The Long Road

The Long Road

One never said that life was easy, simple, or kind. One that had traveled long and hard knew that the path she followed was not always the easy road to tred upon. Still she continued, determined if not ill forsaken in her wildness. Such could be expected from a woman that was born to heed the calling of the sea and to know that the beat of a drum, the cry of a fiddle, and any dance about a midnight drenched fire could quicken the blood that coursed through her veins was enough. More a blessing then a curse, but Rona was besotted with both sea and land. Gypsy and Seafarer alike, she was forever torn.

Torn now even as she ever had been she was standing upon the cliffs and gazing down upon the roaring tide. High tide had awakened the sea into a frothy if not vicious dance and call. She could only but hold herself and rub at her arms if only to soothe the chill in her bones, that shiver. The call. She was haunted by it now, staring fixated upon the roll of the tide, the ebb and flow that left her eyes wide... pupils dilated with uncertainty.

One look back if only to keep herself from allowing her legs to take steps forward and over that cliff. If only to feel the cold savagery of the sea, if only to know once again and once more that her heart was not frozen... that only she was a part of the sea as much the land. Ill cursed, a bitter laugh escaped her lips as she wiped the tears from her eyes.

Haunted. She thought herself cursed, condemned by those that had taken her into captivity leaving her touched by that darkness that seemed to feed upon her very soul. This was not what her mother would want from her... would not have expected the dromonde to provide the gypsy. No... Rona was meant for another purpose.

The call of a raven awakened her senses, left her alert once more and the shadows of her spirit to temporarily reside. A call from her feathered companion that lighted upon her shoulder and rubbed against her cheek.

"Ne... not today Bey... not today... our road is still long."

A softened murmur, the gypsy's accent with age had become smooth upon her tongue. Sighing softly the eyes of the gypsy turned back in the direction from whence she came and she waited.

The sea and the land seemed accepting of her decision for now. A soothing wind as the sun broke through the clouds, awakening from its slumber leaving the breeze that touched her cheek warm to the touch.

Ribbons stirred at her wrists and at her neck, her skirt dancing about her legs as one stray ribbon managed to escape and submerge itself into the ocean. The waves enough seemed accepting. This offering for now was enough.

Rona Deykar


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"Mmmm..." Silver grinned, reaching her arms up high over her head and stretching the muscles that had for too long lied unused. It was spring again, and that meant soon the shipping season would be underway. The *Starstruck Siren* was placed in the water yesterday after being drydocked for repairs the last week. Thank goodness for old favors, since the last season left her wanting for work.

"'ello Cap'ain." Ty bellowed with a wink as she swaggered toward her. "Now, look at that lazy ol'grin. Ye look like a cheshire cat with a secret."

"Not so much, at least not yet. Just happy to be back in the water." Silver chuckled and looked over the rail out to sea. In a few days time they would be sailing out to test the repairs and open up the Siren to the ocean waves once more.

The Lady Captain raised her hand to her eyes and looked out over the horizon. There were stray clouds in the distance, but nothing threatening. It looked as if the worst was over. She peered up towards the cliffs and paused. Squinting, she noted the figure standing solitary on the hilltop.

A single black bird swirled above the figure's head before seeming to land on the stranger.

"Cap'ain?"

Silver raised a hand to silence him. Could it be? The Gypsy Captain's last letter mentioned traveling and perhaps crossing paths. The bird... she only knew one other with a winged companion, but the Elven shoppekeeper did not tend to stand on cliffs for long periods of time alone, in the daylight.

"Cap'ain..." Ty grumbled, crossing his arms. Silver turned toward him with an eyebrow raised. "This came for you this mornin'."

Silver peered at the letter, a slow smile slithering onto her lips. The flowing writing and the signature at the bottom all but confirmed it. She took a breath and bellowed... "Raise the main sail and load cannons on starboard side!"

"What?" Ty raised a brow. "Who we shootin' at?"

"No one. It's a welcoming comittee." Silver laughed merrily as she strode down the deck, watching as the three cannons were loaded. She gripped the rigging and raised herself up into the netting.

