A Word of Caution

Welcome to the realm of the Unseelie Court. Feel free to wander and browse, but know that the content you will find here is not for the faint of heart. The visions portrayed are often darkly erotic, even disturbing, and should be traversed only by those with the appropriate character and mental age.

You have been warned.


Chapter 10 – Castaway

Molly’s night was anything but restful. She was awakened repeatedly by tingly limbs, the cold, or outright terror. She had a hard time just staying upright. She only made the mistake of falling over into the shallow water in the barrel once. It’s bad enough to wake nearly drowning, but then to find yourself in total darkness, with nowhere to go… It was only the stars that gave her any hope at all.

Staring out at the pinpoints of light made her think of her friend by the same name. What would Star Haven think of her path now, she wondered. If ever there was a cork blown by the wind of the Goddess, it was Molly in her barrel.

When she finally jerked awake for about the hundredth time, she was surprised to find she could see the inside of her prison. Light was shining through the bunghole, and from its color she guessed it was just after dawn, not that it really mattered. Aside from the light, there were sounds that were different as well. The sea was quieter against the sides, yet there was a some kind of low rumble. When she realized it was in the ocean around her, she started to get nervous. More so, it was growing louder.

Like an approaching stampede of herd beasts, the rumble intensified until Molly found herself bracing her feet against the far wall. Something was coming, she could hear the sound from the bung hole as well now. Paralyzed with fear, she tensed up just as there was a muffled thud against the side of the barrel, which tilted well to the side as though struck by some invisible animal, and a low whistle across the hole. And then she knew.

“The Mother’s Breath!” she said aloud, surprised by how hoarse her voice sounded. And just as expected, the rumble was gone and the sea returned to its normal choppiness. Laughing, Molly figured she was probably the only one of the Mistress’s crew that had ever experienced the phenomena in that particular way.

The daylight brought with it new discomforts. After her elation with the morning wind had faded, she realized just how stiff and sore her body was. Everything hurt, her joints were so cold and swollen that she could hardly move. But, she was also noticing how hungry she was. She cursed the fact that she could almost smell Manny’s cakes and bacon in her mind. Hell, she would have settled for cold, unsweetened gruel at the moment, so she took a few mouthfuls of water as her breakfast, and that did well to quell her belly. She tried not to think about what had washed off her body into what she was drinking.

Giving her legs a chance to straighten out was both challenging and painful. She found she could slouch onto her back and lift her legs up like she had when she opened the bung hole, but her knees were so stiff, that it took her over a half hour to slowly work them straight. She would need to do that far more often or they would seize up altogether.

It was just after having righted herself again that she noticed the change in the sea. Where before the bobbing motion of the barrel was fairly constant, now it seemed to rise and fall slightly, and the slapping of the water on the sides was different. There was also a new sound; a rushing like before, growing in volume. But unlike the Mother’s Breath, this new rumble was pulsing.

“A second morning wind?” she asked herself. But it seemed unlikely. Whatever it was, it was happening fast, and in only a few tense minutes, the low pulsing rumble had become thunderous. I wasn’t until she felt a slight sea water spray drop through the hole above her that she understood.


But no sooner had she spoken when her barrel lurched forward and threatened to tip right over. Molly did her best to brace herself, but when the next swell caught her, it tumbled the barrel end over end and she couldn’t hold on. Things happened very quickly after that, and she was tossed and shaken within the now dark space, repeatedly smashing against the hard sides. She tried to cover her head as best she could, but she still managed to crack her temple hard enough to see stars. In retrospect, she must have lost consciousness for a few moments, because the next thing she knew there was a huge crash, and she was thrust violently into cold seawater.

Unable to breathe, or even tell which way was up, the frothing waters tumbled and spun her around until she was certain she was going to drown. But then her head popped into fresh air and she coughed enough to gasp a single breath before a second wave crashed over her and sent her down to the bottom again. This time, she was pushed into something hard, and a painful fire shot out from her right shoulder. The water rolled her at least two more times before finally throwing her into the air again. To her surprise, however, she also felt something soft and giving under her feet. Sand!

