Camaraderie: Dread At The Dead Of Night
Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: The deck
Looking around on the mostly quiet deck under the blanket of stars, it should have been a peaceful night. Instead, the air was filled with an anxious electric energy in preparation of what was to come. Melisande felt like her heart was trapped in a small box, each beat felt heavy and constricted. The muscles in her torso felt taunt. She looked out into the distance, holding a lantern, seeing the covered wagon out in the open as if to mock the pirates.
"What do they want? Will they kill me? Kidnap me? Davad certainly wants Pauline back. I doubt he is the only one who believes I'm brainwashed. We need to leave now!" She thought to herself. Hearing footsteps behind her, Melisande pulled out her swords and entered an attack stance only to see a pleasantly recognizable face, "Chago! Try not to sneak up on me like that."
Chago had been packing too - only that he didn't have much. The reglementary sailor's trunk was filled quickly. Memories, good and bad, were with him; these were immaterial and the most precious result of this travel. He hoped that Mei-Xiu would find what she was looking for, as she seemed missing. He knew that she had told him, days before, that she wanted to get herself lost in the West. Chago wished somehow the same thing, only that he wasn't alone anymore. Or was he, again, and Miyra's love had been just an illusion, exactly like Luisa's?
The idea of leaving to hunt for treasures deep into the Old West was, at the same time, all right with him and unsettling. All right for all the opportunities it provided, and unsettling because lately Miyra was avoiding him. It had started to be clearer for him when she found excuses even for the fencing lessons. She had progressed, and now she had stopped them suddenly for a few days. So Chago had a reason to be worried about everything, and to feel the walls of the cramped little cabin suffocate him. A reason to get out, to admire the stars... It was his training as a mercenary and the footwear he used again here back in the Old West which made his steps noiseless, not that he wanted to sneak up on Melisande or on anybody else. Seeing her in an attack position, he drew his machete, taking the most appropriate guard and snickering.
"I hadn't sneaked on you, Melisande... but I am sure you can do more than what you have attempted to do when startled. You have got rusty after your time in sickbay, you need some practice... This is a war snail, not a war dog," he teased her. "And so am I," he added, to sweeten his words, "a sea snail".
The wide grin and the lights in his eyes were showing that he was joking, he didn't mean many of the words he had just said. The only true part was that Melisande was healing, and that she needed some practice, because nobody knew what could expect them back there. Or, first and foremost, on the road, given that he had noticed too the suspicious faces of all kinds.
Melisande gave a steely glare in response to Chago's comment that only lessened slightly at his grin. Seeing the obvious hurt expression on his face, she answered, "I do not appreciate being made fun of, even in jest. Still..."
A mystevious smile cracked across her lips as she inched forward to Chago's confused face. She dropped the lantern and suddenly came at him in attack. He blocked the attack with the flat of his blade, but didn't anticipate her left sword powerfully slap his hip, causing him to wince. He was confident he could feel a bruise forming. Looking at Chago's expression, Melisande cringed in embarrassment, "I guess I don't have Carol out of my system yet. I suppose I now forfeit the request not to bruise me because I have not gotten doctor's permission yet. Ah well...shall we continue?"
It hurt, but he was still grinning. All right, she didn't like being teased... even if he didn't understand how this was possible after years in the army. Or... wasn't in her country what soldiers and sailors used to do? He knew it was like this in most places. He turned the teasing more against himself, because he deserved it. He had let himself surprised by her sudden move.
"Of course we continue! Do you think I'll die from this? Or that I would ever confess that it wasn't a drunken cowboy in a tavern who did it? And I swallow back the war snail part - you just proved me that it's only a sea snail here."
Of course he still was careful not to hurt her. But was he careful enough? It ended with both of them damp with sweat. Melisande grinned widely as she sat down on the stairs leading to the captain's quarters. The practice reminded the of the duels with her classmates at the academy growing up. It felt so much like play, she lost count of the hits.
"Who won again?" Her grin faded as she felt her breath become shorter and louder.
"Both of us won!" he stated with a similar grin.
This was not teaching, like with Miyra. This was really a pleasant challenge for him, a different kind of challenge than with a neofite. Then he looked at her with more attention. Something was wrong with her breath... and if it was his fault that he forced her to exhaustion...
"I think I should apologize, perhaps it was too soon for you... or I have challenged you to make too much effort. The doctor will kill me for sabotaging his work."
She coughed a few times and began to take slow deep breaths. Seeing Chago's worried look, she smiled gently, "It is much better than it was yesterday. I'm fine. Are you okay though? I know there are those angry townspeople and bounty hunters, but it is something else isn't it?"
He sighed, still looking at her, "Yesterday it hadn't been my fault. It hadn't been me to over exhaust you, while today it was."
Melisande sighed at his response, "It is nothing I cannot handle. I already have Herring playing nanny, I don't need you to do that as well."
She seemed to get better, so his worry subsided ultimately. Then he looked at her, daring to say openly what was troubling him, "I wish it was only about them! And I wish I knew whom these bounty hunters are after - I bet Colton is not their only mark."
He paused to find his words, "Are you only a war counselor, or would you give advice in matters of the heart too?" he tried to joke a little.
Miyra's elusiveness was not really a subject he was able to joke about.