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All the Heavens - Title

Chapter 47

The skiff’s engine was down to one lit diamond as they made their final approach to the space dock. Aaren’s relief at not having to spend any of their own gold to keep it powered up distracted him and the Wanderer’s inertia kept it moving when he should have stopped it. It ran into the side of one the extended docks with a horrible crash of splintering wood then ground to a halt.

The Knights picked themselves up from the floor. “We seem to be doing this a lot lately,” Horace said, brushing himself off. “I hope it doesn’t become a habit.”

Aaren flashed him an embarrassed grin. “Whoops.”

Katrina ignored them, threw open the hatch, and jumped out. Workers were scurrying down the dock to secure the Wanderer before it drifted away. They hurled ropes this way and that in a flurry of activity. Further up the dock, Beorn was stumping toward them. He stopped in front of her and jammed his fists into his hips.

“Tearing up my docks and ships are ye?” he rumbled at her. “What’s the meaning of this?”

Horace jumped out and reached back in the ship. “Hello, Beorn,” he grunted as he swung the heavy lock box out. “Is our ship ready yet?”

“Don’t answer a question with a question,” the dwarf fumed at him, running an appraising eye over the iron-bound box.

The rest of the Knights jumped out, handing out the heavy bags of gold the sauroids had paid them. Aaren saw Beorn and tossed the rune key to him. “Is our ship ready yet?”

Elric climbed out and dropped a load of bags. “That’s the last of them,” he said. He saw the dwarf standing on the dock. “Hi, Beorn. Is our ship ready yet?”

“What are ya,” the diminutive shipwright grumbled, “a bunch of clones? Ain’t anybody ever heard of common courtesy?”

Mira winked surreptitiously at her friends. “Hail and well met, Black Beorn! How are you doing today? Is there anything we can do for you? How may we serve you? Is our ship ready yet?”

The dwarf started to brighten at first then realized she was mocking him and clouded up again. “Go ahead,” he rumbled, “make fun of Black Beorn, but that’s an extra fifty ya owe for messing up me docks.”

Jon laughed. “No problem old boy, no problem at all.” He reached in the box and tossed a handful of coins at the dwarf. “If you need any more, be sure to let us know.”

Beorn snatched one of them out of the air, letting the rest fall unheeded to the dock. He examined the coin closely, even biting it to test its malleability. “Hmph. And the money for the repairs?” he said noncommittally.

The rogue waved a careless hand at the pile of bulging bags. “Look for yourself.”

Beorn nodded at one of his workers to bring him one. He hefted it carefully then looked inside. “Okay,” he said, setting it down, “ye’ve got the money. And yes, in answer to yer blasted questions, yer ship is ready. We been work’n round da clock ta git it done. Finished it just this morning. Ye can leave any time ye want.” He turned away.

Mira reached out an arm and stopped him. There’s something we’d like to talk about first,” she said. “In private.” She nodded meaningfully at the gnomes and halflings crowding around them.

Beorn regarded her for a minute then waved his servants back. When they had retreated to the end of the dock he turned around with his arms folded across his chest. “Alright, out wit it. I’m listening.” His tone didn’t fool anyone though, his evident interest in their bags of gold had his complete attention.

Quickly they relayed an abbreviated version of their adventures to him, emphasizing Ryal’s warning about Marak’s origins. When they were done, he stroked his beard thoughtfully. “How loyal is that Taanen character to his master?” he asked them soberly.

Aaren shrugged. “‘Pledged to his master’s cause’ is how Ryal put it.”

The dwarf squinted up at him. “Aye, but that’s not the same as being loyal to his master.”

Aaren was nonplussed. “No, I guess not. So?”

“So nothing,” the dwarf said. “Why are ye telling me all this?”

Aaren frowned uncertainly at him for a moment, then put it aside. “We want to throw them in jail where they won’t bother us until we can safely put them and Illene down on Gaia, right where we first met him.”

“Yer ship has a brig.”

“I didn’t say a brig, I said a jail.”

“A jail? Now wha . . .” Beorn ground to a halt as the full meaning of it sank in. “Here?” he said incredulously.