She knew she only had seconds to get out of the way of the next wave, so she pushed with all her might and tried to head for the beach that she could now see ahead of her. She was knocked down again, but this time she managed to keep her head above the water. Coughing and pushing her legs until they burned with overuse, she finally flopped to the shore away from the pounding waves and passed out.

The midday sun was what finally woke her, its heat seemed entirely wrong after the frigid cold of the last day and a half. Rolling over, she was nearly blinded by the abundance of light. She didn’t care. She was alive, and regardless of where she was, it was one hell of an improvement over being stuck in a barrel.

Slowly, she tried to shield her face enough to look around. She couldn’t get her eyes to focus very well, and she was practically one giant bruise now. Her head was pounding louder than the surf, and she couldn’t move her right arm at all, but after some struggling, she managed to sit up.

In front of her was a beach of bright white sand. Just off shore she could see a small protrusion of dark rocks that must have been the nutcracker for her barrel. As she caught her breath and watched the waves smash against them, casting out huge plumes of foam and spray, she decided that she was probably very lucky to be alive. Looking to her left, she could see more beach at the edge of a jungle forest. To her right, the beach curved away out of view behind even more jungle. Craning around, she wasn’t surprised to see more of the same, except that there was a considerable rock protrusion rising straight up into some misty clouds. As if a massive pillar of rock had decided to grow up from the ocean, the mini mountain was lush with trees and moss.

“So far so good,” she said to herself. If there were trees, there might be fruit, or at least shelter from the sun, which, she admitted, was seriously starting to annoy her.

Absently, she turned in order to stand, putting out her hand to help her up… or at least that was the plan. Instead, there was a ripple of sharp pain from her shoulder that nearly caused her to lose consciousness. Screaming in agony, she just flopped to her side in the sand and then rolled to her back again.

Puffing through the throbbing discomfort, she waited until she could see straight again before rolling the other direction and trying to stand using her other arm. Once she was upright, she glanced at her limp limb and moaned. She could see that the joint was clearly dislocated, though it did not look to have broken the skin anywhere.

“Fixing that is going hurt like hellfire,” she commented as she slowly made her way toward the jungle. Between the stiffness and her pain, what should have been a two minute walk took ten times as long and left her utterly winded. She found a fallen tree trunk to sit on in the new shade and decided that her legs at least seemed to be limbering up a little.

Looking around her revealed only more dark jungle that all pretty much looked the same.

“Come on, Amberly. Think. What would… Pennylust do?” She was going to say “Star”, but decided that the girl’s where-the-wind-takes-you attitude would probably kill her right now. “Prioritize,” she answered herself, frustrated that the good Captain was so in agreement with her Guild training. What was it she needed most right now?

“Water. If you don’t find fresh water, you won’t likely make it through the night. Go find water.”

As though following her own command, she dragged herself to her feet and took a bearing on the beach and then the sun above her through the trees – which didn’t help much since the light was almost directly above her at the moment. But as she brought her eyes back down, she noticed a distinctive marking on the side of the mountain pillar.

“That’ll do,” she said, and headed off into the jungle. She oriented the pillar, and its chosen ‘face’ as much to her left as possible. This way she would at least keep herself from wandering in circles.

If getting off the beach was hard, pushing her way through an increasingly dense jungle quickly became ridiculous. She kept on bumping her dislocated arm, or catching her clothing, so that in only fifteen minutes she was sweating runnels and on the verge of collapse. She was just about to turn around and head back to the beach, when her ears picked up a familiar sound. The rush of water. Alert, she found a small boulder and carefully stepped up so that she could see a little further through the jungle. Sure enough, just a couple dozen meters away was a small waterfall.

“Whoo hoo!” she yelped, feeling a sense of real hope for the first time in hours, and plodding off she made the remaining distance in only a minute or so. She could have cried for joy at the sight of the pool at the base of the falls, and would have jumped right in if not for some part of her that still didn’t trust her new home.

