The heroic trio successfully made it to the harbor village of Everest. The journey down the hill had been a quick one, this was due to the fact Bright tripped and tumbled down a majority of it with Catalina, Steve, and the chickens chasing after him. Bright attempted to play it off like it was no big deal, but this did not stop his friends from teasing him about it. Bright brushed the dirt off his clothes and strode confidently into the village with his head held high, ego bruised… and maybe also his shins.
As they approached the harbor area of the village, Bright’s anxiety slowly escalated. He found that there were more people than at the farmers’ market, if that was possible. He tried to swallow the lump forming in his throat, but it proved to be a formidable opponent. He gave up and let it fester. He felt Catalina’s stare as they maneuvered through the dense crowd. He knew that she knew that he was bothered despite his poor attempt to mask it. He just nodded, a gesture thanking her for being concerned and that he would be okay. She returned the nod, letting him know that if he needed anything, to ask. Steve watched this exchange and wondered if they had some kind of psychic link and were using it to talk about him. He wished.
They reached the heart of the village, which ironically wasn’t in the center, but by the docks. This area was known as The Anchor as it was the place where the sailors and pirates hung out. When they reached a water fountain built in honor of the great sea goddess Opheliana, Catalina decided it was a good place to rest. Bright was grateful for this opportunity to rest his feet. Steve dumped the pack on the ledge of the fountain and sat by it. He sighed in relief as he rotated his shoulders.
“Okay, you boys sit tight,” Catalina said, scanning the area.
“Where are you going?” Bright asked with more panic in his voice than he planned.
“I’m going to look for an old friend.” Catalina patted Bright on the head and smiled. “Don’t freak out, okay? I’m going to be right back. It shouldn’t take too long.” And with that, she moved into the crowd and was gone.
Bright clutched the front of his shirt and inhaled deeply. He glanced at Steve and smiled weakly. He was glad that Steve smiled back. The idea that he was stuck in a strange place with a stranger he met an hour ago shook him to the bone, but he supposed it could be worse; he could be without his chickens. He picked up the brown one and immediately applied her directly to his face. He inhaled her scent, which he thought would remind him of home, but instead caused him to sneeze in quick succession.
Steve saw this as an opportunity to start some conversation. “You alright there, buddy?”
Bright nodded his head and wiped his nose. He set down the chicken, who was not happy about being sneezed on. “I think so. That was not the best idea.”
Steve nodded. “So, you’re the savior, huh?”
Bright gave an “mm-mm” in response.
“Wow, that’s got to be a trip.” Steve whistled. He noticed that Bright looked confused.
“What’s a trip? In what context do you mean that?”
“Oh! Where I’m from, it means that it’s a head trip… a mind fuck!”
“It’s a real how-do-you-do.” Steve realized his parlance was not universal. “It must be putting a lot of pressure on you.” That got through. Bright’s face lit up with recognition.
“Totally! You understand.” Bright rested his face in his hands as he took a deep breath. “I’m trying so hard not to freak out. I did not expect my day to go like this when I woke up this morning, finding out I’m the Hero of Light. I mean, wouldn’t you freak out if you found out that everyone is depending on you to do a thing you’ve never done before?”
“I think if I found out I was Jesus, I think I might flip out.” Though, Steve silently admitted that he’d love to turn water into wine, which would be really handy on hard days… or just days.
“Who is Jesus?” Bright asked.
“Someone I used to know,” Steve added.
Bright and Steve exchanged warm glances.
“Aren’t you cold?” Bright touched Steve’s bare shoulder and gave it a light tap.
“Oh! No, not right now. All that walking kept me warm.” Steve had almost forgotten about giving his shirt away. It was now that he felt the breeze on his skin. I might require a shirt at some point, but right now I’m okay.”
“You can have one of mine, the pink one in particular,” Bright offered, chuckling.
“I don’t think I could rock the pink like you do.” Steve saw Bright blush at the compliment that doubled as avoidance.
Bright found himself watching the crowd, subconsciously searching for Catalina. He knew that she had just left, but he hoped against hope that she’d return right away. It was then that he saw him, Turducken moving through the swarm of people, making a beeline for him. He stood up and gave a slight yelp. “We gotta go!”