Aaren nodded. “We don’t want them on board while we’re trying to rescue Illene and we’re willing to pay quite handsomely,” he said in a persuasive voice. He gestured at Jon, who nodded and opened the lock box and began running his hand through the golden coins scattered inside. He plunged his arm elbow-deep in them and when he pulled it out they made a pleasant, tinkling sound. Beorn’s ears pricked up and his head swiveled around like a puppet on a string, gold-lust lighting up his eyes. The falling, sparkling coins did more for his dwarven heart than dull sacks of them, and he was captivated in a moment.

“What kind of work would we be expected ta do?” he said absently, staring at the sea of coins Jon was playing in.

“Build a jail, and keep Marak and Taanen in it,” the priest answered softly, not wanting to interrupt the spell Beorn was under. “Feed and water them until we get back.”

The dwarf’s fingers twitched as if he was holding the coins himself. “A hundred for building the jail and ten a day for keeping ’em.”

Aaren bit his lip. Beorn’s gold-lust hadn’t affected his bargaining skills. “Fifty and five,” he countered.

Beorn turned away from the gold and cocked his head up at him. “Eighty and eight. I’ve got expenses ye know.”

“So do we,” Aaren snapped. “I’ve got a whole crew to pay, not to mention docking fees and such when we get to Harpel. Sixty and six.”

The dwarf considered it. He glanced back at the box of gold. “Seventy and seven. But I need a week’s payment in advance.” He thrust out his chin defiantly.

Aaren mustered a painful smile. “Done. Jon, pay him, and let’s get going.”

*     *     *     *     *

Elric’s sleep spell made capturing Marak and Taanen a piece of cake. The two sleeping men were simply scooped up and deposited with Beorn, whose workers built the jail in record time. In fact, they built it around the two men, without a door. The only way they could be freed was to tear down the cell.

They were not pleased.

“You can’t do this!” Marak raved when they woke up. “You haven’t got any right! We haven’t done anything!”

“You were going to!” Horace snarled back at him through the bars in the one window. “You were going to kill us when we got back with Illene!”

Marak’s eyes widened, but he tried to recover. “That’s a lie! Why would I do something like that? You’re crazy!” he shouted. “Beorn, you can’t let them do this to us,” he implored the dwarf. “You have to stop them!”

“Stop ’em?” the dwarf laughed. “Why should I stop them? They’re paying me good money for this.”

“Whatever they’re paying, I’ll double it,” the desperate man said. “I’ll triple it, quadruple it, anything. Just get me out of here!” he shouted angrily, pulling madly on the bars.

“Ye got it with ye?” Beorn challenged him.

“Does it look like it? They robbed me before they put me in here! I swear, I’ll pay you when I get out!” Unwilling to take a chance that Marak, like Altman before him, might be carrying magical items, the Knights had completely stripped both him and Taanen of their clothes and belongings before letting the workers build the jail. The two men were dressed only in ragged, cast off tunics. Their clothes, along with all their personal items, were locked in a box for safekeeping in Beorn’s office.

“What good is the oath of a Carrzulman spy? I’ve heard about yer kind, buncha rotten, backstabbing scum.” Beorn turned on his heel and stalked away, ignoring Marak’s oaths and imprecations. Taanen, bone-white with anger, added a few choice insults to the flood as well.

Satisfied that their erstwhile boss and his primary henchman were well ensconced in the little prison, the Knights followed Beorn away. They were soon out of earshot of the vile, spittle-flecked curses of the two men and boarding the Sky Hawk once again.

Garrick met them at the top of the gangplank. The story of Marak and Taanen’s planned treachery had made the rounds earlier when they were taken captive, and the crew, after the initial shock, had handled the revelation with surprising ease. Garrick had been the first to approach the Knights and offer to swear he wasn’t a Carrzulman subject and would be loyal to them until death. They let him take the oath, then minutes later the rest of the crew began coming in until all of them had taken the same oath. The Knights were well pleased.

“The traitors are locked away?” the bosun greeted them.

