If John MacTavish is killed in Nurem, there will be war, Midnight thought, inhaling sharply. She watched the little suicide boat making its way across the harbor.
There will be no war. Out came another grapple arrow. I won't allow it.
She took aim, exhaling. She would only have one shot - and then a very small window to make it across her line before the boat's crew found her rope and cut it.
The last of her breath went out into the night air. Her heart beat once...twice...
Thwack! Her arrow lanced out in the gap between the second and third beats. The arrow soared over the water-
And drove right into the little boat's side.
In a flash, Midnight fired her second arrow to pin down the line, and then she was sprinting, maintaining her balance on force of will. One slip and she'd be in the water and unable to act.
There was motion ahead. Midnight snapped her bow up as a figure approached the end of her grapple line, and without pausing she drew back a shaft, aimed, and fired. The man tumbled backward, clutching his chest. Midnight reached for another arrow, and this one was a grapple.
"Cut the line!" a man's voice shouted from ahead. Midnight swore as she saw how long she had left to go. More of them approached the end of the rope, and she saw at least one axe rise-
Up came her bow. She couldn't shoot down all the crewmembers on the boat, but-
Down came the axe. Her line severed in the same instant as she fired upward, and her grapple arrow embedded itself in the boat's mast. Midnight swung forward, dipping until gravity held her feet mere inches above the surface of the bay-
And then she released the line and slammed down on the suicide boat.
The first man wound up in the water. The second Midnight impaled with an arrow and kicked into the third. A pistol came out and she fired, claiming two lives at once. She dropped the smoking gun on the deck and drew her other as more surged at her, and out came her knife to match. She slashed and evaded as they drove towards her, shouting angry cries of hate and masked fear. She struck left and right with fist and foot alike, and bones snapped and men collapsed.
And then they retreated towards the bow, recoiling in surprise. It was fear, exactly like what had happened on the docks. They knew she'd already gone through so many of their friends...so what chance did they stand?
Midnight seized the opportunity to retreat to the stern, herself. She grabbed for the tiller, but paused when she saw it was lashed in place. She could cut it free, but that would take time, and the dozen or so men still on the boat didn't seem likely to give it to her...and she wasn't really superhuman. If they all rushed at once, she'd be in serious trouble.
Tactics. She needed to divide and demoralize them, like she had the men on the docks. On the other hand, she was running out of time. She had to act quickly.
Midnight sprinted away from the tiller towards the waist. She skidded along the deck as she approached the barrels of powder, looking for a fuse but not seeing it. That there was one she didn't doubt, but finding it wasn't really her aim.
She ripped the lid off one powder keg. She eyed the black grains inside.
"Get back!" that was a man with a hatchet. Midnight ducked his swing, snapped his leg, and flung him over the side almost without thinking. Before she did, though, she took something else from his belt: a black sphere with a length of fuse hanging from one end.
Midnight lit it in the first lantern she found. She hurled it into the powder keg and threw the lid back on.
Two men seized her arms. She grunted as they tried to drive her head-first into the mast.
Up came one of her feet, her heel crushing everything in the left man's groin. He folded over and released her, and her now-free arm wrenched the other man off of her by his hair. Midnight tore for the rail, drawing bow and arrow.
The second man wrapped his arms around her from behind. Midnight fired her arrow, and she had the pleasure of seeing it arc all the way over to MacTavish's ship. She had her way out.
Her elbows flashed and she spun her grappler around. His spine hit the rail and one of the two cracked - Midnight wasn't sure which. He howled, but didn't let go. Wouldn't.
Midnight threw herself backward, straight over the rail. She held firm to the line, but her hapless passenger wasn't so lucky. His grip slipped, and down he plunged into the dark waters of the bay. Midnight swung toward the Clan ship-
"Oh, come on!" someone shouted behind her, very indignantly. "That's not fair!"
