Fast as the airship was, the Light Warriors had still decided to land for the night. The kid was out like a light, using Lenna as a pillow, and Lenna was heading in that direction too. Bartz had stopped working on the shirt he was sewing up and was just staring out at the horizon. That sort of thing could be contagious, so there was an unspoken group decision that the cave should be dealt with tomorrow. What sunlight there had been went out as the airship dipped below the mountains, and Faris grimaced as the night came as abruptly as a snuffed candle. It was damned spooky.
Of course, being spooked made it tricky to go to sleep. Faris growled under her breath, lashed the wheel in place, and went to walk the other end of the deck so she could tire herself out... what happened instead was that she started thinking.
It was a nuisance.
Pirates believed in ghosts, and it usually wasn't superstition. Believing in ghosts was like believing in sharks, sahagins, or other pirates: they were out there and they could tear your insides out if you let your guard down. Spirits, though... that was new, and she didn't think she liked it very much. She couldn't see them! Faris hated things she couldn't see... and... when the kid started talking about Galuf's spirit showing up, hearing his voice or saying that he wanted them to hurry...
Of course, she was the old man's granddaughter and definitely an oddball in the area of spooky things. It proved there was something after, right? Really, it was a relief to know that he was still hanging around somehow, even if he was invisible.
"Old bat... why won't you let me see you? You know I'm here." Faris kicked at the railing. "So're Lenna and Bartz. You don't think we--? Hell, you just made me admit I miss you. Aye, that one'll make ye come out and gloat."
No answer. Not that Faris had expected one. Krile hadn't brought it up for a while, so presumably he wasn't badgering her to hurry up about those legendary weapons. Probably he was keeping an eye on Exdeath from the afterlife and letting them get on with the rest of it. Faris glared up at the sky, so much darker now that the light from the other planet wasn't there anymore. "What the hell did you go dying for, anyway? You're more use down here than up there." She leaned her hands against the railing. "Well, if we're going to meet you again soon, I'll teach you a lesson about that."
And we are going to meet you soon, aren't we, she thought as she lay down on the deck, sticking her shawl under her head as a pillow. We're going into that black hole, sure enough, but I can't see how we'll come back out.
She woke to something hot and greasy on her upper lip. Her roar of outrage was cut off when she opened her mouth and it fell in, proving to be bacon. Faris grabbed it and pointed it at the felon like a dagger. "What the--" She caught sight of Lenna's head peeking up over the deck. "--heck are you playing at?"
Krile plunked herself down on the deck with a sunshine smile. "Just getting you your breakfast! I thought it would save time if you didn't need to bother with fancy things like plates."
Faris' eyes flicked to Lenna--she was smiling, the traitor--and back to Krile. She settled for prodding her in the nose with the bacon. "I'm just as couth as you are, kiddo, and don't forget that. You just go and get the rest of whatever Bartz cooked up, aye? And no smart remarks about the magic word," she added, just knowing that Krile was about to say it.
When the rest of them finished their breakfast on the deck, Bartz stood up. "You think your crew will be there?" he asked.
"Of course. There's plenty enough in that cave to keep them going for a year if they're sensible." Which they were. Usually. "And they can get to Tule'n back by skiff, easy."
"It'll be nice to see them all again," Lenna said, apparently not bothered by the fact that they had been ready to hold her for ransom the last time. Faris was not about to bring it up.
"What kind of monsters are in there?" Krile asked and Faris' mood, off to such a promising start, plunged. Of course--she wouldn't know, would she. Stone-silent, she stared at Krile and felt even more wretched as the girl gradually took a deep interest in her plate. Bartz stepped in to answer the girl's questions after a quick glance at the two of them, scooting closer to her. It wasn't her fault, Faris told herself as she applied herself to the food... really, Krile had been hurt worse than any of them. But it still stung to be reminded that the old man wasn't there anymore.
In truth, the monsters in the cave were nothing to worry about. It seemed all they had to do now was glare at them and they'd fall over, which was fine by Faris. She sighed in satisfaction when they went through the hidden door, relieved beyond measure to see that the hideout hadn't been damaged in any way by the worlds being forced back together.
Then a familiar cry split the air, and she ran to meet it without even thinking. She skidded to a stop at the end of the rock outcropping as a laugh jumped out. "Syldra! You--" How? It wasn't possible! But there she was, as plain as day. "You're alive!"
