Chapter Four: Fall From Grace
The uprising of the slaves had happened exactly as she had overheard. Two days had passed since that time in the cargo hold and the attack was on. The slaves, armed with weapons carefully taken and hidden from storage, attacked their pirate captors and began to slaughter them all without mercy. The beginning of the revolt was guerilla tactics. They took out as many as they could as quietly as possible before they were discovered. When that happened, they swarmed what pirates remained like a horde of locusts descending on crops. Both sides lost considerable numbers, but in the end, the slaves had won the upper hand.
Even with his powers and his skills in combat, Galen was brought down by the slaves. He had killed a good number of them before he found himself bound in chains and on his knees. Alexia, having sought refuge shortly after it started, watched from her hiding place as the leader of the slaves, a man with a filthy rag tied around one eye, approached Galen.
Rag Man, having picked up Galen's trident, smirked at the defeated pirate as he threw the polearm overboard. "Your men are dead, Hurricane, and your ship is now ours! You don't even have your armor or your weapon to aid you anymore. You have fallen, Pirate Lord of the South Sea!"
Galen stayed silent. He merely glared at Rag Man and the other slaves through the stringy locks of his graying hair.
Rag Man lifted the cutlass he carried and looked to the others. "Everyone! I say to celebrate our victory, we remove this bastard's head, nail it to the mast and when we reach civilization again, we use it to collect his bounty!"
The other slaves cheered in agreement.
Alexia scowled. She didn't like the pirates more than these people did, but even she didn't like the idea of one man being cornered by a large number of enemies. Even if he was a pirate, one who tried to defile her, one who enslaved her and kept her as some sort of pet, he didn't deserve this. If he was to die in battle, she'd prefer it to be one on one and somewhat honorably. That way of thinking was a result of her childhood and years of reading her book. The satchel bag she kept it in she wore around her shoulder and her broadsword, found and freed during the initial moments of the rebellion, was clutched firmly in her hand.
"I hope I don't regret doing this." She took a deep breath, emerged from her hiding place and strode towards the crowd, her sword gleaming in the sunlight. She pushed her way through the slaves and when she reached Galen at the center of the group, she turned on the others, brandishing her sword. "That's enough!"
Rag Man scowled. "Back away, girl."
"Someone get her away from there!" he ordered. A few approached her, but Alexia swung her weapon at them, threatening to slice something off should they come any closer. "Dammit, child, back away from him!" Rag Man barked.
Alexia held her ground. She looked back at Galen. "Are you alright?"
Galen spat blood. "Nothing life threatening."
"Why are you protecting that bastard?" Rag Man demanded. "Did you become attached to your master, little pet?"
"Don't call me that!" Alexia yelled at him. "I'm not his pet, I'm no one's pet!"
"Lies!" someone shouted from the back. It was the female that she had overheard days before. "Move out of the way, whore!"
"I AM NOT A WHORE!" she screamed defiantly. "I AM STILL PURE!"
"If that is the case, then why do you decide to defend the pirate?!" Rag Man shouted. "You know just as well as any of us what men like these are capable of! You've been kept away from your home, your family, just like us, why are-" he stopped. His eyes lingered on the satchel bag. He pointed his cutlass at it. "That bag..."
One of her hands clutched it and pushed the bulk of it out of the way. "It's my bag and it's got nothing to do with this."
"The hell it does!" Rag Man glowered. "I remember that bag, you were wearing that when we brought aboard. I remember it because you went crazy after some pirates tried to take it away from you. What are you doing with it?"
Alexia looked around. "I...I..."
"I gave it to her," Galen spoke up, breaking his silence. He rose to his feet, his metal bindings clinking as he moved. "Is that a problem for any of you?"
Rag Man sneered. "AHA!" He jabbed a bloody finger at Alexia. "PROOF! Proof that he's been treating you far better than any of us. Why? Because you're his favorite!"
The crowd of slaves rippled with angry murmurs and swears.
"I didn't ask him to give it to me!" Alexia said defensively. "I just told him why I attacked his crew in the first place and then he sent me off to help in the kitchen. When I came back, it was there on the table!"
"We should just kill the both of them!" the woman in the back yelled. "Do it!"
