Ignoring the guard outside of Scarlet’s office, Meleorana made her way out of the Emerald Jester hideout. She had other places to go. Her father was probably no longer in the Emerald Canopy so it was likely high time for her to strike. She walked past several of the elves hiding underground, many of them giving her curious looks. She was used to it. She’d recently stopped using glamor magic unless absolutely necessary. She was too powerful to have to worry about small things like that. A chuckle escaped from her mouth as she walked into the city streets. The streets still had an ominous feel to them, as if death was just around the corner. To be fair, it recently was, but this was another thing Mel was used to. She had places to be so when she turned a corner into a wall she quickly muttered the words and stepped through. She landed in the forest where she’d been only just recently. Not much had changed. The mountains were still looming off in the distance and there seemed to be no people around. Getting her bearings she figured that this place was as good as any. As for the method, perhaps a door was a good option. It’d be a bit cruel seeing what they had planned in the long term, but the girl wouldn’t realize this at all. Yes, today would be an amusing day to say the least.
Thundering clouds rolled around inside her head as lightning struck on the horizon many times. The tides swallowed the ship she was standing on, only for her to reappear above the waves and everything to repeat once over. In the distance was her village burning down as faceless humans crawled towards her. Something deep inside her told her that she was supposed to feel sad about this scene unfolding in front of her eyes, but her memory didn’t allow for her to recognize anything. She could only think back to the cold wet floor of the wagon she was traveling on. The waves swallowed her once more and she was back in the wagon, tied up and afraid. People were crying and whimpering around her. The tides swallowed her once more and she was standing on a cliff, with her back to the violent waves. In front of her stood a hooded figure with a blade. Eyes red like rubies shone beneath the hood and a hunched back seemed to crack and distort as the figure charged her off the cliff and the waves swallowed her once more. She woke up again and stood in a forest, a large building in front of her. People sitting on wooden benches with piles of books surrounding them, the sound of a slow river nearby filling the summer air. All of a sudden the people collapsed into water and the waves hit her once more. A voice spoke in her head. “The tides of time aren’t done with you yet, child. Choose your path and walk it with purpose. Now go.”
She felt a shock going through her body as if she came to a halt somehow and the darkness made way for a wooden ceiling. She was laying on a bed in an unknown environment. She felt parched and her stomach immediately started complaining.
“There’s water and food on a tray next to you,” a voice said. “Some of it might have spilt, that was a rough stop just now.”
Danae sat up and carefully looked around, gratefully taking the water and food and chowing down on it. Behind a desk sat a man with an unkempt beard and a black ponytail, writing something on a piece of paper. A small window next to her revealed what looked to be a shore, and people started to unload crates.
“Where am I?” Her lips felt like they split in several places from dehydration and her head was still spinning.
“You’re aboard my ship, we just landed on the Cevell Island, a couple of days off the mainland coast. You’ve been unconscious for about four days, so don’t get up too fast.”
She looked around a bit more, seeing a very minimal interior. She didn’t recognize the man at all. “And who are you?”
“You ask a lot of questions for someone who just woke up, but I suppose that’s alright.” The man put down the pen and paper. “The name is Layek, I’m the captain of this ship, and leader of the folks who picked you up when you collapsed on stage at the slave market.”
“So that wasn’t a part of the dream then.”
“I had a strange nightmare about tides and lightning and thunder, but I can’t recall much of it now that I really think about it.” Her voice grew quieter as the sentence went on. She was starting to realize that she wasn’t in a safe place at all. Just as she came to that conclusion, the door opened and two more people entered the room. These looked vaguely familiar to her, but she wasn’t able to quite place who they were.
“The girl is awake, I see,” the woman said. She smiled at Danae. “Let’s get you out of this stuffy room and into the open air, we’ll talk there.” She held out her hand. “Can you walk?”
Danae carefully stood up and after wobbling for a bit, she was able to walk with a little bit of support. They made their way carefully off the ship.
