The crystal had shown terrible things. The Elder came out her dwelling. She clapped her hands and the entire village looked up at her.
“Humans are coming with axes to destroy our forest. We must protect it! All remaining archers need to go to our northern border. Falnek, take the children to the sacred Bloodwood.” There was sudden activity in the village. “Aalen, when the humans are defeated come back to us.” Aalen nodded and left with her wolf bounding in front of her.
The Elder looked over the village and her people. The crystal had shown terrible things.
Caelynn put the silver tiara on her head and looked at herself admiringly in the looking glass. She wore a green silk dress that sparkled whenever she moved, along with silver slippers that arced minute tendrils of lightning.
“I never thought I’d ever become a princess.” Caelynn said as she gazed at her reflection.
“Now you’re going to be more insufferable than ever.” remarked Meela, who was sitting on her bed examining the former Queen’s white crystal wand that Caelynn had found on the beach after the Queen had vanished.
They were both now in Caelynn’s new bedchamber in the Sun Palace of Larantel. After the Queen had disappeared and discoveries become known of every thing she had done, the nobles of the realm elected a new monarch from one among them. They chose Caelynn’s father, Alcarin, to be the new King of Larantel, despite the scandal he had been involved in. He was chosen because he had been one of the few who had actually stood up to the Queen and tried to inform the other nobles of things she was doing in their names. Once he was elected King, Alcarin had chosen the Sun Palace as his seat of residence. So for the last few weeks they had all been busy moving their many possessions from their family residence to their new Royal Palace. Even Meela had helped ferry their belongings in her new airship.
Tonight was the Coronation, and Caelynn was getting dressed to attend it. Even her older brothers were going to be there. Meela had been invited to attend, and so she uncharacteristically had decided to go. Not that she had fine clothes to wear to it. She always figured she could borrow some of Caelynn’s clothes, so long as they weren’t too girly…
“So my father told me he’s offered you the position of Royal Adviser.” Caelynn stated.
“And I’m going to turn it down.” Meela stated.
“But if you accept it, we can stay here together.” Caelynn said in a disappointed tone.
“It’s not my thing. I like being in command of my own ship sailing through the clouds. I just wouldn’t enjoy it here.” Meela informed her. “I would get bored eventually, and come to resent it.”
“That means we’re going to be apart!”
“If you ever need me, I’ll always come back to you.” Meela replied.
“But it’s not the same!” Caelynn pouted at Meela’s words.
She hadn’t told Meela that she had died on the day of the Battle of Durn, though she knew Meela strongly suspected it. She also hadn’t told her that it had been Lafalin, or Bran as Meela called him, who had brought her back to life, and she would only survive for a few more years. She didn’t know how to tell Meela any of that, so she had kept it a secret. She wanted Meela to be with her, for however much time she had left. As she was now a princess of the realm, it wouldn’t be done for her to sail off with pirates. It would be a huge scandal in the Court, and for her father. But if Meela didn’t stay with her here, then they wouldn’t have much time left together.
Many things had happened in the weeks following the Battle of Durn. Justinian was crowned the new Emperor of Tigreralat. He promised reforms and instantly called a truce with Yastell. He also recognised Loro-Don as a free city. Meela, however, was still a fugitive and blamed for the Emperor’s death. Meela quite happily took this blame, as it gave her notoriety as a pirate an even greater boost. The Arch-Wizard was reinstated to his position, and one night when the Seer was looking into the flames he called out his assistant’s name. Ana found him lying dead on the floor, and following tradition, she became the new Seer.
Everything seemed to be coming right, which made Meela feel even more suspicious that maybe they had all missed something, and there was about to be some terrible cataclysm, but she didn’t voice these fears and kept them to herself. Whatever may happen in the future, she hoped they would all be up to the challenge.
That evening Meela attended the Coronation of King Alcarin, and after spending the night with Caelynn, she took leave of her and sailed away with the rest of her crew in her new flagship. Caelynn cried, and then went silent for a few days.
Some time later, Alcarin went looking for his daughter who hadn’t turned up to an event she had been expected to attend. He looked for her everywhere. She wasn’t in the stables, or the gardens, and so he went up to her bedchamber. He found she wasn’t there either, but the window was open, and in the far distance he could see an airship sailing away…
Omnia vincit amor: et nos cedamus amori
That’s the last of my ongoing serials for the year. I hope you enjoyed both Durn, and My Life In Darkness.
There are several ideas, such as the Shadow World (or Shadow-realm as the Elves call it), the Queen’s ultimate fate, and Caelynn’s short life expectancy, that all point to an eventual sequel.
Next year I plan to start a new story beginning in the second week of January, all going well. It will be called Journey of the Sorcerer, and is set in the same world as Sky-Pirates of Durn, but set around a thousand years before. So it’s a sort of prequel, I guess.
Caelynn was in a dark tunnel. She walked along it and saw a figure before her.
“Where am I?” she asked them.
“You’re in the space between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.” he replied.
“What if I keep going forwards?’ she asked.
“Then you join your ancestors and the affairs of the Land of the Living will no longer concern you.”
“Can I turn back?” she asked.
“No.” he replied. “But there is a way back.”
Caelynn looked at the figure. She could see him more clearly now. He had long blond hair and green eyes, and reminded her of Meela, in a way. She then came to the realisation of who he was.
“So it’s true you’re dead? No one was really sure.”
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.” he winked at her. “My great niece has already lost one lover. It will destroy her, if she loses you too. It was brave, but foolish what you did. You had the best intentions I know, but if you had waited just a few minutes it wouldn’t have been necessary. Meela needs you. The Queen is coming.”
“You said there was a way back?” she asked him.
“I can send you back, but there is a caveat.” he declared. Caelynn rolled her eyes.
“There always is.”
“The magic I use will eventually run out. You may have a few years, but one day you will die for real, and there will be no bringing you back after that.” he told her. Caelynn nodded at his words.
“Asden was my fight. The Queen is yours, and Meela’s.” he stated.
“But how do we defeat her? She is more powerful than anyone.” Caelynn wondered aloud. The figure smiled at her.
“You’ll figure it out.”
Caelynn awoke in Meela’s arms. Meela was holding her tightly and weeping loudly. They were on the beach.
“You’re crushing me!” Caelynn complained. Meela let go of her in surprise.
“I thought you were dead!” exclaimed Meela.
“I must have been unconscious.” Caelynn lied. Meela looked as though she didn’t really believe her, but then she suddenly grabbed Caelynn in her arms again.
“I’m so glad you’re alive. I thought I had lost you!”
“Yes I know.” Caelynn replied as she looked behind them. “Meela, we have a problem.”
“What?” Meela asked. She looked around and saw what Caelynn was referring to.
Behind them stood the Emperor and a number of guards, all of them with their weapons drawn.
“Well well! If it isn’t Meela Starblazer, the feared pirate herself! We meet at last! You were foolish to come here on your own. And now you’re my prisoner too.” Meela grabbed her staff and stood up confronting him.
“I don’t think so!” she waved her arms and a wall of force hit all the Emperor’s guards before her. They were thrown backwards into the sea, leaving the Emperor standing there alone. “Your move?” she raised an eyebrow at the Emperor. He suddenly looked around terrified.
“If you harm me, you place yourself in grave danger!’ he threatened. Meela laughed.
“There is no threat behind your words. Your armies have been defeated in Yastell. You are the one in grave danger.” Meela informed him.
“Lies! I would have been told if my forces in Yastell were in peril.” he said backing away, looking unsure.
Meela could see the other airships approaching. She moved forward and smacked the Emperor in the head with her staff. He fell over into the sand. Caelynn finally stood up and joined Meela.
“Is he dead?” she asked.
“No. Just unconscious. I don’t think he deserves to die quickly.” Meela responded. She looked up. “Oh look I’ve got a brand new airship!” She climbed up the rope ladder and Caelynn followed her.
“He’s only part of the problem. It’s the Queen of Larantel that’s behind it all. She trained Asden, and was preparing to have the Emperor become undead so he would rule the Empire forever with her pulling the strings. She’s also the one that enabled the Shadow-realm to send their shadow monsters to Yastell.” Caelynn told her.
