- Just a short story I wrote to bridge between my Legends of Skylar stories and this new universe. Nothing important really… just something I felt like writing as I developed this idea.
Unity – Parting Words
by James Pickens
A young man in the deep naval blue and gold trimmed hurried down the stairs from the command island down to the weather deck of the massive Ironclad airship that hovered over the ancient Great Oaks. He waved towards the elven woman who stood at the edge of the ship, the crosswinds carrying her short midnight blue hair, her attention lost in the canopy of the forest. He came up next to her and saluted, “Captain Skylar. We have arrived over the Great Oaks.”
Of course, she already knew that. The Great Oaks were familiar to her. Honestly, it hadn’t changed much since the day of her father and grandfather. Oh, the Ironcross Mountains had great steel spires rising out of it now. The city of Er’ath was modernized and had highways crisscrossing it. But the Great Oaks? They remained much like they once were. She was sure that he was likely responsible for that.
The young yeoman stood patiently for a moment, trying to respect her moment of silence as she returned to her home, but knew that his duty would force him to interrupt, “Captain, helm says they aren’t sure where they can land. It seems Amberglen has neither a landing facility or a docking spire.”
A smirk crossed her lips, “Why does that not surprise me, you old man…”
“Captain?” the yeoman said, confused at her response.
She shook her head, “It is nothing. Prepare an Astral Gate for me. I will go down to the surface.”
The yeoman saluted her once more, “Yes ma’am!”
She was left alone once more as the yeoman returned to report. Overworld, Iona’s moon, hung over the Ironcross Mountains and seemed to be shimmering this night. The Dragons of the Watch were likely as frantic as those on the surface of Iona were. History was about to be made. Everyone was anxious for it. Everyone except for one man, it seemed.
The Ironclad Vigilant was a monstrous vessel of wood, iron, and steel. Floating upon levi-stones, she was a silent monolithic floating island that cast a massive shadow upon the forest below. It took the Captain minutes to work her way through the gigantic ship to one of its many Astral Gate facilities. The yeoman was still speaking with the Gate technician when she arrived, quickly snapping to attention, “Captain on deck!”
“At ease,” she said softly as she entered, giving a quick salute, “I trust we are ready to go?”
“Uh, well, Captain…” the yeoman began but was cut off by the Gate technician.
“Captain,” he said, “I’m not receiving any Gate locations on the surface.”
“You likely won’t,” she said, shaking her head, “I’m sure he’d say something like “the trip isn’t worth it if you don’t take the time to look at the trees and the streams,” or something. Yeoman, get me the bridge.”
The yeoman quickly shifted to the crystal scry-screen and placed his hands upon it, thinking and saying aloud, “Bridge.”
The crystal came to life, a golden luminescence filling it for a moment before acting as a window to the bridge. A man of steel and wood appeared upon her screen, the intimidating visage of Nuterra’s greatest weapon. They were once thought to be only mechanical humanoid weapons of war but now stood as independent beings created through outlawed magic. His name was Darkas and he was one of the few people Captain Skylar trusted most, “Darkas, I’m going down to the surface. Looks like we’re gonna have to do things the good ole fashion way. Take the ship out to Er’ath. I will meet up with you later.”
“We’re placing bets up here on the bridge, Captain. My bet is that you two will take horses back to the city,” he said in the strange, hollow voice of his kind.
“Stow it, Commander, or I’ll take your pool for myself,” she said with a grin, “Skylar, out.”
The Gate technician waited until she had turned away from the scry-screen to report, “Coordinates locked in, Captain. We are ready when you are.”
She stepped in front of the horizontal ring of gold and steel, adjusting her naval blue overcoat and the sword hilt that hung upon her belt, “As ready as I can be. Open her up.”
Crossing two points in the world with the power of his mind and the amplification of the Gate, the technicians eyes glowed gold as he opened the Astral Gate for his Captain, a portal that led to the surface below. The Captain took a breath, an unessential but reassuring act, as she stepped forward through the portal—
—and stepped out of a golden ripple in the air. She was now down on the ground surface of the Great Oaks. It was darker than usual as her ship above helped the canopy to almost completely blot out the light. It was pleasant and cool in the woods, and there was a wonder to it she had not felt in a long time, a simple sort of feeling that she was rather assured was the reason that he still lived here.
The highway leading to the Ironcross Mountains was nearby and you could hear the vehicles humming on the ether lines. His home, however, was off the path on an old dusty trail. It was widened and paved, showing at least a few signs of modernity. That was an improvement over the last time she was here. She wondered if her grandmother had anything to do with it.
She chuckled at the thought as she walked towards the end of the path. Nestled in the trees of the Great Oaks was a nice, homely building that harkened back to the founding of the Crossroads Republic. A small, two-story building that was mostly made of wood and stone that bore a classic hanging sign of a sword carved into a tree. In Nuterran Common, it had the words “The Great Oaks Tavern” above it. In Athian Script, it said “Heart of the Crossroads”. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to chalk that up to his ego or if that was a correct statement. She softly chuckled once more as she took hold of the doorknob and let herself into the tavern.
