Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Changeling: the Dreaming, or any other White Wolf game, but Amara belongs to me. The other characters belong to my good friend, Rene, so no touchy. Look for "The Adventures of Princess Parsley" series in a few years. Please read, review, and hopefully enjoy!
THE STAR TO EVERY WANDERING BARK
By Angel Sentier
With many many thanks to Rene
me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
-Shakespeare's Sonnet #116-
"If I'd known a month ago that I'd be at sea and chasing after pirates, I might have stayed with the opera tour," I said, as a wave of dizziness made my eyes cross. "Thank God I've learned to accept the weird stuff that goes on in this world, or I'd have gone nuts long before this."
The woman next to me paused in barking her orders at the other lady pirates and blinked owlishly at me from behind enormous glasses. The wind from the sea ruffled the white feathers of her cape and the plume on her hat.
"You can at least take comfort in the fact that you've only had to spend three weeks at sea, Amara," she told me. "It could have been worse."
"Maybe," I said, doubtfully as I grasped the ship's railing as waves rocked the boat. "Since I began this quest, I've been attacked by a gigantic snake, chased by a demon horse from hell, and almost eaten by a PMSing fire dragon. And I'm almost no closer to completion than when I started."
"Well, we'll soon reach my father and see if he can't do a little more for you than I."
"Captain, you've done more for me than anyone. I would have been paddling around in a rowboat, had you not allowed me passage on your vessel."
Captain Honor laughed shortly. "In exchange for the hardest work of your life."
"Yes, but it's kind of fun, learning to be a pirate." I twirled my snake scale bracelet around my wrist. "I just hope Lady Parsley was right when she said her uncle would help me."
"Why are you going through so much trouble to find this one man, anyway?"
I know I blushed. "He's... my true love. I've been looking for him for six years."
"Your true love?" She looked skeptical. "Amara, you're a satyr."
As if I didn't know, but I couldn't blame her. Satyrs were known for their wine, women, and song attitudes, as attributed by the very first satyr -- the goat-god Pan. I was used to being thought of as a sex-crazed, drugged up, hippie musician as a result. It was one of the reasons why I didn't tell many people whom I was looking for. "Yes, satyrs are stereotyped as being randy little creatures, always ready for a party, a drink, and a roll in the hay. But there are exceptions to every rule. I'm not your typical satyr. In fact, I'm a virgin."
She nearly choked on the air she was breathing. "You're what?"
"Really, it's true. I'm waiting for my prince. Of course, I believe that there's more than one prince for any given person--"
"Oh, thank God. For a moment, I thought you were quite ill." She gave me a conspiratorial smile, like we were girlfriends at a slumber party, engaging in gossip about the boys we liked. "So, what makes this guy so special?"
The question gave me pause. "You know, I couldn't say. Can anyone really say why they love someone? Honestly, I'd have trouble coming up with one reason why he's my true love. Isn't it enough to just to declare 'I love you?'"
Honor chuckled softly. "I understand. I have a prince, too."
Interested, I raised an eyebrow. "There's someone you love?"
"Yes, but it's a problem. He's a lesser officer under my father, therefore not good enough. They call him William the Average, and anything that has to do with our family has to be larger than life, nothing average about it. It can't even be to scale. On father's ships, the lifeboats have lifeboats. Of course, they donít know that not everything about him is average..." Clearing her throat before I could comment, she touched my shoulder, saying, "I have duties to attend to."
Honor walked off toward the helm of The Valkyrie. I had great respect for her. She was an excellent captain, strict, but always fair, and not arrogant in the least, as one might expect from a princess. A small part of me wished I could emulate her a bit. Not even Errol Flynn had as much flair as she did when it came to sea-faring. But I knew any trying on my part to act like Honor would fall flat. Anything she did came naturally, from swinging on ropes to throwing daggers; and I had problems just remaining upright. My lower half was great for trotting around mountains, but my sea legs seemed to be non-existent.
It had been a stroke of luck, my running into Lady Parsley while in the kingdom of Mirvay. She was hiding from an influential prince and, by giving her food and shelter for a day, she offered to help me in my quest. Giving me a necklace with a blue-green stone set in a gold pendant, she told me to find her uncle and ask for an audience in her name.
But I would never have found Parsley if I hadn't met Norwell Ravenwood in my hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a magic wielder, like myself, but he was a very powerful wizard, adept at traveling in the other world, a place I had yet to go. While in Mirvey, he had trained Erik, the man I was searching for, and he gave me a sheaf of letters Erik had written to him. Each paper was rare and exotic, making it fairly easy to follow the paper trail. But it was Parsley who told me that Erik had become a pirate after living in Mirvay as a tailor, and that he had no memory of who he was.
