Amadhay wasn’t sure how she felt as she led a pair of humans after her, to the oversized room she had been given as her quarters. As the Lady Consort she was allowed first boarding, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was a media circus around the ship, with flashing and recording DS’s everywhere. Everyone wanted to see the voyagers who would be going on this trip, though she had no doubt that a large percentage of the crowd was due to the leaked news that the Grand Mage’s consort would be joining the trip.
She planned on finding out who leaked that as soon as she was settled.
Either way, getting onboard the vessel a whole zoot before the crew would be able to had its other pluses. Besides being able to hide from the gossip hungry tabloids and news crews, she was also able to scope out the ship a bit. Or at least she would be able to once the helpful muscles set all of her luggage in her rooms. Not only were the two men holding three bags each, they held a long chest between the two of them.
They didn’t know that they were carrying an injured necromancer in it. While she hadn’t officially asked if she would be able to bring the man along with her, she assumed that they weren’t going to say no to her. She was, after all, an incredibly important person, according to the organizer, who had gone out of his way to meet her. She was to get the best room, which had previously been meant to home the other unwelcome guests, Christein and Benjy. She would be given the best of the food. There would be a cleaning service, free of charge. And apparently, she had first dibs on the escape chutes should anything go wrong.
So she didn’t see the point of bothering them with worries about Tenshu. She’d take care of him, he’d stay in her rooms, and he’d eat her food. No harm done, right?
Honestly, she just doubted that their interest in complying with all of her needs would extend to the man who, as far as anyone unaware about necromantic healing could tell, looked to be dead. If they had known about Tenshu, she feared that she’d then have to sneak him on and they’d be wary about it and it would all just be very complicated. She didn’t want complicated. She wanted easy and quiet. Sneaking Tenshu in without any questions about why the Grand Mage’s consort was bringing along another male, what she wanted with a dead necromancer, who she was, and who he was, would hopefully keep things quiet enough that she could get far enough into space. That way, by the time Christein or Benjy realized she was there, it would be too late to eject her right back.
For now, though, her worry wasn’t on her cousin or friend. All of her attention was focused on learning her way around the ship. So far, she knew her way to her room, the cafeteria, the medical bay, and the pool. She hadn’t asked about the engine room, because she didn’t want them nervous about her, but as soon as she ditched the muscle twins, she was going to check it out. She still had to find the green rooms, the food bay, the kitchens (which, for some reason weren’t connected to the cafeteria, which made her uneasy about the food), the dormitory for the crew, and most importantly, the cargo hold. She wasn’t going to go into space blind about her surroundings.
The doors to her room slid open after scanning her iris, her magically altered blue ones, and she led the men to her bed. “Set that down on the bed,” she ordered them when they looked ready to drop the chest right there in the middle of the floor. “And be gentle with it.”
She rolled her eyes at the quick look between the two, one that she was used to being the source of from her time as a precocious lady in the Hakinato homestead and her short tenure in the Tierdom kingdom. She knew she was a terror for servants, but it kept them on their toes. And it made them keep their distance from her whenever possible.
However, the two did as she ordered without a single grumble, lifting the chest up high and setting it gently down before dumping her other bags on the bed as well. Amadhay had to admire the bed for a moment. It was large enough to fit her, Christein, Benjy, Tenshu, Atlas, Ribbon, Rea, and Kimiko. She couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would need a bed that size.
She smiled at the men. “That’s all I needed, thank you.”
They didn’t leave.
“You can leave?”
They shook their heads and the one closest to her handed her a slip of paper. On it, read:
These two men were a gift from the Grand Mage. He wanted to be sure that you were safe. He told me to be sure that you know they are mute, but very observant. I tried to convince him that you needed no extra protection here, but he was quite persistent. Please tell me if you need extra rooms for them or if they will be making their quarters within your own.
After reading the letter, Amadhay closed her eyes and took eleven deep breaths before reopening them and focusing on the men. “I don’t need protection.”
The further one shrugged. They both held up their wrists, to show that they had been marked by Lizumeizei as her guardians. Narrowing her eyes, Amadhay held out her hand for the closer one to lay his hand on hers so that she could examine the mark closer. His hand was easily the size of her face, which she couldn’t help but to think was dangerous. Hammy hands meant strength, and strength was one way she was easily bested, considering she was so small. These men could pick her up, throw her over their shoulders, and she would be helpless. Or as helpless as she ever got.
