Chapter XI

Humble Beginnings

The small trading vessel sits docked at Arx Mari throughout the night. Khimi had every intention of leaving posthaste, yet they were denied their departure due to Rashid’s extended absence. Ennui waits through the night, unable to rest in the unfamiliar territory. She sits on the deck of the ship, her feet dangling from the side through the railing. She wonders what sort of conversation Rashid is having with Emir Zeybek. Though she had never particularly cared for Rashid, she feared that perhaps something would be said which would bring the axe upon her neck. Dammit, Rashid. What’re you up to, old man? She knows all too well the reputation that Ziad Zeybek had kept through the years – a penchant for violence and breaking wills. She knows all too well from the few occasions she had been under his employ.

Ennui stares up at the ancient citadel, watching the lights in the rooms grow and fade while its residents wander about. Nearly seven hours had passed since she and Lumi were asked to depart from the building, but an odd sense of discomfort sits within her. While with Lumi, she had taken careful note of the layout of the Citadel. The Citadel is now nothing more than a glorified home, nothing more. There should not have been the number of guards or sentries on the site. She recalls that the Golden Isles are perilous for the sheer number of privateers, but certainly none would attempt their hands at Arx Mari, the ancient Lorian fortress. Just what is it you’re hiding, Ziad?

It had nearly been three hours since midnight. Unable to sleep, Ennui cracks her forehead against the railing. A figure approaching through the heavy, rolling fog alerts her. Rashid!

“Ahoy,” Rashid calls in a soft tone. “Everyone asleep?” He asks, limping his way up the gangway.

Ennui’s boots clod against the planks at her hasty approach, “Yeah, they’re all asleep now. But, first, you’re gonna tell me what that was all about,” she demands with her hand on the hilt of her dagger.

“It’s none of y’re concern, lass,” Rashid replies angrily, drawing his cloak tighter about himself.

Ennui grabs his shoulder, “Listen, I know– I know we’ve had our differences. You’ve got to trust me, Rashid. I really do mean the best for them. You’ve got to trust me.”

“Y’re desperation speaks volumes, lass. I have no reason to ever trust a cutthroat devil like y’reself,” Rashid says with weary eyes. “I ain’t gotta tell ya shite.”

Ennui’s tail flails behind her in anger, “Rashid, listen. We both care for them, look at me and tell me I am lying!” She pleads, her tone becoming soft.

“All ya’ve ever done is lie,” he replies. “I don’t doubt y’re dedication to them as long as the coin flows in y’re favor.”

Ennui shakes her head in denial, “Even if it wasn’t. I’ve always looked after Khimi…he’s important.”

“And what of the aslan? Ya’d watch him die, wouldn’t ya?”

Ennui rolls her eyes, “Well at first, yes. I didn’t care about him– I figured he’d just get himself killed or something,” she responds quickly, her words almost running together.

Exactly,” Rashid says through grit teeth, shoving past her. “Ya only think of y’reself an–”

“Wait!” Ennui insists, grabbing his arm. “Tell me, Rashid. What was it you discussed?”

Rashid sighs, “Y’re not gonna let it go, are ya?”


“All I can say is that Ziad is no friend of ours,” Rashid replies, patting her on the shoulder.

Ennui takes hold of him by the cloak, “Hells, listen to me! I already know about the Dolmans– I pieced that together ages ago, you old prick! Tell me what the fuc–”

“Then if ya knew, why’d ya even ask?”

Ennui sighs, running her fingers through her hair. “I had to be certain,” she murmurs quietly. “No way a mercenary group would attack one of the wealthiest merchant families in the Desert Cities without someone’s…ardent provocation. It was odd, no?”

“If ya figured it out, then why didn’t ya turn tail and run? Ya know what kind of person Ziad can be,” Rashid grumbles. “Ya seem full well th–”

“You don’t know me,” Ennui replies, her eyes narrowing into thin slits. “I care for Khimi…he is the only person I’ve ever cared about. “The only one.”

“Other than y’reself…” Rashid harrumphs, “Well if ya care so much for him, then protect him, Ennui…he’ll need it,” he adds, ripping from her grip once more.

“Then, what you discussed with Ziad…does he intend to continue?”


“Trying to control Khimi.”

“That’ll never stop,” Rashid sighs. “Ziad will never give up control over Khimi…”

Ennui fingers the point of her horns, “Rashid…it must.”

