Part 19: Jinxes on the high seas

Ariciel was the first off the boat in Menethil. She stood still looking round, memories floating round in her head. That was where she and Bannog had sat, waiting for the very same ferry they would be taking now. That was where the road was to Arathi, where she’d run in cheetah form just in time to prevent Bannog and his friends from being killed by marauding Goblins. Mareva stood next to her, and coughed. Ah. That was where the tavern was.

“Drinks anyone?”

“Cider,” said Mareva.

Ariciel looked towards the North as they walked towards the inn. What in the name of all that was reasonable was Bannog doing up there in the Eastern Plaguelands? The words of a sad song came to her:

And if I was some small bird

and had wings and could fly

I would fly over the salt sea

where my true love does lie

Three years and six months now,

since he left this bright shore

Oh, my bonny light horseman

will I never see you more?

Temptation tugged at her. She knew that her love could take care of himself. Possibly even now, better than she could. Still. She looked at Stetson and Mareva, who were up ahead a bit, then looked over her shoulder. Ellandriel had fallen a few steps behind, looking round at what was probably the first Human town she had ever been in. Ariciel waited, looking at her till Ellandriel shook herself, and quickly stepped up.

The bartender was still the same man who had been here when Ariciel had just arrived here. He didn’t recognise her, but then again, the landlady had fed and watered them, and -Ariciel chuckled to herself- she had not wasted any time in getting her boyfriend upstairs. She sighed. She was enjoying the trip so far, except for the bits that weren’t enjoyable, but it would have been so much better with her great big lug of a Human next to her. She looked at her hands. Was she strong enough already to follow him? Only one way to know for certain.

They asked the bartender when the ship for Theramore would sail, and were told that the Lady Mehley would sail that very evening. They booked passage, had a very good dinner, and went on board. Ariciel leaned on the railing as the lights of Menethil slowly disappeared in the distance. She stood up straight, raised a hand and sent up a bright shaft of light, like she had done so long ago, the first time she’d had to leave Bannog standing on the docks while she travelled to other places.

“Be safe, my love,” she whispered.


The Sun was on the horizon when Ellandriel swung her legs out of her hammock, careful not to disturb Stetson, who was in the hammock below her. Mareva’s hammock hung next to his, and they were swinging in perfect time with each other, and the movements of the ship. She put on her robes, and grabbed her staff before walking out onto the middle deck. A small boy came out of the galley carrying a large steaming coffee pot, ran across the deck and disappeared below, leaving only the tempting smell behind. Ellandriel decided she wanted to see where they were going, and climbed up the stairs. She found Ariciel on the foredeck, sitting up straight, legs crossed, eyes fixed on the horizon, hands lying comfortably in her lap. Her staff lay on the deck in front of her. Ellandriel stayed back a bit, not wanting to disturb her, and looked out over the sea. There wasn’t a ship in sight, nor any land.

Ariciel stood up, slid her staff through her hands, tapped it on the deck once or twice. As Ellandriel watched, Ariciel struck out at an imaginary enemy, stabs, thrusts, blocks. Ellandriel found herself involuntarily rocking along with Ariciel’s movements. She finished her sequence with her staff tucked under her arm, and looked round at Ellandriel.

“Hi.”

“Good morning, Ariciel. Please do not let me disturb your practice.”

“No worries. Want to join in?”

“Um… do you mean sparring?”

Ariciel grinned. “Naah. I’d knock you overboard. Just a few exercises.”

Ellandriel looked at the staff in her hand. It was a magic staff. Simply hitting people with it had never even occurred to her. She stepped up. Ariciel held out her hand.

“Can I see it?”

Ellandriel handed over her staff. Aciciel ran her hands over it, tapped it on the deck and leaned on it. She tested it for weight, then handed it back to Ellandriel.

“Yeah, that’ll work. Now have you ever done any staff fighting before?”

Ellandriel shook her head.

“Well, then. Divide it in three, and hold it at one third and two thirds. One hand at your belt, and point it right between your opponent’s eyes.”

Ellandriel did, staring ahead, feeling faintly ridiculous. Ariciel adjusted the position of her hands a little, then took the same stance.

“Good. Now hit the top of his head, like so…”

Ellandriel copied Ariciel’s moves, but Ariciel shook her head.

“Nono. Don’t tuck the staff under your arm. Keep it on the outside. Hurts less when you miss.”

