“Take his sword and tie him up! I’ll kill the cursed myself if I have to!” The captain roared at the sailors of the imperial ship.
The sailors did as they were told. Finn couldn’t fight back anymore. His muscles were sore, and his breathing was ragged and uneven. Finn couldn't hold his head upright anymore. The soldiers tied his hands tight behind his back, and kicked the back of his knees in. His legs buckled and he hit the boat deck hard.
Finn met the sharp side of the blade against his throat. He tried his best not to breath, afraid he’d knick his throat on the rigid edge of the blade. Sweat rolled down his forehead, both from heat and from the fear of death. He wasn’t ready to die yet. He had things to do, and a witch to find.
Over the top of his head, flew a child with his foot outstretched. He was laughing like he’d lost his last marble at sea. The kids flight was cut short when his outstretched foot met the a sailors face. The sailor dropped his blade as the boy landed on top of him. The kid scrambled to stand, but found his wrist trapped in the sailor’s tight grip. As he stood to pull away from the grasp, he kicked the man in the groin with a knowing laugh. When the sailor freed the boy’s arm to remedy his aching crotch, the boy stood righted himself. He puffed out his chest and put his hands on his hips, like he was proud of himself.
Finn was able to breathe freely again but he was still surrounded by the entire ship full of imperial soldiers.
“Names’ Arve. Heard you had a curse?” Arve offered the man his hand, and as much as the man would like to take it, he was still bound behind his back.
“Oh right, duh,” Arve giggled a little too crazy for Finn's liking, and then pulled his sword out from the sheath on his back. Arve had meant to make quick work of slicing through the prisoner’s ropes, but became preoccupied with the rest of the crew around them.
Arve didn’t hesitate in running forward, and cutting his own path toward the left side of the deck. Finn watched as Arve made a beeline toward his weapon. His cursed sword.
Arve went to work, fighting off whoever came toward him during his mad dash toward the man’s sword. He swung up and blocked an attack from above. Most of the attacks were from above since Arve was shorter than anyone else aboard that ship. Arve could only be maybe twelve at most. He kicked another sailor’s feet out from under him as hard as he could before diving for the sword that sat against the side railing.
Waving the sword around in the air, Arve celebrated his victory. Only, there were still four more sailors, and the man was still bound by the wrists. Arve had to make the right move here. He could fight, but he was already running late for the harbormaster. He decided that fighting would be for later. Arve lifted himself up onto the railing, teetering between falling in the boat and the water.
“Hey old man, I got your sword. Do you still want it?”
Despite feeling the blood in his skin boil from hearing the phrase “old man” so early in his lifetime, he nodded. He did want that cursed sword. Arve, with an evil grin that said he was up to no good, chucked the sword. Only he didn’t throw it at the man as he had expected.
He threw it overboard.
“Go get it then, old man!” The crazy kid laughed mischievously, and watched as the man found himself already off the safety of the boat deck, and plummeting toward the sea. With his hands still bound, Finn hit the water like a brick, and let himself sink until he was able to open his eyes under the water. The bubbles raised as he sunk, and he spotted the sword. It was only then that he came to the realization that both his hands were still tied, and he had no way of grabbing the sword, or swimming at all.
The man violently ripped against the ropes, but they only seemed to get tighter. His ears started to ring from the depth, and his legs started moving slower as he tired himself out. The frantic movements were wasting oxygen. The man was struggling to keep his eyes open when he heard crash at the surface of the water. ‘Maybe that kid had jumped in after him?’ The man thought.
Arve swam down, and grabbed the man by his ropes. He took used his sword to shimmy through the ropes until they broke. Finn was free, and the only thought on his mind was to grab the sword from the seafloor.
The man kicked off weakly, and looked up to the surface. He was racing the bubbles to the top, and felt his lungs trying to pull the water in as if it were air. The man saw black spots in his eyes when he broke the surface, and took the most fulfilling gasp of air he could manage. He wiped his eyes from the salt water, and stared up at the two boats he was behind. There was no yelling or clashing of swords anymore. All had faded except the calm waves bashing the bow of the ship.
“It’s a good day for a bath, if I say so myself.” Arve smiles widely. The man tried not to notice that the kid was still fully dressed, and had willing jumped into the ocean with his sword still on his back.
“You’re still wearing your sword?” Finn meant it as a statement, but it came out a question despite himself.
“Arven says Never take the sword off, so to spite him, I wear it everywhere. And besides, where else was I supposed to leave it, the imperial guards ship?” He snarked back at the man. Arve had a point, but Finn was still confused by what the kid was talking about. Who was Arven?
The boy threw his head back and soaked his air before swimming back over to his boat, and grabbed a rope hanging over the side of his boat. The rope had knots in it that made the rope easier to climb, like the kid did this often. Was it normal for people to just take baths in the salty water like that? Of course not, the salt is sticky and gross, how could you consider that a bath?
A moment later, Arve was hoisting his small body over the railing onto his boat. Once he was over, he looked back down at the man.
“Uh, thanks, for the rescue, I guess.” The man stammered out as he fought to stay above the waves.
“You aren’t coming with?” The boy crooked his head to the side. The boy didn’t make any move to help him up the rope as he hoisted himself over the railing. Finn followed after with the sword in his mouth.
The man glanced back at the imperial ship as Arve pulled up the anchor. The boat lay in ruin, no man left conscious. He couldn’t see for sure if the boy had killed anyone or not. Finn would rather not know. He prayed Arve wasn’t crazy.
