Stone of Jade

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~ 17 she/her ~
Aspiring writer and artist. Completely awestruck by night skies. Apart of many, many fandoms ;) Reader, journaler, collector.
~ pilot pens and beat-up notebooks ~
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Message to Readers

Finished!!
This piece is just a republishing of the full story, On the High Seas.

this is longer than anything I have ever posted before (in one piece) but that is only because it isn't broken up. If you want to read it chapter-by-chapter, you can find a link to all pieces in the footnotes.

This format focuses on telling the story through a series of flashbacks, woven in throughout the piece.
Please let me know what you think! Feedback of all kinds is welcome and greatly appreciated ;)

HUGE shout-out to:
books4life
BizzleWrites
AliMuscles04
Starlitskies
rosy cheeks
Emi
chasing sunsets
Paisley Blue
Anne Blackwood
paperback writer
FantasyOtter12
beth r.
The Ravenclaw Phoenix
queenie undettered
In Which Yaya Writes
lochnessie
WilliamtheConqueror
Writing4Life
hold on to the memories
V-Rose

You all have shown such encouragement and love <3 many of you have followed this story from the beginning and I cannot explain how much that means <3 I can't thank you enough! :)

On the High Seas | FULL STORY

January 7, 2021

FREE WRITING

8
A cool breeze carried the smell of saltwater and seaweed towards Ladell. Colors from all ends of the earth decorated the market. Carts and stands displayed all types of exotic fruits, spices, woven baskets and delicate silks. By mid-afternoon, the square was crowded, making it difficult to stay alert. As Ladell finished her errands in the market, she felt a strange tingling at the back of her neck. On instinct, Ladell knew someone was following her. Yet she didn't feel threatened--the feeling was oddly familiar. Ladell scanned the cobbled street. Whoever was following her knew what they were doing. Ladell quickened her pace. 

Parconna was a small island but news traveled fast overseas, especially when it had to do with pirates. Ladell kept a wary lookout as she made her way to the docks. She took shortcuts through alleys, backtracking multiple times, in case her instinct proved true. Ladell was just nearing the docks when a hand pulled her into a back alley. 
A figure in a green cloak shoved her into the wall, arm pressed against her chest. Ladell dropped her sack, the supplies scattered over the cobblestones. 
    “So you finally decided to show your face Golden Eye,” a gruff voice taunted. A dark hood veiled his face from view. 
    Ladell racked her brain for who this could be. She’d never been to this island before. Quietly, Ladell slipped her knife out of its sheath.
    “I know why you’re here,” the voice continued. “Just couldn’t help yourself, could you?” The man sneered as he pressed Ladell harder into the wall, his cotton sleeve scratching her neck.
    Ladell exhaled, which loosened the grip on her chest. She slammed her knee into her attacker’s gut and pushed forward. The man crashed to the ground. Ladell jumped on top of him, her knife blade delicately poised above his throat.    
    “I don’t play around,” she hissed. “Who are you?” Ladell pressed against her attacker’s chest, but drew back, confused, when the man started laughing. He raised his hands above his head, showing he had no weapon. 
    “I surrender,” he said. Still laughing, the figure reached slowly and pulled back his hood, revealing his face. “Come on, Ladell. You know me.” 
    Now unveiled, Ladell recognized the familiar smirk, shining eyes, and scar that stretched across the man's nose and onto his left cheek. 
    “Tallis?” Ladell was shocked. Under the hood was her childhood friend and first partner in crime. Ladell scrambled to her feet, pulling Tallis off the sand-crusted street “What were you thinking? I could have killed you!”
    Tallis shrugged as he brushed the dirt off of his clothes. “I saw you in the market, and wanted to say hello.”
    “There are easier ways to do that--ways that don’t involve being mugged in an alley!” Ladell tried to stay mad at her friend, but she was too happy to see him. She gave him a hug. “Tallis Kent! It’s been years! I haven’t heard from you since the Mayborne job! What’s the Swindler been up too?”
    “Oh, you’ve heard about me?”
    “Almost everyone knows who you are now--we’re not small town criminals anymore.”
    Tallis laughed, “I’ve been travelling a good deal, seeing the world, meeting all sorts of people.”
    “So the usual? Stowing away on ships, stealing whatever pleases your eye, becoming enemies with the richest men alive?” Ladell saw right through his sugar-coated words. They had been in partnership for years, she knew Tallis would have gotten himself into all sorts of trouble by himself.
    “Yea, something like that,” Tallis smiled. “I heard you made a name for yourself. Golden Eye fits you nicely, and not just because of your thievery skills,” he winked. “So tell me! What brings the captain of the Manta to the Parconna Islands?”
     “We needed supplies and Parconna was the first island we came across. My crew is headed towards Conquest Reef. What about you? Is this the only place you aren’t wanted?”
    “For now,” Tallis said slyly. “I have a small job.”
    “Oh?”
    “Have you ever heard of the Coral Globe?”
    “Tallis, keep your voice down!” Ladell said sternly, suddenly stepping back. “You can’t cross Captain Colborne--not again.”
    “Oh please, I’ve met way worse than that rich captain. Besides, Mayborne was years ago. He’s not gonna remember me.”
    “No, Tallis. Boothe Colborne is the most dangerous man alive,” Ladell warned him grimly. “I raided one of his merchant ships by accident--”
    “Hold up--you raided a ship by accident?”
    “No, I raided his ship by accident. I’d have left it alone if I’d known whose it was. He didn’t stop chasing us for months. We finally lost him because of a freak storm. But the Coral Globe is his greatest pride. I raided his ship and he swore to kill me. Just imagine what wrath you’ll invoke if you steal that globe.”
    “Ladell, I have too,” Tallis implored. “You don’t understand.”
    “How did you even find out where he kept his globe? Who set you on this job?” Ladell accused. 
    Tallis looked down. “Thornley,” he whispered. 
    “You’re working for Thornley again! Son of a seagull, Tallis! What have you been doing to get roped into Thornley’s grasp?”
    “I got into a bit of trouble, that’s all. It’s nothing you need to know about. Look, once I do this job I’m free.” Tallis looked at Ladell. She could see the pain behind his eyes. Her friend had been through much in the years they’d been apart. 
    “When?”
    “Tonight,” Tallis said. “It’s an in and out job.”
    “Really? What’s your out?”
    Tallis shifted his weight between his feet. “Merchant ship?” 
    Ladell wasn’t convinced. “You won’t make it past the harbor! If you are going to steal from the richest man in this half of the world, you have to make a secure escape plan!” Ladell glared at Tallis. 
    “I know, that’s why it was such a great coincidence I ran into you!”
    “No, Tallis.”
    “Come on, Ladell,” Tallis pleaded.  “You were always the brains of the operation. One more job, just like old times?”
    “Tallis, I’m not risking the lives of my crew.”
    “Ladell, please. If I don’t do this job, I’ll be a dead man.”
    “By doing this job, you’re already a dead man. I’m sorry Tallis, I pick fights I know I can win. Boothe Colborne is one person even the Swindler can’t beat.”
    Tallis was silent for a long time. Finally, he spoke. “I understand,” he said softly. “I’m sorry for even asking. It was nice seeing you again.” Tallis feigned a smile as he turned to leave. Before he could, Ladle caught his arm.
    “Tallis, wait,” Ladell said, her voice softening. “I set sail tomorrow. I can’t help you with the job but”--she took a deep breath--“if you need an out…”
    “Thanks, Ladell.”
    “I leave at dawn, not a second later.” 