“But Boss Lady isn’t back yet,” Steve said as he hastily gathered their belongings. “What’s going on?”
“Bad news is coming.” He pointed to the man in black armor coming for them. “Let’s get a move on!”
“Moving on!” Steve picked up the pack and hoisted it upon his shoulders. Together the two of them made themselves scarce into the crowd in the opposite direction.
Turducken arrived only too late to the fountain. He knew they had just been there, but assured himself that they couldn’t get too far before he caught to them. They would pay for their insolence, but before that, he might ask them how they were able to do such intricate knots. They were truly impressive.
When Catalina walked through the saloon doors of The Rusty Anchor, she immediately felt all eyes were on her. While it was a familiar feeling, she did not enjoy it one bit. Every man inside looked her up and down and grinned as if dinner had finally arrived and they were starving. Try as she might, she could not ignore the greasy feeling each stare gave her. She entered the bar and scanned her surroundings, hoping her friend was there. There was no immediate sign of the them, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there.
All the men at the serving bar spun around in their chairs as she passed them. It was inevitable they would attempt to chat her up, but she was in no mood for that today. When one of the men parted their lips to speak, she raised a dismissive hand to his face, thus silencing him. This was mostly successful, but she was aware there would be one man who wouldn’t take no for an answer. She found him at the end of the bar.
“What, you’re too good to talk to me, honey?” The unwashed man stood up from his bar stool and posed before her. He chuckled as he flexed his unmighty muscles. “If you’re looking for a real man, look no further.”
Catalina scoffed. “You’re right. I should probably give up.” The man looked flattered for a second before he realized that she didn’t mean what he thought she did. She loved the look of slow actualization on his face and couldn’t contain her smile.
The man did not appreciate being made a fool. His face scrunched in anger as he leaned in. “You think you’re smart, don’t you?”
“Don’t ask questions to which you already know the answer.” Catalina leaned back as his body odor and breath became too much to withstand.
The man growled and clenched his fists. He was about to give this smart ass a beating she’d never forget when suddenly someone stepped between them. He blinked and saw that a bigger than life woman with long purple hair, ample bosom, and built like a brick house had stopped him from administering that beating.
“I think you might want to back the fuck off, Frank.” The woman crossed her arms which seemed to increase her thickness. “This one is a little too hot for you to handle, anyway. Do yourself a favor and take a seat.” She blew him a kiss with her hot pink lips and waved him away. Frank had no choice but to do as she said. She chose to ignore the ‘frigid bitches’ comment he not so subtly muttered under his breath. “You doin’ alright, Cat, honey?”
“Xury!” Catalina hugged her friend tightly as she could. “Thank you so much for saving me.”
Xury gave a loud laugh. “You didn’t need saving, he did. I just kept you from having to light his ass up.” She put her arm around Catalina and guided her to her table in the back of the bar. Once they were seated, Xury gave Catalina a long look. “You’re all grown up now. How old are you now?”
“23 and a half,” Catalina replied.
“You don’t look a day over 15.” Xury giggled as she observed Catalina’s embarrassment. “The last time I saw you, you were on your daddy’s ship, setting sail for the Crimson Islands. How is Captain Covarrubias these days?” She knew immediately that she had struck a nerve as Catalina’s red face had turned white. “Oh… I’m sorry.”
Catalina cleared her throat and nodded slightly. “It’s alright. He’s been missing for three years.”
“Oh my. How could I have not known that?” Xury kicked herself mentally for not keeping closer tabs on her friends. “You don’t think he’s dead, do you?”
“No. I believe he’s still out there, somewhere, wanting to come home.” Catalina wanted to give the outward appearance of having hope, but deep down, she was sure her father was dead. Captain Catalano Covarrubias was resourceful. If he hadn’t found a way home by now, then he was most likely dead from trying.
“Do you need help finding him, hon?” Xury felt the least she could do was offer her assistance to make up for sticking her foot in her mouth.
“I’m not looking for him right now,” Catalina looked into Xury’s big brown eyes and smiled. “But I do need your help with something else.”
