As his eyes flickered open Connor had trouble remembering what had previously happened. He came to slowly, a knocking pain inside his head, and a throbbing one from his right shoulder.
Connor’s neck was stiff; laying in an awkward position on a wet wooden floor. Wait, what the heck ? He picked himself up, realizing that his hands were cuffed above his head and that he had a steal chain on his right ankle.
His heart quickened, beating out of his chest. Connor panicked, stumbling around the area, trying to move in his constraints; each movement only causing teared skin, blood, and pain. Connor grasped his hands desperately on the rusty chains, holding his arms, and shook crazily, trying to, with all his strength, break them. Oh, crap! No, this can’t happen. What happen!? Where am I! I need t get out of here! I–I need to get home!
“I would not try,” said a small voice.
Connor stopped and looked around for the voice, tears in his eyes. He found a thin girl curled in a corner, staring at him. “Who’s there? Who is that?” he asked.
She shimmed into a light that beamed from a small opening above. The girl was amazingly disheveled. She had blond hair that wrapped around in nots like a birds nest. Bruises on her knees and arms. Dried blood was crusted on her lip. “What happened to you?” Connor asked.
“What happened to you?” she mocked.
He frowned. “Not sure.”
“You’ve been captured by Raiders,” she said dimly.
He sighed, defeated. “Oh. Great,” he said dryly. “Where are we?” He moved as close as he could toward her.
“A ship, I imagine?” she said it as if it were something obvious.
As the sarcastic words left the girls mouth, the ship began to sway vigorously. Pulling to the left and then the right and back again. Each pull causing Connor’s skin to tear as he was pulled side to side. He groaned and winced, the pain never ceasing.
The two prisoner’s stood silent for a long time regaining their breath. Connor panted, his eyes fading in and out. “I need water,” he voiced. She didn’t respond. He tapped his head against the wall; not knowing what to do.
Their space wide and long, just about the entire length of the ship itself. There were about thirty barrels on each side of them. Each side had two widows that allowed a morning sun into their chamber. The two of them sat against a wall, cuffed, about ten feet apart. A few rotted steps were in front of them, leading to the upper deck of the ship.
“What’s your name?” Connor finally asked, tired and defeated. A cockroach scattered along the floor.
“I would rather not,” she replied.
Connor was confused, “Why?”
“It would be best if you and I did not get acquainted.”
“But why?” he asked.
“Because,” she said, in a tone that reminded him of Madison, “time does not allow it. Time will cease to exist, but time will never end.”
“Huh?” Connor said. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“I shall not take the time to explain it. Time is too short,” she said.
She took a deep breath, “We are only prisoners awaiting a certain death.”
“Oh,” he said, “so you don’t want to talk to me because we’re going to die?”
“Aye,” she nodded, and turned away from him.
Connor rolled his eyes, “You couldn’t just say that?”
Silence grew between them for a time.Then an unlatching sound could be heard from above, and with that came the footsteps creaking all the way down.
A hideous creature came into as it welcomed itself into their chamber, “The cap’n wants a wurd wit ya,” it said, shuffling toward Connor’s chains.
“Me?” Connor asked. But the creature didn’t respond.
It reached inside its long trench-coat, a purple stain was on his tunic. Connor’s eyes flashed to the creatures face and suddenly it came back. This is the creature from the inn! This–this thing killed Errol! The raider’s black eyes danced; never leaving Connor’s. His purple lips spread, his teeth gleamed in the darkness.
A gold key dangled in the raider’s monster-like hand as he de-cuffed him.
Rubbing his wrists, Connor asked, “What happened to you?”
The raider’s smile drowned in vengeance, “You did.” His ‘did’ sounded like ‘dead.’ “Move out,” he demanded, giving Connor a shove.
As Connor walked the rotted steps, the wood began to give. The sun shone more brightly above; it would blind him when the monster opened the latched. That it did. With a loud clunk the door opened.
Connor stood on the top deck, shielding his eyes from the early morning sun. His eyes adjusted as the creature pushed him along the ship. The ship wasn’t large, a half mile long. It had a long mast that had a red and black flag.
Connor stood, silent, more creatures, Raiders, surrounded him, encircling him, trapping him. This is it. They’re going to eat me alive.... Now would be a wonderful time to WAKE UP! But nothing happened. No matter how hard he closed his eyes and wished to be woken up, it wouldn’t happen.
The crowd backed away, creating a bigger circle. Leaving Connor, the bleeding Raider, Regior was his name, and an entirely different Raider standing in the middle.
This new creature was more deformed than any of the others. He was more animal than human, and more monster than anything else. He stood tall, lean and muscular; his human qualities. His torso and lower body were covered in beastly black fur, that ran from his legs to his neck. The neck was a peachy color that vanished at the jaw; turning to a thirsty gold-bronze fur that continue on the edges of his normal face. The remaining of the Raider’s face would have looked normal, if not for the black eyes, and the jagged teeth protruding from of his closed mouth.
