The Rescue
IC date: Spring 89, 1007
OOC date: June 18, 2012
PCs: Blackbird, Gambit, Lavender, Mad-Mare, Rusty-Gears, Sadaka, Siyana, Snowfield
NPCs: Bazi, Talhia
GM: Mad-Mare

It's the seventh day of the Rains, the ongoing storm of chaos and confusion that it's been. The seas have beaten upon the harbor for some time now, and much of the docks are probably flooded out, but that's not what this is about! It's the seas that are important this stormy evening. The roiling, choppy seas, and the big evil boats floating out in the distance towards the lightning-lit horizon. The Syndicolt Blockade, somehow weathering the storm and the horrible bay currents without managing to crash into land.

And the flagship, captained by the Syndicolt's Mad Mare, circles of stormclouds painting an eerie picture in the skies, as though that most dark of ships were the cause of it all, and not an innocent storm-brewing pegasus!

These ships were built tough though. Despite the horrible storm, this mightiest of evil ships has endured, with naught but the rocking of waves to hint to those inside that they're amid such horrible weather. Just very dramatic rocking that tends to send cargo shifting about.

Within the crew cabins of this ship, a zebra mare and her daughter have taken to finding indoor activities to keep themselves busy until the rains stop. It has not been a very fun week, as they've decided that keeping little Sadaka out of sight and out of mind to be the best medicine considering the raging Captain Maddie. The quieter the better. Probably for the best… This evening Talhia's been regailing Sadaka with stories of life before the Syndicolt, in a harbor town not so far away, before the world broke.

Elsewhere on the ship… Lurking in her own quarters atop the deck, the Mad Mare stares out into the storm. Muttering things under her breath that neither of her bodyguards want to hear anymore. Their boss just hasn't been the same since a few nights ago, when her real name was leaked to the entire harbor courtesy of one loudmouthed mayor. It's been all they can do to keep their boss from rampaging over their own crew, let alone do something against company policy like fire on the town! Yet they've managed, and endured the steadily intensifying storm of madness much like the flagship has the hurricane-style weather. They can only hope to find some way out of this situation they've all come to be in.

The forces are gathering.

Assorted ponies have been recruited from all edges of the Harbor, gathered together by the organizing trio: Gamble, Rusty-Gears, and Blackbird. The wind and rain are buffeting like mad at the group, but they've all gathered not far from the docks, and at present, Blackbird is addressing the team.

"We get in and out as quickly as possible," he says loudly over the storm — just loud enough to hear. "Our main goal is to rescue our own, and that means Sadaka and any others we find in there. But if you can cause a little havoc, do so. The quicker we can dispel this blockade, the better it will be for all of us." He glances between his two companions, and then continues. "The ship is captained by the Mad Mare, or…according to our sources, Sunshine Stormcloud is her real name. She doesn't like that name. We don't know if it will make her dumb, homicidal, or both, so use it wisely. Best, in general, to give her as wide a berth as possible. We don't want to lose any ponies unnecessarily today." He looks now to Gamble, and finishes, "Gamble has more experience with this group, so if he has advice, you listen to him. Got it? Rusty has some emergency get-away supplies if we need them, but let's hope we don't!"

Siyana, meanwhile, is standing in the crowd with Lavender, listening gravely with a sword and a whip in her belt. She appears to be all ready for battle, stony-faced and jaw set.

Lavender stands near Siyana with similar grave intent, a filly who's put fear and worry completely out of her mind for the sake of a best friend. But she still manages to drop the (still wooden) sword she was carrying in her mouth at the sound of that name. "Sunshine St*sputter*Stormcloud? Her name is /Sunshine/?" Oh, the disruptive filly. She falls down and giggles…then coughs, clears her throat, and stows that sword on her belt as well.

"Sunshine Stormcloud? Really?" A familiar, cold voice says from the back of the crowd. Something about this particular adventure has managed to draw Snowfield's attention and the little unicorn has seen fit to actually come along. Nevermind that it will probably end in tears for all parties involved. It'll be good inspiration for statues.

Rusty looks the group over, stamping a back hoof in a rather fidgetty manner that might appear nervous. She isn't one for cases of nerves, however, and is more involved with thoughts of how much more /dramatic/ this is under cover of such a storm. …And trying not to think of all the things that could go wrong. Okay, maybe a little nervous.

The pinto gives a faintly amused snort of her own at the name, shaking her head. "Doesn't quite seem to fit, does it."

Called upon to offer advice, the pony known as Gamble steps forth, dipping his head to Blackbird, then to the assorted motley crew of a rescue team. "Yeah um.. Most of my experience with this group's been in runnin' away, but I can tell ya that you prob'ly don't want ta engage'em any more'n ya have to. Especially *cough* Sunshine 'n her twins. Now's not the time ta settle our grudges with'em, y'all jus' find'em and get out. Blackbird'n Rusty have been in there once already, so stick close to'em as ya can."

The Gambler then tips his hat back to free his horn, lighting it up to levitate a few bitcoins out of his saddlebag, distributing them as best he can, one to each pony. Four for Blackbird. "These are the best I could figure fer an ace in the hole. I got a talent fer cheatin', an' the way I figure it, if y'all get into trouble, I can focus on that coin 'n zap ya outta there, back ta our ship. I'll be watchin' fer any sign I can." His head turns towards Blackbird, "An' I gave ya a few extra fer the filly'n such. Anyone else ya need zapped out in a hurry, you'll hafta hang onto'em or somethin'."

Blackbird nods firmly to Gambler and takes the coins, dropping them into his saddlebags. "There are two other zebras on there we're rescuing, too," he says to the crowd. "Sadaka's parents are Syndicolt ponies, but not happily. They want out. We're getting them out. Are we clear?"

"That has got to be one of the most useful talents I've ever heard of," Snowfield says from somewhere in the crowd. It's hard to stand out when you're a miniature pony, even wearing her white cloak as she is. It does very little to keep the rain off of her, but standing leeward of a big stallion is helping in that regard. She doesn't comment as Blackbird explains the plan, simply "Hmm"ing thoughtfully and pondering how no strategy survives first contact with the enemy,

Lavender takes her own coin and tucks it very carefully into her saddlebag. "We're getting her parents out too? Well…That's even better! I'll do /everything/ I can to keep Sadaka and her family safe, sir." She looks anxiously over at Siyana.

Gamble tips his hat back down, covering his horn. Useful talent indeed! This is the first time it's been useful to more than just him though, something he can have a little pride in. "If'n we're all ready fer this, shall we?"

