The Tale of a Mage (part 29)

Nyx stared at Livia for a long moment suspicion marking her features.

No offense but I find that hard to believe.” Her voice finally broke the silence.

I don’t particularly care what you believe.” Livia shrugged. “Besides we’re unlikely to be leaving this island in the foreseeable future. In time you will see I speak the truth.”

Does this mean you won’t spank me anymore?” Nyx’s tone was hopeful.

That will be entirely dependent on your behaviour.” Livia chuckled “So I suspect I will spank you frequently. That being said I promise I will only spank you if you truly deserve it.” Nyx frowned.

What gives you the right to determine whether I deserve it!” She snapped. Livia ignored the question.

I discovered a stream when I went for a walk. It would be wise for us to set up camp closer to it.” Livia turned a took off into the jungle at a stride. Nyx sighed and followed her.

Upon reaching the stream they began to set up camp. Nyx would have been satisfied to find a tree to sleep in but Livia insisted they set up a temporary dwelling. They worked in not quite companionable silence building a shelter out of branches, palm fronds, and vines, making beds out of bark moss and ferns, collecting firewood. Once the camp was completed to Livia’s standards, which Nyx felt to be unnecessarily high, they set to the task of collecting food. Livia set off to gather more coconuts. Nyx put together a makeshift bow using a vine and a bendy stick, she had lost all her weapons save one knife during the sea serpent attack. After sharpening several additional sticks against a rock she set off to hunt. By the time Livia returned with more coconuts and a collection of berries Nyx had a rabbit roasting over the fire. As they tore into their first decent meal since the sea serpent attack Livia broke the silence.

In the morning we’ll need to properly scout the island, determine whether there’s anything here we need to be concerned about. I’m not in the mood for surprises.”

And search for the others.” Nyx interjected.

False hope is for the weak.” Livia snapped.

Assuming the worst so as not to be disappointed is for the weak.” Nyx retorted.

What makes you think I care whether the others are dead or alive. It’s not like I had many other options after you dragged me into your little… adventure. I didn’t stay with you because I was invested in your mission’s success.”

Adventure? Dragged you?!” Nyx felt her temper rising. She took a deep breath. “You’re trying to make me angry because you don’t want to talk about this because you hope they’re alive just as much as I do. You care about Cassandra I can tell by the way you talk to her. You definitely care about Drucilla she wouldn’t get under your skin as much as she does if you didn’t.” Livia fixed Nyx with a fiery glare.

I do hope we find Drucilla tomorrow. I hope we find her rotting corpse.” She snarled.

It’s okay to care you know?” Nyx’s voice was soft. “It’s good actually, makes you almost resemble a person.”

Caring is foolish.” Livia jumped to her feet and stalked towards their makeshift hut. “I’m going to get some sleep. I advise you do the same.” Something about the way she said those words made Nyx’s heart ache. She shook herself. Caring, in general, might be a good thing but caring about Livia and the fucked up ways she chose to deal with her emotions was not. Nyx would not be doing herself any favours by humanising her. Nyx sighed and rose to her feet. Sleep did sound like an excellent idea.

Sleep was elusive. Nyx tossed and turned to the sound of Livia’s snores for what felt like an eternity. It seemed like she had only just drifted off when she was awakened with a jolt to cold hands dragging her from her bed. She looked up at the person responsible and a chill crept through her body. The woman was beautiful in a way that felt wrong. Everything about her was dark with the exception of her alabaster skin which seemed to glow in the moonlight. Nyx blinked a few times willing herself to wake up from what she desperately wished to be a dream. In a moment which felt instantaneous, she was shackled, left in the middle of the campsite. She glanced around. Her heart skipped a beat. Cassandra and Izzy were also here, also chained. It felt like the universe was mocking her. Against the odds, she and her sister had both survived and now they were about to get murdered this… demon. Within moments Livia had been brought to join them.

The woman paced back and forth before them eyeing them like prey.

I’m about to offer you a deal.” She purred “A deal you would be wise to accept. I am currently in possession of your friend. I am also lacking a crew for my ship. Given that I cannot venture above deck during daylight hours this has left me stranded here. If you agree to serve as my crew I might just allow you all to leave with your lives once I reach my destination. If you refuse your friend will die.”

I vote we let this bitch kill the other bitch.” While Nyx felt terror building inside of her Livia just looked angry.

Oh..” The women chuckled. “Did I forget to mention, if you refuse I shall feast on all of you. Your friend is just extra collateral. If you agree to my terms she will remain with me at all times to ensure none of you try anything foolish.”

Nyx glanced at Cassandra confused upon noting her calm expression. She didn’t appear afraid just intensely focused on something Nyx could not see. She looked like an entirely different person to that which Nyx remembered.

Cassandra reached deep into her core feeling the magic build. One moment the strange woman was posturing before them making her threats. The next she was gaping in shocked confusion as the chains which held them in place disintegrated.

I have a counter offer.” Cassandra stepped forward. “You need a crew, we need a boat. You will free our friend and if you allow us to use your vessel to reach the Isle of the Fae we will assist you to go wherever it is you wish to go.”

Deal” A devious smile spread across Adrielle’s face.

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The Tale of a Mage (part 28)

Drucilla pushed vines aside and ducked under low hanging branches as she made her way across the island. The last two hours had been spent trekking deeper and deeper into a thick jungle. Now, however, the flora was beginning to thin. She had discovered a variety of fruit trees and a small stream. She would go back to them later. At present, she was intent on scouting the island for potential threats. Much to Drucilla’s relief she had yet to encounter any, not even hostile wildlife.

As she explored she entertained herself contemplating potential embellishments which could turn this into a better story. Fought off a lion with her bare hands? No, she needed to go bigger. Single-handedly defeated a reclusive death cult. Yes, that would make for a tremendous story.

It was not long before the jungle opened into a small cove. Drucilla’s face lit up as her eyes fell on a small boat sitting in the middle of the tranquil water. It was bigger than her previous one but still small enough that a large crew would not be required.

