Chapter Five

Chapter Five

The sailing hadn't been too difficult, with warm weather and near calm seas it had taken less time to sail to the Quakerson islands then expected. The captain of theLady Starhad been pleased about the voyage, having expected not only rough waters and rain but also pirates and flocks of seagulls. He kept his reservations about the pirates to himself, the first mate, and the quartermaster; there was no need to alarm his special passengers to and from the islands. Especially the one in the monk clothing that walked behind the captain down the plank to the docks below, there was something odd about that one.

"So this is Nanola," Tal Mai observed as soon as he got onto the wooden planks of the dock. The island was rather large and sparse; the port the ship had docked on was one of two on the main island. There were three inns not far from where the docks ended and land begun; that and several stone buildings made up the small port town. There were two small houses sitting on the other side of the docks, both with little in the way of crops between the two. Those crops only served the purpose of keeping the two families going during the times when fishing could not keep their stomachs full.

There was little else that made the island stand out, except for the large, long wall that sat in the far distance more inland. Two horse-drawn carriages were waiting to return towards where they had come from, possibly into the large village the wall hid. Tal Mai knew enough of the Quakerson Family that he knew that village was where they lived; noble families made their homes on the other side of the island. He hoped to be able to visit that side of the island once he did his own research in the Royal Family's library; the crew of theLady Starhad not been very forthcoming about his topic of research. Maybe here he could learn more.

"No, this is just one of two ports on this island." Maylessa came next to the monk after she had descended the plank. She then pointed to the long wall in the distance. "That is it right there, Nanola. It'll take almost an hour by carriage to get there, shorter if the drivers and horses know the shortcuts."

"Well the map in the Order's care says otherwise." He referenced the large map of the World that hung in the library of the Order's mansion, which had been made many years ago. Maylessa had seen that very map before she had been given her Keeper duties, there had been numerous mistakes on it that she could spot easily. She had not traveled the seas or the lands as much as her fellow Keepers had but her time spent in the libraries on this island taught her more then Tal Mai knew of.

"Well I grew up on this very island so I should know better then amap," she said when she turned to him. Maylessa tried to put some kind of offense in her voice to tell him that she was even the slightest bit offended, but she found it hard to do since there wasnooffense taken. She would need to work on that, with Aleema's help if possible. "Tell Lucien on your way back that Keepers don'tneedsitters, I had enough of them as a child."

Maylessa gathered the long fabric of her yellow dress and made her way towards the carriages without the monk beside her. Although she had spent her early years in the high neck and stiff dress that came with a tight corset sewn in, she had grown accustomed to the looser fitting and much shorter ones she now wore. Even the high-heeled boots she was now wearing made her uncomfortable; they were not made for island wear. It had been a few years since she had worn such an outfit and the Fire Keeper remembered why she hated them terribly.

"I am on Lucien's orders to sail with you, although I do agree that I don't need to be here." Tal Mai caught up with her and the two walked in step with each other. "I have better things to do on the main land, and I don't particularly like ships or sailing. However I'll use my time here to do my own searching."

"Why are you here if you don'twantto be here?" Maylessa glanced over to him. "There's really nothing here but farmland and fishing, if that's what you're searching for. What is it that the Order is so interested in onthisisland?"

"Lucien wants to know how the Keepers keep the peace on their journeys," Tal Mai lied, when in truth he had no such order. All Lucien and Leiko wanted was someone to keep an eye on the Keepers and their duties, which wasn't far from the lie he just told. With the Quakerson islands just offshore of the mainland, there were no Order outposts that were close enough to send letters too quickly. Tal Mai had been the closest to Leiko when she gave the order to follow Maylessa to Nanola, but the Keeper was right. Neither she nor the other Keepers needed a sitter. He was not going to tell her that. "He also wants to make sure that the Keepers are doing their jobs properly."

