Veil Of Lies

New story day! Back to fantasy with this one. And it’s a lot shorter than the last (about 11000 words). Wasn’t sure about this one when I wrote it, but after going through it I’ve decided I do like it. I needed some changes and additions but what doesn’t. Anyway, that’s enough rabbiting from me. Hope you enjoy, Veil Of Lies.

Veli stands with his hands clasped behind his back while the strong winds of the salty sea air cause his silver braided hair to ripple wildly behind him. The galleon he is on, named Good Grace, is rolling in all directions as it bounces across the increasingly angry waves. Veli hopes that they don’t hit the storm that seems to be looming large dead ahead of them. Veli hates storms at sea, but decides to distract himself as he stands on the deck next to the vessels captain, as well as the other passenger on this voyage.

Veli is heading home. It will be the first time in a good few years since he will have set foot in the port of Baron and then his families hundred acre estate of Qos. How he has missed the place and his family in the years since his uncle, Wessel, got him a placement within the grain guild as a prospective merchant. The placement had required Veli to travel to the other side of the continent but the, at the time, fresh young elf had leapt at the chance not only to gain a position within such a prestigious and vital sector, but also to have the ability to see some of the world. And it had not disappointed, though Veli had made sure to work hard and make his family proud. But now he will be returning home and not just as part of some visit. This time he will be staying. He has made other prior visits but they had been fleeting, whereas this one will not as he intends to setup a store in Baron from which he will trade and grow his arm of the grain guild. It had not been an easy feat to persuade the elder guildsmen that a store in Baron would be beneficial but after showing his aptitude they had agreed.

“So how likely are we to meet this storm?” The other passenger named Polita asks from her position on the far side of Captain Ceres.

Polita is about ten centimetres shorter than Veli who stands at one hundred and eighty three centimetres. She has long silky black hair that sits in loose curls that hang most of the way down her back, or it would if the sea air was not whipping it backward making it appear similar to a cape that begins at her head instead of flowing off her exposed shoulders as a cape should. She bats her emerald green eyes as she speaks but has to fight with her long dress to stop the wind from whipping it up and exposing anything that would not be befitting a lady of her position. Veli has no idea what that position might be but from the quality of the dress it must be substantial. That strikes him as strange seeing as he is not aware of any nobles within the counties that surround Baron. Still, he has to admit that he has been away for a long time and that in that period it would be reasonable to assume that a great many things may, and likely have, changed.

“Undoubtedly.” Captain Ceres says without taking her ice blue eyes off the horizon ahead of her while she steers and fights with the wheel of her ship. Her jaw flexes as she concentrates and as it does so the scar down her right cheek dances, while her short blonde hair ruffles.

Veli gulps. He doesn’t think it is loud enough for the pair of women to hear but he can’t be sure as his own long silver braid of hair billows angrily behind him somewhere. He can feel it swaying and bouncing on the wind but as yet cannot catch it in the periphery of his vision. That pleases him as if he did he would fear that the braid might come round and slap Captain Ceres in the back of the head. That would leave him feeling incredibly embarrassed. But as yet it has not happened, so he utters thanks to no one mentally, not wanting to be questioned by the women to his left.

“Is there cause for concern?” Veli asks finally. He can no longer resist the urge to ask even if he fears what the answer might be. His voice manages to just about stay even as he asks the question though and that he hopes won’t raise any suspicions relating to his hatred of being at sea and in a storm. He doesn’t know where the fear came from or whether he was born with it. If it is indeed an affliction he was born with then he wonders why as it seems rather irrational to be afraid of something that you had never experienced before. In fact, his fear is so severe that he has previously cancelled voyages out of a belief that he may be caught in a storm. Those instances while seldom had resulted in unwanted questions being directed his way, but he had simply provided some rational excuses that seemingly were bought by those they were provided too. Whether they were truly believed though, he cannot say.

“Only if it turns out to be a hurricane.” Captain Ceres replies honestly and with a shrug of her shoulders that does nothing to ease Veli’s worries.

He glances past the Captain to Polita who herself looks a little on edge because of the response. Veli can’t be sure but that is what he thinks the bleak expression on her face is a response to. That gives him a modicum of comfort, but nothing more as he then asks, “Should I ask the odds of that?”