I smiled, ruefully. First a wizard, then a tailor, and then a pirate. Could any three careers be further apart? All I knew was, finding him was proving much more difficult than I had first anticipated.
While looking for a boat, I had spotted a ship whose figurehead wore a necklace similar to the one Parsley had given me. That was how I met Honor, captain of The Valkyrie, Parsley's cousin, and daughter of the King of the Sea.
"The Hope, ahoy! Six points off starboard bow!" came a call from the crow's nest.
I turned to see an approaching ship, but saw nothing, only waves. Frowning slightly, I approached Honor at the helm. "Where's the boat?"
"Oh, that's right, you've never seen The Hope before." She handed me a large bronze device, like a telescope, but with many more buttons and levers on it. As I held it up to my eye, she adjusted it for me and out on the water I could see about two hundred chains leading up into the clouds above.
When we got closer, Honor gave the signal for anchor to be dropped and the ship began to rise into the air. I realized that the anchor was holding us to the ocean floor as higher and higher we went, until finally we broke through the clouds. And floating in the sky above us was a gigantic island made of wood.
"It's made from trees that grow only on the island of Lantis," explained Honor. "The lumber repels water, thus, the ship floats. And thank God, otherwise it would sink."
I could see then that what I thought was an island, was actually an enormous ship. It had its own docks, and the chains I had seen were anchors from other boats. The center mast was the size of a giant redwood and near it was a large metal sculpture in the shape of a queen, Honor's mother, I found out, which doubled as a cannon.
Once we docked, the other ladies jumped into action, but Honor stopped me when I would have joined them to help unload.
"Your journey has ended," she said, setting a large sack of gold and jewels at my feet. "I had to deduct for food and board, but this is the surplus of your work." Giving me a smile, she clapped me on the shoulder, a blow that nearly staggered me. "You've done good work."
"Thanks." I rubbed my shoulder, surreptitiously. "Where could I find your father?"
"We'll get you to your quarters first. No need to meet him right away. In the meantime, I'll show you around. I wish you could meet my mother, but she lives on Lantis."
This caught me by surprise, Honor suggesting something so personal. It made me smile when I realized that this was her way of saying we'd become friends.
Later, as we walked on the main deck of The Hope, I had to consciously try not to stare at the many and varied pirates walking about. On Honor's ship, all the pirates had been women. They had all taken pains to remain clean and somewhat presentable during the voyage, taking a certain pride in it, as long as it didnít interfere with work time. Here, there were decent-looking people, and people who looked like they could have been Naval officers, but there were also men and women who looked like they might have stepped off the pages of any old pirate book. Snaggle-toothed, tangled-haired, pock-marked fellows who looked like they needed a bath rather badly. Some were eight feet tall with blue skin, others were no more than three feet high, and there was one person, I wasnít sure if it was male or female, who had the head of a dragon and acrid smoke poured constantly from its nostrils. And I thought I'd seen everything...
Forcibly turning away, I asked Honor, "Why don't your parents live together?"
"Kingdoms must have rulers," she said. "One for the sea, and one for the sky. Plus, there are safety reasons. When mother and father get together, things tend to get... explosive."
"You make it sound like they only see each other once a year to try and produce an heir."
"They have an heir."
I got the feeling it was a somewhat touchy subject. True, she hadn't mentioned any male siblings, but Honor seemed like she could take down any legion of pirates by herself, no problem. I couldn't imagine what a male version would be like.
Just then, The Valkyrie's first mate, Ellilia, found us. "Captain," she greeted Honor, saluting. "The buyer wishes to speak with you over the price of the cargo."
She sighed. "This was supposed to have been finalized," she muttered before turning to me. "I don't know how long this will take, so I may not be able to take you to my father, but you can seek an audience on your own. I'll see you later."
After waving farewell, I set off to explore. There were innumerable floors of rooms of varying opulence; some that I knew were for heads of kingdoms and royalty. Some floors were empty, as though they were waiting to be used for something. I found an amusement park on one floor and on another large one, I found something akin to a mega mall.
Anything could be found in that place. Food, clothing, tools, toiletries. I even saw stores for baby clothes and kids toys. And nearly hidden in a discreet corner, was a brothel. I supposed it made sense; this was, after all, a pirate ship.
