Sunrise was always a beautiful time for Mírfain. The light thrown around by the rising sun calmed her in a way few other things could. She had never seen a sunrise like that one though. She had been sitting on the cliff overlooking the ocean for the past hour. The light sparkled off the waves and into her imagination. A tune started to form in the back of her mind. She hummed into the morning air.
Getting up, she started dancing through the music and the light. There was a difference between performing and dancing like no one was watching that she loved. The emotion she could put into a performance was limited to what the audience could perceive. But the only audience now was the sun, and in its all seeing wisdom it could appreciate the feelings only it would always be able to understand.
She spun around to face the sun, one arm up and one to the side. A smile crept across her face. She would have to turn that into a new act. She went through the sequence a few more times, cementing it it into her memory. She’d have to tone it down slightly for normal audiences. Most humans couldn’t understand more than a basic emotional connection to her performances.
Mír walked a bit closer to the edge, peering over at the water below. It was a long way down. No doubt some people had used the drop for less than honorable means. Why anyone would be driven to such extremes was beyond her.
Taking a step back, she rested her hand on her sword. Such depressing thoughts didn’t befit such a view. The same tune returned to her lips and she hummed it merrily. Her other hand pulled her blonde hair out of the low bun, running her fingers through it. Now that it was let loose, it obscured her pointed ears.
Melisari… she thought. Somewhere in Berista lied the answers she sought. It’s only fitting to start with a port city. After all, I’m looking for pirates. But where do I start?
A voice snapped her out of her thoughts. “Hey!” a male yelled, projecting his voice which echoed around the area. “HEY!” the voice repeated, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING, KID?”
Mírfain turned around, shocked, before ascertaining that her previous thoughts about the cliff had been correct. That didn’t stop her from diving to the side on reflex to avoid the human male who was running towards her. It must be a major problem if the man had such a violent reaction.
The man dug his feet into the ground, slowing his run, and halting his momentum haphazardly. He took deep, ragged breaths, and held his hands up, as if surrendering, in reaction to her sudden dive to the ground.
“Hey… hey you…” He said, panting. He took a moment to catch breath and his wit. “I don’t mean any harm, just… needed to stop you before anything happened.”
He straightened himself up, realizing his words sounded very strange. “Sorry if I over reacted,” he finally said, attempting a goofy smile to lighten the mood.
“Many people jump from here, don’t they?” Mírfain asked for her own clarification, though his prior reaction had mostly cinched it. “I assure you I wasn’t thinking of doing so.” She stood back up and dusted herself off. She hadn’t meant any harm, and the soft tone her voice took tried to apologize for making him run up there, all the way from the docks by the looks of it.
He did manage to get a small smile out of her, though it was more to reassure him that she had no intentions of actually jumping off. The man fit the textbook description of a sailor, from his tan skin to the utility knife at his belt. It was interesting how the first sailor she ran into was human and not elf.
“What boat are you from?” she probed. She couldn’t waste the opportunity if she had it. Might as well start asking around for the information she needed immediately. She had time. At least, she hoped she did.
The man beamed at the question. Relaxing, he lowered his hands, putting them in his pockets, and adopting a far more natural grin. “That obvious, huh? It’s a ship called the Star Chaser. I’m first mate.” He nodded, feeling a small surge of pride at the title. He took a step to get a bit closer, as he was still a bit far away for a casual conversation.
Star Chaser. It was an interesting name for a ship. Mírfain also stepped away from the edge a bit more. Standing so far away for a conversation was impolite. The sailor had seemed to relax more now that she had assured him she wasn’t jumping. He hadn’t made any aggressive movements either. Her hand slipped off her sword and down to her side. If he did end up coming at her, she had other methods of self defense.
“But who among those heroes sung would dare to chase the stars?” The elvish quotation rolled off her tongue before she could stop herself. It was part of an old nursery rhyme. The rest of it swirled around her mind. Chasing indeed.
“How long have you been in port?” she asked next. Perhaps he could tell her things about the area that would help her in her search.
He chuckled. “Not as long as we really should have. We just got in this morning. Our entire crew is exhausted. Also, I’m not as familiar with elvish as I really should be, so I’m at a loss as to what else you just said.”
So that was the ship Mírfain had seen sail in as the sun drifted over the waves. She hadn’t paid much attention to it. She would have to find some other source in the city for current events.
“But who among those heroes sung would dare to chase the stars?” she repeated in common. Odd that a human pirate wouldn’t know much elvish when working around an elvish town. The rhyme was another nursery rhyme she had been told when she was a young child. Her smile dropped slightly as she remembered where she had heard it from. That was the reason she was here, after all.
The man brightened. “Oh! Yes! Men chase rogues with pilfered loads to keep them behind bars.” From how easily it came to him, he must have heard the rhyme many times before. “Where did you hear that rhyme?” he asked, curious.
