Chapter 13 - A Night to Remember
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The dark surface of the water broke as a large manta ray launched itself high out of the water. As soon as the tail cleared the surface, the body began to split down the center from the bottom of the jaw down the abdomen to the tip of the tail. From the mouth, Adameus' head emerged and he threw back the splitting form of the shark-like body to reveal it in it's true form – a cloak recovered from one of the assassins, before he could complete the arc and return to the water, he reached out with his foot and clung to the hull of the Sea Wyvern using the Slippers of Spider Climbing and hauled himself back up to the deck where his companions gathered around him.

"I'm sorry. I couldn't find the body. At just about this point, the ocean floor drops off like a cliff. I went as far down as I could, but the pressure became too much. Besides, by that point it was so dark, I couldn't see a thing and, frankly, it was a bit creepy. I thought for sure I'd be swallowed by a giant sea creature at any moment."

Viselys clapped his damp companion on the back, "It's okay, Adameus. You tried. It was worth a shot, anyway. Besides, now you have a good understanding of how that cloak works. Why don't you hold onto it?"

Ornrik was very unhappy with the situation, but he said nothing.

"What's to be glum about? We won the battle with no casualties and we gained another sailing vessel! This is cause for celebration!" Saris decreed. Somewhere on board the Sea Wyvern, Avner's ears perked and he wasn't even sure why.

"Adameus, why don't you swim over and scope the ship out. It doesn't look like there is anyone aboard, but we can't be too cautious," Viselys suggested.

The rogue smiled and winked, furled the cloak with a flourish and dove back into the sea. He used the same method on the other ship to emerge from the water and transform, landing on the ship's side. This time, however, he took greater care to touch onto the wooden surface at the very moment he reached the apex of his arc to have as soft a landing as possible, for silence sake.

He snuck onto the deck and quietly snuck down the steps to the level below. Nobody. He entered the hold. Nobody. But there was a reasonable amount of food stuffs and five barrels of rum. 'This will make Saris' party, to be sure' Adameus thought to himself.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back on the Sea Wyvern, Skald got a far-away look for a moment. He turned to the nearest person, who happened to be Saris, "Do you ever get the feeling that we're being watched?"

Saris' eyes grew wide and he reached for his sword, "What do you mean, 'watched'? By who? From where?" He searched around, squinting.

Realizing what Saris thought he meant, Skald shook his head, "No, I don't mean like the Fire Trolls or some invisible assassin or anything. I just mean in general. Somebody … not of our world. Someone … foreign – watching us. Just … taking an interest."
Saris relaxed, "It's just your imagination, kid." Still, Saris wasn't so sure.

Neither was Skald.

* * * * *

Adameus swam back to the Wyvern and reported his findings. The crew wasted no time lashing the S.S. Fire Troll behind the Sea Wyvern and transferring the rum. Then the celebration ensued.

Miranda plucked out a jaunty tune while the Blue Nixie pulled alongside to join the festivities. Captain Amella relinquished the wheel to Jacob and took a deep draft of rum. Even Skald began to relax and was actually seen openly smiling.

"You look to be enjoying yerself, lad!" Ornrik announced, slapping Skald on the back. "And well ya' should! You, personally, saved the crew and passengers of the Sea Wyvern – every man, woman and child owes you their life. Go, have fun."

As Miranda was finishing one tune, Adameus came up to the prow and stood beside her, "Come on, everyone! You can dance if you want to…" and he began to sing to the next song with Miranda's accompaniment. Diamondback took to the floor with her graceful dance steps and several of the sailors surrounded her, arm in arm, effecting a group jig.

* * * * *

Ornrik took a stein of rum in one hand, a pile of magical scrolls and a spell book tucked under the other arm and went to the relative privacy of the far stern. He climbed up the steps to the poop deck, smiled and nodded to Jacob as he passed him and sat with his back to the rail so he could view the festivities. Then he opened the book and began to skim the pages.

He wasn't there long before Diamondback came up and sat next to him. At first, Ornrik expected that she was there to try to drag him out on the dance floor or some other foolishness, but when he turned to look at her, he quickly realized that she was the one in need.

"What's wrong, lass?" he asked, putting the book aside and taking up his tankard.

She looked at him with a near desperation in her eyes, "Oh, Ornrik, can you help me? You know how I feel about Viselys, and I think he could feel the same for me, if I could just make him notice me. The frustration! It's going on a year now …" and she leaned in and whispered the rest in his ear.

