"There must be something you can do for her. You're the best healer in all of
Rayn!" A worried voice cracks through my walls of darkness. Someone presses his or her hand to my forehead and sighs.
"Prince Dai, there is nothing I can do for a saddened heart. Her body chose not to deal with her emotions and instead locked her inside of herself. Only she can choose to wake up." Prince Dai? Locked up? How long have I been out? Wait.
Prince Dai. He's not Captain of the Guard is he? He carries a sword because he's the prince!
A sudden dread crosses my heart. He's the prince. He saved Saf. I put him in danger! What kind of person am I? I need to get out of here before he sentences me to a life in the dungeon. Not only did I steal from him but I also lied to him and used him. If I could groan, I would. Why me?
I switch my attention to the people around me as their conversation continues.
"Locked in herself? Are you sure you can't help her Rachael?" Why does he sound so worried? I'm only a thief. No one of importance to him.
"Prince, she's only a servant. I don't understand why you care for her so much."
Dai sighs and I can almost picture him weighing his options.
"I care for her so much because, well because she's not a servant. Rachael, she's part of a legend, she's the daughter of-"
A door gets thrown open somewhere and hard footsteps ring out.
"What's going on in here?" A rough voice asks and unfortunately it's one I recognize. There's some shifting around until I can feel Riley's eyes boring down on me.
"What happened to her?" He asks and while Rachael explains to him what happened I think over what Dai had started to say. Who am I? A thief. A nobody. A street rat. Scum. But according to him I am something more. He must be mistaken.
"Have you tried to wake her up?" Riley's snappish tone interrupts my thoughts.
There's no response but I can almost bet there was head shaking. Riley lets out a snort of frustration.
"I don't have time for this. She was already late this morning and I figured she wouldn't bother to come at dusk. She's lucky I decided to come check on her."
His voice gets louder and louder until I can feel his warm breath on my face.
"Wake up Ivy. You're late." When I fail to respond he sighs and I hear him draw his sword.
"First Advisor what are you doing?" Rachael's voice holds concern and I suddenly have a feeling that I need to wake up. Like, now. I fight the blackness but it does no good.
"I can guarantee you that she'll wake up if she knows her life is threatened. Did you hear that Ivy? You get 5 seconds to open your eyes otherwise I'll slide this blade right through your neck." I panic. I claw my way to control over my body but it doesn't listen even at Riley gets to three seconds. Pushing harder I struggle and strain against the blackness but it fails to set me free.
A thought pops into my head; when I went to see Riley I ordered the guard to let me in he did it. Not because he wanted to but because I ordered him to. It didn't seem odd to me at the time but now that I think about it, it does seem strange. I don't really have time to think this through but I'll have to later. It's my only choice at the moment. Riley gets to one and I exhale.
I put as much force behind it as possible. The blackness disappears and I fall through it into reality. I launch myself away from Riley's blade and it just so happens that I had been lying on a table. The floor smacks me hard and I groan in pain as I lay there.
I hear Riley slide his sword back into its sheathe and I slowly ease my way onto my feet. Everyone stares at me and I can't figure out why. Dai, er Prince Dai clears his throat and a half smile rests on his lips.
"Ivy, you look like you've been run over by a herd of horses." Oh. That's why everyone's staring at me. Riley snaps out of whatever trance he was in and grabs my arm.
"Yes, well it'll have to do for now because I need you in the training room," he retorts as he drags me out of the room. I pull my arm from his grip.
"Don't drag me places. Just ask me to go and I'll walk beside you. No more dragging me around like a disobedient puppy." There is anger behind my words and Riley seems to struggle with my words. I wonder why, I mean, it's not like I ordered it.
He lets go of my hand and walks away. I follow just as I said I would. We reach the training room quickly although I have no recollection of how we got there. The room is empty. I open my mouth but Riley beats me to it.
"They're out running. You can do your laps after we're done training. For the first couple times I'll run with you until you're comfortable running at night." I close my mouth and frown. Running, yay. I snort at my own sarcasm.
"Tonight I want to review what you learned this morning and teach you a few new things. I've noticed you learn very quickly." He grabs two swords and tosses me one. I hold out my hand for it but it clatters to the ground. Discouraged, I pick it up and hold it at the ready. Riley mirrors my position.
"Even your weight to both feet and put your other arm out as a balancing tool." I follow his instructions putting equal weight on both feet and using my other arm as a balancing tool. To my surprise, I feel lighter and it's easier to move at a moment’s notice.
"I want you to attack." I launch myself at him and with only a flick of his wrist my sword is on the floor.
"Simply attacking me will do no good. You must analyze me and find a weakness." I nod and set up at the ready again. I take note of the spacing between his feet. Mine are shoulder width apart. His are not. He's off balanced.
I fake lunge to the left and he falls for it. Using my left arm to straighten up, I shove my elbow into his ribs. He stumbles back but doesn't fall.
"Good." We start again and each time we start over I last longer and longer before my sword hits the ground. Finally Riley switches to something else. He puts the swords away and grabs a handful of daggers.
"I want you to hit that target five times. After that you can be done with dagger throwing." He walks off. Sighing I roll my shoulders back and pick up one of the daggers he left. I focus on my boiling anger and let the dagger fly. Before I even see if it hits I pick up the next dagger and throw it at the target.
