The breeze whistled calmly through the rigging of the ship ‘The Lychen’s Fiddle’ as it cut cleanly through the green-blue waters off the Talkenerren coast. The day was balmy and warm, the sun reflecting lazily off the gentle waves that surrounded them. The briny spray shone with refracted rainbows as the prow cleaved the water effortlessly.
The sailors aboard were taking the afternoon easy, relaxing below or on deck while the ship took to the breeze at a steady clip, her deep green sails taut and full. Riding low in the water, heavy with cargo, she was an impressive sight, not for size but for her profile, unfamiliar in this part of the world. Three masts of elven design and built for speed, she sailed with moderate armaments and a skilled and seasoned crew that knew the vessel and their weapons equally well.
The figurehead was that of a lone, muscular wolf that stood on the prow at the furthest extent, with an aggressive stance, teeth bared. It suited the crew well as they had been in these unfamiliar waters for the better part of a year, a lone arctic wolf in hostile waters, running cargo and errands for the main port of this part of the coast while they waited. One of the crew burdened with inherited tasks and the sudden care of her younger twin siblings after the unexpected death of her parents, delaying their return home.
On deck, talking with the First Mate at the helm, the two children stood and played, a boy and girl with barely a moment between their births.
‘Did you see his arm, sis?’
‘I know, he lost his hand. Can you imagine, losing a hand? No more two-handed spells.’ said Tiffaniel, waving an empty sleeve of her robe in front of Groyven’s face.
‘Foolish children, losing a hand is terrible, especially the leading hand. Crippled for life.’
‘I think he needs a hook, Darius!’ she said with a giggle.
Darius shook his head with a sour look on his face, ‘Groyven, at least you seem to have a sensible head on your shoulders.’ he said, watching Tiffaniel monkeying around pretending to have no hands, ‘At least, a more sensible head then that one.’
Groyven watched his sister, trying to stifle a grin as she pulled faces while stumping around the deck. He felt a large hand on his shoulder, instantly recognising it as the Captain’s. He looked up at the man who had become like a father figure to him since the loss of their parents, almost a year before.
‘Come children, it is time for your lessons. I am sure Darius has had enough of your antics.’ he said, his voice deep and calm.
‘I can’t and I shan’t, oh Captain, for I am lacking hands with which to cast with. I shall return to my room and have someone feed me, as I cannot feed myself.’ Tiffaniel said, pouting playfully.
The Captain smiled broadly, ‘Feed you? I have no one to spare to do such a task. I’ll set out a bowl on the deck, always wanted a pet dog to have as a mascot for the ‘Fiddle, preferably one that resembles a wolf. But, I suppose, I can always make do.’
Tiffaniel stomped her foot and glared at him.
He chuckled, ‘Tiff, from this angle I could almost mistake you for a wolf pup, with eyes like those.’
She slowly let her hands out from her sleeves and stood straight, ‘I am sorry, for any trouble caused Captain. I am only jesting. Playing even.’
‘Your play may be in jest. But understand; to lose an extremity is a sacrifice that is nigh impossible to overcome. You can make do, but every day is filled with hardships and challenges made more difficult. Even a single finger lost is a handicap that can make the difference in surviving a fight to the death.’ he said firmly.
He tousled Groyven’s hair gently, ‘Your childish play may be innocent and without malice, but always be mindful of others who may not see it that way.’
Tiffaniel looked to Darius, ‘My apologies, First Mate. Please excuse my behaviour.’
‘No offence taken, little miss. But just know, when I was a young pup, my Da’ lost a hand in an accident with the ropes, and the only consolation is he had saved a close friend from becoming shark bait that day. Every day was a struggle after that.’
Tiffaniel looked at her toes as Darius’s words sunk in, ‘I am sorry, Darius.’
‘You didn’t know, but learn from this and like the Captain says, “Be mindful of who is watching your antics”. Always. There are many people in this world who aren’t so understanding or forgiving.’ Darius said, crouching to Tiffaniel’s level, holding out one of his large calloused hands.
Tiffaniel put her small hand in his and met his warm gaze. She quickly hugged him with an apologetic smile.
‘Go, Tiff. You have some lessons to attend.’ said Darius with a small chuckle in his voice.
She nodded, smiling, ‘I promise I will come and keep you company after my class.’
‘Only if I am still at the wheel, little Miss. Now go.’
Tiffaniel nodded before looking to the captain, ‘Who will I be learning from today?’
He gathered Tiffaniel with Groyven and led them down to the main deck, ‘You will be with the ‘Fiddle’s defensive spell-runner…’
‘Illias?’ asked Tiffaniel with a hopeful expression.
‘No, not Illias, Sialin. She is well versed in your speciality, and she offered to help you practice and hone your spells.’
Tiffaniel pulled a disgruntle look, ‘But last time all she would make me do was freeze fish while they were underwater.’