Meanwhile, in the Flagship…

Talhia's latest story for Sadaka was about a boating trip! She had settled next to the lower bunk, which the zebra parents had donated to their darling daughter, telling of a big, clear, blue lake, filled with the most beautiful rainbow shells… "They were so pretty, the way the sunlight danced off of them, so I asked your father to collect one for me. So excited he was, he just lept right into the water without a second thought! It rocked the whole boat so hard I fell in too. He didn't even notice until he surfaced and saw me, completely drenched. But he had so many shells… I had to forgive him. It's how he is."

The zebra mare shrugs, plucking a small stud made of the shell she'd described, holding it in the flat of her hoof for Sadaka to see how even the lantern light makes the tiny thing sparkle and gleam. "We sold most of the jewelry we made out of those shells, but we kept a couple pieces. I'd always intended to pass this one down to you…" Talhia holds her hoof up to Sadaka, offering the small, and extremely shiny earstud to her.

Sadaka has listened enraptured to all the stories, ears perked and eyes bright as so many old blanks and holes in her past are filled in. Where being cabin-bound might have been boring in other situations, a combination of the lingering soreness and stiffness from her injuries and the chance to hear all these stories had kept her from getting too antsy. Things had been so good, once! And in typical childlike optimism, this gave her so many dreams of all the ways it could be good again in the future.

"Oh, wow… it's so pretty!" she gasps as she looks over the stud, reaching out to take it carefully as it is offered to her. "I've never seen shells like this on the beach."

With coins passed out and ponies ready, Blackbird gives the signal, and off they go toward the ship. Sneaking chaaaaarge!

Snowfield draws the hood of her cloak lower over her head, trying to keep the rain out of her eyes as the rescue party sails off to certain doom. She's curious just how far certain ponies are willing to go to 'do the right thing'.

For the Rescue Party's benefit, sailing out in a storm of Epic Proportions is certainly a good way to keep from getting shot at. There's hardly an alarm at all from the looming boat. It might even be deemed 'too quiet' as the vessel sets sail. Maybe they just don't expect any trading ships to come by during Final Rains?

Inside, the zebra family continue their bit of together time. "They're very rare." Talhia notes, grinning at Sadaka's acceptance of the gift. Unfortunately It's about that time of mother-daughter bonding, that something has to happen. The cabin door to the zebra family's room swings open, letting Bazi come skidding to a halt just inside, gasping for breath. "Ta… Talhia… Trouble comes!" For a moment the stallion settles on his knees, catching the breath he'd lost in an apparent dead run from wherever he was. "The ship crew. They've declared mutiny! They're going after the captain…"

Of all the news Talhia expected to hear when something like 'trouble' is brought up, something like outright 'mutiny' was not exactly on that list! If anything could make an already unstable situation worse… "Bazi?" the mare trembles, snaking arms about the young filly next to her, eyes wide and looking from stallion to the doorway, "Why would they… What are we going to do?"

Breath caught, Bazi rises back to his hooves, giving a grunt of a reply and turning towards the door. "I think we should do what we should have done a long time ago, Talhia. …We should run."

"Run? As in, off the ship? Away from this?"

"Would you rather join a suicidal mutiny? Or stay on this ship and deal with what happens after?"

Talhia takes a gulp of breath. "So we run." The mare gives Sadaka a soft nuzzling, and fetches a small pouch on a string from a nearby stand, "Here, put that stud in this, around your neck. It will keep you safe…"

Elsewhere in the ship, hurried knocking comes to the Mad Mare's door. When Maddie makes no move to answer said door, Rock'em does instead, cracking it open to deal with the very shaken 'messanger' outside. His ears flat back, his stance about as nervous as the messanger's by the time he shuts the door again and slowly steps towards his boss. "Um. Boss. We got a situation…"

But the Mad Mare's already smiling, even before Rock'em starts to speak.

Lavender puts a hoof up on Siyana's shoulder while keeping low in the boat. "I'm scared… I know this is what we've gotta do, but it went so badly last time. You'd better keep yourself safe, okay? I wanna come back with both my best friends, instead'a trading one for another."

Siyana turns to Lavender, and puts a hoof on her shoulder as well, grim look on the young one's face. "We'll be safe. I promise. PS, if you die, I'm gonna kill you. So you better not!" >:| Glare.

As soon as the rescue ponies board, they're directed to stay down, to the shadows, and quiet, and to follow Rusty and Blackbird. The latter is looking around quickly, and starting to make a beeline for the hallway he remembers leading down into the belly of the ship, and Sadaka's quarters. Still, the lack of goons around? It's making his fur crawl.

Rusty follows after him, looking rather tense herself. This is too… easy. Too /quiet/. She's never liked quiet, and she sure as hay doesn't like it now. She glances nervously around, often casting glances back at the rescue party to make sure that everypony was still present.

Snowfield is a pale pony wearing a white cloak pulled up over her head. No shadow is dark enough to conceal her presence on this ship. As such she doesn't even bother trying. If Blackbird wants to have any hope of getting Sadaka out with a minimal fight, he'll need to have someone in reserve who can provide a distraction when he gets discovered. The moment the rescue party begins heading for the ship's belly where the crew quarters are the little unicorn veers off towards the stern of the ship and the captain's quarters.

Bazi and Talhia make quick work of their preparations. There honestly wasn't much they cared to take with them. The most precious cargo they can carry's already coming with them! Bazi checks the doorway, while Talhia helps Sadaka with the neck pouch, plucking the filly up in her teeth to place her down on the mare's own back. They set out from the cabin quarters, led by the stallion zebra, but the first thing they do is turn a different direction than the main deck. The reason for this is apparent as the unmistakeable sound of swords clashing and much shouting! "We shouldn't go up that way…" Bazi grunts, stating the obvious to the others. "We'll have to go down a deck and up the other side. There should be less fighting going on there if they're all rushing the captain's quarters."

This is the same fight that Blackbird and Co. will hear coming down the main way that they are. Much sword clashing and shouting, the hallways of that deck pretty much piled full of ponies fighting each other! As if the entire crew had gone completely stir-crazy from the rains. Getting past the mob means joining the fight. Or there's another deck entrance towards the back of the ship. Rock'em and Sock'em are visible somewhere down that deck hallway, right in the middle of it all, but there's no immediate sign of their rescue targets! Or the ship's captain.

