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Tales From Camelot Series 10: MIRROR
Tales From Camelot Series 10: MIRROR
Tales From Camelot Series 10: MIRROR
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Tales From Camelot Series 10: MIRROR

Автор Paul Green

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So ... this one is about a mirror.

Or is it?

We start right where we left off in WARLORD. While MIRROR is a very unique and hauntingly memorable story, part of it will be bridging the gap between Pirates and Camelot. After all, we never really had those two worlds connect last time, did we? But now we need to bring it all together. And it's going to happen in some very surprising and unexpected ways.

And finally at long last, we get to meet one of Camelot's most legendary characters: the one and only Sir Galahad.

Let us return once again to the wonderful world of Camelot.

ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательPaul Green
Дата выпуска27 дек. 2020 г.
ISBN9781005558956
Tales From Camelot Series 10: MIRROR
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Paul Green

Winner of the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Paul Green (1894-1981) taught philosophy and drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a native of Harnett County, North Carolina.

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    Tales From Camelot Series 10 - Paul Green

    Tales From Camelot Series • Book TEN

    MIRROR

    paul green

    Copyright Notice

    www.PaulGreenAuthor.com

    Copyright 2018 Paul Green All Rights Reserved.

    First Printing: August 2018

    Revision A11

    Printed in the United States of America. No part of this work may be used or reproduced, transmitted, stored or used in any form or by any means graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, scanning, digitizing, tapping, Web distribution, information networks or information storage and retrieval systems, or in any manner whatsoever without the express written approval of the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.

    For further information, contact info@paulgreenauthor.com

    United States laws and regulations are public domain and not subject to copyright. Any unauthorized copying, reproduction, translation, or distribution of any part of this material without permission by the author is prohibited and against the law.

    Table of Contents

    Cover

    Title Page

    Copyright Notice

    Tales From Camelot Series

    Reader Recommendation

    Acknowledgements

    From the author ...