“I was told by my parents,” Mírfain offered. It was as much information as she was going to give to a stranger. It was odd though that a human knew the rhyme. He must have heard it from someone else. Not that she was all that interested at the time. She had other things to figure out. But how to go about doing it?
She could ask outright if he knew the name, but that might not procure the best results. Carefully prodding for more information he might be willing to give would make more sense. He had brightened when she started asking about his ship. That worked for now. “What’s your captain like?”
“Ah…” he trailed off awkwardly before composing himself. “Captain Calior is very good at what he does. Tireless worker, good to his men, good listener, and good at quelling disagreements on the ship.” The man nodded, satisfied. “He’s also a good sailor, although that I assume would be a given. You don’t last long on the Star Chaser if you’re not.” He shrugged and furrowed his brow, realizing he had been redundant.
The captain sounded like a good man. Maybe she would have to eventually ask the captain himself about things. However the name didn’t ring a bell. He wasn’t the one she was looking for. She was also looking for anything connected to a woman captain anyway.
Mírfain stood there awkwardly for a moment, thinking of a way to continue the conversation but finding none. “Thank you for your consideration,” she told him. She brushed by him and started down the cliffside. She stopped after a few steps, staring out at the city below once she could see it. As much as she hated to admit it, she had no place to start.
He nodded briskly. “Pleasure talking to you, yourself. Stay away from giving long looks at cliffs — might make more people worried.” He started to walk alongside with her, after taking a brief glance at his ship in the distance as if to confirm it hadn’t disappeared since the conversation had started.
Noticing he was walking next to her, she decided to keep the conversation going for the time being. “Where are some good places to get information?” she asked. It was best to get good places to start.
“Brothels, probably. Whores tend to know the most because they get talked to by lots of lonely folks who know more than they should.” he replied. “Beyond that, beggars, street thugs, people who are always around, but no one ever pays attention to. They always know more.”
He looked ahead. “Why? What are you looking for, exactly?”
Mírfain set off at a quicker pace towards the more skeevy part of the city. It was time to search out the places to gather information from. Brothels would be pushing out the last of their clients at this time. She would take note of what brothels there were and return when they were open later in the evening. That would give her an entire day to scout out the other undesirable areas that might hold information, and find a place to stay for the night.
Her elven eyes followed where his had been looking a few moments before and rested on a boat in the harbor. She could see few people on the deck. Keeping the ship’s location in mind, she headed down the cliffside. She checked back at the ship periodically. Soon she noticed the man return to it. That’s the Star Chaser, she mused to herself. An elvish ship by the looks of it. I’m sure this Captain Calior could tell me something about my target. But first things first.
Mírfain looked up at the sign that said “Spider’s Web” in elvish, with the common translation written underneath. She had been told that this was the best place for information about less than desirable things. Anyone who was anyone showed up. It was the most respectable shady place in town. In short, exactly where she needed to be.
As she walked in, she was stopped by a rather large, dark skinned Exbaltairan elf. He motioned to the sword at her belt. “No weapons,” he mentioned, holding a hand out. Sighing, she surrendered the sword without question.
“May I take your cloak?” he asked in a more sensual tone. She allowed that as well. The man led her to an empty table closer to the wall. A quick scan of the room on her walk over revealed more females at the tables than she had originally thought. She figured they weren’t working there by the relatively normal state of dress. The man pulled out the chair for her, then placed a menu on the table. “Someone will be with you shortly.”
Once he walked away, she got a better look around. The room was obviously one of many. Open doorways led to hallways with more doors. The entire place had a black and red color scheme to it, like a black widow waiting to strike at any moment. The air was charged with a certain tension. She picked up the menu, which shared the same scheme, and read it without too much interest.
“May I take your order, ma’am?” a sultry voice asked. Mírfain looked over her menu to see a scantily clad elf standing across the table from her. The elf was bent over just enough to tease at being able to see her cleavage without giving away the entire experience. Her make up was subtle but well done, with the focus centered on her eyes and lips. It was performance art at work.
“Something light and fruity for now, please,” Mír replied.
The elf winked at her before walking away. She returned with the drink in a timely fashion, winking again as she placed the drink on the table. She bent over again in such a fashion as to show off her cleavage. Mír slid a coin across the table. The elf tucked it into her undergarment before walking off.
Mír swirled the drink around before taking a sip. The taste of apples ran over her tongue. The drink was light and fruity, just as she ordered. It was almost exactly what she had wanted taste wise, too. She looked around the room seeking potential people to ask. Some of the tables had female escorts sitting at them or on people’s laps, entertaining them. There were even a few men working in such a fashion. She’d make herself polite, order a drink or two, then start asking around.