Pushing those thoughts away, she traced the insignia of Lizumeizei’s Qwuill Master mark, a single crane with the mane of a lion. The purple and red of the runes burned on top of the mark told Amadhay that she had no hopes of breaking or changing the mark. Until Lizumeizei was satisfied, or they were dead, she had bodyguards. Pursing her lips, Amadhay pulled out her DS. She’d had no plans of using it for the next few days, knowing that her use could be tracked to the ship, which would lead to her being found out, but she needed to talk to Lizumeizei.
He answered on the first ring.
“I’m not taking them back,” he said, his hologram appearing in front of her. He was leaning against something she couldn’t see, but he was dressed quite impressively in the silver and purple of the Grand Mage, telling her that he was going somewhere for a public appearance.
“Lizumeizei Qwuilleran,” she hissed, turning her back on the men because their knowing looks were irritating her. “I neither want nor need them. You and I both know that I can take care of myself.”
“The last time you went on your own into completely new territory, you were taken advantage of, beaten, and sent back home with a bow around your neck,” he said, reminding her of Madra.
“I’m not here on my own,” she whispered, wishing that she had taken the time to check the room for bugs when she’d been given the tour earlier. “Benjy and Christein are here. And I have a bit of unexpected back up.”
“Their presence only reassures me that I did the right thing.” His image disappeared for a moment, as if they had lost contact, and then reappeared. “And what do you mean unexpected backup?”
One of the oversized men touched her shoulder and shook his head. Amadhay shrugged him off, not understanding what he wanted. “Doesn’t matter. The problem is you sicking your pet muscles on me.”
“I didn’t sick anything on you. I merely gave you protection. You will thank me later.”
“Will I?” she asked, turning away from the men who were trying to get her attention. “Because I think them being around me makes it difficult for me to,” she paused, watching the men in the mirror as they gestured as subtly as they could while still gaining her attention. They kept looking and gesturing to the same three places: the mirror, the reinforced window, and the main light hanging above her. Perfect places to put bugs, she realized. “Makes it difficult for me to get alone time, which is why I’m here, remember? Alone time?”
Lizumeizei didn’t even seem fazed by her change. “I remember. But you can get alone time and be safe. People are going to want to get to you to get to me. I’m not there and I want you safe.”
She pouted, playing the part of spoiled lady as well as she ever had. “Lizu,” she whined, trying her hardest not to look directly into what she assumed were cameras. The men were searching the adjoining bathroom and closet, each subtly holding up one finger to tell her that she was bugged everywhere. And she had nearly blown her own cover.
“You can ‘Lizu’ me all you want. They’re synced to you right now, and will be, either until I unsync them, or they die. So unless you plan on killing them, suck it up.”
She shook her head. “Fine, I’ll keep them. But they have to make themselves useful. Work with the crew when they need a hand. Give me time on my own to do what I want with worrying it’s going directly to you.”
“As long as you’re safe, I’m sure they’ll find ways to entertain themselves.” Through the DS, she could hear someone calling for the Grand Mage. Giving her a knowing smile, Lizumeizei blew her a kiss. “I’ll hear from you tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Amadhay replied, trying for a besotted tone, but given that she still wasn’t completely used to her new voice, it just sounded seductive. The scratchy voice that accompanied the scar from her fight with Ribbon made it nearly impossible for her to sound sweet anymore. “I love you, Lizumeizei,” she added, blowing him a kiss back.
He paused for a moment before giving her a full smile. “I love you too.”
Once they both hung up, Amadhay took the moment to determine what she was going to do with the bugs. She could easily take them down. That would be no problem for her, especially now that she knew where they were. But that would not only alert whoever was trying to watch her that she knew, but it wouldn’t tell her who was watching her, or why. On the other hand, she could hardly leave the cameras up. Doing that would make her room unsafe for her. She needed this area to plot her next move, to talk to Lizumeizei, to…
To work on Tenshu. She stared at the chest. She needed to get Tenshu out of there, and she couldn’t do that so long as she was being watched by some unknown entity. She barely wanted to do it while being watched by Lizumeizei’s goons. So, she needed to obscure the vision of the cameras without making it obvious that was what she was doing. Once she did that, she had a feeling that the men would leave her alone.
She looked pointedly at the men, who were still just standing there, watching her. “Since I’m stuck with you two, you might as well make yourselves useful and help me unpack. Just the bags, okay?”
