“Look, I really feel like you should re-evaluate some of your choices here. First of all, you’re following a thirteen-year-old boy – what did you think was going to happen? Second of all, if that boy finds out that you let us beat you, and drag you away from your post, how do you think he’s going to react?” Tolin shook his head, making a sound that would have been sympathy if it hadn’t been laced with sarcasm. “You’ve got some decisions to be making.”
Their prisoner glared up at the swashbuckler, frustration and resentment into his face. He struggled against the ropes that kept him bound to the chain, but other than grunts and angry breathing, he’d been silent since recovering from the blow to head that had rendered him unconscious.
Barely an hour ago, he’d been on guard duty at the Eel’s End, one of the two dozen ships at permanent dock along the south quarter, his unimpressed expression no deterrent to Tolin’s joval attempts to rile up the party-goers. He’d denied their group entry below deck, and Tolin’s answer was to start singing and passing around wine to create a diversion that would allow Ace, Tristor, Anne and Penny a chance to sneak through. It had worked, after a fashion, but in the end, their new friend had grown tired of the charade and had come to blows with Tolin.
Those blows had led to a knockout and being dragged away for a bit of questioning. Questioning which Ace watched from the rear of the room, tamping down her impatience, letting Tristor and Tolin do the talking.
Physically the man was nearing his breaking point – again. She had already healed him once, bringing him back from unconsciousness and the possibility of death that lay a short distance beyond that dark shore.
But the particular observations about life decisions and steering oneself down the right path, coming from a man who always seemed to be a hair’s breadth away from a memory-tainted rage, struck Ace has hilariously inappropriate.
“I don’t think you, of all people, should be giving life advice, Tolin.”
She’d meant the comment to be funny, a light jab at his sometimes unstable nature. But he stilled, his shoulders stiffening. He whirled on his heels, a sharp look on his face as though he’d taken a bite of something rancid, and returned her quip just as sharply,
“What, and you are, runaway?”
Runaway. For a breath, Ace felt suspended outside of herself – her heartbeat slowed almost to a stop and she felt so light-headed that she expected to both topple over and float away from her body at the same time. By all the wandering stars, he had not just said that.
Everything came back into focus as she leaped across the small table at Tolin. Continue reading