As she observed her surroundings, she noticed a slight commotion at the door. From what she could see, the bouncer was giving a man whose back was to her a look that seemed to be a mixture of shock and being impressed. When the man walked into the brothel proper, she noticed a small pile of knives on the front table. Someone was prepared.
“I should only be a few minutes, just looking to see if someone dropped by,” she heard the man tell the bouncer. She tilted her head in surprise. The voice matched the man from earlier, and when she actually looked, so did the face.
As much as she tried to keep an eye on him as he circumvented the room, she quickly lost sight of him. He knew how to be discreet in a crowd. All the while, she kept subtly glancing at a scene that had been slowly evolving with a hostess trying to politely decline the advances of a bit too inebriated patron. The hand on the glass had been tensed up ever so slightly since she had started watching it.
Eventually Mírfain noticed the familiar man approaching her from the corner of her eye. She turned her head towards him. “Care to join me?” she offered, raising her half empty glass. It was the second time she had run into him that day. The least she could do was offer to buy him a drink, especially after his concern for her that morning.
The man strode over to the girl and nodded. “First, I guess I should probably introduce myself, otherwise this might start to feel uncomfortable. I’m Aron, or, in other words, a man who probably should have thought twice before telling someone they should check out whore houses for information.”
With the sentence out, he sat down, trying to gauge the girl’s reaction. “Or at least, not without some help.”
“A pleasure to meet you Aron. Mír Svent,” she greeted, shaking his hand. “It was good advice nonetheless,” she thanked him.
She raised an eyebrow when he offered his help, noticing how the expression caused him to nearly choke on his drink. But there were other things on her mind to pay too much attention to the reaction. What reasoning would he have to help her? Aside from her being female and not looking too intimidating, she could take care of herself. Her strengths lied not in physical strength but finesse and a quick spell cast.
A quick glance over the human’s shoulder confirmed what she had suspected. Without saying anything to him about it she got up, walking over to the table she had been keeping her eye on. The patron, another human male, was almost too intoxicated to be legally served more alcohol. The hostess on the other hand looked almost afraid. She was a pretty little thing, young looking even for an elf. She also had dark skin like the elf up front. Probably another Exbaltairan by the look of it.
“What seems to be the problem here, sir?” she asked, putting a bit of sassy seduction behind her words to take the focus off of the hostess and onto her. Her free hand ran through her hair as an added bonus. “I don’t think the lady’s appreciating your little complements.”
“ ‘Ey, why don’cha stay outta somthin’ that isn’t ya own bizness? I’m tryin’ ta have a nice chat with this priddy liddle lady,” the man retorted, grabbing the hostess by the arm. The hostess jumped at the touch, tears forming in her eyes. She had to be new. Most courtesans had more than enough proper training to get themselves out of these kinds of situations. At least that was what Mírfain remembered.
Sighing, Mír shifted her glass to her other hand. She ran her fingers through the man’s hair before letting a cool finger trail down the back of his skull to the base of his spine, where she let her hand rest. The man shivered slightly. She put the slightest bit of pressure on the back of his neck and leaned in close.
“You’re going to leave this young woman alone,” she whispered venomously into his ear. “In fact, you’re going to get up and walk out right now without messing with anyone else. Now get going.”
The man stood up without a word. Mír let her hand break contact with his skin as he walked towards the door. It worked. She felt a tad bit sick, but it worked. The knot in her stomach wasn’t from an adverse reaction to the magic, but an adverse reaction to the sudden thought of having cast it. Less than a minute later there was a commotion at the door as the man tried to re-enter. However the bouncer made it quickly known why he was good at his job.
She turned back to the hostess, smiling warmly. “You’re safe now. You should go take care of those bruises.”
Once she made sure the girl ran off to get the attention she needed, Mírfain walked back to the table. Aron had gotten up to assist her, but she waved at him dismissively. She sat down with a sigh. “Something needed to be done,” she brushed off his nonverbal question. The ill feeling she had persisted. Her eyes had lost a bit of their sparkle, a darker sentiment hiding behind the natural facade she was keeping up.
Now that she was sitting in close proximity with him, she looked him over in more detail. She would appreciate any help she could get. However, she wanted to get a better feel for who he was before trusting him to lead her around. “Why would you be offering your help?”
“Well, obviously something needed to be done, Aron shot back. “Most things are only solved if someone does something about it.” His gaze was asking how she did it, but if she wasn’t going to share, he’d let it go for now. “As for my help, well, I figure I owe it to you, since I gave you this advice in the first place. I’m a resourceful guy, you know? If you need help getting information, I’m your guy for that. In fact, it’s what I should have offered in the first place, all things considered.”
“Then I might as well take you up on that offer,” Mír replied.
She caught a hostess’ eye and raised her glass. Not too long after, a host walked up to them with another drink. Mír slid a coin across the table, but the host slid it back.
