Leon, the Mighty Gale Chapter 13
By Samara Secor
Once Ember and Marina were alone in the room that Lark had provided for his friend’s stay, Marina pulled the chair away from a small desk and sat down, leaning back and closing her eyes. “All right, Ember. Stall time’s over. Now, you’ve got to come clean. But first, tell me,” Marina’s eyes opened slightly as she studied her ex-ward carefully for his reaction. “Does this have something to do with this ‘not son’ of yours?”
“...I don’t know. I really, truly, don’t know. There’s so much that, if it were true...” Ember shook his head in frustration and began to pace. “I don’t understand it all. Maybe telling you will help clear things up a bit. It all started nineteen years ago on one of the scouting circuits our group was doing. It wasn’t our first, but we were still dealing with a bit of trouble from those who didn’t have confidence in us keeping the peace and would send us to take care of minor annoyances. They didn’t really trust us to handle the big stuff. Even though Lark was an Ausa, he was still a man...”
“..And everybody knows that the, ahem, real power in that family resides with the women,” Marina finished with a wry grin. “I wondered how Lark managed to get to the top position of a clan that’s mainly matriarchal.”
“Well, he’s an only child, so there’s not much that anybody could do about it. But, hey, he’s generally pretty good at running this place, so no one has much reason to complain,” Ember explained. “Anyway, to get back to the story. It was supposed be just another job taking care of some pirates, but we ran into some rather interesting complications....”
“Yo, Ember! Come on, fireboy, let’s get moving before the ship sets sail without us. You don’t want Lark, Sharra, and Chiron to hog all the fun, do you? I’d hate to miss out on a chance to kick some pirate butt!” Blaine exclaimed, trying to run while half dragging Ember behind him.
Ember really didn’t see any reason to hurry that much. Though his friends weren’t aware of the fact that he was the Red Dragon, they did know that he had an almost uncanny ability with fire. Since the damages to life and property would be quite high if a blaze got out of control on board, they’d have to be either really confident or extremely foolish to leave without him when they had a choice in the matter. Still, he walked a little faster to placate Blaine. “Don’t worry about it. They won’t leave without us,” Ember grinned and amended, “Correction, they won’t leave without me. You on the other hand...”
“All right, all right. I get the point,” Blaine sighed disgustedly and resigned himself to walking at the same speed as Ember. “But aren’t you at least worried about the possibility that those pirates might be attacking someone at this very moment?”
“Well...” Ember thought for a moment. “I suppose it is possible, but not too likely. All the ports are pretty much locked down right now. Who else would be fool enough to be sailing the seas right now than other pirates?”
Blaine looked out at the swirling smoke and could hear faint cries from the two ships locked together side by side in the distance. “Now, what was that you said again with your big mouth, Ember? Something about other pirates?”
“Oh, shut up...” Ember grumbled.
“If you two are quite through arguing, do you think we could turn our attention to the task at hand? Please?” Sharra asked.
“Hmph... Maybe we should just let the two pirate groups fight it out and save ourselves the trouble,” Chiron said with a frown.
“Chiron!” Lark said sharply, disapproval clear in his voice. “Those are real people out there.”
“I save the melodrama and sentiment for music and song,” Chiron replied, yawning widely. “Look, are you going to move the ship closer any time soon, or can I go take a nap? I could use the extra sleep.”
“Don’t you dare nod off. Otherwise, you’ll be singing your tunes from the ocean bottom. Get up in the crow’s nest and prepare to fly,” Ember said with a slight smirk.
A spark flashed in Chiron’s eyes, and he grinned, dropping the disinterested act. “You don’t have to tell me twice,” he called over his shoulder, already a quarter of the way up the mast by the time he finished speaking.
Once at the top, Chiron slipped a pair of gloves on his hands and waited, ready to leap as soon as they came within range. Sharra’s knuckles tightened around her mace handle while Lark tried to ignore his rising seasickness by using a mediative chant. Blaine fitted an arrow to his bow and shifted slightly, finding the most secure stance that he could in order to make each shot count. Ember reached over his shoulder and loosened his broadsword in its sheath and pondered the best way to use the chaos to their advantage.
“Ember...” Marina eyed her ex-ward suspiciously. “Don’t drag this out with longwinded battle accounts.”
Ember ran a hand through his hair. “Believe it or not, this does apply, but I’ll try to cut it short.”
The moment Chiron leaped, Ember had a feeling that something had gone horribly wrong. This feeling became a crystal clear reality when Chiron hit an invisible wall in midair and plummeted. Twisting frantically, Chiron managed catch his fingertips on the ship’s railing, but his momentum sent him swinging into the wood with a sickening thud. Sharra was the only one with enough presence of mind to grab onto his wrists before he lost his hold.
