Voyage for an Emperor - Chapter 1

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Voyage for an Emperor

by Zeinjave

Libraries: Adventure, Fantasy, General, Original Fiction

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Fujiwara and Kwame make a trip to Roenden and make new friends. 2407 words +48 Rider +5 (Kwame) Other ARPG +3 (Abaddon) Personal +3 Total: 59

Abaddon's fur rippled and swirled, and he narrowed his eyes as he continued to stare into the wind brought by the sea. He could often be found on this spit of land along Roenden's coast. A thin peninsula at high tide, the waves crashing on sheer banks revealed at low tide a large network of tidepools, perfect for hunting. Out among the drifting icebergs, the grey and mysterious green waves were home to a pod of orcas he could regularly watch as they hunted their varieties of prey. A particularly loud seagull flew by screaming obscenities as it dove to snatch a small fish before rising back to its flock of fellows, Abaddon's only sign of acknowledgement a flick of his tail. 
 
As another gust of salty spray and wind blew into his face, he narrowed his eyes, rising from his lounging position on his belly to his haunches. Was that Fujiwara returning with Kwame? Yesterday the gargantuan bird had given himself and Vanadey an unpleasant surprise, dropping out of the sky onto a particularly fine elk the two had been hunting. She hadn't even noticed them until half the large cervine had gone down her gullet in great bloody chunks, fur and all. After the initial shock had given way to pleasantries and introductions, Fujiwara explained, “I’m from the East. We’re looking for new trade partners and allies. My companion, Kwame, is on the ship, which will be here in a few days, but I wanted fresh food, to fly, and get away from everyone.”  They'd agreed that she would return to the ship for her rider and their supplies before returning. 
 
Abaddon turned his gaze toward the mainland where the beach quickly gave way to thick pine forest that covered the land as it rose into mountains. Somewhere in there his pupil was supposed to be practicing the day's lessons, though he was used to Vanadey neglecting her studies to get into mischief. For the moment, she wasn't visible to him, so he turned back to continue watching Fuji’s approach. 
 
"You think that's them?" Her voice sounded right at his shoulder. Abaddon jumped, though Vanadey noted that he was in no danger of falling into the sea. "I thought you were studying." He harumphed, keeping his gaze on the incoming Dracostryx and her rider. She didn't bother to tease him about his reaction, instead turning her own gaze to watch the oncoming avian. "I was, but I thought I should come greet them properly." Abaddon didn't ask how she had known Fuji was arriving, the young Vayron had a way of knowing things instinctively. "I see invisibility is coming easier to you." She shrugged at his praise; it was really the only response she could make as Fujiwara flew directly over them at that moment, the wind of her passage combining with a crashing wave of surf so as they turned together, both Vayrons were drenched. 
 
Abaddon and Vanadey continued to the mainland, shaking their fur out without comment- part of living directly on a rough coast meant getting wet. As they neared the preening Gryph, a human extricated herself from the saddle and slid down her mount's back to land stiffly in the soft sand. Kwame raised her arm above her head and waved her forearm in greeting, "Hello!"  Once certain that the two Vayrons were coming to them, she turned aside to begin stretching her muscles. "Ah, that's much better!" Kwame sighed as she stood from a Cossack squat, folding her arms behind her head and stretching until her back gave a soft pop. 
 
"Long journey?" Vanadey asked as she and Abaddon stopped several feet away from the strange human and giant bird. "Ah, it's been several months since we've flown for twelve hours straight." Fujiwara's head snapped up and she hissed, feathers rising indignantly. Kwame winced with a smile, "Well. Since I rode for twelve hours straight. Fuji's been sick of the ship since day two and has spent as much time as possible on the wing. "One of us needed to stay fit." Fujiwara gave her rider a pointed look- several months at sea had caused Kwame to go a little soft. It was immediately clear to Abaddon and Vanadey that Kwame did not understand what Fujiwara said, though Fujiwara could understand Kwame perfectly. It was an odd arrangement, but when asked Kwame assured them she could catch the gist of what Fuji said most times. 
 
