The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part 6

1718
The Airship Battle by SpikedMcGrath

 

There are links to earlier parts of this story at the end.

 

Part Six – The Tower

 

“Good morning Babe!” Meela said smiling.

Both Meela and Caelynn had woken up still wrapped in each other’s arms. Caelynn blinked several times getting the fog out of her eyes. Wordlessly she sat up seeing a new sun slowly rising up out of the sea through the tent fabric. She got up and wandered out of the tent with Meela silently following her. Some of the crew had also woken and a couple of them were getting the fire going again so they could heat up the cauldron of fish stew they had made the night before. Caelynn turned round to Meela who looked at her expectantly.

“It’s very beautiful here, but it’s so quiet.” she said to Meela. There were trees nearby but she couldn’t hear any birds singing.

“I don’t think much wildlife made it through when this island was removed from the rest of the world. There’s plenty of fish though. Maybe Asden liked fish.” Meela responded. Caelynn sat down on a log that had been used for seating the previous night and tried get all the hair out of her face.

“It would be nice if you gave my wand back you know.” she tried to casually say. Meela looked at her in earnest.

“You don’t need it you know. You can do magic without it.”

“I know this, but it’s good for getting the magic to go in direction I want it to. Such as at the moment; it would be nice to get my hair sorted.” Caelynn responded. Meela laughed.

“I think it looks fine a little messy.” Meela told her. Caelynn just shook her head and looked away. Meela went back into the tent and retrieved some of her belongings and brought them back out. She rummaged around in a bag and produced Caelynn’s wand. She walked over to Caelynn and got on her knees and with a flourish presented the wand in both her hands to her.

“Here you are my lady!’ she said in an over the top voice trying to mimic the aristocracy. Caelynn took it from her outstretched hands.

“Thank you.” she replied. Meela got up off her knees and then sat beside her on the log.

“I hope you understand by giving you back your wand shows that I am trusting you.” Meela said to her. Caelynn nodded at her.

“I know.” The truth was Caelynn felt a little weird. She had just woken up in the arms of another female and she needed time to process this. She had never really thought about her sexuality before, mainly because she had never really had feelings for anyone else before, at least not in that way. She hadn’t realised that maybe she was attracted to other females, rather than males, which would explain why she never developed feelings for any of her would-be suitors. And now here she was sitting on a log next to an infamous pirate she had slept in a tent with, with their arms around each other. A female she had rather quickly developed feelings for. It was a little difficult to process. “Is there anywhere I can get clean? she asked.

“There’s water over there.” said Meela pointing over to the ocean.

“You expect me to get clean in that!” she replied in a horrified manner. Meela just chuckled.

“Nobles.” she said under her breath. Caelynn just grunted back at her.

“I guess I’ll have to use my wand. It’s not the same though.” she said disappointingly. After the last day she had she just wanted to soak in a nice long hot bath. Meela sighed.

“We’ll rig something up. We may be here for a few days. I can’t have you going without bathing. Goodness knows what you’ll be like by the end of the week.” she said. “Anything to stop you pouting like that.” Meela then unexpectedly grabbed Caelynn in her arms and gave her a tight hug and then got up and wandered over to the cauldron. Caelynn tidied up her hair using her wand. Meela came back with two bowls of stew, not a breakfast Caelynn was used to, but she was hungry and ate it quickly.

“So what’s this thing you wanted to talk to me about?” she asked Meela once she had finished eating.

“I’m glad you asked me that. I came across a spell a while ago that we could do. I never got a chance to try it with Adalenne. It would enable us to come and go out of the Gate without us having to open it every time with our magic. It’s a ritual.”

“A ritual? That sounds like wizard’s magic.” Caelynn responded.

“Well it’s a good thing I have a wizard with me then isn’t it?” Meela said slapping Caelynn on the back.

“So how does it work?”

“We draw a circle and inside it we chant. It uses blood magic.” Meela told her. Blood magic. Of course. One of the most primitive forms of magic. Using blood to infuse the caster’s essence into an area or an item, thought Caelynn.

“Don’t you think Asden’s magic might prevent it working?”

“It might, but it’s worth a try. I’m counting on that his influence here may have been diffused over time.” Meela replied. “The drawback is that if one of us ever dies then the spell will be broken.” That made sense to Caelynn. That’s how blood magic works after all. It uses your living essence, so once you’re no longer alive your essence will cease to have any effect on the spell, in most cases. Meela grabbed hold of Caelynn’s hand. Caelynn went red and let go. She got up feeling like she needed to go for a walk. Meela followed her.

“Caelynn!” Meela called after her. Caelynn kept on walking. “Caelynn look at me!” Caelynn stopped and turned around. She looked at Meela. “What are scared of?”

“I don’t know!” Caelynn replied to her.

“Are you scared that I’m a pirate? A sorceress? A half-elf? A female? Or maybe all of these?”

“I just never thought I would have feelings for another girl. And I keep thinking what would they think in the Queen’s Court that I’m with you?” Caelynn responded beginning to shake.

“Does it matter what they think?”

“But they will talk about me! My entire social standing will be ruined!” Caelynn replied in earnest.

“They’ll talk about you anyway, no matter what you do. And surely wouldn’t it be better if it was at least something interesting?” Meela replied smiling.

“But we’re from two different worlds! We can’t be together!” Caelynn wailed.

“Why does that mean we can’t be together? Surely we can at least try.” Meela said calmly slowly walking towards Caelynn.

“I’m scared!” Caelynn was starting to cry. Large blobs of tears began streaming down her cheeks.

“I know you are.” Meela calmly said as she walked up to Caelynn and put her arms around her. Meela held on to Caelynn in her arms gently rocking her as she sobbed. “Everything will be okay. You’ll see.” she whispered to her. Caelynn looked up at her, her watery vibrant green eyes studying her. Meela kissed her on the lips and tasting the salt from Caelynn’s tears. They kissed again. They then kissed for some time. After a long while they walked back to the campsite hand in hand.

*

After they had some lunch Meela set out with bag of materials and Caelynn followed. They found a empty patch of ground. Meela swept the area clean of any bits of twigs or small stones. She then spread rock salt over the area. Finding some stones that fit comfortably in their hands they both marked out a circle that was approximately six foot in diameter with the stones, putting an extra stone in the north, south, east and west position.  Meela stood in the centre of the circle and beckoned Caelynn to join her. They then held hands and felt the pulsing again. Meela chanted:

“By the north and south, east and west we command that this land which is hidden by magic to accept us.

By the north and south, east and west we command that the gate which hides this land shall let us pass freely”

At that point she produced a knife out of her bag and holding it in her left hand cut with the blade across her palm on her right hand from one side to another. She let the blood drip into the earth below them. She then gave the knife to Caelynn, who did the same.

“We give our essence to this place so our blood mixes freely with the soil. Making our blood a part of this land.

We give our essence so the land will accept us and let us pass freely through the hidden gate whenever we desire.”

Meela stopped chanting. They stood still for a while. All was quiet. And then they felt it. Underneath them a slight rumbling began and then there was a shimmering of white light around them. The white light passed through them both and then disappeared. The rumbling stopped. All was still.