Xury’s eyes lit up with excitement. Anything she could do to help forget about her faux pas, she was down for. “You name it and it’s yours!”
“I need a ship to sail to Skipper’s Island. I’m on a quest to obtain the Armor of Light from there.” Catalina looked around the bar to see if anyone was paying too much attention to them. For the first time, she realized Queen Ravena’s enemies could be anywhere. She told herself she should exercise more caution when talking about her mission out loud.
“My ship and my crew are at your disposal,” Xury replied.
“Thank you, Captain.” Catalina bowed her head in reverence.
“Aww, that’s Xury to you, hon.” She patted Catalina on the head and ruffled her hair a bit. They both chuckled as they stood up to leave.
As they made their way to the door, Xury made a deliberate beeline to Frank and acted like she was going to smack him across the face. Frank whimpered and cowered before he realized that Xury was messing with him. She immediately punched him twice on the arm. “Two for flinching.” She gave a hearty laugh as she walked out. The other men snickered at Frank and promptly teased him mercilessly for the rest of his stay.
Steve and Bright pushed their way through the sailor crowd in their desperate attempt to get away from Turducken. Steven didn’t want to tell Bright they were possibly just creating a clear path to them. Running seemed to be more important than logic at this point. Neither one of them wanted to risk looking back to see how far or close Turducken was behind them. They kept their eyes forward and moved quickly. Steve knew that they would reach the end of the docks eventually. He hoped Bright would have an idea of what to do when that happened. Judging from the terrified expression on Bright’s face, there was probably no possibility of that happening.
Bright’s mind was swimming with panic. With Catalina away, how was he going to survive this encounter? Sure, he had access to weapons now, but he had no idea how to use them. He was a chicken farmer, not a fighter! How could anyone expect him to be able to fight against darkness with zero training? He resented the fact that someone knew about his destiny and neglected to embed themselves into his life and teach him the things he needed to know to accomplish this huge task. Isn’t that how these things happened in those fancy novels he never took the time to read? It wasn’t fair! It was bullshit, that’s what it was.
Bright could sense that Turducken wasn’t too far behind. The inevitability of having to face him was all too evident. They were nearing the end of the docks, nowhere else to run. The crowd was thinning out, no more cover. He closed his eyes and reluctantly said, “We have to stop. I have to fight him.”
Steve grabbed a sword from the pack and handed it to Bright. It just so happened to be the one that Catalina picked out for him. He observed the panicked look on Bright’s face as he held it.
“I’m not sure what to do with this,” Bright said.
“Umm, stabbing people is usually the idea.” Steve made the stabbing motion accompanied by the obligatory “wreee-wreee wreee-wreee” noises, which Bright did not understand.
“Finally, I have found you!” Turducken arrived, haunched over and panting. “You sure can run. This armor makes running more than five minutes a beast.” When he caught his breath, he stood up and posed with his hands on his hips. He saw Bright’s sword and chuckled. The boy was ready to fight. He did not expect this. The boy had demonstrated such cowardice before, so seeing him stand before him with weapon drawn was a drastic development in the last hour. He was impressed.
“I see you are ready for battle, so let us begin!” Turducken summoned his black sword and brandished it so the sun’s light reflected off its black blade. He shouted his battle cry as he rushed toward Bright.
This was already too much for Bright. As much as he would have liked to have stood fast to meet his foe, his feet had other plans. They took running in the opposite direction, screaming for dear life. The crowd made room for prey and predator as the battle began. Bright ran toward the end of the dock. He thought about just jumping into the water, but he knew he’d drown. Then he took a moment to decide whether drowning would be preferable to being skewered by a sword.
A hand pulled him back from the edge. Bright spun around frantically waving his hands to beat off the stranger, only to find it was Steve. He relaxed for a moment until he saw that Turducken was right behind them. “AHHHH!”” Bright raised his sword just in time to deflect Turducken’s blade from cutting off Steve’s head. With a little shove on his end, Bright was able to push the Black Knight back long enough for him and Steve to leave the spot.