“Ugh, I was wondering who was behind it all. I didn’t realise it was the Queen. I wouldn’t have left you at Larantel if I had known.” Meela replied looking down at her.
“I realise that, but we will have to work out how to deal with her at some point.”
They came aboard the Emperor’s airship. A startled crew looked at them both.
“Who are you?” asked the Captain, once he saw Meela.
“My name is Meela Starblazer, and I’m commandeering this airship.” Meela stated.
The captain was a tall man with dark hair and a full beard. He wore a dark blue and gold uniform. Upon hearing Meela’s words he unsheathed his cutlass and strode towards Meela and Caelynn.
“Over my dead body!” he said. Meela unsheathed her rapier.
“That’s the idea!” she replied.
The captain drove forwards with his blade and Meela deflected his thrust and counterattacked slashing at his body with her rapier. He dodged out of the way of her attack and then lunged forwards. Meela managed to deftly step aside and then thrust her rapier into his sword arm. He let out a short grunt and then wildly stabbed at Meela, missing her by quite a margin.
“First blood to me!” Meela exclaimed.
“No girl is going to beat me in a sword fight!” the captain roared.
He moved so the main mast was between them. He lunged towards her and Meela dodged out of the way and then thrust her rapier towards him from the other side of the mast, only narrowly missing him. She pushed forward making him move away. He slashed his cutlass and Meela was unable to fully get out of the way of it and the blade bit into her side just below her chest. The captain smiled grimly at her. Meela responded by lunging forwards and impaling her rapier into his leg. He let out a short scream and tried pulling his leg away, but Meela was too quick and pulled her rapier out before it was yanked out of her grasp. Meela could feel blood trickling down her shirt. She jumped on top of the capstan. The captain drove his cutlass at her, but she dodged it and then her rapier slashed his face. He dropped to the ground screaming. His face had a long deep cut down it from forehead to chin that was gushing out blood. He dropped his sword and covered his face with his hands. One of the crew quickly came over to him and applied some cloth to the wound.
Meela, still on top of the capstan, looked at the crew who had been watching the sword fight. They all looked startled.
“My name is Meela Starblazer and I’m taking over this ship. I want you to help me fly this to the gate. Once we are finished with everything here, we can sail to a port and any of you will be free to go and rejoin the Empire’s fleet, if you so wish. However, if you wish to still crew this ship afterwards, you are welcome to stay. I’m a fair captain and I know I need you all to fly this airship. so you will find me quite reasonable to work for. If you don’t wish to take part then I will lock you in the hold and release you once we get to port. Please make your decision now!” Meela said to them all.
The crew looked at each other for a moment and most of them resumed their duties. A few went ended up in the hold, along with the captain.
“Set sail to the gate!’ Meela commanded. The crew got everything ready and the rope ladder was hoisted up. Then they resumed sailing towards the gate. Meela took the wheel and noted the other Imperial airships had almost caught up with them and were now following closely behind. Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard, still with his hands restrained, came up to her.
“You’re wounded!” Caelynn observed. Meela’s white shirt was now distinctly growing red on her left side.
“It’s just a scrape along the ribs. I’ve had worse.” Meela stated nonchalantly.
“Be that as it may, we need to bandage it.” Caelynn insisted.
“Okay!” Meela replied. She removed her shirt and the top under it. She stood there topless while Meela wove a bandage around her chest. Some of the crew sneaked a look at Meela while she was being attended to. “Stick to your duties! No lollygagging!” Meela then noticed Caelynn’s hand as she bandaged her. “What happened to your hand?”
“I ended in the dungeons of the Emperor’s palace. The torturer tried to get me to talk, by removing my nails. It was incredibly painful.” Caelynn responded. Meela softly took hold of her hand.
“Had I known, I would have done anything to free you. Now I wish I really had killed the Emperor!” Meela stated.
“Luckily the Arch-Wizard found me in time, and managed to free me, though we still got caught in the end. I didn’t tell them anything.” Caelynn told her. Meela nodded at the the Arch-Wizard, who smiled back at her.
“Good thing I’ve got him on my side! If you’re ever in that position again I would understand if you told them everything. I would rather have you alive and in one piece than mutilated or dead. No information you have is worth risking your life, even if it means you’re giving me up.” Meela stated.
“At least in the end, I didn’t tell them anything. I wanted you to know that.” Caelynn responded. Meela hugged her again.
They sailed towards the gate still being chased by the remaining Imperial ships. After fixing-up Meela as best she could, Caelynn then tried to pick the locks of the Arch-Wizard’s restraints. Having done it before, she now found it easier to unlock them. She then stared uneasily at the oncoming magical gate.
“Do you think the enchantment is still holding?” Caelynn asked Meela.
“I don’t know.” Meela replied. “Take my hand!” Caelynn held onto Meela’s left hand. Wincing slightly. Again, she could feel the familiar pulsing they felt whenever they touched.
They sailed up to the gate and the air began shimmering around them, and then they were through. Before them lay the fleet of airships from Loro-Don, Meela’s ship, and behind them all, the dragon who was hovering with them. Caelynn’s mouth gaped open. She pointed at the dragon.
“There’s a dragon there!” she stated.
“I know. I’ll introduce you sometime.” Meela responded. “Bring her round!”
Meela signaled Bronwyn on the Crimson Vengeance to follow her. The ship turned and then began going through the gate again. This time the fleet and the dragon followed them through into Durn.
The Imperial fleet that was still travelling towards the gate were surprised to see their former flagship, which they had been chasing, come back through the gate towards them, but this time with many other airships following in its wake, along with a dragon.
“To starboard!” the captain on the leading Imperial ship commanded his crew. “Fire all cannons!”
A broadside was fired at all the advancing airships.The other Imperial ships followed suit and also fired their cannons at the airships. The prows of the oncoming ships took a lot of damage from the cannon fire, along with several foremasts lost. They continued moving forwards.
“Over to port!” ordered Bronwyn on board the Crimson Vengeance. The airship went to the left until all it’s guns on the port side faced the enemy ships. The other airships began doing the same. “Fire!”
Broadsides were fired this time at the Imperial ships which were facing them. Cannon fire ripped through the starboard side of their ships taking out cannons and masts. The Imperial ships returned fire, though they were now heavily outnumbered. The dragon breathed fire on one of the Imperial ships incinerating it in an explosion of fire. After a few salvos from both sides, the Imperial ships suffering the greater damage began to disengage, trying to flee.
While this battle occurred, Meela got the crew to get their ship away from the cannon fire. They sailed down underneath the ships until they were safely out of the battle zone and heading towards Durn. As they got nearer both Meela and Caelynn could still see the body of the Emperor lying on the beach.
“None of the other ships bothered collecting him.” Caelynn observed.
“I know. Maybe they thought he was dead, or were too focused on chasing us instead. We should pick him up. He would make a useful prisoner.” Meela stated.
The airship sailed back to the beach. When they had arrived where the Emperor still lay, Meela got the airship to hover. Caelynn and her went down the rope ladder leaving the Arch-Wizard in command of the ship. Caelynn examined the body and looked surprised.
“But he’s dead! I thought you had only knocked him out.” Caelynn stated as she knelt by the body.
“Yeah I didn’t think I had killed him.” Meela agreed. She walked over to Caelynn.
“That’s because I killed him you silly girl!” said a voice.
Meela and Caelynn both looked up. There standing on a sand dune was the Lynarin, the Queen of Larantel. She wore a long black dress detailed with threads of silver and gold. She was smiling.
“Why did you kill him?” Caelynn asked.
“I had to start the process some time. Now seemed as good as ever.” the Queen revealed.
“You mean so he can be turned into a revenant?” Caelynn asked angrily.
“Yes.” she confirmed. “Now how come every time I send you to Salané, you always wind up being somewhere else?”
“This had nothing to do with me. The Emperor brought me here against my will.” Caelynn told her.
“How did you get here?” Meela asked the Queen.
“Why if it isn’t the half-human pirate girl? Nice to meet you at last, Meela. Like you, I teleported here.” the Queen informed her. “I’m very impressed you managed to do that by the way.”
