Skies Of Arcadia Legends
Book Two- Emerald Flame
Chapter One- Necessity
The rock didn't just break, but actively flew apart, chunks of splintered material flying in many random directions. The Harpoon dove straight through it without even slowing down, then through another and another, lancing a dozen rocks into oblivion. The Little Jack had been blasting through the Barrier Reefs for over an hour now, and they had a hole almost big enough to fly through broken in.
The fishing sloop was a relatively small, green-armored wooden ship with metal supports and braces. It flew no flag of nationality, but was equipped with four black 7' cannons and four secondary 4.5' blasters which worked fine for negotiations. On it's nose was it's new ultimate weapon, the Harpoon Cannon, which was currently in action. Squat maneuvering fins were placed all around the bottom hull, beating frantically in concert with it's old moonstone-fueled engines to keep then steadily afloat in the skies of Arcadia.
A girl in strange clothes stood on the deck, leaning out slightly to watch the demolition. She had long light-blonde hair that swayed gently in the breeze that rolled off the deck, a delicate and beautiful face with large, inquisitive and gentle green eyes, and pale skin. She was shapely, with a nearly perfect hourglass figure wrapped in a snow-white dress adorned with strange gold symbols. She had a mystical silver veil and white boots of the same sort, and a little silver creature floated near her shoulder quietly. She was a descendant, one of two surviving, of the ancient Silver Civilization, and her duty was to safeguard all of Arcadia from the cataclysm of ultimate war.
She had some help. "Hey, Fina." She heard an enthusiastic female voice from behind her, then saw out of her peripheral a girl sitting down on the deck rail. This girl was almost the same age as her, and was ten centimeters taller. Her flame-red hair matched her enthusiastic and fiery personality, and it was tied up in twin buns. She wasn't tanned, but her skin was darker than Fina's and her dark-chocolate eyes had seen more action and combat. She was also a beauty in a tight dress- hers was a short yellow sailors-uniform that was trimmed and modified to suit her purposes. To keep her from exposing too much, she wore small dark shorts under her dress.
"Aika," Fina replied with a warm smile. "These stone reefs are so big and expansive. We've been blasting at them so long, and we still can't quite fit through. I studied them on the Silver Moon, but when you're down here, looking at them…"
"Yeah," She agreed. "They're almost as bad as sky-rifts. Usually we just go around them…"
"Why not this time?" It puzzled Fina. She had heard of the South Dannel Straight, the only tenable break in the reefs that provided ships access to and from the desert continent of Nasr, which was their destination.
"The Nasr Armada has cordoned off the straight," She replied. "No ships in or out except those of Nasr. And they've got enough firepower to back up their threats."
"The most recent of Teodora's wars has left it's scars," Fina noted, glancing to the bridge, where both male members of her crew resided, directing the cannon and keeping the ship steady.
Vyse Dyne was an air pirate. In fact, he was son of the legendary Blue Storm, and grew up all his life learning the swashbuckling ways of his father. He was a childhood friend of Aika, and both of them had feelings for the teenager. His long, messy dark-brown hair sprawled around with no particular order, over a confident and trustworthy face. A skyglass covered one eye, to help him see better. He was lean, but muscular, like a dancer, with a lanky profile under his blue sailors' tunic. Leaning against the wheel he yawned. "Boring."
Vyse felt a hard impact against his spine- the preferred target of his Captain, and the owner of the Little Jack. Drachma was an old man, a portly fisherman with snow-white beard and hair, a real eyepatch over one eye, and an entire artificial arm. The arm was rusted steel plating over a flex-steel core with nerve-wires crisscrossing around the limb. His face, and all his skin, were leathery masks of wear and stress over his numerous years. The man was a veteran, and a survivor. He also was not very patient with his new crew. "Boy, I told you not to go drowsing off. If something unexpected were to happen to the Harpoon Cannon, I'd take it out of your pockets!" He rumbled angrily. "That's not all I'd take, neither."
He needed the Harpoon as part of his hunt of Rhaknam, a gigantic Arcwale that he had been searching for most of his adult life. His hatred of the whale was legendary, and the driving force behind nearly all of his actions. He had originally been convinced (read: coerced, in his opinion) to shuttle Aika and Vyse to Valua, where they rescued Fina and their pirate crew from the enemy's clutches because that was where they were selling the vital and powerful Harpoon Cannon.
"Yes sir," Vyse replied, trying to hide the annoyance in his voice. "Maybe you should go take a nap, sir."
"Ah. Now there's a good idea," The old man replied, and turned. "Once we've broken in, take us to the nearest Nasrian town. I believe it's called Maramba. And don't let them engines overhead once we're over the desert, or we'll be walking the rest of the way." With that he vanished below the decks of his ship.
