Mary had to admit – she liked sailing.
Captain Ethelbald had agreed to take her to Brimone. He was more than certain that Mariqah had been taken there, if anywhere. Mary didn’t question his judgement. At least this ridiculously-dressed man had a lead. She had none. It was good enough for her.
The ship was a thing of beauty, the large white sails filling the sky above her, parted by rope and wooden masts. The deck was clean, and the pirates sang shanties as they worked.
It made her feel slightly homesick.
The screech of gulls, the creaking of wood, the melody of song and the crashing of sea filled her ears, while the smell of rum and salt filled her nostrils.
It was all very therapeutic.
She wondered, briefly, if Aunt Mariqah had ever considered constructing a navy. Mary was fairly certain her aunt wasn’t going to be fond of the idea when she presented it.
It made Mary smile, the thought.
“Ah,” she heard the Captain say as he walked up behind her, “your aunt’s come a-callin’. I swear, that woman don’t do nothin’ wi’out a cunnin’ reason.”
Mary turned and regarded him, “My aunt? She’s contacted you?”
“Aye,” he stroked his beard as he read the letter in his hand, “She’s callin’ on favours.”
“But how? I thought she was going to fight for her life before an audience in Brimone.”
“Don’t you know your own aunt, lass?” the pirate scoffed, “Chains cannot bind Mariqah.”
“Oh, don’t be stupid,” said Mary, rolling her eyes, “Please: don’t. Enough people are enamoured with my aunt, myself included, but not to that degree. The chains-thing is just something people say.”
Captain Ethelbald passed Mary the letter, “Well, until such a time comes that your aunt needs savin’ from some dreaded dungeon, it’ll be a truth I’ll submit to,” he stood next to her and looked out to sea, “Read it. She’s waitin’ for me t’come pick her and her little band of prison-breakers up from the coast o’ Brimone.”
Mary regarded the Captain with a raised brow, before she turned to the letter:
Ethelbald of Ery,
I have it on good authority that this pigeon will reach you. As far as dumb birds go, I’m going to have to trust this one – ‘else I might have to find some other means of escape from Brimone.
I can manage it, I reckon. The lot I have with me are hardy and tough (with a few exceptions) – but it’ll cost Brimone a lot of its faithful soldiers. I’ve already knocked a whole arena unconscious, I have no intention of spilling blood to get my way into a ship.
So, do me a favour, will you?
I’m stationed, for the moment, on the Brimonian Horn. A skilled buccaneer such as yourself should be able to make it there.
This letter should reach you within a week, by my standards. If I don’t get a reply or if you don’t show up by then, well… There’s a lot of Brimonian sailors to meet and kill, I’m afraid.
All the same, there’s a lad among us who says he knows the Guild. You’re privy to its location, I take it? You should be. Sounds like just the place for you. If you are, I’ll see you there. I feel there’s much planning to do, but I may be overburdening this bird already with this letter.
Brimonian Horn – be there. I hope you get this message,
“Knocked out a whole arena?” said Mary, passing the letter back to the Captain.
Captain Ethelbald shrugged, “If there e’er was a trouble-maker in these lands, it’s your aunt, Mary… Or that Witch-Queen o’ Skye. She’s awful,” he tucked the letter into his jacket.
Mary paused. Her aunt was safe and she should have been wondering on how to meet with her and in what fashion… but the Captain’s comment piqued her curiosity. Tostig never elaborated on the subject, “She’s no ordinary Lady then? This Witch-Queen?”
The Captain chuckled, “Oh, no, no, Mary. That one’s an odd occurrence. She’s a sly bitch, who ne’er strays too far from her kennel, and ne’er for too long. She’s human, I’ve heard. Some say half-elf, but I doubt it. No elf could wield that much magic and survive.”
“What do you mean? Elves are the magical kind, humans are not.”
“While might be true, elves have magic in them that protects them from corruption by… dark spirits. Humans have no such magic, and are able to absorb as much magic as they like and use it with ease. They’re far more susceptible than elves. But also – far more vulnerable to corruption and possession by magic.”
“Who…” Mary paused, “Who is she?”
“I hear rumours, but if it’ll sate your curiosity,” Captain Ethelbald straightened, “she don’t use her old name no more. She quite likes just callin’ herself the Witch-Queen. But there is somethin’ that they used call her and it’s no elvish name.”
Mary waited for him to continue, itching with the effect of suspense.
“Her name’s FeCamp,” he said, “Britney FeCamp.”