“You miss?”

“Most of the time, you will, because your enemies are not idiots. You’ll miss, or they’ll block and you have to be ready for the counter-attack.”

Ellandriel nodded. She tried again.

“Better. Don’t try to hit hard yet, try to be accurate. Keep your staff close to your body.”

Ariciel took Ellandriel through the basic attacks and the basic blocks. Then, she stood in front of Ellandriel, and blocked Ellandriel’s strikes, stepping backward as Ellandriel stepped forward. By the time they finished, several crewmembers were standing around watching them.

“Scuse me, Miss?” Abe the cabin boy looked up at Ariciel. “Are you fighting?”

Ariciel bent down to the boy. “We are, but it’s not for real.”

Abe frowned. “Fighting’s not allowed on board, except on oc-ca-sions of piracy. You stop it right now, or I’m tellin’ the Captain.”

“We’re practicing. She’s not really trying to hit me. I’m showing her how to hit bad people. Just for fun.”

Abe was not convinced. “It’s all fun till someone gets hurt. Then you’ll be crying and running to your mum. And she’s not even on board, so who do you run to then?”

Ariciel said nothing for a moment, looking at Abe where he stood, arms crossed, a stern look on his face, indomitable.

“That’s a very good question,” said Ariciel. “You have a point there.”

“It is not really fighting,” said Ellandriel. “It is more like dancing.”

Abe looked round to Ellandriel. “Dancing with sticks?”

Ellandriel gave Abe a brilliant smile. “Precisely! You have heard of Morris dancing, have you not? This is just like that.”

Abe eyed Ellandriel suspiciously. “So you weren’t fighting, then?”

“Of course not,” said Ellandriel. “We are friends.”

Ariciel turned round, and wrapped her arms round Ellandriel to illustrate. Her head rested gently on Ellandriel’s shoulder, and her eyes were almost closed.

“See?” said Ellandriel. Her smile didn’t waver as she whispered to Ariciel. “Take your hand away or I shall hurt you.”

“What the blazes is going on here?” First mate Kowalski stood at the stop of the stairs. “Having a nice break, are we?”

Abe stood to attention and threw off a salute to put a soldier to shame. “It’s alright, Mr. Kowalski. They’re not fighting.”

Kowalski stared at Abe for three long seconds, then at those Night-elves.

“I bet they weren’t. Well, show’s over. Do you think these ships sail themselves without a crew?”


Ariciel and Ellandriel were on the foredeck. Ariciel sat with her back to the foremast, eyes closed, while Ellandriel leaned over the railing, staring into the distance. Stetson was on the main deck, fishing with a long line while Morgan looked on with great interest. Mareva wasn’t feeling too well, and thought it best to stay in her hammock with her eyes closed. There was a stiff breeze, a few clouds in the sky. All the sails were out and the Lady Mehley gently rolled on the waves, making good time towards Theramore. Like all ship’s captains, Captain Torgoley was staying well away from the Maelstrom, an ominous whirlpool in the middle of the ocean, the very site of the Sundering brought on by Queen Aszhara, and the Titan-lord Sargeras. Ellandriel could feel it, far to the North, like a permanent bad mood. In a way, she felt like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime.

Ariciel looked up to see Mareva joining them on the foredeck. She had her arms wrapped round herself as if she was cold, and looked round nervously.

“You alright, girl?”

“I am not…” Mareva’s eyes fixed on Ariciel. “Is there a storm coming?”

Ariciel looked at the sky, shook her head. “Not that I know. Why?”

“I feel… I feel afraid. But I can feel that it is not my own fear. Many people are very scared.” Mareva winced, bowed her head. “It is giving me a headache. I cannot shake it.”

Ariciel got to her feet, and held Mareva in her arms. She looked towards the main deck.

“Stetson!”

Stetson came rushing up the stairs, Morgan in tow.

“What is it?”

“Mareva. She’s channeling someone, or many people. Fear.”

Stetson put a big hand on Mareva’s shoulder. She looked at him, eyes large and tearful. Then, without warning, as if a switch was thrown, her face became calm again.

“It has passed,” said Mareva. “I can no longer feel it. I do not know why.”

Ellandriel looked into Mareva’s eyes. “Perhaps, the thing that they were afraid of, has happened to them.” She looked at her feet. “I am too late. Neltharion. He has arisen. I did not believe Daros Moonlance, and now… Now I am too late. I should have let Daros Moonlance transport me. I would have been in Darnassus in seconds.”

