Good morning everyone and thanks for stopping by to read Chapter Thirty-Four of The Cursed King. It has been a busy two weeks, which is why it feels like ages since I’ve posted. And busy is very good! Busy because the sun is out, and lockdown rules are easing meaning more chance for socialising, more chance to get out onto the patio and pot some plants, and of course, the fact that the Euros are now in full swing. Whenever I am not writing, I am listening to podcasts, watching the games and agonising over my fantasy team. On book news, I am now writing Chapter Forty-Four, and I am deep into the crescendo of the action, so I can’t wait to share these new chapters with you all.
In today’s chapter, Leona leaves Maladh for home, but bumps into some trouble along the way. Some old characters who you might remember from early on in the books might make an appearance too. I won’t give too much away, but I hope you enjoy this chapter, and I will post Chapter Thirty-Five on July 3rd. Thanks for reading!
Leona eyed the ship that she was about to board. She’d had an awful night’s sleep as her baby kicked at her insides every time she moved. The child was restless in her belly, and Leona could not escape the thought that she was surrounded by Nebu. Her husband was hunting her, his sister was helping her, and his child seemingly could not wait to escape from her. Now, she stood before a vessel that was little more than a fishing boat. It was filthy, and the deck was stained with blood and fish guts as entrails hung lazily out of the net that dangled above them.
“It is not much…but it will get you where you’re going,” Untonay smiled.
“It will get us killed if we were caught in a storm. This boat is to carry the Queen of Amenti, not a drunken sailor,” Mavina growled.
“My Princess, I have many a lavish ship I could have given you, but that would be irresponsible. Queen Leona, you are being hunted, Nebu’s men will be looking for a ship fit for a queen…not this pile of sticks. Besides, if they were to find you and realise that you were travelling on one of my boats…it would be both our heads.”
“It is fine,” Hezekiah said. “Untonay is right. This is as inconspicuous a boat as we will find.”
Leona was still looking intently at the boat as she felt her baby kick again. Then she felt a pair of hands upon her shoulders. She flinched away and turned sharply on Untonay. Hezekiah also stepped forward, but Leona quickly raised her hand to stop him from chastising the Sultan. “I am sorry, my Queen. I did not mean to startle you. I wanted a word if you’d please? In private.” Leona turned to Hezekiah and nodded, and her Guard left them. “You have thought about what I said to you?”
Leona nodded. “At great length.”
“I do not trust you, Sultan. But…you are right. I need friends in the Empire. Especially friends as close to Nebu as you are. I have no desire for this great desert. If you are to rule Amenti one day then so be it. All I want is a guarantee that my child’s life will be protected, and that when he comes of age there will be no attempt on his life because of his claim. If Maladh will join with Cesara, then perhaps other regions will join us. That will be for you to organise. My father will not need convincing. He is out for blood after what Nebu has done to me and to Daut.”
“That is all that I could have hoped for. Safe travels, my Queen. Until we meet again,” Untonay held his hand out and Leona shook it quickly before pulling away and walking onto the ship.
Leona thought that her nerves would calm as soon as the ship set sail, but her baby’s relentless kicking and the rough waves that rocked the boat from side to side meant that she sat with her head hanging over the side of the boat until her stomach was void of all its contents. Mavina sat beside her, rubbing her back gently, whilst Hezekiah stood guard over them. Hezekiah too did not seem to relax. He was always cautious, but now he was as alert as ever she had seen him. She felt guilty for being so short with him as she wiped away the spittle from the corner of her mouth. He had travelled across the desert and back again, prepared to fight off all who would harm her whilst he did it, and now they were on their way home, Hezekiah’s promise to her father was almost complete.
I will thank him, she thought. I will tell my father all that he has done for me to show my gratitude. Leona could not help but be thankful for Mavina too. If it was not for Nebu’s sister, she would not have stayed alive, let alone sane, throughout their trip. Leona did not want Mavina to go, she wanted her to stay with her in Ilturbia, but they had not spoken about Mavina’s plans, they had not had the time.
“Thank you both,” Leona finally said, lifting her head from her lap. “Thank you for looking after me…I would not be here if it were not for you.”
“Ssh…rest Leona, you will be home soon,” Mavina said as she continued to rub her back.
“Will you stay, Mavina? In Ilturbia?”
Mavina smiled. “I would not leave you, my Queen. Of course, if it is permitted, I will stay.”