"No!" Rag Man shouted. "I have no problem killing the pirate, but I will not be the one to stain my hands with the blood of a child." He looked at the others. "Any of you wish to be a child-butcher?" he challenged. "Step forward and give it a chance if you think you've got the balls to do it."
No one stepped forward.
Rag Man nodded. "That's what I thought." He looked at Alexia. "We'll spare you, child, but we won't spare him!" he hissed, pointing his blade past her. "Move out of the way, now!"
"NO! I won't let your swords or pikes or anything that you have touch him!"
One of the slaves behind Rag Man grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back a step. He craned his neck back and listened as the slave who touched him whispered something in his ear. After a couple of moments, Rag Man nodded and turned back to the child. "How about an alternative?"
She was wary. "What are you talking about?"
Rag Man cleared his throat. "We won't cut into him, as you've demanded. However, we still don't want him or you on this boat. Now, since we can't kill you and you won't let us kill him without putting yourself in danger, how about this: you two go into the sea and we sail off?"
"You would leave us in the ocean and just watch you sail off?" Alexia asked, unsure if she had heard it the first time. "That's your alternative?"
Rag Man shrugged. "Either that or we run him through and whatever happens to you, it happens. We wouldn't want to kill a child, but if it's unavoidable, then we'd have no problem living with it. We wouldn't have done it maliciously, you would be a mere casualty of circumstance."
Galen scoffed. "Whatever you'd have to tell yourselves to get a good night's sleep, eh?"
"As if you have any right to judge, pirate," Rag Man snapped. "How about it, girl? Does that sound better for you?"
Alexia thought for a long moment, then looked at Galen. Why she looked to him, she didn't know, but when he nodded to her, she had the answer. "Alright then." She turned back to Rag Man. "Let's do that."
Rag Man smiled. "Good." He glanced at those on either side of him. "Grab her."
Before she could move, Alexia found herself being manhandled by two slaves, each one of them having a tight grip on her arms. She still held onto her sword, but she wasn't able to swing it. "Unhand me!" she cried. "What are you doing?!"
Rag Man waved a hand to those behind Galen. Alexia watched as they secured iron blocks to his bindings. "Since you won't let us cut into him, then we'll just carry out the plan we decided on. We'll toss you both overboard, but we'll carry it out a little differently than you thought," explained the one-eyed slave. "We're attaching weights to the captain, so that we'll both get what we want. You won't get to see him butchered and we know that he'll die.
"You? We'll keep our word and just send you off the boat. Assuming that you can swim, of course, you may be able to make it. This way, if you die, it won't be by our hands, but by the hands of God."
The slaves dragged Galen to the side of the ship and without a moment's hesitation, threw him in his weighted bondage over the railing. Alexia could hear the splash as the Pirate Lord hit sea-water. "That's a cruel way to die!"
"And a man like him deserves a cruel death!" Rag Man argued. "Because of you, we won't be able to use his head to claim the bounty, but I suppose we can take his pirate mark as proof." He pointed to the black flag that flapped in the wind on the highest mast of the ship. "Every ally ship he has in his fleet bears its own version of that mark, but Galen's own flag is unique. We'll take it, claim the reward and the world will be rid of not just a notorious slaver, but rid of a Pirate Lord as well. Everybody wins."
Alexia glared daggers.
"Oh, don't be so angry, child." Rag Man smiled. "You'll still be able to live. However, if you're really so angry about our idea with the slaver, then here." He held up an iron keyring; it only held one key. "This is the key that opens his chains. If you care so much for your master, then see if you can reach him!" He threw them overboard.
Before she could realize what was happening, Alexia found herself flying over the railing as well. Before she hit the water, she took a deep breath and let the ocean swallow her whole. Remarkably, her sword and her bag hadn't left her side. With them safe, she peered through the blue, trying to find Galen. Even with her reasons that he was suffering a cruel death, she still didn't quite understand her own mind as to why she wanted to save him. She spotted him sinking quickly beneath her and she hurried to meet him.
As she pedaled through the water, she was witness to a bizarre and magnificent incident. Galen, though bound as he was, was worming his way out of the heavy chains and the weight that was dragging him down to his death. Not only that, but from what she could see through the water, he was undergoing a transformation of some sort. His legs, once kicking, came together and became a long, powerful tail that began at his waist; the long fingers on his hands became webbed; and, as he broke free of the chains and swam upward, she saw him in his full glory.
