“You brought a Fae on board my ship!” Varda cursed out Finn.
“I came of my own volition. I was not smuggled aboard like chattel,” Nessa defended.
“Silence,” Varda commanded. “I know the magic your people possess.
Malron watched the exchange happen from across the room. He was slouched against a wall. Malron knew that Varda was feigning her outrage a bit. Damaged as she was, she relied on these newcomers to help run the ship and make sure they made a profit. However, revealing that hand would leave her very poor. Nessa’s Fae presence provided a bargaining chip. The Fae were considered a human myth. If they ever existed, which now clearly, they did, then their civilisation would have been disrupted when the world exploded. Fae draw their power from the earth below them apparently. Malron wondered if this story about the Fae had been a human misunderstanding about magic. All magic flowed through the core, perhaps the Fae practised magic by drawing close to the core, hence the myth about the power of earth. Malron was very curious to find out how this Fae came to be here.
The conversation slowly progressed until the origin of Nessa was revealed. She was genuine Fae all right. She told the story of how Finn had found his way to the Kingdom of the Fae, the Sidhe Court. This was before the world was fractured. Finn remembered a unified world, with oceans instead of skies. As did Nessa. After arriving at the Court, Finn was placed under arrest. He was confined for the first one hundred years.
“No one ages in the Sidhe Court” Nessa explained.
Over the course of the next one hundred years, he was given leniency. He was allowed to roam the Court, so long as he was accompanied by guards.
“My mother charged me with the care of this man. I was to attend to his education, to ensure he was healthy, various minutiae like that. Eventually, he became a perfectly capable member of our Court. He was dressed in fine robes and paraded around the palace. He was too lowborn to marry any member of the court, of course.” Nessa explained.
There was no derision in her voice over his lowborn status. In the same way one might call a cow, a cow, it was simply what he was.
“What prompted you to leave?” Varda asked.
“We called it the Calamity. I believe, in your realm, it is called the Fracture,” Nessa explained.
“That’s correct,” Varda noted. “But that was sixty years ago. You two still look you, especially the human.”
“That was Nessa. She’s been drawing from the core to keep us young,” Finn explained.
“So, what, you’ve been island hopping for sixty years? Trying to get where exactly,” Varda asked.
“We are trying to find my mother,” Nessa explained. “The Queen of the Sidhe Court.”
This was certainly a development Malron thought privately. If Nessa’s mother was Queen of the Sidhe Court, that would make Nessa a princess. What odd circumstances had combined to find the Princess of the Fae People aboard this little ship. Malron retreated to his quarters. As the door closed behind him, he straightened his back. His hands stopped their shaking. He drew a short breath as he shook off the skin he wore out in public. His nervous persona served him well, but in his private corners it wasn’t needed. He removed the bracers he wore while aboard the ship and placed them on one of the two desks that occupied his room. That first desk was for one segment of his life, the public one. He made his way to the second desk and removed the thick canvas sheet from the desk.
Before him sat his grand invention. It was full of Dwarven cogs and materials gathered from his time in the Dwarven Empire. The glass that allowed him to see the inside mechanisms of the valves that ran between each pipe was Orcish glass. Orcs were fine craftsmen, if simple creatures. Most preferred the work of Orcish weapon masters but their other skills were unparalleled. Only the dwarves could best them in mechanical engineering, an all-together different discipline.
At the bottom of the device was a place for each of the components. Five magic crystals, bursting with stored energy. The technology used at the base of this machine was the same as that of the engine. However, where more crystals could have been placed was an altogether different mechanism. Three vials sat full, plugged into the machine. He removed another full vial from his pocket and inserted it into the machine. This had been what he travelled to town for. Very few places sold human blood with no questions asked, but Malron had found someone. He placed the human blood vial next to its brothers: the blood of an Orc, the blood of a Dwarf, and the blood of an Elf. He lacked one component: the blood of a Fae, and fortune had landed one right in his lap.