“What do ya intend to do? Kill the most powerful man in the Desert Cities?” Rashid asks. He pauses, eager to hear her response.

Ennui squints behind her in the fog, the lights from Arx Mari disperse through the gloom. “Why not?” She asks with a shrug.

Rashid shakes his head with a chuckle. “Ya’d be dead before ya got to him. Ziad is a capable fighter in his own respect. I served with him for many years. Don’t underestimate him.”

“Now isn’t the time,” Ennui says softly. “A couple of months to plan…you and me, we could do it, Rashid.”

“With some mercenaries, perhaps.”

Tsk, we don’t need mercenaries,” Ennui replies. “We’d just need to prepare. Take him unawa–”

“Ya think Ziad wouldn’t know y’re coming for him?” Rashid spits, his brow pinching. “He has mages, Ennui! People who can snap their fingers and end a life.”

Ennui sighs, “I can’t see any other way to help Khimi.”

“Then think. Because killing Ziad isn’t the answer,” Rashid’s voice rumbles while he draws near Ennui. He points a finger aggressively at her, “If Emir Ziad dies, there will be plenty of merchant princes who come down over Khimi. Each will lay claim to their territory taken by Ziad. Do ya think Khimi is ready for that?” He asks, his cheeks burning red. “One battle with Ziad will become a hundred more, is that what ya want?”

Ennui shrugs, “Khimi doesn’t want any of this, you can see it on his damn face!” She begins to shout before she lowers her voice. “He doesn’t want this!”

“Don’t presume to know what Khimi wants,” Rashid says harshly.

“I’ve spent more time with him than you,” Ennui insists, slapping Rashid’s wagging finger from her face. “You can’t speak for him, you don’t speak for him.”

Rashid glares angrily, “I’ll never understand how Khimi could have become friends with someone like y’reself,” he shrugs, preparing to enter the lower deck. “A piece of work ya are…”

Ennui stares silently at Rashid’s back. Fucking old man. You’re fucking lucky Khimi loves you. Otherwise, I’d gouge your fucking eyeballs out. Filled with anger, she watches Rashid descend below deck. She is curious what was discussed in Arx Mari and why Rashid returned at such a late hour. She turns back to the citadel, watching the shadows of figures walking past the windows. A lot of movement for this hour. She returns to the rails, Rashid’s words fill her with hatred. She peers up at the stone structure, the wet fog licks against her face. Rashid never got to know what Khimi had gone through…saw how he changed in those years. She walks to the bow of the vessel, her mind reliving the many years since she met Khimi.

Ennui had seen Khimi grow significantly in the years since she met him. The first time she saw him, almost immediately, she thought she had recognized him, but could never place where she had seen his face. When the youthful teenage boy showed up in the tavern outside Sidi. He had a few gold to his name and struggled to blend in with the common rabble of Ensi, a coastal town south of Sidi. The area was known for bringing massive harvests of seaweed to Sidi, providing fertilizer for its great expanse of vineyards. Khimi’s arrival had immediately brought suspicion. She recalled his emerald kaftan sewn with cloth of gold like it was yesterday. The kelp farmers had been quick to spot the boy’s leather satchel filled with coins and spices. Not even a full day passed before the first of them set upon the boy. She anticipated jumping to the boy’s rescue, but that time never came to pass. Khimi held his own, cutting down his assailants.

Khimi stared at the bodies of the men, unsure of what to do. He looked them over with an emptiness in his eyes. Ennui remembered that expression well, it was one she wore after the first time she slayed a man. She approached him quietly, waiting for him to swing at her. She took the knife from his hand, while looking him in the eye. Within a few short hours, she was escorting him to another village. She remembered Khimi keeping to himself, walking a distance behind her. Once they arrived in the village, she introduced Khimi to a man who worked under one of the larger mercenary companies, a man by the name of Cecil. Cecil took an interest in Khimi, and though neither of them stated his heritage or nobility, it was clear to see.

Khimi was placed with many other mercenaries, tasked with working in a team. There was a part of Ennui that wished to stay and see how Khimi would develop, yet her occupation wouldn’t allow for her to idle in one location long. She left, hoping for the best for the youth.

