Vyse flopped onto the couch with an audible grunt. "Well, that wasn't all bad. At least we got a good meal out of it, and I did manage to find Ilchymis." He took his coat off and his undervest as well. "I didn't know dancing was going to be part of the equation, though." He shot a look at Aika.
Aika had taken a seat on a nearby chair, and was massaging her feet. She wasn't exactly used to dress shoes. "It worked though...after that performance we put on out there tonight, everybody was leaving me alone."
"Not me." he grumbled, unbuttoning the first few top buttons of his shirt. "After that, all sorts of women were trying to get me to dance, or to talk to them, or anything. It really got on my nerves after a while."
"Maybe you should of been flattered by their attentions, Vyse." Aika batted her lashes at him with a smirk.
He threw his coat at her, grinning. "Shaddap. I don't see what the big appeal is though...why were they all pouncing on me? I'm so...ordinary."
Fina took a seat next to him on the couch. "Vyse, you're far from ordinary. Look at it from a young woman's point of view, if you will. You're single, very attractive, world-renowned, funny, a captain of two ships, the leader of an island, and a living legend. What would you expect them to do?"
He rubbed at the back of his neck. "Keep their distance? You'd think that having two women as my friends and companions would drive them away."
Fina stretched out, putting her legs over his lap and leaning with her back against the arm of the sofa. Her behavior was a bit lucid after consuming a bit more wine than was good for her at the party. "You would think that, but tonight you learned otherwise. And then there's that group of girls sailing the world looking for you..."
Vyse shook his head. "I don't want to hear about that...it's been a long night, and I really don't need more things pressing down on my shoulders." He stretched his arms and yawned, and was about to say something else when there was the sound of a door being opened.
"Hey!" Aika retorted when Enrique, Gilder and Ilchymis entered the room from the hall. "Don't you people knock? We could've been naked in here!" She was grinning, however.
"I'd pay to see that." Gilder commented slyly. Aika growled and threw Vyse's coat at him.
"That's the best use I've seen for that coat so far tonight." Vyse murmured.
"I'm glad to see the three of you are comfortable here." Enrique said, sitting down in one of the many chairs. "And I brought you somebody, as well." He indicated Ilchymis, who was reaching into his inner coat pocket for something.
"Mmm." Ilchymis said absently, still fishing for whatever it was.
"Good to see you here, Ilchymis...I really want to hear your theory." Fina indicated the chair next to the sofa she and Vyse were seated on. "Please, sit down."
The scientist stopped looking for something in his pocket, and blinked. "Huh..oh? Sorry...yes..I'll get started." He took a seat in the preoffered chair. "First off, let's lay the facts down on the table, shall we? Look at what evidence we have."
"Well, all right." Vyse leaned his head back thoughtfully. "First off, Domingo comes home mentioning that the rifts of the world have been growing. Centime backed up this fact when he came to visit Crescent Isle last week, and he also did mention that South Ocean is completely impassable, even for strong ships. Then earlier tonight, King Ixa'taka mentioned that the twisters from South Ocean have expanded, and have creeped into his lands. And Enrique mentioned that it's been fairly windy in Valua lately too...which isn't too strange, if you account for the thunderstorms."
"Still, there have been wind storms, sometimes random tornadoes all over the continent." Enrique said. "It's been hindering the progress of Larimar and Verados."
"Larimar and Verados?" Vyse glanced at Enrique with a questioning look.
"Yes, didn't I tell you? Sorry if I didn't. They're two spots in northern Valua that were military outposts. I don't feel the need to keep them as cold, unwelcome places...so I've sent crews up there to convert them into towns. Many Lower City citizens were esctatic, and went there straight away. But we're getting off onto a tangent here..."
"Yeah, I'll continue." The scarred blue rogue folded his arms, resting them on Fina's legs, which were still across his lap. "So there were also those nasty storms in Valua. The one thing that might be related is somebody Aika and Fina saw at the party tonight. Aika keeps saying he looks like a vampire, but I'm a little unsure of that."
