Chapter Fifteen

In only a few minutes, the two ships would reach Knight's Rise. Standing on the prow of his own ship, renewed inside and out, Vaelyn VanGelis felt both nervous and excited. This was his chance to do things over, to do them right.

"Just beyond those trees is a very beautiful view," came a voice from behind him.

Vaelyn smiled slowly, not turning around. "Hello, Sophie."

Her slender arms wrapped around him from behind, and he could feel her head resting against his back. "Are you nervous?"

"A bit," said Vaelyn, trying to sound casual. Well… These people that we're going to meet, they are very fond of you. They're your family and friends. And I kidnapped you once. I want to marry you. And, oh yeah, I am (or perhaps was) kind of a pirate.

"You're worried that they won't like you because you kidnapped me and your sort of were a pirate?" suggested Sophie, moving to stand beside him.

Vaelyn looked down at her, raising an eyebrow. She raised one as well. He couldn't help but smile at that. She looked so cute. "Sophie, is mind reading one of your gifts?"

"Possibly," she replied, green eyes glinting with mischief.

Vaelyn impulsively reached out and drew her close to his side. "What would I do without you, Sophie Knight?" he whispered.

She did not reply, simply slipping one arm around his back and sighing.

The ship moved slowly past the line of dark trees, and Vaelyn gasped in surprise. Sophie had been right. The view was beautiful! The bright blue of the sky was broken by the rich green of rolling hills and the deep blue-violet of flowers. The forest had given way to the most beautiful plains Vaelyn had ever seen. The funny thing was, he had sailed past this place many times, and for some reason, he had never before noticed the beauty.

"What are you going to do now?" Sophie asked Vaelyn quietly, her green eyes reflecting the splendor the hills.

Vaelyn kissed her red hair. "I don't know for sure, but something… legal this time."

"Good," said Sophie.

"Yes, especially since I'm planning on marrying you," Vaelyn said with a soft smile.

"I'm so glad you're planning on that," said Sophie quietly, reaching up to touch Vaelyn's bearded face.

"Me, too," said Vaelyn. He was just bending to kiss her when, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Christopher Knight. Quickly he straightened, clearing his throat. "Good morning, sir," he called to Christopher, who was striding briskly across the deck.

"Good morning," said Christopher, standing beside the couple in the bow. "We'll be at Knight's Rise, soon."

"I know," Vaelyn replied, looking down. "I'm a bit nervous about that, sir."

"I assumed you would be," Christopher agreed. "And I just thought I'd let you know--" He patted Vaelyn on the back, making the former pirate jump with surprise. "--I'll make sure things run smoothly. You've done a great thing for my daughter, and it's obvious that you love her. You love her enough to change your entire life for her. I admire that. And I'm going to show my admiration by letting the people of our village know that I approve you as my son-in-law."

Vaelyn's green eyes widened, and he stared at Christopher. He quickly swallowed down the unmanly lump in his throat. "Thank-you, sir," he said quietly.

He was rewarded by a rather brilliant smile from the older man. "You're welcome," said Christopher.

Suddenly, a voice called down from the crow's nest. "Knight's Rise ahead!"

Vaelyn glanced up to where Cor stood aloft, his leather clothing flapping in the breeze. "How far, Coradon?" he called up to his first mate.

"Not even a mile, I'd say, sir," was Cor's "scientific" reply.

"Home," said Sophie and Christopher simultaneously.

Vaelyn smiled. He was beginning to be excited about being a part of this family…

"Sir! We've got trouble!" Cor shouted suddenly.

"What is it?" Vaelyn called.

"I think it's Sarmas Stale!" Cor cried.

(LINE)

Stale, Pyler, and Trivalia stood on a green knoll just outside of Knight's Rise, looking down at the village. It looked very peaceful, Stale thought. He smiled. How he loved to disrupt peace! The pirate captain turned to Pyler. "Is the laser ready?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," said the big man with a grin. "It was a good idea to stop by our stash before coming here."

"Yeah," said Trivalia, twirling a strand of purple hair around her finger. "Otherwise, it would be us unarmed versus a town full of magic users."

Stale moved away from his sailors, allowing them to strike up a discussion on which direction they should attack from. He walked to the peak of the knoll and lifted his spyglass to one eye. As he looked through it, he smiled. "Ah. There you are, Vaelyn VanGelis. What a surprise is waiting for you!"

(LINE)

"I should have known he would do something like that!" Vaelyn exclaimed, slamming a fist down on the wooden railing of his ship.

"Well look at it this way," Sophie said, touching his shoulder tentatively. "You can kill two birds with one stone here: Defeat Stale once and for all, and free my hometown, thereby winning their admiration and acceptance."

Vaelyn gave her a wry grin. "You have a way with words, don't you?"

She smiled. "I try."

Aislinn Knight suddenly drifted down from the air to land between Vaelyn and Sophie. Sophie watched Vaelyn's face, amused at his shocked expression. It still seemed to surprise the sea captain when she and her family used magic.

"So what's the plan?" asked Aislinn eagerly.

"Uhm, well…" Vaelyn cleared his throat, clearly still struggling with the fact that Sophie's mother could fly. "I'd like to lay down some cannon fire on them, but I don't think that's a good idea."

Sophie nodded in understanding. "We might hit the town."

"Right," said Vaelyn, crossing his arms and frowning.

"Perhaps a sneak attack would be in order," Aislinn suggested.

Vaelyn raised an eyebrow. "In the broad daylight?"

"Well…" Aislinn tapped her lower lip thoughtfully. "We should probably wait until nightfall. Do you think we can do that?"

"I think we can," said Sophie eagerly. "That will give us time to come up with a plan."

"But what do we do while we wait for night?" Vaelyn wondered. "Stale will be suspicious if we just sit here like this…"

They were all quiet for a moment.

Then, Sophie noticed a slow smile spreading across Vaelyn's face. "What is it?" she asked him.

Vaelyn's grin broadened. "Tell everyone to act as though they don't see Stale and his cronies. I've got a plan."

(LINE)

"It's getting dark, sir," said Pyler to his captain as they stood on the hill watching the two ships on the river.

"Do you think I don't know that?" Stale hissed, standing akimbo. His dark brows met in a scowl. "They must be planning something. Why don't they attack us?"

Then, suddenly, the sky lit up in a flash of bright purple and sparkling gold.

"Fireworks, sir!" Trivalia exclaimed breathlessly. "They're using my fireworks!"

Stale began to laugh, then. "Oh, how I overestimated you, Vaelyn VanGelis! Here I think you're cooking up a surprise attack, and you're really celebrating your homecoming!" He placed one hand on Pyler's shoulder and one on Trivalia's. "They don't even know we're here! And while they're having their little party, we can sneak into their precious village and lay siege to it!"

(A/N: Short, I know, but I had to update! Thanks to anyone who's keeping up with this, because I've been such a slacker about updating!)