The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part 20 (fiction)

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The Sky-Pirates of Durn



Chapter 20. The Dinner Party


Caelynn was planning to stay in her room and read all evening, but in the late afternoon a messenger appeared and informed her she was expected to attend a small dinner in the Emperor’s private chambers. It had only been two days since she had broken into the Emperor’s study, and she began wondering if the Emperor knew she had done this, and maybe he was planning to confront her this evening. She wouldn’t be able to run away from this as she knew she was being watched and would never get far. She thought it best to attend the dinner, and face whatever the Emperor had planned for her. So while Aileen picked out a dress for her to wear, Caelynn bathed and then had her hair styled into something appropriate. She hid her wand in the folds of her sleeve in case it was needed. Once she was ready, she walked off to the Emperor’s private dining room with her heart beating wildly all the way.

When she arrived she was led into a large dining room with a long polished wooden table. Already the Chancellor, the Arch-Wizard, Talan, and Lady Meren, smiling inanely as usual, were already there. Sitting by the Arch-Wizard was a man she had never seen before. He was dressed in fine clothes which suggested aristocracy, or perhaps even royalty. His skin was slightly browner, he had short brown hair, and a neatly trimmed beard. Caelynn guessed he was probably quite tall.

She was ushered to a seat across from the Arch-Wizard and predictably next to Lady Meren. She sat down and waited with the others. Caelynn found this moment nerve wracking and gave the Arch-Wizard a slight smile, but he just stared at her stonily. She looked at the man sitting next to him, who seemed to be looking at her with interest.

“You must be the Lady Caelynn, the ambassador from Larantel.” He remarked.

“Yes, your highness.” She replied, hoping she got it right.

“Oh forgive me! This is Lord Justinian. He is the administrator for Antearl and the other eastern provinces. He is also the Emperor’s cousin, and the next in line to the throne, should anything regrettable happen to his Highness.” The Chancellor cut in.

“Honoured to meet you, your highness.” Caelynn said to Justinian, bowing her head.

“Honoured to meet you too, my lady.” He replied, bowing his head also.

Eventually the Emperor appeared along with a couple of guards and a retinue of servants. He wore a gold-coloured doublet with a red sash, and dark trousers. He sat down in the the centre, in-between Justinian and the Chancellor. He gave everyone a brief smile and then the food was served. It was a fine dinner by human standards. After a while they began to talk. The discussion wasn’t on anything important, just how the weather was getting colder, and how the new train was going. Lady Meren inquired about the war in Yastell and everyone went silent. Many of them looked at each other nervously fearing the Emperor’s response. The Emperor, however, ignored the question and began talking about the Imperial Garden instead. He then asked Caelynn how she was finding the palace, and Caelynn diplomatically replied that she was finding her way around.

“Much as I suspected.” The Emperor replied enigmatically. Caelynn found herself pondering those words.

Once the meal had ended, they all followed the Emperor to the adjoining room with soft chairs and a large fireplace. They sat there for a short while captivated by the warm roaring fire, and then slowly began drinking and talking again. Caelynn began to understand that these meals were a regular occurrence. Eventually everyone began to disappear, until to her shock, she found there was just her the Emperor left in the room, aside from servants.

“I guess I should be going now, your highness.” Caelynn said to the Emperor, while finishing her drink.

“No let’s stay and talk. I haven’t had much opportunity to talk with you in the last few days.” the Emperor replied. Caelynn’s heart sank. She obviously wasn’t going to get away that easy. “You are my adviser to matters pertaining to Larantel, after all.”

“Indeed your highness.” Caelynn answered.

“Surely we don’t have to be so formal?” the Emperor declared.

“In the Queen’s Court we never break protocol, my lord.” Caelynn informed him.

“But this isn’t the Queen’s Court is it? It’s my court, in my own kingdom. And what I say here is what goes. After all, aren’t we just simple rustic humans to you? Isn’t that how you view us, my lady?” He asked pointedly.

The Emperor was looking up at her with a wine goblet in his hands with a shrewd look in his eyes. Caelynn gave a brief smile.

“Not at all, my lord. Many humans have surprised me recently.” She replied cautiously.

“Did you know your Queen sent you here as a possible match for me? Is it to do with her sense of humour that she sends me a female who prefers the company of other women?”

So the Queen was intending to marry her off to the Emperor. Her worst fears were confirmed. The Emperor finished off the wine in his goblet and alerted a servant for a refill.

“I don’t think we would be a good match.” Caelynn informed him.

“No you’re right. You prefer to sleep with a traitor. What has she got that I haven’t?” He asked her. A vulva, was the first thing that sprang into her mind, but she decided against saying that.

“I don’t know what you mean my lord.” she replied. The Emperor smashed his goblet against the wall only a foot away from Caelynn’s head. She jumped in surprise.

“Don’t take me for a fool! Let’s do away with the pretence shall we? You insult my intelligence! Don’t worry, I’m not planning to send you down below to the dungeons to be tortured, at least not yet! If I had wanted to do that, you would already be down there.” The Emperor glared at her. Caelynn knew she was in an extremely difficult situation.