Malron disrobed and lay in his bed. There was a light shining from the device on his desk. In the centre of the device, glowing brightly, was a diamond. It glowed with the energy direct from the core itself. The harsh electric green comforted Malron. Without its glow, the nightmares returned. The screams of his fellow pioneers. The surge of power he felt when the power from the core flowed through their instruments and straight into his body. He remembered the ground shattering around them as his eyes glowed with the colour of magic. Some long dead dwarf swung an axe at his head, missing as he dodged. The axe finding its mark on the exposed piping. The connection to the core was severed and Malron remembered the power within him fading. He still had some power though. He remembered their final screams as he turned all his fellow pioneers into dust.
It was Varda’s knock that woke him. As he rose from his bed, he threw the canvas sheet over his device. It helped him sleep but its presence would beg questions. Questions he wasn’t prepared to answer without blood.
“We’re almost at the Capital,” Varda told him.
Malron nodded. He needed the Fae’s blood sooner or later. Looks like mutiny was on the cards again. He wanted something slightly cleaner. He spoke some ancient words to Varda. When the spell was complete, Varda’s eyes illuminated with the electric green hue of magic.
“Remove one of the Fae girl’s limbs and return it to me,” Malron commanded.
Varda removed her axe and began stalking the ship. There was no turning back now.
Finn was looking at the approaching capital: Dalan’s Crossing. The city formed a crescent moon shape around the bay in the sky. This meant there was a small mouth to get into the city limits. Dock workers would often stop ships to inspect them. This morning their ship was simply waved through. On the opposite end of the bay was the towering central Castle. The castle stretched towards the sky, like one hundred tiny blades trying to piece the sky. Surrounding the castle on all sides were the townhouses and mansions of gentry and other court officials. The private docks began here and began the path of docks all around the crescent of the city. The further you moved from the castle, the poorer the houses got. The docks followed a similar trajectory of private to public. How far inland this infrastructure creeped was a mystery to Finn. As he contemplated the intricacies of the human capital, their captain ascended from below.
Varda swung the axe with all her strength. Nessa’s dodged out of the way, pulling Finn with her. Varda’s axe collided with the metal of the ship, leaving a small dent. Varda swivelled to face Finn and Nessa.
“Well, this is a warm welcome from our captain,” Finn joked.
Nessa noticed the soft green glow of Varda’s eyes.
“Varda is being controlled by magic,” Nessa told Finn.
Nessa drew her daggers and charged at Varda. Varda’s axe was large and unwieldy; Nessa was able to dodge it with ease. With unnatural flexibility, Nessa mimicked and inverted the swings of Varda’s axe. Nessa tried to swing her daggers at Varda’s limb. If she could cut the right muscle Varda would be down for good. Varda might not appreciate the injury though.
Finn felt helpless just watching the two women fight to the best of their ability. He needed a plan. Durk. Finn bolted, leaving Nessa to deal with Varda. He ran down the stairs into the living quarters. He ran to Durk’s bunk and shook him awake.
“Durk, Varda’s being mind controlled and is attacking Nessa,” Finn explained hurriedly.
Durk shot up in his bunk.
“Has to be a magic user. Probably not your girlfriend …” Durk started rationalising.
“Nessa is not my girlfriend,” Finn interrupted.
“Right, anyway, there’s only two magic users on board and Nessa clearly can’t be it, which leaves …” Durk continued.
Finn realised what Durk was concluding.
“Malron,.” they said, simultaneously.
The two ran down towards Malron’s room, ready to confront. As they ran, Durk stopped Finn in his tracks.
“Wait, if Malron is a magic user then running into him without magic back up is just going to leave us like Varda,” Durk warned.
“Good point,” Finn said.
The two turned and headed back upstairs, grabbing weapons on the way.
Malron was sick of waiting. He wasn’t sure how much of the crew suspected of his movements but if Varda had attacked Nessa out in the open then surely Finn would know. Durk was an unknown factor. He could be sleeping or he could be aware of much more. Regardless, he didn’t have time to wait. He marched down to the cargo bay and threw open the hatch he had been thrown down. Their illicit cargo had a surprise hidden in it. Malron threw open the case to reveal a crate full of automatons. Malron moved his hands and spoke the ancient words. Lightning flew from his hands into the crystals in the automaton’s heads. Their eyes opened and they crawled out from their hiding. Time to even the odds, Malron thought. Malron ordered two of them to follow to bring his device to the deck. The other eighteen went to the deck to secure the Fae blood.