Dagger after dagger I throw and only once I've run out of daggers do I see if they hit. Panting, from my anger I stare at the inner circle in which all five of the daggers reside.
A flash of pride streaks through my heart but dies out as I catch Riley's impassive stare. He motions for me to come over and I obey.
"Are you fluent in any other languages?" I raise an eyebrow at him.
"Yeah, I'm pretty fluent in sarcasm." He rolls his eyes and ignores my comment by handing me a thick book. I look at it with a mix of disgust and wonder. I guess he's assuming I can read. I can read but I have no memory who taught me. I've just always been able to do it.
"Look over it. I want to practice speaking it tomorrow." I groan; when I took this job I didn't realize I'd be a student.
I set the book off to the side as Riley sets up for our last activity of the evening. He leads me over to a few boulders and hands me three knives.
"I thought you said I was done with knife throwing for the night."
"I lied. I want you to hit me with at least one of the knives." I lift one of them but he catches my hand.
"Not right here, you have to wait until I get out there. I'm not going to be standing still. You'll have to look to where I will be not where I am otherwise you'll miss." I bite my lip in concentration as he begins to walk in and around the boulders. There's no pattern to the direction he walks, it seems careless almost. I drop two of the daggers and focus on the one in my hand.
I pull it back and follow Riley's even movements. As he steps out from behind a boulder I launch the dagger at him. It lands ahead of him.
"Good, but you need to lock into my pace. Count my steps so that when you get ready to throw the dagger you know exactly how many steps I will take between the time you threw it and the time it hits me." I pick up another dagger and let the pounding of his feet fill my head. One two. Right left. He leads with his right foot.
I exhale as the dagger slides from my fingers and I estimate he'll take about three steps before it hits his heart. One, two, three...four. Right as he takes his fourth step the dagger hits him. It only nicks his arm but still, it hit him.
"Very good. Now hit me again." He picks up the pace and changes directions every so often. I find it harder to lock into his footsteps. One, two, one, switch. He changes everything even the foot he leads with. One, two, switch, one, two.
I'll have to hit him during a switch. He never takes more than three steps before switching but he always switches behind a rock. One, two, one, switch, one, two. When he leads with his left foot he switches by swaying backward before turning. When he leads with his right foot he switches by pivoting on his right foot. I need to hit him when he's switching on a left lead because that's when he's stationary the longest.
I aim the dagger at him. One, two, one. Before he gets the chance to switch I throw the dagger. It hits with a sickening thud and I rush over to find Riley on the ground. He coughs and slowly gets to his feet.
"But I hit you! How..." I trail as he shows me the armor he has on under his clothes.
"I came prepared." I let out a huge sigh of relief as he smiles. The moment is broken as the soldiers come crashing through the door into the training room. Riley gestures for me to follow him as he exits into the hall. I follow and smile at the fact that he remembered the whole "don't drag me there" thing.
We get outside and the cold darkness presses against me pushing me closer to Riley. He laughs.
"What? Is the thief scared of the dark?" I glare at where I think he is but I doubt he sees it.
"Not the dark, but rather what's in it," I reply and silence answers me. I can almost feel his agreement in the air.
"Well now, there's nothing here that'll harm you while I'm around. Let’s begin; we'll run one lap around the castle." He sets the pace to a small jog and I keep pace with him easily. I've run through the streets long enough that running laps should be easy.
Keeping the stone walls of the castle to my left and Riley to my right I feel confident as we round the first corner of the square castle. As we jog I think over Dai's words. He said I was the daughter of someone. Someone who obviously was not a street rat. That doesn't make sense though, I have no parents.
My lungs begin to burn in the frigid air and I suddenly realize that we're less than half way around the castle. Oh why did I ever think this was going to be easy? Beside me Riley's hardly panting whereas I'm just about dying.
I push a little faster to get out of the stupid jog we're in and into a pace my muscles are more used to. Riley speeds up to catch up and I let out heavy breaths. I just have to make it to the gate. Then I can go inside and sleep.
Sweat pours from my face dripping into my eyes and mouth. Almost there. Almost there Ivy. I can see the castle gates and the lanterns fill me with happiness.
Never in my whole life have I ever been so happy to see the gates.
Beside me, Riley's still breathing through his nose as if none of this was strenuous. His stolid expression angers me a little. I count the strides between me and the comfort of my bed. 7, 6. If I had the energy I'd smile at how close I am. 5, 4. Almost there. Almost there. 3, 2, 1! I'm done! I slow to a walk and throw my arms in the air. Riley comes up beside me.
"How...do...you...not...get...tired?" I barely manage to get the words out between my panting. He smiles and guides me inside.
"I run laps every day, twice a day. Soon you'll be able to do that too." I hold on to that bit of faith he has in me as he escorts me to my room. He stops outside my door and hands me the language book along with a dagger.
"Throwing knives are nice but if you can throw a dagger you'll do twice the damage. Practice throwing and catching this." I nod and accept the supplies before turning into my room.
I stuff the book and knife into the chest at the edge of my bed and crash onto my bed. Sleeping has never seemed so lovely.
"Ivy, you're late. Again." Riley's disappointment hardly hurts.
"You sound so surprised. At least I bothered to show up." I actually was up on time; I just decided to study the book he gave me instead of showing up on time.
"Rer juo tzorest?" I recognize his words to be asking if I studied.