“Who are you?”
“I should be asking you that, old man. You’re on my boat,” the kid sassed back at him.
“I’m Finn. Thanks for, you know...”
“It was fun, so no worries. Hey, I heard you got a curse, right? What is it? Tell me!” Arve looked absolutely fascinated. The kid was lifting the anchor like it wasn’t at least one hundred pounds. He was loading it into a corner of his old and tattered boat. From far away, it did appear to be the pirate ship that the sails depicted it as. But up close, the sails were faded, and the wood has rotted.
“Not to sound rude, but it’s none of your business, kid.”
“Don’t call me kid. I’m not a kid.”
Finn had hit a sore spot, and he knew it. Arve was, if nothing else, clearly a kid. He was barely five feet tall, and his face was that of a baby’s. It was an undeniable fact that Arve had to be a kid.
“Look, call yourself what you want, but that doesn’t change your age. You’re what, maybe ten? Eleven? Where are your parents?” Finn was pushing his luck and he knew it. This kid was anything but normal. He fought those sailors with a smile on his face. Finn wasn’t sure if he should assume the kid was crazy, or extremely brave.
Arve stopped wrapping the anchor up and pulled out his sword. Finn found himself, once again, at the mercy of a blade. He had his sword on his belt, but he knew he couldn’t pull it out without killing this kid. He’d lose control again.
“I’m twenty three. And don't you ever bring up my family again or I’ll use your dead body to mop the floors!” Arve was trying to block out that memory. And all the memories that followed that night. It was hard, especially when he was like this, a child.
Twenty three? Over my dead body,” Finn let out incredulously, before realizing the kind of mistake he’d just made. Instead of making that statement a reality, Arve laughed. In fact, he laughed so hard he dropped the sword back down to his side. Finn was starting to wonder if this kid really did have cabin fever.
“So, where are you headed?” Finn refused to take his eyes off the sword that had just threatened his life. The wind changed directions, and before Finn could even notice, Arve was already headed toward the helm to steer the ship. He aggressively spun the wheel toward the land mass ahead of them.
“Carnil’s coast. I got a delivery for the harbormaster there. And hey, lower that flag, will ya?”
“Will do, little lord,” Finn remarked sarcastically, before going to the pole and lowering the flag from where it flew. The skull and crossbones was so trademark, and so expected of old-timely pirates. Most pirates these days aren’t that blatantly obvious.
“If I had a brain in my skull, I’d think you are mocking me,” Arve challenged Finn’s remark. The docks were floating into view as the boat drifted with the wind.
“Me? I would never!” Finn faked surprise. His tone was enough to entice Arve into a good battle of wits.
“Coming from the man who just got rescued by this Little Lord?” Arve knew that he had the upper hand.
“We were just engaging in a business proposition, that’s all.”
“With a blade to your throat?” Arve questioned, making his way to the wheel of the ship. He started steering steadily toward the dock with a smirk on his face.
“They were very persuasive…”
There was a beat of silence between the two. Arve had made his point, and had nothing else to say. Neither wanted to break the uncomfortable silence that made its way between them. They were pulling nearer and nearer to the port, and the noise from the bustling city rose up to meet their ears.
“So where are you headed?” Arve changed the subject to avoid the awkward silence. Arve could, if he chose, have a real conversation without causing trouble. It was just that he didn’t do it often.
“Cape Rilitte.” Finn pulled the faded flag down and tried to fold the thing as best as he could. Its edges were full of tears and frayed ends. When they reached the deck, Arve threw a rope over the side for a man on the dock below to catch. Finn did the same thing to the second man further down the dock.
The dock was bustling with people of all types. Stands sold fruits and foreign objects near the land, and people grouped around ships they were traveling on. They slowly piled into the large traveling boats, and cruise ships. Others were unloading imports that had been shipped in from other countries.
After the ramp was lowered onto the dock, and the boat was firmly secured, Arve disappeared below deck. He was going to fetch the delivery he was here to make. Arve had to believe the harbormaster would give him more than he had originally promised. The harbormaster has no idea what it took to get this one little instrument. This one little oak box in his hands cost Arve at least three meals and a week of sleep.
Arve returned to the deck of his boat, clasping the small oak box as if he were afraid he’d drop it.
“For a kid, you seem pretty diligent.” Finn commented, following Arve off the boat and onto the deck. It’s been a while since Arve had felt solid ground, and the feeling of rocking disappearing was almost dizzying. Arve steadied himself before continuing.
“What time is it?”
“Nearly noon, I’d guess.”
“Oh, good. That way the bigger me can give you a good beating.” Arve laughs, and walks up to the small shed up near the land of Carnil Kingdom. Finn had to remind himself that Arve was just a kid with a few screws loose, and meant nothing by it.
The shed Arve stood in front of was small, shabby, and nearly unacceptable to any harbormaster except Carnil’s. Carnil hadn’t always been the economic hearth of imports and exports as it was now. The kingdom used to be small, and lacked wealthy exports. Around the turn of the century, Carnil discovered dragons on their northern border, which skyrocketed the otherwise failing market. Scales, teeth, and dragon eggs went for a high price in other countries that outlawed dragon hunting. Some areas of the harbortown, like the Harbormaster’s office remained a shabby reflection of the time before Carnil's economic boom.
Arve barged right in, not bothering to knock on the rotting office door.