    Map of Pretania

    ~ A Life in the Day ~

    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 9

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 12

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 14

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 16

    Chapter 17

    Chapter 18

    Chapter 19

    Chapter 20

    Chapter 21

    Chapter 22

    ~ Through a Mirror Darkly ~

    Map of Pretania

    Chapter 23

    Chapter 24

    Chapter 25

    Chapter 26

    Chapter 27

    Chapter 28

    Chapter 29

    Chapter 30

    Chapter 31

    Chapter 32

    Chapter 33

    Chapter 34

    Chapter 35

    Chapter 36

    Chapter 37

    Chapter 38

    Chapter 39

    Chapter 40

    ~ A Long Day ~

    Chapter 41

    Chapter 42

    Chapter 43

    Chapter 44

    Chapter 45

    Chapter 46

    Chapter 47

    Chapter 48

    Chapter 49

    Chapter 50

    Chapter 51

    ~ Reflections of Love ~

    Chapter 52

    Chapter 53

    Chapter 54

    Chapter 55

    Chapter 56

    Chapter 57

    Chapter 58

    Chapter 59

    Chapter 60

    Chapter 61

    Chapter 62

    Chapter 63

    Chapter 64

    Chapter 65

    Chapter 66

    Chapter 67

    Chapter 68

    Chapter 69

    Chapter 70

    ~ Mirrored Paths ~

    Chapter 71

    Chapter 72

    Chapter 73

    Chapter 74

    Chapter 75

    Chapter 76

    Chapter 77

    Chapter 78

    Chapter 79

    Chapter 80

    Chapter 81

    Chapter 82

    Chapter 83

    Chapter 84

    Chapter 85

    Chapter 86

    Chapter 87

    Chapter 88

    Chapter 89

    ~ Final Reflections ~

    Chapter 90

    Chapter 91

    Chapter 92

    Chapter 93

    Chapter 94

    Chapter 95

    Chapter 96

    Chapter 97

    Chapter 98

    Chapter 99

    Chapter 100

    Chapter 101

    Chapter 102

    Chapter 103

    Chapter 104

    Chapter 105

    Chapter 106

    Chapter 107

    Chapter 108

    Chapter 109

    Chapter 110

    Chapter 111

    Chapter 112

    Chapter 113

    ~ Something Different ~

    Chapter 114

    Chapter 115

    Chapter 116

    Chapter 117

    Chapter 118

    Chapter 119

    Chapter 120

    Chapter 121

    Chapter 122

    Chapter 123

    Chapter 124

    Chapter 125

    Chapter 126

    Chapter 127

    Chapter 128

    Chapter 129

    Chapter 130

    Chapter 131

    Chapter 132

    Chapter 133

    Chapter 134

    Chapter 135

    Chapter 136

    Epilogue

    Notes to the reader ...

    Map of Pretania

    Tales From Camelot Series

    About the Author . . .

    Tales From Camelot Series

    Part One

    Book 1: PENDRAGON

    Book 2: CAMELOT

    Book 3: CHAMPION

    Book 4: SORCERESS

    Part Two

    Book 5: ROYALS

    Book 6: EXCALIBUR

    Book 7: CURSED

    Book 8: LADY Part 1

    Book 8: LADY Part 2

    Part Three

    Book 9: WARLORD

    Book 10: MIRROR

    Book 11: WYVERN

    Book 12: QUEST

    Grand Finale

    Book 13: LEGEND

    www.PaulGreenAuthor.com

    Reader Recommendation

    Due to the unique subject matter, this series will appeal to a very broad audience: teen to elderly, male and female alike.

    Although some parts may be considered to be too intense for pre-teen or younger readers. Ages 13 and up recommended.

    Acknowledgements

    Thanks to all my reviewers. Your input has been invaluable.

    Special thanks to Nathan and Geraldine, you are the best!

    Thank you to my son Christopher for his help in designing the covers.

    And extra special thanks to the One who gave me the desire to write.

    From the author ...

    So ... this one is about a mirror.

    Or is it?

    While I won't give away the plot, and in this book in particular there is nothing I am going to tell you about the plot, I can at least tell you this much - prepare for a rollercoaster ride of emotions all the way to the end.

    We get to start right where we left off in WARLORD. While MIRROR is a very unique and hauntingly memorable story, part of it will be bridging the gap between Pirates and Camelot. After all, we never really had those two worlds connect last time, did we? Cassi never met Arthur or anyone else, except for Georgina and Constance primarily. But now we need to bring it all together. And it's going to happen in some very surprising and unexpected ways.

    The first section is aptly titled and guaranteed to be a profound emotional tale you will never forget. And that's just the opener. Our opening little tale begins with our newly introduced Pirates and is intended as a transition, kind of serving as a bridgeway segment from WARLORD.

    Then immediately following the opening segment, at long last and after countless dropped mentions in many of our previous books, we finally get to meet one of Camelot's most legendary characters: Sir Galahad. The introduction of Galahad is VERY important; as he is a crucial player not only in this story but also in our upcoming stories as well, especially by the time we get to Book 12: QUEST. Why? Because according to the legends, the son of Lancelot and Ursulet is the key character in the search for the Holy Grail. And because he is such a unique and important character, I sincerely hope I did his introduction justice. I also have no doubt that he will be popular with you ladies out there; after all, this handsome fellow is the one who made Cassi walk into a tree. I have even had one early reviewer tell me that if she ever ran into him on the street, she would also likely run into a tree. Lol.

