21. Azure Conquest (part 4)

        Less than a minute later, the prince was still curled up against the ship’s handrails. When he finally pried his squinched eyes open, he was met with a pair of boots that he recognized instantly. His vision followed the boots upward till he was looking at the face of a choleric, cross-armed captain, her face stating plainly that she wanted answers, and she wanted them now.

        “Get up,” she growled, her right foot drumming away at the floor.

        Like a dog with his tail between his legs, Tarin stood tall to face her. Despite his height advantage over her, he still had reason to be afraid; Elden knew all of his moves ─ with his words and with his sword. There was no phasing her, and that was a very scary thing in a moment such as this. Her wrath was worse than that of any foe’s.

        “Now, talk.” There was a severe absence of clemency in her merciless voice.

        He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Well, where to begin? I─”

        “Don’t you dare try any of your pussyfooting with me. Get to the point.” the captain’s words stung like a child’s rump after a hard spanking.

        Apprehending that she really wasn’t going to stand for it this time around, he bowed his head to her and obeyed. “Okay,” he sighed. “This little odyssey of mine isn’t really about finding the dagger."

        "I'm listening."

        "I guess I have what some might call an ulterior motive?" he grimaced.

        "Go on." The woman's hazel eyes were glued to the prince like a hawk.

        "My parents asked me to attend a meeting that I don't have much interest in taking a part in. I tried to refuse, but they were going to force me into the conference whether I agreed to it or not. Then, I heard about the break in and the stolen dagger. I saw my opportunity, my window of escape, and I took it."

        "You called me out to help you play hooky?" she gasped. "I can't believe you, you slither-outer!"

        He took the heat radiating from her scorching words with an accepting silence, and then he poured cooling water over them with his words of admittance. "Yes, I did, and I'm sorry for not explaining this all to you before we set off. I can't thank you enough for accompanying me on this journey." The left corner of his mouth pulled upward forming a grateful half-smile.

        The hiss of steam from her extinguishing flames of asperity escaped through her mouth in the form of an acquiescing sigh as she ran her fingers through her hair.  "Of course I came with you," she murmured, looking anywhere but at the prince. "How could I say no to my best friend? Especially when he comes to me with a job with a refreshing adventure built into it? Ha! It reminds me of the time when we─" Captain Stirling’s tongue turned to stone when her an object in the distance caught her stare. Her fingers stopped their perpetual twiddling with her pumpkin locks as she produced a spyglass from a pouch tied to her belt.

        “What is it?” he questioned, squinting his eyes in attempts to locate the mysterious object.

        She handed the miniature telescope to him, and, as he peered through it to see an airship adorned with black sails she said, “It appears that we have located what you have lost so much sleep over, my prince. We have found Krono’s Return.”

The End

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