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May 14

Sunrise Over Infinity Part 9

Alexia watched as smoke rose from beyond the castle wall.

“See,” Panail said. “Nothing you can do to stop it.”

Alexia didn’t respond. She didn’t dare to move her eyes from the twisting black line. “The Duke was like a father to me,” she said, more to herself than Panail. “He was the first man I ever truly respected.” She turned to Panail, to the person responsible for everything she had just gone through. “He was like a father to me!” She grabbed the pathetic excuse for a man’s throat. “And you killed him!”

“Alexia!” Adrian exclaimed, “What are you doing?”

“I’m making sure this rat doesn’t live to see his plans through.” She called up her fire, letting it pour over her other hand. She watched as terror filled the man’s face. “And I am going to enjoy this.”

“Stop it Alexia!” Adrian said.

She aimed her hand at him. “You don’t get a say in this!”

He backed away, hands raised in the air.

Alexia returned her attention to Panail, running a single flaming finger along his cheek. She could feel the skin beneath begin to char.

“Don’t do this Alexia,” Panail begged through tears. “Think of what will happen if you kill me.”

“I’ll have killed the man who killed the Duke. That would make me a hero, wouldn’t it?”

“Please,” he howled. “Please don’t do this.”

“You should have thought of that earlier, Panail.”

Alexia went to place her hand on the man’s chest, to engulf him in fire and watch him burn, but a sudden pain in her leg stopped her. She looked down to see a feathered dart sticking from her thigh.

“I’m sorry Alexia,” she heard Adrian say, “I can’t let you do this.”

Her grip loosened, both of Panail’s neck and of the world. She felt herself falling over, the muted impact of the floor against her back.

A door opened somewhere. Voices.

In the moment of clarity between light and darkness, she heard the Duke speak.

– –

The Captain surveyed the room he had just left. Alexia was lying unconscious on the floor, Panail was clutching his face and Adrian was standing over both of them.

“I can’t leave you two alone for five minutes can I?”

The Duke stepped past him. “Is that Alexia?”

“Yes.”

“I should have listened to her from the start.”

“There was also a Guardian involved. A man by the name of Launcer. We have one of our men watching him, should you like to see him.”

“Launcer?” Niall ran his hand over his beared. “Yes, I remember a man by that name. His family was exiled many years ago. I will have to speak with him once all this is done.” He walked over and grabbed Panail’s head, forcing the man to stare him in the eye. “But first I am going to find everyone involved in this conspiracy. And you are going to help me. Understood?”

Panail nodded and sobbed weakly.

“You may also want to contact the Guardians,” the Captain said. “I would prefer not being a fugitive for any longer than necessary.”

“Of course. I owe you and your crew my life. And I intend to reward you all fully for your services.”

“Just make sure this war doesn’t happen. The world doesn’t need any more senseless violence,” he glanced at Panail.

The Captain began to feel himself growing weak, the gash in his arm bleeding profusely. He grabbed onto the bedframe to steady himself.

“You’re wounded,” the Duke said. “I will send for my finest healer immediately. I want you and your crew to be at your best when you are the guests of honor at tonight’s ball.”

“Thank you, but I think my own healer would be rather upset with me if I saw someone else.”

“Very well. But there must be something I can do for you personally.”

The Captain thought for a moment. “There is one thing.”

“Name it. You shall have it.”

“My ship.”

– –

The ball was the definition of lavish. It was set in a grand room tiled in marble and lined with tables piled high with food. Gentle music filled the space, and noble couples danced within the room’s center.

The Captain found Adrian and Gehard hovering near one of the food tables.

“Enjoying ourselves, are we?” the Captain asked.

“Mostly,” Gehard said, popping a piece of bread dipped in oil into his mouth.

“Come on you sour rat,” Adrian said. “Smile a little.”

Gehard took a small glass of wine from a nearby tray and downed it. “I’ll smile when they start serving something stronger than this.”

Adrian skewered a piece of meat with a fork and inspected it. “What kind of meat is this, anyway?”

“Chicken,” the Captain said.

