Authors: G. X. Knight
“I’m sorry our friendship ends like this,” Yel said coldly. He turned back to Peore. The runes that spiraled over Yel’s dark Islander skin glistened to life. With all of the deadly swiftness and expertise of a seasoned Ripper, Peore fell within the striking grasp of Yel’s soul stealing hands. He barely knew what hit him. He didn’t even have a chance to scream before the gateway of his eyes released his essence into Yel’s twisted grip. The soulless body crumpled to the floor, and Peore’s life-cloud was captured in a clear, thin soul vial.
X just stared blankly as the vile holding Peore’s bodiless being was unceremoniously placed as a paperweight on a blueprint roll his dad unfurled. Peore’s flickering spirit lit the image of the all-too-familiar cruise ship labeled ALOHA JORDAN. “Don’t worry, my friend.” His dad said as he stared at the ship’s layout, “You won’t be alone for long.”
Time passed after X snapped the spy cloud shut. He had reached his limit for as long as he could hold it open, physically, and emotionally. He rolled out of the hammock and paced the floor. He knew he couldn’t face off against his dad, but he still had to help his mom. X wondered what his dad would do if he stood against him. Would he end up in a jar on his dad’s desk next Peore if he did?
He bound his long braids up in a rubber band, threw his thrift store favorites in an old brown military duffle, and snuck down to his mom’s office to find the passenger manifest. Surely, with all the Amalgam whales attending the unofficial maiden voyage, there had to be someone who could help. He spotted a red inked note written in his mom’s handwriting:
VIP’s Scion Thantosa and Maeve Valera. Top deck, anonymity. Favor for Largo. Don’t forget to collect.
X recognized Maeve’s name. She was the daughter of the Celt Lord. X knew that she was who he had to see. She would be able to bring down the full force of the Celts to stop his dad, and Yel would never have to know X was involved.
He ran out of the estate toward the marina where his cigarette boat was docked. He was going to have to hurry if her were going to get to the
before it was too late.
SWAY FOR ME
Sway and I made it to the
with minimal fuss. She did spend the entire day before we left sorting through my luggage and making my life mostly miserable. She all but repacked me, and the whole while she insisted that I knew nothing about style. I also had to have a last minute dye job before leaving since most of the bright green had grown out of my hair. Despite the fact that Sway was a social terror with her bossiness, ingratitude, and overall demur, her Jill-of-all-trades ability made her something of a barely-tolerable keeper.
She gave me a cut, color, and “golden finger” wash that rocked my little Cyborg world. Apparently head massages were a big during the whole “uppity” salon process, and she said she didn’t want me to miss out on the experience. I was already looking forward to the next round. Unfortunately, I’d be on my own because she made it very clear she wasn’t doing it again. Isn’t that how crack dealers get you? Sway did, however, promise to take me to a swanky place where Mermaids actually submerged you underwater and did your hair as it floated in exfoliating pools of miracle salts. I was down for hot fish chicks in seashell bras rubbing their fingers through my hair. Sway suggested getting one of the “Mermen” to do it instead. Apparently they were the better “Mer-Stylists.” She did warn that they like to get a little “handsy” with the guys though. Maybe I’d just stick with one of the sea-shell-wearing ladies, thank you very much.
Before we started this trip, I had feared the worst, but so far I had gotten the best. I had expected Sway to be terrorizing me the entire time, but as soon as we got on board that first night she was off doing whatever it is she does when endless supplies of men, women, alcohol, music, casinos, and shops were within drunk-stumbling grasp. I, on the other-hand, relaxed (hid) up on our private floor, beside our pool.
It was the first morning of our first full day aboard. I couldn’t wait to spend it doing nothing. I decided to start with sunning session. I wore a white pair of boardshorts that had an inked splotch design on the right leg which resembled, well… spilled ink. The Speedo Sway packed me was already overboard. I’m pretty sure that was a joke. I enjoyed myself. It wasn’t like I didn’t live on a beach, nor was I a stranger to being out in the sun by the ocean, but this felt different, more glamorous. Though I was shut off from the world up on our little private deck, I still felt close enough to other people to sense that I wasn’t alone, mostly.
