And so yeah. This is it! The last part of Privateer! I'm posting it today though I finished it last night/early this morning. And I was too drowsy to find my keyboard, which I thought had mysteriously vanished. Upon reaching my basement this morning, I simply discovered that I had been too tired to just look down. Yeah. It's what they call being stupidly tired.
For those who've expressed concern regarding the nature of my future works, well... I'm as clueless as you. I've got plenty of ideas, but hardly any that take over my whole brain for now. We'll see, but don't worry, I'm not quitting. You'll probably have a couple of oneshots to feast on sooner or later.
And here is what happens once summer comes for Linkie and Zellie.
Warning: None (except shameless romance. I'm disgusted with myself.) You've gotten through the last chapter, so this one is more than tame.
For those who are interested, E3 2006 is right 'round the corner! Yep, so keep your eyes open for LoZ news on Tuesday and for the rest of the next week! +glee+
Part 5: Confident Anticipations
Summer had rolled around and was reaching its end in stubborn, somewhat humid warmth. Orley was as bustling as ever, despite the intense heat, filled with heavyset matrons waving about fans helplessly and men working in as light clothes as socially acceptable.
The privateer-captain tugged at the tight collar of his uniform, upset by the heat, and looked beyond the large iron gates he'd stopped in front of.
The capitol of Orley was a relatively small but officious looking building. Though it was modeled after some greater works of architecture, it really only held two small courtrooms, a few offices, a library and a ballroom adjoining the entrance hall.
Link Forster walked from the gate to the large, heavy double doors of the brick building. A gentleman waited by the door, and acknowledged the blonde young man with a curt nod. Upon being motioned to pass by and enter the building, Link walked in, unusually quiet.
The privateer rolled a shoulder, glancing down to ensure that all his honours were displayed on his vest. He despised the formal wear, but knew it was essential in order to enter the functionary edifices without question. He'd straightened his back, double-checked the cleanliness of his clothes then walked all the way to the capitol.
He had business to attend to.
He entered the large hall. Without a word and with a motion of his hand, the wiry desk-keeper indicated a side door.
The courtroom was small, with hardly eight rows of benches for the audience, a single window behind the judge's chair letting in vivid sunlight that outlined the specks of dust in perpetual motion in the air. There were seats to each side at the front, for the jurors or the offenders. This time, the room was empty of any people.
As Link Forster walked in, a large man with a cheery grin ―a rather inappropriate face for the uptight décor— greeted him boisterously, with a heavy slap on his shoulder.
"Constable Darunia Garon," the privateer smiled at the older man, knowing the coarse constable could smile even in the direst situations.
The constable was an old acquaintance whom Link had befriended by accident in a tavern many years prior. After a rather absurd incident involving a gnawed two-pence hat, a drunken patron, an illiterate farmer and a rather bothersome goat, the intricacies of which had been blurred out by alcohol, Link Forster and Darunia Garon had been linked by their desire never to think of that evening again.
Link Forster appreciated the constable, as the man's position in the law enforcement stations allowed the privateer an overview of local and worldly issues, which one could miss from always being out at sea. In exchange, the young man offered the officer a paid night of tavern touring whenever the opportunity presented itself. The constable made an amusing drunk, and the privateer was otherwise sans drinking partner; hence they often met for toasts.
"Has been a while, old boy," Darunia Garon said, slapping down repeatedly and painfully on the privateer's shoulder without realizing his strength, a rather common obliviousness. "Been looting much, I' heard!"
Link Forster cringed and sighed in relief when finally the officer ceased his happy greeting. With a bit more decorum, the two men turned to the opposite side of the room, where jail keepers stood on each side of Knil Drake, having just entered.
Knil Drake's sunken, tired eyes met Link Forster and he smirked vaguely. The keepers pushed the dark haired privateer down on a chair, and the young man hardly struggled, his hands bound.
Before focusing his full attention on the pre-trial hearing that would soon occur, Link Forster turned back to Darunia Garon, and asked, "How are affairs standing?"
The constable smiled a toothy grin. "They haven't judged him for now, but I heard word that they might attribute his yet-undeclared loot to your name."
Link Forster's brow rose, but he said nothing.
"That'll be sure to push your wages up a notch, eh?" The officer said with a grin. "Can't hurt, can it?"
"Obviously not," Link Forster said absently. "What is the list of charges?"
Darunia Garon gave a dubious grunt. "Rah. Assaults on fellow shipmen, attacks on Her Majesty's Ships, theft of home nation property… Nothing completely unexpected."
Link Forster nodded. Silently, the two men walked towards the front of the courtroom. Knil Drake turned to them, but said nothing, as the judge entered the room. The dark-haired privateer was pulled upwards to stand, as a show of respect.