“Are you now?” replied Meela, unimpressed with her manner. “The Empire has been defeated, along with all your plans. I suggest you surrender to us.” As soon as Meela said that, the Queen looked at her with surprise, and then laughed out loud.
“You may have won the battle, but the war isn’t over. There is still plenty I can do.” She replied. “Indeed the best thing for me to do right now is to get rid of both of you.”
The Queen raised her hands and fired a bolt of dark energy at the two of them. Meela, remembering her dream when she was injured in Yastell, instinctively grabbed hold of Caelynn’s hand. The bolt seemed to hit some force field around them and it’s energy dissipated. Surprised and confused, the Queen fired another bolt at them, this time it was with sonic energy and the air rippled around it. Again it met the same result hitting the shield protecting Meela and Caelynn.
“On my mark, now!” said Meela, and both of them fired a lightning bolt together at the Queen. The lightning bolt hit her and she was thrown back over the sand dune. She stood up looking shaken. She pulled out a white crystal wand.
“If I can’t touch you with my magic, then I’ll just summon some shadow monsters to eat you both!” she threatened. She flicked her wand and a portal began opening up.
“Can you open a portal in a pocket dimension?” Caelynn asked Meela.
“I don’t know, but it does seem to be happening.” Meela replied, preparing to deal with whatever came through the portal.
The portal opened and large tentacles began coming out of it. The Queen laughed loudly. To everyone’s surprise the thick black tentacles suddenly wrapped themselves around the Queen and pulled her into the portal with it. The last thing they heard was the Queen suddenly screaming, and then the portal closing with a loud snap. The Queen was gone, and Meela and Caelynn were left alone on the beach.
“That was like watching a trapdoor spider catch some prey.’ Meela mused.
“What just happened?” Caelynn asked confused. Meela breathed inwards.
“Well, my guess is the Queen promised all sorts of jewels, precious metals, and gems from Yastell to the Lord of the Shadow World for his help, and when he didn’t get it, he decided on another form of payment.” Meela surmised.
“So that’s it? She’s gone?” Caelynn asked.
“I would say so.”
“The Emperor’s dead and the Queen is now a prisoner in the Shadow-realm. It’s all over. We won.” Caelynn said disbelievingly.
“I would say so!” she said. “And I’ve got a new flagship!”
Meela looked up admiringly at the gleaming new airship she had taken. Above they could see the remaining Imperial airships being chased down by their own fleet.
A large bronze dragon flew overhead and then landed not far from them. The dragon then transformed into a man and walked towards them both.
“That’s Rhaeldur. He calls me granddaughter, but I think he’s really an ancestor.” Meela informed Caelynn.
Rhaeldur strode up and smiled. He looked Caelynn over.
“It looks like everything has worked out for the better.” he said.
“Yes it does. This is Caelynn my girlfriend. Caelynn, this is Rhaeldur.” Rhaeldur nodded his head at Caelynn, while Caelynn found herself bowing to him.
“I’ll leave you two females alone. Just remember, should you ever need my help in the future, just call out.” He told them smiling.
“I will.” Meela replied. And then he was gone. Both Meela and Caelynn looked around, but he was no longer there. “How strange.”
“Well I guess it’s just us two now.” Caelynn said.
Meela wrapped her arms around Caelynn and they kissed for a long time.
Caelynn was walking through a forest. She could hear birds singing and there was a breeze in the branches making the sunlight flicker in her eyes. Meela was standing there. She looked serious and concerned. “You have to wake up.” Meela said. “Caelynn, this is a dream. Wake up, you’re in danger!” Caelynn opened her eyes. She was chained to a wall deep below the Emperor’s palace. It was cold, dank, dark, and stank of sweat, smoke, and misery.
She was unaware how long it had taken to travel to Salané, but it had been many days. They had traveled in a carriage and she was in cold iron manacles all the way, unable to focus on anything due to the pain. Around her had sat the Emperor’s Guard in their armor and red cloaks. They all stared at her stonily. They barely talked and only stopped for food and rest, not that she was able to rest properly with the manacles constantly burning her wrists and ankles. All the time she had fretted about Meela, needing to warn her, but unable to do anything about it. It was driving her crazy. She knew about the shadow monsters and what they could do, and she was deadly worried that Meela and her associates were all going to be slaughtered, or even eaten by those things. She needed to get a warning out to her somehow, otherwise all could be lost.
Once they had arrived at Salané, she was dragged into the throne room still in manacles. The Emperor looked down on her coldly as he sat on his throne of obsidian. She lay there while the entire Tigreralatean Court stared at her unpityingly. Around her stood many nobles. Beside the dais steps were two Priestesses, one of the Sun and one of the Stars. They looked at her coldly.
“This is what a traitor looks like! She was sent here as an ambassador for Larantel, but she was actually working as a spy for the criminal Meela Starblazer, and was in league with her and other vagrants who defy our laws.” the Emperor proclaimed.
After being pronounced a traitor in front of the entire Imperial Court, she was taken to the dungeons and now she waited for whatever they had planned. It was only a short time until a tall man wearing a dark cloak walked into her cell. He was bald with a goatee of dark hair. Caelynn could see scars and pock marks on his face. He looked Caelynn over, rather dismissively.
“You must be Caelynn of Larantel. My name is Voss, and I am one of the Imperial Inquisitors. I understand the Emperor wishes to know certain information that you are unwilling to give. So I am here to persuade you to tell me what he wants to know. I look forward to working with you. I hope we can have a constructive relationship.” He stated. Caelynn spat at him. Voss wiped it off his face. “You have good aim, but I am going to make you regret that.”
“Bite me!” Caelynn screamed back at him.
“Not something I’m into. The Head Inquisitor might be interested in doing that, however.” He replied. “Eventually that defiant streak in you will be broken. I’ve seen it happen many times before.”
Voss brought out a box and opened it on the table before him. Caelynn could see it was full of implements, such as pliers, small metal picks, chisels, hammers, nails, and other similar items. He picked up a pair of pliers, and then faced Caelynn.
“All the Emperor really wishes to know is the location of Durn. Just tell me that and we won’t have to go through any of this.” he informed her.
“It doesn’t exist.” Caelynn replied.
“Come now, we know that it does. You won’t get off that easy.” He took a step forward.
“It’s up the Emperor’s arse!” Voss laughed when Caelynn said this.
“That’s funny! Obviously being around pirates had made you rather coarse. I understand you once were a lady of the Court. How the mighty have fallen.” He shook his head sadly. “Guards! Move this prisoner to the chair!” He ordered.
Two guards appeared. One placed a metal brace around her neck. Instantly she could feel the skin of her neck burning. It was cold iron again. The two guards unlocked the chains and then moved her towards a chair that looked to be made out of iron. They sat her down on it. To her bewilderment she found that it had small sharp spikes along the chairs entire surface that bit into her skin, wherever she was in contact with it. She squirmed with the pain. They strapped her forearms and wrists to the arms of the chair, and then left her there. One of them removed the neck brace, but it seemed to make little difference.
Caelynn tried not to show she was in pain, and remained determined not to say anything. She couldn’t betray Meela. Once she gave up one piece of information, she knew they would then press her for more. Even if it killed her, she resolved to stay silent. Her will was set. She gave her torturer a fixed stare. He smiled darkly at her. Maybe if she waited long enough Meela would find her…
“And now we get down to business!” he declared. He set down the pliers and produced a small rough wedge of wood and a hammer. “We once had a problem with a group of knights that rebelled. This torture managed to make, what was a very obstinate knight, talk to us and tell us everything we wanted to hear, and more besides. Just remember, this does not need to happen. All you need to do is tell me what I want to know, and this will all end. The pain will end. Just talk. That’s all you need to do.”
He placed a wedge of wood under the nail of her right index finger. He then hammered the wedge of wood under the nail. The pain was unbelievable. Once he was finished, he grabbed the pliers and forcibly ripped the nail off her finger. He looked at her. Her body was shaking with pain.
“You ready to talk yet? Or shall I do another finger?” he asked her. Caelynn slowly shook her head. “You’re a very brave girl, you know. No one would blame you now if you began to talk. Even Meela would understand. You’ve shown us how brave and staunch you are. It would understandable if you talked now. Your honour would still be intact.”