The sail raised, the Siren singing in silent song to the sky waved in the wind. Suddenly... BOOM.... BOOM.... BOOM!! Three shots all fired into the ocean waves.

With her fingers firmly hooked into the ropes and her boots steady, the Lady Captain leaned toward the sea with her sword raised above her head. Now, it would only be minutes until the Gypsy Captain made her way to the docks.

Silver


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One could only daydream for so long. The gypsy had crooned in her native tongue to her raven before sharp eyes captured movement amongst the sea. If such could not alert her to a change of her solitude, certainly the welcoming party could. "Ila Mora." A mumble that sounded like a branded curse before she was beside herself with laughter. The sound itself seemed sweet music, and yet still a distant memory to the woman. It was so strange to hear her own laugh... she after all had not laughed since Kusinage had disappeared.

A sigh and a hand swept through dark wind-blown curls before she was shouting a command at Bey and calling out for ShadowVeil to mount. It was a glorious sight to behold...ribbons trailing behind her as the smoke grey arabian headed for the docks. Needless to say such would bring a mutter of complaints for the beast would surely break the boards that held the dock together.

The stallion reared even as that grin escaped and broke across her lips, emerald eyes shining merrily as the sun gave one again a reminder of just how beautiful a gypsy enraptured in joy could be.

The cannon cries were answered with the melodic shout of the gypsy...hailing in native tongue as much as she hailed in the sea bawdy nature of her beloved friend. Rona and Silver were reunited.

Rona Deykar


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"Those Who Go Down to the Sea in Ships ....."

The sun had just passed its midday arc, and its rays shone down in piercing spokes upon the breaking waters that filled the city's port. Between the blue of sea and sky, the docks were awash with activity. Sailors bustled about their rigging and decks while gulls cried hungrily overhead. It was spring, and with the sun's new warmth came not only the fresh green of leaf and stem, but a fresh, burgeoning season of shipment. A lone figure standing at the far end of the docks hoped that it would bring work as well. So far, it hadn't.

The figure was motionless, save for the occasional flapping of a long grey cloak that obscured both face and form. It was out of place in the warm glow of the day, and had raised more than a few eyebrows as the wearer had wound her way to the docks, but it couldn't be helped. Beneath its shadowy folds, a scowl lit the face of its occupant. It had been the third day she had made the trek to the docks ... the third day she had felt the weight of passing eyes upon her back ... the third day she looked out wantingly upon the tall ships that rose and fell with the waves. She hoped it would be the last.

A dry rasp that might have been a laugh slid from her lips with the thought of "hope." She'd seen precious little of it since she'd left the city of doors some weeks back, though she had to concede that her current surroundings far surpassed the dark indifference of the place that called itself her "home." Still, in her naivety, she'd "hoped" for more. Stormpoint, she had been told, would be different. There, the stories said, kindred walked the streets restrained only by self. There, an alliance with its neighboring realm meant that goblin-kin dwelt within the city and even served on its watch. There, she thought, she might find a pale modicum of the acceptance that had thus far escaped her grasp.

A sudden flutter to her side caused the figure's neck to snap quickly to the left even as her fingers wrapped around the hilt of an unseen blade. They relaxed as her eyes landed upon a dark-plumed bird, sitting atop one of the barnacle encrusted poles that supported the pier.

"Back again?" she asked, her voice smooth as well-tanned leather. "And I'd thought you'd lost interest."

The bird only squawked in response.

It had been following her since she'd entered the city three nights hence, slipping inside the gates with the merchant caravan and a glamour that had stretched thin over the past week. She'd scarcely been able to maintain it long enough to thank the master of wagons for his charity to an old woman and then disappear into one of Stormpoint's alleys, yawning wide with cobblestone and shadow. When the ruse faded entirely, she'd retreated into the safety of her cloak. It was then that she'd seen the bird. She'd thought nothing of it, at first. Crows were common in cities and this one seemed no different from any. But as it kept pace with her, appearing on each of the slickened streets she chose, she'd begun to grow suspicious. She was, therefore, relieved when it didn't follow her inside the inn. Then again, it might simply have had better taste or a higher sense of self-preservation than the one it followed.