            +++
Tallis sat at the edge of the dock watching the bustle of the small coastal town. Twilight was fading fast, and small specks of starlight were slowly becoming visible. It was a beautiful summer night, clear skies and no breeze. The great merchant ships towered over the docks, each mast lit with the flickering light of the lanterns. He saw the Manta docked at the far end of a pier. Tallis took a deep breath. One last job, he thought. He hated to do this--especially for Thornley. But he had a debt to pay. Tallis sighed and stalked back to the quiet town. 
    Lanterns lit the cobblestone streets, casting deep shadows in each alley, which Tallis watched closely for movement. He passed various marketplace sellers packing up their carts for the night. He passed another group of townspeople heading into the local tavern. He wandered the town aimlessly until the street was empty. Then, he slipped into the shadow of an alley and ran quietly toward the huge mansion on the edge of the town. He stopped a block before the great estate. This street was eerily quiet, the small houses all shut up for the night. 

Tallis ducked behind a blacksmith shop and stared at the wall of barrels and crates leaned against it. He had craftily rearranged the stacked crates a few days earlier in order to give him easy access to the roof. As quietly as he could, Tallis started his climb. The rough shingles got grime all over his hands, but slowly, he reached the roof. Now the real challenge began. Tallis crept along the ridge, careful to keep his footsteps silent. One step, two steps. Tallis tried to focus on the small details to keep himself calm. 
    At the end of the blacksmith’s roof, Tallis carefully edged his way down, trying to get as close as he could to the next house. Breathe, he thought. You can do this. Tallis leaped to the next roof. He almost didn’t make it. His foot caught onto a loose tile and he lost his balance. He slid against the roof, the clay tiles scraping his arms. Tallis grasped at the shingles, feeling for anything that could hold his weight. He finally grasped a drain pipe. He held onto it, trying to steady his breathing. A few minutes later, when Tallis was sure his fall hadn’t woken the tenants of the house, he pulled himself back onto the roof. This wasn’t going as planned. Doubt crept into his mind. He had tried to convince himself that this was like any other job, but in truth, he was terrified. Deep down, he knew Ladell was right. He was taking a huge risk. With any luck, Colborne might not remember him from the Mayborne job. But if he crossed the captain tonight, he was sure to become his enemy.
    I don’t have to do this job, he thought. Part of him wanted to turn back. To return to the Manta without finishing the job. But then he thought of his debt with Thornley. Thornley was just as bad to have against you. No, Tallis thought, convincing himself. I have to pay my debt. 

Tallis’ mind travelled back to the days when he and Ladell had started their trade of thievery. Memories he hadn’t meant to forget now came back to him. He thought of his parents. Leaping lobsters...he hadn’t thought of his parents in years. They had died when an outbreak of Fisherman’s Cholera broke out in the town. That disease had left many in Twilrock orphaned, including Ladell. Many of the children who were left homeless were sent to live out in the country, but Tallis and Ladell wanted to stay in the coastal town they knew. They wanted to be sure and take any chance they could in order to leave the island. When you lived on the coast, you were often more able to find work. In the country, you were destined to stay put.
    Together, Tallis and Ladell lived off the land and the little money left by their deceased parents. But money runs out, and fall frosts ruin late harvests. They were running out of time before the snows of winter came. Tallis knew that their only hope of surviving was to be able to buy their way out of Twilrock--start fresh somewhere new. But their main concern was food, and in the late autumn months, Tallis and Ladell were forced to feed themselves through less virtuous methods. 

~~~
“This is exactly what Old-Man-Crowley says kills people,” Ladell said nervously. 
    “Starvation kills people too,” Tallis whispered, “Come on, we have to be quick.” Tallis started to creep toward the parked wagon but Ladell pulled him back into the shadows where they hid.
    “What exactly is your plan?” she whispered harshly.
    “I’ll figure it out when I get there!” Tallis said impatiently. 
    Ladell grabbed the strap on his tunic. “Wait for my cue,” she whispered as she hurried past. Tallis watched bewildered as she limped straight into the moonlight, fully visible to the driver of the wagon. He could just hear what they were saying. 
    “Sir? Sir?” Ladell called out, her voice feigning innocence.
    “What are ye doin’ girl? Are ye hurt?” The concerned driver jumped from the seat of his wagon. He helped Ladell to a rock and sat her down. “Did ye hurt yer foot?” 
    Ladell doubled over, clutching her ankle as if in pain. Tallis watched as the driver knelt to take a look, totally taken in by Ladell’s act. Ladell, as the driver was busy examining her foot, nodded to Tallis. Tallis took the hint and crept toward the back of the wagon where a dozen bags and trunks sat. He kept an eye on the driver, whose back was to him, as he started to pick one of the trunks’ locks. 
    Ladell’s hands shook in fear. She tried to keep the driver busy, making up her story as she went, trying to make it as convincing as she could. But she stumbled across her words, distracted as she watched Tallis’ progress. He had rummaged through one trunk already, pocketing whatever was valuable. He had almost gotten into the second one when the driver noticed Ladell’s gaze. He turned and saw Tallis.
    “Oi!” he yelled, scrambling to his feet. 
    Ladell jumped from the rock, tackling the driver to the ground. She fumbled through his jacket until she found what she was looking for. Then she ran across to Tallis, grabbing his hand. 
    “Come on! We have to get out of here!” 
    Tallis and Ladell ran through shadows of the valley and didn’t stop until they were safe in the brush that hid the run-down shack they called home. They crashed into the hut, stumbling over each other in exhaustion. 
    “That,” Tallis said, out of breath, “went better than I thought.”
    Ladell burst into laughter. “What’d you get?”
    “Not much, maybe enough for a few days, if we can get a good price.”
    Ladell smiled. “I grabbed his billfold.” She held up a small leather pouch and shook it. The clanking of coins curled a smile on Tallis’ face. Ladell poured the contents onto the ground in front of them. The coins shone brightly against the dirt.
    “Ladell! That is amazing!” Tallis cried, scooping her in a hug! “We can get off this island! Start fresh somewhere far away from here!” 
~~~

Tallis gave a half-hearted smile as he remembered how much trouble they had gotten into those first few years. He wished he could go back in time and stay there--stay in a moment where they weren’t caught up in bigger schemes--in a moment where they hadn’t met Thornley. 
    For years, Thornley had employed Tallis and Ladell to thieve for him. He paid them for their work, but they were trapped. Eventually, they were able to escape both their employer and Twilrock Island. When Tallis and Ladell reached their destination, they had split ways. Ladell had been lucky. She had gotten off the island before Thornley and his men had tracked them. They found Tallis only a few short years after they escaped. Since then, Tallis found himself still running errands and doing the dirty work for Thornley in order to repay the debt of crossing him in the first place. Thornley had promised that once this job was done, he could go. That was why he had to finish this job.