Maylessa laughed at him. "Lucien seems to think the Order needs to know everything and -"

"Lucien doesn't have any idea what truly goes on in the Realm, Trent seems to take delight in keeping the Order in the dark," Tal Mai interrupted heatedly. "He has arightto this knowledge; the entire Order does as well. Maybe the Sage should be more forthcoming with what she does."

"You're right, Lucien has no clue as to how the Realm really works or what the Sage has us do." Maylessa stopped short of the second carriage, Tal Mai stopping a few feet ahead and turned around to face her. "However the Order hasnothingto do with how the Sage runs the Realm or how we do things. I don't know what Lucien wants to know but he is better off staying out of our business."

Tal Mai stared at Maylessa as though he had not understood one word she had spoken. If he remembered what Leiko had told him, Maylessa was the more easily influenced of the four Keepers and to expect her to be willing to please the Order. But the look in her eyes and the firmness with her words told him otherwise; perhaps the Orderwasthat far behind on their 'information' as the Fire Keeper seemed to believe. Still, Maylessa was indicating the Head of the Holy Order of the Sage had nothing to do with the Sage herself! Tal Mai found that to be more insulting then having to follow a Keeper around and his elevated annoyance showed on his face.

"I'll be sure to tell him," he snarled before turning around and stalking to the first carriage. The driver had opened the carriage door for him, the monk paid him no mind; he angrily got into the carriage with the door closing right behind him. The driver got back into the high seat to ready himself and the two horses at the front of the first carriage on the road ahead of them.

"And make sure he updates his maps!" She shouted as the carriage began to head towards Nanola. The driver of her carriage, who hadn't even bothered to get down from his seat, looked at her with a mockingly horrified expression.

"Lady Maylessa, you shouldn't shout or argue like that. It's not lady-like," he scolded her with a snicker. Maylessa stared at him with an eyebrow raised as she opened the door to her carriage and got in without word. Closing the door she sat down on the hard leather seat and waited for the driver to head towards Nanola like the first one had done. It was several minutes before the carriage started with a jerk then the swaying of the wheels on the dirt path willed her into a more comfortable position.

Looking out the window that still was towards the southern part of the sea, she took in the dark clouds that were closing in from the south. By the time the carriages arrived at the south eastern entrance to the village the winds would pick up slightly and the downpour of rain would follow about an hour or two afterwards. The times of storms were when Maylessa wished she had Calso's or Aleema's abilities, rain did not mix well with fire.

She also couldn't tell how far away the storm actually was, had she actually been raised as a proper fisherman nor had Calso's wind knowledge then maybe she would be able to.Born and raised on this island without anything to show for it, she thought bitterly as the carriage turned inland and headed for a more direct shortcut. The main path to Nanola still would take them there but there were shortcuts that could take twenty minutes off of the trail; she put what little faith she had in her driver to get her to the one place in the World she much rather not go to.

The openness of the island did not ease her tension; the beauty of the island could not take the feeling that she would soon be seeing this path again in short order. She hardly cared if she ever stepped foot inside Nanola again, even if she did there would be no warm welcome for her - Keeper or not. Outside the captain and crew of theLady Star, she had barely been given any notice and, speaking for herself, didn't expect to be. The carriage driver's outburst earlier held little warmth for her; had he done it years earlier she would have coward back at it. Now it hardly fazed her yet she wished that she, too, was back on the main land. Her reasons were far different than Tal Mai's and her limited willingness to be on the island was only because the current Sage needed a reasonnotto come to this island chain.

Maylessa closed her eyes, leaning back as the carriage went over a dip and several tree roots in the road. She had been sent here three different times before, all three times had been a horrible failure and had been ordered by the previous Sage. She hardly thought a fourth time would be any different, but she hadn't been a full fledged Keeper then. Even now she didn't think her new status would change anything - or impress the Quakerson Royal Family - it was a feeling she had deep inside. Maylessa had not been comfortable telling the Sage that, maybe her timidness had not fully evaporated yet. She remembered the first time returning to these islands a year and a half after she had last stepped foot on the docks, that had scarred her more then gaining her Keeper powers did.

