The deck was alive with activity. Hyram was left on his own. They had no reason to guard him after all, he had no where to go. Being shackled as he was, even jumping overboard was suicidal. He saw crew members load up cannons and aiming them as others were bringing up armfuls of weapons from the armory. Miss Fortune seemed surprisingly calm, a stern expression on her face as one finger danced across the handle of her holstered pistol.
Hyram was broken from his train of thought by the sound of cannon fire coming from the bow of the larger ship closing in on them. It was a monster of a vessel with rows of huge cannons, obviously not built for speed like the bounty hunters ship, but for range and raw power. He could already see pirates lining up along the railing of both ships, ready to engage each other as soon as they got close enough. Miss Fortune bellowed her orders, “Stand fast! Hold Fire until my command!”
With that she turned the wheel hard, jostling most everyone on board as she brought the ship in for a broadside attack against the larger vessel. Crewmen on the large ship scattered as Miss Fortune’s ship passed within yards of them. “FIRE!” Came the cry from both captains.
Cannons and guns fired from both ships as the railing and decks of the two vessels were tore apart by flying lead. The cry of pirates rang out as some were injured by the flying splinters of wood. Hyram dove for cover beside the mast, curling up tightly into a ball.
The cannon fire stopped and as Hyram peeked up over a barrel, he could see why. Pirates from Gangplanks ship started to swing over, engaging the Fortune's crew in hand to hand combat as the occasional rifle fire was exchanged between ships. Before long, the ship was embroiled in a brawl between two hardened groups of sailors. Hyram realized what was happening. The Dread Pirate wanted the ship intact, the first salvo was just to break the defenders up a bit for his assault. It was classic tactic, as Kayle had taught him. He thought back to what Sarah had said and realized why he wanted the boat intact. Gangplank was coming for him…
Amid the chaos of fighting pirates, a large barrel-chested pirate swung aboard with a bushy black beard and eyes that flashed red. He wore a bright red overcoat trimmed with yellow and tall black hat with an odd symbol on the front. He held a large cutlass in one hand and a pistol in the other, using the cutlass to cut down one of Sarah’s crew that charged him the second he landed. Instinctively, Hyram knew that was Gangplank. He laughed cruelly. “Yar, har, har. Sarah, mi’lass. I be thinking you havin’ something that belongs to me?”
The pirates voice was harsh and raspy, his boots clomped on the deck as he strolled toward the bounty hunter up by the wheel, stopping at the bottom of the stairs leading up to her. One of Gangplanks crew landed beside her and without ever taking her eyes off Gangplank, Miss Fortune drew a pistol, shot him dead and returned her pistol to it’s holster. “You can’t have him.”
“Oh, I can’t? I be thinking, dearest Sarah, that I can and be doing so shortly. Now where be he….” Gangplank turned and scanned the ship for a moment until his sharp eyes finally fell onto Hyram in his hiding spot. “Thar he blows. ‘cuse me my dear, I be havin’ a runt who be worth twice his weight in gold to collect.”
The Dread Pirate turned and stepped forward as Hyram turned to try and crawl away, but to no avail. A strong hand grabbed him by the back of his robes and pulled him up to his feet.
“This be the runt then? Brother to Kayle and Morgana…you be fetching a high price for me, my boy. I wonder how much the good sister, Kayle, be offering for you? Probably quite a bit more once I cut off a pinky and send it to her…” Gangplank gave a bellowing laugh as Hyram paled and gave a shiver.
“What’s the matter boy? Not a fighter like your sisters eh? Well then…” Gangplank lifted his sword and brought it down fast towards the boys face. Hyram whimpered and flinched until he heard the clang of metal on metal and the shackles fell from his wrists.
“Lets make this a bit interesting boy. You no longer be shackled. All you got to do to be free is beat me.” Gangplank reached down and picked up a discarded sword and held it handle first to the young mage. “Here ya go boy. Now, you tell me when you be ready.”
Hyram took the sword and held it in an unsteady hand. He knew how to fight with a sword of course, Kayle had seen to that, but being proficient and being good were two different things. He gulped and wiped the sting of tears from his eyes, looking up to meet the pirates piercing glare. Gangplank gave a roaring laugh.
