Voidhawk redemption, p.10

Voidhawk - Redemption, page 10

 

Voidhawk - Redemption
 


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  Further up the mountain up three wide roads were carved into it, leading to different level areas where merchants, craftsmen, and even nobility had their lodgings. It was not until the peak of the mountain that the great marketplace was situated. It circled a massive crater where a lake served as a dock for Voidships configured for water landings. For those built otherwise, a great wooden dock floated upon the steaming waters.

  Rosh stared across the crater’s rim at the three ships docked. Two were in the water and the third was a smaller one resting on the wooden dock. The third had drawn Rosh’s attention at first, but he tossed aside his concern at the elven scout ship. It had been modified, something he doubted any elf would have done. Not only that, but years had passed since he’d last run in to any of the long-lived and treacherous race.

  “Never seen a ship that sails the skies before?”

  Rosh turned at the voice beside him. He bit back a chuckle, studying instead the shifty looking man beside him. He grunted, curious but not wanting to tip his hand.

  “Aye, it’s true enough!” The young man said with a tip of his green hat. “I’ve plans to have one of my own one day. One day soon I hope. I could use a strong man or two on my crew. From the looks of you I could make do with at least four fewer mouths to feed!”

  “Which one you planning on stealing?” Rosh asked, turning away from the man and looking over the lake again.

  The would-be captain cleared his throat. “That’s an ugly word, friend. Best not said too loudly, if you know what I mean.” Rosh chuckled. “I expect that smaller one there on the dock would be the easiest to commandeer though.”

  Rosh eyed the elven scout ship thoughtfully. “Ship like that needs at least eight men to sail her right, and it can hold another ten or so if they’ve a mind too. Cramped, but that sort of boat ain’t built for luxury.”

  “You’ve a keen eye,” the man stated beside. “And some experience, perhaps?”

  “Aye, been up a time or two. I can fly one too,” Rosh admitted. “Name’s Rosh.”

  “You’re a helmsman? But you’re so big!”

  Rosh smirked. “Usually it’s the ladies saying that.”

  The man gaped for a moment then laughed at the joke. “I’m Doya, Rosh, at your service!”

  Rosh eyed the man quickly. He was young, younger than Dexter had been when he’d sailed with him, and certainly full of himself. He wondered if the boy had Dexter’s knack for finding his way out of trouble or not, or just the ability to land himself in the boiling pot of water. “Got anybody else lined up?”

  “Aye Rosh, that I do! Brothers, both ready to do whatever it takes after some local trouble, if you know what I mean.”

  Rosh rolled his eyes. He’d known local trouble all too often himself. Still he couldn’t help but wonder if that was cause for concern or not. Rosh found himself smirking at his own thoughts as he realized he was starting to think more like a captain himself. “First mate.”

  “Sorry?” Doya said. “Oh, you mean have I got one? Well no, not yet. You think you’re the right man for it?”

  Rosh looked at him. “Been up there plenty. Fought more of them elven scouts than I can count too. I got another body that’ll be coming with me too, she’s good for fighting and, well, anything else I tell her to do.”

  The man’s eyes narrowed. “A woman on a ship?”

  “Ain’t as bad as you think. I sailed on a few that had women as crew and they done all right. Only thing is, anyone lays a finger on her and if she don’t drop your ass into the deep void, I will.”

  Doya’s eyes widened. He grinned and shrugged. “Fair enough I suspect. Where’s this firecracker of yours at?”

  “Rosh!”

  Rosh grinned, both at the timing and at the phrase that popped into his head. “Speak of the devil.”

  “Wha—” Doya fell silent as Volera threaded her way gracefully through the crowd. Rosh noted that someone followed close behind her, but the former demon stood between them.

  “Gods Rosh, that’s your woman?” Doya managed.

  Rosh glanced at the envious look on his face and bit back the laugh. The boy had no idea what it meant to have a woman like Volera. Once, not so long ago, Rosh could have traded places with the would-be captain. “Aye, that she is. She’s as much a handful as she is an eyeful.”

  Doya whistled softly. Rosh turned back to watch her approach. He noted that she was putting everything she had into swinging her hips and thrusting out her chest. She flipped her head, sending her raven black curls over her shoulder and, for a moment, gave a clear line of sight to the person behind her.

