They were standing alone in the room, together yet apart. With barely enough space for the two of them, a charm hanging from the low ceiling, and only a tiny window mere inches from the ceiling, Bryn and Sinbad were far from comfortable.
However, comfort was the least of their worries.
Some days ago - they had both lost count of exactly how many days - the Nomad had arrived on the Isle of Myst to pick up a merchant and his cargo. Unfortunately for them, the merchant turned out to be an evil sorcerer, and somehow he'd whisked Bryn and Sinbad off the ship and to the building they were in now.
Upon their arrival their weapons had been confiscated, and they'd been escorted to their room. The charm nullified Bryn's magic, and she was having difficulty even communicating with Dermott, let alone casting spells to aid their escape.
Yesterday evening, their captor had announced his intent to completely drain Bryn's power from her, steal the rainbow bracelets, and then kill them "in a delightfully slow, painful fashion." When asked why, he hadn't responded, instead giving them a sinister laugh before leaving them alone with their dark thoughts.
The event was to happen this evening, immediately after sundown.
Bryn glanced up at the window, seeing the orange sky of sunset. She frowned, then turned to Sinbad, who was also looking outside.
"I'm scared," she said suddenly. She knelt on the cold floor with her back to the window, dropping her hands into her lap.
Sinbad turned and took a few steps toward her, ducking his head to avoid hitting the dangling charm. Upon seeing Bryn's expression, he sighed, then sat beside her. "That makes two of us."
"I wish we knew where we were. Even when I can contact Dermott, I don't have anything to tell him. We don't know anything about what's outside this building... wherever it is."
"He was clever," Sinbad admitted. Bryn's frown only deepened at his words.
"Hey," he said after a moment of silence. "We've gotten out of some tough spots before. Maybe we'll get out of this one."
"How?" she asked.
He thought for a minute before answering. "I wish I knew." Then, before he knew it, he was reaching out toward Bryn, his hand finding hers.
She squeezed his hand, then rested her head on his shoulder. They just sat there for awhile, not needing to say anything, each of them comforted by the other's presence. At least, they were as comforted as they could be, considering the fact that they knew their death was pretty inevitable at this point.
"Bryn?" Sinbad finally said as the light began to fade.
"Hmm?" She lifted her head from his shoulder to look into his eyes.
"There's something I have to tell you--"
At that moment they heard the jangle of keys outside the door.
Now wearing enchanted chains, they were escorted to a dark, cavernous room. Bryn was deathly pale as they stepped in, and Sinbad, noticing how she looked, whispered, "What is it?"
"So much evil," she said. "It's overwhelming."
After she spoke those words, a laugh resounded throughout the room, and the pair turned toward the sound.
"That's right, little witch," cackled their captor. "I apologize I had to keep you waiting so long for this. My brother wanted to be here for this momentous event, so while I would have rather done this hours ago, I can refuse him nothing. As he only leaves his home at night, this postponement was absolutely necessary. To make up for it I'll be sure to speed things up. But just a little bit. After all, we can't have this be totally painless, can we?"
"He only comes out at night? What is he, a vampire?" Sinbad asked in a vain attempt at humor.
"Not at all. He's simply a night person. He's never been able to stand mornings." The sorcerer then addressed the guard who'd brought Sinbad and Bryn in, saying, "chain her wrists and ankles to those rings by the door. Then leave us."
As the guard did so, he continued, "I've had a lot of time to ponder how I'll do this. For instance - should I drain Bryn of her powers, then kill both of you at the same time? Or kill one after the other? And if I did the latter, which one of you should go first?"
"So what did you decide?" Sinbad questioned, more to delay the moment than out of actually wanting to know.
"You'll see in a moment. Guard! When you're finished with her, hook him up to the machine."
The sound of chains and of Bryn's struggling filled the room for a minute. Then Sinbad was lifted up into the air, and despite his attempts to free himself from the guard's grasp, he soon found himself belted to the torture device. His chains were removed, but they were replaced only seconds later by the rack's bindings.
"Why are you doing this?" Bryn asked, barely able to mask her fear.
"Because I can," said the sorcerer, laughing at his own answer. Only a second later his voice was serious again, and he said, "All levity aside. I want those bracelets. There must be some sort of power to them - everyone who wears one has a greatness to them. Like you, Sinbad, who's defeated Turok and has grabbed Scratch's attentions. You couldn't have done either without great powers. And Bryn. You have no idea who you are, do you? I know who you are, and I know that your vast powers stem from that identity."
"Did you ever think that maybe the bracelets were given to us because of our greatness, rather than the other way around?" Sinbad responded.