A year would pass before she would see Khimi again. They would come across one another in Betset. Khimi had managed to secure himself a place in the mercenary company known as Char. His demeanor had changed entirely within their time apart, he had become confident and proud. It was then that it dawned on her – Khimi’s true lineage, he was Emir Zeybek’s only son. She had seen the little whelp when she briefly served the Emir in performing rather unsavory tasks. She felt somewhat distraught over that fact, knowing how much value the little princeling actually held. Khimi’s performance in Betset was memorable. The youth, now in his late teens, fought proudly and with confidence. She herself felt a sense of pride in watching Khimi during combat.

Year after year, she would watch Khimi’s meteoric rise through the ranks, becoming the second in command of the unit he was assigned to. Their paths would seldom cross, but each time she would find herself being more proud of Khimi’s progress. He became a pillar of his unit, someone who kept the group together, a natural-born leader. When the news reached her of Khimi’s unit suffering devastating losses, she felt a sense of loss. So when a courier reached out to her from the Zeybek estate asking for her presence in Rhaz, a sense of hope filled her. Seeing Khimi alive, brought a great sense of joy to her, though she did her best to conceal it. She never expected to end up under Khimi’s employ, but she had a fondness for the boy that she could never put her finger on.

She peers up once again at the monolithic structure. Whatever secrets you’re hiding, Ziad, they will come to light. She turns her back from the bow of the vessel, walking to the aft and climbing the stairs to the top deck. Her fingers squeeze the rounded wooden railing. She senses the figure behind her.


“I don’t like how we ended that conversation,” He mutters, a look of shame on his face.

“Nor I,” she admits begrudgingly.

Rashid sighs, “I thought I’d give ya some time to think before ya jump into anything too hastily.”

“I’m not as dense as the aslan,”

“I can tell ya care for Khimi…that much is obvious, but protecting Khimi isn’t about killing Ziad, or taking out his rivals,” Rashid replies softly. “Protecting Khimi is about…loving him, caring for him.”

Ennui’s tail flicks behind her while she steps onto the top deck. “I care about Khimi in my own way,” she insists.

Rashid walks behind her, Ennui’s tail slaps across his nose. He brushes it away briskly. “Listen, when ya get back to Rhaz with Khimi…I need ya to do something,” he begins. He places his hand on the spoke of the ship’s wheel.

“I am not an errand boy,” Ennui scoffs.

“It’s nothing like that,” Rashid says, his tone becoming suddenly serious. “I want ya to see that Khimi leaves Rhaz. Make sure he travels. Keep them on the road…away from Rhaz. Away from Ziad. Something is coming, I don’t know when but I can feel it, Ennui.”

“You see, Rashid. When you say things like this, you pique my interest. Just what is it that Ziad told you?” She asks between grit teeth.

Rashid maintains silence for several moments before words pass through his lips. “Ziad will stop at nothing, Ennui. Trust me, once he gets something in his mind, there is no stopping him.”

Ennui taps her fingers over the spokes of the wheel, “I told you. We should kill him,” she whistles merrily.

Rashid sighs again, “It isn’t possible. Just let it go, Ennui. It is best if ya just protect him for now…perhaps when Khimi is ready to stand against Ziad when the time comes.”

“Then I will,” Ennui murmurs.

“Then it’s all sorted then.”

“For now.”

Pirates, Really?

As the first rays of dawn began to break through the thick fog, Ennui and Rashid finally end their conversation. Rashid had begged for her secrecy in regard to the information he gave her. She had promised to keep her silence in order to protect Khimi. With the morning light shining through the fog, she retreats below deck. Even with the tense atmosphere, there is little chance of danger during the broad daylight. As she closes her eyes, she can hear the crewmen rising from their sleep. The call of the sailors beginning their morning routines. Heavy footfalls above her head force her to pull a feathered cushion against her pointed ears.

The day passes before her eyes as the vessel rocks back and forth peacefully over the calm waters. The winds barely blow, leaving the ship slow in its departure from Arx Mari. Ennui remains in her cabin, watching the daylight slowly fade through the small window. She prays they are far from the reaches of Arx Mari, well beyond Harbinger and Apathy. Though she does not fear Ziad himself, she fears the amount of coin under his control and the spread of his influence throughout the Emerald Coast.

From across the hall, she can hear the annoying pitch of Lumi’s voice through the timbers. Her eyes shoot open wide when she hears him mention sighting a ship. In an instant, Ennui throws herself from the small cot and grabs a bottle of rum, bringing it to her lips in an attempt to calm her racing heart. She swishes the liquid back and forth in her mouth before pushing her way through the door, determined to assess the situation.