“Well I hope that worked.” Meela said breaking the stillness. She produced a couple of clean rags out of her bag and tied one around Caelynn’s hand and then did her own. She cleaned the knife and put it away again. “There’s one way to find out.” she added. They both walked back to the campsite.

“Okay we are going to go on a short trip through the Gate and back again, so we need to get our ship ready to sail.” Meela commanded when she got back.

“Aye Captain!” First Mate Bronwyn responded. The rest of the crew quickly got the airship ready. Within a few minutes they were ready to go. Most of the crew boarded the airship while some began to pull the iron stakes out of the ground. When they did so and the airship began to rise they climbed up the ropes, or in the case for a couple of them the crew pulled up the ropes with them hanging onto it. Once they were all aboard all the other ropes were pulled up and the airship began to turn in the direction of the Gate. Slowly they approached it. As the airship got to where the Gate lay it was as if a veil was pulled away and they all could suddenly see the lands they came from again in front of them. Caelynn looked back and saw empty sea behind her.

“Okay turn the ship around!” Meela commanded. The airship swung around in a wide circle and passed through the Gate again. The island came in to view again and lands behind them disappeared. Meela turned to Caelynn. “Well I guess that worked then!” Caelynn nodded.

“Do we both have to be on board for it to work?” she asked.

“No the Gate should open now when either of us in its vicinity.” Meela answered.

“Is it possible for me to go and explore Asden’s tower? I wouldn’t mind having a look around it.” Meela looked at Caelynn thoughtfully.

“If you want. Personally I didn’t like the place and wouldn’t want to go back, but maybe you’ll see something I missed.” Meela told her. “Okay crew we’re going to sail to the north end of the island, where all those crags are!”

“Aye Captain!” the gnome answered as he took the wheel again. The airship moved over the island heading for the mountainous region. As they traveled down the island Caelynn saw one of the fishing villages made of stone houses. She looked out to the sea and saw some boats sailing. On the other side the land rose and thick forests began to appear. Eventually they came to stone outcrops and amongst them stood a black tower. The airship lowered and a rope was thrown over the side. Meela got Caelynn to hang on to her back as she slid down the rope using her hands which were covered in black gloves. She winced a bit when she first took hold of the rope with her right hand. They slowly went down the rope until they were on land again. Before them stood the tower. It was about 500 feet tall and made of obsidian. It was roughly a square shape and on each side at the top the tower it ended in a triangular blade. There were wide steps of basalt that led up to the entrance. There was a heavy door made from what looked like oak to Caelynn. She began walking up the steps. She turned to see Meela standing at the beginning of the steps.

“You go and look through it. I’ll wait here.” Meela said to her. Caelynn nodded at her. She breathed inwards and walked up the remaining steps to the door. At some point the door had been opened and left hanging there. She walked through the threshold. It was dark inside. She brought out her wand and produced a magelight that floated around with her wherever she went. There were shadows and a slight smell of sulfur. The darkness around her seemed smothering. Slowly she walked up the stairwell and looked around. She could feel a magical energy in the place that was slowly fading. She looked around the rooms. There were tables, shelves and drawers, all of which had been rummaged through. The longer she stayed in there the more she began to feel the shadows were closing in on her. She felt like there were cold bony fingers probing her everywhere she went. With the top levels looked at she went down the stairs and found the entrance to the lower levels under the tower. The cold fingers seemed to probe her more often. These levels had been rummaged through as well, but as she was about to leave one room she saw a gleam in a far corner. She walked up to it. There was a small key lying there on the floor. She picked it up and pocketed it. She looked around for items that were locked, but couldn’t find anything. She went back up the stairs and headed outside. It was a relief to be out in the sun again. She went down the steps to join Meela.

“That was unpleasant. It’s like I could feel his presence in there. The place has been well ransacked.” Caelynn told her.

“Yes when we looked through it we left nothing untouched. I think some of the villagers have been in there too, though most of them are afraid of it and think it’s haunted.” Meela replied. With that done they returned to the airship that had been hovering there waiting for them.  Meela climbed up a rope while Caelynn was hoisted up by the crew on another one. The airship then traveled back to where their campsite was.

That night after they had eaten, Meela and Caelynn retired to their tent. They began kissing and Meela hastily began removing Caelynn’s clothing. They both ended up on the bedroll with Caelynn peeling off Meela’s clothes. They kissed and had sex bringing each other to orgasm several times. Afterwards they slept naked under a blanket with their arms wrapped around each other again.

“You know I’m thinking about staying for a while.” Caelynn said to Meela after they got up the next morning.

“I hoped you might say that!” Meela replied smiling.

 

Next Episode: Loro-Don

 

Earlier parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part five

1700
Pirate Airship – Artist Unknown

 

There are links to the earlier parts of this story at the end.

 

Part Five: The Lost Island of Durn

 

“The lost island of Durn?” Caelynn repeated.

“Yes that’s right.” Meela confirmed.

“I’ve never heard of it!”

“Exactly!” Meela said. Caelynn looked down at the island before them. It was a lot longer than it was wide which gave the island a long narrow look stretching from east to west. The south side seemed to contain beaches and sheltered bays but the land then rose up to cliffs on the northern side. The land rose into hills and rocky crags in the eastern end of the island.  The island was a mostly a vibrant green jewel lying alone in a deep blue sea. The airship hovered above it as everyone looked down. Caelynn could feel the prickling of magic around her like a thousand tiny electrical bolts were zapping her skin.

“That was a huge Gate we went through! The biggest one I’ve ever heard of. This entire  place is a hidden pocket dimension. That would need a lot of power. Who was powerful enough to even make this?” asked Caelynn incredulously. Meela turned and looked at her.

“Asden” she replied. Caelynn understood immediately. She stood there and beheld the island with her mouth gaping open.

“The dark wizard? He was the most powerful wizard of all time.”

“Yes. Unless there is another Asden I’m completely unaware of.” Meela replied with a smile.

“Why did he do it?” Caelynn wondered ignoring Meela’s attempt to be funny.

“It was his place to fall back to in case his plans went awry. Unluckily for him his plans went so awry he got destroyed and was unable to escape back to here. Or so I’ve deduced.” Meela told her. “He was so powerful he could open the Gate by himself, but we need two of us to do that. Probably no one else could open the Gate on their own either, other than Bran of course. He would have been able to do it.”

“Well Bran did destroy Asden in the end, so I guess that makes sense.” Caelynn agreed.

“There is the remains of a tower amongst the crags in the eastern end of the island. The last time I was here I had a poke about in it and found some old weather stained journals. They were hard to read but they were definitely Asden’s. In one of them he talked about what he had done here.” Caelynn looked at Meela again when she said this.

“You’ve been here before?” she asked her. Meela took a deep breath.

“Well you know how I said that my magic had synchronised before with someone else? That was with Adalenne. She was my lover. We both opened the Gate together and explored the island.”

“What happened to her?” asked Caelynn. There was a pause.

“She died.” Meela said sadly with a pained expression.

“I’m sorry” Caelynn replied softly. Meela just nodded her head and looked away for a time.

The airship slowly got closer to the island until it was hovering just above one of the sandy beaches towards the western end of the island. The crew threw out ropes and slid down them and attached the end of the ropes to spikes which they drove into the ground so the airship still floated in the air but was constrained. The rest of the crew then disembarked the airship and walked about on the beach for a time including Caelynn and Meela.

