V.O.C. of the People

The Mind

In the dim light of the captain’s cabin, the guilt returned.

Phillip hadn’t asked for help; he had repeated that fact to himself every day since Livingston had made use of his oddity. It felt true enough, though most truths didn’t require constant repetition to remain so. Livingston should have said more; he should have explained first. Nonetheless, Phillip was complicit now. And it weighed on him.

There was no denying Farrah was easier to handle now. Phillip hadn’t felt he’d deserved the princess’s ire, but nonetheless it was hers to feel. She was young and naive, and she was grieving. He had dealt with worse without turning to magic.

Phillip had long since given up trusting his own body to carry out his wishes. The metal device strapped painfully to his side was reminder enough of that lesson. He had met a girl who could exsanguinate him with a thought, but even she could not touch his mind.

For so long, he felt sure that his mind was his own. But Avinia had found her way into it. A man he hardly knew had rewritten his friend’s memories. The arm he had trusted for so long, that had saved his life, had been warping his mind for years.

Could he trust his crew? Could he trust himself?

Phillip finished his drink and poured another.

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The Freya
Aleid searches for her lost sister

I wonder how much of the world Avi has had the chance to see, wondered Aleid Elon.

Aleid stood at the bow of Freya, the grand ship that was built and gifted to her. Freya was a fine ship, her father had hired men who excelled in their fields to build a ship worthy of the new head of the Elon family.

“It is like you, my child, strong and smart, yet sleek and elegant,” he had told her. She could not disagree with him, and she found herself longing to be at see with it.

Aleid’s hand traced a carving that ran the length of the railing. These little details were what her father had meant. They made Freya more than just another ship from Iceland. However, if Ewald ever knew just how magnificent his daughter and the ship he had bought for her, he would bulk in fear, like the coward he was. He feared the weird. He feared strangers. That was why he had tried to kill Avi and that was why their mother, Janneke, had made sure he never knew of Aleid’s gifts.

Soon, sister. Soon, we will be together once more and the Elon name will be known for us and not our cruel father.

“Lady Elon, we will be seeing shore in a days time. What are your orders?” Captain Amberth asked.

Aleid looked at the man she had chosen as captain. He had years of ship-work experience, even being a captain of one of her father’s ships, though he had never known that Amberth was a Stranger. All the strangers that had worked under Ewald had known to hide their abilities from him.

“We will make port. Send out men to resupply and have them ask for word of my sister. We will not return to Reykjavik until we find her.”

The captain bowed to her, and she watched his dark curls slip from his shoulders. He moved from her almost as fast as he had approached and she could hear him shouting orders behind her.

Her eyes returned to the see and she pulled a feather from the breast of her dress. When she had received the feather she had crafted a necklace for it. The feather meant her sister was alive. The man who had sent it to her, Adam Van Hett, had sent the letter from Batavia, but it was unlikely that her sister would still be there. Batavia was a long way from the Americas, but without knowing exactly where her sister was, she could not order her crew across the ocean. They would look for rumors until she knew where her sister would go. It would take time, but Avi would be found.

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Don't Look Down

Looking back, Farrah might even admit that Allah must have meant her to find the Songbird. Life aboard this ship gave her so many new opportunities to advance her work. She was meeting biological mechanics from all over the world, maintaining a network of correspondence that shared ideas between those mechanics and enriched her own projects. She had challenging projects at her fingertips, and of course the funds and workspace to complete those projects.

And despite all the setbacks, she felt more focused and productive every day. Losing her people would never stop being torment, but she could become someone that would never let the Al-Azar name die. Her parents would be proud.

However, some matters were still not clear. The new crew member was untrustworthy, and Captain Phillip seemed to meet with him quite often, discussing something troubling. Avi had found family and then…lost them again. Alan was acting erractic and quiet. Mel’s strangeness was changing in unpredictable ways. Farrah wasn’t blind to these issues and sometimes when she could spare a thought from her work and her letters, the lack of answers troubled her greatly.

Farrah’s breath hissed through her teeth as a plug slipped and a jet of superheated steam seared her knuckles. She was becoming distracted and cloud-headed again. Perhaps it would help to discuss matters with someone, try to find answers to put these issues to rest. But who? Avi was a trustworthy friend who might be in pain, but also she was not human. Who could say if Farrah could offer any comfort there, where her pet monster could serve better perhaps. Captain Phillip would be open to talking, but his decisions for crewing the ship would be beyond question, even by Farrah. Alan then? Also not human, but if he was experiencing difficulties perhaps Farrah would be the perfect person to offer guidance. She certainly knew enough to offer insight to particular issues a sentient machine might face.

