Shouts of surprise and irritation from the masses announced the arrival of another acquaintance of the princess as he frantically barrelled through the crowds. "Levi!" Firious squeezed between two swooning, prince-crazy girls who yelped in alarm. "Levi, we've got trouble! Look at this!" He waved a sun-bleached leaf of paper in the captain's face.
Snatching it from his hands, Levi peered at the weather-worn parchment, and his already petulant demeanor grew more dour still. "This is not good," he sighed heavily.
Intrigued, Hataru and the others leaned in to see a highly detailed portrait of the distressed pirate's visage; all of his features were accurately portrayed ─ his nose, his chin, his hair, everything except his eye-patch, which was drawn on the wrong side. "By order of Chancellor Edric Raedwulf, chief justice of Habar," the princess read aloud, her voice cracking into nothing more than a whisper, "WANTED, dead or alive, Captain Levi Spry, for multiple accounts of theft and piracy across Marcelia. Reward: Two thousand dollars. Levi, what does this mean?"
“It means we need to get out of here before some squealing fink recognizes him!” the first mate grumbled.
“But... but why is he on a WANTED poster?”
"He's a pirate!" the Marcelian prince hissed, stepping between Levi and the princess. "Get behind me, Miss! You can never trust his kind." He reached for his sword, and the captain mirrored his movements. "You say she is your ward, sir? I'll bet you kidnapped her! Didn't you?"
"Wait! No!" Hataru put her hand on his shoulder, "He did not abduct me! In fact, he rescued me ─ multiple times! I've been traveling with him by choice!"
The prince ignored her protest, "I ought to turn you in right no─!"
"Prince Tarin! Your highness!" The blue-clad man was interrupted by a sharp, alarmed voice, "My Prince, trouble!" All heads turned to see a blue-clad woman slip out of the crowds, her fiery hair fluttering behind her.
"What is it, Elden?" Halting where she stood, she shifted her weight to one foot and folded her arms across her chest, glaring at him as a school teacher glares at a misbehaving pupil. "Err... What is it, Captain Sterling?"
"That's better," she muttered before continuing, "Your uncle has been alerted of your presence here, sire, and under your parents' instructions has issued a unit of his personal guards to escort you to his estate." Tarin groaned. "They came to search my ship about an hour ago, and, I swear, if they've broken anything, you’re replacing it!
"Where are the guards now?"
"I had my men distract them so I could slip away to warn you, but they could be here any minute. You need to hide. Now." To prove her right, a squad of six buff men materialized out of the crowd only a few yards away and begin sifting through the floods of people, heading in the group’s general direction.