Private Tales Upriver

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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Eislyn's fingers enclosed around her slippers. Ah, they served her well.

"If you need me to trip him, Geelyn, I'd be happy to oblige," the princess called out cordially. The banter between these two helped rid her from some of the mounting frustration she felt with the Captain.

If it wasn't for her slippers, Rayth would've had a few more sharp-toothed bites from neck. Handle things fine enough on their own her royal arse.

Eislyn lowered herself on the top step leading back down to the main deck and began sliding on her shoes. "And by all means, Rayth, if you'd like to take the rest of the night off to spend some time with that head, I wouldn't hold it against you."

Geelyn snorted at the princess' comment. Eislyn couldn't help a glance behind. Into the night air at the frothing and foaming waters they'd just crossed. And beyond that where her men lay stranded. She was getting further and further away from her mission.
 

Rayth Keirn

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"Have an excellent night's sleep your stubbornness," Rayth called, managing to make the term sound like the highest title in all the land. The Shrieker blood smelled particularly foul and several teams were moving quickly to wash it from the decks.



If a general commotion from the deck did not wake Eislyn shortly after first light then a sharp rap at the door would. Rayth's voice followed.

"I'm afriad you have to stay in your room for a while," he called. "We have a Vel'Anir Black Fort passing by."

What one of those vessels was doing this far north was beyond him. Vel'Anir had either made an arrangement with one of the port cities for the vessel or were looking to impose rule over the area.

There were just a handful of Black Forts. The pinnacle of Naval power across the southern coasts.

Alliria had tried mounting a powerful siege catapult to their largest ships. As well as nearly capsizing the vessel they were too slow and inaccurate. A ship would close and kill a crew with bows and swords before a few rocks were launched.

Vel Anir used its mages. A Black Fort was build from obsidian ash. The trees grew in fal'addas and made a jet black wood that was resistant to magic. The aft Castle of a black Fort was a literal rising fort of black. Usually it protected a handful of mages who could decimate a small fleet.

One had not been built for years. The elves had apparently driven the Vel Anir woodsmen from the groves where the trees grew.

"It's the Bolt!" someone cried out from above deck.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Eislyn was certainly up. She was standing at the small porthole in her quarters, the opening swung wide. Unfortunately, she couldn't even squeeze her head through. Verdant gaze could only see the lower-half of the behemoth from this angle. The briny air tickled the tip of her nose.

"So I can see," she called back to the scoundrel through the closed door.

Turning on her heel, she yanked the door open.

"Kindly move out of my way. I would like to see from above deck." With a swish of her skirts Rayth would find the princess trying to side-step him once again. "I do hope Geelyn is below-deck. We all know how that tragic city feels about any non-humans."

She knew very well. Her own tyrant of a father ran a city very much like Vel'Anir but on a much smaller scale.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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Rayth didn't joke this time. As he stepped to block her path there was a hardness in his pale green eyes that had not been there before. Even when fighting the shriekers he had been remarkably jovial through the entire affair.

Being lost as a child from a wealthy background had been difficult. Charm and a bit of skill with the blade had seen him through, but life out here at sea wasn't easy. You didn't survive if you didn't have a few rough edges worn if. If you didn't develop the walls to guard yourself at the prospect of having to do something unpleasant.

"Try and signal them in any well and I guarantee unpleasantness will follow," he promised. The smile came back, reaching up to his eyes almost immediately.

"But they're too far to really see you from this distance anyway and I want a good look."

Rayth stepped aside. It was just a few metres out into the sun. The black Fort sailed out to their left, heading in the opposite direction under a light sail.

"See how tall it is?" he noted. The aft deck of the ship would have been three metres above them if their vessels were brought alongside one another. Even through they were a similar length.

"Can't see a wizard though." From this distance he could see people moving around the vessel and a few dark smudges in the riggng. He expected of there was a wizard on the aft-castle he would have seen some colourful robes.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Color rose along the fair skin of her neck at Rayth's very spoken threat. The girl was good at hiding her emotions. Had to be with her skills as a negotiator. But this time, she wasn't.

And it wasn't due to how he would carry out his threat. She'd been exposed to a surprising bit of unpleasantness for someone of her noble-blood. It was more-so shock at his sudden switch between facades.

"You have me wondering just how many masks you wear Rayth Keirn." She may be flushing but her voice held steady as her deeper verdant gaze met his own. Eyes shifted to the other vessel as she found herself back on deck.

