At the Alderman’s…
Peino glanced up, surprised at yet another interruption as Ionas Farseer arrived on the scene. Captain Lafitte, it seemed, ran a rather loose ship, with crew members interjecting themselves in things willy-nilly. At least the young nobleman knew how to approach with a polite bow when interrupting a conversation.
“Sir, Captain Starhand. I take it the Spriggan Captain is in prison?”
“I suppose he likely is,” Starhand answered. “You’d have to ask the guardians, though. All I know is they marched him and his crew off in manacles. I assume he’ll be stood before a court eventually, so they must have stowed him someplace, but I couldn’t tell you where.”
From the corner of his eye, Starhand noticed Lafitte’s first mate whispering close with his captain. So distracted was the flying eorman that he seemed hardly aware of Farseer’s presence. He had much on his mind, clearly, but then so did Peino, not least curiosity as to just what this Lafitte person was about, and why he’d given up that card so willingly, and where he’d gotten that bizarre air-contraption from, and even what kind of name was Lafitte.
At the same time, he felt a certain curiosity as well about young Master Farseer. What could have possessed the polite, lanky, young man to abandon the proud tradition of shipbuilding, one of the most honored of all professions among the selkies, to float about with privateers in the air? It was unaccountably odd, as was much about the fellow himself, with his simple garb, unfashionable short haircut, and strange employment with this even stranger eorman.
“Take a draught, Mr. Farseer,” Peino said, pouring another small glass of golden mead, mostly just to see what he would do and how far his unorthodoxy stretched.
Pushing the glass towards Ionas, he leaned back in his chair again, with a subtle glance ‘round his own officers, similarly leaning back with ionic smiles. Under Starhand’s command, it did not do to interrupt the conversations of captains with anything less than the most urgent business. It wasn’t that Starhand wouldn’t rather talk with them than almost anyone else, but the traditions of rank must be observed, especially when they are merely for show. If the captain of the Marsh King’s Daughter would stop to put himself at the disposal of the captain of La Danse Calinda, then the crew of the Daughter would wait their turn, quietly finishing their supper and drink.
Having acknowledged their patience, Peino raised an eyebrow and waited for Lafitte to speak, if he planned to.
— — — —
At sea in the Lyr…
The Dragon’s Tongue was having its effect.
By decree of the Dukedom of the Grand Navigators, it was standard procedure for all beings coming through a vortex who were capable of speech to be outfitted with the basic kit of traveler’s charms, most especially an Amulet of the Invocation of the Dragon’s Tongue. The enchantment contained within the locket radiated an aura field within which all speech of any language could be understood, so long as both speakers and listeners remained within the field.
With the charm activated, the pretty, plum-colored lass could evidently hear and understand what Ruili said to her. Likewise, he could understand her in her reasonable confusion, from the usual “Where am I?” and “What’s happening?” to the unique “You’re not a Zoneloger.”
Ruili Windwolf chuckled in spite of himself. “No, milady, I am not a … Zoneloger? But I trust you will find I am a gentleman, for all of that.”
Slightly clearing his throat, Ruili continued with the standard speech for the occasion, “You have been delivered here from another place by a vortex of space and time. I regret to say I doubt much will be salvaged of your vessel. At present, you are on board the Wolf, a flagship of the Sovereign Navy of the Grand Navigators. I am her captain. You may call me Windwolf. We will be transporting you to the Sovereign Duchy of the Grand Navigator Islands, where you may stay as the guest of the Dukedom.”
The dark-skinned, fair-haired selkie, in his plain sailor’s clothes, his wind-tangled hair about his face, stood, towering over the delicate alien creature. He held out a large hand for her to take.
“Come. This officer is the ship’s healer. He will take a few minutes to make sure you are not injured and to cast a purification on you for your health. Don’t fear, it will not hurt at all. Then you will be given fresh clothing, and will be brought to me again. You may ask any questions you have then.”
Looking down at her, Ruili Windwolf smiled again. “Begin with standing, if you’re able, lady, and then perhaps, your name?”
— — — —
At a country cottage…
The twenty-three Isles of the Grand Navigators lay roughly in the center of the Center Reaches of the Sea of Lyr, a scattering of green gems rising out of the sea around the sister peaks of the dormant volcanos, Petinofoa on the main island of Ilaroc and Uafoa on the secondary island, Legui.
Roughly equidistant from both the continent of Belenosia in the east and the Gateway Lands of the broken continent of Lyrion to the west, the Grand Navigators was one of the most geographically isolated nations in Aeldreth. Yet the distances measured on maps were mere illusion, for the Navigators were the only stop for fresh water and food in the whole expanse of the North Lyr, and thus it may be said the world beat a watery path to the Dukedom’s door. Even more so since the advent of the Vortex Zone, which lay within the Dukedom’s maritime jurisdiction.
The capital city, Plesz, on the Whispering Isle of Ilaroc, was one of the busiest ports to be found, and the fabled city and her environs fairly teemed with ships and visitors of all kinds, while ferries and fishermen constantly plied the waters around and between the other islands. But not far outside the bustling urban and government center, the countryside quietened to sloping cedar woods and farmlands, pink sand beaches, and stone-paved roads linking small villages like beads of a necklace along the coast.
One such country road saw a courier, a young lad with a canvas bag strapped across his back bearing the Ducal seal, furiously racing an iron bicycle through the alternating sunshine and shadow of the towering trees. The two-wheeled contraptions were a recent introduction but one that proved wildly popular in the Isles, and this courier, who probably could run faster than a goat cart could have carried him, could pedal faster and farther still. Swift as a deer, he turned off the main coast road at a certain point, and coasted down a forest lane towards a fishing village. A swoop through the village square and onward along a precipitous path atop limestone cliffs, crowded by a dense pine wood until he arrived at the gate of a elegantly modest manor house overlooking the sea.
The master of the house, trimming roses in the garden, saw him come flying in and dismount his bicycle on the run. Casting about, he spotted the gardener and marched over, forcing his exhausted legs to stride with purpose as he fished a paper from his bag.
“Lord Master Nightwise,” he exclaimed, panting, “a psychegraph from His Highness the Prince.”
Jeneyeru Nightwise Ereonis, Lord High Magus of the Grand Navigators, dropped his rose shears into the basket of expended blooms at his feet. He delicately brushed the garden soil from his hands and pushed up the full sleeves of his brocade house robe. Taking the note with a cultured “Thank you,” he read it under the shade of a broad-brimmed straw hat.
“Jeney ~ Awkwardity in Arian Sea. Advise you contact Guild at your earliest convenience regarding that deck you donated. Details and example upon arrival home after Sesus. Kindly wait upon me in eight days or less. Your brother, Pei.”
“What?” Jeneyeru cried as he read it, and “What?” and “What?” again in rising tone and pitch. “Oh, no, no, this won’t do at all, ‘pon my soul and breath, not at all, no. Oh, dear me, no. Thimble!” The message from the Ducal psychegraph office was crushed in a strong, dark hand. “Good fellow,” Jeneyeru said to the still panting courier, “take your rest. Ask in the kitchen for a lemonade or something. I must away at once. Thimble!”
The master wizard strode in a flamboyant sweep of his robe towards the house, calling for his valet. “Thimble, pack my bags. We leave for Sesus at once, to meet my brother.”