Akivasha awoke with a start, the scream still forming on her lips as she sat up. For a few minutes she sat staring into the darkness of the divided cabin, forcing the fear out of her. As she calmed herself, Akivasha looked around the darkened quarters of the ship to see that her friends were still there, safe and asleep.
That simple rejuvenating act eluded her again this night, as it had for the past fortnight. Indeed, since Akivasha and her companions had escaped the hell that had been their prison, sleep had come fitfully. And when she could sleep, the dreams would start. Not that she could remember anything with clarity. No, there were snippets here and there. Moments in time that were, cruelly, just out of focus to her minds eye.
It had taken some convincing for the ship’s master to divide his cabin, hanging linens so that they could have some semblance of privacy. Akivasha and her companions slept to the larboard side of the cabin, the master and Tyson to the starboard side. She stretched and made her way into the cool night air of the ship’s deck, stopping to pull one of the rough linen mantles she had purchased in the last port onto her bare shoulders. She avoided the watch, not wanting to engage in yet another night of oafish attempts at seducing her. The very thought of any of the crew laying hands on her like a slattern made her skin crawl and her stomach turn. Their smell did not help her mood any. “Gods below, you would think with all of this water, they could bathe on occasion.”
“You have never bathed is salt water then, princess Akivasha?”
Akivasha jumped at the voice. It took her a moment to recognize Tyson’s pantherish gate as he crossed the deck to stand beside her. “it’s not very refreshing.”
Akivasha adjusted the rough linen mantle on her shoulders to make sure it covered her body. The thin cloth shift she wore covered her body, but left precious little to the imagination. “I did not realize you were there, Master Tyson. And please, do not use that honorific. If others had heard you…” She stole a quick glance over her shoulder, making sure that there was no one close to overhear.
Tyson only laughed. “Afraid the crew will sell you into slavery? Or worse?” He patted her on the head, much like an older sibling would. “Worry not. I would not have gone to such efforts to free you, just to have these sea dogs take you!”
Swatting his hand away from her head, “It’s not the crew I worry about.” Brushing a loose strand of hair from her face, “My compatriots…they know I am of noble lineage, but I have not elaborated. Nor do I intend to. It is difficult enough being a Stygian. But to know that I am descended from those snake worshippers in Luxur itself! I fear would be too much, even for them.“ With a heavy sigh, Akivasha leans on the rail, staring out at the dark waters. “Koros, or Kenshin, or whatever he wishes to be called now, already speaks of leaving. Koth, and a free company his destination. Sura and Kaari, I do not know. I believe they will stay with the ship as far as Messantia, but whether they will be there when I arrive, I know not.”
Tyson cupped her chin and looked her in the face. “I think you have too little faith in their trust. And as for Koros, well…he is a grown man, and you cannot force him to do what you wish. I overheard your discussion with him earlier today…”
Akivasha pulled away. “You mean argument.” She settles onto the deck, pouting. “Bah…he speaks to me like a child. Kaari too. Even though I am older, they speak with more experience of the world around us. Ibis’ eyes, even Sura has seen more than I have, locked away in my father’s house all those years!”
“And yet, you speak and they follow. No, you have experience, just not in the same ways your friends do. Even more than that…you love them more than family. You have fought side by side. You have bled for each other. “ Leaning down, Tyson took Akivasha’s hands, pulling her back to her feet. “That is a bond not even Sten has with you.” Tyson looked at her, tracing the line of her jaw with a finger. “Though I can see why he is so fascinated with you, little lotus.”
“Sten called me that.”
Kaari and Sura, wandered the after deck, taking in the morning light. Sura drank slowly from her cup. “Aki wasn’t with us this morning. And the crew says she wasn’t amongst them, either.” Kaari gave Sura a sideways glance. “If she wasn’t with us, and not with the crew, then where is she?”
Koros, helping to man the ships tiller, grunted. As part of the crew, he slept on deck. There, he heard every story, every fantasy, the men had of Akivasha. He also knew there was a certain amount of fear as well. She was stygian, and rumoured to be a priestess. And to the crew, that could only mean sorcery. And sailors feared magic.
Koros nodded towards the small ladder leading up to where they stood. As Sura and Kaari turned, they saw Akivasha , followed by Tyson. Kaari turned away immediately as she recognized the smile on Akivasha’s face.
Tyson smiled in greeting to Koros, Sura, and Kaari, “I pray you slept well?” Sura took another sip from her cup before answering. “As well as one can be expected to on this ship.” Koros only grunted, staring at Tyson.
Akivasha treaded lightly to the rail, leaning heavily on it and breathing in the fresh morning air. “The sea is so very lovely in the morning, isn’t it?” Tyson nodded, “Yes little lotus, it is.”
Sura noted the change in Akivasha’s voice, and the…kindness…with which she spoke to Tyson. Until this morning, she was barely speaking to anyone, and when she did, she did so icily. Tyson had explained that much weighed on her mind, and not to worry. Akivasha would come around to being herself soon. Still…Sura wondered what had put the young stygian into such a good mood.
But, he called her something. Not her name. Why did he call her ‘little lotus’…
Kaari tried to keep a straight face, finding it more and more difficult as Sura, ever so slowly, began to understand the source of Akivasha’s rare good mood.
“Mitra! You two!!! You….and her…and you…HERE….ONBOARD…WITH ALL OF THESE MEN ABOUT!”
Akivasha turned and looked at the now very red-faced bossonian. “Uhm…Sura, what cess-pit has your mind wandered to? “ After a moment, she looked back at Tyson, then to Kaari, and finally back to Sura. “Oh…OH! You think that…that he and I…”
At that, even Kaari just stared at the two of them. She had assumed the same. Now, she wasn’t so sure.
And Koros stifled a knowing grin.
Earlier that morning, he had seen the two wander back into the cabin as he relieved the night watch.
He had seen the two of them in the cabin as he made his rounds, Tyson sitting, a watchful eye turned out as the little princess slept.
Meeting Sura and Kaari’s eyes, he could contain it no longer, and laughed heartily…