“Safe and sound,” Mira nodded, “Is the ship ready for departure?”

“Any time the Captain says.”

“Fine. Give us an hour or so to get settled in, then we’ll pull out. If you or the crew have any last-minute errands or things you want to do, now’s the time.” One of the other ships that were in for minor repairs was crewed almost exclusively by women, and the Sky Hawk’s crew had lost no time in making their acquaintance. Some of their nightshirts seemed to have wound up on the other ship and they needed to retrieve them.

Mira decided not to ask.

Garrick grinned gratefully at her. “Thanks. We’ll be ready when you are.” He saluted and left hurriedly. He danced around Aaren who was coming aboard. “Excuse me, Captain.”

Aaren’s gaze followed him down the gangplank toward the distant ship. He leaned over to Mira. “He was the first one to, uh, lose his nightshirt,” he chuckled softly.

She slapped him playfully. “Keep your mind out of the gutter.”

“Then say ‘yes’ and keep my mind fixed on you.” He didn’t have to stress what he meant.

She hesitated then nodded slowly, “Yes.”

He sensed her mood and put his hand under her chin and lifted her head until their eyes met. “As soon as we’re done with this mission.” He saw the answer in her gaze and pulled her in for a long, gentle hug. She snuggled into his arms.

They were brought back to reality by Jon coughing delicately to get their attention. “Uh, excuse me. Could we get you two to step out of the way? We’re trying to get things loaded here.”

They broke apart, red with embarrassment. “Uh, sure,” Aaren said. “Here, let me help you with that.” He grabbed one end of the package Jon was struggling with and helped him carry it below. Submitting to their friend’s gentle laughter, Mira pitched in too and by the time the crew was back on board, everything had been stowed and lashed down. They still needed to clean up their gear and repair some of it, but that could wait until they were underway.

Aaren waved for her to take the wheel and she stationed herself in front of it with a feeling of coming home. There was a sense of comfort from standing there holding the spokes once again.

“Cast off lines!” Aaren shouted.

“Cast off, aye!” The command echoed up and down the deck.

A moment later, Garrick gave the all-clear sign and Aaren nodded at her. “Power up the skengine.”

“Skengine, aye,” she answered, pressing the pink sapphire in the middle of the hub. It lit up. A moment later the lacewing sails billowed out from unseen magical winds and the Sky Hawk once more began to move under her own power.

“Hard starboard,” Aaren ordered.

“Hard starboard, aye.” Mira spun the wheel. The Sky Hawk pulled away from the dock in a majestic turn.

“Full ahead!”

“Full ahead, aye!”

Garrick relayed the order to his men and they let out the full sails as Mira spun the wheel back to its original position. Aaren grinned at her as he reached for the speaking tube. “Katrina? We’re free and clear. Waiting for you.”

Elric answered. “She’s almost done.”


Traveling from one planet to another required them to lay in an exact course so they didn’t overshoot their destination or go off course. This would be Katrina’s first attempt at charting a course to something too far away to see.

“Hey! By the way, Aaren.”


“That hammer in the lock box?”


“Ryal was right, its got almost as much magic on it as Harold’s sword.”

“Oh, really?” Aaren tried and failed, to hide the excitement in his voice. “Well, I’ll just have to take a look at that, won’t I?”

“Yep! Okay, here’s Kat.”

Katrina’s voice rang over the speaking tubes, full of a shaky kind of confidence as she began relaying headings to them. Garrick was listening from his post as well. The crew worked together in the rigging to properly align the ship, starting to jell as a team. They completed their work with almost no hitches. Garrick gave Aaren a thumbs up at the same time Mira confirmed her readiness, lights glowing on the hub of the ship’s wheel. Katrina confirmed their heading. “We’re in the groove, Captain, five by five,” she added, using one of the new phrases she’d learned from Altman.

Aaren raised his voice. “All hands! Prepare for system speed in 3, 2, 1, go!”

Mira slammed the blue lever all the way forward and the Sky Hawk sprang ahead like a frightened deer. In the twinkling of an eye, it was gone.

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