Making her way across the deck, she nears the crowd of sailors standing along the port side rails. Sair, one of the more seasoned sailors, stands at the front with several others, gripping the rails, watching a large schooner approach with canvas sails billowing in the wind. The ship seems to glide effortlessly through the water, its sleek design and polished wood catching Ennui’s eye. She can feel a sense of unease growing in her stomach while she wonders who could be on board, and what their intentions may be. With a deep breath, she joins the group and waits for any further developments.

“We’re against the wind,” Sair says at Ennui’s approach. “They haven’t made any aggressive movements, but when they came around the bend, they came straight for us.”

“They spotted our vessel then…likely realized we’re filled with cargo based on the ship’s weight against the water,” Ennui mutters. “They know we aren’t armed.”

Sair looks at her uncomfortably, “What should we do?”

Ennui clicks her tongue, “Fetch Rashid and Khimi. Have the crew retreat below deck.”

“We can fight!” One of the crewmen replies, his hand on the hilt of his curved dagger.

Ennui scoffs, “Go below deck…where is the aslan?”

Sair looks to the stern of the ship. “He’s on the top deck,” he says with a tilt of his head.

On the top deck, Lumi sits. His legs swing to and fro through the railing. Ennui meets him without a word, brushing her hand through his blond hair. She leans against the rail with a relaxed look, staring at the schooner approaching in the distance.

“See anything with your special eyes?” She asks, peering ahead while the sun begins to hit behind the horizon.

Pfft, it’s a pretty big one I reckon…I guess…I mean, I don’t really know anything about ships,” Lumi replies with the occasional pause and thoughtful hum.

“Any idea on how many crew?”

Lumi looks up at Ennui with a curious look, “Think I can divine the number of sailors on the ship?” He asks, raising his hands like he is weighing a scale.

“You’ve worked miracles before, from what people say,” Ennui replies hastily.

Lumi groans, “It was just the wind. The wind is easy to read. Men…not so much.”

“I’d say you’re a liar. You can read Khimi pretty well. He seems amply wrapped about your finger,” Ennui laughs and sits beside him. “Where is the young lord?”

Lumi smiles coyly, “Resting,” he replies, raising his eyebrows up and down gaily. “He had a long night.”

“He seems to have many of those with you around.”

Lumi shrugs, “I can’t help myself.”

“You smug little devil,” Ennui chuckles. “If these are privateers…can I expect you on deck?”

Lumi’s lip curls into a smile, “Course, I have to prove myself somehow!”

“Y-You don’t have to,” Ennui stammers, surprised by Lumi’s enthusiasm. “I wish for your safety…you have value.”

“Value? I thought you hated me?” Lumi inquires.

Ennui purses her lips, “I do,” she teases with an unwanted smile.

Lumi plants his forehead against the wooden railing, “Right. Well, I hate you too,” he replies, tilting his head to her with a wide grin, his ears twitching.

The two sit and watch the sun slowly set behind the water on the horizon. The schooner draws nearer, and they focus their attention on its imminent arrival. Ennui arises with a grunt, a hand extended to Lumi, helping him up from the wooden planks. Lumi stands, placing his elbows on the wooden rails. Ennui leaves him to his thoughts and returns to her room to fetch her weapons in preparation for the vessel’s approach. She pulls a hempen camise over her half shirt, tucking the rough fabric into her sarouel.

Khimi pushes himself through the door to Ennui’s room. His maroon tunic hangs loosely from his body, his fingers held tightly to his linen sarouel. He glares at Ennui with a stupefied look.

What?” She asks plainly, giving him a disquieted look. “Do you always barge into women’s rooms?”

Khimi scoffs, “Was anyone going to tell me?” He asks, ignoring her comment.

“The ship is probably still an hour off. Do you need that much time to prepare?”

Khimi sighs, “I’d like to have known!” He shouts, “What’re we seeing?”

“Sure, right. Next time, I’ll wake you up sooner.”

“Why haven’t we lowered the sails or attempted to outrun the ship?” Khimi asks with furrowed brows. He finishes dressing by pulling a Rhazian patterned waist scarf over the top of his sarouel. He ties it into a quick knot. “Ennui?”

She looks up at him angrily, “Khimi, we can’t do anything,” she shrugs. “The winds died, and that schooner has oars as well– what should we have done?”