Caelynn did not reply, but instead looked at the far wall and thought about Meela. She thought about the moments they had spent together, and she wondered if Meela was still alive. For if Meela had been killed by a shadow monster, there would be no point in living anyway…
“No.” she finally replied with great difficulty. “I will never talk to you.” Voss looked displeased.
“I guess we will do another finger then. And if you keep insisting not to talk, then I will keep doing your fingers, and then your toes, and when I have run out of nails to extract, I will then turn to something else.” he threatened.
Caelynn looked away and imagined she was walking in the forest with Meela again. She could see the sunlight in the leaves and hear the birds singing while Meela walked beside her holding her hand. Voss took the wooden wedge and then placed it under the next finger along. Again there came an incredible feeling of pain…
“She passed out on me. I’ve done one hand and there’s been no sign of her willing to talk.”
She awoke. She was still strapped to the chair. Looking at her right hand she saw her fingers were all bloodied stumps. There was talking before her. Voss had his back turned and was talking to another person. It was a slighter figure. A woman in a red cloak. She had red hair and pale skin.
“Let me look at her.” said the woman. She walked up to Caelynn and examined her. Her fingers were cold as they touched Caelynn’s face.
“Who… are… you?” Caelynn asked her slowly. The woman got very close to her and whispered in Caelynn’s ear.
“Hello my sweet. My name is Malla. You’re very pretty. You don’t belong down here. Just tell me what I want to know, and I will release you. It’s as simple as that.” Caelynn felt a cold wet tongue slide down her cheek. “I bet you’re very tasty.”
“I know what you are.” Caelynn said to her. She feel Malla’s cold breath on her face.
“Your eyes are such a vibrant green. I would love to take them with me.” Malla whispered again. The she laughed a very cold laugh. She turned to Voss. “You should work on the other hand now. She’s regained consciousness.” Voss nodded and approached them.
The door to the room suddenly opened. The tall figure of the Arch-Wizard stood there. He walked in and gave Caelynn a brief look.
“My lord.” Voss bowed.
“We don’t usually see you down here, my lord Arch-Wizard.” Malla said bowing her head briefly. “How can we help you?”
“Lady Malla. It has been a while. How is the prisoner? Has she talked yet?” the Arch-Wizard asked in his deep voice.
“No. I was about to get Voss to begin on her other hand.” Malla conceded.
“The Emperor wants results. I have some experience, and knowledge of magic that may help me extract the information we need from her. As we already know each other, it may also help.” the Arch-Wizard stated. Malla laughed.
“So the Arch-Wizard thinks he is more able to extract information from a prisoner than the Emperor’s top inquisitors?” she asked pointedly.
“That’s not what I said. Caelynn is a wizard like myself. We have several points of familiarity I can utilise. At least let me try. So far you have nothing to show for it. Elves can be harder to break than humans.” the Arch-Wizard explained. Malla raised her eyebrows.
“Okay, go ahead.” she replied sweeping her right arm elaborately in Caelynn’s direction. The Arch-Wizard sat down beside Caelynn.
“How are you?” He asked Caelynn softly.
“Not so good.” Caelynn replied weakly. The Arch-Wizard turned and faced the other two.
“It would be better if I did this alone. Your presence won’t help her talk to me.” He insisted. “I’m sure you can amuse yourselves torturing some other unfortunate in another cell while you wait.”
“Okay we will leave, but let us know if she says anything. I’ll give you a couple of hours.” Malla replied as her and Voss departed the cell, leaving the Arch-Wizard and Caelynn alone.
The Arch-Wizard sat there a few minutes. He then stood up and checked the door. When he came back, he began undoing the straps that tied Caelynn’s arms to the chair.
“What are you doing?” Caelynn asked him drowsily.
“I’m getting you out of here. A torture chamber is no place for someone like you.” He said as he untied her legs.
“Why are you helping me?” She asked confused.
“Because I promised Meela I would keep an eye on you.” he stated.
“What? You’re in league with Meela?” she asked bewildered.
“Yes I have been for some time.” he revealed. He slowly brought her to her feet. She instantly fell into him almost falling over. There was no strength in her legs. He quickly grabbed hold of her. “We’re going to have to get out of here. Are you able to walk at all?”
“I think I can lean on you and walk, or try.” Caelynn replied.
In truth she felt like collapsing, but she desperately wanted to get away from this cell and her two interrogators. Leaning on the Arch-Wizard as they walked and being supported by his right arm allowed them both to move, though at a very slow pace. They walked out of the cell and then along a poorly lit stone corridor. At the end was a portcullis blocking their way. A guard stood on the other side.
“Where are you going with the prisoner?” the guard asked.
“I’m taking her to the Emperor, as she is now willing to tell him what she knows.” The Arch-Wizard replied.
The guard looked doubtful, but then raised the portcullis and they continued through another corridor and finally came to stone steps that led upwards. They took them one step at a time, and then there was a short corridor that led to yet another portcullis. Once they were through that, the Arch-Wizard led her along the seldom used passageways.
“Where are you taking me?” Caelynn asked.
“I’m taking you to my quarters. There you can get cleaned up and maybe rest as I work out how to get you out of the palace. I’m trying to use corridors that are out of the way, so we are going in a very roundabout way to my chambers, but we will get there eventually.”
After walking for what seemed an eternity to Caelynn, they came to a doorway and went up some stairs again.
“We are now just below my tower. A few more flights of stairs and we will be there. So keep moving!” the Arch-Wizard encouraged her.
He led her through a large doorway. They came into a large circular room with chairs and a table. The window was stained glass depicting a wizard with their arms outstretched and holding a staff. There was another door to her left. The floor was covered in a large rug patterned with many colours. The Arch-Wizard led her to a chair. Caelynn sat back and relaxed as best she could. Her body was covered in small cuts, and her right hand was useless.
“I use this room to meet people and have discussions. You can rest here for a moment, and then I will take you up the stairs to where I have a spare bed. You can rest up there for a time, and I will clean your wounds the best I can. I am not a healer though, and know little healing magic. Priests are better at doing that.”
“Won’t they know you took me away and come looking for you?” Caelynn asked him.
“Eventually, but we should still have a couple of hours before they come, and hopefully we will be away by then.” he informed her.
“But this means you won’t be able to return?”
“Yes. I’m going to have to desert my post. Things are taking a dark turn here, and there seems little I can do to stop it.” he revealed.
“The Emperor is in league with the Queen of Larantel. She originally instructed Asden, and plans on making the Emperor a revenant, so he can live forever. She’s also given the Shadow-realm access to this plane.” Caelynn informed him. The Arch-Wizard visibly shuddered.
“I knew things were bad, but I didn’t know they were that bad. I know of the intervention of the Shadow World in Yastell. I was against that. I told the Emperor not to have any part of it, but he chose not to listen. Now I know why.” He admitted.
He picked up Caelynn again and took her through the door. They went up a narrow flight of stairs, which was more awkward for Caelynn as there wasn’t room for both of them. When they got to the next level, there was a door to a small room with a bed. Caelynn collapsed onto it. The Arch-Wizard came back with some water, and made her drink some. He went out again and came back this time with a larger bowl full of water, and a cloth. He said some words over the bowl and began to clean Caelynn’s right hand. The water was warm, but any pressure put on the hand was extremely painful. He got her to turn over and inspected the wounds all down her back to her thighs. He cleaned those as best he could.
“Are you able to eat anything?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.” Caelynn replied.
“I’ll see if I can find anything easy to chew.” he replied.
Just as he left there was a heavy knocking down below, after that sounds of a door being forced open. Then came the sounds of heavy footfalls, like the sound of armoured soldiers. The Arch-Wizard came quickly back into the room.
“They’ve found out much sooner than I expected. We have to go!” he exclaimed.
He picked her up off the bed and they went through the doorway. Just as they did, suddenly at least a dozen soldiers appeared and blocked their way. Their swords were drawn.
“They are up here!” one of them called down.
Up the steps came the Emperor, flanked by another man in black robes Caelynn had never seen before. The Emperor looked at the Arch-Wizard.