Vyse sighed. "Aye." He went back to monitoring the dials, and pulled the firing lever on the Harpoon again. The ship shuddered ever so slightly, and the arrow-like weapon sprang forth from the bow. As he watched, he noticed Aika waving to him, and he waved back, big grin on his face.
For a while they sat like this. Neither girl bothered Vyse from his monotony, until finally they punched a sufficient aperture in the reef. "Finally," The boy groaned, mimicking dieing from boredom as the two girls walked onto the bridge.
Fina squeaked. "Are you ok, Vyse?"
Vyse chuckled. "I'm fine, Fina. Sorry my incredible acting scared you." He sat up just in time to see Drachma and Aika emerging from the stairs up onto the deck. "Uh-oh." He stood up quickly, standing at the wheel and intently being at attention, whistling in forced nonchalance. "Good thing I'm not snoozing, that I'm not slacking at all," He said.
Drachma huffed. "I'm not that bad. Just keeping you alert in strange skies."
Aika giggled. "Vyse, don't tease the Cap'n. He's only doing what he thinks is best. If what he thinks is best is to kick your ass all up and down the deck of the Little Jack, well then who are we to argue?"
Fina looked worried. "Oh, my…"
"Relax, Fina," Vyse advised. Drachma grumbled and motioned him forward. The young pirate replied, throttling up and feeling the wooden floor beneath him tremble under the power of the engines. "Little Jack, full speed ahead, to Maramba! And on, to victory!"
"Here's hoping," Aika added.
The ragtag band, brought together by fate, luck, and a series of epic events forming that they only had the most basic knowledge of. History collimated to a point behind them, and the future stretched out like an unfathomable cone, leading towards their cloaked destiny, somewhere over a distant horizon. Drachma had been recruited, reluctantly, into it. He planned to soon continue his journey, sans teenagers.
Is what I'm doing the right thing? The old man pondered to himself as they passed over smoldering deserts of red-hot sands as the sun and Red Moon hung side-by-side, two fiery orbs holding total dominion over the lands of Nasr. I must do it, either way. They're slowing me down- I helped them already. They'll get along just fine without me.
Deserts are hot. Vyse, having been given a third-grade education, fully understood that. The sand caught heat, trapping it and warming itself up. The sun's constant beating down upon the land prevented most greenery from surviving, leaving their surfaces barren. Seemingly endless sands stretched for each direction to the horizon, and the Little Jack was moving as quickly as the conditions allowed to get to civilization.
The conditions, of course, of the engine. They couldn't go even at their regular full speed without risking severe damage, because the heat was simply too much. Even with the coolant system Drachma had installed, someone had to constantly use magic or moonstones of purple and blue origin to cool them, like Aika and Fina had done to allow them to overcharge their engine in the escape from Valua.
Vyse was on coolant duty. Somehow he always found himself on the most menial tasks, and shoveling purple stones into a reactor certainly qualified as such. He lifted the shovel and overturned it, dumping another batch of the cool-magic objects into the very warm engine.
It was warm in the engine room, in fact any place below the decks was heating up. Vyse had removed his shirt, to cool himself off a little more. Fina entered the room quietly, but paused and blushed as she saw him. She started to speak but something caught in her throat. The sight of Vyse shirtless, his muscles rippling as he worked, rivulets of sweat working their way down his body…
Noooooooo! Nooo noo! Bad Fina! The Silvite girl mentally berated herself, and looked up to see Vyse staring back to her, shovel at his side. "Fina? What's up?" He asked, wiping sweat from his forehead and sighing.
"Um… it's time for a shift-change," She said. "I'll take over now."
Vyse nodded, grabbing a water-bottle and taking a big swig of the liquid. The store they had bought the packs of water from told them that their labels had Blue Moon runes that would keep the water cool until the expiration date of the magic, which was incredibly convenient. It was the same technique they used to store meats and other perishables for their journeys.
He offered her the bottle with a friendly yet tired smile, and she accepted it, taking a short drink. This is almost like I can taste his mouth… Vyse had already started up the stairs, and didn't notice when she very hastily tossed her energies into Purple Magic, filling the room with blinding lights and considerably lowering the temperature. The metal of the engine-cover groaned in protest, it's particles stretched and now suddenly compressed. I'd better go easier next time, She thought. That's really bad for the engine, but… I need something to distract me. A Silvite does not have the luxury of such thinking.
Not that she would know what to do about them anyway. Living on the Silver Moon for all of her life until about a month ago, her interaction with other human beings was literally non-existent. Besides the nearly-omnipotent Elders of the Silver Shrine and brief encounters with Ramirez, she had absolutely no one, and learned the language of Arcadia purely from books.
Ramirez. He was the other descendant, a lithe and quiet man with long blonde-white hair and deep, thoughtful eyes. He had always cared for her whenever the Elders could not, so when he vanished it was greatly stressing to Fina. Learning his fate was no relief- he was Vice Captain in the Valuan Armada.