She screamed! Or, at least, she tried to. She opened her mouth to scream, but all the air she was holding in escaped and flew to the surface above in a frenzy of bubbles. Galen, or what was once Galen, took her by the waist and swam hard and fast to the surface. Soon, the two of them breached the surface and Alexia began to take large gulps of fresh air. Amazingly, she was still holding on to her belongings. The key, however, had been lost below during her shock.
She broke free of Galen and swam away from him before she turned and began to tread water. "You're a merman?!" she shrieked.
Galen looked at her very casually. "I am," he replied calmly. "You're surprised."
"Of course I am!" she kept on shouting. "First, I risk my own skin trying to save you from getting skewered and then I risk my own life again to save you from drowning, but it turns out you're one of those fish-people!"
He held up a webbed finger. "Hold that thought," he said before disappearing beneath the waves.
Alexia looked around her, but saw no trace of him. She even looked under the water, but could not see him. Pulling her head back out, she swore, "If you're trying to see something from below, you've got another thing coming, Galen!"
"I'm not doing that."
If she was on solid ground, she would have jumped so much, she would've surely lost her footing and fallen over. She turned to see Galen again, but this time, he was holding his orichalcum trident. "What-"
"They threw this overboard," he explained, holding up the polearm. "I needed it back, so I went looking for it."
"You left me!" Alexia cried. "I thought you left me to die!"
Galen shook his head. "I would not have done that. I just had to collect my weapon." He looked at the bag. "Is that thing waterproof?"
She shook her head. "I don't know, and I can't think of that right now! I am lost at sea, a slave to a merman, and I have no idea what's going to happen to me right now!" She looked at Galen. She had never seen a real merperson before, but she had heard stories. Supposedly, they were beautiful creatures, but seeing him, she could only assume that that only referred to the females of the species. To her, with his body and his facial hair, Galen really did look like some sort of giant catfish. "So, now what do we do?"
"Now?" Galen swam to her and reached over. With her load, she couldn't begin to bat him away, but Alexia was surprised when his free hand undid the collar that was kept around her neck. It fell into the water with a light plop and sank between them. "Now, you're a free girl, Alexia."
She stared at him. "What do you think you're doing?" A deep frown crossed her face. "If you think I'll bed with you out of gratitude, then-"
The merman shook his head. "It's nothing like that, Alexia."
"Then what is it!"
He was hesitant. "You've saved my life back there."
She blinked. "What?"
He nodded. "Because of you, I wasn't gutted like a pig. Because of you, they thought of a way to kill me that actually worked in my favor. You saved my life and for that, I'm grateful. Not only that, but I'm indebted to you. As shameless as it is for me to admit that a child saved me from death, that's how it is. I owe you my life, Alexia. Whatever happened between us-"
"NOTHING happened between us!"
"Whatever happened in the past, think of it as something that never happened. I owe you my life and I will do what I can to repay that debt. Wherever you go, I will go and whatever you need of me, I will do it. If you need protection, I will be your shield." He swam closer to her. "If you need mobility, then I will be your vessel. Just ask of me what you will and I will do it."
Alexia's mind was in a whirlwind. She could barely comprehend anything that was going on or being said, but she did her best to get a hold on the situation. She slowly shook her head, trying to figure things out. Finally, she looked up at Galen. "You asked me once before, what brought me out to the seas."
He nodded. "I remember."
"I said that I was no bounty hunter by trade and I meant it. If I have to, then I will do it to earn a living, but I am out here for one reason: a man."
"A man?" Galen's eyes widened with surprise. "A specific man or-"
"For love or for revenge?"
He smiled. No wonder he never had a chance with her, she was fighting to keep herself pure for a man that she was looking for! "Interesting."
"If you really want to help me, Galen," she said slowly, "then help find us a piece of land. Get us out of the open sea and on some solid ground so that I can continue my search."
"Is that all?" he asked.
She thought for a moment, then smirked. "Try not to get us killed along the way, hm?"
And so, two very different people, having met under the most extreme of circumstances and bound together by the hatred of others, became allies. One was in search of love and one was in debt to the other. Galen and Alexia would come to find land and from that point on, they would become involved in wonderful adventures.