Author's Note: Our apologies for the long wait! We've been quite busy over at DL and thus the new chapter had to wait a bit. But please feel invited to visit us at the Nomad and follow our story there (link can be found on our profile). We've written enough to fill another 20 chapters, it's just that modyfying our works into a ffnet suitable format does take its time.
We hope you enjoy the new chapter.
The DistantLands crew
ch synopsis: Talya thought this would be her lucky day. Well, it clearly isn't.
After her little talk with Plunkett and Rumina, Eleana had to go to the ship to get ready for the departure. She knew from her Captain and the Witch that Rhyad was in trouble, but he didn't really need her to help him.
First, he was the first mate and very capable of protecting himself.
And second... well, Rumina's harpies would take good care of anyone who's trying to invade the Apocalypse.
She took a small boat out to the ship and then climbed the rail to get aboard.
What she saw there made her smile.
The two opponents gave her a good show and didn't seem aware of her presence. She coughed loudly and then smiled widely at Rhyad.
''Do you need my help, dear!?''
Of course, he didn't need help. But she just loved to annoy him with his weaknesses.
All at once Talya heard a cough from somewhere on the deck and looked around her opponent for the source of it. Her eyes grew wide as she took in the presence of a neatly dressed woman. Who was clearly on good terms with the ugly dog she was fighting from the way she addressed him; almost like two playmates teasing one another.
Why on earth would that one choose to appear at this precise moment?, Talya wondered. Wasn't there enough in her bags already?
She had to escape this mad man, which wasn't proving to be easy, as she was still wrapped around her ankle by the whip and couldn't even stand properly! Why? Why was it that one moment the entire ship appeared to be totally abandoned and in the next she had to run for her life; being threatened by stranger after stranger? And how did sheappear totally out of the blue anyway?
A shiver ran down her spine as the Rose of Oman registered her next thought...: Is this ship... haunted?
She shook her head unnoticeably, scolding at herself for such doubt.
Keep your wits about yourself, Talya!
"Oh goody! A new toy," she eventually spoke out loud, intending to sound confident, but all she managed was a weak squeak.
In response to her attempt, Rhyad growled - tightening his hold on the whip to knock Talya down again on the Apocalypse deck, using Eleana's arrival as a diversion.
"About time. I was wondering if you were down drunk like all the others." he grunted, glaring to his crew-mate before trying to tackle Talya once for all, placing a foot on her back.
"Now, you make a move and she'll have you fried. Understood?" he muttered harshly, raising an eyebrow to the whirlwind of mist slowly forming on deck before he grumbled:
"I so hate magic."
At the same time, Rumina let her powers slowly subside, the teleporting spell finalizing with her and Plunkett appearing on the Apocalypse deck.
The witch was unnaturally pale, grasping tightly the sparkling red pendant at her neck while leaning on Plunkett's arm: too much effort in too small a time weren't good for her still weak energies; especially after the raising Tayr al Ramad from the depths of the ocean and the efforts she made to populate her new island with a decent army.
She should have waited for father and Scratch, perhaps, but she was sick of waiting and trashing time around: she wanted her revenge.
"Now, pestering peasant. If you don't want me to dust you and scatter your ashes in the wind in the next five minutes... you let the bald one tie you up, and then maybe I'll be merciful and spare your life." she announced to Talya, kindly, glaring for a moment to both Rhyad and Eleana.
"Of course, I can't speak for the owner of the ship. He usually doesn't like people messing around with his property, do you Pet?" she added a moment later, her voice sugar-coated while staring at Plunkett.
All the while, Talya grimaced at the impact and struggled to get away from her opponent. The foot weighed like a mountain on the small of her back. She groaned. She tried to brandish the sword she still managed to clutch in her hand behind her; but all her efforts were in vain as she could merely lift her hand for scorching pain seared through her veins and made her fall limp.
The pirate-queen sighed, exhausted and exasperated. The whole situation was getting out of her hand now. Two more misted out of nowhere, the male one practically looking like a Grim Reaper, his female companion was no better herself. And then here she was, being all useless and pathetic, unable to even lift her head to get a better view of everything that was going on.
Opposite to her, Plunkett was slightly dizzy from the whirlwind magic Rumina had done. He wobbled a bit to regain his stance on the deck, but he ignored those instinctual actions his body made to regain its sea blance.
Rumina was clutching on to his side, saying something to him in a purry tone, but he was ignorant of that, too.
He didn't like the witch performing magic on him; in any other time, he would've snapped right at her face, but that too could wait.
Right now though, he couldn't take his eyes off the tiny figure of a woman who dared to set foot on his ship uninvited, let alone try to attack it!