"Sit," the judge ordered. Knil Drake rolled his eyes and let himself slump back down on the straight chair. No other man in the room budged. The judge eyed the captured privateer and rifled through his papers. With his large powdered wig and heavy robes, he looked sweaty in the summer heat.
"Knil Drake," the old man said tiredly, "we are here for a pre-trial hearing. Bear in mind that the trial itself will be public and that all you will say will be noted and kept for future reference. Today we only ask questions. No judgement will be passed for execution, but statements on any witness' part will have to be justified to avoid conviction. Until then," the tired judge pushed his round little glasses back up his narrow, crooked nose, "there will be two hearings, this first of which will be yours alone, today. Any questions?"
"Before we start, Your Majesty," the privateer said, not without some irony, a sarcasm that the judge ignored out of habit, "I'd like a private audience with the friendly Link Forster here."
All eyes turned to Link Forster, whose eyebrow had gone up suspiciously. Darunia Garon turned to the judge, and offered, "Your Honour, I can be witness to the exchange, if that would be appropriate."
"How long will this be?" The judge said, the annoyance he'd barely dissimulated before now obvious.
Knil Drake shrugged. "Not more than a couple of minutes, I'd wager."
"Very well. We'll give you ten minutes. Constable, if the offender does anything out of line…"
Darunia Garon nodded. With a loud billow of cloth, the judge left the room, followed by the ever-silent jail keepers.
"What do you want?" Link Forster said impatiently.
"I have a question and a request, Forster." When the blonde privateer said nothing, Knil Drake continued, "I'll start with the question."
There was a long silence.
"What do you think of me?" Drake suddenly asked, a dark eyebrow raised high on his forehead.
Hardly taken aback, Link Forster said, without hesitation, "I pity you, and I won't forgive the Lune Empress massacre."
This was spoken with such flat evidence that Knil Drake's usual smile wavered. Not really humbled, he softly nodded. "Given it thought, I see. So even if I had wanted to, I'd have apologized for nothing. Bah. It's just as well that I don't feel any regrets."
Link Forster's fist clenched angrily, and even Darunia Garon looked like he was holding back a punch. Knil Drake lazily said, "In that case, I have a request for you, Forster. One that'll do us both good."
When both his hearers said nothing and merely stared him through coldly, the bound offender said, "See my pistol on the table there? Next to the books."
Link Forster glanced at the table and saw the twin pistol. His eyes hardened, and he turned them back to Knil Drake, who smiled back.
"I'd like you to take it and destroy it."
Darunia Garon, unsure of how such a request would serve the blonde privateer, looked between the two enemies in silence.
"It failed me when I needed it," Knil Drake said, "and I have no stronger wish than to be unbound from you."
"Where'd you get a clean tongue like that?" Darunia Garon asked disdainfully, even as Link Forster moved away towards the table.
Knil Drake shrugged. "I'm an officer too. Or was." His gaze hardened, and one could presume it was bitter sadness that clouded his eyes over. He said, "It's not like they don't have enough evidence against me to convict me ten times over."
"You've gotten that part right, at least," the constable spat, disgusted.
"What do you say, Forster?" The dark-haired privateer asked then, looking over to the blonde man standing motionlessly by the table. "Aren't you tired of me?"
Without turning to look back at the constable or the prisoner, Link Forster picked the pistol marked with the initials K.D. and ignored how his hands were shaking. His eyes had glazed over. This was a gift from his father, and one of the last traces of him that remained. Though it was painful to think of ridding the world of one more piece of the man, the blonde privateer knew he had to destroy it if he was to be free of Knil Drake.
In a soft voice, he said, "I will take out a screw from its body and cast it into the ocean. You will never see it again… Knil." He'd added the name as an afterthought. It felt strange to refer to him as he'd referred to his brother.
The voice wasn't deep like Darunia's. It could only be Knil Drake himself. How strange that here, at the crossroad, they should finally sound like brothers. For indeed, the way they spoke each other's name now was soft, regretful, mournful even, and had lost all traces of animosity. Link Forster had brought Knil Drake to justice, as justice had to be brought upon him, and by this allowed them both to be washed of their respective mistakes.
"Well now!" Knil Drake started speaking once more in his former brother and enemy's direction, with a lighter voice, as if to pretend that nothing dark sat in him. "I do suppose you've finally seduced that blonde beauty that was on your ship?"
Link Forster said nothing, though he tensed.
"If you did, I'll say I wish you happiness. In all likelihood, they'll execute me before I can be let to the wedding." Knil Drake forced a laugh. "Thought of it, though? Your children… Born without an uncle. Born with a dead man in the family, if of the family I still am." His smile faltered. He was silent for a long moment, before croaking, "A dead man…" Unbidden, tears made his eyes glass over.
A silent sob made his shoulders quake.
