The Curse of Blackscale Island

Author: Anonymous
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Chapter 8: Traitor's Blade

Even as void-tainted pirates spilled out from the cursed treasure chest and a blade shaved fur from her throat, Captain Gold-Smirk was focused only on the eyes of the woman who betrayed her. The violet eyes of her first mate. Suddenly, Gold-Smirk found her mind drifting to the first time they had met.

A drunken brawl that landed them both in an Aldmeri prison cell. How they were forced to swallow their pride and work together to escape. How eight picked locks and six subdued guards later, they were inseparable. Had all these years just been working towards this moment? A lie hidden behind those violet eyes. A lie that led to the release of Laryssa Blackscale's cursed crew.

"You've figured it out then, have you?" Her first mate said, as she turned to look out towards the battle that waged itself on the deck below. Gold-Smirk forced to watch as the crew they had built together over the years fought against an endless hoard of void empowered pirates aboard a burning ship.

"Laryssa Blackscale," Gold-Smirk said with a snarl, "you look good for someone who's supposed to be dead." Still, Gold-Smirk's mind drifted to their past. To the kegs they had emptied, the ships they had pilfered. She grew frustrated as she tried to center her mind on the battle. The betrayal. On finding a way to escape from beneath Laryssa's blade. But then Laryssa laughed.

The same laugh that had filled Darkwater Cove when they defeated the Ashen Pirate and taken his prized ship. The same laugh that had once comforted Gold-Smirk when they drifted through Thrassian waters with nothing but scraps of wood and a barrel of fermented figs to keep them afloat. The same laugh that used to make Gold-Smirk's whiskers tingle when the moons were full, and they had only their embrace to keep them warm.

"This whole time you thought you were chasing a ghost." Laryssa said. "But you were wrong, captain," the title oozing from her lips like poison. "This wasn't a chase. I lead you here like a dog on a leash." Her blade pressed harder against Gold-Smirk's throat, a fresh drop of blood wetting her pelt.

It was all too much. Too many memories to bury. Too many nights to forget. How could Evelyne—No. How could Laryssa so easily set their life together aside. But then Gold-Smirk saw the smallest quiver in Laryssa's lower lip. And how her first mate's eye wandered to the trickle of blood dripping from her blade's cut. And, most damning of all, the slight furrow of her brow. The gambling tell that Laryssa never was able to shake. This wasn't easy. In fact, this might be the hardest thing she's ever done.

"I understand," Gold-Smirk said with a sudden, newfound confidence. A confidence that surprised Laryssa, whose blade softened ever so slightly. "I can't imagine what it must've been like, Laryssa. Having to sail the seas for years knowing your crew was locked away."

"Not a day went by that I didn't think of them!" Laryssa shouted, a tremble in her voice.

"You misunderstand. This one meant no harm. Gold-Smirk can't imagine how hard it must've been. How much pain you've carried." Gold-Smirk took notice of the way Laryssa shifted her footing. Gold-Smirk steadied herself, getting ready for the moment to strike. "Why didn't you share this burden with me?"

"And admit what I'd done? Admit that I'd abandoned my crew? You could never understand this pain."

"But I can," Gold-Smirk said. Not with pity, but love. "And you know why?"

"Why," Laryssa started, but Gold-Smirk moved faster than words could form. All at once she was out from under Laryssa's blade, darting low and quick. Gold-Smirk's tail wrapped around Laryssa's foot and pulled it out from under her, sending her tumbling into the ship's helm. Before she knew what happened, Laryssa looked up at the tip of Gold-Smirk's blade.

"Because we're both good captains," Gold-Smirk said. "We'd both sail into Oblivion and beyond to save our crews." Gold-Smirk stepped back, gesturing with her blade's tip for Laryssa to stand. "And if the only way to save my crew is to strike down the love of my life—" she let the words linger in the air, heavier than the smoke that billowed from their flaming ship. "Then so be it."

Laryssa stood, blade outstretched. A tear rolling down her face, breaking against her sad smile. She nodded. "So be it."

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