“So it turns out you’re a traitor too.” the Emperor stated.
“I was just trying to use a different technique to get the information out of her, my lord.” the Arch-Wizard replied. The Emperor laughed at him.
“Do you take me for a fool Elcaroth? You are a traitor to the Crown. Your position as Arch-Wizard is revoked. Now hand the girl over to my men.” the Emperor ordered. The Arch-Wizard stood in front of Caelynn.
“If you want her, you will have to go through me first.” he declared. The Emperor raised his eyebrows.
“Fine.” was all he said. He was about to issue an order, when a voice from down below suddenly piped up.
“Excuse me! I think I can help!” Caelynn recognised it as the Seer. He slowly came up the steps puffing and clutching a book. The Emperor looked annoyed.
“What do you want Seer?” he asked.
“If you want to find Durn, I can show you where it is.” the Seer revealed.
“But you promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!” interjected Caelynn.
“I’m sorry my lady, but if I don’t do this they will kill you. I have seen it.” the Seer replied. The Emperor shook his head with his eyes looking upwards. Obviously the Seer was a traitor too…
“Okay Seer, show me where to find Durn!” the Emperor demanded.
The Seer walked up to the Emperor and opened the book to show the map that had Durn repeatedly appearing and disappearing on it.
“There is Durn my lord.”
“So how do we get to it?” the Emperor asked.
“Durn is now in a pocket dimension that was created by Asden. There is a gate you have to go through to access the dimension. You will need to have Caelynn with you to get through the gate. She will have to be alive as well.” the Seer informed him. Caelynn shook her head sadly. She felt like she was being betrayed by someone she had trusted.
“Thank you Seer. Good work! I’ll overlook that you hid the truth from me until now.” the Emperor replied. “Guard!”
“Yes your majesty?”
“Tell them to ready my airship, and any others we have left here.” he ordered.
“Right away your majesty.” the guard replied and then quickly left. The Emperor looked at them all.
“Drink!” the ork captain Azzuk urged. Caelynn found herself having to skull the entire Ork drinking horn. She didn’t even like beer that much. She got most of it down and Azzuk gave a strong slap on the back when she finished. “Most of yer didn’t even finish all yer beer. Wadarya? A pack o’girls?”
“Well most of my crew are female.” Meela pointed out to Azzuk.
“Oh! That’s right.” Azzuk suddenly realised. “Ya all good in a fight though. An she’s an elf! Elfs used to be our enemies a long time ago. Some of ya are part elf.” Azzuk gazed at Meela more closely.
“Yes like myself, some of my crew are half-elven. We don’t really belong in either world, so we end up in the fringes of human society.” Meela told him.
“That’s right sad that is!” Azzuk replied. “When us orks found this world we decided to form own society and culture. In past we was often controlled by dark lords and warlords, but now we are masters of our fate!” He smiled showing his yellow fangs.
“Good for you!” declared Meela.
Most of the crew of the Crimson Vengeance were now a bit battered and bruised. The orks had staged an attack on them, and once there was a halt to the battle, both sides were a lot worse for wear. Even the darker skin of the orks hadn’t hidden their bruises. For them it had just been a play fight, and once the fighting had stopped, they brought out beer barrels and began the drinking contests, which seemed to involve them drinking as much beer as they could in the shortest time possible.
“Thanks for the fight. It was fun!” Azzuk said giving Meela a heavy slap on the back which almost caused her to lose her footing.
“If you’re looking for a fight, a group of us are going down to Yastell. The Empire is trying to invade Yastell and some of us are going to help the Yastellian forces. You’re welcome to join us. The more the merrier.” Meela informed him. Azzuk scratched his chin in thought.
“Ooh! We gets to fight the Imperials! Tempting! I’ll have think about it. I’ll tell other orkish groups I know about it too! We all like good fights!” He told Meela.
“That would be great thanks.” Meela responded.
Once all the beer barrels were empty, the orks returned to their ship and sailed off.
“I’m so glad they’ve gone.” Caelynn said as she stood beside Meela watching the ork ship fly off.
“Still, as a chance meeting it could have been fortuitous. They’re good fighters and they could be useful allies to have in Yastell.” Meela replied watching them go.
“If they turn up.”
“I told them there’s a big fight coming up. They’ll be there.” Meela said with certainty.
Once they had all sobered up a little, they resumed sailing to Larantel. By the next day they had begun flying over the forests of Caelynn’s home land. Caelynn had to direct them to where her family’s estate was. It seemed strange to return home on a pirate airship. So much had happened to her since she left home. It had only been a few months, but she felt like she was a much different person now. She never thought she would end up frequenting with pirates, engaging in espionage and intrigue, and being in a relationship with another female, who was also only half-elven. The old Caelynn could never have imagined any of that happening. But she was glad now she had experienced it. When she finally saw the family palace, the homesickness that had always been there since she had left suddenly felt more acute.
Meela brought the Crimson Vengeance to a halt by getting the crew to fasten ropes to the strongest looking trees. Caelynn went down the rope ladder, and then both her and Meela walked to her family’s lands. The palace and adjoining buildings were built to blend in with the trees and environment. Part of the palace itself had been built into a large outcrop of stone, and lay hidden amongst the trees. Palace guards rode to meet them, many of which were surprised to see Caelynn again. The one in front dismounted and then bowed to her.
“My lady! We did not receive word that you were returning today.” the Captain of the Guards said as she bowed down.
“Yes it was an unannounced return.” Caelynn informed her. “Is my father here?”
“Yes I believe he’s currently in the palace somewhere. I can send word to him.” the Captain offered.
“No need! I want to surprise him!” Caelynn announced smiling.
She and Meela moved onwards while the guards began following behind them. They went through the front gate and then up the wide marble stairs that led to the front door which had guards on either side. Caelynn just wandered through the doorway with Meela following her.
A tall elf with long fair hair and dressed in fine linens with gold and silver detailing approached her. He had the same bright green eyes that Caelynn had.
“Caelynn! I didn’t expect to see you again.” said the elf as he swiftly came up to her.
“Daddy!”Caelynn replied as they hugged tightly. Her father kissed her cheek.
“So good to see you!”
“I’ve so missed you!” Caelynn admitted. Her father looked at Meela.
“Who’s your friend?” He asked.
“Meela, this my father, Lord Alcarin Liadon.”
“Hello my lord! Meela Starblazer at your service.” Meela said bowing to him.
“Meela Starblazer?” He repeated raising his eyebrows. “Can’t say I’ve ever met a pirate before.”
“I can’t say I’ve ever met a lord of Larantel before either, my lord.” Meela replied with a half smile.
“Indeed.” Alcarin replied. “Just call me Alcarin. I have heard the stories about you and my daughter.”
“What are they saying?” Caelynn asked surprised.
“That you have joined a group of pirates led by the fearsome Meela Starblazer, and that you have taken her as your lover. Is this true Caelynn?” Alcarin asked her. Caelynn looked down at the ground.
“I’m afraid it is.” Caelynn admitted.
“You can never be too sure of the gossip you hear.” Alcarin replied. “Had this been another time I might have locked you in your chambers and had Meela thrown into the dungeons. But a lot has happened in the last year, and I’m just pleased you’re looking so well, and that you’re safe.”
“I have done my best to keep your daughter safe.” Meela stated. Alcarin looked at her and gave her an appraising look.
“I’m sure you have, and thank you for bringing her home.” he replied. “I think we should take this discussion into some private chambers, rather than have it here in the hallway. I take it that is your airship floating above the trees nearby?”
“Yes it is.” Meela confirmed.
“You can tell your crew they can come into the palace if they wish.”
“That’s very kind of you. Your Captain of the Guard can let them know.” Meela responded. Alcarin nodded at the Captain who was still standing behind them. The Captain turned around and left the palace.
“Follow me.” Alcarin said.
They followed him into a room which had large windows that overlooked the stables and the well tended gardens. As Meela looked out she beheld a dazzling array of colours in the gardens. Many were flowers she had never seen before. Inside the room, there was wooden paneling around the walls depicting forest scenes. Towards the centre there was a large oak desk, and near the windows was a wooden table. It’s legs were carved to look like wooden trunks. Beside it were a number of chairs which were intricately carved with tree motifs, even the arms of the chairs had been carved with a wooden branch and leaves design. They all sat down beside the table.