“Miss, the steam is making it quite difficult to breathe in here now. Might I open the door?” Farrah blinked out of her reverie to find a red-faced sailor tugging at her sleeve. What was his name again, Titus? Timothy? The man was useless except for his brute strength and doggish obedience to Farrah’s direction but now that he brought her attention to it she really ought to replace that plug.

“Yes, fine Toby. Open the door if you must and bring me another pair of clamps for this joint. The large ones from the engine I think should do.”
“Very good mam, but…not the big clamps on the main valve? Those are there in case it needs an emergency systems purge you said. You were quite specific.”
“Tanner, we are in dock. The engine will be fine, now just do as I ask!”

Farrah returned her full attention to the gleaming appratus before her on the desk. Who could have dreamed that she would have access to all the necessary parts by the end of the week? This arm would be the envy of all the Captain encountered, and advance prothetesis studies by leaps and bounds. If only she could keep her mind cleared of all the other distractions…

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Death and Determination
In which a Dragon meets its end.

“So, we just let them go?” The first mate’s voice was gruff and indignant, almost disbelieving. “Just like that?”

“We aren’t in a position to cause any trouble,” Ju-Long, captain of the Superstition, replied, his voice measured and calm. The two of them stood atop the deck of their ship, watching a potential future rival leave their failed parley. “We are here representing the VOC.”

“Aye, Cap’n.” The first mate replied, resigned, as he watched the Songbird turn away. “I just don’t get why the VOC sent us to help defend this shitty town.”

“As the missive said,” Ju-Long began, “We are the closest VOC-sponsored vessel in the area.” Noting his mate’s sour response to that, he continued: “And it pays remarkably well. One week here will be—”

The world shifted around Ju-Long. No longer on the deck of the Superstition, he was now suddenly inside a wooden room. “…very profitable,” he whispered, finishing his thought. With no windows, a lone door, and only a single candle resting in a wall sconce for light, the room was quite dark. The ceiling, walls, and floor were all wooden slats, like the inside of a ship, though the lack of any decor whatsoever made it feel more oppressive than spartan.

A thunderclap sounded from somewhere outside, and the room shook, nearly knocking Ju-Long to his feet. His sailor instincts kicked in quickly, however, and he was able to keep his balance despite not being able to see the sky. A moment later, another, harder rumble jostled the room, and Ju-Long recognized the sound: a magazine explosion. This ship is going down, he thought. I have to get out of here!

Granting himself as much of a running start as the small room would allow him, Ju-Long threw his shoulder into the door. The door didn’t budge, and he fell back, clutching his shoulder in pain. Outside, cannon fire rang out. A battle. After a moment of letting the agony subside, however, The Dragon inside him took over, and he tried again. And again. And again, and again, until, on the fifth time, the door finally swung open as splinters of a door bar fell to the ground outside.

He stood in a hallway. Similarly wooden to the room he’d just been in, the gentle sloping of the walls confirmed in his mind that he was definitely onboard a ship; though from the angles of the slopes, this ship had to be massive.

He pushed the thought out of his mind — he didn’t have time to marvel at the vessel. From down the hallway, he heard rustling. “What’s all that noise?” A woman’s voice called out in Dutch.

The Dragon commanded him to run, and so he broke into a run towards the voice. “Hurry,” he cried out to the other voice. “The magazine is exploding! We need to get off the ship now!” He reached the end of the hallway to a loud bang. There, just around the corner, was a young lady with a flintlock pistol leveled at Ju-Long, a small wisp of smoke rising from the end of the barrel. Her face was a combination of surprise and worry, though as her gaze met his, he saw no regret behind her brown eyes.

Ju-Long had shot many people in his life. He’d even killed a few of them. He mostly disliked killing, but understood it as an occasional necessity in his line of work. However, for all the pitched shootouts he’d been in over the last three years behind the mast, he’d never been shot before. He’d certainly been shot at, but the Lord had never allowed a bullet to strike Ju-Long.

He was surprised at how little pain he felt. Getting socked in the stomach — having the wind knocked out of him — that was painful. He’d always imagined getting shot in the gut to feel a lot like that, but he’d honestly hardly noticed this. Had he not heard the shot, he might not have even acknowledged the possibility.

