"I wonder what hawk-eggs taste like," Doubar commented when Sinbad came to relieve him at the tiller.
"Don't let Dermott hear you say that," Sinbad said, taking the tiller from his brother.
"Especially not now," Doubar pointed at the very top of the mast where not one but two hawks perched. "I think he's found himself a lady-friend."
"That's weird," Sinbad muttered. He had figured out long ago that Dermott was human-turned-hawk and the idea of him making little hawk babies didn't sit right with him. What would happen to the kids when Dermott was turned back?
"Maybe he decided to set an example. We have all noticed a lot of kissing but not much love in your life, little brother," Doubar said.
"Don't start, Doubar," Sinbad said, in no mood to be teased.
"Just saying, if even the resident pet can find love…" Doubar teased.
"Doubar!" Sinbad shouted but as soon as his brother had fled the scene (still laughing at how easy his little brother was to goad) the captain tried to mentally contact the bird, though he was a poor telepath at best, just to see if he really was making a point but Dermott just laughed at him and flew at his head the way he had done the first time he had seen the captain. This chagrined Sinbad even further, when even the ship's familiar was making fun of you, you knew you were in bad shape.
"Sinbad! Wear this!" Bryn tossed him the leather glove that had once belonged to Maeve. "Hold it up to her, Dermott and I are training her."
"I am a little busy here Bryn, go ask Firouz," Sinbad said, tossing the glove back. This time, two angry birds swooped towards his head, claws pointed at his face.
"I'm sorry Sinbad, Dermott's friend seems to have taken a liking to you," Bryn said.
"Must be his animal magnetism," Firouz joked to Rongar, the two had come up to watch the show.
"Rongar, come up here and steer the ship, if you see any land, head for it. I need to put some distance between me and those strong-willed chickens!" Sinbad called out, only to be swooped upon again. "It's not too late for the soup-pot you know!" He threatened in vain and ducked down-under where annoying pests could pester him no longer.
A few hours later Doubar entered his little brother's cabin without knocking. "Having a bad day?" Doubar asked.
"You know I always thought I was pretty brave," Sinbad said, lying on his back on his bunk.
"You are!" Doubar protested.
"Then why is that flying rat brave enough to give his heart away while I hide mine away instead of sharing it?" Sinbad asked.
"I'm sorry for teasing you Sinbad, I didn't know I was hitting such a sore spot… You've been through a lot in your young life, it's no wonder you're a little protective of your heart," Doubar said, trying to help his little brother.
"You couldn't know Doubar, I've been thinking about this since… well for a long time anyway… I'm tired of being a coward… I'm tired of being lonely," Sinbad admitted.
"Well if you feel that way… you know Bryn has a crush on you a mile wide," Doubar supplied.
"Yeah… She's great and everything but the feeling is just not there. I wish it was, it would make my life a lot easier," Sinbad said.
"Well, I'm sure that if you ask nicely Dermott will stop flaunting his lady-love in your face," Doubar said, still trying to be helpful.
"It's not the flaunting I'm worried about, it's the claws in the face part," Sinbad chuckled.
"Land ho!" They heard the shout from up top and made their way up to the deck.
The crew jumped out of the longboat on what looked like an abandoned beach.
"Now you three can go play, just leave me out of it, alright?" Sinbad told Bryn.
"No promises," Bryn said, but took Dermott on her arm and started walking away from them.
"Rongar, go with them, it looks abandoned 'round here but you never know," Sinbad ordered. With a nod the moor complied, swiftly moving after Bryn.
Rongar had not long disappeared behind a dune but he reappeared again, waving them over.
"This had better be good," Sinbad muttered, still not over his bad mood.
They met Bryn, Rongar and a buxom young maid on the other side of the dunes.
"You've come to save us!" the maid said, and made a move to hug Sinbad only to have a hawk swoop in between them.
"Dermott! Can you please ask you lady-love here to quit attacking me?" Sinbad pleaded.
Dermott just squawked at him. "You've offended him, she's not his lover; that would be gross, she's his sister," Bryn told him.
