Over the steadily increasing roar, Tiffaniel saw the light stream in through the door to the Captain’s cabin as it opened. She looked up to see Sialin enter, her eyes wide as she assessed the situation. She saw Sialin’s lips moving, her voice being carried away and swallowed by the still increasing whining sound. Suddenly, realisation dawned on her, Sialin had came for them, she looked down and struggled with the device. She tried to twist the sun back, but the retainers were locked and unmoving. She tried to throw it away to find that she was unable to separate her hands.
She saw Sialin desperately trying to force her way to them, only to come up against an impenetrable shield. She saw Sialin’s flames, her eyes screaming with power as she assaulted the clear globe that surrounded them. She saw Sialin’s eyes as they settled on Groyven, the panic as Sialin threw herself at the transparent shield, hammering it with her power, her fists and even her body. Tiffaniel tried to back away, to find her feet were rooted to the spot.
Sialin stepped away, momentarily spent. Both Groyven and Tiffaniel were trapped in that transparent glowing ball of light. Everything she had used was ineffective and she could see that Tiffaniel could not stop it. Her jaw clenched as she had seen Groyven, he was bleeding and on the floor. She put out her hand and ran out into the sunlight, quickly turning and looking up to Selera at the railing of the helm. A look of panic and fear on her face.
Selera looked down at her, concern growing as she quickly came down the steps, ‘Sialin?’
‘The children, they are trapped, I am not sure what it is. Quick!’
Sialin ran ahead as Selera followed close behind, entering the room awash with blinding golden light and now howling with a steadily growing high pitched whine. Shielding her eyes, Selera looked around the room trying to make sense of what she was seeing. She approached the ball of light and came up against an invisible barrier. Peering through the glare, she saw Tiffaniel standing over her twin, her hands struggling desperately with something she was holding. Selera hammered her hand on the sphere, trying to get Tiffaniel’s attention.
Tiffaniel saw Selera and stopped struggling, she made out Selera mouthing the words, ‘What have you done?’
She screamed, ‘We were sinking. Ven, he hit his head. The noise. I saw people overboard and bodies, I… Escape.’ she burst into tears as she realised that her fears had led her to an action she could not get out of.
She held out her hands to Selera so she could see.
‘I am sorry.’ she cried out.
Selera stood looking at her and the device clearly in her younger sister’s hands. The expression of shock slowly giving way to despair. She shook her head so that Tiffaniel could clearly see. From her research on the design notes she knew that once started, the process was irreversible and it could not be stopped. This was beyond anyone. She did not even know what would happen or where they would go, even the device’s creator mused at the possibilities.
She placed her hands against the transparent globe, she knew there was scant moments before they would disappear, potentially forever. Tears slowly rolled down her cheeks as she shook her head. She looked at Tiffaniel’s distraught face as she struggled hopelessly with the device. She pounded her hand against the globe until their eyes met.
She put her hands out, and then pointed at herself, then placed a hand over her heart and then pointed back at Tiffaniel while mouthing the words, ‘I love you, always.’
She saw Tiffaniel say the words back. Swallowing her pain, she pointed to Groyven and placed her hand over her heart and she saw Tiffaniel nod. Selera pointed to Groyven again and Tiffaniel and then linked her hands together and then motioned hugging. She saw Tiffaniel nod, tears falling like gold.
She mouthed the words, ‘Survive, I will come for you.’ to her younger sister.
Sialin watched the exchange, realising that nothing could be done. She looked at Groyven, laying prone on the floor. Pain started to slowly build in her chest, a tightness. Pushing the pain aside, she grabbed Selera’s shoulder and got Tiffaniel’s attention. Nodding to her, she pointed at Groyven, pulled an ampule from her pocket and held it up for Tiffaniel to see. She pointed again at Groyven and drank the burning liquid, letting her eyes flare. She gripped Selera’s shoulder forcefully as she noticed that the twin’s bodies were becoming insubstantial. She quickly gestured the same as Selera had, mouthing the words ‘I love you.’
As the deafening whine reached a crescendo and before their eyes, the twins, the glowing globe and the swirling wind flashed out in a blinding display, creating a sudden vacuum of air and sound. In the immediate silence of the aftermath, Selera felt herself being pulled into Sialin’s embrace. Her senses and body were numb, her eyes slowly adjusting to the dark room. She stumbled, Sialin was dragging her back and away from the hole in the floor, a perfect circle cut into the wood. She looked into Sialin’s flaming eyes, devoid of emotions, feeling her siblings slip away from her and potentially far out of her reach.
A lump built in her chest as she struggled to breathe. Dropping to her knees she let out a mournful cry, a mixture of frustration and loss. Bent over and on all fours she retched from the tension, vomiting up her breakfast. For a moment she stayed there, her whole body shuddering. Her eyes starting to spit sparks, her power coming to life as anger, pain, frustration and grief started to burn inside of her.
‘They took my siblings from me. They took Groyven and Tiffaniel from me. They, those bastards took them from me!’ she ended with a forceful growl.