Ariciel put her hand on Ellandriel’s shoulder. “Neltharion is a Dragon Aspect. That book you are supposed to deliver, what difference does that make?”

“It will help us fight him,” said Ellandriel. “I must bring it to Darnassus. I must.”

“We will.”

There was a shout from one of the crewmembers. “Captain! To the North! May the Light preserve us!”

Ellandriel, who was sitting next to Ariciel with her back to the fore-mast, looked up from her gloomy thoughts. Her eyes grew large and she poked Ariciel and pointed. A wall of water, a wave as tall as their masts, came rolling towards them.

Captain Torgoley’s voice boomed over the ship. “All hands on deck! All passengers below! Batten down the hatches! Helm to starboard! Trim the sails! Put another reef in the mainsail!”

The crew jumped to the ropes, fastening all things that could be fastened. The Lady Mehley turned to starboard, her sails flapping in the wind. Up to now, she had been running ahead of the wind, but with the change in course, that would change. That made it necessary to reduce the sail, to avoid her being blown over. With the speed of long practice, the crew shot up the rigging and out onto the yardarm. With shouts of ‘Way hay and up‘, the mainsail rose until the crew could fasten it. Agile like cats, they clambered down while below, the sheets were adjusted. The Lady Mehley sped up, great clouds of spray splashing from her bow. The Lady Mehley turned, planks creaking, to the North to meet the monstrous wave head-on. Ariciel and Ellandriel jumped down to the mid-deck. One of the Theramore soldiers held the door open for them, waving them on.

“Get below! Let’s not get under the sailor’s feet.” She looked at Arciciel, who hesitated. “That means you too, Miss! Get below. Now.”

Ariciel gave the soldier a grim smile. “Got a better plan.”

She turned to her bird form, and climbed quickly. The soldier swore, went below and secured the door.

Ellandriel grabbed the soldier’s arm. “Where is Ariciel?”

“Turned into a bird and flew away,” said the soldier. “Bloody Druids.”

Mareva nodded. “She will not be far. Druids can take care of themselves.”

“Bloody passengers who don’t do as they’re told. She can walk the sodding plank for all I care.”

Ariciel flew ahead of the Lady Mehley, quickly gaining altitude so she could see better. The wave was incredibly large, extending to the East and the West as far as even she, high up in the air, could see. It was only a single wave, though, not the first of many. Good. With a bit of luck, their ship could survive it. Ariciel climbed higher and higher, but she could not see what caused this monster wave. Never mind. With a flick of her tail, Ariciel turned round and sped towards the Lady Mehley. Captain Torgoley was on the aft deck, holding the steering wheel together with Navigator Mehran. Ariciel dived down, landed on the aft deck and turned back to her Elf form.

“Captain? Single large wave, spreading as far East and West as the eye can see. Calm water beyond.”

Captain Torgoley looked round to her, an angry scowl on his face. “Didn’t I tell you bloody landlubbers to get below decks?”

“You sure did, Cap’n!” Ariciel smiled, waved, turned to her bird form and flew off.

“Bloody Druids. Brace yourself, Mr. Mehran. Here she comes.”

The Lady Mehley started to climb the mountain of water. With all her sails pulling her forward, she rose up, up to the top of the wave. Ariciel hovered a few dozen yards above her mast, looking down. Good. She was going to make it. Just a bit more. Come on! The Lady Mehley reached the top of the wave, and her prow and half of her hull rose above the water. Then, with a deafening crash, she came down, rolling violently. Her port railings disappeared under the water. Then, slowly, slowly, the Lady Mehley righted herself.

The captain shook the water out of his hair, and turned the wheel to port. He laughed with the relief of still being alive, still being upright. He shook his fist at the monster wave as it rolled on to the South.

“Not good enough, you bastards!” He slapped Navigator Mehran on the back. “Now this, Mr. Mehran, is what they mean when they say ‘Shiver me timbers’.”

“Aye, Sir,” said Mr. Mehran. “And a good shivering it was. Almost as good as the one I had off the coast of Stranglethorn in the summer of twenty-five.”

Captain Torgoley laughed. “Bloody showoff.”

“Man overboard!”

Captain Torgoley’s eyes turned amidships, where Sailor Wicks was pointing.

