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Lunar Cycle: Chapter 10
Some Things Nobody Expects

"It's almost uncanny..." Vyse was saying. "Look at how the clouds are..."

"Aern said he would do I wouldn't act so surprised." Fina said calmly. "You do have to admit it's a bit amazing, though..."

"Amazing? Fina, I've never seen anything like it." He glanced left and right at the clouds on either side of them. "It's as if he's cutting a channel through the clouds for us."

"He's just increased the air pressure around the Delphinus." Gilder said. "It's not that hard to understand."

"I know how he does it...but that still doesn't change the fact that it amazes me." He grinned. "Although I shouldn't care how he does it....we're making good time and will be over the rift and near Nasrad in no time." Vyse looked ahead to where Lani and Aika stood with the Swartzian at the bow of the ship. "Those two seem to really get along with him, too....especially Aika."

"He's extremely likeable, Vyse." the Silvite commented. "I think Lani is interested in him for more of a social and scientific reason, though. Aika just wants to make yet another friend." She sighed. "She's always doing that...whenever we meet somebody new, she talks to them a lot."

"Aika likes to talk." The blue rouge captain grunted. "Sometimes a bit too much....but it's not harming anything. She's helping Aern feel more comfortable around us, I think. I'm sure he appreciates the friendly atmosphere she's creating."

"We're past the reef, Vyse." Aika's voice said through the talk-tube. "We just passed over the last of the rocks, so I think it's safe to descend. Besides, Aern is getting tired."

"I'm fine, Aika..." came a faint complaint, the accented voice obviously belonging to the Shwartzian.

"Both Lani and I think you need a've been doing this since this morning." Aika replied, her voice sounding small and distant since she wasn't talking directly into the tube.

"Aika, Lani, Aern...the three of you come inside for a while." Vyse spoke loudly into the tube. "We'll be passing over the desert, and the sun can be a real killer."

"Aye, aye." came Aika's reply, and Vyse could see the three of them make their way towards the deckhouse. He waited until they were on bridge before he brought the Belleza back down to middle sky level. They continued on over the desert until they came to South Dannel Strait, and came into the Bay of Nasrad.

"Do we need anything in Nasrad?" Vyse asked his companions.

"We're good on fuel." Fina said. "And I'm sure whatever supplies we have will last us until we get to Crescent Isle."

"I figured, but it never hurts to ask. We'll just continue here on to Crescent Isle without stopping."

"What an oddly-colored ship..." Aern murmured, looking through the portside windows of the bridge.

"Nasrians always seem to have gaudy-colored ships." Vyse said, not glancing over. "I think they're ugly, so I don't bother with all that yellow and red and brown."

"That's not the colors of this ship....and it seems to be following us." Aern frowned, crossing his arms and looking at the ship that was at their eight o' clock position. "I don't like this..."

"...I don't either." Gilder said, looking out the windows with Aern. "That kind of reminds me of Clara's ship....except it's white and purple, not pink. Still, there's something about it that makes me want to run and hide."

"So it's not Clara?" Aika asked.

"No, it's not Clara. If it was Clara, she would of shot at us already...but only if she knew I was on board. I doubt she knows I'm on the Belleza." He turned. "Vyse, try to outrun 'em. Don't let that creepy thing catch up with us."

"You don't have to tell me twice." the scarred young man said, quickly turning to starboard.

"Uh, they're still following us..." Aika pressed her face against the window. "I can see their flag sort of, but it's not anything I recognize." She turned back to Aern. "I wonder if this is something Gilder was talking about last week in Valua..."

"Let's not go there, Aika." Vyse interjected. "If they want to chase me, then let's give them a challange."

Unfortunately, the purple ship seemed to be much faster than the Belleza, even though Vyse's ship wasn't nessicarily slow. Fairly soon it was straight to port, and began to move into boarding position. Vyse shied to the right, but the other ship skipped over quickly and moved into boarding position again.

"They're damn persistant, aren't they?" Gilder peered through the windows at the other ship. "Uh-oh....they're signaling us..."Hold still...V-Y-S" ...okay, they're asking you to hold still, Vyse. "..we can't this way.."." The tall pirate removed his smoked glasses and pinched at the bridge of his nose. "Ugh....they know who you are."

"So? A lot of people know who I has something to do with that saving the world thing."

"Yeah, but the person who was signaling us was Belle. I think you're in for some trouble."

