The Winner Takes It All
Kai Blin

All sails set, the 'Lady in Black' sped over the waves. The pirates that were off duty had gathered on deck and were sitting in a jollt round singing gruesome pirate songs.

Thorbjørn stood at the rail and watched the moon. He didn't feel like singing at all. Every time he saw one of the dolphins that accompanied the 'Lady' jump out of the water he had to think of Sheyla. He let out a slow sigh. Suddenly he became aware of someone standing beside him. It was Small. She was watching him intensely, with her big eyes fixed on his face.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I just miss her." Thorbjørn sighed again. "I don't think I will ever see her again. To meet the love of your life only to loose her a couple of hours later, how can fate be that cruel?"

"Nonsense!" Small insisted. "The captain has some score to settle with this Angus guy. And she never stops before she has it her way. I know her."

They stood quiet for a while, watching the moon.

Some nautical miles away, another sad pair of eyes was watching the moon, too. Sheyla still had no idea what these beasts wanted to do with her. It seemed that the wanted to bring her to a greater beast. Perhaps the great beast liked yummy little princesses that strayed too far from their homes.

If merfolk knew how to cry she would surely have, trapped in a small tub far away from all her friends and companions. Unbeknownst to her, another person stood watching the moon. Angus hated the moon. It'd always evoke some weak feelings inside him. It made him think of her. How he had loved her. This ingrate little...

With a gnarl he turned around and yelled "Hey, keep the course, Harris! Your poor excuse for a helmsman! More starboard, you fool! We don't want to hit a coral reef!" She had been a better...

With a loud curse he turned and went into his cabin.

The moon's popularity rating seemed to be very high on this particular night, as there was even another person looking at it. Captain Iceheart stood next to Dolphin, who had taken the helm himself for the trip through the reefy shallows.

"Cap.." He said. "Cap! Hey, Cap!"

Iceheart flinched and looked at him "Hmm? Yes?"

"I'd need someone I can trust in the tops to have as lookout. Someone who's not going to fall asleep in two minutes."

"Oh, right. I'll see to that." She strode away.

Hell, I wonder what this moon does to people sometimes, Dolphin mused. He couldn't recall ever being in love with something else as the sea, and as he was always surrounded by it, he had never been lovesick.

"You know," Small told  Thorbjørn, "there's something I have to tell you..."

She was interrupted by the captain shouting "Small, get your lazy bum on the top. There's reefs out there."

"Aye captain!" Small turned back to Thorbjørn.

"Now, dammit!" Captain Iceheart yelled. "On the double!"

"Aye, captain." Small said, looking glum. But what else could she do?

Thorbjørn watched Small climb up to the crow's nest. What did she want to tell him? It couldn't have been that important. He dismissed the thought. Turning around again he stared at the moon until it sunk into the sea.

Captain Iceheart had just retired to her cabin, or so it seemed to her, as Small cried out

"Ahoy on deck, sails ahead!"

So Iceheart rushed out of her cabin, struggling to get into her shirt again. As she reached the deck, she saw Dizzy readying the ship for battle. Thorbjørn stood amidst them, looking a bit lost. She walked over to him and grabbed a boarding-axe.

"Here, can you use one of these?" Thorbjørn took it with a grim look on his face.

"I'll do my very best" he promised.

"That'll have to do." Iceheart nodded. She moved astern and raised her voice.

"Ok crew! Ahead is the ship of Angus the Red. If we reach it, I want you people to board it and kill that scum. Leave him to me! I expect to be in boarding range by noon. Those not at duty, go and get some rest. I'll personally keel-haul everybody I catch with a bottle of rum from now on." Briskly she turned and took her position next to the helm.

"You should get some rest, too." She told Dolphin. "I can take the helm now, and Dizzy can handle the other things."

"Bah, captain. Sleep is for the weak and sickly. When I was your age..."

"Oh, cut it out. Your just one year older than I am, and you know that I know that you know that." Dolphin just smiled and turned his attention back to his work.