    In addition to uniting the two worlds of Pirates and Camelot, I have a special treat for you in this story involving our good old friends from the Second Chance series, but I can't reveal anything here. Spoilers. :)

    Oh and lest I forget, one little factoid of trivia that I failed to mention in my Forward in WARLORD. You may or may not have caught it, but with the introduction of the 'Pirate Class', I chose to use a more common variation of speech in order to differentiate from the Royal Family that the Camelot series has been known for. Whereas I tend to use more formal and refined speech with the Royal Class, for our Pirate friends I went with more everyday speech such as is common and familiar to all of us - including some very mild salty language (lol). From the beginning of the series, the Royal Family has never really resorted to 'language' and/or cursing or swearing - with the rare once in a while exception of Georgina. That was new with the Pirates because ... Pirates! Plus it helps sets the tone and sets them apart. Because we will be involving more of the original Camelot characters in this book than the last, the difference should be more noticeable this time.

    You are also going to meet a couple of VERY unique and unforgettable new characters that are sure to cause a jaw or two to drop. Can't say anything more about that now.

    Lastly, we'll also have the opportunity to spend time with some of the newest generation of 'kids'; though they aren't kids anymore, they've only just recently crossed the threshold into adulthood. Including of course, the one and only Sir Galahad.

    Overall, this will end up being an emotional journey - arguably more than any previous work to date. So be prepared. But you can also count on the fun and zany moments you've also come to expect. Climb aboard the rollercoaster my friends, and let this amazing and wild ride begin - in the wonderful world of Camelot.

    Paul

    ~ A Life in the Day ~

    Chapter 1

    Land of the Kells

    It was almost dawn. Soon a new day would be upon them; a whole new dawn for the lives of many. In fact, it would be a new day in the lives of the entire world.

    On the following night after which Nimue had been defeated and the Barbarian Pictish fleets had been destroyed, the selfless heroine who had thought to be dead - was now adjusting to still being alive; an impossible outcome she had never considered.

    The Black Rose was still anchored just offshore the western Land of the Kells; where on the previous day Megan and Jeffrey had washed ashore after miraculously riding out and surviving a titanic wave which had carried them across the Celtic Sea to foreign shores.

    And surrounding them on all sides was now the entire armada - over twelve hundred pirate ships representing the collective Pirate Nation, as well as over four hundred ships belonging to the High King's fleet, including King Arthur himself who was aboard the King's royal ship.

    Although as of yet, Cassi had not met with the coalition leaders. In fact as of yet, she had never even met King Arthur. Instead she had asked Liam to politely postpone any such meetings and introductions to the following day, beginning at noon. A reasonable request, given the unique circumstances, to which all had graciously consented. Liam had simply explained to them that their Pirate Queen was tired and needed some time to recuperate from her ordeal. And even though Arthur had been anxious to finally meet her for a very long time, they were unilaterally respectful of her request; for it was the least they could do for their savior. Hawk may have taken out the Barbarian fleet, but it was the Pirate Queen herself who had in fact saved the world.

    Albeit, that didn't stop the gathered armada from having all kinds of independent celebrations which would continue for the next several days, while the Black Rose was undergoing some necessary ship repairs. Even Hawk and Kea'Lani and their party of seven, including Isolde the future Queen of the Kells, had by now joined up with Arthur on his ship; and were also amongst those anxious to finally meet the infamous god-killer and Queen of Pirates.

    Cassi hadn't even learned yet that Georgina was still alive, which was a bittersweet pill for her to swallow and somewhat dampened her enthusiasm.

    For the time being, on this first night of victory, Cassi had preferred a more private and less-chaotic, low-key 'game night' with her friends and crew that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. But eventually it was Cassi and Megan who were the first to yield to drowsiness and finally retired to their cabin. Fortunately they had the luxury of being able to sleep in until noon that day.

    After the two girls left the galley area where the tabletop game tournament had been going on, much of the piratey discussion then turned towards the two girls themselves. With the few exceptions of Jeffrey, Ebenezer and Liam, most of the rest of the crew were still convinced that Cassi and Megan were more than just mere cabin mates. And pirates being pirates and men being men, the discussion quickly took a salacious turn while Jeffrey and Ebenezer tried their best to defend their honor; but their arguments always fell on deaf ears. Because for the crew, it was far more fun to imagine what they believed went on behind closed doors.

