Welcome, welcome, welcome my dear readers, to the sequel to Of Love & Swordplay. When we last left our dear heroine and hero, they were celebrating their return from the mountains and narrowly escaping death at the claws of Wynoir. But a year has passed since then...
As usual, I'll only leave an author note if I feel it's super important! Any and all reviews are appreciated. Enjoy!
It seemed a bit strange that the king would ask for me specifically. I walked into the throne room nervously, led by a guard. I bowed to my king before asking, "What is it you desire, Your Majesty?"
He stood up, reluctantly, and walked to me. "Lady Katalina, welcome."
"Thank you, Sire." I bowed again.
"The circumstances on which we meet are, consequently, not of good fortune." He sighed and turned to me sadly, his aged brown eyes looking through me rather than at me.
I tilted my head slightly. "Elaborate, if you will."
"I am afraid to say that the captain of the knights, Leon, is…missing."
"Missing, Your Highness?"
"Indeed. He was sent on a trip to visit the Plains Elves, but… He never returned."
My eyes narrowed. "Storm…"
"Nothing, Sire. Please continue."
He sent me a wary glance before going on. "That's not the worst of the problem. I'm well aware of your father's relationship with Storm of the Plains Elves. Leon alerted me of his own poor opinion of him, but despite what I assume to be your initial thought Storm had nothing to do with this."
I winced at being called out.
"No… From my understanding, the perpetrators of this particular incident are from across the sea."
A rather frightening gleam suddenly sparked in his eyes. "I speak, of course, of Lord Benjamin and his wench, Shianne."
I remained silent. Sometimes I forgot that Leon was actually from across the ocean, from a country torn by near-constant war and ruled by several feuding warlords. Benjamin, who was actually his cousin, ruled one of the strongest factions with his queen, Shianne. She, from my understanding, was once Leon's lover, until she left him for his look-alike cousin.
"Though for the life of me I don't understand what they would want with him."
I snapped my head up to look at the king. "I do. I know exactly what Ben wants. He's never liked Leon; he's been waiting for a chance to kill him."
"Which brings us to why I called you here, Lady Katalina. I have not forgotten your bravery last year when you were sent to fetch a forgotten blade for my son." He placed his hand on my shoulder. "I want you to go, find, and rescue Leon. He's an important part of the castle knighthood and quite honestly, I would hate to see him die. Can you do this for me?"
I nodded. "I'd be insulted if you didn't ask me."
"Very well. Good luck." With a simple, unceremonious wave, he dismissed me.
I turned and walked swiftly out. I couldn't exactly say I was pleased about going on another adventure so soon, but I wanted more than anything to see Leon home safe. I could only hope that my lessons over the past year hadn't weakened my physical strength too much, or I'll be in a heap of trouble.
Much as I expected, my father was less than thrilled about me going off to Adony alone. "Absolutely not!" He had roared in anger.
That didn't stop me, though. I donned my traveling boots, my forest green cloak, and the rest of my adventuring gear before grabbing a large bag of money and running off to the docks. By the time my parents found out I would already be long gone…hopefully. This was just the plan, mind you.
Of course, seeing as how I was currently talking to a prospective captain, my plan would work. He looked at me with jade green eyes that just barely peaked out under his bleached blond hair. I kept my arms crossed and an air of authority about me. "Those are the conditions."
"You just want me to get you to Adony, huh? That's it?"
"That's all, Captain."
"Seems easy enough." He smiled and held out his hand. "You've got yourself a deal, ma'am. And please, call me Luke."
I shook it once before relaxing. "Very well then. I am Kat."
He opened his mouth to say something, but it was drowned by the sudden shout of a castle guard. "THERE SHE IS!"
My eyes widened. "Take me to the ship! Now!"
"Just do it!" I hissed, grabbing my things.
We ran through the crowded fishermen and other sailors until we came upon his small sloop. I sprinted up the ramp and watched as he jumped aboard. "Shove off!" He yelled.