The inn, if it could be called that, was a dilapidated structure run by a man with more teeth than scruples, but little of both. The fare was partially molded, the door of her room heavily splintered, and the room itself occupied by at least a half dozen rats; but the establishment had two points in its favor: it was cheap, and no one asked questions. Grateful for both, she'd slept better than she should have, and set out for the docks the next morning. The bird had been waiting for her.

It had followed her to the docks, watched her speak with the harbormaster and a few captains, and then followed her back to the inn. The next day, they'd both repeated the trek, one dark in plumage, the other darker in mood. She'd spent much of that night chasing off rats and trying to remember whether it was the crow or the raven that bore good omens, but resolved that it made no difference as she couldn't tell which the bird was. She'd slept fitfully, draped with annoyance and a moth-eaten blanket that smelled vaguely of horse.

She was, thus, tired and vexed when she'd left the inn's rotting frame on this, the third day, and somewhat surprised that her avian stalker was nowhere to be seen. Now, with its sudden reappearance, she wasn't certain whether it was irritation or relief that tugged gently at the corner of her mouth.

"No one else to follow this morning?"

The bird remained silent and the woman's lips fell back into a tight, thin line. She knew it was the same bird. Even over the sting of the salt air in her nostrils she could catch the bird's scent. There was something about its eyes too -- though black, they were gimlet and fearfully keen, its gaze far sharper than its rough beak. She sighed in certain frustration as she turned her attention from the bird to the task for which she'd come.

There was only one new ship within the harbor this morning, but it was fair one. A three-masted clipper bearing the masthead of a mermaid, she was named the Starstruck Siren. The crew moved fluidly across her deck, readying her for the season ahead, whilst two women, one in gypsy garb, stood talking on her prow. Curious, but unhelpful. What she needed was the name of the captain, and the harbormaster had made it clear to her yesterday that she'd receive no further information from him. She cursed his name silently.

"Silver," spoke a strange, croaking voice from her left.

She spun round, blade now drawn within the folds of her cloak, but her gaze found only the bird sitting patiently on its weathered pole. Narrowing her eyes at the creature, she allowed a stunned question to slide from her lips.

"What?"

"Silver," the bird croaked again. "Captain."

The grip around her blade tightened. She'd known that crows, ravens, whatever the hell the bird was, could "speak," but she'd never encountered one that could answer questions, especially questions that hadn't been asked aloud.

"What are you?"

The bird gave no answer, but a nigh intolerable air of smugness radiated from its bright eyes.

"All right, fine. Don't tell me. But Silver, which one is he?"

"She," the bird clipped, then leapt from its perch, and, after a few strong flaps of its wings, glided across the waters towards the new ship, landing finally on the shoulder of taller women who stood in converse upon the prow.

Back on the pier, the woman's brow raised within the shadows of her cloak. She hadn't expected a female captain. All of those she'd encountered in the past two days had been male. For a moment, she thought that perhaps she'd fare better with one of her own sex, then her eyes rolled as she pushed her breath through her nose in a quick huff. Yes, she told herself in a voice dripping with sarcasm. It was her gender that had kept the others from hiring her. That had to be it. What the hell was she thinking, hoping that this would make the difference? What the hell was she thinking by hoping at all?

Still, she was there, at the docks, away from the squalor of the slums, and she was armed with the captain's name and identity. It cost her little to try, and another rejection would only give her something to share with the rats upon her return to the inn. Screwing her resolve in place, she began to cross the pier in measured steps, making her way to Starstruck Siren.

Her boots made no sound as she ascended the gangway, and she was forced to clear her throat to gain the attention of one of the crew. He looked at her with no small degree of distrust, but led her to the captain and her companion upon the prow.

"This one be wantin' a word with ye, Captain," the crewman spoke by way of introduction.

