When Anwyn heard her best friend cursing over a letter from home, she thought it would be nice to give her a hand. A quick trip to a new country to protect Iola from an unwelcome marriage would be a chance to have fun while doing a good deed.
But the trip revealed plots against the Dana that Anwyn could never have anticipated. The simple trip became a complicated political trial that threatened not just the family’s fortunes but Anwyn’s safety as well. Stopping the Delbhana’s plot might be the hardest thing Anwyn had ever done but failure wasn’t an option.
Storm over Archaelaos is an epic coming of age fantasy set on the matriarchal world of Muirin. People of all ages will enjoy this thrilling adventure.
Storm Over Archaelaos
By Meyari McFarland
“There it is!” Anwyn shouted as they rounded the point and saw Aingeal City spread out in front of them.
The city was beautiful in the afternoon sun, red bricks reflecting the light until they were almost the same shade as Aravel’s hair, as red and golden as if the bricks were somehow made of fire instead of clay. At this distance the individual buildings along the waterfront blended into a jagged wall of brick broken by the sails of ships already moored in the harbor. Anwyn breathed deep, grinning at the smell of pine from the trees on the shore mixed with sea salt and that particular stink that always came with a harbor city.
Aravel grinned at Anwyn, his braid flying much the way it had when they first went to sea. Somehow, this time his grin seemed sadder but Anwyn thought that had more to do with the trial they all knew was coming instead of any regret over the trip being over. The Royal Sword rounded the point behind them, her sails partially furled so that she didn’t race ahead of the Little Bird.
That was a deliberate thing. Captain Helene and Captain Siofra had spent a stiff half-hour discussing exactly what Berrach had done and who she’d harmed after Berrach was handed over. Anwyn knew perfectly well that Captain Helene’s broken cheekbone had been discussed because Captain Siofra’s shocked “the Dana boy did it?” had echoed over the water to the Little Bird. She didn’t know what had been said after that but Captain Helene’s explanation must have included that she’d earned the broken face fairly. Captain Siofra had winced, snorted, and then laughed as if she was trying not to hit Captain Helene herself.
Either way, after their discussion it was agreed that the two ships would make the trip home together. Dana / Delbhana rivalries had no place, according to Captain Siofra, in matters as serious as Berrach’s crimes. Anwyn wasn’t sure that was the real reason but Aunt Colleen had looked well satisfied with the decision so she hadn’t asked any further.
“I can’t wait to show Father my blanket,” Aravel said.
“And your goat yarn,” Anwyn said, poking Aravel in the shoulder.
“And my goat yarn,” Aravel laughed. “I’m going to have to see if there would be a market for really high quality, very expensive specialty yarn. If there is it might be good for the highlander Azarine as well as for us.”
“Pitch it right and there’s always a market for luxuries,” Anwyn said with a snort of amusement. “You just have to present it right initially. There’s no second chance for things like that.”
Aravel nodded thoughtfully. “There was a royal wedding. I could knit Prince Toryn a shawl from it. If he wore it then I know people would want some.”
He laughed as Anwyn stared at him with disbelief. She spluttered in outrage, unable to put into words how inappropriate that felt. Giving anything to Siobhan’s family hurt. Granted, it wasn’t Prince Toryn’s fault he’d been married off to his cousin. His hatred of Siobhan was nearly as legendary as Anwyn’s. Still, she couldn’t wish him well, not when it might benefit Siobhan too.
“You know he’d wear it constantly just to spite Siobhan, Annie,” Aravel said with a huge grin. “Especially if I knit Dana symbols into it and sent to him as a personal present from the hill folk of Azar to the crown prince of Aingeal.”
“All right, if you did it that way I might be able to swallow it,” Anwyn complained. “But that’s still just wrong!”
She grumbled about it as they approached the city, not that she was terribly serious about the grumbles. It made Aravel’s normal bright grin come back and that was worth it as far as Anwyn was concerned. The trip had been hard on all of them. As they tied up to the dock about four slips down from the main entrance to the Dana warehouse Aunt Colleen finally came out of their cabin with a stack of paperwork and records wrapped in oil cloth.
“Finally home,” Aunt Colleen sighed. “Where’s the Royal Sword?”
“Looks like they ended up on the far side of the port,” Anwyn said, pointing. “There are a bunch of Delbhana ships over there so it made sense, I suppose.”
“Right,” Aunt Colleen said. “Annie, you’ve got this. Give it to your mother. I’m going to go supervise Berrach’s transfer to the Guard. Who knows what sorts of stories have spread over the last week or two?”
