by SJ Longtaile
Father Leif isn't who he pretends to be, the Red Siren is intrigued.
The language featured in this chapter is traditional Chinese curtesy of a general online translator so it may not be 100% accurate but it's there more for the visual and allusion than a functional purpose.
Chapter One here https://www.writing.com/main/redirect?htime=1625893308&hkey=dff1e9e4203ff2faae46...
The church was quiet and oh so still at night, it was one of the many things Leif still hadn’t quite gotten used to, honestly he didn’t think he would ever get used to it.
He strode through the empty halls, his footsteps careful and barely audible, the lengthy black fabric of his priest cassock whispering over the stone floor as he shrugged out of it, loosening the tight collar of his shirt as he went, none but the colourful faces of the stain glass windows to witness his transition from faithful, conservative Father, back to himself, the green of his eyes glowing something wild and wyrd in the dark. He ran a hand through his hair, tousling it, unable to stop his sister coming to mind, she’d chide him and call him a cat who can’t resist knocking things over on purpose just to see how people react. He smirked to himself, she wouldn’t be wrong, she was never wrong.
The people of Brydain were fearful and superstitious, they believed the night hours were filled with monstrous things that wanted nothing more than to devour them, they were so easily manipulated it made Leif restless with mirth. Where he was from, certainly there were things to fear in the night, but people like him thrived at night, under the watchful eye of the moon.
Passing by one of the plane windows that lined the back corridor, Leif paused to look up, basking in the pale light of the full moon.
It won’t be long now, he thought to himself.
The window from his modest room looked out over the port, interestingly the church was built in a direct line of sight of the royal palace on the opposite side. Leif wondered if those who built the church knew the kinds of things the nobility were prone to delving into and that was why they chose to build a holy house here, so they could keep an eye on the snakes in the garden, so to speak.
Stale salt wafted in on the breeze as he opened the window, he took a deep lungful of it, letting some of the stiffness fall from his shoulders, he blamed the damn cassock, casting a petty glare at the offending garment where it sprawled across the foot of his cot, he did not envy real clergymen. Part of him wanted nothing more than to abandon this charade and go home, but where was the fun in that?
To any one other than him, and perhaps his sister, the book on the small desk by the door looked and felt exactly like any copy of the holy scripture, but under the watchful gaze of his green eyes, his most prized possessions, the tome was an old leather bound work of art with thick parchment pages and intricate designs inlaid on the cover. It wasn’t his…he was simply borrowing it until he learned all it’s secrets and grew bored with it, though, he was beginning to doubt he’d ever tire of the mysteries it held, after all, it was how he’d stumbled upon the damsel in distress that was the Queen of Brydain.
Speaking of her royal highness, he had a task to do.
Scowling at the neat stack of letters peaking out from the satchel hanging from the back of the chair in front of the desk, Leif heaved a sigh.
He could leave this particular task to the birds specifically bred for it, but that wouldn’t guarantee the correct sequence of events required to achieve the ending he most desired to witness. To be fair, not even carrying out the letters’ delivery himself would guarantee the correct sequence of events, nothing could ever guarantee a specific future, that was the tricky thing about fate magic, it had a will of its own, as was announced rather persistently by every warning and cautionary word in the mystery book.
Onwards towards the end, he thought to himself as he retrieved the satchel, slinging it over his shoulder.
With one last longing look at the sea and moon beyond his window, Leif took a shallow breath, and as he let it out, he was gone.
The modest room of the priest he pretended to be was left empty, not a trace of his existence save for the discarded cassock and stiff white collar on the end of the cot.
The first several crews Leif offered letters of marque to refused, if not for his sudden appearance on their ships uninvited or his being a complete stranger then it was simply because they refused to bow to the Bryd Queen. Leif had expected as much, but to his surprise many refused to hunt their fellow sky pirates, he supposed there was a smidgen of camaraderie amongst the airborne renegades after all.
On the other hand, the few who had accepted did so not for the promise of royal sanction and gold but for the promise of the opportunity to take down the Archangels and their ship The Dragon’s Teeth. Evidently they were not well liked by certain members of the sky pirate populace, like the one who he currently sat before.
The Red Empire, Zhong in their native tongue, is one of the greatest powers east of the Rhine, as well as Brydain’s most formidable rival. It was from their vast shores brimming with magical power and engineering masters that the first flying ships were born, it was also from their ranks that the first sky pirates emerged.
It was dark and dramatically dim in the captain’s quarters aboard the Blood Lotus, the flagship of Zhong’s sky fleet, the air laced with pipe smoke and exotic spices.