"Tu hdiz eb E rer." So what if I did, I answer and he smiles. After breezing through the book I realized that I knew a lot of the language already. I can't remember where or when I learned it but I feel more natural talking in the ancient language of Rayn then I do in its current one.
"Good, we'll review what we did yesterday and then I'll teach you some new moves." He tosses me a sword and I catch it. It's not the prettiest catch but I'm proud of it.
We get to work immediately, working on when to lunge and when to defend. He teaches me more attack moves and I work on my defensive moves. The morning wears off too quickly and I know I'll have to suffer through another lap around the castle.
I leave with the knights and I search for Aulani among their ranks. I immediately spy his blue eyes and freckles; they stick out like a sore thumb. He smiles when I take the spot beside him.
"You must be Ivy. Zelina told me she'd send you to me. What's up?" Dang, that girl really gets around fast. I don't need to know who Dai is anymore but I do want to know more about the legend he said I was a part of.
"What legends are there that involve a daughter?" We start running and I struggle to keep his fast pace. He thinks a second.
"The only two I can think of are the Legend of Ariella and the Legend of Ryder. Both of those legends mention something about a daughter. I'd start with the Legend of Ryder; her daughter is supposedly still alive." Hope blooms in my chest and I hardly notice that we're almost halfway done. Aulani has set a fast pace but I like it better then the pathetic jog Riley set last night.
"Do you know the legend?" He shakes his head no.
"No, I only know the gist of it. I think Zelina told you about the Seven Seas Inn tonight. The pirate coming tonight is pretty good with legends. I'm sure he'd help you out if you stayed after his story." I cringe and it doesn't go unnoticed. Aulani raises an eyebrow at me and I try to hide my panting.
"What? Are you afraid of pirates?" His voice holds a teasing note but I fail to be amused. Truthfully, I'm afraid of pirates, they're about as bad as bandits. They pillage and kill without thought and they just aren't people I want to hang around.
"Hey, don't be scared. Ghost isn't all that bad. You just gotta keep an eye on him sometimes. He can be testy and if he really gets going then you should leave. He's got a wicked talent." I glare at him.
"Thanks for helping the confidence." He grins at my sarcasm and points to the gates.
"I believe this is your exit." I'm a little disappointed that I don't have more time to talk to him but I really don't want to do another lap.
I nod in thanks and slow to a stop as the rest of the knights pass me. I'm still breathing quite heavily but not quite as bad as last night. It was probably a combination between the cold air and the fact that I wasn't talking to anyone. Talking seems to make the time pass quicker.
I put my hands on my hips and attempt to calm my breathing. After I'm calm I walk through the gates to Riley's side. His face is expressionless.
"Today you are going to be a candle maker." I grimace and clear my throat.
"I'm going to inspect those roses over there." I begin to walk away but Riley catches the back of my shirt.
"Oh no you don't. You WILL go to work today. And Ivy, please don't make me assign you another job." I grumble under my breath but knowing that I'm caught I make my way into the castle. I search for something that'll lead me to wherever they make candles.
"Follow the flame symbol," Riley tells me and I nod in thanks before turning left. The walk is short and I soon find myself in a big room similar to the Clothing Wing.
"The Lighting Wing," I read the banner before focusing on finding the candle making room. It's not that hard. I enter to find an older man sitting silently dipping a half made candle in wax. I clear my throat and he looks up.
"Do you think you have the patience to sit here all day and make candles?" What?
Not what I expected. He blinks and stares into my eyes, waiting for a response.
"No sir," I answer and he frowns.
"Then don't bother wasting my time. Go back to First Advisor and make up whatever story you want. If you're not going to work properly than I don't want you working for me at all." I spin on my foot and head out of the Lighting Wing.
That was easy.
I walk just about as fast as I can to Riley's office; the sooner
I'm done here the more time I have to get an appropriate outfit for tonight. I enter Riley's office and a guard stops me.
"State your business, servant." I roll my eyes and sigh.
"Just tell him Ivy's here." The guard glares at me a second but does as I say. I'm surprised he actually listened. A moment later Riley steps out of his room.
Upon seeing me his eyes fill with anger and I get the feeling this isn't going to be good.
"Don't tell me-"
"Fired before I started. He said I wasn't fit for the job." Technically not true but hey, the candle maker said I could come up with whatever story I wanted.
Riley lets out a forced breath. He glances at the guard a second before grabbing the collar of my shirt and pulling me closer.
"Listen up Ivy. After everyone heard about your incident with the Stable Master
I'm not sure anyone will want you to work for them. Do you know how hard it is for me to find you job after job?" I try to pull out of his grasp unsuccessfully.
"I've only been through two," I protest but he doesn't seem to hear me.
"Show up for training around midday. Tonight is your night off. Now get out of my sight!" I hurry out of there as fast as I can. I've never seen him angry like that before and, frankly, I never want to see him that angry again.
I sprint down the cold stone corridors following the mini shirt symbol. I stop before entering the Clothing Wing to catch my breath and make myself look a little more presentable. Calmly I walk to Delilah's sewing room. She doesn't look up at my approach. I clear my throat and she jumps from her chair.
"Goodness gracious dear, don't scare me like that! Oh, Ivy! It's you! I've made you a spare set of clothes and found you a spare set of shoes." I smile and accept the bundle of clothes she hands me. When I don't leave she raises an eyebrow.
"What did I forget?" I give her a reassuring smile.