"Faris, what are you talking about?"
"Faris..." There was an edge of concern in Lenna's voice. "Do you see something?"
She turned towards them uncertainly. Had their eyes stopped working? There was a dragon in the water right in front of them! It wasn't an easy thing to miss. "Don't you? Syldra's right there..."
"Syldra's your name?" The kid stepped forward and crouched next to Faris, looking out at the dragon. "Oh, you're such a good girl..."
"Krile! You can see her?" Faris gasped. Her guts went cold. If only Krile could, that wasn't a good sign...
"Syldra's spirit says she wants to help Faris..."
Krile looked up at Faris for a moment and put her hand on her arm as she crouched down, pulling Faris down with gentle pressure from her fingers. Syldra swam towards them, flickering in and out of vision. "Such a kind soul..."
Faris reached out to put her hand on Syldra's nose. For an instant she could feel the wet scales under her fingers, slick and cool, but the next it was like she'd only imagined it--and then she felt it wrapped around her. It was love and loyalty and longing, protectiveness and affection, and the freedom of the ocean.
Faris had been taught from a very young age that boys weren't supposed to cry. Men didn't cry either, especially not when they were pirates. Doing it in front of other people would be unthinkable, especially this one--his sister, his friend, and... and his dead friend's granddaughter, looking at him with the self-assured calm of someone who saw spirits. Yes, knowing how not to cry had been one of his most important lessons.
Right now, he wished that he hadn't learned it so damn well.
Faris let Bartz take the wheel when they returned to the airship and retreated to the captain's cabin, staring out of the window and trying to figure out if he was moody, stunned, or happy. He had Syldra back right enough. Unconsciously, he rolled the Summoner shard in his fingers, looking forward to the next battle with the new world's giant slugs and spiders. A little magic, and there she would be--but only for a few seconds. Faris had learned to live without her in the months since Walse Tower, and now she was somewhere between there and gone. Between, though, that's better than gone by far.
She heard the door creak open as the sun began to set and wondered vaguely who would be idiotic enough to interrupt her solitude. Lenna, right? Well, Lenna wasn't an idiot, and Faris wasn't feeling so surly anymore. She raised her eyebrows, though, when she saw that it was the kid, and went back to staring out. Not that Krile was an idiot... just unexpected. And Faris still didn't have anything to say, but years as a captain (and moreover, as Faris) had made her immune to worrying about other people's awkwardness. Apparently the silence didn't bother Krile; she wasn't hearing any footsteps or a door closing.
"...thanks." It came out so quiet and sudden that she would have stared at herself for saying it. She looked around to see that Krile was staring too.
"For--" Ah, hell. How to say it? "Seeing Syldra."
"Oh." Krile looked back down at the deck, apparently unsure of how to reply. "It's fine." There was quiet for a short time, but again Faris was the one to break it.
"You see many spirits back in Bal?"
"Huh." Faris put her feet up on the desk. "How 'bout the people who were looking for those spirits?"
"It... it isn't because he doesn't want you to see him, you know." Krile said, with that same assured expression she'd worn in the cave. "He said if we end up in the afterlife too, he's going to kick us right back out again.
Faris yanked her feet of the desk and thumped them on the floor, only just restraining herself to a mutter rather than a growl. "Don't go telling me what you think I want to hear."
"I'm not!" The insistence of it almost made Faris start. "I wouldn't! I--" Suddenly the girl was looking very intently at the supply chests over in the corner, and her voice grew much smaller as she turned away completely. "I don't."
Satisfied, Faris? Why don't you go find a puppy with a broken leg and give it a really good kick. Maybe that would make you feel even better. Yeah, it might, because there wasn't a way to feel worse right now. Pulling one of Tycoon's frilly silk handkerchiefs out of her pocket, Faris walked up behind the girl and dropped it on her head. "Think you got something in your eye there, kiddo." She was pretty sure he could hear a very quite 'thanks,' and a very loud nose blow--well, she might not have got her looks from the old man, but she'd definitely inherited that. After what Faris judged to be a decent length of time, she headed for the door. "Come on."
"I'd best teach you how to fly this thing, don't you think?" Faris grinned. "Someone has to make sure that Bartz won't steer it into a mountain."