Their questioning looks made it obvious that they didn’t understand why she wasn’t dealing with the cameras, so she gave them a slight shake of her head before opening the smallest of the bags. It contained all of her undergarments. It dawned on her, after she began packing away clothes, that she really should have looked through the bags before just bringing them along. Anything could be in them, a curse, a phantom, sensitive information, and the first time she was going to open it was while she was being watched.
Brilliant, she thought, emptying the last of her underwear into one of the drawers of the dresser beside the window. Underneath the underwear was a bundle that she didn’t recognize, and even though she was worried about a curse, her curiosity got the better of her, convincing her to open it. Inside, were pictures, pictures that she hadn’t known existed. She scanned through them, seeing the story of her time with the Palnoki unfold in a series of pictures.
The worst was when she looked at the last picture, one with her and Ribbon. Ribbon looked beautiful, her mouth open in a wide smile and her eyes squinting as she laughed. She was wearing a green dress that matched her eyes and her hair was soaking wet. She was leaning over Amadhay, hugging the girl to her chest and soaking the otherwise dry girl, who was also laughing. Amadhay had her arms around Ribbon’s waist, her eyes open and staring adoringly at Ribbon. It was a picture taken the day before everything had fallen apart, before they had gone to the Mud Castle. She and Ribbon had been walking along the beach when a sudden rainstorm had caught them unawares. She had rushed inside, but Ribbon hadn’t been nearly as fast and had been soaked by rain when she made it into the Sand Castle.
“I see how you are, Red Bird. Just leave me out there.” Ribbon had come in, dripping wet with her normally thick curls were plastered to her skull, rather than in a halo around her head.
“Not my fault you’re slow,” she’d said, laughing at Ribbon’s state. She had, though, reached out and used a spell to instantly dry the dress.
“I’ll show you slow,” Ribbon had mock-growled and launched herself at Amadhay, who could have easily avoided her. Instead, she squealed and stayed in place, letting Ribbon grab at her. “Who’s slow now, huh?” Ribbon exclaimed, laughing as she hugged Amadhay to her chest, her still wet skin chilling Amadhay’s and wetting both of their clothes. She rubbed her head against Amadhay’s and that was when she squawked indignantly.
“Hey! You know what my hair does when it gets wet!” she complained, but she was laughing too hard to be taken seriously.
She wasn’t sure how long she stood there, staring at the picture when one of the men nudged her. When she looked up at him, she was aware that her eyes were wet. She quickly brushed the moisture away from her face and looked to him questioningly. He showed her the contents of one of the bags. It was all weapons.
Glancing back at the mirror, the closest camera, Amadhay forced a shrug. “Just put it under the bed. I’ll sort it out later.”
She started to set the pictures down, but then looked at the mirror again and grinned to herself. Decorating could easily take care of the cameras, and it wouldn’t be obvious so long as she did it right.
“Punni,” she said the sticking spell aloud, touching the mirror. For a moment, she remembered Ribbon using the spell to stick her to the wall, back when she was her guard, before they’d become friends, before they…
She shook away the thoughts, wishing that she hadn’t started to think about Ribbon. Once she started, she had a hard time stopping. Crawling onto the desk, she stood on it and began pressing pictures to the glass, starting at the top of the mirror. Her overwhelming vanity wouldn’t allow her to completely cover the mirror, but she didn’t need to. The camera, she knew because she’d been able to see a strange reflection of glass, was in the center of the wooden frame, right at the top, which was where she put the picture of her and Ribbon.
Satisfied, she hopped down from the table and turned back to the bed. She was surprised to see that most of the bags were empty. The closet was partially open, to let her see that the men had neatly hung and folded her clothes. The same hanging that had hung above her bed at Palnoki was now hanging off of the ceiling light, obscuring the camera, and the canopy that hung off of it had been finagled into a sort of swing for her. And though the men didn’t know it, she was actually quite happy to have it up like that because it brought the comfort of old surroundings without the memories of her last few weeks with the Palnoki, when she had to imagine that overhanging to fall asleep.
Seeing that, she had no doubt that the men had taken care of the cameras in the closet and bathroom. That left one camera, the one in the window. She looked through the remaining bags on her bed. One was full of miscellaneous junk, things that she would have to go through at a later time. The other one was full of books she had been reading, and not just the magic books. The ones on succubi, vampires, necromancers, and blood witches were there as well, as if her touching them had tainted the books. There were even two that she didn’t recognize in the bunch, but she didn’t think too hard about them. They were probably just ones Ribbon had tossed into her room that she had never really looked at.
