The Sky-Pirates of Durn
26. Traveling to Durn
Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard sat in the hold of the Emperor’s airship. Both of them had their hands in chains, and were also chained to one another. They had sat here for over two days now and Caelynn guessed they were getting close to Durn. She sat there in disillusionment wondering if Meela was still alive. She would know when they got to the gate that seperated Durn from the rest of the world. If it didn’t open, then Meela had probably been swallowed by a shadow monster. Caelynn wondered how things had gone so terribly wrong for them, and for the world.
She continued picking away at the locks of the chains around her hands with a shard of metal she had found. So far, these locks were proving difficult to open. At least they had only used regular chains this time and not the cold iron they had used when transported her from Larantel’s Star Palace to Salané. Those had been so painful she wasn’t able to pick them at all, let alone do much else. The Arch-Wizard was casually watching her.
“Has Meela been teaching you how to unpick locks?” he asked her.
“No, my father did.” Caelynn replied. The Arch-Wizard raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“And why would a Lord of Larantel teach his daughter how to pick locks?”
“He thought having a good range of skills was ideal for a young female noble going out into the world.” she explained.
“Unfortunately these locks almost seem impossible to open.” she put down the metal shard and sighed. There was a small window to her right that let in some light. All she could see out of it was blue sky and clouds.
“These locks are built to be fiendishly difficult to unlock without their key. They’re even magic-proofed, so you or I can’t use an Unlock spell. They’re top quality locks created by the dwarves, I think.”
“Still, it give me something to focus on. If I don’t try to do this then my mind wanders to what we’re all facing.” Caelynn admitted.
“Things may seem grim now, but we have no real idea what the future holds, and how everything will play out. Things can always change for the better, even when you least expect it. So don’t give into despair yet!” the Arch-Wizard cautioned.
Caelynn wanted to believe him, and she was doing all she could to not lose herself to a deep black well of grief and sorrow, but she couldn’t see how it could get better. Not now. Yastell was probably lost by now, and so the Emperor would go on ruling the Empire forever while using Yastell’s wealth to conquer whatever was left of the world with the Queen pulling his strings, and the Shadow-realm slowly turning the world to darkness. A darkness that would last forever. In her mind, it was virtually all over.
“How long have you been in league with Meela?” Caelynn asked the Arch-Wizard to drive the thoughts from her mind.
“Some time. When the Emperor first revealed plans for invading Yastell, I noticed he was becoming unhinged. Over time it became more noticeable. I reached out to Meela through my contacts in Loro-Don, as I felt she was someone who could unite opposition against him. I gave her the information about where to attack the Empire’s airship fleet, which was a great success for her, though I understand it was costly, but in the long run it’s meant the Empire hasn’t had quite the air support it’s needed to be dominant in Yastell. Not that it matters with what’s being used down there now.”
The door opened and in came two guards. They walked over to Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard and stood them up on their feet.
“The Emperor wants you both on deck.” one of them said.
Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard found themselves shuffling down a passageway together with guards on either side of them.They went up some stairs and came out onto the deck of the airship. Both of them blinked in the sunlight. It was so bright out here compared to the dingy hold they had been in the last few days.
“Well, if it isn’t the two traitors!’ the Emperor said looking down from the main deck. The guards pushed Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard up the stairs so they joined the Emperor and his men.
“You wanted to see us?” Caelynn asked belligerently. The Emperor ignored her.
“We’re getting close to Durn, according to the map. So I thought I would let the two of you watch us go through the gate.” the Emperor informed them.
Caelynn could see a fleet of airships flying behind them. Looking around she reckoned they were getting close to Durn now. When they got to the gate, she would know if Meela was still alive. Her heart began beating fast. The airship moved onwards and suddenly there was a shimmering light all around them and then there was only a world of sea and a small island in the distance. Meela was still alive, and that gave Caelynn a smidgen of hope, though she could be a prisoner, or on the run.
“There it is.” said Caelynn. “The small island you seek.”
“Are there any other lands in this dimension?” the Emperor asked her.
“Meela explored it as much as she could and said she never found any other islands or land masses. It’s just empty sea going on forever in all directions, as far as I know.” Caelynn informed him. The Emperor grunted in response. “So why are you so obsessed about finding Durn? Meela and all her crew are all in Yastell. There’s a small base and a village and that’s all that’s there.”
