CHAPTER 1 HUNTED

The fog curled under her feet with each step she took. The lounge ahead was almost invisible behind the sheets of rain. She could hear the shingles clashing in the wind. Chastel grasped the dagger she held tightly. She knew it would not cut her. The rain had made her pitch black shift stick to her body smoothly. Her long black hair stayed in a perfect braid down her spine to the top of her waist. Though her feet were bare, the icy rain did not bother her.

As she entered the lounge, she safely concealed the dagger to a spot on her calf beneath the shift. She straitened out her dress so it hung loosely to the floor. She quietly entered the main room of the lounge and glanced at the people sitting inside. Most were men, homeless heathens to be exact. A couple of shady traders slouched in chairs in the back of the room, hoping to make a quick buck. Some wealthier men sat in a tight knot whispering faintly to themselves. Only one table was empty, and this is where Chastel was headed.

As she stepped into the yellowish light, men's heads turned to face her. This was not surprising since not many women ever came into the lounge, let alone women who were six feet and two inches tall. Chastel was pretty short for her age. In a area occupied by elves, being a half elf was greatly looked down upon. Her dark eyes sparkled even in this gloomy room, giving her a special radiance. Her ivory colored skin seemed to glow like the moon on a cloudless night. The lips on her face were full and coppery with a hint of rose tint in the corners.

Chastel's mind was not as calm as her body seemed.

"Why are they all staring at me?" she pondered. Her heart seemed to be pounding in her head. The memories of her past cut through her thoughts. No matter how hard she tried to hold them back, they came full force.

"Pick it up Chas!" bellowed a growling Captain Mollar. His eyes were burning down Chastel's neck as she picked up the fallen orange from the ship's deck. "Don't let me see you slacking again!" Chastel knew the punishment, whipping, would soon occur. She hated being a ship maid, despised every minute of it. She knew that Captain Mollar had killed her family, no matter how much he denied it.

Suddenly, the loud noise of a trader dropping a silver tray he was trying to sell brought her back to reality.

She rubbed her head as if it ached and took a seat at the table. It's then that she saw him, a young man with golden hair. He was accused of piracy and she had been sent to finish him off. He looked innocent, but then so did she. Chastel was well aware of the crimes she'd done. In a way she was proud of them. As far as she knew it was the only way to one day get revenge on Captain Mollar.

The young man's name was Drake McCurren. His eyes were a deep green, and his skin was a buttery tan.

As Chastel glanced to where he sat, he smiled, and his eyes gave an inviting glint. Chastel could not help but return the smile as she got up and strided over to him.

"Hello," he said his voice deep and smooth.

"Hi," she returned calmly despite her current anxiety. "Do I know you?" she questioned with a sudden recognition from something in his face.

"I don't believe so, but I see so many people I could have forgotten." He answered, but from the way he looked she could tell he was lying. She was barely paying attention now. Her mind was drifting back through her memories.

Chastel was sitting on the deck of the Sea Duchess, Captain Mollar's ship, scrubbing the sea salt and grime away. Tear from the ten year old were splashing on the boards as she worked. A young boy about twelve years old was walking across the deck eating a biscuit when he saw the young girl crying. He sat down beside her and picked up a sponge and started to scrub as well.

"What are you doing," said the sniffling Chastel.

"Helping you scrub," the boy laughed. "What does it look like?"

"Oh," she said cautiously, but becoming more happy.

"I'm Drake," said the blonde boy cheerfully. "What's your name?"

"Chastel," she said while letting out a small giggle.

"That's a nice name," he complimented. Chastel blushed.

"Yours isn't that bad either." They stared at each other for a long moment and…

"Excuse me? Um, miss?" Drake had spoken, bringing Chastel out of her only happy memory. She knew she had recognized him, but she was so upset she didn't care anymore.

"You've been accused of piracy!" she abruptly shot in, "Just like your father!" She was saying this so loudly that everyone in the room turned to see what would happen next.

"How do you know about my father?" he questioned, his anger slightly bubbling just below the surface.

"I know because I was sent to do away with you!" she yelled. "I know all about the crimes you and that filthy, stealing, prodigal father of yours have done." She seemed not to care now who was watching. She had a job to do and she would do it. "See," she said pulling out her dagger, "I was ready at any moment."

"Go ahead then," he said almost too calmly for his current position, "kill me."

"I've done this before to others just like you. It won't be hard." She cocked, but as she raised the dagger she realized two things. One, she could not kill him, and two, there was a large crowd now waiting for blood to be spilled. She lowered the dagger while smirking. "No free show tonight boys!" she announced. She looked down at Drake who was now looking a little frightened. "Oh, get up!" she ordered, "Move it! Out the door!" As she led him out the door, she could she him shake. "He's afraid of me," she thought finding it sort of funny.

Once in the rain, she led him away from the lounge. She looked back. There was only one shadow of a person. Nothing to worry about she thought. She slid the dagger back on her calf.

"What, what are you doing?" Drake stammered.

"Go on, Get! I'm not in the mood!" she yelled at him. "Just don't let me see you again!" Drake had stop shaking and was now smiling.

"You were never going to kill me were you?"

"Yes I was! I still could! I was just not feeling up to it tonight. You should be grateful I'm letting you go." Her voice was weakening.

"Oh, I'm grateful. But you can kill me if you really want to," he pushed.

