The Port of Pyran
Phantom Bay, Prallyx, Pyran
“You are far crazier than your Father, Paine,” Maille hissed with an ambiguous smile.
Alaister bowed deeply to the Pyranese Queen. “Your Majesty.”
“Yes.” Alaister flashed his silver dragon-crested hilt.
Alaister looked expectantly at Queen Maille.
She exhaled, a smile on her plush lips despite her face remaining troubled and firm. “Where?”
“We mean no harm.”
Maille’s chain-laced and ribbon-adorned black hair whipped across her shoulders as she reached for Alaister Paine, dagger in her hand. “My brother is dead and you mean no harm? I heard you allied with the Darklings.”
Alaister did not move. He did not blink. “Yes, your Majesty.”
Maille discharged a guttural sounding growl low in her throat. She released Alaister with a hearty shove, and as she spoke, she fiddled with her dagger’s point. “While our treaty stands Paine, I cannot say as much for your new allies. If I find any…”
“Not here, your Majesty.”
“What have they said of their actions?”
“I do not know how they account for it, your Majesty.”
“Yes, yes. Fine. But, do they admit it?”
Her dagger wedged itself into the wooden wall just above Alaister’s right shoulder. He did not flinch or turn to look at the curved blade. He merely dislodged it and extended it to the pacing queen, who snatched it in stride. Her hair lacings jingled and clanged as she walked back and forth, her black leather undercorset squeaking against her fabric blouse and skirt and her boots echoing against the sea-kissed planks. She opened her mouth to speak several times, but failed. She paced faster, instead. Words failed her. She felt helpless – again. Maille stopped at the dock’s end and stared out at the crashing waves. Her dark skin glistened in the moist sea air.
Alaister knew better than to speak. His father had warned him about Maille and her temper, though she was only a teen when Kai Paine met her. Maille’s reign, though stunted by the grasp of the Council, had been the most prosperous in Pyranese history. Some claimed it was due to her inexplicable intuitive insight. Some claimed it was due to her admitted glee in piracy-like maneuvers with what little of a fleet Chancellor Diesden had left her. Alaister realized the truth lay in both. And it was that truth that had made Maille, before King Alderon Lynde’s descent, the second-most fervent supporter of the Resistance. Now, she was the first.
If she still believed in the Cause at all.
“Our pact with them spans decades,” Maille blurted without any further explanation. “I know that even I cannot break it, but hear me now, Alaister Paine. I will not tolerate the sight of them. If you… you will not. Ever.”
Alaister concealed a wince in a solemn nod. Gage had been more than accurate in his recounting Pyranese knowledge of fabled Lythgorian nightmares. Their versions were the worst of all the kingdoms. “Yes, your Majesty.”
“It has always been an eye for an eye here, and I will make no exception – tradition, cause, pact or no. I will have their own most precious darling soon enough,” Maille sneered, her golden-brown eyes scanning the retreating waves as she spoke.
Alaister did not respond to her threat, though his curiosity burned. Now was not the time to concern himself in Pyranese matters of the heart or sea. More important things called to him, and the women of the Creitalli crown had pointed to Maille’s door as a possible remedy – an insightful map of sorts. Rumors spread rapidly throughout the seven kingdoms, but rarely rumors of great importance or meaning. But, if anyone had heard anything about the remaining three mythical Catalysts of the Prophecy, it would be the volatile Pyranese queen. She had feelers everywhere, in everything.
Maille’s anger was a thing of legend, bested only by her love of ballrooms and men. Her dark red lips twitched angrily and, when she finally returned her attentions to Alaister, even he felt uncomfortable in her presence.
“What is it you came for Paine, so stupidly unarmed and daftly optimistic?”
Her cackle scathed his optimism. “You Paines… are mad.”
“Your Majesty, I beg you, please listen. We have found the Natures of The One. It is only a matter of time—”
“Time, yes. Allegiance before the Chancellor? My navy is strong, despite Diesden’s foolish use of it, but I am not stupid. No. You will not have it.”
“If you would just—”
“You will hold your tongue, Paine. That is one thing your father could do well. Now, what Pyran will do for you is uphold our pact. We are your allies, if only in darkness. Keep those Darklings from my sight and nothing will change. And, when you find all the Catalysts, you will be sure to get our allegiance as publically as it comes.”
“Thank you, your Majesty.” Alaister turned to go but paused, the idea of asking one more favor lingering on his mind. When he turned about to ask, he found Maille inches from his face, her beautiful features and soft jaw inches from his face.
She smiled too beautifully and shook her head at his naivety. “As to your question of my knowing where to look for the other Catalysts – I do not know. But, my vessels pass with open ears. If they hear anything, you will know, Paine.”
“Thank you, Queen Maille. For your brother, I can only offer our deepest respects and those are not enough.”
Maille froze – emotionless. After an awkward silence, she nodded curtly. “Now get out. I have enough trouble with the Council… parading around in Pyranese clothes like they are costumes. The disrespect of it is enough to make one sick.” Maille waved off the budding rant and called after Alaister. “Paine, you’d do more good if you worried more about where your Commanders are at this point. Do tell the duelist I said hello when you find him.”
Alaister’s face played straight, but she saw him flinch. Satisfied, Maille spun on her leather heeled boots and clanked up the dock, spinning around with another afterthought. She smiled and shook her head at the void where the Rogue Commander had stood. “Wind with you then, Commander.”
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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG-13