247 The Burning Isle*
With the Madame directing them, the group made their way out of the Arena Stands and through a labyrinth of halls before they emerged onto the streets. The pure mayhem of the inhabitants of the Island made Ebony re-evaluate just how much the Master mattered to the Herguard. It by no means compensated for the evils he had committed, but the man had run a tight and organised syndicate. His seconds, if he had had any - Ebony was positive the only one that could be considered a second was the Madame - were nowhere to be found. Guards, Slaves, Pirates and the like ran around doing their best to loot, pillage, escape or an amalgamation of the the three. The Reapers proved to be the only order there was. They closed ranks around Ebony, Neva and the Madame and carved a path.
Ebony kept thinking that she should have expected the chaos. That after all they'd done to get out, the fighting, the killing, the causing of panic, she really should have expected something to add to it. Like a fire. She really should have expected that.
The flames caught onto anything they liked as they rampaged through the streets. Nobody was attempting to put the flames out, if anything they were adding to its fuel. The Reapers never stopped to give it a second glance however, moving through the smoke haze like they were Magicians.
On the way there were a way few of the slaves that caught onto the Reaper's escape attempt. The Reapers themselves were pretty recognisable figures on Herguard, so their threats and angry growls weren't all for show. If anything it made everyone move out of the way that much faster. If they didn't, they were either shoved aside or killed on the spot. Those few who were quick enough hurriedly joined the back of a growing procession behind them. Mostly the female ex-slaves, but some of the warriors joined as well. They were all headed the same place anyway. The docks.
"Out of the way!"
Talo and Will were quite the imposing figures. Layton carried on behind them, a grin on his face as he whipped whoever the two missed. Aegin likely would have joined them if he wasn't helping Eon carry his brother's body. Eon had been silent the whole time. Ebony hadn't ever spoken to him before, but the way that Eon kept glancing at his brother was enough for her to know they'd been close. He looked a rightful cross between pained and angry.
They were perhaps halfway to the docks when the oldest Reaper, Alistair, came up to Ebony's side, his bow held ready in his hands as he walked alongside her.
"You are not married to him, are you?" asked Alistair, his head indicating in Aegin's direction as they walked.
"Do you think it's really appropriate to talk about that now?" asked Ebony as Alistair pulled up his bow and let an arrow fly before reloading in the space of a few hurried heartbeats. His tone was even as he replied to her.
"Forgive my curiosities, I hadn't seen you except from a distance, and never with him. I took him at his word, but seeing the two of you now...I do not believe you have been intimate enough to be considered married," said Alistair.
Ebony couldn't help the blush that stained her cheeks. He was right, they hadn't been. Though it had only served to remind her of that stupid kiss she'd initiated.
"No, we're not married," said Ebony, "Just close".
Alistair nodded, "Closer now with the shared experience I'd assume. At first he just seemed to want to protect you, but the way he spoke of you changed over the years. More like friends who had served or hunted together than anything else. I never asked for I knew the implications would be dire for both of you".
Ebony sighed, "Thanks, I guess. I suppose that's one of the reasons he respects you so much".
Alistair gave a hard smile, "We all respect each other, just as we all trust each other. That was all it was supposed to be, but Aegin is...well, he is a young man finding his way in the world and it is quite nostalgic to watch. I could not help my curiosities just as the rest couldn't".
"Left at the square, it'll take us right down to the Master's ship".
The Madame's directions cut through their conversation, and the fire, smoke, snarling beasts and men alike all came rushing to the forefront of Ebony's concentration as she moved to avoided them.
The crowd became far more condensed as they reached the docks, the pirates fighting with the freed slaves for the ships.
The Pirate Lord himself stood on the desk of the Master's ship, two guards wielding spears that were clearly poisoned from the pile of bodies on the dock in front of them.
"Alistair!" called Talo.
Alistair took two steps forward as he drew a second arrow. Will shouted out in a booming voice.
The crowd parted to give Alistair a straight shot as he dropped to one knee with his bow horizontal. He took a breath as the crowd finished making way then released.
The two guards, who were still confused over why the crowd was parting before them, dropped side by side with arrows in their chests.
Aegin passed Eros to Eon, then ran along the dock, grabbed one of the spears, and threw it right at the Pirate Lord. The Lord's eyes widened, but he didn't move, a slow smile coming onto his face.
The spear seemed to slow just ten centimetres from his chest for a split second, then a blue translucent shell-like shield seemed to burn and erode where the spear touched it. The spear continued its journey and the Pirate lord was impaled onto the main mast.
Aegin stepped onto the dock and yanked the spear back, the Pirate Lord dropping onto the deck.
"That's for Jeremiah".
Then the other Reapers followed him onto the deck and started disposing of the pirate that were on board. They made the fight that had gotten Aegin and Ebony into this mess, the one aboard the Miranda, look like an even match. The way they slaughtered the other side mercilessly before dumping the bodies overboard in the process of readying the ship to launch. Ebony could hardly believed that this had become her norm as she contemplated the contrast between the two events.
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"Get the rope on the dock!" Talo shouted, taking charge as he staked his trident into the deck beside the Wheel and started barking directions, "Anyone coming on board play nice and do the work assigned to you. You make trouble you're going overboard with the rest of them! Now get up the ratlines and get those sails unfurled!"
Aegin paused in his work as he looked at where Ebony was preparing to climb the rat lines.
"You okay?" he asked.
Ebony smirked, "After the last couple of years we've had, I think dealing with my fear of heights is going to be a piece of cake".
He gave a half smile, though Ebony could tell he didn't feel like being amused, his eyes were serious, too serious for them nearly being out.
"I meant you didn't get cut did you?"
Ebony shook her head, "I'm okay...are you?"
Aegin waved an arm, "I'll be fine, I got lucky".
He stepped away to help someone else as Talo shouted order at him, Ebony's eyes followed him. Was it just her or did he seem a little pale?
Ebony turned to look at where Eon was laying Eros's body.
No, if Aegin had been poisoned he would have gone down pretty quickly, Eros and Garrow had proved that as had many others that Ebony had seen. It was probably just the stress or the smoke.
Ebony scaled up the ratlines, her fear of heights barely bothering her anymore.