"By god," he softly said. "What have I done?" He choked up, then gasped, "How could I do all that I've done?"
Link Forster was silent, heart in his throat.
"You really ought to have shot me." Knil Drake said, in a near whisper.
"You were weaker than I," Link Forster said hoarsely, and walked out of the room, at last, looking worn, pistol carefully put away in his overcoat. He heard Darunia Garon call the judge back into the courtroom, but nothing else. He'd hurried out into the street, and the passer-bys moved out of his way. Link Forster looked thoughtful, uneasy, and yet strangely relieved. He was not at peace, and was not glad that Knil Drake's crimes would bring the man to death, but felt no guilt either.
The weight of the pistol in his overcoat pocket was familiar, reassuring, and promising that at last he would detach himself from the Lune Empress murderer.
As he stepped away, Link Forster came to understand that it was for both he and Knil the only choice. He had to live, and for this, Knil Drake had to die. It could not be any other way.
Yes, his children would be born without an uncle. Yet, had they been born with Knil Drake, perhaps their fate would have only been the sadder.
A small, sad smile pulled at his lips. He needed to be reassured and comforted. She would know how to heal him.
Yes. She would know.
Zelda Harnian, glad to take a breath, stepped out onto the large, white painted back veranda of the ranch house. She enjoyed sunlight nowadays. Her skin was still rather pale, but the fresh air and exercise had tinged her cheeks with a healthy rose colour. She'd grown hardy limbs, lithe but steady. Her cheeks were not so sallow anymore, fuller with good food, and body healthier from eating true meat and vegetables. Her eyes shone blue; her hair had paled to white strands because of bright sunlight, with strands of dark, spun gold.
Her dresses had quickly grown too stuffy for her freer movements, and she'd learned needlework in practicality. Malon London, her sister Cremia and Cremia's husband, Ignatius Gorman ―a cold looking but warm hearted man, not a handsome party but entirely devoted to his wife― had given her a large room in their country, off-town house. If at first the arrangements had seemed small and quaint, she'd grown fond of the warm, familiar setting. The ranch hands, when they were not complimenting her ―a flattering thing, she had to admit―, had taken their time to teach her manual work, and maids had aided her in understanding the workings of laundry and housework.
A ranch was large enough an estate that even the masters of the household had to put in their hands for the place to function. Zelda Harnian, more than glad to help and be a part of the family, had willingly put forth her greatest, sincerest efforts. Soon enough, she had mastered the art of completing multiple tasks at once.
Her hands tightened on the woven basket she held. It was heavy on her hip, but for a moment, the warm wind of late morning had distracted all her discomfort. A shameless smile stretched her dark pink lips.
Careful not to trip, she descended the creaking painted wood steps and walked straight onto the dewy grass, green and thick, and the summer flowers caught in her apron and country dress. She carefully picked her way over to the bare cloth lines, and placed the basket on the ground beside her.
She took a new deep breath and looked at the country behind the house, where fields and roads stretched endlessly. Trees and woods grew here and there, in tufts of dark green on the horizon clashing with the ripe yellow and gold and brown of the earth and deep blue of the sky.
No matter the time of day, this expanse of land and property was beautiful.
Zelda Harnian smiled once again. She brushed her long, undulating hair behind her ear. It had been straight before, before the sun had kissed and tarnished it, before she had allowed it to dry in the wind, before she had let it fall over her shoulders freely.
She bent to pick a white, sopping wet drape and flapped it in the wind. It made a loud billow, sticking to itself in humidity. Stretching it onto the line, she smoothed the creases scrupulously, taking her time. She had all day, if she so pleased.
When the first drape was billowing into the prairie wind, she bent to pick another from the basket. This one was slightly larger. She outstretched her arms and did her best to pull it evenly on the cloth line. She pulled at the corners to get rid of the largest wrinkles, smoothing it with both hands, slowly, carefully.
She heard the door of the house open, and Malon enthusiastically invite someone outside. She did not give it much thought, promising herself to kindly welcome whichever guest Malon London had brought in from town with a polite nod, but first came the laundry.
There was a conversation, she thought, though the billowing of the drapes made it difficult to know what was being discussed and with whom. She bent to pick another drape, humming to herself, and shutting out any further questioning.
She lost track of time, finishing with her laundry to the very last crease. When at last she emerged from her own mind, Malon's voice could no longer be heard and whomever she'd invited was left faceless. Never mind that. This was no novelty.
Zelda Harnian took a deep breath, enjoying the smell of the grass and fresh laundry and the feel of the warm sun on her skin, and then put her mind to getting her next chore done.
Bending to pick up the now empty basket, she spotted a pair of officer boots standing right there, slightly behind her. The boots belonged to legs and the legs belonged to a whole body. Her blue eyes drifted upwards, much upwards. It was startling to find a man so near, and quite strange not to have noticed him before. She supposed her thoughts had been farther than she'd expected.