A small step back was all he allowed himself. The woman, still frozen in surprise, hadn’t even finished processing what had just happened. Ju-Long needed more time himself, but The Dragon was not going down with this ship. His shirt growing sticky with what he assumed was blood, The Dragon guided Ju-Long’s gaze to the cutlass at the woman’s belt. In a flash, the blade was in his hand, and she was crumpled at his feet, trying to gasp for air as blood poured from her throat. He stepped over her calmly, whispering “sorry” in Mandarin as he moved.

It wasn’t until he was in the next room that he fully realized she’d been wearing VOC colors.

He moved with speed, The Dragon leading him through rooms and halls like a snake through a mouse’s burrow. Bodies crumpled around him, and though he felt sad for their slaughter, he knew it wasn’t truly his fault — their blood was not truly on his hands, but The Dragon’s. Nearly a dozen men and women laid at his feet when he finally reached the deck, and he squinted to let his eyes adjust to the light of day.

Only, it wasn’t bright out. The sky was dark, as though in a pitched storm, although the ship had felt steady. Was this vessel so massive that it could just plow through a storm on the open ocean? Did such ships even exist?

Ju-Long looked across the deck, trying to find some answers. Deckhands scrambled in a panic, ignoring him completely. Their hurry was genuine, but not the kind of fear that came after a magazine explosion. Had he been wrong about the ship going down? Cannon fire sounded in the distance, and the ship jolted, hit hard. If he was wrong, he wouldn’t be soon.

Ahead of him, the ocean defined the horizon, but it felt, somehow, more distant than normal. I’m in the sky? He thought for a second. This is an airship. He balked, looking around. They were above a harbor. A VOC warship, he realized. That explained the size, and the sailor’s uniforms, but now how he’d gotten here. Or what had happened to—his heart froze in his throat.

The Superstition.

In a panic, Ju-Long ran to the port railing, and looked over the side. Flaming debris slowly crashed to the ocean 300 feet below. His life’s work, his crew, his legacy… reduced to floating, burning wreckage.

Ju-Long sank to the deck as The Dragon subsided. The pain of his loss and the pain of his injuries mixed, and agony overcame him. The salty wind mixed his blood and tears together beneath him, and the weight of his failures crushed down on him like a lead weight. He’d built his life on pursuing the devil’s abominations, and he’d tried to show them mercy, but they’d only ever hated him in return. He’d spared them from the headsman’s block, and taken them all to their own island home, but they saw him as the monster. In later years, he tried to stop caring, instead immersing himself completely in the relentless pursuit of perfecting his ship. The Superstition was the ship to end all ships, a feat of engineering and Weirdcraft that was unparalleled the world over.

Except, the Songbird was better. In the distance, he could still see it gliding away, the mysterious ship no-one had ever heard of until a few years ago. Faster, nimbler, and capable of sail and flight from the beginning. Ju-Long had spent nearly a half-million guilders just trying to keep up with that blasted schooner. Now, debris, in a harbor outside Batavia.

Was he really almost 60? A daughter that hated him. A crew he couldn’t protect. A ship he’d lost. A career of sacrifice, for which he was hated. And a bullet in his gut. A life: wasted.

He rolled over on the deck, looking up at the stormy sky. The jet-black clouds rolled and boiled angrily, crashing into each other. No, he realized, not clouds. Harpies. Above him, they circled, then made their descent. Talons extended, their screeches filled with the anger and pain of loss. A sound he’d known well all his life.

He closed his eyes, and awaited his final judgement. He did not expect it would be kind.

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The Speechwriter
How long has it been since Farrah slept?

Bretheren, I incite this meeting to rebellion

Farrah sharpened her quill

Rebellion is not evil, is not wrong. It is never pretty or palatable to those who live in comfort, but the thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion. And rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.

Farrah closed her eyes against the pounding in her head. Her fingers were cramping in the joints, swollen with the moisture in the air even as her skin cracked with salt exposure

They have isolated us from one another with money, religion, and fear. Their armies hold the world. They have obscured our common condition and while we stay blinded, any United rebellion against our oppressors is inconceivable. But open your eyes! Look up to the skies and see! This is the inevitable conclusion to the VOC oligarchy. Their reckless use of the world, of our labors, will meet with retribution. Justice must prevail and, brothers, sisters, yours are the hands chosen to wield it.

