Rive found the propeller easily enough, and with how high the ship was cradled, they could walk under and use their eyes, if not their hands.
“Is there another way to get to it, or does a person have to use air magic to fix things?” They half-turned back to where Briarrshi was waiting and watching. “Not that I have it.”
“It’s fine if you do, Rive. Just learn how to control it.”
“Don’t you remember, captain? It was in the rulebook that the guild doesn’t allow people who control air to go up with ships.”
Seren gave him a confused look, then caught the stare of their wide orange eyes.
“Why wouldn’t air controllers be allowed? That’s... that’s like refusing a home at the sea to someone who enjoys the water.”
Rive shook their head and Briarrshi snorted, injecting herself into the conversation.
“People like that used to be allowed on ships, but that’s the key word. Used to. Not since Wind Waves occurred have air controllers been allowed back up into the clouds.”
Seren gave them a look, and this time they mirrored it back.
“You... don’t know? Really?” Rive’s eyes opened wider, and Seren didn’t think that was possible.
“About the Wind Waves? Nooooo.” The word trailed off as she looked at them, then at Bri, a small feeling of anger and disbelief rising in her. Her father had taught her everything about current events, history, and politics, while her dad had focused on crafting, reading for pleasure, and cooking. Together, the two of them had taught her how to fight, swim, and that the world itself could be unfair. And they had apparently missed teaching her something important.
“She doesn’t know.” Rive turned to Briarrshi, their eyebrows drawing together to create a very bushy blue line. “The biggest event in the history of the known world for the past two decades, and she has no idea.”
Seren let her hair slide forward in hopes it would hide the dawning embarrassment she could feel heating her face. Her father had kept her up to date on everything, right? So why had he not told her about this? Was it something that was a bigger event to others, but not him, and so he’d dismissed it? Or… had he deliberately kept this from her, and why?
“The biggest event,” added Rive, crossing their arms over their chest, “that everyone should know about since it’s been the only thing that’s united all the countries.”
They both turned to look at her and she shook her head, feeling worse. Bri made a noise that sounded like she was clicking her tongue against her teeth.
“The key problem was that people were moving air currents to places where they hadn’t formed naturally. That practice was fine where there were few people doing it, but once the trade routes were marked and more ships wanted air controllers on board, it made a mess of the weather, the tides, and everything else.”
“Which means,” Rive added, cutting in, “that anyone who controls air isn’t allowed in the sky. Sure, they can say they won’t muck about with anything, but with the temptation there, who knows?”
“That’s easy to fix, though,” said Seren, shrugging. “Right? Just ask a threader to tie up their magic. Or, you can charm them to listen to the order.”
“Yeah... How did you feel about being compelled by her?” asked Rive, nodding at Briarrshi. “Want to be willingly under her command? Someone else like her? For the rest of their life?”
Seren stepped back, glaring at Rive.
“It would depend on how badly I wanted to be in the sky!” she retorted. “If that’s what my soul needed more than control of my magic, then it’s fine.”
“Spoken like someone who’s never been charmed or threaded for more than a day.”
“Excuse me?” snapped Seren, turning on the berth manager. “You have no idea how I grew up!”
She stomped forward and apparently the look in her eyes was murderous, since the taller, more muscular woman actually took a step back. “My father uses charm like a fish breathes water, and I’m the only child in the house. You can probably guess what happens in that situation. He’s charming to my dad, but he charmed me so much I can count on one hand the rare times I remember him choosing not to. So yes, I knew what I was talking about when I suggested that. I knew exactly what I was talking about!”
“Oh.” Briarrshi blinked, and for a few seconds her mouth worked without a voice. Finally, two paltry words came out. “I’m sorry.”
“So... That’s how you shrugged off Bri’s threading,” said Rive slowly, almost as if they were tasting the idea. “You were used to it.” The taste looked to be one of disgust and displeasure.
“I didn’t shrug it off, it vanished when I finished the task.”
“I meant you shrugging off the feelings of her doing that.”
“I didn’t; it still made me angry!” Seren said, giving them a quick glare before turning back to Bri. “You have to ask people first, not just assume command of their body.”
“Like your father did? From how you talk about it, it didn’t sound as if he actually asked you.”