My human skin stung into a pinkish shade from the sun, and my black metal actually seemed to be lightening with a slight silverish tint. Cyborg sunburn? That was new. I had our concierge rustle up some of citrus tea. It wasn’t as good as what I had at Falor, but it was a passable knockoff. I sipped on a sweetened iced down version while I read up on the volcanic prison mines of Frostwick Island. They were a famous Amalgam landmark we’d be passing during the trip. I barely flipped through the pictures when Sway came barreling in, sounding, of course, like her typical angry self.
“Can you believe they kicked me out of the club?” She wasted no time clanging glasses from the shelf of our private bar.
I checked the time. It was half past ten, and the
clubs advertised that they were open until nine. “Well, some people like to sleep,” I absently yelled inside to her as I read about the Veil Rippers who helped keep the spirits working in the Frostwick volcano. They were forced to mine diamonds and other gems from what normally would be impossible places to reach.
“Yes, but I’m
. Don’t they know they stay open for
That was the perfect place for an eye roll, so I obliged. “It’s not like there aren’t ten other bars open right now with servants lying in wait for you to grace them with your overbearing
I heard a set of her ridiculously long heels stab the carpeted floor to our main room as she made her way toward the sliding door I left open. Didn’t she own flip-flops or a quiet pair of sandals like the rest of the world? I tried my best to ignore her while studying up on the culture of the Veil Rippers who served as masters of Frostwick.
When she came outside, the inside of my head screamed like a man hanging from a cliff needing rope before he fell. My commonsense was desperate for me to keep my eyes on what I was reading. But, as I heard Sway say when she joined me, “Well, at least I’ll get to rock this new bikini I bought down at the shopping deck,” my senses where going to a place definitely not-so-common for me. I became weak when I heard the word “bikini,” so I stomped the fingers of my little dangling man of morality, and he fell away into the silent void of my mind. Against the last piece of advice he gave before he went away, I peeked around the corner of my paper to see what she was talking about. I immediately wished I hadn’t. There’s no such thing as an ugly Elf. There’s definitely no such thing as an ugly mostly-naked Elf.
One of the side effects of falling so head over heels for she-whose-name-I’m-having-troubles-remembering-at-the-moment was that I had ignored everyone else when it came to the things that capture most men’s attention. I’m not sure if it was the time and distance lifting the fog, the buzz of being on a cruise, or the skimpy black and red swimsuit in front of me that hit me harder, but I dropped my papers to the table and made a quick mental note to close my gaping mouth. I was a good looking man. She was a beautiful woman. We were alone. This was nature. Who was I to fight nature? I knew that somewhere in my mind resided the ability to speak, but I had forgotten where I kept it.
Sway rested delicate hands on apple-round hips, while her fingers teased at the silver ornate ties that held the small triangular piece of black and red trimmed cloth in place. She unfurled her raven hair streaked with her signature plum highlights from the confines of her favorite silver chopsticks, and used them to stab in place a lace wrap-around. It had a slit that ran practically all the way up to her waist that made me wonder why she even bothered. I should have looked away. The fallen, broken man of my mind screamed from the bottom of the darkened canyon of my failing morals for me to quit gawking, but I sat there and drank in every inch of her image highlighted by the golden sun. I noticed the shape her high-heels gave her legs and thighs, and suddenly realized why she always wore them. I stared at a similar silver tie that tugged in the middle of her stretched bikini top. Silver bracelet-like loops twined around her upper arms, and for the first time I really noticed the almost violet shade her dark eyes held as they sparkled in the daylight.
I said nothing as I stood, and from the tray used by the concierge to bring my tea, I plucked a red-petal flower from its vase, broke off most of the stem, and then tucked the bloom safely in her hair, just beside her overly-pierced ear. She helped guide my hand with hers as I made sure it was secure, and there both our fingers lingered for just a moment before I stepped back as almost all personal space between us had unknowingly vanished.