The captain, a tall, golden-maned woman, gave him a nod of dismissal and he left with silent reluctance. In his wake, the captain's cool blue eyes scanned the strange form of her cloaked visitor as she casually signaled her first-mate to be ready She'd seen danger come to her ship too many times not to be wary.

"Well, if it's a word you're wanting, let's hear it."

The woman, not expecting so civil a greeting and surprised by the presence of a second raven beside the gypsy, was struck momentarily silent, but soon recovered her tongue.

"I'm looking for work," she began simply, but continued with a degree of confidence that belied her circumstances. "I'm well skilled with blades and have over four decade's experience aboard ships," she added, neglecting to mention that a fair part of that time was aboard jammers.

Sighing inwardly, she pulled back the hood of her cloak and allowed the sun's rays to fall fully upon her face.

"I'm a stranger here, true, but I'm no stranger to the sea or to hard work. If you need another hand, and can see your way clear, I'll not give you cause for regret."

V'Lyska


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Silver grinned at Rona and crossed her arms loosely. "You mean to tell me that you seriously broke his nose?"

Rona couldn't help but laugh. "Yes, 'n yer surprised?" Her eyes twinkled.

Silver shook her head and chuckled. "No, but it's jus' pretty funny to hear you're still up to the same antics."

Rona arched her brows in return. "An' yer not?"

"Okay okay!" Silver held up her hands in mock surrender. "I get it. I'm just glad you're back and willing to join up for a few adventures. I've missed you."

Rona's lips parted as if to reply, but at that moment, a single raven circled above before landing on the Lady Captain's shoulder. Silver peered sideways at the bird, gently reaching a finger up to stroke the bird's breast. "Afternoon, Mr. Feathers." She smiled slightly at the nickname, which was said with all due respect and answered with an idignant squawk. The Captain turned her eyes toward the prow and noticed a new figure was heading towards them with Jonah, one of her crew, and Jonah did not look much impressed.

"Cap'ain, this one be wantin' a word with ye." His eyes fell warily on the hooded figure, but he held his tongue. He knew the sort of dealings that occassionally occured on board, but this figure made him uneasy. Jonah stalked off a few steps, staying close enough to keep an ear and an eye on the Captain and her visitor. The rest of the crew seemed to visibly keep busy with their chores, but it was easy to tell all ears were on the trio standing on deck.

Silver looked at the hooded figure with curiousity. "Well, if it's a word you're wanting, let's hear it."

The figure took a moment to respond. Silver silently surveyed what was in front of her. Hooded folds enveloped the tall figure, but the gait belied anything. She didn't notice a limp, or a pronounced walk. She would guess female, but was not placing any bets just yet.

"I'm looking for work. I'm well-skilled with blades and have over four decade's experience aboard ships." The voice gave away it was a woman.

The Lady Captain's eyes narrowed ever so slightly though her face remained set in that stony countenance that belied nothing. Years of politics and knighthood, not to mention the piracy and "underhanded dealings" she was involved in, had given her practice in not giving away thoughts and emotions. The sunlight caught a glint of the eyes beneath the hood. Strange. The height was about the same as her own. Her thoughts and calculations were halted as the hood was lowered.

"I'm a stranger here, true, but I'm no stranger to the sea or to hard work. If you need another hand, and can see your way clear, I'll not give you cause for regret."

Definitely a woman, but of what descent? Her jaw tightened ever so slightly as she took in the appearance. Short hair and ears that had a slightly elvish appearance. Yet her eyes were almost...vampiric. She couldn't quite place it, and the two small horns protruding from the top of her forhead were out of place. Without speaking, she looked at the gypsy woman next to her. *What do you think?*

Silver's fingers curled around her hip and began to tap rhythmically along her side. "Lookin' fer work..." Silver looked at the bird perched on her shoulder, then slowly to the strange woman, then back to the bird with an arched brow, as if to curiously question the raven. The bird simply flipped his head in response. Taking that a slight voucher from a trustworthy friend, Silver nodded. "Our crew is pretty set, but we always need extra hands for the busy season." She nodded toward a tall, bald man with a large hoop earring and arms the size of small tree trunks before turning her eyes back to the woman. "Be needin' to talk to m'first mate first, but if'n you got a few moments ... you got a name?"

