And, finally, Frostborn gets a name and sees the light of day. 6750 words of Zekara and Claire and how they ended up where we found them in Fated (spoilers for Fated, obviously, don't read unless you've finished it) and some after. I've changed their last name from Draem to Aklena- this is a permanent, canonical change that will be appearing in the "rewrite" of the Monstrous Trilogy.
Monstrous masterpost: http://tanadin.dreamwidth.org/382.html
Kingdom of Orvex, Minecraftia. December 20, year 563. Time instance 483Z.
“Come on!” A girl, maybe eight years old, raced down the city streets, holding the hand of a much younger girl. The younger girl was perhaps four and looked exhausted, eyes drooping and limbs heavy. It was about six in the morning and the two weren’t exactly inconspicuous. The older girl wore an iron helmet, slightly too large for her, with two curved horns coming up from the surface. The younger girl was completely white- hair, skin, dragonscale cloak and all- except for her eyes, which were a disturbing shade of crimson.
“Where we going?” the younger girl asked, rubbing her eyes with her free hand. “Zekara?”
“Away! To the sea!”
“Will mommy protect us?”
“Yes!” Zekara put on another burst of speed. “She’ll protect us from the bad men!”
“There are bad men after us, Claire! Hurry!”
Zekara took a sharp right and they found themselves on the docks, thankfully deserted. She glanced behind her and was grateful to see that their pursuers weren’t nearby, but they would catch up. She let go of Claire’s hand to bust open a box and shoved her younger sister in, crawling in after her and shutting the box behind them.
“Will we be safe in here?” Claire whimpered.
“Shh. I hope so…”
Zekara awoke to the world shaking.
With horror, she realized that the box she and Claire were hiding in was being moved onto a boat, going who knows where. She put a hand over Claire’s mouth before she could freak out, silencing her. She waited until the box had stopped moving to whisper quietly.
“Claire, I think we’re on a boat.”
“That’s good, isn’t it? Away from bad men.”
“Claire, we don’t know where we’re going! How will we get food?” Zekara struggled not to cry. She acted a lot more mature than she should have to be, but she was still only eight.
“Go out of the box?”
“People will spot us! Claire, I don’t know what to d-”
Zekara was interrupted by someone calling to other members of the crew and cracking the box open. She froze and tried not to panic as an angry-looking man bent down to look in the box before starting to shout at the ‘stowaways’ and how he would see that they were severely punished.
Claire started to cry.
Zekara’s eyes narrowed as rage built within her, and without thinking, struck at the man, hitting him square in the nose. She was strong for someone so young, and he howled in pain, stumbling back.
He roared in fury and drew a knife, but someone stepped forward- practically seeming to teleport in front of him- and blocked his way, placing a hand on the angry man’s chest.
“It’s fine,” the second man, this one dressed entirely in black, told him, voice calm. “They’re with me.”
“They’re stowaways! That rat punched me!”
“Because you threatened her.”
“Look me in the eyes and tell me that I’m worth arguing with.”
The angry man paused and looked into the eyes of the second man.
The angry man calmed down, sheathed his knife, and stalked away, mumbling under his breath.
The dark-clad man turned around to face the sisters, squatting to get on their level. He was dressed in black leather and on his chest were three sets of what appeared to be ribs. He seemed to be about thirty, but it was hard to tell due to the skull mask on his face. The mask was black and possessed two small fangs around the mouth area, but his light green eyes were friendly and he was smiling slightly. He had short brown hair and seemed to radiate an aura of tranquility, but Zekara could tell that he could flip and smack a bitch if he needed to.
She liked this man immediately.
“Hello. My name is Froststalker. Who are you?”
Claire whimpered but Zekara answered, “I’m Zekara, and this is Claire. Why did you help us?”
He shrugged slightly. “You didn’t deserve to be yelled at like that. You’re just kids.” He straightened up and motioned for them to come closer. “Come on out. You want to get out of Ahnrak?”
Zekara nodded as she took Claire’s hand and pulled her out of the box. “It’s scary here.”
“It’s scary everywhere,” Frost told her. “But Ahnrak isn’t the place for two kids on your own. Where are your parents?”
Zekara only shook her head. “Our mom is in the sea. Claire’s dad is gone too.”
“You have a different father than her?”
“Where is he?”
Zekara shrugged. “Mommy said he ran away to serve a dragon lord. I think he’s dead, though. People don’t run away to serve dragon lords.”
