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Excerpt: On Her Own (Unedited from The Compass Key)

By Kayla Matt

Kira slips onto the balcony and closes the door behind her, the ocean air making her shiver with excitement. She climbs onto the railing and eyes the thick anchor chain that is a feet around the side of the ship. Uncoiling her weapon, she silently prays to Cessia the luck goddess and prepares to leap out into the open air. Before she can second guess her decision, Kira jumps off the railing and whips the club end of her weapon at the anchor chain. It catches and gives her enough leverage to swing onto the chain.

“Is the anchor moving?” asks a voice from the other ship, causing Kira to freeze.

“It’s probably a fish bumping into it,” answers a voice from her own ship.

Kira crawls up the anchor chain and slips onto the deck where several chaos elves are standing guard. She hides on top of a barrel to avoid anyone bumping into her, enjoying the fact that nobody can see her. Her huge merchant vessel sits between two of the chaos elf ships, its masts spanning the gaps between them.

“At least the sails are bound. That should make this easier,” she whispers before she can stop herself.

“Show yourself!” demands a chaos elf from her left. He approaches with his spear held out and focuses on the area behind the barrel.

Kira hops off the barrel, her shoes making a barely audible thud on the deck that is easily mistaken for the ship bumping into the padded part of the dock. She carefully makes her way to the main mast while coiling her weapon around her arm. Without hesitation, she clambers up the main mast until she reaches the longest boom. Crawling onto the long beam, Kira moves along toward the port side of the ship. It is painstakingly slow progress due to her fear and the growing wind from the coming storm.

“I can’t waste time,” she mutters as she stands.

Waiting for a break in the wind, Kira steels her nerves and eyes the chaos elf ship. Once the wind stops, she sprints along the boom and leaps for the other ship. The wind kicks up and moves the boom she was aiming for. Twisting in mid-air, Kira reaches out with her weapon’s sickle and catches it in the wooden beam. It is enough of a hold that she can flip onto the boom and clings there while her heart thuds in her chest.

“Doing this for Luke. Have to remember that I’m doing this insane, suicidal stunt for the man I love with all my heart,” Kira whispers before she stands and makes her way to the main mast. A wry smile crosses her face as she reaches the ladder. “If I die doing this, he better name one of his future kids after me. I’ll haunt him if he doesn’t honor me.”

“Who’s there?” asks a chaos elf from the crow’s nest.

Kira continues climbing until she is within reach of the crow’s nest. She reaches over to pull herself around the edge, her legs leaving the safety of the ladder. The guard is staring down the ladder and never hears Kira sneak over the railing behind him. Before he can call for help, Kira kicks out his knees and wraps her chain around his neck. She pulls back hard, hoping to make him pass out, but she hears the sickening snap of his neck. The body slumps at her feet and she pulls it out of view.

“Oh my god, I just killed someone,” she gasps, touching the guard’s face. She kneels next to the body and gently closes his eyes. “I did it for Luke. People die all the time and this guy is one of the bad guys. I . . . I need to forget this until I can handle it.”

“Fizzle here,” says the drite as he appears on the railing with his tail wrapped around four spears. He cocks his head to the side when he notices Kira is crying. “Kira sad. What we do?”

“We finish this,” Kira mutters. She cuts a length of rope and grabs a spear, which she lashes to the crow’s nest. “Do you know any spells that can help me move quickly? I want to get this over with.”

“First kill. Hard on heart,” Fizzle softly whispers. “He no suffer. Fizzle sense quick death.”

“Not really a comfort, Fizzle,” Kira admits with a deep sigh. “Now, cast something on me to help me get to the other ships.”

“Fizzle do it,” he mentions, pointing at the rope with his snout. “Kira not clear. Kira need rest.”

“This just started, Fizzle. I’m not quitting because I’m upset,” Kira argues, ignoring the fresh tears on her face. “Please cast a spell on me to help me move quickly.”

Fizzle stares at his friend with worry in his eyes, but hisses a spell that makes Kira’s body tingle. “Now you like cat.”

“Thank you, Fizzle.”

Kira feels lighter on her feet and leaps onto the boom, her landing perfect due to magically enhanced balance. She races across the boom and vaults back to her ship. The invisible heiress hurries through the rigging like a phantom, her trail of swinging ropes mistaken as movement from the brewing storm. Reaching the end of her ship, Kira leaps at the next chaos elf vessel and gracefully lands on the deck between two chaos elves. They whirl around with their swords drawn, but she is already sprinting toward the main mast.

“This is so much easier,” Kira says as she climbs into the vacant crow’s nest. Fizzle is already waiting for her, his eyes nervously darting around. “Relax, Fizzle. This will all be over soon enough. Then you can nap and I can cry.”

“Fizzle feel wrong,” the drite whimpers, releasing a spear for Kira to lash to the crow’s nest. “Air feel dark.”

“It’s just the storm,” Kira contends, gesturing toward the dark clouds that are nearly upon them. She hops onto the railing and stretches her arms. “We’re both invisible and-”

A high-pitched whine catches her attention and she tumbles back before a serrated disc whizzes through the space where her head used to be. The chaos elves are scrambling around the deck with their weapons, none of them appearing to know what is going on. In the middle of the chaos is a bald gnome in ugly clothing. His goggled eyes are looking directly at Kira and the odd gauntlet on his hand hums as another disc grows out of it.