  “Rosh, this woman has been stalking us for days,” Volera said when she was within speaking distance. “I intended to destroy her but she reeks of your scent. Is she yours too, Master?”

  “Master?”

  “Master?”

  Rosh ignored the simultaneous questions, one from Doya and one from the blond woman behind Volera. She stepped fully beside the former Fury and stared at Rosh with her chin raised higher than was necessary to stare him in the eye. “You’ve grown.”

  “You’ve got your hand back,” Rosh replied. His mouth was numb and his mind was blank with surprise. The blond woman was Willa, his one time lover and crewmate on the Voidhawk. Or at least she reminded him of Willa, though a Willa who had aged at least a score of years. The Willa he’d known had perished years ago when the Voidhawk had fought the elves in the battle that returned the Elders from banishment. Her body had been lost to the void and, had that not been enough, the impossible devastation wrought by the destruction of the elven citadel would have.

  “It seems the Elders can’t give a boon without a matching curse to go with it.” She said.

  Rosh studied her, fighting through the mental fog that threatened to overwhelm him. “Rosh, did I err?” Volera asked.

  “Eh? No, no you didn’t. If them ancient elves kept her around I don’t reckon nothing you could have done would have stopped her. This is Willa, she and I served on the Voidhawk together.”

  “That all we done, Rosh? Served together?” Willa’s voice cut into Rosh just like he remembered.

  “Times was tough. They ain’t much better since.” Rosh growled. “Besides, I heard you and Bekka got along just fine after you was done with me.”

  “Better enough if you’ve got yourself a new whore to lick your boots!” Willa snapped.

  “I like keeping ‘em young,” Rosh snarled back at her. Willa jerked as though Rosh had struck her with his comment. Her hand even rose halfway to her face. Rosh’s feral smile faded as he realized he’d struck home.

  “Rosh?” Rosh held up his hand to silence Volera. He had a hunch she was going to ask for permission to kill Rosh’s former lover.

  “Why you here?” Rosh asked. He couldn’t bring himself to apologize even though he felt bad. He knew he shouldn’t feel bad, or at least he didn’t think he should, but he still felt that way.

  She bristled, her shoulders and arms tense. Even her gloved hands, he noted, were clenched into fists. She glanced at Doya and Volera, then turned her attention back to Rosh. “There are things you need to know. Things I won’t keep from you. Not anymore.”

  Rosh grunted. “Never figured why you got so uppity with me, but I got over it. Reckon you done the same, ain’t reason enough for chasing someone across the void.”

  She shook her head. “Not here, and not with them.”

  Rosh glanced at Volera, who stared with narrowed eyes at Willa, and then at Doya. Doya’s eyes were still wide with shock. Rosh expected the man to be doing everything he could not to drool as he gazed without blinking at Volera. “Volera comes with me. I don’t let her out on her own much, it ain’t safe.”

  Willa snorted. “Afraid someone’s going to steel her from you?”

  Rosh shook his head and grinned. “Afraid she’s gonna kill too many people.”

  Willa’s eyes narrowed, deepening the wrinkles around them. She glanced at Volera again, who smiled
sweetly when she met her eyes. Willa sighed. “I’m dying Rosh, I don’t know how long I got left. Might be hours, might be years. I’m afraid for either one.”

  “What they done to you?” Rosh asked. They both knew he meant the Elders.

  “You done it to me Rosh.”

  Rosh’s brow furrowed as he tried to understand how he could have done anything of the sort to her. She saw this and shook her head. “I ain’t blaming you for it, but you’re the reason all the same. Come on, I got something to show you.”

  Rosh motioned for her to lead the way. He fell behind, admiring how she still had the feisty walk he remembered and more than a fair resemblance to the waistline he had once known intimately. Volera fell in behind him. Rosh all but ignored her, he was so accustomed to her constant presence. Doya tagged along as well, staying close to the raven-haired object of his lust.

  Willa led them to the dock. Rosh’s eyes narrowed and he felt his stomach clench. In moments his hunch was confirmed; she led him to the modified elven scout ship. “Got your own ship?” He asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.

