by Kalie Walker
An old piece I don't love anymore, but I'll leave it up. Pirate fantasy.
| Saiyara pretended to buy fire chocolates as she watched her most beautiful crewwoman seduce Fate.
Ruddy moonlight slanted into the circular courtyard, glinting off Fate’s black marble palace and pinkening the snowfall. Floating lanterns lent shimmer to fur cloaks, silk gowns, black hair, and snow-slick skin. Music mingled with shouting and laughter, a thousand smells swirled into one--incense, nightleaf, chocolate and alcohol, sweat, cinnamon, roasting ibex. Twisted imps and black-smoke ghosts flitted between merchant stalls, but Saiyara knew only she could see those. The swarthy, silk-bedecked captain did her best to ignore the creatures, as always.
She had no time for her demons tonight.
An enormous carved-ice dais rose above the yard, whereupon sat Fate’s council, and the woman herself. Fate--an alabaster statue with black eyes--watched a line of women dance before her. One woman in particular seemed to catch her eye. Saiyara fought back a smile.
Nazarin was perfect. Absolutely stunning. Saiyara’s youngest rigger had become a mirage of fur and silk, snake and snowfox, eyes and breasts and tumbling obsidian curls. Saiyara was so entranced by the woman’s movement she barely heard the chocolate merchant’s nagging.
“Are the scales even this time?” he spat. His many, many chins quivered in indignation.
Saiyara glanced at the scales. A pile of chocolates sat in the left dish, a bag of coins in the right. The chocolates were still too high.
“No,” she responded, for the eleventh time. The chocolate merchant cursed as she returned to her watching. She tugged at the hood of her snowfox cloak, paranoid her face was too visible...
“Now you listen to me,” barked the chocolate merchant. “I have weighed this chocolate ten times--”
“Eleven,” said Saiyara. Nazarin’s dance was over. Fate stood.
“Ten times, eleven times, a thousand times, I don’t care! Either you buy this gods-forsaken chocolate or I’ll have the castle guards on you like whores on a drunken pirate!”
A fitting simile, Saiyara thought, standing on her toes. Fate was about to make her decision.
The woman pointed. Nazarin stepped forward. Relief flooded Saiyara’s chest, and she smiled, turning back to merchant in a swirl of skirts.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” she asked, smiling sweetly. “Give it over.”
Roses blossomed in the man’s pitted cheeks as he bagged Saiyara’s purchase, cursing violently under his breath. Once the transaction was complete, Saiyara took the bag and made for the exit, sucking spicy chocolate and elbowing locals as she went.
Once outside the inner gate, Saiyara scanned the crowd. A tall woman in an ermine scarf made her way toward the outer gate, followed by another, fatter woman draped in fox fur. Saiyara fell into step beside the latter.
With hands quick from years of purse cutting, Saiyara tore the scarf from the tall woman’s neck and dropped it in the fat woman’s hands. The tall woman whipped around, face aghast. Saiyara pointed at the fat woman. “Theif!” she shouted, and the crowd turned to look. The tall woman’s mouth fell open, and the fat woman’s face went white as death.
“Now… Now see here!” she started, but it was too late. The shouting crowd was already beginning to converge, though none of their cries pierced the air like the tall woman’s. The moment the guards tending the inner gate stepped forward, Saiyara bolted, using the distraction to slip around the gatehouse and into the middle ward.
Snow crunched softly under her boots as she rounded the prison tower, concealing herself in the shadows at the base of the inner curtain. Every few seconds she glanced upward at the guards that walked the outer curtain. They can’t see you, she told herself. And yet she watched.
As she neared the Fate’s tower, squatting figures began to coalesce at its base. A smile quirked on her lips. Yayah and Taj. Saiyara dropped into a crouch as she reached them.
“Any trouble?” she whispered, throwing an arm around Yayah’s shoulders.
“Trouble,” scoffed slender, beautiful Taj. He tossed his raven mane. “Has our captain no faith in us at all?”
“Listen,” Yayah hissed. The cinnamon-skinned man-bear wagged a hand at Taj. “It’s Nazarin’s signal.”
The group went silent. Above the distant roar of celebration, a faint cooing--a dawnbird’s cooing--floated into the air. Saiyara stood, eyes flicking between the two guards nearest them atop the outer curtain.
A soft whistling of arrows, two thumps, and the guards disappeared. “Go,” Saiyara breathed, shoving Yayah and Taj as they bolted forward. She followed behind, jogging backwards to look up at the tower’s balcony. There stood Nazarin, half-dressed, disheveled, and smiling like a fool. Fate stood bound and gagged at her side, statuesque as ever.