Feeling a bit hungry, I stopped for the Lantisian equivalent of Chinese food. It made me think of the theater and how I missed singing, even if the guy who had played Rudolfo opposite my Mimi was a real jerk. As I sat down to eat, I noticed that about half a dozen pirates had gathered around me. Raising an eyebrow, I gave them a tentative smile. "Hello?"
"Good afternoon, my lovely!" said one, almost singing the words. He had golden hair and a jaw you could sharpen quills in. "And how are you enjoying my gift?"
"Eh... Gift?" I had no clue what this imitation Adonis was talking about.
"My glorious presence, of course."
Next to him, a small man with a shiny bald head and an eye-patch reached up to poke the man roughly in the side with a stubby finger. "Hey, you get enough of the good ones as it is!"
"Well, I can't help it if I naturally attract the beauties..."
It was looking as though a fight was going to break out, when a voice from behind me spoke up. "Gentlemen, firstly, you should at least introduce yourselves to a lady. And secondly, just because she's a satyr, you mustn't assume she's from Madame Ophelia's."
I turned to look at my rescuer and saw a man of about forty-five, with a short ponytail of mousy brown hair, graying at the temples, and grayish-blue eyes. Not difficult to look at, appealing in his way, but it was his smile that turned simply normal features into absolute charm.
"Thank you!" I said, quite relieved and pleasantly surprised that this man hadnít automatically made the same assumption.
"Please, allow me to supply introductions. This fellow," he gestured to the short man, "is Thonk. He's a dwarf, as I'm sure you've noticed. And this one," he indicated the blond man, "is Vincent. We call him Vincent the Vain."
"Vain? I am not. That would imply I have a flaw and I have none."
I shook my head, restraining the urge to giggle, as Vincent, Thonk, and the rest were shooed away. The new man turned to me once again and gave me a shallow bow. "At the risk of sounding, well... like them, why don't I escort you somewhere else?"
I smirked. "You know, you really ought to introduce yourself to a lady first."
"Ah, touche," he said, shaking his head. "They call me William the Average."
I brightened. "Oh, so you're William!" When he raised an eyebrow, I gave him a sheepish smile. "I served under Captain Honor for a time. She told me about you and, uh... stuff..."
"Oh," he said, knowingly. "I wouldn't bring that up around King Nathan, if I were you."
"So I gathered. I'm Amara. Lead on, Mr. Average."
He led me to the king's secretary where I put in my name for an audience, then, to kill time, we walked around the ship, but I got the feeling I saw very little.
"I think it'd take years to see everything," I said, absently playing with my bracelet.
"You're probably right," he said. "We run out of things before we run out of room." He reached over and tapped my wrist. "What's that?"
"A bracelet." I grinned when he rolled his eyes. "It's a snake scale. The thing never saw me coming. How much time now before I get to see him?"
He glanced at his watch, which had five different hands that moved in all directions and displayed the time as umpteenth o'clock. I'd never understand time in this world. "It's still early. But I could try to speed up your audience, if you like."
"Really? Thank you."
Back on the main deck, William sat me down on a bench and told me to wait as he made his way up to what I assumed to be the Captain's Quarters, or some kind of ready room. I didn't have to sit long. He came back after only a minute, saying that the lazy secretary hadnít even made a token effort to bring up the list of requested audiences, but William had used his influence as third-in-command. Nathan would see me right then.
"Now?" I glanced at my slightly travel worn clothes. "Am I dressed alright?"
He chuckled. "Trust me, you look fine."
Shrugging, I followed him up a flight of stairs and into the room to meet the king.
Once inside, I felt like a fool for worrying about my clothes. King Nathan, a large, jovial man with curly red hair, the same as his daughter, was wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt with khaki shorts and sandals. He looked like a tourist, minus the cameras. Giving me a bright smile, he gathered me up into a bone-crushing hug that nearly swept me off my feet, literally.
"Amara!" he boomed. William must have told him my name. "What can I do for you?"
Regaining my balance, I cut to the chase, "Sir, my search for my true love, a pirate I hope to find under your command, has led me to you." I removed the necklace and held it out to him. "Lady Parsley gave me this and told me to ask for your help in her name."
Taking the necklace, he looked at it for a moment and held it up to the light. "Well, this proves you aren't lying." He tapped the stone lightly. "This is a sea-stone. I gave this necklace to my niece myself. You'll forgive me for doubting you, but one must always be wary of spies and the like. As for your request..." He gave me a blithe smile. "My dear, I'm the captain of many, many ships. The Hope alone is at least as big as one hundred large galleys. I can't remember everyone."