“Don’t make assumptions, girl. Be sure…”

She sighed and scanned around the pool for any warning signs. Bones, tracks, anything that might tell her about the state of the water. There was nothing obvious, and while trying to peer to the bottom of the small pond, she watched a bird land near the opposite edge and get a drink.

“Good enough,” she exclaimed and put a finger in. It was slightly warm, or at least warmer than she expected, but felt fine. Gathering some in her hand, she brought the liquid to her lips and gave it a tiny taste. It was a bit heavy on minerals, but otherwise sweet and pure as far as she could tell. She took a larger drink, and then another, and another. Simple water never tasted so refreshing, and she was laughing and splashing herself before she knew it.

When she had taken her fill, she washed her face and was seriously thinking about a bath when her eyes caught motion in the jungle beyond the pond. She went quiet, and squinted into the foliage, hoping that it was just her imagination. It wasn’t.

Moving in a line about fifty meters away, was a pack of four-legged animals. They were maybe a meter long from head to tail each, not very big, but then, neither was she. It didn’t look like they had seen her yet, but they had no doubt heard and smelled her presence. She would be pretty hard to miss, bumbling loudly through the jungle.

Her heart racing, she quickly decided that her best option was to head perpendicularly to the course that had brought her to the pond. If she were lucky, the beach would be closer in that direction. It obviously wouldn’t give her any cover, but she thought that the animals might not like the waves and water if she were to wade offshore a bit. Regardless, it was only a matter of time before they locked in on her scent. Slowly, she backed away from the edge of the pool and quietly started moving in that direction. She had gone about ten meters when a branch caught under her lame arm. Before she could stop herself, she pulled the limb and gasped sharply in pain.

As if in slow motion, she watched the head of the lead beast snap up and turn in her direction. She didn’t wait to see if they had spotted her or not, and bolted as fast as she could through the jungle. Awkward and panicked, the pain from her shoulder was only tolerable because of the burst of adrenaline that suddenly washed through her bloodstream, but at least she seemed to be staying ahead of the animals. Before her, the jungle was thinning and she started to feel a tiny bit of hope, then she glanced to the side and saw that about half the pack was running even with her only a few meters away. She quickly looked to her other side and could see the rest moving up, boxing her in.

Molly could tell the forest was about to open into the clear, and put everything she had into a last burst of speed. When she checked her pursuers, she was surprised to see them falling back. She considered that perhaps they were too afraid of the sunlight to leave the forest. But when she brought her gaze forward again, she quite abruptly understood the reason for their hesitation. Directly in front of her was a drop off. It wasn’t more than ten meters to the rocks below, but it was straight down.

There wouldn’t be time to stop. Her own momentum was already going to carry her over the edge. Her best chance was to spin around and hope that she could catch the edge as she fell, but even that plan was thwarted as her balance was thrown off by her gimp arm. Her feet collided, and she stumbled over the side in a tumbling mass.

Having already gone through so much in the water, Molly could hardly believe she was going to die falling off a stupid cliff, and she felt only complete frustration as she went over backwards, the mocking faces of her dog-like pursuers staring down at her from the edge of the precipice.

An instant later, those faces turned red. In fact, everything seemed to have a red cast to it, as though she were peering through a pane of colored glass…

Abruptly, she was jerked upward from the waist, and for a moment she thought that she had hit the bottom and snapped her back over a rock. But instead of a sharp snap, the force at her back was firm, but gradual, slowing her fall instead of merely stopping it. Before she had a chance to fully grasp this miracle, she found that she was moving upwards again. That was when she noticed the thin golden lines reaching up into the trees. She followed them down to see where they were coming from and nearly cried aloud. Looped around her waist was her Nanaris. She’d completely forgotten she had it on! It had so perfectly adjusted to hiding out of the way, that it had become nearly invisible, even to her. Of course, having her head whacked a half dozen times probably hadn’t helped her memory much either…

She zipped past the startled faces of the beasts, and right up into the trees, where her ascent luckily slowed until she needed only reach out and grasp hold to steady herself as her feet landed on a more horizontal branch. She looked down and her eyes widened a bit. She was a good six or seven meters up. Stunned, she carefully maneuvered herself until she was more or less hugging the main trunk of the tree while she sat on a side branch. She watched in awe as the thin golden tendrils retracted back into the main body of the Nanaris and it was once again still and quiet. She reached down and stroked its surface, nearly in tears.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she gradually calmed. The dog-things circled around at the base of the tree for a while, but when it became apparent that their prey wasn’t coming down, they lost interest and finally ran off.



