When they finally allow her to see, the light blinds her completely. Her eyes water, and she blinks rapidly, a couple of stray tears rolling down her cheeks. Who removed her blindfold, she does not know, because they scuttle along before she can lay eyes on them. She has been tied to the foremast at the bow of the ship, facing towards the water. She can hear the party settling in as the crew finishes loading the last of the cargo. After her illuminating, if mildly alarming, conversation with the Accuser, and after adeptly ignoring the Nobleman's penetrating gaze, she was gagged and remained gagged hours after boarding.
She looks up at the clear blue sky.
So bright, it seems unreal as if a clean bed sheet has been placed over her cursed corner of the world. Something so commonplace as the sky above her, the stray wispy clouds that float here and there, the seabirds hovering just above the waves, flapping their wings in unison, seems extraordinary to her now. She never gave it a second thought before, and here she was, standing on the deck of an Albenian ship, her face facing the heavens, hair pricking at her neck, and her eyes wide open.
Her eyes are wide open.
She could still hear. She could still see. She was still breathing. And more importantly, she was not dead.
Maybe she was bluffing, she thinks to herself as she listens to the waves roll and hit against the side of the boat, the bowsprit swaying with the force of it.
Again, she hears the men around her grunt as they work the ropes and unload the crates onto the vessel, but every time she attempts to look sideways, the thick, navy hood they placed over her before boarding obstructs her view. Most likely, an attempt to conceal her identity from prying eyes, though the whispers still reach her ears. While the larger chains were removed before she boarded, her wrists and ankles remain shackled. Now and again, if she shifts too much or moves in any way that they deem threatening, the chains begin to vibrate, and something zaps at the air around her.
She can feel them pulsating against her skin now, warm to the touch, scorching when functioning properly. For the millionth time, she wonders how and where they were made. She could not recognize the make of the chains, she could not sense where their power came from, or how they managed to neutralize her own. Repelling curses and reversing spells was common practice, but to render one completely powerless was another matter entirely. She inspects them now, and in the light of the midday sun, she sees the dark, purple veins that run through the cold metal, very similar to the scars that now run from her forearms to her elbows. The metalwork remains intact, as pristine as the day they were clasped on her.
She clicks her tongue.
The floor beneath her shifts once again, and her attention is redirected to the water. To her left, she can see the Albenian coast disappear into the haze of the Sine Woods, flickering like a visage and darkening into a sea of mist where the swamplands began, and the Sakral River clashed with the salty waves of the Dhorado Firth. And just above the haze, one could scarcely make out the snowy peaks of the Krounen Mountains in all their imposing glory. She remembers her years' training, high up and deep in between the crooked pine trees that made up the Krounen flora.
Fac fortia et patere.
She closes her eyes to the memory. Fuck your fac fortia, she remembers spitting back as icy water rained from above, and the sting of the strike that followed, her face already recovering from a black eye and a broken nose. She begins to smile but quickly winces, the gag biting into the sides of her mouth.
They should be sailing north, straight through the Fyrth, and while it was impossible to see the port of Edoran from where she stood, she knew not what awaited her across the waters. She detested not knowing.
Suddenly, from her left, she sees the shadow of the Nobleman as he walks past her and casually enters her field of vision. While she had been able to sense his presence before, she could not now, and as her eyes followed him, she raises her eyebrows slightly in understanding. Not many could ebb the reaches of their mien, and those who could rarely did so since it indeed was a double-edged sword. Granted, they had limited her ability to access that power, but sensing was more intuitive than it was mystical.
But as it was, if she could not sense him, he could not sense her.
The Nobleman stands in front of her, leaning slightly against the wooden side of the ship, his hands busy peeling an apple. He wields the knife leisurely, but with deadly precision, the peel slowly elongating as he rotates the fruit. Her eyes are fixed on the dark green leather that encircles the handle, amber beads encrusted at random intervals, no pattern visible.
"We will be departing soon," he says, but he does not meet her gaze. The apple continues to rotate, blade slicing. When he is satisfied with the length of the peel, he severs it and casts it out towards the sea. He then carefully begins slicing the apple in half. "We should arrive at dawn."
There is a snap as the apple finally splits in half, revealing seedy insides and a rotten core. He looks up, and his eyes are unrelenting.
"Will we arrive at dawn?"
For once, she is grateful for the gag. The seagulls cry above them, and the sea breeze ruffles their coats. She hears the captain give out his orders, and suddenly the ship begins to drift away from the pier slowly. She looks to the side, at the calm sea, the bright Sun, the cloudless sky once more. Her eyes meet the Nobleman's own.
She nods her head once.
His eyes stay on her for a quick second before returning to his blade. With a swift movement, he returns the knife to his pocket and tosses the halves into the ocean. He looks at the horizon, rays of Sun outlining his face, as the shrill voice of the Accuser reaches their ears, and it seems that the Nobleman's attention drifts elsewhere. Nonchalantly, he makes his way past her.
Or so she thinks.
Suddenly, she feels his hand curl around her neck and slams her against the mast. The gag makes it difficult for her to breathe and, as his fingers tighten around her neck, she gasps soundlessly for air. He stands so close he towers over her, the Sun creating a halo around his head. In the darkness, his eyes seem feral. When he speaks, his tone borders on apathetic.
"There is nowhere you can go that I cannot follow."
Their eyes meet, and the air around them seems to crackle as blood rushes to her ears. She knows he means every word of it. He would drag her out of the very pits of hell if he had to.
And he could.
But she does not cower. Instead, she cranes her neck to look up at the Nobleman, and her gagged lips spread into her reptilian smile. She feels the gag bite into the sides of her lips once more, but she does not flinch. She does not fear him. She had killed many like him, what would another life weigh on her already laden conscience?