Farrah remembered her mother, laughing as she spun silk in the solar. Her father biting into a lamb chop dripping fat. The women in the market peering seriously over their books every night by stolen candles.

I have felt loss, I have known the crushing weight of VOC oppression, but I ask that you do this not for me, but for yourself! For your sons who will have no choice where to work. For your daughters who will have no voice when the VOC demands they prove their piety. For your city before it is beset from all sides by beasts!

Joining Farrah’s family ghosts, images of Avi and Alan lend the lie to her anger. Avi, dancing with Captain Phillip, her feathers brilliant in the lamplight. Alan toiling without end to save the lives of people who can never understand what he is. Neither could exist without the VOC, in her world without the crossways. In a war against the VOC, against the other world, could she protect them?

There is something the VOC cares more about than human life, and that is the security of property. And so it is through property that we will strike. Be militant each in your own way, but where you find the VOC, strike them down. Deny them commerce, deny them peace, deny them security until they guarantee to cease use of the crossways! Until they cease study of the other world! Until the Orichalcum mines are given over to the people for fair use! Rebel until this world is one in which you are safe from the beasts!!

Farrah carefully sanded the parchment, and blew out the candle. But instead of falling asleep, she climbed to the deck of the Songbird. With the moon shining on her face she sat carefully in the bow and wept, and prayed, and meditated. She said prayers for the lost sailors. For Avi. For herself. The night air was cold, and her prayers went unanswered, but in the back of her mind whispered the dark words of doubt.

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Eulogy for Sailors Lost

Sailors are not like other men: they are born of the sea. In the darkest depths of the vast ocean, a sailor’s spirit is forged of brine, and coral, and just a little gold. In that all-encompassing darkness, amidst the unknowable terrors of the deep, a sailor’s spirit learns courage. It is this courage that urges him to pursue his destiny, and rise from the ocean’s depths.

But a sailor cannot rise alone. He must find others like him, and only together can they emerge from the darkness. Thusly does a sailor’s spirit learn teamwork and brotherhood. As a crew, they rise and breach the surface, and the world welcomes them, for it has need of them. Though they may wander from the sea, she is their home, and in time all sailors return to her.

May we remember that, though they leave us now, it is only to fulfill a greater purpose. We release them that they may return to those black depths. For it is their task now to take brine, and coral, and just a little gold, and fashion the spirits of those next to rise.

And may we not mourn that we could not prevent their passage. For who are we to control these mythical beasts, these terrors of the deep, who rose from the ocean’s infinite blackness to master its surface? Let us mourn only that our ship sails more slowly, diminished for lack of their terrific might.

A final salute now, from those fortunate to have known them. And song to bear their spirits into eternity.

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Don't Let This Moment Slip Away
Avi wishes she could stop time

Avi turned to Kharakh, resting her head on his shoulder, even though he did not know how to react. She needed a moment, so much had happened in just a day. Everything was threatening to slip through her fingers, her desire for freedom, for a family, and to know the truth, it all could fall apart so easily if she made the wrong decision. Her light sob caused a startling response from Kharakh, one of his hands touched her back, though it was awkward and unsure.

His touch reminded her of the fleeting feelings she had had, always while she had slept. She recalled the moments, the dreams, first of Dashiell, the she had learned too late loved her. Then of Captain Phillip, the dreams inspired by a girlish crush, and had slipped away from her. Now, she stood, with Kharakh’s hand on the small of her back. Hours ago she had been at his bedside, fearful of what was going to happen to him. She had never experienced fear so strong, even her fear of being caged had not affected her this way.

She wished to stay, in this moment, even if he did not understand it, she needed it to last. If it ended she would have to return to the reality that so many were waiting for her. The eyes of her sisters were upon her, waiting for answers she did not have. She had so many new questions, about who she was, how she had been born to two human parents, why she had been lost. The sister she had spoken with, that was waiting for her, had said she had been the first of them, the first daughter, but she only had memories from her human life. She had a human sister, a human father and mother, how could any of this news be true?

Truth and lies, both threatened to be either, both threatened to be true, and yet if they were the truth then her life had been a lie. If it was true, was she not human, even though she had been born from a mortal womb? She wished Kharakh understood more of the ways of comfort, his touch so light, but she wished he would embrace her, whisper to her that everything was going to be alright.