"I…I, I cannot," she said hopelessly, "not you, the only one who ever cared." Her eyes were filling up with tears as she spoke.

"What do you mean? We only just met," he teased.

"I used to be a ship maid on the Sea Duchess," she explained, "I was only ten and was scrubbing the deck when you came by and helped me. Your father and you were only on the ship to overpower the captain and take the gold, but you talked to me. Everyone else only yelled. My name is Chastel. I am now an assassin." Her face was lined with tears. The tears were part from admitting her life, and part from knowing that since she did not kill him her punishment would be death.

She fell to her knees in the middle of a puddle and let out a plaintive cry. "How could this have happened!" she screamed towards the heavens, "Now I am to die because I did not kill, yet all the times I slayed I survived!" Her tears burned her cheeks and eyes, and the rain soaked down to her skin. Drake bent down and pulled her off the ground.

"How can you stand looking at me when you know the only reason I am here is to kill you," she whispered through her sobs.

"Because you didn't kill me," he answered, his voice steady and sounding truly full of care.

"But I wanted to..." her voice trailed off.

"No, you didn't," his voice was so sweet. Chastel had stopped crying and was just staring at him now. "If you had wanted to kill me, you would have."

"But I…I…I don't want to die," she was speaking so softly now her voice could barely be heard against the rain.

"Who would," was all he said, but to Chastel it seemed like the best thing she had ever heard. She collapsed in his arms and he held her tight. Even though she knew she would soon have a bounty on her head and that the rain was pounding down on them, this was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to her. Drake bent down and kissed her forehead for what seemed like hours to Chastel. Chastel looked up into his eyes remembering the boy he used to be and the man he had become. She leaned in to kiss him but something came from behind and yanked her back.

She tried to hit whatever pulled her. From the grasp of the hands on her arms, and the smell of very cheap cologne, she could tell it was a man.

"We told you to kill him," a raspy voice said into her ear, "but here I find you embracing him. I thought when I was sent to spy on you I was going to witness some of your handiwork. From what Mr. Shilrey said I thought you were the best. You obviously have a weakness though," He grumbled glancing at Drake.

Her fury was rising. She was the best! They all knew it! She could fight off dozens of skilled fighters by herself. She was the most skilled in daggers, swords, axes, and hand-to-hand combat. Thinking of weapons reminded her she still had her dagger on her leg.

"You still may witness some of my work, personally." She lifted her left leg as she spoke and used her toes to grab the dagger off the right calf. She then swung her leg back. The dagger went right into the man's leg. He let go of her to grab his leg. Chastel had already grabbed her dagger back though. In one swift movement she sliced through both his arms. The man then kicked her with his good leg. Drake pulled the man down from behind as Chastel struck his other knee with the blade. "He won't die, but he can't walk or crawl after us," she said breathlessly. Chastel grabbed Drake's hand and pulled him into the woods.

They ran the whole night even though the rain never ceased to fall till sunrise. At mid-dawn they stopped in a clearing to rest. The grass they laid on was soaking, but it didn't matter. They were already too wet to notice.

"More…will come," Chastel panted.

"Who is Mr. Shilrey?" Drake gasped.

"My boss and trainer," she explained, "When I was sixteen I was able to leave the ship. That day I swore my revenge on the captain. I needed to learn how to fight. I wanted to learn to kill." Chastel's voice was serious, "I looked up Mr. Shilrey after I heard about a raid he did on the dock. He trained me in all weaponry and I learned fast." Chastel started to sound prideful of her powerful skills, "By the time I was seventeen he was sending me to do away with his rivals. I started doing some of the missions away from him for money. I was too good. I liked my job, maybe too much.

"For my nineteenth birthday he wanted to give me a special assignment. He had been losing his planned raids on ships to someone else. Mr. Shilrey believed that you were the one raiding the ships, just like your father used to. So he sent me to kill you. If I had, I would have become his second-hand fighter." As she finished her tale he could tell there was a small bit of disappointment in her voice.

"And you did all this just to get revenge on some captain?" He asked trying to comprehend all he had just heard.

"Yes, that's how it started. Ti seems so stupid now." Chastel was blushing at her own admittance. "But I have to find Captain Mollar. I have to finish what I started."

"Captain Mollar? The man you were a maid for?" asked Drake.

"Yes that's what I said," she retorted.

"Chastel, Mollar has been dead for two years. He went overboard during a storm." His voice sounded strained, "I heard when I was at the dock to pick up my father's ship."

"So I've trained, killed, and ran for nothing! I practically sold my life to my revenge, and he's dead already!" She was trying to sound angry but she sounded hurt above all.

"It wasn't for nothing. If you had never become an assassin we never would have met again. I really believed that I had lost you." He had the familiar deep tone in his voice again, "Chastel, I love you."

The wind started to blow and Chastel grabbed her braid, pulled out its holder, and let the wind gently unwind it. She stepped over to Drake and held him tight.

"I love you too," she whispered. This time as she leaned in to kiss him nothing pulled her back. He loved her, and she loved him. That was all that mattered for the moment they kissed.

When they parted Chastel looked over to the summit on their right. There were dozens of men there with swords and axes. She turned and looked at Drake and he could tell she was worried.

"Don't worry. You're a killer, and I'm a pirate. This should be easy." He held her hand and they waited for the battle to begin.