“Hmm.” Frost shrugged. “Well, this boat is going to Traz’madar. I’m on my way there to go exploring and I didn’t feel like walking. I’m weird that way.”
“You’re weird for not wanting to walk?” Claire asked. “I don’t like walking.”
“Yes, little one. I’m what’s called a Skullblade- we love to walk. I prefer boats, though. I love to explore, but I’ll take a boat whenever I can. Marvelous inventions.”
“I like boats,” Zekara offered. Her helmet fell and she pushed it up again. “Do we get to take the boat to Tra…Traz…”
“Traz’madar? Yes, if you’d like. I’ll protect you all the way there.”
“Yes.” Frost smiled at them. “But I’d like to teach you how to defend yourselves as well.” He paused, evaluating them. “Maybe just you.” He motioned at Zekara. “Your sister’s a little young to be learning how to fight.”
“I can already fight!” Zekara protested. “I punched that bad man in the face!”
“I saw. But I meant with a weapon, so you can really defend yourself. Skullblade children your age know how to fight already, because when you’re in trouble, someone isn’t always there to save you. I can teach you how to save yourself.”
Zekara tilted her head. “Why do you want to help?”
“Because I care, I guess.” Frost shrugged. “Get ready to set out for Traz’madar. I’ll see if I can find you a practice weapon.”
Kingdom of Traz’madar, Minecraftia. March 23, year 565. Time instance 483Z.
Zekara and Claire had been traveling with Frost for over a year when Zekara’s tenth birthday rolled around. She had learned much from Frost on how to fight using a two-handed weapon, specifically an axe, while Claire had picked up the basics on how to use a sword. Frost was skilled with both, but his specialty was the two-handed axe. This was uncommon among the Shadefangs, he had told them, as they were primarily archers, but he was a bizarre Skullblade in more ways than one.
It was odd to Claire that they never got to see Frost’s face (and his ‘name’ was odd as well) but Zekara seemed to take it with a grain of salt. She focused more on training and learning how to survive, and while Claire focused as well, she wasn’t nearly as fast or strong as her half-sister and preferred to wander off and get herself into trouble.
Usually they awoke just after dawn and trained or traveled, depending on how long they had been in an area and if they were going anywhere in particular. Over the past year or so, Frost had showed them all around Traz’madar, even close to the Orvex and Ontrair borders, but he intentionally avoided Sunspire, Kalt’on, and the ruins of Dalania.
Today, however, Frost woke the sisters up at dawn with his usual loud clap and gentle shaking of the tent. Claire, now six years old, groaned and snuggled under her blanket further. “Five more minutes,” she mumbled.
“Up, up, up! It’s Zekara’s birthday!” Frost called, making Zekara jump up with excitement. Of course! She was ten today, and Frost had told her that tenth birthdays were very special although he wouldn’t really explain why.
Zekara ignored her sister groaning and not getting up in favor of getting dressed and bounding out of the tent. “Frost, Frost, Frost! I’m ten!”
He grinned at her and knelt down in order to hug her tightly. “Yes, you are! Tenth birthdays are very special, you know.”
“I know! But you never said why.” Zekara pulled back, still smiling. “Why are they extra special?”
“Well, if you were a Skullblade, this would most likely be the day that you attempted to earn your mask. But since you’re not a Skullblade, I had to arrange a different gift for you.”
“A gift?” Zekara bounced. “I love gifts! What is it?”
“No, no. You need to wait for your sister to get up.”
Zekara turned around and immediately raced back into the tent, practically pouncing on her sister. “Claire! Claire, come on, get up!”
“Nooooo! Too early!”
“Claire, it’s my birthday and Frost won’t give me my present yet! Get your lazy ass up!”
“You said a bad word!” Claire protested. “Mom wouldn’t like that!”
“Mom said worse than me every day! Claaaaiiirrrre!”
“Claire, be nice to your sister and don’t keep her waiting,” Frost called from outside.
Claire groaned but sat up, getting dressed as slowly as humanly possible before following her bouncing older sister outside.
As Zekara turned to look at Frost, her eyes locked on what he held in his hands.
It was a two-handed axe, sized perfectly for Zekara but, unlike her current weapon, its blades were made of finely honed steel instead of rough iron. Zekara’s eyes widened and she gasped.
“Is that for me?!”