“It’s good to be on land again.” Caelynn said as she gazed into the never ending ocean.

“I have to admit I do miss being on the ground now and again.” agreed Meela unexpectedly.

“Why airships? If you want to be a pirate, why not just be on ships instead? It would probably be a lot easier.” With those words Meela smiled at her.

“Why be a pirate on the sea when you can be a pirate in the air?” Meela replied with a smile and a wink. Caelynn sighed and slowly shook her head. She continued to look out to sea and noticed the sun was beginning to set.

“So this world has a day and night too?” she asked.

“Yes it mirrors our own. It has a day and night that is approximately the same as our own. I guess Asden set it up that way. We did travel in all directions, but there doesn’t seem to be any other island anywhere. I guess this was the only island he removed.”

“Removed?” Caelynn asked in surprise.

“Yes this island was once a part of our world. Asden removed the entire island into it’s own dimension. Talk about powerful magic.” Caelynn was gobsmacked by these words. That indeed was powerful magic.

“How come I’ve never heard of Durn then?” Caelynn asked thinking about stories of missing islands she had heard of, but Durn certainly drew a blank.

“It seems when Asden removed the island he also removed any trace of it’s existence as well. That was a neat trick.” Meela replied.

“Then how did you find it?” asked Caelynn.

“It was from a treasure map. It led to this island. The map was enchanted and somehow resisted even Asden’s magic.” Meela told her.

“So you came here looking for treasure?”

“Well not exactly. I was intrigued by this map that led to an island that didn’t seem to exist. So I came out here and found nothing but empty sea. I suspected something wasn’t right so I chanted out a few spells and eventually there was a dull shimmering in the air and I knew immediately there was a powerful Gate there, but one I was unable to unlock. I traveled to Loro-Don  and consulted some mages I knew. I wrote down a number of opening rituals, all the ones that they could find, and traveled back to here. One eventually  seemed to work, but I knew I wasn’t powerful enough to open it on my own. Which made me even more intrigued about what it was hiding. After I met Adalenne, we came back here and managed to open it together.”

“Did you ever find any treasure?” Caelynn asked her. Meela laughed.

“No self-respecting pirate would ever bury their treasure and then produce a map showing where to find it!” Meela responded. She laughed some more and then sighed. “Actually I was hoping to find some evidence that Bran came here, but I couldn’t find anything. I guess he never knew about this place.” Caelynn nodded silently in agreement.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Caelynn abruptly asked her.

“Sure.” replied Meela looking expectantly.

“Have all your lovers been female?”

“Yes” answered Meela. “What about you?” Caelynn unexpectedly started blushing again.

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it. I’ve had my suitors in the Queen’s Court, but that was all just part of the game we’d play really. I don’t think I’ve really ever had feelings for anyone else…” her voice trailed away. Meela was looking at her deeply, in a way no one else had ever looked at her. Ever since Meela had touched her and they felt their magic synchronise, she had felt connected to Meela in some way she couldn’t explain, even more so once they had traveled through the Gate together. She enjoyed being around her and liked how Meela seemed interested in her. When Meela looked at her, she felt her heart beat more quickly and her stomach felt funny. She also felt warm inside and safe whenever she was with her, like she would be okay as long as Meela was with her. It was all very strange to her. She had never felt like this before. “The fact that our magic is synchronising, what does it mean? Does it mean we are meant to be together?” she then blurted out and then turned a deep red when she realised what she had said. Meela looked at her surprised, her eyebrows raised.

“Well you don’t beat around the bush do you? I like that!” she replied laughing gently. She then looked more serious. “I don’t know what it means Caelynn. Maybe we are meant to be together in some way. All I know is I never thought I would feel this connected to another person ever again.” she admitted. Caelynn was still blushing and began looking down at the ground. Meela grabbed onto her hands and held them. Caelynn looked up again and into Meela’s sea-green eyes. They stood like that together for what seemed an age, both feeling their magic pulsing. Meela looked behind them. The crew had started putting up tents and gathering wood for a fire.

“Where do you want to sleep tonight? On the airship or in one of the tents my crew is putting up?” Meela asked her.

“To be honest I think I would prefer sleeping on the ground. I’m not used to the way the airship moves.” she replied.

“That’s fine, but we”ll make an airship pirate out of you yet! If you stay with us one day you’ll get used to it, and then you’ll find how being on the ground again feels so strange.” Meela told her. Caelynn hadn’t thought about the future. Clearly she could stay with them and become a pirate, or she could leave them and travel to Salané and do the Queen’s bidding. She never expected this option would be open to her.

“You’re saying I can stay with you if I choose? What if I decide I want to go to Salané?” Caelynn asked her.

“If you want to stay with us, you’re welcome to, but if you want to leave then I won’t stop you.” Meela replied seriously.

“I need to think about it.” Caelynn told her.

“I know.” said Meela. Caelynn spotted out of the corner of her eye two pirates walking  along the beach back to the camp with several bags full of fish. One of them nodded at Meela as they walked past them.  Meela nodded back.

“Where did those fish come from?” Caelynn asked quizzically.

“From one of the fishing villages” Meela replied.

“Fishing villages?”

“Yes this island wasn’t uninhabited when Asden moved it here. There were a couple of fishing villages. I don’t know what he had in mind for them, if anything. He probably gave them no thought.”

“But that’s terrible! These people have been stuck here all this time.” Caelynn said incredulously.

“Yes that’s what I thought when I first came here. They weren’t terribly fond of us outsiders, as they termed us, but we were the first new people they had seen in generations. We offered to take them back through the Gate and a few did come with us, but most of them wanted to stay. We gathered they liked not having to worry about being bothered by others, and the fishing was really good. We found if we kept to ourselves they didn’t mind us being here too much, and we did trade items with them for fish and other food. It was stuff they hadn’t seen in a long time so they were happy to trade for it. I wouldn’t go and look around their villages though, they don’t like it and they’re a bit inbred, if you know what I mean.” Meela told her.  Caelynn looked at her almost uncomprehendingly, though she did understand not being bothered by others, as that seemed to have been Larantel’s foreign policy for the last few thousand years.

“What are we doing here?” Caelynn asked her.

“I want to make this island a base for us, but I’m going to need your help with this. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow. I think tonight we should just drink and eat and enjoy ourselves.” Meela responded. Caelynn nodded wondering what Meela had in mind. She had helped her get through the Gate, but was there something else they needed to do? They both slowly walked together back to the camp that was being set up.

That night food was cooked on the fire and bottles of rum were passed around, all under a strangely starless sky. There was storytelling, singing, and dancing that went on into the morning. Caelynn joined Meela in her tent. Caelynn lay awake on a lumpy bedroll thinking about the island, the Queen, Salané, and her possible futures while Meela seemed to go straight to sleep and was now snoring loudly. Was the Queen really trying to get rid of her? Could she somehow restore her family’s status in the Queen’s Court as Meela had suggested? She didn’t know what she was capable of. Meela seemed to have a lot of faith in her abilities, while Caelynn seemed to have very little. She could always stay with the pirates of course, and with Meela. That prospect both excited and frightened her. That would be going into the unknown. Could a noble from the Queen’s Court suddenly and inexplicably join a group of pirates? That would be a talking point in Court circles for years and yet another scandal for her House to endure. Caelynn sighed. She slowly edged closer to Meela. Meela moved round and put her arm across her as she got closer. Caelynn put one of her arms around Meela. They slept in each other’s arms for the rest of the night.