Molly sighed contentedly as she bit into her second Lango fruit, the juices from the soft orb dribbling down her chin. Lango could be grown almost anywhere but the far north, and so they were surprisingly common at meals almost anywhere you went, but in all her life, Molly had never tasted one so delicious as she was enjoying now. It wasn’t just that she was painfully hungry. The variety found on her little island were both bigger and juicier than she had ever seen. And they were amazingly sweet. She wiped the bluish juice from her chin and looked down at her shirt. She used to get beat for staining her clothes with Lango juice, now she just laughed. There would be no one to complain about the state of her clothing here. Not that she wouldn’t have minded some company, sitting alone in the branches of a low tree.

“You know, feel free to sing me some ideas on what I should do now,” she said, glancing at her Nanaris. “And what exactly happened earlier?” Her metallic counterpart remained quiet. She thought about the red screen that had appeared as she fell over the cliff and wondered if the Nanari had some kind of self-preservation state. Perhaps it had only been trying to save itself.

She needed to check it anyway, after having been banged around and dumped under water, so she reached down and unclipped it from her waist. Immediately, it changed color and swirled back into a ball, clean and perfect and intricate beyond imagination.

“Well, you at least, don’t seem any worse for wear. I, on the other hand need to deal with this shoulder before I end up with permanent damage.”

To her surprise, there was a single short tone, and the Nanaris unfolded around her hand, climbed her good arm, and settled around her torso in a configuration that looked like a harness. A working screen appeared before her face, but instead of blue, or even red, this one was green. She saw a number of small tendrils extend from the harness and hover over her dislocated shoulder. The screen changed and shifted until it was showing a transparent view of what she recognized as her own arm.

“Medi!” she proclaimed, remembering one of the more obscure classes she had taken in the Guild. Her instructor, Father Bhertaker, was somewhat looked down upon by the more traditional Guild teachers, mainly because they thought such uses of the Nanari to be a waste of time and resources. Molly had liked the old man, who was about the least misogynistic of the bunch, and used to joke that he had seen every inch of a human body, inside and out, and he could find no differences that made one gender less than another.

“They’re a matched set!” he would say. “One without the other is nothing but useless meat!”

She looked at her limp arm. “This is going to be useless meat unless I can find a way to fix it soon…” She scrolled through various menus, looking for what she wanted, but her class focussed on structure, not repair. Biting her lip, she decided to try a different tact.

“Look, I know this isn’t how we’re supposed to work together, but I need you to figure this out for me.” Staring at the device, she concentrated hard on her shoulder, the pain she was still feeling, and what she wanted help with. For a few seconds nothing happened, but then there was a short tone again, and the screen scrolled to a specific procedure. She heard the Nanaris make another little set of tones that loosely translated to, “are you sure?”

She took a deep breath and tapped GO.

Molly jumped when a number of tentacles extended from the golden girdle and wrapped around the tree limbs near her. Another set snaked up her right shoulder, wrapping around the limb. Suddenly she was very nervous. Suppose the procedure she had just selected was for amputation?

“Hey, uh… wait a second. I’m not sure that this… oh no…”

There was a series of stacked bars on the screen in front of her. As she watched, the top bar disappeared, then the next, and the next… It was counting down. When there were three, then two bars left, she took a deep breath and clamped her eyes shut.


