Testing Station 3473443

The Lost

Argent Klein​


Sometimes you aren’t given a choice.

Argent had been but a boy, small in stature as much as in mind, when the ship flew low over his village. The Fae Empire’s reach was thinnest at the edge of the desert where he was born, and though the occasional airship could be seen high in the sky it was quite odd to find one low enough that they, too, could see the village. Like the other children he had whooped and hollered with excitement and chased the ship’s shadow over the sand as it sank ever lower.

The adults were a bit more sensible, as adults usually were, but the village had known only peace for generations. Though they held back, waiting patiently at the village’s borders, they also held what goods they had to offer. It was a rare occurrence for ships arrive and the hope to trade was stronger than the fear of the unknown. They were not people of the sky, they did not know to look to the flags flying upon the ship’s mast. The Fae had strict rules for flying, and if a ship had come to their village then it must certainly have been under the Empire’s rule.

The distance of his youth made the memories difficult, scattered and fuzzy like a half remembered dream. He remembered the rush of air that blew the sand into a billowing cloud beneath the ship, a heat to it even higher than the arid desert breezes he was so accustomed to. He remembered the shadowed figures of the men who disembarked, some by wing and other by clambering over the side of their ship. In that same memory the sharp buzz of warning still rang through; though he had been young the shine of steel in the shadows’ hands had tempered his enthusiasm.

He had once heard that the mind protected itself from the worst of what we experienced, and Argent could only assume that was the reason he couldn’t remember the attack. He knew he had to have been somewhere in the midst of it, as his next memory saw his shirt sticky with the blood of others while he cowered in the bottom of the ship that had come to take his people’s goods and lives. All he felt was fear, and even recalling the event after so many years drove chill blade through his heart.

The pirates had found him after their plundering was done, and though he fought against them with every ounce of his strength the roughened hands had bound him rather quickly. He had expected to be killed, cut down like so many of the villagers. The pirates debated around him on how to do exactly that while terrified tears streamed down his face. Some suggested simply tossing him overboard to the sands below while other offered to take care of Argent personally.

He still, nearly twenty years later, wasn’t sure if it was good fortune or ill that saw the captain of that ship arrive as his crew debated. The man’s footsteps were heavy with the authority he carried, and the crew parted like curtains before his path as cruel eyes settled on the silver-haired boy. Argent couldn’t speak for himself, even if he hadn’t been gagged, for the sheer terror the Captain inspired, and it seemed that effect was shared with the pirates that served under him. There were several moments of silence as he was appraised, ticks of time that he knew marked the end of his short life.

The Captain didn’t order the child to be thrown overboard or fed to the dogs belowdecks. Instead he turned away, a dismissive gesture cast over his shoulder toward Argent as he commanded his men to “put the boy to work.”

Sometimes you have too many choices.

Argent worked for that ship for ten years; initially barely trusted to scrub the decks or care for the dogs but eventually working his way into the crew’s trust. When he was old enough to hold a sword he was put to battle in addition to his work, and as the years passed he found himself looking to the other pirates, to the men and women who had slaughtered his small village, as a new family. The fear of the scarred and rowdy group faded away, and Argent found himself becoming more and more like them with each passing day.

It was intoxicating having the power of the crew behind him; raiding and stealing with the edge of his blade. Perhaps if he had been older when they had come to his village Argent might have found a moral issue with the work he had been thrust into, but he adapted quickly to the new life and didn’t look back. At least, he told himself he didn’t look back. It was a special summons to the Captain’s chambers that threw his world into disarray again, the rumors that the man had taken ill confirmed by a single glance.

Once robust and ruddy the Captain’s bearded face was sunken and pale in the flickering candlelight, the ship physician at his side with a cool compress and a mixture of herbs. Argent stood stock still in front of him, appraised as he had been in that previous lifetime when he had snuck aboard the ship. This time, though, something in the Captain’s eyes told Argent he held more worth than before.

”A far cry from the mewling child I saved from the crew, aren’t you boy?” The Captain’s voice had once booked from the top deck with enough force to shake the entire ship, but now sounded more a hoarse whisper for his sickness. The Captain had always called him “boy,” even after the rest of the crew had given him the title of White Reaper. ”If I had known then how this would end…” the Captain trailed off and a fit of blood tinged coughing overtook him. Though Argent’s eyes narrowed in concern he didn’t move an inch to assist the man. It wasn’t his place, and physician knew far more to help the Captain than Argent did.

”There isn’t much time left, I’m afraid. Even a Captain cannot outrun his sins.” Argent’s face twisted, concern and disbelief mingling together. The Captain had never shown any regrets and it was disturbing to see him so weak. ”You must run, Argent. You have been loyal to me, far more than I deserved considering. The crew will see you as a threat to whomever they place as captain after me.”