“Is there not also a tower that Asden built?” the Emperor asked.
“Yes, but it’s crumbling into ruins. I had a look around it and there was nothing there.” Caelynn replied.
“Not if you know where to look. That tower is the reason I wanted to find Durn. According to the Queen, Asden left some items there I would very much like to find.” he revealed.
Caelynn was skeptical. She was pretty sure there was nothing left in there, not unless he was wanting the journals that Meela had found and had hidden away somewhere…
The airships slowly sailed over Durn. Caelynn could see the buildings that Meela and her crew had built for a base on the island. They looked deserted now. As they continued on Caelynn saw the small fishing village that had been there even before Asden had hidden the entire island into its own dimension. She could see villagers in the streets looking up at them. Further away she could see fishing boats out at sea. As they got nearer the hills, Caelynn finally caught glimpses of Asden’s tower; a black broken tower crumbling and falling in on itself. Eventually the fleet came to a stop above the ruins.
They unlocked the chains between Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard, so they could move more easily, though their hands remained chained together. The Emperor, Caelynn, the Arch-Wizard, and a number of guards were lowered to the tower. Caelynn, who had already been in the tower, did not particularly want to go in there again, but this time she had no choice. They entered through the large open doorway into a black chamber. The guards carried torches, but even the light from them didn’t seem to light the place entirely, there always seemed to be dark shadows lingering and even moving in the corners. Once she entered, Caelynn immediately felt the cold air probing her body again. She began shivering. It didn’t just feel like cold air touching her, but remnants of some black evil trying to do infiltrate her defences.
The Emperor took the stairs that wound downwards into an inky blackness. Everyone followed him. The further down they went, the greater the feeling of evil and coldness Caelynn perceived. Eventually the stairs ended and they came to the bottom of the tower. The Emperor looked around the walls, as though he was searching for something.
“How do you know Asden left anything here?” Caelynn asked him.
“Because your Queen told me. There is some knowledge that Asden uncovered that is vital to find if I’m going to proceed with all my plans. The Queen told me that Asden left what I need to know here. This is why I needed to find Durn.” the Emperor revealed.
“And you think it’s still here after all this time?” Caelynn asked.
“Of course! It was left here undisturbed. Who else knows of it? The peasants in the fishing village? I think not.” the Emperor replied.
To a sudden yelp of surprise, the Emperor uncovered a hidden panel and opened it. He pushed a lever and a hidden door to their left suddenly opened. They all filed in to find some more narrow stairs leading downwards into the dark. Caelynn felt as though they were going down into the very bowels of the earth. The stairs finally came to a small chamber. There was a table and some shelves. Against the wall stood a long blackened staff. The Emperor grabbed it and then suddenly let it go and rubbing his hand as though he had just been burnt.
“My lord it is not a good idea to suddenly grab another wizard’s staff. There might be hidden enchantments within it designed to protect it from theft, whether the wizard is still alive or not.” the Arch-Wizard advised.
“Be quiet! I’d rather not listen to the bleating of a traitor!” the Emperor spat back at him. “When we get back to Salané, both you and the lady will be beheaded in the city’s square. That’s what I do to traitors! Luckily the pirate will probably already be dead by then.”
Caelynn felt those words like a thud in her chest. She couldn’t face the world with Meela gone. The Emperor continued looking around the chamber. He looked at the remains of books on the shelves and searched through the drawers and cupboards, all the while muttering to himself.
“Is there a problem?” the Arch-Wizard asked, beginning to smile darkly at him.
“I can’t find them! They’re meant to be here!” the Emperor replied angrily.
“Find what?” Caelynn asked.
“Asden’s journals and notebooks. They’re meant to be here!” As soon as said that, Caelynn knew Meela had already taken what he was looking for. Obviously she had found this room too. The Emperor stopped suddenly and looked at Caelynn. He walked up to her. “You’ve been here before! What did you do with them?” he screamed at her as he began shaking her roughly.
“I never found this room. I never took anything from here!” Caelynn responded.