From rooftop to rooftop, Tallis carefully made his way to the mansion. A lattice of honeysuckles gave him unintentional access to the highest roof of Colborne Chateau. Tallis’ employer, Thornley, gave him detailed instructions where Captain Colborne kept his treasure--in a safe in one of the highest rooms in the mansion. Unfortunately for Colborne, Tallis was a skilled lockpick. He took out his knife, and began prying at the tiles of the roof. 
    Shortly after midnight, Tallis broke through and had a wide enough hole to slip inside the mansion. From his belt, Tallis took a length of rope, and wrapped it securely around a chimney a few yards away. 
    One last job, Tallis thought as he propelled himself through the hole. With a soft thud, he landed inside the room. In front of him stood the large, beautifully carved, wooden safe. Tallis walked around it slowly, contemplating the make and model of the chest. He knelt before the door, studying the lock itself. His fingers itched to start picking the lock. Without a doubt, it was the most complicated lock he had seen. Slowly, he began to pick the safe, unaware of the minutes slipping by.

With a loud click and pop, the safe door creaked open. Tallis gasped as he saw what was inside. The Coral Globe was the only possession Captain Colborne kept in the safe, and for good reason. The globe shone milky white, a gold encrusted design wrapped around the treasure. Tallis reached forward and plucked the treasure from the safe. Wrapping it in several layers of cloth, he stuffed the item in his bag. He began to shimmy up the rope and back onto the roof.
    Tallis squeezed himself through his hole. He sat on the roof, startled by how much time had passed. The first light of day was quickly approaching. Tallis stood, suddenly anxious to get to the docks. He slid down the side of the roof, and leaped onto the neighboring house. This time, however, his actions didn’t go unnoticed. He had sneaked in under the darkness of night, now, the rays of dawn lifted the veil. Immediately, he was spotted by one of Colborne’s henchmen. Tallis heard the man alarm the others. He ran across the rooftops, leaping from one house to the next. His foot slipped on one of the tiles and he slid several feet, catching himself only by a broken chimney. Tallis pulled himself to his feet and looked back. To his horror, the henchman was using the same method of escape. He too, was running over the rooftops. Tallis recognized him as Stanford, Colborne’s right-hand man. Tallis started running again, swaying as he balanced delicately. He saw two other henchmen, farther back, chasing him from the street below. Tallis could see the docks a couple houses in front of him.
    With only last leap, Tallis slid down the roof of a bakery, breaking his landing on several sacks of flour that lay against the wall of the shop. The burliest henchmen landed on the street behind Tallis. Tallis knew his game was up. He could see Ladell on her ship, climbing the ropes on the mast. He knew she saw his trouble. He felt bad, bringing more problems to her, not even a full day after their reunion. He turned to face his pursuers. 
    “Give it up, Swindler! You’re not getting away this time!” Stanford yelled. 
    Tallis heard a sharp whistle from behind. With that small signal, he knew Ladell had his back.
    Tallis knew what he had to do, although it pained him to do it. The other henchmen caught up with them--Davian and Rhett, two other irritating goons that worked for Colborne. Tallis reached into his satchel and took out the Coral Globe. Its glossy white coating shone in the morning sun. Tallis fought against his desire to keep the treasure, but he knew Ladell was right: he didn’t want Colborne as an enemy. Tallis threw the globe at Stanford, who dove to catch it. During the scramble to recover their captain’s property, Tallis took off running. He ran towards the end of the dock, and leaped with all his might. His boots skimmed the salty waves ever so slightly as he caught the rope Ladell had thrown towards him. By the time Stanford and the others made it to the end of the pier, Tallis had already been pulled aboard.  
  
    “Come on,” Stanford said to Davian, who stood out of breath next to him. “Let’s go tell the captain that Swindler is with Golden Eye and her crew,” he grimaced.
    “I’m sure he’ll like that,” Davian laughed. “Kill two birds with one stone.”

            +++
    Ladell looked out towards the town. The first light of day was just appearing on the horizon, casting a pinkish glow on the sleeping village. Ladell waited anxiously at the railing of her ship. She wanted Tallis to come with them, although she knew the risk of aiding him in his escape from Captain Colborne. All she could do was hope that he succeeded in his break-in. 
    “Captain! Are you ready to set sail?” Avril, Ladell’s first mate, called from the sterncastle.
    “In a minute!” Ladell yelled back. She scanned the docks, searching for her friend. Then she saw him. Her heart leaped within her chest when she saw the danger. He was jumping from rooftop to rooftop, clutching a satchel to his chest. Ladell gasped as she saw why he was running. Close behind him was one of Colborne’s men. She could see two more figures running along the street.
    “Avril! Trim the sails! Marley! Corrin! Turn the ship!” Ladell yelled to her crew. 
    The crew on the Manta hurried to obey their captain’s orders. As they turned the ship to set sail, Ladell climbed the ratlines to the sails. Ladell grabbed a loose rope. As the ship pulled from the dock, Ladell threw the rope as far as she could towards the dock and towards Tallis. 
    “Thanks,” Tallis said as one of the crew helped him aboard. Ladell was at his side a second later. “So--” Tallis started.
    “We almost left without you,” Ladell interrupted. “I’d half-hoped you’d just come without finishing your job.”
    “You know I couldn’t do that!”
    “I tried to warn you! You're already an enemy of Colborne! You can’t run forever, he’ll catch up with you!”
    “It was way harder than I expected,” Tallis admitted. “I barely made it out!”
    “I’m surprised you even made it in,” Ladell said. She was impressed by Tallis’ growth in skill from when they had first started working together. “How’d you do it?”
    Tallis gave a mischievous smile, “I never reveal my secrets.”
    Ladell rolled her eyes. 
    “You know you loved it,” Tallis said, feigning a wistful look. “Golden Eye and Swindler, back together!”
    “Yea, okay,” Ladell joked, “I loved saving you from the bad guys!” She laughed, but then her voice grew soft. “You look tired, Tallis. Go to my cabin, take a nap. It’s a small crew so I’ll need your help to make port. But that won’t be ‘till tomorrow. Get some rest.
    Tallis nodded. He didn’t deny the adrenaline that kept him going had also worn him out. 
Ladell watched as he made his way to the deck below before taking her place back at the helm. As she watched the distant shore of Parconna Beach disappear behind them, she tried not to smile. Tallis was right. It was fun working together again. She missed the thrill of a fast escape--a feeling you didn’t get when raiding ships. It brought back so many memories. Most brought a smile to her face. Except one...the first time they had found themselves in Thornley’s grasp.

~~~
It was a few months after their first coach-robbery, and their thievery skills had gotten better. They weren’t perfect, but they learned to tell which coaches had valuable contents and how to steal them. 
    One cold, winter night, Ladell and Tallis were passing a tavern. Since it was nearly dusk and a light snow had started to fall, the yard in front of the tavern was empty. Several coaches, dusted with a layer of snow, were left abandoned, as their drivers warmed themselves with a drink inside the warm tavern.
    For the thieves, it was the perfect target. Ladell and Tallis sneaked behind the coach closest to the road. Ladell watched the entrance to the tavern while Tallis picked the locks on several trunks. Tallis worked as fast as he could, pocketing anything valuable he could sell. Billfolds were the ideal target, but most passengers kept those on their person.
    The cold was just beginning to nip at Ladell's toes when she heard Tallis behind her. 
    “Psst!” Tallis whispered. “Ladell, come look at this one!” 
    Ladell left her post and sneaked over to see what had startled Tallis. She gasped when she saw the coach parked around the side of the tavern. It was pure black with red curtains. Ladell pulled herself up so she could peek through the window. 
    “Woah, Tallis! Whoever owns this coach must be rich!”
    “Then they’ll probably be carrying some valuables!” Tallis said as he began to work on one of the brass locks. A few clicks later he was in. 
    “This one’s full of silk tunics,” Tallis said, disappointed. “Worth hardly anything second-hand. Maybe I’ll--” Tallis didn’t get to finish. A dark shadow blocked the light from the tavern. 
    “Well, well, well,” a deep voice bellowed. “What do we have here?”
    Ladell and Tallis froze as large calloused hands clasped them each on the shoulders. The speaker spun them around so they faced him. A large man loomed over them, his tall figure reaching almost seven feet tall. His broad shoulders and muscled arms gripped the young thieves. Another man, just as strong, stood behind him, waiting for orders.  
    “Please, sir,” Ladell said, her voice skipping an octave. “We were only looking. I’ve never seen a coach so grand!”
    “None of that. I saw what you two were up too. You hit nearly every coach in the yard! If I was a virtuous citizen--” the man’s companion gave a menacing chuckle when his boss said this--“I would turn you in!”
    Ladell looked nervously at Tallis. 
    “Get into the coach,” the man barked. His companion opened the door and grabbed Ladell’s arm, pulling her inside. 
    “Look,” Tallis started, “We didn’t take anything. Please, we won’t--”
    “Get in.” The man slipped a silver knife from his belt. “Don’t make me ask again,” he threatened. 
    Tallis swallowed nervously but got into the coach as ordered. The man followed and his companion locked the door after them. Bang, bang, bang. The man thumped the roof above him and the carriage started forward. Ladell and Tallis sat, stock still, across from the man who, in return, stared them down. 
    Finally, after what seemed like hours, he spoke. “What’s your haul?” 
    “Any--anything we can sell,” Tallis stuttered.
    “I take it that little girl act works on a lot of people ‘round here, huh?”
    “Yes, sir,” Ladell said shyly. “Well, mostly everyone,” she added, looking down. 
    The man stroked the scruff of his beard, thinking thoughtfully. Suddenly his rough expression changed into a sly smile. “Yes, you’ll work perfectly.”
    “Sir?” Tallis ventured. 
    “The name’s Thornley,” he said. “And I have a few jobs for you.”
~~~