Froststalker laughed. “Yes it is! Now you know why I went into town a few days ago. It’s also a tradition among Skullblades to give children who turn ten their first steel weaponry. I feel like you’re ready. Come here.”
Zekara grinned and took it from him, trying not to bounce excitedly. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you!”
Frost laughed and hugged her. “Happy birthday, kid.”
“Happy birthday,” Claire echoed, tapping Zekara’s shoulder to make her turn around before hugging her.
“Now, do you want to practice with it? We have some time before breakfast.”
Zekara gasped excitedly and opened her mouth to answer, but she was cut off by Frost suddenly shushing her and turning around, motioning for them to be silent.
A horse was charging across the plains, directly at them. On its back rode a dark figure with a cloak billowing out behind them, looking for all the world like a specter of death riding just for them, exposed skull and all. Claire hid behind Zekara as she raised her weapon threateningly. Frost reached for his axe.
He paused, though, as he recognized the rider as one of his clan. Zekara watched cautiously as the horse came to a stop and the rider, who was dressed practically identically to Frost other than having only two ribs on his armor, immediately began to speak. His brown horse was breathing heavily, as if they had been running for a long time.
“Froststalker! I’ve been looking for you for days. You need to return to Skullbit, immediately!”
Frost frowned. “Fatespeaker? What’s this about?”
“No time to explain! I was supposed to be almost back with you by now! Everything’s going to shit and Vallor’roth is pretty damn insistent that you need to be back there!”
“But…” Frost shot a glance at Zekara and Claire, unwilling to leave them.
Fatespeaker sighed quietly and shook his head. “I’m sorry. If they’re not Skullblades, you have to leave them. Now is a bad time for outsiders in Skullbit, and we can’t afford the time to travel on foot.”
“I can’t leave them!” Frost protested, hands clenching into fists. “They’re ten and six, Speaker! Ten! And! Six! How are they supposed to survive out here?!”
Fatespeaker shook his head, looking mournful. “I don’t know. I’m sorry. I hate doing this to you but we have to go. Your sister is one of the ones at risk- she may already be dead.”
Frost paled. “My sister?”
Zekara looked back and forth between the two of them as they spoke before entering the conversation herself. “You can’t take Frost! We need him!”
“Noo! Don’t take him!” Claire whined.
Fatespeaker’s gaze softened. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, voice soft. “I don’t want to, but I have to. My loyalty to my clan won’t let me place your lives above the lives of many in the clan.” He looked at Frost. “Nor should yours…”
Frost snarled at him. “Don’t you remind me of my obligations! The clan hasn’t needed me before; why now?”
“I told you, we need to move! We’d be here for another fifteen minutes if I explained! It’s imperative that you return- lives are at stake! Your sister, our primary seer, my mate, EVERYONE! Dammit, Frost, we NEED you! Do you want Doomracer to take over the clan?!”
“Doomracer?! I’d rather cut my throat with my own mask than let him take control.”
“Then we need to go!”
Frost swore quietly and paced back and forth for a few seconds before quickly coming to a decision. He stepped over to Zekara and Claire and knelt down.
“I have to go for awhile to deal with this issue in my clan. Do you guys think you’ll be okay?”
Claire sniffed. “Don’t go…”
“I’m sorry. I have to. Zekara, can you look after your sister? Promise me you’ll look after your sister!” He put a hand on Zekara’s shoulder.
Zekara nodded. “I promise.”
“Good. Now, don’t stay here. Don’t wait for me. Do anything you have to in order to survive, okay? Remember what I’ve taught you. I’ll find you when I can.”
Zekara nodded again, trying not to cry. “Promise?”
Frost pulled them both into a tight hug. “I promise. I promise I’ll find you.” He pulled away and stood up again, quickly packing up some of his things before climbing onto the back of the horse behind Fatespeaker.
“Goodbye, Zekara! Goodbye, Claire! Good luck to you!”
“Goodbye!” The sisters waved as the horse took off, taking both Shadefangs away, along with their last hope of having a somewhat normal life.
Zekara sniffed but struggled to not cry.
She couldn’t let Claire see how torn up she was by this.
She had promised to look after her, after all.
Kingdom of Traz’madar, Minecraftia. June 9, year 568. Time instance 483Z.
“Claire, c’mon!” Zekara practically bashed down the door of their room in the local inn, shouting at her sister to get up. She was thirteen now, and it had been three years since Froststalker had left with Fatespeaker. They hadn’t seen either of the Shadefangs in all of that time, and they had long lost hope of seeing them again.
