Three weeks later
The Morning Star sailed slowly across the Meribian
Sea, the cool evening breeze guiding it through the sapphire-blue
water. The ship's crew was preparing dinner for the passengers,
and the smell of cooking food drifted throughout the whole ship,
whetting the appetites of all aboard.
Ghaleon watched Dyne as he stood at the stern of the ship,
practicing his fire magic. Never had Ghaleon seen anybody master
magic as quickly as Dyne had. In the three weeks since they
left Vane, Dyne had learned several powerful flame and healing
spells, and was highly skilled at using them. He had even learned
a couple of vigor spells to increase his speed and strength
in battle. I knew that he had a great potential for magic,
but not to this degree! What kind of power will he have when
he gets older? Is it that his adventure in Vane kick-started
his interest, or... did Lemia, by helping me teach him magic,
have anything to do with it?
He approached Dyne, who was still concentrating on his Flame
"You'd better be careful with that spell," said Ghaleon. "This
ship is made of wood, you know. You don't want to set the ship
Dyne stopped chanting, and the magical flames faded away.
"I haven't yet."
"True. But you have learned in three weeks what has taken
some magic students years to learn. I'm quite impressed."
"Thanks. Where's Lemia?"
"She's on the port side. She's... uh... hall we say... still
not used to sailing," he said with a laugh.
Dyne laughed as well. "No further questions."
Ghaleon stopped laughing and turned very serious. "You know
that there can't be anything between you two. She's already
been betrothed to another. It's the custom of the Magic Guild
to do so. Lemia must marry one of the mages of Vane, to make
sure that magical ability will remain strong in her bloodline."
Dye sighed. "I know. She told me a week ago, when I tried
putting the moves on her."
Ghaleon raised an eyebrow. "You waited two weeks before trying
something this time? Taking it slow this time, eh? Or trying
to avoid another slap in the face?"
"Well, rushing in only gets me nowhere. I don't think she's
the one for me anyway."
"Oh? You have someone else in mind?"
"Maybe. I dunno."
Ghaleon decided not to press the issue. He had seen this kind
of mood before in other people, and had long since discovered
that the best way to deal with them was to give them space.
He went below deck, leaving Dyne alone with his thoughts.
# # #
"Captain! A Meribian vessel dead ahead!"
The captain of the pirate ship Darkfire smiled viciously.
"Can ya make out a name?"
"It's the Morning Star, a passenger vessel."
"Ha! I've had me eyes on that one fer a LONG time! Prepare
an intercept course! All hands, battle stations!"
# # #
Dyne stared at the evening sky, lost in reflection. The last
time he had sailed upon the Meribian Sea was eight years ago,
when he had first left Caldor Isle. He had sailed across several
other seas since then, but the Meribian would always be his
favorite. Probably because it was my first.
He took out his ocarina. He could still remember the melody
he had come up with long ago like it was brand new, and had
played it many times over the years. And each time, he could
hear a lovely voice singing along with it.
In your dreams, magical thoughts
All things are real, unless you dream they're not
In your dreams, love is the plot
Carried on wings of hope
Each of our souls
Intertwine, when we do.
. Instantly we see it, the time to grow and-
"Pirates!" he heard someone scream, interrupting his song.
"Pirates off the starboard!"
Instantly, Dyne drew his sword. It was a scimitar, purchased
during his visit to the town of Ronin three years ago. It was
his favorite weapon, and he had used it in many fights.
The captain looked through his spyglass at the incoming pirate
ship. The flag was black, with the golden symbol of a flaming
sword held over a lake. "By Althena..." the captain cried. "The
Darkfire! D'Alkirk's ship!"
"D'Alkirk?" Dyne asked. "You mean Mel D'Alkirk himself?"
"Aye, lad, and I hope you can use that blade that you've got
there, 'cause Hell Mel is the toughest pirate ever to sail the
Ghaleon came running up on deck, his long sword drawn. "Did
I hear something about pirates?"
Dyne smirked. "With ears like yours, how could you not?"