For the exploring Snowfield's benefit, the captain's quarters are remarkably easy to find. They're pretty much right there above the main doors into the ship. Alas, the door's wide open, and the room is devoid of the captain herself.

Blackbird backpedals when he sees the clash of sword on sword, blinking in confusion. But rather than join a fight unnecessarily, he turns and silently urges the other ponies back up the stairs to find another place to get down there. But, y'know. He can always be overruled.

Lavender, upon seeing the ruckus of swordplay, decides to take the path of better discretion and scoots on ahead. She may not be afraid to fight, but her first goal is getting to Sadaka and rescuing her! Heroics can wait for, well, whenever they are needed…or for never, if the whole plan works out.

Rusty blinks and nods, quickly following after Blackbird. The last thing they need is to get caught up in the chaos of a battle. Heck, maybe it'll be a useful distraction! Getting in and out unnoticed would be the ideal.

Snowfield pauses at the door to the captain's quarters and slooowly looks around the door frame to see if there's anypony inside. Finding nopony she quickly steps inside and begins rifling through drawers, looking for anything suspicious or incriminating, or the ship's log. A log of a long-historied ship, especially a pirate vessel, is sure to be a veritable trove of information and treasure.

She only manages to get through a few cabinets, however, before she discovers an extensive collection of well-festooned hats. Snowfield stares at them for several long seconds.

She glances warily at the door.

She stares at the hats again.

The zebra parents are veritable experts on this ship, now that it's come to a point where it's in their best interests not to be seen. Luck was with them with Bazi's change of direction, seeking the lesser-used backways of the ship halls, heading down a floor into the cannon rooms and cannonball stockpile, making their way towards the stairways leading back up again.

It's a great plan, and it's a shame to have to ruin it. A shout, a cry from the stairs Bazi was about to trudge up gives the zebra parents reason to pause. A tumbling sound rises from the stairwell, a shadow…a body coming to view, crashing the last few steps to land on the wooden flooring near Bazi's hooves. The ship's cook! Or what /was/ the ship's cook, anyway. Ears going flat, Bazi and Talhia begin to back away from the stairwell, even as another pony makes her way into view.

The Mad Mare stops when she reaches the end of the stairs, tipping her head to spear the end of her bloodied sword into the still-warm body of the ex-cook. "Well, well, well." Maddie purrs, her voice like a silk noose. Her eyes, glassy and unfocused. Like she were staring through the zebra family instead of at them. "If it isn't my loyal cannoneers. Giving the filly a tour of the boat, are we? It's not safe… You should all be hiding…"

Bazi snorts, his head lowering. "Don't you have a problem to take care of, boss?" Talhia, behind her mate, peeks back at Sadaka, and back towards the other end of the ship. So, so far away now.

The Mad Mare laughs, giving the body next to her a nudge, "Oh it's getting taken care of just fine. I'm sure my boys will have this wrapped up nice and neat." She glances down to her 'victim', heaving a hint of a sigh. "Y'know, it's a shame really. He made some of the /best/ desserts. I just couldn't think of anyone else more fitting I could use to draw out the traitors on my ship."

Meanwhile, the rescuers back up and go run about the ship to find another way down— only to run into Rock'em and Sock'em. Blackbird scrambles back, but it's kind of hard to be stealthy when you're a group of ponies in a long straight hallway. Oop.

Believe me, Rock'em and Sock'em are just as surprised to see the Rescue Party as they are to see the twins! They look exhausted. And cut in multiple places, but on the whole healthy! The big lugs blink down at Blackbird first, then the rest of the party, looking mighty quizzical. "Oy. You lot aren't supposed to be here. What gives?"

"You're not the ones that started this mess, are you?" Both bodyguard goons squint at the assorted ponies…

And then there's the captain's quarters. Where a couple of the mutinous crewmembers have managed to sneak past, and to the captain's quarters! "We've got you now cap…tain?" Yet, all they see is Snowfield.

Sadaka cowers behind her mother, staring wide-eyed and stunned at the still and bloodied form of the friendly pony who'd always been willing to sneak her extra snacks or treats. She opens her mouth but only manages a faint squeak, ears flat as she tears her gaze away.

Rusty nearly crashes into Blackbird as he backpedals, looking up and tensing as soon as she spies the twins, ears laying back as she readies herself for a fight. Or a sprint, or mad charge, or whatever the situation might be about to call for.

"Started what mess?" Blackbird blinks. "That fighting in the other hall? Look, we don't want any trouble. We just want to fetch Sadaka and go. We haven't done a thing." He frowns, looking the pair up and down, not really eager for a fight but not about to back down either. But, y'know. Sprint or mad charge, also good options!

Snowfield considers her reflection in a mirror in Mad Mare's cabin. She has pulled the hood of her cloak down and replaced it with the largest, froofiest hat she could find. The black bicorn sports gold braiding around the brim, a great plume of phoenix feather between the two halves of the chapeau and an intricate crest embroidered onto the front which one intimately familiar with naval history might recognize as being an old rank emblem of a grand admiral in the Equestrian Navy. "Hmm," she mumbles thoughtfully at her reflection.

The reverie is interrupted by the mutinous crew. "Ah, just the stallions I was hoping to see," the little unicorn says. "I do not suppose you would know where to find your illustrious captain, would you?" She sighs before they have a chance to answer. "No, I suppose not, else you wouldn't be looking here for her." Snowfield proceeds to try to walk past the mutineers, hat and all.

"This mutiny, of course!" Rock'em says, waving his hooves at the general chaos enveloping the ship's halls. The squinting twins glance up at each other, down at the rescue party, and…then have to pause for a second to buck-kick a pair of mutineers who thought they'd sneak up on the whole event while their backs were turned. "Hmph. Amateurs." Rock'em grunts, Sock'em nodding his head. They both focus on Blackbird again. "Look, we ain't got beef with you personally." Sock'em notes, "And right now we gots our hooves full what with this whole mess and all. But if you go down there…" The ponyguard points towards a nearby stairwell leading deeper into the ship. "…That's where boss was headed. I wouldn't go lookin' for her if I were you. She's a little stabby crazy today."

"But we ain't gonna stop ya…" Rock'em notes, turning to the hallway again. "We got a few more heads ta knock."

The pair of mutiny ponies that had stumbled upon Snowfield gape. What is this runt doing with their ex-bosses hats? And where's the boss? Not here. Obviously. The pair hesitantly step their way inside, not really afraid of the little unicorn, but… "H'uh. She had a lot of hats, didn't she?" one of the pair says, his eyes landing on one of the smaller tricorn hats. "I always wanted me one o' those."

