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 8 – Challenges

“The sea suits you,” said Marus “The Black” Morrel as he joined the red-headed woman at the bow rail of the craft. Caravel turned to him, her deep green eyes matched perfectly with the lovely shade of her deep crimson lips.

“Hardly. Oh, I enjoy the adventure, certainly. But I’ve grown much too accustomed to a more… luxurious lifestyle. Perhaps I could be comfortable on a passenger ship, but a military vessel? Please.”

Marus laughed at her manner, knowing that she was both more, and less than she appeared. Her perfect skin, and delicate appearance was as much a facade as his own.

“I’m hungry, Marus,” she mentioned, turning from the view to face him direct. She wore her pout almost comically. “This is a ship of men, and military men at that. They are… unsatisfying. They’re too used to following orders.”

He took her hands in his, admiring the softness of her gloves. “Yes, and I am sorry. I suppose the Captain wasn’t much of a challenge?”

“He barely resisted. Men are always too easy to break… except for you.”

“Am I the only one you have found to be resistant to your charms?” he asked, kissing the back of her hand.

“The only one. I believe it is because we are so similar in nature, you and I.”

He considered this. “Perhaps. We do share many common… interests. Fear not, my dear Caravel. Our Captain feels we can overtake the Queen’s Mistress in three, possibly four days. And then… you will have your fill. She has a mixed crew.”

The other’s eyes widened in lustful anticipation.

“And the girl?”

“Once I have reclaimed the missing Arn, the Cardinal made it clear that the girl was of no further value to the guild. She’ll be yours.”

Clapping her hands in joy, the woman leaned out over the rail to watch the water slip by under the sleek ship, willing it to go faster.

“Make do with the meager minds you find here for now,” he suggested. “We will both sate our hungers soon enough, my dear.”



“Amberly! Loose that sail line!” Shiela Vinns’ voice boomed over the main deck for the third time as the Mistress cut hard into the crossing wind. The ship entered the rough seas, and the wind picked up just as Molly started her watch. She had only been working the deck for the last day, and although the pace had been much faster than she expected, she was determined to show the Captain that she was ready. She had passed her knots test (barely), and Brill had reluctantly allowed her to take on basic deck duty. Unfortunately, Molly was quickly realizing how much she lacked in physical strength.

Frantically, she scrambled to let out the thick rope around the dark metal cleat, but her hands were already spent. Her fingers felt thick and slow, and the muscles of her arms pulsed with overuse and fatigue. As the ship came about to match the change in wind direction, the rigging also shifted.

“Damn it! Loose the main before we dig! Get it around that pinrail! Watch the brace!”

Finally, Molly managed to get her rope free of the cleat, but the yard, which had been safely abeam of the powerful wind, was now hit nearly square on as the ship adjusted its course, pulling taut and ripping the line right through her hands. Desperate to correct her mistake, she gripped the rope with all the strength she had left, and suddenly found herself flying forward through the air. Landing on the hard deck knocked the wind from her lungs and stunned her, and as she fought for air and shook her head to clear the flashes of light in front of her face, she became aware of loud calls from the other deckmates. Scrambling to right herself, she just had time to look up from a kneeling position when the bow of the ship dropped into a wave trough. Without the lifting force of the mainsail, the vessel’s prow was pushed under the leading edge of the rolling sea, sending a huge wave of water over the decks, abruptly cutting their speed. Without a handhold, Molly was thrown forward again, this time right into a rail. She managed to get her hands in front of her, taking most of the blow, but her temple still struck with a sharp knock, sending her into blackness.

“She’s a menace on the deck, sir.” Sheila Vinns’ voice was sharp and bitter. For some reason, Molly couldn’t seem to open her eyes as she slowly worked toward consciousness. She could tell she was on her back on something hard, but her limbs seemed numb and heavy. “I won’t have her on my crew if she can’t even hold a simple line and follow basic instructions.”

“She’s been on board for less than an Eightday, Sheila. We can’t expect her to learn rigging overnight,” answered Star.

“Enough.” The Quartermaster’s deep warning cut off any further discussion. “What’s her condition, Doctor?”

