Starboard Crossed Lovers

Part 1: Prisoner at Sea



The pirates laughed and jeered as the final crewmembers of the HMS Moonsliver were unceremoniously tossed onto a lifeboat, a minor solace as their ship floated in pieces over the waters below. The defeated party stared back sheepishly at the vicious pirates, having been stripped down to naught but their skivvies and robbed of any valuables. Then with one last uproarious cheer the boat was cut free and sent plumetting to the open waters below. Only their captain, Lady Alina Thranduire of the Royal Elvish Navy, remained captive aboard the pirate vessel but unlike the rest of her crew she remained relatively untouched, getting away with only a slash across her shirt that still left her more exposed than she would normally like. But she still stood stoic, head held high with all the poise she could muster whilst she had her hands and legs each bound together. She made sure to give the crew no satisfaction or reaction as they danced around her while making crude jokes at her expense. Likely the best attempt at wit they can manage, she thought to herself.



A sharp whistle broke through the noise and the crew turned to face the source as a hush fell over them. One unattentive halfling continued his raucous laughter but was quickly silenced by a jab to the chest. Alina too turned to face the source of the noise. Looming over the deck balanced on the taffrail of the ship was the pirate captain herself; a tall orcish woman looking to be a living cliché of swashbuckling piracy, complete with long coat, hat, parrot, and eyepatch. The captain cast her gaze over the ship and their spoils, lingering a while longer as hers and the captive elf's eyes met. Alina felt the pirate's eye burn deep into her, but they were turned away before too long as she began to address her crew.



“Listen up maggots!" The captain shrieked, "I'm very disappointed in you all." Every member of the crew looked around at each other with confusion, wondering what they'd done wrong. A tension hung in the air as they anxiously awaited the captain's next words.



Despite her size, she hopped gracefully down off her perch and strode through the crowd, the crew making sure to give her a wide berth, until she stopped next to Alina. This time she gave the elf a long look up and down. Alina stared back blankly, trying not to give anything away. So the Orc turned back to her crew who were standing attentively at a safe distance, shuffling nervously, until she broke the silence. "Not one of you has offered me a drink!" It took a moment, but as a grin broke across the captain’s face laughter and relief spread throughout the crew.



Several crew members rushed to offer up their bottles or flagons to her and after a moment of faux deliberation she plucked one at random. "Thank you Ducky. Now I want you all to know I'm very proud of the lot of you. I dare say I couldn't ask for a more vile, ruthless and downright 'orrible crew." She paused to allow for further cheering and to sift her fingers through a pile of gold and jewellery before continuing, "This might well be our best haul yet not least because we are graced with the presence of our old friend; Captain Alina of the Royal Elvish Navy. How nice of you to join us again." The crew snickered as the elf in question glared silently at her Orcish nemesis before spitting on the pirate's boot and smirking up at her.



The captain didn’t seem to take kindly to this slight and in a flash was brandishing a knife to the elf's cheek, much to the joy of her crew, but still no reaction came from the captive elf. The pirate captain scoffed. "As talkative as ever I see, don't worry I'll remedy that. Take her to my cabin, I want to interrogate her... personally." The pirates whooped and hollered as Alina was hoisted over the shoulder of one brutish pirate and then "escorted" below deck. It was hard to remain elegant and proper while being manhandled as such but Alina tried anyway, unaware she actually looked even more ridiculous in trying.



As she was carried below deck the sounds of the crew and their captain's victory speech grew fainter until they arrived at a large cabin deep in the underbelly of the ship. Her escort used his free hand to open the door then squeezed through with Alina, bumping her head on the frame as he did. "Oops" he muttered with all the sincerity of... well, a pirate.



Once inside the pirate dumped Alina onto a bed in the corner of the room and began to take his leave, pausing at the door to grin at her, Alina sneered back petulantly and stuck her tongue out, all pretence of dignity now gone. "The cap'n will be wiv you shortly." He chuckled and closed the door behind him leaving the elf on her own. She listened to the oaf's footsteps retreat above deck again and once she was sure she was in the clear Alina scanned the room for anything sharp she might have been able to use to free herself from her binds. Plenty of ill-gotten trinkets, relics, tapestries and even some of Alina's old keepsakes from one of their previous encounters. But nothing sharp or pointy. Alina's eyes eventually landed on a large bottle of whisky, sitting on a desk at the far side of the room and with some amount of effort managed to hop her way over to the desk. She picked the bottle up by the neck and made to smash it on the desk but stopped when she noticed the label, "Not a bad vintage... Oh what the hell." She muttered to herself and after some fumbling with the cork, her wrists still being tied together and all, she managed to open the bottle up. As much as she could smash the bottle and use the shards to cut herself free, it would be a waste of perfectly good whisky. She gave it a tentative sniff and recoiled slightly at the potency. “Down the hatch…”



After drinking her fill Alina heard the door once more, though didn’t bother turning around as her captor began another tedious monologue, "Well well well, what do we have here. An annoying little fly has been caught in my web. I must admit you fought valiantly my darling, though not valiantly enough clearly. Now I have to wonder what I should do with you. Were the tables turned I wonder what you would do to a dastardly pirate such as myself, hm?" It was at this point the pirate captain wandered into the elf's vision, walking slowly but purposefully as if playing with her food and absent mindedly twirling a garishly jewelled knife between her fingers, it was most likely pilfered from some obnoxious noble. "Would you keep me captive? Or toss me overboard? Maybe you'd just kill me on the spot for crimes against-"



“Oh shove off Gaelug, I'm not in the mood." Alina snapped. This threw Gaelug off her carefully planned out rhythm and she tripped, clumsily dropping her knife on the floor.



The pirate bent down to reclaim the knife before responding. "Come on Ali, you always love to play this game. I had this whole thing planned out with the knife, you trying to wrestle it from me, bit of banter back and forth, the works!" The elf only looked briefly at her before taking another sip of whisky. Gaelug took off her hat and put the coat over her chair before sitting down at the desk with a sigh. It was now apparent Alina wasn’t going to play along. "Alright, fine. What’s the matter then Ali?"



“What's the matter? That's the third ship of mine you've sunk this month. After the last time they threatened to demote me and give my command to Admiral Levos, abhorrent creature that he is. I've worked too hard for this command to just throw it away for some stupid orc pirate with a pretty face." Gaelug began opening her mouth to speak but couldn’t get a word out as Alina continued her exasperated tirade. "They even gave me the most incompetent bloody crew this time as if they wanted me to fail, one of them didn't even know which way port was. Port! Port of all bloody things. You work as a sailor and you don't know which direction port is. I almost threw him off the ship myself." Alina was breathing angrily through her nose now as her composure melted away.



“Well-"



“And not least one of your fucking pirates managed to slice open one of my best shirts. Cost me a fortune this did and you had me standing out there with my tits practically on display to your whole filthy crew. Do you know how embarrassing that is?"



After finally being addressed Gaelug lifted her eye from said garment to meet Alina's gaze directly and realised she was now expected to respond. "Oh, sorry..." The pirate looked dejected for a moment, "Third, really? That's a shame. I thought it was more than that." She quipped giving the elf her best cheeky smile.



Alina really wanted to remain angry, but she felt the slightest tug at the corner of her lips as she stifled a smile. Gaelug didn’t miss that and they both relaxed a little bit. "Don't make me laugh, I'm still angry at you." Alina finally sat down across the desk from the Orc as she was reaching for some whisky herself, but found the bottle snatched away at the last second. Alina took another long drag before passing the now nearly empty bottle over. "The least you could do is get me out of these binds."