"Nothing, I was just wondering if you had a cloak that is dark and has a hood."
"Of course I do!" She begins to search through her messy piles of cloth and needles before finally producing a cloak. The stitching is perfect and I gape at its beauty.
"It's all yours if you want it. The person I made it for didn't need it." This is amazing. I accept the cloak and thank Delilah once more for everything she's done. She brushes off the compliments and sends me on my way. I take my new clothing to my room and brush up on my dagger skills before heading to training.
When I reach the training room I find that Riley is in no better mood. Glaring at me murderously he tosses me a sword. I catch it, realizing that I'll need to be better than my A game. I roll my shoulders back and focus my anger on him.
Why does he get to be in a bad mood? No one yells at him for being angry. I always get yelled at when I'm not at my best. Riley lunges and I block just as he taught me. I twist and throw a punch at his face before blocking his next attack.
"Focus." I hiss and he growls. I knock his sword from his hands and he grabs a dagger. In all his anger he forgot to check his stance. I take advantage of his off balance positioning and ram into his side.
He stumbles but manages to right himself before my next attack. He barely dodges my attacks and my irritation with him only grows. He leaves his left side unprotected. I purposely slash his left sleeve and then to prove my point I slash his right one. He backs up, eyes wide.
"When you’re done throwing your hissy fit you can come fight me like a true swordsman." I slam my sword into a notch in the floor and spin on my heel. His shocked gaze follows me as I leave the training room. In fact, everyone in the training room seems to be staring at me.
Before leaving the room I make sure to turn and glare at all those brave enough to stare. I meet each and every one of their gazes.
"What? Haven't you ever seen a girl before?" Their eyes shift and they begin to mutter amongst themselves as I take my leave. No one follows as I make my way outside.
When I reach the doors a guard stops me.
"No escort tonight Miss?" A young guard with friendly green eyes questions. I smile at him and he returns it.
"No sir, I'm running my lap on my own this evening." He frowns and leaves his post to walk with me.
"Sapphire may have warned us away from you but it goes against my better judgment to leave a young lady such as yourself unaccompanied." Warmth fills my heart at his kindness and I can honestly say I've never experienced anything of the sort on the streets.
"What about your post? Don't you have orders not to leave it?" He grins and it's somewhat boyish.
"If something happens while I'm gone then I'll be looking to the sky for hedgehogs." I laugh.
"That interesting huh?" He grins again. We head out the gates and I begin to run my lap. The guard keeps pace with me even though he's weighed down by his sword.
We run in silence for quite a while before I finally get the courage to ask him his name.
"Red." I snort and take a closer look at him. His hair is brown and his skin is quite fair.
"What kind of name is Red?"
"What kind of name is Poison Ivy?" He fires back and for once, I don't have an answer. A small smile inches onto his lips as I fumble about for a response.
"It's just Ivy. I think I've outgrown the mold of the thief I once was." His smile disappears and his face softens.
"The name's Redric. But people just call me Red." I give him a sad smile as we round the 3rd corner of the castle. This lap seemed to go much quicker. I'm still breathing quite heavily but I'm not dying.
We spend the rest of our run in silence and when I'm done he escorts me to the door.
"See? No activity while I was gone," he teases and I can't help but tease back.
"Oh yes? How do you know someone didn't sneak in while we were gone?" He laughs and I smile; I could get used to having friends here. Life is a lot simpler.
I leave Red and head back to my room to gather my things for this evening. I'll have to skip the evening meal to go to the Seven Seas Inn but I'm fine with that. On the streets I was lucky if I got a bite to eat the whole day.
I pull the cloak over my clothes and attach the dagger's sheathe to my pants. Sliding the dagger into its holder I try to calm my racing heart. Tonight is my night off. I have one task and that it to find out more about the Legend of Ryder. I've never met a pirate before but from the stories I've heard...this could get messy.
The dagger pressing against my side fills me with reassurance as I leave my room. As I step into the hall however, I feel an overwhelming sense of dread.
Forcing myself to continue walking forward I take deep breaths to stay calm. I make it out of the castle with no memory of whom I passed or where I went.
Growing up on the streets means that I know exactly where the Seven Seas Inn is located. It's in the opposite direction of Saf's hideout and it rests near the bay. Although the name implies that the building is an inn it also doubles as a tavern.
I scan the ships over and over searching for the pirate's ship. Nothing, they're all trading ships. I reach the door to the tavern and take a deep breath before knocking. Loud sounds and harsh noises can be heard. The door opens a crack and a man peers at me warily.
"What's the password?" I stare up into the big man's eyes. They're like the pits of peaches.
"G-Ghost sir," I stutter and he opens the door to me. I nod in thanks and pass him.
"Boy, you'd better keep that dagger to yourself otherwise they might put you in the Ring." Ring? Boy? He must think I'm a boy since I'm carrying a man's weapon.
I scan the scene playing out in front of me and it becomes clear what the Ring is. A huge white circle drawn on the floor resides in the middle of the tavern. Currently two men stand in the circle throwing punch after punch at each other. Both suffer from many freely bleeding wounds and I find myself stepping closer to take a look. The taller man is clearly winning and with one last punch he sends the other man to the floor.
I gasp and another man enters the Ring.
"We have a winner!" A chorus of cheers erupt and another round of beer is passed around.