Silver


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Alone despite the life that coursed about her, she felt as well as saw the captain's eyes as they traced each aspect of her appearance. The tiefling hated this part, but remained stoically silent, finding Silver's scrutiny less distasteful than most. It was clear that the captain hadn't seen one of planar blood before, but her gaze betrayed no indication of revile or great surprise. Rather, she had the look of a woman who'd seen much during her brief span of years, and apparently it took more than encountering a tiefling to shock her. It was a good sign. At the very least, it was far better than the reception she'd received aboard the other ships, and despite her best efforts, the hem of her cloaked fluttered with a small twitch of hope.

Not alone, and making full use of those about her, the captain gave a side-long glance at the dark-haired gypsy who stood at her side. She said nothing aloud, but she didn't need to. These two were close enough that words were likely superfluous. The tiefling envied them even as she struggled to understand the concept. The corvus bird, giving a flick of its head in response to a raised brow, seemed a confidant as well, prompting the tiefling to again wonder why the creature had been following her. She was still pondering the matter, when the captain spoke.

"Our crew is pretty set, but we always need extra hands for the busy season. Be needin' to talk to m'first mate first, but if'n you got a few moments ... you got a name?"

She merely blinked in astonishment, then replayed the words in her head, hoping that her ears hadn't misled her. The captain hadn't actually said yes, but at least she hadn't said no, or worse yet, simply laughed at her request and sent her packing. It had taken a considerable degree of control not to gut the captain who had employed that approach, and savour the look of surprise on his paling face as his entrails spilt out upon his own deck. She suppressed a smile, partially because she realized it wasn't appropriate here, and partially because she didn't want the lengthened appearance of her canines to give the captain further pause.

"Yes," she answered, snuffing out the image, delicious though it was. "I'm V'Lyska. And if you're serious, I've got more than a few minutes to spare."

The man the captain had indicated as her first mate was massive by human standards, standing at least a head higher than those around him and having the build of a well-seasoned ox. His physique was an obvious asset, as it no doubt made many think twice before acting, but Silver clearly valued his thoughts as well, or she wouldn't bother with his opinion. V'Lyska hoped he'd be as open-minded as his captain.

"Do you want me to wait, or follow. Oh, and if you don't mind me asking," she added, her curiosity finally slipping past her restraints, "the bird, is it yours?"

V'Lyska


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The dark haired gypsy merely watched the exchange in seeming silence though her eyes were riveted towards the raven. The raven's clicks, caws, and squawks were as familiar to understand as her own native tongue. Of course that was well explained and realized by the mere fact that her own raven supported such an understanding of dark avian languages. Night emerald eyes darted from the raven as Bey fussed and preened at his own midnight feathers before sprawling out his wings in a territorial display. A click of his beak sharply as he cast a baneful black eye upon the other raven.

A murmur in Romanian for the time seemed to soothe Bey as he grumbled and clicked his beak once again in defiance as the gypsy chuckled to herself. This was bound to be an interesting trip, such was for certain.

Rona Deykar


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Silver repressed the urge to nod as Rona's feelings seemed to mirror her own, and the raven's as well. The only give away to her feelings was the slight glint that flickered across the Captain's eyes as Rona's raven took a slightly defensive position against the one on her own shoulder. She turned her gaze back toward the woman as she spoke. V'Lyska. At least it was not totally strange, and it had a slightly nice tone to it. The woman seemed more than happy when answering, and Silver could only guess the other welcomes she had received from the other Captains in port.

She had noted the looks on the dock as her ship was approached and it had not gone unnoted that there were an extraordinarily obscene amount of workmen on the dock at the moment. To those in town it looked like any normal busy day, but if you looked close enough you could see many crews of different ships mixed together as they spied for their own Captains. Sworn enemies working together at the moment, probably asking themselves what the woman pirate was doing now. Silver straightened, once again biting her lip to keep from smirking. They always knew better than to approach her outright and many had learned the hard way she deserved to be on the seas just as much as they did... and if they disagreed they usually ended up with some broken appendage.