"He had good looks, a funny accent and pale skin...not to mention red eyes. What was he supposed to be then, Vyse?" Aika looked at Fina. "Fina saw him too."
"I ran into him, actually." Fina said. "That's why you found me staring into space, Vyse. I was talking to him, and suddenly...I don't know. My mind went all funny, and before I knew it I was looking up at you, not at him. He was a very strange man...but I don't think he's connected to the weather problems."
"Hmm..." Ilchymis mused. "I did see a man like that at the party....although I didn't approach him. Let me get back to the subject at hand: we have weather conditions going strange all over the world. They all seem to be tied in to the major rifts, if you think about it. Rifts affect the weather of the regions they're found in. What I believe is causing the rifts to behave the strange way they are deals with gravity, and it isn't gravity caused by Arcadia itself, or any of the six moons, or even the strange behavior of the winds caused by Soltis rising and then sinking once more. As far as Soltis is concerned, Arcadia has returned to the way it was more or less, nearly down to the last air current. No, my friends, I believe this is caused by something of legend. I believe there's a seventh black moon, and it's creating these strange weather patterns."
They all looked at him, somewhat unsure of this theory. Then Vyse spoke up. "Well, we did find those black moonstones in the Dark Rift....but we all figured they were blue or red ones altered by the storm. I didn't think there'd be a seventh moon because well...nobody's seen it."
"Perhaps nobody has seen it because it isn't visable to us. There have been records of the weather and the rifts of the world gone awry every several centuries. I think this moon has an elliptical orbit, and does not have an orbit that's in sync with Arcadia's rotation like the other six moons. It may be too far away to be seen, or perhaps hidden behind another moon." The scientist stood, and started pacing. "It's just a theory, however....but it's one that I've had since I went to the acadamy."
"In that case, wouldn't it be logical to say that if there was a seventh moon, then there would be a civilization under it?" Enrique looked up at Ilchymis.
"That's why it intrigues me, your Highness. I've always wondered at that possibility, although I'm no archeologist. However, I know somebody who is, who also shares my theory. Actually, she may know more about it than I do: she's the one who approached me with it years ago. She's a woman by the name of Lani, and she's normally a travelling professor who teaches at various universities around the world."
"Where is she now?" Aika asked.
"The last time I spoke with her, she was heading to the ruins of Glacia, since you three helpfully pinpointed their location several months back."
Aika looked crestfallen. "Oh great...the Belleza can't cut through the ice with its wooden hull....are we gonna have to go all the way back to Crescent Isle in order to get the Delphinus?"
"Don't worry about it, Aika." Fina looked over at her. "We equipped the Belleza with a Yafutoman-style engine recently. It can go low enough to access Glacia from below the ice flows."
Vyse looked at them all. "So it's settled? We head to Glacia to talk to Lani about this black moon mystery. I say we leave tomorrow morning."
"I think this is where I say "I'm going too."" Gilder interjected. "Things have been getting sort of slow for me, and I know that exciting things have a way of finding you guys.
"Of course you can come." Aika smiled. "You're always welcome to sail with us."
The Emperor stood and bowed in that polite manner of his. "Well then, I'll take my leave of you. You'll need to rest up, since it's been a long night. Farewell." He headed to the door, and left without another word. Gilder also stood, shot a grin and a wink at them, and turned to leave.
"I'll be back tomorrow. Don't leave without me." He then exited out the front door.
Ilchymis also stood up to leave, but began fishing in his coat pocket again. "Oh...where did I put it...I have something important for you, Vyse." He checked the left side of his coat instead. "Ah, there it is....funny, I never keep anything on my left side..." The scientist produced a folded piece of paper, and handed it to Vyse. "This is from Drachma. I myself cared for him when he was here recently. I only wish I could have done more for him, he was a good man." He sighed. "Anyway, he wrote that a day before he passed on, and asked that I deliver it to you if I ever saw you. Now I'm pleased that I could have fulfilled this wish for him." Ilchymis turned and left quietly, leaving the blue rogue sitting there with the letter in his hand.
