Chapter 25 Water

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“They’re heading for the western docks?” Crofton asks. “Isn’t that where we are?”

“Kamen, tell everyone to keep searching for a ship. We’ll take care of Tal,” Ari says, quickly.

“R-right,” Kamen says, shock clear in his voice.

Kelis puts the silent stone away, looking at Ari. “Who’d be able to take Tal? Besides Indra, I can’t imagine she’d just let herself get snatched.”

Nodding her head, Ari grabs her bag and digs through it. “I don’t know. But we need to try to cut them off, see if we can surprise them.”

Leaning close to her, Crofton peers into her bag. “How do you plan on cutting them off? There’s more than one way to reach the western docks. We don’t even know where Tal and Indra were when she got nabbed.”

“How hard can it be to find people carrying a woman they’ve clearly kidnapped?” She pulls rope out and hands it to Crofton. “Just in case.”

He stares at it and snorts. “In case what? This is barely enough to tie up a child.”

“Be creative!”

“Why not just use your wind magic or Kelis’ water?” He points to Kelis who flinches. “There’s an endless supply of both.”

“On these narrow walkways and large crowds? That’s a smart move.”

“It’s better than a string.”

“Um…” Kelis tries to speak, but the two ignore her.

“You could trip them, you could make a trap out of it, or you could sneak up behind them and strangle them.” Ari searches through her bag again.

“What else you got in there? A toothpick? Maybe I can give them a splinter.” Crofton ties a loop on one end of the rope, the only thing he can think of to do.

“You’re being awfully negative all of the sudden. Do you want to save Tal or not?”

“I do, but we don’t even know who took her.”

“Shouldn’t we start searching?” Kelis asks, trying to calm the two down.

A man rushes at the three, grabbing Ari’s bag from her hands and shoving Crofton off the walkway into the water below. A second man follows close behind and slams into Ari, knocking her to the ground before swooping Kelis off her feet. A third man places a bag over the frightened water mage’s head and cuffs on her wrists and ankles.

The wind is knocked from Ari’s lungs, but she quickly recovers. Climbing to her feet, she stares after the three men, their laughter and whoops of excitement echoing back to her. She nearly runs after them, but remembers Crofton and hurries to the edge of the walkway.

“Crofton!”

His hand slams onto the walkway next to her and he pulls himself from the water, coughing. “Go! I’ll catch up,” he gasps between large gulps of air.

She nods and runs after the men, glancing back only once to make sure Crofton makes it fully out of the water. As he does, she returns her full focus on the four figures far ahead of her.

Taking a deep breath, she touches her magic. She breathes out and feels a rush as her magic releases. The brands on her body ache at the taste of magic, but her only concern is getting Kelis and her bag back.

She moves faster, passing those on the walkway with ease and catching up to the thieves. They notice her behind and try to lose her by turning down sudden walkways. She manages to keep them in sight and urges her magic to increase her speed.

The men whistle and yell back at her, mocking her. Anger fills her and she tries throwing a concentrated blast of air at them. They seem to think two steps ahead of her and dodge or move behind those on the walkway who haven’t noticed the chase yet. People are knocked into the water and shouts of surprise and anger follow Ari, but she keeps focused on the group ahead of her.

A sharp, high-pitched whistle to her right surprises her as three more men appear from another walkway. Two carry a familiar figure between them and Ari’s eyes widen in shock. One man throws a large barrel at her and she falls to the ground to avoid it. It splashes into the water behind her as the three men run past.

“Tal!” Indra yells before tripping over Ari. The shock of a body suddenly falling on her causes Ari to shriek. The two meet eyes and immediately try to disentangle themselves.

“Hold on,” a third voice says. Dripping water, Crofton helps Indra to his feet then Ari.

Without another word, the three sprint after the two groups of men. They lead them to a less crowded area of the western docks, an area filled with dead fish and strange carcasses. The smell makes all three gag, but the men are unperturbed.