"Is there anyone willing to challenge the undefeated Taro?" Silence fills the air and a hand pushes me forward. The Ring Master takes my forward stance as volunteering and he grabs my arm.
"We have a challenger!" Another chorus of cheers fill the tavern and I notice that about half the crowd are cheering me on and the other half are shaking their heads in scorn. They know I'll never win.
As the Ring Master pulls me into the Ring I hit a wall. It's invisible and I figure it must have something to do with the white line that traps me here. He leans closer to me and I pull back into the shadows of my cloak. I'm not a boy. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm going to die.
Taro stares me down as if I'm a pathetic wimp. And maybe I am. His muscles bulge and I'm only about a third of his height. I try to plan out how
I'm going to live. Riley never taught me hand combat.
Taro's cheek is slashed from his previous fight and his left leg is so bruised that I can't tell what his skin color is. Not only that, but his fist is the size of my head.
"Lookee here boy, my talent'll keep ye in the Ring. All you gotta do is get Sir
Taro over there on the ground for 3 clicks of the tongue. Good luck. You'll need it," he briefs me and I don't answer. I look out into the gathering crowd and spot Zelina. She's flanked by Aulani, Red and a few other servants. Her face betrays the fact that she recognizes me and I try to give her what I hope looks like a reassuring smile.
Taro growls and a bolt of fear courses through my veins. At the same time the door to the tavern slams open and the entire building goes silent. Even the crickets stop chattering. I lift my gaze to the newcomer to find a dark clothed man who carries himself with so much authority that I can't stop myself from looking away.
His vibrant teal eyes search the room until they lock onto my deep blue ones. He steps forward and the sound echoes throughout the room. This must be the pirate. I try to feel afraid of him but I can't muster it. Maybe it's because he's quite handsome or maybe it's because he's not much older than me. Or it could just be that Taro happens to be quite a bit scarier at the moment.
As he saunters down the path his eyes travel over my body and I instantly know he knows I'm not a boy. Heat rushes to my cheeks as he stops before me right in front of the line. The spell is broken when he turns to the Ring Master.
"Take the boy out of the Ring," he says to the Ring Master and he looks afraid. He swallows hard and I can't figure out why he's so afraid of the pirate. I mean, I guess I would be afraid of him too if I weren't standing next to Sir Muscles.
"Ghost, you know how this works. You can't pull someone out of the Ring if they volunteered. The only way they get out is if someone else volunteers and the boy backs down." Ghost, I guess that's his name, sighs, irritated and looks at me with one eyebrow raised. His gaze is incomprehensible but the gist of his unspoken question is understood. I subtly shake my head no; I didn't volunteer.
He raises his head upon my answer and glances around the crowd.
"Then I volunteer for the boy." He makes his voice loud enough for everyone to hear. The crowd goes crazy as I leave the ring and he enters.
"Why are you doing this?" I hiss at him as he passes me. He's a pirate! Pirates aren't supposed to care for anyone but themselves!
"You can thank me later," he mutters as he pats my back, pushing me the rest of the way out of the Ring. His touch sent sparks through me and I blush.
He rolls his shoulders back once and the battle begins. Taro lunges but Ghost steps to the side. Taro smashes into the invisible wall of the Ring but doesn't fall out. He whips around but Ghost beats him to the punching. Fists fly and I fear for Ghost's life. There's no way he can beat Taro. He's a pirate for crying out loud! What does he know about fist fights?
Suddenly a sharp pain pierces my heart. I hold back my moan and find that the rest of the crowd seems not to feel it. I blink through the pain to see Taro on the ground with Ghost standing over him panting. What just happened? Then it dawns on me, it must be his talent.
Ghost stands straight and seems to meet everyone's eye.
"The Legend of Hamon goes as follows. There was a man once, a simple farmer whose fields always did exceptionally well. One year, in the midst of a drought the man lost all hope. He packed his belongings and fled for fear the king's men would hunt him down for leaving. He ran across fields and through valleys all the while checking his back for followers. There were never any so he began to believe he'd gotten away. Little did he know the king's men had been watching him all along. As soon as he dropped his guard they attacked. He was hung the next day in front of the whole town as an example. And to this day no one has run from the King." He finishes his story and the whole crowd cheers. Except me. I'm disappointed. Where are all the stories of rebellion and romance?
I watch as Ghost walks over and settles down at the bar. His audience goes back to whatever they were doing before except no one enters the Ring to fight.
I storm over to where Ghost relaxes and my irritation grows. I slide my dagger out of its sheathe and stab it into the wood table right beside his hand. Ghost doesn't even look at me but I catch a spark of attention in his eyes.
"I have quite a reputation and it usually precedes me but in this case I suppose it hasn't." I glare at him and my irritation turns into mild anger. I have too many questions.
"Oh, I've been warned about you but after the stunt you pulled in the Ring I want answers." I pull the dagger out of the table and await his answer. I could be wrong but I believe there a hint of a smile on his lips.
"That's the kind of audacity that gets a woman like you caught and killed." I grin slyly; it's a Poison Ivy smile. I start to understand that this is not a man to be afraid of. He's a fellow thief; someone I can relate to.
"Who said anything about getting caught?" A thoughtful smile taints his face and he finally turns to face me.
"What is it you want to know?" I smile genuinely; I've earned his respect. Thing is, I don't know what to ask first. If I make one wrong move it'll all be over for me.
"Why did you save me from the Ring?" He snorts and his eyes widen.