“Whaaat?” Claire sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“I got us some work! We’ll be going out a small trading vessel as guards. They were pretty skeptical about hiring us, but when I kicked one of their asses, they agreed to sign me up. We’re not getting paid a lot, but it’s something. We get free food on the voyage as well.”
The prospect of free food made the nine-year-old brighten up. “Food?”
Zekara grinned and nodded. “Yep! Free food. All we have to do is sit there and look threatening. Pirates don’t usually bother with the smaller trading ships, especially not this time of year.”
“Good, or otherwise I’d just be hiding behind you all the time.”
Zekara shrugged and sat down on the bed next to her. “I’m big and scary. I’m good to hide behind.”
“Agreed.” Claire grinned at her. “You kick ass.”
“You said a bad word,” Zekara teased. “Mom wouldn’t like that.”
“In a second you’ll be saying more bad words when I beat you up.”
“You wish you could beat me up! I’m bigger and stronger than you, and you know it.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “Whatever. You’re just saying that to feel better. When do we head out?”
“Tomorrow.” A wild grin spread across Zekara’s face once more. “I can’t wait to be out on the open water again.”
Southern Sea, Minecraftia. June 13, year 568. Time instance 483Z.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Zekara tightened her grip on her axe as the second vessel closed in on their ship. “Captain! What do we do?”
“Give ‘em a fight worth remembering,” he said grimly. “Do your job and hope you take out enough of them to make it impossible for them to do anything other than limp back to shore.”
“You’re not very optimistic!” Claire complained, drawing her sword.
“I hired four guards, and two of you aren’t even adults! How the lack of money has cost me this time!”
“Oh, quit complaining and get your damn weapon,” Zekara snarled. “We’re not going to die out here.”
“I beg to differ!”
Zekara ignored the captain’s babbling as the pirate ship drew closer, and her eyes narrowed as the first of the enemy boarded their ship.
Then, she leapt into action.
The first pirate didn’t register her as a threat, figuring she was just a scared girl holding her father’s axe. He preoccupied himself with one of the other guards- a scraggly man in his twenties- and only realized his mistake when Zekara’s axe lodged itself in the space between his neck and shoulder. She yanked her weapon out of the dead man and whirled around to take on the next opponent, breaking his sword when he tried to parry her attack and splitting his skull when she hit.
She heard Claire scream in fear and turned to see one of the pirates advancing on her after having killed one of the other guards, sword bloodied and an angry sneer pulled across his face. He had a cut on his side, and by the look of Claire’s sword, she had been responsible.
He won’t take my little sister. A bright blaze of fury ran through Zekara as she charged, roaring a challenge as she brought the axe down on his back. No one will take my sister from me. Not ever.
There were too many pirates, however, for her to hold off and defend everyone from. She held her ground with Claire, defending only the two of them, until Claire yelled to her that they were the only two still alive. As if realizing this at the same time, the captain of the pirate ship barked a command to stop the fight. The pirates quickly scrambled back away from Zekara’s bloodthirsty axe, and it took Claire’s hand around her wrist to keep her from charging forward at her nearest opponent.
The pirate captain stepped forward and looked them over. Claire- small, freakish, but with a bloody sword and a streak of ruthlessness. Zekara- tall and very strong for her age, fast, covered in blood but almost entirely uninjured. A bright flame of rage burned in her green eyes as they locked with the pirate captain’s, and he could never recall ever meeting anyone quite like her before.
“Now what are two kids doing out here?”
“Protecting this vessel from the likes of you.”
“And what a marvelous job you’ve done.” The pirate captain motioned around at the corpses, both pirate and trader, that littered the deck of the ship. “Tell me, do you really think you can win?”
“We can win against anyone!” Claire barked, drawing herself up to her full height. “Back off!”
“Probably not,” Zekara admitted, “but that isn’t going to stop me from trying.”
“You have a fury the likes of which I have never seen.”
“You won’t ever see it again, because I’m going to kill you.”
“Oh, I think not.” The captain crossed his arms. “If you do that, my crew will kill you both.”
“You’re not giving me much of a choice, asshole.” Zekara tightened the grip on her axe. What is he trying to do?
“Well, you see, I am giving you a choice. You could die here, or you could come and work for me.”
“Oh, the death-or-slavery thing. Wow. What great options.”
