The fog had risen quickly, as it often does around the islands of Hilwahr—and no one on board was particularly pleased about it. Not only did they risk running aground, as they were quite close to shore, but the centaur could not have asked for a better cover under which to slip by them. Aenwyn stood silent for a moment, considering her options.
"Nina, get into the crow's nest," she ordered, pausing briefly as the gnome saluted and scurried up the mast. "And Caio, light a way to shore. We might find something."
Caio nodded and stretched out his hand, closing his eyes. He took a deep breath, and, with a slight movement of his wrist, a small flame flickered to life in the palm of his hand. Vivi looked on with an eyebrow raised—this wasn't the first time she had seen a firebender in action, but Caio only very rarely used his skill. Caio paused for a moment, clearly enjoying the attention of his crewmates, but then sent the fireball flying toward where he thought the shore ought to be. The fog swirled in its wake as the fire skirted over the water's surface, but after only a few seconds, it disappeared from sight.
Evidently, however, a few seconds was enough. "A ship!" Nina cried from the top of the mast. "Not too far ahead... With the course they seemed to be holding, they'll go just by our port side in about a minute."
"It must be him," Myrin mumbled. "Who else would try to sail in this fog?"
"Indeed," Aenwyn responded, then ordered the boarding hooks to be readied—an order that the crew hurried to carry out. A hushed silence fell over the ship, only briefly broken by a faint shout from the Onyx—which had fallen quite a bit behind—confirming that they, too, had spotted their target.
"Should we await the Onyx, captain?" asked Sarjeon, who was as usual standing at the helm.
"No," Aenwyn replied shortly. "If we wait, he may slip away. If his crew outnumbers us, though… we'll have to reconsider."
Vivi stood in the bow, tensely gazing out into the grey nothingness surrounding them. This wasn't her first battle—she had fought her way out of scrapes many times, usually whenever one of Zérèn's jobs went awry—but she still felt uneasy. She had never met a centaur before, much less fought one, and considering her and Owen's recent brush with death... She paused for a moment and sighed before finishing the thought out loud: "More surprises are the last thing I need."
Suddenly, a ship emerged from the fog in front of them. For a split second, both sides took in the scene; Vivi immediately spotted the centaur towering above everyone else, but he was not alone on the ship. An old elf dressed in a wizard's robe stood next to the great ballista mounted in the bow; he had a staff in his hand, a sword by his side, and a longbow strapped to his back. Behind him stood three young men—the youngest one was no more than a boy—and perched on the centaur's shoulder stood a little fairy. Standing just in front of the centaur, however, was someone she instantly recognized: the infamous elf assassin known as the Crow.
"What's he doing here?" wondered Myrin, who had walked up to stand next to Vivi. "I'd have figured he'd keep out of sight, especially after—"
Vivi cast a curious glance toward Myrin, but before he could finish his sentence, Aenwyn apparently decided that there was no need to wait for reinforcements. "All right, boys! Let's get to it!" she shouted, and the crew let out a thunderous war cry. The centaur's crew responded in kind, and in an instant, both sides had drawn their weapons and launched themselves into the fray.
Vivi, too, drew her knife and boldly swung herself across the abyss, landing in a crouch on the deck of the centaur's ship. She looked up and picked out a target—the old wizard—and set off in a sprint across the deck towards him, but she found her way blocked by the boy she had seen earlier. He was armed only with a stick, but it looked heavy enough to do some damage, and Vivi preferred not to become more closely acquainted with it. She nimbly ducked under his strike and landed a left hook on his ear, causing him to stumble into the ballista, then quickly followed up with a crescent kick to his gut, sending him sprawling to the deck. Not wanting to waste any more time on him, she turned back around to look for the wizard but found, to her dismay, that he had retreated towards the stern of the ship, holding an old book he had pulled from goodness knows where in one hand. Deciding he was too far away to bother with, she turned to look for a new target, but she was suddenly interrupted by a gleeful cry. Spinning around, she saw its source: Kharis was standing in the middle of the deck, pointing a gun at the Crow with a malicious smile on his face.
"Well, look what we have here!" he snarled, his hitherto silent eyes glittering with an indescribable emotion. "The traitor."