She had just paired with the former Fire Keeper some three to four months prior, he had wanted -needed, was the word he had used then - her knowledge of the Quakerson islands.Thathad not ended well, with Maylessa nearly being dragged into Nanola by her hair and several guards trying to pull her back inside the confines of the walls. The Fire Keeper at the time, had not reacted too kindly about that nor was he allowed to step foot back onto the main island after that. Had he not used his fire-give powers - even the stonemasons at the time would dare replace the scorched sections of the wall - and had not nearly started a fire with the surrounding flora, she would not be in this carriage now.

She opened her eyes and shuddered at the distant memory, although now she could laugh at it instead of cringe fully. That had been an isolated incident, one that had not replayed itself when she returned without anyone to keep guard over her. The previous Sage had not been privy to all of the details of that incident, or she had been told; no one had dared try to force her into the city like that again. However, she had not been welcomed either: she had not been given Fire Keeper status at the time so she could not demand to been seen by reigning families.

That bit of power didn't come until recently; even now she highly doubted it would help any. She also doubted that the Quakerson family would just have that one excuse to keep her out, there was more then one reason to keep her at arms length. Strengthening ties with leaders of other lands wouldn't do any good if they refused entry to the one that offered peace, no matter how much she did not wish to extend that olive branch to them.

Maylessa didn't care either way, this was the last time she would return to these islands in her lifetime. If the Quakerson Royal Family would still not forgive what had been an out of control situation on the mainland - and the guard's actions against her well after she had tried to return on neutral ground - then she couldn't be at fault for not being able to enter Nanola. There were reasons why she hadn't returned and no reason why she hadn't been fetched; deep inside she was thankful she hadn't been.

The Keeper was so lost in thought that she hadn't realized the carriage had come to it's destination until the door opened and the driver poked his head inside. She gave an almost neutral stare in return for his sour expression, climbing out of the carriage to the open air that now surrounded her. Smoothing out her dress, she looked around for the first carriage but it had disappeared; Tal Mai was sitting on a tree stump not far from one of the four entrances to Nanola. He stood up when Maylessa approached him, looking none too happy as their pair walked to the guard stationed at the entrance.

"Another thing you can mention to Lucien is that it's a bit hard to get into Nanola. Outside merchants, Quakerson nobles, and the Quakerson Royal Family, you'd need proof to get inside." Maylessa ignored any comments the monk gave her as she smiled pleasantly at the guard, who looked between her and the monk several times. He wasn't much older then she was, with yellow blonde hair and green eyes; he wore a light mail for armor and green pants, with a long sword in his grasp. There was little need to have heavy armor on the guards, as there were few fights on the islands that warranted so little attention. She knew this guard would most likely never use that sword of his in his lifetime. "Hello there. I am Lady Maylessa and this is Tal Mai, of the -"

"Yes, I know," the guard interrupted, nodding to Tal Mai. "He has already spoken for himself and you. The King already knows the two of you are here, I assume you knowthatmuch."

"I don't know why you would think I'd be surprised he does." Maylessa's smile became less genuine and more forced. "Still, I have full passage into Nanola as the Fire Keeper."

"I am sorry to inform you,LadyMaylessa, that you are officially no longer welcome in Nanola or at the gates. The Family may extend that to the rest of the island chain how they see fit." The guard looked between her and Tal Mai. "Under penalty of the stocks you, and your companion, must leave on the next available ship to the mainland."

"Please refresh my memory," Maylessa said coolly, her smile fading complete, "as to why I am not allowed back into my home."

The guard rolled his eyes, although he knew very well she was just humoring the monk and not herself or him. "Your refusal to return home after Sir Trent came to your aid several years ago and the refusal to go through your arranged marriage. If you wish to appeal, then -"

"So you are refusing entry to aKeeperfor failure to do something she had no desire to do?" Tal Mai, although still young, could not wrap his mind around the concept of a forced marriage; he glanced over to Maylessa, not knowing what to expect of her. "Get us the King of the islands, and I'll talk to him. He can NOT refuse entry to the Holy Order, either. Lucien won't have it."