Ladell hadn’t seen Tallis since they split ways almost six years ago. Six years. Ladell often wondered where Tallis had ended up. Part of her felt sorry for turning down Tallis’ offer. If she had stayed with him, he might not have gotten caught up with Thornley again. But Ladell didn’t regret her decision. She had lived six glorious years of adventure. She was able to sail and see places she had never dreamed of. But once a thief, always a thief. There was good money in pirating, however, Ladell never kept any of it. She knew the hardships of trying to survive alone at a young age and often gave the money to the young beggars she met in the streets when they made port. 
    “Avril! Take the wheel. I’m going down below to see our new crewmate,” Ladell said. 

            +++
    Ladell found Tallis looking at a map in her cabin. “Did you sleep?” she asked.
    Tallis turned and smiled when he saw who was in the doorway. “You sound like a mother hen,” he teased.
    “After being up all last night you needed to rest. It’s almost dinner. Corrin, my cabin-boy and the ship's cook, is bringing some food here so we can talk.” Ladell walked over to the table and rolled up the map.
    “So, Golden Eye,” Tallis said. “Where are you headed?” 
    “Wherever the wind blows,” Ladell said. “With occasional stops for supplies.”
    “So it was luck that brought you to Parconna Islands to help a dashing hero escape from the enemy.”
    “Hero?” Ladell laughed. “Oh, please--not even close. But yes, it was a real surprise meeting you there. What have you been doing these past six years?”
    “Eh, this and that,” Tallis bluffed. “How’d you get to be captain of the Manta? When I last saw you, you were a part of a crew heading east,” he said, changing the subject. 