"It's 'Hell Mel' D'Alkirk!" the captain shrieked in alarm.
Lemia came over to Dyne and Ghaleon, looking a sickly shade
of green. "Oh, good. Maybe they can put me out of my misery."
"Try to take out a few of the pirates with your magic first,"
"They're almost gaining on us!" the captain moaned. "We can't
"Then don't! We'll fight them off!" snapped Dyne.
"My friends and I. And any of your crew that would care to
The captain nodded. "Drop anchor! All hands, prepare for battle!"
Ghaleon looked grim. "Dyne, I don't think you realize what
you're getting into here. I've heard many stories of Mel D'Alkirk.
He's been marauding long before you and I met. He has no mercy,
no equal, and no limit to his strength. Some of this ship's
crew may be injured, or even killed. Think carefully before
rushing head-first into danger."
"I don't care! If he really is as dangerous as they say, he
has to be stopped! With you, me, and Lemia working together,
we can stop him and save these people!"
Ghaleon sighed. "Just be careful. Don't underestimate D'Alkirk."
"Look out!" a crewman cried. "They're attacking!"
A series of strange cries soared through the air as a group
of pirates leaped from their ship onto the Morning Star
. Dyne immediately charged at them, slashing at them with powerful
blows from his scimitar. With each stroke, a pirate fell dead
or wounded to the deck.
A second group of about twenty pirates leaped onto the deck
of the Morning Star . Lemia knocked some them off their
feet with a low-level ice spell. Then Dyne and Ghaleon attacked
them with their swords. Between Dyne's strength, Ghaleon's speed,
and Lemia's magic, the battle was fierce, but short.
More pirates had already boarded, and were attacking the crew.
Although they fought back, the brutal pirates easily cut them
down. Enraged, Dyne lashed out at them, dispatching many of
them quickly and easily. The rest of the crew and Ghaleon quickly
descended upon the survivors.
Dyne looked around with grim satisfaction. The Morning
Star's casualties were few, and the rest seemed to be holding
their own. Most of the pirates were either dead or wounded,
and only a few were still on their feet. Then, a monstrous shadow
seemed to cover him. He turned around... and stared right into
the face of the dreaded Hell Mel.
He was a "beast-man," a member of the mysterious race that
is half-man, half beast. He must have been at least seven feet
tall, with a powerful, muscular build. His hair and beard were
dark gray, with a silver streak down the center. His eyes were
such a dark shade of brown that they looked as black as a midnight
sky. He wore white, loose-fitting slacks and shirt, and a long,
red cape. But the scariest thing about him was the axe he held
in his hands. It was as tall as Mel himself, as thick as one
of his arms, and the razor-sharp blade was twice the size of
his head. Yet, Mel was spinning it above his head as if it weighed
as much as an uncooked noodle.
He truly looked like the ferocious brigand the stories made
him out to be. He stared at Dyne, with a look of absolute rage
on his face. His dark eyes were now blazing with anger. Ghaleon
and Lemia were about to come to Dyne's aid, but Dyne motioned
for them to stay back.
"Ye're dead, boy," Mel said to Dyne. His deep voice came out
as a sinister growl.
Dyne felt fear for the first time in a long time. Yet he held
his ground. "By the power of Althena," he said, remembering
the words to the spell Lemia had taught him, "I summon forth
strength, speed, and skill into mine own self, by the might
of the Power Drive!"
Immediately, Dyne felt a tremendous energy coarse through
him, and felt stronger and faster than ever.
Mel only laughed. "Ha! Neither your petty tricks nor the Goddess
can save ya now! Nothing can!"
"Are we gonna talk, or fight?"
Mel laughed. "We're gonna fight, boy. And we're gonna start
And with a savage war cry, Mel slashed at Dyne with his axe.
Dyne blocked the blow, but the impact jarred his entire body.
But only for a second. Mel continued with three more strokes,
and Dyne parried each stroke. He then lunged at Mel with his
scimitar, but with surprising speed, Mel blocked it easily.