"A veritable fortress on water," the girl remarked, fingers brushing an iron-bangle wrapped around one of her wrists at the mention of mages. "Reminds me of home." Voice was quiet. Walking to the railing, she let her forearms and elbows rest on the wooden surface. Perhaps she'd get lucky and someone with a spyglass would spot her on deck. Her fine clothes might stick out just enough among the rest of the crew to cause suspicion.

Then again. A ship like that would consider a crew like this just a flea on a dog's back. Not worth the time when larger war and conflict were to be had.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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Rayth sauntered up to lean against the railing beside her. He was dissapointed that there was no sign of a wizard. They could easily outrun that vessel in open waters.

It was said that weather mages were sometimes employed to control the wind, but he doubted they could hold such power for long.

He briefly looked over his shoulder, catching just the silhouette for her face against the morning sun.

"Would you admonish a dice for presenting a mask if you rolled a one?" he asked quietly.

He turned the other way, towards the prow. Soon they would cut towards the rocks of the far bank and into the hidden place.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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The thought of yelling or waving her arms for help did cross her mind. But she doubted anything would come of it other than her being locked in those small quarters for the rest of the trip. No, she had another escape plan in mind. But since she was a strong negotiator, she wanted to give the Captain a chance. One chance to be more...reasonable.

Eyes flickered to Rayth, though, she didn't turn toward him. Her face remained on the floating fortress.

"Would you fault a bird for trying to fly free from its cage?" Lips quirked briefly into a half smile. Turning away from the ship, the princess addressed Rayth. "I would like to speak with the captain, immediately. Gorrin and Felder may not be at each other's throats for long, with or without me, considering what we just saw. Perhaps I can offer him a better deal. A longer term solution."

Provided that he released her immediately. Of course.

And the rogue may or may not notice that her split knuckles from last night were no longer injured. Then again, it was hard to remember if she'd cut her skin at all.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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She didn't seem to want to continue the discussion on the differences between someone's masks against the faces that were a part of them. A pity, it had been a long time since he had anyone worth engaging with a little word play. Geelyn normally lost her temper too quickly. Most of the other swords just grunted and ignored him.

Eisyln was an educated princess, but she was also single minded it seemed. She had no time for keeping his boredom at bay. A shame as she was the most interesting thing that had been on the Paragon since they had been paid to transport a wizard's chimera up the coast. Not in the same way, of course.

"You be careful," he warned her. Another face was shown to her as he turned and walked back into the ship. He tilted his head for her to follow.

"Wait here," he said as he knocked. The captains quarters took up the entire width of the rear of the vessel on the same deck as their own cabins.

"Come in!"

Rayth stepped inside, pushing the door closed behind him. There were footsteps, a quiet murmur and then steps again. Rayth opened the door wide. Behind him Captain Deschain sat at his table, skewering some slices of dried, salted meats with his knife.

"What?" he called towards Eislyn. Rayth shut the door behind them, standing silently beside it.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Surprise flecked across her brow. If she didn’t know any better, Rayth actually seemed concerned. Perhaps just concerned for losing the position he held on this ship and not her well-being. Which side along the dice was this?

Thoughts were quickly pushed aside as she was granted admittance with the very man in charge.

“Captain,” she offered a shallow curtsy, straightening just as quickly as she approached the desk. “Thank you for seeing me. May I?”

Free hand motioned to the wooden chair in front of his desk. The man motioned very pointedly with his knife. Sinking down, hands clasped in her lap. “I think you know, sir, that I am very good at my job. And I would like to offer you a deal that would be more profitable for you that doesn’t involve keeping me on this ship. Shall I keep going?”
 
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Rayth Keirn

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Deschain pointed at the chair with his knife and listened to her proposal. As she spoke he showed almost no interest. The fact that he claimed a family name said something of his aspirations.

"I have a reputation for getting a job done when I've been paid. Consider that in any proposal you might have. And make it quickly."
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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"I'm assuming you've been hired by someone who wants to make a profit out of the war continuing. Perhaps redirection to a certain port?"

It was an educated guess.

"War is a fickle and ever-shifting beast, Captain. Profit today could be loss tomorrow. I have pull with leaders along the coast. Docking taxes could be dropped which would bring in more revenue. More traffic. More income on other goods and services. It's a doable option."
 
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Rayth Keirn

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"You show up where you're supposed to be after a noise gets made that we took you from your ship..."

Deschain leaned backwards and opened his arm, inviting the obvious conclusion.