She let the moment slip away and removed herself from his shoulder. Just days ago she had known who she was, and now she was unsure. She lifted her eyes to the sky, her mother and sisters still up there, except the sister that waited to speak with her, wanting to fly with her. She had not decided if she would go, especially if she would go alone or not. She wanted Kharakh with her, to keep her safe, if anything went wrong, she could not trust herself to harm those like her.

What would the Captain think? Would he be alright with her speaking with them, likely not if she went alone, he had only let her be on her own twice, once when he had sent her back to the ship and once when she had been left on protection duty. But, he trusted her, if she took Kharrakh perhaps it would be enough, she was not ready for the others to know what her sisters were telling her. She did not want them to fear her.

She looked a Kharakh, who had been watching her, and she wondered what he was thinking, but she did not reach into his mind. She could see his nostrils flare, perhaps taking in the smells around them. A faint blush came to her cheeks and she wiped the tears from her eyes. The moment was over. The truth waited for her.

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Leads and Lies
In which observations are made

Adam Van Hett sniffed a bit as he stepped into the Observatory. It smelled like Orichalcum dust in here, a smell that always left his nostrils burning for the rest of the day. He made a note to talk to the boys in Manufacturing about moving the workstation into a more well-ventilated part of the building.

The Observatory itself was impressive—or at least, it had once been. Adam had since grown bored of all the various ways the VOC kept abreast of things, but was able to still recognize how truly efficient and impressive a machine the Observatory was.

The center of the room was dominated by a large, flat world map, lit from beneath by electric lights. All along the walls were shelving units, each filled to capacity with small Orichalcum nuggets, no single one any bigger than the tip of Adam’s pinky. Beneath each organizer was a small cabinet, which Adam knew were all filled with files, full of information on each asset the VOC was currently tracking.

The “assets” were individuals who, for one reason or another, had agreed to allow the VOC to monitor them. They were then Tagged, and released to do whatever they did, and the folks working the Observatory would check in on them every so often — with the Orichalcum crystals attuned to their specific Tag. A global network of spies. Any one among them was infinitely replaceable, but the conglomeration of all of them working together was, without question, the single most valuable tool in the VOC’s possession.

“Oh, uh, good morning, Mr. Van Hett,” the technician stammered out as Adam walked in, clearly caught off-guard by his unannounced arrival. “How are you today, sir?”

Adam suppressed a smile at the technician’s behalf. “I’m fine, thank you. How are things down here today?”

The technician, a mousy, bespectacled young lady who exuded an aura of being fresh from the University, gathered up her parchment and pen before responding. “We are hitting all projected benchmarks for check-ins, sir. All check-ins are on time and are fully within expected parameters.”

Adam finally let his smirk show a bit. “Relax, kid. This isn’t an inspection.” The girl let out a soft sigh and a smile, though seemed no less comfortable for it. “I actually wanted to look at a file, asset 71N.”

The technician stammered a bit as she adjusted her spectacles. “Oh, yes, I actually just finished checking in on him earlier this morning. Let me see here,” she said, setting down her things and moving towards one of the organizers. “Nothing unusual,” she continued, thumbing through a cabinet until finally withdrawing a leather-bound folio, “he’s probably one of the less exciting assets, to be honest.” She strode back across the room and offered it to Adam.

“Thank you,” Adam said as he accepted and opened the folio. He began thumbing through it, speaking as he did. “It looks like we’re checking in on him once a week, is that correct?”

“I believe so, sir, if that’s what his file says.” Adam lifted his gaze to meet hers, and cocked an eyebrow inquisitively. “I just do the check-ins, sir,” she confessed.

“I’d like you to start checking in on him daily, if it’s not too much trouble,” Adam said, returning to the file. Without allowing her time to deny his request, he continued, “Are you able to tell anything else through his Tag, other than location?”

“I-its a pretty basic Tag, sir,” the technician said, struggling to keep up with the Executive’s pace of conversation. “He was acquired as a low-value asset—just some klutz snooping around in the financials department, if I remember right. I doubt I’d be able to get anything more than just a heartbeat.”

“Well, let’s start recording that, too, then,” Adam said, conclusively. “We want to know everything you’re able to tell us.”

“Um, yes, Mr. Van Hett.” The technician held up a finger, as though to ask a question. She hesitated, almost thinking better of it, but after a moment, pushed forward. “Sir, may I ask why this man is suddenly so interesting? We’ve had him as an asset for a while now, and he’s barely given us anything useful.”