“You should not.” Ceres advises before looking away from the horizon ahead of the Good Grace for the first time to take a quick glance at Veli. Ceres eyes the male elf dressed in black knee high boots, a burgundy tunic and grey trousers. He looks to her much like most guild members do and that neither interests nor offends her. Though, the addition of the brown cloak, which is slung over his shoulders and seems to have a loose fitting hood which is currently waving back and forth, a strange choice. She isn’t about to pass judgment however as many would consider her own attire of brown boots, a white blouse and brown trousers a strange ensemble for a Captain. But Ceres prefers to go unseen, which is why she refuses to wear a captain’s hat over her short blonde hair. However, her distinctive scar draws all the attention that her lack of Captain-esque attire removes. She can’t do anything about the scar, though she has tried a number of things in years gone by. None had worked so she had stopped attempting to conceal it.

“Pity because it was such a fine day.” Polita announces after a period of silence.

“It was. But weather changes quickly at sea, does it not captain?” Veli answers before pulling Ceres into the conversation.

“That it does.” Ceres replies. She isn’t a woman of many words, especially when at sea, fulfilling paid requests and when they are heading into what she is sure will be a substantial storm. She isn’t about to tell her passengers that the storm will be substantial, they’ll learn that soon, though she doubts either would welcome the news if she provided it.

“Familiar with the seas are we?” Polita asks looking to Veli with her emerald green eyes, the long eyelashes of which flutter rapidly.

“Mildly. But the expert is Captain Ceres.” Veli says trying to be gracious and avoid sounding arrogant.

“You’re being modest, I feel. You’re clearly a merchant. There’s no need to play down your travels. I can tell from the way you’re standing right now that you’ve sailed a fair few ships in your time.” Polita retorts strongly, much to the surprise of Veli who had not been expecting the forcefulness with which she delivered the words.

“You flatter me miss?” Veli asks. He doesn’t know the young elven woman’s name as she stands to the left of Captain Ceres wearing a dress that seems at any moment, because of the mounting strength of the winds, might see her take off.

“Polita.” The woman says with a beaming smile and a slight bow of her shoulders and head.

“Veli.” The male elf responds touching his left hand to his chest lightly as part of a subconscious gesture that isn’t necessary at all.

“Where are you headed Veli?” Polita asks with another flutter of her eyelids.

“Baron.” Veli replies succinctly while Ceres tries to resist the urge to roll her eyes at the obvious answer the male elf on her right has given. It’s difficult but she manages it as she suddenly spins the wheel in her tough hands left, much to the surprise of Polita who blinks in surprise twice but then quickly focuses on Veli again.

“Business I take?” Polita then questions. She had been expecting more out of the male elf with a silver braid but apparently that is all she is going to get.

“In part yes. What about you Polita?” Veli replies with genuine interest.

“Oh I’m always on business.” Polita answers before letting out a short chuckle.

At this point Captain Ceres decides to tune out the conversation between the pair. It’s of no interest to her, especially as she is required to steer her ship. Even if she wasn’t being paid by the elves that flank her on either side it is what she would be doing. The ship needs a captain and she is that captain.

Suddenly Ceres throws the wheel in the opposite direction in response to the increasing severity of the wind. Storms close now, she thinks as she grabs hold of the wheel tightly in her hands and fights against its desire to spin free. She can’t allow that to happen. There is a set destination and if she releases her grip there is no telling where they will end up, especially as they are headed into the storm.

The sky is no longer a patchwork of fluffy white with cracks of light blue. Instead the heavens are an unbroken mass of dark greys and black. Then a grumble of thunder booms out from somewhere ahead of them. It’s quiet so isn’t close, yet it results in Polita pausing mid-conversation to look toward the darkened sky. Ceres doesn’t know why but she takes note of the pause, likely for no other reason than it was a silence in the otherwise continuous din of her and Veli’s exchange. Ceres has no opinion on the dress wearing woman but she has on Veli and that opinion is that he seems a decent sort. Though, it is clear that he is idly chatting and would prefer not to be, but she isn’t about to intervene. Ceres herself doesn’t want to be left with the mantle of providing idle chatter as she again spins the wheel in her hands while the sails billow and ripple loudly above her head. Her on deck crew go about adjusting and fixing the sails to make maximum use of the winds that are now howling and cutting through each and every one of them.