She dragged Chiron back on deck and the minstrel moaned, bringing one hand up to cover his face, “I think my nose is broken.”
“You’re lucky that’s all you broke!” Sharra exclaimed. “Hey, you guys, stop standing over there, just twiddling your thumbs, and figure out a way to get over there.”
Lark grimaced and opened his eyes. He tried hard to pretend that he was on solid ground and concentrated on the barrier. “Mm... That looks like magic folk work to me. I don’t know if I can break it on my own,” he answered.
Blaine raised an eyebrow and asked, “Are you telling me that one of those pointy eared weirdos that share your floating city has gone rogue and become a pirate?”
Lark shook his head vehemently. “No, no... Not those magic folk. I mean the others. The ones that look more like us. You know, the same type you find running around near where you live, Blaine. And I’d advise clearing up your prejudice about them. They’re really quite nice,” Lark replied.
Ember frowned thoughtfully, “So, Lark, just how much power do you think you’re going to need?”
“It’s hard to tell at this point, but Chiron can’t help in his condition, Sharra’s going to need all her reserves for healing, and Blaine won’t even try,” Lark glared at the Plains tribe member who grinned back jauntily. “And, honestly, I can’t scan your power at all even though I’ve seen evidence that you have it. I don’t want to risk knocking us both out if we’re not up to the task.”
“I think we’re up to it,” Ember said, not a trace of doubt in his voice. “But promise me that you’ll be very, very careful.”
It was pretty obvious that Lark was wondering just what type of problem there could possibly be if Ember was sure they had enough energy, “Sure, Ember. I’ll be double, no, triple cautious. Now, to combine magic we’re going to have to...”
Lark outlined a short procedure on the type of magic combination he was going to need based on the assumption that he would have to work with volume of power rather than a specific, preferred type. Ember patiently listened to it and nodded, “I’m ready whenever you are.”
Ember could feel the energy trickling out of him as Lark prepared to batter down the barrier. So concentrated was Lark on his task that, when he sneezed at a crucial moment, all the power he had gathered from Ember up to that point rushed out chaotically towards the near ship, along with other power he was continuing to drain out when he forgot to break the connection.
The sails of the near ship exploded into flame, incinerating almost instantly in the sudden wash of heat. The fighting below died down to practically nothing as people from both pirate crews scrambled to get out of the way of the pieces of flaming debris raining down on them. Ember stared at the spectacle, his mouth wide open in horror and he snapped out of his daze and yelled, “Lark, break the link... Quickly! I’ve got to do something before they’re all done for.”
Shocked out of his stupor, Lark obeyed and sank to the deck, gasping as if he’d almost forgotten how to breathe. “You... you’re...” Ember could tell from the look in Lark’s eyes that he almost certainly knew just who his fire-haired companion was now.
Ember shook his head slightly to indicate that he shouldn’t voice his realization. He turned to Blaine and said, “Come on, let’s wrap things up before something else goes wrong. And Chiron, I know you’re in a lot of pain right now, but can we count on you to peg someone one of your daggers if we need a little help?”
Chiron’s words were a little muffled since his hand was still covering his face, but Ember could hear faint sounds of agreement. “So, what’re we waiting for?” Blaine asked.
In unison, the two jumped off the railing, landing easily on the deck of the near ship which their ship had, by this time, drifted considerably closer to. Both crews stared at them as if to wonder what lunatics would fireball a ship and then board it. Ember started to motion with his hand to cut off the flames, but somebody else beat him to it.
In the far ship’s crow’s nest, stood a purple-haired figure who, from this distance, it was impossible to tell whether it was male or female. The person had both hands outstretched, their index fingers and thumbs perfectly aligned. A heavy mist flowed outward from the palms, causing each flame that it touched to sputter and die. When the fire was completely extinguished, the person turned, looking directly at Ember, and gave a mock salute.
Ember bristled, “So, that’s their magician. He’s just daring me to come over there and take a crack at him and, for two silver, I’d take him up on it!”
“Ah... Ember? I don’t mean to intrude on your little fume session, but we’ve got more immediate problems,” Blaine said, his voice slightly strained.
Ember’s focus snapped back to the ship, and he saw that a number of the pirates from both sides had decided it was in their best interests to band together against their common foe, himself and Blaine. They were almost completely surrounded. “Oh, for Althena’s sake...” Ember muttered, and he unsheathed his broadsword, using both hands for a better grip. “I really didn’t want it to come down to this.”
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