The guard laughed, leaning onto his sword as he put the tip of the blade into the soft soil. "TheKingwas the one who gave the final order after her third attempt, he knows very well her new status. Her family knows as well but it still does not take away from her refusal to do as her family wishes." He then nodded to Maylessa, and then leaned forwards further. "I have no intentions of putting the lady in the stocks, orders be damned. You, however, I wouldgladlyput there myself. Now get out of my sight before I do well on my orders."

Maylessa curtsied at the guard despite being refused entry, grabbing Tal Mai by the arm to take him back to her carriage before he got them both into the stocks. She didn't know what words had been exchanged before she had arrived at the gate, but a gate guard with his sword already out was not a good sign - they did not unsheathe their swords lightly. From what little interaction she had with the monk on theLady Star, he had a temper to rival Aleema's and had a bad habit of asking questions about pirates, bounties, and recent ocean-side battles.

Despite her pulling on his arm, the monk refused to yield and opened his mouth to protest not only the entry refusal but also to being pulled away. It took the Keeper several minutes to realize he wasn't going anywhere; Maylessa opened herself to her respected Element and let several degrees of heat flow to the hand she held Tal Mai's exposed lower arm with that wasn't covered by the shirt he wore. He only got half of a sentence out before he yelped, turning to Maylessa as she let go of his arm and just smiled sweetly at him.

"That will be the only warning you get, lets go." She stared at him for a few seconds before she began to walk towards the carriage. Tal Mai muttered several more words at the guard - who was ready to make good on his orders - and followed Maylessa to her carriage. She did not respond to his glowing look or his curses as she entered the carriage, hardly even registering the look the driver was giving her.

When Tal Mai closed the door and the driver began to turn the carriage around, Maylessa leaned back in her seat and let out a relieved sigh. With this latest refusal to enter Nanola, she could go back to the Realm and tell the Sage of her failure. Another Keeper would surely go in her stead and try again, Aleema or Linx perhaps, and they, too, would fail. Not because they were connected to Maylessa, far from that, but they would see just how the Quakerson Family was currently run; she did, and would freely, admit the family was at their most peaceful yet. However many good deeds and fortunes the current Family had, everything boiled down to how they would treat their guests from the mainland and how much darkness they allowed to come to the surface.

"You fulfilled your duties to the Order, you can go back to Konirta when we reach the mainland," she said after ten minutes of silence and staring out of the carriage window. "You can say whatever you like to Lucien and Leiko, as they would like a full report. I doubt you will be welcome back to these islands not because of the Realm."

"Maylessa, you are theFire Keeper! You need to go back there anddemandto speak with the king." Tal Mai was fuming over the experience the gate and could not believe aKeeperdid not press forwards to get in. "The Sage tasked you with speaking to him, why are you refusing to do yourjob?"

Maylessa remained quite for another several minutes before sighing and looking straight at him. There was little he knew of what Keeper orders were, not surprising since the Order knew very little of the Realm's inner workings. At the least the current leadership did not and possibly other Heads of the Order did not as well, it had never been fully clear about the relationship of the Order prior to Lucien's rule in the old texts - but from what she understood, there had been more of an open relationship between Sage and Order. What Lucien, Leiko, and the Order did to make the previous Sage back away Maylessa didn't know yet planned to find out once she saw Trent again. Only he would know the full details of the workings of both the Realm and the Order.

"One of the things I learned during my training, was to back off and try again later. This was my fourth attempt to return to my home and hopefully reforge the pact between the Sage and the Quakerson Family." She glanced outside before looking back at Tal Mai. "My order was toattemptcontact with the Quakerson Royal Family, the reforming of the pact would come if I was successful."

"You didn't fulfill your duties then." Now it was the monk's turn to stare hard at her. "Go back and -"

"Tal Mai, you don't understand. I was supposed to marryintothat Royal Family but didn't." Maylessa's tone was sharp enough to clamp Tal Mai's mouth shut for the moment. "My return to the islands as a Keeper will result innothing, since the King will not see the title but justme. I don't have plans to spend time in the stocks, you may but I don't."