Leona felt a wave of relief wash over her, and all of a sudden, her sickness was not so acute. Even in the height of winter, the sun shone down and warmed her skin in those few moments. She allowed it to soak in as she took in a deep breath and sat up, gazing at Hezekiah who stood watchfully over her, smiling.
And then a shadow moved over the sun, as if a cloud had blocked out its light. Leona looked up towards it, angered at it for ruining such a perfect moment. Then the cloud began to flutter. The cloud was thin and black, with the symbol of a grey shield and a white sword. Leona soon realised that this was not a cloud, but a flag, that got closer and closer to the boat. Their ship was filled with fisherman who had barely noticed it. Ships went by them all of the time, but there was something about the flag that irked Leona. The emblem she had seen before, but she could not recall where were from. As the ship got closer, Leona felt her heart lurch. It was too close to be passing, and travelling too fast to be asking for direction.
“Leona, get down!” Hezekiah hollered as the large ship swerved out of the way of the fishing boat at the last moment, which caused a huge wave beneath the boat to heave up on one side. Before Leona could grab onto anything, she felt her face hit the water, and was suddenly frantically flailing her arms and legs beneath it. Leona kicked as hard as she could and soon felt herself reach the surface. Floating atop the water was some flax rope. She followed it with her eyes and saw that it was being held by a group of men laughing on the ship that had knocked them over. She continued to tread water and looked over to the fishing boat, which was upright, but devoid of people on board.
In one swoop, Hezekiah and Mavina appeared from under the water together. The Princess had her hands around Hezekiah’s neck as he kept both of them above the water with his kicking. Hezekiah’s looked of relief that they had ascended was soon displaced as he looked up at the men who had done this to them.
“What do you think are you doing?” Hezekiah shouted.
“Grab onto the rope…and we’ll talk about it,” a man shouted from the deck. The man had long, dark hair that fell onto his shoulders and a thick moustache that covered his top lip.
“We have our own boat,” Hezekiah replied defiantly.
The men laughed again, but the man with the moustache laughed the loudest. “Did you hear that, fellers? They have their own boat. You mean this canoe?”
“It will get us where we want to go.”
“I don’t think so.”
The men stepped aside and a row of oarsmen appeared behind them wielding bronze tubes that they aimed at the fishing boat. Leona could not fathom what on earth these men were doing, but they placed the tubes within inlets on the side of the boat. They immediately ran out of their sight. Leona was bemused. What on earth are they doing? She thought to herself. Then, after a few moments, a whirring began, and then a sound she could only describe as thunder erupted from the pipes. Leona shielded her face instinctively, and so then she felt an immense wave of heat gust past her as Hezekiah let out a blood-curdling shout. Leona span around and watched as the fishing boat was doused in blue flames. She thought at first that it had been struck by lightning, but soon realised that the fire was coming from the pipes on the boat.
It was like nothing that Leona had ever seen. Leona had heard of mages, but she had never seen them. She realised that this must be who they are. She knew of no other being that could wield the elements quite like this. Then, Leona saw something even more terrifying. The water did not extinguish the fire. The blue flames danced upon the water, flailing violently and fiercely. More than that, the flames began to creep closer to Leona, Mavina and Hezekiah.
“Grab the rope!” Leona shouted to Hezekiah who did not hesitate. “Pull us up or call off your fire!”
The men burst into laughter at Leona’s cries. “Oh so now our ship is good enough for you?”
“Pull the fucking rope!” Leona boomed.
The men only laughed harder, but the man with the moustache pulled them away from the burning water. Eventually, they were dragged to a rope ladder, which they climbed up one after the other, until they fell, exhausted, onto the deck. Leona wiped the water out of her eyes and felt a hand pull her to her feet. Her immediate reaction was to throw her hand as hard as she could towards the man’s face, but her slap was blocked and the man gripped her wrist tightly.
“Is that any way to thank the man who just saved your life?”
“You could have killed us!”
“Aye…I could’ve. Yet I didn’t.”
“Who are you?” Leona snapped.
“You can call me Olon.”
“What do you want with us? We are just…”
“…escaping the Emperor of Amenti so I hear, and with good reason too. When you see what a man can do to his own father, you dread to think what he might also do to his wife sister…” Olon put his hand on Leona’s round stomach… “or even his child for that matter.” Leona slapped his hand away.
Leona could not hide the fear on her face. How on earth does this man know? She thought. And then she realised.
“Sultan Untonay,” she whispered bitterly.