“She took a solid knock to the head, but I detect no concussion. I’d keep her on light duty for a few days to be sure. Otherwise, a few bruises and contusions.”

“Alright. I’m deferring to you on this one, Vinns. She’s off your crew until further notice. I’ll inform the Captain and assign her other duties.”

“That’s not fair,” argued Star, her voice sounding a little whiny.

“Fair or not, I won’t risk her on running rigging until she can handle the lines.”

The voices faded, and presently Molly slipped back into a restless sleep. She dreamed of a white sand beach near the oddest forest she had ever seen. She wanted to go into the forest for some reason she couldn’t fathom, but every time she tried, she found herself getting stuck in the grass, which appeared to reach over her feet with every step. She was just about to call for help, when she woke. Still laying down, she now seemed to be resting on a mattress, which surprised her. Also still unable to see, she went to raise her hands and this time they begrudgingly obeyed. Her fingers fell on a cloth bandage.

“Whoa there,” came a gentle voice as someone stopped her.


There was a soft squeeze. “Take it easy. You hit your head pretty hard. Doctor White wants to you go slow to avoid possible nausea. That’s why your eyes are covered.”

“Can I take it off?”

“Yes, but let me dim the lights a bit. Go slow, okay?”

Very gently, Molly urged the bandage up while keeping her lids shut tight. Even with the lowered illumination, she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Fighting it down, she gradually became used to the light over a minute or so, and when she was finally able to open her eyes, she saw the Professor leaning over her.


“My cabin. I offered, since it would be the quietest place for you to recover. How do you feel?”

She blinked away a crusty film and took inventory of herself. Wincing, it felt as though every joint in her body had been bruised somehow. “Beat up.”

He smiled. “Believe it or not, that’s supposed to be good. Here…” Reaching over, he took a skin hanging nearby and offered her a drink. “Water.”

She hadn’t even been aware how thirsty she was, and she let him help her sit up as her nausea blossomed anew. Finally somewhat upright, she accepted the skin and drank her fill.

“I really screwed up, didn’t I,” she said as a statement, rather than a question.

The man shrugged his shoulders, but regarded her warmly. “I’m just a passenger, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to say…”

She sighed.

“But,” he continued, “I might try to avoid direct contact with Miss Vinns for a while if I were you.”

Groaning, Molly let her eyes close again, a headache slowly building behind her ears. “Was anyone else hurt?”

“Not that I am aware of.”

“Well, that’s a relief. It’s one thing to ruin your own chances of being a valuable crew member…”

“Hey, that’s enough of that,” he chided her. “You were already a valuable member of the crew long before you started learning the deck. You just weren’t ready yet.”

“I really wanted to be.”

“I know. So does Brill, for what it’s worth.”

Sighing, she played back the half-conscious conversations she had overheard.

“Do you think she’ll ever let me try again?”

Once more, the man shrugged. “Not my call. I do know you’re to be put on other work until your injuries are fully healed.”

“Damnit,” she cursed, and regretted the loudness of her own voice as her headache returned in force. “I was just getting accepted by the crew. Now I’ve let them down and I’ll have to start all over again.”

“You’re too hard on yourself, Molly.” He put his hand on her shoulder.

“You don’t understand. This is it for me now!”

“I wouldn’t say that, there’s plenty you can…”

“No, there isn’t,” she interrupted, her hands forming fists in the sheets of the bed. “I can’t go anywhere else, John. The moment I step ashore, the Guild can take me. I won’t go back there… Ever.”


“Promise me that you won’t let them take me back to that place. I’d rather die! Please, promise!”

He just stared at her, her wide eyes in a panic. Finally, he reached out and put a hand to her cheek.

“You’re really scared.”

“Yes.” Her body began to tremble. “That’s why it’s so important to me to make a place for myself as soon as possible. If the Captain decides to put me off…”

“She won’t.”

“If she does, I have nowhere to go. The Guild will find me and that will be it. I’ve only heard rumors… whispered stories about what they do to traitors, but even those wisps of truth were enough to give me horrible nightmares before I left. Death would be a mercy!”

“She won’t put you off, Molly. She needs you.”