"Neither do I," he admitted in a slightly calmer tone. Tal Mai was very much surprised that Maylessa was taking this calmly as she was despite her admission that she had been refused entry three times prior; in truth she was, too. "The Royal Family?"

Maylessa nodded as she looked back out the window again, the carriage had turned onto the path along the shore - it wouldn't be long until they reached the port. "My duties before was to my family and whattheywanted, but I am thankful things turned out differently. I am only here because the Sage told me to come one last time for one last attempt. If the King doesn't want to see me then he won't see the Sage, at least that's the way I see it."

Tal Mai did not respond to those words, instead he leaned back and remained quiet for the rest of the journey back to the port. He closed his eyes to perhaps reflect on what had just happened, rubbing his left wrist more out of habit then anything else. It was then that Maylessa took note that there was a thin, black line on his wrist with three letters just under his palm. Even though she had seen the monk only a few times before this trip, she had not taken notice of the tattoo before - perhaps it was because his robes often covered his wrists. That was a question for another time, when things weren't so hectic.

By the time the carriage rolled into the port the wind had begun to pick up and a chill was in the air. The storm was creeping up to the small island chain, Maylessa assumed that it wouldn't be possible to go by sea today. She would ask the captain of theLady Starwhen they saw him, it may not be a storm worse enough to stay ashore for the night. When the carriage came to a halt Maylessa was the first to get up from her seat - the quicker she could get off these islands, the better.

"Hope the weather holds off for a while," Tal Mai commented as he followed Maylessa out of the carriage. "So, who were you supposed to marry?"

"The King's older brother." Maylessa made no attempt to cover the fact that shewasn'toffended by the question and had no plans to be. Instead she walked over the boards of the port that lead to theLady Star, it's captain looking over a map with his navigator. Both men glanced up as the two approached but only the navigator turned to the approaching storm; that could possibly mean they were not leaving today. "Another refusal. We're ready to head back to the mainland, Trent will gladly compensate for your troubles."

"No trouble Lady Maylessa," the captain said with a smile. "Unfortunately we can't sail just yet, the weather is turning rather nasty and it will be a day or two before we can."

"That long?" Maylessa asked, looking to the navigator who nodded. "I suppose I can make myself comfortable for a few days."

"You won't get yourself in trouble if you stick around here, will you?" The captain knew the Keeper wasn't in any immediate danger but there was no telling what would happen this far from the Realm. Maylessa just smiled and shook her head.

"The King iskind enoughto keep a room or two open for situations like this, or so I hope." She turned to Tal Mai. "There's a small inn in this village where the crew of theLady Staris staying. Hope you don't mind sharing a room with me."

"What?" Tal Mai walked quickly to keep up with Maylessa as she stopped off the docks and headed to a small, two story inn just to the right of the docks. It could hold two crews comfortably with a few rooms to spare, of which Maylessa hoped there were a few left for her and the monk. She had noticed several other ships were docked as well, at least three to four, and none of them seemed to be leaving for the time being. It would be a snug fit indeed.

At least one of the ships was a merchant-class ship, which often had most of it's crew still aboard the ship for security reasons. Most of the small villages on the island could sustain themselves without help from the mainland but still relied on these merchant ships to bring in much needed supplies. More often then not, items were exchanged rather then goods; there were several hand-made items that were more of value then gold, silver, or copper was. Merchant captains knew that any exotic goods exchanged for every day items on these islands, often resulted in a fatter purse for them.

Tal Mai glanced up at the sign hovering above the doorway, rolling his eyes at the name. "The Tide, a fitting name. Wait, how are we going topayfor this? I barely have enough for three day's worth of meals."

"I am certain I'm correct in saying about the King, but it is not a certain factor all things considering." There was bitterness in her voice as the two enteredThe Tide. "I am going on the belief that there are still people on this island that do not agree with the king's decision."

