A Star-Spattered Sky: Part Seven
Her name was Garie and she'd had a normal life. She had an ordinary fire faerie for a mother, an ordinary water faerie for a sister, an ordinary Neohome in an ordinary suburb of the quite unordinary Faerieland. To her utter surprise, just as she was walking towards the Faerieland Bookshop, a Chia had mugged her and a red Zafara had bound her in fire-proof ropes. Now she was aboard a ship on the middle of the sea.
She was quite frightened because she did not know who the Chia nor the Zafara were and water terrified her. It would be quite painful if so much as a drop splashed on her. She fell into a fitful sleep and when she opened her eyes she saw the red Zafara sitting on a stool.
"My name is Deriun; I am captain of this pirate ship. We have kidnapped you because we have a faerie on-board. She was on a ship we raided and we had no choice but to take her with us. She was too young to have learned to fly. This is your job," he explained, not letting her ask questions.
"A -- pirate?" she asked weakly. "I'm on a -- a pirate ship?" She could barely force the word 'pirate' out. She was even more terrified than before. "I can't teach her how to fly! Her mother must teach her! I am worthless to her!"
"If you prove to be as you say you are, then we will set you free. But you must at least try, faerie. Do you agree? Or would you rather stay in the brig and cook us our meals?" He grinned, predicting her answer.
"I'll try," she said sullenly. "But I assure you, I will not be able to help."
Garie was still telling herself this.
"May I see my new teacher?" Jessica asked Deriun. "I want to make sure that she isn't a snob and that she understands me perfectly."
"Alright," Deriun said warily. "Just don't frighten her to death. She seems like a timid, shy little fire faerie, despite her hidden attitude I'm sure she'll use if necessary."
Jessica nodded and said, "Okay." She walked along the deck until she reached the door the set of stairs that lead into the hold. She passed barrels of ale, salted meat, nuts and some grey sludge she didn't want to know what it was.
"Who -- who's there?" a tiny voice asked into the near blackness, lit only by Jessica's lantern. Jessica stepped forward and held the lantern out to see better the faerie.
She had a nice face, white and creamy but with strong bones that prevented her face from looking sweet. Her eyes were a light orange, her nose small and slightly turned-up. Her mouth was delicate and full and turned down.
"My name," Jessica said softly, "is Jessica. I am an air faerie and you are to be my teacher in the art of flight. I am a warrior by nature; this won't be easy. Are you willing to accept the responsibility of my flight?"
"Yes," the fire faerie said to both of their surprise. "I am willing to accept that." Her voice sounded bold even in Garie's own ears and she grinned. "Lessons start at dawn."
Deriun's door opened and he didn't bother to look up, assuming it was Silver. "Captain," a sharp voice brought his attention to the speaker.
"Oh! Faerie, what are you doing in my quarters?" he asked, tiding the papers on his desk. "I thought you were locked up."
"I have agreed to teach Jessica," she explained calmly. "I will not leave this ship until she can fly properly."
Deriun groaned. "She's poured her charm on you, hasn't she? She can con anyone with that. A few smooth words and you're kneeling at her feet. Ugh."
Garie shrugged. "What can I say, she's interesting. She convinced me to teach her without even knowing it. She's got potential, all right. I haven't seen her fight, but that charm is enough to recruit an army."
"She was poisoned only yesterday, you'll be surprised to know," Deriun informed her, alright feeling comfortable with this fire faerie.
Garie's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. "What? Poisoned? Are we talking about the same air faerie? Who on Neopia would poison her?"
"We don't know. Jessica doesn't think it was the cooks who were our biggest suspect, so we're out of ideas. There's absolutely no one that would want to poison Jessica." Deriun sighed and let his head fall into his hands.
"Don't worry," Garie said reassuringly. "I'll find out who did it. I'll keep Jessica safe from further poisoning. We have to learn all about it at Faerie Towers, a place I dare say Jessica has been. She probably has finished a few years but you have to be a senior to learn about poisons."
Deriun nodded and muttered, "I see. I see. Well, I'd best be getting to bed. Would you like a cabin or to sleep out under the stars like Jessica? She refuses even having a pillow or a blanket. She's too proud to ask, I think."
"A cabin for me," Garie said quickly. "I do not want to sleep out in the cold, thank you very much, Captain."
"Captain, am I?" Deriun rose an eyebrow and grinned. "Well, crew-member, it's the last door on the right. It's not the best place but it has a bed and a pillow and a blanket. Sleep well."
"Good night, Captain," Garie murmured before slipping out his door. Then, Deriun noticed something on his desk. It was a bracelet. There were beads made of fire strung onto it. He slipped it over his wrist and looked at the note.
