Mary rose as Ead opened the door to her cell. It creaked loudly as he swung it open. He didn't look at her, only nodded slightly and walked away.
Mary watched as he walked, “Are we there?” she asked in a hoarse voice.
Ead continued walking, “Don't be daft,” he mumbled, climbing up the steps and making his way to the upper deck.
Mary followed him up. The sea was calm and quiet in the dark. The rays of the moon shone on the tide and illuminated Captain Ethelbald's face as he managed the wheel at the helm. Behind them, the Mary and the Eversbian ships followed. Ead went to stand at the prow, bent over the banister pensively, enjoying the spray of the sea.
Mary's stomach rumbled at the smell of food that wafted from below, but she strode over to Ead and stood next to him.
“You barely knew her,” she said. Ead raised his head slightly, “How could you say you loved her?”
Ead paused before he looked at Mary, the light of the moon making the dark bruise on the side of her face stand out more against her fair skin, “We're different, you and I,” he said, “You humans... you are blissfully ignorant when it comes to love. You see it as a blessing, to search for the 'one'. There is no 'one' for you. You can love anyone and - through time and compromise - you can make your love true. And then, when the first love is ended, you may love a second time. A third time. A fourth time. A hundred-million times, until you can love no more. But elves...” he looked away, “We are different,” he sighed and then said, “I'm sorry that I hurt you.”
Mary waived the apology away, “What do you mean 'different'?”
“An elf may only love once, one chosen especially for him. And he knows his love as soon as he sees her. And once he does, his will is bound to his love,” Ead said, “Why do you think there are so few of us in pairs? Love is a bane for us, Mary. A blissful bane, especially when one is conceded to an unbound human. Mariqah may never have felt towards me as I have felt towards her, but I would have always been bound to her. But she is dead. There is nothing left for me to do, but to restore her honour and then - vanish.”
“That's nonsense, Ead!” Mary said, “You can just return to your life as is was before. Yes, Aunt Mariqah's death rocked us all, but... time heals all wounds!”
Ead smiled sadly, “I told you. We are different, you and I. Where your wound will heal, mine will ever taunt me. I am no longer a sane man. I am no longer a free man. I am a man who's love he never knew and will never know. I am a man who is broken.”
Mary looked out at the sea, “I'm... sorry, Ead.”
“The ways of the world are not of your making. You have nothing to apologise for.”
“My aunt... she would've loved you only because of your circumstance, if not for your character. What you're doing for her... I admire it.”
Ead paused, “Would she have scolded me for hurting you?”
“Yes. But she would've also told you not to go where you're going, and not to do what you're doing.”
“I envy you so,” Ead whispered, “That you would know that - and a hundred things more - and wouldn't.”
“I... don't know how to respond to that.”
“For her sake, Mary,” Ead turned to her, “I promise I will do everything in my power to see you safe and unharmed. You have my word on this.”
“T-thank you, Ead.”
He inclined his head, “You should go and eat. I expect that you are hungry.”
“I was. But I think I've lost my appetite.”
He shrugged and the looked at the sword that hung at Mary's side, “Her sword...” he murmured.
“Have you used it before?”
“It... was always too heavy for me. Aunt Mariqah had me use a short-sword most of the time. The Damascus... it was very special to her.”
“I suppose you ought to accustom yourself with it then.”
Mary raised her brows, “I'm sorry?”
“The battle against your mother will not be an easy one, you understand?” Ead drew a rapier from his scabbard, “and what better weapon to finish her with, than with the Damascus?” he took a few steps back and adopted a poised stance, “Think fast, Mary.”
Ead charged just as Mary brought the Damascus out. The steel clanged as they met, Mary trying to keep her balance as Ead continued his onslaught.
“I must say I'm disappointed, Mary,” he jeered, “I expected more.”
Mary threw him off, holding the blade upright, struggling to keep it straight in her grip, “Easy for you to say! Your blade is as thin as a wafer!” she charged, her boots clacking on the wooden deck. Finding rhythm, Mary struck and parried as Ead fought with her.
“A gift, from my father - this blade,” Ead explained as he took a step back and ducked under Mary's rather unsteady swipe.
“Ah,” Mary said, raising a hand and calling for pause. Her sword-arm felt tired as the Damascus pulled it down. She panted, “Aunt Mariqah's sword was given to her by Uncle Khadir's father,” Mary sat down, “She's never put it aside since.”
Ead, who was unimpressed by Mary's fatigue, folded his arms, “They aren't related?”
“Not as far as I know.”
“What happened?” came Tostig's voice, “Were you two fighting?” he strode up to stand by Mary.
“Only some friendly sparring, nothing more,” Ead said.
“Keep yourself away from her,” said Tostig, a warning note in his voice as he helped Mary up, “You hear me? Stay away from Mary.”
“What? Tostig, no!” Mary said, “You've nothing to worry about. Ead's telling the truth.”
Ead raised a hand, “It's quite alright, Mary.”
“I told you. I'm not sane anymore.”