Vyse brought the Belleza to a halt, and sighed. "Fine...maybe if I talk to them they'll cut it out. They're reasonable girls....a bit flakey at times, but they were good people while they were in my crew. They can't really be taking after Clara....uh, right?"

"It's your hide, my friend. Talk to them if you want, but I think all you get out of this is embarassment."

Aern nudged Aika. "What exactly is happening? Does Vyse have some female stalkers?"

"Seems that way, doesn't it?" the redhead grinned. "I think this is gonna be pretty damn funny."

Vyse seemed less sure of himself as he walked up onto deck with his two female companions, having given Gilder the order to pull away from the other ship at a moment's notice. He looked across the way at the two young women on the white-painted deck of the disgustingly femanine ship. One was fairly short, wearing a pink dress that only seemed to make her large bosom seem bigger, a black beret and white boots. The other had dark hair, wore a long light blue trenchcoat, and a small skirt and top. Both outfits seemed to involve quite a bit of lace. The two of them were grinning at him openly.

"Care to explain yourselves?" Vyse demanded, walking up to the rail.

"Greetings, Cap'n Vyse!" Belle giggled, doffing her beret to him. "We're here on orders from Nara, captain of the Verge."

"And what orders would those be?" Vyse asked, a small amount of chargrin in his voice.

"By order of our captain, you, Captain Vyse of the Delphinus and the Belleza, are now property of the Rose Rogues, and therefore property of Cap'n Nara." Despite her light grin, Lilly seemed dead serious about this statement.

"Funny, I can't say that I recognize the Rose Rogues, and if the captain of one group of pirates doesn't officially regonize another group, then all claims made by the second party are null and void."

Belle blinked stupidly, and turned to Lilly. "Uh...Lilly, is that true? Can he just say "well I don't think you're really pirates" and leave?"

"Of course not, stupid. He's just trying to make an excuse so he can escape." The voice came from a brown-haired girl with glasses that made her way up onto deck. It was Nara.

"She seems...different." Aika said.

"In a sort of scary way..." Fina added.

Nara put her hands on her hips and smirked. She wore white leather breeches, a long pink overcoat, a black cloak and had a set of guns holstered at her waist. Her dark brown hair was still held back in twin braids, however. "Now, be reasonable Vyse...we both know each other."

"Uh, do we? You seem....different." he replied, echoing Aika's comment.

"Not just different, but my eyes have been opened to the world. Clara had a good idea going, and I think that others should follow in her footsteps. That's why I created the Rose Rogues: a group of female air pirates that sail the skies in search of their true loves."

"Well isn't that sweet." Fina giggled. "Look, somebody loves you, Vyse."

"Quiet, Fina." he murmured. "That's nice, Nara....but we're in a hurry. If you see Clara, tell her I say hello." He turned to Aika. "Give Gilder the signal, we're outta here."

"Not so fast, Vyse..." A clicking sound came from Nara. Slowly Vyse turned to find that he was staring down the barrels of the rose rogue's guns. "You're not going anywhere...and I have a few questions for you."

He sighed. "You've gotta be kidding me..."

"Dead serious, sweetie. First off....when's your birthday? Isn't it in springtime?"

"Late winter." Vyse corrected.

Nara giggled and waggled her hips in a taunting manner. "Woo, that's great! So you're a Sagittarius...which fits PERFECTLY for my sign."

Vyse groaned. "That's....nice. Are you done pointing guns at my head or can I go now?"

"Not quite. I need to see if you've been filling out nicely. Can you take off your coat, maybe even your shirt?"

"Absolutely not!" the blue rogue growled. "My clothing's staying on my body, thanks."

"Oh, that way. I'll find out sooner or later." The other two girls giggled at this comment. "Hmm...and along those lines...what kind of lover are you?"

"Excuse me?! You want to know what?!" Vyse's expression was one of disgruntled shock.

"Don't be coy, Vyse. You know what I mean: sex. C'mon....are you good or not?" She looked over at Fina and Aika, who were laughing uncontrollably. "You two think it's funny?"

"Well...duh...." Aika chortled. "C'mon, this is Vyse we're talking about. Stop asking him stupid questions, Nara. He's not gonna answer you. I doubt he could, anyway." She added with an impish grin. Next to her, Vyse clapped a hand over his eyes, beet red in the face.

Nara thoughtfully tapped one of her guns against her cheek, while still holding the other leveled at the blue rogues. "Hmm...then this poses a small problem. I need to know details..."