“I see you, girl, so come on down!” Nyder demands from the deck. “You’re alone and outnumbered!”

“Take the rope and finish the job, Fizzle. I don’t think he can see you,” Kira whispers, slipping the rope over her head. She stares down at the gnome, disgusted by his ugly grin. “I’ll keep him business until you can come back for me. Your spells should give me an edge and I think I can avoid that thing.”

“Fizzle no like plan,” the drite insists. He picks up the rope with his legs and hovers behind Kira. “You no warrior.”

“I was trained by Selenia. That’s enough for me to call myself a warrior,” Kira growls, letting her training rise to the surface of her mind. “Just get those spears up before the griffins attack. You might only have minutes.”

“I promise not to kill you, Lady Grasdon! You’re an important hostage!” Nyder shouts up to her. He removes the gauntlet and slips on a pair of blue leather gloves. “I hope you won’t force me to damage you!”

Kira steps off the crow’s nest and bounces down the rigging, taking full advantage of Fizzle’s spell. She leaps off the lowest boom and swings the club end of her silent weapon at Nyder. The gnome puts up his right hand to block the attack and fires a bolt of force at Kira. It hits her in the chest, sending her crashing against a guard, who is knocked overboard. She holds her side where the guard’s sword nicked her, the wound stinging more than hurting. Sprinting to the side, she avoids another blast and swings the sickle.

“You can’t hurt me,” Nyder casually mentions, deflecting the attack. He fires again and yawns while watching Kira leap over the barely visible blast. “You nearly escaped, which I give you credit for. I assume that drite helped you and he’s long gone by now. You should have tried to sneak off your own ship instead of onto mine.”

“I had to leave by my balcony, so my options were limited,” she responds, playing along with Nyder’s assumptions. A guard charges toward where he heard his voice, but he swings a few feet to her right. “That’s so sad.”

Nyder fires at Kira, who dives out of the way, letting the blast knock the guard across the deck. She hits the ground with one hand and springs onto a crate, leaning away from another bolt of force. When Nyder fires again, she jumps over the blast and swings her sickle at his left side. At the same time he blocks the attack, she swings the club end at his right. The club hits his knee, breaking the bone and sending him to the ground.

“You spoiled child!” Nyder shrieks, unused to such agony. He struggles to his feet and limps toward the stairs. “If you want to escape then that is your choice. I did my best and refuse to put myself in any more danger.”

Nyder’s eyes turn black as he reaches the stairs and he pauses, sweat appearing on his brow. He stares at Kira, shaking his head in disbelief. A crack of thunder and flash of lightning brings his attention to the sky. Looking toward the mountain, he can see a flock of griffins heading for the ships. The gnome’s face pales when he realizes that something life-threatening is about to happen.

“Get up here, Vile!” Nyder shouts, limping toward the wheel. He turns to blast Kira with a force blast before she can react, knocking her against the main mast. “Stay put! Everyone else get this ship moving!”

“What is going on up here?” Vile asks as he climbs above deck. The shirtless halfling hurries to the wheel and wrestles control from Nyder. “Don’t be scared of griffins and a small storm.”

“That invisible wench did something to the ships. I’m sure that drite had something to do with it,” Nyder insists, pointing at the invisible Kira. “I had a void when I tried to go below decks. It vanished when I back preparations to pull out to sea.”

Vile frowns at the gnome and looks in the direction of Kira, unable to see her. “We can’t abandon Trinity and the city.”

“Both will be fine,” Nyder assures him. He sits down on a crate, wincing at the pain in his leg. “Trinity is a survivor and I have a special surprise nearby for those griffins. Still, it is best that we stay out of the battle. We can return to pick up Trinity, the Magic Hunter, and the compass key once the storm passes. Trust me, Vile. I never joke about voids.”

“You never joke at all,” the halfling states with a shiver from the cold breeze. He looks across the deck at the bustling chaos elves. “Prepare to depart and battle our way through to the ocean! We will not stop for an attack, so archers take your fire bows and assume defense positions now!”

Kira stands and feels a tingle run over her body. Several chaos elves stop to stare at her, their hands going for their weapons. She looks up at Vile, who stares at her and drops his hand for a shortsword that is not there. The sound of the anchor rising and the sails unfurling galvanize the young woman into action. The ship begins to move out of port as she sprints around the mast and bolts for the front of the ship.

“Shoot her in the leg!” Vile orders the archers before a bolt of lightning strikes the deck. The blast blows a hole down to the hold, which causes Vile to curse into the wind. “Forget her! Fire at the griffins and get us out to sea!”

Boosted by Fizzle’s spell, Kira is able to race along the bowsprit and launch herself off the ship. They have already pulled several yards away, so she swings her weapon to slam it into a wooden bollard. She crashes into the stone of the dock and hangs above the water, watching the ship pull out to sea. Kira pulls herself up to the dock and stumbles to the safety of the nearby buildings while sound of griffins screeching and thunder roaring fills the air.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.

15 comments on “Excerpt: On Her Own (Unedited from The Compass Key)

  1. Okay, I’m behind. What’s “Compass Key?”

  2. Another great piece Charles.

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