“Never trust an Amentian unless you have gold to give him. Even then, only give him half before he holds up his end of the bargain. No offence intended of course,” Olon said to Mavina.
“What do you want with us, Olon the Vile?” Mavina questioned.
Olon smiled. “So you are familiar with my work?”
“The Freemen are a scourge on the seas around The New World. Your infamy should be no source of pride to you.”
“And yet it is,” Olon laughed. “You are all so tense. You can relax. Sultan Untonay sold your travel plans to me for gold, but only so that I could ransom you.”
“Ransom us? To my father?”
“To your father…yes…and to your husband. I have one raven flying to Aljan, and I have one flying to Ilturbia. They will soon know that you are with me on this fine sea, and they will soon know that I have sent a raven to the other. Whoever sends me back a better offer for each of you will be the one to claim you. All that is left for you to do is wait for the exciting news.”
The ship remained anchored in the middle of the sea for days whilst Olon awaited a response from Leona’s father and Nebu. She was terrified of what would happen to her. She knew that Nebu was far richer than her father, and was able to offer influence over a vast empire rather than just a small piece of land, and a piece of land that was under serious threat of conquer from Nebu at that. It seemed that there was no way that her father would be able to compete with what Nebu offered Olon. The only comfort that was afforded to her, was knowing that she had Mavina and Hezekiah by her side. They made her feel stronger and more protected.
Hezekiah kept her spirits up by telling her stories of times that he had been captured by her father after the failed invasion that led him to becoming Marius Pascis’ most trusted man. She had heard it all before, but it took on special significance now. It gave her the belief she needed that her father would rescue all of them from the ship, no matter what it took to do it. My father will not allow me to fall back into Nebu’s hands, she promised herself. She felt her baby kick again and she rubbed her belly to soothe it as much as it was to soothe herself.
Olon entered the brig followed by the large, scowling man that always accompanied him. Hezekiah had told her that his name was Beirus, and was a pirate feared almost as much as Olon himself. He was a powerful and exceptionally violent man without the slightest suggestion of remorse or mercy. Hezekiah had shielded her from details, but Leona was cautious not to look the man in the eyes. Leona could tell by looking at them from a far that they were icy cold, as if nothing existed beyond them. Leona instead focused on Olon, who did not look like that at all. Despite what he was doing, and despite his reputation, the man looked weathered and brow-beaten beyond his eyes. There was a steely determination in them, and a confidence that she could not help but admire.
“I wish to dine with the Queen of Amenti,” Olon stated. “Beirus, would you unchain her eminence and escort her to my cabin?”
Beirus seemed aggrieved. “I will delegate to one of my men.”
“Forgive me, Beirus. I mean for you to escort the lady. I would not trust such a fine young woman with these brutish savages. You are the only brutish savage I trust. If you do this for me, perhaps if neither man decides to ransom these young women, then you can have one for yourself…”
All of the admiration that Leona had felt for Olon had washed away in that one moment and she felt her stomach turn. She met Beirus’ eyes who returned a sickening grin as he hastily went to remove her chains and hoisted her up to her feet. His grip around her wrist was painfully tight, and she realised that her entire arm was immobilised by it. She decided not to resist and so walked willingly with Beirus behind Olon who made his way to the cabin. She was brought onto the deck and looked around at the filthy, bearded men who gawked at her and smiled their toothless grins. Slamming their fists against barrels and licking their lips like hungry dogs as she stumbled inelegantly besides Beirus. She faced forward, ignoring the revolting words that entered her ears from the mouths of the oarsmen. Leona was relieved to enter the cabin. Beirus ungripped her forcefully, as his fingers twisted away from her wrist and left a burn. She did not wince, but pulled her arm away defiantly as he continued to stare through her.
“Thank you, Beirus. Now, please, if you wouldn’t mind?” Beirus left the cabin. Olon sat behind a table and gestured for Leona to sit opposite him. On the table were two plates covered in a chafing dish. Olon lifted the dish off the plate and Leona was hit with a wave of delicious-smelling fish that smelled as if it had been caught that very day. Beside it were potatoes and asparagus that smelled equally divine. Leona still felt sick from the boat, but the smell of the food was so enticing that it went away almost instantly. “You must be hungry…eating for two must be tiresome.”
“It has its moments,” Leona replied.