Mel chopped downwards, aiming at Dyne's legs, but Dyne back-flipped
over the deadly blade. Dyne aimed for Mel's unprotected chest,
but Mel parried that attack as well.
Everybody, pirates and the Morning Star crew alike,
stopped whatever they were doing to watch the duel. Although
Dyne and Mel had not been fighting for over a minute yet, nobody
had ever lasted even that long against Hell Mel, and they were
amazed that a young man not even twenty could withstand Mel's
Mel took another swing at Dyne. Dyne parried, but Mel caught
Dyne's blade with the curve of his axe. Dyne swiped his scimitar
downwards, freeing it, and delivered a cutting blow that would
have decapitated Mel, but Mel parried the desperate blow. Mel
then swiped at Dyne with the shaft of the axe, but Dyne ducked
and lunged upwards at Mel's chest. But this was blocked as well.
I don't believe it! thought Mel. Nobody can stand
against me for this long! I'm Hell Mel D'Alkirk, and I will
not be defeated and disgraced by a mere boy!
By Althena, thought Dyne, I've never faced such a powerful
opponent! But I can't fail! For if I do, Mel will slaughter
all these innocent people! No matter what, I can't let that
The battle now reached a new intensity as Dyne and Mel redoubled
their efforts. All thoughts were pushed from their minds, save
one: victory. They lunged and slashed at each other, but each
blow was blocked harmlessly. Neither one was able to even scratch
the other. Their audience was unable to keep track of the two
warriors as they battled across the Morning Star's deck.
The duel continued late into the night. Nothing, not hunger,
thirst, or sleep, would stand between the two. They wouldn't
even stop to catch their breaths. Nothing would stop them, not
until one of them had claimed the final victory. Most of the
Morning Star's crew and the pirates were also caught
up in this epic battle, and could not stop watching.
And so the battle went on... until the early morning... and
late into the night once more... for seven days and seven nights.
Yet both seemed to be just as fresh as when they had first started.
Both were still uninjured. And both were determined to win,
no matted what. Despite all appearances, however, Dyne and Mel
were barely able to stand. They were weak from a lack of sleep
and food. Yet, their sheer force of will kept them going.
Suddenly, on the seventh night of non-stop combat, with neither
one gaining any advantage, both Dyne and Mel slashed at each
other, and Mel's axe hooked on scimitar blade. They struggled
to free their weapons for a full five minutes. Finally the two
weapons disengaged. They both prepared to put all of their remaining
energy into one final blow. Dyne and Mel raised their weapons,
preparing to strike... and they both collapsed to the deck from
sheer exhaustion, barely conscious.
# # #
"By the Goddess..." Ghaleon whispered, walking over to the
Lemia's eyes widened in fear. "Are they... dead?"
Ghaleon gave her a comforting smile. "Thankfully, no. It's
nothing that a large meal and a week's worth of sleep won't
take care of."
The crew had already helped Dyne to his feet, and the pirates
did the same with their fallen leader. They gave both some water,
which revitalized them.
Mel looked Dyne straight in the eye. Everyone expected him
to be furious at being bested by a mere boy. Instead he laughed,
a warm laugh full of humor and respect. "By Althena, that was
the best fight I've ever had in me entire life! Ya got a lot
of heart, son! I like that!"
Dyne couldn't help smiling. "Thanks, Captain D'Alkirk."
"It's 'Mel' to my friends and shipmates. But I'll let ya call
me that too! Bwah hah hah! And you are?"
"Dyne." He indicated his friends. "These are my friends, Ghaleon
and Lemia Ausa."
Mel shook hands with Ghaleon, and bowed politely to Lemia.
"A pleasure to meet you." He then turned back to Dyne. "So what
brings ya to these parts?"
"Adventure," said Dyne. "We just wander around, traveling
to new and interesting places."
Mel smiled. "Ah, ye're lucky to have the chance to do that
at your age. I remember when I first started my adventures,
so long ago."
Dyne returned the smile. He may be a pirate and the deadliest
fighter I've ever met, but he has a noble, adventurous spirit
to him. Just like me when I was younger.