Gaelug stood up to assist as suggested, first she drained the bottle of course, then walked around the desk to Alina. "You know if they do fire you, you could always become a pirate." Gaelug commented as she bent down to cut at the ropes holding her captive’s ankles together. Alina looked down at the orc with a stern face, doing her best to feign unamusement. "I mean it you know, you're far too good to be in some stuffy Navy. Hell, with your wits, skill and not to mention beauty, I think you'd make an incredible swabbie."



Unsure whether it was genuine or just the whisky; this did finally elicit a giggle from the elf and as an act of peace Alina wordlessly held out her wrist binds for Gaelug to cut. Gaelug moved as if to help but stopped just shy. With the knife so close Alina moved forward from her seat to try and cut herself free but Gaelug simply moved it away, flashing a sly smile as she did. "Doesn't this situation feel awfully familiar to you Ali? Hands in binds, begging to be free, key to freedom just out of reach. Though then the binds were chains, it was an actual key and the roles were reversed, but the point still stands."



"I don't recall begging, if memory serves that's more your strong suit." Alina retorted refusing to give into the game, for now.



“Oh well I suppose you'll just have to remain like that then, I can't think of any other possible way you might get your hands on this key." Gaelug taunted, letting the knife dangle between two fingers. Alina for her part pretended not to be playing along as she sat back in her seat. However out of the corner of her eye she watched the orc closely until the orc relaxed slightly, almost imperceptibly and, trying to seize this opportunity, she dashed forwards to grab the knife, but once again the pirate proved faster and kept it away. Again. And Again. Until they were standing soclose. The orc, being a good head above the elf, held the knife high so she couldn’t possibly reach, but she knew the game was over now. Alina wasn’t watching the knife anymore, her gaze now locked on the lips in front of her.



"There you are, my love..." Gaelug whispered as she leant down to kiss the lips awaiting her. But right before the climactic moment she instead found herself falling. Her legs having been swept out from under her as she went crashing to the cabin floor. Her assailant deftly caught the knife as it spun through the air and sliced her bindings free in one smooth action. Gaelug grinned as Alina stepped over her and straddled her hips on the floor. She gently pressed the knife to her pirate lover’s throat with one hand and lifted the eyepatch with the other.



"I wish you wouldn't wear this ridiculous thing; you know how much I love your eyes." Alina spoke softly as she discarded the offending accessory and Gaelug rested her hands on her partner's thighs, making slow gentle strokes with her thumbs. Alina continued. "So is this what you were imagining we would end up like?"







“I was hoping for a few more torn clothes, but this was about what I expected, yes." In response Alina dragged the blade down, cutting open the thin blouse protecting the pirate's decency. "I suppose that's only fair. Did you get a look at who ruined your shirt?"



“It was some overenthusiastic tiefling girl, who incidentally now has a broken nose." Alina stated proudly.



Gaelug chuckled heartily. "She'll be overboard by morning for daring to upset you."



"Oh, you're such a romantic. Next time I’m capturing you though." Alina murmured as she allowed their lips to join at last.



Part 3: Collapse



"I have you right where I want you, Dread Pirate Gaelug!" Alina shouted, her voice echoing throughout the old clocktower they found themselves in. The tower itself was abandoned, with sunbeams streaming through holes in the roof and walls and even more so through the large white clockface backlighting the pirate criminal. Large wooden support beams jutted every which way, each rotted through and threatening to fall at any moment. Alina made sure to stand between her adversary and the only staircase out of the building, rapier drawn and poised to strike.



Gaelug, for her part, merely leant against a support beam, arms crossed across her chest. The pirate looked unarmed and her face showed a mix of casual amusement and boredom. "No you don't, my dear Alina. Not really." Came the eventual retort.



Alina knew there had to be some sort of trick here, this was too easy. She'd spotted the Orcish Pirate while buying a new diary in the market and followed her sneakily up to the top of this tower where she'd found the pirate waiting. Alina hadn't bothered to alert the guards, no way anyone else was going to get credit for this apart from herself. No one else was allowed to get Gaelug. "What are you talking about? I found you and you're under arrest!"



"I'm starting to get tired of this game, Alina. It was fun for a while but I was really hoping we'd have moved passed this by now."



"Moved passed this how? Moved passed what, I don't know what you're on about." Alina was starting to get a bit frustrated, this wasn't how their exchanges usually went. The pirate was never this candid. "And stop calling me Alina, it isn't right."



For the first time since Alina spotted her, Gaelug actually looked surprised. "But... that's your name, isn't it? What should I call you instead?"



princessor whatever..."



Gaelug laughed as Alina trailed off and looked embarassed. The elf blushed slightly and lowered her weapon, having lost a lot of enthusiasm to fight now.

After she was done laughing the pirate wiped some tears away from her eyes. "So... You want me to call you Princess, do you?"



"No! I... It was just a suggestion, I..." Alina stammered in her exasperation.



"Ha, you've been reading too many stories Princess." Gaelug was smirking at her now, which only served to make Alina more annoyed.



Realising this was probably exactly what the pirate wanted Alina took a deep breath and reformed her stance before continuing. "But what are you talking about anyway, what should we have moved passed, what game are you on about? 



Really."



The pirate rolled her eyes. "Come now, you're far too clever to be this dense. I've been having fun, I really have, but I thought for sure we'd have ended up well..." The Orc was doing some obscure gestures with her hands to try and get her point across.



sleepwith 

you. Me with you? A Pirate?" Alina scoffed at the thought, but now refused to look her enemy in the eye. She scoffed again, louder this time to reallyget her point across. "How could you possibly think that?"



Now Gaelug was getting frustrated herself. "After all of this, all the little bits of help we've given each other the last few months. Me letting you rescue that obnoxious manchild of a noble's son. Leaving you clues to a few bits of buried treasure here and there and you telling me about the secret raid on my stronghold?" Gaelug was done being coy and playful and this surprised Alina.



The elf now matched the pirate’s frustration but mixed it with anger as she turned back to look at the Orc. "So that was your plan all along, hm? All of this the last few months so you could blackmail me into sleeping with you? You're pathetic and disgusting. I only told you about that raid so Levos wouldn't get credit for your capture."



The anger seemed contagious as Gaelug shouted back. "Come along, that's not what I meant. We've been helping each other and you know it, with the clues I've left you to help with your career and the letters you've sent me warning me about the navy, I thought we had an agreement."



"I don't know what you're talking-"



"Oh stop with the rubbish, I've stolen enough of your diaries to recognise your handwriting by now."



"I knew it was you, you're the one who's been pilfering my diaries and pens, you bastard!"



"Yes, 



obviously, I know you knew, you wrote as much in your last diary before I snuck onto your ship and took it! Though the pen thing wasn't me, you might actually have another thief aboard your ship." Gaelug spoke genuinely enough that Alina was inclined to believe her and if Gaelug wasn't the one taking her pens, she had a feeling she knew who was, but that would have to be dealt with later as the Pirate carried on, interrupting her thoughts. "Besides if you didn't want me to take the diaries you'd have changed the code on your padlock after the second time."



certain piratewhom she suspected was behind the thefts. But the more she suspected the less she found herself actually able to make the change. She even began to write more personal notes in the diary, which was very unusual for her, almost as if she hoped someone would read them...



For once Alina had no comeback and Gaelug seemed to have reached the end of her rope as well. The both of them merely stood there in relative silence, breathing heavily as their anger began to subside little by little, while the old wood creaked around them.



