I am

"She was made out of pure spirit and life. A star on earth. Yet a hurricane in space. Cassiopeia Turow was different."
When Cassiopeia leaves her small island of Sars for the continent Irille she's in for more than she bargained for. Between seeking out adventure and making a tenuous friendship with the King, she has a drug that grants superpowers and the elusive Sect organisation to deal with.


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8. "A life standing still isn't worth anything at all."

 

FIVE

“How did her departure affect the people she left behind?”

“All departures leave a mark, but if one allows that to affect them, there will be no change, no movement, no strength. A life standing still isn’t worth anything at all.”

 

The day after leaving Irille

The Night Thief

 

“Every person that you meet is worth something substantial – in some way or form they have affected how you now live and breathe. No matter how long they’ve been in your life, whether it be moments or years, memories have been made and days have been spent. When new memories are formed, the structure of the brain changes. How magnificent is that? Meeting someone new literally alters the very matter you’re made of. If there’s something more important than that then… you aren’t even listening are you?”

“I was listening – about four sentences ago.”

“Captain you are unbelievable.”

It is a surprisingly cold night out at sea and for all of his strange tendencies, the Captain found the cold air the best place in which to lounge about and ponder the complexities of life. At the moment the biggest complexity, for all the other possible complexities in the universe, was Cassiopeia Turow. The Captain wondered on what would have happened if he had endured Irille, had spent just an hour more with the peculiar girl, and maybe taught her on how to deal with the harsh world she lived in. She was eighteen she could handle herself. Right?

What was wrong with him?

He was in his twenties, the prime of his life and instead he was worrying over a girl he had known for merely months and listening to a boy ramble about life or something along those lines.

“You’re doubting yourself again aren’t you?”

Damn that boy for knowing him well enough to pick up on his mannerisms. Damn that boy for handling this better than he was. Avery was older than Tommen, he should be able to handle it better.

“You’re incredibly wrong lad.” He uttered, and turned to consult the sea. At least the ocean wouldn’t talk back to him.

“And you’re a big fat liar.” Tommen retorted and dared to move closer to his superior. “She’s a worthy girl to miss you know, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”

“It makes it weird when you put it that way.”

And it did sound weird – a twenty two year old missing an eighteen year old. Anyone else would frown down at it. He’d move on tomorrow. But for tonight he could remember, and as the ship sailed further from that dreaded city his nerves would fade. Soon he would be able to operate like a normal human being. But for now…

Avery found Cassiopeia’s stubbornness and curiosity admirable. A girl who wanted to be able to save herself if need be, and let’s face it there probably would be a day, was one that Avery had only occasionally seen. It was surprising how some women were more focused on superficial things than protecting themselves. But Cassiopeia couldn't help coming from a small island where defending oneself was not of priority. Whereas he had been born with the knowledge that come the time when he had a knife to the throat he would come out of it alive and, better yet, the victor. 

Holding a sword and moving it was the part they hadn't progressed from for some time. Avery knew that nerves of holding a deadly weapon, despite her determination, was one of the sole reasons holding her back. It was the concept of killing that threw her. He couldn't blame her. 

It was after a particular bad session with the sword and hand to hand combat that Avery did what he did best; distraction. 

The pair were down in the cargo bay, the quarters decked with the things they traded. Cassiopeia was drawn to the jewels. Anyone would be but Avery knew that it was her past experience with the petty thief that stole the direction in which her eyes roamed.

"These came from Marta didn't they?" 

Marta was an island just outside the Eastern Seas, well more than just but the distance between Marta and a proper mainland was incredible. Prided on its mines, it was a prosperous island that was a goldmine when it came to trading jewels for craft materials or exotic food. It was the one large island that Cassiopeia had been to and she told this amicably to Avery once he got her talking. A fun fact about Cassiopeia was that she wouldn’t open the verbal flood gates unless prompted.

“I’ve only been once but…”

She never went to the mines she said, but she has seen her first skyscraper (the only skyscraper in Marta actually) and walked amongst its museums. New dreams were made because she went there, seeing things that she hadn’t thought to be even possible.

“Have you heard the legend of the jewels?” Avery asked, watching with amusement as Cassiopeia pulled out a notebook and pen, eager to document his next words.

He took her actions as a refusal.

“The Mines of Conquest they are called. Three massive pits which once served as colosseums back in the day. They then turned into a prison, the criminals forced to endure the darkness and the possibility of rock falls. Then one day one such criminal – The Mirder – who believe or not was a serial killer, found a trail of jewels on his way out of the pit as he tried to escape. In his greed he stopped to hack at the stone walls with a pick axe he had stolen from the guards. This was his downfall, because as he stalled his mission to hack and hack and hack at the stone, the guards caught up with him. The legend has it that he was still hacking as they tried to restrain him.

From then on the pits have been mines, named after its history for fighting in battle, but fighting now for the search for jewels and gold. The three mines – Mirde (named after the criminal), Gilde, and Stine - are the blood of Marta. By that I mean the thing that keep it going, jewels, gold and metals, and precious stones. Mirde is still used as a prison, after all it is the most dangerous, but they’ll keep the country going for decades if not more.”

He watched as she hastily scribbled every word onto a page, no doubt she would repeat the story in her famous post cards home. His eyes wandered over all the other things his crew had gathered, no doubt they’d drop the rations onto Irille, when it came to it. But he would put it off for as long as he could.