A makeshift camp was very quickly set up and with a little bit of cover from the wind and some pillows brought from the ship it was reasonably comfortable. As comfortable as a few pillows on the beach could be, but it had to do for now.
Accipiter, Lisanna, Layek and the young woman were sitting there, none of them really talking. The girl looked extremely nervous, Accipiter noted to himself, which wasn’t surprising considering the situation.
“So, let’s start with names,” Layek said. “As I said earlier, I’m Layek and these are Accipiter and Lisanna, my trusted companions. Who are you?”
“My name is Danae. My memory has been failing me lately, so there’s really not much else I can tell you about myself, I’m afraid.”
“Is that because of the lightning that struck you?” Lisanna asked.
Danae shook her head. “Before that I was also having problems with my memory. It started after our village was attacked.” She reached for the side of her head. “It’s strange, there are flashes of memory there, but I can’t remember any people or anything significant.”
Layek looked at Lisanna. “Any idea what that could be?”
Lisanna shrugged. “Can be a lot of things, to be honest. She could have hit her head when the slavers attacked. She could have been mentally traumatized, that happens to soldiers sometimes, it could be a disease, it could be magic. It’s impossible to really say.”
“Whatever it is, it’s not the highest of our priorities,” Layek said. “What about what happened at the slave market?”
They all looked at Danae. “I don’t know. I started to feel lightheaded and suddenly everything went dark. Next thing I know I’m on a boat docked next to an island.” She grabbed the side of her head with one of her hands, seemingly still feeling unwell.
“So you weren’t the one summoning that storm?” Accipiter asked.
She shook her head. “No, I have no idea who did that.”
Accipiter shifted his attention to Lisanna. “But you have some ideas, don’t you?”
Lisanna nodded. “Ideas, sure. But I have no way of knowing what is correct.”
“Well, let us know what you think,” Layek said.
“Very well.” Lisanna leaned forward. “There are a few possibilities I can think of. The first one would be that this is some sort of natural phenomenon. No specific person caused this to happen but it was just the will of the gods. Or nature itself. I don’t think that’s true. For starters, there’s not a lot of proof that gods interfere actively in our world and when they do it tends to be something we don’t realize until much later. Even then there’s been much debate on whether it was actually divine intervention or just a weird coincidence. And nature wouldn’t do something like this on its own. So that option is on the table, but it’s really not.” She paused for a moment. “The other possibilities all involve someone being responsible for this. I can think of three people who might have the power required to do this and a fourth possible option. The fourth possible option would be someone unknown to me at the Astrianara Academy. I think out of the four possibilities that is the least likely, since they don’t tend to get involved. But there are many powerful wizards training there, so if anyone could obtain this kind of power, they would probably be there. The three other potential people are complicated. There’s an ancient arcanist that has this kind of power, but he hasn’t been seen or heard from in decades. He goes by the moniker The thorned cane. Terrifyingly powerful, that one. The second option is my old boss, although he passed away recently. It could be something he arranged before his passing, but I doubt it. The third possible person, and at this point the one I think is most likely responsible, is Lady Cayda. She’s a very powerful elven mage that lives north of Zanian.” She looked at the others. “I don’t know if that’s all the possibilities, but those are the ones I can think of. Even then I would have no idea why any of them would do something like this, what exactly this was, and what is going to happen next. It’s all way above what I’ve studied and honestly kind of scares me.” She glanced at Danae. “You have no clue either, do you?”
Danae shook her head. “I don’t feel any different, if that’s what you’re asking. You mentioned earlier that my eyes were pink, when we walked here. Are they still pink?”
Accipiter nodded. “Bright pink, it looks very unnatural.” He quickly added, “I don’t mean that in a bad way.”
Layek interrupted. “An unexpected thunderstorm, a girl with pink eyes and the passing of a famous archmage all within several days of each other. Something strange is happening for sure and I’d prefer not to be a part of this.” He looked at Accipiter. “You’re the one who rescued her, she’s your responsibility now. Help Lisanna figure out what the hell is going on here and what it means for us.”