As they ate, the two friends talked. They talked well into the night, having a lot to catch up on since they split ways. When they finally went to bed, Tallis began to process what he had just done. He didn’t deny that he acted foolishly. Ladell had given him a way out, but he hadn’t taken it. Now they might both have to pay the consequences of crossing Captain Colborne for a second time. 
    Ladell also was haunted by the day’s events. She knew she had risked a lot by helping Tallis. She couldn’t afford to get on Captain Colborne’s radar again. She knew the first time, they were lucky to escape. Her second escape from the captain was a miracle. Ladell knew she wouldn’t be so lucky a third time. The captain was not a man that let things go easily.

~~~
Tallis and Ladell had been working for Thornely for two years. He paid them handsomely to do his work. But one day proved too much. Thornely had given them a job--to steal from a man named Boothe Colborne. Boothe Colborne was a captain of a fleet of merchant ships which travelled and traded all over the Posocia Seas, and beyond. He prided himself of ridding the seas of pirates, yet in the process, became nothing less than a pirate himself. He sank any ship that attacked them, killed any thief that attempted to steal his goods. No matter the size of the ship, no matter the age of the thief, Captain Colborne showed no mercy. Boothe Colborne was overrun by his corrupted moral to purge the sea. 

Thornley had promised this would be the last job. Then they could go. Tallis and Ladell had almost saved enough money to book passage on a ship heading East, but were missing the last few notes. With high hopes, they had paid for their tickets in advance, promising the captain the rest of the money by the night they sailed. That same afternoon, the duo made their way to Boothe Colbornes estate, known in town as Mayborne Manor.
    Thornley had told them Boothe Colborne was out of town for the month and the manor was empty, save for two of his men who were guarding the estate. This had to be a quiet job, so only Tallis and Ladell were there. Thornely kept his own men back, finally trusting the thieves to go on their own.

The pair decided to start late in the afternoon. Ladell, who had scouted out the manor beforehand, led Tallis along the coast of the island to the back gardens of the manor. Even though Mayborne was not Captain Colborne’s primary estate, it was still a grand one. White stone terraces were platforms to many life-size statues of mermaids, whales, and other sea-dwelling creatures, both real and mythical. Fountains of clear water were surrounded by gardens of Coral Flowers and Coast Brush. 
    As the afternoon sun began its descent, Tallis and Ladell crept along the edge of the house. They crouched below one of the balconies that faced the sea. 
    “I see one man down towards that way,” Tallis pointed. “He just disappeared behind that tree.”
    “Do you see the other?” Ladell asked.
    “Not yet...I assume he’s by the front of the manor.”
    “We gotta do this fast,” Ladell said, rising to her feet. “Help me up.”
    Tallis extended his arms and Ladell placed her boot into his interlocked fingers. On a whispered count of three, Tallis gave Ladell a boost as she simultaneously jumped for the balcony railing. Ladell hurdled over the railing without difficulty. A second later, Tallis was next to her. Stalking over to the glass-paned doors, Tallis studied the locks. Ladell kept an eye on the first watchman.
    “He’s turning towards a path,” she whispered. “He’ll probably come back this way next. How’s the lock coming?”
    “Almost…” Tallis jiggled his lockpicks and the door clicked open. “Got it!” he whispered excitedly. 
    The pair made their way inside. Ladell gasped as she took in the vast richness of the manor. Deep blue carpets lined the floors, reminding Ladell of the sea when it was calm. Golden treasures lined the walls on beautifully carved shelves. Shells lay displayed in cushioned boxes. Maps of far off islands framed the walls, surrounded by beautiful tapestries depicting scenes at sea. Ladell was most captivated by one tapestry of two battling ships. The orange yarn of the cannon fire looked so real--so bright. She couldn’t help but run her fingers over the tapestry. The beauty of the room made her forget why they were there. It was Tallis who brought her back to reality.
    “Thornley said it should be on display in the main hall, or maybe one of the parlors…” he said. 
    “What exactly are we looking for?”
    “I think the main object was a sword or something. But there’s a bunch of valuable items lying around. Just grab whatever you think will make Thornley pay us more,” Tallis laughed, disappearing down a connected hallway. 
    Ladell crept through the vast halls of the manor. Each wall was richly decorated, but she looked only for the sword. Soon she came to a hallway which ended in richly carved double doors. Slowly, she pushed them open. 
    A grand room spread before her. More rich tapestries and treasures. Tall windows with loose silk curtains faced a view of the sea. A lounge chair, white as coral, sat on top of a beautifully woven carpet. A grand fireplace with a carved mantle crowned the back of the room. Ladell focused on the mantle. For there, hanging above a collection of vases, hung the crossed blades of two golden swords. 
    Ladell made her way into the room, completely captivated by the beauty of the swords. Their golden hilts seemed to gleam from the rays of the setting sun. She reached up, about to grasp the treasure, when a deep voice stopped her in her tracks. 
    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” 
    Ladell turned slowly to see a tall man looming over her, his pistol trained on her chest. Ladell’s outstretched hand quickly dropped to her side as she stepped back. 
    The man stared Ladell down, who wondered if she could make it to the door before he could pull the trigger. Then, an unsuspecting voice stopped her in her plan to escape: Tallis. 
    “Ladell! You would not believe what I found in the--oh,” Tallis’ smile vanished as he took in the scene. 
    “I guess you must be Captain Colborne,” Tallis said in a quick attempt to cover his wits. “We--we thought you were travelling and--and didn’t think--” 
    Ladell could tell Tallis was nervous as he stumbled over his words. 
    “You didn’t think I’d mind a couple of thieves rummaging through my things?” the captain said. “I’m afraid you are gravely mistaken. I do mind.”
    “Look, sir--” Ladell tried.
    “DON’T TRY TO TALK YOUR WAY OUT OF THIS!” Captain Colborne shouted, silencing both Tallis and Ladell. “Who are you?” he said sternly, waving the pistol, yet keeping it trained on Ladell. 
    “My name is Ladell,” she started slowly. “We were sent here...to steal those.” Ladell pointed to the swords on the wall.     “We’re just common thieves who got mixed up with the wrong people. This was the only way to escape.”
    “And who’s your friend?” Captain Colborne said, nodding his head towards Tallis, who still clutched a bulging satchel of stolen treasures.
    “His name is Tallis,” Ladell explained. “Please...we weren’t trying to cause any harm.”
    “Not causing any harm? A thief, who doesn’t cause harm? Your kind cause trouble--no matter who they’re--how did you say--mixed up with? I don’t stand for thievery.”
    “And we understand,” Tallis jumped in. “If you let us go--”
    “Let you go?” the captain mocked. “I don’t plan on letting this slide. Then what would that look like for me? Leniency towards thieves would break the status of a man like me. Then what would the people expect? They’d expect me to start giving to beggars! Letting the pirates who rob me live! No...I’m afraid you have to pay for your actions.” The captain cocked his pistol.
    “Wait!” Tallis cried, leaping in front of Ladell. 
    The captain raised his eyebrow, yet didn’t lower the pistol. “You want to be the hero? Die for the girl?” he mocked.
    “Something like that,” Tallis murmured. “If you kill us,” he continued slowly, “you won’t ever find out who sent us here.”
    Ladell knew Tallis was buying time. She slowly reached forward, and slipped Tallis’ knife from his belt. She glanced at the captain--her action had gone unnoticed, blocked by Tallis.
    “Alright,” the captain said, intrigued by Tallis’ words. “Tell me, and then I’ll kill you.”
    Tallis feigned a chuckle. Ladell knew he was gaining his confidence back. This was where he excelled. 
    “That’s not how a deal works,” he said. “I’ll tell you...only if you let us go.”
    “I’m supposed to trust you? Trust that you’re telling the truth about your employer? And then let you escape?”
    “Just like that,” Tallis said boldly. “Do we have a deal?”
    “No.”
    “I figured you would be a hard man to haggle with. It’s like that fisherman down by the wharf says...'haggling with a rich man is a talent that few possess.'”
    If Ladell hadn’t been so nervous, she would have kicked Tallis from behind. But Ladell knew what he meant. They had often used the word wharf as a code to split up and meet at the docks. With a meeting place set, an idea began to form in Ladell’s mind. She waited for the right moment to act.
    “What about an exchange,” Tallis offered. “Instead of killing us, why not use us. We would be more than willing to change our allegiance. We could be your man on the inside.”
    “Is that supposed to help me trust you? Tell me who you’re working for and then we can make a deal, only if I think your information is valid.”