And she knew that while he could not sense her murderous intent, he could see it flash deep within the abysses of her eyes. She looked devastating. She would not hesitate.
She nods again.
His expression remains impassive, and when he finally steps back and slips away, she takes a deep breath and releases a muffled cough. She can still feel his thumb pressing against her neck, hear his footsteps as he walks away. As rage rises and boils over within her, she remembers a time when she was powerful enough to sever heads, not nod at them.
And as she hears them talk through their lunch, while she is force-fed mush, she imagines poisoning them all after a sumptuous feast, the Nobleman gagging at her feet. And when they use a funnel and make her drink the nasty, stored water, she imagines them all drowning in their own vile. And when they once again place that revolting gag into her mouth, she imagines slicing their tongues and feeding them to their hounds.
And as time passes, her mind continues to reimagine the many ways she could dispose of everyone on this vessel, if she only had the strength to do so.
But she might not have to, because if what she was seeing was correct, if that small, gray cloud forming in the horizon was what she thought it was, then Gródur Un had not been bluffing and everyone on this ship was unequivocally and inescapably fucked.
Thunder rumbles above her, and when she looks up, she groans. Thirteen ravens, flying in perfect circles above her head. They caw once in unison, and as lightning flashes and spreads through the clear blue sky, one of them stops flapping its wings and falls. With a thud, it lands in front of her feet, it's brains scattered everywhere. In its mouth, a tuft of blonde hair tied with a black ribbon.
The rest follow.
A dead raven hits her shoulder beak first, and she feels a sharp pain, her scream muffled. She feels something warm ooze from her shoulders, and she curses the day she ever crossed path with that wretched witch.
She hears the crew members begin to panic as twelve corpses fall from the sky, their thuds sounding ominously clear despite the now growing number of thunder clouds that clash destructively against each other, sending lightning bolts racing everywhere. It darkens quickly, and the waves slosh against the sides, making it hard to keep her balance. Raindrops begin to mottle the floorboards, and she sees as the raven before her, and the one lying next to her feet begin to dissolve, frothing and hissing like an infected wound. A flash of lightning and a loud crack, she hears as the wood from the mainmast splinters and fractures and soon a rain of wood and ropes flies around her, the boat swaying violently to the left.
The rain is now a downpour of heavy droplets, and she can see nothing, her ears accosted by the loud noises coming from behind and above her. The bowsprit dips dangerously into the waters, and for a brief moment, lightning flashes, and she sees before her as waves become walls as high as mountains. She is once again engulfed in rain and darkness, she smells something burning. She hears another mast breaking, and the ship once again sways violently, so fast her feet slip, and she slides abruptly down the mast, her wounded shoulder stretching painfully.
A figure appears before her, and she feels relief, believing that someone would finally untie her and allow her to at least fend for herself. Instead, the figure rips the gag from her mouth and grabs her face in anger.
"YOU," she sees now that it is the Accuser who shouts at her through the rain, his uniform in disarray, a bloody gash on his forehead. "What have you done?!"
She sputters and chokes, the water invading every orifice. She looks up at the Accuser through wet tendrils of hair as he too struggles to maintain his balance. He looks so perplexed, so scared. Thunder follows lightning, and his shoulders shake, and his knees buckle.
Through the rain and the waves, she begins to laugh.
A loud, boisterous cackle, so hard her lungs hurt, and her sides spasm. Waves now flood the ship, sending torrents of seawater that smash against their bodies. Her back hits the mast hard, but this only makes her laugh harder.
"Did you think," she laughs back at him, fat rivulets of water trickling down her chin, her hair plastered to her skull as the rain beat down from above. "Did you really think you could just send me back!?"
The Accuser stares at her in astonishment, sending a worried glance to the side, which she follows only to find that the Nobleman has been standing beside the Accuser the entire time, shrouded by his now soaking coat. This sends another wave of laughter through her.
"I am cursed," she shouts in between chortles of laughter. "To the high heavens!"
The Accuser slaps her across the face. "Cease at once, y-y-you wretched whore!"
"You're shouting at the wrong whore. Gródur Un, however," she wheezes and coughs as water once again descends upon them. The force of it sends the Accuser on one knee. "Now, that's a real bitch."
Lightning cracks open the skies above, and this time, the Accuser strikes her face directly, and she feels her lip split, head banging against the mast.
"I'm afraid I can't do that," she shrugs, a hint of an apologetic smile on her bloody lips. She shrugs as if the world was not falling around them, and the fates of everyone on board had not been sealed the second this ship left for Edoran. "Me, slaughtering her great-granddaughter and all."
His shocked expression amuses her, and her cackles are heard across the ship. What remains of the crew cowers in fear, begging the gods to smite the cursed woman who has summoned the wrath of the evil ones. While the Albenians skeptics see this as a miscalculation of the weather patterns, the Vistelian crew members let their superstition run wild. They have gathered that the only way to abate the storm would be to slit her throat, as an offering to whichever deity they managed to upset. The storm would only last as long as she did.
She sees this same superstition, mingled with pure, unadulterated hatred, infecting the mind of the Accuser as he removes his sword from its sheath, and clumsily makes his way towards her. The massive, metal blade clanks against the floor once before he swings it high above his head, his expression one of sheer madness. The Nobleman struggles to step forward.
She closes her eyes momentarily and sends a quiet prayer to Gródur Un, wherever she may be.
Lightning flashes so bright it lights up the sky as if it were day, her eyes blinking rapidly against the rain. The ship dips perilously low one last time. And behind his raised sword, the light hitting the blade like a beacon, she sees it. So tall, it swallows the sky.
She sees the wave.