The Disguise

After what seemed like forever, Tristan and Yvaine rushed into the room.

"Illusia!" Yvaine cried with joy and hugged me. "We were so worried about you!"

"We thought you were killed by your mother!" Tristan added. "And here you come alive and well!"

"And it turns out that Tristan has a real uncle, but it's the king!" Yvaine laughed.

They excitedly told me about landing on the deck of the Caspartine and of Captain Shakespeare arresting them. He pretended to hold them in captivity and then throw Tristan out of a window, while in fact he threw out a human-size doll. After that, Tristan was presented to the crew as the captain's nephew, and everything went smoothly and peacefully.

I spoke of our adventures, and when I was in the midst of describing the unicorn's wild run, Primus and Captain Shakespeare came inside.

"Curse these pirates," Primus said. "I hate to adopt disguises, especially ones like this!"

"Since you're a powerful witch, no one of my crew would believe I was able to capture you," Captain Shakespeare explained to me. "That's why the only way for you to remain safe here is to play the part of His Majesty's fiancée."

I scowled, but indeed we had no choice. The pirates' devotion to the royal family of Stormhold obviously went no further than not harming the royalties themselves. They wouldn't follow any orders, except for Captain Shakespeare's.

"Now I think we all should go to our rooms and rest," Captain Shakespeare said. "Tomorrow, my crew and I will resume repairing the keel."

"By the way, how did it get burnt?" I wanted to know.

"It was the fire ball of the Babylon candle," Tristan said.

"I see," I laughed. "Well, I think I will be able to help you to mend it."

"Thank you, Miss Illusia," Shakespeare's face lit up.

In ten minutes, I was in a spare cabin of the ship. It was small and not a luxurious one, but it was the first room I actually had all to myself. A bed, a small table, a window, two chairs – for me it used to be a wonderful dream.

I fell asleep surprisingly fast, and when the gong woke me up in the morning, I felt refreshed and rested like never before.

I got dressed and went to the deck – Captain Shakespeare said the breakfast would be served there, since the ship wasn't in the air.

Several pirates and the captain himself were already there. They bowed to me respectfully. I was confused until I remembered what my disguise was.

"Good morning, madame. I hope you slept well," Captain Shakespeare spoke.

"Y-yes, I had a good sleep, thank you," I muttered awkwardly. I wasn't used to people bowing to me.

Primus was next to appear on the deck. When he saw me, he smiled:

"Illusia, dear, good morning."

He took my hand and kissed it. I tried to hide my blush. I had never been in any relationship with a man, so I was very vaguely aware of how should a king and his fiancée treat each other in public. The happily-ever-after of my favorite fairytales never told me about that.

"Good morning, Your Ma… Primus," I smiled back. Thankfully, that seemed to be all that was necessary. I was supposed to be a well-bred, good-mannered rich lady, so, despite calling the king his first name and occasionally "my dear", I didn't have to do anything.

I helped the pirates to repair the keel, so the ship rose into the sky in just two hours. We were heading towards the castle, and then I decided that Captain Shakespeare would take me and Tristan to the Wall, so that Tristan would present me to his Victoria and then, if possible, meet his mother in the Market Town.

But as hours and days passed, I thought that Tristan grew less and less anxious about that Victoria. Most of the time he spent with Yvaine, and they grew friendlier almost literally by every minute. If it wasn't for Tristan's fear that his father and everyone else in his village would think him dead, I doubt Tristan would hurry to come back to the human realm so much.

Captain Shakespeare found great pleasure in teaching Tristan sword-fighting and Yvaine dancing and playing the pianoforte. He was a talented tutor: soon I often spotted Yvaine masterly playing duets with him or Tristan defeating him in a swordfight.

As for myself, I had to spend most of my time with my "fiancé" Primus. Our disguise was very fortunate for us: the pirates left us alone almost always (they usually loved listening at the doors).

I had a chance to know Primus better. We talked for hours, standing on the deck. He knew practically every place we passed in our flight, and had numerous stories about these places. I told him everything about the history of magic in Stormhold: the subject I especially excelled in, thanks to Mom.

Once, in the morning of the third day of our journey on the Caspartine, Primus and I were sitting on the deck and observing the silvery Alfiana River flowing below.

"Dear old Alfiana!" Primus smiled nostalgically. "We are now flying above it, so in several hours we'll reach Mount Huon. And then, I understand, you and Tristan are off to the Wall."

"Oh yes, and we'll try to find Una on our way back," I said.

"And after that?"

"Well…" I shrugged. "Tristan, I think, has grown quite fond of Yvaine. I think his father will move to Stormhold, and they all will settle down somewhere near the castle. And I – I – I don't know yet."

"I hope you aren't mad at me yet," Primus chuckled. "Two days you've been playing the role of my fiancée. You must be bored to death with it."

"No, I'm not mad at you," I laughed. "And I'm not bored at all."

Realizing the possibility of various meanings of my words, I turned crimson and hastily continued:

"I mean, eh, I don't have to do anything but call you 'dear Primus' every now and then. One can't get bored with it. And, um, so… it's quite interesting to talk with you. I've never had any close friend before, besides poor Ignita. Oh, look, there is a big ship coming down the Alfiana!"

Primus looked down.

"Oh, yes, a merchant ship from…" he frowned and thought for a while. "Catavarian Islands, I think. Yes, I'm sure of it. The flag looks blue from here, and the Catavarian flag is azure with several silvery stars and a green field."

"What are these Catavarian Islands?" I asked quickly, hoping to distract him completely from the previous subject.

"A group of isles which make one whole kingdom. We are on friendly terms with them. They sell the most amazing mussels and oysters, and also all their silversmiths are pure geniuses. The silver Catavarian jewelry is lovely. When we get to the castle… I mean, when you and Tristan come back and we make sure Septimus won't be a threat, I'll show you our collection of Catavarian silver, if you would wish to."

"Of course I wish to," I said dreamily. "I've only seen jewels (except for magical ones) in the pictures in my books, and often imagined what they would be like in reality."

At that moment, Captain Shakespeare came out of his cabin and called:

"Your Majesty! Milady! We'll soon begin to land, so you'd better go to your cabins and pack your bags!"

"Yes, of course, Captain!" Primus shouted, and he and I went to our respective cabins.

I closed the door of my cabin, packed my few belongings and let out a sigh. Why was the last conversation so awkward? I blushed at the memory of it. I just couldn't have started falling for Primus, could I? I mean, he's about forty-five and not at all the sort of people who are called handsome!

"But you are over four hundred," a part of my brain observed sarcastically.

The ship began to descend. Not willing to miss the moment of the landing itself and to continue the argument with myself, I rushed back to the deck.