“Aye, I be liking this one Sarah. He be terrified, but no begging. No bargaining. He knows it be of no use.” Gangplank gave a chuckle when suddenly another shot rang out, louder then the others and a bullet whizzed through Gangplanks black beard, taking a chunk out of it. He spun to face the bounty hunter, snarling.
“What you think you be doing girl? You want me to torch the ship as well as take the boy, do ya?”
Pointing the pistol unwavering at Gangplank, Miss Fortunes expression was hard and unfeeling. “You are not taking the boy, Gangplank.”
Gangplank grinned motioned Miss Fortune forward. “So, you be volunteering to fight in his place then? That be fine by me. You win, you can keep the boy. I win, I get the boy AND you sign over your ship, free and legal. Deal?”
The conversation struck Hyram as absurd as pirates were still in an all out brawl all over the deck, but again, he knew nothing of the politics and odd laws this world was governed by. He did notice that none of either ships crewmen tried to attack either captain again, either out of fear or manners, he had no idea. He heard Miss Fortune speak once more. “Deal.”
The bounty hunter pulled out both pistols and fired a fusillade of shots toward Gangplank. The pirate managed to roll out of the way, catching a graze from a shot as he jumped to his feet and fired his own pistol, catching Miss Fortune in her hip as she tried to spin away. He rushed at her, swinging his sword only to have her jump back and fire again, catching Gangplank in the shoulder. As the Dread Pirate staggered back, the bounty hunter retreated up the stairs, back toward the wheel, reloading her pistols. Her reprieve was short lived as Gangplank again approached, his own pistol likewise reloaded.
Hyram looked on the fight that was to decide his fate helplessly. He was mostly ignored by both crews. He looked up toward the bow of the ship and saw some of Miss Fortunes men getting pulled away from her largest cannon. This one was a bit different then the others, it was angled downward a bit. Hyram glanced at the opposite ship and saw the same thing on the larger ships bow. Large cannon, loaded but unfired, pointed at a downward angle. In a flash of comprehension, Hyram realized what it was for…but would it change anything?
The two Captains continued their struggle, neither able to gain the advantage, as they were able to wound each other, but not decisively. They fought their way around the wheel when Miss Fortune caught sight of the boy moving towards the cannon on her bow. She grinned as she fired another shot at the Dread Pirate, knowing this fight was soon to change dramatically, thinking the boy was taking her side.
Gangplank snarled, “What you be finding so funny girl? Is it me good looks or well rehearsed manners?” He ignored the sting of his wounds and slashed Miss Fortune across the shoulder, causing her to cry out.
Hyram dodged, and weaved and rolled past fighting pirates, just as he had in the bar less then a week ago. He stepped up to the cannon and realized it needed to be pushed forward into position. With all his might he heaved against it, only to have it stubbornly refuse to move. He pushed, grunted, rocked and even kicked at the cannon, but to no avail. It wouldn’t move. Finally, he stepped back and stared at the hunk of metal that mocked him. He panted in exhaustion before his eyes spotted a single rope tied to the base of the cannon and leading upward into the rigging. Hyram sighed, held out a finger and spoke a spell. A flash of golden light flew from his finger and severed the rope. The cannon slammed into position on it’s own. The young mage sighted along the edge of the cannon, confirming his theory. This cannon was aimed toward the other ship, but pointed just below the water line.
Hyram stood and grabbed one of the many ropes used by Gangplanks crew to swing aboard. He pointed a finger at the breach of the cannon, another flash of light flew forward and ignited the gunpowder. With a deafening explosion it fired, blasting a hole in the hull of Gangplanks ship. As the crew aboard the larger ship scattered in panic, Hyram grabbed hold of the rope with both hands and, with a fearful cry to the heavens, swung across the water. He spotted a towering pirate standing by the cannon he was swinging towards that seemed somewhat familiar and lifted both feet out in front of him. As he reached the bow of the other ship, both feet slammed into the large pirates face full force, catching him quite off guard and causing him to tumble backwards. “Hello again, Drage.” The boy spoke as he pointed a finger at the breach of this cannon and with another flash of light, fired this one as well, ripping a similar hole in the hull of the Bounty Hunters ship.
Without another word, he swung back, giving another cry but remembering to aim his swing for the uncovered wheel deck of Miss Fortunes ship. All fighting had stopped, even the two captains had halted their duel when they heard the explosions of cannon fire. With a unsure whimper, the boy let go of the rope and landed on his hands and knees about 5 yards from the two captains. He pulled himself to his feet, panting as he brushed himself off.