The little boat exploded in a shower of splinters and fire. Midnight closed her eyes as the heat assailed her from behind and the water reverberated from the blast, scattering in great sprays. Shouts of alarm filled the night air from all the other ships around.
Midnight perched in the upper spars of MacTavish's galleon, observing the funeral pyre for what had once been a war-starting suicide boat. She allowed herself a small smile.
One night, and she'd dealt a vicious blow to Aurora and Ward's plans. MacTavish was safe, and most people would assume an unlicensed gunpowder smuggler had met a bad end in an unfortunate accident.
She stood on her perch, aiming another grapple arrow into the dark. By the time anyone started looking for her, she was long gone.
Midnight entered Estelle's ornate bedroom, and once she was inside, the door closed and the curtains drawn, she finally reached for her helmet and undid the clasp behind her ear. Slowly, she took it off, and she felt a great sensation of...relief, as if intense pressure had abated.
Estelle set the helmet down where it belonged. Then, she set about taking off the rest of her armor, which was a slow, methodical process without Kui. Finally, though, it was done, and she locked the trunk all her gear rested inside. Off came her shirt, off came her pants, and on went a thin but elegant shift.
"This might be possible," she whispered to herself, thinking about how successful tonight had been. "This might be possible."
She took a seat on her bed...and froze. Frowning, she glanced around behind her, feeling the mattress.
It was different. Firmer. Estelle blinked, but then saw something she must have missed before she left, so preoccupied was she with her hunt.
A basket sitting on one of her tables, with a few chocolates and a little bottle of wine in it, all with a simple note of explanation:
Sleep better, Estelle.
She didn't need to see the half-moon drawn in place of a signature to know who left it.
Estelle lay down on her harder, firmer, much more comfortable bed with a smile borne of success and the gift alike, and that one night, sleep was very easy for her, and far more restful than any she'd enjoyed since her time cast away.
Anthony Sessions groaned as consciousness lovingly came to him, caressing the dark places in his mind with awareness and memory. He shook his head vigorously a few times, trying to clear the pressure in it. His eyes cracked open.
"Oh, gods!" he cried, as he saw the bay fifty feet below him. One glance around, and he discovered he was hanging by his ankles from one of the loading cranes. "Demon. Demon!"
Revenge. He would have his revenge. He'd hire bounty hunters, first thing in the morning. The best that money could buy. This creature had to be the oddly effeminate man who'd raided his house. He was perfecting his technique, but there was nothing supernatural about him. A swarm of bounty hunters, yes: renegade wizards, Clanless warriors, Gifteds with no place who didn't fit in...yes, he would overwhelm him with the best killers money could buy. And he'd talk to the other fellow about it too. With his resources bearing down on this monster too...
The crane twitched, and Sessions gasped. He whimpered as he swung left and right, then started going up. Was the monster back? It wanted to toy with him some more, he just knew it. Sessions frantically scrambled for some manner of weapon, but he could find none.
The crane brought him up to the top of a stack of shipping crates, and it dropped him none-too-gently. He crashed on his side with a cry, and lay on the wood gasping for breath.
At least five sets of footsteps resounded through the night. Sessions looked up to see his minder, the woman's eyes cold and irritable.
"Took you long enough," the Lord sighed, cursing himself for his paranoia. "I could have been hanging for hours."
"You have." That was a man's voice, and Sessions froze as he saw a large, broad-shouldered, powerful one emerge from the dark. His green eyes shone down without pity.
"Please," Sessions started, clasping his hands. "I tried. Those layabouts, they didn't - conspirators, I think. They deserve punishment, but me? I did my best to stop the demon."
"Demon?" the man asked, an almost amused note in his voice. "She's hardly a demon."
"You...know her?" Sessions blinked. "She?"
Out came the green-eyed man's pistol. Sessions blanched.
"No!" he begged. "We fought to the end! To the last man and arrow! Not one step back, victory or death, that was our stand!"
The pistol leveled right between his eyes.
"It is now," the green-eyed man said.