She was shaking her head, and the Professor continued.

“She does. She knows the value of having a fully trained Tech aboard.”

“I’m not a Tech.”

“Ridiculous. A cert doesn’t make you any more qualified than a degree from the Royal Academy. It’s just a token to show that you’ve done the work. But everyone on this ship, including the Captain, already knows you’re qualified. Cert be damned!”

“Do you really think so?” She calmed down a bit, considering his words.

“I know so. Don’t worry about the deck work. You’ll get it in time.”

Molly was mostly comforted, and allowed herself to follow the Doctor’s orders about resting. It was well into the following day that she finally reported to Brill for light duty.

“How’s the head?” asked the tall woman as they met below decks.

“Got a nice lump, but the pain has mostly eased, sir.”

“Good. I’m going to introduce you to Tom Pound, he’s the ship’s carpenter. I think he may have some light work that will suit you until the rest of your bruises fade. I hate to say it, but you’re going to be sore and stiff again.”

She winced. “I already am.”

The Quartermaster took her to one of the lower decks near the front of the ship. There, she was led into an odd-shaped room with a single wooden table. It was obvious to Molly right away that this was the carpenter’s meager shop, as more than half of the space was filled with various kinds of planking and fixtures. There were windows, doors, and sections of railing all tucked carefully away and locked down. On the table was a very large vice, which currently held a broken wooden pin of the kind that they used to tie and belay ropes. Crouched over the vice was an older white-haired man with glasses.

“Tom, have you a moment?” asked Brill to get his attention.

The man looked up as though he hadn’t even noticed they were there, blinked several times, and then flipped up the lenses of his spectacles.

“Ah, Quartermaster, what can I do for you?” His voice was smooth and deep. As he sat up on his stool, Molly realized that he would be quite tall, well over six feet.

“I’ve brought you a possible apprentice. Think you can put her to work doing some light repair? She took a bump to the head and Doc White says to keep her from heavy labor for a bit.”

The man stared at her as though he could assess her skills by observation alone.

“A girl…”

“There’s no fooling you, Tom.” Brill was grinning, or Molly might have felt a bit offended. “Can you use her?”

“Can she work with her hands?”

“I’d say so, she’s Guild trained.”

“You don’t say? Well now, come forward child, and let’s have a look at you.”

Brill nodded, and Molly stepped up so that she was right next to him at the table.”

He flipped his glasses down and leaned close enough to her that she pulled back, surprised.

“Pretty thing. Show me your hands.”

She did so. The man took them in his, feeling the muscles and fingertips. She noticed that his own fingers were so gruff and glue-covered that it was amazing he could feel at all.

“No calluses. Good structure. You like working with small things, yes?”

She was surprised. “Yes, sir. Most of what I worked on in the Guild contained small parts.”

He nodded. “You have excellent dexterity. Yes, I can use her, Miss bel-Cavish.”

“Very well then. Molly, you are to report directly to Mr. Pound at Forenoon watch each day when on duty. He’ll assign you work suited to your skills and physical ability. Until that lump on your head returns to normal, you are to refrain from any strenuous activity, understand?”

“Yes, sir!’

“Good. Carry on then, Tom.”

With that, the Quartermaster gave Molly a wink and turned on her heels.

“Molly is it?” he said once they were alone.

“Yes, sir. Molly Amberly.”

“Please… Call me Tom. I was never much for the formalities.”

“Uh…” she hesitated, unsure how to respond.

He looked at her over his glasses. “Don’t worry. I stopped chasing pretty girls a long time ago, Miss Amberly. You’ve nothing to fear from me.”

“Yes… sir.”

He laughed. “As you wish. My last apprentice was a bit snippy with the formalities, so perhaps it’s best. Now, let’s have a look at that very unusual device around your midriff.”

Caught off guard again, Molly had almost forgotten about her Nanaris. Its tendency to disguise itself as a common belt meant that most people missed it completely. Not, apparently, the carpenter. Reaching down, she had it unclip and then roll up into a golden ball once again, which she set on the table.

The old man peered at the unmoving object so closely that she wondered if his glasses actually worked at that range. His gaze was appraising rather than judgemental and he continued to analyze the orb almost a full minute. With a soft sigh, he finally sat up, smiling.