“I know I’m meant to be in Salané, but I found correspondence that shows the Queen is providing support to the Emperor with his war against Yastell, which is expressly forbidden by all the noble houses in our kingdom.” Caelynn told her father as she handed him all the letters she had found.
“You found this correspondence?” He clarified, as he looked through the letters.
“Well I went looking for it at Meela’s request.” Caelynn admitted. Alcarin looked at Meela for an explanation.
“I gave her the option to go to Salané so she could find this evidence. We need to stop Larantel from aiding the Empire. If you confront the Queen with this evidence in front of all the noble houses, she will lose favour in their eyes and will be forced to pull back any support for Tigreralat. This should also help restore your family’s fortunes in the eyes of the other nobles in Larantel.” Meela stated.
“So you know our House has been hit by scandal in the Queen’s Court?” Alcarin commented.
“I think everyone knows that my lord. But I do think you were set up by the Queen as she wanted you to lose favour in the eyes of the other noble houses.” Meela answered.
“Set up?” He asked.
“You were very popular with the other noble houses. The Queen saw you as a threat. And it wouldn’t have been that hard to arrange really. All she had to do was get a member of her waiting staff to lead you on, so you would be found in that cupboard with them.” Meela told him. Alcarin nodded thoughtfully.
“Yes it did seem to be rather contrived at the time.” Alcarin admitted. “So what do you advise?”
“You’re still a lord of Larantel. Summon all the noble houses to the Queen’s Court to talk about new revelations regarding the war in Yastell. Tell them it is urgent. The Queen won’t be able to stop you.” Meela advised him. Alcarin laughed.
“I think you’re wasted being a pirate! I would have you as my adviser if you wished for it.” Alcarin said to Meela. “But yes, it is a sound idea.”
“I’m afraid I like being my own boss too much.” Meela admitted. “I don’t take kindly to being told what to do by others.”
“Still, the offer is always there if you wish to take it.” Alcarin offered. Meela nodded.
“If you go to the Queen’s Court, I will go with you father.” Caelynn said.
“What about you Meela? Do you wish to meet the Queen?” Alcarin asked. Meela laughed.
“The Queen’s Court is definitely somewhere I don’t belong. Even if I wanted to go there, I couldn’t. I’m needed elsewhere. I have to help with the defence of Yastell.” Meela informed him.
“I understand. You and your crew are welcome to stay the night.” Alcarin said.
“Thank you my lord. But we will have to leave for Loro-Don in the morning.”
“Tonight you will be my guests. We will have a big feast in celebration of Caelynn’s return, and the finding of new friends.” Alcarin announced.
“That sounds wonderful. I’m overwhelmed by your hospitality. I will tell my crew to be on their best behaviour.” Meela responded. Alcarin smiled at her.
“It’s settled then. Now if you both excuse me, I have something to attend to.”He rose from the table and left the room.
“If you stay a couple of days, I can then go with you to Yastell.” Caelynn said. Meela ran her hands through Caelynn’s hair.
“To be honest my love, I don’t want you to go down to Yastell. It will be dangerous and I’m going to have a hard enough time keeping myself safe, let alone anyone else. I brought you back to your family’s home so you would be protected.” Meela admitted.
“You don’t want me to go down there because it isn’t safe, but you’ll quite happily go there? I thought we were in this together? I want to be by your side no matter where we go, or what happens.”
“I’m sorry, but that’s my final word on the matter. I don’t want to lose you down there. Besides, I need to leave as soon as possible.” Meela stated.
“So when do I see you again?” Caelynn asked sadly.
“I don’t know. Hopefully in a few weeks. I will come back for you.” Meela told her.
“Fine.” Caelynn replied as she rose out of the chair and quickly left the room. She ran up the stairs to her bedroom, wiping away the tears from her face as she did so.
That night there was huge feast in the Great Hall of the palace. All of Meela’s crew were there drinking wine and eating roasted meats. Caelynn sat beside her father looking downcast. She picked at her food but didn’t eat much. On the other side sat Meela who was drinking heavily.
“I’ve sent messages to all the other noble houses of the kingdom. Tomorrow we ride to the Queen’s palace.” Alcarin informed Meela.
“That’s great to hear!” Meela replied.
After the feast, Meela was given a room in the palace in which to sleep. Later that night she sought out Caelynn’s room. She crept up to Caelynn’s bed, and found she was still awake.
“I thought you might visit me.” Caelynn said looking at Meela reproachfully.
“This is our last night together for a while. I think we should enjoy it.” Meela suggested.
Caelynn sighed and moved over in her bed. Meela got into her bed. The sheets were made of fine silk. They wrapped their arms around each other and kissed.
“I’m really going to miss you.” Caelynn admitted.
“I’ll miss you too. I will be back soon. I promise.” Meela replied.
They kissed again and spent the rest of the night together.
In the morning Meela got her crew to get the ship ready. She had a bath and put on some fresh new clothes Caelynn’s father had given her. She then went looking for Caelynn. She found her in the room they had talked in yesterday. She was eating breakfast.
“I’m heading off now. All going well, I ‘ll see you again shortly.” she said to Caelynn.
Caelynn stood up and they kissed again. Alcarin walked in finding them in each other’s arms. Meela let go of Caelynn and bowed.
“Are you away soon?” Alcarin asked her.
“Yes my lord I’m ready to leave. Thank you for your hospitality.” Meela replied.
“When all this is over, we’re going to have to sit down and talk about you and my daughter, but that can wait for now. I trust you had a pleasant sleep?”
“Yes my lord.” Meela replied. Caelynn blushed slightly.
Meela then took her leave of them and headed to her ship. Caelynn sat down and wiped the tears from her face.
“Don’t be sad daughter, you’ll see her again. But we must get ready ourselves. We need to start riding for the Queen’s palace within the hour.” Alcarin told her. Caelynn nodded at his words.
“One thing I’ve always wanted to know: why did you teach me how to pick locks?” Caelynn asked him.
“Because you were my daughter. I didn’t want you to end up in a place or situation you couldn’t get yourself out of.” he replied.
The lord’s carriage was made ready. It was silver, decorated with moon and stars. They drove off for the Queen’s palace with a compliment of guards riding with them. It would take at least a couple of days riding to get there.
The Queen’s Palace was also referred to as the Star Palace, as it was shaped like a star with each of its five points a separate wing of the palace. The entire palace was also silver in colour. Surrounding it were five separate gardens; the summer, winter, spring, autumn, and Queen’s gardens (the Queen’s garden was a situated by the Queen’s private chambers). The Royal Court was situated in the centre of the palace, or the centre of the star, as it was regarded.
When Caelynn and her father arrived they could see that already many other carriages had arrived. They got out and walked up the wide stone steps to the palace entrance. The walls were made of marble and crystal.
“Good to see that most of the noble houses are already here.” remarked Alcarin.
They walked through the great silver doors and then followed the corridor to the throne room which was oval shaped with the silver throne of Larantel on a raised dais at the far end. The walls were white with silver strands. Caelynn always found this room rather cold. Around them many of the lords and ladies of the realm were already gathered as they waited for the Queen. Alcarin walked along the middle of the room and finally stopped in front of the throne. Caelynn stood beside him. The rest of the nobles followed him as he went forward, and now they all stood behind him. There was silence and a feeling of great anticipation.
It was a short wait for the Queen. She strode in from a door beside the dais. The crowd bowed when she entered. She was wearing a long white dress and a rather simple silver crown. She sat down on the throne and faced them. Her hair was long and dark and her skin was pale. Her bright blue eyes shone with power and authority. She gazed at Alcarin and gave a momentary flicker to Caelynn.
“My lord Alcarin. I am surprised to see you. Maybe you have found out there are still some of my servants you have left unmolested?” She said. To her surprise there was no response. She had expected laughs from the other lords that attended. Unconcerned, she then gazed at Caelynn. “And Caelynn! Funny thing is I fully remember sending you off to be our kingdom’s ambassador in Salané. And yet here you are. Did you know that instead of performing her duties, she’s been gallivanting with pirates! With no other than Meela Starblazer, the feared pirate herself!” That comment drew a few gasps. “So why are you here?”