"Ahoy on deck, sails aft!" the sailor in the crow's nest yelled.

"Ye devil!" Angus cursed.

He grabbed his telescope and had a closer look. His heart jumped as he recognized the ship. It was the 'Lady in Black' So it was her. A smile appeared on his face. Now he could settle this deal for once and all.

"Rogers!" he barked "prepare to trim the sails, but do it slowly. I don't want them to notice too early."

"Aye, captain!"

"All crew to station! Prepare to jibe!"

"Aye captain!"

"Attention crew! The ship following us is the 'Lady in Black'! It's the boat that has women aboard, even a female captain! We'll show them how nasty a bunch of real pirates can get. Everybody who catches a girl can keep her!"

"Aye, aye!" The crew roared.

"Ok, now trim the sails and jibe!"

The crew rushed to obey. All of them hadn't seen a girl for a while.. not counting that weird girl like ceature in the tub. And they all thought about the price a good looking girl would get them on the slave market.

"Ahoy on deck, the ship's coming about!"

"All crew to their stations! Let's get them." Iceheart watched as the crew rushed to their assigned station.

A bunch of great boys and girls she had here. She prayed to all the gods she knew that the losses wouln't be too great. Angus seemed very confident in his crew's strength if he turned and didn't try to outsail them. She saw that the aft guard was complete, and the fo'c'sle was manned, too.

"Prepare the grappling hooks!" She straightened her back. Oh well, he wouldn't get her alive. Not again. But she would first try to get him for good.

Both ships were in range now, grappling hooks flew back and forth. Icehart lifted her rapier.

"Chaaaaaarge!" she screamed and grabbed a line and swung over.

Angus was just about to command the attack as he heard her voice yell "Charge!" on the 'Lady'. Oh well, fighting on my own ship gives me the home bonus, he thought. She landed just in front of him.

"So we meet again, sweetie." He said.

"You wish. Prepare to meet the sea devils!" Iceheart contered and attacked.

Farther down on the ship,  Thorbjørn had swung over with Small and Dolphin. They fought shoulder to shoulder, but then Thorbjørn saw Sheyla in the tub.

"Sheyla! I'm coming to get you!" He screamed and ran off to get her.

"No! Wait!" Small cried. "Damn you!"

She ran after him. Dolphin was so busy fending off the two pirates that were threatening him that he didn't notice. Suddenly Small found herself facing a huge pirate, with one sabre in each hand.

"Oh sh*t!" she muttered. Raising her own sabre in a defensive stance, she prepared for the attack.

Sheyla heard her name being called and looked up.

"Thorbjørn! You're here?" she exclaimed. "Watch out!"

Thorbjørn noticed a movement to his left and whirled around. This movement saved his life. Metal clanged against metal as another sabre conneted with his axe instead of his neck. With a snarl he launched himself on the pirate. Meanwhile, aft was the stage for the fiercest battle aboard. With the rapier blades moving faster than the eye could really follow, Angus and Iceheart fought in grim silence.

Small desperately tried to hold off the hailstorm of metal trying to tear her apart. She dodged and feinted as good as she could manage, and finally got a feeling for her opponent. He was big and had two sabres, but he was relying on sheer force. Trying to recall all of the training she had received from Iceheart she finted again and then drove her blade home. It slipped between the big pirates ribs straight into his heart. Small let out a whoop of triumphe and then she heard a thudding sound and the world around her lost focus.

Bleeding from multiple cuts, Dolphin saw Small go down but there was nothing he could do for her.

"Smaaaal!" he cryed in agony.

His scream went mostly unheard in the overall noise of fighting. Iceheart heard it, and she lost some of her concentration for a split second. Angus imediately seized the chance, and with a twist of his blade, he sent Icehearts rapier flying.

"So, honey, what are you going to do now?" He asked, grinning wildly.

Iceheart took a step backwards and slowly raised her hands

"Looks like you got me." she pressed out between tight lips.

Angus quickly glanced over the raging battle.