"Is that what you want to know? Really? And here I thought you wanted something more...dangerous." Wrong move. I said the wrong thing. He sighs and lowers his eyes.
"I knew you were one of those people who judge based on stereotypes. I wanted to prove to you that you don't need to have a clean slate to be a good person. Just like you don't need to be a king to be rich. Beauty and riches come from within. To truly judge the amount of either a person has you must first discard everything you've heard about them. Before you met me you probably thought I was some sort of bloodthirsty hound upon hearing that I was a pirate. Now after meeting me do you still think that?"
"No I suppose not."
"Then I have done my job. Now, what is it you really want to ask me?" I lean closer, vaguely aware of a man sneaking up on us.
"I need a legend and not the crap you spit out." His eyes flash with an angry glare but he doesn't attack.
"I don't want to spill those lies. But if I don't then I get in more trouble with the King and I'm already in enough trouble as is." The man coming up behind us taps Ghost on the shoulder.
"You owe me gold pirate, you won't get away with cheating in the Ring." Ghost ignores him and continues to stare forward.
The man glares and raises his arm. I take in a breath to warn him but before I even utter a sound Ghost moves. In an instant he's backed the man against the pillar behind us, choking him. His breathing comes out in uncontrolled, angry bursts. I know how that feels, it's terrible yet powerful. I feel the same thing when my anger gets the better of me. I'm invincible.
The man behind the bar draws his sword and points it at Ghost. He raises his hand and the man behind the bar drops it. It clatters to the ground with a sound that attracts a few eyes. I realize that if I don't stop him, Ghost will kill both of them with his talent.
His eyes flicker murderously between the man behind the bar and the man being choked. A sort of fear enters my veins but I know I have to do something. So much for playing in the shadows.
I throw back the hood of my cloak and stumble forward into Ghost making sure to snatch his money pouch. I guess old habits die hard. He blinks in confusion but catches me and helps me upright. His hands rest on my shoulders to keep me steady.
"I'm feeling a little lightheaded. Perhaps you should take me to my rooms." I project my voice and hope that he gets the hint. He glances at all the faces glaring at him before looking at me. He sighs; defeated.
"Perhaps I should." He transfers his hand to between my shoulder blades and guides to the steps.
Without looking back we make our way to the inn part of the building. His “guiding” becomes more angry and I feel more like I'm being pushed than guided. Finally we reach what I assume is his room. He opens the door and shoves me toward the bed. I sit.
"You lied." Anger flares.
"Of course I lied! I had to stop you from having a flare out!" I use the term I learned as a child. A flare out is when a person with a talent gets out of control. They lose it and tend to kill anyone within a few fox-lengths of them. Flare outs are especially common in the double talented. I'm fairly certain Ghost is double talented. He's got to have two powerful talents; it's the only thing that really explains his uncontrolled use of them.
His face grows serious and he turns away from me. I feel something pulling at my heart and the feeling almost hurts. He grows calmer with every second.
"What did you do to me when you were in the ring?" I ask and he avoids my eyes.
"I touched your back so I could pull your emotions. I almost flared out in the
Ring. I pulled your calmness so I wouldn't hurt anyone." I'm speechless; I didn't realize it was such a fight for control. But that would explain the pain I felt. I felt his inner fighting.
He braces himself against the wash basin and lowers his head. He just trusted me with something valuable. I'm just afraid I've stolen it.
"Does it hurt?" He bites his lip and stares into the water.
"Every time." I catch the bitterness in his voice. I decide to change the subject for his sake.
"You seem to know a lot about legends. Is there any chance you could help me learn more about one in particular?" He snaps out of his mood and slips back into the cocky person I met at the bar. He slides his black shirt over his head and dips it in the basin. As he starts scrubbing it and the water begins to change color.
"Is there a certain one you want to know more about or just a topic in general?"
I take note of scars along his ribs and I start to find him very distracting.
His arms are muscular but not so much that it's obvious. His bright blond hair is more noticeable with his shirt off and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
I clear my throat.
"Could you put a shirt on?" He glances at me with completely serious eyes as he holds up his soaking wet shirt.
"This is my shirt." Of course it is.
"Don't you have a spare?" He smiles lazily and raises his eyebrows.
"I'm a pirate, love, why would I have a spare?" I frown and try my best ignore smiling back.
I watch him as he wrings out his shirt and remind myself to get back on topic.
"The legend of Ryder," I state the legend Dai mentioned. I know only the basics such as; it's a legend about a woman warrior. He bites his lip seeming to weigh the options. He's a little strange especially because of his bright blond hair but that makes him no less handsome.
"Mmmm, no." I jerk myself out of my wandering thoughts and gape at him.
"And why not?" He steps closer, muscles rippling. Soon he's close enough for me to feel his body heat.
"Look, I know I could use some sleep and by the looks of it you could too."
Anger flashes and I ball my fists.
"If you think that just because you saved my life means that I'll..." I start to lecture but stop when I see his fingers pointing to the door. He wasn't asking... He didn't want...He wasn't going to...
"There's the door." A bit of a smile lights up my face as I leave. I think I like him, he's certainly not at all what I expected. Not what I expected at all.
I walk back the way we came and find myself back in the crowd. I search for Zelina and find her with Aulani and Red.
Two new competitors are in the Ring but the fight hasn't attracted as many people as before. Ghost will be a hard act to follow.
