Tales from the Land of Ever After

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Winds of Change, Part 6

The ship has been repaired and is ready to limp back home. But a wind is coming…

In the end, Elsa helped along the repairs to Captain Dezhnev’s ship with more than just light. One sail was completely gone, another torn to pieces by the wind, and although the foremast had been retrieved it wasn’t wanting to be put back in its place. Elsa fastened it down with a ring of iron-hard blue ice, spiraling thin bands of the same sealing the splintered wood back into shape, and hung it with sails of frost and ropes of snow. The main mast was reinforced the same way, and a previously undiscovered hole in the hull was encased in a bubble of ice from the outside until Dezhnev’s men could pump out the excess seawater and patch it. She provided fresh water for the men to drink while they worked, and went down to the galley and cobbled together a stew so that a pair of able seaman’s hands might join in the work on deck.

When one of the men had put forth some objection to the idea of a queen doing such work, she’d actually stamped her foot at him and threatened to make him eat last. “The king and queen of Arendelle are not pampered royal children,” Dezhnev told his shocked men when she whisked back down into the galley. “Treachery drove them from their home to far-off Valeureux, and from there necessity drove them across the countryside and back –  with only her elder brother, the king of Valeureux, to accompany them. This queen is well used to doing her share of the work when it is necessary.”

The men accepted that, and for the most part were even pleased by it. The women of Rasseeyah were also inclined to work beside their men, but their tsarina was known to be not much more than a pretty ornament and it had understandably colored their perceptions. Dezhnev did not dislike his cousin’s sweet young wife, but she had a naivete about her that worried him sometimes. Ivan’s enemies were many, and not all of them were fools.

By midday the ship was back in sailing order, the men had been well-fed, and they were underway again – this time back in the direction from whence they’d come. Dezhnev portioned out his men as best he could, keeping those who were most resilient – mostly the older ones – on deck and sending the rest below to sleep until their turn on deck came again. Queen Elsa had also gone to sleep, but on the now snow-cushioned bench on the foredeck rather than in her cabin below it; she was concerned, she said, that something else might happen, and wished to be on hand if it did. Dezhnev had agreed to that, as he was worried himself. The sea had stayed flat as glass while they had been doing what they could to repair the ship, just as Lord Sel had promised…but there had been no promise for a safe journey home, or even an assurance that they would not be attacked again. So he kept watch from the wheel, and stationed men at the rail to keep their eyes on the sky and the water.

Even still, he himself was the first to spot their next visitor, who came in a wind that rounded the sails and left standing beside the main mast a mountain of a man with dark skin and black pools for eyes and a dark beard trimmed and oiled to sharp points rather than full. He had on loose pants of sheer gold-embroidered silk and rings of gold in his ears, but other than that had no other clothing nor ornament save for the thick, dull manacles around his wrists which were somewhat obviously not there for decoration. He bestowed a look both sullen and contemptuous on Dezhnev and did not quite bow but also did not quite not. “THE LORDS OF THE AIR SEND ME,” he boomed. “MORTAL CAPTAIN…”

“Who are you?” Elsa demanded, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. “And why are you so loud?” Then she saw him and rose to her feet, and from his spot at the wheel Dezhnev saw the ring of frost once again form on the deck as her dainty hand rose to point at the massive djinn. “Oh! Are you here to cause more trouble?”

The djinn turned around, saw her…then saw the ring of frost which was spreading toward him and squeaked in a most unmanly fashion, immediately prostrating himself on the deck. “FORGIVE…forgive me, Your Majesty, She Who Holds the Key to the World’s End. This unworthy one forgot himself. It shall not happen again.”

Dezhnev was not sure whether to be amused by this or even more alarmed, but he decided amusement would serve them best and strolled around the wheel to make his way to the foredeck. “He’s one of the Djinn, Your Majesty,” he explained. “The people of the Lords of the Air.” The djinn gave him a black look, and he rolled his eyes. “Well how was she supposed to know that? You did not introduce yourself, and Arendelle does not trade with the peoples under your lords’ aegis except through us.”