“I’m afraid,” Adam said, finishing up his browsing and clapping the folio shut, “that is above your paygrade.” He handed back the folio and turned to leave. “For now, just record what you can, and we’ll keep you informed of any changes as they roll in.” He opened the door, then turned back to the technician. “And thanks for all the hard work. You’re really helping us out, down here.”

“My pleasure, sir,” the technician called out, but Adam was already gone. “Huh,” she muttered to herself, after the door closed.

She eyed the folio as she returned it to its cabinet, continuing her external monologue. “Asset 71N: ‘Joe.’ You just got into a whole lot of trouble.”

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The Deceiver

After the battle, Farrah left her smoldering machines to feel the sea air on her face. She never thought the sea could give her comfort, that cold wasteland between her and home from which destruction was delivered to her people. But the cool spray calmed her nerves, cleared her lungs, and washed away the sweat of her brow.

Below the waves, above the waves, all around the ship were enemies. But as father used to say, “The army may surround the desert, but crossing through it fells them one by one.” She would be a desert, searing passion and intellect to burn away their opposition. Even the greatest enemy could not kill that fire, even should she die. Allah would not allow it.

And Tamir Lin did not betray her – yet. He had survived the battle. If he did not lie, he would present himself to her soon to receive his punishment. What punishment would the deceiver earn from her hand? Even he didn’t have the power she truly craved, the power to split the world in two and safeguard all humanity from Chaos.

But he had much more power than her. The power of base deception. The Book of Muhammad claims Allah as the greatest deceiver, one who turns every scheme of men against them. Tamir Lin was a demon, but even his schemes could be of use to a devout believer.

Farrah breathed deeply, salt on her tongue. Tamir Lin would be hers to use, to atone for the destruction he brought upon her family.

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A Conversation of Importance
Between Mother and Daughter

Hello, daughter dearest. I have searched far and wide for you, and it pleases me that you are well, speaks Iures.

“You tried to kill my friends!” Avi shouted, finding no need to think the words.

“I did not mean to cause you pain. I am not used to my daughters becoming attached to lesser beings. Please, excuse my misgivings. I meant only to clear a path to you.”

Avi’s head shakes in desperation. “You could have asked! So many are dead because you chose violence!”

After a moment of hesitation, Iures speaks again, “I apologize. I did not realize you were so fond of these creatures. You are so precious a find for me, I did not consider the consequences of acting in haste.”

“What is so important about me?”

“You are my daughter. “

“I don’t even know how that’s possible.”

Iures chuckled, “You have forgotten much. There are many rules in this world that define how things work — rules from which I am exempt.” She smiled, motherly, at Avi. “Come home with me, and I will explain everything to you.”

“Where is home?”

“I have heard the creatures here call it Vandagen, though to us it is known as Mu.”

Avi’s expression fell, her eyes shifting, torn between staying and going. “I can’t leave them,” she finally decides.

“Your pets?”

“They’re not pets, they’re my family,” her words coming out hard.

Iures look becomes derisive for a moment before becoming motherly again. “Oh, my child. Yes, you may bring them if you wish. But it is not heir home, there will be many dangers awaiting them there.”

“I cannot come with you. At least, not right now.”

“Then your sisters and I will stay here with you. We have much to share with you,” she says, hiding a disappointing expression.

“Uh… on the Songbird?”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“The ship”

“The vessel your… friends… attacked my mother with?”

“Yes!” Avi laughs, a little nervously.

“If that is where you will stay.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna work,” she says, quickly.

“Then we shall occupy the harbor instead. I do not wish to be long or far removed from you, Gamayun.”

“Gamayun?”

Iures’ face grows concerned once more. “You have forgotten even your name? Oh, my child, forgive me for leaving you so long to this horrid place. Never again will I allow this.”

This time, Avi’s expression turns, offended. “My name is Avi.”

“Of course it is, my dear,” she replies, very concerned.

“I guess, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.”

“I will not. Your sisters are very excited to see you, however; they will struggle to remain calm under the circumstances.”

Avi looks around to notice all the others like her circling and staring at her in awe. “Right now, Kharrakh needs me more,” with that she began to fly back for the Songbird.

Do what you must. I will be waiting. Return to me when you are ready to learn your truth. Bring your friends, too.

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