“I’ll be back in an hour, and I expect you both to have learned something,” Ryn calls from the top of the stairs leading to the galley. A few seconds later, the door shuts, and I’m left alone with Curly. He pays me no mind, stirring whatever is in the kettle today, and kneading dough. Silently, I wonder to myself how in the world there can be fresh meat and vegetables, as well as a fire, but then I remember that Draktnos Nisia is a realm filled with magic and push my thoughts aside. Ryn mentioned him being shy, but I thought he would at least make an effort to communicate with me. Realizing, he won’t be doing that anytime soon, I look around the room, searching for even a twinge of inspiration. The walls are bare, save for the mounds of food, piled in sacks and barrels all over the place, and the long wooden counter I sit at is covered in vegetables, knives, and scraps, but nothing that I could use to teach someone a new language. I curse Ryn under my breath, for putting me in this situation.
I’ve been on board the Aoife for a week, mostly keeping to myself. I have talked to a few crew members, including Rixon, my other captor, who’s turned out to be a wonderfully funny person, and Jasper, who spends his days with the rigging, and his nights either sleeping or watching the sea from the crow’s nest. Yesterday, I finally had the opportunity to use my skills as a gymnast, climbing the ropes with Jasper, learning how to adjust the sails depending on the wind. He and I have become rather close, as none of the other crew members wish to partake in such daring acts.
And, of course, there are my lessons with Ryn. Everyday, I spend hours learning about the realm of Draktnos Nisia. About the wells of magic, creatures, and my own gift. Apparently I’m supposed to be some all powerful healer, but nothing has happened yet to indicate as such. So far, nobody has attempted to teach me how to speak Drach, the language of the realm. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but, sure enough, Ryn approached me as I was about to embark on my first climb of the morning.
“I want you to spend the day with Curly,” she had announced.
“Um, I was supposed to help Jasper,” I responded, confused.
“Jasper has been able to handle the sails on his own for years. He’ll survive. I want you and Curly to teach eachother to communicate. He’s been a hopeless case, so you’re the last person we have. Plus, you’ve been struggling yourself ”
“I don’t know what you think I can do,” I replied.
Instead of responding, Ryn dragged me to the stairs, pushed me into the galley, and left me where I am now.
Curly drops a knife or something, and it lands with a loud clang. He picks it up sheepishly, and returns to his cutting. Absentmindedly, I pick up a tomato, and toss it up and down gently. Curly pauses for a moment, following it with his eyes. I stop and put it back on the counter. He says a word, gesturing at the tomato with his knife. I look up at him and try to repeat it, but find myself struggling, as the word is mostly consonants. Curly laughs for a minute, then says it again, slower this time. I repeat it again with more success. After a short pause, I say “tomato” in English. He tries to say it, but the word comes out sounding like “tmto,” so I go syllable by syllable, until he gets it right. Ryn doesn’t keep her promise, so Curly and I go on for much longer than an hour, each pointing to an object and naming it in our native language, then learning how to say it in the foreign one. Eventually I start helping him with his meal preparations, chopping vegetables, throwing things into the kettle, and grinding herbs. We finish, and wait in awkward silence while stew simmers in the kettle. Curly picks up a wooden spoon, then comes around the counter, I assume to stir something. I don’t even realize he’s behind me until I feel him whack me on the arm with the spoon.
“Ow!” I exclaimed, rubbing the now sore spot. Curly says a word in Drach, then whacks me again, laughing. I repeat the word, while grabbing my own spoon. I hit him in the same place, and say the word in English. He smacks me in the stomach next, then the thigh, then hand, then back, and so on. Each time he says a word, I repeat it, then hit him back. The whole thing turns into a mess of laughter, spoon swinging, and yelling. Curly lunges for my foot, trips, and goes down, taking me with him. I fall on my back, and he lands with his hands outstretched, like he’s about to do a push up. Apples and potatoes roll out of their sacks and onto the floor around us. Panting, Curly situates himself next to me, while I pull myself into a seated position. He manages to get a word out between giggles. When I look at him, confused, he demonstrates with an exaggerated clap. I’m pretty sure he is trying to say “fall”, so I giggle and translate it for him. We sit there for a few moments, breathless, leaning against the wall. Then, Curly gets up and offers me a hand, which I take. He walks over to the kettle to stir its contents before joining me at the counter with a bread roll. I have no idea where in the world it came from, but I take the half he offers me anyway. It’s still steaming. We eat in silence, which is interrupted by Ryn.
“Jasper spotted Myr. Get ready, we’ll be there by sunrise tomorrow.”
I snap into action, following Ryn up the stairs and finding Jasper. He’s climbing down the ropes near the quarter deck, where I meet him.
“There she is. Missed you today,” he calls swinging down from the ropes.
“Sorry, Captain’s orders. Where do do need me?” I reply as Jasper hits the ground.
“Over by the fo’c’sle.”
I jog across the deck and surry up the mast, adjusting the various sails as I go. Someone below starts to steer the ship in the direction on the tiny landmass that can only be Myr. Eventually the Aoife starts on a steady course so I make my way down to the deck. Jasper is standing with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face.
“What?” I ask.
“He’s been standing there staring at you like a lost puppy for the last 20 minutes,” Jasper replies, nodding his head towards Curly. Sure enough, he’s standing at the mouth of the galley. As I start to walk over to him, Jasper nudges my shoulder, snickering. I go to stand next to Curly, and look out at the sunset. He taps me gently, and I turn to face him.
He looks as if he’s struggling to say something, then surprises me with, “Come,” in his strange accent. He mistakes my bewilderment for confusion and gestures. I follow him, down the stairs into a now wonderful smelling galley. He beckons me over to the kettle, and takes a ladleful of soup. He blows on it, then holds it out to me. I bend my knees a little awkwardly, and sip the contents. It’s absolutely delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I find myself shivering with delight. The small movement causes a few drops of broth to drip onto the floor. I stand up, embarrassed. Curly sets the ladle down, and reaches out to smear a stray drop off of my cheek. His warm touch lingers for a second, but then he draws his hand away quickly. I blush. Curly hastily busies himself with cleaning, so I leave galley.
The crew is in complete chaos. I’m tall enough to see Ryn wrestling around with some squawking, blue thing. I push my way through the crowd, until I spot Rixon.
“What is that?” I ask, staring at the tiny creature.
“Faerie dragon,” Rixon mutters under his breath.
Rixon turns to face me, “Faerie dragons are used as messengers sometimes, although I don’t know why. Nasty little buggers, faerie dragons.”
“Why is this one here? Who could be so desperate to get a message to Ryn that they sent a faerie dragon out to sea?” I ask, glancing at the spectacle.
“I don’t know, but whatever it is, there’s only one person who Ryn knows that would communicate with faerie dragons. And if she’s sending us a message, it can only mean one thing.” Rixon’s tone has turned serious.
“Sorry, um, I’m new here. What does that mean exactly?” I look at him expectantly.
“It means that Indie and the other dragon riders are getting involved with us somehow. And that means we’ve attracted the attention of the Order of the Blue Crow.”