Solution to every problem.” Drucilla grinned. Now hopefully there was some rum on that boat. Wading into the water Drucilla swam to the boat at record speed. Gripping the side she pulled herself up and clambered onto the deck. She paused for a moment admiring her surroundings. The woodwork was exquisite. She drew her sword and began to search for any pesky former owners who might prove an obstacle to her enjoying her new acquisition. The deck was suspiciously empty. She did a sweep checking potential hiding places before pulling up the hatch and venturing below. She descended down a ladder into darkness. When she felt wooden floorboards beneath her feet she paused, blinking, waiting for her vision to adjust. The lack of lanterns indicated that this section of the boat was also empty. It seemed strange to Drucilla that such a marvelous sea craft would be left abandoned but she wasn’t about to question good fortune.

Floorboards creaked behind her. She spun around eyes falling on a shadowy figure. Suddenly she felt herself propelled backward at inhuman speed. Shackles snapped closed around her wrists and ankles. The figure paced around her eyes running over her body with an intense hunger. Smooth raven hair framed ivory skin. Ruby eyes emitted a faint glow. The woman’s lips curled up in a predatory grin revealing a pair of pearly razor-sharp fangs.

Now, where did you come from?” The woman came to a stop in front of her, reached for her. Obsidian nails scraped softly down her cheek in a gesture that almost mimicked affection.

Well…” Drucilla began “Many years ago, roughly nine months before I was born to be more specific, my mother was visiting a tavern…” The woman before her emitted a low growl an expression of impatience flickering across her face.

As I’m certain you understood I was inquiring as to how you and your little friends came to be on this island.” The woman’s eyes remained fixed on Drucilla in expectation. Drucilla noted the woman’s mention of her friends with a measure of relief. The reference had to mean the others where alive. Her relief was short-lived as the woman’s intense stare reminded her of her current predicament.

Ah” Drucilla smirked “Now, that is an excellent story. My companions and I are demon hunters, you see. We were hired to track down a particularly duplicitous fiend who possessed the body of a sea serpent and used it bring down the ship of High Priestess Vestra. We managed to slay the beast, however, we lost our ship during the fight.”

Demon hunter?” The woman chuckled “And here I thought you were a common pirate trying to steal my vessel. Let me guess, you need to borrow this boat for important demon hunting business but you’ll bring it straight back as soon as you’re finished? Or perhaps you’re here to hunt me? Your capture was all part of the plan? Your friends are closing in on me as we speak?”

Yes!” Drucilla nodded with feigned sincerity. The woman shook her head tapping her palm against Drucilla’s cheek softly, a warning. Drucilla inhaled a sharp breath as a heat began to rise within her. She cursed her body’s inopportune reaction. This was not the time, she needed her wits about her. The woman was, unfortunately, rather attractive.

It matters not.” The woman shrugged “I was merely curious. Your arrival is quite fortuitous. I am in need of a crew who are able to venture above deck during the day. My last one fell victim to… an unfortunate accident. My possession of you shall serve as motivation to ensure your friends are cooperative.”

You should be prepared for disappointment.” Drucilla chuckled “I’m not certain all of my ‘friends’ as you call them are overly fond of me.”

For your sake, I hope that’s not true.” The woman began to circle her once more. “You are only useful to me if you facilitate their compliance. If you fail to prove useful… well… I have been stuck on this island alone for many weeks. I am hungry.”

Drucilla groaned, ending up stuck in the clutches of a hungry vampire had not been part of the plan. She needed to find a way out of here. At present, however, no viable plan presented itself. She sighed in resignation. She would have to bide her time, wait for an opening.

May I ask your name?” She addressed the woman. The woman paused in front of her.

You may if you will tell me yours.” Eyes fell on her in expectation.

Drucilla” There was no harm in the woman knowing her name.

My name is Adrielle.” Adrielle purred.

You wouldn’t happen to have any rum would you, Adrielle?” If she was going to be trapped here she might as well make the most of the situation.

The Tale of a Mage (part 27)

Cassandra felt terror well up inside her. She gripped the edge of the sinking vessel until her knuckles turned white. Her head spun and she tried to focus on slowing her breath. In the back of her mind, she admonished herself. She should be better at this by now. After spending the better part of seven years as a guest in Queen Cerise’s dungeon she should be stronger, better able to handle adversity. Izzy didn’t appear to be afraid of anything, Livia and Drucilla seemed much the same. Even Nyx who did at times noticeably display fear was resourceful and usually able to act in spite of it. Cassandra had thought her magical mastery had improved significantly but in this moment it failed her. As horrifying as the prospect of being eaten alive was, Cassandra found herself overcome by an increasing melancholy that threatened to overshadow her fear. In this moment, the thought that she was about to die without having proved herself anything beyond useless caused her more distress than the prospect of her impending demise. A sudden sharp pain interrupted her musings as a piece of falling debris collided with the back of her head. Her eyes shot open, instinctually, searching for the source of the pain. Her head swam, the chaotic world before her began to blur and then fade. The experience was almost one of peace. If any of the people she loved survived this they would be free, they would no longer need to risk themselves for her. That offered a measure of comfort.

When Cassandra awoke the first thing that invaded her consciousness was pain. Her head throbbed, her throat burned, her whole body ached. It took several attempts to pry her eyes open. She was greeted by Izzy learning over her. Her face marked with a combination of relief and lingering concern.

“Thank the Gods you’re alive. You were so close to death…” Izzy’s skin was pale and clammy, her eyes glazed. “I used all the magic I could muster, I wasn’t sure it would be enough.” Her voice was shaking. Cassandra ran her gaze about her surroundings. It appeared they were on a beach. She refocused her attention on Izzy.

“Are you okay?” Cassandra pulled herself to a sitting position and reached for Izzy her discomfort temporarily forgotten.