  “Ran into an old friend of Bailynn’s,” Willa explained. “He didn’t know of me, I joined the ‘Hawk after you all had your run in with him. He wasn’t part of the Elder battle, but he died all the same.”

  Rosh’s eye twitched as he put it all together. “The one that sicked Bailynn on Jenna?” Willa nodded. “Don’t remember his name, but glad you kill him all the same. He had it coming for what he done to her.”

  Her was Bailynn. Rosh had been the one to capture the tormented girl that the elves had trained and twisted with their magic. She’d been turned into something they called a slayer - a creature twisted from their original selves and fashioned into a weapon capable of great destruction. Rosh had captured her and kept her imprisoned until they found the magical ring on the elf that had controlled her. Much later on, Rosh had been the one to finally free her from her magical curse and compulsion - by destroying the control ring and sacrificing himself in the process.

  “This what you wanted to show me?” Rosh asked, anxious to put the memory behind him.

  “No, it’s on the ship.” She led him up a ladder, giving him another opportunity to reminisce about her shapely legs and posterior. Prematurely or not, she had aged well. “Koda, come out here please, I’d like you to meet someone.”

  Rosh bit back the scowl he felt. He had no interest in meeting Willa’s new lover. He moved out of the way for Volera and then Doya to climb to the deck. Just in time, a young man emerged from the staircase that led below deck to the cabins. Rosh studied him, noting that he was more a boy than a man even though he looked both tall and wide enough to put most full grown men down. He guessed him at fifteen or sixteen years old. Enough to be a man on some of the rougher worlds Rosh had visited.

  “Koda, this is Rosh, he’s—”

  “Master, you’ve an heir!”

  Rosh turned to Volera, scowling at her interruption. He stopped as her words sunk in. “An heir? Heir to what? What in the void are you on about?”

  “Rosh, she’s right. Koda is your son.”

  Rosh spun back around, off balance mentally if not physically. He stared at Koda, who looked at him impassively. The boy was well built for his age. His hair was a few shades lighter than Rosh’s, but there was a nagging familiarity about his face. The only thing that came to Rosh’s mind, or at least the only word that stuck, was: “How?”

  Willa rolled her eyes and matched it with a sigh. “Before the battle with the elves. Between when they sent us back in time and before you met them savages and all that.” Rosh winced. She left unsaid the part where he had slept with a native girl and fathered a line that had ruled that particular world for thousands of years. Rosh hadn’t figured he could have any children after what the Elders had done to him, but now it looked like that wasn’t the case. Now he had two cases of proof to the contrary.

  “I missed their flagship during the battle,” Willa explained. She and a few others of the crew had launched themselves in a desperate gamble to secure the command vessel of the enemy fleet. Willa alone had missed and had been consigned to floating through the void until she ran out of air. Or so Rosh and the others had thought. “I floated for a long time, finally falling asleep as I ran out of good air to breathe. Next thing I knew I was awake, then not awake. Then I was back again. It happened more times than I could count, even now that I got better at counting I don’t think I could get that high. The pain— it was incredible. Was that what it was like for you when you done what you did?”

  Rosh nodded, the memory coming back to him unbidden. The magical hammer fell and Bailynn’s ring burst under the impact. Unlike the column of flames Volera had unleashed on him not so long ago the flames from the elven control ring had pierced every part of his being. It burned away everything in him, or felt as though it had. Nothing had been left behind to feel or experience. Rosh had emerged from it with the firm belief that no pain could ever truly hurt him again, be it physical or otherwise.

  “Now imagine feeling it a hundred times over. A thousand. I begged for death, but it wouldn’t come to me, at least not for more than a heartbeat. I found out later that it was your seed within me. Your son. He was barely more than an itch in your pants, but it was enough. Whatever it is they done to you, got done to him too. Or at least enough of it. He needed me to survive, so he kept me alive through it until we got picked up by an Elder ship a couple weeks later. All that time no food an no water, but still we lived.”

  Rosh stared at her. He’d have laughed and called her crazy if he didn’t know it could be true. It was true, it had to be. No other explanation for how Willa could be standing in front of him and talking to him. “That what made you grow old?”