“Why do you have them, besides the obvious that is?” She finally emerges from her writing, her curiosity rearing its head.

“I am a trader, I trade things. But that’s the obvious answer isn’t it? The jewels are said to possess the souls of people, able to be tapped for power. That’s all a load of wash really but the people I work for like legends and wish wash along with their riches.”

She was surprised with that and was daring enough to pick a jewel up, surprised yet again at the feel of it. The contradicting sides, smooth and rough, never mixing. She knew what the petty thief saw in them.

“Who do you work for then?”

Questions, questions, questions.

“Someone in a place called Irille.”

Ambiguity was good, it was great actually. But that’s what started it all, her wonder about Irille. She asked about it after, and found it was a mainland. He knew it was that moment when the fascination started, and why she started to place it in his mind to drop off their cargo.

Another fun fact about Cassiopeia was that she was a master at persuasion, telling her captain that it was something she had never got to do, something she always wanted to do.

Finally it was the matter that their ship was full, something helped by some poor miscalculations, which begrudgingly made Avery set a course for the awful place. It was this moment that he knew that Cassiopeia would leave them once they arrived.

He was to blame. Avery didn’t want to hate himself for it, he was glad that she now got to do things that she wouldn’t be able to if she had stayed a part of his crew. But what would have happened if she had stayed?

That was the ultimate question, the one he pondered as he watched the black waters churn and yawn.

“I miss her too,” Tommen murmured and the Captain had forgotten that he had been there at all. He turned to the boy then and was only mildly shocked to see the broken down face. This was a face totally free from the shields people put up to appear fine and dandy. This was a genuine face.

“She’ll come back, she said so.”

“People lie.”

Avery had forgotten how the boy had a lot of distrust within him, something that again could not have been helped. Cassiopeia had left a mark on him, something that wasn’t going to go away any time soon. Tommen was tense and slightly angry at the world, his features now scrunched and his eyes narrow but blank. Avery couldn’t put into words what they both felt, and it was a strange feeling, so he moved the boy to adopt the position that he was once in. Tommen now faced the open seas, and his shoulders were exposed to the winds kiss. Confronting the wide ocean with the indescribable thoughts was comforting, and the only thing he knew.

The Captain knew that like he, Tommen would remember something remarkable about the girl and explore the questions within the memory.

This had to happen, this was a cure for missing her.

When the others went to drink their way through their last night on Sars, Tommen was inside washing. He had volunteered to combat the mound of dirty clothes and dirty objects that littered the ship because he was a clean freak at times, and he was of a low position and could do tasks like that. He didn’t know how the other men could even leave dirty clothes hanging around, it was simply unhygienic. Scrubbing away with soap stuck firmly under nails was therapeutic and he could scrub his frustrations away.

Why wouldn’t Avery look at him without seeing regret or doubt?

Why did the other men not see him as their equal, but as a coincidence?

Why did…?

They were back. But it was too early for that. They should all still be drinking. Tommen recognized the firm footfalls of his Captain and he finished his task with unwanted haste.

He was the only one that dared to greet their Captain on his early entrance, the few others were not brave enough. The Captain was not alone though, a slender frame stood next to him on the deck. At first he mistook the newcomer as a small lad, but then they turned and Tommen saw their eyes. Not stern enough to be a lad he decided, and with a confidence only grown through meeting with the Captain, he made his way towards them.

“Ah Tommen,” The Captain began, “This is our new worker, Turow.”

That had to be a last name he decided. That wasn’t important though, scoping out the new person was. There was a nervous tick about her, eyes glazed over with surprise. She was a girl, the first of its kind on this ship. Tommen would have to wait and see what she was like.

“I’m Tommen,” He stuck his hand out, mindful of the scraps of soap still lingering.

“Cassiopeia.” She replied curtly, and she in turn stuck her hand in his. It was brief but a sign of friendship. It was the first step that had maybe led to Cassiopeia approaching him later on and them conversing about her luck. It had maybe led to the Captain assigning him the duty of making sure she was put to work with him, and that he showed her what to do. It was maybe that handshake that started it all.

“You’ve got more out of her than I have,” The Captain said exasperated and moved on to what the girl was meant to do now that she was a part of The Night Thief.

That was why he was glad he didn’t get a handshake when she left them. A handshake meant a beginning and a hug meant a goodbye.

The ocean couldn’t tell him what he was supposed to do now, nor could it tell him how to stop worrying that something was going to happen to her in that big impossible city. But it could provide a face on which his memories could be remembered, and his brain would be altered by the mere action of recalling the face of Cassiopeia Turow.

“We need to move on.” Tommen uttered, moving away from the ocean. He was right, standing still was going to get them nowhere. While Cassiopeia was out there exploring, they needed to be doing their jobs. Nothing was going to happen if they wallowed all day.

“Tomorrow we will.” The Captain replied and tomorrow was only hours away. He wanted just a bit more time, and Tommen had never seen that side of him, the side desperate for time and patience and reflection.

“Tomorrow, I think we need to start the next stage. It’s time that plans actually got stuck to and this plan of ours is long overdue.”

The plans were promised to him, and although Cassiopeia would still be on his mind, he had to move, he had to progress. Progression was growth and growing was the right thing to do.

“Although I hate to say it, I think you’re right.” 

 

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