But the books could work.
There were just enough of them that, if she were to stack them on the windowsill, they would cover up the camera, which had been fixed in the center of the window, made to look like a star. It was only noticeable now, honestly, because the view from her window was that of a sea of people trying to catch a glimpse of the crew as they filed in. Seeing that, Amadhay tapped her wrist DS to see that she had lost most of a zoot, looking at the pictures and “decorating.” She shoved the last of the books onto the windowpane and rushed to the door.
And then she paused, looking back at the chest. She needed to get Tenshu out of it, but she also needed to scope out the rest of the ship before everyone was on it and would notice her wandering around. She looked to her two bodyguards, who appeared ready to follow her, and knew that she had to get rid of them before dealing with Tenshu. And despite what she wanted to do, she needed to deal with Tenshu now, because in his state, being unmonitored, in a chest, despite the spells she had dumped in there to keep him stable, wasn’t going to help his condition.
So she made the only decision she really could. She allocated the work.
Unsure whether there were also sound bugs hidden around the room, Amadhay typed out orders on her wrist DS and lifted them into a small hologram screen. Both men moved forward to read her instructions. It took them nearly five clacks to read seven sentences, which told her this wouldn’t be a good way to continue talking to them.
I need the two of you to scope out the ship. I need to know where everything is. If you can find and steal a map of the ship, that would help, otherwise, you need to create one. I’ll stay here. With the cameras down, I’m safe. Lizumeizei said you were synced to my safety, yes? Well knowing the schematics and possible hiding places all over this ship will increase my safety.
The larger one, who she had begun to mentally refer to as Prillo (in reference to the strongest Watcher that guarded The Lake), brushed his hand over the message to erase it. Painstakingly, as if he had only barely learned how to write, he took three clacks to write a response to her in large letters.
Both of us don’t have to go.
She pursed her lips, irritated that he was making this difficult on her. Before she could respond, however, the smaller one, who she was mentally calling Faeo (in reference to the most vigilant of the Watchers guarding The Lake), touched “Prillo” on his arm and shook his head. He nodded to Amadhay before both men left the room, closing the door behind them with a solid thump.
She took a moment to ponder about that, but finally decided to push it to the back of her mind and she rushed to the chest. When she unlatched the physical latches on the chest, the magical locks reared their defensive attacks toward her until she quickly and easily disarmed them and unlocked the invisible lock as well. When she opened the chest, the scent of healing magic hit her hard. Tenshu still didn’t look any better, but from the scent of the magic, how heavy it was, she could tell that something was healing.
Clicking her tongue softly, she gave the only necessary invocation for the levitation spell she’d mastered a month ago. With her right hand, she leveled her focus on the necromancer and he began to float up in the chest. Gently, she lifted Tenshu from the chest and set him down in the center of the bed before waving her left hand and using the same spell to toss the chest off of her bed. Before it could clatter to the ground, she held her hand steady and lowered it, gently, below the window, where it would take the least amount of space and wouldn’t impede her movement around the room.
Now that Tenshu was settled in the bed, Amadhay glanced nervously to the door. She didn’t want anyone to walk in on her and see him. That could certainly prove to be disastrous. So, with a silent incantation, she locked the door to give herself a bit of privacy. She would need to put wards on the door sooner rather than later to keep out unwanted visitors, but that could wait until she had worked on Tenshu a little bit.
Crawling onto the bed, Amadhay was careful not to jolt Tenshu too much. While what she’d read didn’t say movement had much of an adverse affect on a necromancer in this stage of dead shock, she figured that it was probably safe to assume that someone in a rigid full-body state would not be helped by being moved around all the time. She didn’t think that moving him would be kind on his body, and she’d once read somewhere that a necromancer in dead shock had brittle bones, which was a stark change from normal, when their bones were thicker than an aelfe’s.
She felt his skin and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was no colder than when she had last touched him. It seemed that he might come out of this relatively soon. She hoped he would. Most of the books said it took close to a week or two for dead shock to fully end. Nowhere did it say how long this stage was. After this first stage, of catatonic stiffness, he would go into a dreamscape in the Astral Realm. His body would relax as he went through it, but what she was worried about was the fact that during that time, she couldn’t leave his side. He needed her energy to fight off whatever would attack him in there, and whatever attacked him was also attacking her. If she emerged from that stage, looking worse for wear, it would be difficult to explain why she was harmed when she hadn’t left her room.