'The beads are frozen fire. I made them so Keilla could give you a gift.' Deriun chuckled.
"That girl's quick," he said, shaking his head.
Shivering on the deck, Jessica waited for Garie to come out of her quarters. The moon had not yet faded so she supposed she was a little early. "There you are! I hope you'll be on time every morning," Garie said, striding forward.
"The first thing you need to know is how your wings feel on you. Are they light? Are they heavy? Do they feel over-large? Do they feel too small? Take into account all of these things and think how you can master them."
'Hm, my wings feel a little too big for me. I suppose I can master that if I use strong strokes with fewer of them,' Jessica thought before directing her attention back to Garie.
"Now you have a feel for your wings, we're going to practise wing movement. Don't try to fly, just gently move your wings as if you're about to start flying."
Jessica did as Garie said and she felt herself becoming more aware of her wings and she knew that this lesson was better than any Travis could have given.
"Garie, I'm not sure if I can do this," Jessica said uncertainly, looking worriedly at Garie. "What if I fly too far away from the boat and land in the water? What then? You can't go in water and I'm not sure how many people on this boat can actually swim."
"Stop making excuses, Jessica. A girl who can learn nearly everything about sword-fighting in just a few days should be more than able to learn a simply thing like flying! You'll do just fine. I know you can."
Jessica bit her lip and said, "Can we at least wait till tomorrow before I actually start trying to fly? I want to be able to sleep on it. I want to remember what it feels like to be me before I learn to fly."
"Alright," Garie agreed. "I'll let you wait until dawn tomorrow to start trying. Go and get some sleep, I want you to be rested for the big day tomorrow."
Jessica gulped. "Okay. Tomorrow."
Silver looked out at sea and sighed heavily. Jessica was a wonder. Like Garie said, she could learn nearly everything about swordsmanship in a few days and she didn't have the guts to learn how to fly! It was bizarre. He felt a paw laid on his shoulder and turned to see who it was.
"Deriun," he said in a surprised voice. "What are you doing out here?" He ruffled his hair self-consciously and then turned back to look out at the sea.
"She'll be fine," Deriun said. "I know she will." He also looked out to sea and saw the grey waves cresting and falling, like white Peophins. He remembered when Keilla had shown him the waves for the first time, how she'd shown him the secret little world of the rock-pools. She also taught him to read. She'd shown him what the blots of ink on the worn yellow pages meant. She'd taught him about history, and not just present. He smiled again at her memory. He was thinking of her increasingly every day.
"Are you sure?" Silver asked, looking at him. "Do you really think she'll be fine? Do you really think that she won't back down?"
"She's Jessica; have you ever known her to do that before? She's your star pupil! You should know these things, Silver," Deriun said with a chuckle.
Silver sighed. "I just want her to achieve what's best for her. What she deserves."
"It's hard to let these things go, Silver. We just have to do it," Deriun murmured, his hair blowing about his face.
"And when have you had to let anything go but gold?" Silver said, a cheeky glint in his eye. He didn't realise the terrible gravity of the situation. The gravity that Deriun felt, anyway.
Deriun shrugged. "It was in my past. I wasn't a pirate always, Silver. You have to remember that."
"It's just odd to think of you not being a pirate," Silver said. "You're just such a pirate-like person. What did you do as a boy, Deriun? You must have annoyed your mother to bits!"
"I explored when I was a boy, for I never had a mother. I was a pound escapee. It's quite an epic tale, when I think of it. I won't tell it to you, though; I'm too tired. I'm going to bed." And Deriun walked inside to his cabin.
Jessica gulped. The planks felt steady for once under her feet, unlike when she wasn't about to attempt flying. "I have light bones; if I fall, I'll break them and there's no one to help me get better," she protested.
"Nice try, Jess, but I know basic healing magic that would fix a broken bone in two wing-flutters. You're not going to get out of it that easy."
And so she was standing on the deck with her clothes billowing around her, the wind having picked up in the last half-hour. The boat was speeding ahead and she took a gulp of fresh sea air.
"Here goes," she muttered before spreading her wings. She flapped clumsily for a moment and she shut her eyes tightly. 'Up, up, up...' she thought.
The planks disappeared from beneath her feet and she opened her eyes. She was not far off from the deck, but it was higher than she'd ever been. "Go, Jessica!" Garie called encouragingly from below. "You can do it!"
And Jessica flew higher and higher, up into the air. She did a quick, experimental dive and she realised that for a faerie, flying wasn't hard. "I'm flying!" she exclaimed with a jubilant laugh. "I'm flying!"
To be continued...