She realized she must have passed out for a moment, because the next thing she knew she was staring down at the ground below her, held up by only the harness and its connections to the tree. Her shoulder no longer felt numb, but now the pain was so intense that she had tears in her eyes. She was lifted back up and set on the branch again, and looking over at her shoulder she saw that it was once again back in place. She experimentally tried to wriggle her fingers, and was very pleased to see them move, even if the action hurt like hell.

About the same time she was breathing mostly normally again, she felt her Nanaris changing to form a thin but rigid web around her whole right arm and shoulder in addition to the harness. Apparently, she wouldn’t be allowed to move it yet.

“You’re the expert,” she said, smiling. “Boy am I glad that’s over. Though doing anything short an arm is a bit of a bother… wait a second, what am I saying?!” Using the screen, Molly extended a simple work arm from the Nanaris, just like the kind she used with Manny in the kitchen. Sure enough, it could act and feel just like any other extension of her body, even when she wasn’t chopping carrots. Then she noticed that the control screen was still green instead of blue.

“So… that’s not because of my medical condition after all, is it.” She sighed and brought up the self-test screen. After a moment to check itself, the Nanaris reported that it was fully functional, with one hundred percent power. That last point surprised her a little, since most of the later gen Nanari that she had used in the past would almost always show at least a little drain when in use. They all recovered with time, but apparently the base generations were much more efficient at it.

“Okay, well I suppose we can just ignore that for now. I think I have four or five hours of daylight left. I had better use that to find or make shelter for the night. I don’t like the idea of you strapping me to a tree.” She looked at the sky and didn’t see any sign of rain, but she knew not to trust that layman’s view. Ocean weather was nothing like it was back at Gar.

She was also still a bit rattled by the pack of dog-things, though now she knew to take to the trees if she saw them again. No matter what, she was going to need a safe place to sleep. She might be able to rig some kind of hammock if she had some cloth or rope…

She checked her Nanaris to see if it could produce something from the natural plant life around her, and indeed it could, but the process required a large pot and two days time. She needed resources.

“Right…” she said to herself. “I guess we go exploring then. The question is, ground or trees?” She decided to test the later option and reached out with several metal arms to the trees around her. She could “feel” her connections to them, and knew that the mechanical versions of her limbs were plenty strong enough to hold her. She pulled on them and could easily lift herself, supported only by the harness, and so she reached out again to a nearby tree. By shortening one limb and increasing the length of another, she could effectively move herself. It was awkward at first, but she found that if she kept at least four metal tentacles out to help her stabilize, she could travel through the trees fairly smoothly. After a little more practice, she decided to add two more “arms” so that she was always connected by at least three points.

Staying higher up also meant that she wasn’t having to fight her way through the ground foliage, and could see a lot further around her. Like some sort of giant spindly spider, she slowly set out back toward the pool and waterfall.

It didn’t seem like she had traveled very far with the dogs at her heels, but then, she was panicked out of her mind. When she did finally reach the pool, she carefully checked for the predators before silently letting herself down to the ground. She got her drink and splashed a bit of water on her face before lifting once again into the trees and moving on. The stream was as good as anything else to follow since it only led uphill. She wanted to get higher so that she could see as much of her new island home as possible. Then a thought occurred to her.

Suppose it wasn’t an island?

Could this be the southern continent? She doubted that possibility. She certainly hadn’t traveled that far in her barrel, and she remembered the Captain and Brill talking about rings of islands. Perhaps this was one of those? Whatever the case, being higher up would give her a better view, and that meant following the stream.

Normally, travelling uphill in her current condition simply wouldn’t have been an option, but Molly decided to give herself a break and let her Nanaris do the bulk to the work since its fine golden limbs didn’t appear to tire.

She followed the flow of the little brook until the landscape angled up sharply at the base of the mountainous tower. Turning around, she gasped. She was now above the general tree line, and had a beautiful view of what she had just trekked through. From this vantage point, she could see everything on this side clear down to the beach. She noticed the cliff where she nearly lost her life, as well as the little rocky outcropping where the waves had smashed her barrel open and dislocated her shoulder.