“No, no. I don’t want to enslave you. I want to employ you on my ship. I would pay you, give you food, keep you alive.”
“Claire, don’t sound interested.”
“However, if you decline, you and that sister of yours will be killed. No matter how many of my crew you take down, you will not manage to survive.” His voice softened. “It’s not so bad, you know. We mostly do this because we hit bad luck and need to live, too. The world wouldn’t let us do this a better way, so we’re striking back at the world. You look like you’ve hit a run of bad luck, yourself.”
Zekara hesitated, looking between the pirate crew and her sister.
I promised I’d protect Claire. I have to protect Claire. She’s all I have left.
“Fine.” She practically spat out the word. “Hire us. But if any of your crew hurt my sister…”
“No, no.” The captain held up his hands in a ‘peace’ gesture. “They will have strict instructions to leave your sister alone. Crew! Lower your arms and grab what you can from this ship. We’ve delayed too long already!”
As the crew scattered, Zekara leaned back against a wall and shut her eyes.
What had she gotten them into?
Southern Sea, Minecraftia. May 12, year 569. Time instance 483Z.
“Variat ship on the starboard side!”
Claire’s voice called down from the crow’s nest and Zekara’s head snapped up immediately. She got to her feet and narrowed her eyes at the vague shape in the distance, figuring that it could be a ship if she squinted enough.
“Excellent!” Captain Kaibo shouted. “Set a course for the ship!”
His words were met with cheers from the pirate crew and the mad scramble to get their weapons. A fierce light danced through Zekara as she pulled her axe from her back and looked up at the crow’s nest, grinning at her sister as she swung down from the ropes.
“Today’s a good day to fight!” Claire crowed, drawing her sword. “I love it!”
“You don’t ever fight, you just like looking scary!” Zekara protested.
“And?!” Claire grinned at her, red eyes bright. “I’m the most terrifying ten-year-old around!”
Zekara ruffled her hair, resting her axe on the ground for a moment. “That’s very true. You’d give any Skullblade kid a run for their money.”
“Have you ever met a Skullblade kid?”
“No, but Frost did and I’m pretty sure you’re tougher than them.”
“Focus, focus,” one of the other pirates said, nudging Zekara in a friendly way. “Don’t want to lose your edge. We want to intimidate them into giving us their stuff, not kill them for it.”
“You act like this is my first raid. I’ve been here for almost a year, Dan.”
The pirate cringed. “Please. I’m not drunk, you can’t call me that.”
Zekara roared with laughter. “It’s your name, isn’t it? I can call you by your name aaaall I want.”
“Dan!” the crew called, and the pirate in question groaned.
“I’m going to regret drinking around you, aren’t I?”
Zekara grinned and elbowed him in the ribs, hard enough to make him groan again, this time in pain. “Always!”
“Fight with each other later, negotiate now!” Captain Kaibo’s voice rang out, and the pirates quickly organized themselves (as well as pirates could, anyway) and readied themselves for the possibility of battle.
Zekara shot the captain a glance, grinning as he moved to stand beside them. He had taken over from the previous captain a few months after Zekara and Claire had joined the crew, and Zekara had to admit that she liked him much better than she had Bekren. Kaibo always gave the ships they targeted a chance to surrender and hand over some of their cargo, and some ships from certain ports or countries they would avoid hitting altogether. A month back, they had encountered a ragged ship flying a beaten Dalanian flag, and Kaibo, an old Dalanian citizen himself, had let it go. They had no idea where it had come from or where it was going, but if there were Dalanians aboard, Kaibo wasn’t about to harm them.
“How do you think this is gonna go?” Zekara asked quietly as the captain approached.
“I have no idea. Variat ships are either the easiest or the most difficult to hit.”
“How’s your gut feel?”
“Hmm.” Kaibo put a hand on his stomach. “Like it’s tired of our rations.” Zekara grinned at that but quickly sobered as they approached the other ship.
“Surrender your gold and cargo and you’ll get out of this alive!” Sharktooth’s voice bellowed as he waved his sword. He’s getting dramatic, Zekara noted. He’s mad because we called him by his name.
“Never, you sea scum!”
Kaibo exchanged a glance with another crew member, Levi, and nodded.
Levi grinned, flashing his pigman tusks, and raised his hands. The pirate crew charged towards the edge of the ship and, right before they fell, gusts of wind pushed them the rest of the way across onto the other ship.