"Adventures?" Ghaleon said with an amused smile. "Don't you
mean 'raids'? You are a pirate, you know."
Mel sighed. "Not entirely by choice. In Meribia, beast-men
are outcasts. The humans refuse to accept us. We can't work,
and have no way to make an honest living. I was forced to fight
in an arena for some rich merchant whenever he wanted to entertain
his guests. I wasn't about to live my life as a slave, so I
escaped and decided to turn pirate. Ya may have noticed that
all my crew are beast-men. They're not bad, but they have no
other choice, other than starvin' to death. It's our only way
of makin' a living and striking back against those who oppress
our kind. They're not bad people."
"And what about all those that you've killed?" Lemia asked
Mel's eyes narrowed. "I only kill in self-defense. Those that
I or my crew have killed were armed, and they died fighting.
I've never killed innocent bystanders. I do this for the money,
not for the slaughter. And, of course, the adventure."
Dyne and his friends looked at Mel sympathetically.
The captain of the Morning Star came over and eyed
Mel coldly. "If you two are done yapping, we have to get going,
and I am to place Mel D'Alkirk under arrest."
Mel's eyes blazed, and Dyne knew that despite his exhaustion,
Mel could still obliterate the captain with a single punch.
Besides, he couldn't let Mel rot in prison for life. "Wait,
captain!" he said. "By right of victory, it is for me to decide
what to do with D'Alkirk. And I choose to let him and his men
The captain's jaw dropped in astonishment, but he wasn't about
to say "no". Especially to a man he owed his life to.
"Victory?" laughed Mel. "What victory? It was a draw!"
Dyne grinned. "I survived a battle with Hell Mel himself.
I call that a victory."
Mel bowed, honored by the praise. "Would you and yer friends
like to join me and my crew for dinner aboard my ship?"
Dyne's stomach roared, as he remembered he hadn't eaten for
a week. He looked at his friends, who looked like they could
use a good meal themselves. "It would be an honor," Dyne said.
# # #
After freshening up, Dyne, Ghaleon, and Lemia entered the
dining area of the Darkfire , and looked around in amazement.
It looked like the Great Hall of a king's palace. The walls
were covered with mementos of Mel's raids, such as banners,
shields, and weapons. The table was covered by a silk tablecloth,
and the dishes, silverware, and goblets were of the finest silver,
for both Mel, the guests, and the crew alike. Humongous platters
with all sorts of delicacies were waiting for them, filling
the room with a wonderful smell.
Mel was seated at the head of the table, grinning broadly
as they entered. "The guests of honor arrive! Be seated, please,
and help yourselves!"
The meal was a festive one, and both Dyne and Mel ate ravenously,
more than making up for the week of eating they had missed.
The food was excellent, and only the finest Meribian wine was
served. Mel was a gracious host and the crew, and his crew was
no different. During the meal, Dyne, Ghaleon and Lemia told
Mel about how they had met up with Dyne and what they had experienced
since. Mel, in turn, fascinated his guests with stories about
some of his most daring raids.
"So where are ya headed to now?" Mel asked.
"We weren't really sure," Ghaleon said. "We just wanted to
tour the Meribian Sea for a while, and then visit some more
of the distant continents."
"Well, how about sailing with me for a while? There isn't
a city or continent that the Darkfire can't reach. Plus,
I like yer company. Even you, Dyne," he said with a laugh.
"That's a kind offer," Lemia said apologetically, "but I don't
know if a pirate is a good career choice for the heir to Magic
Guild of Vane."
Mel laughed. "All right, all right. I'll take a break from
the pirating business for a while. I guess I owe it to ya for
savin' me from a jail cell. My crew and I got ourselves enough
to last a while."
Lemia smiled. "If you put it that way..."
"What about you two?" Mel asked Dyne and Ghaleon.
"Works for me," Dyne said.
Ghaleon hesitated, but then nodded. "Count me in. At least
things won't be boring."
Mel laughed again. "Ya got THAT right, buddy. So, where to
Dyne smiled solemnly. "That, my friend, is up to destiny."
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