The crunching of boots on frozen snow caused the king to crouch in the shadow of a chunk of fallen hull, more pirates were coming.
"I want that boy prince found, no matter the cost," King Duncan clearly heard their leader order. "We will not waste an opportunity like this one. And remember, no blasters, I want to drag the prince before the Coil alive and smarting."
So, they knew his son was on the transport. How could they? A spy, or an intercepted messenger? They'd been so careful.
King Duncan heard the boots crunch to a sudden halt. "What did you call me?"
"I... I'm sorry, milord... milord Malicious, milord!"
"Now you listen very closely to me, Dandre, you will personally lead the last two shurikens into that wreckage, and you will personally drag that simpering fool of a prince from the crater. The child of Alarian royalty is a renown duelist, so if you find him holding a sword, you may blow his hand off, but otherwise I want him whole. Any other injury you do to Prince Morgan, I shall personally repeat upon your body."
Two more shurikens, that would mean...ten more men coming! Duncan knew his son would never be able to fight that many off, even if his concussion had cleared up by now. The King had left his son in the care of the handful of royal retinue who had been in the passenger compartment with his son and him when the ship slammed down. It seemed the pilots, and guards were all dead.
"Y...yes milord!" Duncan heard the sound of one of them—Dandre, he presumed—turn in the snow and run back, away from the boss. However, the other pair of boots just stood there, silent.
Duncan imagined that he could feel the pirate lord searching the wreckage with his gaze, and listening for the sound of his breathing...and maybe even his heartbeat, against the din of wind and driving snow on the glacier.
"Do you hear me?" Malicious spoke calmly and normally, without trying to yell in any fashion, as if having a conversation over an elegant dinner.
Duncan wondered if the pirate had heard him, or simply felt his presence, somehow?
"Do you? This is the moment of reckoning, young prince. The son pays for the sins of the father, and your father's sins are many, indeed. Perhaps it wont go so badly for you, if you come out nicely. Your father would trade himself for your life, being of such noble Valori stock, how could he refuse, after all? You know what I'd do then, sweet prince? I'd lower the "king" into a medit tank, and program a surgi-droid to remove his liver everyday, keeping him alive through it. That's right, I'd create my own little Prometheus." Duncan thought he sounded absolutely elated at the thought.
Obviously, this man was for some reason, obsessed with his royal personage. Maybe...maybe there was some way he could use that fact. It seemed the pirates knew his son was on that ship, but had no idea the real prize they had bagged.
Scattered debris, twisted bodies, shattered hull plating, and smoking power conduits created a maze of rubble atop the flowing ice-field upon which their ship had crashed, after being assaulted by two pirate frigates. Black Dragon Clan, the King assumed. Oily black smoke rose from a myriad of locations to pollute the pristine chill white clouded blue sky, so cold that it seemed to be trying to freeze him into part of the frigid landscape anytime he stood still, like now.
Duncan had looked for help among the corpses. He'd found four of his six Royal Guard thus far, but none that could offer more than a dead man's gun. Two of the plas-pistols the king had recovered were damaged, but the third had sufficed for a few blasts before fusing into an aluminum chunk, useless as all but a cudgel.
Now he held a sword taken from the last pirate he'd killed. It, too, must have malfunctioned in some manner, the fusion-swords employed by the other nine pirates the king had killed had all disintegrated into a thousand metallic shards once their wielder had died.
Bitterly stark cold air numbed the majority of the Valori King's wounds, the bruises, burns, and lacerations he'd received from the crash. However, the newer wound, the slash from a pirate fusion-sword, was not so fortunate as to be dulled by the cold; in fact, the biting cold burned like fire in his wound. The slash across half his belly seemed to exhale steam into the frozen air, like hot breath.
The pirates had come into the wreckage in waves, teams of five, there had seemed no end to them. Now he knew; ten more were coming. These Black Dragon raiders are not going to leave empty-handed... He knew he had to convince them that they'd found something worth all their efforts, then perhaps they would cut their losses and leave for their cold black environs - a home which matched their hearts.