Sinbad choked on his own tongue. "His sister? Are you sure? Has she told you her name?"
"No… Is it important?" Bryn asked.
"It is! Tell her I know who she is and to shed the feathers right now! She's still part of my crew, she has to follow my orders!" Sinbad said.
"She just says that you should open your mind right now or she is going to claw a hole into your head…" Bryn said, a little uneasy translating the threat.
"You're not saying that…" Firouz said, right behind Sinbad in figuring it out, with a little help from the threat.
"I'll try…" Sinbad told the bird directly and closed his eyes, trying to open his mind to talk. He opened one eye, this wasn't like with Dermott, nothing was happening! "How do I do this?"
"She's very articulate for a bird so you don't have to use images, just words. So have a conversation with her, only, in your head," Bryn tried to guide him through.
"Yeah that's helpful," Sinbad muttered. "Could you perch on my arm or something? Maybe that'll help," he told the bird.
Dermott squawked. "He's telling you to mind your manners," Bryn translated.
"Alright, alright. Maeve, could you perch on my arm, please?" Sinbad made an extravagant bow.
"Excuse me, we still need rescuing," the buxom young maid said.
"We'll get to you in a little bit miss," Firouz patted her hand. "We believe one of our friends has been transmogrified and need to verify this theory by telepathic communication."
"Oh," she said, having no idea what he'd just said.
Maeve unsteadily landed on Sinbad's rainbow bracelet, apparently fairly new to hawk-hood she didn't have all the skills yet.
*Can you hear me?*
The voice just appeared inside his head and Sinbad inadvertently whooped for joy. "Yes! Yes I can hear you!"
*That's great, now, I need you to do something for me,* Maeve said.
"Anything!" Sinbad immediately agreed.
*I need you to find my body.*
"Sure uhm… where did you last see it?" Sinbad asked.
*Now's not the time for jokes! Separating my spirit from my body was the only way Dim-Dim could get me back here. It's a wonder I found you at all, it will take another one for me to find my body!* Maeve said, clearly agitated.
"And you have no idea where it is?" Sinbad asked.
*No, and no idea what is happening to it,* Maeve said, revealing what it was that had her so on edge.
"We'll go see Caipra, she might know something," Sinbad said. "Don't worry Maeve, I'll do anything I can to reunite you with… well with yourself. "
*Thank you Sinbad, I've missed you.* Maeve said.
Sinbad looked at the hawk perched on his arm, still finding it hard to believe that this bird was really their long lost sorceress. He ruffled her feathers affectionately. "And I you. Now I believe someone asked us for a rescue?" Sinbad looked at the young woman who was looking at his apparent one-sided conversation like he'd lost his mind.
Caipra had tea and sweets ready and waiting before they had even knocked on the door. Sinbad and Bryn with the two hawks on their arm had gone to find the old woman while the others had gone with Firouz to his lab.
"You made good time," Caipra said, by way of greeting.
"We had a good motivator," Sinbad held up his arm to show off Maeve but she flew off his arm and perched on the back on a chair instead.
"Make yourself comfortable," Caipra waved a hand to invite them in.
Sinbad dropped onto the pillows in front of the goodies. "Not you Sinbad, I haven't had a man around the house for years. There's wood in need of chopping, the chicken coop needs repairing, the hinges need oiling and the garden needs weeding. You'll find tools in the shed, I've also left out a nice jug of sweetened tea and bowls of pistachios and peaches for you. Now shoo, the ladies and I need to form a circle," she said.
"We do?" Bryn asked, while Sinbad quickly shoved a cookie into his mouth and made his way out back, taking Dermott with him.
"Yes dear, we do. Please have a seat and I'll explain," Caipra said, sitting down herself.
Maeve perched on the back of a sturdy chair and listened attentively.
"You came for Maeve's body, but I don't know where it is. There's only one person who can guide you to her," Caipra said.
"Who?" Bryn asked.
"Maeve herself of course," Caipra said.