Olon laughed. “I suppose it does. Please forgive my behaviour in the brig. You have to put on a show for these beasts or else you’ll never get them to do anything for you. The only thing they respond to is violence and threats. The only incentive you can give them is more violence. It is truly a plague, but one that should not be inflicted on a Queen. I am sorry.”
“My father has dealt with many a brute. I have seen it first-hand. He never had to make a promise of rape to control them,” Leona said, eyeing her fish and picking at it with her fork as the flakes pulled away from the bones with minimal effort.
“Yes, your father. The great Marius Pascis. Peaceful ruler of Cesara, friend of Emperor Daut and brave warrior. I suppose it would be mightily bad for his reputation should he be seen to be making promises like that. No doubt he wouldn’t make it public if he did.”
“He would never.”
Olon smiled. “I have a daughter too, you know? Back home, I mean. Not even seven years old, and she would not have a clue what I spent my time doing around the world. As far as she’s aware, I’m the nice daddy who sails the seas and brings her back shiny trinkets. What good would it do her to know that her rings were pried off the fingers of a poor family hanging from a tree branch? Fathers have ways of protecting their children.”
Leona would not bite onto the hook like the fish that she consumed. “Why did you bring me here to dine? To insult me and my family?”
“For the story. I want to be able to tell the world that I dined with the Queen of Amenti. I want to tell them of your beauty, and your aura. This is the privilege of being a man like me. I can sample the world, without ever laying my head to rest in one place. All of the burdens that stillness entails do not interest me. Land, riches, rule…what on earth is it all for? It is all stress for the sake of ego, boredom for the sake of safety. Do you never feel that itch? The itch to wander?”
Leona was cautious not to bare her thoughts and feelings to such a man as Olon the Vile. She had never considered the thought of spending her time travelling the world. She had travelled to places with her father. Palaces and castles across the New World, but none of them appealed to her more than the lure of her own home. “All I want to do is go home,” she finally said.
Olon grinned. “Well, that is good. I received two ravens just this morning.”
Leona could not hide the fear that flushed across her face. “And?” She whispered as she dropped her fork to the plate.
“Well, your father told me to name my price for you, and your husband told me that if I did not return you to Aljan then he would send his army for me and hang me from the city walls by my fingernails. It looks like you are going home, Leona.”
Leona hid her relief under a regal stillness. “That is good.”
“Are you not going to thank me?”
“For kidnapping me? Holding me hostage and extorting my family?”
“You are an odd man,” Leona pondered.
Olon laughed heartily. “Here’s to being odd then,” he raised his goblet and Leona reluctantly pushed her wine cup towards his.
Suddenly, in Leona’s relief, a thought hit her. “What about Mavina? Hezekiah?”
“At this point, Hezekiah is only still alive because I enjoy your company and if I killed him then you’d not be half as delightful to dine with. I do not deal in small ransoms for guards. I’d much prefer to keep him aboard my ship, but Freemen do not take kindly to forced labour. Hezekiah will be free to go, I have no use for him and there would be little financial gain from ransoming him separately from you.”
Leona nodded. “And Mavina…” she repeated.
“Nebu does not know she is here in as much as I did not tell him. I have already made arrangements for Mavina. I believe you already know what they are.”
“Sultan Untonay…” Leona growled.
“It makes sense. The man seeks to overthrow the Emperor. He will need royal blood to strengthen his claim”
“Why didn’t he just ransom me to my father himself and keep Mavina as his bridal prisoner whilst we were in Maladh?”
“Too much noise. It was very dangerous for you to go to Maladh in the first place. You were lucky not to be caught on the way, let alone whilst you dined in the Sultan’s home. He made a deal whilst I was at his port. I would get your ransom, and he would get a Princess for a wife without getting his hands dirty. Cautious men make for fantastic allies. You’d do well to remember that.”
“There must be another way…you cannot sell her to him!”
“Forgive me, Leona Pascis, but have you spoken to Mavina at all about this arrangement? Have you asked her what she thinks about it?”
“Well, I would imagine that…”
“You imagine? So you have not heard her feelings on the matter?”
“I know Mavina. Why on earth would she want to be sold into marriage with a man who would have her kidnapped?”
“Perhaps you should ask her. These words between us, Leona. They are not secrets. You are free to tell Mavina all that I have told you here.”
“I will!” Leona said, standing from her seat. “I hope you enjoy telling your story, Olon, but I would rather be in the brig than spend another moment in your company.”
Olon only laughed. “Of that, Leona. I do not blame you. Let us return you to your friends.”