“I… I don’t think so Cass.” Izzy trembled in Cassandra’s arms. Cassandra gently guided her to a lying position. Izzy’s eyelids flickered for a moment and then fell closed. Cassandra leant over her. She was still breathing but her breaths were weak and erratic.

Cassandra froze a sense of horror overwhelming her senses. This couldn’t be happening. Izzy had always been the strong one. The one who had kept her sane all those years she had been trapped in the Queen’s dungeon. Izzy had saved her in so many ways and now it appeared she might pay for it with her life.

Cassandra shook herself. No! She couldn’t let this happen, wouldn’t. She lay shaking hands on Izzy’s chest. Closing her eyes, she focused on the feeling of magic welling up inside her. She visualised Izzy waking, healthy, as she cast the healing spell she had practised many times before. Izzy remained motionless her breathing becoming weaker as the moments passed. A regular healing spell wasn’t going to work. Healing spells repaired the flesh and there was nothing wrong with Izzy’s body. Izzy’s problem was magical depletion. A mage’s magic was connected to their lifeforce. Reaching the end of their reserves could kill them. It was a rare occurrence. Usually, spellcasting failure occurred long before a mage reached this limit.

Cassandra pushed down the rising panic. There had to be something she could do, a way to fix this. She would not allow Izzy to die for her. She began going over her training in her head, every spell she had practised, every historical text Izzy had sneaked into the dungeon for her during her captivity. At last, she remembered something. An ancient scroll, recounting events prior to the mage purge, had spoken of dark mages who strengthened their magic by syphoning magical energy from other mages. Surely, if it was possible to steal another mage’s magic it was possible to give some of one’s own to another. Cassandra felt a measure of uncertainty. She had no idea how to do this, had never practiced it, wasn’t even sure anyone before her had attempted it. However, she was out of options.

She took a deep breath and focused. She imagined her magic building up in her body, slowly reaching her hands, passing through her fingertips, into Izzy’s body. At first, she felt nothing but she continued to visualise the magic following its path from herself to the woman before her. After what felt like a lifetime she began to feel a warm tingly sensation deep within her chest. Slowly the sensation dispersed throughout her body, working its way down her arms to the tips of her fingers. The magic poured through her into Izzy. She felt her lifeforce entwine with Izzy’s. She could feel Izzy’s heartbeat, weak at first, it slowly steadied. All uncertainty was gone, instinct took over as if on some level she had always known what to do. When she felt Izzy’s strength returning she pulled back, severed the connection.

Cassandra had expected to feel drained, but she didn’t. In fact, she felt invigorated a stark contrast to how she had felt when she first awoke. Izzy’s eyes flickered open and she stared up at Cassandra with a combination of astonishment and awe.

“That should not have been possible… Everything I have read on the topic of magical transference suggests it should have killed you…” She fell silent for a moment then a look of recognition dawned on her face. “The prophesy…” She whispered.

The Tale of a Mage (part 26)

From the moment the sea serpent skewered the boat Drucilla knew a further clash with the beast would prove fruitless. The vessel was in pieces like delicate china which had been misguidedly entrusted to a spirited infant. Specifically, it was in two pieces but keeping that detail vague would make for a better story, Drucilla decided. The priority now was to reach land. The fate of the serpent was unimportant. Any experienced sailor knew engaging a sea serpent was foolish. Drucilla enjoyed reaping glory from a skilfully spun tale. She did not have a death wish. Livia, however, appeared committed to revenge. That suited Drucilla just fine. The more Livia stabbed at the angry reptile, the more enraged it would become, and the more it would hone its attention on her. A distracted serpent meant an easier escape for Drucilla. When she shared this story with naïve land dwellers she would, of course, put herself in Livia’s role but right now it was time to bail.  With one last sigh in lament of the loss of her boat Drucilla dove gracefully into the water.

As she had expected the serpent paid her little attention as it roared and snapped at Livia. Drucilla smirked slightly, Livia was certainly predictable. She took a deep breath to calm the remainder of her nerves and began to swim in the direction of land. She should probably feel bad for abandoning the others, she mused to herself. She didn’t. Many years as a pirate had taught her too much investment in the interests and wellbeing of others only led to trouble. Drucilla had two priorities in life, keeping herself alive and acquiring personal wealth. Well, maybe three priorities. Drucilla had an extremely strong fondness for rum… and mead… and wine. Involving herself in pointless combat to temporarily preserve the lives of her travel companions did not fit into her life plan. Particularly not when the aforementioned companions would likely drown promptly even if by some miracle her heroic efforts didn’t result in her joining them as sea serpent food.

Drucilla directed all her attention and energy to the one task, making it to the shore. Having spent the majority of her adult life, and a fair portion of her childhood, at sea Drucilla was a strong swimmer. The distance between herself and her destination, however, was excessive even for her. That did not deter her from taking on the challenge. When it came to her own survival Drucilla was a paragon of determination. She paced herself and pushed all other thoughts from her mind. It was just her and the water, the kick of her feet, one arm ploughing through the water and then the other. Her focus remained in the moment. When her energy began to wane she told herself just once more, when the movement was completed once more again. Her head pounded and her body ached but she pushed on. She continued like this until she felt her fingers scrape sand. With a chuckle of relief, she relaxed and allowed the waves to carry her the rest of the way to the beach.

Drucilla lay on the sand and allowed the water to lap against her body. She might be stuck on an uncharted island but she was alive. Life had taught her there was a solution to every predicament. She just had to find it. Later, she would find it later. For the moment, a nap was in order. The sensation of the sand beneath her and the water caressing her skin faded as she drifted into a dreamless sleep.

Drucilla awoke spluttering as a wave washed over her. It would appear the tide had crept in while she slept. She shot up to a sitting position coughing up water. Once she could breathe comfortably again she pulled herself to her feet with a groan. Her muscles were stiff and her throat was raw.  Her stomach growled loudly. She reached into her pocket before remembering she left her rum on the boat. She let out a dramatic sigh. Her stay on this island was going to be far more disagreeable than she had initially anticipated. She needed to find a way to get back to sea and more importantly back to where she could acquire more rum. Unfortunately, food and water needed to be her first priority.