Anwyn took the stack, groaning at the weight of it. Aunt Colleen didn’t wait for the gangplank to go down. As soon as the ship was tied off she swung over the rail and jumped for the dock, trotting off past Mother and the warehouse workers coming to help off-load the <em?Little Bird's cargo. All Mother got was a quick wave and a hooked thumb in Awnyn’s direction.
“I’m getting my things, Annie,” Aravel said. “I think Iola’s getting yours.”
“I hope someone is getting it,” Anwyn complained. “I don’t think I’m going to have the time for days if they expect me to explain all of this.”
He laughed, patted Anwyn’s shoulder and then trotted off to his cabin. Iola poked her head out of the hallway leading to Anwyn’s cabin. She nodded at Awnyn’s questioning look and flapped a hand that Anwyn should go. Anwyn sighed dramatically just to see Iola’s dark eyes light up with amusement before she ducked back inside.
“Go on,” Captain Helene told Anwyn. “You’ve got reports to give.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Anwyn said. “Let me know if I’m needed for anything here.”
Captain Helene snorted, her lips quirking in a stiff smirk. “Dana, you’re needed there, not here. We can manage without you.”
“Yeah, but if you need me…” Anwyn said plaintively enough that Myrna hooted with laughter and Flidais giggled. “Fine, fine. I’m going. Good journey, Captain Helene.”
“Good journey to you too, Dana Anwyn,” Captain Helene replied. “Now get off my ship so that we can unload.”
Anwyn trotted down the gangplank the instant it was in place. Mother frowned at the stack of paperwork in Anwyn’s arms but Anwyn could feel that there was more to it. The impression she got was that Mother expected the absolute worst. Aunt Colleen’s comments about the rumors must be right.
“Here’s the paperwork from the journey,” Anwyn said, gratefully pushing it into Mother’s arms.
“Why in the Morrigan’s name is there this much?” Mother demanded.
“Minoo,” Anwyn replied, shrugging. “We spent three days there filling out paperwork. It took forever to get clearance to leave. Aunt Colleen came back to the ship every night cursing everyone out.”
Mother snorted, passed the bundle of paperwork to Aunt Rhoswen and then held her arms out for a hug. Anwyn grinned and hugged Mother hard, laughing at the way Mother pounded on her back and then ruffled her hair. When Mother let go she froze, staring at Anwyn’s neck.
“What?” Anwyn asked. She touched her throat and then realized that the red coral necklace had come out of her shirt during the hug. “Oh. That. Yeah, my cycles started. I’m probably about due for another one soon though Aunt Colleen warned me that they’d be irregular for the first few years.”
“You’re not old enough,” Mother complained. “Damn, girl, you’re barely even fourteen.”
Anwyn shrugged. If she’d had her choice she’d never have another cycle ever again. That first one had been miserable enough that she was in no hurry to repeat it. Unfortunately, Anwyn didn’t get a choice on that. Her body was going to do what it was going to do.
Mother’s attention shifted as Aravel appeared from his cabin, his monstrosity of a blanket overflowing out of his arms. Myrna had his trunk while Iola had his bundle of goat yarn in one hand and Anwyn’s truck on her shoulder. He came down the gangplank, grinning with pride as Mother stared at the multicolored patchwork of tiny knitted squares that made up his quilt. She looked at Anwyn, questions hanging in her eyes.
“He got a really good deal on scraps of yarn at Nasrin,” Anwyn explained. “That’s what resulted. It’s a present. Be nice, Mother. He’s really proud of it.”
Mother sighed, nodding. “Ravi, I see you kept yourself busy.”
“I did!” Aravel laughed. “It should make a great winter blanket for you and Father. It’s big enough to cover your whole bed, with enough left over to drape down the sides.”
“Just how good was that deal?” Mother asked, startled.
“Incredible!” Aravel exclaimed.
She hugged him, laughing as Aravel all but cooed at the hug. He passed the quilt over to her, taking his bundle of goat yarn from Iola. Anwyn grinned as Mother’s eyes glazed over the instant Aravel pulled one of the expensive little skeins of yarn out. Father would listen with interest to everything that Aravel had to say about the yarn but Mother always lost focus when Aravel tried to talk to her about it.
“High country Azarine goat yarn,” Aravel explained, smacking Mother’s elbow to make her pay attention. “I bought about two years of production from one of the shop keepers. I think that it would make an excellent luxury trade item. I knitted some samples and it’s incredibly soft, very light-weight but amazingly warm. I asked the shop keeper and it can be knitted, woven and even felted though she thought that was a waste.”
“He bought so much that we had an armed escort back to the ship,” Anwyn said.
Mother took the skein of yarn, running her fingers over the soft fine thread as if trying to assess whether it was worth it. Aravel rolled his eyes and took it back. He tucked the yarn away again, starting towards the Clan house with every expectation that Mother and the others would follow him. He wasn’t wrong. They all headed after him, though Mother waved at her sisters to take care of the Little Bird.