 

Next part: Traveling to Loro-Don

 

Earlier parts of the story: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

 

 

Author’s note: I ended up writing the first four parts of this story in under a week. I’ve decided to publish further parts at a slower rate. I do need to do some thinking about where this story is headed. I have got a basic idea of the story line and how it all ends, but when writing something like this, things can change.

Kaikoura (haibun)

1687

 

Kaikoura

 

My friends are on acid moving in worlds I cannot penetrate. On the beach I am building a driftwood throne so like Canute I can command the waves as they foam ashore. Kaikoura is a mysterious place to see whales and dolphins, or stone formations. There is a feeling of an otherworld permeating the warm air as nearby the music pulses from where people are dancing in a convocation all night. I don’t want to be like the passerby who has taken acid for the first time and has thrown all his clothes and Rolex into the surf and is now dancing naked on the beach …

 

 

primeval rhythms

leak

out of the trees

 

 

a new sun

fills

the sky

 

 

Joanne Fisher

 

The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part four

1627
Airship by Min-Nguen

Part One, Part Two, Part Three

 

Part Four: Meela Starblazer

 

When Caelynn set out from Larantel she initially intended to travel by carriage, but after she found she had the option of instead going by airship she thought why not try that? She had never traveled by airship before so this was something new to her. The discontent about having to go to Salané was offset by a feeling of eagerness and excitement for something new to experience. And so, here she was traveling in what was considered a luxury airship with a handful of other passengers in an enclosed compartment. She lay back in her soft leather chair sipping on a fine wine out of a silver goblet and gazed out the window. She could still see miles and miles of trees below her along with some low cloud that would sometimes block her view of the ground. She had never been this high up before. The airship moved forwards slowly bobbing in the air. If she looked above she could see the side of the large elongated balloon above them that kept them in the air. It was all so strange to her. If she looked out she could see clouds and blue sky around them.

When they were sailing over the divide between the Kingdom of Larantel and the Imperial Province of Fifelen she thought she could see something in the distance in the sly slightly above them. It was still far away but it definitely seemed to be getting closer. It was far too large to be a bird given the distance so she wondered if it was maybe a dragon, but dragons mostly kept to the mountainous areas these days. As it got closer she realised it was another airship and it was approaching them. As it got nearer and nearer she realised it was a lot larger than the airship she was in and it had an open canopy that looked very much like a sailing ship that was attached very closely to a large balloon. Towards the back of the vessel some large fins jutted out and ran to the end of it. The way the airship was flying it was as if it was under a great deal more precision and control than their one was. Caelynn also noticed it was brimming with cannons. At that moment one of the stewards ran into their compartment looking pale.

“We are under attack by pirates!” he screamed out. “Take cover!” and with that he ran out. Everyone in the compartment was alarmed and had no idea what to do. Some tried hiding under their chairs, some just slumped down off their seats and hid under the window, and Caelynn just sat there stunned. No one had warned her about pirates. She hadn’t even thought that was going to be a possibility. What a nerve they had! She came to and began searching her bag for her wand. I’ll fix them! she thought. The thing about Caelynn is that while she liked dancing, and partaking in social events and didn’t seem to have much interest to anything beyond that, in reality, the moment she felt threatened  by anything, she immediately went into fight mode and that was especially if she felt it was someone who was trying to grab something that belonged to her and who didn’t deserve it. Just at that moment they could hear a number of metallic thuds above, and one of the windows then smashed open as a grappling hook attached to some rope came through it and attached itself on the window frame. Caelynn saw the rope, and the ones above, go taut as the other airship drew level to them. Through the window she could see a number of figures on the pirate vessel pulling on the ropes so the airship Caelynn was on was right beside theirs. And then they started jumping over. She could hear them land on the roof of their compartment. A few also swung over on ropes armed with cutlasses. Around the same time both doors to their compartment swung open and a number of pirates swarmed in. Caelynn put up her wand trying to think of a spell that would be useful. One of the figures who had just come in, a female half-elf with brown plaited hair and wearing a loose creme coloured shirt and dark pants immediately noticed her with her wand drawn.

“Oh no no no!” she said as she immediately ran towards Caelynn while carrying a cutlass in her right hand. This flustered Caelynn and before she could do anything the other one grabbed the other end of her wand with her left hand and tried to pull it out of Caelynn’s grasp.  There was a tussle between them and Caelynn could feel her wand gradually slipping out of her hand. And then it was suddenly gone and the pirate now had it in her possession. The pirate quickly put it in the back of her pants. Caelynn lunged forward in an attempt to try and get it back, but the half-elf grabbed her wrist. And then she felt it. It was a pulsing in the half-elf’s hand. It felt like raw magical power pulsing under the skin and she could feel her own skin reacting to it in response. She opened her mouth in shock as she had never felt this sensation before and she looked at the half-elf who seemed to be having the same reaction to her. The half-elf let go and backed off. “Oh I so want you!” the half-elf exclaimed and before Caelynn could respond some object like a bag was suddenly put over her head from an unseen figure behind her and everything went black.

 

*

 

Caelynn awoke and when her memory of what had happened came back she looked around. She presumed she was in the other airships hold. She was in a room with a wooden floor and walls. There were some boxes in the corner filled with something. She could hear the wood creaking and feel the sensation of traveling in the air. Her hands were tied together with a thick rope. By the door there were two figures. Both were female. One was a very tall, over six foot and though slim was also solidly built. She had long blond plaited hair and wore a leather jerkin and had a sheathed broadsword at her side. The other was a half-elf and was a bit shorter. She was wearing a red bandana, though Caelynn could see dirty blond hair falling around her shoulders. She was dressed in a pale blue shirt and pants and had a rapier by her side.

“Oh look pretty girl has woken up.” said the half-elf in a sullen manner. The other one snorted and walked towards Caelynn.

“Do you want a hand?” asked the human. She helped Caelynn slowly stand up. She felt quite woozy on her feat. Whatever had happened she had been enchanted. She knew the sensation.

“Where’s my wand?” she asked. Both the pirates softly laughed.

“The boss has it. She wants to see you.” the tall woman replied.

“She loves pretty elf girls like you.” the other one said in a joking manner.

“Who are you?” Caelynn asked them. The other two laughed at her.

“Well my name is Bronwyn Ironheart. I’m the first mate of this airship. And this” she pointed to the half-elf “is Kara, the second mate” Kara did an over the top mock bow at the mention of her name. “You have been taken prisoner by Meela Starblazer, our captain.” Bronwyn told her. Caelynn had heard about Meela, a bold half-elf pirate who was rumoured also to be a sorceress. She had a fearsome reputation. She remembered hearing stories about her in the Queen’s court.

“What does she want with me?” Caelynn asked.

“That’s for the boss to decide.” Kara replied in a threatening matter. “Maybe she’ll make you walk the plank.” She laughed.

“I’ll take you to her.” Bronwyn said in a more soft manner. She took hold of Caelynn’s arm and led her through the door. Caelynn heard Kara spit on the floor behind her. They went through a short narrow corridor and then went up some steep stairs which were nothing more than a ladder really. They came into another narrow short corridor.