“I am not happy with his way of proposal, but it does make sense,” Mavina told her with a sense of pragmatism that shocked even Leona.
“I don’t understand…what do you mean it makes sense?”
“This is an important time for Nebu. He needs to establish his power in Amenti. This is the reason he wants to take Cesara. He must do what no Emperor before him has been able to. If he succeeds, he will have the support of the Empire, if he fails, then his reign his ripe for rebellion. Whilst you have Nebu’s heir, you have power and influence. If I marry a Sultan, then I have power and influence. If Maladh and Cesara ally, then other regions will rally behind us if they believe Nebu to be weak. Sultan Untonay is a respected Sultan, and exceptionally rich with a strong military at his disposal. It may not be what I truly want, but it is a smart way of deposing Nebu…it might be our only way.”
“Can’t we do this from Cesara? Can’t you come to Ilturbia with me? My father…he will ransom you too if he knew…if he knew how important you are to me. I know that he would. You will be safer in Cesara, we will be stronger together.”
Leona did not realise how much she did not want to be separated from Mavina until she felt the tears falling down her face. The thought of losing her friend felt like Olon was reaching into her chest and pulling her heart out. She had no cause for these tears. She knew that it was unlikely that Mavina would return to Ilturbia with her, but she could not hold them back, they flowed from her eyes so easily as the fact grew stronger. Mavina could not wrap her arms around her, owing to her hands being tied, but she did lean her head on her shoulder and Leona cried into the Princess’ hair whilst Hezekiah wrapped his fingers around hers.
“It will be okay, Leona. This is just something I have to do. It will all make sense one day. I promise you.”
“None of this makes sense,” Leona whispered.
All of a sudden, the door to the brig burst open, and standing there blocking the sunlight was Beirus. The gargantuan man stumbled into the brig with an almost empty bottle of bunbo clutched in his grasp. Olon and two of the ragged oarsmen followed him in, snickering behind the giant’s back.
“Get him up,” Beirus slurred. “I’ll show all of you.”
“What’s going on?” Leona questioned, aiming her stare at Olon.
“Shut your mouth, whore,” Beirus interrupted as the oarsmen rushed over to their huddled group and roughly pulled Hezekiah away from them.
“Someone bet Beirus that he could not beat the Natonian in a fight to the death,” Olon said casually. “So naturally, we’re going to find out so that Beirus can keep his pride.”
Leona felt her heart lurch. “You cannot do this! You cannot force Hezekiah to fight for your entertainment!”
“Believe me, Leona. This is not for my entertainment. I would much prefer a nice book, but this is just what Freemen are like. Am I to deny them a good fight just because I don’t care for blood sport?”
Leona leapt to her feet and threw her bound hands at Olon’s face. “You stop this! You stop this right now!”
“Enough!” Hezekiah said. “Cut me free.”
“What are you doing? You cannot mean to fight him?”
“Leona, my child. The only thing these men know is violence. They use their freedom as an excuse to fight because they never developed their minds beyond using their fists. The fight will happen, whether I choose to take part in it or not.” Hezekiah turned his attention to Beirus and met the man’s eyes. “We will do this on the deck. If you are to kill me, then you will kill me fairly in front of your own men. If I am to kill you, then I will do so under the eyes of the Gods.”
“Bring him to the deck!” Beirus roared and led the way. Hezekiah immediately shrugged off the oarsmen’s arms as he strode behind Beirus and through the door of the brig. Leona gave Olon a death stare and walked with Mavina through the door. Olon did not try to stop them as he followed them out. A commotion had already started as the ship rocked gently from side to side. A circle of men had formed as Beirus and Hezekiah pushed their way through the crowd to the open space that had been left for them to fight in.
When Beirus was through the crowd he threw the bottle of bunbo to the deck, and it smashed into a thousand shards. Hezekiah walked through the glass that crunched under his heavy boots. Hezekiah had been cut free. Leona had always seen him as strong and powerful; his torso and arms were sculpted like a statue of a warrior. But Hezekiah had aged as his grey hair stood out against his dark skin. Standing beside Beirus, he looked as small as she had ever seen him. As if to counter Hezekiah’s statuesque figure, Beirus ripped off his shirt to reveal his bulky chest and shoulders that were bordered by two tree-trunk arms. Even the man’s round gut did not take anything away from his physical prowess.