“I know perfectly well you have no idea how to assess it, Mother,” Aravel said. “Trust me on this. It’s the finest, warmest wool I’ve ever handled. Even virgin lambs’ wool from the best flocks in the midlands doesn’t come close to this. It’s really quite extraordinary. I’ll talk with Father and Uncle Jarmon about it and see what they think.”
“Good idea,” Mother said gratefully. “So why did Annie break Captain Helene’s face?”
Aravel squeaked, blushing nearly as brightly as his hair. “Ah, that was me. Annie didn’t hit anyone the whole trip. Well, other than spearing a rainbow shark off the tip of Minoo, that is. I was the only one who broke any faces.”
“You told me to be good,” Anwyn exclaimed as Mother turned to stare at her. “I was good. I was damned good. I didn’t even break Berrach’s neck when we found out she’d been molesting Flidais and the other young sailors on board.”
That stopped Mother cold in her tracks. She looked across the port to where the Guard were dragging Berrach away from Captain Siofra and Aunt Colleen. At this distance Anwyn couldn’t hear anything but she could see Berrach screaming and struggling. From their posture, both Aunt Colleen and Captain Siofra were happy to see the back of her.
“She was…?” Mother asked.
“A pedophile, gambler, cheat, thief and really bad spy,” Anwyn said. “Aunt Colleen knows the whole story, of course, but the paperwork from Minoo has interviews and depositions from all of us. That’s why we were delayed. She was caught with Delbhana Saraid, by the way. The hill country women of Azar caught them apparently looking for young male prostitutes.”
Mother stared and then gestured for them all to come into the warehouse. She made sure they were well out of hearing inside the warehouse before turning to Anwyn with one of the most serious expressions Anwyn had ever seen. It made her quiver and wish that she’d never suggested this whole trip.
“Who was she looking for, really?” Mother asked.
“Aravel and I,” Anwyn said. “We headed up into the narrow streets where the hill country people live looking for yarn.”
She glared at Aravel, blanket flung over one shoulder with her free hand on her hip. He clutched the bundle of yarn, glaring right back. Myrna looked as though she’d rather be anywhere else than right there so Anwyn gestured for Myrna to give her Aravel’s trunk. She did it and then all but ran out of the warehouse and back out towards the Little Bird.
“I was out of yarn!” Aravel complained. “You can’t blame me for looking for yarn when I’d run out days earlier. Besides, it worked out well. I got a good deal, we caught Berrach and Aunt Colleen is pretty sure we have an excuse to search for other spies on our ships now.”
Mother groaned. “Get upstairs and put away your things, Ravi. Annie, I’ll want to hear your side of everything tonight.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Anwyn said. “Talk to Aunt Colleen first. She kept things pretty close to the chest all through the trip. I don’t really know all that much. I was too busy behaving myself.”
“We all appreciate your effort,” Mother said with only the barest hints of sarcasm. “Now go. I’ve got work to deal with.”
She stomped off, muttering under her breath. Anwyn shook her head before nodding towards the closest set of stairs to the upper levels. Aravel frowned but took the lead, doing his own muttering about women who didn’t understand how important handicrafts were. Iola followed along behind, quietly chuckling to herself.
On the second floor landing, Anwyn paused as a frustrated “Damn that woman to the Morrigan’s deepest Hell!” echoed up the hallway. It sounded like Aunt Kennis. Her pause made both Aravel and Iola pause and look at her. Aravel looked confused but Iola’s eyes danced with laughter. She grinned, gesturing as if asking Anwyn if she was going to go find out what was wrong.
“Oh no!” Anwyn said. “I’m not sticking my nose into anything anymore. No. I’m home and I’m staying home for a while.”
Iola laughed. “I’m sure that’ll last for a whole day or two. Come on, let’s get your things settled. I want to find a bunk and then ask someone when I’ll be shipping out again.”
“What?” Aravel asked.
He frowned at both of them but continued up the stairs to the third floor without protest. Anwyn exchanged an amused look with Iola, laughing when Iola nodded that Anwyn should explain it. She shrugged, smiling wryly at Aravel.
“That’s how this whole trip began, Ravi,” Anwyn said. “Those words, right there.”
“Well then, definitely don’t investigate,” Aravel instantly replied. “I’m ready for a good long quiet patch of staying home. We don’t need any more trouble around here.”
“Agreed,” Anwyn said, opening her mental shield enough to check whether there were any Ladies listening in. One shimmered in Anwyn’s mind, surprised and then approving of Anwyn’s new ability. “It’s good to be home.”
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