The sun was low in the sky when The Wind Rose raised its anchor. Everyone was on board and they had been given as much room as Dralik could spare. Admittedly, that wasn’t much as his hold was filled with goods and food for the voyage.
The crew was remarkably quiet as they set sail. Ædarik hadn’t expected it with how boisterous Captain Dralik had been the night before, but he appreciated it, especially as everyone else was still sleeping. Ædarik, however, was leaning on the portside railings, yawning heavily.
He hadn’t slept well and Dralik had insisted on buying everyone a drink, even the former prisoners, which didn’t help. So instead, he leaned there watching land drift past. It was an eerie sight. The entirety of the day in the small port he had been blind to the devastation the earthquake had caused. He saw it now. A sizable portion of the town was damaged with some of it in ruins, crushed by falling rocks.
The further out they went, Ædarik also saw evidence of several wrecked ships. After each one, the sailors looked out to sea and saluted before bringing in their fists towards their hearts. It was a gesture that Ædarik had never seen before, but it didn’t take a genius to understand it’s significance. Another aspect of these sailors that he hadn’t expected. It still wasn’t enough to help with the uneasiness he was feeling about everything.
On the first day, Seres woke up just past noon. It was a strange feeling. After five years of being a prisoner, she was finally going home. She wasn’t sure if she should be excited or relieved. Fortunately, she wasn’t overly anxious, unlike many of the others; they still hadn’t accepted that they were free. If it hadn’t been for Amran she might have been, but he had assured her that the captain and the lord and ladies in their company were genuine. She would still have preferred it if Rowan was more cognisant of the situation, but she had been asleep for almost the entire time. Seres wasn’t even sure if Rowan was aware that they were on a ship. There was little she could do about it though. Rowan had drained herself completely during the escape and then some.
As the day continued, the sailors started getting more and more jovial, but it never got to the point of them being rowdy. Even when they started drinking, they acted with remarkable sobriety which was a stark contrast to how they had been yesterday when the captain treated everyone to a drink regardless of age. What surprised Seres even more was that the captain, who looked more like a pirate than even the best artistic depictions, didn’t drink at all. From the way he declined a mug of ale at dinner, it seemed like it was contrary to his normal behaviour.
The crew and the captain weren’t the only people that were quiet on the first day. Everyone kept to themselves, almost depressingly so. She was no Empath, but she didn’t need to be to feel the oppressive weight of apprehension. She hated it, but she also didn’t know how to deal with it. Before, she had always been bright and cheerful, talking to everyone, but five years in captivity had locked that away and she was yet to find it. She may have been free, but her nature was not.
The next two days passed much like the first. Rowan still slept, having only woken up a few times to eat and relieve herself. Amran was meditating, though somewhat awkwardly with the rocking of the ship and everyone else remained quiet. Seres had to do something before she went insane. With little to do and no one willing to talk, she wandered the ship, making sure to keep out of the way of the sailors. It was a large ship, much larger than the ships that had taken them to the caves and notably less slender. It also glowed with the soft light of Resonance, more so than was normal for a ship. Seres had only ever seen this kind of Resonance a couple of times during naval parades and that had been on the Midiran Navy’s Flagships. She followed the Resonance to its most concentrated point, the figurehead. Before her was the majestic and practically naked figure of a Tæran woman decorated with crystals.
“She’s a real beauty, isn’t she?”
Seres jumped as a deep resonant voice spoke behind her. She turned to see the hulking form of the captain with his own Resonant glow. Even though he was on the small side if you compared him to an Al’duur, he was a giant amongst humans and he absolutely dwarfed Seres. Her ears drooped unconsciously at the sight of him; it was difficult not to be intimidated by him.
“Excuse me?” Seres responded.
“The figurehead. I know you can see the Resonance from her,” Dralik boomed quietly.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Seres lied.
“You can do better than that, lass. I may not be the smartest man, but even I know what gift the Mark of the Goddess provides.”
“That isn’t exactly common knowledge.”
“I did just say that I’m not a smart man.”
Seres wasn’t sure how to respond to that. She looked at him quizzically. ”Who are you?”
Dralik responded at a volume that could only be equated to that of a stage whisper. “I’m just a simple vice admiral enjoying his retirement, Your Highness.”
The sailors didn’t react, but Ædarik and his friends who had been talking on deck certainly did. So did Seres. “How did you…” she stammered.