"Yeah? Well I always fancied meself a captain." the other pony says, high-stepping his way up to the hat collection too. "'Ey, runt. Ya didn't 'appen ta find any gold 'r bit collections in 'ere, did ya?"

Belowdecks, in the cannon rooms, Talhia and Bazi are slowly backing away, thinking up their own options to get past, or deal with the lunatic in their way. Bazi paws at the ground impatiently. He doesn't like being stalled! How did she even know?

"Just… Let us go. We don't want to be part of this anymore. We don't want to be part of your insanity." Bazi nearly growls, stance widening. "We don't want to fight…"

Maddie's grin is unhinged, the off-white pony giggling at the trio of striped equines. "But I do! That's why I started this. It was time for a fight. A good fight. And since I couldn't just run out and start stabbing random ponies in the streets, I did the next best thing!"

"You…started this mutiny? Against yourself?" Talhia intones, her voice quiet, nearly skeptical.

"Of course I did!" Maddie replies, placing a hoof on the fallen pony. "You think this crew of yellow-bellied fish would've dared if I hadn't prompted Cookie here to push a few buttons?"

Bazi and Talhia both bow their heads, careful to make sure their daughter is very much safe behind them. "Why? Why would you kill off your own crew? Do you know how many ponies will die tonight because of this?"

Maddie skips, practically prancing from side to side. "Oh about half. Maybe more. I didn't think it'd be this effective, honestly! I guess I had a lot of traitors…" She sighs, gazing down at the fallen cook. "…But hey, this is my therapy. I gotta crack a few skulls now 'n then or else I'll go /completely/ nuts!"

"Oooh, horseplop," Blackbird swears under his breath. But he nods his head grimly to Rock'em and Sock'em. "Well…in that case, we'll be going then. If Mad's headed toward Sadaka, we've either got to get there first, or head her off before she does something drastic. Preferably the former." Which is unlikely, but either way, he darts onward, past the pair and charging down the hall to try and find his wayward ward and her parents.

Rusty charges after him, casting a faint glare back at the two twins for good measure. Sure, they weren't getting in the way, but that didn't mean she trusted them.

Runt? Snowfield's eyes narrow and she stops in mid-trot. "I must apologize, I'm afraid I did not quite catch that." the little pony turns around and bucks the door as hard as she can to slam it open, allowing the howling wind to blow into the cabin and, more importantly, give her access to a supply of fresh water. "You asked, 'Miss Snowfield, please teach me a lesson about using respectful language towards one's superiors,' yes? I would be happy to oblige."

The wind coming in through the door blows the great feathered chapeau off of Snowfield's head, revealing a horn which is glowing a brilliant blue. The air outside the cabin begins to glow a matching shade and the rain is redirected sidewars, through the open portal and around the unicorn. It freezes into icy needles which pepper the mutineers.

Talhia and Bazi need a distraction! Or an escape route. They dare not turn their back on the homicidal mare, but they can't just rush past her either. It's a stand-off. At least, it's a standoff until Maddie takes the sword back into her mouth, speaking around it if in somewhat muffled tones. As she talks, she starts to advance on the zebra trio, who keep backing up towards the middle of the cannonball storage.

"They brought it on themselves you know… This harbor, my crew, everybody. They all laughed. Now they can't laugh anymore. They'll be quiet forever. I'll report this mutiny to my boss… He'll reward me for stopping it! I might even get a new nickname!" The Mad Mare's eyes come to focus, her pupils narrowing to mere pinpricks amid the sheer whiteness of her eyes. "Bloody Maddie! That's who I'll be… No more of this Sunshine. Only Blood!"

"Enough!" Bazi roars, now that the three are practically backed up to the cannonballs. That one word is all he says, the stallion spinning about to buck one of the cannonballs in a nearby pile at the Mad Mare's head! So surprised she is that she drops her sword when she ducks, the lethal ball crashing into the woodwork near a porthole, though that doesn't save her from the several more that come bouncing and rolling down from the dislodged pile! She shrieks, rolling out of the way, only to find Bazi ready to pounce, seeking to pin the Mare down with his own weight! He turns his head just enough to eye his mate and his daughter, teeth bared, and shouts! "Talhia! Get Sadaka out of here!"


That last bit, which Bazi has roared, is very audible in the part of the ship Blackbird and Rusty (and Lav!) have made it to. Right below their hooves! They can't be more than that staircase away now!


"What?" both of the ponies that had so rudely addressed Snowfield say, in unison. both of which realize, much too late, that sometimes their language may be a tad bit offensive. They both scream, as pony and hat alike end up ruined by the endless supply of icy needles, making them look much like frozen little hedgehog ponies by the end of it!

Remember, colts and fillies, always watch your tongue around grumpy unicorns.

Blackbird's ears perk and his posture straightens, as he turns toward the shout. He looks at Rusty in alarm, then races down the hallway. As soon as Mad is in sight, his first plan of attack is to full-speed-ahead headbubble the mare while she doesn't know he's coming, in hopes of giving the trio that window for escape.

Snowfield harumphs at the porcupine'd ponies. Her point has been proven and they're not about to hassle her again any time soon, certainly not with THAT acupuncture treatment. She resumes tossing the captain's quarters, eventually kicking aside a conspicuous rug and discovering..

"Oh-hoh, secret tunnel," the unicorn mumbles. She levitates it open and peers down into the relative darkness of the lower holds. "A treasure room here, perhaps? Or maybe just an emergency exit. Only one way to find out, I imagine." Without a second glance at the pincushions she's created Snowfield hops down the hole to continue exploring, keenly aware of the sound of fighting coming from the other side of the walls.

Rusty gallops after Blackbird, looking just as alarmed at the shout and trying to fish in her saddlebags as they ran. Sawblade? Bomb? No… something weird. A smaller version of an earlier invention! She'd managed to toss together a smaller version of their infamous lightning gun. Probably nowhere near as powerful, but it'd give you a nasty zap! …If it worked.

With Maddie momentarily pinned, Talhia turns about to pluck Sadaka up with her teeth, breaking into a full gallop! The Mad Mare, seeing part of her quarry attempting to flee, screams in a fit of insane rage! "Noo! Nopony's leaving this ship alive!" Nearly turning red with the effort, the Mad Mare heaves mightily, throwing the surprised zebra stallion off of her, to crash into another pile of cannonballs with a heavy sound! Maddie rolls, showing an impressive feat of agility, picking her sword up with her teeth on her way back up to her hooves. With that momentium, she keeps spinning, whipping that deadly sharp instrument around, flinging it at the fleeing mare and filly! A split-second later she's tackled to the wood again by Blackbird's not-as-impressive bulk flung into her at top speed!