If looks could kill, then Talya wouldn't have seen nightfall let alone a new sunrise.
For a brief moment, he just glared at her, registering the shocked look on her face, before he snatched his hand out of Rumina's grasp and started towards her.
Her small figure was struggling under Rhyad's feet, that held her down securely, groaning, and muttering something incomprehensible from time to time.
What a pity!
This stupid wench can't even fight her way out of a simple fight, and she came to steal my ship!, he thought, How pathetic!
But then the sneer vanished from his face as pure disdain took its place. He stepped forward, knocked away the sword that was clutched in her hand, bent down, and grabbed hold of her tiny neck, forcing her eyes, which clearly betrayed her emotions, to look into his.
"So, I gather you believe yourself a guest here! Tell me, do you like what you see? Did my battered ship live up to your expectations?" he growled at her, but not giving her the chance to reply, he started again.
"What? You are too awed to speak? Now, now, don't be too shy. We are waiting eagerly to hear your side of the story. Why did you think to honor us with your presence in the first place?" He demanded, menace dripping from every word, while next to him Rumina grew impatient.
Few things could anger the powerful witch more than being treated harshly, like Plunkett did. One of those, was not having answers to her questions, especially when she was trying to be pleasant.
Sod off the good manners, her patience was gone. She just stared at the scene Plunkett and his crew were making around their prisoner, grasping at every fiber of her magic while she clutched the Apocalypse railing.
In a matter of minutes, dark clouds gathered on the clear sky of Tayr Al Ramad, right above the Apocalypse. High pitched screams could be heard, signaling the harpies quickly approaching the ship at the call of their mistress, while waves started to crash against the side of the ship, making the deck lull slightly.
"Now", she eventually hissed, "Can you please make your crew step away from my newest slave, Plunkett Pet, or do I have to make room myself for her to breathe?"
Talya herself was staring wide-eyed at the sneering face hovering above, while all of this happened, her mind too blank to come up with a sensible answer, and her neck aching terribly like it was being crushed into powder. Never in her life had she felt so tortured and helpless. Tears of frustration glistened in her eyes; her vision became blurry from it.
Oh how she wished she had some magical ability to mist her way out of this bizarre situation she got herself into!
"Why?" The pirate queen screamed in her mind.
Why did she have to be the one being forced spread-eagled on the deck, threatened sinisterly by this dreadful creature; instead of being the one thrashing that bastard's life-force out of him?
Pure hatred and fury welled up inside her at that thought; she wanted nothing more than some miracle to be able to beat him into a bloody pulp, then cut him into pieces to feed to the dogs… But all of a sudden, the ship started swaying ominously, the sky turned pitch-black, and high-pitched screams filled the air like all of hell being unleashed at once.
Talya stared at the scene in disbelief.
What's going on?, she wondered. And, more importantly, something very weird was knocking at the edge of her mind, "Did I do that?"
Just a few feet away from her, Plunkett was somewhat startled at the abrupt change of scenario as well.
But then it hit him. The witch was doing magic again!
Still he could not understand. Why on earth...?
He stopped at the mid-thought as he turned to look at Rumina, who was looking oddly blue, and clearly vexed, which by the looks she gave him, probably had to do with something he unknowingly did.
He furrowed his eyebrows, concentrating hard on what he could've done to irritate her so, but said nothing at all, for he knew better than to engage Rumina when she wa not in her best of moods.
He released Talya's neck with a strong jerk, hissed at her for the last time, got up, and gestured for Rhyad and Eleana to draw back as well.
He pulled the thief to her feet, then pushed her brusquely towards Rumina.
"Newest slave? How did this wretched peasant earn such a privilege?" he snapped, quirking one eyebrow.
While he spoke, harpies still flew above the Apocalypse, and Rumina raised her head to stare at her creatures for some time before lowering her gaze to Plunkett and his crew.
"She almost knocked out your precious first mate, didn't she? And she makes you incredibly rude, so... she's worth my attention." she pointed out, smiling sweetly, the words dripping from her lips like venom.
"As for you, peasant. Follow the harpies to the castle and wait for me right there. Do anything else, and they'll rip your limbs apart." the witch sternly muttered to Talya, glaring at the woman with fierce determination before focusing back to the Apocalypse crew.
"As for you, I believe you've business to do, Plunkett. Sinbad is heading to Basra so you set sail to join him. I'm in no mood to use my magic to make your travelling easier right now, so help yourself. You'll find out that in Basra there's already a rumor about you starting the Slaves Auctions again... just follow the lead. Make the mighty captain believe you're mistreating poor, innocent, grateful, young women and that the entrance is guarded by magic. Fight him, let him leave with the bag that the Witch-in-Training will receive soon enough. Then, wait for me."