“Why are they serving chicken at a ball? I’d have thought they’d have something more formal than that.”

“Chicken is formal in Tamaril,” the Captain said. “The bird isn’t native to the world, so it has to be imported from the Astral.”

“That explains it,” Adrian said.

The Duke, doing his rounds of the room, noticed them and came over.

“How are my guests of honor doing?”

“Fine, by all accounts,” the Captain said. “Although we should be asking you the same thing.”

The man waved the Captain’s concern away. “If I was to go to pieces every time someone made an attempt on my life, I’d never get anything done.”

Alexia walked over to them, her dress a billowing thing of beads and ochre.

“Naill, may I have a word with you?”

“Certainly.”

She looked around the room. “May I have a word with you alone?”

“Of course.”

The two turned and walked away, Adrian eyeing them as they went. “I wonder what that’s about.”

Gehard shrugged. “None of my concern.” He returned his attention to the table and its foodstuffs.

The Captain, however, watched Alexia and the Duke as they went to an unoccupied corner of the room.

– –

The Le-Pras broke the waters of Cail’s port for the second time in a few weeks, coming to rest next to the busy pier. A few people stopped to look at it, but most working on the docks that day had seen far too many ships to find this one worthy of even a passing glance. They may have thought otherwise if they knew who’s ship it was. Or what that man had just done for their ruler.

That man greeted Grendel over the ship’s gangplank.

“This is some ship you have,” Grendel said.

“I know.”

“I’ve sailed many Guardian ships. They’re swift, powerful and deadly. But this one,” he traced his hand along the railing, “this one has a heart and soul.”

“I’m sure it appreciates hearing that.”

“It also has a great cook.”

The Captain chuckled. “She prefers the term chef.”

“It seems a shame to spend so little time on a ship like this but . . .” Grendel fell silent, his fingers finding groves in the wood at his side. “I have to admit I misjudged you.”

“That’s alright,” the Captain said. “Many do.”

“At least one of us saw the truth about Launcer.”

“I had the benefit of perspective. You didn’t.”

“I know. Although I will need to be more careful from now on, since they’re promoting me to take his place.”

“And what will become of Launcer?”

“He’ll be tried for high treason. The penalty’s death, but he’s likely to spend the rest of his life in a cell because of his rank.”

“So long as he can’t cause any further harm.”

“I don’t understand how you can be so clam about it all.”

“It comes with experience.” The Captain placed his hand on Grendel’s shoulder. “Trust me, blaming yourself for this is going to get you nowhere.”

Grendel sighed, deeply. “Thank you. Now I have to go deal with Launcer.”

“Good luck.”

Grendel walked down the gangplank and into to crowded streets.

The Captain breathed deeply.

“Home.”

– –

A woman in a red robe walked along Cail’s port as the sun set. A staff protruded from the pack on her back.

“Let me guess,” a voice said from above her, “you want to buy passage to Ascala.”

She looked up at the Captain, sitting on the edge of his ship. “Something like that.”

The Captain chuckled. “Why are you really here?”

Alexia had rehearsed this moment many times. So why did it still feel like she was falling forwards and could not stop?

“To ask you to take me on as a member of your crew. Permanently.”

“Why do you want to do that?”

“In the short amount of time I’ve spent on your ship, with your crew, I’ve caught a glimpse of something. The life you all lead fascinates me, and I can’t bear the thought of not being a part of it. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m asking you, even after everything I’ve put you through, to take me with you.”

The Captain was silent, thinking. Alexia felt like she was free falling.

“In case you hadn’t noticed,” he said, “we have a tendency of doing crazy things on this crew.”

“You mean . . .”

“You can come with us. Although it will mean leaving behind everything you have here. Friends, family, everything.”

Alexia glanced up at the castle behind her, it’s towers forever grasping at the moon. Once a home, she knew it would become a prison if she remained.

“Alright,” she said.

“In that case,” the Captain said, “you’d better hurry up. Dinner’s about to be served.”

Alexia walked up the gangplank as streaks of red spread across the dark sky. She took a last look at it before going below deck, now knowing that her true home lay on the other side.

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