Sialin stepped back with fear in her eyes as Selera rose, her whole body limned with light as her power took over.
Selera stood there afire, her words aggressive, quiet and assertive, ‘This fight is over, I have more important things to do.’
She walked from the room, the door tearing clean off its hinges ahead of her as she walked towards it and out into the morning sun. The Captain stood just beyond the entry, on the deck as Darius, his first mate guided the Fiddle. His eyes were hard as he watched his wife, Selera walk out. He did not even ask, seeing Sialin, amber eyes flaming as she followed her, shaking her head with a pained expression on her face, her hand pressing against her chest.
‘Selera, what is our direction, my love?’ he asked calmly, the crew gathering on the deck behind him, abandoning their posts as a compound silence spread over the ship.
The big man flinched as she looked at him, her eyes orbs of brute power, her face seemed to crumple as she fought the emotions inside. Without warning, she was composed; a calm expression on her face and a cold voice came from her lips.
‘This fight is over, my dear.’ She said, those words and her tone of finality sending a shiver down his spine.
He nodded slowly, understanding. He looked at Sialin as Selera walked slowly past, heading to the starboard railing, the crew giving her space.
‘Groyven, Tiffaniel?’ he asked Sialin quietly.
‘Gone, Tiffaniel panicked, used the device we were sent to retrieve. They slipped through our fingers.’ she said, her voice cracking as she spoke.
Again, the slow nod as he turned, watching with morbid fascination as Selera gripped the railing with her left hand and reached out her right towards the rudderless ship. Her face was expressionless apart from a tear, tracking its way down her face as she closed her hand. Terrified screams of the crew on the doomed vessel and the sounds of tortured timbers grinding and cracking under immense pressure reached their ears. Suddenly the hull collapsed, imploding as Selera’s hand closed into a fist, splinters of wood and shattered timber exploding over the water as she released her grip.
With barely a thought, Selera turned aside and mounted the stairs to the helm, soundlessly walking past Darius to the aft railing. The survivors on the capsized hull behind them were all watching, screaming and jumping into the water while she stood there, her left hand on the railing, right hand outstretched as she mercilessly crushed the remainder of their vessel, leaving them stranded.
Selera turned and looked at the rapidly closing frigate, her eyes blazing watching it intently. Suddenly, the wind picked up in response to her summons, the remaining masts creaking under the strain as the Lychen’s Fiddle gained speed. Darius watched her as she stood firmly beside him for the moment, the sheer power radiating off her in palpable waves.
He heard her quiet command, ‘Hold course, Darius, do not waver.’
Before she headed for the stairs, her eyes fixed unblinkingly on the enemy vessel.
Again, the crew parted silently, giving a clear unobstructed path to the bow. The Captain and Sialin followed her silently as she walked up the steps to the deck of the forecastle. Each step she made was deliberate in its movement, calculated, purposeful until she reached the forward railing. She reached out with her power, testing the distance, her face calm as her eyes flared. Again the wind picked up its pace further, the masts groaning under the load as the sails strained, barely a hair’s breadth from tearing.
Then she saw it, the enemy frigate was turning. Understanding that the Fiddle had gained speed and was hunting them, its crew realising that the wolf of the sea was wounded and more dangerous than ever. Selera’s head tilted, she looked up to the crossbeam of the sail. She felt the presence, a blood red cloak, one shrouded in shadow despite the sun on the sail, standing above her with one hand on the mast steadying itself. A raspy chuckle reached her ears as she ignored the figure and focused again on the frigate.
A small smile came to her, chilling and resolute. Her patience was rewarded, a red flare lit on the main deck of the distant frigate. She reached her hand out and snapped her fingers, that red flare bloomed, like the petals of a flower spreading out wide to accept the rays of the sun. In that instant, that derelict weapon of the old world that those foolish enough chose to resurrect, exploded. As its explosive fire expanded, it instantly obliterated the ship, chaining together with another of the same aboard. It vaporised the crew and reduced the ship to fiery little splinters that rained down on the surrounding water, sending up trails of smoke. A few seconds later a double clap of thunder descended on them, leaving everyone aboard with ringing ears and shaking breath.
A deathly silence fell over the waters as those aboard the Fiddle watched the spectacle in horrified silence, realising that two of those terrible weapons had been launched at them less than a score of moments before. Selera blinked, slowly turning and looking back up to the crossbeam of the sail. The red-cloaked stranger was no longer there, but its raspy mirth echoed in her ears. The Captain looked at her; the gravity of what he had just witnessed taking his words. She looked at him, her eyes once again normal, her brows knitting as she felt hollow inside. She looked to Sialin.
‘He can take on your flame? How many does he have? How many did you give him?’ she asked of Sialin in a calm voice.
Sialin glanced at her, fighting the pain and shortness of breath, trying to remember when she prepared in her cabin, ‘Two or three score.’ she said.
Selera nodded slowly, her mind ticking over as she vacantly looked towards the coast, ‘His sigil?’
Sialin touched Groyven’s mark behind her ear, her other hand clawing at her chest.