"I know. But with your permission, I was hoping to look for him on your vessels, one by one, if I have to. Even if you own thousands of ships, given the approximate number of boats in the entire world, it would cut my search time in half."
"You're certainly tenacious, I'll give you that. What's this man's name?" he asked.
"Back in Mirvay, he was calling himself Matthew Lovelace."
"Calling himself? Is he an outlaw? Not that it's a problem, we have many outlaws here."
"Oh, no," I said. "But I learned he adopted that name when his memory was lost. I know him by his real name." Not that it would do much good, if he didn't remember it, let alone remember me.
"Let me send out a message across The Hope, word spreads like wildfire. If he's here, he should step forward. If not... I'll see what I can do."
I smiled in relief. "Thank you, your majesty."
He waved that away. "Please, none of that 'majesty' stuff here. 'Captain' is just fine."
"Is there anything I can do for you in return?"
He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "The theater is performing an opera tonight. La Boheme, I believe it's called. They're missing their Mimi. Do you know the show?"
It seemed almost too coincidental, but I smiled. "I'm familiar with the role."
"Wonderful!" he exclaimed, thwacking me on the back hard enough to make me cough.
Just then, Honor came through the door without knocking. "Greetings, Father. I've returned from my latest voyage and..." Her eyes fell on me. "Oh, you've met. Well, then I'm off." She turned to head back out, but stopped when she caught sight of William, quietly standing near the door. "William..." She had never used that soft tone on The Valkyrie.
He bowed to her, one hand reaching out to take hers. "Princess..."
In their two-word conversation, I could have sworn I heard the underlying 'How long will you be back? When can I see you?' I couldn't help a wide grin when William's fingers brushed Honor's and I saw the shiver she couldn't conceal. So engrossed in watching their little love story play out, I was caught completely off-guard when Nathan's shoulder bumped me. I fell forward into William, who did his best to catch me.
"Amara, William will serve as your guide," said Nathan, his voice suddenly brisk.
"Yes, sir," he said.
"And once you take her there, just stay with her."
I felt a little guilty, not wanting William to neglect his duties on my behalf, plus I knew he'd want to find time with Honor, but Nathan pressed on.
"It's fine," he said. "William has three others before him to take the work. Come along, Honor." He pulled her into another chamber by her arm as he addressed her, obviously brooking no arguments. One of Honor's hands was still extended to William as she disappeared behind the door.
William and I didn't speak much on the way to the theater, which surprised me. I had expected him to at least make some sort of comment on satyrs and true loves.
The lavish auditorium could have rivaled the Paris Opera House, with its plush velvet seats, gilt decoration, red brocade hangings around the marble pillars and archways, and a glittering chandelier set in a painted ceiling, depicting the many voyages of King Nathan. The acoustics were amazing, allowing the actors to sing without amplification, provided that the audience was very quiet.
William called an older, but very beautiful, woman with hair so dark it was nearly purple down from the stage to meet me. Fiona was her name. "Do you know the script?" she asked me.
Her brisk manner snapped me into professional mode. "Yes, I've played Mimi before."
"Excellent. You're hired." She handed me a thick volume, which I recognized as the score to Boheme, but with one small change. Across the bottom was written, with alternative happy ending. "I hope you're a quick study. The audience votes on which ending they want to see. We'll have a quick rehearsal now to let you get the feel of things."
As she began organizing the actors, I flipped to the alternate ending to have a look at it. The opera concluded with Rudolfo and Mimi marrying, and their wedding ending in a pie fight. It went from Boheme to Duck Soup in the blink of an eye. Puccini would roll over in his grave if he saw it.
I sighed and turned to William. "You wouldn't happen to know how often the happy ending is voted for, would you?"
"It's about even," he said, giving me an apologetic grin. "Don't worry, you'll be fine."
"Fine, yes, but my performer's integrity intact? We'll see."
The next few hours were spent in rehearsal. William left sometime during, he must have gotten bored. The actors were very courteous to me and even started ribbing me a bit toward the end. Afterward, I spent an hour in the costume department, being fitted for costumes that covered my hairy goat legs and I was given a big curly wig to cover the horns on my head. I looked a bit cartoonish, but the costumer was really quite ingenious, the ways she found to mask the performers' different bodily features, whether they had feathers, blue skin, or a tail.
By then, I had about two hours before the performance and chose to spend it in the orchestra pit at the piano, warming up my voice, while the others went to go eat. I could never eat before a performance; I was much too paranoid about opening my mouth to sing and hearing an enormous burp come out.