But the deed is done, a sickening sound heard when Rusty appears, just in time for Talhia to set Sadaka down in front of the inventor and look up with wide, pained, and very teary eyes. "Get my daughter to safety…" she breathes, collapsing into the woodwork, sword in her back very plainly visible.


Secret tunnel! Snowfield's found Maddie's personal transportation through the ship. This tunnel goes /everywhere/. Like an air duct big enough for the Mare to wander through, and with enough peeky holes… It's really no wonder she can keep up on the entire ship without looking like she's ever left her quarters! Sneaky.

For a split second both ponies freeze, wide-eyed and stunned, gaping at the fallen zebra. Rusty snaps out of it first, moving to snatch up the little filly, who is pulled out of her stupor by the jolt and immediately begins to wail and struggle. "Mama! Mama! N-no, lemme go… Mamaaaa!"

Well, it's not quite as impressive as finding the secret vault with the flagship's log, but at least this affords Snowfield a chance to wander about the vessel without hassle. She peeks through several holes in the walls at the mutiny in progress, trying to track down the wayward rescue team and see if they're in need of rescue themselves at this point. It's the whole reason she wandered off on her own, after all. No point putting all of the eggs in one basket.

Blackbird's ears flatten at the sound, as he tries to pin Mad, and he looks up just in time to see that sword sticking out of her back. And, with all this excitement, the littlest zebra's injuries on her back, only a week old, are starting to crack and bleed a little. For whatever reason, the teacher zeroes in on that, and the blood rushes through his head, making his vision swim. Her cries very nearly fall on deaf ears, as he turns his eyes down to the Mad Mare, gaze seeming distant and hard. "What…did you do," he asks thickly. "/What/…did you /do/ to her?"

For the second time in a matter of seconds, the Mad Mare finds herself pinned down. It took a huge effort to lob the zebra stallion off of her, so it makes sense that she might not have the strength to throw a somewhat smaller, lanky colt off. Not when he's ticked off, anyway. So the Mare, crazed look and all, stares up into Blackbird's hardened expression. "I punished her." she states, simply, her head turning to peer at the fallen Talhia. "Like I punished her mother. Like I'll punish her father! Like I punished my crew!" She turns to grin up at Blackbird, "Like I'll punish you and everyone in your moon-forsaken town!"

Bazi has…recovered, somewhat, but he's walking with a limp. Cannonballs aren't the most comfortable of places to be flung onto, after all. All rage and hate, and vengence in his eyes, the zebra stallion limps towards Blackbird and Maddie. "…Kill her."

The tunnel Snowfield found would eventually lead to this cannonball place, certainly! She can see everything! There's even a convenient secret exit right next to a pile of flame-red cannonballs.

Snowfield finds the appropriate peekhole in the secret tunnel and spots dead zebras, living zebras, crazy pirates and crazier inventors. Her lips drop into a frown as she hears Bazi's instruction. Is Blackbird really going to listen to that order? Is he so close to the edge that the idea is even marginally reasonable?

She spots the exit, which isn't particularly secret from THIS side of the wall, and sneaks out behind the cannon balls. The unicorn's horn begins to shimmer as she prepares a spell in case that fool decides to be an idiot. Unconsciously she begins to hum; it is a muted, slightly off-key melody, probably not even heard by anypony caught up in the heat of the moment.

"You— you punished her," Blackbird repeats flatly, as if he doesn't quite understand what she's saying. "You punished a foal…with bloody violence?" Oh, yeah. He's seeing red now. He wasn't planning on killing anypony today, or even outright harming anyone if he could avoid it. But now? "YOU PUNISHED A FOAL WITH BLOOD!" he suddenly thunders, slamming a hoof across her face, and then another for good measure. "HOW! DARE YOU! YOU FILTHY, FLEA-BITTEN—" He's going to keep punching, as long as he's got the upperhoof. His words haven way to screams of rage instead of intelligible syllables, and until Maddie gets the jump on him, he's not going to stop.

Rusty backs quickly away, trying to turn the the sobbing, flailing foal away from all the violence. Blackbird's yells leave her looking torn, wanting to rush to him and… do… /something/, but unwilling to put down the little zebra and not trusting her to stay put if she tried to set her on her back. And Sadaka probably wouldn't have stayed put, because she was far too busy wailing for her mother, as if she could wake her if she could just shout loud enough or give her a shake.

Except Maddie isn't forcing Blackbird to stop. She's…laughing. Giddylike even. Between the sick sounds of hooves messing her face up. She can't really /say/ much like this, but what more does she really need to say that the horrific laughter of an unrepentant lunatic doesn't already?

Bazi looks on… He has a pleased expression. This is /exactly/ what that crazy pony deserved in his eyes. So he leaves Blackbird to it, and begins to pass the pair, heading towards the heart-crushing sight of his downed mare and weeping filly. This will be so hard to live down…

Idiot. Stupid fool idiot of a stallion. She's always got to be the accursed responsible adult and she's getting awfully tired of it. Her hum is raised to a mournful cantillation, meaningless syllables tumbling over each other to try and get the melody right. It's a sound both right and wrong, one that pierces the soul to all who hear it… no, that's not right. Perhaps it's more accurate to say it pierces the heart. Quite literally.

Blackbird, Bazi, Mad-Mare, everypony in the room may find themselves feeling unnaturally chilled. It starts in the chest, spreading into the limbs and up the neck, reaching the head last and seeming to slow everything down. Movement becomes difficult as frozen limbs sluggishly refuse to obey their orders.

That Mad-Mare is laughing only stirs Blackbirds to greater depths of fury, and he just starts hitting her harder. "You MURDERED her MOTHER," he seethes, "and you HURT HER! YOU HURT MY DAUGHTER!" He stops punching her, instead using his hooves to pin her head down long enough so he can whip his own head back and grab a knife from his bags, clenching it hard in his teeth, ready to plunge it without hesitation into the Mad Mare's gullet.

Except…there is hesitation, and not out of the sense of honor he /should/ be having. He's getting clumsy and weak, the way his movements are slowing, and he sways instead of plunges. He glares hatefully at Mad, gritting his teeth hard around the knife hilt. "Wha…whadd're you doin, you…you…" he grates. Somethingsomething. He can't make words.