“Who? Where?”

“Vines, Sir! Oh blast! She’s going under!”

With a loud screech, Ariciel dived down. She hadn’t seen Sailor Vines being picked up by the waves, and washed overboard, but she could see where Wicks was pointing. With her wings folded backwards, she hurtled down towards the sea. At the last moment, she changed shape, to her Sea-lion form, and disappeared below the waves. She couldn’t see anyone against the murk of the deep sea, so she dived deep to look up. Against the bright sunshine, she spotted the shadow of the drowning sailor. With powerful strokes of her flippers, she shot towards the sailor, and pushed her up. As they broke the surface, Ariciel turned back to her Elf form, and lifted sailor Vines’ head up. Her eyes were closed, her lips were purple. Ariciel got behind her, put her arms round her and squeezed, making Sailor Vines cough up more water than seemed healthy. Ariciel took a deep breath, put her mouth over Sailor Vines’, and blew air into her lungs. After a few breaths, Sailor Vines coughed, shook her head and looked up.

“Hi,” said Ariciel.

“Ship… Where is the ship?”

“Still afloat, and hurrying away from us. Relax, Sailor. They’ll be back to fish us up.”

Sailor Vines looked round to Ariciel. “Thank you, Miss. You’ve saved my life.”

“My pleasure.” Ariciel looked as the Lady Mehley turned about, and came towards them. “So. Do you come here often?”

Ariciel blew on her tea as she sat gently steaming in the heat of the galley. Sailor Vines sat on the bench next to her. The captain came in, and looked her over.

“Are you right, Sailor Vines?”

“Aye Captain,” said Sailor Vines.

“Good.” Captain Torgoley turned to Ariciel. “I am the captain of this ship. My word isn’t law, Night-elf, it is the word of the gods. I ordered you to go below. You did not do so. Are you too stupid to understand a simple order?”

“I thought I’d be of more use outside than…”

I do not need you to think. I need you to stay out from under my crewmen’s feet so they can do what is needed to save this ship from going to the bottom.”

“Well, I told you about the danger facing us.”

“I don’t care. One wave, or a hundred waves. We have to brave them all.”

Ariciel nodded her head at Sailor Vines. “And I saved one of your crew from drowning. Don’t thank me.”

“That, Elf, is the only reason that you still have skin on your back. I’ve a good mind to strap you to the mast regardless, and make an example of you. Don’t push your luck. Now go below and don’t let me see you again till we get to Theramore.”

The captain turned round, and stomped off. Ariciel turned round to Sailor Vines.

“Well, I never…”

Sailor Vines put down her tea mug, and got up.

“The captain is right, Miss. You do not go against Captain’s orders. You saved my life, Miss, and I’m grateful, but I don’t matter as much as the whole of the ship. Captain Torgoley is one of the best captains I’ve ever sailed with. No matter what happens, no matter how bad it is, Captain always, always knows what to do. This ship, this crew, we are one. We are one creature. Me, the other sailors, we are the arms and legs. The captain, he’s the head. He’s the one who thinks. He’s the one who orders. And we do what he says, because if we don’t, an arm or a leg falls off the creature, and it’ll get swallowed by the seas, and it’ll die. This ship is my family, Miss. I don’t want it to die. Now you do what Captain says. Don’t think he won’t make good on his offer if you don’t.”


Ariciel lay in her hammock, eyes closed. There was a hand on her shoulder, and she looked up into Mareva’s eyes.

“We have arrived.”

Ariciel only nodded, and followed Mareva. The Lady Mehley was lying at the docks. She walked towards the gangplank, where Captain Torgoley was talking to one of the harbour officials. He saw her, and nodded at her.

“Safe onwards journey, Miss.”

Ariciel gave him a look, and said nothing.

“Sailor Vines sends her regards,” said the Captain. “She’s on shore visiting her mum.”

Ariciel turned round, facing the captain.

“This ship is your piece of the world, Captain. Mine is too small to refuse help, even if I don’t expect it.”

“For my part, I cannot afford to work with unknown quantities. Too many lives are at stake. Light’s blessings to you.”

Ariciel turned round to leave.

“Oh Miss?”

“What?”

“Thank you for saving Sailor Vines’ life. Our onward journey would have been a darker one without her.”

Ariciel looked into the Captain’s eyes for a long moment.

“Glad to be of service,” said Ariciel.

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