“My daughter has uncovered papers showing you are giving aid to Tigreralat’s war with Yastell. All the noble houses had agreed we would have no involvement with this war, and yet we are. I have distributed these papers to the other noble houses, and we are all here wanting an explanation from you regarding your actions!” Alcarin said forcefully. All the other nobles looked up at her waiting for a response.
“Enough!” the Queen cried out waving her arms in the air.
Caelynn looked around. Everyone else was frozen, except her and the Queen.
“How did you do that?” Caelynn asked.
“Magic.” the Queen replied staring at her. Without thinking, Caelynn pulled the black wand from out of her dress.
“Unfreeze them now!” she ordered aiming the wand’s tip at the Queen. The Queen just laughed and then snapped her fingers. The wand was gone from Caelynn’s hand, and now in the hand of the Queen.
“I’m very impressed you found this. Your father taught you well. I made this wand.” the Queen revealed.
“You made it?” Caelynn was surprised. A bad feeling was rising in her.
“I made it for my student. One day, this young human came here asking me to teach him. I was amazed at his power, so I taught him everything I could.”
“Asden was your student?”
“Yes. And through my magic I used him to gain power over the Emperor. The entire empire was under my control, until that meddling half-human peasant boy came and ruined everything.” the Queen said.
“You mean Lafalin?”
“Lafalin, Bran, call him what you will… He came out of nowhere and destroyed my plans, and so I had to wait for the right opportunity to arise again. The most recent Emperor tragically lost his wife and child and he asked me for help. I told him he didn’t need an heir, through my magic he could live forever…”
“As a revenant you mean!” Caelynn interjected. The Queen smiled.
“Yes, as a revenant, and through my power over him the Empire will be mine to control again. The process is already beginning.”
“Why do all this?” Caelynn asked bewildered. “Why this need for so much power?”
“Because the world is mine!” the Queen declared. Caelynn could now see there was nothing behind those eyes, but blackness, and the ever craving hunger for more power.
“But thank you for bringing the wand to me. I was needing it. I promised it to the lord of the Shadow Realm. It will help seal the deal.”
“What deal?” asked Caelynn in rising dread.
“I’ve granted the Shadow Realm access to this plane. I would love to see the faces of your friends in Yastell when the portals begin opening and the shadow creatures come forth.” The Queen smiled. It was a cold smile. Caelynn turned to the door.
“I’ve got to warm them!” Caelynn cried out beginning to run for the doors.
“Stop where you are!” the Queen shouted out. Caelynn found herself unable to move.
“I sent you to Salané, so that’s where you’ll go back to! Guards!” Immediately half a dozen red robed Emperor’s Guard appeared from the out of the doorway. “Constrain her!” One of them put Caelynn in manacles. Instantly she felt them burning her skin with a cold fire. If she could move, she would be writhing in pain. “I’m sorry for the cold iron, but we can’t have you using magic on your way back to Salané, can we?”
“You won’t get away with this!” Caelynn shouted back at her grimacing in pain.
“And who’s going to stop me?” the Queen asked her laughing. “Guards, take her back to Salané where she belongs. Let the Emperor do with her as he will.”
The guards dragged Caelynn away screaming.
Next episode: Loro-Don Goes To War!
Eek! Sorry about the length, but I am trying to finish this story by the end of the year. That last part I’ve been waiting to write since I began this story.
Caelynn woke up in Meela’s arms. She stared at the wooden ceiling happy that she was finally out of the Emperor’s palace. She hadn’t liked it there. Meela was currently snoring into Caelynn’s right ear. She looked so pale to Caelynn’s eyes. She fervently hoped the poisoned blade hadn’t done Meela any permanent harm. Time would tell, she guessed. Feeling hungry she decided to delicately escape out of Meela’s embrace. Just after freeing herself, Meela suddenly awoke.
“Morning.” said Meela sleepily opening her eyes.
“Morning my love.” Caelynn said kissing her.
Caelynn soon found herself back in Meela’s arms while Meela drifted off to sleep again. Once again she tried prying herself out of Meela’s arms.
“You alright?” Meela suddenly asked her opening her eyes once more.
“I’m just a bit hungry. So I was going to find some food.” Caelynn informed her.
Meela slowly got up. She yawned and rubbed her eyes then cleared the hair out of her face. She grabbed her pipe that sat beside the bed and began stuffing tobacco into it.
“Did you sleep well?” Meela asked her as Caelynn finally got out of the bed.
“I did thanks.” Caelynn replied. “Where are we?” Meela looked at her surprised.
“You’re in my cabin on the ship. I thought you knew that.” She replied. Caelynn laughed.
“No, I meant where is the ship? Are we in Durn or just floating in the air above somewhere?”
“Oh I see. We’re docked at Loro-Don. If you’re hungry give me a moment to wake and we can go find something to eat.” Meela said as she lit her pipe. “We can’t directly teleport into Durn anyway, or so I think.”
“Have you ever tried it?” Caelynn asked her.
“No, and I’m not sure I would want to try. If it turns out I can’t, I don’t know where I would end up. For all I know the Shadow World would grab hold of me and pull me in.” Meela told her as she breathed out the bluish-grey smoke. Caelynn nodded and then resumed looking for all her clothes.
“I’ve never learnt to teleport, maybe I should.”
“It’s a powerful spell and difficult to master, but I’m sure you’re more than equal to the task.” Meela said encouragingly.
“If you want to go someplace to eat, you should probably start putting some clothes on.” Caelynn suggested.
“Or I could just wander around Loro-Don naked. I’m sure I would turn a few heads.” Meela stated. Caelynn smiled.
“So what’s the plan anyway?” Caelynn asked.
“I think we both need some rest. I thought we could head north to a rather beautiful place I know and stay there for a couple of days. After that I’ll take you to Larantel so you can confront the Queen.” Meela informed her as she puffed out more smoke.
“What do you then plan to do?” asked Caelynn finally putting some clothes on.
“I’ll have to come back here and lead a fleet of airships down to Yastell.” She stated.
“So after what happened to you there, you’re still going back?” Caelynn asked concerned.
“I’m needed there. If we are going to have any chance in holding off the Empire’s forces then we’re going to need as many people as we can get. Besides, I can be of use.” Meela explained.
“I just don’t want you to get injured again. You’re still looking weak from your last visit.”
“Don’t worry I won’t let that happen again. I don’t often give others the opportunity to skewer me. It’ll be fine.” Meela consoled her. “Right, let’s get something to eat!”
Meela got up from the bed and began getting dressed. After a few short minutes they left the Crimson Vengeance and headed for the back streets of the city where Meela reckoned the best food could be found, or at least her favourite food. They drank beers and ate various bits of meat roasted on sticks or wrapped up in bread, until they were both full. The food was rather basic for Caelynn’s tastes, but she was hungry enough to eat anything presented to her. Once they were finished, Meela sent word round the streets that her crew was expected at the Crimson Vengeance as soon as possible. They headed back to the ship and slowly waited for the rest of the crew to turn up.
“We’re sailing north for a few days. We need to restock the ship and get her ready within the next couple of hours. And I expect everyone to help.” Meela said in front of her crew on the deck of the ship. Beside her stood Bronwyn.
“Okay everyone, you heard what the boss said. Look to your duties!” ordered Bronwyn.
The entire crew quickly dispersed, but within a surprisingly short time the airship was fully provisioned and ready to set out. They sailed north and only after a few hours Caelynn reckoned this was the furthest north she had ever been. Below there were endless trees which slowly gave rise to forested hilltops. Far in the distance Caelynn could see tall mountains which she knew as the Northern Border. In the ancient past it was thought they were the limits of the lands northwards, but in reality they went much further on than that, even up to the frozen wastes.
“So where are we going?” Caelynn asked Meela who had taken the wheel, not something she usually did.
“To a place I like.” Meela replied coyly.
“You ever going to tell me more than that?” Caelynn inquired.
“We’ll be there soon.” Meela revealed.