At this point, Aern wandered up onto deck. "Vyse, Gilder wants to know why you haven't come back to the bridge." He turned to the crew aboard the Verge and nodded politely. "Ladies,".

"Aern...don't trust 'em. Don't even look at 'em....they're vicious cruel women that like to ask sexual questions." Vyse was still a bit red in the face as he turned to Nara. "Questions that are NOBODY'S business but mine!"

The Shwartzian laughed, his normally pleasant laugh sounding somwhat mocking to Vyse. "Oh please...why would they ask such personal questions? They're just young girls...I doubt they would ask such things."

"Ohhhhh..." Lilly stepped forward. "Nara, can I have THIS one? He looks so delicious, and he has manners too."

Aern blinked as his smile dissolved, not quite sure what to make of the situation. "Uh..."

"Maybe later." Nara frowned. "Right now I need answers..." She turned to Fina. "Fina, maybe you know how good Vyse is in the sack."

"Pardon me? Did you say what I thought you said?" The Silvite's voice was somewhat quiet and controlled, but her face was red and her green eyes dangerous.

"Please, Fina...we all know that you and Vyse had something going...or maybe still do." She shook her head seeing Fina's expression. " mean you haven't slept with him even once? What's wrong with you?"

"What's wrong with me?! I happen to be a lady! I don't go around hopping into people's beds!" The blonde girl was trembling with anger.

"Oh, fine. Then maybe you, Aika. You've known Vyse for years...and I doubt you're the helpless virgin type like Fina over there."

Vyse wearily rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Nara, you're just digging your own grave deeper. Aika doesn't know either...just leave my friends alone."

"Just why are you so interested in Vyse, anyway?" Aika demanded hotly. "He's not anybody's property, and he makes his own decisions."

"Why?" Belle's eyes widened. "You mean you've known him all your life and you don't know? Look at him!"

Aika glanced at Vyse, and then back at the rose rogues. "Yeah? What's so great?"

Vyse groaned, but didn't say anything.

"Let me lay down the facts for you, Aika." Nara said, leveling both guns at her. "Vyse is single, but that's not only it. He's the captain of two ships, he's famous, he's extremely handsome, he's intelligent, and not to mention fairly strong. If you can't see what's right in front of you, then you don't really deserve to be with him any longer. This is why I am immediately commendeering him and taking him prisoner on board the Verge. Any attempt to resist on Vyse's part will result in your own personal harm. Got it?"

Aika stretched languidly, reaching behind her back to scratch between her shoulders. "Oh, don't worry...I've got it." Suddenly, she pulled her boomerang off her back and hurled it at Nara. Before the pink-clad girl could fire off a single shot, both guns were knocked out of her hands by the whirling boomerang ,and sent clattering down onto the deck. Leaping, she caught the boomerang in mid-air and landed lightly on the deck of the Verge. She quickly slid into Belle's legs, knocking the airheaded girl over, and quickly stood up. At the same time, Fina jumped over to aid her, kicking Nara's guns out of her reach.

"What's going on out here?" Gilder asked, wandering out onto deck. He blinked, finding a very interesting and unexpected scene. Belle was kneeling on the deck of the Verge, bawling about a bloody nose while rocking back and forth. Aika and Lilly seemed to be involved in some sort of scuffle that involved pulling quite a bit of hair, while Fina and Nara were circling dangerously and throwing somwhat girly yet effective punches at each other.

"I...can't really say." Vyse sighed. "I'm not sure if I should be annoyed or flattered."

"It seems like the fair maidens came to their valiant knight's rescue." Aern murmured.

"Ah...I see." Gilder said with a faint grin. He shuddered and looked away from the brawl on the opposite deck. "That's just gruesome. Catfights are never pretty."

"That's because women don't fight to show off, they fight to win." Vyse said. Then he grinned. "Which makes me glad that my two female friends are on my side."

"Stop, stop already!" Lilly sobbed, covering her face with her hands. "Don't hit me anymore, Aika! I didn't do anything to you!"

"Bullshit!" Aika said, thudding her fist into the girl's head again. "You asked me a VERY rude question....involving Vyse, Aern and the size of a part of the male anatomy I will NOT mention!" She made a strangled sound as Belle launched herself with a squeal and landed on the redhead.

Nara wasn't as quite a girly fighter as her crew was. She managed to sock Fina cleanly in the jaw a few times, causing the Silvite to stagger. Still, Fina was holding her own, utilizing both her fists and her feet in fighting back against Nara, obviously refusing to call upon Cupil for help. The two young women screeched obsenities at each other, most of them seemed to include the word "bitch", while pummeling each other relentlessly.

