Disclaimer: This story will be a long one. It contains bad language (though nothing too terribly rowdy--yet) and eventually, slash. This means male on male action. If that offends you, please don't read any further. Other than that, let me know what you think! I always like hearing feedback.
Sunsets Are Overrated
Chapter One: Some Days Just Aren't Worth It
His men screamed, the invading pirates screamed, and Brite cursed. Three days out of port and already they'd weathered a terrible storm, fought off a sea serpent, a gang of very lovely sirens (who he was still certain wouldn't have harmed a fly, even if they did have those rather vicious looking teeth), and a large squid. Now, with the arrival of the pirates, Brite was starting to wonder if the gods had been trying to tell him to stay home, safe in the castle.
A loud crack of thunder was his reply.
Brite sighed and slid his sword expertly up through a very dismayed pirate's belly. There were certain times that he enjoyed fighting. Like after a round of drinking and an imagined slight to his honor, pride, integrity, or, ehem, manhood, when it was all in good fun. Sliding around on a ship's deck covered in the blood of his men was not one of them.
"Cap'n, behind ya!" he heard the shout and cursed again, pivoting on his feet. But the blood on the deck caused his foot to slip and he went down hard on one knee. It turned out to be one of the best things he'd done all day.
The offending sword swung through the air inches above his head. Brite looked up into a face haggard and covered in stubble. Two jet black eyes glared at him from under a protruding brow. The pirate snarled and swung his sword back with amazing speed. It was then that Brite saw the gills on the side of the man's neck.
"Skressan!" he shouted, dropping to the ground and rolling across the seawater and blood. The skressan's blade bit into the wood with a dull thud and he snarled again. Now Brite could see the pointed teeth; he took in the webbed fingers and toes gripping the slippery deck with ease.
His men were shouting now, some of them terrified at the idea of what they were fighting. Skressan were a breed designed for the sea and almost impossible to beat when they were in their element. Their island kingdom prospered from plundering the tradeships and enslaving those lucky enough to be left alive. The coastal kingdom of Darnuth suffered more casualties of vessels and lives than all the other lands combined. It was also the first bastion of defense against skressan attacks, should they come. But the amphibious men had never before ventured so close to land, and briefly Brite wondered at it. They were getting bolder.
Then he smiled grimly. If it was a fight they wanted, they'd get it. He stood up cautiously, his flinty sea-foam eyes never leaving the skressan pirate. Very deliberately he wiped a grimy hand across his brow and grinned broadly when he saw the skressan's eyes narrow. It was extremely likely, the young Darnuthian reasoned, he would not live to see the jutting rock cliffs and salt sprayed harbors of his home again. Which meant he was a man fighting with nothing to lose. And that is a very dangerous man to fight.
With a chuckle, he tossed back his ragged mane of hair and brandished his sword. Then he very deliberately beckoned the skressan closer with one curling index finger and laughed again as he saw the man's eyes flare with hatred.
It would be nice to say it was a good day to die, but truthfully the clouds building on the horizon made it a bit too gloomy for that. Brite vowed that if he lived through this, he'd make sure his next near-death experience was on a much more pleasant day.
The skressan was advancing gracefully across the deck towards Brite. The battle sounds raging around him suddenly became muted and Brite's upper lip curled into a faint snarl of its own. He couldn't save the men who had died. But he could damn well pay back the skressan bastards that had done it.
With a low cry the skressan jumped at him and Brite's sword flashed out instinctively. Their blades clashed in the air and both men leaned towards each other, neither giving an inch.
"Prepare yourssself for death, land fisssh," the skressan hissed, his foul breath washing over Brite's face.
Brite wrinkled his nose delicately. "How about easing back, mate. Can't hear you through my gagging." He watched the pirate's eyes widen fractionally before he grimaced furiously.
"You will pay for that insssult," he said.
Brite laughed and pushed away sharply with his sword. "Oh, c'mon, I paid last time!" Then he ducked, anticipating the skressan's blow and spun as he crouched down on the deck. With a quick upward sweep, his blade sunk into the man's thigh and the pirate howled in agony. The momentary hesitation was all the time Brite needed to yank his sword free—causing another satisfactory screech of pain—and jump back. The pirate clutched at his bleeding leg and bared his teeth with an eerie hiss.
Brite had to give him credit. He could certainly handle himself. He wasn't even swaying. And then Brite noticed that the bleeding seemed to slow down, as the flesh of the creature's leg began to knit itself together.
He had enough time to think, "Well, hell," before the skressan lunged at him.