Rumina spent a long moment glaring at the people in front of her, daring them to challenge her.
At this, Plunkett narrowed his eyes at Rumina for a moment before he retorted:
"So, you want me to leave for Basra, get into a fight with that useless ex-love interest of yours, and then have him escape right through my fingers?"
By the time he had spoken this, the captain was fuming with indignation!
First, the witch snatched away his prisoner, claimed her to be her newest slave, then she addressed him like she was ordering a servant around, right in the faces of his crew, and now she wanted him to make a complete fool out of himself in front of his sworn- enemy!
Still, eventually he shoved the chain of infuriating thoughts aside. It would be no good to lose his temper with Rumina right now, with all those harpies hovering around.
He frowned, making an effort to compose himself, and stated nonchalantly:
"Where'd that magical entrance lead to? Will we let Sinbad enter it, or make sure that it can never be reached? And last but not least, how am I going to profit from all this?"
Plunkett might cherish some romantic feelings towards Rumina, and might be willing to do anything for her bidding, but, first and foremost, he was a pirate.
"Once he reaches the magical entrance, we strike... and you'll be able to slice our beloved Captain's throat, Plunkett. 'Till that moment, you follow the plan, unless you want me to get really angry, Pet. And believe me... you've yet to see my wrath." Rumina smirked, pushing a lock of dark hair behind her shoulder, while thunder rocked the sky.
"Besides that, Plunkett... I rose this island from the sea. Are you really wondering how you can obtain profit from me beside the obvious?" the witch then asked seductively.
"Once you do your job, just ask and you'll have it, Pet. And stop acting like a beaten dog, Plunkett, it doesn't suit you. It's not going to be the first time you lose a fight to Sinbad, but hopefully it's going to be the last time." she added in a snort, raising her hand to the sky, a flash of red light erupting from her fingers to concentrate at Eleana's feet, slowly shaping into a leather bag.
"It has to reach the brunette travelling with Sinbad, keep it in mind. And keep in your mind what I told you in the last few days about Dim-Dim's wife." Rumina muttered to the resident witch of Plunkett's crew, before turning back to stare at the men. "I believe that's all."
While things around her seemed to happen and change at the speed of sound, Talya tried hard to keep track of everything. So, these disastrous happenings had in fact nothing to do with her, as she had feared, for it was obvious that it was at the bidding of the pale looking woman.
The Rose of Oman supposed she must be a witch of some kind, for she had been wearing a look that suggested there was some nasty, smelling stuff under her nose. She must be fairly powerful, too, telling from the way the others were behaving so edgy on deck. Not to mention the flying she-demons flying overhead.
A wave of despair swept over her then and for a moment she considered taking advantage of the distractions to engineer her escape. But all her plans seemed futile, so she let herself be dragged to her feet and shoved roughly towards the witch without further protest.
The oversized man to her right was speaking of someone being taken as a slave, and the witch person replied something about knocking down a first mate- Wait! They were talking about her! The witch wanted to take her as her slave! For a moment or two, Talya glowered incredulously, her eyes shooting daggers at the woman. All her life, she had valued her freedom above everything else, and had done everything in her power to uphold it.
That ugly bat, standing just a few paces from her, so casually declared to take it away, as if it was only a snap of her fingers. She was already ordering her around! Who did she think she is? Her royal evilness?
Talya was about to retort with all the abuses that came to her mind that instant, but the conversation changed its course, and the witch mentioned a certain sailor to be tricked into getting into a fight- the name sounding very familiar.
They were discussing on how to trick Sinbad into getting into trouble!
Her instinct to defend a good old friend added to her own humiliation, and this time, she let her voice be heard- solid and husky from determination, her hands balled into fists, taking a step forward as she uttered:
"How dare you plan to ambush my friend while I'm still alive and kicking?!"
Rumina merely turned her head, quirking an eyebrow to stare at Talya.
"Are you requesting to be killed, peasant? Later, maybe. I see we've to talk, first, about our mutual friend. And about your chances of survival and profit." she pleasantly pointed out, her venomous smile disappearing a moment later, grasping the pendant at her neck for even more energies.
Take her to the castle and make sure she doesn't go anywhereshe ordered to the harpies through her mind, and moments later two creatures of hers started to circle above the Apocalypse, approaching the pirate queen.
Looking up, Talya cursed under her breath, her mouth had gone dry. The harpies swooped down over her, their claws sharp and menacing, reaching out to rip her to shreds…
"Think Talya!" a voice screamed in her head, "Think of something, Anything!"
Her leather bag was suddenly too heavy, its belt tightening against her throat. Talya fumbled frantically to get it off herself; it was that very moment her fingers brushed against something solid inside- The Ruby!