“I’ve seen only one other, but I dare say, they are exceedingly beautiful. Incredible craftsmanship. You may return it to your waist, my dear. I know it can serve to aid you, but for now, I would like to see what you can do with your hands.”

For the next three hours, Tom Pound had her demonstrate various techniques in wood, metal, and cloth by fixing various broken items, from pullies to push-rods, that he pulled from a large box of the same. Most everything required fine manual dexterity, and she actually found herself quite challenged in a number of instances. She had to pull from her very early training at the Guild to come up with solutions to many of the puzzles he placed before her, and she was quite aware that he was refraining from suggestions in order to see what she would do. Not since her first year at the Gar Diocese had she been so thoroughly tested, but the exercises were quite stimulating.

“Very good. Very good,” he commented, as she finished reassembling a newly fixed musket. He took the weapon and carefully tested the repaired trigger mechanism several times. “Excellent indeed. Tell me, Molly, you seemed to know this one as though you had done it before? But I have been led to believe that the Guild does not work in weapons.”

“We’re trained to repair most of the known classes by hand, all the way up to light cannon, but the Guild does not actually make any weapons of its own.”

“Why is that? I would think that with the help of the Nanari, the Guild could make much more advanced machinations, yes?”

“The Nanari won’t make weapons. They flat out refuse. They can sometimes be coaxed into repairing parts, but they will not work on anything more deadly than a sabre.”

“Fascinating! And fortunate… Otherwise I think that the Guild would be far more powerful than they already are. How are your hands? Tired?”

“Oh no, not at all! In fact, I find this kind of work to be very satisfying. I would be happy to continue if you like?”

He chuckled. “Enough, child. Your enthusiasm makes me tired. Besides, I believe the watch has ended.”

“It has? I never even heard the bells.”

“You were… engaged. Off with you. Come see me tomorrow, and perhaps next time we will allow your mechanical counterpart to participate.”

Molly gingerly felt the unnatural bump on her head as she made her way towards the ship’s mess. Her stomach protested, and she realized that she was actually quite hungry now that most of the nausea had faded. She also saw that without the distraction of work, she was quite aware of her other bumps and bruises. That she could get so banged up in only a few short hours on deck, gave her a new appreciation for Sheila Vinns and her crew.

She thought of the woman, and how she had referred to Molly as a “menace”. The words stung, for sure, but she was determined to prove her wrong. Somehow, she’d find a way to be a useful member of the crew.

She was just passing the showers when a group of girls dressed in towels stepped into the causeway. Molly had seen them, as they shared her watch, but wasn’t sure of their names yet. Apparently, they knew her, however. She tried to give them room in the tight walkway, but despite her best effort, one of them knocked her shoulder hard enough to spin her around.

“Watch where you’re going, Bondy!” said the girl, her blonde hair still wet from washing.

“I tried to make way,” she replied, a dizzy headache forming from the jostling.

The blonde was almost a foot taller than Molly, and, she realized, quite a bit more muscular as the woman turned back and placed herself far too close for propriety.

“What did you say?”

“I said I tried to get out of your way.”

Molly could tell by the sneer on the other’s face, that this was more than an accidental passing, and she looked around for others in case things started to get out of hand. That was when she noticed the collapsible partitions that had been newly set up directly fore and aft of the showers, no doubt to keep the steam from the rest of the ship. She heard a click behind her and realized that one of the girls had just closed the aft door, effectively shielding them from view.

“What does he see in a tiny little cunt like you?” Her words were filled with venom, and suddenly Molly understood what the confrontation was all about. A deep anger filled her.

“Oh, I don’t know, intelligence maybe?”

With a loud crack, her body was shoved up against the bulkhead, painfully pressing her back into the stays.

“The only way you’re going to ‘get out of my way’, is to get the fuck off this ship. One way or another, you’re going, Bondy.”

“Is that a threat?”

The woman looked her over with disgust. “What if it is? What you going to do about it? Gonna go cry to the Captain?”