A sudden chill works into all of the ponies… Yet the Mad Mare is still laughing. Even when Blackbird's punches stop, when he pins her head down, she's giggling like a darned schoolfilly! "Oooh are you finally going to do it..? Are you? Heheheh… Do it! Do iiit!"

Except…it doesn't happen quite like that. It doesn't happen at all. Maddie's limbs feel slightly numb, but the fool atop her has gone practically cold! The Mare's eyes focus on Blackbird's hateful glare, the knife and everything. "You can't, can you… That's so sad. So…sad… You make me sick~"

For some reason she just..doesn't feel as cold. Maybe it's her general inability to feel anything. Maybe her legs are always numb. Or maybe it's more to do with just how worked up she is! Whatever the reason, she has the strength in her to lean up, and gingerly steal the knife out of Blackbird's mouth. Like some intimately sadistic kiss, transferring the deadly blade from one muzzle to another's.

Then she pushes… Summoning what strength she can in the face of the outright magical freeze, she manages to get her hooves under her, kicking the frozen Blackbird off of her body! It's not graceful, and awful stumbly, but the Mare gets back to her hooves, grinning around the knife hilt in her mouth at Blackbird, then over at Sadaka. And finally…up to Bazi, clumsily stepping next to the half-frozen stallion, and swinging her head to bury Blackbird's knife hilt-deep in the zebra's neck! As though empowered by her burst of violence, she even follows up this greusome display by spinning about and bucking the striped stallion back towards Snowfield's peephole, where Bazi collapses with a gurgled cry, atop the cannonball pile.

Snowfield flinches as Bazi's body impacts the wall next to her. It's unfortunate, but the unicorn knew coming into this that it would end horribly… even still, the blatant disregard for life is enough to make even the hateful unicorn's blood simmer and she reveals her presence by stepping around from the red cannon balls, still singing her heart-wrenching melody. As the song continues she seems to be getting the hang of it. More notes than not are on-key now and the pulse of her horn glows brighter with every proper tone. She focuses her gaze and her spell on Mad-Mare, who doesn't seem to know when to stop.

The numbing sensation begins to recede from the other ponies in the room but ought to intensify for poor Maddie. Especially in her hindquarters and back legs, where the numbing would loop around to a dull, throbbing burn should the spell take hold. She may very well not be able to keep on her feet at this rate, at least not with Snowfield's concentrated hate stare being directed squarely at her and the chilling melody ringing louder in her ears.

"DADDYYYY!" If the squealing filly had been left chilled by the spell, this sight all but froze her. Disbelief and horror left her faint and dizzy, still flailing sluggishly in Rusty's grip, though by this point she's doing more sobbing than active struggling. Rusty winces and tries to turn her away from the sight, tense and quivering a bit herself, though whether from horror or rage is anypony's guess. One thing's for sure, if she didn't have a filly in her grip, she would likely have gone for something deadlier.

Blackbird would bite Maddie, if his mouth weren't full of knife. And when she takes that away from him, he actually does try, lunging clumsily and missing by a mile. His lunge sends him straight into her buck, which has him rolling away from her to smack into the wall and watch in horror as she takes the very weapon /he/ provided and kills Sadaka's father in cold blood. "NO!" he shouts, trying desperately to get to his hooves and stagger to Bazi. "No no no no!!"

Not one but two, dead. Shock is warring with hate and anger within the teacher, and as the chill recedes, he straight-up tackles the mare again. But this time, he's aiming for the cannons, to slam her body into them. "/You have killed for the last time/," he snarls. This time he's a-gonna choke a bi…mare. Choke a mare.

About now is when other sounds would intrude in the private party of death and violence. The sounds of fighting, working through the ship, down towards this very room. There's potentially going to be much more to deal with soon…

Maddie can't very well move with Snowfield's spell intensifying, the Mare catching sight of the diminuative unicorn just before her rear legs give out to the dull numb ache of pure /cold/. She shouts, dropping to a seat, following it with a giggle. "You should see your faces~" she chimes, Blackbird's tackle carrying her straight into a cannon! She finds it much more difficult to laugh through this one, coughing up blood and all, but she gives it a go anyway! "Haha… You…" But she can't seem to make the words come out. Not enough breath.

Other sounds of shuffling rise, pained gasps of breath and grunts. Back with the cannonballs, Bazi's apparently refused to die just yet. What's more, he's found himself an oil lantern, holding it in his mouth, poised above those flaming red cannonballs. With a look somewhere between rage, regret, and pleading, the zebra stallion, knife in his neck and all, tries to speak. "All of you. Escape this madness. Take Sadaka…" He lifts his head high, his intent obvious enough. Those cannonballs must be Maddie's 'special recipie' cannonballs. "…The Mare dieswith me…"

"Celestia above!" Snowfield shouts, Blackbird's latest antics finally breaking her concentration enough that she stops singing. Mad-Made's legs ought to stay iced over for a good long while, so she doesn't mind dropping the spell to cast another one: namely, a telekinetic backhand to knock the teacher off of the dread pirate. "What does a mare need to do to stop a stallion from resorting to violently slaughtering a pony in front of the foal?"

The tiny unicorn walks over to Blackbird and glowers at him. "What do you intend to accomplish, you idiot? Do you think turning yourself into a monster as bad as her is going to impress your little zebra? Is 'an eye for an eye' a good lesson for little fillies to learn?" She stamps a hoof angrily. "Look at that foal and tell me that another death is going to make her happy."

Then Bazi goes and does his thing with the lantern, prompting the unicorn to grit her teeth and slooowly turn her head to glare in his direction. There's no way out of this situation without killing someone, is there?

Blackbird flattens under the telekinetic pimpslap, and he shakes his head quickly, rage still bubbling. Until Snowfield's words get through to him. "If she doesn't die, she'll hurt more good ponies," he croaks. But… he looks over at Sadaka, pained look in his eyes, and back at Snowfield. Angry as he is, as inflated as his sense of injustice may be, he crawls to his hooves and bows his head. "You're right. Right now, the most important thing is to get her out of here and away from all… /this/."

Bazi, however, gets the teacher at his side. "No. Come, we'll get you to the hospital." Which might have been effective, maybe, like…/before/ the murderous rampage, but is probably not so much now. He still tries to shoulder the stallion up to lean against him though. "She needs her father, so no back-talk!"

