Medeva fled Ratio-res, knew without divine intervention that the prophecy that the goddess, Luna, transcribed was being birthed into reality every hour she remained in the city — minutes melted quick, someone should have told Ol’ Tempus to slow his great wheel or turn back the shadows of the sundial. She boarded a ship at the Bay of Birds and spent half an hour watching the crustaceans scuttle across the seafoam and hide among the weathered docks before a caravel glided across the surface of the sea, covered in the wooden tentacles of a kraken carved across its bow, and hull, on the port-side. When Luna told Medeva she'd ferry a kraken across the Seventh Sea, Medeva imagined it’d be a great beast or some heroic figure wearing the mark of an ancient aquatic-kingdom. But alas, when she saw the ship, Medeva unraveled the prophecy and rushed to meet it several hundred feet down the bay. The Kraken anchored a mile off-shore and sent a small dinghy to the shore armed with two men and a woman, whom Medeva watched from atop sea rocks that comprised a stone jetty stretching limply into the water.
As the sailors got closer, Medeva could see that their rowboat contained two wooden chests — one which was securely locked in steel chains (uncommon practice among traders since not many of them had the coin for such craft) which led her to become curious about its contents. She did not care for the other chest which was unlocked; but of that box, strapped down, constructed from the bodies of dead oak trees — that mystery Medeva could not abandon. She studied where the sailors would come ashore and planned a meeting with them. Their boat crawled into the shallows as two of them raised and lowered their oars in juxtaposed positions, and the third inspected the locks that fastened the chains to their precious cargo. Medeva didn’t know what she would say when they met but trusted the prophecy, and Luna, to lead her to the right words.
The voyagers unboarded and dropped into the water like pebbles, dragged the boat, and two chests, into the sand. The waves washed in-and-out around their vessel, as if debating whether or not to let go of their little dinghy, but when the sailors had pulled it far enough up shore the tide lost its opportunity — resigned to flicker alone in its vast watery world. The one who did not row, a broad man standing at least seven feet tall with a ring of black hair around the naked crown of his head, spotted Medeva and approached (as she knew he would), and asked her about the markets. She pointed them in the direction and wondered aloud about their intentions. While the man answered, Medeva glanced at the woman who pulled the locked chest from the boat and set it in the sand. A silver chain wrapped around her wrist held three stones — a ruby, a sapphire, and an emerald — engraved with three, different runes (none of which Medeva didn’t recognized).
“We’re here looking for herbs,” the broad man said, “for our people. In Elithrea, the people say that there are alchemists here who know every medicine and cure that exists across Aeora.” Medeva didn’t know if this were true, but nodded her head in agreement.
“Then it’s fortunate that you’ve met a healer,” Medeva said, “who trained for almost a decade within the Society of Alchemists. And this particular healer just happens to need a ride across the Seventh Sea.”
The broad man looked to the woman with the gemstones bound about her wrist. She approached and inspected Medeva with light-green, honey dew eyes. Her pupils seemed to dilate as her stare floated over Medeva’s body — as if the woman were some mystic whose eyes were not fooled by thin layers of cotton and silk. The woman said, “She tells the truth.” The second man, one with a thin body and salt-and-pepper beard, led Medeva to the dinghy at her consent. The thin man boarded with Medeva, but before they left Medeva had just enough time to ask the mysterious woman for her name.
“Emilia,” she said, “a Priestess of Knossos.”
Then the thin trader rowed her back to their caravel.
When Medeva reached the Kraken, she was locked in a cabin and waited for Emilia and the two men to return. The crew was busy — smelled and looked as if they had not seen land for days — so she spent several hours emptying the contents of her bag into the small, musky room. A few low-burning lamps illuminated the pages of a book she crafted before leaving Ratio-res, a scattered collection of stories, and spells, on many different materials and bound with steel rings. Many of the originals had been cut and re-written, and she burned what remained — watching them licked by fire with silent tears — because she had to flee the city.
She read late into the night until, through her porthole window, she saw the dinghy approaching with the three sailors she’d met on the shore. There was a knock at her door half an hour later. Emilia entered, still dressed in her day clothes, before Medeva could get to the door. She wore a dark tunic beneath a maroon vest — just shy of the color of flames. Leather breeches wrapped her legs to right below the knees and revealed her skin, thick sea legs never seen the edge of a razor except for the one that she kept hidden in a redwood-colored sheath strapped to her upper leg. “We’re leaving soon. Are you ready?”
“I am,” Medeva said. Emilia took a seat on the bed (only furniture in the cabin save a dresser along the wall) and listened with arms crossed, her eyes placid as Medeva spoke. “I've never been across the sea. They say that there are all sorts of wonderful places and people out there.” When she was done Emilia sighed and rubbed the sapphire at her wrist between her pointer finger and thumb, the engraved rune acting a blueprint for her fingertip. “When a person lies,” Emilia said, “their pulse quickens and their eyes shift unusually to the left and the right, as if seeking an answer they cannot find. Your eyes haven’t set still for a minute — twister that will not stop spinning.”
Medeva could have blushed. “The truth is that I saw your ship from shore. I saw the locked chest that you brought to the beach and wondered what was inside. Since I have no family left in this place, and I saw an opportunity for travel and adventure, I took it.” Emilia looked at Medeva sideways, seemed to perceive that this wasn’t the whole story, but smiled and did not press the issue.
“You want to know about the secrets that we keep hidden?”
Medeva nodded. “Yes.”
“Then I’ll tell you a story. And unlock the chest when it’s done.”
Medeva drew her spellbook closer in silent agreement and readied her pen. The Kraken lurched in the water and coasted across the surface as Medeva heard the familiar bellow of a horn and resisted the urge to look out the port window — knew that the Society of Alchemists sounded this alarm when it rallied sailors to take a voyage out to sea.