Maeve squawked angrily. *If I could, don't you think I would've by now?*
"Patience dear, you just lost your link to your body. With our help you will recover that link and then you can sense your body, no matter where it is. This is where the circle comes in. We'll have to hold hands- or claws as the case may be. Just follow my lead,"
Sinbad had just split a log, the axe still firmly embedded in the wood when he felt the familiar tug on his mind that meant Maeve was trying to talk to him. Without thinking he wrenched the axe out of the log and opened his mind to her.
Immediately he fell down, axe safely by his side though he was no aware of it. His mind raced between the stars. It was big, no vast. There was no beginning, no end, it was everything but mostly consisted of nothing. And he just was, he had no beginning, no end, he was everything and nothing all at once. He found three points of light, looked at them from another angle and saw that they weren't points but lines stretching out to eternity, looked at them from another angle again and saw that they had never been points at all. Without trying, without doing anything at all, he entwined with one of the entities until they were one, ten, a hundred, until they encompassed the whole universe. Until he was home.
He woke with a gasp, his eyes unseeing for a moment, until he could make out Dermott perched on the chicken coop, still playing his game of 'scare the chicken' which seemed to amuse the bird to no end. Sinbad felt the ground under him, the axe-handle in his hand. He breathed out, didn't have a clue what just happened, just knew that it was important.
Maeve's eyes shot open and she tumbled from her perch, forgetting for a moment that she was hawk, not human. But it didn't matter, because she knew now, she felt the pull of her body dragging at her.
*So when we get there, what do we do?* she asked Caipra, while Bryn helped her get right-side-up again.
"You get back in dear," Caipra pointed out.
*Yeah, but how* Maeve asked.
"You'll figure it out when you get there," Caipra said, patting her on the head.
Back onboard Sinbad couldn't not talk about it any longer. Something had happened to him, to them something profound and he would really like to know what it was. So as he watched Doubar navigate the Nomad out of harbour he leaned against the railing at the prow next to Maeve who favoured this spot as a perch even in her current form.
"So…" he said, trying to find the right words to say. "You know where your body is now." Because talking around the subject was as valid a strategy as anything else.
*The direction,* Maeve answered.
"And uhm… How did you manage that?" Sinbad asked carefully.
* You tell me, you were right there with me,* Maeve said, never having been the patient one.
"By Allah woman! It is very difficult talking to you like this! You're a hawk, but you're also a woman and I know, I know that you'd have crossed your arms just now and you'd be staring at me all defiant, daring me to say something and I can't! I can't talk to you while you're like this," Sinbad said. He'd started all angry and powerful and ended deflated and defeated.
She visibly bristled, her feathers puffing up in an instinctive response. He felt the initial flare of her anger at his words, an echo of 'and what about me? What do you think this is like for me?' unspoken in her feelings before she clamped them down, taking a moment first to cut the link between them and then to calm herself down. When she re-opened the link she was a lot more charitable and understanding of his feelings.
*Close your eyes,* she ordered.
He hesitated for a moment- he didn't like how vulnerable he felt out in the open like this without seeing what was going on. He was the captain of his ship, he needed to be in control he couldn't just- he took a breath and closed his eyes.
The first thing he felt were her fingertips on his cheekbones, then her full hands on his cheeks, the thumbs moving in a gentle caress. Her hands glided down to his shoulders where they slid off to be replaced by her arms around his neck and her weight settling against his body. Briefly her cheek rested against his and then she buried her face into the crook of his neck.
But when he tried to wrap his arms around her all he found was empty air. He opened his eyes and the feeling of her hug blew away in the wind.
*I'm sorry, I haven't got that part figured out just yet,* she said.
"Thank you," he said, and sent her a thought, an image of him taking her hand in his own and giving it a little squeeze.
*I wish I wasn't a hawk either, you know?* she said.
"I know… I'd much rather have you come back as a cat. Mice are getting into the larder; you could've made yourself useful!" He said with a cheeky grin.
