The Shadow of the Silver Prince

For two years the circle had laid low, honing their own skills and waiting to see how Nexus fared and whether or not the Realm would respond. During that time Zis had taken Mnemia to a number of different shadowlands and to the Underworld beyond.

Those trips had been strictly sight seeing, with both of them doing nothing to draw attention to themselves. But Mnemia still remembered the sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach she felt every time they passed into one of these forsaken places. And this was no different. If anything this was worse. This was the first time Mnemia had sailed into a shadowland, and as the wave of decay passed over her the combination felt like more of a violation than before; as if something more precious than normal was being corrupted now that she was on the sea.

Standing next to her Mnemia could see the conflict on Zis’ features. The abyssal hid it well, but Mnemia knew the woman too well now for the act to work on her. Part of her tainted soul relished this homecoming, returning to a world she was truly a part of; here where the essence sustained her instead of poisoned her. Yet part of her recoiled at the touch of the dead, understanding of what had been taken from her driving her to see this as a prison and not a sanctuary. Still, Mnemia left her to her own thoughts. As long as that mule Zuko continued to refuse to remove the collar Zis would be a prisoner wherever she went. She could only hope Zuko came to his senses before Lover attempted to recover her lost lamb. That was not a fight they could win if Zis still held any doubt in her heart. Mnemia did slip her hand into her companion’s though, hoping the physical contact would give her strength.

As the Tya ship pulled into the harbor at Onyx Mnemia and Zis set about securing the ship with the other sailors. Mnemia fell into the task with practiced ease, a subterfuge that was so close to the truth that it almost didn’t seem fair to the Silver Prince. But Zis was still having trouble. She had the physical attributes to succeed, but she didn’t have the instincts of a sailor. In the end the captain had been forced to keep her out of sight as often as possible and have her moving heavily supplies when it wasn’t. That was the only way to mask the awkward walk of one who didn’t have the blood of a sailor.

Once the ship was secured the crew disembarked and made their way to the Tya guildhouse located just off of the docks. More of a compound, most of the Tya would stay here while their shipment was unloaded and new supplies bought and loaded. The Silver Prince and the Tya both accepted each other as trading partners as a necessary evil, but neither seemed to like it. Few people cared much for a city that was as much dead as alive, and the Tya were no different.

Separating from others Mnemia and Zis headed towards the guildhouse proper. Once inside the converted boathouse they quickly located Elder Cathlan, an aging woman still as capable of working the rigging as her younger charges. As they approached the woman looked them over without a word before turning from her workbench and leading them to a small office in the back. As she took a seat at the far end of the room Mnemia closed the door behind them.

Cathlan looked over Zis for a moment before sighing.

“This is going to get you both killed, you know that, right sister?”

Though the question had been addressed to Mnemia it was Zis that responded.

“I thought the tattoos suited me well.”

“It is not the ink child, as always our artists are meticulous masters, even when using a temporary dye. No, the problem is that you don’t walk like us, talk like us, carry yourself as we do. If this were anywhere else we could write you off as a new recruit, but new recruits don’t come to Skullstone. The Silver Prince has eyes all over his city, and if they catch you we’ll all suffer for your failure.”

“I know.” Mnemia responded. “But the dreams are clear. The power that lies buried here cannot fall into the hands of the Bodhisattva. Whatever he might do should we fail it will be much worse if he gets his hands on the ancient artifact buried here.”

Cathlan shook her head, deciding a different approach might be more effective.

“What about the rest of the crew. Did any of them recognize you or suspect who you might be? You cannot be a member of the Tya and not know of our own pet exalted, not after what happened in the sunken city. There were so many of us trapped away down there, witness to horror and wonder alike, that we could never hope to keep the stories secret. Loose lips at a local bar will destroy your cover just as quickly as your landlubber friend here.”

Now it was Mnemia’s turn to let concern show on her face.

“Captain Herra and her first mate Keskia know who we are, and a few others might suspect, but the crew was intentionally composed of those Tya we knew would either keep a low profile or who are repulsed by the dead that walk the streets here. To top it off a rumor was spread among the crew as we docked about a sickness passing through the mortal populace. It’s not perfect, but it should hold up.”

Cathlan locked eyes with Mnemia for a moment before she continued. “You know I stand with you sister, we all do. No one questions your motive or your will and should you need anything you need only ask. I must ask these questions for the safety of the others here, but never doubt for a moment that we are with you.”

She rose to her feet again, closing the distance before embracing Mnemia. “May the storm mothers guide you sister.”

“And they you.” Mnemia responded.

“And do try to keep your friend out of trouble.” she said with a soft smile.

Mnemia only nodded before turning away and leading Zis out of the guildhouse. As they neared the gate that would take them into Onyx Zis spoke up.

“Well, at least you seemed to like my tattoos.”

Mnemia blushed as she lost a step. To maintain their cover they had done nothing to speed the ship on its way, meaning the trip from Seahaven to Onyx had taken almost a month. And while there was no privacy on the small ship that rarely stopped the Tya from enjoying each other’s company, and Mnemia and Zis had been no different.

“Now is hardly the time…” Mnemia paused almost long enough for Zis to think that was all she was going to say. “But if we make it back to the Azure Vaults you may find out just how much I like those tattoos on you.”

Zis only arched an eyebrow at that as they moved through the Bone Gate and into the shadows of Ebon Skull. Though curious what the other woman had in mind, the looming presence of the Silver Prince was enough to curtail a conversation that could have been quite enjoyable most anywhere else. Even with Zis’ connections to the Underworld, this place would be as hostile to her as it would to Mnemia.

The Shadow of the Silver Prince

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