"I don't double cross after coin has changed hands. Go. Go watch our next maneuver from the prow. Boy, keep an eye on her."

Deschsin finally acknowledged that Rayth was there. Despite being a second mate he was still 'boy'. Deschsin didn't like people wasting time with words. Except for Rayth. His soft spot for Rayth was why the young man was serving on a mercenary boat instead of at the bottom of the sea.

That, and the fact that having someone who could read aboard was sometimes useful.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Lady Gray recognized a dismissal.

“Don’t ever say I never tried helping you out of the mess you’re creating, Captain.”

The girl stood with a screech of the chair’s wooden legs on the decking. Eislyn had a certain amount of influence and the Captain might regret it when this was all said and done. Back turned on Deschain. Eyes flickered to Rayth. Would she find a smug expression on the secondmate’s face at her defeat?

The girl was tired from last night. And that wasn’t only to do with the fight with those water beasts. Or the day’s kidnapping. This exchange only soured her mood further. She didn’t like feeling trapped or helpless, no, maybe useless was a better word. She’d done enough of that growing up inside the walls of the iron fortress.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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All he offered was a mildly sympathetic shrug. Despite the captain's soft spot he had been on the receiving end of his dismissive attitude on more than one occasion. Rayth wasn't one to hold his tongue and the captain wasn't one to change his mind on a subject.

Rayth opened the door, falling into step behind her as they walked back into the sunlight.

"Diplomacy means you worked out that was a good point to walk away eh?" he did ask. Suddenly he barked out something to one of the young sailors who was doing something wrong with the rigging. Apparently he was watching the crew in his periphery whilst still keeping his gaze on her.

The Paragon was slowly turning, cutting a path across the wide river towards high cliffs on the far side.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Eislyn looked at Rayth as he asked a rather curious question. “Yes,” she said quietly. The girl managed to keep her balance as the ship made a sharp turn. The floating fortress of a ship was now but a thumbprint on the horizon. Fast for its size. Perhaps they had a mage after all.

“Your Captain is rather single-minded.” Pot calling the kettle. “Sometimes in diplomacy you don’t play to win. You play not to lose.” Blonde-hair whipped across her face, partially hiding her expression as their heading with the wind changed.

The princess strolled with Rayth to the very front point of the ship. “You, on the other hand, are a mystery.”

Was he as single-minded?

Perhaps in doing his job, like her.

“Were you born to this life?” Fingers motioned to the others hard at work behind them. Meanwhile, the cliffs were getting closer. One of her hands pulled out a handkerchief. Her family's crest was embroidered in one corner.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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"A mystery? Ooo I like that," he replied. There was just a slight change in his posture. At her question he shifted into a slightly more defensive position. His easy smile was a little forced.

It looked as if the ship were angling to strike the rocks head on. The ship was suddenly a hive of activity.

"All clear!" someone shouted from the crows nest.

"Ya saying ah talk a bit fancy for a ship like dis?" Rayth asked, mimicking the accent carried by half the sailors.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Hands gripped he railing as the deck bucked beneath her feet. She managed to keep hold of the handkerchief. The girl didn’t imagine the captain wanted to smash them against the rocks. She couldn't help thinking he was a bit of a show-off.

Eyes flickered away from what could be their impending doom to Rayth. He was rewarded with a slight twitch in her lips. “Do you always dodge questions with more questions?” Amusement pooled within verdant depths.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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He pursed his lips, caught out.

"Sometimes," he replied. "Especially when it seems like someone is trying to get the measure of me."

He laughed easily in spite of his expression before continuing.

"I wasn't born on a ship. I was born to a good family, but I'm afraid not highborn enough to be a fit groom for a princess," he apologised.

The Paragon kept accelerating towards the high cliffs.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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A bell-like laugh left her throat at Rayth's admittance. She offered him a glance, though her grip never lightened on the railing of the ship's prow. Her body posture remaining pointed toward those cliffs. She realized they were much taller than they'd appeared a moment ago. She could even make out a waterfall on one side tumbling high from above.

"Can you blame me for wanting to know what's inside the dice? And however will I manage surviving the rest of the trip with my heart so broken by a romance that could never be? Never to wed the man of my dreams."

Tone was dry enough to make the river a barren bed.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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Rather than take offence at her sarcasm he seemed to chuckle at a thought that crossed his mind. From what he had heard her father would be far more likely to go to war if his daughter fell for an elf that for her kidnapping. If she managed to genuinely hurt his feelings he might see about spreading a rumour that she had spent the entire time in the close company of one of their non-human crew.