Rusty freezes for a moment, eyes flicking between Blackbird and the Mare, Snowfield, and Bazi. She's no medic, she can't patch ponies like she can machines. She has a pretty good guess what that lantern will do to those cannonballs — if anypony recognizes impending fiery explosion, it's this one — and it's not the sort of thing one wants to stick around for. She gulps and glances down at Sadaka as the filly squeaks out a faint, "Daddy?" and blinks over at Bazi with a flicker of hope, not quite grasping the intended forthcoming actions. Rusty, however, grasps it quite well, and is already backing towards the stairs, ready to flee. As soon as she's sure Blackbird is with her.

Maddie slumps against the cannon without Blackbird there to hold her up, spitting up another good glob of blood. "How…infuriating." she mutters through darkly glittering eyes, staring at Snowfield and Blackbird. "So what happens now? You all run away? Dragging his body?" she points, at the rapidly fading zebra. "You leave me to /live/, after all /this/? What do I have to /do/ to you all?"

Bazi had been accepting Blackbird's support. Indeed, the mere act of standing was making him lose more blood than he could handle, already he's trembling on his footing, his eyes grown dim. His ears perk, hearing Sadaka's squeak. "Why…haven't you gone?" he grumbles at Blackbird, starting to fall to his knees. "You're her father now."

"Get out of here," Snowfield says to the gathered ponies as she walks towards the still-taunting Mad Mare. "I'll deal with Sunshine. The lot of you just get back to the dinghy and sail away once you have everypony. Don't wait up for me, I can swim just fine."

Her horn starts to glow again as she hits Maddie with another freezing spell in the rump. That rear leg probably won't be able to take much more of that before frostbite sets in.

"Because— I'm trying to save your life!" Blackbird shoots back desperately. But he, like Rusty, knows nothing about medical things, and with growing horror, it's starting to dawn on him that it's time to make a run for it and leave the zebra. "I— I'll be good to her," he promises the stallion, with a bow of his head. "The Bone Mistress will take you to your wife in the stars."

It doesn't take the urging from Snowfield, before he turns to gallop after Rusty and Sadaka, nuzzling them both quickly. "Come on, before I do anything else supremely stupid, like get us /all/ captured," he pants.

Rusty nods curtly, taking just a second to return the nuzzle before darting up the stairs and back towards the deck. There'd be time to mourn the losses later; for now, they just had to get out of here before there were more of them.

Bazi answers Blackbird with a grunt and enough of a smile. It's a more..friendly grunt than others he made before. "See that you do. Or we'll be very upset." Without Blackbird's support, he slumps the rest of the way to the ground, nudging the oil lamp as close to the cannonballs as he can to the nearest fuse. It will catch soon enough. Y'know. Unless certain ice ponies derail his mighy plan of a final sendoff to the Syndicolt!

Speaking of which, the Mad Mare's ears twitch. Sunshine! Accursed word! The Mare grits her teeth, the pain of her legs finally sinking in that this could very well be a problem. She closes her eyes tight, tipping over onto the ship's wooden flooring, panting for breath amid the now-blinding pain of frozen limb! Nevermind the pain in her face starting to catch up from the brutal mauling of earlier. "There is no /Sunshine!/ She's dead! Dead to the world!"

Meanwhile… Blackbird, Rusty, and Sadaka will find..little resistance up the stairwell. Mostly because by this point Rock'em and Sock'em have managed to take care of the majority of the problem. Such good ponies they are. Upon spotting the trio of fleeing ponies though, they both lift eyebrows and bob their heads. "Eh? What, Boss let you live? Or did you kill Boss?"

"Neither, she's back with her dead cannoneers," Blackbird growls as they pass. With that, he races up the steps with Rusty and Sadaka, intent on getting them out and onto the deck, and then onto their escape vessel, where Siyana and Lav are waiting, and perking up considerably when they see their lost friend. "Sadaka!!! Ohmygosh, are you okay?" Siyana calls.

"It clearly failed to take since you're still alive and kicking," Snowfield says boredly as she watches Blackbird and Rusty rush off. "I don't mind killing you again," the unicorn continues. "I just didn't want Blackbird to do it. He's got to take care of the foal, after all. I, however, am not embroiled in any such moral quagmire."

Once Blackbird and the others are off the cannoneer's deck Snowfield's horn flashes brightly. Where the blood in Maddie's leg was once simply supercooled the unicorn now intends to freeze it outright, letting water do what it does best at low temperatures: turn into crystals and expand, utterly destroying the leg's functionality in the process as blood vessels and muscle lose their integrity.

"I'll do you the favor the Bone Mistress did to me, though." She glances at the pile of red cannon balls. A blue glow surrounds one as it is lifted out of the pile, smashed into Bazi's lantern and hurled down the length of the deck. After a few moments it explodes mightily, blasting a hole in the side of the ship.

Her gaze returns to the Mad Mare. "Earn your life, Stormcloud. If any chance of life awaits you it's by escaping into the ocean. Perhaps the seaponies will be kind enough to see you to shore." She snorts at the idea, since seaponies are obviously hallucinations dreamt up by lonely sailors. "I give you… maybe five minutes until the boat's rocking sends that puddle of flaming lamp oil into the rest of the cannon balls."

Lavender pretty much clings to Sadaka for dear life, her own sword cast far aside. "Oh we're all safe…We're safe, thank Celestia…" She means, of course, the three fillies.

Rusty sets Sadaka down by her friends once they're back in the boat, keeping a close watch on her lest she try to scramble back to the escape boat. She needn't have worried; realization has finally set in, and the little filly has gone very still and pale, teary eyes staring back at the ship. She's too stunned to even notice how much closer to the water the smaller boat is, or to be frightened by the storm-tossed ocean around them.

Rusty gulps thickly, looking over the bedraggled group who'd returned to the boat. "I-is everypony here?"

Shriek! Maddie's leg, turned to so much uselessness in a matter of moments from sheer blood freezing. Not to mention what will happen when chilled blood circulates from the fringes. She won't be bucking with that leg anytime soon, if ever again! The shock of pretty much losing a leg snaps something in the Mare, as though for once in her life she's actually feeling the threat of death close by.

All thanks to a runt of a unicorn. Unicorns… Curse those magic-using cowards! She hates'em all! She manages to sit up, holding onto her injured leg, crazed expression focused on Snowfield.