She wandered the beach and was pleased to quickly come upon a cluster of coconut trees. With great effort, she pulled her aching body up the trunk of the nearest tree, plucked a coconut, then slid back down to the ground. Picking up a sharp rock she cracked the coconut open with relative ease, it wasn’t the first time she had done this. She would still need to locate fresh water and a larger variety of food sources if she ended up stuck here for a lengthy period of time, but for the moment the coconut was sufficient. She sated her hunger and thirst before setting off to explore the island.

The Tale of a Mage (part 25)

Silence stretched out and Nyx held her breath in anticipation of a wrathful outburst. Livia, however, looked more tired and defeated than angry.

“Fine” she sighed “I guess it doesn’t really matter now that she’s most likely dead.”

“No!” Nyx’s voice boomed through the trees. “Do not say that! She’ll be okay. They will all be okay!”  Livia looked unconvinced but if Nyx was being honest she was trying to convince herself more so than Livia. They slipped back into an uncomfortable silence

“Never imagined my destiny was to end up stuck on a deserted island with such poor company.” Livia muttered under her breath. Nyx bristled. She was about to respond with a sarcastic retort but thought better of it. Given that Livia seemed to have temporarily lost her bite this was the perfect opportunity to interrogate her about the reasons for her less than amicable behaviour.

“Why do you hate me so much? What have I ever done to deserve this attitude from you?” Nyx glared at Livia, the volume of her voice steadily increasing as her rant continued “I know you’re capable of kindness. You’re always nice to Cassandra. Seriously, what is your problem with me?”

“You tried to kill me!” Livia bellowed in response.

“Don’t use that as an excuse!” Nyx trembled with rage “You hated me long before that. I only tried to kill you because of the way you treated me. I have never done anything to you that wasn’t in direct response to something you did to me! Do you expect me to believe you hate me because I was a bit rude to you when you tried to capture me? Because I tried to escape? We both know you wouldn’t be cooperative if a bounty hunter tried to capture you! So why? I want a proper answer.”

“Well, to be fair, I didn’t try to capture you. I did capture you.” Livia smirked evading the question. Unthinkingly Nyx took a step forward and slapped Livia hard across the face.

A tingle of dread crept down Nyx’s spine as she realised her mistake. Livia’s face was the picture of incredulity as if she couldn’t quite believe Nyx didn’t know better by now. They remained frozen staring at one and other in a shocked silence for several moments. Livia’s eyes began to narrow. Nyx snapped herself out of her horrified stupor and attempted to dart out of reach. Livia, however, was faster and caught her wrist, yanking her forward.

Nyx let out a string of curses as she toppled over Livia’s lap. Livia’s hand descended landing on her bottom with a loud crack. Nyx responded with a piercing shriek thrashing from side to side in an attempt to break free of Livia’s hold. The one smack hadn’t really hurt enough to justify such a dramatic reaction but Nyx was in a combative mood. Livia settled into a brisk rhythm, spanking Nyx hard and fast, leaving no inch of her bottom unsmacked. Nyx continued to struggle and curse but her efforts were in vain. Livia’s uncompromising palm continued to find its target without error. The longer Livia spanked the more genuine Nyx’s squeals became but she was too angry to give in, certainly too angry to cry.

“Solving your problems with violence? How true to character.” Nyx snapped.

“Oh?” Livia smirked spanking Nyx with increased force. “And would you not define slapping someone across the face as violence?”

“You deserved that!” Nyx retorted.

“And you deserve this.” Nyx yelped as a sharp slap landed on her thigh.

“I don’t deserve this!” Nyx shouted “I have never deserved this! You’re an ogre. No wonder Drucilla didn’t want to marry you.” Abruptly, the spanking stopped. Livia dumped Nyx on the ground with a growl and stalked off into the trees. Nyx sat on the ground catching her breath as Livia retreated. Had she just found a way to get herself out of spankings or was Livia simply looking for an implement with which to fully demonstrate her displeasure at Nyx’s comment? Nyx was unsure. She contemplated finding a place to hide in case it was the latter but Livia would probably find her if she wanted to and Nyx was tired. She settled instead for taking another nap.

When Nyx awoke Livia had returned. Nyx sat up eying her with apprehension, preparing herself to flee, however, Livia made no move towards her.

“When we were together I always treated Drucilla well.” Livia’s voice was softer than usual. Nyx rolled her eyes. “You remind me of her…” Livia took a deep breath. “That’s my problem with you. You remind me of her.”

“Are you serious?” Nyx felt herself getting angry again. “That’s so unfair.”

“Well, I was right wasn’t I?” Livia snapped “You find her stories about the end of our relationship so very funny…”

“Only because you’re such an awful person.” Nyx cut her off “If it had been anyone else I would have been sympathetic.” There was a long pause before Livia spoke again.

“You were right.” Livia’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Um, what?” Nyx was sure she couldn’t have heard that correctly.

“I said you were right” Livia spoke more clearly this time. “You never deserved to be treated the way I treated you.” Nyx remained silent confusion marking her features. Perhaps those coconuts had hallucinogenic properties she pondered to herself. Livia sighed and tried again. “What I’m trying to say is I’m sorry.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 24)

Splinters of wood flew in all directions as the small boat cracked in half. Nyx could just make out Cassandra’s scream through the chaos. She gripped the edge of the boat to prevent herself from toppling into the water as her side of the vessel began to tip. The attack passed in a blur. Nyx was vaguely aware of Livia shouting, her sword drawn. Magic crackled at Izzy’s fingertips, her expression fixed in determination. Cassandra, like Nyx, was clinging desperately to the side of the boat, panic marking her features. Drucilla simply dove into the water and began swimming towards land, barely visible on the horizon.