Star had said there might be some crewmates upset that she and John had hooked, but Molly never expected outright hostility. The fact that they could be so viciously bitter over the relationship revealed an entirely new, and dangerous, level of ship’s politics.

“I’m a bondservant, remember? I can’t leave. Unless maybe you’d like to pay my bond?…”

“There’s more than one way to leave a ship. Better watch yourself on deck, Bondy.” The blonde pulled her forward, and then slammed her back again, causing her to crack the back of her head on the hard wood behind her. Stars flashed in her vision, which then started to tunnel towards darkness. A deep breath pulled her back, but a sickening nausea came with it. “Wouldn’t want a tiny little thing like you to get washed overboard,” continued the woman. “Why, it could be hours before anyone even noticed you were missing.”

“Leave it, Cass,” interrupted one of the other girls, placing her hand on the blonde’s shoulder. The woman shrugged it off, but relented. With a wicked grin, she gave Molly one last shove and then threw open the aft door, the others following her as she left. She did notice that one of the trio, the dark-skinned one who had spoken up, stared back at her with what almost looked like concern.

The ship’s mess was already bustling by the time she stepped into the line and grabbed a plate. If anyone else was angry at her for her screw-up on deck, they didn’t show it. A few crew members even addressed her by name in greetings, so it seemed that she still had some left-over goodwill from her work on the showers. She did notice a pair of girls watching her with disgusted looks, and sighed.

“Why da long face, Molly?” asked a voice she recognized. Manny Oleski spooned a generous portion of stew onto her plate and followed it with a chunk of bread. Startled, she looked up at the cook’s friendly face, at a loss for words. The man glanced over at the girls and then back to her.

“Ahh. I see. Well now, you don’ worry ‘bout dem. They jus’ jealous is all. Da Quartermaster says you on light-duty. You willin’ ta work with me in da mess? I could use your help again.”

Smiling, she nodded. Simple, isolated work back in the kitchen and away from the rest of the crew seemed very appealing at that very moment. “I’d like that.”

“I’ll make it so.” She noticed the man placed an extra slice of fruit on her plate.

Despite the cook’s attempt to cheer her, Molly couldn’t get the encounter outside the showers from her mind. She was so distracted that she found herself just standing there looking at the tables when John touched her shoulder.

“Yeah, I can never decide where to sit either. Come on.”

She blinked several times, looked down at her cooling food, and then followed the man out of the mess. Holding the door at his cabin, he set both their plates on a fold-out table and pushed in her chair for her as she sat down.

“I…” she started, and then burst into tears. John let her sob for a few minutes, holding her hand while he tried to decipher her words through staggered breaths.

“It’s so p-p-petty! I d-didn’t do anything t-to them!”

“Well of course you did.”


He was smiling softly at her. “You won my heart, Molly. Despite all their fawning, I made it plain that I wasn’t interested in a tryst with anyone… Until I met you. They’ve been falling over themselves to garner attention from me for weeks with not the slightest success, and here you come along, and without even trying, manage to steal me right from under their noses. Of course they’re miffed.”

She was frowning. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you interested in me? I have no future, I’m not even pretty!”

John stared at her, stunned. “Oh, Molly. Who told you such nonsense?”

She looked away as anger flushed her face.

“My father… My own mother! No one believed in me, ever… Except my uncle. He was the only one that thought I would ever amount to anything, and now I have let him down as well!”

“Is that what you really think?”

She turned on the man, her hands balled into tight fists. “What was I thinking leaving the Guild?! I was so close to getting my cred. If I had just stuck to it, I could have shown them all. And I would have made my uncle so proud…”

John took her by the shoulders and forced her to look him in the eyes. “No. Molly, listen to me. The game was rigged from the start. If you had stayed and agreed to their terms, they would own you. What good is a title if you’re nothing more than a glorified slave.”

“I’M STILL A SLAVE!” she yelled, her voice echoing in the small room loud enough to bring back her headache, and she winced in pain. “I just have a different master now…”

John sat himself at the table across from her, thinking.