    Rightly had Georgina said that even though their relationship was 'non-sexual', they were so close that at times it could give the wrong idea to the crew. In Georgina's own words, Cassi liked men, and Megan was asexual; meaning she lacked sexual attraction to others. And even though Megan liked to tease about promiscuous things because she thought it was funny, she actually held little to no interest or personal desire for sexual activity of any kind. Megan would in fact be quite content remaining celibate her entire life; for such was her unique makeup. The only thing that truly mattered to Megan was her close friendship with Cassi. Although Georgina had also noted that the two girls were 'very feely and touchy'. But they had in fact always been that way throughout their young lives, ever since Cassi had first inadvertently knit their souls together back in their infancy. And so while people oftentimes questioned their relationship, Cassi and Megan both understood it for what it was.

    Mostly.

    Only, as far as the Captain and her First Mate were concerned, it wouldn't end up being a night for sleeping. Their night of monumental events was far from over. The young sixteen-year-olds had already been through a lot and their lives had already been drastically changed in many ways. But as fate would have it, little did they know that something else unexpected and even more dramatically life-altering was about to take place - something that would be beyond their wildest imaginations. Something which would profoundly change them forever. And it all had to do with a mirror.

    *** *** ***

    Lying in her bed in the early morning darkness of her Captain's cabin, with her ever loyal First Mate lying at her side, neither one had been able to sleep. Cassi was still trying to come to terms with the fact that she actually had a living future ahead of her. She stared up at the dark ceiling in thoughtful silence while Megan lay on her left side - propped up on an elbow while playing with her Captain's hair.

    Are we being broody again? Megan teased, curling a lock of Cassi's long black hair around her index finger.

    Shaking her head, Cassi replied, I know I should be exhausted; but my mind will not rest.

    Same. I should be exhausted, too. This has been a very ... eventful day.

    Cassi turned her head and smiled at her. Not to mention you nearly drowning this morning and pulling Jeffrey safely to shore; with him floundering around with a broken leg, no less. I do not even know how you have the strength to remain awake.

    I will give you a little clue. My Captain, is alive. That's my favorite part.

    Cassi chuckled. My favorite part is that you are alive. And Jeffrey, and Ebenezer and Liam and all the rest of the crew.

    Oh really? Megan grinned. I am at the front of the list?

    Cassi reached over and lightly grazed her fingers across Megan's freckled right cheek. As if my soul could be at the end of the list? What kind of ridiculous question is that?

    As Megan held Cassi's hand against her face, she asked more seriously, You seem a little subdued. I know you are sad about losing Georgina; I miss her, too. But I know you and I know you are also overwhelmed with your new reality. Surviving what happened hadn't exactly been on your agenda.

    It's a little bit of everything. Yes, it hurts that Georgina gave her life to save mine. I will not lie; I feel responsible for her death. And like you said, this outcome of my being alive wasn't something I had foreseen or planned on. And yet in spite of it all, it would now seem that fate has determined I have a whole new future to process and consider and think about.

    And brood about. I understand. But I guess what I am really asking is, are you okay, Cassi? Are you happy? Truly? Genuinely? I mean, from what you have told me, you were this close to walking into Heaven.

    Cassi nodded.

    I know it could not have been an easy decision to turn back at the last moment. Megan added. To be honest, I am a bit surprised you came back. Now more than ever, I hope I am never a disappointment to you.

    Don't think that way, Megan. Cassi said with a tender smile of encouragement. You have nothing to prove; I love you just the way you are.

    Megan smiled back.

    Cassi was happy, of course; that she had an unexpected new lease on life. By the power of the One in the form of a raven, she had indeed risen from the ashes like the Phoenix of legend, as foreshadowed by her own pirate flag; in effect postponing her inevitable return to her final eternal rest. But she was glad that she did, and she knew her decision was the right one. Most of all, she was happy that her friends and her crew were also alive. And even her mother Lydia and their families back in Stirlingshire; who also would have perished had Nimue prevailed. Those things and more, helped to lessen the pain and guilt of losing Georgina; whom Cassi and Megan both had become very attached to.

