Authors: Emily Thompson
“Good, no blood,” he muttered before using it to attack the cheddar.
“You're compassion is touching, captain,” Vane said darkly.
“You were asking for it,” Quay said. “Someday your flirting is going to get you killed.” Vane rolled his eyes.
“You're lucky I didn't have a knife,” Myra spat at him. Jonas smiled
“Exactly how many people are you involved with?” Vane asked Twist.
“So, how long before we meet Loki, anyway?” Twist asked, not even looking at Vane.
Quay looked at him and paused. “Who says we're meeting Loki?” Twist froze. Storm had told him Loki was expecting them. Quay never said it. Had he just accidentally given something away?
“What else would we be doing?” Jonas asked, sounding flippant.
“Yes, I suppose,” Quay toned, still looking slightly suspicious. “Well, I guess it doesn't hurt to tell you that we've set up a meeting for tonight.”
“Tonight?” Jonas asked, sounding surprised.
“Yes, apparently he's got quite a ship,” Quay said. “He wasn't anywhere near the Caribbean when I sent him the message. You know, they say it's the fastest thing in the sky. But it doesn't even have a balloon. I can't wait to see it.”
Twist pulled his pocket watch out to check the time. It was already two in the afternoon by New York time. They didn't have but a few scant hours before they would face Loki again. There wasn't much time for the Rooks to find them. Storm's plan was starting to sound much less feasible than in had in Jonas's dream.
Twist leaned against the railing near the bow and forced back his nervous fear to gaze down into the clear blue waves as the sun began its descent to the sea. No matter how hard he looked, he couldn't see anything that even resembled a submersible. He had tried to get into the cargo hold to check on the
crew, but the guards were like brick walls in every aspect. He feared that pressing the point would cause more harm than good, and so gave up in favor of searching the sea. Twist rubbed at his eyes as his head began to swim again from the altitude.
“Anything interesting down there?” Jonas asked, walking closer to him.
Twist looked up at him and instantly checked for the glow in his eyes, the buzz in his own neck, and any other sign that he could think of to tell him if this was Vane or Jonas. Everything was as it should be, and so he relaxed again and looked back down to the water.
“Just some schools of fish,” he said. “This water is amazingly clear.”
Jonas peered over the edge too. “Any really big schools of fish? You know, that maybe look like a solid mass...”
“No, just fish,” Twist said with a sigh.
“Wait, shouldn't we have a chaperone?” Twist asked, looking over the deck behind them. There were large, sun-bitten pirates at the helm, and a few wandering around, but they all appeared to be well out of earshot.
“Look up,” Jonas said.
Twist did and saw Vane hanging casually in the ropes above them, as if in a hammock, with his furry black tail swinging in the wind.
“Ah,” Twist toned darkly. “Why can't we have a nice brick wall to look after us?”
“A what?” Jonas asked.
“Have you seen the other pirates Quay picked up? They're all huge and wide, and look like they've been in the sun too long. They've all got rather dim expressions, and they seem quite content to stand in one's way for hours on end.” Jonas laughed, but Twist heard a laugh from above them as well.
“You know, you're right,” Jonas said. “You could probably use them for building supplies. Why would you want one of them hanging around? Have you got plans for a bungalow?” Above them, Vane laughed again. Twist looked upward scornfully.
“A load of masonry is vastly less irritating.”
“Twist,” Jonas asked with a smile, “do you realize that you're much more expressive when you're angry than you are at any other time?”
“Oh yeah,” Jonas said, nodding. “If you're upset, the eloquence just starts flying.”
“See?” Jonas said, pointing at him. “I'm complimenting you and you've turned laconic.”
Twist began to retort, but found that all he had to say would have taken fewer than three words to express. As he struggled to pad out his thoughts, a sound from the other end of the ship drew his attention. Three gunshots were fired in quick succession, accompanied by shouts and screams. Everyone on deck stopped and looked to the stairs that led below decks. Vane dropped from the ropes above them and drew his long, gleaming, curved sword from thin air, watching Twist and Jonas as well as glancing at the stairs.
“Now boys, just stay calm,” he purred with a smile that seemed to thinly cover anxiety. “Remember, you're on our side.”
An instant later, Twist saw Arabel rush onto the deck, a pistol in each hand. The pirates nearest her lunged, but she was quick. More shots rang out and Arabel switched to punching and kicking before Howell rushed to her aid.
“How the—” Vane began, watching in shock, before Jonas threw a punch at his nose.