The source of the water was a small cave opening about ten meters above her in the side of the tower. She also noticed that the water coming down was warm enough to leave a significant mist around the rocky landing where she was now standing. It was slippery, but not unmanageable.

“I wouldn’t mind washing out some of these scrapes…” she mentioned to herself. “But I can’t take you off.” She looked down at the Nanaris. Guild protocol was unclear on how the Nanari handled getting wet. Some were fine, while others, especially the later generations, could have real problems coping with water, especially being submerged. She’d only seen one Nanari ever die, but it was something that gave her nightmares for weeks. The Tech to which it was beholden was never the same, even though he was given a new Nanari. The mechanical miracles lost all physical control of their shape when they failed internally, bubbling and sending spikes in all directions. Eventually, they simply dissolved into a black dust that had the smell of burnt metal. But it was the sound that was most terrifying to Molly. It was a chorus of high pitched screams, like a thousand voices being tortured to death in some kind of miniature apocalypse. It was a sound she never ever wanted to hear again.

“You were fine the whole time we were in the barrel. So can I take you into the shower with me?”

She wasn’t expecting an answer, and jumped when the device around her torso made a soft bleating. She knew at once that the sound was an affirmative.

Stunned, she just stood there with her mouth open for a few seconds.

“You really are listening to me, aren’t you?” Frustratingly, the Nanaris gave her no further answer. “Right. Well, okay then. These clothes probably need a washing almost as much as I do…”

Stepping out of her boots, she put out her hand and felt the water. It was the perfect temperature for bathing, even in the sweaty jungle. She might regret being wet later, but she sighed contentedly as she slipped under the heaviest fall of water and let the almost mist-like downpour soak her hair and clothing. After a ten meter drop, the stream of water was almost entirely broken up, and it really was like standing in a heavy rain. To Molly, it felt wonderful.

She did the best she could with her hair, and checked on her Nanaris. If it was distressed, it certainly didn’t show it, so she mulled over the best way to wash her clothes. A simple soaking wasn’t going to cut it, so she started to try and get out of her trousers with her single good hand… and stopped.

“Either this works or it doesn’t, right?” Again, with no other noise from the device for guidance, she let two of the mechanical arms do much more nimbly what her own fleshy limbs could not, and a moment later the garment dropped around her ankles. She found herself blushing as she remembered the very strange and erotic dream from a few nights prior. Even though it was she herself controlling the metal fingers, it was still weird to have the slick metal tentacles removing her clothing. She shook her head and tried to focus on the problem of her blouse.

The issue was simple, the Nanaris was on the outside of the garment bracing her shoulder and arm, and so there wasn’t an obvious way to get the clothing off to wash it. But even as she was thinking about it, she saw her mechanical counterpart shifting and changing shape. With a liquid-like motion that surprised her, the arms briefly retracted and it simply slipped right into her blouse between the buttons and reformed again around her body underneath. The whole transition couldn’t have taken more than two seconds.

Her mouth hanging open, Molly blushed for the second time in as many minutes. The odd metal conforming to her bare skin was distracting on its own, but the feel of it sliding over her nipples was enough to make her gasp in arousal. Luckily, it settled around her breasts and rib cage, rather than on top, and after a few moments felt like a leather harness once again.

She used the Nanaris to unbutton her blouse and strip it over her shoulders. Looking down at the very present points on her chest, she sighed.

“I suppose that’s yet another problem I’m going to have to deal with in the near future,” she commented.

Her unexpected lust caused her to think of John, and she wondered how her disappearance might affect him. Would he assume she was dead and move on? Maybe find someone else on the ship to court… Someone like Cassandra.

No. She quickly decided to keep that kind of thinking at bay. The last thing she needed right now was to fall into depression and hopelessness. Clothes in hand, she put some of her latent emotion into wringing them clean. A bit of rigorous pounding on the rocks helped as well to get the worst of the dirt and sweat out.