Sometimes, it was good to have a wind elementalist on a pirate ship.
Zekara landed easily and blocked a swing from a surprised member of the other ship’s crew, shoving him down and pausing to knock him out. If she could, she would leave them alive.
If she couldn’t, she’d have no hesitation about bringing them down.
It was over in minutes. Half the crew lay dead, most of the remainder left unconscious on the deck. A few cowered in the corners, watched carefully by pirates as the others spread out to find what they had come for. Meanwhile, Levi and Kaibo set up planks to cross from ship to ship, not trusting their loot (Sharktooth insisted on calling it booty and trying to slap someone’s ass every single time) to the winds.
Fifteen minutes later, they moved out, leaving the other ship alone as they sailed towards the horizon, rejoicing in their haul and enjoying living life to its fullest.
Zekara grinned from ear to ear as she sat with her friends, an arm around her sister’s shoulders and her other hand holding some of the food that they’d stolen, feeling like the queen of the world.
Western Sea, Minecraftia. August 12, year 571. Time instance 483Z.
Zekara leaned on the side of the ship, narrowing her eyes at the land in the distance. They had been caught in a storm for a long time, days, probably, and she had no idea where they were. It had hit the day after Claire’s thirteenth birthday, on the tenth, and had lasted for longer than Zekara particularly wanted to know. The crew was beaten, bruised, and exhausted, and they’d lost a few people overboard. They’d managed to retrieve Claire when she fell in (twice) before tying her to something heavy inside to keep her from running out onto the deck to try and ‘help.’
It had a been a rough few days, and Zekara could feel her muscles complaining and aching from little sleep. Claire was up on the crow’s nest somewhere, which had somehow managed to stay whole throughout the fray.
“Where are we?” Kaibo’s tired voice crawled through the air and up to the crow’s nest.
“The ocean,” Claire called helpfully. “Near some land.”
“Thanks. I had no idea.”
“I think we’re near Valdrar,” Levi said uncertainly. “The water looks murky enough.”
“We’re so far out that it shouldn’t affect the ocean. Let’s get closer to shore and see if we can find somewhere to dock.”
“Aye aye, captain.”
Zekara watched the shoreline draw closer and closer as Sharktooth stepped up beside her, leaning on the edge with her.
“You look tired.”
“I am tired. I could still kick your ass, though.”
“I don’t doubt that.” Sharktooth shrugged a bit. “I can’t believe that you’re taller than me. I’m not short.”
“I can’t believe that you’re so tiny.” Zekara grinned at him. “How’d you stay onboard?”
“Tied myself to the mast and held on for dear life.”
“What, you weren’t trying to save our shit?”
“You mean our-” He raised a hand and looked around for someone in range but, finding no one but Zekara, sighed and lowered his hand. “You’re no fun.”
“What? For being sixteen?”
“The moment you turn eighteen, you’re getting so many ass slaps. Just to make up for aaalll the booty.”
“Do you want to lose a hand?”
“Not particularly. Replacement hands don’t sound like much fun.”
“Then don’t.” Zekara elbowed him.
“We’ll see.” He winked and they laughed, only being interrupted when the boat shook and Claire yelped.
“We have a problem!”
“I can see that!” Zekara retrieved her axe. “What’s going on?!”
“We’ve got things coming for the boat! Not sharks, but-”
“Sazrons!” Sharktooth bellowed. “We are in Valdrar! Everyone get your weapons, NOW!”
They had only seconds before the first sazron pulled itself onto the boat.
It was almost seven feet tall and humanoid with a hunched back, covered in gray scales. It had a crocodile-like head with strong jaws and spikes curving up from its back. Its claws were long with webbing closer to the hand and its tail possessed spiked fins that added surface area to push against water. Its eyes were bright, bright green and possessed a kind of bestial intelligence that sent a shiver down Zekara’s spine, her instincts screaming for her to curl up somewhere and hide.
She tightened her grip on her axe. Not today.
The sazron wasted no time in stepped forward and swinging its claws at them, opening its mouth in a threatening snarl. Zekara sidestepped and Sharktooth ducked but she lost track of him after that, charging the monster with her axe as several more hauled themselves onto the boat.
She fell into her normal battle mindset, noting how tough the sazrons’ scales were but finally forcing one to retreat into the water. She grinned in satisfaction before she felt the teeth in her arm.