"I have. But I'll find out. Besides, not only do I want your bracelets, I also want to get rid of you. You've both caused too much trouble for some friends of mine, and while you haven't yet inconvenienced me, I'm not about to let you get the chance."
The door slammed as the guard left them alone.
"Now, you were asking what I'd decided about who goes first?" His footsteps echoed loudly in Sinbad's and Bryn's ears. It was too dark for either of them to see where he was heading, but soon enough they found out.
There was the creaking of a lever. And Sinbad, unable to stop himself, screamed with pain.
The front door to the building flew open, and a sword-wielding man stepped in, with a small group not far behind him. "Where are they?" he demanded as he grabbed the nearest guard by the collar and shook him.
"I don't know who you're talking about," the guard answered.
"I will not ask again."
Shaking with fear, the guard told them how to get to the chamber.
"Thanks," the newcomer replied before knocking the stranger out with the flat of his blade.
"Nice way to repay him for your gratititude," one of the group jested as they hurried down the hall.
"You would rather have him following us or raising an alarm?"
"No, that was a compliment. Let's hurry. I hope we're not too late."
Tears streaked down Bryn's face as she listened to Sinbad's cry. She couldn't help him. She was chained to the wall, her powers nullified. Sinbad was suffering, and she could do nothing to ease that.
Suddenly she heard the sounds of fighting from outside the door. She listened as the sorcerer stepped away from the rack and closer to the door. The sound of Sinbad breathing as he was momentarily freed from his suffering reached Bryn's ears.
"What is going on out there?" the sorcerer asked, only a few steps from the door now.
The door then burst open, knocking the sorcerer to his feet, and the band of strangers stepped into the room.
"Little brother?!" bellowed one of them. "Bryn?!"
"Doubar?" Sinbad whispered hoarsely. "How did you--?"
"They had a little help from a friend," another familiar voice said.
"Tetsu," Bryn breathed. Of course. The bracelets had led him to them. Just like they'd led the crew to Tetsu before, they'd led him to Sinbad and Bryn now.
That was all that was said before the fighting began.
Unfortunately, the sorcerer was a more powerful foe than most they'd ever encountered, and the crew could not break his defenses. His brother, who never spoke a word, had drawn his sword and joined the group. From the sound of it, the crew was having a difficult time of it, to say the least.
But then another familiar voice, accompanied by the flap of wings, reached Bryn's ears. Dermott.
He flew into the room, and then she heard something fall to the ground and shatter. The charm that rendered her powerless!
Weak from all of the fear of the past days, along with the shock of finally being able to use her powers again, kept her from being as strong as she could be, but she did what she could to help her friends, using the elements however she could.
It wasn't quite enough. They were still losing.
However, the crew still had one more trick up their sleeves.
Sinbad, still on the machine, was completely helpless. All he could do was hear his crew as they fought with a sorcerer they couldn't defeat. The captain hated his current position - he couldn't even join in the fighting, let alone lead the crew to victory.
He couldn't stand it. They'd come here to help him and Bryn, and they might not succeed. They might lose their lives...
"Don't give up hope yet, Sinbad!" a voice said from across the room.
His eyes widened. Could it be...?
"Gormod!" the voice continued, this time addressing the sorcerer. "You've gone too far this time!"
The sounds of battle stopped.
"Cairpra!" he hissed. "I thought you were dead!"
"I know. There's a reason I had that rumor perpetuated." Her voice grew in power and strength, aweing crew and enemy alike. "I've warned you about what would happen if you attempted anything like this again. I spared you before, but this time I will not be so kind."
"You can't defeat me," Gormod said with a laugh. "My powers have grown in leaps and bounds since we last met. As you've said yourself, white magic is harder to learn than black. You can't possibly have learned more than I have."
"You underestimated me three years ago. You underestimate me now."
"We shall see."
"Yes, we shall see." She then addressed Doubar. "Free Sinbad and Bryn. Then get out of here."
"I can handle this. And you, Gormod, send your brother and your guards away. It is to be a battle between us and us alone."
"I don't have to obey you," he said. "But your defeat will be that much sweeter if I am unaided. I agree with your terms."
Cairpra didn't answer, not in words, anyway. Torches around the room suddenly ignited - whether it was through Cairpra's magic or Gormod's, no one could say. But after Bryn's eyes adjusted to the light, she found herself staring at Sinbad, hooked up to a device she'd never seen the likes of before.
Her heart ached at the sight. She had never seen him like this before. His pride had never really allowed him to show just how much pain he was in, but now, weakened by his confinement and torture, his face nearly brought Bryn to tears. Sure, she had seen Sinbad hurt before. But never like this. What kind of machine had caused him such suffering?