Gaelug was the one to break the silence. "We also kissed that one time..." In a sudden change to her previous demeanour the pirate now spoke meekly while rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly and took a step towards Alina.



"No." Alina protested, her face getting warmer and redder. "No that wasn't a kiss. That was an accident, I slipped and... and that was it." She didn't react as the pirate continued walking cautiously towards her, didn’t retreat or move, she just seemed glued to the spot, her grip on the rapier now wavering.



longaccident in that case." Gaelug stepped closer. "But you did call it a kiss in your diary."



Alina finally dropped her rapier sending it clattering to the wooden floor as she buried her face in her hands, mentally chastising herself for not changing the lock for the diaries, until a hand on her shoulder broke her out of her wallowing. She looked up into familiar golden eyes. Eyes that usually instilled fear and horror into most sailors. Eyes that usually drove her to righteous fury. But now seemed different; warm, pleading and surprisingly beautiful. It was Alina's turn to speak. "So, what happens now?" She spoke softly. Truthfully she didn't really know what to think right now. So she was done thinking.



As Gaelug opened her mouth to say something she couldn't, Alina quickly grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled her down into a deep kiss. The pirates lips were rough from salty sea air but the kiss itself was soft and gentle and left Alina wanting more. Both of their shoulders dropped as a months long catharsis flowed through their bodies, all tension relieved and desperately pulling each other closer. Alina’s hands scrunching the back the pirate’s jacket as she felt strong arms lock around her waist.

NowI think you have me where you want me."



Alina didn't fully understand why, but she laughed and with it came a smile Gaelug had never seen before but knew she wanted to see a thousand times more. "Don't ruin it." Alina muttered and stood there in bliss for a moment, though she felt her senses return to her before too long. Her peaceful smile faded and she released her grip on the pirate. "Fuck." She said. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. What am I doing?" Alina slumped to the floor shaking her head.



Gaelug slowly sat down next to her. The Orc wanted to speak but didn't know the words to comfort her companion, she raised an arm, wanting to wrap it over Alina's shoulders and pull her close but thought better of it. So she waited.



An eternity seemed to pass as they sat there in silence until Alina finally felt comfortable enough to say something. "I'm not going to leave with you." She said, as if she'd ran through a thousand scenarios in her head.



The Pirate seemed to consider this for a moment. "I wouldn't want you to, I like you as you are." Another eternity passed until Gaelug spoke once more. "This doesn't have to be complicated."



Alina finally turned to look at the Orc. "It's already complicated." Gaelug sighed but nodded in agreement. "We'd better go. Before I regret this."

The pirate looked at her quizzically. "Go?"



"Yes, go. There's surely an inn or tavern in town somewhere that will discretely rent us a room for the afternoon." Alina looked very serious as she said this which left Gaelug dumbstruck and so she just nodded in response.



Alina started to stand up first, using a nearby wooden beam as support, but unfortunately the wood was extremely rotten through and snapped as she put her full weight on it sending her collapsing to the floor. The beam itself fell away from the two sailors but the section of roof it was supporting above them collapsed and began to fall.



"Alina!" Gaelug shouted and dove on top of her as she lay prone on the floor. Old wood and shingles rained down on them, pummelling the pirate's back who tried to remain as strong as possible, gritting her teeth all the while. When it was all over and the dust was settling, Alina opened her eyes and saw her companion leaning over her breathing heavily, a pile of debris surrounding them. "You're ok?" Was all the pirate could muster the energy to say.



"Ali." Came the response. The Orc opened one eye to look at Alina. She was confused but that could also be the concussion. "You can call me Ali." Alina elaborated. Gaelug did her best to smile and nod but as she tried she instead collapsed to the floor unconscious.



When the orc came to, she felt remarkably better. Opening her eyes she found they were still in the clocktower as Alina moved her hands slowly up and down the pirate's body. "You're a healer?"



Alina breathed a sigh of relief as she locked eyes with her patient. "Yes, but don't tell anyone. I prefer to be fighting rather than staying back and taking care of weaklings."

Gaelug sat up and stretched her shoulders out just to make sure all was well. "I promise." She said. Not that anyone would listen to a pirate anyway but she still felt it mattered that she said it.



Alina stood up first again, carefully this time, and proferred a hand. "There's still hours in the day if you want to come with me, my heroic pirate.”



Gaelug chuckled and took the hand. "Don't ruin it."



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



As Alina arrived back at her ship the sun was setting and she was greeted by one of her sailors. The lad seemed a bit unnerved by the fact that the captain was smiling so openly. "Oh Captain, you were gone for awhile. Umm welcome back, should we get ready to set off then?"



Alina nodded at him. "Yes I think we should, I'll inform the crew." She stated and started moving up the gangway, but stopped half way. "Oh, and Gallaway?"



"Yes Captain?"



“I think this is where you part ways.”



Ensign Gallaway gulped as his Captain stared daggers at him. “I.. I’m sorry Captain?”



'sorry'won’t cut it.” Alina’s smile faded and Gallaway felt his body grow colder under her unblinking gaze. “Gather your things, this where you’ll be staying.”

That was the last they spoke. Alina’s smile returned to her as she continued onto the ship. Gallaway didn’t even think to gather his belongings from on board, he dared not risk even seeing the Captain again.



Part 2: Chance Encounters



It was a stormy day on their first meeting. No one aboard the Arrnvel saw the pirates coming through the heavy rainfall, but soon enough they heard the cannons and felt shots land. Lightning illuminated the attacker's ship like something out of a nightmare and in that instant Alina managed to get a glimpse at their flag; the unmistakeable sigil of The Dreadcruiser. Not an inventive name for a ship mind you but if the tales people had told of it and it's savage captain, the Dread Pirate Gaelug, were in any way true it was certainly not to be taken lightly.



What tremendous luck that for her inaugural voyage as a First Officer the ship Alina is tasked with gets ambushed by one of the most notorious pirates known across the seas. In a few short years she could have finally made captain, but now she just hoped to survive this encounter. Unlessshe began to ponder with all the undue arrogance of a fledgling mariner. Unless she could capture this deadly pirate herself, someone who had eluded kingdoms and armadas alike for years, why she could almost certainly fast track her plan. My god with a prize such as this she could be in charge of a whole a fleet let alone a single ship. Excitement overtook her fear as she charged about the deck shouting orders at the crew and rousing those who were panicking.



The Arrnvel did not have many cannons, it being primarily a transport vessel, but what firepower they had was soon firing back at the pirate ship. This didn’t do much to dissuade their assailants as The Dreadcruiser continued sailing closer, far outpacing their own ship and all the while launching barrages of cannonballs. Alina glanced around trying to spot their Captain, when she noticed him standing above the deck outside of his quarters watching her. He gave her a nod of approval and began to channel some sort of protection spell in hopes of stopping the ship from being sunk.



This back and forth carried on for a while with neither ship backing down or landing any significant damage until Alina felt the Arrnvel lurch underneath them. Steadying herself she rushed to the edge of the ship and saw some sort of harpoon lodged in their hull pulling the two ships ever closer. Perfectshe thought to herself, drawing her rapier. If it's close quarters they want, then I'll be happy to oblige them.



Alina's wish was granted before too long and as the ships clattered together, she steeled herself for a fight. Shrieking pirates leapt over the side of the much larger pirate ship onto the deck of the Arrnvel below. Alina managed to strike one out of the air as a flurry of combat erupted around her. Not one of the pirates swarming the deck seemed a match for Alina as she cut them down one by one, she was no stranger to combat, and clearly much better trained than this band of drunken louts.



