“I can’t do what you ask,” Alathea answered. “But the God I serve? If he chooses to use me to free you, I will do it.”
Jaraeden’s lips pressed together into a tight grin. Flames flickering from the nearby ship’s pyre lit his features. After a moment, he nodded and gestured behind him to an open door leading to a cabin.
Alathea glanced behind her. “I brought some associates. We should all come.”
The tall man shook his head ever so slightly and gestured to the door again.
Alathea shrugged and turned to Matt and Talon. “All right, guys, play nice.” She flashed her smile. “Talon, hope you’re ready to use your stuff.”
Talon offered his lopsided grin. “Always.”
Alathea turned away into the cabin. Jaraeden followed.
Inside lay a large stateroom. A simple cot leaned against broad windows. Shelves full of books and tattered pages lined the walls. A huge table took up most of the room. Papers filled with mathematical equations and other jottings piled on it here and there. Tiny model ships circled the outer edge of the table. Three glassed-in lanterns hung from hooks in the ceiling.
“What kind of ship did you come on?” Jaraeden asked.
“Hm? Oh. Three masts. Light on the water. We were going for speed.”
“Do you know what class? Or her weight in the water?”
Alathea shook her head.
“Where’s her home port?”
“I don’t know.”
Jaraeden cocked his head and shook it, drawing his eyebrows together. He turned and rummaged through a small crate, retrieving two tiny wooden boats about half a finger long. He raised his eyebrows and glanced from one to the other while showing Alathea.
“More like that one,” she said, pointing to his left.
He nodded, tossed the unchosen ship back in the crate, and set the chosen model carefully in the circle. Jaraeden plucked up a sheet of calculations and a charcoal stick, scribbling away.
Alathea wandered around the table, examining the models. Her eyes wandered onto a sheet of calculations. The numbers were nearly meaningless, but the text on the sheet was not:
“The waters will not hold our fleet of broken ships up much longer. More ships fall, and we slip farther from the light. How much longer can it support our weight? Dear Lord, do not forget us here.”
She scanned another sheet. And another.
Each held a brief prayer to an unnamed god.
The scratching of the charcoal stick had ceased. She looked up to find Jaraeden watching her.
She gulped. “We came looking for a certain ship.”
He nodded and pointed to the other side of the table. Alathea followed the gesture and found a tiny model of a ship with three triangular sails. She gasped. “How far?”
“Father than you can go. But…” He pointed to a ship far nearer. The thing was massive; the model nearly the length of Alathea’s hand. “Everything of worth we’ve stored here. Unless the boat itself if your prize, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. I know you seek no survivors; that boat fell long ago.”
Alathea nodded. “The Griffon sailed off the edge of the world before my grandparents sang at their first washing. But an artifact she carried, it would do much to aid us in the world above.”
Jaraeden raised an eyebrow.
“A single glass shard. It has been missing from the Glass Princess for hundreds of years. I believe that were she whole again, much bloodshed would be averted.”
He nodded. “Very well. You shall have your shard. You may take your men to the barge and find it, but touch nothing else. A little wealth tends to unbalance the tribes and lead to many problems here. And when you return, we shall discuss this God of yours. Because if he can answer prayers even here….” He gestured to the table. “Perhaps you and I have something in common.”
And so we learn a touch more about the quest Alathea set out on… and fifteen minutes more of writing, another chapter done!
And thus continues The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.