Tiffaniel stood watching the closed door, hearing the raucous cry to victory after Selera and Sialin addressed the crew before a charged silence enveloped the ship. She heard Groyven’s voice behind her.
‘I can feel the tension in the ship, it is like the smell of rain in the air before the thunder clap and downpour.’ said Groyven his eyes wide.
Tiffaniel looked at him curiously, his face was serious, ‘Brother?’
Groyven turned, ‘Yes, Tiff?’
‘You are different.’ she said.
He met her eyes, his look was reserved and quiet. He nodded slowly as he considered her words.
‘I think we should get ready.’ he said as he looked up, hearing soft movement on the deck of the helm above them.
‘Ven? Please, I am sorry!’ said Tiffaniel, misunderstanding his glance.
He looked around the room and quickly moved to the Captain’s desk where Selera had been working on that device. It still sat there, the box sitting beside an envelope.
‘This has nothing to do with apologies, Tiff. Many things happened during the night and this morning. I just need some time.’ he closed the lid of the box as he looked at her, ‘I need time to think.’
Tiffaniel looked at him, her eyebrows arching.
‘Ven, what type of things? Sialin carried you to her room last night and you were naked. What happened?’ she asked.
She looked at him suspiciously, remembering how close and familiar he suddenly seemed towards Sialin. ‘Did you? You know. I know you like her.’
Groyven looked at his twin, slowly shaking his head.
‘Tiff, I am now Sialin’s apprentice. I chose to be taught by her. I now have responsibilities to her. I bear her mark behind my ear and she has mine. That is all I can say, I will not betray her trust in me.’ he frowned slightly as she looked downcast, ‘For your own sake, do not ask me to betray her trust.’
Tiffaniel looked up, her eyes wide, understanding the seriousness of his tone.
‘There are other things too, things to do with Mother, Selera and you, things Mother prepared me for. I just need some time.’ he continued.
‘Things Mother prepared…you for. What do you mean?’
‘Tiff, give me a few days. I just need a few days.’ Groyven said guardedly, his expression pained, ‘I need to find myself.’
Tiffaniel looked at her brother in confusion, he smiled back at her reassuringly.
‘Tiff, please, not now.’ he said.
‘Ven, don’t treat me like a fool. I may have been refusing to accept changes since…’ her brow furrowed.
He looked at her, knowingly, ‘It is harder when you have to accept it, Tiff. I have not been myself since they died. Selera has been trying to show me, that it is acceptable to focus inward and feel grief.’
He tilted his head, hearing the Captain’s call to Selera. He gestured to Tiffaniel as he braced himself against the table. She quickly came to him and did the same against the other side, facing him. She looked into his eyes as they felt the ship accelerate and pull to port-side.
‘And?’ she said.
He shook his head, ‘Last night, something in me broke. Sialin held me and showed me that it was alright to be broken, that I can ask for help and rely on another to pick up my shattered pieces, like I have done for you so many times.’ he looked up quickly, missing Tiffaniel’s momentary expression of guilt.
‘Why did you bring…?’
Her words were interrupted as the windows shattered behind them, both Tiffaniel and Groyven jumped as a few panels of glass exploded into the room and an arrow skipping lightly off the floor, sliding to a stop. He looked at her as she shied away from his look and the flying glass.
He turned and quickly picked up the arrow, swiftly moving to and looking through one of the broken windows. Dark sails were close behind. He could see the bowmen on the other ship and their surprised expressions as the flaming remains of arrows fell down behind the back of the ship like rain. He felt Tiffaniel behind him as she looked out through another of the broken windows.
She grabbed Groyven by the shoulder, ‘What is that noise? Can you hear it?’
He nodded, ‘I don’t know.’
She covered her ears, ‘It is like it is inside my head!’
Groyven dragged her away from the windows. The deck tilted, he stumbled and fell to his knees as the ship rapidly changed course, pulling aggressively to portside. Wincing in pain, he scrambled back to his feet, helping Tiffaniel stand. He pushed her towards the Captain’s desk, gesturing for her to hide under it and hold on. She clambered under it and pushed herself into the corner of the foot well, securing herself. Groyven stood, bracing himself against the desk as the noise got louder, almost deafening. A sudden deep rumbling noise rocked through the ship, shaking the timber.
Tiffaniel was rattled by the shudder, her body firmly wedged into the secured desk. Her ears were ringing, the shrill screaming sound was growing louder by the second. She could see Groyven’s legs standing firmly and she yelled out to him, but could not even hear her own voice over the clamour. Without warning, a concussive explosion tore the air, causing a shock that blasted the breath out of her and left glass tinkling across the floor. She clamped her eyes shut and screamed as the floor heaved, throwing her body against the inside of the desk. Trying desperately to get a handhold as the floor righted itself, she felt a sharp, snapping vibration. She could feel the cracking and rending of timber as the mast split. Her eyes wide in fear, she screamed her brother’s name. Struggling to right herself, she turned. His legs were no longer firmly planted at the desk.