However as the fighting continued she didn’t see anyone who might look remotely like the famed pirate Gaelug. She had no idea what the notorious criminal actually looked like, but she was certain no pirate on deck was the captain sort. The Captain!She remembered in a moment of slight panic and glanced up to where she last saw him just in time to see the door to the captain's quarters slam shut. Knowing this could not be good she began to rush along the deck doing her best to avoid any would be assailants, ducking under clashing swords and shoving through the melee where she could. However one such unavoidable menace stood on the stairs blocking her path.



The pirate stood poised, a dagger in each hand, spinning and juggling them in a threatening show of expertise. Alina didn’t have patience for such pageantry and just swatted one knife out the air with her rapier. As the man turned to watch his blade fly away he felt a boot in his side sending him hurtling to the sea below. Alina bounded up the steps two at a time and after taking a deep breath kicked open the door, ready for what might await her.



The door slammed open, causing shelves to rattle and now inside Alina spotted a tall figure, their back to her, she made to dash forward but hesitated in her assault when she noticed they had a cutlass raised to the captain's neck. "Lay down your arms." She ordered, somewhat futilely. Raising her own blade to point at the intruder. At this warning said intruder turned their head to face Alina in the doorframe, golden eyes pierced through her, betraying no sense of fear and in fact they seemed almost amused. As her own eyes adjusted to the dark of the cabin Alina was finally able to get a good look at the culprit and where she had always imagined a horrible, grizzled monster of a person, instead stood a handsome orcish woman, only slightly grizzled. She was still the embodiment of piracy dressed in a tattered crimson coat and typical tricorne pirate hat atop thick, dark, weather-worn hair. "You must be the infamous Dread Pirate Gaelug."



"Guilty as charged my dear and who do I have the pleasure of meeting?" Came the shockingly calm response. The pirate questioned her as one might a kindly stranger, not someone with a sword directed at them.



The captain interjected at this point. "It's alright, she'll leave us alone if we just give her some documents."



"But Captain, she's a wanted criminal and-"



"And we're ill equipped to deal with pirates, so I'd rather we escape with our lives, therefore I order you to stand down, Alina." Following that he knocked on a wall of the cabin to reveal a hidden panel with various parchments inside, after pulling them out he handed them to the pirate carefully, who tucked them under her free arm. All the while the first officer remained poised to strike.



"Best listen to him Alina. I'd hate if that pretty face of yours were spoiled." Gaelug instructed, the elf unsure if she was being mocked and threatened or complimented and threatened.



The Dread Pirate lowered her sword away from the Captain who rubbed his neck with relief and she moved to exit the cabin, but Alina wasn’t going to let such an opportunity get away from her and definitely wasn’t going to be made fun of as she launched herself towards her foe. The orc effortlessly deflected the strike with her own cutlass but Alina didn’t give her the chance to retaliate as she pressed the attack. The pirates cool demeanour sank away amidst the sudden assault, concentrating on parrying whilst keeping the documents securely under arm. As the fight continued the Captain crawled away into a corner, not wanting to be caught up in the whirlwind of blades and silently cursed his hot-headed second in command.



The melee came to a screeching halt as their blades clashed in the air and the two combatants stared each other down over the crossed swords, close enough to feel each others heavy breathing. Gaelug was the one to break the tension. "Not bad sweetheart. You could almost give me a run for my money, except..." She left the word hanging in the air for a moment. "You play too nice." The pirate suddenly lurched forward knocking their skulls together and nearly concussing Alina. Using the momentary surprise to her advantage Gaelug twirled around sweeping the elf's legs out and knocking her to the floor. "I had fun dancing with you sweetheart, but I hope next time you'll learn some new steps." And with an exaggerated bow she vanished back into the storm, whistling her crew with her.



Alina didn’t bother getting up, feeling the defeat weigh heavy on her chest.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Some time passed and things were able to return to relative normalcy. The Captain held no ill will towards her disobedience, believing her defeat to be punishment enough, but bizarre rumours had begun to spread amongst the rest of the crew. Few people could boast about taking on one of the most notorious villains of the sea and living to tell the tale. Alina wanted to quash the rumours given the orc had so obviously just let her live, though on the other hand the air of esteem and respect that came along with the rumours was almost intoxicating.



It didn't stop there though, now almost every port they came across was be abuzz with her name and she soon found herself indulging children with slightlyembellished tales of her battle with the Dread Pirate Herself. The culminating moment came when she received a grand invitation to a dignatary's ball where representatives from several nations would be in attendance. She wasn't usually one for such fancy events, she'd sooner face the Dread Pirate again than have to bump shoulders with such echelons of high society but she still had her future to think about. Unfortunately she would still have to ask for leave permission from the Captain himself.



"'To the esteemed First Officer Alina Thranduil, who single handedly fought off the Dread Pirate Gaelug, you are hereby invited to attend...' fought off did you?" The Captain shot her a judgemental look. "I was hoping the defeat would instill in you some sort of humility. Of course you may attend but I do hope you'll think on this whole affair."



Alina didn't really appreciate being talked down to but did her best to keep her temper under check. "I know Captain, this isn't what I intended to happen and it isn't quite proper but you also know I want my own command some day, and getting my name known is a surefire way to do that." Deep down she knew she should stop there, but she still felt she had to justify herself at every turn and pushed forward against her own better judgement. "I've worked as hard as anyone else in the whole navy, you know I deserve this and I need every advantage I can get, after all it's not like I've got any relative's or lovers who can just giveme what I want without having to work for it."



She stopped as the Captain coughed and looked more than a little bit embarrassed. "Oh sorry, that wasn't supposed to be directed at you or your High Admiral husband, sir. It's just, well, you know there's plenty of people who are high up that don't deserve to be there and..." Alina trailed off as she began to realise she had said too much.



Her captain replied with a sigh. "It's quite alright, First Officer. Though I think you'd best get looking for something to wear to the ball other than your uniform. You're dismissed.” Alina merely nodded in response and neither of them looked the other in the eye as she saluted and turned face. The Captain had one final warning before she left however. “But do watch that tongue of yours, it could most certainly get into trouble." Outside she mentally chastised herself but didn’t dwell on it and instead set off to heed the Captain's advice and find herself a dress.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



It was the night of the ball and Alina was already regretting the decisions that led her to this point. The ball itself was being hosted in some fancy ballroom in a fancy mansion on a fancy hill. She didn’t know who owned the place but it was decorated with the white marble, gold silk and dark mahogany that was all too common among elvish nobility.

This wasn’t going at all like she hoped it would, a feeling she was becoming all too used to now. Few of the ball's attendees had ever seen combat and so weren't interested in her tale of heroism passed the most basic of details. They all much preferred to talk about regional affairs and gossip about their peers. Alina did her best to feign interest, which was to say she at least remained quiet while grimacing. She’d never been particularly good at hiding her emotions and definitely wasn't going to start now.



She'd dressed up as best she could, light hair cropped short and neat as it usually was but with a low cut bright red dress that was uncharacteristic of her. She regretted this too now as if the insipid conversation wasn't bad enough, the near constant flirtations were enough to make her practically vomit. Alina had also been given a key to a room upstairs should she wish to spend the night. Not a chance, the next opportunity she got she was going to excuse herself and sneak out.



