She stood at the window, far from him, yet he could see her as clearly as if she stood facing him a foot away. He could see the velvet texture of her sun-warmed skin, the creases around her mouth as she smiled. He could see flecks of gold and green in her eyes and the satin shine of her hair.

He approached, distance seeming to bend around him and shrink. Only a few steps took him up to the base of the tower and in those moments she had descended, waiting for him under the arch of a doorway. He stopped as she stepped out into the sun.

“My Lady,” he heard himself say, though he hadn’t intended to speak. “Everything is ready.” The words came to him with knowledge. He knew suddenly that he was working for her, commissioned to carry her on a journey. He knew it would be perilous and long, but that he was well paid for this undertaking. There was no question of refusal; it was more within his power to catch up the sun with one hand.

She bowed her head graciously and allowed him to take her arm. But for the lightest pressure of her arm on his she might have been insubstantial as a ghost. Her feet in their soft shoes made no sound and did not disturb the loose stones of the path as he led her uphill, behind the tower. Her breath was low and even, barely heard.

Others followed her from the doorway. Her servants were squat, squarely built individuals, hidden if not by the gray, enveloping layers of cloth they wore, then by the cases and boxes they carried. Their arms were thick, longer than human arms would be in proportion to their height. They marched silently in pairs, moving with eerie synchronicity. He knew he shouldn’t fear them, so he did not. He knew also that some would be his crew for the voyage, while some would work as her body-servants and aides.

As they crested the hill together he saw his new vessel. In the sunshine it glowed like a bright flame. The lines were perfect, taught and singing in the breeze. The sails were the dark red of wine and unfurled, they held the wind like the wings of a great dragon. The figurehead was a golden gryphon, pawing the air with fierce claws. Gray figures were already on board, moving with assured grace and expertise over the ropes and rigging, walking the decks, tightening, fixing and readying the skyship for the journey.

The End

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