But once they got through that stage, everything else would be simple. He would sleep calmly for a while, then wake up, though he would be delusional until he hit stage five. Stage four was when she would be able to heal any of the physical injuries that she hadn’t already been able to for whatever reason. At stage five, he would begin to calm down, and the delusions would die away. At stage six rational thought came back, but he would think that he was still in the situation that put him into deadshock. After that, the panic would go away, and then he would be fully healed.
She just had to get him that far.
She took a moment to remember the particulars of the spell Rea had taught her to check a body’s stats. There were no words to be spoken aloud, only a chant to mentally repeat as she softly blew on his body. So, taking a deep breath, she began the chant. Ore oru ira. Ore oru ira. Ore oru ira. She began to blow starting at his head and went down first his left arm, back up to go down his right arm, and then she went down his torso. As she lost air, she sped up, because the spell had to be done in one breath or it didn’t work. She made it down his right leg before she couldn’t blow any more air out.
So she tried again. It took her five attempts to finally finish the spell, and once she did, she sat back on her heels and looked over his body. There were red and black smudges over him, showing where he had been hurt. His entire head was a black smudge, telling her that he had received a pretty hard blow to the head, which she had already known, but it was the red leaking into it that worried her. It was very small, but there was still apparently a bit of bleeding. She had no doubt that deadshock would contain it for now, but that was going to be the first thing she fixed once stage three came around.
Other than his head, he had black littering most of his body, but mostly concentrated around his throat. There was a light red all over him, which she hoped were scratches and not internal bleeding. There was only one incredibly red spot, which she thought might be on his back, not that she could tell, considering the magic only showed her the basic spot where the injury was. She needed to see the skin for herself, she realized. The spell was good for seeing what was under his skin, like the broken arm, sprained wrist, and multiple cracks in his bones on his torso and hips, but topical injuries were ones that she had to see for herself, especially if there was an open, bleeding wound somewhere.
Reaching under her dress to the holsters she wore, she fingered the distinctive handles of four of her knives before finding the sharpest one. After carefully removing it from the sheath strapped to her skin so as not to cut her thigh, she leaned over Tenshu again, this time pulling at his black shirt. She put her knife to the seams and neatly cut first his shirt open, taking the top off of his body while leaving the back of it under him. She then moved down to his pants. Pausing only to touch the tip of the knife to be sure that it would be sharp enough to cut through the thicker material, she nodded when it easily cut her finger. Doing the same as she had with his shirt, she set the front of his black pants beside the black shirt. She set her knife down and quickly removed his black boots and socks, leaving him in only his black underwear.
When she looked over his body, she winced. Tenshu’s body was a myriad of bruises, ranging from a pale yellow, to a dark purple, almost black. He had scratches all over, which made her feel a little better because it meant that the red on the scan wasn’t internal bleeding. Clicking her tongue to use the levitation spell, she lifted him up only enough for her to crawl under him and, snapping her fingers, she made a small orb of purple light to look at his other side. His back was similar to his front, with scratches and bruises, but with one major difference. There was a piece of the fountain sticking out of his back.
It was enough to the side that she didn’t worry that it had severed any of his spine and didn’t seem deep enough to have damaged any organs, but it was slowly bleeding around the chunk of marble. Realizing that she needed both of her hands, she closed her right hand around the orb to extinguish it and slowly rotated her left hand to turn Tenshu onto his side. She gently laid him back down on the bed before getting a better look at the wound with natural light. It wasn’t a horrible wound, but given that the rock had been inside of him for zoots, she had a bad feeling that it was probably going to be infected soon. Either way, she needed to remove it.
There was a knock at the door. “Lady Consort?” A woman asked.
She flinched. Between her automatic reaction to the title and her alarm at being interrupted in the middle of dealing with Tenshu, she was uncomfortable and wanted the woman gone. “I’m busy!” she called.
“Of course,” the same voice came again. “We only meant to introduce you to the other passengers of prestige and have you wave off.”
“We’re going to be in space for a while. I have no doubt that I’ll meet them by the end of this week,” she stated, wrapping her hands around the chunk of the fountain.
“Of course. It’s just that, as the highest ranking—”
“Give my duties to the next highest ranking,” she said, tugging it out of his back. Tenshu didn’t make a sound, which she expected, but she knew it had to have been painful.
“That’s not how—”
“It’s how it works now. I’m sure he’ll do it better anyway.” She didn’t even know what the duties were. She hadn’t even known that there were duties. She realized that she should have talked to Lizumeizei about that before jumping in here.