*Hah! If I would've had a choice I would have chosen a giant dragon! I could just have flown to my body and toasted everybody who tried to stand in my way,* she boasted.
He smiled at the image she conjured in his head. They weren't perfect, far from it even, but they were alright for now and that was enough.
The crew had gathered around the dinner table in the galley to discuss the plan:
"So here's where we are," Sinbad pointed to a spot on the map. "And Maeve says we've got to keep going North-Easterly. Problem is we're going to hit the mainland soon and a particularly unfriendly part of the mainland at that."
"That's putting it mildly," Doubar huffed. "The Bhoderians only allow their own ships into their waters, can you imagine what they'll do if we try to sail into their harbour?"
"So we'll dock outside their territory and go by foot," Bryn suggested.
"They'll still kill us," Doubar predicted.
"Why's that?" Bryn asked.
"Because we look like foreigners and like sailors. The two things they hate most," Sinbad answered. "But we'll figure something out."
"We could pose as something else…" Firouz suggested. "What kind of people are occupational travellers?" He pondered.
Rongar nudged him and mimed that he was juggling.
"Of course! We can pose as a small travelling entertainment troupe!"Firouz nodded enthusiastically as he expounded: " Rongar can juggle and throw knives, Sinbad's our acrobat, Doubar the Strong Man, I can show off my inventions and Bryn can make the birds do tricks! What can go wrong? Everyone loves the circus!"
"So this is what the inside of a Bhoderian cell looks like," Sinbad mused airily while he sat in a small cage suspended over a spiked pit.
"Sorry Sinbad, I failed to factor in your fame or notoriety in this case," Firouz said, from where he was chained to the wall.
"Don't worry, Bryn's still out there with the birds, they'll have us out of here in no time," Doubar optimistically said from what amounted to a steel coffin with an airhole- the Bhoderians had seen how strong he was while doing his bit in the show and were taking no chances.
Rongar lay hogtied on the floor, the chain connected to his arms and legs was fastened to the ceiling. Though he hated his guards for taking away his only method of communication, he was grateful they hadn't hoisted him up in the air; he would probably have lost the use of his arms permanently.
One moment Rongar was throwing knives at her while she was being spun around on a big cartwheel in what only could be described as a minimal, impractical costume, the next Bryn was running for her life while Maeve and Dermott did their best to keep the dozen guards from getting near her. Running had been her only option, she reasoned while she hid behind some kegs stacked next to an alehouse, the boys had already been overrun, they needed her free to rescue them.
"Why is my life never easy?" she asked herself. "Alright, first things first, I have to get a change of clothes, then... a plan."
*You look a little cagey Sinbad, anything the matter?* Maeve found a precarious perch on the sill of the tiny, barred window high on the wall of their cell.
"Look, it's Dermott!" Firouz tried to point, remembering too late that he couldn't stretch his arm out and grunting with frustration.
"Maeve actually," Sinbad corrected the inventor.
*I should think that's obvious!* Maeve grouched.
"Could you hurry up and save us lass? I'm getting a mite uncomfortable in here!" Doubar shouted from his coffin.
*Sweet Brigit! Is that Doubar in there?* Maeve asked, clearly shocked.
"She says they'll get us out of here in no time, Big brother!" Sinbad told Doubar, trying to imagine was the gentle giant was going through right now and shuddering at the thought.
*Well yes, we do have a plan. Any idea how to get you all out of your contraptions? Speed is of the essence…* Maeve asked.
"Firouz, any ideas on how to get loose?" Sinbad asked.
"Well there's the guard who holds the keys…" Firouz drawled, thinking furiously. "If I had a torch- no a crowbar, I might be able to pry my chains of the wall. Then I could fashion a Spanish winch and draw Sinbad's cage down and to the side… There'd be quite the fall though."
*I'll get him a crowbar, you tell him to get on that, because in about five minutes every horse, dog, cat, rat and cockroach in the city is going to attack the guards.* Maeve informed Sinbad.
"Well crew, hold on to your hats, a rescue is on the way," Sinbad grinned.