“You should have bloody woke me up,” Khimi grumbles, his eyes narrowed at the devilkin. “They’re probably thinking we’ll be easy prey.”

Ennui’s eyes flash with anger, “Easy prey?”

“We are on a cog after all, it is a slower vessel.”

“We’ll just have to prove to them that we’re more than capable,” Ennui chuckles, thrusting a dagger into her laced leather boot. “Right, Khimi?”

Khimi attempts to hide his smile, “I guess we’ll just have to show them.”

“Yeah, yeah, now we best be getting to checking in on your Kitten. He was staring a hole through that ship,” Ennui says quickly. She pulls her cloak over her shoulder, guiding the cowl over her horns. “Maybe he’s got a plan.”

Khimi sucks his teeth and gives her a knowing look. “Don’t get your hopes up.”

The approaching vessel’s oars withdraw from the water, creating a gentle lapping sound as it glides closer behind the smaller cog. Ennui, Khimi, Rashid, and Lumi stand on the top deck near the rear mast, their figures silhouetted against the glow of several braziers lit over the length of the deck. The warm light casts shadows across their faces as they peer with anticipation towards the looming enemy ship. In the distance, torches flicker in the hands of their unseen opponents, who dart upon the deck of the much larger vessel. Rashid pulls the handle of a torch from the brazier near the mast, its flames dripping from the wrapped head down the thick wooden handle. Lumi edges closer towards the edge of the deck, his eyes narrowed on the opposing vessel.

Suddenly, an almost inaudible twang fills the air and Lumi is sent to his knees as an arrow flies through the dark night sky. “Tch, archers. Why didn’t I think they’d have archers,” Ennui growls to herself.

Lumi looks up at them from the floor, “Want me to catch their ship on fire?”

“W-What?” Khimi stammers, stumbling over his words and glaring at Lumi laying on the deck.

The sound of another arrow whizzing past sends Ennui and Khimi diving to their knees for cover. Meanwhile, Rashid moves swiftly behind the mast, quickly throwing the flaming torch back into the brazier.

“Bloody Hells, I’m like a beacon with that damn thing,” Rashid mutters under his breath.

“Khimi?” Lumi asks urgently, looking back at him for confirmation.

Khimi’s face contorts in anger as yet another arrow sinks into the mast. “Fine, if they board us with a burning ship, we’re in trouble.”

“Just do it!” Ennui shouts, her voice filled with desperation.

Lumi turns to the enemy vessel and holds his hand over his golden choker. His tail flicks behind him expectantly as he extends his hand towards the ship, summoning a massive flaming globe above the water. It dances and sways, following the fluid movements of Lumi’s hand. Shouts from the enemy ship turn into screams as they realize what is about to happen. Ennui and Khimi drag themselves across the planks next to Lumi, watching with awe and terror as chaos erupts on the enemy vessel. The ball of fire swishes over the ship, its fiery embers dancing like a school of fish. Lumi’s lips curl into a sly smile, he moves his hand back and forth, controlling the inferno with ease and precision.

“Kill them!” Ennui whispers urgently in Lumi’s ear.

Lumi peers at her from the corner of his eye, “I don’t want to ki–”

“They’re shooting at us, Lumi,” Ennui whispers incredulously.

Khimi clenches his jaw, “She’s right. If yo–”

Lumi groans loudly and brings his hand above his head, causing the flaming ball to rise high above the enemy vessel’s deck. The shaking inferno licks against the furled sails, while the hempen ropes holding them in place catch fire. In one swift motion, Lumi lowers his hand onto the deck, smashing the flaming orb against the wooden planks and dispersing flames throughout the entire ship. Men scream and scramble overboard in a desperate attempt to escape the fiery destruction.

“You didn’t kill anyone,” Ennui mutters angrily with a scowl on her face. “You didn’t even try!”

Lumi glares at Ennui with a dumbfounded expression on his face, “I tried!

“Lumi, if you do it again, then maybe they will fle–”

Before Khimi can even finish his sentence, another arrow whizzes overhead, and he lowers his forehead against the deck. The enemy vessel draws nearer and Lumi extends his hand once again, closing his eyes and whispering an incantation. When he opens his eyes again, a radiant glow emanates from their aqua hue as he tightly squeezes his fingers against his palm. Once more, the burning orb forms above the enemy vessel, ready to unleash destruction.

“Do it, Lumi!” Ennui shouts.