Vane didn't see it coming and reeled back. Twist spun his walking stick in his hand, the tip out before him like a sword, as his heart shot into high speed. Vane came back at Jonas with the sword, but Jonas leaped back just in time. Vane advanced, swinging down. Jonas ducked and rushed at his waist. Vane's form shifted into black smoke and Jonas passed through without effect. He stumbled forward, trying to catch his balance, but Vane's form solidified again in a flash and he threw an elbow at Jonas's back.
Jonas fell to the deck and only rolled out of the way of Vane's sword a breath before it struck. Jonas looked up towards Vane, his back on the decking. Twist took his chance, lunging at Vane with the lightning lit at the end of his cane. Vane spun on him with startling speed and his sword clashed against the cane's metal shaft. Vane grinned at Twist and swung his sword in an elegant arc as he stepped clear of Jonas.
“Look who wants to play,” he purred at Twist.
Fear ran cold down Twist's spine. Sword fighting with Jonas was one thing. His eyes followed the flashing point of Vane's sword and Twist realized that he wasn't at all ready for this. Jonas was on his feet in no time at all, but a shot rang out very close to them, and the decking at Jonas's feet exploded into splinters. Quay was rushing at Jonas with a second pistol. Jonas rushed at him in return.
Vane's smile grew. “Just you and me now.”
Twist gripped his walking stick with already tense fingers and pulled himself still. Everything Jonas had ever said to him about swordplay ran through his mind in a blur. Every moment of violence Twist had ever experienced rushed through with it, and showed him only one thing of any real use: he had been very, very lucky up to now.
Vane's sword flashed in the late afternoon sunlight as he thrust it at Twist. Twist knocked the point away with his cane and jumped to the side. Vane swung his sword back at him and Twist tried to block. The sword turned when it hit his cane, and sliced down to his hand. Twist's wrist burned as the blade hit, and he dropped his cane in a rain of tiny red drops. Vane laughed and spun his sword again, knocking Twist's cane away along the deck. Twist's vision started to swim as true fear threatened to overwhelm him.
“Do you give up?” Vane asked brightly. Twist forced himself to meet Vane's black eyes, but he didn't respond. “Tell you what,” Vane said as if the words tasted good. “I'll give you a truce, if we shake on it like gentlemen.” Vane placed the point of his sword on the deck and held the hilt lightly in his left hand as he extended his right.
In the distance behind him, Twist could still hear the fighting. Any moment, one of the others could appear to help him. But any one of his friends could be shot or killed at any moment, as well. If he wasn't facing Vane, he could try to help them. He looked at Vane's hand. His own hand was shaking while his blood continued to drip hot over his skin. Then, finally, one piece of advice surfaced in his chaotic thoughts. The sword wasn't his problem. He would only be able to win if he fought Vane, instead.
Twist looked up to Vane's face and pulled in what courage he could find. “No.”
“No?” Vane scoffed. “What are you going to do? Bleed on me?”
Twist smiled in his shock at such a simple idea. When Vane looked at his smile in confusion, Twist raised his wounded hand and snapped it at Vane's face as quickly as he could, with no intention to strike him. The motion stung terribly, but his blood flew at Vane's eyes. The fox reeled away in surprise, snapping his eyes shut. Twist kicked at his supporting leg with all of his weight. Vane fell to his knees and his sword vanished with a puff of black smoke. Twist knew he had no time to reach for his cane.
Vane turned to look up at him. Twist grabbed the only solid thing he had. He snatched his pocket watch chain from the button hole and swung it at Vane's face. To his total shock, the watch took on amazing speed and crashed down squarely on Vane's temple. Vane crumpled to the deck, his eyes still open in shock.
“What the hell?!” he gasped, reaching up to the line of blood that the sharp edge of the winding knob had left on his skin.
“Hold it! Don't move!” Jonas said, suddenly appearing at Twist's side with a loaded pistol trained on Vane. He looked Twist over quickly, taking in the blood at his wrist, the cane farther down the deck, and the watch hanging in his hand. Although he appeared highly impressed, he started to laugh.
Myra closed the handcuffs on Quay's wrist with satisfaction. He tugged on it, but the chair's armrest was quite solid.
“Let's see how
like it,” Myra sneered. Quay glared up at her. Standing beside the chair, Howell and Aazzi laughed.
“Will you just let me see it?” Dr. Rodés said with a sigh as he followed Twist into the room. Twist kept a step away from him as he held his aching—and still bleeding—wrist tightly with his other hand.