A more familiar voice, that of Rain Kit spoke next. “Lady Consort, it is tradition for the highest ranking person on the ship to be the final wave off as we set off. I only agreed for your presence on this trip because the Grand Mage assured us that you would be willing to do any public appearances, and we were in desperate need of someone of rank. While we are more than willing to hand off your other duties to the next highest, given that he has the experience in administration, it is your duty to do this, as he is under strict orders not to make any public appearances. I don’t mean to be so forceful, but you need to come out here and do just that.”
While Rain spoke, Amadhay had bandaged up Tenshu’s wound, not that it was bleeding much more than before. She was listening closely, filing away everything the man said for future reference. It was a given that being kept a secret made Christein a pretty cruddy ranking member of nobility to be their face. But why didn’t they already have one? She remembered a little bit of information regarding this from her long ago discontinued schooling on nobility and court importance in government. All exploration teams were supposed to have someone of rank with them, usually a Major or Colonel from the RA or a noble who was funding it.
So why didn’t this one have any? Was it because it was a colonization mission and that those on it weren’t expected back for at least a year? That would be an extraordinarily long time for any Colonel, or even a Major, to be gone. And considering most of those on this trip were humans, it was easier to guess why there wasn’t any nobility. This had nothing to do with nobility, which also somewhat surprised her. Something wasn’t adding up very well.
She was turning Tenshu onto his back when the man made the demand of her. She would need to have a talk with Lizumeizei about just what he had been thinking. Her going out in public was a bad idea. It was a horrible idea, really. She had been claimed dead for over two years. She wasn’t supposed to be on this voyage. She didn’t want to be linked back to Lizumeizei. It was especially bad since she had no idea what she was doing. Her rudimentary nobility training hadn’t gone this far and what she did remember was questionable at best. She’d make the Hakinato First Family and the Grand Mage look bad at the same time.
But to stay on the ship, it appeared she had to try. She could do a glamour, but given that she was going to be with these same humans for an undetermined amount of time, putting on a glamour for the public would only make them wary of her. Wary humans led to suspicion and attempts to discover whatever she was hiding and then, inevitably, fighting. She didn’t really fancy having to kill the crew or anyone else on the ship. She especially didn’t want to have to kill any of the crew, since they were going to be keeping the ship flying. She had no piloting or engineering skills, not to mention just thinking too long about the fact she was about to go out into space on a giant space submarine made her queasy.
So she was going to have to go out there with her real face and hope that she was far enough that the cameras weren’t able to see her properly. Though, once she thought about it, or rather once she thought about it rationally, it wasn’t that big of a deal. As long as her hair covered her spoors, it was fine. She and Amaya looked almost identical from any sort of distance. In fact, most of their distant female Graceling and Hakinato cousins looked very similar to them. And they didn’t have a monopoly on olive skin, black hair, and blue eyes. Plenty of female aelfes looked just like her.
She rubbed the blood on her hands off onto Tenshu’s shirt.
“Lady Consort?” Rain’s voice held tension in it this time and it made Amadhay wonder about him. How much of Christein and Benjy’s mission did he know? How deep into this was he? Or was he just stressed by the RA to do something worthwhile? She couldn’t help but to feel like there was something more to this, something other than just her being stubborn that was bothering him.
Once her hands were no longer bloody, she waved her hand and thought a silent spell to make Tenshu invisible to everyone but herself. If she was going to leave him in an unwarded room, she was certainly going to put some sort of protection in place. She closed her hands into fists and then snapped them open, flicking her wrists up and apart. A quick purple glaze went over the room, leaving an alarm system for her so that she would know if anyone came in while she was gone, and she would know who they were and what they did.
One of the people at the door began knocking as Amadhay slid her knife back into its sheath. Patting her thighs to be sure that all four knives and her miniature gun were still in place, she went to the door and opened it, nearly getting a fist to her face for her trouble.
At her door stood Rain Kit, an impressive looking man, if a bit short. His brown hair was in neat waves around his face, the length of it pulled back into a low bun. He wore the uniform of a captain, which had surprised her, since she knew it was rare for coordinators to actually be a part of the crew. His dark, almost-black eyes took in her appearance, from her neatly curled hair, framing her face and hiding her cheeks, down to her coiling necklace, a magical pendant from Lizu, down her sleeve-less, navy blue dress, to her four-inch heeled shoes that matched the dress. He focused on her eyes for longer than he should have, making her uncomfortable for a moment, before smiling at her.