The elder dwarf listened politely. Then his eyes grew wide in horror. "By the GODS!!! I can't know that!!!!" he hissed. Seeing her recoil, he composed himself, "I'm – I'm sorry, lass. I appreciate your … um … openness, but I think I understand your dilemma without you having to go into such … detail. I may be able to help you."

He paged though his book for a moment and found what he was looking for. Then he stood up, but indicated that Diamondback should remain seated. He whispered something incomprehensible and swiped his hand over her as if dropping a curtain over her from head to foot. Then he extended his hand to help her up.

"He'll notice you now, lass," Ornrik grinned. "Go talk to him."

She smiled and all but skipped away. Then she suddenly stopped, ran back and kissed the aged dwarf on the forehead and dashed off again.

As Ornrik lowered himself back down to the deck, he wondered how much of the girls current appearance was because of the glamour he had cast on her and how much was the confidence she was exuding because of her belief in the magic.

* * * * *

Conrad, having nearly reached his limit of alcohol consumption before losing consciousness, approached Viselys, who had not taken a drink all night. "You know," Conrad slurred, "ish really nighsh of you to let me out of that shell. It wash really shtarting to shtink!"

Viselys stepped back from the close-talking conman, "Well, you demonstrated your value by bravely assisting us in the Fire Troll attack and it's appreciated. However, if you want to keep your freedom, you will have to prove you have reformed. I'll be watching you."

"Good!" Conrad said, perhaps a bit louder than necessary, "That'sh good. I'll bee good. You just watch me be good." As he spoke he lifted his mug and began staggering away, "You watch me really close and I'll show you. 'Cause you never know what you'll shee. You gotta be watchful at all timesh, 'cus jusht when you least expect it…" Conrad's nonsensical ramblings were cut short as he stumbled into a dingy, tripped and fell face first into it, apparently having exceeded his limit.

* * * * *

Avner Meravanchi sat on the uppermost deck, admiring the party in full swing. It reminded him of home. After downing yet another round of rum and staggering to his feet, he grabbed Banaby, his faithful servant, by the shoulder, leaning heavily upon him. "You…you've always been by my side. It's time for you to do so again. Go get me another drink, and make it snappy!"

"Yes, my lord," Banaby submitted. "Be careful, sir, we don't need another incident like at Master Lidu's party. We'll be on board this ship with these folks for quite a while yet."

Smacking his lips and looking impatient, "…I'm still empty here, Banaby," Avner raised an eyebrow while issuing orders.

"Right, sir. I'll be back in a minute," Banaby apologized.

"Trying to give me advice," Avner muttered to himself, "…like he knows anything." Avner's gaze lifted as Saris walked by.

"Quite the party, my boy," Avner slurred his speech. "I'll say…since you're throwing a wild bash today…maybe…maybe I'll be a hero tomorrow!"

"Ha!" Saris jested. "I wouldn't count on it."

* * * * *

Up at the prow, Miranda slowed the melody as the flow of alcohol caused everyone to mellow. She whispered to Adameus, "How about that one we were working on?" then she raised her eyebrow and cocked her head in a specific direction. Adameus turned to see what she was indicating and saw Lavinia, for the moment by herself.

"Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure that song…" he started.

Miranda didn't listen to his words, she just began to play. Adameus breathed hard, slightly annoyed, but went along with it:

"Everybody needs a little time away,"
I heard her say,
"From each other…"

Adameus had clearly been practicing. He sang very well and many of the celebrators stopped to listen. Saris asked the captain to dance and they swayed, close together, on the dance floor. Bryson and Gwenlian Talbot soon followed.

* * * * *

Ornrik was so caught up in his reading that he didn't even realize how much he'd drunk. Tavey, the cabin boy, had been refilling him when his tankard got low. Now the dwarf was feeling a little mellow … and mischievous. A grin crept across his face and his eyes narrowed. He looked around shiftily and skimmed though his scrolls. Then he stood up, put his reading material into his backpack and dusted himself off. With a little giggle to himself, he muttered an incantation, waved his hands over himself and disappeared…

* * * * *

Adameus looked over to see if he could catch Lavinia's eye, but saw her engaged in conversation with Viselys. He was a bit deflated, but, after all, neither of them could have known – it's not like he openly dedicated the song to her or anything.

