Atop the mast the royal pendent of Nadia fluttered and went limp. A single cloud sent a spatter of rain across the knot of ships, as if the Mother cried for those below. The sound of fighting fell away as the last of the ship’s crew died under the swords of the pirates. Now only two remained.

Argon rested against the cabin wall, conserving his strength for the fight to come while guarding the cabin door that led to the ship’s deck. There was blood on the left side of his shirt. There was blood dripping from the swords in his hands. There was blood seeping across the cabin floor from the bodies jammed in the doorway. He wanted to embrace Bray and reassure him that they would be okay, but Crown Prince Argon of Nadia never lied to his son.

“What are they waiting for, Father?” Bray asked.

 “I believe they are getting set to attack through both doors.”

“Can we stop a double attack?”

“We must try. I will cover this door, and you should be to the left of the balcony doors. As soon as they break through, you must attack from the side. Do not try to stand against them, just dart across in front stabbing as you go. Surprise is your ally. Then repeat the move from the other side when the second wave comes through, or slip behind them if possible. I will break off from the defense of this door as soon as I can. Together we will rush the balcony doors. Maybe we can break through and get into the water. Once under the ships we have a chance and may be able to make our way to shore.”

Argon paused and looked away from his son, as if listening for movement outside the doorway he guarded. In reality he was thinking that the next attack would most likely include the use of crossbows. Fighting against crossbows with swords, no matter how good your swords were, was doomed to fail. He must consider his final words to Bray.

“We will fight to the end, Bray. That is what we Nadians do. If you survive but I am killed, you must promise me something. You understand that our swords … Nadian swords … are special. They must be returned to the family. You must make that your goal if you survive. At some time you must retrieve my swords, or at the least inform the family about who has them. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Good, then rest for now. They will not keep us waiting for long.”

Prince Argon looked to where Bray was seated on the floor of the cabin. Bray’s eyes were closed, his brow furrowed slightly and almost hidden by the sun-bleached brown hair that had come loose from the leather thong that had held it back from his face. His two small swords, really only long knives, lay across his legs, held in his tightly closed hands. Argon wished he could have more time with his son, time to see him reach manhood, time to teach him how to be a prince, and most of all, time to tell him how much he was loved.