The smile was strained. Even then, it did nothing to make him look less commanding. His honey-colored skin was scarred, a mark going down his cheek and to his lips keeping him from being very attractive to her. She wondered how he got it. Standing maybe six inches taller than her own five feet, he was probably around three inches shorter than the woman who stood by his side. Her uniform was similar to his, telling Amadhay that she was his co-pilot and the second-in-command. What he didn’t have in height, he made up for in width. He was much pudgier than she had imagined, with a round belly and barrel chest, making the muscular woman beside him look like a wisp of a thing.
“Alright,” Amadhay smiled, closing the door behind her. A subtle twist of her fingers locked it behind her. “What was it you needed me to do?”
The woman nodded. “Thank you for working with us,” she started, already turning to lead Amadhay off. Amadhay followed her, very much aware of Rain Kit following behind her after a long moment of staring at her door. “I understand from Captain Kit that you’re here to get some time away from the media involved being the Qwuill Master’s consort.”
“The Grand Mage,” Amadhay corrected. “I’m the Grand Mage’s consort.”
“Same difference,” the woman muttered only loud enough for her to hear, and Amadhay was positive right then and there that she didn’t trust her. Few people knew that Lizumeizei was both the Qwuill Master and the Grand Mage, and ever fewer talked about it with such nonchalance. “Either way, considering that after today, we’ll be in space, and only stopping to either refuel or gather up some resources, for the most part, you will have no worries about the media.” She smiled a large smile that made Amadhay uncomfortable. “We only need you to wave us off and be our face when we stop on other planets, but that will be rare. Otherwise, you’re free to do as your heart desires.”
Somehow I doubt that, Amadhay thought, but just nodded along. She glanced back at Rain Kit, who was watching her closely enough to make her wary. “As for the two men the Grand Mage sent with me? They’d like to sleep in the Crew dormitories. They want to be as much help as they can, considering there won’t be much here to threaten me.”
Something flashed in his eyes, making Amadhay sure that he knew more than she had first assumed. The second-in-command, however, was an open book. “Oh, that’s good. We were hoping they would. We needed the extra muscle and those two definitely have some to spare.”
Amadhay forced herself to laugh with the woman. “How soon are we setting off?” she asked.
“Well, most of the crew is settled in. The lord and his knight have already found their places. So, really, if everything is optimal, which I think it is, we can begin lift off as you wave off.”
Amadhay supposed that letting the two know of her ignorance wouldn’t be such a big deal, especially not if she quickly fixed her lack of knowledge once she had time. “And why is this important?” she asked, making two steps for every one of the woman’s.
The human glanced down at Amadhay with surprise before giving her a longer look. “Aren’t you a bit young—”
Rain Kit jumped in before the woman could insult Amadhay fully. “Good luck,” he answered, walking beside her. Amadhay felt like she had to walk close to the wall to give him space, though he wasn’t truly that large. “Having the highest ranking person on board wave us off tells the Goddess that our voyage is wanted by the nobility so that we will be able to leave the atmosphere.”
The woman huffed. “Superstitious nonsense to remind everyone who is in charge,” she corrected, making Amadhay look her over appraisingly. “Benjym Base himself developed the new technology in our ship to give us less than a 1% chance of atmospheric combustion. He even developed new technology to help recycle the air.”
Amadhay nodded slowly. She was obviously knowledgeable about the ship. “I didn’t catch your name,” she said, recognizing that she needed to stay close to this woman in the future to get more information.
The woman gave her a distracted smile. “I’m Gilia Harpess, Co-Captain and Second in Command of this ship.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Amadhay,” she responded, knowing that her not using her last name was noticed. Only elves and Ferals had no last names and for aelfe, last names were incredibly important for connections.
They were both watching her closely as they continued to walk to the opening that led to the main window panel that they had been using as a sort of balcony. She had a feeling that they were comparing her face to Amaya’s, but she didn’t give them anything more to go on.
“How long have you been with the Grand Mage?” Harpess asked.
“Since my blunderlust began,” she answered. To them, that would mean since she’d been ten. To her, it meant since she’d been fifteen, which wasn’t a lie. She had been with him, in a way, during the Madra mission, and since she’d considered herself to have been in love with him, she decided blunderlust started there. Especially since restarting her relationship with him had been lust, but now was starting to look like love. She wasn’t sure what she was with Lizumeizei. Whether it was love or lust was a question she’d been asking herself since he’d told her he loved her earlier. It was all part of blunderlust.