After about twenty minutes, I had the oddest feeling I was being watched. Stilling my hands and my voice, I looked out into the audience, but saw no one.
"Fiona?" No answer, my voice echoed back at me, but the niggling feeling in the back of my head told me someone was there. "Um, whoever's there, the theater isn't open yet."
There was a pregnant pause. "You have a beautiful voice." The words were hushed, but due to the acoustics, I could hear them perfectly. I could tell they were spoken by a male, but that was it, no clue as to who it was.
"Thank you, but... I'm pretty sure no one's supposed to be in here yet. I don't want to get anyone in trouble."
A very soft chuckle. "Don't worry. If you would permit me, I simply wish to listen."
A figure moved out of the shadows in the mezzanine and into the light. Not that it helped, he was wearing a black cloak, which provided no glimpse of his face. I was a bit startled, but not really surprised. Here was just one more strange-looking character.
As I watched him, I was struck by sudden deja vu. In my mind's eye, I saw Erik and myself in the hospital where we had met; acting out the book we were reading. With one hospital gown for a cape and another for a fancy ballgown, we made up Robin Hood and Maid Marion.
"He swept past his love in his clever disguise, and she didn't even know he was there!"
I shook myself out of the reverie as he took an aisle seat and I began the scales again. I didn't even realize how much time had passed until the actors came back in, thirty minutes later.
"Wouldn't you know it!" Starabila's voice was prominent. "Five hundred and one voted for the sad ending! And I was all set for a good pie fight!"
"You're always set for a pie fight!" laughed Eduardo, the tenor.
Amidst the laughter, I heard my listener address me. "Forgive me, I must take my leave."
As he left, a folded piece of paper fluttered down from the edge of the balcony where he'd been sitting. Star ruffled her feathers as she spotted it and picked it up.
"Ooooooh, Amara's got an admirer!"
I tried to cover for the guy. "Come on, that could be for anyone."
Pointedly, she looked at the paper and read aloud. "'To the new Mimi.'"
"Okay, fine, it's for me. Hand it over!"
She did so, with a smile. I knew she was only teasing. I looked at the note and suddenly all else eclipsed. The handwriting was the same as all of Erik's letters to his former mentor.
I turned away as I unfolded the letter, not wanting the others to see my hands shake.
'Forgive me,' it read. 'I don't remember you, but you obviously remember me. Good luck with the performance tonight.'
It was unsigned, but it might as well have been a video message. I knew who had been watching me. And I was as mad as a cat bathed in oil for letting him disappear again.
"What did it say?" asked Star.
I looked up at the others and my anger evaporated, to be quickly replaced with panic. I made for the door. "I have to go!" My only thought was to catch up with him before he was lost to me in the labyrinthine halls.
But Star grabbed my arm, forcing me to a halt. "What? Go? You can't, the show!"
I held up the note, grasped tightly in my nerveless fingers, as if it would help convey the importance of my departure. "But he... I have to..." I sighed, not resisting her anymore. "He's probably gone by now."
She released my arm, shaking a finger at me lightly. "Get it out of your head for tonight, Amara. We've got a performance to put on."
Somehow, I managed to do as she suggested. For the most part, the show went very well. There was a small episode at the end of act two, where Musetta sang her famous waltz. A pie was thrown at one of the extras, but it was never identified who threw it. I thought I caught a small wink from Star, though.
The applause we received after the finale was nearly deafening. Nathan and Honor in the royal box were the first two to start yelling, "encore!"
"What should we do?" asked Fiona. "The show's over."
"Well, usually someone goes out and does something extra for encores," I said.
She smiled at me. "Congratulations, you just volunteered." And without ceremony, she pushed me out in front of the curtain.
I squinted beyond the lights. "Uh... Hi."
Applause. Someone yelled, "Take it off!"
I took off the wig. My own blond curls tumbled around my shoulders. Laughter. "Would you like me to do one more song?" More applause. "Okay, then."
I suppose it was because I was hoping Erik would be out there in the audience that I chose to sing an old song we loved as kids.
My breath slammed out of me as another voice joined me. I watched the cloaked man walk out of the dark toward the stage and for a moment, only his voice sustained the song. Erik's voice, all grown up. I rejoined him a second later, visibly shaking. Our voices combined as he climbed the steps onto the stage and stood before the footlights with me, just mere feet away, but I still couldn't see his face beyond that damned cloak!
When the song ended, the applause sounded like it was coming from very far away.
"Why did you stop?" he asked me.