She yelled in pain and slammed her elbow into the sazron’s eye, forcing it to let go. Sharktooth’s sword appeared moments later, driving into the sazron’s mouth and making it scream and dive back into the water.
“Do you want to lose a hand?” he quipped and she flipped him off before continuing the fight. Her limbs felt heavy and cumbersome, however, and she could feel her muscles locking up and slowing. She shouted this to Sharktooth, who paled.
“I thought rumors of the sazron’s paralyzing bite weren’t true!”
“Well, asshole, I’m being paralyzed!”
Sharktooth didn’t have a response to that and moments later Zekara felt her muscles lock and she fell forward, thankfully not hurting herself on her axe, and was forced to sit and listen to screams and roaring and blood hitting the deck for what felt like an eternity until, finally, all was silent except for the heavy breathing of her friends.
“Zekara!” Claire’s voice was panicked as she rushed over, shaking Zekara’s shoulder. “Zekara! Zekara, no!”
Hands that weren’t Claire’s turned her over and Sharktooth frowned until he saw her eyes moving between them. “She’s fine. Just paralyzed.”
JUST paralyzed? You’re an asshole, Sharktooth.
Claire instantly relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief and hugging Zekara tightly. “You scared me! You terrified me!”
I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Claire…
There was a lot of shuffling and treating wounds while Zekara’s muscles slowly unlocked and she sat up, hugging Claire tightly while being mindful of her bandaged arm. “I’m okay. You’ll never lose me.”
Later that day, Captain Kaibo passed away from a sazron’s bite, infected with far more venom than Zekara.
That evening, the crew unanimously proclaimed Zekara as captain.
The next morning, Zekara took them ashore and remained inside while they carried out their business on the land, sorting out everything in her head and coming to one conclusion:
They needed her to be their captain, and if that’s what they needed, that’s what they would get.
Kingdom of Orvex, Minecraftia. September 19, year 573. Time instance 483Z.
Zekara shivered as she clung to the wood keeping her afloat, trying to piece together the events of the previous night as she glanced over at the sleeping Claire.
That bizarre red shadow that was always in the sky- something that Froststalker had called the Bloodshadow, whatever that meant- had covered the moon that night, making the sky flash red like blood. The ocean rumbled and as voices, otherworldly voices, spoke, the biggest creature that Zekara had ever seen rose out of the sea and closed its jaws on their ship- on her ship- and eaten and scattered her crew. She had managed to grab onto Claire’s cloak and find something large enough to hold onto, hoping to drift to shore in the aftermath of the carnage. They hadn’t found any other members of the crew and had fallen asleep, drifting, and now awoke close enough to shore to see a city in the distance.
Zekara narrowed her eyes, raising a hand to shield them from the morning sun. Was that-
Yes! It was Ahnrak, where they had been heading before the monster had risen from the deep. She reached out and shook Claire awake, motioning at the city ahead. Claire instantly brightened and grinned, shoving herself off of their plank of wood to start swimming. Zekara grabbed her cloak and hauled her back, shaking her head.
“No. We swim to shore with this holding us up.”
“It’ll be slower!”
“It’ll be possible.”
Claire found it hard to argue with that. They swam to shore with the plank of wood.
Zekara stood, feeling her legs cry out in both complaint and relief, and stretched her arms. It was miraculous that they hadn’t died, but she had no idea as to the status of the rest of her crew. She adjusted her helmet and helped Claire to her feet, hugging her briefly before turning towards Ahnrak.
“Well. Shall we go in?”
“We have no money,” Claire reminded her. “It was all on the ship. We have nothing.”
“I know.” Zekara’s voice was grim. “But we’ll figure something out.”
Kingdom of Orvex, Minecraftia. October 15, year 573. Time instance 483Z.
They had been in Ahnrak for a month, working where they could and spending what little money they had on food and a room at the inn, when the man bumped into Claire.
Claire wasn’t having a good day. She had been stung by a wasp and stubbed her toe, and both sisters were still affected by the monster- a leviathan, Zekara had figured out by reading in the library- destroying their ship. In Zekara, this manifested as a foggy weariness, a heavy slowness that bogged down her limbs and mind.
In Claire, it appeared as a bright flame of fury that anything could ignite.
She immediately turned and started yelling at him, and he started to yell back. Claire raised her fists and Zekara wearily grabbed the back of Claire’s cloak, stopping her in her tracks as she tried to advance towards the man. Instead, she started ranting louder and with more anger, silencing him and eventually causing him to slowly start backing away.