The common room was not as small as Tal Mai thought it was, but it wasn't grand either. It was big enough to house several good size tables that sat in front of a small stage, with a long bar on the opposite side. There were a few patrons already sitting at tables, playing cards and drinking what looked like ale; all raised their glasses to the Keeper's entrance in respect. Maylessa waved at them in return and a smile before turning to a small desk with a rather plump woman sitting behind it. Glancing up the stern expression she had while pouring over her paperwork evaporated and a warm, kind look appeared. Standing up, she walked around the table and made an advance towards Maylessa.

"It's been too long since your last visit, child," the woman said as she and the Keeper hugged. The woman then pushed Maylessa back at arms length and looked her over. "You haven't changed much since you left a few years ago. Have you...?"

Maylessa nodded. "I am - or was - on the Sage's order, didn't go so well in fact." She frowned, glancing towards the tables deeper into the common room. Are there any rooms left? The sky looks troublesome and -"

She was cut off by a rather large crash of thunder and a following of lightning. Even with the candles lit and two of the three fireplaces inside the common room lit, it still was rather dark inside; Maylessa stared at the closest fireplace and concentrated. The fire rose several inches and the warmth flowed into the room - the inn keep raised an eye at this small feat and turned back to Maylessa. She just shrugged and gave half of a smile, the fire would spare a few extra hours without the need for extra logs or attention.

"Yes, in fact there is and it already has your belongings inside of it." The inn keep looked between the monk and Keeper. "I'm sorry to say the two of you will have to share it, as too many ships had to make port."

"How much?" Tal Mai asked as the heavy-set woman went around the desk to retrieve two brass keys from a locked safe behind her desk. Snickering she came back around the desk and handed them both a key.

"If your friend can dothat, then there's no charge. Theareplenty of us that are more loyal to the Realm then our own King." She tapped the inside of her right elbow, which was covered by a thin, long sleeved purple sweater. "Almost lost me arm had the previous Earth Keeper not intervened. Did more then the guard did, she did."

Another clash of thunder and lightning crashed outside, Maylessa glancing out of the opened door as two patrons quickly left. The rain would be drumming on the roof at ay moment now, there was no time to do anything outside but go to their room. She hadn't realized how tired she was until then, the heat of the fires making her a bit more drowsy then intended; it could also have been her using her own Element after a long journey. Just getting out of the horrible dress would make her feel a lot better.

"First night's dinner and drinks are free as well, unless you plan on taking your meal elsewhere?" The woman looked between the two again, her gaze lingering on Tal Mai for a few seconds more. Tal Mai refrained from hugging the woman as Maylessa did and had, instead he just smiled tightly and glanced around the room. There were few patrons remaining, most of which were too drunk to ask any sort of questions he wanted asked. There was little time for time to take advantage of the rest of the day, with the storm brewing just overhead - he would need to take a chance that someone from one of the ships was still on the docks.

"Same room as before?" He faintly heard Maylessa ask, he swore she had said something else before that; the conversation between the two woman did not occupy his attention enough to fully capture every word. "Third left from the front?"

"Same one, hope you enjoy your stay." The inn keep gave the Keeper a pat on the shoulder then walked back behind the desk to resume her other duties. Tal Mai absently followed Maylessa towards a small hallway that sat just behind a stone staircase leading upstairs; unlike the common room, the hallway was brightly lit. There were crude numbers etched on the doors with the odd on the left and even on the right; they did not stop until almost halfway down the hallway to a door marked '5'. Maylessa turned to him, clutching her key - she often carried a small draw-string bag to hold small objects in. This key would go in there for the time being, what Tal Mai did with his was his business, so long as he kept it on him.

"There's two beds inside so we don't have to play a game of Water Dice for a bed." She gave him a lopsided smile to show that she was trying to be humorous. She was decent at the sailor game of Water Dice - the monk hardly found it fitting that someone of Maylessa's background and current status would learn such a crude game. Tal Mai also didn't find her words funny at all, rather he stared at her with eyes scrunched up and mouth in a thin line to show his displeasure. Her smile vanished when he didn't return that same humor. "Unless you have something else to do, or are hungry, I'm going to get out of these clothes and take a nap. You know how to get here."