I swallowed; my throat had suddenly become very dry.
"Amara, I remember now."
Taking one of my hands in his, he pulled me closer. He drew my hand into the darkness of the cloak, and my fingers caressed his face. Moving my hand further, I pushed back the hood.
I stared at William in disbelief.
HE was my Erik? The one I had been searching for all this time? Why hadn't he said so? Numbly, I realized I was supposed to say something. Yes, there was something I needed to tell him, had wanted to tell him for a long time. What was it?
Those were the only two words that managed to force past my cold, bloodless lips.
He gave me the same small bow. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Turning on his heel, he strode off the stage and disappeared into the dark.
I felt a presence behind me and a hand on my arm. "That's all, folks," said Fiona's voice, and then I was pulled back through the curtain.
The other actors stared at me, somberly. A troll extra named Roman spoke at length.
"Want me to beat him up?"
"No," I said. "I could beat him up if I wanted."
Suddenly, their faces went pale and a moment later, I felt subtle press of cold steel against my throat. Honor's voice hissed ominously next to my ear.
"I could kill you right now."
I fought to stay calm and keep my voice steady. I knew any sign of weakness would be used against me. "Okay. But ask yourself, is it really me you're angry with?"
There was actually a pause. "Yes. Yes, it really is."
"Oh." I squeezed my eyes shut and waited, but instead of slitting my throat, she twisted my arm behind me and made me walk. I figured she didn't want to get blood all over the stage floor. She led me to a dressing room backstage and sat me down on a couch.
I blinked up at her, certain I had heard her wrong. "Huh?"
She sighed, toying with the dagger that had previously been at my throat. "After weighing the options, I've decided that it probably wouldn't be the best course of action to kill you. One, William would be upset with me and possibly not talk to me again. Two, I suppose this wasn't completely your fault. The only other person besides William who knew Matthew Lovelace's identity was my father. He will have some serious explaining to do... And three," she looked up at me with what seemed to be grudging respect, "I would also lose someone I have come to consider my friend." She sheathed her weapon. "Now, talk."
Used to following her direct commands, the story came out. "Erik was my best friend. We met at a hospital in the other world. Oh... You probably don't know what I mean by that." I'd forgotten momentarily that people of this world rarely knew of another world out there.
But she shook her head. "I've traveled many places, Amara. I've met many people, some who've come from your world, willing to share their knowledge. Continue."
"We were both being treated for some kind of rare sickness, supposedly, but we were really just magic users. Our parents were afraid of it, as so many are. By the time I realized that I cared for him, more than a friend would, I couldn't find him. He'd disappeared. And since my powers aren't as vast as some, I couldn't use magic to find him. Years later, I found out he'd been sent here by the people who had kept us at the hospital. I knew I had to find him, or the not knowing would eat me alive. But when I came here, whereas I'd only been looking for him for six years, he'd been here for one hundred and forty-eight years! Of course, aging works differently here, too, so I didn't think he'd be dead, but I still had the problem of his lost memory to deal with. The means that the doctors had used to send him here had wiped his mind almost completely clean. Anyway, a wizard named Norwell Ravenwood sent me from my world to Mirvey, where Erik had been living for a long time as Matthew, a tailor. And the rest you know. So," I concluded, "the person I've come so far to find is in love with someone I deeply admire and respect and couldn't possibly hope to compete with. On top of that, I came all this way to tell him I loved him, and when I had the chance, I couldn't even remember what I needed to say."
"So, you chose to call him a bastard. Interesting. You know, that's not something I would have anticipated."
I let out a deep breath, putting my head in my hands and digging my fingers into my scalp. "I was angry. He was standing right there in the room when I said I was looking for Matthew. Even if he didn't recognize me, he would have recognized that name."
"Maybe he was scared, Amara. He had no idea who you were, but knew that you had come all this way to find him. You knew who he really was. The idea may have been daunting to him, after a hundred and forty-eight years of creating a few different identities for himself. He knew there was a part of him missing, but he didn't know what it was. It's no wonder he changes names like he does his socks. He's trying to find the right persona he belongs in."
Thinking about it, I realized Erik and I had both missed something. I had gone searching, while he tried to supplement for it. We found what we wanted; the only difference being what he found didn't include me anymore. Looking at my friend, I was happy for her, even if I felt sorrow for myself. I couldn't be angry with either of them. Not for finding what gave them joy.
I released a breath I didn't know I was holding. "You're right."
Honor leaned closer to me. "I think what you really need to do now is go find your Erik and make peace with him."