He nervously conducts the flaming sphere into one of the men, its form wavering with his unwillingness. Their clothes set alight, men scream in panic at the orb’s return. Come’on Lumi!

“Khimi,” Ennui begins, turning to him with a knowing look in her eyes.

“Right,” he replies, pushing himself to his knees.

Ennui grunts and stands beside Khimi. “Rashid, watch the ship with Lumi!”

Huh?” Lumi and Rashid sound in unison.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing!” Ennui shouts. “And don’t fuckin’ burn us.”

Ennui and Khimi hurry from the top deck to the port side of the ship. Lumi calls after Khimi while they rush it to the side of the railing. Khimi grabs hold of Ennui’s shoulder and takes deep breath after deep breath, then gives her a nod. An incantation crosses his lips, the scar across his nasal bridge glows like scalding hot iron.

“W-What are you doing?” Ennui shouts.

 The sound of crackling surrounds them, Khimi braces himself.Ennui holds herself against Khimi, prepping her knees for impact. The loud crackling around them snaps viciously, a thunderous bang fills the surrounding air. A sick feeling churns within her, the air shifts. An unsteadiness takes hold of her, a sharp jolt of energy flushes through her knees. The movement is jarring, heat surrounds her.

Shouts on the deck ring out through the night. The new surroundings are illuminated by the burning sails, now freed from the burning ropes. New tricks, Khimi? The burning sphere dashes back and forth overhead, raining embers over the wooden planks. At least Lumi is good for something. Ennui twists the gladius in her palm, while one of the crew notices them among the mayhem. Chaos is all around them, and a man calls attention to their sudden appearance, pointing a khopesh at the two of them. Ennui shrugs, unable to contain the excitement welling inside of her. Her hand whirls from beneath her cloak, tossing a weighty knife from her belt in a lighting-swift motion. Among the sounds of the chaos, none can hear the man’s cries as the knife penetrates his chest.

Ennui snorts in frustration at the sight of her opponent still standing, despite her best efforts. She shoots a quick glance at Khimi, who shakes his head in disbelief and unsheathes his scimitars from his waist scarf.

“What do I even pay you for?” he teases before joining the battle.

Ennui charges towards the man, her cloak swirling behind her as she dodges a spear thrust towards her. The sharp tip tears through the fabric of her cloak but misses her by mere inches. With swift movements, she sinks her gladius deep into the pirate’s chest, staining his loose linen shirt with a bright crimson hue. He grasps at the blade, but it’s too late – he falls to his knees with his eyes rolling back into his head.

Meanwhile, Khimi sparks his scimitars together, causing flames to erupt and engulf the blades. In a blur of motion, he disappears into the mass of bodies on deck. Ennui takes a moment to watch him disappear into the enemy crew before refocusing on her own opponent.

As she rolls her neck from side to side, a hulking figure emerges from the smoke before her. He wields a heavy spiked maul and strides towards her with a menacing scowl. Ennui backpedals in surprise as he swings the maul down onto the planks. She narrowly avoids being hit and faces the man, trembling with excitement.

She makes a move to close the distance between them but is met with another swing of the maul overhead. Quickly reacting, she dodges out of its way and retreats while fingering a long dagger on her belt. “Why are you attacking our ship?!” she demands, keeping a safe distance from the man.

He responds with a grunt, “Your ship was heavy with cargo. We spotted it rounding the Cay.”

Ennui sighs, her fingers tightly gripping the hilt of her dagger. “Did anyone send you after our ship?” she asks, hoping for some insight on their attackers’ motives. “Ziad Zeybek?”

The man simply grins and slings his maul over his shoulder. “We don’t work for anyone!” he shouts at her.

A wicked gleam appears in Ennui’s eye while she cackles with excitement. “That’s all I needed to know,” she says before glancing back at their own vessel. The sounds of chaos and screams can be heard from the crew while Khimi continues to fight off their attackers. Seeing that they have begun to pass their vessel, Ennui refocuses on her opponent.

His heavy footsteps echo across the deck as he charges towards her again, swinging the maul from side to side with labored breathing. Ennui easily steps out of his reach, sizing up her opponent. He must be part giant, she thinks to herself.

Suddenly, Khimi joins the fray once more, twirling his flaming swords and taking down several more enemies in quick succession. Ennui groans in frustration, wishing she could join in on the action.