The next few minutes were a blur of steel and skin. The skressan fought dirty, but Brite fought dirtier. After a few minutes they broke apart while both of them took a moment to pant heavily and pretend they weren't panting heavily at all. The skressan was damn good, Brite admitted to himself grudgingly. A niggling worry had begun in the back of his mind that, good day or not, today might be a day to die after all. He noted somewhat absently that the screams of his men were numbering less and less as his men began numbering less and less.
That was enough of that, he decided.
Now it was his turn to lunge at the skressan, which he did with a hearty battle cry. It bolstered his spirits a little.
There were no games now. Except perhaps the game of life, a game Brite suddenly had a great urge to win. So his enemy could heal himself, so what? Brite always liked a challenge.
They broke apart again and circled each other. Brite had a few cuts on his arms that dripped blood steadily onto the wooden deck, mixing with the blood already there. Each cut he'd delivered to the skressan had disappeared in moments. It was a little frustrating.
The two of them advanced on one another and traded a fierce round of blows, leaving Brite dripping more heavily on the deck. Mustering the last of his strength he leapt forward, catching his opponent off-guard. His sword entered just below the ribcage and he yanked upward with all his strength, severing the man's torso in two.
"Let's see you heal that, you bastard," Brite spat, cleaning his sword off on the dead man's shirt. He turned at a shout from Trillen, his first mate.
"Captain, we are being overwhelmed! My prince, you must flee!"
Brite finally took in the damage beyond his own personal arena. His men were fighting valiantly, but they were outnumbered. More skressan poured over the railing at the stern of the ship, the hungry glint in their eyes telling Brite all he needed to know regarding what would happen to any prisoners taken. There would be no prisoners taken. He had the sinking feeling that this was more than just a friendly 'Hello, let's pillage your ship'—this was an organized execution.
"No," he said in a tone that brooked no argument. "I will not abandon my men. You know that better than anyone, Trillen."
His first mate stood beside him and surveyed the damage as well. "I know, my prince. Though we will not escape with our lives." He kept his gaze resolutely ahead, but Brite knew him well enough to detect the deep concern—not just for a member of the royal family, but for a childhood companion.
Brite placed his left hand on his friend's shoulder, hefting his sword with the other. "We fight to the end. That is our way."
Trillen nodded once, a short jerking of his head.
It was then that Brite became aware of the low growling behind him. Slowly, almost comically, he turned.
The skressan pirate he had just killed—and he was quite certain on this point because the man was flapping about in two sections—was trying to get to his feet. His skin was bulging and retracting, pulsing as if a great creature were trying to get out. Which, in fact, it was.
With a thunderous roar, the skressan's body split in two. The gash Brite had inflicted opened down to the man's groin, and the newly sundered halves of his body fell to the ground with a steaming, sizzling sound; now they were nothing more than useless husks.
A glowing and rather large demon stood in the center of the bones and skin. And it was looking straight at Brite.
"I have scried," it said. It had a voice like a thousand screams of pain. "And you cannot live."
Brite said, "I'd really like a second opinion on that."
The demon blinked balefully at him. "You cannot avoid this. Your demise is certain." It lurched a few steps toward him, apparently unused to its own form.
The storm that had been building on the horizon was without warning overhead. A chill wind began to blow and gather strength and the clouds boiled in the sky. Brite decided to risk the obvious and say to Trillen out of the corner of his mouth, "This looks bad."
"It is appropriate," said the demon, "in these moments to give you a chance for last words, I believe. Is there anything you wish to say, fleshcreature, before I tear your head from your shoulders?"
"Only that now I see why your breath reeked of sulfur pits," Brite shouted belligerently, lifting his voice above the shrieking wind. The demon's eyes glowed briefly and then with inhuman speed, one long, clawed hand struck at Brite's chest and knocked him back against the ship's railing. He winced as burning pain streaked across his chest and he felt his skin part beneath the claws. Those would definitely need stitches.
Trillen ran to his aid. "Captain, are you all right?!" he cried as he bent to help Brite to his feet.
"For the moment," Brite said ruefully as he stood on wobbly legs and glanced at the advancing demon. Its mouth hung open revealing teeth that would put the sirens and the skressan to shame. The wood underneath its feet bubbled each time it took a halting step.
"Then I am sorry I must do this," said Trillen with a sigh of regret. "But it's for your own good." Brite looked sharply at his friend and had enough time to say, "Trillen, what the—" before the hilt of his friend's sword smashed into his temple. Everything went black.
As he was unconscious now, he didn't feel Trillen heft him over the rail. He wasn't awake to feel his body slam onto the debris floating in the water or hear his friend's whispered farewell. And he certainly wasn't awake to see Trillen turn to a very surprised demon and say, "Well, here goes anything. Hope you're hungry for steel, you bloody bastard."
But if he had, he probably would have smiled.