I heard the way she emphasized the word your and knew she was subtly telling me to leave her William alone, but I was free to reconcile the past with my Erik.
"Thank you, Honor." I offered a hand to her, which she took, but then used it to pull me into a rough embrace. I smiled. "I thought you'd slug me if I tried to hug you myself."
She pulled back and gave me a shrug. "You're a pirate now, it's alright." She stood, pulling me with her. "Go. He can usually be found in his thinking spot at the crow's nest."
At the door, I paused and turned back. I knew I probably wouldn't get to see her again and I owed her something. "I'll... miss you, Captain."
She didn't respond to the sentiment, but I hadn't expected her to. Instead, Honor raised her right arm and gave me a smart salute. I returned it.
I only got lost one or two times on the way to the main deck. I was relieved to find I wouldn't have to climb any ladders to get to the nest, there was an elevator installed. On the way up, I tried to rehearse what I wanted to say, but instead I had pieces of songs and sonnets playing on my mind's phonograph. It figured that my brain would abandon me this many times in one night, when I needed it most.
At the top, I had to remind my legs to move. Not because I was afraid of heights, but because he was standing right there in front of me, watching the clouds over the sea slowly roll past. He was at the railing, silhouetted against the night sky, the wind pulling at the edges of the cloak he still wore. I was sure I'd seen this on the cover of a romance novel somewhere. Hesitantly, I made my way over to stand next to him and looked up at the cloudy sky.
At length, I managed to speak. "Do you remember what I told you when we were kids?"
He paused before he replied. "No, I don't." Regret was in his tone, but no bitterness. "I'm afraid not all of my memories returned, just most of them."
"At the hospital, the nurses always tried to keep us in our separate rooms. Sometimes they'd lock us in. So I told you to look out your window at the moon. Since we both saw the same thing, it was something we could share, even when apart." I gestured at the clouds. "Now, we can't even do that."
"Wait a moment." He closed his eyes then blew a breath out into the air. The sky rippled like the surface of a lake and the moon between our two worlds was revealed.
I smiled. "I guess you learned a few things while apprenticed to Mr. Ravenwood." Sobering, I looked away from the view and turned toward him. "I wanted to apologize."
"I'm sure I deserved it."
"No. I was out of line, and I'm sorry. I have to know, though. Why didn't you say anything right off?"
"It'll sound silly, but I was afraid."
Nodding, I mentally conceded that Honor had been right. And if she'd been right about that, she was probably right about everything else.
"It doesn't sound silly," I said. "After all, Honor was standing right there when you found out. I had a little talk with her before I came up here."
"You had a... Really? Were you injured?"
I smiled. "There was no violence to speak of."
He breathed a sigh. "How were you able to find me?"
Reaching into the leather pouch at my side, I took out the letters. "Paper trail, Erik."
He laughed lightly. "God, I haven't heard that name in... forever."
"Erik..." I hesitated, realizing that this was it. This was the moment. If I was going to say anything, it needed to be now. "I've been looking for you because I needed to tell you something very important." I could feel my heart drumming a tattoo high in my throat and I swallowed past it with some difficulty. My vision was beginning to blur due to a sudden wetness, but I couldn't stop there. "And that's that I've loved you since the first moment I met you."
I could barely get the words out, but I knew he heard them. He didn't say anything for a long time. Turning away, he swiped at his eyes with the heel of his hand.
"Master Ravenwood gave me a gift," he said, his back still facing me. "It's a temporary gift, but I would like to share it with you now."
Taking the edges of his cloak in his hands, he wrapped himself up in it until I couldn't see him at all. A white light engulfed his figure. When he turned back around and dropped the cape, I saw Erik as he would have looked had he only aged twenty-two years rather than forty-five. He looked the same age as me.
Closing the distance between us, he lifted my chin with the crook of his index finger. "I would die a thousand deaths for one kiss," he said.
I nearly sobbed. "So would I." It took whatever strength I possessed to shake my head. "But I can't. I can't do that to Honor." My tears spilled over, running in cold tracks down my cheeks.
Bracing my face between both of his hands, he leaned down to kiss my forehead and then enveloped me in a warm, sea-scented embrace. I could feel his breath close to my ear as he whispered to me, "Amara, I want you to know that true love never comes just once. God, or whatever deity you care to believe in, wouldn't do that to you."
"You do? Please say you weren't waiting for me." I heard the thinly masked pain in his voice and knew, now that he remembered me, he didn't enjoy knowing he had hurt me.