“The Madame would like to see you,” he addressed her. He motioned for her to follow him.
Drink in hand, she stood up to follow. She threw a look to Aron, a nonverbal “You coming?” Aron nodded and stood up. He hesitated briefly, considering his options. Something told him this was more than a social call. However, he had offered his help, and he was going to give it.
They followed the host down one of the hallways to an ornate wooden door. He opened it and ushered them both inside. Waiting for them was a mature, ebony skinned elf in a dark red one shoulder dress. The dark bun atop her head had not a hair out of place. She was lounging on a lavish couch. The hostess from before was knelt down with her head on the couch, sobbing.
The madame stroked the young elf’s hair before lifting her chin up with a long finger. “Shh, sweetie, show me what happened,” the madame crooned. The hostess held out her arm. The madame pressed a finger to it, and with a smile, the bruise disappeared. Her other hand wiped the tears away from the young elf’s eyes.
“Elanor tells me you helped her,” the madame finally addressed them. That one sentence held an entire conversation. She was thanking them and yet asking why all within a single statement.
“It was Mír’s doing, not mine,” Aron offered, taking a step back.
“Aron would have stepped in to assist had my first attempt not been successful,” Mír offered in his favor. She set her drink down on a table to the side.
“What you did left quite an impression,” the madame directed towards Mír in particular. “Tell me, child, why are you here?”
Mír took a step forwards. “I’m looking for information on the whereabouts of a certain man, madame. I was told this was the best place to start.”
Aron leaned his back against the door. So that was Mír’s aim. This wasn’t some strange brothel service after all. But why would her first inkling be to ask around a shady place for information? She seemed a bit odd about the whole deal, sure, but that wasn’t reason to automatically skip the normal means of obtaining information.
The madame smiled. “Please, call me Emelia. Who are you looking for?”
“A man by the name of Verithas Lithron.”
Aron choked. That name was very familiar to him. His mouth moved before his brain. “That’s Calior’s father-” he muttered before he was cut off as Mír whirled around. She slammed him back against the door, one hand pulling up on the front of his shirt. Elanor cried out in alarm at the sudden turn of violence from who had previously saved her.
“What?” she asked, her voice dangerously low. Even though she was only half elvish, her hearing was better than that of an average human. It might have been a whisper to him, but she heard it loud and clear. ‘Calior’s father.’ That’s what he had said. She wanted to know why.
Instead of responding, Aron’s fighting experience kicked in. He knocked her hand away from his shirt, then kicked her down and away from him. His hand slid up and retrieved the knife strapped to his upper arm that he had forgotten to hand over. For some reason she had attacked him. He would retaliate in kind to protect himself.
Mírfain tried to keep her balance from being kicked. She stumbled backwards, tripping over herself. She used the momentum to roll over backward onto her feet. Her first instinct was to reach for her sword. When she remembered she had handed it over, she prepared a spell instead. He had to be lying. She had no blood siblings.
Before the fight could progress any further, Emelia snapped her fingers. Immediately both Mír and Aron’s visions whited out. The knife clattered from Aron’s grasp across the floor.
“Stop.” Emelia commanded. Her voice carried an imperial weight that even most regents lacked. When their visions returned, she was standing between them, a hand on each of their shoulders.
Mír dropped to one knee, head bowed, senses regained. She had jumped at the mention of her father again, but the temporary blindness had sobered her up. Aron was trying to help her. Attacking him solved nothing, even hurt her chances. She raised her head briefly to throw him an apologetic look, which he met with one of his own.
“I will overlook this. You may spend the night. Elanor, take this man to a guest room. Tend to his needs. He is a gentle soul.”
Aron sheathed his knife. Elanor warily walked over to him. Taking him by the arm, she led him out the door.
“Come sit by me,” Emelia called Mírfain over. Mír took Elanor’s place next to the couch. “Why do you seek this man?”
“He’s… achoo! He has answers to the questions I’m asking,” Mír replied with a sneeze mixed in. The brothel madame smelled of roses and fire apples. The smell was pleasant but overpowering.
“You helped Elanor, so I will do my best to help you. I must ask, however, how you got that man to leave so easily. If it is a trick my girls can learn, I would ask you to demonstrate,” Emelia requested.
Mír bit her lip. “It’s not something easily taught,” she said hesitantly.
“Many men trust me with their secrets,” Emelia cooed, petting Mír’s hair, “and I always keep them. You can tell me.”
Mír felt her reservations slowly dropping away. It felt nice to have someone listen to her who wouldn’t judge. After collecting her words, she finally admitted, “I controlled his mind so he would leave her alone. I didn’t want a fight.”
“A similar instance happened three years ago. An elf stopped a drunken patron in much the same manner. He was a mature man who looked not too different than yourself: blonde hair, sharp eyes, and a scarred wrist. I rather liked him, but he insisted he was faithful and refused all but a free bottle of wine,” Emelia recounted.
