“Elden,” the prince smiled drowsily, “what a wonderful morning it is.”
“That’s CaptainStirling, to you,” the woman snapped sternly, “How many times must I remind you? Just because we’re old friends doesn’t mean you have the privilege to address me by my first name. And I hope you know that I expect you to apologize to Kaleb. I will not have you berating my men like that. Don’t forget that this ship belongs to me, not you, your highness.”
“Yes, yes. I already planned to,” he shrugged, “Is that all you came to say, Captain Stirling, or do you require my presence for something? Perhaps my dexterous leadership and deft decision-making skills?”
“Deft? More like daft. Do you think I would be here if I didn't?”
“Oh, no of course not. Why in the world would I assume that my good pal from Orville's Aerial-Naval Academy might barge in on me for any reason other than business? That would be quite preposterous!”
Tilting her head slightly to the side and staring straight into his eyes with her brows raised and a joking smirk poised on her lips, she replied, “Exactly. Now, if you are done ruining your health by the light of a single candle, I’ve something you might want to take a look at.”
“What is it?” He stood up, his curiosity peaked.
“We’ve spotted a ship on our tail, Your Highness. Come see.”
Practically galloping out of the bridge, Tarin stumbled to the starboard side of the ship and peered out at the clouds. Though his tired eyes made his vision blurry, there was no mistaking what he saw. A ship, slightly smaller than the Azure Conquest, floated half a mile away, slowly making headway towards them. Prince Tarin noted the brilliant blue and gold banners proudly waving in the wind with an insignia of a wolf that matched those on Elden’s ship as well as her uniform. It wasn’t hard to conclude that this mystery ship belonged to his country’s ─ his father’s ─ armada, and that was not a good thing for Tarin at the moment.
“How long has it been following us?” the prince of Marcelia asked.
“I’m not sure; could be days, could be weeks. They must have something rather important to say if they’ve been tracking us all the way from the capitol. My men are prepared to stop and meet them at your order, Prince Tar─”
“No,” he objected, “I don’t want to meet with them, and whatever they have to say is not something I want to hear. Lower the ship beneath the clouds. We might be able to shake them.”
“You want me to what?”
“You heard me!”
“But, you hate dismoun─”
The ship drew closer, and Tarin grew more frantic. “You think I don’t know that? Just lower the ship beneath the clouds, already!” he snapped; though, he soon regretted it when he saw the shock and hurt in his companion’s eyes. Sighing, he continued, “Look, I’m sorry, Elden. I haven’t been completely honest with you about the exact reason I wanted to undertake this expedition. I promise I’ll explain everything, but, right now, I need you to do as I say!”
After scrutinizing him with her sharp, green eyes, the ship’s captain finally relented. “Fine. But I’m only doing this because you are my prince ─ and my friend. However, I do expect a thorough enlightenment from you as soon as we are through.” With that, she briskly turned on her heels and began violently barking orders at her crew. Soon, the Azure Conquest was sinking beneath the clouds like a submarine beneath oceanic waves.
“Brace yourselves!” someone shouted through the haze as the ship sank with more haste. Not needing to be told twice, Tarin dropped to the floor, grabbing hold of the rails with a death grip. The only thing that made this plunge bearable for him was the comfort in knowing that no one could see his distorted facial expressions through the fog.