"Fujiwara tells us that you're here for trade? Strange that a trading voyage would only be the two of you.” Abaddon said, bringing things directly to the point. Vanadey smirked and shook her head, no frills with this one. “Oh, the traders, emissaries and such are still on the ship and they’ll be here in another week. I came on ahead with Fuji since she seemed to be saying it was safe. To be honest, I don’t think she’d have stayed the last week on the ship with me anyway.” This last was mock-whispered, to which the Gryph winked, “She would have been fine without me.” 
 
“Anyway,” Kwame continued, “We are here on our own mission. Wulfhaven has no interest in war or hostilities with your country but we are unfamiliar with it. You’re the first natives I’ve met, but would you be willing to teach us about your ways? Our emperor would like to know if you’re amenable to visitors before sending any visitors.” Vanadey glanced at Abaddon who glanced back. She nodded and he tilted his head, examining Kwame and Fujiwara closely. “If you don’t wish to teach us we’ll leave you in peace.” Kwame thought of their own country’s history and how unlikely it was that Abaddon and Vanadey would trust her based on nothing more than her word. Fortunately she was telling the truth- Echellius had no interest in wasting their navy, such as it was, on pursuits of conquest. Abaddon must have seen some of this for he nodded, “Yes. Come with us.”
 
The trek to Abaddon’s home was brief, made shorter by a game of twenty questions. “What do you call this place?” “What do you call yourselves?” Kwame and Fujiwara asked simultaneously. The kitsune tailed female chuckled, “You’re in Roenden, one of the continents of Reos and our species is called Vayrons. We call ourselves Reosians though, if you needed that too.” Kwame nodded, committing the information to memory. “And your names?” Fuji asked as she flew above and behind them. “She wasn’t with us yesterday.” Abaddon reminded Vanadey who had looked up at Fuji in confusion. “Ah, right. I’m Vanadey and this is Abaddon.” Kwame stumbled as she realized that she had in fact not asked their names. “My apologies for my rudeness! I should have asked earlier.” Abaddon flicked his tail, “You’re travel weary.” Vanadey shrugged, “Things slip.” Kwame inclined her head to show her gratitude for their patience with her. Thankfully this wasn’t an ‘official royal visit’ or that small misstep could have carried the weight of an international incident. 
 
They arrived at the cabin that Abaddon explained they had commissioned some local humans to build for them, one built for quadrupedal individuals to navigate with ease. Kwame was glad to discover it was tall enough for her to stand in, though Fuji was used to buildings not being large enough to accommodate her. “I’ve had enough of man-made contraptions, I miss being outside- on land.” She reassured Kwame before leaving to arrange herself a nest. Inside a boar was turning on a spit, and Kwame inhaled the aroma with appreciation, “This smells amazing! You can cook?” “Magic makes up for lack of hands, though we don’t eat plant material and it’s not as if we’re making pastries. Roasting our kills and pouring a bowl of beer or ale is easy magic.” Vanadey explained as she went to the meat, sniffing a sanitary distance from the food to test its doneness. “And we don’t cook it til it’s leather. Just enough to kill any dangers in the food, give it a bit of flavor besides blood.” 
 
So saying she stepped away from the fire pit, the spit and boar lifted from the flames and floated to a great carving board covered in thick green leaves and edged by fluffy bread balls. “These we get from the village, Vanadey loves them.” Abaddon said as he grabbed one of them and tossed it in the air only to catch it again with his tail. Vanadey snatched it with her mouth, careful not to nick his tail with her teeth. Kwame took one and tore it open. She immediately understood what Vanadey found appealing in them. They were light and fluffy, smoky meat flavored, with a sweet undertone of honey and herbs. She ate it in two bites as she sat to dinner with the other two. They talked for a couple of hours until the sound of Fuji landing outside the cabin interrupted them. “I have made a nest, do you need anything?” She called before Kwame could leave the building. “Perhaps we could take this outside?” Kwame asked of Abaddon and Vanadey, who nodded and rose to their feet. “No. I have missed the feel of land beneath my feet, you can ask your questions for the report. I will explore for a bit.” So saying she took flight again and the others settled back into their seats to continue their discourse. 
 