Nyx was unsure how long she spent clutching the side of the boat. It couldn’t have been very long but it felt like an eternity. At some point, the serpent had struck Livia with the tip of its tail sending her hurtling into the ocean. Nyx shuddered. While she hadn’t expected to reach old age, not in light of her lifestyle choices, she had not expected it to end like this. Being eaten alive was not at the top her list of preferred deaths.  She squeezed her eyes shut waiting for sharp teeth to tear into her flesh but they didn’t come. As the boat sank, clinging to its side became unfeasible. Nyx opened her eyes for long enough to locate a floating plank of wood to grab onto before closing them again.

Nyx did not open her eyes again until the pandemonium of the fight receded to silence. When she did, she noticed she had drifted a fair distance away from the wreckage. The sea serpent was nowhere to be seen. She could make out the remains of the boat, some parts still above the water, however, she couldn’t determine whether any of the others were present amongst the wreckage. She let out a miserable sigh and closed her eyes again. Drowning would be better than being eaten she supposed.

Hours passed and the sun set. Nyx drifted in and out of sleep never letting go of her plank. During her waking moments, feelings of despair overwhelmed her. She was hungry, thirsty, and cold. Her whole body ached. Questions about Cassandra’s fate rose in her mind and a sense of guilt and dread enveloped her. She tried to tell herself her sister would be fine. Izzy was a powerful mage, surely she would not allow any harm to come to Cassandra. It didn’t help. She should have done more, should have tried. Cassandra was her little sister. It was her responsibility to protect her and she had failed. Goddess knows what might be happening to her right now, if she was even alive. When the sun rose in the morning she was much closer to land. Mustering what little energy she had left Nyx let go of the plank and swam in the direction of the shore.

When Nyx reached the shore, she collapsed onto the sand. She lay there for a long moment catching her breath. She couldn’t quite believe she had made it through the ordeal alive. She must be alive she reasoned. This didn’t feel like the afterlife. The sun beat down on her and grains of sand stuck to her body. Her eyes stung, her head throbbed, and her skin was uncomfortably dry. Her parched throat burned and her stomach growled loudly. She needed to find food, water, and shade. Water first though. With great effort, she pulled herself to a sitting position and glanced up and down the beach. A couple of hundred metres away a figure lay motionless.

On unsteady feet, Nyx made her way in the figure’s direction. As she got closer it became apparent the figure was Livia. For a moment, she considered leaving her as she was but decided against it. She had no idea where she was or how long she would be here. The presence of someone she knew would be to her benefit, even if it was Livia. She made it across the remaining stretch of sand and knelt down to lean over Livia. She was unconscious but breathing. Nyx let out a sigh of relief. If Livia was alive the others might be too. She took hold of Livia’s shoulders and dragged her in the direction of the tree line inch by inch. She took many breaks along the way as she was exhausted and Livia was heavy.  At last, they reached the trees and Nyx lay Livia in the shade.

She set out in search of food and water and was pleased to find several coconut trees close to the spot she had left Livia. She didn’t even have to find a way to harvest them as several had fallen to the ground. She picked up two, one for herself and one for Livia, when she woke up, and then headed back. It took her several minutes of smacking the coconut with a rock before she managed to crack it open. She drank all the milk she had managed not to spill and then ate a bit of the flesh before lying down a couple of metres away from Livia to take a nap.

When Nyx awoke it was dusk. She glanced over at Livia and noted with some apprehension she was now awake. She appeared to have helped herself to the coconut Nyx had brought for her and was now staring intently at her a quizzical look marking her features.

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill me.” Livia’s voice broke the silence. “You had ample opportunity.”

“There was no point.” Nyx shrugged “You were unconscious, you wouldn’t have even known it was happening. If I kill you I want you to know it was me.”  There was a long silence during which Livia continued to stare at Nyx her expression unreadable. Nyx took a deep breath. “We’re even now.” She returned Livia’s stare. “It’s my fault your gold was stolen and it’s your fault we were attacked by a sea serpent. I will not be paying back your gold and when we find Drucilla I’m telling her I’m not actually your girlfriend.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 23)

The first night Nyx had to sleep snuggled up to Livia was torturous. The heat of Livia’s body served as a reminder of her proximity. The feeling of her breath against the back of her neck made her cringe inwardly and a little bit outwardly as well. Nyx was grateful for the darkness which masked her reaction. For Nyx, sleep did not come easily that night. Livia, while also displeased by the sleeping arrangement, managed to drift off with relative ease. Nyx envied that.

As the days past feigning affection of Livia became easier. Nyx still abhorred Livia’s company but she became accustomed to it, better at hiding her true reactions behind a smile.  Cassandra was confused by the sudden change in Nyx and Livia’s relationship. Livia had cautioned Nyx not to share the nature of their ruse with the others. There was no guarantee they would cooperate were they told. Cassandra didn’t say anything but she cast them suspicious glances with some regularity. Izzy didn’t appear to consider the issue worthy of her concern. Either that or she was better at masking her confusion than Cassandra. Nyx wasn’t sure.

Nyx took every available opportunity to spend time with Drucilla. Not only did it serve as a convenient excuse to spend time away from Livia, she also enjoyed Drucilla’s company for its own sake. Her initial instincts had been right Drucilla was definitely her kind of person.

Nyx loved helping sail the boat. Drucilla was a good teacher and Nyx had learned quickly. Sometimes Drucilla would even leave her at the helm alone as she attended to other things. It was nice to be trusted that way. Livia didn’t trust Nyx to do anything alone and, while she wasn’t the type to openly say it, she suspected Izzy didn’t either.

When they worked together Drucilla would tell Nyx stories about her adventures as a pirate. She told her about the time she sneaked into the Troll King’s chambers and stole the royal jewels and the time she and her crew kidnapped an Orcish princess. Whenever Livia overheard she would roll her eyes and tell Nyx Drucilla was a liar. Nyx, however, didn’t care whether the stories were truth, exaggerations, or straight out lies. They were entertaining. Nyx’s favourite story was the one about Livia’s father’s warship. She never grew tired of hearing it and frequently asked Drucilla to retell it, particularly when Livia was within hearing range. Livia hated that story. Drucilla was always happy to oblige and managed to add a new embellishment every time she told it.