"Good God, you're still a virgin."
"I was waiting for my prince. And it's difficult to move onto another love when I never got to tell you how I felt in the first place. I couldn't forget about you. You were my first love." I wiped away my tears. "And you are a prince, Erik. A wonderful, handsome prince." Gathering my strength once more, I stepped out of his embrace. "You're just not my prince."
He smiled at me. "Someday you'll find him, princess." As I watched, his appearance melted back into his older self. "Amara, I hate to say it, but while I am a gentleman, I'm still a pirate. You ought to go now if you want to leave with your virtue intact."
I grinned. "I'm a pirate now, too."
"All the more reason. I wouldn't want to explain that to Honor."
"Oh, sure. In one sentence, you say you want to take my virtue and in the next, you speak of not wanting to hurt your ladylove." The way we were falling back to our old repartee was almost frightening, and at the same time, exhilarating. "I see how it is."
He shook his head as though bewildered. "You have to understand how strange it is for me to love her so much, and then suddenly remember loving you as though it were yesterday, yet at the same time so very far away."
"It's not so strange, if you consider there's really no sense of time in this place. No time, no calendar. In comparison to my world, we could be at any time, or every time. Putting it in that sense, having a king who wears Hawaiian shirts isn't so out of the ordinary." I made a face, stunned by what I had just reasoned. "Okay, it's time to leave when you start to understand time in this world."
"You know," he said, slowly, "you don't really have to leave. Honor could place you on a ship; you might even get your own vessel after a while. Or I could continue your training in the magical arts. Or I'm sure the opera company would be glad to add you to their ranks. You've got lots of options here."
I shook my head at him, sadly. "Would you want to stay, watching someone you loved so much love someone else?" I sighed. "No, I have to go home." Removing my bracelet, I held it out to him. "I know this is kind of girly, but I want you to have this. I just... I don't want you to forget me again."
He took the bracelet from me and put it on, running a finger across its surface once. "Thank you. That is..." Whatever words he might have said seemed to escape him, and he merely nodded. "Thank you."
Sadly, I knew it was time for me to leave. I had done what I came to do. "Do you know of a ship that could take me back to Cambridge?"
"Not necessary. I can send you. Close your eyes."
I did so. He rested his hands on my head, moved over my shoulders, down my arms, and he took my hands in his. He pressed one last kiss to my forehead and ocean air swirled around me. On the wind, came a whispered goodbye, like the barest of caresses against my ears.
When I opened my eyes, I was standing on my un-goat-like legs, my satyr manifestation hidden by a human appearance, on the dock outside the Cock and Bull Tavern, Cambridge, my world. The place where I had left my very normal car when Norwell sent me to the other world.
As if thinking of Norwell had conjured him, he came out of the tavern, just as I was entering the parking lot. He smiled when he saw me.
"Ah! Back already?"
I blinked. "Already?" I knew I'd been in the other world at least a month.
"I sent you only ten minutes ago." He laughed lightly at my shocked expression. "Oh, I see. The other world clock played a trick on you, didn't it? It's rather amusing sometimes. Once, I came back five minutes before I made a trip and told myself what I was about to see!"
My laughter had a rusty sound to it, but I managed a smile for him. I owed a great deal to Norwell, no matter how much my heart ached at the moment.
He looked at me closely, concern wrinkling his forehead. "Did you find what you were looking for, my dear?"
I nodded, taking the letters from my pouch one last time and handing them to him. "I did, thanks to you. Not quite the happily ever after I had been hoping for, but it was a helpful trip nonetheless."
"Did you learn from it, though? Thatís the important question."
Spoken like a true master wizard. "I learned how to be a pirate." I grinned at him, the action coming easier now. "I learned the most valuable lesson of all."
He smiled, seeming very pleased with me, as well as himself. "Excellent. Well, then, I hope to see you again, young satyr. If you ever think of seriously pursuing the magical arts, let me know. You have much potential."
I was sure he said that to everyone, but I said I would consider it, smiled, and waved good-bye to him. Once inside the vinyl interior of my classic red Nova, I took a Polaroid from my dashboard and looked at it with a slight sigh. A sixteen year old me and Erik in hospital gowns grinned back from the plastic surface. This was how I would visit him now.
I set it on the seat beside me and noticed a large square jewelry box lying there. A small bunch of white, iridescent flowers rested on the lid. Inside, on a bed of black satin, was the same gold filigree necklace with the blue-green stone. The back of the pendant was inscribed with my lesson learned, in Erik's handwriting:
True love never comes only once.