The next week passed with Abaddon and Vanadey showing Fujiwara and Kwame around their territory, teaching the names of things, basic survival knowledge, and everyone getting to know each other’s boundaries and tics. Nearly a week in everyone was restless from constant civility and formality. “I think I know what will help.” Fuji confided to Kwame one morning, reading the room. Vanadey and Abaddon looked up, Vanadey bored and Abaddon with an almost well disguised look of long suffering patience. “A hunt. And not cervine, I mean something that will require us working together to bring down.” A bloodthirsty flame had started to burn in her eyes and Kwame glanced at their hosts to gauge if she perhaps needed to explain Gryph natures. The expressions on the vayrons faces, however, reassured her that this idea was very much approved of. 
 
As it turned out, the most ferocious prey Roenden had to offer was bears. While they weren’t an impossible challenge to two Vayrons, who were relatively the same size as the bear, they were child’s play to Fujiwara, accustomed to fighting other Gryphs in the arena. Abaddon and Vanadey brought a Polar Bear down together, Fuji returned with two male Grizzlies that she had caught contesting a female trying to escape with her cubs, and Abaddon saved Kwame from being killed by the hybrid bear she had been hunting. She hadn’t been prepared for the creature to be able to blend in so well with the environment. 
 
Eventually their talks shifted to other lands in Reos- of the manticores and leviathans of Vitalus, markets in Thedale, and the quiet peace of Warrenfall. Their conversations became less ‘here’s how to survive here’ to the minutiae of a new world. Their relationships settled into natural rhythms and friendships. Kwame and Fujiwara enjoyed watching Vanadey practice her magic while listening to Abaddon tell stories from the varied exciting points in his life. Vanadey and Abaddon enjoyed watching Kwame resume her training routines to regain her pre-voyage physique. Kwame spent hours in Abaddon’s kitchen or the neighboring towns learning what spices and vegetables she could substitute in her recipes. Fujiwara carried Abaddon and Vanaday on flights to hunt seals, walrus, and once a young orca that strayed too far from its pod. 
 
Kwame woke one morning to the realization they had been in Roenden for three months. They had even attended a festival in one of the nearby towns the previous night. It ended with Kwame and Fujiwara celebrating late into the night, falling deep in their cups with some local elders. She wasn’t sure how they’d gotten back to Abaddon’s house, but the two Vayrons were stretched out on the porch in careless poses of exhaustion. With her morning mug of coffee, the priestess walked the path to Fuji’s resting place, stepping lightly around the snoring Abaddon and quieter form of Vanadey. She found her companion gazing toward the sea and preening her feathers. “I just realized we’ve been here for three months.” Fujiwara glanced down at her, “Are you getting homesick too?” Kwame considered as she drank her coffee. “Perhaps? Maybe.” “Hard to tell with that hangover?” “How did we get home?” Kwame asked. “I brought us, obviously. How else would I have gotten back here?” Kwame nodded, her brain really wasn’t back to normal yet, it seemed. “Hm, I take it you’re ready to go home?” “We did our mission, we’ve met the natives and we’ve learned a bit about them. We can go back home to give our report. But…” She drifted off as she watched the pod of orcas herd their prey into the shallows, swooping in with the waves of their passage to snatch seals and fish alike into their maws, dragging the seals back into the surf as they yelped their last. “But?” Kwame pressed. Fujiwara shook her head and looked back, “Maybe we could come back? We still don’t know where to send Emperor Echellius for an emissary.” 
 
“What do you need an emissary for?” Abaddon inquired as he stepped from the bushes. “Oh, good morning.” Kwame greeted him. Fuji explained their Emperor’s desire to have political ties with other lands and Abaddon nodded. He looked to his right where Vanadey appeared sitting next to him, having been there all along. “I think you should look to a Tyrian for such a job.” He said. “They’re winged Reosians, a little smaller than you, Fuji.” Vanadey said, “and the greatest concentration of them lives in Vitalus.” “Two birds, one stone.” Abaddon added. Kwame and Fujiwara shared a look and nodded. “Then I guess that means we’ve accomplished our mission. I wonder if the ship’s captain is ready to return home.” Kwame mused. Fujiwara unfurled her wings, “Let’s go check.” Abaddon and Vanadey chuckled at her eagerness, though they understood the desire to return home, neither of them thought they would enjoy being away from home for almost a year, the only way home sailing on a ship for months on end.

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