A/N: So, it looks like I'm back in the swing of GF fics! I blame it all on Caith and Son Rhandi (nothing's changed there, then XD). This isn't a great literary work by any means – I'm just having some fun with my all time favourite characters. It is a complete AU, taking place in a piratical world that's split into three major Kingdoms: Kold, Vegetasei and Chikyuu (behold my originality). Princess Bass is an OC, created by the wonder that is Chibi-Schnurri – for goodness sakes, check out her fanart if you haven't already. Hurrah for GinyuxBass!
The Black Flag
Torches flared in the city of Scrum. They illuminated alleyways, pushed back the shadows, spurned the thieves and the murderers, all of whom had been happily minding their own business before the torch-lit procession came snaking down the street. In Scrum, to be a thief or a murderer is as much a respectable profession as any other, like a doctor or a lawyer – although lawyers are somewhat further down the ladder of respectability and doctors are hard to come by (most end up stabbed).
King Kold was dying.
Or that's what they said.
Mind you, they say a lot of things. Jeice never knew which things to believe. This required thinking and unfortunately he'd flunked that subject. Truth be told, the only subject Jeice had ever excelled at was Thievery, Rumbuggery and Cow-tipping (which was more a pastime than a field of expertise). Scrum Elementary had a very diverse curriculum that extended to Piracy, Horn-Swoggling and even, for the adventurous few, Home Economics. When he'd been of age, Jeice had landed a nice apprenticeship in the Pirates Guild and sailed the world, gaining crewmanship aboard the notorious Captain Ginyu's ship, The Milk Dud.
On his adventures, he had learned three very important lessons: Never piss over the side of a ship during a squall, never trust a whore with a monobrow, and never, ever, ever get caught. The Imperial Family wasn't kindly disposed to criminals. The Imperial Family wasn't kindly disposed to anyone, least of all themselves, if the news of King Kold's poisoning and imminent death was anything to go by. Criminals, especially those who worked outside of the Guilds, put the Empire's nose right out of joint. They did not like the competition. And if the Empire did not like you, frankly, you were sodded.
As far as he was concerned, you were better off putting your arse in a blender than winding up in an Ice-jinn torture chamber.
Jeice Scarlocke stared at the banners of the not-yet-dead King Kold. His noble chin was tilted high and his shrewd, black eyes squinted out at the on-looking crowds, as the procession moved through the streets.
"Blimey," Jeice whistled, "you could stick a whole doubloon in that cleft of his. S'like a dwarf's buttocks, that is. Why's it noblemen get that cleft in their chin, anyhow? Is it somethin' to do with them being royalty, like how Kings are born with blue blood and stuff?"
"Shut up, you dolt," Captain Ginyu snapped, which was the only way he ever replied to one of his rigger's idle curiosities. For an idiot, the boy thought too much, and a thinking idiot was something that irked Ginyu more than anything. Any normal idiot would just point and grunt, but Jeice – he had a mouth on him. More than once, Ginyu had been tempted to sew it shut before it did some real damage (for thinking, he knew, was infectious).
There was a sound like rumbling thunder as Recoome pointed and grunted at the procession, which had come to a halt on the steps of the Royal Palace.
"It's stopped, innit," said the hulking man, with a second grunt for good measure. Recoome looked like the sort of person who swallowed ten ostrich eggs before breakfast and brushed his teeth with a wire scrubber.
"Very astute, Recoome," the Captain muttered, rolling himself a cigarette.
"Who in the name of Senbex do you think managed to pull one over old Kold's eyes?" said Burter, a tall lean Saurian who had the sort of physique that you could excuse him for walking about the place topless all the time. "Kold's a cunning old codger and make no mistake. Remember the twelve dancing princesses? Vegetasei never could pin their murders on him. I wonder who got close enough to pull the wool over his eyes…"
"Bet you anything it was Sauza who got contracted," said the shortest of their party, a round, green-skinned Bas-jin who rather resembled a sprout with four eyes. "Slickest assassin in the Kingdom – everyone wants his number."
"Can't be that slick if everyone knows him," Burter observed lightly.
Jeice gave an exaggerated shudder. "I don't like that guy. He's mental."
Guldo sniffed. "Eccentric."
"Eccentric in a mental way."
"How many times do I have to tell you to keep that mouth shut?" Ginyu growled. "It doesn't matter who's poisoned him. What matters is who's up for the job after Kold's pushing up the daisies."
The Saurian nodded solemnly. "I wouldn't like to see Frieza on the throne. You hear what he did to his brother? Nasty way to go, the acid swamps."
Recoome grunted again. Evidently a thought had entered his thick skull. The Captain glared at Jeice.
"What I dun' understand is how we've got a funeral procession goin' through the street when he's not dead yet. Kind've punctured, ain't it?"