Tal Mai glanced back down the hallway, there was no sense in staying in one place when he would not get this chance again. Besides, he did not wish to relish staying in close quarters with Maylessa more then he needed to and she needed her privacy to change. As much as he had a duty to the Order, she was right - Keepers did not need sitters and his duties were supposed to extend to the Sage. He supposed that by 'aiding' the Keepers, he was also aiding the Sage as well; or at least that was Lucien had said, but in less nicer words.

The storm sounded again overhead, telling him to hurry or wait it out and miss his chance, the following rain would not hold off for much longer. He sighed, dropping his key into a pocket of his traveling pants; he wanted to look around the small port before the heavy rain came. Maylessa assumed he would do that well before they enteredThe Tideand made no motions to stop him. What the Order monks did with their spare time was none of her business and she hardly cared what this one did; she found herself wishing that Lucien had sent another monk in Tal Mai's stead. There were others she had found to be more agreeable then this one.

"No, I want to look around first, I'll only be an hour." Tal Mai didn't bother with a proper goodbye, instead he stalked off down the hallway and back into the common room. Maylessa gave a half-hearted wave to the retreating monk before she opened the door to their shared room for a much needed rest. She walked inside and closed the door, leaning upon the oak door and glanced around at her surroundings.

It wasn't a large room by far - two single beds, one dresser, a wash basin, a full-standing mirror, and their two traveling trunks fit well enough inside. There was still just enough room left over to walk between beds and walls; Maylessa took note that someone had put a sheet in one corner and had draped it over some wire that hung from the ceiling.At least the privy is somewhat obscured, and I change when Tal Mai is here,she thought as she sat down on the bed closest to the closed door. A window sat right next to the wash basin, the black drapes pulled closed; there was just enough light to let her barely see the candles and oil lamps bolted to the walls.

Taking in a deep breath, Maylessa concentrated on the five candles and slowly lit them one by one. Her element needed little to no fire to be present, using her concentrated frustrations along with a thought or verbal command with some added concentration allowed her to start a flicker of flame. It wasn't easy to do for someone who just had their Keeper title for a short order; lighting those candles gave her a minor headache along with a cold, compressed feeling. Still she took what she felt now over the horrendous, nauseating aches of the head and body when she first started - there had been times when it took her several days to recover.

A nap would remedy the headache she had now with some food later for her aches, and in a year or two she would not even bethisafflicted in using her given Element. It happened to every new Keeper, young and old, and surely she, and the other three, were prepared to take the aches on. Oh therewouldbe times she would over use her Element and not be able to reach for that distant flame for a short period of time, that was the nature of having such a power over something that could dominate her. Still she took that risk in accepting her new role, one that she hoped to grow into as years passed.

Maylessa looked around the room again to ease her mind off of her duties for the moment - even Keepers could relax for a few minutes - then got up from the bed. Flashes of light and a thunderous boom sounded again; she jumped slightly at the noise, the storm would be a terrible one it seemed. She could fall asleep to these sounds, if she was tired enough to let the sounds of the storm lull her to sleep. Although worn from the sea voyage and the happenings at Nanola's last gate hadn't fully sunk in, she wasn't fully ready to fall asleep. At least getting out of her stifling clothes would do her good for now - when Tal Mai returned, a late lunch would be served. It wouldn't be a grand meal like one at the castle but -

Shaking her head to rid herself of eventhinkingabout that, Maylessa steadied herself and knelt by her trunk. Opening it she moved several items within before pulling out a short dress that was more comfortable then the one she was currently wearing. Had she and Tal Mai been accepted inside Nanola's walls, she would ot have been allowed to wear such a short garment - her background on the island would not have allowed it. Maylessa smiled and stood up, holding the dress closed to her; despite what had happened this day, she was glad - hopeful - she would not need to come back.