‘Ven!?’ she screamed again.
Scrambling out from under the desk on her hands and knees, she frantically looked around, searching for him. Amid shards of glass that had penetrated into the room from the windows, he laid. From her vantage all she could see was his legs and an arm, there was blood, his blood, her twin’s blood on the floor and coating his hand. Time slowed to a terrible crawl as the scene hit her, her legs and feet moving like lead as she stood. She fell again to her knees as the dwarven cannons roared, shaking the floor. She slid to his side, his arm moving feebly as he tried to raise himself, legs twitching involuntarily. She grabbed Groyven’s face, turning it to her and looked into his eyes. One was heavily bloodshot and his vision was dazed, his eyes lazily landing and partially focusing on her. His lips moved, but she could not hear him.
‘Ven!? What is it?!’ she screamed at him, barely hearing her own words, her eyes locked on his.
Again his lips moved, his other hand weakly shifting to his waist and belt, feeling for the pouch. The movement going unseen.
‘Ven? Please, what should I do?’ Tiffaniel whispered.
He dazedly looked into her eyes, swallowing with effort and tried to raise himself again. Sliding back to the floor as the last of his strength left him.
She leaned down over his face, her ear close to his lips, she just made out his words, said over and over again with each shallow breath, ‘I’m sorry.’
She stared at him, jumping as the dwarven cannons roared to life again, her hand coming free as Groyven’s head slumped to the side as he slipped from consciousness. Her hand was slick with his blood. Fear overtook her as she felt around the side of his head, leaning over him she found the wound. Just above his ear, his scalp was split from where he had hit his head against the corner of the desk. She listened for his breathing and could feel his shallow breaths against her cheek.
She quickly glanced around the room as the level of panic grew in her. She had to get them both of them out of there. As her eyes took in the room, she saw the box that housed the device that Selera had shown her that morning. It was tipped on its side, empty. Staggering to her feet she pulled at her brother, dragging him into the middle of the floor. The amulet slid from his clothes, its fine chain still securely around his neck as she pulled at his arm. Tiffaniel saw it with sudden understanding. She looked at him in shock, tears suddenly boiling forth and running freely down her cheeks.
‘Groyven?’ she said quietly, dropping to her knees at his side as she cried.
‘Ven, what should I do?’ she whispered as she hugged his prone form, ‘You have been taking care of me, with no thought for yourself and I have been lashing out at you.’
She pounded the floor with a closed fist angrily, screaming, ‘Why didn’t you say anything?’
Her eyes hardened, feeling the shudder go through the ship, hearing the sound of cracking and tearing timbers and screams from outside. Getting to her feet, she ran to the remainder of the windows and looked out on the carnage. Splinters of shattered wood, wreckage and bodies lay strewn in the waters behind them. To her panicked eyes she recognised their own crew. A fevered thought crossed her mind as she saw the bodies, Selera could be among them. A glinting caught her eye from the corner of the room. Quickly moving to it, she reached down and grabbed it. It was strangely warm to the touch.
Suddenly, everything was clear, she knew what to do as she looked at the two dragons surrounding the swirling golden sun in her hand. Escape, it didn’t matter where, as long as it was away from here, to a place where she and her brother could be safe at least for the moment. She quickly ran to the drawer and pulled out a canvas bag, haphazardly grabbing random things and shoving them inside. Parchment, quills, vials. Running to the cupboard she swung the door open and snatched some bottles, bandages, anything that seemed of use. A singular thought ran through her head as she moved, escape the noise, the fear, the pain, the death, escape. The ship was already taking on water, with so much damage. As she shouldered the laden bag the deck started to tilt. She staggered across the floor, reaching her brother’s side, holding him in place as the deck listed at a severe angle.
She looked around in a panic, her fears were confirmed. The Lychen’s Fiddle was capsizing, Selera must be dead or dying to not have made it to their side already. The same for Sialin. It was just them. The same after their parents died, just the two of them, alone and afraid. They had to survive. She looked at the device in her hand again. They had to escape, it did not matter where, even if it were a different world or universe, they had to live. She took another look around the wrecked room as it sat at a sharp angle. She straddled Groyven and depressed both safety clasps on the device as the ship righted itself. Looking at it carefully, a golden shimmer built in the sun that the dragons were coiled around. Tiffaniel frowned as sudden golden light bathed the room in its brilliance as she gripped the sun and slowly started to turn it as the dragons watched on.
She looked down at Groyven, unconscious and bleeding, ‘I will save you, Ven. I will get you away from here.’
A shimmer grew in the room as the golden light built, becoming more radiant with every passing second. Tiffaniel started to squint against the glare, her hands locked to the device. A deep whining sound slowly increased in volume as a wind started to whip around, kicking up parchment and other assorted things. The sun could twist no further in its dragon formed retainers, a positive and defined click signalling that there was no turning back. She looked down at her brother, her hair being flicked around, her tears falling like golden droplets only to be whisked away in the steadily building golden haze.
She smiled at Groyven, ‘I’ll save you, brother.’