“Don’t let Kara worry you. She just doesn’t like the nobility very much.” Bronwyn told her.

“I gathered that.” Caelynn responded.

“She took a while to get used to me, but we’re fine now.” Bronwyn added. Caelynn was about to ask her a question when they suddenly stopped in front of a door. Bronwyn softly knocked on it.

“Enter!” said a voice in the room. They entered the room. It was a largish room for a ship with a bed in one corner and a desk and a chair in another.  Caelynn guessed she was in the back of the ship. The windows in the back of the room were open and beyond was blue sky. Half-lying on the bed with her feet resting on a small  polished wooden table was the half-elf that Caelynn had the tussle with on the other airship. She was smoking a pipe.

“I’ve brought you the prisoner now she has awoken.” Bronwyn said to her.

“Thanks, you may go Bronwyn.” Meela said. Bronwyn nodded and left Caelynn and Meela alone in the room together. Meela looked deeply at Caelynn

“What are you going to do to me?” Caelynn asked her nervously.

“What do you want me to do to you?” Meela asked her. Caelynn felt the blood rise to her cheeks. Meela giggled. “Oh you’re blushing! That’s so cute! Please take a seat.” Caelynn remained standing.

“Do you know who I am?” Caelynn asked in a demanding tone.

“Yes you’re Caelynn Liadon. Daughter of Alcarin Liadon, the recently disgraced noble of Larantel.” Caelynn opened her mouth in shock. “By the way, sorry about your hands being tied up but I do know you’ve been trained as a wizard and so until I can trust you they will remain tied. I don’t want you blowing up my ship or killing my crew after all.”

“But it’s okay for you to kill people.” Caelynn said accusingly to her. Meela frowned.

“How do you mean” she asked softly.

“Well I guess you killed all the other passengers on the airship.” said Caelynn bluntly.

“No none of them were harmed, well none of them were intentionally. We just grabbed their loot and left them to go on their merry way. I try not to harm others if it can be helped.” Meela told her.

“But you took me? Are you going to ransom me?” Caelynn asked her.

“No.”

“Then why have you taken me?”

“I want you to help me.” Meela answered her.

“Help you?” she asked Meela incredulously. Meela sighed, put down her pipe, and stood up. She walked over to Caelynn and grabbed her wrist. Caelynn felt the pulsing again.

“Do you feel that?” Meela asked her. Caelynn nodded. “Our magic is synchronised with each other. I’ve only felt that once before and that was with another sorceress. I didn’t think I’d ever feel that again, and certainly not with a wizard.”

“What does it mean?” Caelynn asked confused.

“It means we can do great things together.” Meela replied smiling at her. “If you’re willing to help that is.”

“And if I’m not?” Meela smiled at her.

“Then I’ll let you go. But I need you to hear me out first.” Meela moved the chair over to Caelynn. “Could you please sit down. You’re probably still feeling a bit woozy from the sleep spell.” Caelynn obeyed and sat down. Meela went to her desk and poured out a dark red wine from a flask into a cup. She took it over to Caelynn and put the cup to her lips. “Have a drink. Don’t worry, it’s just wine.” Caelynn took a draught. It was strong and rough but it tasted good to her as she realised she was very thirsty.

“Thank you.” she said to Meela. Meela smiled and gave her another drink. Meela walked back over to her bed and drank some of the wine as well.

“I think there’s more to you than you realise. I mean it was brave of you to try and stand up to us in the airship. From what I had heard of you I wouldn’t have guessed you would have tried that.” Meela said as she sat down again.

“What have you heard of me?” asked Caelynn surprised that people had talked about her at all.

“That you’re a bit of a coquette. A social butterfly who flits from one ball to another. Though trained in magic you are thought to be of very little substance.” Meela replied. Caelynn looked down at the ground feeling embarrassed. “But I think otherwise. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling there is substance there. Maybe getting away from the Queen’s court might have been the best thing that could have happened to you.” Hearing what the people Caelynn knew thought about her really hurt. Leaving her home, on a strange ship with pirates who had captured her, and now this. She felt all the sad feelings she had been holding back since she left home were about to break through.

“I didn’t want to go! I love the trees and the hunts and the dancing under a fall moon… But the Queen sent me away.” Caelynn said in a voice beginning to crack. Just thinking of her home and how it was now far away started her crying. It unleashed the deep sad feelings she had. Tears started to fall down her cheeks. Meela walked over to her again and dried her tears with a rag from her pocket.

“You’re just homesick. I don’t think you’ve been this far away from home before. And I know the first time it really stings.” Meela consoled her. “But in the end we all have to leave home to find out who we truly are.” Caelynn nodded at her words. Meela rubbed her back softly. “You are very pretty though.” Caelynn weakly smiled.

‘Thanks” she said. Meela walked back to her bed.

“I really think I should warn you that you are being set up.” she said. Caelynn looked at her surprised.

“What do you mean?” she asked her still drying her eyes.

“Well you’re being sent to Salané to advise the Emperor, no less, on matters regarding Larantel. It doesn’t make sense. Why send you with the reputation you have? Sorry to say that I might add. You wouldn’t be the obvious choice. To me it seems like the Queen is getting rid of you.”

“Why would she do that? She seemed to think I was a good choice.”

“Hmm let me see now… Could it be something to do with your father? He was starting to raise discontent about how Larantel is too close with the Empire and suddenly he is a disgrace. Sure, he has a thing for the wait staff, but that’s certainly not the worst thing in the world, in my opinion.”

“Are you saying the Queen deliberately created the scandal?” asked Caelynn intrigued.

“She could have. Maybe she told the courtier to deliberately accept your father’s advances, or even lead him on, and make sure they were found. I know it certainly removed a threat to her. Your father is a noble but he is right about Larantel and the Empire colluding together. Larantel should have nothing to do with the Empire if it can help it. He knows that and I agree with him.”

“But what proof do you have the Queen and the Emperor are colluding?” Caelynn asked.

“Very little to be honest. But if you do end up going to Salané you could snoop around. Disregard the stuff they want you to find, and dig deeper. You might find some damning evidence. Imagine if you go back to Larantel with that? You might cause some scandal for the Queen and restore your family’s fortunes. What’s more it will hurt the Empire if Larantel is no longer so close to it. And that would be a big win for all of us who aren’t part of the Empire.” Meela told her. Caelynn thought about this.  Restore her family’s fortunes echoed in her mind. She desperately wanted that. “You see where I’m coming from?” Caelynn nodded gazing at the floor thinking about it all.

“And what’s this has to do with our magic synchronising?”

“Nothing. That’s something different I need you for, and I will have to show it to you.” Caelynn raised her eyebrows. Meela laughed and then she got up and went over to her again and crouched down so they were directly facing each other. “If I remove the rope can I trust you now? On the plus side if I free your hands we can have something to eat. I guess you must be hungry by now.” Caelynn nodded, she was famished. “Do you promise not to use any of your magic, unless I ask you to?” Caelynn looked directly into her pale green eyes.

“Yes I promise.” she said. Meela looked into her vibrant green eyes and then smiled. She produced a knife and started cutting at the rope.

“And don’t be worried about stories you’ve heard about me. A lot of them are untrue, and some are ones I started.” Caelynn looked at her confused as Meela still cut at the ropes.