"We'll find another way, around the Bhoderian territory, don't worry about it," Sinbad leaned against the railing of his ship, watching the back of the hawk perched on his prow.
*I know,* she said, and though her words materialized magically in his very mind and though she was right there next to him, she felt a hundred miles away again.
"I really tried you know, and it's just a little detour, we're not giving up, I promise," he said, afraid that she was holding the failure of their acrobatic mission against him.
*I know Sinbad,* she said, cocking her head to the side as she looked at him. *You're really going above and beyond the call of friendship for this.*
Her words were warm but Sinbad felt pushed away again. Was this really just friendship for her? After what they shared in Caipra's home?
"Maeve I…" he halted, unable to put his thoughts into words. *Maeve* he switched to telepathy, trying to put the depth of his feelings into every word. *You're the only one I can talk to like this. I can't talk to Bryn at all and Dermott and I only get rudimentary messages across, but you… The moment you walked into my life I forgot how to live without you.*
Through their connection her feelings hit him like a wave. She was filled with guilt; guilt for what had happened to her brother, guilt for not fixing it, guilt for having found a solution for herself, guilt for looking forward to a happy future, full of love, while her little brother remained a bird…
With a sharp cry Maeve took the wing.
Sinbad followed her with his eyes until she disappeared behind the horizon. Dermott came flying at him and landed on the railing next to him.
"We'll get you your life back you know. It might take some time, but we will… And not just because of Maeve, you're a part of my crew," Sinbad told him.
Dermott squawked and showed Sinbad a picture of a smooth-faced youngster, then a picture of a big full-bearded adult and finally one of a straight razor.
"Sure, when the time comes I'll teach you how to shave," Sinbad grinned. "Now you'd better see if your sister is alright, that girl would take the entire world on her shoulders if she could fit it. Thinks she's a hero or something."
Dermott just looked at him. Sinbad got the message.
A he watched Dermott fly after Maeve, Bryn joined him at the railing, her eyes following the birds in the sky.
"So how are you doing with all this?" Bryn asked him.
Sinbad smiled wryly and pulled a hand through his tangled hair to give himself some time to think of what he was going to say. "Honestly, I have never been closer to another person in my life as I am to her… But she's not easy to get close to, or stay close to… And neither am I, I guess…"
Bryn put a comforting hand on his arm. "You've taken great strides in that area since we first met. I'm sure once all this craziness is over you two will figure it out."
Sinbad met her eyes, grateful for her warm support and guilty because he knew what it must cost her. Doubar's words about Bryn's crush rang in Sinbad's ears. "Bryn I… Have I been leading you on?" Sinbad asked, grabbing the bull by the horns before he would chicken out.
Startled by this change of topic she looked away from him. She took a moment to gather her thoughts, to decide what it was she wanted. "The first time we met you wanted me to be someone else and though after all this time I believe you appreciate me for me, that we're real friends, there was always this shadow in your eyes when you looked at me, like you wished me to be someone else still…" Bryn's voice faltered.
"We are friends," Sinbad jumped in, trying to reassure her somehow.
"Yes we are. It wasn't just me you did it to either, you measured every woman we came across by Maeve's yardstick. So yes, maybe I hoped that someday a guy as great as you would look at me like you look at Maeve, but in my heart I've always known that guy would not be you. To tell you the truth, I am grateful she's back. I am not filling her shoes anymore, and that means I really get to see where I stand and I like where I stand," Bryn said, smiling when she finished.
"I'm glad," Sinbad said, pulling her against him in a half-hug. "I wouldn't want to hurt you for the world. So where do you stand?"
"Well, when the others felt confused about Dermott turning out to be a human as well, they came to me and when you sort of just assumed I would do whatever it took to get your girl back, one by one our friends all came by to see if I was alright with that, if I was alright period. What I'm trying to say is; I am both appreciated and cared for."
"Of course you are," Sinbad said, deciding to show his appreciation a little bit more himself in the future.
"Does anyone have any experience climbing mountains?" Doubar asked.