“You’re wrong. Yes, you happen to be a bondservant at the moment, but you’ve already bought your freedom, Molly. You bought it the moment you told the Captain that you would rather be cast overboard than sold as a slave. You bought it the moment you decided to leave the Guild! Legalities and contracts are a part of life. We all have debt. But freedom is a concept, and it’s one that some people never learn. You’ve already mastered it.”

She considered his words as she sat silently, watching his eyes.

“As for not being pretty… I’m going to have to disagree with you. Even before I knew you had a brain, I was attracted to you physically you might recall”

“I was naked,” she stated flatly.

“Yes, I remember.”

Blushing, she sighed. “What am I going to do, John?  How am I supposed to make something of myself when I can’t even go ashore?”

“Fame isn’t everything.”

“Easy for you to say! I mean, you’re a graduate of the Royal Academy, a full professor! You have title and privilege…”

“And I would give it all up in a moment,” he interrupted. “… For one chance to talk to the people who made that,” he said, pointing to the device around her waist.”

She looked down, and her breath caught. Did he really mean it?

“And unless I have completely misjudged you, I think you would too, Molly. That’s why I’m attracted to you over those salty she-dogs. They only want me for my fame; my title, and for the bragging rights of bedding an attractive mate. But not you. You look at me and see the education… my intelligence. You see my thrill in discovery and science, and my desire to use my knowledge to help this world. It’s the same thing I see in you.”


“Let me ask you something, in the last five days, when have you been the most satisfied with your life? Was it being on deck?”

“Oh hell no.”

“Your time with me?”

She hesitated. “It’s been really great, but…”

“Go on,” he prompted.

She took a breath. “Well, to be honest, it was fixing the Matrix on the Pettifore… or the Distiller on the Mistress, or even working with Carpenter Po…”

“Using your skills to help others… To help this world.” he stated simply.

She nodded and whispered, “Yes.”

He smiled. “And you will, Molly Amberly. You already are.”

She got up and came around the table, throwing her arms about his neck. He took her and held her, stroking her hair and her back. Finally, she turned her head and brought her lips to his in a slow and tenuous kiss. There was no rush. Shortly, lunch was forgotten in favor of a different kind of hunger.



Star was pulling on a fresh shirt as Molly returned to her sleep space.

“Well now, someone looks like they just ate the canary,” she commented, grinning.

“Is it really that obvious?” She replied, only half kidding.

“I saw you and the Professor skip out of mess.”

Molly sighed. “Yeah, I had a bit of a run in with some jealous girls. John helped me… process it.”

“Uh huh.” She was still grinning.

“Oh, and you were right about mattresses… They are better than hammocks.”

“Oh ho! I knew it! Wait… what about a run-in?”

“Cass-something and a couple of her friends confronted me outside the showers. They just roughed me up a bit.”

“Cass? You mean Cassandra Plinket?”

“I wasn’t sure of her name. Cass is what one of the other two called her.”

“Cassandra Plinket, Moria Biel, and Jessi Long,” said Star nodding. “They’re known as the Plinket Trinkets, and I’ll bet she was sore that you and the Professor hit it off.”

“She sort of threatened to throw me off the ship…”


Molly frowned. “It was just some angry backlash. I don’t think she was serious.”

Star took her hand and pulled her out of earshot of a few other crew members nearby. “Molly, listen to me, okay? Cassandra Plinket doesn’t make idle threats. That trio is bad mojo. You said they roughed you?”

“She pushed me into the hull wall pretty hard, when we accidentally bumped elbows.”

“That bitch… I’m sure it was no accident, Molly. She was looking for a confrontation. Did you hit your head again?” she asked, glancing at the bump on her skull.

“A little. I started to feel some nausea, so I just let it go.”

“Goddess… You need to got to Brill.”



“Look, I’m in enough bad standing with the crew as it is without being seen as a tattling whiner. Please, Star, just let me handle this. I’ll keep my distance, I promise.”

She obviously didn’t like it, but the girl relented. Later, as they played a simple game Star taught her involving colored stones and a grid drawn on a cloth ‘board’, Molly wondered if perhaps she might be making a mistake in not telling Brill. The woman had said to come to her with crew problems. In the end, she just decided to see if the problem worked itself out. The more she saw John, the less the woman would keep trying to steal him away, right?



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