“Why would you make fake stories about yourself?” she asked.

“It makes people more scared of us and also more likely to surrender when they see us. Thus we have less fights and even less casualties.” Meela replied as she cut through the rope and freeing Caelynn’s hands. “Go and sit on my bed if you want. It’s a lot more comfortable than that chair. I’ll go to the galley and see what food I can find.” Caelynn nodded. Meela went to the galley and eventually came back with a tray of salted meat, cheese, pickled cabbage, and bread. Caelynn was semi-reposed on her bed when she returned.

“The stores aren’t as good as they should be. I should have a word with the ship’s cook, but I’m sure it will do. Hopefully the bread isn’t full of weevils.” Meela put the tray on her desk and they both helped themselves to the food and the wine and sat there on the bed together as they ate.

“How about we go up to the deck now? We should be there soon.” Meela stood up.

“There? Where are we going?” Caelynn asked.

“You’ll find out!” Meela said with a wink.

“Well I’m glad to get off your lumpy bed. Why don’t you get a more comfortable bed with all the money you steal?” Meela laughed at her words.

“I let you on my ship and you insult my bed!” she said in a mock-offended tone while shaking her head. With that she led her out of the room and they went up some narrow steps and ended up at the top deck at the back of the ship. Caelynn could hear the timbers creaking and the ropes straining that were tied to the largest balloon that was the full length of the ship.  Various crew were walking about and doing various duties on the deck. Before them was the wheel which was at this moment being looked after by a gnome. The effect was comical to Caelynn as the wheel was almost taller than the gnome was.

“Caelynn this is Mecalan who, when he isn’t steering the ship, is also an alchemist. Some call him Stumpy. He made the charmed bag we put over you head that sent you to sleep.” The gnome looked at them and nodded with a smile. “How are we going?” Meela asked as she looked through her spyglass.

“We’re almost there Captain!” he replied. The view was incredible. As Caelynn looked they were sailing through the clouds and blue sky. Quite high up in the sly.  Down below they were traveling over the sea. She looked around at the crew.

“How come a lot of your crew are half-elves?” she asked Meela.

“It’s because us half-elves don’t really fit in anywhere. We’re not totally welcome in the human world and the elven world is much the same. So we tend to be outcasts. You’ll find a lot of them on pirate ships.” Meela replied. “Now I have a chant I need you to learn: acal ur dolen grelán.” Meela repeated it until Caelynn got it.

“I think we’re about there Captain!” Mecalan said. Meela looked through her spyglass.

“Hard to starboard Mecalan!”

“Aye Captain!” and he swung the ship to the right.

“Now hold that course!” She said as she checked a device in her hands that she had gotten out of one of her pockets.

“Aye Captain!” Meela then turned to Caelynn.

“Are you carrying any sort of extra-dimensional spaces on you?” she asked her. Caelynn nodded. She produced her necklace.

“All my luggage is stored in an extra-dimensional space that’s linked to the pendant on my necklace.

“Nice! If I got you to throw it in the ocean would you be able to retrieve it?” Caelynn stared at Meela strangely not understanding the need.

“I guess so. I could do a charm of finding on it.” she said reluctantly.

“Good could you please hand it over to me?” Caelynn slowly took of her necklace and handed it to Meela, albeit reluctantly. Meela then looked through her spyglass. “Stop the ship!” she shouted.

“Aye Captain!” said a voice down below. Suddenly the deck began to vibrate and Caelynn could feel the hairs on her body standing on end. Then the ship began to slow and then stop. There was a strange humming sound from below. The ship hung in the air above an empty ocean.

“What is that?” Caelynn asked Meela.

“This ship has an engine that’s powered by a magical field. At the moment it’s stopping the ship moving forward. I only use it for things like this or if I’m chasing after a ship and I need more speed.” she said as she threw Caelynn’s necklace overboard while checking the device in her hands again. “I’m sorry about that, but it’s just a precaution. We’ll know it’s at this spot though. Now we need to link hands and say the chant together. So repeat after me: acal ur dolen grelán.” They linked hands and repeated the chant over and over. As soon as they had linked hands Caelynn felt the pulsing again. The more they chanted the stronger the pulsing got until her whole body was throbbing with it. And then there was a glimmer in the air which turned into a red pulsing shimmer in front of them.

“Full speed ahead!” went Meela immediately stopping the chant. The airship went sailing through.

“It’s a huge Gate!” Caelynn said incredulously. And as she watched suddenly in front of them was a large island that wasn’t there before. She looked back. The land behind them was gone. It was just an island lying in a boundless ocean. “What is this place?”

“This is the lost island of Durn” Meela answered.

 

Next Part: The Lost Island of Durn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part three

1625
Airship by Matt Coombe.

 

Part One

Part Two

 

Part Three – In The Emperor’s Study

 

“So they are together then?” asked the Chancellor, a tall man with a long grey beard and dressed in crimson robes.

“Yes Meela stayed the night with Caelynn, and is still there. I had a suspicion they were in league with one another.” replied the Emperor sitting at his large desk made of polished mahogany.

“How?” asked the Arch-Wizard. He was also dressed in robes though his were blue and lined with gold. He was younger than the Chancellor and there was still brown in his beard amongst the grey hairs. Both he and the Chancellor were standing in the Emperor’s study, a surprisingly small room with walls lined with bookshelves.

“The story she gave of escaping from Meela didn’t ring true. No one escapes from Meela Starblazer if it is against her wishes.”

“But if she is here now why don’t we have guards arrest both her and Caelynn and clap them in irons? I’m sure there’s space in our dungeons for the both of them.” the Chancellor recommended. The Emperor gave him a quizzical look.

“Yes let’s corner a powerful sorceress and an elven wizard of unknown strength in a room in my palace. That sounds like a great idea!” The Chancellor looked at him uncertainly.

“Is that sarcasm?” The Emperor slowly nodded at him.

“Then what’s your plan?” asked the Arch-Wizard expectantly.

“We play the long game. We now know that Caelynn and Meela are connected. We can use that connection to our advantage. We can use Caelynn to keep an eye on what Meela is doing in Salané and track her. Hopefully it will lead us to her pirate gang and maybe Durn.”

“If Durn exists.” the Chancellor added.

“She might have made Durn up or it might actually be real. We just don’t know.” The Emperor answered him.

“Well why mention it if she is on their side? Surely she just made it up to hide where they really are.” the Arch-Wizard pointed out.

“Maybe. But what if she is taunting us with a real place that she knows we will never be able to find?”

“You’re suggesting it could be a hidden place, like hidden with magic?” the Arch-Wizard pondered. The Emperor nodded at him.

“That elf does seem quite powerful. She produced that letter out of thin air!” gasped the Chancellor. The other two looked at him like he was a fool.

“That was just a parlour trick!” the Arch-Wizard sneered at him. “Any wizard, even if they are beginning to learn magic, could do that!”

“Is that so?” the Emperor asked seriously.

“What if we imprison Caelynn? That might force Meela to come and save her, and then when she does this, we grab her and maybe her pirates too!” the Chancellor suggested trying to change the subject. The Emperor considered it.