The massive man swings his maul overhead once again, Ennui runs her gladius along his arm, drawing thick warm blood from the wound. He recoils in pain and drops his weapon before Ennui swiftly plunges her dagger into his gut multiple times. His fist hits against her shoulder weakly, and she continues to stab at him until he falls to the ground, defeated and bleeding profusely.

“Devil,” he cries with a hateful glare, his fist bashing against her side. “Bloody dev–”

Ennui pulls the lengthy dagger from the man’s gut with a sharp twist, warm blood flows against her hand. She peers back through the chaos. The ball of flame overhead lowers, slamming into one of the crew. A horrific scream rings out through the sky, the burning figure tumbles over the wooden rails. Darkness takes the ship except for the flames from the burning sails. Ennui steps back, her form shadowed by the front mast. She vanishes, appearing in the dark of the top deck. There is no doubt that she had always been thankful for Samael’s gift, though the cost to which it was given, always brought her anguish. She looks down over the rails. Khimi seems to have a handle on things. Khimi strikes down pirate after pirate, searing wounds left across the bodies of the fallen. Hells…there are dozens of them. Too many!

“Khimi!” Ennui calls over the rails of the top deck, “We’re running out of time,” she shouts, motioning to their own vessel. “Go back!”

Khimi looks up at her. “Alright!” He shouts in reply.

Khimi, finding himself surrounded by a horde of enemy crew members, swings his scimitars furiously. Each blow is accompanied by a burst of embers and the flicker of magic. With a moment’s respite from the chaos, he closes his eyes and whispers an incantation. The air crackles with electricity, a sudden burst of energy surrounds him. Ennui watches in awe as Khimi vanishes before her eyes, only to reappear moments later on the deck of their vessel.

“Hurry, Ennui!” Khimi calls out to her across the gap between the ships.

Ennui peers across the treacherous waters, her heart sinking at the distance between them. “It is wider than I thought,” she mutters to herself with a grimace.

Lumi rushes to stand beside Khimi at the ship’s railing. “Ennui?” he shouts across the waves. “Jump, Ennui!”

“Jump,” she grumbles under her breath, rolling her eyes. She glances back at where Khimi had just disappeared and takes a deep breath.

She quickly sheathes her gladius and scrambles up the wooden railing in a desperate attempt to escape their grasp. Her tail snaps behind her in frustration as she looks down into the frigid water below. Without hesitation, she falls from the railing and plunges into the icy depths. The cold immediately envelops her, but she forces herself to keep swimming towards their ship’s light above.

Arrows fly past her and vanish into the water around her during her struggle to stay afloat. Breaking through the surface, she gasps for air while waves crash over her head. But despite her efforts, she can feel herself being swept further away from their ship. Turning to face it, she sees Lumi frantically shouting and pointing towards the rope that Rashid has thrown to her.

ENNUI!” Lumi’s voice echoes over the water, urging her to swim faster.

She kicks with all her might against the unforgiving sea, but a sharp pain in her thigh slows her down. She can not afford to think about it. Her head dips below the waves and hears their muffled shouts from beneath the surface. She surfaces, taking another deep breath before she dives back down and continues swimming towards the sound of her allies’ voices.

“Come on, Ennui!” Lumi cheers when she reaches the surface once more. A length of rope lands in the water beside her, tossed by Rashid from their ship’s deck. With renewed determination, she swims towards it and grabs hold with all her strength. The shouts between the two ships grow louder. Volleys of arrows are sent to their ship, but she clings tighter to the rope, confident in Khimi and Rashid’s efforts to pull her to safety.

“Hold on, Ennui!” Khimi shouts above the chaos, his arms straining to help Rashid reel in the rope.

Her body slams against the wooden side, the source of her pain now realized. A crossbow bolt lodged in her thigh. Each time her body knocks against the ship, the pain drums through her side. It takes every bit of effort to ignore the discomfort.

Ennui sucks her teeth, “Hurry it up!” She shouts from below.

“Ju-ust hold on a moment!” Rashid shouts in response, heaving the rope hand over hand.

As she reaches the top, Khimi extends a hand from over the wooden railing and offers her a familiar smile, “Can’t let you die just yet.”

Ennui grimaces and takes his hand, “I feel like I am,” she groans loudly. She looks to her thigh once she flops onto the planks. “Fuck, it’s bad…”

“Rashid,” Khimi says, kneeling beside her and turns to his advisor, “She needs healing.”