That made no sense. Mír shook her head. Verithas wasn’t faithful; she knew that first hand. Yet the description was quite close to who she was looking for. When she jerked her head up, Emelia gently pushed it back down and shushed her.
“Sleep, child, for you’ve had a long day,” Emelia crooned. Mír felt calmer, safer even. She rested her head on the couch. For the first time in a long while, she allowed herself to surrender fully to exhaustion.
Before she slipped from trance into full sleep, she heard the door open. “Madame?” she half heard Elanor ask.
“What is it, dear?” Emelia asked, concerned. “Did he hurt you?”
“No, he insisted I rest. I tried my best, but he didn’t seem interested.”
“Did he say why?”
“When I asked, he said his boyfriend was in port.”
Emelia chuckled lightly. “Then rest here. Would you sing for me, dear?”
Mírfain woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. While she rarely needed to sleep, it relaxed her much more than her usual tranced state. She lifted her head to find the couch empty. Getting up, she stretched out to fully wake herself.
She noticed Elanor at the table to her left, eating a small breakfast of fruit and toast. A second plate was laid out across the table. “Good morning,” Elanor greeted. “Madame asked me to keep you company for breakfast. She didn’t expect you to eat with everyone.”
Mír walked over, picking up the plate. “I don’t mind. Can we join them?”
“Of course!” Elanor exclaimed. She grabbed her own plate and led Mír out the door. When they returned to the main room, Elanor walked over to a few tables that had been pushed together. About fifteen female elves of varying skin tones were already sitting around with bathrobes and wet hair. More notably, Aron was sitting in between two lighter skinned elves, chatting away.
She pulled out a chair, then sat in the one next to it. Mír sat down in the empty seat. The chatter died down for a moment. “Mír, meet everyone,” Elanor introduced her. A chorus of hellos answered. Mír nodded. The conversations resumed.
Mír noticed almost a full table listening intently to what Aron had been previously saying. “He sounds so dreamy,” one elf mentioned. The rest nodded.
“You’re so lucky,” a second chimed in.
“All the good guys are either taken or gay,” a third lamented. Her remark sparked a round of laughter. Aron met Mír’s eyes, a nonverbal “Good morning” passed between them.
A commotion at the door grabbed Mír’s attention. Most of the girls didn’t seem to care, though a few looked over in brief concern before going back to their business. She saw a paladin talking to the bouncer in a hushed voice. After a heated argument, the bouncer reluctantly handed over a sword from the rack of weapons behind the counter. Mír’s eyes widened as she realized that was her sword. The paladin nodded to the bouncer and walked out.
Mír stood up immediately. “Thank you for your hospitality, but there’s something I need to take care of,” she informed the group. The elves nodded, each giving their form of a good bye.
“Where are you going?” Aron asked, also standing up.
“I’m getting my sword back,” she told him.
“That was a paladin! Are you crazy?”
“I’m not losing it.”
“What’s so special about that sword that you’d go after a paladin for it?”
“It’s the only good thing I have of my father. I’m not losing it,” she declared finally. He sat back down in defeat. After giving him a thankful glance, she left for the door.
She walked out of the brothel into the morning sun. It didn’t take too long to figure out where the paladin had walked off. The people out taking their morning walk had made a path in the middle of the street to allow someone to walk by. She quickly followed said route, hoping to catch the paladin and explain her situation.
As she rounded a corner, she noticed the paladin talking to another person, an elf male. Before she could hide herself, they saw her and stopped the conversation. “Were you following me?” the paladin asked.
“I’d like my sword back,” Mír replied, holding her hand out expectantly.
“Would you please come with us?” the man requested, though how he phrased it seemed more like a command. Realizing she couldn’t muscle her way out of the situation, especially since she didn’t have a weapon, she consented. She couldn’t run off either before being caught. Things had taken a significant turn for the worse.
Mír walked in between the man and woman towards the nicer end of town. At first she thought they were both paladins, but the man wore no armor. She knew they varied. His clothing didn’t seem to match any paladin she’d ever seen, though. If anything, he seemed more familiar to how Celmin dressed. That would make him a Justicar. What was a Justicar be doing in Berista?
When they got to a small posh house, the woman unlocked the door and held it open. Mír walked inside, followed by the man. She felt his hand on her shoulder. Suddenly a sharp pain shot through her body. Wincing, she fell to her knees. The man dragged her over to a chair and handcuffed her to it.
“Do you have that truth potion ready?” he turned and asked the female.
“Only if we need it,” she confirmed.
The elf walked in front to Mír. “I hope you know why you’re here,” he began, though he stopped when he saw she was paying no attention to him. As she was looking around the well lit, well furnished room, her focus was drawn to the paladin placing a sword sitting on the table. Her sword.