Aika came around the back side of the couch to look over Vyse's shoulder. "What does it say?"
"We'll have to see." He unfolded the letter, and glanced and the handwriting. "It's all shaky and uneven, probably from the effects of his stroke." The letter began:
I don't know when you'll be reading this, but I hope it comes across you some day. The doctor says I don't have much time left, and that really dampens my spirits. There's still a lot of things I wanted to do and see in my life, and I never was able to do them. They're just small things to another man, but to me they're important. Still, I did get to see much of the world and experience some things I never thought I'd see when I was young like you. I know that I'll be joining my son soon, and that sets my mind to peace a bit.
I must say that the time I spent with you three kids has been one of the best times of my life, and I don't regret one moment of it. The three of you replaced that gaping hole I had in my life when I lost Jack, my ship and my crew, and I'm very grateful. There is still one more thing you can do for me, though. I know how you like to explore new things, find the strange and unexplainable. If this is still true, then I have a small tale to tell you.
When I was a young man, perhaps a few years older than you, I was sailing in the southestern section of the South Nasr Ocean, not very far north of Esparanza and the Cape Victory Cliffs. While fishing in that area, I saw something strange flying below the clouds, in the area where the air pressure is a bit too much for normal ships. Most animals don't live down there, so I found it strange. I brought my ship a bit closer for a better look. The "things" weren't fish or birds, but were almost man-shaped, and they had large wings. I couldn't see many details on them, but I remember that they were black with some white on them. You may think I'm crazy, but I'd say they reminded me of gargoyles or dragons...or some other made-up monster. But I know I saw them, I vividly remember this even to this day, which means I will vividly remember it until my death.
This is my wish, boy: go out and find what these things are. For all we know, we're missing out on yet another race other than humans, or some nightmare come alive. No matter what it is, I have faith in you and your friends. I know you can find out what it is, and what it's doing here. It's something I always wanted to do, but never managed to fulfill. But you're different, and I know this small clue will lead you on to something enormous.
It's been an honor knowing you, Captain Vyse. I wish you luck, and I hope we meet again in the next life. Goodbye.
Vyse quietly handed the letter to Fina to read, and stared ahead morosely. Aika hung her head. "Poor Drachma....he knew he didn't have any time left." She leaned forward on the couch to crane her head around so she could look Vyse in the face. "Vyse?"
"I'm going to fulfill his wish, Aika. It's the least I can do for him. I hope we find whatever it was he saw." His voice was quiet, his eyes distant.
Aika slipped her arms around his shoulders and gave him a quick hug. "Yeah, me too. I know we'll do it." She turned to glance at Fina, who was sniffling after finishing the letter. "Are you going to be okay, Fina?"
The Silvite wiped at her eyes. "Yes...I'll be fine. It's just so sad..." she closed her eyes and sighed. "Perhaps we should go to bed...we'll be busy tomorrow." She stood.
"Yeah, you're right." Vyse glanced over his shoulder at Aika, and then at Fina. "First we find Lani and investigate this black moon mystery. As soon as we're done with that, we try to find out what Drachma was talking about. But for now, I think we all need sleep. Tonight's been a little too gloomy for my taste anyway."
* * *
The next morning, they met up with Gilder at the port where the Belleza was moored. Moegi was there to bid them farewell.
"Enrique says he wanted to be here, but he's very busy this morning." She said to them in an almost apologetic tone. "He wishes you luck, and we both want you to stop by again when you have the chance. Ilchymis also wanted me to tell you to bring back any information you find. He was very adamant about that."
"You can count on it." Vyse said with a lopsided grin. "Thanks for your hospitality, Moegi." He turned to Gilder. "Ready?"
"Whenever you are." Gilder replied.
They bid farewell to the Empress, and pulled out of the port to exit through the gaping trench that was once the Grand Fortress. The breeze was brisk as usual, but it didn't effect a ship of the Belleza's size. Her captain pointed her to the southeast, and cruised along at a semi-high altitude within mid-sky.