After all that's been said and done
You're just a part of me I can't let go

After all that we've been through
I will make it up to you
I promise to…

"Get over there, talk to her," Miranda whispered, going into an instrumental solo to close the song out.

* * * * *

Viselys approached Lavinia, who was cheerfully watching the festivities. He met her eye, bowed low and kissed her hand, "It seems we have a very entertaining trip thus far, Mademoiselle Vanderboren."

Lavinia pursed her lips, "Oh, stop, Viselys. You know you can call me Lavinia. Really! sometimes I don't know what to make of you . Is it jest that you are so formal or do you not see we are on the high seas, beyond 'Lords' and 'Ladies'?

Righting himself, Viselys cocked his head, "What do you mean? I have always tied you…I mean tried to teat…treat you as a lady of your station should, even though at times I find that difficult."

Lavinia raised and eyebrow, "Are you saying I bore you, sir, or that you find me repulsive?"

Viselys' eyes went wide. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and plan his words carefully, "Hardly, Lavinia. I have found in witnessing your dealings in the last few months that you have always conducted yourself with honor and dignity. It seems with all the excitement thus far that this trip has been a success. The crew is happy and occupied. The miscreants have been flushed out and all is going smoothly. I must apologize for putting your interests in danger with the Kellani's, though. I would never have thought their arm was as long as this. First with Lady Lotus and now these mercenaries attacking. It seems there will be business between the Kellanis and us when we return to Sasserine." Looking past Lavinia, he spied Tavney carrying several tankards. "Hey, ho there! A couple of drinks for the lady here, please!" Turning back to Lavinia, he gave her a suggestive look that seemed to elude her. "You wouldn't mind a stiff drink would you, Lavinia?"

She smiled, "It has been awhile since I have had rum, but since this IS a celebration of victory, why not? What shall we toast too?"

Viselys accepted two tankards from Taveny and handed one to Lavinia. "How about to the success of our endeavors and a lifetime of happiness? Cheers!"

"Cheers." she replied, still clueless to his innuendos, and she took a sip. Then her continence changed; warming to something like tenderness. "You know, Viselys, I am really hoping that I can succeed on the Isle and pick up where my parents left off. I am afraid of what I will find there. I am left all alone to fend for my family name. I really hope this trip will find me happiness. Truly, I miss them."

Viselys took her hand, pondering her words. Thinking quickly, he said, "I would love…I…I will do all that I can to ensure success when we get there, Lavinia. I will repeat my vow again if that would comfort you." Taking his hand back, he mentally berated himself. "Come now, Lavinia, chin up and stay positive! Unless you think me a whelp you must find comfort in me, and all of us, including the Jade Ravens, singularly going to ensure success, whatever we find when we land."

"Yes, I know," she replied, "but I am most worried about the battles I must face that are mine alone. Deep scars. Emotional wounds.

He stepped closer to her, "Lavinia, you will never be alone. Please know that. Please know that I…"

Just then, Adameus strolled over from the prow and put his arm over Viselys' shoulder, "This is some party, huh?"

Viselys began to mumble something, but Adameus couldn't hear him over Lavinia, "Adameus, I had no idea that singing was among your talents. You have a beautiful voice."

"Um, I , well, that is to say, rather, I …" he stammered, feeling his cheeks burn crimson. He had to take his arm from Viselys because he couldn't keep from fidgeting. Then, clearing his throat, he seemed to compose himself. "Thank you, miss," he said, bowing deeply, "I am flattered and, clearly at a loss for words."

"Momentarily, anyway," she smirked.

Viselys was quickly feeling redundant and, coupled with his less than eloquent attempt to bend the lady's ear, he desperately wanted to extract himself from the vicinity. "Well, you know, I better be…

"Oh, I didn't mean to interrupt," Adameus apologized.

"Oh, don't be silly," Lavinia interjected, "it's a party, after all, and we were just mingling; making small talk."

Viselys looked a bit dejected, but it didn't seem that either Adameus or Lavinia noticed. "No, really, I want to go investigate the new ship."

Suddenly, Adameus realized that he was being left, essentially, alone with Lavinia and he got nervous, "You know, I could, um…" he indicated with his thumb back over his shoulder, but to where was unclear.

Lavinia reached out to keep him from leaving, "Adameus, I appreciate how considerate you have been in giving me space, but it doesn't mean we can't talk to one another."

"No, right, I know that. I just … okay." He stopped and took a deep breath. "Of course, I just want to honor your wishes to the best of my ability." He looked into her eyes just a little more deeply, "I would never want to dishonor you in any way."