"Greetings milady, may I have this dance?" Alina whipped around ready to turn down yet another boorish suitor but stopped short as she stared into familiar eyes. They were hidden behind a simple black butterfly mask and the person in question was wearing a long tail coat but it was unmistakeably her, the Dread Pirate. Though they had only met the once that fateful stormy day those eyes had been burned into Alina’s memory. Almost in shock the elf took the hand extended to her. "It’s so good to meet you again Lady Alina, I didn't know you'd be at this event too. What a pleasant surprise this is."



Recovering slightly but still unsure whether she was dreaming, Alina whispered to her partner. "What in the hells are you doing here?" The elf isn't sure why she whispered like this was some secret to be concealed, she could quite easily call the guards to come and take the pirate away. But out of some strange curiosity, she didn’t. Alina simply followed as she was lead onto the dance floor where they joined in the minuet.



The two of them continued to keep to the steps of the dance without breaking eye contact, "What indeed? I could be here to rob the place and my crew is waiting behind each pillar for my signal. Maybe I had heard the great Pirate Slayer Alina was in attendance and simply wanted the chance to meet her." This she said with a knowing glint in her eye but Alina, stoic as ever, gave no reaction. "Or maybe I became so enamored after our last encounter that I simply had to meet you again. So I donned a disguise and snuck my way into this party."



Gaelug swore she noticed the elf trying not to smile a little bit. "Dear gods you're a walking cliché. Though I can't help but think you slightly missed something." The orc looked at her quizzically. "One; this isn't a masquerade ball so you're probably drawing more attention to yourself as you are and two; I don't think anyone here would have the slightest chance of recognising you anyway. They're all too busy with their heads up their arses to care about anything other than themselves."



Gaelug laughed and if she were to glance about the room she would have known all that to be true by the looks she was receiving, but she chose to keep her gaze fixed on the elf. Even as they moved about the floor changing partners in step with the dance they each kept their eyes trained on the other until they came back together again. "You don't often get the chance to live out a young girl's fantasy though. The kind read in old books and dreamed of while gazing at the ceiling at night. A chance meeting with a dashing stranger come to whisk you away into the night..."



"A bold assumption, but I never indulged in such fairy's tales."



"Oh, I was talking about myself." This time the elf didn’t just smile, she laughed. A short, soft laugh before she caught herself and the orc’s face, which had kept a sly roguish smirk the whole while, seemed to soften into something more genuine.



The dance continued wordlessly for a time until it came to a close with the pair customarily bowing to each other, then Alina began to remember just who she was talking to. She shook off a sickly feeling in her stomach as a plan began to formulate in her mind.



"Option three." Alina stated. This did not seem to mean anything to the pirate as she merely looked back, agape. "Option three, you're enamored with me, I can tell. You thought you'd come here so swave and cool and sweep me off my feet, whisking me away for an evening."



The response came with a smirk; "My my little darling, you do think highly of yourself, don't you? If you must know the real reason-" But she was cut off abruptly.



"Room G18 upstairs. I'll be waiting there, you follow after 3 minutes." Alina's tone had shifted from playful to serious, brushing her hand over the orcish woman's bicep as she departed. Gaelug for once found herself at loss for words but sure enough, after a bit less than 3 minutes, she followed through the doorway the elf had exited through.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



As she expected Alina heard a sharp rapping at the door to the room after approximately 3 minutes. She opened up the door and the Pirate suitor barely got a word out before she was yanked into the room with an unexpected strength. Alina checked both ways down the hallway for any tails before closing the door and turning to meet her nemesis.

"Well, Miss Alina, I must admit I didn't quite expect this. You are full of surprises not that I'm complaining." Gaelug admitted.



"Oh trust me, if you had to deal with the crowd down there you'd be as eager for a distraction as I." Alina responded candidly. "Put these on and sit on the bed." She continued, tossing a pair of handcuffs at the orc. Gaelug deftly caught the shackles and stared at the elf. Alina for her part just smiled back, arms folded behind her.

"Full of surprises." Gaelug grinned, obeying the command. Shackling herself and sitting obediently on the end of the bed for the next move. "What now?"



"Now, we play a little game, it's called captor and captive." Alina strode forward and as she reached the bed swiftly brandished a dinner knife and held it up to the pirate's throat with one hand. "I'm the captor and you are now my captive, Dread Pirate Gaelug."



"Oh woe is me, whatever shall I do. I am at your mercy, I wonder what you'll do to me." The pirate simply replied with a smile, apparently oblivious to the true nature of the situation.



With her other hand Alina held up the key for the handcuffs and flung it out the open window of the room. The pirate turned her head to watch it fly, a confused look appeared on her face as she returned to look her captor in the eyes. "You really are quite stupid, you know? I really cannot believe you followed me all the way here and allowed yourself to be handcuffed. It's a mystery how you've cause so much trouble for us this far. But still I have you now and your days of piracy are over Former Dread Pirate Gaelug."

For a brief time the captive stared up at Alina, their faces once again close enough that they could feel each other’s breath. When she finally spoke the pirate sounded more sad than scared. “Well this is disappointing, to say the least. Though if this was your plan all along I don’t understand why you didn’t just try and capture me down in the ballroom, surely it would have been less risky than this?”



"The thought did occur to me, but I assumed that if you were arrogant enough to come to the dignatary's ball you must have had some sort of escape plan. Plus on the off chance that I actually managed to apprehend you I've no doubt any number of bastards down there would happily claim responsibility for your capture. But this way I get all the glory for myself, for your capture I might even get my own ship and captaincy finally." Alina monologued, a smug air emanating from her. "So I knew what I had to do was something you wouldn't expect to get you on your own and have you let your guard-" *Clink*, *Snap*.



Alina felt a metal around her left wrist, she saw the pair of handcuffs now attaching her to the bedpost and in a panic tried to plunge the knife down into the pirate's neck, but she was too slow as Gaelug firmly seized her other wrist.



"You were saying, CaptainAlina? You really think this was the first time I'd been in navy handcuffs my darling? Bet you wish you'd kept that key now, hm?” The pirate mocked as Alina tried to wrestle her hands free, first her right in the pirate's grasp and then the other with a fruitless tug at the handcuffs. Ashamed, she knew she’d been bested again and dropped the pointless piece of cutlery on the floor. Now with the threat gone Gaelug released her grip on the elf whose arm just fell limply to her side. She looked so defeated it was almost enough to make Gaelug feel sorry for her as she moved over to the window. Before leaping out the pirate paused to say a few more words, though now in a very different tone. "I was disappointed that you thought I would be so easy to catch, how little you must think of me. I did have some respect for you at least, thought you were different than all the simple sailors who only care about following orders and blending with society.

That’swhy I was surprised to see you at this event. Though now I'm just a bit sad and I hope next time you won't underestimate me."



Alina turned to finally meet the pirate's eyes and with a wink Gaelug was gone once more into the night. Even though Alina should have now been alone with her sorrows, her captain's words on humility ringing in her mind, she couldn't help but smile. She wouldfind Gaelug again. Where anger usually bubbled in her, she felt only excitement now.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Sometime after she had managed to get herself free (with no minor amount of damage to the bed) Alina learned that somehow during the ball an admiral's son had been kidnapped. Though truthfully Alina couldn't bring it upon herself to care, so wrapped up in her own defeat and chance of redemption as she was. She did also remember the man in question as one of the suitors who had been making unwelcome comments towards her earlier in the evening, so it probably served him right anyway.