"Damn...what am I gonna do?" Vyse asked almost helplessly. "I know they've got it covered....but I still don't like seeing my friends get beat up."

"Then jump in there, tiger." Gilder smirked.

"I don't hit women, you know that." Vyse sighed. "Maybe I could just break it up somehow..." He glanced around. "Where did Aern go?"

Suddenly there was a low howling sound heard above them. Belle continued to thump Aika's face against the deck of the Verge, but Lilly looked up and screamed, pointing at the sky. At that moment Aern swooped down onto the deck, his purple eyes glowing brightly even in the harsh light of the desert sun. He flared his wings, raised his face and let out a bellow, showing rows of sharp, dangerous-looking teeth. Lilly immediately scrambled away, fleeing into the deckhouse while sobbing uncontrollably.

Belle gave a gibbering scream as Aern picked her up with one hand and hauled her off Aika. The Shwartzian winked at the redhead, and then snarling menacingly, stomped towards where Fina was still engaged with Nara. The rose rogue captain looked up at the tall dragonic creature that held Belle by the back of her dress, and made a small whimpering sound.

Aern reached forward, and dropped Belle at the feet of her captain. He glanced at Fina, and then picked her up with one arm and calmly set her behind him. The Silvite stood there wordlessly, not sure what to make of Aern's reaction to their little brawl. He glanced back at her, and nodded. He then turned back towards the two remaining rose rogues, clenched his clawed fists, and bared his teeth at them. "It's not nice to fight..."

"Uh...I'm..sorry mister...uh...thing..." Nara stammered. "Ohgodpleasedon'teatus!"

The Shwartzian narrowed his pupiless eyes to slits. Then he opened his mouth and let out a long, shrieking roar.

The two girls fled, the door of the Verge's deckhouse slamming shut with a bang.

Aern sighed, and shook his horned head. He then turned towards Aika and Fina. "That was very interesting, but I think we should head back to your ship now." Stooping to pick each of them up, he walked back over to the rail, his claws clicking on the wooden deck, and leapt to land next to Vyse. "I believe it's safe to depart, Vyse. I'll have a look at these two, since they seemed too eager to fight."

"Don't like fighting, Aern?" Gilder asked mildly.

"Not really, no. Especially when women fight....I really dislike that for some reason." He glanced at the two female air pirates he held in each arm. "You two head inside. Once I'm dressed I'll take care of your injuries....especially that black-and-blue spot spreading around Fina's nose." He dropped them unceremoniously and made his way to the back side of the deckhouse to where he had deposited his clothing.

" have a black eye." Aika said.

"Yeah, your lip's all bloody too." Fina giggled. "We're a mess, but it was fun, wasn't it?"

"Any time we get to save Vyse's butt is a good day." The redhead grinned up at him.

"I think I'm going back to the bridge." Vyse groaned. "Today just isn't a good day for me."

* * *

As he said he would, Aern patched Fina and Aika up fairly well. What would of been a black eye disappeared from the Silvite's face at Aern's gentle touch, as did the scratches on Aika's arms, chest and face. Both of them said how strange it was that he could heal by simply touching them, but he laughed.

"Minor bumps and bruises are no problem for me. I can magically heal things as simple as black eyes or scratches with a small touch of my hand. Things like broken bones or illnesses require more than a magic touch, however. It's then that I fall back on more practical techniques." He said as he stirred up some strange-smelling tea for the two of them. "I'm still a least I think so. I know I won't be a true Cleric until I'm well into middle age."

"I think you've done well enough already." Fina smiled. "My head and fists hurt a bit...but at least I don't have that ugly black eye anymore."

"The aches will lessen if you drink this." He turned and handed each of them a mug of the overly-fragrant tea. "It contains natural endorphens, and also stimulants that cause your bodies to release endorphens as well."

Aika sniffed at her tea, wrinkling her nose. "Say what?"

"It makes your pain go away. It works for many things....headaches, toothaches, muscle cramps, sprains. Quite a useful concoction...if you don't mind the weird taste."

Fina couldn't help making a face as she took a gulp of hers. "Ugh...moons, that's nasty. Can't I put some honey into it?"

"More like a whole pot of honey." the redhead added, sticking out her tongue in disgust.

"Do as you like...just drink it anyhow."

"What if I don't want to drink it?" Aika grumbled, pushing the mug away.