“Okay. Three months ago on my way to coming here, my airship was attacked by Meela and her pirates. She took me as a prisoner and we fell in love. I didn’t expect that to happen, believe me.” Caelynn admitted.

“And she sent you back here to spy on me?” He asked.

“No. I decided to come here so my absence wouldn’t continue to arouse suspicion. I was worried that it might reflect badly on my father. My house is out of favour in the Queen’s Court for now, though I think you’re aware of that.” she lied. The Emperor looked at Caelynn as though he didn’t really believe her.

“Oh yes, your father. He was in a big scandal wasn’t he?” Caelynn nodded. “So where is Durn?” He suddenly asked.

“There is no Durn. I made it up.” Caelynn replied looking into the flames.

“I see. Maybe I should hand you over to the Imperial Inquisitor. Maybe she will get the truth out of you. I’m sure you will like her too.” he said half-smiling to himself. Caelynn breathed hard.

“I have told you the truth.” she said, looking him straight in the eye. He looked at her unconvinced.

“Like hell you have, but I understand. We all lie to hide things that are important to us. I just hope that maybe you’ll see things our way one day.” He said with slight menace in his voice. He got the servant to get him a new goblet and then resumed drinking. “It’s obvious who you are loyal to. Not me, not your queen, but a pirate. All because she knows where to stick her fingers in you. But loyalties can change.”

“I’m sorry my lord. If you’re unhappy with me, you can always send me back to Larantel.”

“Oh you would like that wouldn’t you? To be discharged of service. No, I know you really don’t want to be here, so this is where you will stay, for now. It means I can keep an eye on you, and on the comings and goings of your lover as well. And one day both of you will have your heads removed in the city square, preferably together. And I will be there watching it. Or maybe I will have Meela’s head removed in front of you, and then let you live with it for a while. We shall see.”

“Why are you like this?” Caelynn said directly to him. He looked surprised at the audacity of he question.

“What do you mean?”

“This war you’re conducting, your bitterness, this insatiable need for revenge?” Caelynn asked. The Emperor gave a brief smile and resumed drinking. “What’s the root cause of it all?”

“I once loved someone like you do now, but she died in childbirth, taking our child with her. I was deprived of her love and an heir for this Empire.” He informed her. “The sad reality is that everyone dies, and ones that survive are left to deal with it. The pressures to keep this empire together are time consuming and immense. It’s all I have time for these days. I don’t want to invade Yastell, but it has to happen. It’s demanded of me. Some of us answer to others, even when you’re an Emperor controlling most of the known world. Personally, I think the Empire is large enough, but apparently it’s not. So I have to send out more armies and conquer more lands, and create more misery, all in the name of the Empire.” Caelynn listened in bewilderment. He was drinking heavily and beginning to make less sense.

“Who’s ordering you to invade Yastell?” she asked him. The Emperor looked up and smiled evilly at her.

“I can’t tell you that.” He replied. He stared down at his drink again. “I think you should leave now.” But Caelynn was perplexed.

“Is there something going on you need to tell me about? Maybe I can help.” Caelynn suggested.

“Thank you my Lady Caelynn, but that will be all. Go now!” He shouted. Some guards burst into the room. The Emperor turned to them. “Please ensure that Lady Caelynn Liadon returns safely to her rooms.” They nodded and led Caelynn out of the Emperor’s private suite.




Caelynn was now back in her rooms feeling bewildered. She couldn’t stay. The Emperor would eventually throw her into the dungeons. It was only a matter of time. Clearly something was going on, something dark and terrifying, and it even had control over the Emperor and he could no longer listen to reason. He wouldn’t accept her help. He was too far in the darkness and beyond her reach. Caelynn was sure he was not that far from suddenly snapping into a complete madman.

She sat down on her bed and resolved what to do. She knew she had to leave, preferably as soon as possible. She wondered how she could escape the palace. If she tried to leave, the people who watch her would have her followed, and once they realised she was trying to escape they would just bring her back here, and then the doors to her room would probably be locked, making her more obviously a prisoner than she was now. Maybe Selador would help her? But she had to be careful the other elves from Larantel weren’t drawn into this.

She stood up. How to escape, she would have to figure out later. At least if she started packing that would keep her occupied, and then she would be ready to go if some opportunity arose. If she got all the essentials ready to go first, such as the papers that showed the collusion between the Queen of Larantel and the Emperor, and the black wand she found, then she could leave with little notice, and maybe wouldn’t arouse much suspicion. She pulled out her wand and opened up the pocket dimension that was linked to her necklace. She began packing all the essential things in it that she probably wouldn’t need to use if she was going to be leaving in a few more days.

As she packed, there was suddenly a soft tapping. She froze. It came from her window. Her heart gave a sudden leap. Against all hope, had Meela appeared at the time when she most needed her? She opened up the window.

“Hey there lovely! Can I come in?” said a familiar voice. Caelynn’s heart leaped out of her chest.

“Meela!” She exclaimed in disbelief. Meela swung through the window and into the bedroom.

“Just thought I would check in.” Meela said casually. Caelynn gave her the tightest hug she could. “You seem pleased to see me!”