The next day she managed to make her way back to the ship and change into the comfortable familiarity of her uniform and it was here, in her cabin, that she saw a parchment stick through her porthole window. Unfolding it she found it to be a crudely drawn map of sorts, leading from their current port, around various recognisable landmarks and finally to a little drawing of a man in a cage on an island and beside him; a note.



"I'll be waiting -G" Written in scrawled but legible handwriting and finished with a kiss of dark lipstick. She tore off the bit of parchment with the written note, but hesitated before throwing it out the porthole. Instead she placed it in the top drawer of her desk. Her fingers lingered over the kiss mark, it was at this point she realised she had been smiling to herself this whole time.



Alina slapped herself to regain composure and with map in hand headed up to the deck to inform the captain. She took it from the pirate’s pocket during the ball, she would say of course. May as well turn all this to her advantage, after all if anyone was going to catch the Dread Pirate; it had better be her.



Part 4: If You Love Me, Set Me Free



Alina counted the bricks in the wall as she sat waiting on a bench next to a set of large wooden doors, absent-mindedly tapping her foot so that it echoed off the stone floor and down a long hallway stretching either side of her. It seemed to be the only noise being made in the whole building. "You may enter." Came a faint solemn voice from inside the room. Alina stood up and pushed her way through the heavy doors.



stupidsmall-rimmed glasses resting gently on the tip of his nose as he read whatever supposedly important documents demanded his full attention.



Alina proudly walked up to her superior officer before stopping and giving a salute. "Admiral Levos Reyan, son of Levan." She stated as is proper, standing full in attention until addressed.



The Admiral obliged a response without looking up from the documents he was perusing. "Captain Alina Thranduire, daughter of... someone, I'm sure." Alina scowled, but dared not respond. "How may I help you, Captain?"



"Admiral, I'm told you have managed to capture the infamous Dread Pirate Gaelug?" Alina more stated than asked.



The Admiral still refused to look at her. "That is correct, Captain, we have managed a feat which you have not in 3 years, despite proclaiming that you would take sole responsibility for her capture." There was no visible air of smugness, his tone was not accusatory or judgemental, but Alina knew he was gloating.



havecaptured her several times, but she always manages to get away when I hand her over to a prison or some other transport. I cannot be held responsible for the incompetency of others." Alina spoke through gritted teeth, feeling her anger bubbling beneath the surface, as it often did when dealing such arrogance.

"No, I suppose you can't." He conceded with clear insincerity, though he did finally look up at Alina, removing his glasses and rubbing the tip of his nose. "But I ask again; How may I help you?"



The Captain took a deep breath to try and calm herself before speaking. "If it would be possible, sir, I should like to have a word with the captive. Having spent so long chasing her I was hoping you would allow me such a courtesy before she is hauled away."



Alina expected the worst. The Admiral for his part seemed to consider the request for an immeasurably long time. "It is most irregular." Alina's scowl returned and she felt like she was about to scream, though Levos answered just before she exploded. "But very well, I suppose we can allow you that much, you may have 4 minutes with the prisoner. She is currently being held in the largest cell in the basement of the west wing."



Taken aback Alina could barely utter a response. "Oh, umm, thank you sir. That is very gracious of you." She saluted once more before departing as directed.



It didn't take long to reach the cell, the keep they were in was small enough and not designed for criminals to the notoriety of Gaelug. Down a spiralling set of stairs and past a long corridor of empty cells, Alina stared upon her nemesis; an orcish woman sitting kneeling on the floor. Little else she could do having been bound by chains to the floor, the walls with a sack over her head just to make sure. If it were possible in this cell Alina imagined she'd have also been suspended from the ceiling. Using the keys she acquired from the guard outside she unlocked the cell and the prisoner twitched as she heard the cell door open.



"Whaddya want? Come to gloat some more you pointy eared bastards? Kick me while I'm down? Come on then you likely won't get another chance before I'm the one kicking your teeth in." The chains rattled as the pirate struggled against them to no avail.



Alina watched for a short time, smiling as the prisoner yelled further insults towards her before interrupting. "Gaelug, it's me."



"Ali?" Instantly Gaelug stopped her writhing and sat there looking in Alina's direction. "Well this is embarrassing, isn't it?"



Alina strode over and pulled the sack off to look the pirate in the eyes. "I'll say! You really let yourself be captured by Levos of all people? 



My, how the mighty have fallen. You know you're not supposed to be captured by anyone but me. Though I still don't understand how." Alina scolded the orc.

inopportunetime while I was sneaking into a port, I think someone on my crew tipped them off. But you should've seen the thrashing I gave them regardless." Gaelug announced proudly, despite still having been caught in the end.



Alina smiled in amusement but she grew more serious as she let out a long sigh. "You've been getting lax, Gaelug. I can't feed you information I have no knowledge of, I'm not the only person who wants to capture you after all."



The Dread Pirate looked sheepish and she didn't answer for a while as the two of them just stared at each other in the momentary silence. As Alina looked at her, Gaelug nervously bit her lip and looked at the floor before she went to speak. "Look Ali-" But she was cut off at the sound of a door opening down the hall.



Alina shoved the sack back on Gaelug's head and slipped a small knife into the pirate's left boot as the sound of footsteps approached. "You can use that to escape and if you get the chance; make a fool of Levos for me, would you?" She whispered into the Gaelug's ear. "Also... sorry about this." Alina listened to the footsteps and waited until she determined they had just about reached the cell, at which point she curled up her fist and landed a blow square on the pirate's jaw.



"Is that all you got? Not getting tired already I hope." Gaelug spat and muttered, playing her role expertly.



Massaging her knuckles, Alina turned around to address the Admiral, flanked by a guard on either side of him. "Sir, it hasn't been 4 minutes yet."



The Admiral maintained his strict tone and composure. "Oh? What a shame. Well, she is being transported now so if you would exit the cell." Alina nodded, complying with the order and handing the set of keys back to one of the guards. "Very good, take her away carefully now. Oh and be sure to check her shoes before you move her, this one can be quite tricksy." The Admiral turned towards Alina who remained stoic and calm on the exterior but was becoming uneasy as she felt like Levos studying her. "You are dismissed, Captain."



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Alina watched as they drove Gaelug away in a caged carriage, 30 elven soldiers escorting all in total. It looked like Levos had decided to drop the usual navy arrogance and take The Dread Pirate as seriously as she deserved. Gaelug would normally be thrilled by all this pomp and circumstance for her sake and she did her best to show it by rattling and screaming obscenities from her cage.



Alina was desperate not to let her true emotions show, especially with Levos around. Though she never caught him directly looking at her she couldn't shake the feeling that he was somehow constantly watching her and only allowed herself to relax a little when he and the escort were long outside the walls of the guard house complex.



For the first time, Alina and Gaelug didn't have a plan. But Alina was going to need one.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week would pass as Alina used what influence she could to track Gaelug down, calling in occasional favours and covertly bribing those that were willing. For the most notable pirate capture in years, people were surprisingly quiet with details. Most likely for fear of repercussions. It would take another week before she arrived. She couldn't have used her ship, that would be too obvious and she worried being recognised on any navy vessel, so she had had to secure what discrete and inefficient passage she could find. But finally, after a days long walk she was here; The looming presence of Galhal prison standing over her with imposing brick walls and towers that matched the dark night sky above.



Scouting the outside of the prison carefully with her hood up, she found patrols outside to be fairly infrequent but, alas, she could not find any discrete entrance at ground level. Turning her attention upwards Alina eventually found a tower where someone had carelessly left a window open a couple stories up.