“I’ll drive my sword into your gut and I’ll tear your eyes out, I swear on me mum!” Sometimes, Zekara wondered where Claire had gotten this particular bit of her accent- the sisters had certain words that they said completely differently from one another, and she quietly decided that it had been Claire’s father to teach her that particular bit of pronunciation.
“Mom’s dead, Claire,” Zekara said tiredly, feeling the words drop from her mouth to the street below. Her eyes were half-lidded, unfocused- this happened often enough to not worry her, her mind drifting back to the night of the leviathan attack.
“I swear on me mum’s grave!”
“Mom was cremated.”
“Me mum’s ashes!”
“Her ashes were scattered into the ocean and probably don’t exist anymore.” Maybe that’s why we did so well for so long.
“Then I swear on the ocean, who is also me mum!”
“For fuck’s sake, Claire.”
Claire turned around to glare at her, finally forcing Zekara’s eyes to focus on her sister’s furious red eyes. “Just let me at him!”
"If you had been paying attention instead of making threats, you would have noticed he was gone."
Claire whirled around furiously, searching for him, and finally stomped her feet in frustration. Zekara finally let go of the cloak and crossed her arms as Claire started ranting again. “What a coward! I could have kicked his ass any day, I-”
Zekara’s head turned to see a woman- no, a girl- slightly shorter than her with black hair and a pair of blue-glassed goggles on her face. Behind her stood the oddest group of people that Zekara had ever seen and, coming from a pirate, that was saying something.
Something in Zekara shifted, looking at them, and she raised an eyebrow.
She had a funny feeling that things were about to change.
Kingdom of Kalt’on, Minecraftia. December 9, year 573. Time instance 483Z.
Froststalker slowly walked through the trees, feeling the heat of the day eat at him. He and Fatespeaker had passed across the Kalt’on border earlier that day, led on by Fatespeaker’s visions and his talk of death.
He had stayed behind, however, to set up a camp, insisting that what Frost sought was just ahead and that he should go alone.
Frost walked for another minute until he caught sight of them, two stones rising alongside the bases of the trees. A lump formed in his throat and he stumbled forward, looking at the names carved there before lowering his head.
Zekara and Claire.
So Speaker had been right. They were gone.
“I found you,” he whispered. “Just like I promised.”
At least their allies took Zekara’s body back to rest with Claire, a quiet voice in his head whispered. Speaker had told him bits and pieces of what had happened to them when it all flashed to him, in a rush, the moment that some kind of corruption had been purged from the world.
It didn’t matter, though. They were gone.
A hollow ache in his chest reminded him how he had abandoned them eight years ago on the plains of Traz’madar, and how he had almost never been able to leave Skullbit to search for them since. He had, unfortunately, through some cruel twist of fate, become Clanlord of the Shadefangs. Speaker told him of the outsiders that Zekara and Claire had journeyed with- including those outsiders that had been in Ashwatch during the hatching of the valk’vanor- and how they were good people, for the most part.
The survivors, anyway.
Frost’s eyes paused as he read over their graves once more, pausing on their last names.
He did the math in his head. Zekara had been eighteen when she died, and he had known Ferona…
He fell to his knees.
Zekara Aklena. Strong, quick, determined, durable Zekara, with her familiar green eyes and grin, too powerful to be a regular human but he had known that she must be, she must have been, there was no way…
Zekara Aklena. Daughter of Ferona Aklena, she had to be.
Daughter of Ferona.
Daughter of Froststalker.
He had met his own daughter and hadn’t even known it until eight years later, until after she was gone.
Claire wasn’t his, there was no way, but Zekara…
“Mommy said he ran away to serve a dragon lord. I think he’s dead, though. People don’t run away to serve dragon lords.”
That’s what had happened, wasn't it? He had to leave to serve Vallor’roth, just as he had to leave Zekara and Claire.
A pained laugh made of glass and daggers forced its way from his lungs.
Zekara. My daughter.
He remained there until Fatespeaker, his wonderful friend Fatespeaker, came to get him, placing a hand on his shoulder and helping him up.
He knew, Frost realized. He knew, but he didn’t want to hurt me.
He didn’t speak for the rest of the night, gazing up into the sky as the blue dimmed to black and the stars shone like eyes in a snowstorm.
Zekara Aklena, Frostborn.