With the laundry out of the way, Molly spent some time going over her many abrasions and bruises while she sat under the flow of water. A few would need to be watched for infection, but honestly, she thought she was pretty lucky, all things considered. Aside from her shoulder and several bumps to the head, she had no major injuries. She hurt everywhere of course, and tomorrow would no doubt be rough as she stiffened up, but it could have been much worse.

She was alone in the middle of nowhere, and she had no idea if the Queen’s Mistress even knew she was missing yet. They might not ever find her even if they where looking. Of course, the plus side of that was that the Guild probably wouldn’t find her either.

Having to put her damp clothes back on tempted her to just go around naked, but she hadn’t yet seen the other side of the tower. For all she knew, there could be a thriving village just around the corner.

“Time to see the extent of what I’m dealing with…” she exclaimed, taking a deep breath. Pulling her boots back on, she let her Nanaris shift itself back to the outside of her clothing and started off around the base of the cliff. Without the trees to swing from, it was a little more tricky to navigate, but her metal hands seemed to have no trouble gripping the rough rock face. She moved very much like a spider, using her flesh-based legs only to help stabilize her motion as she silently traveled around the tower.

Stopping several times to get her bearings, she discovered pretty quickly that she was indeed on an island, though it was more of an island chain. There were a number of decreasingly smaller islands east of the larger one she had become a castaway on, the nearest separated by only a few hundred meters. The channel between the two masses was a rocky hazard that looked menacing even before she spotted several wrecks both above and below the water.

Smiling, Molly decided that exploring an old shipwreck was just the adventure she needed to improve her mood. She made her way down from the tower to the shore of the channel in just a few minutes, and was amazed at the state of the nearest derelict. Most of the ship was actually out of the water, though she noted from the waterline on the rocks that it was almost certainly low tide. The whole thing looked like an explosion of rope, sail, and broken timber, but more surprising was that it hardly seemed weathered. From the look of the water stains, she guessed that the rig couldn’t have been there for more than a few months at most. The rails still looked polished!

She had to be very careful not to hurt herself exploring. There were snags and dangerous splinters of wood everywhere. She relied on her Nanaris almost completely, keeping her soft and vulnerable body well away from dangers. There was a way she could have used her monitor screen and the metal tentacles to probe inside the ship, but she wanted to see it with her own eyes, at least this once.

Getting within wasn’t hard as the ship had broken in half with most of the bow below the surface of the water. Molly went in through one of the knocked open cargo drops on the main deck and noticed several things at once.

The first was that despite what had ultimately doomed the vessel, it had most certainly been under attack just prior to grounding. The hull was riddled with blast holes that simply couldn’t have been caused by the rocks. The ship also looked to be some kind of small passenger vessel, and had only a few small guns for armament.

“What in the world happened here?” she asked the empty hull. “Was the crew rescued?”

She noticed that there didn’t seem to be anything of real monetary value, as though the ship had been stripped. Then a thought occurred to her.


It might explain the holes at least, and the missing valuables. She shook her head and continued further in. Along the way, she found a canvas sack that looked like it had once held dry goods. She upended the rotting contents and used the bag to help her gather small items she might find useful later. She’d come back and do a more extensive gathering, but she needed to rig some kind of shelter before dark. Finding a hammock wasn’t a problem, and there was plenty of rope and cord everywhere. She also took a few pulleys in case she needed to lift out something heavier when she returned.

Finally, she pushed open the door into the captain’s cabin. She wasn’t surprised to find that it had been pretty well upended. She was surprised, however, to find the captain… or what was left of him.

“Oh goddess…” she muttered as she carefully stepped around the corpse. He (as far as she could guess) was mostly bones. The sea and the open air had done its work, to be sure. It was only his clothing that gave away his rank. Crouching, she took a good long look at the skeleton slumped on the floor. It was seated against the wall with its legs sticking out in front of it. Molly wasn’t especially afraid of the dead, but the few other corpses she had seen were nowhere near as far decayed as this one. She found herself remembering her Medi lessons.