    Megan smiled at her. I guess having a future means you have many more pictures to draw, and many more songs to write.

    I suppose so. chuckled Cassi.

    Megan then cuddled up next to her with her face right up against hers, and looked deeply into Cassi's steel gray eyes and asked, Speaking of new songs, would it be fair to say that I was instrumental in helping to bring you back?

    Cassi responded by looking into Megan's green eyes and began playing with her reddish brown hair with her fingers. It would be fair to say that, yes.

    Really? Megan grinned. Your promise to finish my 'Me, me, me, me and you song' is what made you come back?

    A promise is a promise.

    I can't wait!

    Cassi smiled and she leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. You know, Megan ... since this all went down, I don't think I have yet told you how much you mean to me, and how happy I am that you survived. I had thought for certain that I had killed you. That because of me, you would all die. I ... just don't know how else to express my great relief and joy.

    Megan returned her smile. And I love you too. This First Mate will never complain about kisses from my Captain. As in ... ever!

    Good to know.

    So ... Cap'n ... since neither of us can sleep... . Megan said with a mischievous glint in her eye. I have a proposition for you.

    Oh?

    Something very ... adventurous. For just the two of us. As in, just me and you, and you and me.

    What did you have in mind?

    Let's go exploring! We're in this new land where neither of us have ever been before. Everybody else is doing something else ... partying or drinking or ... whatever it is they are all doing right now. So how about it? Me and you ... you and me....

    Now? At this hour? It's not even dawn, yet.

    Why not now!? Your meetings don't start until noon. This is the best time to sneak away and have some fun! Lest you forget, Captain; we're old enough to stay up past our bedtime and we don't need our parent's permission to leave the house any more! So let's do it!

    Cassi grinned at her. Explore the Land of the Kells?

    Because it's going to get busy with all those meetings with kings and when all your new Pirate Nation responsibilities start piling up. So let's go now! While you still have your freedom! Besides, Ebenezer said he needs two to three days to repair the sails and ensure the ship is fully seaworthy again, anyway ... so now that you've killed a god and those bad Picts are gone, what could possibly go wrong!?

    Cassi sat up and chuckled. Let's do it. Another adventure with my First Mate? I'm all in.

    Beaming, Megan sat up and added, And if we get in trouble, Jeffrey can come and bail us out as he always does. Deal?

    Deal. Cassi chuckled as she swung her legs over the side of the bed.

    As Megan scrambled across the bed after her she happily exclaimed, Today is already turning out to be another exciting day! Especially after following yesterday morning when I got a real actual kiss kiss from my Captain! Does this bode well for a grand new adventure today or what!?

    Cassi laughed as she walked over to the changing panel to change clothes. I am happy to be alive; I am happy that you are alive; just don't expect me to do that in front of the crew. We don't want to give them the wrong impression.

    Awww. But that's the funnest part! I have to tell somebody or I'll burst! How about Jeffrey? He already saw you kiss kiss me on the beach. When you also ... uhm ... kinda kissed all of us. But those don't have to count. Can I tell him you kissed kissed me again!? Please!? I just love the look he gets on his face.

    No.

    Pppppth.

    Chapter 2

    It's one thing to not have plans go as hoped. It's another thing altogether however, to have your life take a completely different and unexpected turn in direction, all because of a single fateful decision.

    Four months earlier, and doomed from the start, such had been the tragic tale for a Pretania passenger vessel filled with men, women and cargo - and bound for sunny Caer-Teim in the southwest for a pleasant time of holiday. But instead of their planned pleasant voyage, they found themselves desperately seeking escape from a massive tri-level Pictish slaver ship that had been closing in on them in a frenzied race across the Celtic Sea.