"Every time somepony fails to kill me, they've come to regret it." she speaks in a voice slurred with the feelings of cold and pain and fatigue. "If you let me live now, I promise you will too…"

Nevermind that the flaming Special cannonballs are about to explode. They're hissing… Fuses are lit from the spilt lamp, and a fire's already started near a couple of the other cannonball piles. five minutes may be a very generous estimation!

Meanwhile, as soon as everyone's in the boat, Blackbird turns and flings his arms around Sadaka, holding her tightly. "I'm so sorry, kiddo. I'm so, so sorry. But I'm so glad you're safe." To Rusty, he swallows, and nods. "Except for Snowfield, yeah. I…think we're ready and able, Captain."

Siyana, meanwhile, clings to Lavender and Sadaka and Blackbird, since Blackbird has Sadaka. "We're all safe now!"

Gamble, whom might have been snoozing up until the moment the ponies made it back aboard the ship, tips his hat up. "Uhm. Should I, uh, summon th' missing pony?"

Snowfield snorts again at Maddie's threat. "I've had far worse than angry pirates try and fail to kill me. If you think your silly little grudge is stronger than the touch of windigo, then please, do your worst. I'll be waiting for you in the Wintersong Forest. Try not to get lost."

The pale unicorn trots down the length of the cannoneer's deck to the hole in the side of the ship. "Until we meet again, Sunshine Stormcloud," she says with little regard for the pirate's rage before jumping out into the storm. It's a shame she's not a pegasus, that water's gonna be awfully cold.

Lavender gives Sadaka a little tiny shake and leans on her and Siyana both. "Hey…Hey, it's all going to be alright, we're going home, you don't have to think about any of that any more…" She looks back up at the ship, nervously.

Sadaka blinks and trembles for a moment before turning to cling to Blackbird, giving a loud wail that quickly degenerated into quavering sobs. Rusty winces, sighing softly and letting her head droop, sitting down heavily. That… could have gone better.

She casts a sideways glance at Gamble, nodding slowly. "Yeah, that… that's probably a good idea. Make sure we don't lose another one. Nopony wants to swim in… in this."

Maddie is left behind by Snowfield's abandoning of the ship. Sunshine Stormcloud… Why can't she kill that name? She lifts her head, howling into the open storm! "Why won't anypony just kill m-"

All of the cannonballs begin to go off! The ship, such a sturdy sea-faring vessel of iron and wood, begins to explode outwards from that one deck, in a spectacular display of fiery rage! The ship buckles…more explosions rocking the boat beneath the waves, the whole thing starting to visibly sink into the ocean. Moments later, any pony who isn't dead or wounded rushing the lifeboats on deck, some others diving into the waters themselves. Rock'em and Sock'em might be seen on the deck, helping with the lifeboats, though they never actually get in one. Rather, they charge into the ship, and out again, and in the other side, and out again. The last two ponies on deck, waiting until the last moment to claim the last lifeboat to save their own sorry hides.

Even after the ship sinks, and lifeboats are seen rowing towards the remaining Syndicolt ships, the one with the main bodyguard goons stays where the flagship sunk. Looking for signs of life amid the churning waves of the storm. Looking for their boss.

Gamble grimaces from his seat in the rescue ship. He wisely doesn't say anything else, and focuses instead on his 'cheating' spell, seeing if he can't locate the coin he gave Snowfield to bring it, and perhaps the pony holding onto it, back to the ship.

The coin is tucked into Snowfield's cloak, and may be a little easier to sense now that Snowfield is outside of the boat. She hardly notices being teleported over the escape boat, what with the darkness and the rain and the ocean all merging together into a big, roaring mess. As far as she can tell she simply has the best timing ever and jumped out of the hole just as the ship was passing underneath, landing with a "thump" on the deck and rocking the ship almost imperceptibly thanks to the severe rocking the choppy water is already subjecting it to.

"I set all of those exploding cannonballs on fire," the mare says with an air of disinterest. "I don't suppose you have a stash of funny money on the shore that you could cheat us to, do you?"

"Oh, goddesses. I'm so sorry, Sadaka. We're going to go home, where it's safe, and warm, and away from that horrible mare." Blackbird thumps down on the boat and just hugs her, letting the other fillies do the same, and he looks at Rusty with a pained look. As the boats explode, he looks thataway, frowning, but all in all… He's glad everyone's safe. Even Snowfield, when she appears.

Lavender shrinks back from the other fillies when it seems like half the ocean explodes, covering her head, then looks up when it's all done. "Is it…over?" she asks of Rusty, and of Blackbird. "The ship…does this mean we finally won?"

Rusty blinks and flicks an ear, sharing Blackbird's pained look; she hardly flinches at the explosion, though she does grant it one quick backward glance before looking over at Lavender. "Yeah, I… I guess we sort of did." It didn't entirely feel like a victory, though. Not really.

No, it really doesn't. "I think we've won the battle. We'll see if we've won the war." Blackbird rocks poor wailing Sadaka in his arms, and swallows. "To shore with us. The sooner we get out of this downpour, the better, huh?"

After a few minutes, though, as he gazes at the wooden slats of the boat, he asides quietly to Snowfield, "Thank you."

Their flagship sunk, their leader lost, the four remaining ships of the Syndicolt blockade choose to abandon the silly game, except for one small boat. With two ex-goons. Rowing to shore to figure out what to do with their life now. The main ships begin to sail off into the stormy weather once any survivors are rescued. The day is indeed saved, for what it's worth, even if no pony responsible for it will see it as such.

Lavender sees the overwrought Sadaka who's not getting better, and can sense that no words or hugs from her will help right now. Silently, she lays down at the bottom of the boat and watches her friend, not saying anything else the rest of the trip back.

Snowfield keeps her eyes on the shoreline, watching the lighthouse fight desperately to be seen amidst the raging storm. "Don't, Blackbird," she mutters back without looking at the stallion. "Getting my hooves dirty so you don't have to isn't a deed worthy of thanks. Just let me be the monster, you worry about taking care of the foal."

Blackbird pets his poor ward — his daughter — and sighs into her mane, eyes still downcast. As much as he may want to argue with Snowfield, or say pretty words, all he does is nod. "I will." And dang it. He'll take /such/ good care of her. He has to do her parents proud.

But at his chance glance upwards, through the heavy clouds, a small patch of dark blue opens up, the spattered canvas of stars barely peeking through the rain. He nudges Sadaka to look up, as two stars twinkle into being and streak across the sky. "They'll always watch you from up there, kiddo. I promise."