Hezekiah stood his ground. Beirus, by contrast, walked a semi-circle in front of him, clearly inebriated, circling his arms around to cheers from the oarsmen. “Throw your hands up!” Beirus demanded of Hezekiah, but the guard just stood still, holding his fists in front of his legs in a composed stance. Beirus went to approach him with his fists held beneath his chin and threw some warning jabs towards Hezekiah’s face with a huge grin. When Hezekiah did not flinch, Beirus feigned to turn away and in a flash returned with a swinging hook that was met with nothing but the ocean air. Hezekiah had bent his body out of the way of the punch and pivoted his body so that he was behind Beirus.
It was the perfect time for Hezekiah to strike, but he didn’t. Hezekiah simply returned to his stance, standing opposite of where he had done the moment before. Beirus span around stunned, but did not allow his humiliation to overcome him. The big man took a step back and laughed, throwing his arms up for the men, but once again, Hezekiah did not move. Beirus threw a test punch, which was blocked easily by Hezekiah. This was quickly followed up with two more sharp jabs, which caused Hezekiah to move faster than he previously had to. More blows rained down, but Hezekiah blocked and dodged and manoeuvred out of the way as elegantly as a dancer. Throughout all of this, Hezekiah did not once try to throw a punch or a kick of his own. “Fight me you coward!” Beirus roared as the crowd began to jeer at the lack of action.
Hezekiah did not say a word. For every action, Hezekiah had a counter. Every time Beirus threw an arm, a leg, or even his forehead at Hezekiah, Leona’s guard was not there to take the blow. Leona smiled to herself through her nerves, she had never seen Hezekiah fight before. Not like this. It was magical, as if he was nothing more than the wind and Beirus was suffering insanity trying to pull the clouds from the sky. It was not long before the crowd of oarsmen began to laugh. It was just tittering at first, and then chuckles, and eventually there were men, including Olon, who were rolling on the floor guffawing as Hezekiah effortlessly dodged Beirus’ violence. Leona thought that she could see the hint of a smile on the Guard’s face as Beirus stumbled into the crowd. Beirus was bent over, his hands on his knees, breathing heavily as Hezekiah stayed in the same stance that he was in when they started. Hezekiah had turned the fight into a dance. He had turned the brute into a jester, and all he had to do was move out of the way of the pirate.
“Enough!” Olon bellowed over the noise of the crowd. “Beirus…make your peace with the man. You must hold your hands up when a man has bested you. This fight is over.”
“It is not over until I say that it is over!” Beirus replied.
“It is over,” Olon repeated.
In a moment, Beirus’ attention shifted to Olon. “Are you my Captain, now? Is that an order?”
Olon did not move a muscle. “It is a warning…and I advise you to heed it.”
“I am a free man, Olon. You would do well to remember that we are all free men here. We are not bound by laws, and we do not take kindly to orders.”
“You do not have to remind me….”
“Do I not?” Beirus flashed with white hot rage. “I am a Captain because men made me a Captain. I have that rank not by birth right, but for as long as they allow me to have it. Who made you a Captain? You have no birth right here!”
“Silence!” Olon warned.
“You cannot silence me. You have no say here. It was a mistake to trust you. You are no free man. You are nothing more than a filthy goldmongering-”
There was no last word from Beirus’ mouth. All that he could muster was a choke, which was quickly followed by an expulsion of blood. Beirus was looking over Olon’s shoulder and into the distance as Olon held the man close to him. When Olon stepped back, he pulled the blade from Beirus’ chest. Beirus was even stronger than Leona had thought. He still stood on both feet, unbuckled, though it seemed to take him a moment to realise what had happened to him. None of the men laughed now. Only the waves that lapped at the boat dared to make a sound. When Beirus finally succumbed to his knees, Olon took a step forward, lifted Beirus’ head back and slit his throat, causing a gush of crimson blood to spray across the deck.
Olon wiped the blade on his coat and re-holstered it. Without making eye contact with a single man, he walked away back to his cabin, not even acknowledging Hezekiah or Leona or anyone else aboard the ship. Leona did not know what she felt. There was a man lying dead before her feet. A man who had just promised to fight her friend to the death. She should have been relieved. She should have felt something, but then she felt her baby kick, and she thought of Nebu. She remembered how casually her husband had murdered his father, and the look in his eyes. It was that same look that Olon had in his, and she worried. She worried for the future of her land, for the future of the New World. These were the eyes of men who held no mercy in their hearts. These were the men from whom she needed to protect her child.