Emerala the Rogue gasps aloud as something passes by her face with a flutter and a scream. Alexander’s silver parrot circles around her, his wings flapping furiously. His black eyes are murderous as he drops down to her shoulder. His talons scrape against the exposed skin of her arm and she winces.
“Emerala the Rogue,” he squawks. “Pretty, pretty girl.” He plucks contentedly at a black curl with his beak.
“Copper, copper eyes,” he sings. He bends down low, extending his neck and ruffling his feathers. “Murderer!” he screams.
Emerala can hear the sound of a hoarse shout at her back. The sound is barely audible over the waves, but it is there. She whirls about, her olive gown fanning out from her waist like water. Scanning the beachfront, her eyes land upon two figures in the blue shadows of the cliffs. It is the Hawk and Alexander, of that there can be no doubt. She hears a grunt as Alexander’s fist connects with the Hawk’s jaw. She gasps aloud as the pirate stumbles backwards upon the sand, regaining his balance. Alexander takes another swing, again making contact with the Hawk’s face. She hears a groan come from him as his fingers fly to his mouth.
She is running, again, this time in the direction of the pirates. Anger courses through her like wildfire. She sees the Hawk lunge in Alexander’s direction and the two men topple downward, falling out of sight behind a grey outcropping of fallen rocks. For a long moment, there is silence. Emerala wavers upon the sand, her heartbeat threatening to crack her ribcage as she gasps for breath. She stares into the undulating grass that snaps and sputters in the wind, waiting for some sort of sound.
Any sort of sound.
The wind carries with it the low, angry murmur of men’s voices. She cannot hear what they are saying, not from here.
She begins to inch closer—slowly—moving cautiously—when she hears another angry cry. Again, the sound has come from Alexander. With a snarl and a curse, the singing of steel starts up in the morning sun. Her heart seizes within her chest as she hears the rhythmic thrusting of one blade meeting another. The shivering echo dances upon the sunlight.
The wind that tickles the back of her neck picks up, suddenly, urgently—swallowing the sound of steel upon steel as invisible fingers wrench at the hem of her dress. The unexpected gale snaps at the top of the rolling breakers, making the waves lap at the beach with rabid fervor. Skeletal clouds curl at the westward sky overhead, their grey tendrils creeping towards the sun. Emerala shivers in the sudden chill, caught between the buffeting wind to the west and the golden sunbursts to the east.
She races around the edge of the stone, stopping short at the sight before her. Alexander and the Hawk are head to head, one bloodied face staring heatedly into the other as their swords meet between them. The golden sun glints off of the blades, throwing shuddering shards of light upon the sand. With a grunt, the Hawk shoves Alexander back, sweeping his blade again in his direction. There is another ringing clash of steel as Alexander parries his blow, his face scrunching in exertion as blood trickles from his nose and into his mouth.
“Stop!” Emerala screams, her voice shrill against the sound of the whistling wind. The silver bird echoes her cry with a guttural screech. She stamps her foot in irritation, kicking up granules of sand. The men before her continue to fight, heedless of her commands. She runs forward, her cheeks red and angry.
“Stop this instant! Both of you!” she screams again, groaning as they continue to parry and advance, their swords playing off of the other in an equal show of swordsmanship.
At last, Alexander uses his blade to thrust the Hawk backwards, the force of his weight overpowering the lanky pirate. The Hawk falls back against a rock, keeping his sword held out before him. Seeing her chance, Emerala rushes forward between the two men. Squawking in indignation, the parrot takes off and finds somewhere safer to nestle.
“Stop!” she yells again, holding out a palm towards each of the pirates. They stand on either side of her, their chests heaving with exertion. Alexander’s sword lowers obediently, the point dropping down toward the sand. His hazel eyes are lined with defeat.
“Are you two trying to kill each other?” she shouts. The wind whips at her hair, tugging stray tendrils into her mouth.
“That’s the idea,” the Hawk mutters from behind her. She turns around to glare at him pointedly, feeling furious. He is dabbing at a shallow cut that runs the length of his cheek, his golden eyes flickering with annoyance as he surveys the blood that comes away on his fingertips. His black hair falls into his eyes, pushed forward by the wind at his back. Behind his head, the ominous grey clouds creep ever forward, bleeding through the clear blue expanse at an alarming rate.
“Drop your swords, both of you,” she commands. The two pirates stare at her in silence, unmoving.
“Do it,” she says again, her brows lowering. She points a finger at the sand. “Unless you want to fight through me, and I don’t think either of you plans on killing me today.”