“The problem is if Meela suspects a trap she is unlikely to do this. She is a gambler by nature. She”ll weigh up her chances. If she deems it too risky she probably won’t bother.” the Emperor finally answered. “But we’ll keep that idea as a reserve option in case my plan doesn’t work out.”

“But surely if Meela loves Caelynn she might try to rescue her no matter what the risk.” added the Arch-Wizard.

“Pfft. Someone like Meela is incapable of truly loving someone. She’s using Caelynn to get what she wants; whether it is access to this palace or for some other reason. It’s all in the name of expedience for her. Mark my words, when push comes to shove Meela will abandon Caelynn to save herself.” the Emperor said dismissively.

“If Durn is hidden do you think the Seer might find a reference to it?” the Chancellor asked.

“The Seer! What a joke. He’s so old it’s surprising he can even find his own room.” the Arch-Wizard remarked.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the Seer. He sees a lot more than you realise.” the Emperor said.

“Good thing he’s a Seer then.” countered the Arch-Wizard. “Anyway what was the reason for your smile when you read the Queen of Larantel’s letter my lord?”

“Yes I noticed that too.” chipped in the Chancellor. The Emperor smiled. He opened a drawer in his desk and produced the letter he had been given by Caelynn.

“I can read it to you if you want to hear it.” the Emperor offered.

“Oh yes!” exclaimed the Chancellor. The Arch-Wizard just nodded his head. The Emperor opened the letter and began to read:

“Dearest Klaen.

I need your help as I have helped you in the past. The young woman in front of you is Caelynn, daughter of Alcarin who is Lord of House Liadon. Alcarin has disgraced himself in our Royal Court and I want Caelynn out of the kingdom for a while. She is rather self-obsessed, vain, and doesn’t like humans. I have told her that I want her to spy on your Court in regards to your policies towards Larantel. If you want to have some fun with her I suggest you leave some documents lying around for her to come across confirming these suspicions. She will find them, as she seems to be good at getting into places she’s not wanted. This will keep her distracted. You may also want to throw her some banquets and have an occasional ball as she loves dancing and this should keep her happy. Be warned she is well trained in magic, she is only just beginning to find her power, but still be cautious with her in this regard. Please ensure she stays in Salané until I send for her, which may be some time.

Deepest regards,

Lynarin.”

“That answers some questions.” the Arch-Wizard remarked.

“What did her father do to find so much disfavour?” asked the Chancellor. The Emperor laughed.

“Oh let’s just say he was found in a bedroom in the Queen’s Palace with a courtier.”

“Oh!” remarked the Chancellor.

“Apparently it’s happened quite a few times, but the Queen finally got tired of hushing it up.” The Emperor added. “It’s not because the courtier was male, since the elves don’t seem to care that much about the gender of their partners, or don’t seem to. It was deemed improper as he is a noble and the other was a servant. It wasn’t considered seemly for a person of his social standing.” The Arch-Wizard nodded at the Emperor’s words.

“Getting back to Meela. You do have to admire her boldness. Here she is the most wanted fugitive in the Empire and she spends the night in the Imperial Palace. I would have cause to like her if she wasn’t a sorceress, and a pirate.” the Arch-Wizard said.

“As I said she’s a gambler by nature. She’s wagered that I won’t come against her in the Palace, and this time she’s right. She probably even knows that we know she’s here.” the Emperor answered him. “Yes she’s a bold one. But if we follow my plan we will be in a position to grab her and her pirate gang, and then arrest Caelynn for aiding a known criminal. The penalty for which will be death.”

“And thus getting rid of a potential problem for the Queen of Larantel as well, which will leave her in our debt.” the Arch-Wizard added.

“Exactly!” the Emperor confirmed. “It’s good to be the most powerful person in the world!”

“Yes my lord.” the Arch-Wizard agreed.

“Except for the High Elvish Queen who lives across the sea.” the Chancellor reminded him.

“Yes except for her.” the Emperor conceded.

 

Next Part: Meela Starblazer

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part two

1623
Airship by TerryLH

Part One

 

Part Two – The Emperor

 

After getting out of her traveling clothes and long black boots Caelynn soaked in the bath longer than she should have. Once she got out she found she was pressed for time and had to dress rather more quickly than she would have preferred. She wore her sparkling long dress that shifted colours every time she moved and her silver spark slippers that sent out little trails of lightning around her feet whenever she was walking. The slippers weren’t that practical but they looked impressive. Retrieving her now battered wand from one of her bags she quickly styled her hair, as she didn’t have time to brush it normally, by layering it on top so it looked like a tower of golden hair. She glamoured her face to give the effect of eye shadow and lip gloss. When she was satisfied with her look in the looking glass she went down below and waited for her retinue that would lead her to the Palace. Selador was already there. When he saw her arrive he bowed but then walked up to her and quietly spoke.

“I was told by the Queen that if there are ever any messages you need to send to her, then you are to give them to me. I’ll make sure she gets them. Just send for me when you’re in the Palace. Just pretend it’s on some Larantel business, or that you need some advice about Court matters, if you get my drift.” Caelynn nodded at his words as several more elves appeared finely dressed.

“Right shall we go then? We can’t keep the Emperor waiting, well at least not any longer than he has already.” Caelynn announced to her retinue.

They left the embassy with two guards in front, then followed by Selador, then Caelynn, then two other elves followed behind her.  They walked down a path then onto the main road which led to the entrance to the Palace. At the entrance of the Palace where two armed guards who barred the way. Caelynn noticed the exterior of the Palace was made from a type of black marble. She looked up at the intimidating building that reached up into a darkening sky. So much marble must have been used. She couldn’t even imagine how long that must have taken to build or even gather the materials needed.

“Caelynn of Larantel from the noble House Liadon is here to introduce herself to the Court of the Emperor Klaen, the Fourth of his name.” Selador announced in a loud strong voice. The guards nodded and stood aside letting them through. The party moved forward through the entrance of the Palace. They came in to a long corridor. The interior seemed to be made out of a white marble. The corridor was wide with columns on each side which went down to a large black door. It was closed.  They slowly walked down the corridor. Caelynn looked down other side passages as they walked showing more long corridors that seemed to go on forever on each side. She spied what seemed to be a courtyard down one side which seemed have bushes and bubbling fountains. They came to the large black door made of solid wood. One man in armour was standing there. Once they stopped he struck the door three times with the bottom end of his halberd. The door slowly opened towards them revealing a large chamber. Columns continued going down the room on each side. Colourful banners streamed down from the high ceiling to the floor between the columns. On the walls there were tapestries depicting battles and other significant historical moments.  In the centre towards the end of the room was a raised dais with a golden throne on it. On the throne sat a man. He was middle-aged with short black hair and close shaven beard. There were flecks of grey in his hair. On his head he wore a gold band that seemed rather modest compared to the rest of the room. A great throng of people stood in the room, some were soldiers, while many were well dressed and probably aristocrats of some sort. Another man at the door struck the ground with the shaft of his halberd three times.

“Presenting Caelynn of Larantel of the House Liadon. She has come to introduce herself to the Court of Emperor Klaen, the Fourth of his name!” He called out to the throng. The party moved into the throne room and stopped just short of the dais. When Caelynn stepped forward there was a buzz of voices in the throng. The Emperor looked down at her. Caelynn noticed his piercing blue eyes.