Before long the rain begin to fall. It isn’t like the rain felt on land. No out here on the seas it is more unrelenting and persistent while coming in at an ever changing angle. Ceres spits some of the rain from her mouth in the moments after she shouted to her crew to pull the sails. Ceres doesn’t want them to rip and in the crosswinds that are changing with every blow that seems very likely. When she had shouted the order she wasn’t sure she would be heard above the noise of the storm but the response of her crew following her orders had proved that they had managed, somehow, to catch her words. Either that or they had simply concluded the same. Ceres wasn’t about to question it as she looks to the passengers still on either side of her. Veli has his loose fitting hood up now, but the rest of him is soaked through. Meanwhile Polita looks like she’s been for a swim. Veli had done the gentlemanly thing and offered his cloak but the young elven woman in the dress had refused. Ceres isn’t sure why. If it is part of some determination to look strong then the Captain of the Good Grace thinks her mad. Had anyone offered Ceres some relief from the rain she would have taken it. Instead, Ceres is fighting to keep her eyes clear and failing. So quickly resorts to wiping a still dry section of her blouse sleeve over her eyes. The action doesn’t solve the problem, though it does ease it and for that alone Ceres is thankful, even if the Good Grace pitches harshly left. Ceres curses and then spins the wheel the same direction trying to cut the bow of her vessel through the wave that is attempting to capsize them.

Veli, who is at this point terrified, nearly loses his footing as Captain Ceres continues to fight against the raging storm. This, he has to admit, is one of the worst storms he has ever had the displeasure of being in, and is relieved when Ceres conquers the wave and saves her ship from what otherwise would have been certain doom.

Veli regains his footing soon after and composes himself as best he can just. Then a huge flash of forked lightning tears its way across the sky almost spearing into the mast of the ship. Veli jumps physically as does Polita. Ceres meanwhile simply blinks in surprise and then deciding that the storm is becoming too much for her passengers orders, “Get below. It’s only going to get worse before it gets better.”

Polita and Veli exchange glances but fail to make a move so Ceres bellows, “NOW!” It’s an order not a request and whether they like being ordered by a sea captain or not Ceres doesn’t care. Her job is to get them to their destination of Baron alive. So out here on the waves her decision is final.

Both of them comply without argument however, and quickly file off the exposed deck of the ship. They both slip and slide as they fight to stay upright and on target until finally after a few hairy almost overboard minutes they descend below decks. As soon as they do they both breathe sighs of relief. Neither had wanted to stay at the Captain’s side any longer than they had. Had they attempted to they are both sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would have cost them their lives.

“I’m in need of a drink. Will you join me?” Polita says as she attempts to dry some of the copious amounts of water from her body.

“I think I will.” Veli admits surprised the young woman has asked, but seeing no reason not to indulge. He needs something to ease his panic and a good drink or two seem like the perfect idea. He just hopes the prattling small talk won’t continue like it did on the decks. He’s too weary to continue that level of converse. Instead he just simply needs to relax, unwind and try and forget about the howling winds and pounding rain that are not very far away at all.

The pair file into the section of the ship that had been reserved for them. What it normally serves as Polita cannot say but she had been impressed to learn that she and Veli had both been granted rooms separate from the rest of the crew.

The two rooms are linked by a small open area where a stack of barrels filled with ale, a small round table and a few chairs lay. Polita can’t say that the chairs are standing as when they walked in they were on their sides. It didn’t surprise her to find them this way but she wonders if she should query what Veli thinks their chances of making it out of this storm in one piece are. She decides not to and instead simply drink with her fellow traveller for a while.

Over the next few hours Veli and Polita drink and drink. The ship pitches, creaks and moans under the stresses exerted upon its timber hull, but it holds. Not that the pair of elves notice as they become more and more inebriated. If Ceres were aware and able she would have joined them but on deck she is still fighting for the life of her, her crew, the now very drunk and chanting passengers and of course, her ship.

This isn’t the worst storm the Good Grace has ever faced but that doesn’t stop Ceres from wishing that it were weaker than it is.

She continually fights to keep the vessel afloat until eventually the storm breaks and subsides.

She decides not to check on her passengers as she continues to head for Baron with a split mast and a dozen or more temporary repairs that should keep them water tight until they reach port. Ceres now knows Polita and Veli are drunk. Her crew told her as much after having made repairs to the hull. The Captain only hopes Veli doesn’t make the age old mistake of sex at sea with a woman he doesn’t know. That particular mistake had been the bane of many a man’s life, especially when the lover turns up on their doorstep with a child in tow a few years later.

Thankfully, that is not a position Captain Ceres will ever find herself in. She smiles with relief at that thought while continuing to stare at the horizon ahead of her, the clouds now a lighter grey in colour as the storm continues to rumble somewhere behind her.

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