“That’s completely different!” A tiny voice in her head asked if that was true, but she stomped it down. “He’s my father—I’m his daughter; it’s a family matter. He can still order me to do things. You, as a stranger, can’t.”
“I can order you to leave,” answered Briarrshi, but the words were not heated and there were hints of acceptance in the tone. “However, I understand your point. If I need another prayer for the White Temple, I will do so differently. One that involves consent.”
“Wait. I don’t understand.” Rive’s face looked as though they’d just seen a ghost. “I tell my parents no all the time. Are you saying you weren’t able to do that at all growing up?!”
“Rive, we can talk about this later.” Much later. When they were up in the sky, far away from Viadora, and the possibility of their papers being uncovered as forgeries was nothing they had to worry about. “Concentrate on what we’re here for, engineer. Can you get the propeller working again?”
“Well... I actually need to inspect it first, not just look at it from afar like a lovesick fool.” Rive inspected the ship’s outside, then sighed. “Let me in, there’s got to be inner space for the engine.”
Seren nodded and took the key out from where she’d been storing it underneath her shirt. One click later and the door swung open. Thankfully, the mushrooms provided enough light for them to look around, though she wouldn’t want to try writing in the dimness.
“Wow... not a lot of space in here, is there?” Rive walked in, taking it all in at a glance. “Kitchen, table, bed... how do I get to the engine?”
That was a good question. Seren hesitated, then flinched as Briarrshi narrowed her eyes.
“You’re the captain of this ship, so you should know where it is.” The suspicious look was accompanied by arms crossed over her chest. “Why are you hesitating?”
The correct answer, “because I stole this ship,” was on the tip of her tongue. Instead, Seren walked over to the table and picked up a pencil that she’d left out. There was no way around it. She was going to have to admit that she didn’t know. Or...
“Under the rug,” she said, nodding toward it. It was the only place she hadn’t explored, so by that logic, access to the engine had to be down there. “It’s creepy there, so I don’t enjoy going down... or even thinking about it.”
Rive flipped over the rug and hummed when they saw the iron ring. Within seconds they had jerked the trapdoor open and were lowering their body into the pit. Seren felt sweat droplets gathering at her temples as Bri continued to watch her.
“Perfect!” came a shout from below; the pencil she’d been holding dropped to the floor. “Found your propeller engine in here and I can check what I need to check!”
“Can you see what’s wrong with it?” Seren called back, picking up the pencil and putting it back on the table. Then, to keep herself from pacing around the area, she sat on the bed and hugged her knees. She wanted to ask how Rive had enough light down there, but didn’t want to give Bri any more examples of how much she didn’t know about the ship.
“Possibly!” Rive yelled back. “You don’t have any sketches or prints handy, do you? So I can compare how it’s supposed to be to what it’s looking like now?”
“I can check, but I’m pretty sure I don’t.” She bounded off the bed, taking the quick step over to the bookcase and checking for loose papers. “Sorry Rive, nothing here!”
Briarrshi snorted, but she said nothing about the lack of papers. Seren felt her face heat up again. In hindsight, why wouldn’t the captain of the ship keep records and papers of how the ship worked?
“Damn... well, at least I’ve got a sturdy set of tools down here.”
There were a few minutes of silence before the first sound of something clinking. Apparently, that small noise of work being done was all the invitation Bri needed to move around the small space. The berth manager looked over the kitchen, looking at the plate in the sink and the ones that had dripped dry overhead. Next, she examined the pencil and sketchbook that had been left open on the table. She stopped every few seconds, and Seren could see her drawing conclusions. The girl monitored the older woman. She didn’t trust herself to talk to the berth manager, though. Too great of a chance for her to slip up and admit she was a thief.
“Interesting sketches.” The pages flipped as a nervous feeling settled in Seren’s stomach. She’d never really liked it when her dad or father had looked at her work, and they were family. When Bri put the sketchbook down, she craned her neck to read all the titles on the shelf.
“Interesting collection of titles.”
Seren was starting to hate that word.
“101 Ways to See Luck.” The berth manager moved the yellow ribbon that was holding the books in place and plucked that one out, letting the book flop open to a random page. She read aloud in a clear and articulate voice, almost like her parents had when something was a lesson to be learned.