One sharp black eyebrow went up, then went down again. “Very true, I did not think of that.” He stood back up when Elsa indicated that he should, and bowed a proper bow this time. “I was sent by my king, the Lord of the Desert Wind,” he explained. “For my transgression, although it was committed in ignorance, I have been ordered to serve you until this vessel has safely returned to port.”

Elsa cocked her head. “I’m going to guess you aren’t supposed to fix the ship, or you’d have already done it.” The djinn looked somewhat embarrassed. “So what are you supposed to do?”

The djinn looked to Dezhnev again, and the sea captain chuckled, shaking his head. “She just does not think that way – neither does her husband, Arendelle’s king. She lent her power to help us with what repairs we could not accomplish by regular means, and then she cooked for my men while their work continued.”

Understanding dawned. “Ah, I see it now. That is a task I may take from you, Your Majesty, should you wish it,” the djinn offered. “I may also do the work of a sailor at your command, Captain, mending nets or sails, or even cleaning the deck.” Another bow. “What task shall I accomplish first?”

“I don’t think we’ll need to cook again for a while,” Elsa told him. “I made a big pot of stew, and they ate all of it. And the sails that are left have already been mended.” She considered. “Would you mind sitting here and talking with me until there’s something else you can do? I know nothing at all about your lord’s people, or your country, maybe you could tell me about them. I think it must be very hot there, going by the way you dress.”

Dezhnev hurriedly jumped back into the conversation, telling himself that he would carry to the end of his days the memory of needing to come to the aid of a mortified djinn. “Your Majesty, he is dressed this way because he is being punished. Until his atonement is complete…his master has placed him in the position of a slave, and his manner of dress reflects that.”

He’d known she wouldn’t take that well, and she didn’t. Her hand flew to her mouth, and small, sharp shards of ice erupted near her feet. “But…but that’s horrible! Even Lord Sel said he hadn’t known he shouldn’t have been doing what he was doing!”

The captain nodded. “The laws of their people can be harsh, Queen Elsa.”

“I see.” Her blue eyes narrowed in thought, and then her chin lifted and she fixed the djinn with a surprisingly commanding gaze. “What name should I call you by?”

The djinn bowed very low. “I am called Nasim, Your Majesty.”

She nodded. “And you have to do what I say?” He nodded. “Good. Dress yourself in the sort of clothes a man of your people would wear, I want to see them.”

Nasim’s eyes widened with renewed surprise, but he bowed again. “Your wish is my command,” he assented, and when he straightened he was wearing  flowing pants of similar style but a thicker silk, a fine shirt of the same, a richly embroidered belt and a matching long vest. On his head was an intricately wrapped turban of white silk, and on his feet were shoes of stiff embroidered silk curiously curled into points at the toes; the manacles, however, remained around his wrists. “This is how a man of higher caste would dress himself to enter the presence of a queen.”

She took that in with a nod, then indicated the bench; the snow cushion dissolved into dry flakes and blew away. “You may sit there to tell me of your people. As I don’t believe it would be well for you to sit on snow, you may create a cushion such as you would use at home.”

A fat, tasseled cushion of a beautiful blue color appeared on the bench, and then before it a small table on which sat a lacquered tray containing a steaming pot and a small cup, as well as a plate of pastries glistening with honey. The djinn indicated that Elsa should be seated, then poured out a cup of fragrant, steaming tea and handed it to her with a bow which was now entirely respectful before taking a seat opposite at her gesture. “I come from a land of golden sand and hot sun, Your Majesty, where the winds are all-powerful and even the trees bow at their coming…”

Dezhnev went back up to the wheel, shaking his head – and trying hard not to laugh. They would make it back to the port of Arendelle in safety now, he was sure of it. And Ivan was going to love this story.

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