"And you're crew is loosing, too. I will get a nice price for your girls on the slave market. But don't worry, I have my special plans for you, sweetheart. I guess the winner takes it all, eh?"

Another fighter heard Dolphin's cry. Dizzy's vision was clogged by a red fog, like it happened sometimes if he got really involved in a fight.. He liked the fog, it added color to the battle, or so he'd say. With a quick slash of his axe, he finished off his opponent and rushed towards Small. Literally blowing his enemies away with this axe sweeps, he only hoped he could get to her in time. Thorbjørn, fighting with his back to Sheyla's tub now had his own problems. You got yourself in a really nice tight spot there, he cursed himself. His left arm was dangling uselessly at his side, a deep cut spilled his blood on the floor. Fighting against the darkness that was trying to invade his vision as well as his opponent, he had a real full time job.

As Small's vision cleared again, she was lying on the floor, a pirate standing above her. She had lost her sabre somehow.

"Looky there" the pirate drooled "a cute one."

He reached down, grabbed her shirt and ripped it apart. "Oh, a really cute one. You'll be...ay!"

Small raised her arms to block the pirate from falling on her and lowered the foot she had planted in his groin.

"Never come too close to your enemy, stupid!" she sneered at the pirate who was writhering on the deck.

Small grabbed the sabre the now-eunuch pirate had dropped. She wirled around to get an overview of the battle. She noticed Iceheart being in a really tight spot.

"Ice!" she cried and hurled her sabre over to her. Both Iceheart and Angus looked as they heard the cry, and this time it was Angus who got distracted by Small's 'outfit'. Iceheart seized the situation and caught the sabre. Too late Angus realized what was going on. He brought his rapier up into a parade, but he miscalculated the fact that Iceheart now had a sabre. His block was knocked away and suddenly there was a gap in his torso. Disbelieving, he felt along the edges with his left hand. It came up wet and red. His face still a mask of utter surprise, he dropped to his knees.

"The winner takes it all, as you said, sweetheart, but never talk of winning before the battle is over." Iceheart croaked. She had a lump in her throat, all of a sudden.

Dizzy nearly halved another pirate, and then he stood in front of Small. Through the red haze, he barely recognized her, but she launched herself into his arms. The tingeling of her breasts against his was a senstion that somehow pierced the fog.

He dropped his axe and pulled Small as close to him as he could, mumbeling "Don't do that again, don't ever do that again."

Thorbjørn had to lean against the tub now, one tip of a rapier having pierced his thigh muscle. But he still swun his axe, is a purely mechanical way. When he felt a strong clang against his axe, and heard a dropping sound, he was barely conscious enough to realize he had lost his axe. At least I'm dying defending my true love he though. Closing his eyes and pulling himself up in an upright position, he awaited the final blow. It was different than he expected. It felt more like a hug from... he opened his eyes again. In front of him, he saw Dolphin, his mouth moving. On the edge of his vision, he could see some surrendering pirates. But around his shoulders, he saw green arms. He turned carefully, as not to loose those arms and looked right into Sheyla's face. As they started kissing, the blackness won. He collapsed to the floor.

Scraps of conversation invaded his head. As his blurry surroundings gained focus, he again saw Sheyla's face close to his.

"I'm not dead?" he asked. Sheyla just gave him a long kiss. "What do you think?" she asked.

"I hope I am, because you're here, and afterlife lasts forever. But as long as I'm with you, everything is fine with me."

His musings were interrupted by Sheyla kissing him again.... He didn't even notice the other people standing around him, Iceheart, Dolphin, Dizzy and Small. The former three were smiling, and the latter was cying tears of joy. All four had realized that there was more to life than just killing. As they retreated from the kissing couple,

Iceheart said "You know what? I think we should get this bloody wizard next. Without him this wouldn't have happened."

Dolphin stepped beside her and pointed at Dizzy, who was again hugging the crying Small. "Steffi, one day you need to learn timing. Today is not a day to talk about any more killing."

The END.