10. Clash in the Cave (Page 1)

About two and a half hours after Zephyr's unauthorized arrival, a ferocious war cry echoed into the treasure trove as Kosu's sable-masked pirates swarmed into the bedazzled cavern like a pesky hive of drone bees. Sounds of swords smashing into each other rang in Levi’s ears. All around him men were fighting and screaming battle cries that reverberated off the cave walls. Gunshots sounded in a distant corner. It was complete chaos, and the pirate captain was not mentally prepared ─ not after watching the lovely maiden run off into the darkness, unaware that death was just waiting for her with its jaws open to devour her whole.

Heart racing, sweat pouring down his back, Levi attempted to get into his custom rhythm of sword play. He tried to dance with his partners, his opponents, yet every few steps, he would skip a beat and take a hit. Fortunately, all of his contenders seemed to have poor aim and missed their mark, or they would only smack him with the flat of their blades. Even at his worst, no one seemed able to harm him. Despite this, his sword-play became more sloppy as the seconds ticked away. Exhausted, Levi slumped down against a chest of pearls and other assorted jewels, his body not responding to his brain’s orders.

Mindlessly fumbling to switch his mechanical hand with its clawed counterpart, he sat like a coward, but it was not fear that held him in place. It was regret. With all his heart, the captain wished that he had chased after the girl. He could have saved her! Somehow, he would have made things work. An image of the princess flickered past his eyes. Yes, she was beautiful, any man could see that, but there was so much more to her than that. Her allure was only a small part of what had captured his attention: It was her tenderness while freely giving aid to his people in Mahgnitton and her courage when she revealed her true identity to him, a dangerous thing for a princess to do. It was the sorrow she had endured as a child and her enthusiastic spirit while deciphering the prophetic poem. It was the panicky concern in her eyes when she fervently pumped water out of the young boy’s lungs, desperate for him to start breathing again, and it was her unwavering voice when she whispered, ‘I can do this,’ as she dashed off to her own demise. Even though he’d understood that it would be a fruitless effort, Levi had wanted to accustom himself with the princess, but now she was gone, like a delicate soap bubble popped by the cruel needle of fate, never to be seen again.

Puffy eyed, Levi looked up when he heard the sound of two heavy boots displacing the gold and silver coins skewed across the floor near him. Immediately, he was filled with more dread.

“Are you feeling ill, Captain?” invective words passed through The Black and White Assassin’s sneering lips. “Can I even call you that, now? No. A true captain would be ‘fighting alongside his men,’ not cowering behind a mound of treasure. Isn’t that what daddy always told you? Is that why the princess isn’t here? I don't see her anywhere around… did she leave you already? I’ll bet she couldn’t stand being in the presence of such a weakling. Oh my, did I say something wrong, Captain? You do have an ugly look about your face.”

Hot anger poured throughout the silver-haired man’s veins. He rose slowly to his feet, situating his sword between himself and the dark one. A snarl twisted across his lips; Levi spat, “Don’t you dare disgrace her, you tantadlin tart! She was even more beautiful inside than out, which is saying something, since she was downright gorgeous! She was─”  

Was?” Kosu’s eyes narrowed.

Unable to mask his dread, Levi looked down, “She’s dead,” he breathed. The words tasted like bile in his mouth.

The End

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