He had also… changed, somehow, and for the worse. It was like his very heart had been encased in ice as strong as steel, his eyes taking on a sinister aspect and his voice becoming low and mournful. She didn't know what drove him to such things, but aimed to find out. It was a part of her mission- he had been sent before, but stopped contacting the Elders. Thus, they sent their backup plan. Her.
So now she took his place, searching for the six Moon Crystals that were the keys to weapons of mass destruction made by the Old World nations called Gigas. The Red Crystal rested somewhere in Nasr, although she didn't know where, and it was a very large continent.
Vyse emerged onto the bridge, to find Aika alone at the helm. She didn't hear him approach, and he took the opportunity to stealthily hug her from behind, snuggling his bare chest into her back. She tensed for a moment in surprise, and then relaxed into him.
"Hey," He mumbled into her ear with a sigh.
"Hey," She replied. It was warm on the bridge despite the air-coolant system that used the Little Jack's own speed to shunt fresh air through vents on the ceiling, but she didn't mind the additional heat. No further words were exchanged for a while, and when Cupil poked her, Fina thanked the small silver nano-being, climbing up the steps. She spotted the two of them snuggling, and stifled a gasp.
She had a bad habit of nervously hovering on the edge of an event, wondering timidly weither to jump in or not. Neither of them noticed her for a while. The one who did detect her presence finally was, again, Vyse. "Fina." It was both a greeting and a warning to Aika. The redhead looked up, eyes half lidded, and smiled.
"Hey, Fina," She said. "How're you?"
"I'm ok," She said, looking anywhere but them. Seeing it was making Fina uncomfortable, Vyse detached himself from his childhood friend, to her disappointment.
"Are you sure?" He asked, genuinely concerned. "Is it because…" He trailed off, although it was painfully obvious what his question was. Is it because me and Aika can be so close so easily for each other? Is it because you're just a little jealous?
"I don't know," He replied. That was the truth, surely enough. She had no idea about the emotions that surged through her. She felt a deep connection to both of them, but was so inexperienced and timid, and her lack of knowledge or assurance only kept her more cowardly.
"You didn't get a lot of human experience, did you?" Aika asked, abandoning the helm altogether for the moment. Moving in a straight line required no skill whatsoever, and her friend was troubled. "Besides that Ramirez guy." Fina shook her head. "Well we could help with that problem, if you'd let us."
"Help, like how?" She tried not to sound too hopeful.
Vyse shrugged. "We could gradually get you more comfortable with being around us, and then, you know, work from there. Anything can be overcome if we work together at it." Never-failing optimism, or at least the appearance of so was a powerful tool.
"I would… like that," Fina replied, nodding. "Thank you both very much. For everything."
"Oy, she's thanking us again, Aika," Vyse said in a tone of parental exasperation. Aika shook her head and clicked reprovingly. "Maybe we ought to teach her how evil us air pirates truly are."
"That's a fabulous idea," Aika said, doing a passable Classic Evil Laugh. Fina looked between them, slightly worried. They both sprang at her, capturing her and holding her down. She tried to escape, but Vyse pinned her arms with his own strong hands and used his weight to press down her legs, careful not to hurt her in the process.
Aika began to tickle her. She screamed and giggled, squirming madly and giving Vyse the devil's own time keeping her on the deck. Cupil squeaked, alarmed, but did not intervene.
Drachma emerged onto the bridge, and saw the three teenagers in this position. They spotted him, and all movement stopped in the room for a solid ten seconds. The silence was palpable. Finally the old man shook his head, and plodded back down the steps, never saying a word.
"I think we scared him off," Vyse noted, allowing himself to collapse onto the floor backwards, laughing.
Aika followed his lead, sitting down next to their victim and smirking. Fina's face was totally red and she frowned. "You two… that was mean of you." Clearly the Silvite girl was very embarrassed, even if a small part of her told her she shouldn't be.
"Did we go too far?" Vyse wondered aloud.
"That's the definition of 'pirate'. Going too far. The reason you know you're a Blue Rogue is if you stop for a moment to ask that." She smiled. "Sorry, Fina, but that's one way to help you. Heh. We should do it more often."
"No," She objected. "Urg, you two!" Inside, her head was still a whir. Aika and Vyse touched me… a lot. And I enjoyed it… She had some thinking to do.
Nasr was a very large landmass, possibly the largest on Arcadia. However, the lack of reliable cartography meant that the sizes of Valua and Nasr were both unknown. Both Empress Teodora, ruler of the Valuan Empire, and the Nasultan, leader of the Nasr Kingdom, felt that an accurate mapping of their lands beyond guesswork would be a dangerous secret. Besides, their uninviting, even deadly, environments precluded almost anyone from attempting to circumnavigate their lands.
