The young Prince did the honor of divesting Sunny of his shackles personally. His knuckles brushed the bared small of his back while he maneuvered the key, and Sunny shuddered in spite of himself.

"Are you injured?" he asked. Once again, the slave to Sunny's left turned his head ever-so-slightly when he heard the dialect. Sunny eyed him suspiciously but didn't call him on it. Instead he turned back to the Prince.

"I'm wearing a napkin. Look for yourself. See any bruises?"

"No," he answered, trailing the back of his hand over Sunny's shoulder. "You are unflawed."

He repressed another shiver and shook the Prince's hand off. "Fresh!" he snapped.

His men were watching with blatant interest; raised eyebrows but closed mouths. "How did you get off the ship?" Sunny demanded of the shorter man. The Prince had been looking down the line of slaves, but when Sunny spoke he turned his head.

"With the knife y- "

"I didn't ask you! I asked him."

The Prince hooked his thumbs into his belt and considered Sunny. "You're quite a mouthpiece. You want for taming."

Sunny scoffed noiselessly but didn't reply verbally, feeling a little stung.

"In answer to your question, which he cannot answer because he does not speak your language; I used your knife to free myself and...barter free passage...into the city. The empty ship is now at the bottom of the bay and the passengers in the hold are free to do whatever they wish. I will be commandeering another vessel from pirates still faithful to my father and returning to my home to aid in putting down this ridiculous rebellion."

While he yammered, Sunny looked over the skinniest of the downed guards and began plucking at his clothes. His pants were blue cotton, to match the owl emblem the slaver had emblazoned all over the tent. The waistband was about five inches too big for him, but if he laced the sides tight enough they only sagged a little around his hips. The white cloth that had covered his modesty got cut into strips to hold his hair up and back. "What about them?" Sunny asked, gesturing to his former fellows. When the first guards hit the floor, gurgling on their own blood, a few of the young men had glanced up. Now they were all watching, and the expressions on their faces ranged from 'Haha you bitch, you like that?' to 'Oh, my God, I'm in so much trouble'.

"Free them," The Prince said to his companions, and they moved very quickly to obey.

When the first boy was unshackled, a small scuffle broke out which ended in the pirate on his back and the boy in a defensive crouch holding the man's knife out in front of him.

"Bali agra ammemon!" he cried. Don't touch me! "Sha hapa ma'fuki!" Get away from me! His eyes proved to be a wonderful shade of brown, but they were so wild he didn't look very pretty.

"Alright, leave. You can take my horse, he's outside. Black.(1)" The Prince said, while Sunny waited impatiently for someone to translate.

Still holding the knife up, the boy slunk outside with hurried glances cast over his shoulders all the way. A moment later they heard a horse squealing and iron-shod hooves clacking on the stones of the street.

"Where is he going?!" the slave-bard demanded furiously. "Bring him back here! You know he's just going to get picked up again!"

"I'll give him an hour to cool down. Then I'll have him brought back to the harbor to be fed and bathed."

"What's going on?" Sunny said. "What are you saying?"

The bard lowered his hackles minutely but his eyes kept wandering back to the tent flap worriedly. By now he and the boy before him were free and rubbing their wrists gently.

The pirate doing the unshackling waited until his compatriot was back on his feet and at on his blind side before leaning around to free the bodyguard. They both glowered at him suspiciously, but he made no move to collect his weapons once he could and they cautiously turned to the half-breed at Sunny's right.

"Are you going to let them all leave?" Sunny wondered, shrugging into the guard's bloodstained shirt.

"Don't put that on, it's bloody," The Prince said. "Take mine." He untied his cloak and pulled an elaborately worked doublet off to reveal a loose black shirt beneath. Naked, his torso was wrought with muscle and still patched with yellowish bruises, which disappeared once more when he put his jacket on again.

Sunny obediently dropped the guard's rags and pulled the Prince's shirt over his head. It was still warm.

"I'll let them all go, if they like, but I suggest they return to the ship with us to get dropped off someplace a little less-- opportunistic. Everyone except the Jazzepine, that is." He nodded at the tiger, who seemed to know what he meant and quirked his mouth lightly.

"Jazzepine?" Sunny said, except it came out more 'Jah-seppin' because the word was unfamiliar.

"He's part of a royal militia in the next Kingdom over. That country's monarchy was just overthrown and all the nobles enslaved (which is probably why he's here) and thanks to the kinds of punishment his people have for pirates, he can stay his self here.(2)"

Turning, the Prince addressed the group at large: "Come back with me to my ship and I'll drop you at the next port we come to. You may stay here." He said to the tattooed boy, who grinned outright now. "Otherwise, you are all free to leave."

The pirate half-breed immediately made for the tent flap. "If I may make a suggestion, little brother, come with us. You won't make it far in this city with a face like yours, especially if people think you're a stray."

The scarlet-eyed boy sulked for a moment, but stepped back from the flap to let the pirates by.

The Prince of Pirates paused in the doorway to look back at Sunny, who was very pointedly NOT following him. He was wearing a mutinous little moue on his beautiful face.

"Coming?"

"You said I was free."

"You're free to come with me."

"I feel like taking a horse and following the crazy boy."

The Prince lowered the hand he'd held out to Sunny. "You're not that free," he corrected.

"You'd save me from one slaver just to turn around and drag me onto your ship to do God knows what to me?! What kind of raw deal is this? I thought you were the good guy!"

The Prince considered this for a moment while his eyes laughed. "Well," he said finally, "I'm still a pirate."

He extended his hand again, while Sunny whined something like 'But I don't even know your NAME!'.

"COME." He said.

-------------

(1) Italics in speech signify a language change. Sunny can't understand that one.

(2) Vague and pointless connection to Black Horse on my Cobaltshy account. This will probably mean a lot to like...two people. Anyway, it makes ME smile. Don't worry about it.