Lavinia smiled, "I know. Really, I do, so you can relax. We agreed that, whatever else may happen, we would be friends, right?"

"First and foremost, of course," he replied.

Lavinia took another draft from her tankard, "I was just sharing my concerns with Viselys about the future of this mission. I don't think he understood what I was trying to say."

"He doesn't know what it is like to lose one's family," Adameus responded, knowingly.

Lavinia nodded, reluctantly, "He's compassionate but …" she struggled for a word.

"Naive?" Adameus offered.

"Well, I was going to say 'he can't relate,' but I guess that works, too," she chuckled slightly.

Adameus did not share the humor. He shook his head, "He has such an incredible vision for the way things aught to be. I admire that. And, yet, he is so blind sometimes to things right in front of him."

She nodded, this time her chance to be insightful, "He still hasn't considered the possibility that you are brothers?"

"That's not all," he replied, shaking his head and watching Viselys disappear from view with Diamondback trailing after.

Adameus smiled and drew a deep breath, "Of course, I would ask you to dance, but it appears that the party is breaking up. Another time?"

"Certainly," she smiled and nodded. "Good night, my mud-bespeckled friend."

Lavinia turned and glided across the deck and crossed the gap between the ships. Adameus watched her go until she disappeared below deck. He was pulled from his reverie by a familiar voice.

"Adameus?" Gidrick said as he approached.

The former Shadowshore Boy turned with a big smile, "What can I do for you, lad?"

He had his hands behind his back, clearly hiding something, but not being subtle about it. No doubt he wanted to show Adameus something, but not quite yet. "Oh, I just wanted to tell you I've been practicing that trick you showed me."

Adameus got down to eye-level with the boy, "Really? That's great. How's it coming along?"

"Well, I think I pretty much have it down. You can have this back," and he brought out what he'd been hiding, handing it over.

Adameus fully expected to find the gold coin he had given the boy to practice his slight of hand and was about to tell him he could keep it when he realized this object was much larger. He looked at his hand and saw he was holding a pendant. In fact, it was his own magical Aptitude Charm. With the other hand he reached up to his chest and confirmed, yes indeed, it was no longer around his neck. His eyes grew wide. "Fantastic!" he exclaimed.

"Okay, bye!" Gidrick said and turned to dash off.

Rising from his crouch, Adameus called after him, "Gidrick, wait! I've gotta know. When?"

Gidrick slid to a stop and turned with a huge grin. "While you were singing," he said and dashed off again.

"Fantastic!" Adameus exclaimed.

* * * * *

Viselys was moping, and he knew it. He wanted to be mad at Adameus for horning in on his time with Lavinia, but he couldn't because he knew that he only had himself to blame. He was usually so good with his words. Why had they failed him this time?

"Hey, Viselys, why so down?" Diamondback said, bounding up brightly.

Viselys looked up to answer her and had to pause for a moment. She looked different, somehow. He couldn't put his finger on it. It was hard to put into words. She looked – prettier. He shook his head and drove that thought from his mind. "Tara! Hi. Down? No. It's a party, after all."

"Right, it's a party. So let's have fun." She smiled brightly and her happiness was infectious.

Viselys found her to be so convincing that he almost did want to have fun. Maybe he should go back and ask Lavinia to dance. No, maybe he should ask Tara to dance. 'NO!! What's the matter with me?!' he thought. "Actually, I was going to the Fire Trolls' ship to look around and make sure there's nobody hiding that Adameus missed, or a Mephit-in-a-Jar or something like that. Why don't you come with me?"

Now it was Diamondback's turn to feel deflated. "Yeah, sure. Why not?"

* * * * *

"You dance very well," Saris complemented Amella. "I could dance all night."

"Well, I can't," the captain said, rum heavy on her breath, "If I'm going to do any more dancing tonight, it's not going to be on my feet."

Saris raised his eyebrows, "Well, if your feet are sore, perhaps I could …"

Amella cut him off, "Oh, save it. Let's go." She grabbed him by the shirt, getting a handful of chest hair in the process making Saris yelp.

He was by no means bothered by that, however. 'Hey! I'm gonna get lucky with the captain,' he thought to himself, 'The REAL one this time.' He stopped to close the door, 'At least, I THINK it's the real one.' She was already removing her blouse. Saris shrugged, 'Whatever!' and closed the door.

Continue to Chapter 14...

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