Glancing around no tree stretched high enough or close enough to reach the window so she would have to climb up the brickwork. “Of course...” Alina sighed and pulled out a dagger, one of the few gifts from Gaelug she bothered to keep. ‘You never know when you’re going to have to kill, open or climb something.’ Gaelug always liked to say.



Testing the brickwork with her hand the grooves felt just deep enough to get some semblance of a grip in and the mortar just loose enough for a blade. Reaching above her to plunge the dagger between two bricks she tested the weight before hoisting herself up. Able to catch the occasional uneven brick jutting out the wall and with careful movement; Alina began to scale the tower. One hand then the other, one foot then the other she climbed, ignoring her straining muscles until she was nearly in reach of the window Grabbing hold of the open window with one hand she stowed the dagger with the other before cautiously peering over the edge.



Inside was a simple break room, a couple of torches lit the room sets of military style beds lined the walls. She spotted a couple of figures lying in the beds, still and unmoving. Silently Alina hoisted herself into the room, keeping her eyes peeled to make sure the guards hadn’t noticed her, but thankfully they remained dormant. Now fully inside she spotted a door at the opposite end and made a beeline for it but not before taking one of the sleeping guard’s cap and cloak.



Gently she opened the door and stepped through, equally gently closing it behind her. Now in the prison proper she looked around to make sure no one was around before she pulled down her hood to put on the cap and wrap the cloak about herself. Standing up straight she started to walk through the hallways. First, she would need to find Gaelug. She came across a few other guards and empty suits of armour used for imposing decoration but none even so much as gave her a second glance, after all; if you walk with purpose no one will question whether you’re supposed to be there.



Alina wandered through the prison looking for anything that looked important; an impressive holding cell or some part of the prison that had too much security. Anything that might help, but every room and corridor just looked the same. The prison was quiet, even looking out over the cell blocks, the prisoners were either sleeping or likely forced into docility if Galhal’s reputation was anything to go by.



After it became clear that Gaelug wasn’t going to be held in any of the common cells, Alina began to lose hope. As she continued strolling through the prison she felt at a loss and grew more and more distraught. She was suddenly brought out her thoughts as a door opened down the hall ahead of her. A figure stepped out of the room, taking off their glasses and rubbing the bridge of their nose. ‘Levos, of all the people’. Putting his glasses back on he turned in Alina’s direction and began to walk towards her. Alina pulled her pilfered guard’s cap over her face as much as she could without looking suspicious and walked towards him also. The worst thing she could now is act panicked.



Levos walked with self-important purpose, holding his head up as he strode straight passed Alina, not even looking at her. Alina finally let out the breath she was holding but did not stop moving, at least until she reached Levos’ door. Glancing quickly behind her, the admiral was no longer in sight. Unsure where he had vanished to, Alina decided not to count her blessings, instead she gently pulled on the door handle. One more blessing; Levos hadn’t bothered to lock it.



Quietly closing the door behind her, Alina found herself in an office. Much the opposite of where Alina had last met with Levos this room was small and cluttered. Papers were strewn over the desk and lockers lined the walls. Without wasting any time Alina began to look over everything on the desk; a few personal letters, some orders and a prison map. Useful but meaningless without knowing where Gaelug was being held.



Counting the seconds until she might be caught, Alina quickly rifled through the lockers which she found to be containing prisoner records. Anticipating elven fastidiousness to come in handy she searched in “G” for Gaelug; no luck however.



“D” for Dread? No.



“P” for Pirate, maybe? Still No.



“T” for The... Of course not.



Taking one last look around the room to see if there was anything else hidden away, Alina sat down in the desk chair putting her head in her hands and rubbing her tired eyes. Opening them again and sighing he looked down at the desk and noticed something.



There seemed to be a strange drawer in the desk, strange because it had no handle or keyhole. Trying to pull on it with just her hands proved fruitless as she couldn’t get a good enough grip onto the wood as it was. Once more Alina pulled out Gaelug’s dagger and after a bit of effort managed to slip the blade into the slit at the top of the drawer. Levering the handle up she was able to pry open the drawer and with a silent exclamation of joy looked inside.



A set of keys and a few other noteworthy criminals’ records were inside as well as a record for one “Dread Pirate Gaelug, The.” Checking the holding cell against the map on the desk Alina felt a new vigour as she finally knew where to go. Making sure to put everything back where it was, except the keys, Alina left the office. With still no sign of Levos outside she doubled her pace through the halls of the prison.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



onlya thin stone staircase. To either side of her the floor fell away, leading only straight down into an eery blackness below. She had heard rumours of the cell reserved only for the worst of the worst, suspended above a supposedly bottomless pit and accessible only by a crumbling stone staircase.



Alina took a tentative step forward, then another and continued down the stairs. It actually felt sturdy, she chalked up the crumbling rumours to just that. Though she definitely didn't want to find out if the pit was truly bottomless. It was difficult to see in the near pitch blackness but as her eyes adjusted, she could just about make out a cage some distance away, it seemed to be suspended by a single huge chain swinging slowly from side to side. With her target in sight the elf picked up the pace and glided down the rest of the stairs until she reached the rather abrupt end. The staircase plateaued out slightly as it reached the cage which now swayed gently a couple feet above the platform.



Alina waited for a couple swings of the cage psyching herself and finally, as the door was directly in front of her, she grabbed hold and pulled herself up onto it gripping the bars tightly for support. The cage wobbled slightly as it took the elf's weight but Alina was able to steady herself easily enough by wrapping her legs around the inside of the bars. At the centre of the cage she saw a figure lying on the cold metal floor, chained up and unmoving. One by one she put Levos’ keys into the lock. No. No. 

No. 

No! 

None of the keys worked. But Alina had come prepared at least.



She began to get to work, pulling a small lockpick out of one pocket she fiddled with the lock on the door. Gaelug had taught her a few tricks here and there, but Alina was clearly no master as she fumbled and dropped the lockpick. Looking down she just saw it fall into the deep abyss below as the cage swung out to its maximum arc.

With a gulp and a deep breath Alina tried to calm herself and pulling out one of her spare lockpicks; she tried once more. Endeavouring to be more careful this time, she kept a tighter grip on both the cage and the lockpick. It took some time but eventually Alina was able to fully focus, nearly forgetting about the certain death directly below her, and succeeded in opening up the cage.



Now free, the door swung outward taking Alina with it and she felt her back hit against the rest of the bars, losing another lockpick and squashing her between the door and the cage exterior. Alina carefully twisted around the door and into the cell.



Happy to have solid floor beneath her again she fell to her knees panting, before she crawled over to the prisoner. Brushing the hair from the prisoner’s face Alina felt monetary relief as she laid her eyes on Gaelug once again, however any joy was quashed as Alina noticed how gaunt and bruised her face was.



The pirate hadn't stirred yet so Alina shook her shoulder, lightly at first then more vigorously until Gaelug grunted and opened up a single eye. "A...li?" Her voice came out a hoarse whisper but she smiled faintly and tried to sit herself up, Alina tried to assist when she struggled but Gaelug protested and laughed weakly as she did. "I'm fine, don't worry."



Alina wasn't amused, worry very clearly displayed on her face. "You most definitely are not, look at you... my god what they've done."