    “Alright,” Tallis agreed. “But you need to put your pistol away before I tell you.”
    Captain Colborne lowered the pistol, but kept it cocked.
    “We were hired by a man named Thornley,” Tallis said slowly. 
    Immediately, Ladell knew the captain recognized the name. Captain Colbornes eyes went wide and a deeper anger flushed his face. 
    “YOU WERE SENT BY THORNLEY!” he yelled. “You work for that thieving, cheating, rum-runner? The deal is off. Any man of Thornley’s is not to be trusted!”
    Captain Colborne began to raise his pistol, but Tallis leapt forward, tackling the gun from the captain’s grip. The pistol clattered across the floor. Ladell grabbed a vase off the mantle and threw it at the captain. It shattered as it made contact, causing a trickle of red to run down the man’s cheek. Tallis scrambled to his feet and started towards one of the great windows. He grabbed a chair and threw it against the glass, causing a shower of shards and splinters. 
    Ladell ran at the captain, stabbing the knife into his forearm. The captain roared as the knife made contact, and threw Ladell off. She slid across the floor. Ladell grimaced as her hands scraped along the shards of glass, but was able to pull herself to her feet. She ran towards Tallis, who waited, half in the window, half out. He stretched his arm towards Ladell. 
    “Jump!” he yelled.
    Ladell threw herself out the window and Tallis followed just in time. Captain Colborne threw Tallis’ knife. It swung through the air, narrowly missing Tallis’ head.
    
Ladell rolled off the balcony below and landed hard in a garden of Sea Rose. The smell of salt and dirt from the squashed berries flooded Ladell’s senses in an unpleasant way. But she couldn’t linger on the smell for long. A second later Tallis appeared, hastily pulling her to her feet. 
    “To the docks!” he shouted. “Now!”
    Ladell lost all sense of control as she and Tallis ran as hard as they could towards the docks. She didn’t dare to stop and see if anyone was following them. Breathing hard, Ladell and Tallis stumbled across the sea-soaked planks of the docks. 
    “Come on,” Ladell managed. “We can make it to the Calton. They should be leaving any minute!”
    The pair raced over the docks, reaching the tall-masted merchant ship. Peeling paint etched out a the name of the ship across the barnacle-crusted bow. The Calton...the pair's only hope of escape. 
    “Wait!” Tallis yelled to a sailor, who was beginning to pull the gangplank up. “We’re coming!”
    “Cap’n was a’wonderin’ if ye were goin’ to join us,” the sailor said. “Ye almost missed yer passage. Don’ worry--yer stuff waitin’ for ye belo’. Ee, Boy! What happened to ye?”
    Ladell, who was trying to steady her breathing, turned to see Tallis barely catch himself on the railing of the ship. Tallis looked up, his alarmed eyes a contrasting blue compared to the red that streamed down his cheeks. The knife thrown by Captain Colborne hadn’t missed after all. 
    “Tallis!” Ladell cried, reaching forward to steady her friend.
    “I’ll fetch ye a needle,” the sailor said. 
    “Tallis, look at me!” Ladell ordered. She tried to hide the worry in her voice. “Just stay still, you’re going to need stitches.”
    “We’re safe now,” Tallis murmured, his eyes struggling to stay open.
    “Yup,” Ladell managed a laugh. “Safe from Thornely and Colborne. The ship’s pulling out of the harbor right now.” Ladell took a cloth from the sailor, who returned with that and a needle. 
    “Tallis, this is going to hurt,” she said, wiping the blood from his face. “I have to stitch your wound. Try to stay still.”
    Tallis gave a slight nod before dropping into unconsciousness.
    Ladell had stitched his wound, but she had to tell Tallis the cut would leave a scar. Tallis had laughed, saying a scar would make him look tougher. They sailed on the Calton for a fortnight, docking in the Ento Key. It was there where Ladell and Tallis split ways. 
    Part of Ladell wished things turned out differently. She didn’t regret her choice, but she missed having her friend around. 

            +++
The next morning, Tallis woke at dawn. He headed above deck. The sun was just beginning to rise, casting a warm, pink light across the sky.  
    “Where are we off to today?” he asked, joining Ladell at the helm of the ship. 
    “We have a steady wind blowing east. Millview Port is about a day away in this direction. We’ll stop there, and make sure to shake anyone who might try to follow us,” Ladell tossed a teasing glare at Tallis.
    “I’m assuming by anyone you mean Colborne?”
    “He knows how I sail. The best chance to avoid him is stopping along coasts, completely random. Hopefully we had enough of a head start.” 
    “You have a beautiful ship,” Tallis said, running a hand over the carved woodwork of the railing. 
    “And it takes a lot of hands to keep it that way,” Ladell joked. “But I do need your help. Find Marley, help her with the sails. We need to take full advantage of this wind if we hope to stay ahead of Colborne. 
    “Aye, aye, captain,” Tallis said with a sly smile. Ladell watched him climb the ratlines to the mast. It was nice having her friend back. 

They sailed all day. As the sun began to get lower in the sky, the wind began to blow slightly north. Ladell kept the Manta pointed East. It slowed their progress, but Millview Port was their only hope to throw Colborne off their trail. 
“Captain!” Avril shouted from the crows nest. “Ship comin’ astern!”
    Ladell ran to the right of the ship and scanned the horizon. There, black against the setting sun, sailed a tall ship which loomed high above the waves. The ship was decorated with the figurehead of a Basilisk; the serpent's long body wrapped around the bow. Ladell recognized the figurehead at once. It belonged to a ship that had hounded them nonstop, a ship whose captain was the most powerful, stubborn and richest man that had ever walked the earth. It was the Fortune, the prized ship of Captain Colborne. 
    Fear gripped Ladell. Not again, she thought. 
    “All hands about! Prepare tacking!” Ladell ordered. Avril raised the alarm. The rest of the crew took to their stations. Ladell spun the wheel so they angled away from the ship approaching. With a little luck, Ladell thought, we can keep out of range
    “What’s wrong?” Tallis called to Ladell, rushing up the stairs to the sterncastle. He could tell Ladell was nervous. She gripped the wheel tighter. 
    “It’s Colborne,” Ladell said curtly. “He’s gaining, but we might be able to postpone the fight. We have the smaller vessel.”
    “What can I do?”
    “Go help Corrin! Get the cannons ready and in position!” 
Tallis nodded and ran to the main deck. 
“Marley!” Ladell shouted. “Marley, get a few others! Start dumping anything not needed!” 
    Although it was a small ship, the Manta was a fast one. Ladell sailed her strong, but she knew the limits of her loyal vessel. She knew she could only delay the inevitable one more time.

            +++
The Manta and her crew sailed steady all night. In the morning, Ladell woke to find the distance between them and The Fortune slowly shrinking. Millview won’t help us now, she thought. Ladell changed the ships’ direction, taking full advantage of the northeast wind. They sailed for another two hours, the distance between ships growing and shrinking in no particular pattern. The captain of the Fortune was a dangerous man, and he knew the seas well.  
    “Captain!” Marley yelled from the ratlines. “Shoal! Dead-ahead in 200 yards!”
    “Blast!” Ladell said, cursing herself. In her fear, she had neglected to watch for sandbars. This could have major consequences. “Avril!” she shouted. “Drop the anchor, starboard side!”
    Immediately, Avril got to work. Tallis ran across the ship to help the first-mate. They didn’t have much time. Avril and Tallis hauled the anchor overboard. It crashed through the waves, spraying saltwater into their faces. The chains went tight as the anchor caught hold on something in the depths below. With a sudden lurch, the Manta buckled under the stress of the anchor. The whole ship rocked, tipping at an angle where the port side of the ship crashed into the sandbar, and not the bow. But it wasn’t enough to keep them in deep waters. White-tipped waves pound the sides of the boat, pushing them farther towards the small strip of shallow water. They were stuck. 
    “Captain! Orders?” Avril shouted, her voice barely able to be heard over the noise of the sea. 
    Ladell’s mind raced. She couldn’t think straight. She was barely aware that Tallis was next to her. It was as if time slowed. 
    “This is it,” she mumbled. 
    Tallis, who was close enough to hear her, put his hand on her shoulder. “We can fight,” he said.
    “Tallis--”
     “Don’t give up yet.” Tallis turned to the crew of the Manta. He could tell by their faces they knew their fates were already sealed. “We can do this! Get the cannons to starboard side! Prepare to fight! Let’s blow the Fortune and her captain into next week!” 
    “We can do this,” Ladell repeated. Ladell wanted to believe Tallis, but she knew what kind of man Captain Colborne was. Ladell wanted to scream and curse the universe for being so cruel. She had finally reunited with Tallis. After all these years, their little alliance was still going--they were still helping each other stay alive. Ladell had thought she didn’t regret her choice to split ways with Tallis, but she began to realize, she did regret it. She should have convinced Tallis to sail with her. But she hadn’t. She had just left

