“I knew you were stupid, Macheda,” the tawny-bearded cavalier rejoined, his voice wavering as if the words unusual. “But there’s nothing I can do for you now. No more cheap whores and expensive swords. You’ve already stepped into your grave. Your crew will arrive insufficiently. My apologies, in advance.”
With the experience of decades, the captain’s hand flashed to the golden-engraved ivory handle of his cavalry saber, bitten and struck with indelible marks of edge upon edge blows, a survivor—if not always a victor—of a lifetime’s worth of battles, what had once been an excellent prize robbed from the stiffening corpse of an overcome privateer.
“Comrades,” the captain announced with a concluding whistle, “the cargo’s escaping!”
“Fool,” the cavalier mumbled, as he stepped into the elegant crescent of the falling saber, which clattered helplessly against his pauldrons. Grasping the captain firmly by the offending wrist, he launched his gauntleted fist with the force of an angry god into his low cheek-bones, which yielded into the air the sanguine spray of uprooted teeth which danced upon the shit-soaked deck like dice.
Having liberated the long-lived saber from his tumbling opponent, with a single motion handed down in the scope of long generations in the Perihelion’s alabaster square of childhood bruising, he freed the captain’s head from his shoulders, completing the sickle-shaped motion with the return to an imaginary sheath held customarily in the free hand.
They were falling over each other in the unabashed greed for a day’s more freedom even if it should be bought with enough sweat and bloodshed to drown the decks altogether in sweet crimson. Their chains jingled as they vainly arose to the reverberating thud of the checking links, slipping and falling upon the slick, feces-stained wood finish.
“They didn’t have to ask,” Arius marveled, spell-bound by the obscene display of wicked and contorted limbs indivisible in motion. “I need a good slave revolt. And gods, miserable as they are, they look ready.”
A good majority of the prisoners were held by a system rooted in place by a single, long chain of particularly heavy and cumbersome character, much more than a man could violate with his hands; it would take a stout hammer and a broad steel splitter to see them off, things that weren’t available, unless he should deign to risk alone the hurricane footfalls streaming this way and that overhead. He addressed a connecting link, fixing his newly acquired decades-abused blade like a wedge, and he began to twist with all the might that was available him. And while to a common observer, it might have seemed an impossible task, the blade more surely to break itself than the impossible rounds of iron, a sufficiently holy man might have observed to glow from the circular brand, the burned imprint of his right palm as he strained against the very powers of nature herself. It split, his woeful saber, the shattered edge launching itself like the blast of lightning to come to rest into the oaken walls, but so split the rung as well, which clattered to the floor in miraculous pieces shining like starlight.
So taken were they that all the madness and confusion at once terminated, and their eyes rose to meet his, as if staring into the unmarked countenance of a saint.
“Up there,” he began with a whisper, “they’re arming themselves, ready now to return you to bondage. Come with me. Stand by my side. And follow my way. We’ll win your freedom by the sweat of your brow and the blood on the timbers.”