The two captains stood in silence for a long moment. Finally, they both turned and looked at the hole in Miss Fortunes ship, seeing air bubble out as the ship was sinking at a fairly alarming rate. They both turned in unison to a similar hole in Gangplanks ship, causing it to sink as well. Both captains then turned to each other, staring at each other in silence for a long moment, before finally, in unison, both turned to face the young mage, their expression anything but friendly. “…it strikes me that I didn’t really think this through.” Hyram said quietly as both Captain’s stared at him for another heartbeat before they both lunged at him. Dodging backwards, Hyram gave a mournful cry. “Here we go again.”
Positioning himself between Gangplank and the wheel, Gangplank raised his sword high and with a cry of great anger, swung down at the boys head full force. Hyram ducked and Gangplanks sword sunk into the rim of the wheel. Grabbing one of the spokes, Hyram gave it a turn, the fulcrum giving the boy leverage enough to tear the sword from Gangplanks hand. Picking the sword up lightning quick, he slammed it, point first, into Gangplanks foot. The Dread Pirate gave a howl of pain as Miss Fortune leveled her pistols at the boy. Hyram slammed his shoulder into the distracted Gangplanks ribs, causing him to topple over onto the Bounty Hunter. Running toward the railing, Hyram jumped down to the deck as bullets whizzed by above him. He crumbled as he landed and skidded to a stop.
In seconds, both Captains jumped down on either side of him, Gangplank held a pistol to Hyram’s face, his sword pressed lightly against Miss Fortunes throat. Miss Fortune likewise had a pistol pressed in Hyram’s face, another pressed against Gangplanks. The bounty hunter spoke first. “Gangplank. The contract I’m on is enough to salvage and repair BOTH our ships…”
Gangplanks paused for a moment. “You be suggesting that we split the reward then, are you? Why?”
“Because, it’s simpler then killing each other for it. Besides, my employer wants him unharmed. If we keep going at it like this, he’s going to become rather harmed and then neither of us get paid.” Miss Fortune lowered the pistol she had pointed at Hyram, but kept the other pointed at Gangplank. “70/30?” She asked the pirate rather bluntly.
Gangplank lowered his pistol from Hyram’s face. “Seeing as how I was winning our little fight, 60/40, in MY favor.”
“In your dreams you were winning. 60/40 in MY favor.” The bounty hunter retorted.
They continued on like this for several long seconds. Hyram felt a fury building up in him. Here they were, deciding his fate without a second thought on anything he wanted. He was just cargo to them. A prize to be negotiated for and sold. And worse, he’d failed. He’d never get to his sisters…not without first being used against them. Hyram’s hands curled into fists as tears rolled down his cheeks. He was tired of this. Tired of being shoved and cast aside. He drew panting breaths through clenched teeth as an incantation he had never learned flew effortless from his mouth. “An Arrow, to pierce the heart. A sword, to divide the waters. Wings, to rend the sky. A Will, to uproot the mountains. Holy light, give me these things, for all I possess is this…” Hyram eyes, snapped open, a bright golden light shining forth. “A Soul, to ignite the fires of change.”
“50/50, and I’ll be getting the dock workers to give you the same discount on your salvage as they give me on mine.” Gangplank finally offered. Thinking it over for a moment, Miss Fortune nodded. “Agreed.”
They both turned back to the boy, who by now had become a beacon of golden light, unnoticed by the two during their negotiations.
“Come on boy, time to…go…” Miss Fortune trailed off as she saw the boys robes combust into bright golden flames. As the boy stood, the ashes that were his robes fell away, leaving him bare-chested, and his wings free to open wide. His wings were no more the vestigial things he had before, but mighty golden pinions, easily 10 feet across. The boy was different too now, he looked older, taller and more muscular. He drew in a deep breath as he stretched and flexed his newfound muscles.
“H-hyram?” The bounty hunter said quietly, unsure of herself. The young angel standing in Hyram’s place smiled, the golden nimbus that surrounded him scorching the wood beneath his bare feet.
“Hyram isn’t here right now. My name is Hyramis. Lets take this moment to get acquainted before he gets back, shall we?” The angel held out a hand and a blade made of golden flame appeared in his hand.