"You've not already had a marriage arranged?" he replied, almost managing to mimick her tone. "Now if you watch the cliffs very carefully you might just be able to see it before we get there."

Rayth didn't describe what it was. This seemed to amuse the young man. Particularly as it had now become quite clear that they were going to collide with the cliffs. They weren't even angling for the waterfall.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Falling for one's abductor was certainly the last thing on Eislyn's mind. Even if she rather enjoyed the increasing banter shared with Rayth. And if pressed, she found his swordsmanship impressive. And there was something uniquely rugged about him that, well....

But that was neither here nor there.

Ah yes, the arranged marriage question.

Her stomach dropped with a pitch in the river. A spray of water shot up the prow and hit her skin and hair. Her father was mourning the loss of a wife and daughter. But Eislyn knew it was only a matter of time. His kingdom may be small but it was powerful for the area. Many a prince and nobleman were vying for her attention, but more importantly, her father's attention.

"Not yet," the girl responded seriously before her tone changed to something lighter. "If I didn't know any better it sounds like you're rather interested, Rayth." A small smile painted her lips that might be missed by him.

Green eyes that seemed to shift colors with the light, much like the surface of the northern oceans, squinted ahead. "See what?" Logical mind knew they weren't about to be killed. But that didn't stop the shudder of excitement that ran down her spine.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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"That would spoil the surprise," he laughed. Rayth squinted and tilted his head to one side. A half step and he was behind Eislyn. Resting a hand on each shoulder he gently maunevered her to where he had been standing and pointed over her shoulder towards the cliffs.

The eyes easily slid across the wall of grey, but there was a crease down the cliffs where the shadows didn't look quite right.

"I've always wondered..." he said softly, "...if a nobleman married by convenience is allowed to keep concubines is a noble woman allowed her own? They're not are they? Doesn't seem quite right."

The paragon was swallowed by the shadow of the cliffs. The breeze and spray suddenly felt much colder. The prow of the vessel should have crashed against the rocks but suddenly there were in a narrow gap in the cliffs. Just a short way and it opened out into a vast cavern.

A crumbling statue that dwarves their tallest mast loomed ahead of them. The details that hadn't been worn away picked up by bright shards of light.

"The city was abandoned long ago, but the magic that conceals it seems to have stayed."


 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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To her credit, she fought against the instinct to close her eyes even at the last possible moment. Rayth would find her grip on the railing not so easily swayed. Hard to let go of something known and solid.

But she did eventually ease into his grip, moving with him instead of against. Long hair would tickle against his arms. Trust was no simple thing. And it was at that last possible moment that the wind snatched her handkerchief from her fingers. Up into the air and behind them.

“You’re one of the few men to point out the disparity between expectations of sexes. It makes me wonder if you grew up with sisters?”

Breath held, caught at the back of her tongue as the shadow parted. The girl forgot Rayth was behind her. Forgot her situation. All she could do was marvel as her eyes roved the sight before them.

Magnificent.
 
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Rayth Keirn

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There were no other ships in the bay. No one to see the faint trace of a scowl that crossed his face.

"I do have two sisters," he replied. His home was far away. She would never be able to find out where it was from so little information.

"A shame about your handkerchief," he laughed, his unease gone as fast as it came.

"No one knows what this place was ever called," Rayth explained. "It was being used by smugglers for a long time. I suppose it probably is by now. Its been over a year since we found it and blockaded it to have them arrested."

The Paragon drifted towards one side of the bay. The rock had been hewn back to form a naturally platform for docking. A winding path worked its way up towards the town of broken houses.
 
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Eislyn Gray

Princess Buttercup
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Eislyn didn't seem too bothered by the loss of her handkerchief. Hard to say if she'd done it on purpose or not. Surely just wind.

The girl withdrew from his touch and turned around to face the man. She thought it ironic that a group of abductors would get a group of smuggler's arrested. Not ironic. Strategic. Her thoughts remained unspoken. Her questions about where they would be going also remained unspoken. It was getting clearer and clearer that she probably wouldn't remain captive aboard this ship for the remainder of her stay.

A stay she intended to make a lot shorter than the Captain planned.

Instead, she asked.

"Why do you do that? Your tone changes when you speak about your past. Your family. Are you ashamed of them?" She was innocently curious. No ulterior motives.
 
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