“Greetings Caelynn of the House Liadon!” the Emperor said in a strong deep voice. Caelynn bowed.

“Greetings Emperor Klaen, Fourth of your name.” she returned. He nodded his head.

“It is my understanding that you have been sent here by your Queen to advise on matters regarding the Kingdom of Larantel” he said.

“Yes that is why I am here. I have a letter of introduction from my Queen to give to you.”

“Then please present the letter.” he ordered. Caelynn swirled her hands around and then produced the letter out of thin air with flash of light. There was a gasp from the crowd. One man in robes standing near the throne seemed unimpressed. The Emperor laughed. “I see you love the theatrics of your people.” he added. A courtier took the letter from Caelynn and walked up the steps to the throne and presented it to the Emperor with a bow. The Emperor took the letter and opened it. He read the letter with wry smile on his face.  “All is good.” he said finally.

“Thank you my lord.” Caelynn replied.

“One small matter. You were supposed to have arrived at the end of summer and yet here you are finally close to the beginning of winter. Could you please tell us all why you were so delayed?” the Emperor asked.

“I was originally going to travel by carriage through the province of Fifelen, and maybe I should have. Instead I traveled by airship and I was captured by sky-pirates.” Caelynn responded. There was a shocked murmur from the crowd.

“And do you know which sky-pirates they were?” asked a man in robes with a long white beard who stood close to them.

“It was Meela Starblazer and her pirate gang” Caelynn answered. There was even a louder shocked murmur from the crowd.

“Meela Starblazer? The half-human sorceress and pirate queen with a penchant for gambling?” the man asked incredulously.

“Well yes, unless there’s another Meela Starblazer who is also a pirate.” responded Caelynn sarcastically. The man looked at her a little shocked. Everyone’s eyebrows were so raised they almost disappeared into their hairlines.

“So how did you escape from them?” asked the Emperor.

“They kept me as a prisoner in the hold of their airship. They traveled to the free city of Loro-Don to gamble and while they were doing that I managed to free myself and escape onto an airship that was just leaving.”

“Well you would be one of the first to escape from her. Weren’t you worried she would follow you? A pretty elf girl like you. She would want to keep you close.” Caelynn was surprised by the Emperor’s words. That sort of language would never be used in Larantel’s royal court. It would be insinuated yes, but it would be never so direct. Yes Meela kept her close. Very close.

“I knew she was playing cards so I guessed it would be a long time before she noticed I was gone.” she answered.

“Did she ever talk about where she was going, or where they were based?” the Emperor asked.

“The only time they mentioned any other place was when they said they were going to Durn.” Caelynn replied. There was another murmur in the crowd. The Emperor looked at her puzzled.

“Durn?”

“Yes my lord. They said they were going to Durn.”

“Where the hell is Durn? Has anyone heard of it?” he looked around confused. Everyone shook their heads. “Is the Royal Seer here?” he asked. An even more ancient looking man stumbled out of the crowd. He was bent over.

“I am here my lord” he said in a creaky voice.

Have you heard of a place called Durn?” the Emperor asked him.

“No my lord, but I could consult the historical records to see if any of them mention Durn. But I’d wager they don’t. Maybe even the Inscriber who lives beyond our world, who writes down our lives as if it was a story, who captures our words as soon as we speak them, maybe even She has no idea where Durn is.” he rasped out.

“I find that unlikely” the Emperor replied. “Well thank you for that news Caelynn. I am glad you managed to escape from that brigand. Maybe your news will help us in our search for that villain and her band of cut-throats.” Caelynn nodded.

“Maybe a passing dragon will one day set fire to her airship and do our job for us” the old man who was next to them chipped in. Maybe a thousand dragons will one day burn all your armies to cinders thought Caelynn.

“One more thing. Your house name is Liadon?” the Emperor asked. Caelynn’s heart sank. Maybe even the Emperor had heard of her father’s disgrace. “I seem to remember from the old stories of an Aalen Liadon. A mighty warrior of your people.” Caelynn breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yes she is my ancestor.” Caelynn offered.

“Yes she was a mighty warrior. I seem to remember she had a strong dislike for humans. I hope that same dislike hasn’t been passed on to you.” the Emperor said slyly.

“Ha ha! Of course not your majesty! Ha ha!” She tried to make her laugh sound as natural as she could. The Emperor looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Well welcome to my court Caelynn of the House Liadon. A suite has been prepared for you in this palace. I believe your belongings have already been brought there. An attendant will show you the way. You are free to go for now. Spend the rest of the night settling in. Tomorrow we will be holding a banquet in honour of your arrival” he said in a commanding voice. Caelynn bowed. “Please don’t be late for that!” he added, to the mirth of the court.

“Thank you your majesty.” she replied.

She was led out of the throne room by an attendant. The remaining elves left the throne room and returned to the embassy.  She was led down several corridors until they came to her suite. Her luggage was already there just as the Emperor had said it would be. There was the bedroom which contained a large soft bed, a dressing table, drawers, and a wardrobe made from walnut, all very solidly built. There was also a small fireplace with stacks of wood. A room to the side had a desk, some shelving and another set of drawers, while a room to the other side had a bathroom which included a nice long bath. Caelynn was impressed to find hot and cold running water. She built a fire to get the room warm and then spent the next couple of hours unpacking. Then she took another bath and dried herself with a fresh towel that had been provided. A servant brought in a tray of food and some wine to drink. Caelynn was ravenous and downed the meal quickly. Then she got into her nightgown. A set of doors across from the main door led to an outside balcony. She went out in the cool air and shivered. It was starting to get cold. She looked out across the dark scene of Salané at night time. She could see lights burning everywhere. She could smell the flowers and other night scents from the Imperial Gardens. She looked at the dark sky and watched the stars. All of a sudden a robed figure jumped into the balcony from above. Caelynn was momentarily surprised but then relaxed.

“You’re here?” she said to the dark figure that was slightly shorter than herself.

“You didn’t think I would leave my girl unguarded?” said a husky but feminine voice. The figure put her arms around Caelynn. “Oh you are cold. Let’s go inside and warm you up.” She gently pushed Caelynn through the doors and shut them behind her.

“I can take care of myself Meela.” The figure removed her cloak which revealed her brown hair that was tied into plaits, gold earrings, green eyes (though not as vibrantly green as Caelynn’s), slightly tanned skin, a white shirt and red waistcoat, loose fitting pants, black boots, and a cutlass by her side.

“But you’re even more protected when I’m here.” said Meela.

“It isn’t safe for you here. You’re in great danger if they find you.”

“What’s fun without a little danger.” Meela replied with a smile. She looked at Caelynn in her nightgown. “You know you shouldn’t have dressed up for me.” She grabbed Caelynn and pulled her in for a kiss. It was a long kiss.

“I told the Emperor you were going to Durn” Caelynn told her.

“That’ll keep them busy.” Meela said with a laugh. She then steered Caelynn towards the bed and pushed her onto it. “This bed is so soft.” She said as she began removing Caelynn’s nightgown.

“Yes it’s better than the lumpy mattress on your airship.” Meela looked offended, but then laughed.

“That lumpy mattress has seen some good times.” She said and she began kissing Caelynn again while Caelynn began removing her clothing. They spent the night together.

 

Next Part: In The Emperor’s Study