Aern shrugged. "Then you'll probably start feeling worse. Pain tends to grow, you know."

At that point the two of them drank their tea without further complaint.

* * *

The rest of the trip back to Crescent Isle was fairly uneventful. A fierce thunderstorm appeared to be brewing off to the west over Valua, but they paid it no heed. It wasn't as if they planned on passing over Valua anytime soon. They listened to the distant roll of thunder and the thrumming of the Belleza's engine while chatting idly to pass the time. Towards sunset, they pulled into the back side of Crescent Isle into the seperate private port made specifically for Vyse's ships.

As was standard, some of the crew assigned port duty were waiting there for them when they moored. Many of them were newer members that came to Crescent Isle in hopes of working for the famous Cap'n Vyes, but as he always did, Hans stood on the stone wharf, smiling lightly. His father stood with him.

"Good to see you back, Mr. Vyse." Centime always insisted calling the scarred blue rogue "Mr. Vyse", not "Captain" or even "Vyse". Centime was horribly formal at times. "How was Valua?"

"Dull, depressing and yet interesting; just a big old messy mix." Vyse walked down the metal catwalk to the wharf, the rest of his friends in tow. "We also stopped a few other places...Glacia, Esparanza...and then there was a little thing outside of Nasrad today." He looked at Hans. "Did things run smoothly here?"

"Aside of the standard autumn rainstorms we get, everything went normally." the young engineer replied. "No raids were organized while you were gone, though. We figured you'd want to handle those details yourself when you got back."

"Thanks, it's appreciated. I doubt we'll do any raids anytime soon, though. We have more important things to do."

Hans looked past his captain at Lani, Gilder and Aern. "I see you picked up some people, Captain. I see one familiar face, but two I don't recognize."

"This is Lani, a scientist and historian from Yafutoma." He indicated the raven-haired woman. "Ilchymis directed us to her, since she knows a lot more about the Black moon than he does."

"Black moon?" Centime looked startled, and there was murmuring from the crew gathered behind him on the dock. "Is there such a thing?"

"Indeed." said Aern, stepping towards the front. "I come from the lands of the dark moon...I am a Shwartzian. What Vyse says is true, there is a Black moon."

Vyse rubbed at the back of his neck. "Yeah...I know what you're all thinking. I've got some stories to tell let's assemble the senior crew members and group in the Meeting Room in an hour or so." He stretched, popping his back. "It's been a weird trip, even if we've only been gone a little over a week...we're all a bit tired." Aika, Fina and the others behind him nodded and murmured in agreement. "Let's have some down time, and then we'll discuss things."

Aern frowned, stepping forward. "I'm not sure that's a good idea." He glanced at the far wall, east out towards the town, even though he had never seen it before. "Something is coming from that direction..."

"What do you mean?" Fina looked a bit confused. "We're can't see anything coming."

"No, but I can feel it. The Black moon...I think it's causing the weather to go awry, even this far north. Perhaps..." He walked over to the ramp leading up to the catwalk, an almost bemused expression on his face. "Perhaps if I see it..."

Vyse and Fina exchanged a startled look, and then followed the Shwartzian, Aika, Gilder and Lani following. By the time the purple-haired young man had made his way up to the catwalk and to the entryway that lead out to the town, the entire welcoming crew from the wharf was following him. Unconcerned, Aern continued to walk along, looking almost as if he was listening to something.

The group of them burst out into the blue-purple shadow of the singular mountain of Crescant Isle, the ruddy sunset hidden behind it. The air seemed a bit more chill than it should be, however, and definately a good degree heavier. Aern stepped up to the center of the plaza, next to the fountain, looking past the buildings over to the purple-black clouds roiling over Valua that seemed to grow larger by the second. He closed his eyes, bowing his head, and for a moment a chill breeze eddied through the buildings and trees, ruffling his hair and cloak.

Then suddenly the Shwartzian opened his eyes, looking straight at the black storm front with a startled expression. " it?" He whirled around to face them quickly, his eyes a bit wild, even as the wind began to howl fiercely out of the east. "Vyse, you need to get your people back into those caves...the Black moon has caused a fierce storm, causing the thunderstorms of the Yellow moon to grow and expand this way." He looked up at the dark, oily-seeming clouds that quickly slid over the island, and it could of been a trick of the light, but it seemed almost as if the Black moon crystal in his chest glowed darkly through his clothing. "...and this storm will make the one that hit you near the Dark Rift seem like a light drizzle."