Kya stood at the helm of The Curious Leaf, her face drawn and pensive as she stared out into a sea of charcoal clouds.
“You’re afraid,” Hearthorne said from her silver pot.
“I don’t like the look of these clouds,” Kya said. As if to underscore her words, a strand of lightning flashed in the distance. The clouds grumbled peevishly among themselves, ready and mutinous.
“Have a little faith. It would take more than a mere storm to sink a faerie vessel.” Hearthorne gazed out at the sky with open appreciation. She had always loved the moments leading up to a good storm—when the air fizzed with the magic of the sylphs and storm sprites. “But I wasn’t talking about the storm.”
Lightning flashed again, this time closer, the gold of the sun radiating through a swirling of darkness. The clouds boomed their approval and the wind picked up, smelling of wet earth and the sea.
Kya swallowed hard and frowned. She thought she’d been careful enough to hide the fears taking root in her heart. She’d done all she knew how to dig them up, but all her efforts managed to do was lop off the heads or the vines. The roots, meanwhile, simply burrowed deeper, and thinking about them—talking about them—would only strengthen their hold.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Hearthorne laughed a laugh every bit as heavy as the air hoarding the moisture about them. “I’ll admit that keeping your promise to a moon dragon and finding favor with the Lady of the Moon would be daunting. But I wasn’t talking about that either.”
Kya tightened her grip on the wheel, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of singed sky and flinched as the thunder boomed ever closer. The wind was blowing hard enough that she felt as though she would be swept away like a fallen leaf, scudding and gusting along with the storm as she fell to the ground.
“Then what are you talking about?” She had to shout to be heard over the wind and the slap of water as the clouds above cracked themselves open like rain-filled eggs.
Hearthorne was quiet for so long that Kya opened her eyes to make sure the storm hadn’t swept the faerie flower off her stand and out into the sky.
Hearthorne stared at her, dark eyes filled with a wildness and a knowing that frightened Kya more than all the storms put together.
“You’re afraid of traveling to Faerie,” she said. Her words cut through the wind and the rain so her voice didn’t have to.
Lightning flashed again, illuminating Hearthorne with an eerie glow that only served to make her look even more unworldly. She might have been a vengeful sky spirit chained to the earth and ready to bring down a curse upon them all.
Kya’s mouth went dry as she tried to bridge the gap between them. Fear, this fear at least, didn’t belong between friends. And while she wasn’t entirely sure if she and Hearthorne were indeed friends, they had planted the seeds and she’d determined that she wouldn’t be the one to dig them up.
Kya opened her mouth to try to explain something she didn’t quite understand herself. To talk about all the tales her keeper had read to her, all the stories she’d heard visitors whisper when they came during the night. To say that wonder and horror weren’t all that different, and she wasn’t sure she wanted the horror, though she could never drink in enough wonder.
But just as the words formed on her tongue, a bolt of lightning zigged through the sky, zagged through the maple leaf sail, and struck the compass with a spark of light that would have put the sun himself to shame.
Kya put up her arms to protect her face as the echo of power surged through the air like something real and solid, and sent her flying backwards. She cried out, but the wind howled so loud she could hear nothing else, not even the rain.
Blinking out the blobs of light snazzling across her vision, Kya lurched to her feet and stumbled in Hearthorne’s direction. The deck rocked crazily, and Kya had the notion she was trying to walk along the salt-white crests of the waves while they were doing everything they could to throw off her footing, instead of the polished planks of her very own ship.
By now, lightning was flashing and flying, cutting through the air and the clouds so rapidly that the sky took on a strange kind of light like the inverse of day. The clouds bunched and puffed themselves up, growing darker with temper as the lightning continued to sting them. They crowded about the ship, jostling it as they stampeded against the face of the wind.
Kya staggered back to the helm, catching hold of the wheel that was spinning like mad to catch her balance. It flew out of her hands, but she managed to grab the trunk of Hearthorne’s stand, relieved that the pot was still in its place.
Hearthorne had her head tipped back while the wind snatched at her indigo petals, trying to tear them away. Her mouth was open with whoops of delight.
“Hearthorne,” Kya shouted over the screams of the storm. “Are you all right?”
“The sail,” Kya gasped as she struggled to keep her grip, “it’s been damaged.”
The Curious Leaf lurched to the side, nearly far enough to tip over. The wind howled triumphantly as the timbers creaked, and the prow dipped down as the ship began to spiral toward the earth.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved.
Ah, the sea. Beautiful. Mysterious. Our next adventure.
Join me next Monday to see how they save the ship and their skins. Because if there’s one thing worse than crashing your ship in the sea, it’s falling from the sky and crashing your ship *into* the sea.