“Why did you steal my sword?” she asked.
“How did you acquire it?” he asked in return.
“What questions couldn’t you ask me in public that possessed you take me in?”
“Where is Verithas Lithron?”
“Who are you to assume I know?”
“I am a Justicar of Ko’ebbe. Now stop being indignant and cooperate!”
“Roland, stay on task,” the woman interrupted. She walked over and put a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Priscilla,” he apologized. So he was a Justicar after all. That made things a bit more difficult. Turning back to Mír, he sighed, then started again. “Do you know why you’re being questioned?” he asked.
“You believe I’ve broken the law,” she guessed.
“Mind control has been outlawed in Berista. You publicly used illegal magic on another. Why?” he asked further.
“I wanted to avoid a fight breaking out and people getting hurt,” she answered truthfully.
Priscilla tapped Roland on the shoulder. He followed her across the room. Though their voices were low, Mír could still hear them.
“While she did break the law, her intentions were good,” Priscilla reasoned. “Can’t we leave her with a warning?”
Roland shook his head. “She’s got his sword, Priscilla. It’s not coincidence she’s also a blood mage?”
“Don’t let your prejudice get in the way of your duty! We’re chasing a dangerous rogue blood mage, not some misguided elf child who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Are you quite so sure?”
“Roland, what are you suggesting?”
“Doesn’t this elf bear a striking resemblance to our target?”
“Most elves look the same to me.” The human female walked over and took a closer look all the same. “Though now that you mention it, they do look more similar than most elves would to each other. But he had short hair.”
Roland stepped as the woman stepped back. “We can fix that.” In his hand was a knife. He walked behind Mír and grabbed the base of the bun of hair that rested against her neck. A few slashes at the hair were all it took for the bun to fall to the floor.
Mír shook her head, letting the rest of the loose hairs fall to the ground. Having her hair be forcibly cut felt absolutely humiliating. Then again, it was probably what the Justicar wanted. A Justicar having issues with a blood mage was, while understandable, hardly a reason to go so far when blood magic was legal now, regardless of how people felt about it. For him to have traveled through nation borders, something happened that ran deep.
“See?” Roland asked from behind her. “Doesn’t she look just like him?”
“I understand, I see it now,” Priscilla confirmed.
Mír felt the Justicar put a hand on her shoulder. She wasn’t sure where the knife hand was until she felt steel against the tip of her ear. “Your ears are next, unless you tell me what I want to know. What relation do you have to a blood mage by the name of Verithas Lithron?”
“I think you’re asking the wrong person here,” a male voice answered. Standing in the doorway was none other than Aron. His face was bruised and he had a few bandages, but he seemed otherwise alright. “If you had done your research, you would know her last name is Svent, not Lithron.”
Roland’s face darkened. “Gimme that truth potion!” he barked at Priscilla. When he had it in his hands, he uncorked the bottle and forced it down Mír’s throat. Grabbing the half elf’s newly shortened hair, the paladin forced their gazes to meet. “Now answer me. What’s your name?”
Mír paused before answering. “Mírfain Svent.”
“Who is Verithas Lithron?”
“Someone I need to find.”
“What relation does he have to you?”
“He abandoned me when I was a child. I haven’t seen him since.”
“What are you planning on doing once you find him?”
“I’ll have my answers and then I’ll have his head.” The cold declaration shocked everyone in the room, Aron most of all. He had seen a gentler side of her than this. Even with a truth potion influencing her words, that was a bit much. He began to doubt his orders. Taking her to the ship was beginning to look like a bad idea.
The paladin fell silent. A few seconds later. Mír felt the handcuffs being removed. The man even helped her to her feet. When he held out her sword to her, she gave him a confused look.
“I’m terribly sorry, miss,” Roland said, going so far as to bow his head. “This was a misunderstanding on my part. I thought you had been sent by Verithas to kill me. I hope you can forgive me for the wrong I have caused you.”
Mírfain took the blade, shaking her head at his sudden change of tune. “You think I’m going to accept an apology as simple as that? What do you take me for?”
“Roland, why are you letting her go like this?” Camilla interjected. She walked forwards a step, hand on her sword.
Roland turned towards the female paladin with a severe look. “Because we’re on the same side here. Regardless of her choice of magic, we have an ally.”
“You’re letting your bias get in the way again,” Priscilla chided.
As the paladin and Justicar talked, Mírfain walked to the door. She have Aron a grateful look. Upon closer inspection, she noticed he had been recently healed.
Before they could leave, Roland’s voice called back to her. “Is there some way I could convince you to forgive me?” His tone was still surprisingly apologetic. It made her stop and think. She could get something from him.
