She danced from ship to ship, skipping along swaying decks and soaring across the misty chasm between boats. She raced Jaraeden, laughing as his long strides propelled him ahead of her. “I saw your map! I don’t need to wait for you!” she crowed and pushed harder.
The prow of the boat before her suddenly jerked upward in an unseen eddy. She skipped up steps to the upper deck on the ship she was on, snagging a line from the rigging and swinging across. She flung her arms out as she glided across the aether, closing her eyes to embrace the sensation. She rolled as she touched down on its deck.
Jaraeden offered his hand. His eyebrows raised in silent praise.
She accepted his hand and shook her head. “I’m nothing. And that gives me joy. Also, you’re slow.” She sprinted ahead.
Jaraeden huffed a quiet laugh and raced after.
Three ships back, Matt and Talon gasped for breath.
The men finally caught up to Jaraeden and Alathea long after. Matt put his hands on his knees as he leaned over. “You can’t run off like that,” he panted.
Alathea shrugged. “I appreciate the warning. Look at this!” She flung her hands out beyond the rail.
Looming in the dark a massive ark wallowed.
Matt’s eyes popped. “That’s bigger than a city!”
Talon sputtered. “And it’s full of treasure?”
Alathea nodded, her grin curling around her cheeks.
Matt shook his head. “How old is that thing?”
Jaraeden answered, “Older than anything else down here.”
Alathea reached out hand in reverence to the hulking shape. “I think I know what it was, once. The ship that saved our world, when it was still a bowl. Before my God broke the walls down so the waters wouldn’t be trapped anymore.”
Jaraeden put a hand on her shoulder and nodded.
Talon rubbed his hands together. “Well, we have a glass shard to find, don’t we?” His eyes darted around the area, tracking the best way to reach the top deck of the ark.
“No.” Alathea’s voice suddenly had weight.
“What? Why not?”
“Because you’re a thief. And that’s why I chose you for this mission. But if Jaraeden and his people already liberated the glass shard, we don’t need you. And I won’t put you in temptation’s way.” Alathea ruffled his hair. “It would only cause you pain to see all that glittering goodness and know you couldn’t pocket it. Or you’d nab a choice morsel and get us all in trouble. Either way, we don’t need those complications.”
Talon gaped, sulked, and paced away.
“Matt, stay with him.”
“Course. I don’t need to be traipsing any farther if you’re sure you’re safe with tallboy here.”
Jaraeden raised a single eyebrow.
Alathea smirked. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. And if he tries anything, I’ll protect the honor God gave me.” She spun. “Shall we?”
The two raced off into the darkness to approach the ark. Matt watched them go.
Talon snuck up next to him. “How long will they be gone?”
“Alathea’ll keep him distracted long enough for us to do our work. You remember where the Griffon was?”
“At least where she said she saw it on the map. I think I’ve got an idea of the best route.”
“Better hope so. She won’t be able to stall forever.” Matt heaved a sigh. “I’m not looking forward to another run, though.”
Talon yelped a laugh. “Come on, old man. We have a job to do!” He darted into the dark clatter of the graveyard.
Another fifteen minutes of writing… another chapter for The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.