“Hello,” his speech was clear and crisp, unlike the rest. “I welcome you to the S.S. Stern.” He bowed before Connor, a long tail reached into the air as he bended. “You may call me,” he said smoothly, “Nathorn.” His slithering tung licked across his teeth. “Your’s?”
“Connor,” he said, eyeing his surroundings.
“Aye,” he smiled. “You’ve made quite the impression...already.... Haven’t you?” He raised a fury eye brow to his bleeding comrade.
“I was attacked! I–I had know choice–I didn’t mean–,” Connor said.
Nathorn stepped forward, a step at a time, “Tell me, Connor, about the Pool of Wishes.” A beastly hand laid on the hilt of a cutlass blade.
His black eyes flickered. “I said tell me about the Pool of Wishes!” he roared. His crew coward away from his wrath.
“I–I don’t know anything,” he said.
Nathorn eyed him, then said, “Very well.” He turned away from Connor and stalked away, then turned rapidly, facing him again. “The problem,” he said, “is Regior would like to eat you.” His smile winded wickedly. “I mean, you did throw your weapon into his stomach. He has a right.”
“He deserved it,” Connor said.
Nathorn let out a hearty laugh, “A boy with gut! You would make a fearless Raider!”
Connor didn’t say anything. Fear ate at his voice.
“Quiet, aye?” Regior said, shoving Connor forward. “Said somethin’ ya don’t like?”
Connor didn’t speak; his legs shook.
Nathorn stared at Connor for a moment, an indecisive smile painted onto his purple lips. “Regior, kneel in front of our guest,” he said.
“N’ why de’hell would I do tha’?” asked Regior, “E’ should be kneelin’ front of me’ beggin fo his damned life!”
Nathorn’s eyes grew. “I said kneel!” he roared.
Regior stumbled from behind Connor, a stiff hand plastered onto his gut; stopping the blood. He knelt in front of Connor.
Nathorn inched forward, the look of pleasure never leaving his monstrous face. His beastly hand fingering the hilt of the cutlass sword. He released it from its sheath, the crowd pulled away; not sure of what to expect. Nathorn eyed the weapon; inspecting it. With a stinging motion he swung the sword fiercely, stopping at the crevice of Regior’s deformed neck. Nathorn smiled.
He removed the blade and in a swift motion presented its hilt to Connor, “Do it,” he slurred.
“Wha–?” said Connor.
“Do it,” he repeated.
Connor wouldn’t–couldn’t move.
“Or,” he said, “I allow him to kill you. Finish what you started, boy.”
“Cap’n,” Regior mumbled, “ya–ya can’t be serious.”
Nathorn smiled, “Oh, I am.... What will it be, boy? Your life or his?”
Connor gulped three times, his eyes darting from the sword to Regior, the sword to Regior. There was no way out of it.
Connor closed his eyes as he began to reach forward for the weapon. His hand touch the gold hilt and eyes shook underneath their shades. Please wake up...please. I just want to go home. The cutlass glazed upon the creatures neck. His eyes open and he was still there. His eyes now filled with tears.
Connor caught Nathorn’s eyes, “I just want to go home,” he mumbled. “I–I don’t want any trouble.”
Nathorn smiled, like a puppy dog; his head tilted. “I don’t care,” he said.
Connor swallowed again, a tear falling, his hand still on the hilt. Without thinking, he dropped the sword to the ground. In a quick flash, Regior scooped it up and swung toward Connor’s throat. He ducked in enough time, only his shirt was slashed.
Regior growled, and advanced. Connor coward away. Nathorn stood, smiling with amazement. Then something came over him.
“WAIT!” he roared. Regior froze in mid-swing. “An idea is forming. I wouldn’t want you to dispose of the boy too early,” he said. It was quite for a moment, everyone held their breath. Then, his eyes lightened and his smile widened. “Yes,” he said, “yes, that’s it.”
“Wha! Wha?! Can I kill em’ or wha?!” Regior demanded, impatiently.
“No,” he said. “Not yet. You will duel him.”
“Wha!” Regior screamed. “Wha in de bloody ell is da point in dat!?”
Nathorn swallowed, and looked at Regior viciously. “The point,” he said, “is you will have two full days of rest. Giving you time to heal your wound, and the boy will have time to weigh his options. Weigh his values.”
“Deal,” Connor spat. “Deal!”
Nathorn laughed, “See? The boy likes it!”
Regior sighed roughly, “You da boss.”
Nathorn laughed, grasping his sword and taking it from Regior’s shaking hand. “Brog!” he yelled. “Take Regior and heal him! He’s got to be ready to fight for his life in two days!” The crowd of creatures roared and hollered.
A Raider, Connor had never seen, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him below into the depths of ship. A sigh passed through him as the chains clasped onto his limbs.
I’m alive, he thought, as tear ran down his cheek. For now....