Drucilla made it her mission to assist Nyx with advice about Livia. She told her all about Livia’s love of cats, emphasising that ginger ones were her favourite, just in case Nyx got stuck on anniversary gift ideas. She explained that Livia had an irrational fear of crabs. Nyx decided to keep that information in mind for later. She even shared, in a whisper, that Livia enjoyed being bitten in bed. Nyx had blushed profusely at that. She would have preferred not to have that knowledge. Ever since she had been unable to get the image out of her head.

Today had dawned a beautiful day. Everyone was on deck enjoying the sun. Cassandra stood at the edge of the boat staring into the water, Izzy was stretched out taking a nap, and Livia sat sharpening her sword. Nyx and Drucilla both sat near the helm sharing a bottle of rum. They passed it back and forth between themselves as Drucilla told yet another story. This time it was about the time she had climbed out a young queen’s window after an intense night of lovemaking only to discover, upon reaching the street, that she had forgotten to put her clothes back on. Nyx giggled almost choking on her mouthful of rum.

“Um… I think there might be a problem.” Cassandra’s voice interrupted her giggling fit.

“What is it?” Drucilla looked up at her.

“I think you should come have a look.” Nyx’s laughter died down as she noticed how pale her sister’s face was. Drucilla and Nyx got up and made their way to Cassandra’s side. Cassandra pointed to something moving in the water. For a moment they all stared at it. The creature wove gracefully through the water beside the boat its green scales glinting in the sunlight.

“That’s huge! What is it?” Nyx was starting to worry now.

“It’s just a sea serpent.” Drucilla looked unconcerned “They are usually harmless so long as nobody antagonises them. Nothing to worry about.” She paused for a moment and turned to Nyx. “Did I ever tell you the story of the time I fought a sea serpent?”

“It disappeared.” Cassandra still looked concerned.

“See, nothing to worry about.” Drucilla gave her a pat on the shoulder. “So, it all started out with a bottle of rum…” She launched into the story.

“Hypothetically” Livia interrupted “if I threw a dagger at it…”

“Please tell me you didn’t.” A look of alarm appeared on Drucilla’s face. Anything that Livia may have said in response was drowned out by a loud crack as a very angry sea serpent punched head first through the bottom the boat.

The Tale of a Mage (part 22)

The rest of the day was uneventful. Nyx and Livia made the most of the remaining time they were not required to feign affection for each other, taking off in opposite directions to explore the city. Izzy and Cassandra returned to their quarters at the castle to spend some much needed downtime together. In the evening, they dined with King Horrik and bid him farewell before retiring for an early night. Unlike the previous night, Nyx was provided with her own bedroom which proved a welcome relief given she was going to need to spend an enormous amount of time with Livia in the following days.

They all rose early and made their way to the kitchens to scavenge up some breakfast. After they had eaten their fill of the castle’s plentiful meats and breads the cook helped them pack fruit and meats of the dried variety for their journey. They thanked her, bidding all the kitchen staff goodbye, before heading down to the docks. Drucilla was waiting for them when they arrived.

“Good morning!” Drucilla beamed at them. “This way she gestured in the direction of a small sail boat.

“Nice ship,” Livia smirked.

“Well, I could hardly sail my warship with a crew of five.” Drucilla climbed into the boat and indicated the others should follow her.

“So, you still have the warship?” Livia sounded sceptical.

“Of course” Drucilla shook her head as if she found the mere suggestion things might be otherwise absurd. “You can put your things in the cabin. She stated once everyone was on board.

Nyx groaned inwardly at the statement. Cabin in the singular. That meant they would all have to share it. There would be no option for Livia and herself to sleep on opposite sides of their room at night. This whole couple thing was going to have to continue for the entire time they were on the boat even when they were sleeping. Livia appeared equally displeased.

“Don’t fret” Drucilla noted their discomfort “You can still have alone time when you want it. Just let me know if you need the use of the cabin during the day and I’ll make sure you’re not disturbed.” Drucilla winked at Nyx. Livia blushed profusely.

“Uh.. thanks.” Nyx mumbled.

Drucilla busied herself preparing the boat for departure and Livia begrudgingly helped her. Izzy and Cassandra took everyone’s belongings to the cabin. Nyx sat down with a sigh. She knew nothing about boats so there was little she could do to assist. Izzy and Cassandra had remained in the cabin presumably taking advantage of Drucilla’s offer of alone time. For the moment Nyx was left with her thoughts. Would she and Livia have to cuddle at night? She wondered. She certainly hoped not.

It was not long before they were underway. Drucilla took up a position at the helm and Livia came to sit beside Nyx. Nyx grimaced for a moment before plastering on a sickly sweet smile. Livia, noting Drucilla’s eyes upon them, reached for Nyx’s hand and gave it a light squeeze. Nyx couldn’t quite mask her frown. Drucilla regarded them quizzically for a moment and Livia squeezed her hand harder in warning.

“Come over here for a moment, dear.” Drucilla gestured for Nyx to approach her. Nyx leapt up eager for an opportunity to distance herself from Livia.  Catching herself, she took a moment to pat Livia on the shoulder in a manner she hoped conveyed affection before crossing the deck towards Drucilla keeping her movement to a moderate pace. Upon reaching Drucilla she fixed her with an expectant stare.

“You’re uncomfortable” Drucilla fixed her with a penetrating gaze.

“I… n-no… uh…” Nyx stuttered “Just a bit sea sick is all.”

“No, you’re not.” Drucilla brushed her fingers down Nyx’s arm in reassurance. “It’s okay. You have nothing to worry about.”

“I don’t?” Nyx inquired.

“Your jealousy is unnecessary.”   Drucilla continued to stroke her arm.

“Jealousy?” Nyx choked.