They'd sailed around Bhoderian waters and found themselves craning their necks to take in the unbelievably high mountains that they sailed towards.
*If necessary Dermott and I will go on alone,* Maeve said. Having wings certainly had its advantages.
"That will not be necessary," Sinbad archly replied, a little offended that she'd think he'd just abandon her like that.
The crew had gotten used to Sinbad's apparent one-sided conversations, though it was hard to tell sometimes who he was talking to.
"I believe mountain-experience will not only be necessary but will prove vital to our survival up there. We do not know what to expect after all," Firouz pointed out.
"Well of course," Sinbad agreed, confused that Firouz said that. "We'll sail around; see if we can find some fishermen who can direct us to a village."
"You are far away from the usual trading routes," the village elder eyed them warily.
"We go wherever she leads us," Sinbad said, holding out his arm for Maeve to perch down upon.
*I might just hold you to that sailor,* Maeve replied.
"She is well trained!" the elder stretched out his hand to touch her but halted at the last moment. "Can I pet her?"
"She doesn't like to be petted," Sinbad said.
*By anyone* Maeve grumpily replied.
"Though avian and therefor without mammary glands she is still sensitive about her chest area and it is her instinct as a hawk not to permit anything to be above her so she does not like to be petted on the head-" Firouz would've gone on about every part of Maeve's temporary body and why she didn't like to be touched there but Sinbad cut him off. For some reason he'd gotten a little sensitive himself when Firouz started talking about Maeve's mammary glands.
"Yes well anyway, can you provide a guide?" Sinbad asked hurriedly.
"A guide to wherever is hard to find… Why exactly do you follow a bird?" The elder asked.
"It's hard to explain," Sinbad drawled. How do you explain your friend the hawk is actually a human in search of her body?
"The bird here is actually a human in search of her body," Doubar said, because weird as his life was sometimes, some things were simple.
"Oh…" the elder said. "And it is up the mountains somewhere?"
"She sort of feels her way back to it, we don't know where it is exactly," Sinbad said, pretending he didn't notice the elder looking at them like they'd collectively lost it.
*Heh, he thinks you're lunatics!* Maeve laughed at him. He threw her the stink-eye.
"And the bird talks to you?" The elder asked.
"To me, Bryn and Dermott," Sinbad admitted with a sigh. This was going to get complicated.
The elder looked at Bryn who had been introduced to him. She flashed him a nice smile, trying to convey how sane and pleasant she really was.
"Who's Dermott?" The elder asked.
Dermott, perched on Bryn's arm, squawked.
"Did he also misplace his body?" The elder asked.
"No, he's- well that's a long story. I know we seem unconventional and that we're asking for a lot. You don't have to believe us, but we really need you to help us," Sinbad pleaded.
The elder pursed his lips, eyeing the odd group before him. Finally he nodded. "I will ask one of my grandsons to guide you. He will tell you what supplies you need. You had better heed his words; these mountains eat those who are careless for breakfast."
Paku was an energetic young man with a bright smile and a twinkle in his eye. And his eye, well it was soon fixed on Bryn…
"If you need any help with those clothes, just let me know," he smiled at her. "Or if you need someone to keep you warm in our long, cold nights…" He winked.
Flustered she looked around, seeing her crewmates grinning widely at her. Sure, the boy was cute and all, but he was just… not her type.
Quickly she hooked her arm though Rongar's. "Thanks, but I've got my cold-night buddy right here," she told Paku. "You owe me for being your knife-throwing assistant," she quietly whispered to Rongar whose startled expression quickly formed into a caring smile for Paku's benefit.
"Well my tent fits three and I'm not adverse to-" Pake said, only to be quickly cut off by Bryn.
"Thank you, NO!" She was bright red by now. Firouz, Doubar and Sinbad were laughing their asses off not three feet from the flustered sorceress.
Maeve squawked at the laughing crewmembers, trying to reproach them, but they paid her no attention.