“Every person and being has a bit of luck in them. However, there are some who draw in luck from others, some who radiate luck, and most likely even more types who have yet to be discovered.”
Briarrshi glanced at Seren, raising an eyebrow.
“And you think you’re one of those?”
Seren laughed, a little more high-pitched than what she sounded like normally, and shook her head.
“No, I just... I just haven’t found out if I’m good at magic or not.”
“Most people have by your age. It’s one of those things that is in the blood or not.”
“I know.” Seren bit her bottom lip. “My father told me magic runs in the family, so I should have something, but he never told me what type it might be.”
Briarrshi’s eyebrows drew in and her lips curled up enough to show off the red gem.
“He’s right in that magic passes through families, but it tends to stay within similar lines. If your father has thread magic, then there’s the possibility that you do, but nothing else. Same with air, water, and luck, though that last one is rare enough studies are few.”
Bri’s eyes flickered to the open trapdoor.
“It looks as if we still have a bit of time. What magic does your father command?”
Seren pressed her lips firmly together. She also looked to where Rive was, but less judging the time and more hoping for a rescue that probably wasn’t coming. She gave an inward sigh. That conversation she’d been avoiding with Bri was going to happen, wasn’t it?
“Like I said before,” Seren said, choosing her words with caution. “He does charm magic.”
“And your dad?”
“Yet, you have neither of those powers,” mused Bri. It wasn’t quite a question, more like an observation. Seren hadn’t performed any air spells in front of the berth manager, and since she’d been threaded, all that meant was that she didn’t have her own access to thread magic.
“I’ve tried,” Seren admitted. “But I’ve never been able to produce a spark.”
No matter which books of magic her parents had shoved at her and told her to study.
“Then, do you have any other parents? A mother’s magic to claim?”
Seren was on the edge of saying no when a thought hit her. A nasty, traitorous thought that grew even as she attempted to banish it. She’d grown up knowing that she wasn’t blood related to either of her parents; that had never been hidden from her. But she’d also been told, continually until she’d stopped asking those questions, that they knew nothing about the people she’d been born to, those who she shared blood with. Looking back, though… Why had her father and dad been so insistent that she had magic if they had actually known nothing?
“Your eyes have gained a strange look,” whispered Briarrshi, stepping back. “I apologize, and I take back my question.”
“No.” Seren’s voice cracked; she cleared her throat. “No, it was a good question. Um... do you know of... is there any spell you know of that would allow a person to find others related to them by blood?”
Bri didn’t answer immediately. It was kind of her, part of Seren’s mind pointed out, that she was at least pretending to think about it. Seren could already guess at the answer, though.
“No. Not that I know of. But then again, I am not a person who studies magic. It’s possible that such a spell exists, or can be cast. A very experienced person, for instance, might know how that could be done.”
The rising tide of anger ebbed a bit with that ray of hope.
“I’m going to find a threader who knows then, because this means I have at least one other parent that they lied to me about, and now I can’t even trust that I’m not related to them.” Her mind started to think of how she would find… wait! Jo! Jo was a threader, and a more powerful one than Bri. She might be able to help, as long as Seren could catch her before the Crimson Cloud left.
“I’m gonna need another hand down here!” Rive called out. “Who wants to help?”
It really wasn’t a question, since Bri wasn’t part of the crew. And Seren would love an opportunity to hit some things right now, no matter if that chance was down a dark hole she hadn't wanted to drop into.
“Be right there!”
Seren gave Bri a brittle smile and darted to the open part in the middle of the floor. Rive was already down there, which meant that continuing that conversation, and those thoughts, was the more frightening option.
- Dust Warrior
CoffeeQuills is a transplanted Floridian, living in the Land Rising Sun. They write for 4thewords (an RPG for writers) and in the twists of space and time created by caffeine, they enjoy coming up with stories all along the spec-fic range. Anything goes for this Hufflepunk, so hold tight and pretend it's a plan!
“This is who I am, right here, right now, all right? All that counts is here and now, and this is me!”
(Currently back after a long hiatus - apologies to those I owe chapters and mail too. The plan is to update fictions and continue with a once a week schedule.)