“I wonder what stories you could tell, sir.” Looking him over, she readily concluded from the stains on his shirt and jacket that the man had died from some major trauma to the chest. She also noticed that he seemed to be holding onto his three-cornered hat rather covetously as it lay on the floor next to him.

“Captain, I really doubt you’re going to be needing that, and frankly, the sun is brutal this far south.” She carefully moved his arm and retrieved the head cover. She was just turning away to continue her search, when a glint of metal caught her eye.

“Hello?… Oh ho! So, that’s what you were up too!” she exclaimed, as she grasped the hilt of a saber. The weapon was still in its sheath, tucked out of sight in a recess behind the corpse itself, with the handle and guard covered by the hat. Given the craftsmanship of the piece, it wasn’t a stretch to conclude that the man had been mortally wounded, but alive enough to hide something he really didn’t want in the hands of whoever had attacked him… His sword. He’d managed to stow it in the one place they weren’t likely to look, which was behind his own dead body.

With due respect, Molly held up the fine weapon, admiring the workmanship and detail. Polished steel and silver, with inlaid gold, the guard was a beautiful work of art. There was minimal crusting, which surprised her a little until she clicked the blade loose of the scabbard and withdrew it a few inches.

Her eyes widened as she whistled in appreciation. The blue-swirled polysteel was hard to come by, being left over from before the Fall. It was even harder to work. Impervious to corruption, and nearly unbreakable, the metal was highly sought-after by weaponsmiths, though it took a Tech to actually craft it into something usable, since only a Nanaris could shape it.

“Thank you again, sir,” she said, bowing to the cadaver. “I shall try to honor your final sacrifice, though I think such a fine blade is wasted on me. Perhaps I can deliver it to someone more worthy in the future.”

There wasn’t much else in the captain’s cabin worth taking. She found a few sealed tubes that held maps, so she grabbed those, as well as a rusted sextant. Perhaps if she could repair it, she could discover her location. Of course, she had absolutely no idea how to use the instrument…

Exiting the body of the vessel, Molly spent a few minutes cutting away some of the salvageable sails, noticing that much of it was suncloth. That meant they probably had a matrix, and possibly a distiller. She was very tempted to go back into the ship and check, but held off when she noticed the sky. Clouds were starting to stretch in from the east, and far off on the horizon she could see a dark smear that bothered her. If it was a storm, then she had better get that shelter built. It was still quite warm, but she didn’t like the idea of getting caught out in the rain.

A natural cave would be best, but she reminded herself that it would also be the most likely location for predators. A flash of light on the horizon made up her mind and she headed back up through the jungle toward the tower of rock. She’d just have to evict any current occupants if she found someplace suitable.

An hour later Molly was cutting away a bit of the opening into a good sized cave about five meters up from the base of the tower. She almost missed the hole, being mostly covered in vines and foliage, and she was more than a little nervous as she first stepped into the space, her new sword drawn. But it was empty, apparently too high up for ground-based animals, and unfavored by the birds.

This confused her until she remembered that she was on the windward side of the tower now, and that any weather that came from the east, which it almost always did, would be much more abrasive than on the leeward face. The cave was facing almost directly east, and so would provide little cover from the wind for a nest. But for Molly, it was perfect. She could use some of the sailcloth to block the opening, effectively giving her a snug little space to hide.

Inside, the rock was nearly smooth, the wind and rain having gradually eroded the harsher surfaces. It also extended the cave back about ten meters into the tower. With the help of her Nanaris, she was able to clear away the foliage and square the entrance enough to get a good seal with the sail cloth. She needed only tell the device what she wanted to do, and it quickly found the best solution to present to her. By the time the sky was just starting to turn an ugly shade of green, she laced up the last of her makeshift doorway and started on her hammock. By the light of her Nanaris, she patched a small tear and then clipped it into a set of installed rings on either side of the cave.

“Pretty basic for now, but a far side better than hanging in a tree,” she said to herself as she tested her weight in her new bed. It held fine, and she leaned back and relaxed completely for the first time since back on the Mistress. She was asleep in minutes.


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