“I’d recognise you anywhere, even all grown up as you are. You probably don’t remember me so let me introduce myself again. I am Captain Dralik Vasra-Kaan, former Vice Admiral of the Midiran Royal Navy Vanguard. My family has served the crown for generations and it was I, under the command of your sister, who led the charge against the raiders that plagued our lands. We’ve been looking for you ever since. I never believed that I, out of the seven that were searching, would be the one to find you.”
Seres hadn’t recognised the name ‘Dralik’, but she did recognise his last name. The captain of her guard when she had been attacked had the name Vasra-Kaan. “Is that why your ship has a naval Resonance Array?” she asked, somewhat awe-struck.
“It is indeed. The crown called it a retirement gift.”
“Are we safe?”
“Every man and woman on this ship is a veteran and the hull has been reinforced with its own Resonance Array in addition to the mobility array in the figurehead. We will ensure your safety and that of the others to the best of our ability and then some.”
Seres excused herself after that and retreated below decks. She had a lot of things to process.
“How did you not know she was a princess?” Davra shouted at Ædarik.
“I thought there was something familiar about her name, but it isn’t like I’d ever seen her before,” he responded.
“Did they really just walk into that village after the earthquake?” asked Alena with a hint of doubt.
“I assure you that they did.”
“How can you be so certain?”
“They told me so.”
Not convinced, Alena looked around at the others. “I think he’s hiding something. Don’t you agree, ladies?”
All three of them nodded.
“I’m not lying!” He didn’t want to reveal the truth about Lord Feilan with Ashlin right there.
Unfortunately, it was Ashlin that continued to prod him. “Are we so untrustworthy?” she sniffled.
“No, no, no, no. It’s just…”
“They were being kept prisoner. You heard the rumors when the princess disappeared? Well there was some truth to them.”
All four of his companions gave him a flat look that said, “What?”
The floodgates opened. “There were these caves that they were being held in. I don’t know why but Lord Feilan had something to do with it, he was taking young girls from there and doing whatever he wanted to them before sending them back. That’s how I found out about this whole thing. During the party I accidentally discovered him with one of these girls. I couldn’t stop him, but I did follow the men back to the caves and I saved the girl. She’s here. The really young looking one. After that I got captured, but the man in charge treated me with respect. Then the earthquake happened and a rock hit me in the head. I collapsed but then Rowan, the girl with crimson hair, and the Ferran boy saved me.” He continued to describe the events as he remembered them. Davra took it all face on; Deilin excused herself at the mention of what Lord Feilan had done, her face dark with horror; Alena went white as a sheet, but remained; Ashlin was throwing up over the railings by the end of it.
“How could a man like that live with himself?” asked Alena when Ædarik finished.
“I don’t know,” Ædarik admitted.
“I’m more concerned with how he was able to act like there was nothing wrong,” Davra scowled.
“I promise I didn’t know,” cried Ashlin, her face looking slightly green. “Mother never said a thing.”
“You don’t think she was in on it do you?” pondered Davra.
“Impossible!” Ashlin objected. “Mother has a heart of gold.”
“It could be an act, just like with your father.”
“Stop right there, Davra,” Ædarik interjected, “We don’t know that and forcing it is just cruel on Ashlin. She’s innocent here.”
Davra bowed her head. “Sorry,” she apologised.
“What now?” asked Alena after a moment of silence.
“We take them to Midiris and then we go home. There isn’t much else we can do other than report this to the military and the Royal Bureau of Information.”
“This isn’t the time for conspiracy theories, Davra.”
“I’m sure that Queen Elarin of Llen Fær and the Midiran Royal Court will be investigating as well.”
“You have a point.”
After that, Ashlin looked up. “Can we talk about something else, please?”
“Sure thing,” responded Alena, “I’ll go get Deilin and we can talk Arik’s ears off about dresses or something.
Ædarik groaned slightly at the prospect, but he agreed that a change of conversation was appropriate. He smiled warmly at Ashlin and they spent the rest of the day talking about inane things.
Authors Note: You’ll notice that this is an extremely short chapter by my standards, being more in line with some of the Interludes. It has also been divided in two, with this being the best division point I feel. This is because I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday regarding the various issues that I’ve been having. That took up a large portion of my day and I wasn’t able to finish the chapter in time, especially as I am also very busy today. That is also why the chapter is late. However, I’m sure that I’ll be able to operate at a more healthy level, now that I have the appropriate medication for my jaw. Part two will be out later this week and will conclude the voyage. If I have time, I will also release Chapter 16 this week. One last thing. I am trying to get onto the first page of trending on Royal Road, so I you are enjoying the story, I would greatly appreciate it if you would give me a rating/review at this link. I would also appreciate it if you give me a boost here on Top Web Fiction.