“It might appear from Livia’s behaviour that she still has feelings for me but I assure you that is not the case. Livia cares only for her pride and I’m afraid I have wounded it deeply.” Drucilla explained, “I pose no threat to your relationship.”

“Um… That’s a relief.” Nyx congratulated herself on restraining an eye roll.

“You sound uncertain” Drucilla rested her hand on Nyx’s shoulder “Please, do not see me as a rival. I would very much like to be friends.”

“Friends sounds nice.” Nyx grinned.

“Wonderful!” Drucilla gave Nyx’s shoulder a squeeze. “Would you like me to teach you how to steer the boat.”

“I would love that!” Nyx squealed, her Livia related woes momentarily forgotten.

Livia watched them with a deepening scowl. This development was not good. Drucilla and Nyx as friends was a truly terrifying prospect. Nyx, as much as she infuriated her, was rarely successful in her plots and shenanigans. Drucilla, on the other hand, was somewhat… competent. She didn’t think Drucilla would be willing to participate in Nyx’s ongoing plot to kill her. That at least was a relief. However, the friendship was sure to result in endless trouble. Not to mention the closer they got the more likely Nyx would be to let slip that their relationship was a ruse. Livia felt a shiver of dread creep down her spine.

The Tale of a Mage (part 21)

Izzy approached swiftly in response to Livia’s shout. Cassandra followed close behind. Drucilla took a seat at the table and helped herself to more mead. The cup had just reached her lips as Izzy came to a stop directly in front of her. Izzy wasted no time on idle chatter.

“King Horrik wishes you removed from his kingdom.” Izzy looked Drucilla up and down appraisingly “I have been tasked to ensure that happens.” Drucilla rose from the table with a dramatic sigh.

“Captain Drucilla” She introduced herself with mock bow “Do take a seat so we may discuss how I can be of assistance to you, Princess.”

“You can be of assistance to me by leaving this Kingdom.” Izzy remained standing.

“Oh, I’m capable of so much more, Princess.” Drucilla sat back down and took a swig of mead. “I hear you are currently on the run. I hear you are in need of an army to overthrow your mother. I also hear King Horrik refuses to provide one.”

“It would seem you have heard many things.” Izzy’s expression remained unreadable.

“I can provide your army.” Drucilla gestured to the seat across from her.

“Don’t believe a word she says!” Livia glowered “That woman cannot be trusted.”

“Still testy about your father’s ship, love?” Drucilla smirked “I did care for you, you know? I just wanted that ship more.” Drucilla turned her attention to Nyx. “Livia’s father is a famous pirate hunter” she explained. “Many years ago, I appropriated one of his warships. Before that Livia may have been under the mistaken impression I was going to marry her…”

May have been?” Livia stared at her incredulously for a moment before catching herself. “Well, it’s probably for the best” she shrugged “as you can see I have done quite well for myself.”

“Bodyguard for a runaway, Princess? My you have indeed gone far” Drucilla’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “I concede, your girlfriend is cute. Clearly has a penchant for thievery though. You have a type perhaps?”

“Where is your crew, Captain?” Livia retorted smugly “I haven’t heard reports of them in the area.”

“We parted ways” Drucilla shrugged “a difference in vision. They were satisfied with attacking merchant ships. I had bigger goals.”

“Spending your days drinking in a Dwarven tavern and harassing the locals? You certainly do have high aspirations for yourself.” Livia scoffed.

“How did you know I was a thief?” Nyx interjected, a puzzled look marking her features.

“I have an eye for such things, dear.” Drucilla smiled indulgently before turning her attention back to Izzy “Now take a seat, Princess. We have much to discuss.”

“It couldn’t hurt to listen to what she has to say, at least.” Cassandra looked to Izzy.

“Very well” Izzy sat down in the offered chair. Livia groaned in resignation slumping into the seat to her right. Cassandra took the one to her left.  Nyx remained standing which did not pass Drucilla’s notice.

“Did she spank you?” Drucilla’s eyes fell on Nyx a slight smirk appearing on her face. “She tried that with me a few times…” she leaned closer to and continued her voice just above a whisper “…I liked it. She, on the other hand, was not pleased when I expressed my appreciation by returning the favour.” Nyx almost choked on her mouthful of mead and Livia’s scowl deepened.

“That’s enough personal talk.” Drucilla turned her attention back to Izzy “It’s time for business. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Lost Isle of the Fae?”

“The Isle of the Fae is a myth.” Livia growled

“I assure you it’s very real.” Drucilla continued to address Izzy.

“You’ve seen it then?” Livia challenged

“Well, no. However, I know a reliable source who has.”

“Reliable source?” Livia scoffed “More like a drunken sailor I’d bet.”

“Your opinion is of no consequence.” Drucilla shot Livia a look of mild annoyance “I was addressing the Princess.” She paused for a moment, Livia grunted in response. “Now, Princess. Imagine sailing back to these shores with an army of Fae? King Horrik would surely support your cause then.”

“I’m sure he would if the Fae truly exist” Izzy pondered “I suppose it is worth investigating.”

“What?!” Livia spluttered.

“Do not misunderstand me.” Izzy’s serious stare bore into Drucilla for a moment “I will not start believing a children’s tale on the word of a pirate. I am well aware that we would not be having this conversation if she didn’t stand to benefit in some manner she has yet to reveal. However, there is often a margin of truth within myths, we may discover something of use. We can’t stay here taking advantage of King Horrik’s hospitality indefinitely, and with my mother still hunting us, crossing the seas may provide some degree of safety.  Additionally, it will fulfil our promise to remove her from this Kingdom.”

“Wonderful” Drucilla rose and extended her hand to Izzy. Izzy took it however her expression remained guarded. “I shall go make arrangements for our departure. Meet me at the docks at dawn.”  She threw Livia a final wink before spinning around and making her way out of the tavern. Livia’s expression remained thunderous long after Drucilla was gone. Nyx stood lost in thought a grin splayed across her face. This was going to be fun. Drucilla seemed like her type of person. Whatever she was planning Nyx wanted in on it. By the time they emerged from their respective musings Izzy and Cassandra had already left.

