turning to the girls, leaving no room for argument. Not that the boys seemed to have any: they practically ran for the exit. "E." It wasn't as gratifying to see Dizzy flinch at the steel in her voice as her mother's teaching said it should be, but dwelling on that wasn't a priority. "I need to know what happened."
Evie didn't spare her a glance, full attention on the villainette she held, but that was fine.
It took ten minutes for Dizzy to calm enough to speak proper words, twenty for Evie and Mal to fully grasp what had been done to the child, and no time flat for Mal to decide how to proceed.
Even on the Isle there were some things that were just unacceptable.
Mal approached the understandably terrified girl carefully, watching closely for any signs of distress as she placed what she hoped was a comforting hand over the torn seam of Dizzy's sleeve and crouched, willing to give the higher ground if it got her what she needed.
"Dizzy," she began lowly, waiting until Dizzy untucked herself from Evie's breast just to make tear-reddened eye contact. "I need you to give me a name."
Dizzy watched the purple haired teen for a long time, pressing impossibly closer to Evie.
"Tell me who did this," Mal tried again, "and I swear to you, I will make them pay. I will make sure they never touch you, or anyone else, ever again."
Dizzy considered the oath for minutes that carried the weight of centuries before whispering so quietly Mal had to lean in to hear it, "Ruth. The one with the blue eyes. He wears a lot of buttons."
She knew exactly who Dizzy was talking about and would take great pleasure in wiping the pedophile off her island.
"Thank you, Dizzy. I'm going to leave Evie here with you, yeah? Me and Carlos and Jay, we're going to take care of Ruth. That alright?" She wasn't usually one to ask for permission, but this situation wasn't usual and it wasn't as if Evie was in any position to make a big deal of it.
Dizzy nodded and turned back into the rare safety Evie offered. With a weary sigh, Mal gave the poor girl what she hoped was an encouraging squeeze, matching Evie's quiet rage with her own fury, and stood.
"You get her anything she needs. I'll take care of everything when I get back," was her parting command
"With me," was how she addressed the boys as she threw open the doors on her way out, not slowing down for them to catch up. She gave them the ten second version of Dizzy's story, and by the end they had fallen into step on either side of her, heads high, purpose in their stride, filled to the brim with an anger righteous even on the Isle. there would be no strutting through the streets tonight, no slinking through back alleyways or stalking marks like prey in the shadows. Tonight, they walked with purpose and dignity through the dwindling light.
The trio did not hesitate to cross over the VK-Pirate border where crookedly paved streets became seaside boardwalks. Unabashed stares were drawn to the rival gang leaders stroeing into enemy territory, making no effort to muffle the creaking of boots on rotting wood. They did not acknowledge anyone until they made it through the docks to the gangplank of The Lost Revenge, where they were met with Harry Hook in all his grinning, slightly unhinged pomp.
"Well, well, well," he called, swaggering toward his boss's biggest rival with arms wide in mock welcome. "What do we have here?"
Mal met Harry's eyes without her usual hostility.
"Harry," she greeted with a very slight nod that had his confident air faltering. "I respectfully request an audience with the captain." Every word was chosen carefully and spoken to carry over the whole ship. The crew stopped working almost as one and turned to the purple haired dragon girl and her companions.
"'Respectfully request an audience with the captain…'"
Here, at the westernmost edge of the Isle, there was just enough space between the perpetual storm clouds and the horizon to allow the last vestiges of the setting sun to bathe the coast. The golden light glinted menacingly off the gold painted rings in Uma's braids as she stepped into view, pausing at the top of the gangplank. "I like the sound of that." She spread her arms wide, one gripping the hilt of a sword. "Welcome aboard. Harry. Move."
Harry made a sour face but did as he was told, turning with a sweep of his long coat to weave his way back to the deck. Mal resisted the urge to taunt him for it. She would not be starting any fights tonight.
When she reached the deck Mal gave Uma a deliberate nod. The pirate raised an eyebrow.
Uma did not lead them to the Captain's Cabin. She gestured instead for the VK representatives to stand in the center of the main deck. She herself stood five feet away, Gil and Harry flanking her like an absurd mirror, surrounded on all sides by the crew of The Lost Revenge. This was not to be a private discussion.
Mal didn't mind. In fact, this suited her well: the mor public her announcement the better.