Zelina sees me and storms over. She grabs me by the shoulders and I am reminded of Ghost's touch. Focus Ivy.
"What did you think you were doing? When I said to come tonight I meant with a group and certainly not with the intention of entering the Ring!" Her eyes are wide and the worry is clear in her face. She cares about me. That's strange. The only person who’s ever really cared about me before is my sister. Speaking of which, I need to visit her soon.
"Why is Ghost called Ghost?" She blinks in confusion before realizing that I hardly heard a word she said.
"His ship," Aulani answers me, "his ship is called The Phantom Ryder. So naturally the captain is called Ghost." Ryder. That's the name of the warrior in the legend. The same legend Ghost refused to tell me about. He knows the legend and by the name of his ship he certainly knows it well. So why won't he tell me?
It can't be because he doesn't want to get in trouble. Ghost seems like the kind of person who would have more a reason to do it when there's the possibility of getting in trouble. No, there must be another reason. And I'll find it out.
"Don't tell me you like him." Zelina's voice is dead serious and I try to avoid her gaze. She throws her hands in the air and her face takes a pained expression.
"That's part of his talent. Ivy, if there's one thing you need to remember about
Ghost it's that he is, has, and always will be a pirate. It doesn't matter how nice he seems or how willing he is to comply you will always be the one deceived in the end." A flash of anger flows through me and I attempt to control it. I've been trying to put the pieces together of my anger and I've come to the realization that I must have a talent. I push my anger down but it only surfaces, choking me. I don't really want to cause harm here. I know I have a talent and I don't want to flare out. I don't know what my talent is but I know it has something to do with my anger.
Before a word comes out of my mouth I leave. I just walk right out the door. And I don't look back.
I walk briskly toward my old home. My sister will know what to do. She's older and wiser and will know how to fix me.
When I reach my sister's home I don't bother knocking but instead come right in. She just about drops the pot she was holding when she sees me.
"Ivy?" I run into her arms and she holds me. Warm streams of tears flow from my cheeks and she pulls me back to an arm’s length. Her hand smacks my cheek and I reel back with shock.
"That's for disappearing without sending word." She pulls me into a tight hug.
"That's for worrying me. Now, what's wrong?" I give her a sad smile. It's all I can manage.
"So much has happened. Carissa, I stood up to the First Advisor. I am failing at castle jobs. I lost Saf as a friend. I kissed the Prince without realizing it was him. I learned that I'm part of some legend that I've never heard of. I'm afraid I have a terribly dangerous talent and I just met the most pompous, irritatingly right, confusing man ever." Carissa just stares at me in shock for a few minutes before finally coming to her senses.
"You could have at least told me to sit down first. Okay, well, just start over and tell me everything." She sits down and I begin to pace as I explain everything. I start from the point at which I entered Riley's office up until the point when I came here. Carissa takes it all in only asking a few questions. When I'm done she stays silent a few moments.
"Why won't Ghost tell you the legend? And what is his real name?" I throw my hands in the air in defeat.
"I don't know! He won't tell me!" I'm glad that she understands my frustration. My anger has melted away and I feel much more in control.
"Who are our parents?" I dare to ask the question that's been bugging me for quite a while.
"Your. You mean to ask who your parents are. Ivy, I've been meaning to tell you this for a while. We're not sisters. Your mother and my father were siblings. You're mother came to my father one day with you. She only said that she needed us to hide you and care for you. We never saw her after that. She supposedly ran off with pirates. She was a legend and it saddens me that I never knew her name. My father is dead now so I have no one to ask...please forgive me for not telling you." My control slides away and sadness fills my chest. My whole life has been a lie. Betrayal stings my cheeks and conflicted emotions consume my throat. I need to leave. I need to get out of here. I need...I race to the door and throw it open.
Blackness greets me but it does nothing to put a damper on my uncontrolled spirit. I sprint into the pitch black streets running from memory rather than sight. When I make it to the castle gates Red lets me in and I race to Riley's rooms. The guard there draws his sword at the sight of me.
"Stand down." His order is demanding and my body takes over. The power is amazing.
"If you don't move out of my way then this will be the last breath you draw." The power behind my voice is thrilling. The words weren't my own but at the moment I'm not in much control of myself.
The guard struggles for breath and eventually collapses. I don't need to check his pulse to know he's dead.
I throw open the door and Riley shoots to his feet, sword in hand. His eyes are wide but I'm too busy basking in my power.
"Ivy listen to me. This isn't you. This is your talent. Come back. Focus." I screech at him and draw my dagger. My inner self fights for control as I watch myself attack Riley. I launch myself at his left side; the one he neglects to protect.
My dagger sinks into his side with a satisfying sound. He coughs and backs up out of my reach. He reaches for the dagger and pulls it out.
Black blood spills and I'm vaguely aware that blood isn't black. The strangest thing is that the wound immediately begins to heal.
"I'm not gonna deny it; that one hurt but you're going to have to do better than that to kill me." Growling, I fake lunge but he doesn't fall for it. Instead his sword nicks my right hand splattering blood all over my dagger.
Outraged, I parry his blows until he gives me a chance to move to the offense. After all, a defense is only as good as its offense.
I plunge my dagger into his stomach and follow it up with a punch in the face. He reels backward, arms flailing. I stop his fall by catching hold of his shirt. I pull him closer and he points a knife to my throat.