“Looks like you’re going to remain my girlfriend for a while longer” Livia grumbled. Nyx’s grin faded.

“You didn’t say anything about this being a long term thing.” Nyx shook her head vigorously.

“Well, if you would prefer to repay my gold…” Livia began

“Fine” Nyx snapped “but if you expect us to be sharing a room you’ll be the one sleeping on the floor this time.

“Fine” Livia growled, “but you had better convince Drucilla you enjoy my company.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 20)

Nyx pulled herself to a standing position. It took her a moment to steady herself on shaky legs. She gingerly ran her fingers over her bottom. It was so bruised that rubbing with any significant degree of vigour hurt too much. Glaring at Livia she pulled one of the blankets from the bed and made her way to the far side of the room. Slowly lowering herself to lie on her stomach on the hard stone floor, Nyx pulled the blanket over herself.

“You know you could sleep on the bed?” Livia smirked.

“I’m fine right here.” Nyx snapped.

“Suit yourself” Livia shrugged climbing into bed. Soon Livia was asleep. Her snoring filled the room.

Nyx shifted positions trying to get comfortable. Every so often she glanced longingly at the bed. She wouldn’t give in though. There was no way she would be sharing a bed with that sociopath. She heard footsteps approaching the door then a light knock followed by the jiggle of the door knob. Livia didn’t stir. Nyx’s stomach grumbled. That was probably someone bringing the food King Horrik promised. However, getting up to open the door might wake Livia and she had no desire to experience her company right now. With a dejected sigh, Nyx remained in her position on the floor. Soon she heard the sound of footsteps retreating. The day had been exhausting and, in spite of her discomfort, it was not long before Nyx also drifted off to sleep.

When Nyx awoke, it was to the sound of someone hammering on the door. She rubbed her eyes and awkwardly pulled herself to a standing position doing her best to avoid contact between her bottom and the hard stone floor. Livia sat up and scowled at the door, clearly displeased to have her sleep disrupted so abruptly. Before either of them could make their way to the door it clicked open and Cassandra burst into the room.

“It’s time for breakfast!” She chirped.

“Wasn’t that door locked? How did you..” Nyx began.

“I opened the door with magic” Cassandra explained “but maybe don’t tell Izzy that because I’m technically still not supposed to use magic without supervision. This spell was safe though there isn’t really anything that could have gone badly wrong.” Livia chuckled, her displeasure melting from her face. Now it was Nyx’s turn to scowl.

“We’ll keep it our little secret then.” Livia stood and made her way to the door giving Cassandra a light pat on the shoulder as she passed her.

Breakfast was a cheerful event. The hall was warm and the food was tasty and plentiful. After spending so long sustaining themselves on nuts and berries the freshly baked bread, glazed fruits, and roasted meats on offer were heavenly, even if Nyx had to eat them while standing. After they had gorged themselves on as much food as they could handle Izzy pulled herself from her seat.

“We had best go seek out this pirate.” She stated, turning and making her way out of the hall.

“Never asks, only orders,” Livia growled as the rest of the group rose to follow her.

“Reminds you too much of yourself?” Nyx quipped “and here I was thinking you were quite fond of yourself. Although, having experienced your company I’m not entirely surprised that you don’t like you.” Livia fixed Nyx with a glare and opened her mouth to retort.

“We’re falling behind” Cassandra interrupted breaking into a jog to catch up with Izzy. Livia and Nyx huffed in unison and followed her lead.

They made their way back down the cobbled streets. The city was much more lively during the day. Citizens filled the streets going about their daily business. Children sat near store fronts playing games with sets of brightly coloured stones. Before long they reached the tavern. Izzy immediately began questioning bar staff while Livia sat down at a table and gestured to a barmaid to bring her a pitcher of mead. Nyx glanced in her direction with raised eyebrows as the young dwarf returned with the order.

“This table is the perfect location to keep an eye on everything happening in this bar Livia smirked, “I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I allowed a threat to the princess to go undetected.”

“Of course,” Nyx shook her head derision dripping from her voice “You’re just very dedicated to your job.”

“Indeed” Livia pushed a cup in Nyx’s direction. Nyx scowled for a moment before snatching the cup. Drinking mead was a far better way to spend the day than searching for some pirate at Izzy’s orders. She had never agreed to be Izzy’s subject yet she seemed to feel she had the right to continually tell her what to do. Screw Izzy, she took a large gulp of the mead. She glanced back in Livia’s direction in time to see the colour drain from her face.

“What?” Nyx snapped, her eyes following Livia’s stare. In the doorway stood a human woman. She was clad in leather armour. The jewelled handles of two daggers protruded from her belt. On each wrist, she wore several gold bangles. Her black curls were tied back and gold hoop earrings hung from her ears. Her sparkling hazel eyes were fixed firmly on Livia as she began to cross the room. Livia jumped to her feet with haste and wrapped an arm around Nyx’s shoulders.

“What the f…” Nyx spat out a mouthful of mead

“Convince her you’re my girlfriend and I’ll forget about the gold you owe me.” Livia cut Nyx off with a frantic whisper.

“Fine…” Nyx forced herself to smile as the woman came closer.

“Livia it’s been ages.” The woman took Livia’s cup winking at her before bringing it to her lips, taking a large swig. “Ah, nobody makes mead quite like the dwarves.” She handed the cup back to a scowling Livia. “I’ve missed you Liv.” She ran her fingers down Livia’s arm.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Livia pushed her hand away.

“I see your new girlfriend bears some resemblance to me. That’s certainly telling.” The woman remained unfazed by Livia’s hostility. “I’m Drucilla” She extended a hand to Nyx. Nyx took it, her smile genuine now. She liked Drucilla she decided. This did not pass Livia’s attention and a look of alarm appeared on her face.

“Izzy!” Livia shouted, “We’ve found your pirate!”