"I think your friend here is getting impatient," Paku said, still smiling, unperturbed by the rejection.
At his words both Maeve and Dermott took the wing, flying close together, struggling against the treacherous mountain winds.
"Men, I believe that's our cue," Sinbad said, hoisting his heavy pack onto his back. His crew followed his example and they set out, following the hawks as best they could.
After two days of climbing treacherous terrain and two nights spent shivering instead of sleeping, the exhausted group finally reached a walled monastery. The found Dermott and Maeve perched on the wall, looking like ornaments on either side of the gate until one of them bristled to rearrange their feathers.
Paku looked very serious when he turned to the crew. In hushed tones he explained: "I didn't believe your human turned hawk story, until they led you here. This monastery is home to our most devout. All the monks have made an oath of silence, so don't try to talk to them. If you're invited in, treat them with respect alright?"
Sinbad placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Thank you Paku, we will heed your advice," he said. Sinbad stepped forward until he was face to face with the big brass knocker in the centre of the gate. It was surprisingly easy to lift the well-maintained knocker and let it drop down to announce their arrival.
Maeve flew down off the wall to perch on Sinbad's arm while Dermott flew to Bryn.
With bated breath the group waited.
Eventually the gate opened and a small, robed man appeared. He smiled and bowed to them, so they bowed back. The man's eyes took them all in, moving something in every one of them as his eyes rested on them.
He held out his arm to Maeve, Sinbad felt her reluctance to part with him but she hopped off of his arm and onto the monk's. The monk then tapped him on the arm and gestured him to follow.
"Wait here crew, I'll be back as soon as I can," Sinbad ordered over his shoulder as he scurried after the surprisingly fast old man. The gate closed behind him, seemingly of its own volition.
The monk brought them to a round room. Torches lined the walls and lit candles were placed within an intricate multi-coloured sand-pattern on the floor. In the middle of the pattern, on a low stone bench lay Maeve, or at least her body.
With a cry Maeve flew up, crossing the pattern without disturbing it and perching on the bench next to her own body. Sinbad could see the desperation in her eyes, or maybe he felt an echo of it through their supposedly closed connection. She didn't know how to get back in.
Feeling helpless he looked to the monk but the serene face held no answers. They hadn't come this far only to fail now, had they?
Sinbad was reluctant to go to Maeve, fearing that by interfering with the beautiful patterns in the sand he would somehow damage Maeve as well. But this question the silent monk did answer. He made a gesture into the room. Sinbad interpreted it as permission.
Walking on tippy toes he made his way to Maeve, gathering her upper body in his arms so he could sit on the bench behind her, holding her up against him. Maeve perched on his arm even as it was wrapped around her waist.
*What do we do?* she asked him.
Sinbad closed his eyes like he'd done on the ship and felt her body against his own, he felt her warmth, the weight of her back pressed against his chest, her cheek leaning against his- and the sharp claws digging into his skin.
"Close your eyes," he said.
He felt it when she did. He breathed out. Slowly they connected again. First just at the basic level where they could talk, then they went deeper, to where they could feel together, and then deeper still to where they had no beginning, and no end, to where they had no bodies, to where they were so intricately connected that they were open.
He breathed in and opened his eyes. He felt Maeve's midriff move under his hand and then he heard the tell-tale sound of her breathing in. The candles on the floor were a pale reminder of the stars they'd just been amongst, of the brightness of their entwined souls.
She was back into her body and somehow that was just of secondary importance. Their closeness was what they had been looking for all along. She turned around in his arms, draping her legs over his; she looked into his eyes and saw the same wonder that she herself felt reflected there. Her arms wrapped around him even as his wrapped around her and they hugged each other close, leaving no room for the real world between them.
But all too soon it grew hot in the room, they started to sweat and their muscles started to protest in their awkward positions. The real world had made itself known once again.
"We should get back," Sinbad said, breaking the silence between them.
"Yeah," she agreed, starting to extricate herself from him, her movements no longer flowing and dream-like but awkward and jerky.