“It's only a flesh wound,” he said quickly. “It'll be fine. Stay away from me.”
“You probably need stitches. Where is Jonas?” the doctor asked, looking around the room. “I need someone to hold this man still.”
“Oh, darling!” Myra gasped at Twist, seeing the blood now. She rushed to him with concern in her eyes. Behind her, Twist caught sight of Aazzi, with something very different and far more dangerous in her silver eyes. “What happened?” Myra asked, peering at the wound.
“He faced Vane in a sword fight,” Jonas said, smiling proudly as he entered the room as well. “And then delivered the death blow with his pocket watch!” Everyone in the room looked at Twist in a varied collection of expressions from confusion to admiration.
“It wasn't a death blow,” Twist muttered, trying to avoid everyone's gaze.
“I'm sure his pride will never be the same,” Jonas said, struggling to contain a laugh.
“Can you hold our valiant hero still for a moment, so I can stop him from bleeding to death?” Dr. Rodés asked Jonas.
“Right,” Jonas said, losing some of his mirth as he looked to Twist's wrist. “Shall we do this floating-Indian-village-style?” he asked Twist, walking closer. It took a second for Twist to follow the reference.
“Oh, you mean a wall of fog,” he said, considering it.
Dr. Rodés frowned. “I think I just lost my power over English.”
“No, they just stop making sense from time to time,” Myra said to him supportively.
“Jonas, I don't know if I can,” Twist said to him softly. “I'm very … tired.”
Jonas looked at him quietly. “But last time you did it right after an airship crash.”
“I know, it's just...”
Twist's words fell away. The pain in his wrist was intense. He couldn't remember ever being hurt in such a way, and it seemed worse that any wound he'd ever had. The amount of fear he'd experienced in the last day also felt greater than he was in any way used to. He just wanted to sleep. He wanted the pain to stop. He needed to feel stable.
Jonas stepped closer and reached out to him. Twist expected him to rest his hand on his shoulder, but Jonas didn't stop there. He fit his thumb behind Twist's ear and reached his fingers around to the spot on his neck. Twist sucked in a sharp breath as the fog burned out his vision and stole all his fatigue, fear, and pain away. When his vision cleared again, he found Jonas's softly purple eyes waiting patiently just before his own.
“It's all right,” Jonas said. “I'll watch and make sure nothing gets through.”
Twist nodded, wondering why he had been so against it a moment before. Jonas moved to one side, but kept his fingers on Twist's neck, and gestured for the doctor to approach. Twist pulled the thick white fog around his attention until there was nothing else in the world. He distantly felt the doctor take his hand and examine the damage, but his Sight was slow to respond. When it did, sending a torrent of images and thoughts rushing at his inner eye, the clear, bubble-like wall at the edge of the fog held strong and kept it all away.
Somewhere out in the rest of the world, Twist noticed that he was being led somewhere, and was eventually told to sit. He did so, absently, and watched as the waves of the invading images washed in and out like a tide. He felt compelled to look at them, to reach out and feel them, but it was nice in the chill, white, calm little bubble of fog. He curled up inside it, deep within his own mind, and waited patiently for the waves to cease. A sudden sharp pain drew his attention back to his wrist.
“Ow!” he snapped, blinking to clear his vision.
The doctor looked up at his face, pausing with the needle halfway through Twist's skin.
“What the hell are you doing?” Twist gasped, seeing the long thread attached to the needle. The doctor was holding Twist's wrist in his own bare hand. Something about that frightened him as well.
“It's all right,” Jonas said from close beside him, though the words echoed in the shifting fog. Twist realized that Jonas had been holding him steady, with one hand on his arm and the other still on his neck. The hand on his arm moved to Twist's free hand and the connection deepened just a little more. “Just go back inside, Twist. Don't worry about anything.”
Twist let himself fall back into the chilly whiteness, and pushed the new pain away as well. He didn't want to know what was happening outside. He turned his inner eyes away from everything and buried himself in the numb calm. It felt like a long time before he heard Jonas's voice again, dancing on the surface of the clear glass wall in his mind.
“It's over now. Come back.”
Twist didn't want to leave the cozy comfort he had built up around himself, but he didn't want Jonas to move away if he wasn't ready, either. He slowly let the fog thin, and willed the glass wall to vanish. He opened his eyes and blinked them clear to find he was sitting beside Jonas, leaning heavily on him as if half asleep. His head had been resting on Jonas's shoulder, and his friend was still holding his hand.
