In the northeast quadrant of the Center Reaches.
Ruili Windwolf raised his face towards a vista glimpsed only behind his closed eyes.
“How like unto a summer’s day, my love? She walketh wreathed in all the world’s bright… ugh.”
Shaking his head in disgust at his own recitation, he bent once again over the pages on his desk, vehemently crossing out. The pen then hovered again in contemplation as the Wolf creaked around him and light gray rain pattered across the lights of the captain’s quarters. Ruili, with his long legs stretched under his desk, his dark flaxen hair knotted haphazardly at the back of his neck, leaned back in his chair and gazed at the rain with his dark eyes, watching and listening for inspiration.
The frigates Wolf and Pious Drake had been circling the Lyr Zone like painted horses on opposite sides of a carnival merry-go-round for seven days, dutifully hauling teams of scholars and scientists out to measure the winds and waters and other natural forces of that magical area. Zone patrol was one of the dullest tasks of the Sovereign Navy of the Grand Navigators, and this particular run had been particularly dull. Technically, an officer and lord of Windwolf’s rank didn’t have to do it, but Ruili had never been one to ask those under him to do what he would not, an ethic he applied to tedium as well as risk.
Besides, it gave him time to work on his new play.
Or it would, if Captain Goldenbard of the Pious Drake hadn’t taken to playing a game of distraction, by which he kept signaling the Wolf with such things as his luncheon menu for the day, and questions like “How goes it?” and “Is it written yet?” and even suggestions for the eventual cast. As each message was addressed to Captain Windwolf, each message had to be delivered to Captain Windwolf, who knew all too well the smile that would be on Goldenbard’s face when he received the profane and obscene answers that would be returned by signal flags across the miles of open ocean.
So this cruise had gone for a week, and that wretched line was still not finished.
Yet another knock on the door brought a snarl from Ruili and a sharp, “What is it?”
The bridge watch stuck in his head. “Lookout reports hag wind forming thirty degrees starboard, sir.”
“Oh, finally,” growled Ruili. “I’m on my way. Pass the word for the wizard and the first officer, if you would, and instruct the helm to make for the spot. Also, signal the Drake the location and that we are investigating.”
It was the first weather sighting of the voyage, though it would likely lead to nothing. Not every wind spawned a water spout, nor did every spout spawn a vortex. Even rarer was it for a vortex to drop some treasure or dross or wayward soul into the seas of Aeldreth. But the scholars would have their way and study the thing, whatever it proved to be, and the Wolf would carry them to their task.
He wiped the pen, securing it in its holder, and closed up his writing box. Standing, he felt the ship lean into her turn under him, awakening with the sounds of lines and booms and the voices and running of the crew. He pulled on his oilskin coat, fixed a tricorn upon his head, and headed up into the rain to see what the Vortex Zone might bring them this time.