I rush down the ramp to the dock girding Elan-Sia, a tier city drilled into the midst of the glimmering delta. The river and sea are brilliant with luminescence, a sheet of liquid light that draws my eyes.
Kevin’s been waiting for me to talk about my new book, Catling’s Bane, and I’m late. But I have an excellent reason. “Guess what?” I catch my breath as I join him. “Instead of Book Talk, we’re going waterdragon watching!”
“Waterdragon watching?” He props his hands on his hips.
“Can you believe it?” I’m giddy at the thought. “While browsing the first-tier markets, I happened to mention that the heiress is in my book. The next thing I know, she’s offered to take us sailing. I couldn’t very well deny her, could I?”
“Is that her?” Kevin gestures toward the city, and I swing around. Lelaine-Elan, the heiress to the Ellegean throne, approaches with her escort of guards. She appears younger than her seventeen years, petite and pink-cheeked with a fall of blond ringlets. Her jacket brushes her boots, and she’s wearing an azure underdress with a wide belt.
We face her and bow. “Our respects, Heiress.” I point a sideways thumb at my friend. “This is Kevin Cooper.”
“A pleasure.” Lelaine dips her chin. “Shall we depart?” She doesn’t wait for a reply, so we clomp down the royal pier behind her. I imagine we’re taking one of the large cutters or ferries, but she climbs down into a single-masted catboat. I give Kev a nervous smile, and when he shrugs, we clamber aboard. A guard hands down a heap of blankets.
“We won’t travel far beyond the breakwater,” Lelaine informs the guard, and when he retreats, she hauls up the sails. Kev stows the blankets, and I stare at the alien sea. “Is there anything I can do, Heiress?”
“Tell me about your book.” She cleats the stays and sits by the tiller. “I’ll manage the boat, and Kevin shall scout for waterdragons. I’m in no hurry to return to my duties, so if we wish, we may wrap ourselves in wool for a nighttime view of the sea. It’s lovely, brighter than the moons.”
Kev grins at the idea while I’m rethinking our adventure. The boat’s dinky, and I forgot my Dramamine. Too late to back out, I hold on as the balmy wind catches the sail, and the catboat glides from the pier.
We cut a smooth wake out of the delta’s harbor, taking the luminescent swells in stride. I proceed to give her the gist of her role in Catling’s Bane. “You’re a clever ruler who faces a world of intrigue. The high wards and the Shiplord plot for your throne; yet, you have a hidden weapon in Catling.”
Lelaine smiles knowingly, her ringlets blowing across her face. “That’s one reason I love the sea. There’s no intrigue, no vying for power, no manipulation, and few responsibilities beyond minding the sail.”
“That’s a huge ship,” Kev says, and I follow his gaze. A double-masted dragnet leans almost broadside to the wind with a heading intended to intimidate if not intercept us.
“Cull Tarr.” Lelaine frowns. “I’m tacking; watch your heads.” She pushes the tiller to port, and the boat veers into the wind. The sail luffs and then snaps taut, the boom swinging to starboard.
“You’re aiming for them,” I point out in case she hadn’t noticed.
“For a moment.” Lelaine inches the tiller. “They can’t turn as quickly. We’ll sail by them, tack, and aim for the harbor, I hope.”
“They’re arrogant,” Kev says as the sleek fighting ship veers toward us.
Lelaine steers farther to starboard, slowing our speed but forcing the bigger ship into a tighter turn.
“Waterdragons!” Kev points, steps up to the mast, and holds tight. Four sleek shapes undulate through the sea toward us, each larger than our boat. “They’re gigantic!”
I clutch the gunwale. “What do they eat?”
“Fish,” Lelaine giggles. “Hang on. We’re going to get wet.”
I yelp as the creatures divide and flank the catboat, two to each side. Pleated fins soar out of the waves and fan over the mast, first one, then another, streams of luminescence thrown to the sunlight. Cold sea drenches the boat. Kevin hoots and the waterdragons dive. Two horned heads burst from the swells, blowing spray from their long snouts. They sink when a third waterdragon rears, its opalescent scales slick with light. Then the four roll, wings arcing through the air, spray glittering in diamond clouds.
Lelaine grabs my hand as the boat bucks and sways. She smiles at my wide eyes. Kev clings to the mast, laughing like a lunatic. The waterdragons curl their tails. Wide flukes slap the surface, and they sink below the foamy waves.
The catboat rocks and the sail luffs, the sheet forgotten. Lelaine grabs the line and tiller, and the Cull Tarr ship sails on. Her hair dripping into her eyes, she shivers and smiles. “Saved by waterdragons.”
Soaking wet, Kev steps down from the mast and breaks out the wool blankets. He tosses one to me and wraps another around the heiress’s shoulders before donning his own.
Lelaine sails into the delta. We climb the tiers of Elan-Sia and join her for a hearty meal. Still swaddled in blankets, Kev and I share a bottle of wine with the future ruler of Ellegeance, satisfied with our adventure and the tier-bound view of the three moons gracing the glittering Cull Sea.
Thanks so much, Kevin, for the invite to Book Talk!
Link to D. Wallace Peach’s Blog – Myths of the Mirror
Catling’s Bane: US, UK, Global Link