“That was really good, Hero,” Turducken said with such pride. “You are truly learning!”
Bright pushed Steve behind him while he raised his sword, challenging him to come get him. When the knight accepted the challenge, the two of them engaged in battle. This battle mostly consisted of Bright tapping Turducken’s sword and then running to another spot on the dock. The crowd now surrounded the two of them, so running away was no longer an option. So Bright made due with dodging and relocating.
“You can do it, man!” Steve shouted from the sidelines. “Stab him! Cut him! Put him in a stew!”
“A stew?” Bright asked out loud. “What the hell, man!”
“Sorry, I’m just so excited.” Steve had always seen these fights in movies, but never once thought he’d actually witness one. Best. Day. Ever!
Bright was really good at defending himself, but did not know what he needed to do to make an attack. He supposed if he survived this fight, he’d learn it later. As he thought that thought, he was blindsided by Turducken’s last swing, which knocked his sword out of his hand. The clatter of it hitting the wooden floor snapped him out of his thought. Once he realized what happened, he gasped. The edge of the black blade tapped his chin when Bright attempted to reach his sword.
“You’ve done very well, Hero.” Turducken pressed the blade harder to Bright’s chin. “You’ve really improved!”
“Stop complimenting me and just kill me before I die of embarrassment,” Bright pleaded.
Turducken had a big cheesy grin on his face. Their last encounter had worried him. He thought his mission to kill Bright was going to be harder than he anticipated. He didn’t want to disappoint his aunt anymore than she already was. But now, his confidence was boosted by this simple victory. Ravena would have no choice but to recognize him as the warrior he’d become since her imprisonment. How he was going to enjoy basking in her accolades while she ate crow. He was already envisioning it, but this was cut short when he felt a wave of heat coming from behind him. He turned around and saw a large fireball sailing at his face. He wasn’t able to dodge fast enough to evade it. It burst on his shoulder and the flames licked the right side of his face. He fell to the ground, giving Bright the opportunity to run away.
“You miss me?” Catalina asked Turducken. She stood defiantly among the crowd, gazing at her fallen enemy.
“YES!” Bright said as he ran to her. He quickly stood behind her and stuck his tongue out at Turducken as he rose to his feet.
“This wasn’t your fight, priestess.” Turducked touched his face and winced at the sticky hot pain. “This was between the Hero and myself.”
Catalina prepared another fireball and tossed it up and down in her hand. “If you want the Hero, you have to go through me.
Turducken sneered at these terms. “Fine.” He made a step in her direction, but stopped when he saw a large woman with purple hair and several other people of various sizes appeared around him.
“And if you want to get to me, you have to go through them.” Catalina smirked while Turducken took in the reality of his situation. His margin of victory was diminishing quickly. “So, how do you like them apples?”
Turducken growled as he made the decision to retreat. He wanted to say something like, ‘I’ll be back!’ or ‘Watch your back,’ but what came out was, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”
“My chickens!” Bright gasped and immediately began looking for his chickens. When he saw they were safe and all accounted for, he breathed a sigh of relief. “You touch my chickens, I’ll kill you!” But Turducken was already gone.
Steve emerged from the crowd and patted Bright on the back. “What a weird exit declaration. I guess he’s never heard of ‘I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!’”
“Who’s Gadget?” Bright asked.
“Never mind.” Steve shrugged, not having the desire to explain his favorite cartoon show.
Catalina shoved Steve out of the way so that she could shake some sense into Bright. “What the hell were you thinking going up against the Black Knight on your own? You have no training! You could have been killed!”
“Oh, you think?” Bright replied. “Maybe next time you won’t abandon me in a place where people want to kill me!”
Catalina wanted to say something that would make him feel silly for trying to fight, but he had a point. Their enemies could be anyone and anywhere, striking at any time. She should not have left him alone. She merely sighed her apology and tapped Bright on the head. “I’ll be sure to take it under advisement. Now come on, we’ve got a boat to catch.”
Catalina introduced Steve and Bright to Captain Xury DeFoe and her crew. Once all of the preparations were made, everyone got on board the Roaming Lightning Shrike and set sail for Skipper’s Island.
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