He helped her up and then stood himself, both stretching their poor muscles out before taking in their surroundings. The monk who'd led them had disappeared. The sand was in disarray, though they couldn't remember touching it. One by one the candles extinguished.
"I don't want to leave," Maeve admitted. "I'm afraid that if we leave this room we'll break the spell somehow."
He took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze. He'd been afraid of the very same thing but in finding comforting words for her, he comforted himself. "The placed doesn't matter, we do."
He took a step forward but she stayed in place. "But what if we forget?" Maeve asked.
He turned to face her. "We already did this once, at Caipra's and now we did it again. The place doesn't matter Maeve."
"Just wait one moment alright?" she asked and at his nod stepped closer to him once more. "You already know, but I want to tell you: I love you Sinbad."
Sinbad took a moment to drink those words in. She was right that he had known that before she'd said it, but to hear it was still so very important to him. He gently kissed her, to which she responded with an ardour he had not expected. Her hands grabbed his shirt near the collar, twisting the material in her bunched fists as she tried to get even closer to him. His hands wrapped around her, pulling her flush against him as he responded to her ardour with a passion of his own.
When they ran out of breath they just stood there for a moment, foreheads leaning together, trying to catch their breath.
"Well that got out of hand in a hurry," Maeve eventually said.
"Hey Maeve," Sinbad said, lifting his head up.
She looked up as well. "Hmm?" She asked.
"I love you," he said.
She pecked him on the lips. "We are never," she said, before kissing him again. "Ever," and again. "Leaving this room." She said before diving into full on make-out again.
Sinbad chuckled as they kissed but finally broke the kiss again. "Come on, our friends are waiting."
"Aye, aye captain," she said wryly.
Hand in hand they walked back to the gate where they shared one last kiss before slipping out of the monastery and onto the mountain.
Sinbad sighed as he steered the ship into the setting sun, onwards to the next adventure. It had been a while since he'd felt this content.
"Happy, little brother?" Doubar asked, joining Sinbad at the tiller.
Sinbad surveyed his ship. The rigging and the knots were immaculate, the sails were optimally catching the stiff wind, the look-out in the crow's nest looked lively. Rongar and Firouz sat amidships working on an elaborate sign-language which would make communication a lot easier for the tongue-less man. Bryn and Maeve stood at the prow, Dermott perched between them.
This was what life was supposed to look like. If only he could just find Dim-Dim, everything would be perfect.
But for now… "Very happy big brother. Now how about you, we haven't noticed a lot of love in your life lately…"
Doubar laughed a big belly laugh, tossing one arm around Sinbad's shoulders. "I've got all the love in the world little brother, don't you worry about me."
The sound of his laughter made Firouz, Rongar and the sorceresses look up and smile when they saw the two brothers enjoying each other's company. Sinbad and Doubar both acknowledged them with a smiling nod of the head.
Then Bryn turned back to Maeve. "Do you really think this is going to work?"
"Why not? Your memories have to be in there somewhere, they can't just have been erased. Maybe if we join forces and really have a good look around in there we can find the blockade," Maeve said.
*Is that safe?* Dermott asked.
"We could at least research it, then we could start off with a basic level connection and deepen it as the need arises. What do you say Bryn?" Maeve asked.
*Don't push her, sister* Dermott said, knowing the force of Maeve's enthusiasm could be a bit much to take.
"She's not pushing Dermott," Bryn said, putting him at ease. "Let's go and do the research first and then we'll take it one step at a time. I don't want my brain scrambled."
"Great! Let's go, I've got this great book on telepathic communication. That's how I learned to talk to Dermott, we can start there," Maeve said, springing into action and making her way to the galley while Bryn, with Dermott on her arm followed at a more sedate pace.
Before she crossed the doorway into the bowels of the ship Maeve caught Sinbad's eye and they shared a smile.
It was good to be home.
And what happens next? Well that is a tale for another fanfic to chronicle.
A/N Anime Princess was kind enough to give me notes and advice for this fic. Her help has been invaluable and she has my thanks!