Nessa found her opening and aimed for a muscle in Varda’s inner thigh. Varda screamed in pain as the blade cut her leg. She fell, but as she fell her axe found its mark on Nessa’s left arm and it was too late to stop it. Nessa felt the burn of the hot rush of blood as her upper arm was shorn in half. Nessa hit the ground just after her severed arm. Varda flailed on the ground and clutched at the arm. As she grabbed for the arm an automaton grabbed it and took the arm with it. Varda’s eyes faded as her mission was seemingly fulfilled. Nessa looked to her stub of a limb and spoke some ancient words. The wound healed over. Nessa helped Varda to her feet and the two women stood together.
All the chess pieces were there, Malron thought to himself. His device was on the deck, the crew were all there with their most capable warriors maimed, his unit of automatons stood with him.
“I knew you were a worm, Malron, but a traitor? Why?” Varda asked.
“Simply put, I’m more powerful than you. I needed to travel in the world hidden for a time, to complete my device. Now it is complete. The Fae girl was the last piece of the puzzle.” Malron confessed.
Malron expected them to simply accept his newfound power but the questions continued.
“Hi, Finn here,” Finn began.
“I know who you are, human. We’ve met,” Malron said tersely.
“Ok, cool. What does your device do exactly?” Finn asked.
“This device will bring an end to our current world. It was built to draw magic from the core and the world’s people. At which point that magic will transfer to me,” he told the crew.
Nessa chuckled to herself.
“So that’s why you needed my arm,” she noted.
This was hardly the time for humour. One of Malron’s automatons withdrew enough blood from the Fae girl’s arm to fill the final vial. Malron turned to plug it into his device. His moment of glory had arrived. He turned the device on and it began to work. The automatons fell as their magic was withdrawn. Then the ship began to freefall until Malron held it aloft with his new magic. The continent began to fall around them.
“This whole world is held in equilibrium by magic, you idiot. You can’t conquer a destroyed world,” Varda shouted at him.
“The world will not perish. I will maintain it. I will become the force of equilibrium. You kill me, you kill the world. I will never end. The world will be mine for eternity,” he triumphantly yelled.
Nessa began to openly laugh at him now.
“You’re an idiot. You’ve obviously studied magic extensively for some time, but you forgot one fatal part of your research,” Nessa told him.
Malron looked at her with indignation.
“Fae magic isn’t tied to the core. It is the magic of the land itself,” she told him.
Malron’s bottom lip quivered. Nessa spoke the ancient Fae words as she moved her remaining arm. She spoke the words in a continuing stream, launching spell after spell. She moved the device from its position against the Captain’s quarters to the front of the ship. The Fae blood in the machine boiled as the electric green surging through the whole device turned a vibrant red. She hurled Malron and his automatons to the front of the ship as well. She threw the rest of the crew near the Captain’s quarters as she tore the ship in half. Malron on one side, the loyal crew on the other side.
Nessa powered the engine of the ship and made it fly upwards. Malron’s half of the ship began to fall as the device bubbled widely. When they were far enough away Nessa spoke some ancient with blood in her voice, and the device exploded chucking the debris of the ship and the corpse of Malron Malavathor into the sky below. The explosion of the device caused the continent to rise to its proper place in the sky. Nessa flew up to greet it, crashing onto the shoreline of the capital. The crew lay on the rocky ground between the docks and the city, breathing heavily. They had survived two onslaughts on their lives, albeit at the expense of Varda’s ship. Varda was the first to speak.
“You know, I know we saved the world and all that, but I really liked that ship,” Varda complained.
“Maybe there’s a hero’s fee that could pay for a new ship?” Finn asked.
“On second thoughts, the open sky hasn’t been that good to me recently. I might stay on solid ground for a bit,” Varda confessed.
This seemed like a good idea for the time being. Time to rest.