"You can wait here." The words were clear and nearly barked out. "The raven... is a friend, though I claim no ownership." At this, her tone grew a bit lighter. "It will just be a few moments. If you have any questions you can ask Rona." She glanced to her friend once more, almost as if to say "keep an eye on her".

The Captain crossed the deck in few strides, Jonah frowning as she approached him and the first mate. "Cap'ain ... I don't like it."

"You don't have to." She answered, patting his shoulder despite the severity of her words. She looked up at the first mate in silence.

Ty rubbed his chin before crossing his burly arms. "She's a strange one Cap'ain.. more unusual than most, but so far... "

"She seems anxious to work." Silver cut in.

Jonah sighed. "They all are anxious for work." He drew out the last word. Silver knew what he truly meant. Work was a word to be used for many things. It was the type of work Jonah was really hinting at.

"Well fellas, we can't stand here all day."

Ty shrugged his massive shoulders. "There's enough of us if she gets out of hand, Cap'ain. We'll keep an extra good eye on'er until she proves herself."

Jonah sighed, defeated. "If she makes one move that's questionable... I still don't like it."

Silver grinned. "At least I know I have you two on my side." She turned on a booted heel and swaggered back to Rona and the woman waiting.

"Well, V'Lyska, it seems we have an opening. Hopefully you have the experience you say you do. The crew doesn't take to slow learners. Got any bags, you have until sun down. Since yer new, I'll have Jonah set up a bunk next to the sleeping quarters. Don't have many females on board so until ye get used to it here, you can have a bit of privacy. Don't count on that lasting long once the season gets busy - we'll need every inch of the ship."

She looked at Rona, and then shifted her shoulder. The raven took to the skies, circling once before heading back to his original owner. Silver knew he would deliver everything that had gone on. "Welcome aboard."

Silver


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Rona, as ever, was one that was a little more tempered towards concern and uncertainty. It seemed well enough that Silver accepted the woman as a likely addition to their travels. Until the time disproven for trust, Rona was one who would be reasonably friendly. A warming smile touched her lips and reached her eyes. Emerald depths were intuitive even as that dark flame of energy licked within the depths of her pupils. A restless stirring of the spirit magic that she controlled and contained.

Once just a simple fire witch, her travels and the trials those travels had led her through had brought her to become adept in the other corners of magic... to the point that realization was awakened to her and to others that the mere gypsy bore more than the usual gypsy magic... no, her energy bore the rare mark of one blessed with spirit magic ...the capability to control and wield all four of the elements and link them to become a near vessel for any energy line that touched her... amongst also becoming a channel for power ...a cup to fill up and the contents to be dispersed to those that needed it.

While the touch of Edanoth's darkness had left her tainted... the vampire had in other ways reinforced her magic with her other gypsy talents to become additional powers to wield within her magic. The intuition of the gypsy was not just based on a woman's gift of genetics but instead was based on empathic control ... an influence of magic to discover and read the emotions of others... and also for her own emotions to influence others. Such was the true secret behind the power of her music. Ghostwood may have been a beautiful instrument, and she a bewitching player... but the energy of the music itself was laced with her own empathetic talents.

Such talents were used in a well controlled regard of the new woman as the gypsy pushed her hair out of her eyes. "Have you been traveling long? Did you need anything to eat?"

The gypsy herself was already discussing such inquiries with a shipmate to get the woman settled with a decent meal and drink just as Silver approached. Night emerald eyes caught those of Silver's, detailed in their explanation was their cast. As sparkling and vivid as a finely cut gemstone, her eyes revealed that so far all seemed harmless and that there was no change of ill intent. Such was to be determined so far.