And not need to see this island again.


A drizzle had started well before Tal Mai had decided to leaveThe Tide, in fact he hardly noticed it or the dark clouds above when he decided to leave. Hanging lamps had been hastily it around the inn and towering posts along the waterfront were currently being lit by several male dockworkers. There were at least several other ships docked there, one who's crew hadn't even bother to disembark yet - or so he hoped. He hated to think that he would need to go to one of the more bigger, and fuller, inns to track down persons within these ships. The less questions overheard by a large group of unwelcome ears, the better.

There was one large ship at the far end of the docks, he made out three figures that stood near the ramp leading from ship to dock. Getting onto the docks itself, he started to walk towards the trio to get a better look at them in hopes that at least one of them was with the ship's crew. What he assumed was the captain and the navigator were discussing several terms with the female dock warden, of whom was pointing to the sky while talking to the two men.

He decided that perhaps this crew might be willing to talk to the Order - least someone who was from it - and headed further towards the section of the docks where the three were. The rain was coming down a bit steadier now, the dock warden's words were more clear as Tal Mai approached; he now saw her quickly scribing something on a piece of heavy parchment before rolling it up. The navigator was shaking his head but said nothing, the captain just threw his hands up as the dock warden turned around wand walked away. She roughly bumped into him, who promptly spun around to say something in response.

"Don't bother saying anything tothatwoman, we already tried," a voice from behind him said. Tal Mai turned around to find the navigator behind him, heavily tattooed arms crossed over his bare chest. The man was missing several teeth and half of his right ear, of which did not come from navigating a rather large merchant-class ship.

"What's the problem?" He asked, looking between navigator and ship. By this time the captain had come up next to the navigator, at least Tal Mai assumed he was the captain by his manner of clothing and jewelry And the fact the man had the aura of strength around him and had a commanding look to his eyes. There was something about these two men that were vaguely familiar to Tal Mai, as though he had seen them before.

"TheSilver Trouthas to unload her cargonow, we can't wait for the storm to fully pass. Besides it's just a little bit of rain, never hurt anything. It'sjustwater." Just as he said that, a large boom of thunder sounded overhead; Tal Mai thought that the rain turned ice cold for a moment. Apparently the captain thought this as well and shook a fist at the looming storm. "Storms be damned, who angered theWater Keeperthis morning?"

The navigator eyed the monk when he laughed nervously. "This one is from the Holy Order of the Sages by the looks of him, I can tell. Looks familiar, too."

"Theyalllook the same, the monks - no offense meant to you." The captain sighed. "I suppose you want to ask your questions in a more dry place, the shipisdeserted except for the two of us and a few cabin boys."

"I never mentions me having questions." That comment had startled him to the point where he had become more unnerved then having to sail to the island chain. The two men looked at each other, the navigator shrugging as he walked towards the plank to go inside theSilver Trout. "What makes you think I have questions?"

"The Holy Orderalwayshas questions, but you have them the most. The younger ones always do." The captain peered closer at Tal Mai. "Best be getting inside if you want to ask us questions."

The captain waved his hand before following in the footsteps of the navigator, hardly caring if he was followed as well. Tal Mai stood where he was, the rain now coming down even harder; his best course of action was to go back toThe TideAt least there he was surrounded by walls that couldn't float and people who couldn't stash a body in a barrel of rum before throwing it overboard. He wondered if Maylessa would even know, or care, that he hadn't returned.

Yet, what if he could get his mind eased for the time being with some sort of answers? The navigator surely hadn't been in his current profession for very long and the captain must have gone all over the World if he was the captain of a merchant-class ship. But, could hetrustthe word of a sailor and his former pirate navigator? Or would he end up at the bottom of the ocean just like others who asked too many questions for their own good? It wasn't like Tal Mai would ever set foot on this island chain again anytime soon, so a few extra questions wouldn't hurt.

Tal Mai glanced around and followed the captain to theSilver Trout, hoping that he made the right decision.

The End

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