Two of the Isle's most dangerous warlords stared at each other silently, one trying to figure what would have driven her adversary to her doorstep, the other overly conscious of her hands. Mal refused herself the comfort of setting them on her hips (an aggressive stance that gave her quick access to her knives) or crossing her arms (defensive and admitting her discomfort) so they hung at her sides feeling twitchy and too large for her body. Mal was not used to putting herself in a position of disadvantage.
She waited for Uma to make the first move. She did not have to wait long
"What are you doing here Mal?" Uma cut right to the chase, trying to seem bored but unable to deny her curiosity. That was good.
"Consider it a courtesy call," she said. Knowing Carlos and Jay would keep a lookout she did not take her gaze from Uma's, even as she felt the wrath rise in her. "There is a child in my territory who has been violated."
The effect of her declaration was instant and violent.
The deck and dockyard exploded. Weapons were drawn, fists shaken, boots pounded even as the wharf creaked and groaned, a barely audible racket over the outraged war cries of longshoremen and sailors alike. Mal felt Jay and Carlos tense behind her, but no one made a move at them.
Uma's face morphed from shock to outrage, but she couldn't stop herself from glancing at Gil. Harry skipped the shock, pouty features twisting into a snarl. Gil, only just having outgrown child status himself, turned to his captain, face green and maybe just a little fearful.
Uma thrust a hand into the air in a demand for silence. The ruckus slowly died down to restless shuffling and muttering.
"I take it there is a reason you came to me."
Mal said nothing.
After a moment, Uma sheathed her sword and nodded in understanding, in acceptance.
Mal turned to the crowd, knowing the boys would follow her lead. She had spotted the glitter of his many brass buttons while boarding the ship.
Ruth was easily a head and a half taller, and twice the girl's narrow width, but he cowered under her green eyes. He began shaking his head, slowly at first, then frantically, turning his blue eyes from Mal to Uma.
"No." The denial came out more like a plea. "No, Uma. I didn't." When he got no support from his leader or his peers, he turned back to Mal and lunged. He didn't get far. Jay and Carlos, who had moved just far enough from Mal's side to box Ruth in, caught him by the arms and yanked him away from their leader "Uma," he tried again, "it's a trick. She's fae! They're deceitful little beasts."
"I do love a good trick," Mal conceded, "but I'm not laughing."
She watched his fear turn to a hot anger, the only warning before Ruth began to fight tooth and nail against his captors, scrabbling for hold on a weapon, to get free and get at Mal, spitting curses that had Mal's eyebrows raising. Carlos was strong for his size, but he was still small, and Ruth was a fully grown man of muscle and violence. Her boys wouldn't be able to hold him long.
"Harry." Uma's one word command had the first mate jumping into the struggle just as Carlos was thrown off. Between the two brawny lieutenants Ruth was wrestled to the center of the deck betwixt the main and fore masts, forced to his knees in front of his captain. Jay and Harry shared a shallow nod, heavy with meaning, over the subdued man's head.
The harbor had erupted at the skirmish and Uma made no move to control the chaos as Mal made her way over. She was too busy glaring down at her crewmate with no attempt to disguise her disdain. Ruth looked up and Uma shifted. Mal only noticed because the way Uma had positioned herself in front of Gil was exactly how Mal often found herself standing in front of Carlos. She stood a little closer to Uma than she was exactly comfortable with, fully blocking the younger boys from his line of sight.
The docks once again grew quiet, anticipating the captain's judgement.
"Harry." Her voice carried even as she did not take her eyes from Ruth. "Go with Jay. Take the bilge scum to Town Square."
Mal nodded, seconding the order.
The two leaders watched their right hand men haul Ruth none too gently off the ship to a volley of jeers and curses. The noise followed the party long after they disappeared from view, the crowd following them drawing new attention and word already spreading like plague through the streets. Mal had never loved the seaside or her people - still didn't either - but she found herself grateful for their solidarity.
Uma moved first, after the chaos had moved into the distance. She turned to her VK counterpart and thrust her hand into the inches between them. Mal mirrored her, meeting Uma's eyes and slipping her hand into a firm shake, nothing like their usual knuckle-breaking grip.
"We are of one mind in this," Uma said solemnly.
"We are," Mal agreed, just as deadly serious
"Will you spread the word?" Mal continued after each reclaimed her own hand. It was undeniably a request: this truce was tentative at best and Mal would do nothing to disrupt the temporary ceasefire before the night was through. She needn't have worried; Uma was already beckoning Gil - who still looked green - to her.