"Punctual, Recoome," Guldo corrected, haughtily. "Punctual."
"It's not punctual. It's before punctual. It's flippin' morbid, is what," Jeice grumbled. Morbid was a funny word for him to use, considering the line of work he was involved in often left his unfortunate clients stuttering, 'I-I-I'll give y-you all my gold if you d-don't break the other leg!"
The castle towers glittered above them, their walls pale green and flickering gold under the light of the twin moons and the torch-lit procession. A red flag hung from the western tower – the King's chambers.
"It'll turn black when he's dead, right?" said Jeice, staring at the window. "Wonder how long it'll take. Might place a bet down the bookies later, eh Bur-"
And then he saw her. A shimmersilk drape had been pushed aside for a pale, heart-shaped face to peer out the window at the on-looking crowd. She was beautiful, despite the grimace on her face. Her hair was long and pale as the sun, and her eyes held a regal quality about them. He was surprised at the lack of make-up she wore. Most of the women in his life spent hours painting their faces thick with the stuff, the overall effect looking something like the aftermath of an encounter with a wasps' nest.
The girl's eyes met his for the briefest of moments, then shifted to King Kold's premature funeral procession and glowered.
Jeice swallowed. The mere sight of her had kick-started something in the pit of his stomach; something primal and wild and if he'd known what those adjectives meant, he might have been wise enough to look away and forget all about her.
Burter frowned, raising an eye-ridge at his friend, half tempted to wave a hand in front of the smaller man's eyes. "Oi, Jeice? You okay? I told you not to eat that thing at the back of the ship earlier…"
Jeice wanted to say something witty and smart, in the vain hope that the girl in the tower might overhear him. Instead, all he managed was, "Nyuh."
Captain Ginyu threw the stub of his cigarette on the road and motioned to his crew. "Let's go. I'm not hanging around until that son of a bitch croaks his last."
"Aye, how about heading over to the Tilted Wig?" Recoome proposed, eagerly. "I like that Launch girlie. She made eyes at me last time, didn't she Cap?"
The Captain gave him a sidelong glance. "That's because you were chewing on the table-leg."
"And then she brought out that musketoon," Guldo added, miserably.
Recoome grinned at the memory. "Yeah, I love it when they shoot at me."
They left the bustling crowds, Jeice trailing slowly after them in order to catch one last glance at the girl in the window, but the drape had fallen back into place and she was gone.
He was so caught up in the empty window that he failed to notice the changing of the flag from red to black.
King Kold lay stony and silent in his bed; his last breath seemed to echo throughout the halls of the Imperial Palace. A girl was weeping by his bedside.
Prince Frieza laid a hand on her shoulder. "A great loss to the Kingdom, my dear, but an even greater loss of the heart, I think." He paused for dramatic effect. "I can only hope to serve the country as faithfully as my father did."
He smiled, but it was not an endearing smile by any means; rather, it was the smile of a Scrum mugger, having just spotted a lonely merchant taking a shortcut through a dark alleyway that he knew came to a dead end.
The grip on her shoulder tightened.
The Princess pulled away, stepping angrily to her feet. "You might be able to charm everyone else in your self-serving cabinet, Frieza – but do not think you can pull the wool over my eyes." She strode towards the door, her shrouded handmaidens hastily skittering after her, then paused, adding firmly, "If you think the throne is yours, you are sorely mistaken."
Then she turned and left the dead King's chambers.
The Prince's fixed smile slithered off his face, red eyes narrowing at the doorway. "It is a great pity when beauty is wasted on common women such as our dearly beloved Princess. Perhaps she'll burn at the stake with a little more dignity."
"Indeed, Sire." The Prince's Right Hand inclined his head, then said, tentatively, "What do you think she could have meant by-"
"Isn't it obvious, Zarbon?" Frieza laughed bitterly, leaning down to clasp his father's icy chin between two fingers. "My dear father has managed to deceive me one final time before travelling on the long road down." He sneered at Kold's empty eyes. "I am not yet King."
Zarbon's delicate mouth opened in surprise. "But…Surely, your father would have chosen someone of Ice-jinn descent? The Princess is without Royal pedigree, without status, without roots-"
Frieza raised his hand. "It will be dealt with."
Zarbon shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "But Sire, after your brother's disappearance and your father's death, the people are sure to suspect a hand other than Vegetasei's…"
"Naturally." Frieza smiled. "Then we shall name one. Perhaps this will work in my favour, Zarbon. The people love the Princess. Imagine how angry they'll be when they find her murdered by agents of Vegetasei."
He bent down and laid a kiss on the King's brow.
"Perhaps even angry enough to start a war."
A/N: Please review and let me know what you think of it so far! Cheers guys!x