    Pictish slaver ship

    Upon seeing the Pictish rocky shoreline ahead in the distance, the merchant captain considered his only possible solution, and steered his ship towards a large sea cave in a rocky cliff face, hoping to somehow by a stroke of luck elude their terrifying pursuers.

    But luck was not on their side; and the captain's desperate maneuver had failed. They had entered the cave at high tide, but the tide was lowering; until finally they found themselves beached aground inside the cave. And that was when the Pictish slavers had found them.

    A small handful attempted to fight off their captors; for they preferred death to slavery. They got their wish, and were not enslaved. Whereas all the rest, men and women alike, were captured and taken.

    That had been four months earlier. All that remained of the tragic pleasure voyage was only a broken ship and a few scattered bodies; run aground inside a large sea cave in the Land of the Kells. And that is what Cassi and Megan happened upon during their initial exploratory adventure.

    Dressed in 'adventure attire' for climbing rocks and trees and possibly going through caves, Megan was wearing her customary pirate outfit with white blouse and saddle-brown suede pants; and Cassi was also dressed in pants and a pullover top, albeit dyed black. Both of them were also armed with knives and daggers.

    While Cassi circled the ship and lit a few torches by simply saying the word, Megan exclaimed, What do you think happened to them!?

    Slavers, obviously. Cassi replied, after nearly stumbling over the first body on the ground. And judging by the rate of decay, this poor sailor died a few months ago.

    Ewww! Megan exclaimed. Dead bodies! I see one too, over there by the rudder! And ewww he's partly decomposing in the water! This place is dank and mildewy and ... ewww.

    Ewww is right. said Cassi, closing her eyes against the grisly scene. Not my favorite sight to behold, either.

    Still, we should check the ship for survivors. Megan suggested.

    After finishing her outer circle of the ship, Cassi came up to her and said I don't see any signs of survivors. If anyone is still alive, they are long gone with the slavers.

    But the slavers are all dead now, right?

    That we know of. I am fairly certain that most of the slaver ships were also part of the Pictish war fleet. I am also fairly certain they emptied their ... 'slave cargo' ... before joining the war effort. Chances are most of those poor slaves are still caged up in some slave port; we just have to find them and release them. That is in fact, the first thing on my agenda once we hit the seas. Finding any missing slaves.

    Most? I don't like that word 'most'. Cassi please don't tell me that there could be more of those awful slaver ships out there.

    Megan, I cannot promise that one hundred percent of all slavers are dead. We simply don't know the answer to that; it's impossible to determine that, this soon. But it is an answer we will find out.

    Megan groaned. And here I thought we were done with slavers.

    Maybe we are, maybe we aren't. But now with the armada at our backs, we'll have no trouble rooting out the last of the stragglers. I vowed I would kill every last one of them, and you can hold me to that promise. Cassi sighed as she looked over at the tragic vessel. And this sight only makes me even more determined to find them as quickly as possible.

    Megan began walking towards a large hole in the ship's hull. We should still check it out, just in case someone is still alive in there.

    Agreed.

    And so together, they made their way towards their own impending fate.

    *** *** ***

    As they entered the hole in the bow at ground level, they found themselves in the lower cargo hold. Both were armed with their daggers, prepared to face any form of enemy. Cassi of course also had additional forms of powerful weapons at her disposal, but burning down a ship while they were inside was not on her immediate priority list.

    In addition to one of her daggers in her right hand, Megan also carried a small torch in her left for better visibility inside the dark abandoned ship. The first thing they noticed was that all the cargo crates down in the hold had already been looted by the slavers; leaving nothing for the taking.

    Except ... for one curious item, strapped to the wall in the back corner of the hold. It was three meters tall and made of solid black obsidian, and was firmly anchored in place to avoid movement during transport. But the most curious thing of all about it, was that it looked like...

    Is that a mirror!? Megan exclaimed.

    Cassi nodded. Made of polished obsidian, from the looks of it.

    As Megan held up her torch for a better view, she commented, And look at all those carvings and etchings around the edges! Are those...