‘It is still warm. My Little Prince lives.’ her voice choking as she looked to the coast in confusion, ‘It is so hot.’
Again Selera slowly nodded, her eyes closing in concentration, ‘Sialin, I am sorry. I made a mistake, I should have had someone stay with them. I will find them, I don’t care how long it takes. That item took them somewhere…’
‘Selera!’ said the Captain, catching Sialin as she crumpled, her strength abruptly leaving her, her legs giving out as she gasped.
Selera was at Sialin’s side as the Captain held her, concern etched on her face, ‘Sialin?’
‘It does not make sense.’ gasped Sialin as she continued to claw at her chest.
She looked Selera in the eyes, her amber depths intense.
‘He lives.’ Sialin whispered through gritted teeth before slumping in the Captain’s arms, whispering unintelligibly in her mother tongue.
She started to shake, her body quivering. The Captain carried her along the deck, the crew still in a shocked silence as they watched him carry her like a child. Darius walked out to them, meeting them on the main deck, quickly conversing with the Captain.
‘Return to port?’ Darius asked.
‘Yes, we return strong.’ the Captain looked to the sky, ‘We make port early tomorrow morn, at dawn. We start the repairs immediately. It’ll give those watching us something to be concerned about when we dock with only a damaged mast. They have angered the wolf, if we have to keep sailing these waters we are no longer merciful, we hunt.’
Darius looked at the Captain, nodding with a grim smile. He quickly mounted the steps of the helm and turned to the crew.
‘Crew, lock down the cannons and ballista, prepare the wolf for a swift repair and re-rigging on our return to port tomorrow at dawn. From now on we return to our roots, war. The wolf sails with teeth bared and fire in its eyes. We have just lost our youngest members, they are alive, but we don’t know where. From this moment on, we hunt like a wolf alone in the snow until we find a direction.’
A quiet and serious murmur worked its way through the crew as they got to task, the shock slowly wearing off. The sounds of the ship and its crew preparing made their way through the torn door of the Captain’s cabin. Selera looked over Sialin as she laid unconscious in the Captain’s bed, getting a clean blanket and covering her.
The Captain stood in the room, surveying the damage. Most of the aft windows were broken. There was a perfect circle in the floor, he could see the passage to the cabins directly underneath. He moved around the room, checking the cupboards and drawers, taking note of what was missing. Selera moved past him and retrieved the large envelope of notes, diagrams and scribbles about the device she was to deliver off the floor. Sweeping the desk clear she opened the envelope and pulled the papers out.
‘Do you think you will find something that you haven’t already?’ asked the Captain as he checked on Sialin.
He lifted her head with a gentleness that belied his size and slipped a pillow under her. Her face now calm.
‘Wherever they are, Tiffaniel managed to grab almost anything that would not be useful. Either way, as long as they are alive, we can find them. We can call on my contacts.’ he said.
Selera pounded the desk, ‘Can your contacts track children across the multitude of different dimensions? They are not here, this device, it was untested, even its maker did not know where it would send the user. If he did, he did not write it down.’
He turned, looking over his shoulder, ‘Not here? I thought you said it was a teleportation device.’
‘Yes, it is, in a sense. It sends the one who activates it to another place, a different dimension, a parallel universe, a mirrored reality, or in its simplest as you said, they could just be on the other side of the world.’
The Captain carefully exposed Groyven’s mark behind Sialin’s ear, ‘We return to port at dawn, you report to the Enclave. See if they can be of help.’
‘But? Help? They will more likely hold us accountable for the loss of the…’
He held up his hand, silencing her, ‘If they do not assist, we finish repairs and leave. If they so much as try to hamper our movements.’ he let his words linger, an undeniable threat loading their tone.
‘Three ships Selera. Weapons of destruction from before the reckoning of the world. This was organised, they were equipped to use incredible force against us. Recently we have been tested far too frequently. In my mind I can no longer label it as coincidence.’
‘We finish up preparations, and we head home.’ he said clearly.
‘But what if?’ said Selera in protest.
He looked at her, ‘If it is dimensions you must track, or anything else for that matter, you and Sialin must head to the Academy of Spires. I must meet with our financier. He might be able to help.’
‘Who is this financier? You have never mentioned him before.’ said Selera, her tone defensive.
‘A man I impressed many years ago. Powerful with extremely deep pockets who allows me an incredibly loose leash. This ship is his, his funding pays the crew. Apart from you, my love, he is the only other person I dare not cross. I already have enough explaining to do about our whereabouts for the last ten months. I doubt he will mind when he hears the circumstances.’
Selera stared at him, knowing that she wouldn’t get any more out of her husband, ‘You are right. The help we need is not here. Even my parents concealed who they were from all their contacts here, there is not even a common fortune-teller in the city to approach.’
He nodded, ‘Our best course of action is elsewhere. That is where we must go, with haste.’
The Captain met Selera’s blue eyes with his hazel, ‘We will not stop, until Groyven’s mark goes dark. Even then, we will search until at least we find a trail to an answer.’