‘And what did we all eat that night?’ asked the captain as he continued to walk ahead of them.
‘Fish.’ groaned Tiffaniel.
‘The freshest fish I have ever eaten, seven hours after being caught.’ he looked to her, ‘Who would have thought that instantly freezing them solid while they were still swimming would prove such an effective way of catching and preserving them. All we needed was a small net.’
Tiffaniel frowned and spoke more to herself than the Captain and her brother, ‘I just hope she will show me something more impressive. At least Illias lets me use my power.’
The captain looked at her sidelong, ‘Spending half an hour, a handful of spells and catching enough to feed the entire crew heartily is impressive.’
Tiffaniel expression softened somewhat, ‘What will Groyven be doing?’
‘He will be with me, assisting me with mapping and charting.’
‘No spells?’ Tiffaniel looked across at Groyven, ‘He doesn’t get to do spells?’
‘Sis, who do you think will be cooking the fish you catch today? Remember, because of that idea?’ said Groyven while giving her a look, ‘Using our spells, it is really important to learn… Captain, what was that word you used last time?’
‘Finesse.’ he said as he glanced down at Groyven.
Groyven nodded, ‘That one, finesse. I can summon a fireball large enough to destroy the ship in one hit, but I struggle with steady, controlled flames. We both have power, but finesse is hard.’
The captain nodded, ‘I agree. With finesse you can truly control a situation. Overwhelming power is good to have when you need it, but without mastery over it, it is only a crude but powerful weapon. Think, Tiffaniel, you can control water and ice, you can command waves or unleash an icy blast, but can you summon the moisture from the air and turn it into a single delicate snowflake?’
Tiffaniel shook her head, ‘I want to though.’
‘Then you know what must be done. You two children have been blessed with power that most spell-runners hope to achieve after many years of careful and diligent study and practice. Where they have to work their way up, strangely you two have to work your way down. I find this curious. Not unheard of, but curious.’
‘What of Selera?’ Asked Groyven.
‘Your elder sister? She has a natural talent to adapt and master a situation, it comes easy to her. And I rely on it. Soon, you two will be spending more time on board the ‘Fiddle, and we will be leaving for more temperate waters. I, like everyone on board have had enough of this infernal heat off the desert.’
‘We will be leaving the Enclave?’ asked Tiffaniel.
‘Selera hasn’t spoken to you of this yet?’ the Captain winced, realising his slip, ‘It is best that Selera speaks to you of this matter.’
‘I wish she would stop deciding for us, she is our sister, not our…’
The Captain looked down at her, with a stern expression that silenced her.
‘She just…’ Tiffaniel tried to continue.
‘Sis’, stop.’ Groyven said, an angry expression growing on his face, ‘You and I will talk about this later.’
‘You mean you will talk, while I pretend to listen? You are just as bad as she is.’ shot back Tiffaniel, aggressively walking ahead of them, ‘Captain, I know where to find Sialin. You don’t need to escort me.’
‘Tiff…?’ Groyven said to her back as she stormed off, ‘Tiff, she does her best for…’
‘She is not ready or willing to understand, lad. She needs some time to burn off that anger, Sialin will take care of that for now.’ said the Captain, resting a reassuring hand on Groyven’s shoulder, ‘Try not to worry yourself.’
Groyven nodded, ‘She just doesn’t want to understand.’
The Captain crouched in front of Groyven, bringing his eyes to the same level, ‘You both have been through a terrible situation, together. She is always angry with your elder sister because she doesn’t want anyone to replace the role of your parents deep inside, in her heart. Even after almost a year, she is still afraid of those memories fading. I can understand.’
‘But, Captain, Selera is hurting too. All Tiff does is attack everything she does for us.’
The Captain nodded in understanding, ‘She just needs more time, space and time. Selera knows this. Privately, you should tell her how you feel, a little talk of appreciation goes a long way with letting her know she is on the right path. Taking care of the both of you helped her stay focussed.’
Groyven nodded, ‘But, you have done so much for us too, Captain.’
The Captain nodded, ‘It is the least I could do, I have known Selera for a long time and she has got me, my ship and crew out of a bind many a time. I trust her with my life. Having a couple of children along for the ride is a small price to pay to keep my best spell-runner.’
Groyven looked at the Captain’s softened features, ‘Selera is more than just your spell-runner, isn’t she?’
The Captain laughed and squeezed Groyven’s shoulder gently, ‘Intuitive one, aren’t you?’ he said, leaving the question unanswered.
‘Come Groyven, since we have gone over the basics, I would like you to help me with mapping our course back down the coast. I know it isn’t spell craft, but they are skills worth learning. After Sialin has finished with your sister she wants to have you for the remainder of the afternoon, something about you having more focus and stamina with your spells.’
Groyven nodded as he followed the Captain back to his quarters at the stern.