To accomplish even that much today, he'd have to keep the marauders' attention on himself.
A spike of fear, cold as the ice beneath his feet, impaled King Valori. Ruthlessly he fought it off.
Royal decorum; isn't that what you've taught your sons, these five and twenty years? Act with decorum. Live with decorum. Die with decorum. A Valori must never dishonor his great name!
Well, you dolt, if it's to be done, let's get it done!
King Duncan Valori stepped out from the shadow of the hull-wreckage, his wound stinging deeply, "Over here. You pirate bastard! Take me! If you can!" Oh, Isabel, I'm sorry I was so distant. From you. From the boys. Remember me with some fondness...
The King came face to face with the hunter. This 'Malicious' stood alone, holding a weapon that did not seem to be like his compatriots' fusion-swords; a thousand shards of steel held together in the shape of a weapon. Instead, Malicious' sword was an old Eastasian single-forge; a long, curved Japanese katana, shinning in the frozen sun. One pale hand held an intricate ashen tsuka and tsuba, cross-hilt and handle, carved from white bone. The man who held it was hideous. Half his face had been torn open or off decades back, a third of his head was scar-tissue from a blow that had ripped from the scalp, to eye, to mouth, to neck. His long hair was as white as the driving snow, though his age could not have been more than fifty. A twisted smile, half scar tissue, made him look like a troll contemplating an easy meal.
"Well, well, if it isn't the Royal Murderer himself! Come, come, my good king; certainly, you'd feel better getting out of this cold, having that wound treated?"
"So I can experience the pleasures of your medit tank? I think not, Dragon scum!"
Malicious' wide white smile turned into a vicious scowl, "How many of my clan did you have killed, all those years ago? You didn't expect—when you called that double-March, and exiled our clans—that you'd ever see us again...did you?"
"I cleaned up Alaria, getting you scum off of the Planet of Light. You were the ones who started it all."
"You killed...ten thousand of my people..." Malicious' voice trailed off, and he stopped talking, seemingly not knowing what to say next.
"However—like cockroaches—I couldn't stomp you all out, or we would not be here today. How was it? You and your brethren managed to find a way off-world, who helped you escape Alaria?"
Malicious smiled again, his scarred face twisting unnaturally with the effort, "Howsoever it began, my good king; for you, it ends here!"
The pirate struck high, rapid-fire blows to the King's right and left sides, blindingly fast.
The King, one hand gripping the sword, the other holding his stomach, still managed to intercept every blow. Smoothly, Malicious switched to a low snap to the King's left.
Pain erupted as, having no shield, the King took the sword to his left arm. Fortunately, there was not much power behind the snap, so the sword only cut half-way through. Ulna likely shattered, thought the King, still he kept his left hand tight on his belly wound. For a moment he considered finding an opening for a deadly, desperate thrust...
But malicious had quickly switched grips, bringing down a two-handed overhead strike. Instinctively, the King's training kicked in, knowing that such a powerful blow would require both hands to intercept, his left hand tried to join his right on the fusion-sword hilt. Broken as it was, his left arm never made it, but it did move away from his wound. The pirate changed his blow's angle of attack on the fly.
Malicious' sword dug into the King's wound as Valori's hand moved away, and pain was all that remained of Duncan's world. He tried to keep his eyes level with the pirate scum's, but found his suddenly warm feet entangled in something wet and slippery, and he fell, losing the sword as his hands tried to stop his fall.
"Dammit!" The King heard the pirate curse. "Dammed Black Dragon Mushin form training... Well, my king, it seems fighting without a mind is great for reaction-time, but sucks if you want to take someone alive!" Malicious ended his tirade with two vicious kicks to the downed king's left ribs, certainly shattering more than one.
Duncan spat blood. "No medit tank handy, Mal?" he sneered. He found it virtually impossible to draw breath after speaking, however.
It was good to be the king, Duncan said to himself again, some days.
Today...today it was enough to be a father for once, and die in his son's place.
The bitter cold soon faded. Then his wounds stopped their pounding. Duncan thought that a flurry of snow must be clouding his vision, as his sight faded to white.