“Ah, fuck,” Ennui groans, sucking her teeth. She squirms against Khimi’s hand, pain coursing around the bolt in her thigh. “If we pull it out…you could hit something. I’d rather not risk it.”

“Ennui!” Lumi shouts, sprinting across the deck towards them. “You’re hurt!”

She glares at Lumi, her annoyance clear on her face. “Yes, Lumi,” she mutters and pulls her leg away from Khimi’s hand.

“I can help,” Lumi insists, then dips to his knees beside her. “I c–”

No!” Rashid says, pushing himself beside her. “We need to wait until we’re out of danger. Khimi, bring her below deck,” he orders, studying the bolt sticking from her thigh.

“It’s just a superfic–” Ennui stammers, her words fading with Rashid’s grip on the bolt. “You’re a cunt!” She groans in anger.

Lumi pushes himself back beside Ennui, “Ennui, I promise,” he begins, his eyes wide with worry. “I’ve been practicing…I can help!”

Ennui gauges his expression, releasing a deep sigh. “Once we’re clear of the other vessel…you can see to it.” She pushes her wet hair from her eyes.

Rashid clears his voice, looking firmly at Ennui. “I’ll stand by in case something goes amiss.”

“That’s fine and good,” Khimi interrupts, squatting beside them. “But we’re still waiting for the wind. They could return before that happens,” he mutters to Rashid and Ennui.

“I think we left them with an unpleasant enough surprise on their own deck,” Ennui says, looking up to Khimi. “And Lumi’s fire trick caused a panic.”

Lumi glances back at the schooner drifting into the distance, its sails aglow with flames. “They have oars though…but Khimi’s right, they could be back.”

“Their rear and forward sails were doused with water beforehand, it seems,” Rashid says, joining their gaze. “The flames only licked that center canvas.”

Khimi places his hand on Ennui’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get you to your room.”

Ennui stares at the schooner with a renewed sense of anger. “If they turn back, I expect you to burn that ship to cinders, Lumi.”

“We’ll keep you informed,” Rashid whispers, helping Khimi bring her to her feet.

Lumi gives Ennui a soft smile while she hobbles to the hallway. “Ennui, thank you.”

“Huh? Why?” She mumbles, turning back momentarily. Her soaked clothes drip heavily over the planks. 

Lumi pushes himself to his feet. “For looking after us.”

Ennui turns away from Lumi, “I did it for myself,” she mutters, a warmth building in her cheeks at Lumi’s words. Rashid and Khimi help her to the tiny chambers.

Rashid helps her to the bed. Khimi closes the door behind them, his face bears a grim expression. Without wind, it’s over. Rashid lights an oil lantern with his flint. The light dances through the small room. The three maintain a lengthy silence, each bearing doomed expressions.

“You gonna get this bolt out of my leg?” Ennui questions Rashid with her eyebrows raised.

Rashid gives her a knowing look. “I’m not an expert healer. I can only do the basics…a maiming wound like this requires more expertise. You could end up without that leg if y’re not car—“

“Why not let Lumi?” Khimi interrupts. “You have to know by now…he’s gifted.”

Ennui chuckles, nearly choking at the sudden pain in her leg. “He’s gifted alright,” she says between pained groans. “At taking your fuckin’ coc–”

“Enough!” Rashid barks, cutting her off.

Khimi’s face screws up, “Truly, you have to see it by now,” he snaps in frustration.

Rashid shakes his head and crosses his arms.

“Rashid, do you agree with me?” Khimi pleads.

Rashid sighs, “He’s shown impressive growth in a short time. But I’ve yet to see him heal a wound of this magnitude. Gashes and scrapes…sure.”

“I’m willing to let him try if you believe in him,” Ennui whispers. She lays her head against a small feathered cushion. “Cut these pants off, Khimi,” she demands, raising her injured right leg.

Khimi crosses the room and gives Ennui a serious look, grasping the cotton fabric in both hands, “I believe in him,” he says, looking into her eyes while he rips the fabric almost effortlessly. “I know nothing of Gods…but it’s clear something is watching after him.”

“Then, fetch him,” Ennui whispers, looking down at her pale leg. Blood swells from around the bolt in her thigh, staining the thin mattress. “If the Gods are watching after him, then maybe they can pass me some of their undying love.”

Khimi chortles, lightening the mood. “From the little we know of the Gods…they aren’t the kind sort.”

Rashid snorts, “A Godless heathen speaking as if he knows anything about them.”