She was devastated. From her earliest memories Tayliana Winddancer Dahtaligaar had been sent to sleep with stories of the exploits of the legendary Brothers of the Grand Navigators. Now she found herself face to face with the real and true forms of the elves themselves…and they fell well short of her expectations.
For a moment, she merely felt empty, unable to fully process what was going on as her hopes crashed around her. Then the other girl in the room opened her mouth, and that emptiness was filled with a burning anger. Her words stung. The harsh criticism and ridicule seemed to solidify everything the Captain and his First Mate had warned them about their new guests, that they had no respect for this ship or her crew. She had half a mind to challenge the girl right then and there, slice her open with the long blade. With her skills honed by pirates and cutthroats Tayliana had little doubt that she’d succeed — at least were it not for being outnumbered anyway.
Her scowl showed all of her feelings of hatred towards being snubbed as she gave a terse bow and left the room in silence. It wasn’t just in their denying interest — she’d half expected that already — but in the casual dismissive way in which they’d done so. They’d shown themselves to be little more than effete snobs, no different from a thousand others she’d encountered in her lifetime.
And just like them they hadn’t even given her the time of day. Just goes to show, she thought, you really can’t judge a scroll by its paper. As cliché as that was, it was true. The Brothers were heroes, and they and their entourage treated her like dirt. The Captain was a glorified criminal, and Jean Lafitte III had treated her like one of his own.
She decided that the Captain had good reason to doubt their motives. Beau Bergeron would have his information after all.
— — —
Beau had a feeling about how the workings of the wizard’s meeting with the Prince would go. Having met the man, he figured the temptations of random young women were beyond him, no matter how desperate they seemed. Celebrities were like that. It was more about the thrill of the hunt than anything else. If the prey didn’t increase their standing then they weren’t interested.
And as he continued his work in the driving rain, reattaching the rigging to its proper place along the guard rail, the lightning and thunder showed the face of Tayliana Winddancer, or “Tayli” as she was affectionately known to the Captain…and it didn’t disappoint.
Beau’s smile had everything to do with the hunger of a predator, and nothing to do with her company. If he played his cards right she would yet be an ally, and with the Captain having seen her not unlike a daughter of his own, she would be a valuable ally indeed.
“Didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, eh chére?” he said, putting on his most sympathetic visage. “Come here,” he said as he put his arm around her, “You can tell me all about it.”
Soon they were in his bunk, side by side, as she told him of her treatment at the hands of the now infamous (in her mind) Brothers. Beau was a little surprised at her actual reasons for going into their lodgings. Going to consult a fellow wizard (and getting snubbed for it, no less) was a bit low on his own mental list of motives.
That she’d only discovered what he’d already figured, that the cards were indeed aboard the Calinda, was a bit of a disappointment, but he still considered it a success. Even the smallest details had to be confirmed, assumptions got people killed pointlessly.
But it was her next words that led him to his true prey, the key to turning her into the ally he wanted her to be.
“Would you like to see it?” she asked hesitantly, a slight quiver in her voice as she said it aloud.
It was interesting, he thought, how easily a person was to manipulate once one finds the key to their madness. Whatever it was that made them tick. It was ironic that at its basest, simplest level, these keys were the least tangible and most complex of emotions. For the Captain it was simple as, well, power, glory, the dreams of a man who’d spent far too many years taking orders, and had only recently felt the joy of giving them.
For Hebert it had been simple, the need for companionship, the longings of a man who’d spent far too many years on his own in a den of thieves, and far too few enjoying life with others.
And for Tayliana, she too had the complex emotion to which she was attached, the hunger for knowledge and discovery. The visions of a girl who’d spent all her years growing up on a backwater farm and who’d now found herself sailing the stars aboard an airship.
“Would you like to see the machine?” she continued, and Beau raised an eyebrow cockily as he replied, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I’d be most interested, child.” And she gave him a smile of genuine affection that Beau returned.
He knew he had her hooked…