She held her hand towards him, palm up, as if she was asking for something. Roland took a step towards her, and that was his mistake. With a flick of the wrist and a full extension of her arm, she sent a large ball of water at him. The spell knocked him over.
“W-what was that for?” he sputtered.
Mír smirked. While she could have have turned the situation to her advantage and asked him for something, her pride wouldn’t allow it. “Apology accepted. Let’s go Aron.”
When the two stepped back outside, Mír squinted through the sunlight. It took a minute or so for her eyes to readjust. “Thank you,” she told Aron, then asked, “Why did you come find me?”
Aron waited patiently while she looked around. As much as he didn’t want to take her to the Star Chaser now, he had his orders. “Captain Calior wants me to bring you back to the ship,” he finally said before she could walk off. “Said he wanted to meet you.”
“I’d like to meet him as well,” Mír replied with a bit too much conviction. The truth potion was still strong in her system. Hopefully its effects would wear off before they got to their destination.
She followed Aron down to the docks. Eventually they reached a decent sized ship. The odd looks she got when she walked onto the ship itself made her think most of the crew didn’t know why she was there. With a “Wait here” from Aron, she sat down on a barrel. He walked down below decks. The looks she was getting said one of two things. Either Aron rarely brought women around the ship, or she looked enough like their captain for them to stop and stare.
He returned a couple minutes later with a male elf Mírfain figured to be Calior. She stood up to greet him, noting he was a few inches shorter than her even with the boots he wore. His blonde hair and severe features were extremely familiar to her. He held his hand out to her. Their gaze met as they shook. His eyes were much softer than she expected. He must have gotten that from his mother.
“So you’re the miss who Aron got into trouble,” Calior joked in an attempt to break the ice. “He must have brought me a sister, from how alike we look.”
Mír frowned. As much as she appreciated the joke, given the circumstances, it wasn’t funny. “Calior Lithron?” she asked.
“Aron told you my name I take it? What else has he told you?”
“That your father is an elf by the name of Verithas Lithron.”
“Not to seem suspicious, but how and why did that come up in conversation?” Calior asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I heard it. Where is he?” she asked in return, her eyebrow also raised.
The question to his question startled him. He wasn’t used to being brushed off like this. He also wasn’t used to seeing his own facial expressions so clearly on someone else. His voice took a more defensive tone as he replied, “Why should I tell you?”
Mír sighed. She switched into elvish before replying harshly, “Because he’s a liar and a deserter, and there are questions I need him to answer.”
“Why would you say that?” Calior also switched to elvish. He rested a hand on the hilt of his sword.
“He’s a two faced bastard. If you haven’t seen that by now I’m rather surprised.”
“You have no right to talk about my father that way!”
“Calior, calm down,” Aron interrupted. He placed a hand on the elf’s shoulder. For some reason Mírfain was trying to goad him into a fight. While he couldn’t understand what they were saying, the tactic was working well.
“I talk about who I want, how I want. If you have a problem with that, it’s not my concern,” Mír said, shrugging. She noticed the sudden anger in Calior’s eyes. She met his fiery gaze with an indifferent stare. Her hand slipped down to the hilt of her sword. It was a challenge. Now he needed to take the bait.
“I’m about to make it your concern,” Calior muttered, switching back to common.
“What are you doing?” Aron whispered.
“Taking her down a few pegs,” Calior replied.
Mír held her free hand up to her mouth to yawn. She smirked into her hand. With her hearing, she heard their little exchange loud and clear. When he charged her, sword drawn, she was ready for him. She dodged and unsheathed her sword. If he was really her brother, their sword styles would be similar enough for her to exploit.
They clashed swords, spanning the deck with their maneuvers. She found his style easy to exploit indeed. Their styles were the same. After all, they had been trained by the same person. It was easily apparent now. It didn’t take long for her to find a large enough opening to get behind him.
“Your style needs work,” she mentioned from behind him, her sword to his neck.
“Who are you?” Calior asked. She heard the implied questions behind the single one he chose.
“Listen well,” she began, lowering her voice so only he and Aron could here, though Aron ha to strain a bit to listen. “My human mother fell in love with an elf. That elf taught me his sword style, among other things, before disappearing without a trace.”
“Are you saying that was my father?”
“I’m saying that Verithas is also my father, making us half siblings. How else would a half elf have learned a Ko’ebbian sword style?”
“Why did you bait me into fighting you?”
“I needed to make sure.” Mírfain removed her sword from his throat and walked around to face him. She sheathed it in the same manner as he sheathed his. The tension lightened, but her expression didn’t. Calior was indeed her half brother, meaning not only was Verithas alive but he had completely forsaken her. She wasn’t sure if the information made her feel relieved or just even more pissed off. “Now. Where is he?” The question came out low but annoyed. She was definitely still pissed.