“There you go,” Jonas said gently as Twist pulled away to sit on his own. The hand on Twist's neck slipped away to rest on his back instead. “Take it easy, Twist.”
Twist took a few deep breaths and let the connection dim. His vision cleared after a moment. Dr. Rodés was still in the room with them, wiping his hands on a red-stained rag. Twist looked around the room to find he was in one of the cabins, sitting on the edge of a very simple bed. There was a desk along the opposite wall, which was covered in jars, boxes, and bottles of all sorts. Some were open, showing a store of white cotton, curved needles, thin string, and other tools that Twist had heard of doctors using.
“Where are we?” he asked, looking up at the electric light hanging from the ceiling.
“My office,” the doctor said. “I never could get you in here before.”
“How are you feeling?” Jonas asked. Twist looked back at his purple eyes.
Jonas smiled. “Did you just take a nap? You seemed amazingly calm.”
“It's nice in my head,” Twist said with a shrug.
“Lucky you,” the doctor said, looking carefully at Twist's wrist. “Try to move it.”
Twits looked down and was startled by the long, dark, red gash running over his wrist. Tight, tiny stitches held his skin together like it was fabric. He felt slightly dizzy, looking at it. The doctor repeated his order. Twist complied, finding his skin reluctant to move at all. It was stiff and sore, and began to ache as he bent his hand gently back and forth.
“All right, that's enough,” the doctor said, nodding.
“Oh, that's it,” Twist declared. “I'm not fighting anyone, ever again.”
“It'll heal,” the doctor said, smiling. “It just needs a little care.” He turned around to the desk, and then came back with a small jar and a roll of thin cotton. “Let's just wrap it up to keep the infections out.”
“You have to touch him again?” Jonas asked.
“I can't do it with my thoughts,” the doctor said flatly.
“Let me,” Myra said from the doorway. Twist looked to her quickly, surprised to see her. She was peering into the room anxiously and biting her lip with her silver teeth.
“Fine,” Dr. Rodés said, handing it to her. “Put this on the wound,” he said, giving her the jar as well, “and then wrap it up and make sure it's snug, but not too tight.”
“I understand,” she said with a nod. Then she sat on the other side of Twist and looked down at his wrist. She grimaced and looked up to his face earnestly. “You're so very brave.”
Twist couldn't help but smile. Myra did as she had been told. Her cool copper fingers fell gently on Twist's skin, and washed concern, care, and a slight sense of pride over his Sight. When she was done, Twist found that the ointment was numbing the wound somewhat, and made it much easier to move.
“Not bad,” The doctor said, examining the wrapping. Pride glowed brightly on Myra's face, and Twist felt a heady rush of it over his Sight.
“So,” Jonas said, standing up. As distracted as he'd been by Myra, Twist hadn't realized that Jonas had taken his hands completely away a while ago. “Where are we, anyway?”
“I'm not sure,” the doctor said. “They were taking us northwest.”
“I'm going to make sure we stay over the water,” Jonas said to Twist as he headed for the door. “The magpies might just catch up with us before Loki does. You relax. We're safe for the moment.”
“Thank you,” Twist said quickly, just before he was gone. It didn't feel like nearly enough, but Twist didn't have anything else to offer. Jonas paused and looked back at him with a smile for an instant, before hurrying on.
“You know,” the doctor said thoughtfully, “that man is a lot more kind than he pretends to be. With enough incentive, he'll actually show it,” he added to Twist.
“Jonas is a lot of things he doesn't like to show,” Twist said.
“He's a good dancer too,” Myra offered.
Twist smiled to her and took her hand, fitting his fingers through hers. “And you are a good nurse, my dear,” he said, glancing to his wrist.
“Does it feel any better now?” she asked brightly.
“Much better, thank you.” He looked to Dr. Rodés. “Thank you, as well.” The doctor gave a shrug and turned to put away some of his tools.
“Oh, that nasty fox!” Myra snapped suddenly, anger flashing through her eyes. “Imagine, attacking you with a sword. And saying all those odd things to you before!” She looked to Twist seriously. “I don't like him at all.”
“I don't like him either,” Twist said easily.
“I'm glad you beat him,” Myra said firmly. “But you should have hit him harder.”
“She's got a temper, doesn't she?” Dr. Rodés said, smiling over his shoulder.
Twist laughed. “I think it's quite charming when she turns it on my enemies.”
Pride washed over his Sight again, and he turned back to find Myra smiling at him with enough warmth to melt away whatever was left of his pain, fear, and fatigue.