“A place of hope which shines for the masses, has to be strong enough to withstand the grudge of the mighty.”
The door to my new office bursts open and Fae, Kiara and Tristen spill into the room. The beastwoman makes a beeline towards the stairway which leads to my private quarters, while the elf dashes towards me. “There are airships!”
“Airships?” I ask, dumbfounded. It has been a week since I exiled Pasley. Even if he survived the wilderness until now, there is no chance that he made it to a village and informed others of our location.
Come to think of it, none of my employees questioned my decision to exile the man. I am aware that my line of questioning was a little thin, but I also didn’t want to burrow too deep and find mitigating circumstances. I got most of the story from interrogating Taina, so I intentionally asked questions which he would have to answer with ugly truths. The chance to make an example of Pasley was simply too convenient.
Tristen is the one who provides me with a reasonable explanation for the presence of the flying vessels. “Yes, three military vessels! We assume that they are here to check on the mine!”
But it's not like we didn't think of such a possibility. Two and a half months are a lot of time to prepare all sorts of contingency plans. “So what's the problem? We've been expecting someone to find us sooner or later, for whatever reason.”
“Yes, but we'll have to explain ourselves,” Tristen complains. “And don't take me wrong, your clothes look gorgeous on you, but black robes, armour and leather won't do it. You aren't allowed to look threatening!”
Kiara returns from my rooms. “She doesn't have a dress!”
Fae looks horrified. “There must be someone with her size on the island!”
“They are peasants! What kind of dress do you expect them to have?” Tristen asks.
I raise a hand. “I certainly won't put on a dress! But if you think that my current clothes don't fit the occasion, there are all sorts of clothes in my backpack.” I simply never bothered to unpack.
Kiara runs back up the stairway.
I squint my eyes at Fae and Tristen. “Why do you even think that I am supposed to look different? Do I have to look like a damsel in distress?”
Fae clears her throat. “I was a highly ranked member of the elven military. From time to time we had to visit festivals in order to deal with the nobles.”
Tristen nods. “I was the left hand of a garrison's commander. He often took me with him to the capital, so I had to learn a few things about etiquette. If you want to be accepted, then you have to look like them.”
Kiara returns with two pieces of clothes. “She doesn't have a dress, but if we combine this blue robe with the skirt, then she should look decent enough.”
I squint my eyes at the clothes. The one time I invested the time to buy myself some outfits is a dark memory. “I don't remember buying that.” Then again, I simply ordered the clerk to prepare some fitting outfits. The clerk must have smuggled those in between the other stuff, despite my explicit veto against skirts.
“Be quick! The ships were heading directly towards us. We don't have more than a few minutes,” Tristen urges us on.
Kiara looks at him with disgust in her eyes and Fae joins her. Tristen looks at Kiara, then at Fae. His gaze wanders to me and I realize that I joined the staring contest on instinct. He bites his lower lip. “I shouldn't have said anything. By doing so, I foiled my chances.” He turns around and walks out of the room. “Damn! I thought I would get a nice view.”
I wait until he is gone. “Is he interested in me?”
Kiara and Fae look at me with raised eyebrows. “Every man on the island is interested in you!” Kiara calls out. “Please don't tell me that you aren't aware of your looks!”
I roll my eyes. “I didn't mean it like that. I meant interested, interested. The heartfelt type.” Not that I would be able to reply in kind, but rejected lovers can be a pain in the ass. I mean, they can become a problem later on.
They look at each other, then Fae shakes her head. “I don't believe that Tristen thinks of you like that. He is just a guy who likes it big. Kiara is proof of that.”
“Heeey!” The beastwoman plants her fists on her hips.
I look at Kiara. “Whoho! So you and Tristen? I never realized that he is your type!” They don't act like a couple of former lovers.
She huffs. “It was only once! We were seriously drunk and needy, then we woke up in each others arms. I don't even remember if we really did it or not. What's wrong about that?”
I raise both hands, palms out. “Nothing! Nothing at all. I just remembered you talking about a big and strong guy to marry you. Tristen is... Well, he isn't scrawny, but neither is he one of those burly workers.”
She holds the clothes out for me. “Better shut up before you say something wrong! And for your big mouth, you will have to prove yourself.”
I take the robe and the skirt. “How do I prove myself?”
Kiara pulls out a measuring tape. “How women always compete! Are you saying that you were never challenged?”
Five minutes later, I leave my office as the definitive victor. Fae gave up from the start, saying that size isn't everything and that we would have to pay for our assets once we get old. I didn't dare to mention that I don't plan on growing old. Kiara almost defeated me, but in the end she was three centimetres short.
We head outside and join Tristen and Brian on one of the watchtowers. The two men are eager to compliment me on my new outfit. It's just Brian who has a little issue. “But why do you wear that jacket?”
“She refused to take off that armour of hers,” Fae grumbles.
“I simply don't want to be caught completely off guard if they turn out to be hostile,” I defend myself. “So what's the situation.”
“They are heading directly towards us. Maybe two more minutes and they will be here.” Brian raises a spyglass to study the three ships. “Alliance Frigate. The length is about seventy metres. They carry a crew of twenty to sixty people.”
I take his spyglass and have a look. The three frigates are broad ships which are made out of wood. They clearly have sails, but they aren't deployed at the moment. The ships look like they are viable to be used in water. Or is it simply easier to land them in a lake than on solid ground? “Do you know if they can be dangerous for us? Any idea of their capabilities?”
“No idea,” Tristen confesses with confidence. “They can be very dangerous. Depends on the mage who is in charge of their attack magic.”
I grumble and hand the spyglass back to Brian. “Why haven't I heard of them being deployed in the war efforts?”
Fae shrugs. “They are, but since you need a strong power stone to supply enough energy for one of those things, they are very valuable. We keep them far away from conflict and use them only against infractions into our territory. TheAlliance has three hundred ships at most. The Sociocrathy has about the same and the Empire has around five hundred. We don't know the actual size of the Consortium and the Mirai fleets.”
“It's enough to counter enemy raids, but we can't transport enough troops to topple the Empire. It would be a catastrophe to lose a large number of ships in enemy territory without the possibility to recover the power stones. That's why everyone is so greedy for power stones,” Brian explains. “What do we do if they attack?”
I smirk. “I am afraid that we'll have to improvise, but I don’t think that they will attack us.”
“You could use the island's force magic to crush them,” Fae suggests.
“Or the energy spell to fry them,” Kiara says.
Tristen's expression turns dark. “Joyce, are you aware that this island is probably the most powerful weapon on this continent? I am not sure how powerful, but the amount of mass you are handling is enough for a fleet of airships. Everyone will want to know how you are doing it.”
I shrug. “Isn't my new home just a big, fat target? I admit that we can probably wipe out a city if we really want to, but that's not why I created this place.”