A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Night

As the first faint streaks of dawn appeared on the horizon, I hugged Addie tightly to me and my tears soaked his shoulder.

He stroked my long hair. "We have prevailed Karla. The Dread Disciples are gone. Those undead horrors - those fiendish invaders from that other world - they will never trouble us again. It was more your victory than mine, but I don't begrudge it, for it was an honour to fight by your side."

I felt a swell of emotion at his words and kissed his cheek. The white powdery makeup he had worn to disguise himself came off on my lips. I gazed at him, placing my hands on his shoulders. His face was intriguing, coated in powder, it looked so smooth, with perfect contours. Despite my sorrow I really wanted to run my fingers through his golden curls and kiss him...

"They'll be waiting for us." He led me back to the ocean and to my disappointment, he washed the cosmetic powder away with seawater. Then the crew of the ship found us and escorted us back to their vessel in triumph.

Back on the ship's crowded communal level with the crew, Addie and I were heroes. It was good to be back there and smell the familiar scents of tar, tobacco and spirits. They all sung us raucous sea shanties and even put up with my singing Dark Forest folk songs, despite my singing voice which was not the best.

I waved a beaker of Grey Isles rum and raised my voice in a raucous drinking song, the type which an audience must sing along to after the first line:

"A cup, yes this cup, yes this cup of good cheer!"

And because I was now a heroine they did not make fun of my caterwauling, but copied me as merrymakers do in village taverns in the Dark Forest. For that moment I could try to forget my sorrows...

Later we followed the captain to his well appointed cabin where he had placed a crystal orb on the oaken table. It was another magical orb which could be used to call on Rebecca, the good witch from that other world. A sense of peace surrounded us and the crashing of the waves outside seemed like a gentle rhythm. The crystal glowed with a beautiful jade light that glinted off Addie's golden hair. The bright green head of Rebecca appeared and she beamed at us. "You brave warriors, you pair of heroes! The Dread Disciples are gone - all stranded in the limbo between dimensions. Even Phobia, the dark witch and let me tell you, she is the worst."

"We're strong together," I said firmly, slipping my arm in Addie's.

"It was really Karla's show all the way," said Addie, "I had my doubts about her suitability for a mission of this kind, but now I've seen her conquer certain death - three times over. She's more of a warrior than our mentor, no question."

But I wouldn't take all the credit. "I was dangerously close to losing my morale, but you made me keep going."

"Behold, your ethereal ally returns to you," said Rebecca, her green light glowing bright. And the magical light in the cabin grew brighter still and the translucent sea green form of Tess appeared. She gazed down at us with her brilliant golden eyes.

"Well I'm back! With Carcescu's power broken there was nothing to draw Phobia over to this side, so I could leave her stranded in the limbo between the worlds."

"Thank you, dear Tess," I said, breathing a sigh of great relief. That she had not died grappling with the dreaded dark witch cheered me more than I could say.

"Karla, you look all in and night has fallen outside," said Tess as she swirled around us, "perhaps one of us should accompany you to your quarters?"

"Addie, would you be so kind?" I glanced at him, flicking my hair away from my face. He smiled and nodded.

Tess left us as we prepared for rest. We really needed a good wash first of all, so we swam in the shallow water off the port side of the ship, two different ropes attaching us to vessel in case the currents should pull us away. The moon cast a path of silvery light across the calm water. I gave a little gasp as I splashed in the brine that was so cool despite having been warmed by a full day's sun. I tasted the salty tang of it on my lips.

"I bet the lakes in the Dark Forest are not as chilly as this," said Addie, splashing around quite contentedly. In the moonlight his eyes were such a clear blue. Like twin sapphires.

"You should come with me back there, right away. It really is a picture perfect place."

"The Golden Isles are nearer. We really must stop there." Addie's home island. He swum round in a circle. His muscular body was eerily pale in the ethereal light of the moon, but I somehow wished he would dress up in the lady's makeup again and this time do it for me...

"I would love to come with you to the Golden Isles." I was conscious that my sodden hair was as dense as seaweed hanging around my shoulders as I splashed around. I swam up to him. "I wish the captain hadn't given me my own cabin. I don't want privilege for being a girl. It's just embarrassing."

"If you say we're a couple he'd let us share it. I don't want to sleep in the communal dorm. They all snore louder than the raging waves in a storm."

A couple! He wanted to be a couple! My heart leaped. Though I was still wallowing in the cold sea, I felt that I walked on air. Even the horrific memories of our mission ceased to gnaw at me for a moment.

"Y-Yes, I'll tell the captain we're a couple."

The captain congratulated us heartily. "Beauty and heroics! You've done well, boy."

"Heroics are what matter," said Addie gravely.

I smiled and nodded, but decided not to say anything in case I embarrassed myself.

My quarters were almost as richly appointed as the captain's, wide and spacious, with a feather bed which had pink, silken sheets - the Baron had said that no hammock would do for the only maiden on board... Hmm. He should have seen me as a warrior on a mission first and foremost. I ushered Addie inside. It was quieter here, although we could still hear the indistinct murmur of men's voices from the communal dormitory and the steady crashing of the waves outside. The moonlight shone through the porthole onto the pink silk of the bed. I was suddenly self-conscious. Could I take Addie into my bed? No, I should not be pushy. I decided the initiative should be his. Let him ask me.

"You take the bed dear, I can sleep on the floor."

I spent a long time in the side room anointing myself with the cream I used for moisturising my body and the clay I used on my face at night. I plastered the clay on thickly, the smell of it filling my nostrils. When I had finished, the face of my reflection in the little mirror looked bright green and gooey. I swept back into the cabin, arrayed in my vivid pink nightgown.

"You do a lot to keep your beauty untarnished," Addie murmured from the bed.

I held up the jar of clay. "I would be happy to share? Everything I have is yours." I'm sure I sounded hopeful.

"Oh there's no need, but thanks anyway."

I sat on the floor and hugged my knees. "This sounds so strange, but I can't sleep."

"Bad memories troubling you? The Dread Disciples were a disgrace to villains everywhere. Don't worry, Karla. I can take your mind off it."

I jumped up at that and sat on the side of the bed.

"I can tell you a story of the Golden Isles."

Not quite what I had hoped for, but I went with it.

"Well that's so sweet of you." I lay down beside him and smiled into his face. I wanted to touch his exquisite nose, but restrained myself.

He began to recite: "This is a story of the ghosts and memories of the Golden Isles. And the ghost of my first love."

I put my arms around him instinctively, hugging him tightly to me. "Oh my sweet, I had no idea you had been bereaved." I smeared my clay mask onto him after all as our cheeks touched with a squelch. "Tell me about it if it will help."

"I was just going to."

I lay back as Addie began to tell his story.