If Leif had been a lesser man, he’d have reason to be unsettled, the Red Siren was a terrifyingly powerful woman who had a reputation of dismembering any man who displeased her in the slightest, it was also said she was prone to slaying men just for the fun of it, even if they had done nothing to offend her, it seemed their mere existence was enough offence in her eyes.
Had he been prone to worrying about such things, Leif would have been concerned she’d attempt to smite him for daring to present her with a letter of marque and a direct commission from the Queen of Brydain. However, the chilling glint in her glowing red eyes told him that even if she was insulted by the Queen’s request, the affront was quickly dismissed as soon as she caught a glimpse of the flag emblazoned on the parchment before her, a skull and crossbones sidelined by three sparrows in flight, along with the name of the ship and its captain. The look on the fearsome woman’s face then was pure, unadulterated glee and bloodlust.
Leif couldn’t help but smirk to himself, the Queen’s comparison of the Red Siren to a shark was quite apt.
“I take it you agree to with the terms then?” It was more a question of politeness rather than a true request for confirmation.
The Red Siren’s bewitching crimson eyes flicked up to his own verdant, a sneer crinkling the corners. She took a long drag from her pipe as she passed off the letter to her lieutenant who stood faithfully by her side, a slight woman compared to the Siren herself but one who bore sharp eyes of her own which lead Leif to believe she wasn’t to be underestimated.
When the Siren spoke, Leif sincerely believed her voice was reminiciant of a shark’s… or a dragon’s, smoke seeping around her words and wafting directly to into Leif’s face.
“Wǒ jiē shòu nǐ de liǎng gè tiáo jiàn.”
Leif smirked, he knew full well she spoke many languages, yet she’d never deign to speak in one he could understand, she believed herself above him and therefore he was unworthy of direct conversation.
The Siren’s lieutenant translated her words to him.
“The Captain will accept upon two conditions.”
Leif maintained eye contact with the Siren, his true nature unable to resist challenging her at least a little.
“Name your conditions.”
Before the sentence had fully left his mouth the Siren was already speaking again.
“Shuāng bèi de fù kuǎn, wǒ men yāo qiú chuán bó hé chuán yuán.”
The lieutenant’s voice was softer, almost dainty compared to the rasp of the Siren’s, Leif could almost believe the message was a polite request, if not for the sneer tugging on the Siren’s face and painting the words as the demand they truly were.
“Double the payment, and we claim the ship and her crew.”
Leif blinked, he would have counted those as three conditions but that was just him, otherwise he wasn’t surprised, he new the history of that ship and the bad blood between the Siren and Archangel’s captain.
“Double to payment, you get the ship and her crew but the Borealin mage is the property of the Bryd Empire,” Leif clarified.
Red eyes in the dim glimmered with interest.
“Yí gè bó léi yà ěr mó shù shī?”
The sneer returned, red eyes narrowing.
“Nǐ de nǚ wáng shì gè shǎ guā, cóng nà gè dì fāng qù zhǎo mó shù shī. Ér nǐ gēn zōng tā shì gè shǎ guā.”
The lieutenant cast a glance at the Siren before translating.
“Your queen is foolish for going after such a magician, and you are fool for following her.”
It was Leif’s turn to sneer, a huff of laughter escaping him, his verdant eyes glowing brighter in the dim.
“Who said I’m following her?”
The lieutenant eyed him uncertainly, but the Siren, she leaned back in her chair, appraisal and recognition on her face as a sliver of light was cast upon her sharp features. The shark recognized a creature of its own kind.
“I wonder, what kind of trap her royal highness has fallen into to warrant the attention from someone such as you,” she spoke in a smooth accent.
“Do you really care?” Leif couldn’t help but bait her.
“No, but when one such as yourself appears on my ship at the behest of a fool, even I can’t help but wonder why,” she took a leisurely drag from her pipe, eying him up and down.
Leif smirked, “Well, if you’re that curious, why don’t you just sit back and enjoy the show.”
The Siren returned the smirk, all sharp teeth and gleeful glints in her eyes.
“If you make it worth my while, perhaps I might.”
Leif and the Siren, not even the mystery book could have predicted this, Leif wondered if she truly did want in on the show, and if so, would she be interested in the book as well. A giddy shiver wriggled its way up his spine, it had been so very long since he’d had someone to share his mischief with. He would have to do all he could to ensure the things played out how he wanted them to. It was going to be a lot of work, but now that there was an audience other than him, it’d all be worth it in the end… and the end was so close he could practically taste it.