The ones not carrying Tal or Kelis throw fish behind them, making the walkway a slippery hazard. Using her wind, Ari clears a path, but a rogue fish finds a way to cause each of them to stumble.

The men climb the gangplank of a large ship with no sails and men and women sitting at tables. Leaping onto the tables, the men knock food and drinks to the floor, scattering the patrons. Two high whistles echo above and rope appears as though from nowhere and the men grab tight.

Ari, Indra, and Crofton scramble through the sudden crowd of people watching the men swing as though to land in the sea below. Unable to push through, the three leap onto the tables and come to a stop on the bannister of the ship.

“Where do they think they’re going? There’s nothing but water,” Crofton gasps.

The men release the ropes and fall, but instead of crashing into the water, they disappear. The crowd makes surprised noises and search the sea for any sign of the men.

Scanning the area where the men disappeared, Ari reaches for the ropes swinging back towards them. One flies up into the sky, disappearing like the men. Angrily, she takes a deep breath and jumps. Crofton and Indra, realizing too late to stop her, try to grab for her.

She grabs three of the ropes to keep them from being pulled up. Swinging forward she exhales and magic pushes her back towards the ship. Grabbing her legs, Crofton glares at her. “What’re you doing?”

She shoves one rope at him and another at Indra. “Come on! They’re getting away.”

Indra takes the rope and jumps off the ship. Ari follows with Crofton, begrudgingly, doing the same. Indra releases the rope and falls, disappearing the same way the men had.

Ari and Crofton follow his example and as they fall, a ship appears out of thin air. Crashing into the wood of the deck, they roll forward and crash into Indra. All three collapse on the deck and stare up at about fifty men. Most have their weapons drawn and aimed at the three unexpected guests.

“Release me, right now!” Tal’s furious voice cries behind them.

Sitting up, Ari turns her head. Two men are holding Tal and Kelis, each with a knife to their throat. The bags are removed and the two blink at the sudden light. Focusing they spot Ari, Indra, and Crofton, but the knives at their throat cause them to freeze.

“Well, well, well, that was pretty clever. Not many would jump into the unknown like that,” a velvety voice says from behind the large group of men. They clear a path and heavy footsteps approach them.

A man stops before them and all three look up at him. His thick boots end just below his knees and the pants are loose enough to allow for easy movement. A black sash is tied around his waist with belts over top of it with weapons, pouches, and other accouterments on each one. A black vest over top a cream colored shirt is embroidered with emerald green and gold.

The coat he wears, a dark green close to black, reaches nearly down to the floor, the sleeves open underneath to allow better arm movement. Leather arm braces on top of the sleeves keep them in place and strange cloth is wrapped around his hands instead of gloves. Several gold rings adorn his fingers and tattoos are barely visible peeking out from under the cloth.

His black hair falls across his shoulders and the black scarf around his neck, the waves moving like the sea. A scruffy beard covers all, but one large scar on his cheek, but still he appears young maybe only a few years older than Ari.

She slowly raises her hands to show she has no weapons, her eyes constantly moving from the man’s face to the weapons at his sides. “We only came to get our comrades back. Your men took them and something precious to me.”

He stares past her at Tal and Kelis. “Aye, my men do enjoy causing a little bit of ruckus when we’re here. Especially when they lay eyes on such exotic women.” Laughter rolls through the large group.

Indra clenches his fists and stands. He takes a step towards the man, but Ari holds her hand out.

“You shouldn’t say that. One of them’s a taken woman.”

“I can see that now.” The man whistles and the men holding Kelis and Tal quickly undo their bonds and push them towards the three. Others grab at them to move them along faster. Crofton and Indra catch them and pull them away from the eager men.

“Now that thing precious to you I won’t be giving back so easily,” the man says.

“And why is that?”

He leans his head to the side. “Wouldn’t do for the future pirate lord of the east to simply let you go without something given in return, eh?”

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