As soon as the door opened, she was assaulted by the smells and warm air of the tavern. He kept his tavern rather warm and the lighting was similarly warm and soft. He was behind the tavern, cleaning some glasses, as she closed the door behind her.
“Great Oaks Ale? Or are you still on duty?” he said, putting the glass down and smiling to his granddaughter. He was an elven man, just entering his elder years, with long and loose blue hair. He wore a simple slate shirt with pale green vest that looked rather rustic. Much as his tavern did. Old but still brilliant emerald eyes looked upon her as he tilted the glass towards her.
“Why not?” she said, walking over to the bar, “Who’s going to court martial the Captain if she has a drink?”
“That’s the spirit!” the elder elf said as he began pouring both of them drinks, “Come to make sure your grandfather makes it to the launching ceremony?”
“You act like you have a history of being late,” she said slyly.
“Me? History? More like a legend!” he said with a little laugh. Tolarin Skylar, something of a hero in these parts, finished pouring the drinks and set one down before Captain Mira Skylar of the Skylar Knights. They were something of a legend of their own. He chuckled a bit, “Besides, your grandmother warned me that you were coming to check up on me.”
“She’s ready to go,” Mira pointed out.
“She’s got to be all stately and everything. I run a small tavern in the woods,” Tolarin retorted, and then followed up, “I plan to join here later in the day. I’m not going to be late to the launch. I know better then that.”
“I don’t know about that. I come here hours before the family is ready to depart and you’re doing dishes.”
“I’m packed up. You can go up to my room and see. I’m just finishing things up before I lock up. Doesn’t Teryn teach you kids discipline and manners anymore?” he replied.
Mira took her glass of ale and took a large chug out of it, “I don’t know. Who do you think taught him?”
Tolarin laughed, “Right, right. Is your father going to be at the launch ceremony?”
Mira shook her head, a soft sadness in her eyes, “No. His duties won’t allow him to leave.”
“He’s the Lord Captain! How can his duties not allow him to leave?!”
“He learned that discipline and duty thing that you so greatly lack?” Mira offered.
“Psh! It’s his daughters finest hour. He should be there!” Tolarin grumbled, finally taking a large swig of his own ale, “You said you talked to Mikayla already?”
“I expected you to be with her. Apparently, so did she. She said something about you turning off your psi-com. Strange, I couldn’t raise you either,” she said, a mocking tone entering her voice. Something Tolarin noted was a trait among women he knew.
“All of you! You know, just because I don’t run a nation or lead a band of knights on the surface or in space, doesn’t mean I don’t have my own things to do! Sheesh!” he said, then laughed, “I’ll give her a call before I leave.”
“Good,” Mira said, “So can we finish up here?”
Tolarin nodded, “Sure. Go on ahead to Er’ath. I’ll meet up with you.”
“Huh?” She said, “I thought we were going together?”
Tolarin shook his head, “No. I’ve got a few things to take care of before I go. A little bit of a surprise for you. Go on ahead. I’ll catch up, dear.”
Mira shook her head, “Grandma told me about your surprises.”
“It’ll be good!” Tolarin said, smiling, as he felt under his bar for the familiar feeling of his sword’s hilt, “Trust me!”
In the center of the city of Er’ath was the great domed Astral Gate. It was a majestic jewel of marble, gold, and silver that could reach across the entire world and into the depths of Ionan space. Crowds had gathered around the grand building, awaiting to go into space to witness the most important event in Nilian history: the launch of the first massive interstellar colonization and exploration venture. She was Mira Skylar’s destination. She bore all the hopes of the Nilian Union and her allies. She was the Unity.
Everyone in the great hall of the Gate was excited except for one woman. An elven woman just short of entering her elder years, she was pacing and looking far more anxious than a woman of her position should. She was dressed in a suit and skirt and had her blonde hair tied up in a regal manner. The President of the Crossroads Republic was not happy and Tolarin Skylar was at the heart of this as was oft the case.
Mira Skylar tried her best to calm her grandmother, “Don’t worry, he’ll be here! He just said he was taking care of some buisness.”
Mikayla Kaitel-Skylar turned to her granddaughter, her amber eyes flaring with the flames she was legendary for, “Surely you know those are the most dangerous words Tolarin Skylar ever says, right?”
Mira grimaced, “Uh, no. I thought he just meant…”
Mikayla sighed and folded her arms, “Who knows what trouble he’s getting himself into? Were you two drinking before hand?”
Mira grimaced again, “P-perhaps?”