Mal caught the briefest of hesitations cross Uma's face. She wasn't sure if it was because the Captain was questioning the competency of her number three, or her own will to make him and his childish innocence recollect the evening's events more than he already had to, but either way, Mal did not call it out. She herself wished she could have kept Carlos, who was the same age as Gil, removed from the whole affair. But that was Isle life. There was no shelter from violence and pain, just vengeance to take, jobs to be done.
Uma dished out orders first to Gil (sending him to fetch someone else) then the rest of her crew. When everyone was scampering off to complete their assignments she turned back to the duo of temporarily-not-unwelcome intruders on her ship.
"It will be done," she assured, sharing a last look with her most hated rival.
The sun had long since set by the time Mal stepped off the gangplank of The Lost Revenge, Carlos just barely behind her, sending an already sinister Isle of the Lost into true darkness. The kind of darkness that invited all the horrors the diversely evil populous of the Isle had to offer. But Mal knew no harm would come to her or her companion tonight.
Town Square was the largest semi-open space the Isle possessed, positioned so perfectly in the center of the key that magic must have been used. It held a special place in the minds of the Lost:
It was neutral ground, covered in tags, marking the meeting place of gang, clan, crew, and tribe borders alike, but remaining unclaimed. It was nomansland, often filled with territorial warfare from negotiations gone sour. And on nights like tonight, it was a common place: somewhere large and open enough for the whole population of the Isle to find a place to view the proceedings from street, window, or roof.
Despite the suffocating blackness of night shrouding the rest of the Isle, Town Square was alight with torches, lanterns, and the barely-there glow of unreachable magic with nowhere to go.
Mal and Uma stood shoulder to shoulder in the circle of space the dense crowd left for them and their prisoner. Sharp stones and bits of splattered, rotten food littered the ground, thrown as word spread and the vindictive crowd gathered, covering the bedraggled prisoner in slime and blood and bruises. It was no question every one of them wanted to get their hands on the bastard, but they knew tradition: he belonged to his leader, and his victim. The moment Mal and Uma arrived, it was their show, and while pelting Ruth with whatever was on hand had been amusing, it ceased.
Both Uma and Mal had shed their typical leather and metal, leaving them in similarly vulnerable pants and threadbare shirts that exposed arms and necks and with the extra skin tattoos, scars, brands, and simple lines drawn in ash and kohl. Jay had painted Mal's, just as she knew Harry had spent the last hours painting Uma's. Both boys were a steady presence mere inches behind them, each holding a place of the innermost ring of the silent gathering, standing shoulder to shoulder with leaders and right hands of every influential party the Isle's messy politics had to show, all gathered for a single purpose.
The click of Uma's booted heel as she stepped forward cast itself impossibly far over the crowd, a wordless demand for undivided attention. It only took three deliberate steps to bring the formidable female captain to her former crewmate's side. Tied up as he was, lain flat and spreadeagled on a frame of rough wood and left on the uneven brickwork of the street, the petite girl towered over the man. Ropes of twine, wire, and cloth around his wrists, ankles, thighs, upper arms, and forehead were tied tight, the skin underneath rubbed raw to the point of bleeding from hours of straining against the bonds. Dark stains puddled on the ground beneath him from restraints and stoning alike. Tear tracks had been carved into the grime at his temples into his lank hair. He'd been stripped of his weapons, his coat with its buttons, and his shirt, leaving the swath of skin over his chest bare and vulnerable.
A few of Uma's braids fell across her face as her head tilted to survey Ruth's pitiful state. She had left behind her pirate's cap and wore nothing to tie her hair back. Similarly, Mal's usual high collar was absent.
"Was it worth it, Ruth?" Uma's voice was silk and wine and cast over the whole crowd. Her voice was full of a mocking sympathy that filled Mal with grim joy as she asked, "Was she just too pretty to pass up?"
Ruth tried to shake his head against the ligatures, succeeding only in further tearing the skin of his brow. He was crying again, a sniveling fussy cry that wouldn't have been seemly on a child, let alone a grown man.
Uma's nose scrunched in an almost delicate disgust, wrinkling the fine kohl designs across her face. She stepped away from the man, turning to Mal with a very slight incline of her head.
"He's all yours."