Being that close to her made me hot, and not in the way you’re thinking. She was a Fire Elf, and her natural body chemistry made her a walking oven. There, under a blazing sun burning alone in cobalt skies, she really was putting off some heat. She took a step to close the distance I was still trying to keep. She reached up and placed a lithe Elven finger on my chest that she let slide from side to side. Suddenly, she wasn’t the only one putting off heat. Now, I was hot, and it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
“One of the advantages of having some Fire Elf DNA swimming around inside,” Sway said as she looked up at me through narrowed, searching eyes of confidence, “Is an ability to detect even the slightest change in temperature... especially when it rises.”
I gulped. “I doubt you need Elf genes to detect this temperature spike.”
She grinned wickedly, “Not in the slightest. Come on,” Her finger raked some more across my bare chest, and then flirted down toward my abs, “I can make you forget all about Maeve. We have this incredible suite, this amazing pool, a hot tub that I know we could really heat up. No sense in it all going to waste on some stupid reading.” Then she removed all distance between us. With nothing but my boardshorts, her piece of see-through lace, and some strategically strung together nylon separating us, I froze, and I didn’t dare move. I was on the edge of temptation, and I was ready to jump off.
Even Mother Nature worked against me as the wind picked up her hair and tickled it across my neck and chest. The smell of Sway’s sweet cinnamon-esqu perfume replaced the scent of the coconut-banana sunscreen I wore. My bottom lip trembled, and at that moment there was nothing I wanted more than to take Sway up on her offer. I wanted to forget about Maeve. I wanted to give in to the raging push I felt inside, but as the smell of Ale just so slightly tinted the warm breaths that rolled from Sway’s mouth across my cheek, I was reminded of the glass Largo had taken from me back home. Like that glass of Ale I was hoping to drink to dull my pain, if I allowed things to proceed now, it would be for the same wrong reason.
My Dad – while having “the talk” – once told me, “Son, we’re men, not animals. The one thing that separates us from them is the ability to say ‘No,’ no matter how impossible it may seem to deny that instinctive drive. Should we find ourselves in situations that aren’t appropriate, remember an animal wouldn’t deny himself. So ask yourself, will you be a man, or an animal?” Then he shook his head, “But God help the man who has to try that one. Most don’t succeed. Once those instincts kick in, they’re not designed to stop, so your best bet is to stay out of
situations until you mean to be in one.” I thought it funny how Dad and Largo even gave the same advice.
Well, too late for that. I didn’t even see this coming. Sway and I had different rooms in the suite, and we never really got along. Well, not like this. I hadn’t even seen her until she showed up wearing practically nothing. I was completely
How did this happen?
Sway moved to press her lips to mine. I knew if that happened I’d be done. I didn’t want to hate myself later, so instead I would hate myself now. I gently wrapped my fingers around the silver loops that encircled her arms and stepped away. “Sway, I can’t.”
Undaunted, her wicked smile spread as she looked me over, “Scion, I know that you can, and I know that you want to.”
“More than you know,” I said while letting go of her. “But wouldn’t you rather wait for this to be special? I’m pretty sure you’re mostly drunk right now.” Seriously, when wasn’t she?
She let out a calloused bolt of self-edifying laughter, “The
train left my station a long time ago. Take it where you can get it, Metal Boy.”
My head turned to the side, and my fist clinched as her words stung more than the pink skin that continued to bake underneath the bright sun. I knew Sway wasn’t exactly particular, which was fine, but I wasn’t ready to walk down the same road of indiscretion. I shouldn’t have expected her to understand. I knew how she was. Still, I felt a flare of anger. I wasn’t sure why. Was it at me because I wouldn’t take her up on her offer? Was it at her because she had put me in this situation? Was it because it was Sway here and not Maeve? Or, was it just time for me to get mad because I hadn’t been pissed in over twenty-four hours?
I had learned that somehow I unwittingly got this look whenever I got angry. Kata said my head lowers, my eyes narrow, and she swore the Dragonstone energy glows brighter. It seems my brow cocks in a certain way so that it warns someone if they’ve gone too far. Apparently, I had that look, because Sway widened the space between us.
Sway still held on to an amused grin, “Are you sure?” She asked, “You’ve got a ticket to ride. I’m not saying that ticket won’t be good later, but I pride myself in making it that much more difficult the next time around.”
She was incorrigible. My anger slipped away through a laugh and I turned and cannonballed into a refreshingly
swimming pool. I emerged just before she disappeared through the door.