~~~
After the Mayborne Job, Ladell and Tallis had escaped to the Ento Key. After it made port, Tallis had asked Ladell to settle down with him. To start a new life, together. But Ladell turned him down. They were young, eighteen at the time, but had gone through so much together that Tallis always figured it might stay that way. Ladell hadn’t agreed. She wanted more than a normal life. They had argued and both had stormed off. Ladell was sitting on the edge of a wall, overlooking the beach. The sun was just beginning to set when Tallis found her. He sat next to her. 
    “It’s strange,” he said. “Strange to watching the sun set over a different horizon.”
    “I’m sorry Tallis,” Ladell said softly.
    “It’s okay. I shouldn’t have asked.”
     “It’s just--” Ladell sighed. "I don’t want to be stuck on another island again. I want to see places. To sail the world for all eternity, never stuck in one place.”
    “Do you have any plans as to where you’re off to next?”
    “I got a spot on a crew heading east. I don’t know where I’ll end up from there.” Ladell looked at her friend and gave a halfhearted smile. The sun cast a golden light across Tallis and a slight breeze ruffled his untidy hair. Ladell tried to memorize his smile, his eyes--even the cut across his cheek. Ladell tried to freeze this moment in her mind. Ladell hated goodbyes. She had said so many in her life. This goodbye seemed impossible. She couldn’t do it. It was almost enough to keep her here, but the longing of adventure overcame even the hardest farewell. 
    “It’s not for forever,” he assured her. “We’ll meet again.”
~~~

Tallis was right. They had met again. On an island so far from where their paths had started. And now they were here--on the high seas--facing Colborne together once more. 

            +++
The Fortune barreled through the waves towards the Manta, which lay hopelessly aground a shallow sandbar. The sails of the large ship bulged under the force of the wind behind it. Waves leaped ahead of the bow, breaking through the sea like white-crested rolls. The creak of the wood and the whipping of the ropes made the sight a terrible one to behold. Then, high above, attached to the mast, a flash of color gave the final blow of despair. A new flag was being raised, one as red as blood. It thrashed in the wind, screaming its message: This was it. The final stand. There would be no mercy shown. 
    “Avril! Corrin! Load all cannons with anything that’ll blow a hole in that ship!” Ladell ordered. “Tallis! Come down below! You need a weapon if it’s down to hand-to-hand combat!”
    Ladell led Tallis below decks. She plucked a sword from a wall of weapons and handed it to him.
    “You got a lot of swords to spare,” Tallis joked as he tested the weight of the weapon.
    “Not funny, Tallis. This is Colborne we’re talking about. He’s not happy with you.”
    “And I take it you aren’t either?” 
    “NO!” Ladell burst. “This all could have been avoided! You didn’t have to do the job!”
    “Thornely would have tracked me and then found you too!” Tallis shot back.
    “I can look after myself! Do I have to look after you too? All you do is get into trouble!”
    “You used to think it was fun!”
    “Well we’re adults now! We can’t just pick fights! There are real consequences to pay! And now my crew has to pay them for your mistakes!” Ladell was filled with anger. She was angry at Thornley for making their lives so miserable. She was angry at Colborne for his stubborn moral of punishing thieves. And she was angry at Tallis. But that look in his eyes...she knew she was blaming him for more than his mistake.
    Her voice softened. “It’s just…I was hoping things might have turned out different.”
    “Yeah, I do too," Tallis said. "I’m sorry for dragging you into this mess. I’m sorry for all the trouble I brought you.”
    “Trouble isn’t unusual in our line of work,” Ladell said. “And I don’t blame you…I just wish maybe we could have had that life of peace for awhile.”
    “Don’t give up hope,” Tallis said, placing a hand on Ladell’s shoulders. “After we beat Colborne, we’ll sail far away! Discover unmapped islands!”
    “We’ll sail some place where neither of us are on the wanted posters,” Ladell laughed. 
    “Sound like a plan?”
    Ladell nodded. 
    “Then come on,” Tallis said. “Let’s face Captain Colborne once and for all.”

The pair ran up the stairs to the main deck. Ladell took her place on the sterncastle. The Fortune was steadily sailing closer. It was so close, it seemed the carved figurehead of the Basilisk was poised to attack them in one swallow. 
    “FIRE CANNONS!” Ladell commanded. 
    The deafening blasts of the canons filled the air. Several splashed into the wake beside the ship, but a good many found their mark in the hull of the Fortune
    Gunshots from Colborne’s crew echoed in retaliation as Ladell ordered another round of cannons to fire. The noise of shouts and cries rang across the sea. Splintering wood flew through the air as the Manta rocked from a hit from the Fortune’s cannons. 
    The space between the two ships closed. The Fortune rammed into the Manta. Ladell gripped the wheel as the ship gave way. The Fortune was so close Ladell could see Captain Colborne standing at the wheel of his prized ship. She could see the captain’s rich coat, lined in silk. She could see the gleaming sword sheathed on his side. Two pistols hung in their holsters on his belt. Ladell could see his grizzled black beard, and even blacker eyes.
    A gangplank thumped against the side of The Manta. The fight had begun.

With a loud yell, several men on the crew of the Fortune ran over the gangplank, swords raised. Metal on metal clashed through the air. Ladell watched helplessly from the sterncastle as several of her crew fell to the enemy’s blades. She watched as Marley took on a large sailor. Avril and Corrin fought side by side, holding off three large men. Ladell watched Tallis on the quarterdeck. He ran down the main deck and killed several sailors that were trying to make their way to her post. Three men made it up the stairs to the sterncastle. Ladell drew her cutlass. Her silver blade shone in the midday sun. With a loud cry, she ran at the men. 
    Her sword clanked against the largest man’s sword. Ladell recognized him as Davian, Colborne’s third in command. She parried Davian’s attack and ducked under the second man’s swing. The second man went by the name of Rhett. She had met him before. She hoped he didn’t remember that meeting, but by the anger in his eyes, she knew he did.
    Ladell swung her sword, deflecting another of Davian’s blows. With a hard thrust forward, she felt the contact of her blade in the stomach of the third man. With him down, that only left two more.
     Ladell swung her sword, deflecting another of Davian’s blows. With a hard thrust forward, she felt the contact of her blade in the stomach of the third man. With him down, that only left two more.
    Swing after swing left Ladell feeling the heavy weight of her blade. She was tiring, and her enemy could tell. 
    “Your crew is already taken,” Davian mocked. “If you surrender, Colborne might let you live.”
    Ladell looked across the ship’s deck. She saw Marley, dead, leaning against the side of the ship. Several others of her small crew were also dead. Avril and Corrin were tiring as they fought a battle whose fate was already decided. Tallis was on the deck below her, facing another of Colborne’s men. Ladell knew this fight was near its end, but she resolved to keep fighting until she could no longer. 