"I think I'll take us around the reefs and through a few rifts." he said while en route. "I've heard the rifts are a bit thick, but I'd rather go through them than over the massive rift that's along the one side of the Lands of Ice. I don't want to try going through the reef either; our hull isn't made for that, and I hate dodging rocks."
"You're the captain, Vyse". Aika said from her post.
They passed around the Nasr Reef and through a small rift with little difficulty. However, once they reached the eastern edge of South Ocean, things started to get bumpy. It was several hours past sunset and fairly dark when they had reached that particular section of South Ocean, and nobody could see the storms until they were practically on top of them. While the Belleza wasn't a tiny ship, she was tossed to and fro in the harsh winds. Vyse strained to keep a hold on the wheel during the whole ordeal.
"It's like being on the Little Jack again..." he grunted, fighting against the pull of the tiller. "If this goes on any longer, my arms are going to snap off."
"I don't think going through this area at night is smart." Gilder said, looking out the windows of the deckhouse. "Maybe we should drop anchor somewhere to the east of all of this, and try again in the morning."
"I'll have to agree...I didn't think that this area would be this rough. We're not too far west of Maramba, and South Ocean doesn't extend this far." Vyse pulled on the wheel, using his weight, and the ship gave a lurch and turned to the east.
They dropped anchor not too far away from Maramba, and although they cleared the storm after a league or so, it was still fairly windy. Sand had been picked up from the land below by the winds, and gouts of it lashed against the ship's hull harshly. Vyse lay in his bunk and winced at every loud scraping sound that resulted of the sandstorm, and hoped the deck and masts weren't scoured to shreds. They slept with all the hatches shut, and the windows closed.
The next morning, it was calmer, and upon inspection the Belleza's damage from the sandstorm was minimal. A few sails were ripped, a few spots on the hull were scratched, but nothing was serious enough to hinder their progress. They countinued to the southeast, this time taking care to avoid any maelstroms from the ever-growing South Ocean. When they reached the small rift that seperated South Ocean and the Lands of Ice, they stopped.
"I can't see through that thing..." Aika said, frowning.
"I can't either, and I'm zooming in." Vyse sighed. "Well, we go through no matter what. It can't be that thick."
That proved to be an understatement. They went through in near-complete darkness, the deck lights and lanterns in the deckhouse giving the only light. After four miles, they began to get restless.
""It can't be that thick." he says." Aika snorted. "How do you know we're not going lengthwise through the rift instead of straight across like we're supposed to?"
"We're heading straight south." The scarred captain said a bit tartly. "Don't whine about it, we'll be through in another few minutes."
His prediction was accurate, however; they slipped into the open and into the twilight glow of the polar sky. The Purple moon hovered coldly in the night, shining down upon the small glaciers and ice flows with a lavander hue.
"It's night here." Fina said. "Not surprising....that's the way the poles are. During certain seasons, the suns never sets at one; at the other, however, it's always dark. I guess it's dark here this time of year....just like it was always light the last time we came here."
"A place where it's always night, or always day. Weird." Gilder was leaning against guardrail of the stairs that went to midships. "So are we gonna dock?"
In response, Vyse lowered their altitude, and brought the vessel along the underside of the massive glacier. From this side, it was somewhat easy to tell what sections were land, and what sections were ice. Glacia was frozen in the middle of a massive patch of ice, and thus frozen in time. As they carefully raised altitude into the middle of the city, it seemed no different and just as eerie as it was the first time they came to Glacia. The only difference was the amount of light; this time, Glacia was lit up by the Purple moon's light refracted through the ice, instead of the sun refracted the same way. The effect caused everything to be bathed in a ghostly blue-purple glow, and the various buildings and alcoves cast strange red-orange shadows. No hawsers to moor her to, they four of them had to use the anchor to tie down the Belleza.
"I'm pleased that we came prepared this time." Aika pulled the hood of her fur coat up over her head, strange pigtails gone for the time-being. The rest of them also wore similar winter gear. "Last time we were here I almost froze my butt off."
