21. Azure Conquest (part 1)

          A single candle that was no more than a pitiful mound of wax shared its light with the dark room. Its brothers had all burned out hours ago, and the poor taper was all the remained of the prince’s night long study. With deep bags beneath his flaming red eyes, Tarin Vallor scoured the maps spread out across his table, desperately trying to pinpoint the next landing spot of The Black and White Assassin. From the setting to the rising sun he had planted himself in the bridge and refused to leave until he could completely think through a new plan of action to find his family’s dagger. Unfortunately, the prince could not fathom a single idea as to where the thief might turn up next, and his energy levels had all but depleted. Many a man on his ship, the elegant Azure Conquest, had asked, pleaded, begged for him to return to his cabin and get some rest, but he had sent them all away with a stern, commanding voice that could have come across a bit too harsh in some cases, for instance, when he shouted at one fellow ─ who couldn’t have been past his mid-thirties ─ that he would have the man’s pet dog, which he had so kindly allowed on board, sent to the local butcher in the subsequent city they landed in if he didn’t leave him alone, which had been a total bluff, of course, but still unfairly spiteful. Making a note to apologize to the old chap later, he tried to focus on the task at hand.

          The problem was, he couldn’t. All evening he’d been racking his brain for a single clue as to where the assassin might travel next, but his mind continued to drift elsewhere ─ to the warmth of his own bed back at the palace, to the delectable meal the ship’s cook had prepared for him, and more often than not to the lady he had met atop The Place Where Earth and Sky Kiss. He barely knew a thing about her, but he couldn’t keep her out of his head. Something regarding that girl just felt... familiar, as if they’d met once before, yet he couldn’t put his finger on it. It couldn’t have been her face that had evoked this feeling in him, for most of it had been concealed behind an air mask. Might it have been her slender form that he’d noticed while walking with her? Or maybe it was her supple voice? Then again, the girl had given the impression that she had never even heard of him till he introduced himself, and if she hadn’t a clue as to who he was, how could they have possibly met before?

          Just as Tarin trying to recall under what circumstances he might have met the lass, the door to the navigation room slammed open and a young woman trotted in, interrupting his train of thought. She stood with perfect posture, adding an inch to her short stature of five feet. Hugging her lithe frame, her royal blue tailcoat extended just past her knees, and the black leather, pointed-heel boots she wore rose all the way up her legs, covering most of her thighs and revealing only a small portion of her white knit pants. The morning sun glittered behind her, causing her straight, ginger bob to shimmer in its light.

The End

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