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SJORIA: Book One|"The Silence Before The Song"|Scroll Down to Begin...

Chapter Nine: Grasping At Shadows

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Prince Gideon lay awake on the soft, red velvet of the bed in his personal sleeping chamber. His hands were clasped behind his head as he stared up at the polished wooden ceiling of The Whisperwinds. He could hear the creaking of another passenger moving in the hallway outside his room. He closed his eyes and focused on the subtle vibrations of the vessel as it spurred through the depths. He took a deep breath and sighed heavily, though that was becoming an increasingly hard exercise as air ran out in the long, slender Münshirling watercraft. He was bored, hot, and weary of the journey. Though The Whisperwinds was one of the finest vessels to have ever cruised through Sjorian waters, it was hardly a luxurious trip. To evade detection of Vül pirates, the submersible vessel had been designed for efficiency, not necessarily comfort.
“Augh,” he groaned, stirring his servant from sleep.
“Is somezing wrong, Gideon?” the silver-haired boy asked, rising from his bed across from the Prince.
“Well yes. And no.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I am sorry, Nya, I did not mean to wake you.”
“All ze same, do yeh need somezing, sire?”
“I need this cursed journey to over at last,” the Prince muttered under his breath. Then he said louder to Nya, “When do we rise for air? If we stay below much longer, I do believe that we shall suffocate.”
“Aye, do I know zat,” Nya yawned, stretching his arms over his head. “I can ask ze captain when we will rise if it would please yeh, sire.”
“That’s all right, Nya,” Gideon said. “I can go. I need to stretch my legs anyway. You may go back to sleep.”
Nya chuckled. “I sleep not because I tire, Gideon, I sleep fer lack of ozer zings to do. Allow me t’accompany you, please.”
“Very well.”
The two boys rose from their beds and moved to leave their sleeping chamber to search for the captain. Gideon’s cabin was located at the very end of the vessel, as that was the largest and sturdiest chamber on board in the case of an accident. Outside his door was a long narrow hallway, lined with the rooms of other passengers on either side. The room on the right nearest Gideon’s own belonged to Marley, while the one next to it and their left-side counterparts belonged to the Prince’s guards.
Promptly as the boys stepped outside their room, that aforementioned door flew open with a stiff whap! There dear Marley stood, looking half-dead as it were. Her face, usually a light tan, was paler than even Nya’s—a feat in and of itself. She stared at Gideon and Nya, her dark green eyes wide and her mouth small. “Get us above water, Gideon, or I shall die.”
“Will you?” Nya asked with a grin, “What? Ze sea not treatin’ you well?”
“Nay, not the sea; ‘tis this blasted box what kills me,” Marley said, glaring at him. “How you managed to take to it and this lifestyle so cheerfully I will never know.”
“Ze seas are in fact how I bear it,” Nya said, “I dearly love zem.”
“Grand,” Marley said, clapping her hand to her forehead. “But we cannot see any trace of them inside this crate, so I am left still to wonder at your joy.”
“Ze closer to ze sea I am, ze more alive I feel,” Nya said, “Regardless of ze box. Can you not feel zem? I can feel zem, like blood in my veins.”
“I feel trapped, Nya, and that is all.”
Gideon noticed she was no longer wearing the proper attire her mother had sent her off in; now she donned an old yellowed tunic, dark brown trousers, and rough leather boots. All of which were a size too large for her, cast-offs of his own and Nya’s from perhaps a year or so back. The tunic and trousers were tightened to fit her slim figure with a wide strap of leather across her waist, and her father’s old rich red scarf adorned her head. He had seen this outfit and those of hers like it before; Marley hated the stuffy gowns of the palace and would be rid of them whenever she could. Most often she only wore Gideon’s old clothes during play or horse riding, not in public. That she wore them now—Gideon had to shake his head and chuckle at the thought of her poor dear mother. She would be horrified!
“Nya and I were just going to find the captain,” Gideon said. “You should come with us.”
The trio made their way down the hallway to the Passenger Mess Hall, which was the vast room located in the midsection of the vessel. It was not mealtime, however, so only a few other passengers and the cabin boy, Rake, were present. The passengers were gathered in little groups speaking to each other in hushed voices, though some looked up and stood to bow to the Prince when he came in. Rake was too busy polishing tables to notice until Nya approached him personally to inquire of him where the captain was.
“Oh, I dunno,” Rake said after a hasty bow. “I suppose ‘e might be in the Navigator’s Quarters up there towards the nose of the Whisper’, er, or mebe ‘e’s still sleepin’. I can go’n look for you if you’d like, right aft’ I’m finished in ‘ere, tha’ is.”
“That’s all right, Rake,” Gideon said, “We’ll see if he’s in the Navigator’s Quarters. If he’s not we won’t trouble him. It’s not that important.”
“Just the matter of air,” Marley said sarcastically.
“Ah! Why’d you not say so afore, Majesty?” Rake cried. “If tha’s what it is, I can tell you tha’. I heard

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