Good girl, Saiyara thought, smiling. She locked eyes with Nazarin and placed a hand over her heart, shaking her head in exaggerated appreciation. Nazarin winked.
“Ready,” Taj whispered. Saiyara turned. Yayah and Taj each gripped one side of a large sheet; Saiyara jogged forward and grabbed a third side. The three stretched the sheet near-taut between them, and then shuffled about until satisfied with their positioning. Saiyara looked up.
Now, she mouthed at Nazarin. The T'Ankirine woman nodded, scooping slender Fate into her strong dancer’s arms and tossing her off the balcony.
Tremors rocked Saiyara’s arms as Fate hit the sheet; the woman bounced a few times before settling, never making a sound. Saiyara was sure her heart would stop as Yayah rushed forward to check Fate for injuries. The bearded giant found nothing amiss. Saiyara sighed.
Relax, she told herself.
Now you, Saiyara mouthed at Nazarin. The woman nodded, took a few steps back, and bolted forward, somersaulting off the balcony. She landed on the sheet feet-first, flipping backward through the air and hit the snow in a crouch. Taj and Yayah stared.
“Show off,” Saiyara whispered as she passed. Nazarin beamed.
Now that everyone was on the ground, Taj whipped a fashionable woman’s cloak from his pack. “It brings out your eyes,” he told Fate assuringly, draping the hooded silk over her shoulders. The woman offered no response. She stood perfectly still, back straight, gaze unseeing. Saiyara could no more read her features than she could read a stone wall.
Yayah stepped forward, and like a father handling his sleeping child, he placed his hands beneath Fate’s arms and draped her over his shoulder. Saiyara nodded in approval, and gestured for her crew to follow.
The motley five slunk back to the gates the same way Saiyara had come: along the base of the inner curtain, concealed in shadow. They paused before rounding the prison tower, hiding from the crowd that still streamed between the inner and outer entrances. Saiyara caught Taj’s eye and nodded. Taj returned the nod. The young man drew a small fused ball and a matchbook from his pocket, lit the fuse with the deftness of a serial prankster, and threw it into the crowd. The pirates covered their ears.
A deafening bang shattered the air, and the crowd went into a frenzy. With the fest-goers and guards yet again distracted, Saiyara and her followers bolted forward, slipping into the crowd. Yayah put Fate back on the ground--carrying her would be too conspicuous--and the five made their way toward the outer gate, shoving their way through the chaos, surrounding Fate to keep her hidden.
Saiyara walked directly behind Fate, checking over her shoulder every few seconds for guards. The arch of the outer gate was just passing over their heads, and the crowd was beginning to thin. We’re going to make it, she thought, relief touching her emotions. Once they reached the dark, busy streets, there would be nothing standing between them and freedo--
A twisted, black-smoke head appeared before Saiyara's face and screamed; she froze in place, and someone slammed into her from behind. She fell forward through the smoke, arms swinging, trying to catch herself on something, anything. Fabric filled her hands, but it fell with her.
Pain bloomed in her elbows as she slammed into the ground. Panic exploded in her chest as Fate’s cloak fell into her hands.
Bruised, bound, and gagged, Fate stood exposed. The crowd stared. “They’re taking Fate!” someone shouted, and Saiyara cursed, scrambling to her feet.
Yayah, Taj, and Nazarin stood dumfounded. Saiyara met their stares with an icy glare. “Go,” she snarled, and the three flew into action: Nazrin drew her knives, Taj his saber, and Yayah slung Fate over his shoulder. The four tried to run, but the crowd congealed in front of them, shoving them back.
Saiyara’s thoughts flew as she scanned the scene. Color caught her eye--a paper lantern floated just above her head.
“Taj, the basilisk,” she barked, grabbing the lantern.
A confused-looking Taj dug a green firework from his jacket and held it out. Saiyara snatched it from his hands, lit its fuse with the lantern’s flame, and flung it into the air. “Get down,” she shouted, squatting and covering her head. Her crew followed suit.
Another deafening bang, searing heat, and a flash of green, and the already turbulent crowd went hysterical. Saiyara squinted upward to see a gargantuan green-fire snake slithering through the air, threatening to brush against the fest-goers’ heads. The panicked mass practically carried Saiyara through the exit, and once the flow of people was thin enough to allow it, she broke into a dead sprint. She glanced back to make sure her crew was following.
They were. But if their expressions of resentment were anything to go by, they wouldn’t be for long.