  “Maybe some, but not much. Rosh, how old do you think Koda is?”

  Rosh shrugged. “I’d say maybe he’s sixteen? Don’t make sense though, it ain’t been that long since you and I left the ‘Hawk.”

  She nodded. “It’s been six years Rosh. Six years. It’s slowing down, but he grew fast. Every year older he looked, I lost three. If he hadn’t slowed down I’d be gone now. I got no way of knowing, but I reckon I’m closing in on seventy years old.”

  Rosh frowned. “You ain’t that old.”

  “Rosh, I am. Close to it, at least,” she insisted. “Some of the Elder magic got in me to stay too I reckon. It won’t last with me forever though, not like it looks like you got it.”

  Rosh sighed. “Like you said, it ain’t all good, what they done.”

  She smiled, blinking away the moisture that made her eyes glisten. She nodded and turned back to Koda. Her arm went out to the boy’s shoulder, rubbing it comfortingly. Who the comfort was for, her or Koda, was anybody’s guess. Willa turned back to Rosh and smiled again. “I had to find you before I was gone. You deserved to know about Koda. I done some dumb things in my life Rosh, but Koda don’t need to pay for the mistakes I made.”

  Rosh nodded, feeling his own stomach clenching again beneath the tailored black shirt Volera had acquired for him. He looked at his son but instead saw into his own past. He shook the memories away and forced himself to focus on the guarded expression Koda gave him. “I don’t know nothing about you boy, but that ain’t your fault. My old man was a no good son of a bitch. I ain’t much better probably, and the life I lead ain’t one for a kid.”

  “Rosh, you can’t—”

  “I didn’t do nothing,” Rosh interrupted. “I’m just saying if the boy comes with me, he can’t expect no special treatment. It’s a rough life I lead, but between me and Volera, we got no time for babysitting. If you can take care of yourself you’re welcome to it.”

  Koda’s eyes narrowed slightly, but the expression faded quickly. He turned to look at his mother, getting a smile from her. He looked back to Rosh and shrugged. “Maybe you don’t need none of it,” Rosh offered. “If you ain’t getting older so fast, maybe Willa’s going to be around a while more? Either way, you
re welcome to come with me.”

  “Rosh, can I speak with you a moment privately?” Willa asked.

  Rosh shrugged. “Don’t kill nobody,” he said to Volera while glancing meaningfully at Doya. Rosh followed Willa down the stairs, once again refusing to believe she could be as ancient as she claimed. She moved too smoothly and looked too strong.

  She led him into her bunk and turned on him almost before he could shut the door behind him. “Thank you Rosh,” Willa whispered into his ear, her arms trying - and failing - to wrap around him.

  Rosh returned the hug awkwardly. Her breath in his ear sent chills down his back. He remembered a happier time when the feel of her against him was a prelude to unforgettable moments to follow. Rosh cleared his throat, suddenly awkward at the convergence of his memories and feelings. “The Elders fix your hand too?”

  She backed away and nodded, then reached down to pull her gloves off. Rosh’s eyes bulged at the gleaming metal hand attached to her arm. The flesh melded seamlessly into the metal. The same metal, Rosh noted, as that of his sword. She flexed her fingers and showed a dexterity impossible to imagine for anything other than flesh. “They gave me this when I returned to them. You had already left by then, but the ‘Hawk remained. I stayed with them a while, but Jenna and Dexter stuck around the elves, reforming the empire. I had to get away from it, I was confused and angry and…and a lot of things. Bekka wanted to help but I wouldn’t let her. Even then I think I knew what was happening to me. I haven’t felt the touch of another person since you Rosh. Not like that, anyhow.”

  Rosh grimaced in spite of himself. Six years without a woman? He couldn’t imagine it. Or in her case a man. Or a woman, remembering Bekka’s interest. Rosh shook the thoughts from his mind. Or at least he tried to until Willa spoke again. “Rosh, for old time’s sake…I know I’m old and ugly, but will you—“

  Rosh silenced her in the best way he knew how.

  * * * *

  “Who’s Volera? She’s beautiful like Keshira, maybe not as big though. More graceful I guess.” Willa asked softly, her lips brushing against the skin of Rosh’s chest.

 
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