Gaelug tried to scoff at the statement but coughed instead. "Please Ali, this is nothing, I've had much worse, I could’ve fought a bit more but I got bored after a while." The pirate tried to flash her signature smile but it came out much weaker than usual. Gaelug winced as Alina applied the faintest touch to her cheek. "See? Never better." Under the touch Alina channelled what little energy she had left to relieve some of the pain. Some of the bruises and swelling faded but she didn't have enough energy left to completely heal the pirate. By the time she was done Gaelug had stopped smiling and just sullenly looked at the floor of the cell. "Thanks..." she murmured, completely without her usual pretence of overconfidence and wit.



Alina pulled out yet another lockpick and began to work on the chains and cuffs binding the prisoner to the cell. "I'll get these off you and then we can get out of here." Alina continued to work in silence, occasionally fumbling about but eventually managed to get the first cuff off of Gaelug's ankle. She looked up at Gaelug with a proud smile at the success but her enthusiasm was short lived as she realised Gaelug wasn't even looking at her. The elf continued to work, even less successfully this time as her hands were shaking more and more until Gaelug mumbled something, too quiet for Alina to hear. "What did you say?"



Gaelug sighed and repeated herself, still refusing to look at Alina. "And then what?"



Alina waited for a moment to answer as she finished freeing Gaelug's other leg. "And then we'll sneak out of here, I know where to go." She responded when it was done.

"And then what?" Gaelug repeated once more.



"We'll find a boat or something and you can contact your crew or find another one." Alina's voice cracked slightly as she grew more anxious.



"And then what, Ali?" Gaelug spoke more aggressively this time.



The elf laid her hand gently on the pirate's shoulder. "I don't understand Gaelug, what's going on?"



Alina heard Gaelug sniff a little before speaking. "Why did you come for me?"



she had come all this way to save her and this is how she was being treated?Alina replied as calmly as she could manage. "They were going to kill you Gaelug, I couldn't just let you die." She sidled round to Gaelug's front and finally got her to look her in the eyes. Gaelug stared daggers at Ali, expecting more. Alina knew her answer wasn't satisfactory enough, she knew that's not what Gaelug was 

reallyasking and she felt her anger being replaced with fear. "I'm not going to let Levos get credit for capturing you, am I?" The orc shook her head, humour and banter weren't going to work this time. Alina knew what she wanted to say, but found the words stuck in her throat. "I..." She stuttered. Gaelug stared at her expectantly and Alina stared back gulping as she tried to swallow her pride and fear. "Because I love you, Gaelug."



Alina didn't know what response she expected at this time. An I love you, too? Maybe, some kind of witty retort, she definitely didn't expect her next words. "I don't know what that means coming from you." Alina felt stupid and naive, she didn't know why she thought that would make everything right again. As if those three little words had some kind of magical property that could suddenly fix everything.



"I don't know what you want from me, Gaelug. But-" Was all Alina could think to say before she was interrupted.



youwant, Ali? What do you think happens next. Do we just return to 

normal, keep chasing each other forever. How long do you think that can go on?"



"I don't know, maybe. I haven't thought that far ahead."



usin the future."



"What do you want me to do; give up on my life and become a pirate? Or are you going to turn yourself in peacefully and live a life of atonement?" Alina retorted, masking her pain with anger.



usin 

yourfuture." Gaelug meant for the words to sting and they did. "So, I think we should-"



"Stop!" Alina pleaded, feeling like she was on the verge of tears. "Don't finish that sentence, please. I don't have any answers for you. I... I only know that I need to get you out of here, so can we talk about this after you're safe?"



The orc bit her tongue. "Fine." She conceded and stood up weakly as Alina finished unlocking the cuffs on her wrists.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Making sure the coast was clear as they exited Gaelug’s room, Alina threw her guard’s cloak over the orc’s head to try and cover her up a bit. No one would mistake her for an elf but at a glance someone might not think twice.



Their escape through the prison was relatively simple enough, darting from corner to corner, hiding behind suits of armour and in side rooms as they went to avoid the infrequent patrols. Natural elven arrogance assisting them as no guard would anticipate anything ever going wrong. A couple of close calls here and there and some well-timed distraction from Alina helped Gaelug go unnoticed.



Alina had a route planned out; she had noticed a service exit on this side of the prison from the map earlier and hoping one of Levos’ keys worked they would be able get out in relatively quickly.



“Just down one more flight of stairs and a hallway and we’re out.” Alina informed Gaelug. Gaelug just nodded as she had the whole time, saying very few words the whole time. That was probably safest given their current circumstances but it still unnerved Alina to have Gaelug so quiet.



Stop!” Came a forceful order from behind them.



Turning around the both of them saw Levos’ standing not too far away, sword drawn and pointed at them. He looked at Gaelug then at Alina and as he did; for the first time she saw emotion on his face. A look of shock and then anger before returning to his usual contempt. “Thranduire... I never did like you, Captain, but I never imagined you to be a 

traitor. My how it all makes sense now.”



Alina didn’t have any words and wasn’t sure what to do. Gaelug didn’t need words and stepped toward the Admiral, ripping the sword from one of the nearby suits of armour.

“Very well; have at thee, beast.”



On a good day, Levos would have stood no chance against Gaelug, but this was beginning to feel like the worst day. Levos beat Gaelug back in her weakened form, she tried to put up a fair fight but she was losing ground fast, the sound of Levos’ blade rang through the hall as she was barely able to defend herself.



Alina watched on in shock, hands shaking as she tried to figure out what to do. The sound of combat was sure to be heard and it wouldn’t be too long before more guards would come rushing. Especially as Gaelug crashed into the suit of armour, falling on her back and sending the pieces of it loudly clattering all over the floor.



Instantly Levos dove on top of her and she was only just fast enough to lift her sword up to block his strike. Bearing his full weight down on her he pushed his sword closer and closer to her face. Gaelug held him back as best she could, gritting her teeth but ultimately losing as Levos pushed down. Alina had to act, she had to do something. With a deep breath she stopped thinking, lunged forwards and...



Levos drew his last breath. Coughing feebly he tried to turn to look at Alina, but his body just slumped on top of Gaelug. The pirate threw his body to the ground, taking a moment to recover before standing up. Alina stared down at Levos’ lifeless corpse, dagger in his back. “I killed him.” She muttered in a deadpan tone.

Gaelug didn’t say anything.



Alina reached down to get the dagger, but Gaelug grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away. “No time, we have to go now.” Together they ran as the sounds of guards approached, not looking back Alina left the knife where it lay.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



After walking through the entire night Alina led Gaelug to a small cove, it was well off the main path and unlikely for anyone to come by. It was here that Alina had hidden a small rowboat, tying it to a rock the previous day. First she helped Gaelug in and started to unmoor the boat. "I know a place we can lay low for a while, not too far from here. Then after you're rested we can head to one of our usual rendezvous ports." Alina fully unfastened the rope and threw it into the rowboat and attempted to climb in herself but Gaelug wouldn’t let her. With a firm hand she pushed Alina back, stopping her from getting in.



"No, Ali. You've done enough."



“You can’t be serious. You’re not well.” Alina said, voice full of worry.



“I’ll manage.” Came the brusque response.



“Well, tell me where to find you.”



“Don’t know yet.”



“What if they find you?”



“They won’t.” That seemed to be the end of it, Alina had no more words, no idea how to make this right. “Goodbye Ali.”



Ali just watched Gaelug weakly row herself away, she wanted to reach out, to run and help. But instead she stood there paralyzed, as if her legs had been buried in the sand. Gaelug glanced up only once, sweat was beginning to glisten on her face. But she wouldn't ask for help, or accept it. Both of them knew that.