“Ohhhh… in all these years…” Mikayla shook her head, her thoughts interrupted by loud music from beyond the great hall, “Well, at least I can hear the trumpets outside. At least he is finally here. Let’s see what he’s up to this time…”
The gilded doors of the great hall opened to triumphant fanfare as an elven man in grand attire walked into the hall. His dark blue hair was tied into a long braid with braids along the side of his head. He wore radiant armor of dark silver and glowing white with a sword at his side. His stride had a regal bearing to it. He also had a slightly swollen cheek.
“Teryn!” Mikayla said, rather surprised, “What are you doing here?”
Teryn Skylar, leader of the Skylar Knights shook his head, “Father.”
Mira and Mikayla looked at each other for a moment, Mira looking back to her father and vocalized their suprise, “W-what do you mean?”
“He charged into the Keep and challenged me to a duel for authority of the Knights. My men tried to stop him and got knocked down. He said he was assuming my duties as a knight until I returned. He was ranting about my duties as a father.”
Mikayla laughed and shook her head, “That’s your father. I told you, Mira, those words are the most dangerous words when they come from him.”
Teryn looked at his daughter, “You let him leave after he said he was going to take care of some business?”
Mira sighed, “Yes, sir.”
The usually stoic and regal leader of the Skylar Knights gave a soft chuckle of his own, “Dad never changes. I guess I will watch the launch after all.”
Mira broke from her military protocol and hugged her father, “I’m happy to see you, Dad!”
Mikayla pulled out her psi-com circlet and called upon her husband, Tolarin’s thoughts connecting with her own, “A surprise gift, eh?”
Tolarin’s thoughts spoke to Mikayla, “It was the best I can do. Teryn needs to be there for his daughter. I would be too, but I know how stubborn he can get.”
“I wonder where he got that trait?” Mikayla replied.
“I know you aren’t blaming me,” Tolarin said, “Can I talk to Mira?”
“Of course,” Mikayla said, “And we’ll talk later.”
“Of course,” Tolarin replied before Mikayla pulled off the circlet.
The President of the Crossroads handed her granddaughter the circlet, “The acting Lord-Captain would like to speak with you.”
Mira took the circlet and quickly put it on, “Oh! You and your surprises!”
Tolarin’s humor could be felt through the psi-com, “It isn’t a bad one, right?”
“Of course not! Thank you grandpa! I tried everything to get him to come! But what about you?” Mira spoke aloud and in her mind.
“I’ll be watching from here. Mira, I’m so proud of you. I can’t even begin to express it enough. Going beyond the sky’s limits. That’s been the goal of the Skylar family since my own father. And you’re going to do it for real! I am sure that you don’t just carry the pride of our families. You carry the pride of our world with you. A stellar vessel! I never would have thought that I’d see my granddaughter going out into the Astral Seas!”
Tears began to well up in Mira’s eyes, forcing her to turn away from her father and commanding officer, “Grandpa, I wish you could come with us. I’m sure we could get you a tavern on board the ship.”
Tolarin’s thoughts and voice was softer than normal, “Mira… I wish that I could. But Mikayla’s the President. We can’t just pack our bags and head off into space. At least, not yet. My destiny is still here. But yours. Your destiny is sure to be more legendary than my own. You’re going into space, my dear! Space! I need to make sure that your grandmother doesn’t launch a new War of the Schism over Nuterran whalers!”
His granddaughter laughed, “I’ll make sure to tell her that.”
“Oh please don’t. I’m sure I’m already going to get scolded. Or a nice date. One of the two. I’d rather not ruin the chances at the latter.”
Mira shook her head, “That’s as far down that conversational path as I want to go.”
Tolarin chuckled, “Then let us end on a more positive note. Good luck, my dearest Mira. May the winds guide you across the stellar seas towards your bright destiny.”
Mira nodded, speaking to her grandfather, “And yours as well, grandfather. Everyone will be in my thoughts. I love you.”
“And I love you too,” Tolarin replied to her.
Mira wanted to say more but didn’t know the words. Instead, she figured this was the best place to end, taking of the circlet and sniffing abit as she composed herself. She turned to Mikayla and her father, “I’m really going to miss you all.”
Mikayla smiled, “We’ll stay in touch! I might be in charge of a few million people, but I’m pretty certain I can take time to check in on my granddaughter.”
“And I expect reports from you, Captain,” Teryn said, adjusting his uniform in an official and stately
manner before smiling.
“Of course, sir!” she said, smiling and saluting.
“Now perhaps we should get going. We don’t want to be late to your own departure,” Mikayla suggested, gesturing towards the Astral Navigator.
Mira shook her head, “Well, it’d still be grandpa’s fault in the end.”
Mikayla smiled, “Isn’t it always?”
A golden light shot into the skies and towards the distant part of the Ionan system where the Unity and her fleet awaited. Upon one of the balconies of the Skylar Keep, Tolarin Skylar watched as his granddaughter traveled towards her destiny with tears in his eyes, “To the sky’s limits, Mira. To the sky’s limits and beyond…”