Accipiter nodded. “Understood.”
After their discussion, Accipiter and Danae went back to the ship. Accipiter spent some time explaining the current situation to the girl. He explained they were pirates and they were in the process of building a hideout on this island a few days off the coast. He asked Danae what kind of skills she had and to tell him if she ever felt strange. Lisanna approached them after an hour or so.
“I’ve got some suggestions that I talked over with Layek,” she said, sitting down on the deck of the ship next to them. “Really only one, to be honest, but there’s technically options.”
“What do you got?” Accipiter asked.
“I’m going to go find Lady Cayda. We have a history with her, so she should be somewhat reasonable I hope. That’s a very dangerous trip though, so you two could come with me but I’d advise against it. Your second option is to just stay here. Your third option is probably the most fruitful though. Layek and I agree that it’s important to learn more about what happened to you,” she looked at Danae. “Whether you have some kind of strange power, or there’s a curse on you, if anyone can help you figure it out it’s the mages at the Astrianara Academy. That’s where we’ll probably send you.” She smiled. “What do you think?”
Danae thought for a moment before replying. “I don’t know. It’s all coming at me fast and to be honest with you I’m still very scared of what’s happening. I literally just woke up. I was a slave before I woke up. Am I still a slave? Am I still elven after what happened? What exactly happened to me? I have a lot of questions and no answers. And it’s terrifying.” Accipiter could see the panic in her eyes. Like a deer that realized it was about to get shot by an arrow.
“I can imagine that,” Lisanna said. Her eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment and Accipiter felt like she was speaking straight from the heart when she added, “Trust me, I can imagine.”
She stood up. “Either way, I think that all things considered you’re getting a good deal out of this situation, even though most of it is completely outside of your hands. I wish I had better news for you, but I simply don’t. Life isn’t fair and it’s best to just get used to it.”
“That’s a bit harsh,” Accipiter replied. He looked at Danae. “If you have any questions you can ask me, I’ve been put in charge of you for the time being, so let’s take things slow, alright?”
“Well if you’ll excuse me,” Lisanna said, “I am going to have a look around the island, I can use some space to clear my head since my plans just got turned upside down.”
“What is this island even called?” Accipiter asked Lisanna.
“I don’t believe it had a name before and I’m unsure if Layek has given it a name. You could ask him though.” She waved them goodbye.
Accipiter looked at Danae. “I think you’ll stay aboard the ship for now, since you need to rest up a little bit more. What do you want to do right now?” he asked her.
She thought about this for a while. “Could you tell me a little bit more about what is going on and where I am? I think I’ve got the gist of it now, but if I am to go to this Academy you speak off, I would like to know a little bit more about what’s happening to me.”
Accipiter nodded. Lisanna had already walked off of the ship and into the distance as rain started to trickle down. “Let’s go below deck for a bit, I’ll pour us some tea to drink.”
With the soft sound of rain hitting the deck above, the two found an empty spot below deck where some leftover boxes served as makeshift seating. The storm had died down but the rain was still coming and going in waves. The tea they managed to procure had been ready for a while and was lukewarm at best, but as their hands were getting colder it was pleasant to have something to drink and warm their hands with.
“Let me start by saying that you’re going to be fine. I know things around here have been shady, and you’re having to deal with a lot of humans who have,” Accipiter paused, “different moral values, but they’re good people. A bit misguided at times, sure, but they’ll treat you okay.”
Danae laughed nervously. “That’s hard to believe, but I’m happy there’s fellow elves here, it makes me feel a little bit more at ease. If that’s at all possible.” She looked around. “So where exactly are we and what are we doing here?”
“Like Lisanna mentioned before, this is an island just off the coast of the Fyrston Empire. I don’t believe it has an official name. And I don’t think we’ve decided on a name for it either, so we’ve just been calling it the island. We’re a group of sailors, pirates if you will, that are building a home here. Having no place to really call home without having to worry somewhat that a guard is going to ruin our day has been rough, so we thought of this as a solution. The reason we were at the slave market was to get people to help us build this place.”