"You never really know a person until you see them staring death in the face. Tell me Ivy, are you a coward?" I let go of his shirt and bend backwards narrowly missing getting hit with his knife. I slowly regain control and point my dagger at him.
"The trick, Riley, is never telling yourself you're going to die but always being ready for when your time comes." He smiles and slowly gets to his feet. My eyes reach the dead guard and sadness attacks my heart as I realize that I killed him with words.
Riley's hand rests on my shoulder as a tear slides down my cheek.
"The first one is always the hardest." The first one? He says that as if there will be more. And who knows? With an unpredictable talent like mine I can't tell when I'll lose control. I'm not even sure what the limits of my talent are. I don't even know what set me off. All I know is that I just killed a man with words.
"Ivy, there's someone I'd like you to meet. Follow me." His voice is gentle and his arm rests at my back to support me as I cry silently over the guard's death.
We make our way down corridors and around bends until we finally reach a part of the castle that I'm most certain hasn't been used in centuries. Dust and cobwebs cover our path making it difficult to tell where we're going.
My tears have dried and I try hard not to think about the guard.
"What's your talent?" I ask Riley as we struggle through the webs. He pauses a second and studies me a moment. He lets his torchlight shine on my face before turning back to the darkness ahead.
"You should probably cover that wound of yours." I scowl at him before looking at my hand. It seeps blood but most of it is dried. I snatch a few spider webs from the walls and wrap my right hand tightly. It'll have to do for now.
"You never answered my question. Is your talent healing?" He pulls out his dagger and begins hacking at the webs.
"No." Slash. I frown.
"Quite recovery?" Slash.
"Isn't that the same thing as healing?" He pauses a second to turn and raise an eyebrow at me. I look up at him and cross my arms.
"No." I feel like a child saying it like that but I can't help it. He sighs and goes back to chopping his way through the tunnel.
"What about extra organs?" I can't see his face but I can feel his grimace.
"No." Slash. I frown again. What else is there?
"Okay, how about immortality?" Slash. He puts his hand on the door in front of him and looks upward.
"Uhhhhh, no." I begin to smile. He hesitated.
"So, what, you're immortal. That's nothing to be ashamed of. I wish I was immortal." He whirls around so fast that I don't even have time to process what happened. His dagger presses against my neck and his face is so close to mine.
"You should never wish to be immortal. It is a curse, and for the record I am not immortal. I am a different species all together." I roll my eyes at him and throw in a sarcastic cover.
"Oh yes? And what species might that be? The sick, heartless kind?" He backs away from me and sheathes his dagger.
"To catch me you have to be good. To stay with me you have to be fast. To pass me? You've got to be kidding." He opens the door while I mull over his words. To catch me you have to be good. That implies that he's fast. Well, not necessarily. To catch me can also refer to being caught; to being captured. Good refers to being skilled. So, you must be skilled to catch me.
To stay with me you have to be fast. Which means to keep up you have to be quick on your feet. That explains why Riley holds the undefeated title in swordplay.
To pass him...that could either mean to pass him mentally or that could mean to grow strong and more skilled than him. Whatever it is, it's impossible according to him. That still leads me no closer to what he is. Maybe I could ask Dai.
Light hits my face and I peer into the room Riley just entered. For such a dark time of night the room is surprisingly well lit. I enter the room out of curiosity making sure to keep a safe distance from Riley. A sad look enters his eyes but he shakes it away by gesturing to a man beside him.
The man's yellowish green eyes smile and his lips hold greeting. He holds out his hand and I try to figure out what he wants me to do. I hold out my hand.
"I wouldn't-" Too late. I ignore Riley's warning and take the man's hand. A shock of electricity jolts my system forcing air into my lungs and making my hair stand on end. He lets go of my hand and I cough as my heart pounds. He smiles a boyish grin and I swear his eyes flash.
"I'm Reed but most people around here know me as Bolt." I cough again trying to rid myself of the shaky feeling.
"That's uh, quite a hand you've got." He grins wider.
"That's my talent, sorry. I tend to forget that not everyone can handle my power." I know how that feels. The guard couldn't handle my power. Renewed sadness overwhelms me.
"What's your talent?" His question is innocent but he doesn't realize what he's asking.
"I don't want to talk about it." Riley turns and his face is stern.
"Ivy, you need to move on. You can't get held up on one death." I glare at him furiously but my words are controlled.
"Not everyone heals as fast as you Riley." My words are bitter and he bites his lip before take a step back. He nods his head toward Reed.
"Why don't you show her around. I have somewhere to be." He nods and Riley leaves me with him.
"You know, when my power first developed I electrocuted the first person I touched. It was my mother." I take in his words while blinking back tears.
"That must have been terrible," I comment and he nods.
"It took my years to come around but when I did I was able to control my talent a lot better. Now I maintain the lights down here under Riley's command." I snort; does Riley control everything around here? I wonder if the King knows about this.
"The level below the castle is where I'll help you learn to control your talent. Riley usually wants training to start immediately but you look completely exhausted so I'll let you sleep." I snort again; let me sleep? As if I wasn't going to already. What, do I need permission to breathe now? Reed guides me back over to the door where I discreetly snatch his money pouch.
"Tomorrow after your usual training I want you to come down here to train with me. Follow the lightning bolt symbol." I nod in thanks and work my way back down the cobweb covered hallway I came from.