“I am so glad to see you!” Caelynn said. She gave Meela and appraisal and noticed she looked rather thin and pale. “What happened to you?”

“I got caught in a battle while in Yastell. A soldier put his sword through me, and it turned out the blade was poisoned. But I’m better now.” Meela explained.

“You look so tired!” Caelynn stated. She began running her hands through Meela’s dirty blonde hair.

“I’m not at full strength, but I’m getting there.” Meela admitted. “So how is everything going here?”

“I’ve got copies of letters between Lynarin and the Emperor. It shows they are working together. If we take it to the Queen’s Court, she will lose favour with the other noble houses of Larantel.” Caelynn reached into the pocket dimension she had just created and brought out the letters. She handed them to Meela.

Meela sat down on the bed and began reading them. She raised her eyebrows on more than one occasion.

“This does look pretty damning for the Queen. Good work!” Meela commented while still going through the letters.

“Meela.” Caelynn said softly. Meela stopped reading and looked up at her.


“I’ve got what we were looking for. I want to leave now.” Caelynn stated.

“Are you sure? Maybe there’s some other things you can find?”

“No I really want to go. Tonight if possible. I’ve had a really disturbing discussion with the Emperor this evening. We’re not safe here. The Emperor knows, and plans to have us both beheaded.” Caelynn pleaded. Meela put down the letters and gave Caelynn a hug.

“Okay. If you really want to go, we’ll go. I just wasn’t expecting to take you back with me this evening.” Meela consoled her. She let go and then took Caelynn’s hands in hers. She then looked down at Caelynn’s hands. “What’s wrong with your right hand?”

“What do you mean?” Caelynn asked.

“Your fingertips have got a black stain on them, and that hand is colder than the other.” Meela clarified.

“It’s probably the wand.” Caelynn explained.

“The wand?”

“I found a black wand in the Emperor’s study. My guess is that it may have belonged to Asden.” Caelynn told her.

“Can I have a look at it?” Meela asked. Caelynn retrieved it from the pocket dimension. She unwrapped the cloth it was in and handed it to Meela. Meela held onto it unwillingly. It was cold to the touch and she could feel some darkness in it.

“It’s a power wand. It could aid us in our fight against the Emperor, and the Queen.”

“We don’t need it.” Meela said. “I’m sure the two of us can face any challenge before us, as long as we’re together. I think you should wrap this up again. My advice is handle that wand as little as possible, there is some evil in it.” Caelynn looked at her surprised.

“A sorceress afraid of a wand?”

“I’m not afraid of it, I just don’t think we should use it. It might taint you.” Meela advised.

“Alright then.” Caelynn wrapped it up in the cloth and stowed it away again.

“How soon can you get everything packed?” Meela asked.

“If I just take the essentials, not long. I don’t need most of this stuff.” Caelynn replied. Meela looked at her surprised.

“Caelynn not bothered about her possessions anymore? Okay, what have you done with the real Caelynn?” Meela asked her.

“I think being with you has taught me that I don’t need nice things to be happy. I just want to be with you, that’s all I need.” Caelynn responded. Meela raised her eyebrows.

“I’m obviously having a positive effect on you. Who would have thunk it?” They hugged again and shared a long deep kiss. “And now start packing. The sooner you’re done, the quicker we can get out of here.”

Caelynn began throwing things into the dimension. Within a few minutes she had packed all the things she still needed.

“Let’s go.” Caelynn declared.

“Okay we’re going to have to go out the window and get beyond the palace grounds. Due to the magical shielding we can’t teleport here.” Meela told her.

“We’re going to teleport?” Caelynn asked.

“Yes, but I’m going to need your help. I’m already quite drained, so I’m going to have to draw on some of your power too.”

“Okay.” said Caelynn. She had never teleported before, but had heard stories about it, especially when it went wrong…

They both climbed out the window and onto the palace grounds. They sneaked among the bushes.

“Hey you there! Stop where you are!” a voice suddenly called out in the dark.

“Oops! The palace guards! We better move!” Meela loudly whispered. The two of them picked up speed.

“Alert! We have intruders! Guards!” The voice shouted out. Meela and Caelynn were now running through the Imperial Garden. In the distance they could see a dark line, which were the outer walls. They ran for them. Caelynn looked back to see at least five or six guards were now following them.

“Meela, whatever you do, don’t look back!” Caelynn warned her. They got to the walls and scrambled over them. By the time they were over the other side the guards had already got to the wall themselves. They heard them begin to climb.

“Quickly over there!” ordered Meela pointing to some bushes. While they both hid there breathing heavily, Meela grabbed both of Caelynn’s arms. They both felt their magic pulsing together.

“We better do this now.” suggested Caelynn as they heard feet running towards them.

“Okay, whatever happens keep hold of my arms.” Meela told her.

The next thing Caelynn felt was like she was between two different places, but inhabiting them both at the same time. She felt tendrils latch onto her legs and try to pull her downwards, but she held onto Meela as tight as she could. And then suddenly they were both in Meela’s cabin. She never thought she would feel so happy and relieved to be back on Meela’s airship. They hugged and then collapsed onto Meela’s lumpy bed.


Next episode: Going North



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©2019 Joanne Fisher




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