When her eyes met the visitor's face, her lips stretched into a heartfelt smile, her whole face lighting up with barely held happiness. She stood straight, leaving the basket at her feet.
"I was wondering," the visitor said first, "when you would come to notice me."
She laughed at this. "Perhaps you ought to have made your presence known, then."
The handsome visitor shrugged, his shoulders bound uncomfortably by an official looking outfit. He tugged at his high collar, irritated. She reached up to loosen his collar knot, pulling gently to lighten the tension on his neck. He was motionless and patient, but shot her a grateful look once she was done.
She traced a finger over his decorations. He'd been promoted once since her arrival in the New World. She'd been glad for him, but his new rank had demanded him to leave at once for the great waters.
"I had not expected you to return so soon," she said with a gentle but happy smile.
He brought a hand around her waist, pulling her to him. "I had business to attend to. And I could not wait to feast my eyes on you once more."
She laughed. "Lovely."
"You are," he grinned boyishly. "A truly charming beauty. I'd swear to myself you've grown even more attractive since I've last seen you."
She brought a finger to push at the tip of his nose teasingly. "That signifies you've been away too long."
He sighed in discontent, but brought his lips to brush against hers. She happily allowed him to push his mouth onto hers, enjoying it even more now that he'd been deprived of this for a month and was craving her.
"By God," he mumbled, whispering between kisses, "you're lucky to live with this beauty of yours every day. I envy you."
She laughed once again. "You've not seen yourself, captain. Perhaps you'd know your own luck if you bothered to appreciate that face of yours."
He raised a brow. "My, my. Could this be the first instance in which you told me how purely handsome I am?"
She shot him a flat look, pulling away to pick up the basket that stayed at their feet. "You are so very unpleasant, but I'll admit you're very well-favoured."
He smirked, tugging on the cord of her apron and thus pulling her back towards his firm body. "I suppose that makes two of us, does it not, milady?" He brought his lips to her nape, placing a tempting kiss there. "Now what did I mention about leaving before I'm done enjoying your company?"
She stifled a soft laugh, knowing he'd mentioned no such thing, and knowing he would never dare bed her before wedlock. With a teasing titter, she pulled away again and said, "Now, mind your manners, sir. What would people say?"
"I would not know," Link Forster admitted, "nor would I give a tinker's damn about it."
His lips teased her shoulder now ―when had he pulled her loose sleeve down? ― and felt very good. She'd have given in had he continued a mere minute longer. Perhaps it was to unnerve the lovers that lunch hour came upon them. She reluctantly pulled away when the door on the veranda opened and Malon appeared. She called out to them both and announced that dinner was ready, and would the 'Ship of the Line Captain' like to join them for a very homey luncheon?
To Zelda Harnian's joy, Link Forster nodded.
The blonde privateer turned to the woman he loved and offered his arm humorously, which she took with a flourish.
"I'm sure you're curious to know," the captain said as they made their way towards the veranda, "I am hoping that your Uncle will give me one more opportunity, aside from our meeting in his mansion that first time."
"Oh?" She asked, to keep him speaking. "Which would that be?"
"Well," the privateer calmly started, lightly, "I suppose he cannot stop me from courting you." She nodded comically, as though this were a difficult point to consider and required much thought. He said, "He can not keep me from seeing you if I so please."
"I suppose he cannot," Zelda Harnian conceded. He stopped before the house door, and stilled her before any of them entered.
"I was considering that it would only be fair to ask him for your hand."
Zelda's heart stilled, feeling herself nearly falter.
Link's eyes looked earnest, now. "If you will let me have it, that is."
And thus, the lady tearfully smiled.
Well, that's it!
I've been exposed to various reactions regarding Knil Drake, which were both gratifying and predictable. Some people like mystery and bad boys, while others like honesty and good sirs, but I think unanimously the opinion was that Knil was a frighteningly interesting character. I'm glad that people find it so, because it means I've done a decent job of developing him. It's always the best compliment to realize you've made someone react to your writing in some way, whether with love or with hate.
I'd also like to apologize for any insult anyone (mostly historians and amateur historians) might have taken at my melting pot of cultures. I found it really interesting to work with, without being restraining. Besides, I love history myself and would loathe for someone to get it wrong. However, I am aware that I've mingled many different concepts from many different cultures and centuries together. If this did not predominate over the plot itself, I still think I ought to present an apology to those who're picky with such things, just in case. :)
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a signed review or send me a PM (preferably). I'll be more than glad to respond to any question you may have. While I don't always respond to reviews, I make a point of personally and quickly answering private messages.
Once again, it's see you again next time, and please review if you think this was worthwhile.
Thank you for following the story with me until the end!