Giving up on getting anything else from Meela, Caelynn looked below again. The hills grew ever more taller their bare peaks beginning to stick out above the low cloud. Then a series of hills that got lower then ending in an abrupt cliff-face over which water cascaded into a wide lake below. The long waterfall and the azure lake surrounded by vibrant green forested hills was a beautiful sight. Slowly the airship turned, going back over the hill they had just passed. She then heard the ships engines, that were powered by magic, suddenly kick in and the airship slowed.
“Secure the ship!” Meela commanded.
Ropes were flung over the sides and crew members slid down them. They fastened the ropes to trees until the airship just hung in the air above them. Then other crew members slid down the ropes. Caelynn preferred to use the rope ladder, rather than slide down a rope herself. Once they had all got down they stared in awe at the lake below them and the water falling only a few feet away.
“This is beautiful!” Caelynn said to Meela who was standing behind her with her arms wrapped around Caelynn.
“Nothing but the best for my girl.” Meela replied as she kissed Caelynn’s neck.
Caelynn looked around at the hills around them. Below, the lake was a carved out basin that was filled with water. She looked to the north and wondered what lay beyond.
“Can you see the broken lands from here?” She asked.
“No, they are bit further off in that direction.” Meela said pointing towards the north east. “They reckon that lake has some of the deepest waters in the world.”
Just as Meela said that several of the crew began jumping off the cliff diving deeply into the water, while several other crew members began preparing a campsite which included building a fire, since it was starting to get late and the air was beginning to get a chill to it.
“So are we going to stay around here for a couple of days?”
“Yes, there are several nice places to walk to around here. Also I need to make a new staff and I’m hoping to find a branch that I could use.” Meela answered.
“You use a staff? For magic?” Caelynn was surprised.
“Yes.” Meela admitted. “I use them to store power in, so if I’m in a place like a siege I can draw on the power in the staff, rather than my own. Unfortunately my last staff was broken into two in Yastell, so I need to make a new one before I head down there again.”
That night they all sat around the fire as the air grew colder. Some of the crew had been lucky and come back with some fish they had caught, so they all enjoyed a basic fish stew. Caelynn noticed Kara was still sneering at her. When it was time for sleep Caelynn was given the option to sleep in a tent or in Meela’s cabin aboard the ship. She decided to share a tent with Meela. It was less comfortable than Meela’s bed, though not by much, but they got a tent to themselves. They eventually fell to sleep in one another’s arms both feeling exhausted and covered in sweat.
In the morning they were woken by a dawn chorus of birds in the trees surrounding them. They had a quick breakfast of fresh pan fried fish, bread, and strong coffee. After they had eaten Meela and Caelynn went for a walk following a path downhill with Meela leading and looking for fallen branches that could be used for a potential staff. In the morning air among the trees Caelynn could smell all the different scents and smells of the woods around them. It reminded her of home. She felt happier among the trees and plants than in a palace of cold stone. Meela stopped when she found a fallen branch. She inspected it and then moved on.
“What sort of wood are you looking for?” Caelynn asked.
“Ideally oak, as it’s a good standard wood for staffs and wands, but elder or yew would do, even ash.” Meela replied.
Caelynn looked around. There was a good variety of trees here. She could definitely see oak and ash trees, though not so much the other two Meela had mentioned.
“So what do you think will happen in Yastell?” Meela turned around and shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t know. It’s going to be difficult to stop the Empire’s forces, especially if they have magical support from Larantel. The thing that worries me most is they have a contingent of dwarves with them who are quite adept with gunpowder. If I was them I would tunnel under the fortresses, put as much gunpowder as I could down there and cause the fortress to collapse into the ground. I’m very worried about that.” She resumed walking.
“Maybe the Empire will want to keep the fortresses in one piece? If they succeed in conquering Yastell, they’ll need those fortifications themselves.” Caelynn suggested.
“Or they will just build new ones from all the wealth they will plunder from Yastell’s resources.” Meela countered.
“By the way your second mate still hates me.”
“She’s jealous of you is all. I told her if it was going to be a problem then she should crew another ship, but she stayed.” Meela explained. “It’s her problem, not yours.”
They walked on. Meela found an oak branch that seemed to suit her needs. They continued on for a time with Meela walking with the branch in her right hand, as though it was already her staff. At a particular point Meela suddenly turned round and resumed walking uphill back towards the camp. Caelynn followed behind her. By the time they got back to the camp, it was midday and some of the crew were beginning to prepare lunch.
“This branch feels right.” Meela commented after they got back.
Meela sat down by the fire and began stripping the bark off the branch with a sharp knife. She also removed all the wooden knots until it was just one smooth length of wood the right length for her.
“So what do you have to do now with it?” Caelynn asked her.
“I have to make the wood smooth, then I have to burn on magic symbols, and then coat the wood with varnish. I also have to attune to the wood. Once I’ve done that it will be ready to store my magical power.” Meela informed her.
“Are you going to do that all here?”
“No, I can do some of it here, but I can do the finishing touches back at Loro-Don. All I needed to do here was find a suitable branch really.”
After lunch they looked out over the lake again. Meela had done as much with the staff as she currently wanted. She turned to Caelynn.
“While we’re here, there is one other thing I want us to do.” She declared.
“What?” Caelynn asked intrigued.
“That black wand you found. I want you to throw it into the lake.” Meela stated.
“But why? It could be of use.” Caelynn argued.
“We don’t need it, and I fear it could do some damage to you the longer you possess it. Please throw it into the water.” Meela implored her.
“The world has a habit of dredging up unwanted things. Nothing in this world stays lost and forgotten for long.” Caelynn informed her.
“I know. But at least it will be beyond our abilities to recover, and so we won’t be tempted to use it. That lakes waters are so deep that it will be a long time before that wand is ever seen again, if ever.” Meela replied. Caelynn sighed.
“Okay I’ll go and get it!”
Caelynn walked up the rope ladder and, once aboard, went into Meela’s cabin and opened up her extra dimensional storage. Once she found what she was looking for, she headed back to Meela. She showed Meela the black wand. An enchantment was put on it so a spell would be unable to summon it back out of the waters. Then Caelynn threw it over the side into the lake. It sank without a trace. Meela hugged her.
“I’m so proud of you! You let that go easier than I was expecting.” Meela told her while kissing her cheek.
“It’s what you wanted, and you mean the world to me.” Caelynn responded looking into the water.
They spent the afternoon swimming. The water was cold and clear, but felt quite refreshing. That night they all sat around the campfire telling stories and passing a bottle of rum around. Meela and Caelynn spent the night in the tent again. Like the night before, they made love until they were both exhausted and fell asleep again in one another’s arms.
The next day it was overcast and raining. They still went for a walk but did their best not to get too wet. Meela also worked on her staff a bit more during the odd moment she had to herself aboard the ship. That night they both slept in Meela’s cabin, partially due to the rain, but also because they were planning to leave early the next morning. While Meela was still below, Caelynn opened up her portable dimension again. She fished out the piece of material she was looking for, and then unwrapped it. There lay the black wand. She wrapped it up and hid it away again. When Meela had asked her to throw it into the lake, she had substituted a long stick she had found and put an illusion over it making it look like the black wand to Meela. She hated deceiving Meela, but she felt the wand was too important to throw away.
They spent what would be their last night together for some time making love again. Caelynn was going back to Larantel and Meela was heading to Yastell shortly afterwards. Neither knew when they would see each other again, so they decided to make the best of it while they still had the chance.
Next morning they all quickly packed up and untied the ropes holding the airship in place. The Crimson Vengeance began to float off. The crew unfurled the sails while Meela steered the airship to the south-east – in the direction of Larantel. Caelynn joined her on deck. She was both excited to be heading back home, and sad that she would be leaving Meela, for now.
They had been travelling for a few hours when something caught Meela’s attention. She brought out her spyglass and looked.
“What is it?” asked Caelynn.
“There’s another airship approaching us.” Meela revealed while still looking through the spyglass. “I think it’s an ork pirate ship and it has the wind advantage.”
“Orks?” Caelynn asked in surprise. She had never seen an ork, but had heard of them.
“If we’re lucky they’ll just want a fight.” Meela stated.