Rona Deykar


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Watching from afar, the tiefling found Silver's interaction with her crew to be as strange as they no doubt found her. She'd neither lied nor boasted about her years in the service of ships, and in all those years she'd never seen a crewman voice disagreement with his captain's view. To the contrary, aboard her ship the man's tongue would have been plucked from his mouth and served as garnish for his soul. But she was forced to concede that her brief time on this plane had given her only a cursory understanding of its peoples and customs. It was entirely possible that humans were less prone to mutiny than tanar'ri, and that such measures were largely unnecessary. Putting matter aside for later consideration, she closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun as it fell across her pale face. She'd been forced to hide beneath the hood of cloak for several days now, and the warm kiss of the salt air was a welcome change.

"Have you been traveling long? Did you need anything to eat?"

The question took her aback, and she opened her eyes quickly, turning to the speaker with a look of surprise. It was the gypsy woman who had spoken. Her voice was quiet and her form slight, but V'Lyska could sense that much rippled beneath her surface. The tiefling wasn't sure what she had expected from her, or indeed from any aboard the ship, but it certainly wasn't a kind word or an offer of hospitality. Most of the "unveiled" encounters she'd had with humans had gone rather poorly thus far.

"I've been on this plane for several weeks, and through many others for weeks before that," she frowned slightly with the final words, realizing that she'd lost track of time somewhere along the way. It wasn't surprising, given the disorientation of planar travel, but she still found it unsettling. "It's been a long road ... not particularly pleasant, but better than .... well, just better."

She was wary of the offer of food. On more than one occasion after her nature had been surmised, varying amounts of a most .... unpleasant .... substance had found its way into her meals. It hadn't caused permanent damage, but it had burned like the fires of wrath and had done far more than leave a bad taste, proverbial or otherwise, in her mouth. What the humans called it, she didn't know, but they'd found her reaction terribly amusing ... until she recovered, that was. She was, therefore, about to decline the offer when the woman began to make arrangements for food and drink.

Weighing the possibility of a genuine offer of hospitality against that of another poisoning, she decided that she'd rather endure the pain than offend the only people who'd shown her any kindness, and she managed a small, "Thank you." The words sounded strange on her lips, but as no one seemed particularly perturbed by them, she believed that she'd used the expression correctly this time. She was still congratulating herself on this small point when the leather-soled sound of evenly paced steps heralded the return of the captain.

"Well, V'Lyska, it seems we have an opening. Hopefully you have the experience you say you do. The crew doesn't take to slow learners. Got any bags, you have until sun down. Since yer new, I'll have Jonah set up a bunk next to the sleeping quarters. Don't have many females on board so until ye get used to it here, you can have a bit of privacy. Don't count on that lasting long. Once the season gets busy - we'll need every inch of the ship. Welcome aboard."

Any umbrage she might have normally taken upon having her experience called into question was dwarfed by her relief at hearing those final words. It'd been too long since she'd felt the waves of the sea beneath her feet and longer still since she'd had a place to which she actually wanted to retire at end of day. She didn't even care that the captain hadn't mentioned the particulars of a wage. Any pittance would be better than what she currently had, which was nothing; for though she had a quick hand and nimble fingers, she was currently too obvious a figure to avoid suspicion. City watches, she had come to discover, thought rather little of demon kin, and some were all too eager to jail and torture any that came their way.

"Thank you, Captain," she said again, emboldened by her earlier use of the phrase. "I'll not give you cause for regret. And I don't need til sundown. I've brought all I have."

The bird that had followed her for the past three days alit from the captain's shoulder, circling overhead before winging away towards the heart of the city. V'Lyska watched it go with a small measure of regret. It hadn't been much, but it had been the best companion she'd had for some time. She hoped that it had led her to more, but the grim expressions worn by the first mate and the man named Jonah didn't look very promising. The latter had already started heading below deck, begrudgingly escorting her to her temporary quarters. The tiefling, however, remained behind for a moment longer.

"It might interest you to know," she began, addressing the captain, "the captain of The Vengeance has been dropping a fair amount of coin into the hands of one of the harbormaster's men. And there's a smell of sulfur and saltpeter coming from his cargo hold," she tapped the side of her nose, indicating that her sense of smell was perhaps a bit keener than that of her new shipmates. "Just in case you're interested."

V'Lyska


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