“What makes you think I’m more likely to tell you now than I was before our little fight? What do you want with him so badly?” Calior asked, brows furrowed.
Mírfain fell silent, trying her best to keep her mouth shut. The truth potion was still affecting her. As much as she didn’t want to tell him, she didn’t have much choice. “I want him to answer some questions and then I want to put a sword through him.”
“Why do you want him dead?”
“I have to set the record straight.” She tried to keep her voice cold, but a mixture of hurt and desperation forced their way through. “Now tell me where he is or I’ll press an attack once again, and this time you won’t be so lucky.”
“If you’re going to continue to threaten me and my crew, I’d like you to leave,” Calior threatened, drawing his blade once more.
Mírfain reached for her sword, but stopped when her hand touched the hilt. This had gotten out of control way too fast. She had no issues with Calior. Getting angry at him had no purpose. It hurt her goals more than it could end up helping. If it was anything’s fault, it was the truth potion. Taking a few deep breaths, she calmed herself down. She removed her sword, sheath and all, from her belt, and placed it on the ground in front of her.
“Alright, I’ll leave. I’m sorry you can’t see Verithas for who he really is,” she apologized sadly. Calior loved his father. They seemed to have a good relationship. Of course Verithas loves his son. He’s a full elf. The thought saddened her more.
Aron stepped forward, confused. “You spent so much effort trying to get your sword back and now you’re just going to leave it here?” he asked.
“Calior is Verithas’s son. By simple right he should inherit his father’s sword,” she replied, her complacent tone carrying the slightest edge of bitterness.
Calior shook his head. “This is ridiculous-”
“Thank you for helping me, Aron,” Mír turned to the human sailor, cutting Calior off. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“Would you let me finish?” Calior blurted out.
“I’m sorry we didn’t meet under better circumstances. I would have liked to get to know you better. But I must head to the Teardrop Isles, where Verithas is residing,” she apologized as she ignored his attempt to get a word in. She began walking towards the edge of the ship.
Calior stopped himself from continuing his protest, a question forming on his lips instead. “Why did you ask me where he was if you already knew?” he asked, walking after her. Something didn’t add up. He heard the tone her voice took. Something big had happened between her and Verithas.
When he placed a hand on her shoulder from behind she flinched, but stopped. He noticed that her hand went to where her sword should have been. Her other hand grabbed it and held it at her side. They stood in awkward silence. The few crew members on deck held their breaths as they worried for their captain’s safety. Aron walked up behind Calior, knives at the ready in case something went wrong.
Calior walked around in front of her. He tried asking again, switching to elvish. His tone softened a bit more. “ Why did you ask if you knew?”
“I’m afraid,” she blurted out in elvish. She pulled her hands close to her chest, rubbing the right’s fingers against a scar on the left’s palm. Trusting others was something she had to work on. She had already almost lost two good friends by trying to keep them in the dark for their own safety. The truth potion was messing with her ability to trust herself.
“Afraid of what?”
“I’m afraid of who I’ll find when I find him.”
He rested a hand on her shoulder again, noticing how she didn’t flinch when she could see him doing so. There were some issues he couldn’t see. The least he could do was try to understand. Switching back to common once more, he suggested, “Why don’t the three of us go down to the galley for some food, and maybe I can help you out. Sound good?”
Mír broke away from him. She walked a few paces more towards the docks. “I can’t. Not now. Not yet,” she admitted, also switching back. It would take her awhile to be able to trust someone who thought of Verithas as a good person. She needed time to think about the matter at hand.
Calior walked in front of her again, this time holding out a small purple stone. “At least take this with you.”
“A sending stone?” she questioned.
“You said not now. Whenever ‘now’ happens, I’d like to know.”
She pocketed the stone, but hesitated. Did she really want to leave? This was her brother standing in front of her, the only family she truly had left, and he was asking her to stay. She could work on trusting people by trusting him. But was it worth it?
“Why is your ship called the Star Chaser?” she asked while she decided.
“Do you know the old nursery rhyme?” he asked in elvish.
“Boys chase girls with pretty curls to kiss and heal their scars,” she replied
“Men chase rogues with pilfered loads to keep them behind bars,” he continued.
“But who among those heroes sung would dare to chase the stars?” she finished.
He smiled and shook his head. “Count me among those heroes sung who dare to chase the stars,” he corrected in common. She gave him a weird look, which eventually broke into a smile. Aron started cracking up at their similar expressions. His laughter was infectious, spreading to first Calio, then to the rest of the crew on deck, and finally to Mír.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” he asked through his laughter.
“I want to stay,” she blurted out, then stopped laughing. The truth potion hadn’t quite worn off.
“Then stay, at least for a little while. Who knows? You might find out I’m not as bad as you thought,” Calior offered.
After thinking it over, she managed another smile. “Sure,” she agreed. “Who knows?”