“Leave her alone!” the Arch-Wizard commanded. The Emperor suddenly let go of Caelynn and looked over to the Arch-Wizard in fury.
“No one orders me! I’m the Emperor!” He shouted at the Arch-Wizard. “Guard, draw your sword.” One of the guards drew their sword.
“Be very careful what you do.” the Arch-Wizard said quietly. The Emperor ignored him and turned to face Caelynn.
“Unless you tell me what you did with Asden’s journals, your friend here will die!” the Emperor threatened. The guard held the sword up to the Arch-Wizard’s throat.
“I’ve never seen them!’ Caelynn replied truthfully.
“Okay guard, kill the Arch-Wizard.” the Emperor ordered. The guard began to swing his sword.
“No wait! Meela’s got them!” Caelynn confessed. The guard stopped suddenly. “I’ve never seen them, but Meela told me she found them here. I think she’s hidden them in an extra-dimension.”
“Meela has them.” the Emperor repeated hatefully. He looked thoughtful. “I’ll have to get word to my commanders in Yastell to search her airship. There’s nothing else we can do here. Let’s go!’
Caelynn was thankful they were leaving this horrible place. She hated this tower. She hated the way it made her feel. The way the cold dense air closed in on her and chilled her to the bone. It was a long walk up the stairs, but once they were outside again she felt relieved to be in the light again breathing fresh air.
When they were back on board they set sail for the gate. The Emperor decided to keep Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard on deck still while they all still had to travel through the gate. Once they got back on the airship, unknown to all of them, Caelynn had begun trying to prise the lock open again, and while they were still traveling over Durn, she heard a click. She had managed to succeed in unlocking the chains around her hands. She tired concealing it as best she could. While doing this, she noticed the Emperor was gazing at her hatefully.
“When we get back to Salané, both you and the Arch-Wizard will stand trial for your crimes of treason and espionage. You will be found guilty. It’s over for you, and if Meela somehow survives she will stand trial too. Yastell is mine, and so will be the rest of the world, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop this.” the Emperor declared. Caelynn gazed down at the ground below.
“No. Your influence over the world is at an end. Your ability to terrorise the rest of us is over. You and your men will stay trapped here in Durn, grow old, and die.” Caelynn said simply. The Emperor laughed out loud.
“What makes you think so?” he sneered at her.
“I’m sorry.” she said to the Arch-Wizard.
Then to everyone’s shock, Caelynn broke free from her restraints and jumped over the side of the ship falling down to the ground below. The Emperor rushed to the side of the ship to see Caelynn’s body splayed on the beach, like a broken doll.
“No!!!” he screamed out.
Meela was at the helm of the Crimson Vengeance. Behind her was a fleet of airships that had survived the Battle of Tarsakh, and behind them was a large dragon gliding along with the fleet. They had gotten to where the gate to Durn was supposed to be, but nothing had happened. A feeling of panic was rising in Meela. Her heart was beating loudly and a sick feeling was in her stomach. If the gate wasn’t working, it only meant one thing.
“No!” Meela screamed out to the surprise of her crew.
She wasn’t powerful enough to open the magical gate on her own and so was going to have to try something she had never done before, something she wasn’t even sure would work, but there was no other choice: she would have to directly teleport into Durn. She had never teleported into another dimension before, and all she knew about it was that it wasn’t advisable under any circumstances. Meela grabbed her staff and decided to focus not on Durn, but on Caelynn instead. Standing there on the deck with her staff in her hands, she thought of Caelynn, her long golden hair, her vibrant green eyes, and smooth white skin, wishing to be close to her again, and then she teleported.
Instantly she felt long tendrils wrapping around her legs trying to pull her down into the Shadow World, dragging her down into its darkness. She continued focusing on Caelynn, and in the last moments freed herself from the black tendrils, and found herself on the beach at Durn. Before her Caelynn’s body lay splayed out on the sand. Meela ran to her and taking Caelynn softly into her arms.
“Caelynn my love, please wake up!” she implored “Please come back!” Tears were beginning to stream down her cheeks and land on Caelynn’s white face. Meela hugged the slender broken body in her arms, beginning to sob uncontrollably.
Caelynn was dead.
Next episode: Battle Over Durn
©2019 Joanne Fisher