A speck appeared in the shimmering sand dunes and billowing clouds of dust, and Vyse, who was now at the helm, zoomed in on it. The township of Maramba was likely a town founded recently- possibly a naval stopover established by Nasr. It was positioned near the edge of the continent, and so it had spacious docks for it's size. About 70 buildings populated both halves of the city, that were separated by a small expanse of scorching sand. It had no particularly distinguishing features, but that wasn't of much concern. He was just happy to be seeing it.
"Aika," He said, turning to the redhead standing on the bridge. "Maramba sighted, 4:11 PM. Go get the crabby old man." She nodded an affirmative, scribbling it into the ship's log. "Oh, and Drachma too." Aika giggled, jogging off down the stairs.
"Crabby old man, reporting for duty." As Fina bowed, her face slightly red, the pirates exchanged significant glances.
"Fina, did you just crack wise?" Vyse crossed his arms in front of his now-clothed chest.
"I'm sorry, didn't I do it right?" She asked concernedly, still looking down.
"No, you did it ok, but it's just… a surprise to us," Aika admitted. "I mean, you're not really the rip-roaring type of person to me, Fina." Neither is he, she thought with a silent chuckle as the hulking form of Drachma emerged onto the deck.
"Alright, you three scout ahead into the town. I got something to take care of, and I'll catch up with yeh," Drachma commanded.
Vyse gave him the thumbs-up and grinned. "Yes, sir! C'mon, girls." The three adventurers grabbed their weapons before going out onto the open deck.
Vyse's armament of choice was his stalwart twin Pirate Cutlasses. Both of the blades had a large and broad point that slowly tapered down to the iron padded grip at the end. They were both approximately a meter in length. Unlike a rapier, which was wire-thin and designed for artistic displays of swordsmanship, the cutlass was made for big brutal striking power and range, which were valued amongst pirates. The material used for them was a semi-transparent steel laced with conducting alloys like aluminum. Depending on the moonstone that was placed in the hilt of the sword, it was enchanted differently and the sword changed colors accordingly.
His father had given him the first of the blades, forged before he was born, that he held in his off-hand and usually employed in a defensive stance, while he made his own second cutlass. His own blade was larger and wider, and was employed for attack in his main hand. The holsters were black leather that were attached to a metal-strapped belt that he grabbed and clipped to his waist.
Aika's weapon was far more unconventional. Forged of pure crystal lattice that was actually stronger than any known metal, it was a moonstone-enchanted boomerang, which was almost as tall as she was. Because of it's aerodynamic design and the enchantment runes carved into the wood-paneled hilt, it could always be depended on to return to it's user's hand after an attack. It was also one of the manners that Aika channeled her willpower through to make her Special Attacks, and seemed to enhance her magic as well. She slung it across her back in a leather sheath and followed him and Fina.
Fina's weapon was with her at all times anyway. As her familiar, Cupil shared a deep psychic bond with her, and she commanded him in battle. Cupil had the ability to morph into almost any shape, and could use himself to physically attack enemies while suffering no ill effects. Right now, he could only assume his regular shape and batter into enemies with blunt force, but the Elders had told her that as he gained experience in combat, he would learn forms that could do more damage and move quicker.
She was also the most adept of the three, magically, and had a wide range of spells. She even knew Silver Magic, which was very rare for Arcadians. The Silver Moon regulated life and death, and she knew a spell to restore a creature to full health, to resurrect someone back from the very brink of death…
And she also knew a spell that, if uttered, would instantly and totally kill a living thing at her command. It was Eterni, the spell Dyne the Blue Rogue used to execute his anointed Executioner in Valua during their rescue attempt. She hoped never to have to use it, but a part of her mind told her better. Their survival might one day hinge on it.
An unpleasant necessity. Drachma sighed, turning to look at the three teenagers as they stepped off onto the docks. Once they were clear, he pulled up the boarding ramp with haste, jogged into the bridge and fired up the engines once more.
Vyse grinned as he looked out over the dusty docks. "Not much to look at, huh? But the buildings and people sure do look strange here."
Aika rolled her eyes. "Vyse, we're 3000 kilometers from home. Of course the people look strange to us. Hell, Fina's from another planet. You're probably the weirdest thing in the world to the poor girl."
Fina giggled, putting a hand to her mouth to stifle it. "Oh, my. Well, I wouldn't say that…"
"Good to hear," Vyse replied, glancing at her. Then he noticed something. It was very odd, and alarming enough for him to cry out as it happened.
Little Jack slid away from the docks, turning out towards the desert again. Drachma was at the helm, and soon the small fishing ship set out across the horizon, skipping away powered by it's small fins and sails. He pointed, and the girls turned, watching the green frigate get smaller and smaller to their perspective.
They were stranded in Maramba.