25 Cylus 719
"You should've changed docks," Maxine's harsh murmur cut through the dark Cylus air. The sailor adjusting the rigs of his ship paused at the sound of her voice. His rough, worn hands hesitated for but a moment before returning to their task. He didn't turn around. He didn't need to. The tone of the stranger's voice had spelled out trouble and he'd known trouble all his life. Max stared at his turned back.
"You were an easier man to find than I expected." she continued. A gust of wind off the ocean disturbed her raven hair.
"Aye," the sailor agreed with her, nodding firmly. "That's 'cause I ain't hidin'. It look like I was?"
"No. You should've been."
"Maybe." Only then, and when his task was finished, did he turned around to face the ghost on the deck. His wise eyed widened at the sight of her. His face paled and his foot took a single backward step. "Shite! I remember you. I saw...you were? How did you--?"
"Survive?" Max asked the question on the tip on his tongue, weeding through his sputtering shock to cut to chase. "You're confused. I get it. Usually when you sail your bound prisoners out to sea, tie an anchor to their feet, and drop them overboard, they tend to drown. Don't they? Bad luck for you." The sailor tried to back away from her but found his hands braced against the railing of his ship deck instead. Max's expression darkened. "But I guess that's what you get when you try to drown a Rusalka. Bad. Fucking. Luck." The wheels of the man's brain were turning. Rusalka. Bad luck. Drowning. His wide eyes transitioned from surprise to panic. The change made Maxine smile grimly.
"Good. You're getting it now."
The sailor made a move to dart, but the Rusalka was quicker. She lunged after him, gripping him by the shoulders and hurling him down onto the deck. She dropped a knee onto his chest and leaned forward toward his shaking frame. One of her throwing daggers slipped into her right hand. She adjusted her jaw as she stared down at the sailor. He merely stared back, muscles tensing. Any moment know he'd make his decision: give in or fight the woman who defied a death he'd fated her to. She didn't give him the chance.
"Let's go chat, yeah?" she said, leaning over and ripped a docking rope from the floor of the deck. She slipped the loose end through the pre-knotted loop and slipped the make-shift noose around the sailor's neck. In the next trill she was moving toward the familiar cabin. The sailor dragged behind her, his feet desperately kicking along the deck to keep up with her and avoid the wretched choking of the noose. She ripped him down the stairs and dropped him, coughing and gagging where Marcel had once dropped her. She slapped the door closed and released her hold on the leash.
"You work for the Red Ravens," she stated while the man recovered. He raised a hand, trying to speak what she knew to be a protest. She pressed her lips together. "Enough. Don't bullshit me. You work with Marciel. You both work with Talara. You all work for the Raven. Whether you're in the gang or doing jobs for them on the side, I don't give a shit." Maxine's deep brown eyes roved the cabin floor. Streaks of red still colored the wood. Some of her blood didn't just buff out, it seemed. "That prick was an asshole. You might've put me in a watery grave, but you weren't like him. This is a duty for you, not a pleasure. Am I right?"
"You were the only one," his shaky voice rose, distant in memory.
"Only one what?"
"No last words. Usually people just get to beggin' me not to. Other ones want me to pass along a message to someone if I can. I asked you if you had any last words like I did all the others. Do you remember what you said?" Maxine just stared in reply. The sailor looked stoically up at her from the floor. "'Not for you.'" His brow knit. "Never had that before. Made me wonder."
"Why you thought you fuckin' deserved to hear them?"
"No. Just about who did, what them words were."
"Well you can quit wondering and start talking. Where the fuck is Marciel?"
The sailor frowned at that. He looked down at his fidgety hands and sighed. He shook his head slowly and then raised it with a sorrowful expression. Maxine clenched her fists. She looked to the dagger in her hand to the blood stains in the grains of the floor.
"Make it easy on both of us," Max told him, looking up from the weapon. "We both know how this goes."
"Aye," he said forlornly. "And you know what happens if I tell ya."
"You weren't like them. I don't want to treat you like them."
"I been in this life longer than you've been alive. I know how this ends. Do what you must."
"How does this end then?"
"Either you kill me or they do. The fuck's the difference?"
"Maybe I won't kill you."
"Don't tell me lies. I'm too fucking old and I've been in this game too long to hear them. I heard the stories about you. By what they say, it's not in your nature."
"Like anyone knows shit about my nature."
"That's not what they say."
"Do I look like someone who gives a fuck what they say about me?"
The sailor stared at her, blinking. Twice now she'd thrown him off balance. Max stood there, debating, and he could see the quandary clear on her face. Decisions, decisions. He wasn't the type to hold his breath. Max sighed and backed up. When she was within range, she dropped a hand back, swinging the door open to the above deck.
"Look," she snapped at him sternly. "You lead me to Marciel, you walk out the door. You have my word."
"Your word," the sailor laughed grimly. "The word of a convict?"
"The door or the knife." She brandished the throwing dagger in her other hand. "Choose."
"Fine." The sailor rose to his feet and rubbed at his neck. "I don't know where Marciel is. I'm not a Red Raven. That was the truth." He spied the rage building behind Max's frustrated gaze and quickly continued. "After I threw you overboard and rowed back, Marciel got a message. The Raven sent him a new target."
"Another of Talara's?"
"I don't think so. I think this was more personal."
"Some mercenary with the a new group calling themselves the Golden Edge. Linus, maybe. I haven't heard anything come from it yet. That's all I know."
Reluctantly, Maxine slipped her throwing dagger back into her belt. The sailor eyed her suspiciously but drew toward the opened door. The ex-convict made no move to stop him. He was halfway up to the deck when he turned.
"Max?" he called down to her quietly. She gazed up at him curiously. He glanced toward the town briefly then peer back toward her. "They still think you're dead. Use it to your advantage, no?"
"I plan on it," she remarked coolly. "I don't have to remind a seasoned veteran what happens if your lead doesn't pan out?"
"Goes without saying."
"You never saw me then."
But Marciel will soon.