The room was suddenly filled with activity. Rongar took the keys from a fallen guard, and then, accompanied by Firouz, he came over to release Bryn from her chains. Another guard, upon Gormod's command, came in and began to free Sinbad from his attachments.
"Sinbad--" Bryn began as the last of her chains was removed and she leaned on Firouz for support.
"It may take him awhile to recuperate, as I've never seen the likes of that machine before and can't tell exactly what it might have done to him. But he should recover quicker than most. He usually does," he answered, guiding her toward the door.
Dermott, who had flown over to them and had just landed on Rongar's arm, chirped with agreement.
The last thing Bryn saw before being escorted out of the room and down the hall was Sinbad, supported by Doubar and Tetsu.
"Hurry!" Cairpra called after them. The crew obeyed her, making their way out of the building as quickly as they could. They were accompanied by the sounds of a battle of magic echoing through the halls.
An uncovered wagon stood waiting outside the building. Sinbad, barely conscious at this point, his head propped up on a sack, was lying down in the back of the wagon. Firouz, kneeling beside Sinbad, was busy examining him. Bryn was sitting on the seat, holding a torch Rongar had taken from the room, turned around so that she could watch the two and so that Firouz could have more than fading twilight to make things visible. Dermott was perched on the side of the wagon, while Doubar, Rongar, and Tetsu paced beside it, waiting.
Soon enough Tetsu came over to sit beside Bryn. "Are you all right?" he asked her.
"I've been better," she said, smiling faintly. "I'm worried about Sinbad, though."
"He will be fine," Tetsu assured her.
"I know. Still, I can't help being anxious."
Tetsu only nodded with agreement, and they sat in silence for a few minutes. Finally Bryn asked him, "I'm sure the bracelets are what guided you here. Did they also guide you to the Nomad and to Cairpra?"
"Yes and no," he answered. "I knew you and Sinbad were in danger because of this," he said, tapping the bracelet with a finger, "so I went to another one of my sailor friends and asked for his help. He captains his own ship, the Ruby, and he agreed to sail wherever I needed to go. The bracelet guided me, and we'd only been sailing half a day when we came across the Nomad, docked in a harbor for repairs."
"Gormod damaged it?"
"It would seem so. After some discussion we agreed that Doubar, Rongar, Firouz, and Dermott would join us on the Ruby while the rest of the crew worked on the repairs. We were about to leave when Cairpra showed up at the harbor--"
Tetsu got no further in his explanation, as Cairpra emerged from the building at that moment.
"He's dead?" Doubar asked as she approached.
She merely nodded in response to his question, then said, "We should leave before his allies arrive."
As soon as everyone was in the wagon, they were off.
Dawn found them aboard the Ruby. After a deep sleep aided by one of Firouz's medicines, Sinbad awoke to see Bryn sleeping in a chair beside his bed. He smiled at the sight. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful. Sinbad couldn't stop himself from reaching out and taking her hand.
Bryn's eyes flickered open as she felt Sinbad's lips lightly touch the back of her hand. "You're awake," she said softly, smiling.
"How long have you been here?" he asked, squeezing her hand before releasing it.
"All night," she answered, standing up. As she sat on the foot of the bed, she asked, "How do you feel?"
"Never been better." Sinbad sat up, wincing in pain as he did so.
"Liar," she said with a smile. "Firouz said you'd be a little stiff when you started moving around. You also need bedrest, at least until we get to the Nomad." Before Sinbad could reply to that, though, Bryn said, "Don't even think about it."
"Think about what?" he asked with a straight face.
She gave him her "be serious" look. "Please. Don't make me worry about you more than I already will."
"Do you really worry about me that much?" Sinbad wondered out loud, looking her straight in the eyes.
Bryn dropped her gaze, unable to face the intensity of his look. At the same time, she took his hand and said quietly, "Yes."
She felt his other hand gently caress her cheek. "Bryn, look at me."
She did so and was almost floored by the emotion she saw in his eyes.
"Bryn, I--" He stopped, then shook his head. "I don't know how to say this."
Did she dare to hope...? "What is it, Sinbad?"
"I--" Then he gave up trying to verbalize it. Instead he leaned in and gave her a tender, lingering kiss.
This wasn't one of those 'I want you' kisses, one of those kisses Bryn had seen Sinbad give other girls, or other girls give him, several times before. This was something deeper, more pure. If she was right - and she fervently hoped she was - this kiss said 'I love you.'
They finally parted and simply looked into each other's eyes for a moment, too overwhelmed by what they were feeling. Eventually Bryn was the one to speak.
"Was that what you were trying to tell me earlier?" she asked. She waited, with bated breath, for his answer.
He merely nodded, then kissed her again, this time more passionately.
And this is where we'll leave our favorite couple. Everyone's entitled to a little privacy, after all...