The wooden ramp was pulled on deck just in time for the guards to push themselves forward. The ship started moving away from the pier. I brandished my sword. "If you so much as attempt to jump on here, I will not hesitate to hurt you."
The guards simply watched me sail away. I put the weapon away and turned, just to bump into Luke. He was looking down at me. "What was that?"
"Why were they after you? I'm not going to harbor a criminal."
I sighed heavily. "You know the Merchant's Guild?"
"My father is the head of that… I'm his daughter, obviously. You may have heard of me. Lady Katalina ring a bell?"
He put a hand to his stubbly chin. "Vaguely. Why were they after you?"
"Dad doesn't want me going to Adony, but I have a job to do. A very important one."
"I see…" He shrugged, dismissing the issue. "Let's get you introduced to the crew." He whistled shrilly and soon his crew stood in a line before us. He started at the top. "This is Sonny. He mans the crow's nest."
Sonny was a tall, lanky young man with a green bandanna wrapped around his head. His tanned body was covered only by a tattered vest and a pair of breeches. "Nice to meet you…" He mumbled.
"Delighted." I nodded.
Luke continued on. "And this—"
"Luke, I didn't take you for having a female friend." I eyed her warily.
"This is Layla, my sister."
She stood just a few inches above me. "City girls have no business being on a ship. Luke, why did you let her on?"
I felt my anger rise. "I'll have you know that I'm paying for you all to take me to Adony, thank you very much!"
Layla didn't seem impressed. "Jumpy little thing, isn't she?"
"Having two redheads on a boat together should be interesting…" I growled lowly.
"We'll see who lives." She smirked.
I wanted to take out my sword and watch blood stain all over that white shirt of hers, but instead I moved on to the next crew member with a resolute snort. Luke gestured to a young man with a monkey on one shoulder. "Rex and Wally."
"Which one's which?"
The man grinned. "I'm Rex. I cook most of the meals on board."
"Most?" I tilted my head slightly.
"Layla cooks sometimes." He nodded toward Luke. "Speaking of which, I better start dinner."
Luke ushered me to the next member. This one was draped in a black hood and cape. "Mistyc…"
They pulled the hood back to reveal a woman with raven hair and matching eyes. "If you ever feel under the weather or need your fortune told, come see me."
"That's…quite a combination…" I swallowed hard. "Very well."
The last two members towered over even Luke. "And these two are Cole and Aiden."
"Twins, I assume?"
One of them nodded. "You betcha! Oh, but I'm Cole. You can tell us apart because I always wear red and he always wears purple."
Looking at them again, I saw that they were both wearing black. I turned to whisper to Luke, "They're completely colorblind, aren't they?"
"You don't know the half of it." He shrugged. "Well, Kat, now you know them. They deserve to know your name."
I looked at the crew members and cleared my throat. "Well… I'm Kat. There isn't much to say about me, I suppose… Nice meeting all of you. I'm sure it'll be a nice trip."
Layla simply turned and walked off. Everyone else at least acknowledged me before going back to their respective jobs. I looked at Luke uselessly. "What now?"
"I'll show you to your cabin."
"I have my own cabin?"
He nodded as he led me across the deck. "It's really just an extra room that we turned into a guest cabin. All the mates have their own sections downstairs and Mistyc has her closet."
"A closet, hm?" I cleared my throat. "And what about you?"
"I have the Captain's Quarters. Ah, here we are." He opened the door to a small room. Inside were a bed, a desk, and a few chairs. "I hope you'll find it to your liking."
I put my bags on the mattress. "It's fine. Perfect, actually."
"Good. Because once you're all set up, you can go help Rex make dinner."
I whirled around. "Excuse me!?"
"We all help out on my ship and you're no exception. I'll see you later, I'm sure." Luke then left me alone.
I sighed heavily and went to open the porthole. A salty breeze started swirling around the room. "Better go help Rex…" I muttered.
And it was in that way that I found myself on a ship on my way to either saving Leon or my own slow, painful death.
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