Her Ruby- almost the size of her fists! All those long nights of craving and planning after it flashed through her mind, now that it was finally in her hands- Oh well! What good is it when you're up for being barbecued?
In the merest fraction of a second, she snatched out the gem from the bag, took aim, and then, with all the force she could muster, threw it at one of the harpies. The creature merely ducked out of the way, and the crystal went hurling through the air at a certain surly sorceress deep in thought, sparkling gracefully against the evening sky.
Eleana had just laughed at Talya's comment about her arrival. She had been about to answer Rhyad when Rumina and Plunkett had appeared on the deck. Apparently, the witch was not sure that Rhyad could win against the intruder...
Plunkett had spoken with the young woman for a while then before gesturing to her and Rhyad to get away from her. It seemed Rumina wanted to make that Talya her slave!?
Eleana didn't care that much about others, and about intruders even less, but poor little thing...she was about to lose her freedom to the witch. However, the young witch-in-training had no time to think anymore on the other one's fate for Rumina began to tell them what they would be doing in Basra, and then gave her the leather bag she had mentioned earlier and that she now explained her what to do with it.
''Don't worry", Eleana replied, "I will make sure she receives it, and I will keep in mind what you told me... No matter what happens there...''
The brunette tried to look a little bit more confident than she really was. She had to succeed no matter what... If not, her life was on the line- that much she knew.
Rumina barely acknowledged her words with a brief nod before her attention returned to the situation at hand.
"All right, Now I'm done." She muttered, freezing the stone mid-air before slamming it back in Talya's direction.
"Take her to the castle. NOW!" she ordered to the harpies, eyes flashing red, anger radiating from her whole being while Tayr al Ramad kept suffering its mistress's wrath.
The sky was getting pitch-black, and the Apocalypse kept rolling more and more as the waves grew larger and larger.
"I'll see you in Basra." the mighty witch muttered before plastering a sweet smile on her face studying Plunkett.
"I trust you won't disappoint me, Plunkett Pet." she added before waving her hand in front of herself and started to mist away.
It had been easier, keeping up the magic when there was anger in her body, but she was still weak.
She had to retreat before anyone could find out that her energies were still leaving her very quickly.
Everything happened in a blink of an eye.
The harpy ducked.
The ruby stopped mid-way.
The ruby changed course.
The ruby hit her square on the face...
Sharp claws cutting through her flesh...
Wind rushing by her ear...
A flash of the ship, only a black dot against the bright-orange evening sea...
It was the last thing Talya remembered before drifting into oblivion.
Plunkett was deliberately silent throughout the whole ordeal, an amused expression playing across his face. It was not everyday you saw Rumina being challenged like this, and the look on her face was priceless!
He chuckled a bit, but composed a stern look immediately and returned his gaze to the tiny woman, dangling upside down, now being carried away by the harpies.
"That wench's dumber than I thought, but sure got some guts, that one." he mused quietly. Even he, being the dreads of the seas and all, couldn't have faced Rumina like that, not with her loyal harpies on his tail.
…the harpies on his tail…
…thunder crashing in the sky…
…"You've yet to see my wrath"…
These thoughts and her words echoed through his mind.
"It'll all be done." He replied curtly, before Rumina misted away.
Tossing one last look at Talya over his shoulders, he turned to Rhyad, "Prepare the men. We set sail in an hour."
With that he dismissed the first mate, and looked down at the ruby, lying innocently on the deck where Talya stood not a minute ago.
He picked it up, held it high against the sun, scrutinized it for a moment before shoving it inside his pocket.
"Not too bad an yielding, for a start."
"Aye, Captain." Rhyad nodded at him, watching the other man calmly; then exchanging a glance with Eleana.
"Use some magic to bind up the sails, and let's hope that she'll let us sail before sinking us.", he muttered in the direction of the resident Witch-in-training before heading to the galley, his hand already on the whip he just placed back on his belt.
Most of the crew were still on the island, but it was better to be ready to use some manners, after all.
"MEN! ON DECK!" the first mate shouted as soon as he opened the door, disappearing inside the Apocalypse.
Upon Rhyad's order, Eleana listened up. Rumina and Talya had left the ship so now there were only Eleana and the two men on deck. The young woman approached them and heard Plunkett tell Rhyad to prepare for their departure.
She tied the small leather bag to her belt, and fixed her gaze on Rhyad.
He wanted her to use a spell to bind up the sails, but the air was her element so that was not a problem.
''Yes, sir...'' the young woman said with a smile.
While the men arrived one by one on deck and began to prepare the ship's departure, Eleana quickly went below deck to find the spell she would have need for later...