“Aren’t you worried that the people you brought here will reveal that you’re staying here to the guards or something?”
Accipiter shrugged. “The empire is in turmoil and even before that I doubt they would bother. Mostly we get to walk around unbothered on the mainland too. There simply isn’t enough reason to invest in capturing us. We’re not exactly going around murdering people or hijacking important ships. We smuggle, we rob some ships and then send them on their way, but mainly the smuggling thing. The empire never seemed to care and now that it’s fallen I doubt their replacement is going to crack down on a coastal island quickly.”
Danae seemed to think about it for a moment. “I suppose that sounds reasonable. And this academy you were talking about?”
“That’s the part I’m not particularly familiar with either. I’ve heard of it, apparently there’s a group of islands a few days to the south-west of where we are. They’re called the Arcane Archipelago and it’s where all the powerful arcanists live. They teach there too. I think it’s Layek’s plan to send you there to figure out what’s up with your eyes.”
“Why, why would he care about that?”
“Honestly? He’s probably hoping you can be useful to him after learning magic.”
“That’s optimistic, why wouldn’t I just choose to never return?”
Accipiter looked up, surprised. “You seem to be trusting enough to tell me that possibility is there.”
“I figured you’d all realize already. Either it’s a bet you’re making or your captain has a plan in place already.”
Accipiter laughed. “You’re a lot smarter than I am, from the sounds of it.”
Danae smiled but didn’t reply.
The rain seemed to have stopped. “Want to take a walk?”
Danae nodded. “That would be great, I didn’t want to say anything but I have a raging headache and some fresh air would help.”
The two of them left the ship and started walking along the shore. It would take about three hours to circle the entire island, but the day was still young enough for them to make the trip in time. The weather didn’t get worse either. They talked a little bit about Accipiter’s past. Danae didn’t have much to share for obvious reasons. Danae asked about the necklace he was wearing. ”This is a symbol of Quarak, the god of travelers.”
“Why not a symbol to the god of the ocean?” Danae asked.
“I used to wear one of those, but I find myself traveling to strange places from time to time. And something about Quarak just resonated with me, you know?”
“What’s the story of this god, if you don’t mind me asking. I don’t know if I knew of them before, but I definitely don’t know about them now.”
“Quarak was apparently an outcast. Living on the edge of a poor village, eventually he was chased out for cursing the crops. He would then spend centuries on the road, traveling from town to town while the people blamed their misfortune on him. Obviously he never actually caused misfortune, but he vowed to help out people wherever he could to fix the perception they had of him. After a long time of trying, eventually he managed to turn things around and now people pray to him for safe travels. He’s kind of a god of all sorts of things, since many people pray to him.”
“That’s a very interesting story.”
Accipiter laughed. “I don’t know if it’s interesting, but at the very least it spoke to me.” They talked for a while more as they went along the coastline of the entire island.
As the sun went down they reached the crudely set up camp and joined the others at the fire. Even though the situation had been tense throughout the day, there were dried meats and some fruits they found on the island and Layek had made it a point that everyone got to eat, including the slaves. So the mood had shifted a little bit. After food most people were ready to go to bed but Layek had one more thing to say to everyone.
“People. My friends, newcomers, everyone. This will be our home for the foreseeable future. I find it in our best interest that we all work together towards my goals, so that everyone can go their own way as soon as possible. I’ve talked a lot with Robert over here and we’ve decided that he’ll be named foreman. With help from some of our crew he will start dividing people into groups and get everyone to work. Some of you will be in charge of food, we want to make sure everyone is fed enough. We have limited resources available here, but we brought enough dried food to last us a while. Besides that you’ll have to learn to like fish. If there are any questions and suggestions, just request me or my first mate to hear you out. Welcome to your new temporary home. That is all, goodnight.”