“And how old are you now?” Harpess asked before Rain Kit could stop her.
Amadhay grinned. “Nearly sixteen,” she answered, enjoying the look of relief on Harpess’ face. She wondered how young the woman had thought she was. She knew that she looked older, by human standards, but by aelfe standards she did look younger and even a human would catch that—especially if said human had regular contact with aelfe, which Amadhay had suspicions that Harpess did.
All of those thoughts stopped the moment they stood a few inches from the door. Pausing in the shadows as they reached the doorway, she began to overthink her situation again. This was it. She took a deep breath. This was the first time in over two years that she’d gone somewhere with a media circus. If she stepped out as she was now, she would be chancing her picture getting out. She could see without getting into their sight, that there were enough people that it was impossible to even hope that none of them would get a picture of her. The best that she could reasonably hope would be that it would be blurry.
Her biggest worry was about Mother Sari’s gang realizing that Lizumeizei’s protection was gone. Or at least that’s what the rational part of her brain said it should be. Her biggest worry, no matter how irrational it was, was that someone would recognize her as Amadhay Hakinato. They would make a big scene about her not being dead, would question what was happening in the Hakinato house that all three of the triplets had taken relatively drastic means to get away from the homestead. Hlala had taken refuge with Guy, who had used his Gift to get her away. Amaya had actually demanded emancipation, and when she’d been denied, had run away, only agreeing to the clan’s demands when she was appointed Hynnkel as her guardian. And now there would be her, pretending to be dead to get away.
Goddess. She took a deep breath and tried to force herself to take another step. She couldn’t. Her legs honestly wouldn’t move. She looked at Rain Kit, who had a bit of an annoyed expression, to Harpess, who had an understanding look, which the woman quickly covered when she turned her attention to the captain.
“Captain Kit?” Harpess took his attention off of Amadhay. “I’m sure that Lady Consort would feel more comfortable if we started to take off?” she suggested.
Amadhay immediately nodded. “You said that we could take off as I waved, so I’d like to do that.”
The man looked uncertain for a moment. “I could—”
Harpess cut him off. “You should go and start flying. The sooner you do, the sooner we’ll be off the ground. And when we’re off ground, Jaxley can take the navigation and you can take a well-deserved nap.”
Amadhay felt like she had missed some joke, because Rain Kit gave an obnoxious burst of laughter and patted Harpess on the back hard enough to make the woman make a face, though she didn’t move. The man turned on his heel and made quick work of disappearing down the halls. Harpess put her hand on Amadhay’s shoulder, but when the girl started to speak, she put a finger to her lips to silence her.
After almost three clacks, Harpess gave a slight nod. “Alright, he’s almost to the cockpit.” She smiled at Amadhay and turned to face the girl head on. “I apologize. Rain has bugged your room because he doesn’t trust Qwuill Master. I’ve made plans to fix that, but for now, please be aware of that and what you do and say in there.”
Amadhay nodded. “I noticed. You keep saying Qwuill Master.”
Harpess made a face. “I mean to say Grand Mage.”
“You work for Qwuill, don’t you?”
She pursed her lips. “I worked for the Roadesian Army. Yes, your Qwuill Master has shown interest, but I do not work for him.”
Her eyes and the tone told Amadhay that she was trying to say something more than that, but the teenager wasn’t sure what. There was a loud noise and the ground beneath her feet began to shake. Amadhay felt her stomach quiver.
Harpess gestured for her to begin the wave off. Amadhay started to walk out to the panel, but only got as far as the doorway. They’re going to recognize me and kill Lizumeizei and Arne Riff will kill me when I come back. I can’t do this. I have to go back. She started back, but Harpess was like a wall, keeping her in the doorway.
“You will be fine,” the woman promised in a low tone. “An impromptu sighting of a certain songstress and her siren posse caught the attention of all but the most desperate. Most of those out there are family and friends of the crew. Any picture they take will be distant.”
Amadhay was wary that the older woman knew all of this. At first, she feared the coincidence, her mind immediately going to Atlas, but when she took in Harpess’ cool, she knew this was all part of Lizumeizei’s plan. Lizumeizei had gone out of his way to make things easier on her.
So instead, she smiled and nodded, turning on her heel and going to the railing to wave, a smile plastered on her face even as she began to pick at her feelings for Lizumeizei once again. Did she love him or was it lust? Did she trust him? Did she deserve him?