A weak gesture beckoned Argent closer, and without hesitation he obeyed. Frail and thin skinned, the fingers wrapped around his wrist with a startling tightness that seemed out of place upon a dying man. ”Leave! Be free of this life! Consider it my last order to you, and a small atonement for what I have done to you.”

Argent shook his head, face a stone mask as he slowly pried the Captain’s hand from his wrist. ”You’re going to be fine, Captain. A little sickness can’t take out a tough bastard like you.” As he smiled against the tears in his eyes the Captain also broke into a grin that was torn away by another fit of coughing. The physician gave Argent a look, one that couldn’t be misinterpreted.

”Where will I go?” His voice was soft, an echo of the scared child the Captain had spared.

”Anywhere! Everywhere! You can go wherever you want. Do whatever you want. I release you from my service.”

Argent Klein

Age: 23

Race: Elven

Time with crew: N/A
(An Excerpt from the writings of Argent Klein, currently hidden aboard the Cloud Cutter.)

I was maybe nine, or perhaps ten years old when I finally joined in my first raid. It was a choice I had made on my own, though perhaps the Captain should be held accountable for allowing a child into such a world. I sometimes think he did it because he saw the rage boiling within me. He saw the rage that threatened to tear me apart without some release, and he knew I needed a push to let it out.

My people were a peaceful sort. We went about our days in routine, without hardly a fistfight even among the rowdy youth. The most we knew of violence was when it came time to slaughter livestock. When the fear that drove me blindly into the belly of the ship that had turned us into livestock to be slaughtered faded I was left with burning hatred, and no way of knowing how to let it out.

I knew it wasn’t by scrubbing floors.

And so I had begged Captain Klein to let me join in a raid, let me prove my worth as more than just a lowly ship’s boy. To his credit there was a hesitation, but in the end he agreed. It was his way to plan raids around occupancy, to limit the amount of resistance his crew would face in their plundering. The Sky’s Mercy only ever raided places they could completely and overwhelmingly crush, and the Captain expected no different from this raid.

That raid happened to be one of the unlucky ones, though.

The lord of the estate was supposed to have business abroad, and upon leaving the manor typically pulled three quarters of his own forces as a personal guard. Nobles were often paranoid in that manner, and left their homes open to attack while protecting their own lives. Apparently, though this particular lord was meant to have left some weeks prior to our arrival, a sickness had run through the entire household that had left many bedridden for days.

As if our luck weren’t bad enough, we came in prepared for an easy victory, and found the whole of the lord’s forces ready to embark with full arms.

It was a desperate battle, chaotic as they all tended to be. I became lost, to my crew and to myself, rather quickly to the black smoke from cannons and rifles. Pushed and pulled among the clashing bodies, I was probably mistaken for some servant child by those who didn’t see the dagger in my hand. Its razor edge cut through many of them, slicing ankles and knees to put them down. Even in the fray I was holding onto the idea that I was better than the pirates I flew in with. Though many of my victims were set upon by those without my compunctions I wasn’t killing anyone.

I wasn’t a murderer like they were.

I couldn’t say how long that fight lasted. It seemed a lifetime to me; a struggle that was changing me into the man I was to become. I could barely tell when it started winding down, though at some point the number of soldiers grew few enough that I found myself wandering. The rage inside of me mixed with my naive pride, swelling me beyond my measure. I didn’t pay any attention to the fallen, to their wounds or their threat.

It was one of my own, one of those lives I had considered spared by my merciful blade, that grasped my shoulder with a grip like steel, and pulled me off of my feet to the cobblestone below. My head hit hard, and my dagger spun from my hand as the soldier pinned me beneath his weight, a near useless leg dragging behind him as he cursed me as pirate scum. My ears were ringing, and my body felt limp from exhaustion and shock.

I didn’t even flinch when he drew his sword, still cursing me as he drove an elbow into my ribs. I can still remember the sound of my ribs cracking, like a hollow cane shattered against stone. It seemed distant, though, ephemeral as if I could simply cast it away. His words became just as meaningless as my broken ribs, his sword as well, though I admired how beautifully the moonlight traced its downward arc toward my neck.

I can’t say what drove me to act a final time, but I lurched forward, as if on instinct, in an attempt to headbutt the man who was about to kill me. It was foolish, and certainly had no thought behind it, but that last bit of fight in the face of death saved me. The sword tore through my face, scraped along my cheekbone and jaw, and blood filled my vision.

It was my first raid, and the first life I took. The memories are murky, as they always are after being cut, as if I were far away from the fight though my hands were drenched in the blood afterward. Sometimes I wonder if there are two Argents. The one who writes this, who’s emotions aren’t totally evaporated, and the other one who simply accomplishes his tasks without personality or opinion. Sometimes I wonder how solid the line between them really is.