"So where do you think we'll find this Lani person?" Fina asked, her breath steaming in the frozen air.
"Maybe we should split up." Gilder suggested.
"No way." Vyse shook his head. "It's darker than the last time we were here, not to mention it's still as cold as ever. I don't want anybody getting lost when it's this cold." He adjusted his skyseer patch and scanned the buildings of the ancient city. "I'm not seeing anything...wait. There's a light on in a building over there....I'd say about a mile away or so."
"I can sort of see it too...through the fog." The Silvite squinted, and nodded. "You're right, that's definately not a natural light. Lani must be there."
He adjusted his patch to see normally, and nodded. "Then let's head over there, before we all freeze."
That was easier said than done. The walkways were slick with ice, and sometimes hard to see because of the lack of light. At one point, Fina would of walked off the edge into nothingness if Vyse hadn't grabbed her and pulled her back. Gilder paused for a moment to produce a somewhat smallish lantern, and lit it. The light was somewhat meager, but enough to light their way, and they continued on without much hinderence.
It was a good two hours later when they reached the building with the light in the window, and all of them were feeling the effects of the cold.
"I'd say this weather is invigorating, but all it seems to do is tire you out." Gilder grumbled.
"Not used to the cold, Gilder?" Aika prodded.
"Hell no. I'm a Mid-Ocean boy, not a penguin." He looked up at the light glowing warmly in a window a few floors up. "I hope that's her up there."
"Even if it isn't, it's probably warmer in the buildings. Let's go." Vyse pulled the large door of the building open, and walked inside.
The inside of the building proved that it was once some sort of library. Rows upon rows of books were stacked in towering bookcases, and coiled-up scrolls lay on some of the top shelves. The far end of the library was lost in darkness, but a bizzare hovering platform glowed faintly in the dim light nearby.
"I guess it's another one of those floaty things." Aika wandered over to the platform with Gilder and Fina, and then turned with a frown. "Vyse, never mind the books. I can hear you drooling from here."
The blue rogue blinked, hand freezing in the act of removing a book from a shelf. "But..."
"Did you really think you could read ancient Glacian, Vyse? Now get your butt over here."
He sighed, and walked over to the platform as he was told.
The platform took them up several floors and past the one they wanted, the light from a room down the hall glowing as they went past. It stopped and hovered there between floors.
"Why don't these things have buttons like elevators?" Aika grumbled. "Having to think where you want to go is annoying."
"Shut up and think about going down a floor." At this point, even Vyse was cranky.
The platform brought them back down to the floor with the light, and they all stepped off onto more solid and sure ground. The hallway was partially covered by glass, but the right wall was made of the strange purple stone most of Glacia was built with. Several doorways stood along the right wall, but the one closest to them was lit up by some unknown light source from inside. Without hesitation, the four of them walked in.
The room was obviously some sort of study chamber of the library, but it had been converted for somebody to live there. A cot stood in one corner of the room, and a clay brazier filled with red moonstones sat in the opposite corner. Most of the tables and chairs that were once arranged in the room had been pushed along the left wall, and had papers all over them. At the far end of the chamber was a desk cluttered with books. A woman with medium-length dark hair sat with her back to them, face bent over a notebook.
"Lani?" Vyse ventured.
The woman gave a start, and nearly dropped her book. She turned around quickly to glance at them warily. Her eyes were dark as her hair, and her facial features and skin tone indicated that she was from Yafutoma. She appeared to be somewhere near thirty, and wore furs similar to theirs. After a moment, she sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry...I didn't expect to see anybody standing there."
"We're sorry to have startled you. My name is Vyse, and this is Aika, Fina and Gilder. We came looking for you, sent here by Ilchymis."
"Ilchymis? Whatever for?" She set aside her book to look at them.
"Well...it's kinda unbelievable when you first think about it....but it's about the Black moon theories he has."
"You mean my Black moon theories." Lani said calmly.
"Yours?" He blinked.
"Yes...here please take a seat...and let me get you all something hot to drink. I'll explain what I know."
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