    “Colborne won’t stop chasing us until he sees our bodies in the sea!” she said, raising her cutlass. 
    “Then I hope you know how to swim!” 
    With renewed strength, Ladell darted towards Rhett, ducking his saber’s swing and retaliating back with a hard stroke. She rushed forward again but her arm was stopped by a strong grip. Davian had her sword arm pinned in his large hands. He thrust her backward, slamming her against the mast. She hit the floor of the deck hard and gave a loud cry. 
    
Tallis heard Ladell cry out just as he finished off his foe. Glancing up he saw two of Colborne’s men cornering her against the mizzen mast. He ran towards the stairs to help her, but just as he reached the bottom of the steps, Captain Colborne landed on the deck of the Manta
    Tallis realized with a start that Ladell was right; Captain Colborne was the most intimidating man Tallis had ever come across. He was more threatening than Tallis remembered from the first time they met. Colborne seemed taller. He was all broad shoulders and bulging muscles. He sported stringy, pitch black hair and a scowl that pierced your very soul. Colborne’s ratty, mangled black beard and beady black eyes, coupled with the indelible stench of stale rum that seemed to float off of him in putrid waves, made this pirate a daunting sight to behold. Boothe Colborne was not a man you wanted as an enemy.
    Tallis turned to face him, his grin replaced by a determined frown. 
    Captain Colborne waved a pistol in the air. His loud voice bellowed across the ship’s deck.  
    “Surrender, or die,” he barked. “We have the ship already! Just give up!”
    “Never,” Tallis swore. “I will fight you as long as I live.”
    Colborne’s mouth stretched into a sly smile. His second in command leaped onto the deck of the Manta
    Stanford stalked forward, hefting his saber. Tallis raised his cutlass, ready to fight, but Stanford was no match for him. In no less than three strokes, Stanford had Tallis unarmed and defenseless. Stanford swatted Tallis aside, he sprawled out in front of Boothe Colborne. Colborne loomed over Tallis like a cat about to pounce on its prey. 
    “You could never run for long,” Captain Colborne growled, cocking his pistol.
    Tallis’s eyes widened in fear, his breath grew rapid. This isn’t how adventures were supposed to end. Tallis glanced to the deck above him where Ladell was still fighting. They had finally reunited--now they could sail for eternity, just as Ladell wanted all those years ago. 
    Captain Colborne smirked as he followed Tallis’ gaze. “Still want to be the hero?” he mocked. “Still want to save the girl?”
    Tallis swallowed his pain. “I think you’d better worry about your goons than about Ladell,” he shot back. 
    Tallis looked back at his friend, who rolled across the deck, between the feet of the two men. Ladell plunged her cutlass into the gut of the biggest man, who dropped onto the wood planks. Ladell stood, unsheathing her dagger from her boot, ready to take down the second man--but she was ready in vain.
    “There’s no need to worry about the girl,” Colborne said slyly. “I wasn’t lying--there’s nothing you could do to escape me.” Captain Colborne raised his arm, pointing his pistol away from Tallis and training it on...Ladell
    Tallis’s heart stopped--the world froze in place as he realized a second too late what Colborne was about to do.
    “Ladell! Look out!” Tallis cried, his voice breaking with the strain of his warning. But it was no use. The sound of the pistol echoed across the water. 

Ladell crumpled as the bullet found its mark. She stumbled back, falling down the stairs and onto the deck where they stood. Tallis stared at Ladell’s body in shock, only coming back to reality by her weak cry. A thousand thoughts flooded through his mind--but only one was clear--he had to reach her. 
    “NO!” Tallis cried, wrestling away from Captain Colborne. He would have made it if Stanford had not stepped out to block his way. Tallis struggled against him but the fight didn’t last long. He saw the blood first, then felt the pain. Tallis looked down to see a long dagger in his abdomen. He dropped to the ground, clutching his wound. His hands dripped red with blood. 
    Stanford knew he had won the fight. He stepped back, watching with a wicked grin, as Tallis tried to get to his feet. Tallis grew pale as he staggered across the deck before giving way. 
    Tallis fought hard to get to Ladell. He could see her lying on the deck, the puddle around her growing. Tallis crawled forward a few feet, struggling under his own weight. He collapsed next to Ladell.
    “We were so close...” Ladell whispered faintly.
    “We’ve had a good run. I guess…I guess it had to come to an--to an end...eventually.”
    “And now”-- her voice struggled to be heard-- “we can sail the seas forever…” Ladell gave a weak cough, dark red blood coating her lips. Her eyes fixed on the clouds above. She didn’t move again. 
    “For all eternity,” Tallis said as he drew his last breath. Then he too, went still.
 
word count: 10,296
This is the full version of the story, unbroken by section. If you want to read it chapter-by-chapter, this piece, has all the links in the footnotes. 

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  • January 7, 2021 - 11:21pm (Now Viewing)

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10 Comments
  • ~Zoe N~

    re: Thank you! Yeah, the quotes from that book are so good :)


    4 months ago
  • anemoia (#words)

    re: yeah i saw tallis and ladell as young adults also. ha, don't be sorry for killing them—at least, from a writer's pov. from a reader's... HOW DARE YOU?! XD XD
    i agree. evoking emotion is prob the most important thing for me in fiction writing.
    also re: you're welcome. feel free to rant anytime, we all need it. it is hard. but i'm so glad we have the reassurance that He has a plan and is always there for us. i def get the myself vs myself! it's frustrating, but... well, you already said it. just trusting and seeing how it all goes. <3


    4 months ago
  • theambivertartist

    Hello! thank you for your comment in my book review! I hope you enjoy A Tale of Two Cities! Take care:)


    4 months ago
  • erin!

    replying: thank you so much, and that is a crazy coincidence! i get so awkward around people i like so i hope your experience went better than mine usually do <3


    4 months ago
  • serein

    re: of course! it was a great way to start my day :)


    4 months ago
  • V-Rose

    Hey! I have a new chapter for Flying on Broken Wings!
    https://writetheworld.com/groups/1/shared/212065/version/439316

    Wow! You published it all in one piece!


    4 months ago
  • serein

    I've seen you publish these before, but I didn't want to start reading because I was to lazy to find the chapters. thank you for publishing this--I swear if I was all alone I would be crying. but I have to go to church soon so I can't. Anyway this was a truly lovely story, and I loved every bit of it. BEAUTIFUL.


    4 months ago
  • Emi

    Now I can read this all at once and sob over it again...I'm telling you, you should expand it and then make it into a movie script. Just don't sell it to Disney or they'll insist on a happy ending and ruin it.


    4 months ago
  • AJ - Izzy

    Wow... how long did this take? This is an amazing story :))
    re: thank you so much!!


    4 months ago
  • Just_A_Memory

    Yes! All of it in one read! Live live live for it!

    Re: It is, actually lol. I was named after the place my grandmother grew up in. Corinne City.


    4 months ago