    Runes. Cassi answered. But I've never seen runes like those. I have no idea what language those are in.

    It must be really old.

    Probably. nodded Cassi. And it looks really heavy. I can see why the slavers left it behind.

    Because they didn't want to look in the mirror and see their ugly arse selves staring back at them?

    Cassi smiled. That too.

    Megan shivered. I'm sure even their mama's never wanted to look at those ugly faces. Yeesh, I am getting the creeps in here; let's keep going.

    Looking around, Cassi nodded in agreement. Doesn't look like anything more to see down here. I doubt there's anything more above, but let's go up top deck just to be sure there isn't...

    Suddenly Megan froze in place and whispered, Shhhh!

    What!? Cassi whispered back.

    I thought I saw movement!

    Where!? Cassi gasped, raising both her daggers in an aggressive stance.

    Over there, by the stairwell, behind that big overturned crate.

    Both girls cautiously began making their way across the cargo area towards the stairwell; and Cassi was ready to blast whoever, or whatever it was, through the wall.

    Who is there!? Megan demanded.

    There was no more movement. And no response.

    In a cautious moving crouch, they had had now made their way more than halfway across the hold, when Cassi decided it was time to flush them out of hiding as opposed to waiting for them to attack.

    Douse.

    And suddenly! From seemingly out of nowhere, like an invisible raincloud, water began pouring down from above on the area of the overturned crate.

    And just as suddenly! They heard a scream!

    EEEEEEEK! came a small voice, and their target jumped out from behind the crate into view.

    Megan and Cassi were both stunned to see a small dirty, blonde-haired girl child dressed in tattered clothing, who like a doe caught in the headlights, stared at the two adults in terror.

    Quickly like a frightened mouse, the little toddler turned to make her escape up the stairway when Megan yelled out, NO WAIT!! DON'T GO!!!

    The little girl paused and braved a look back at them.

    Cassi gasped, She doesn't look to be much more than a year old!

    Please! Megan pleaded. We are friends! We are not here to hurt you! Do you understand us!?

    The little girl paused a moment longer and looked at them. And then to their surprise, she meekly said, Bad men?

    No! answered Megan. The slavers are all gone!

    And then ... tears came to the little girl's eyes as she asked, Bad men ... gone?

    Yes. Megan replied, daring to take another step towards her. The bad men are all gone. We made the bad men go away.

    Cassi then added, We are here to rescue you. You don't have to hide here, any more. Would you like to leave this place and come with us?

    The tearful toddler thought to herself for several long moments. And then finally, she made her decision; and she rushed towards them across the cargo hold and ran into their waiting arms - where she began to cry.

    *** *** ***

    Of course the two older 'adults' were also emotional girls themselves, and even though the child was a complete stranger they knelt down beside her and cried with her, while at the same time struggling with asking her some important questions. All the while the toddler continued clutching at them, refusing to let go of her saviors. At the moment, Cassi was having an easier time finding words, as Megan was almost an emotional basket case; for the whole incident was hitting too close to home. And for that reason, between the two of them, Megan was clinging onto the child the tightest.

    My name is Cassi; this is Megan. What is your name?

    As the tiny toddler continued crying, they were at least barely able to make out the word 'Piper' in answer.

    Piper. That is a pretty name. Cassi said, as she tearfully studied her by torch light. The small child's straggly unwashed hair was the color of honey blonde and she had blue eyes. Other than being thin from weeks of malnutrition, she didn't appear to have any cuts, marks or bruises on her. Which was a great relief; for a small child especially, being alone would have been trauma enough, and Cassi's heart went out to her; as obviously did Megan's heart.

    Cassi also suspected that little Piper was quickly attaching herself to the two of them, as being her first and only human contact in weeks, or possibly even months. Furthermore, being such a young age and being alone for so long, she doubted that Piper was even able to remember much of her parents anymore.

    You have obviously been here a long time. Cassi inquired. Is anyone else here with you?

    Piper shook her head. Bad men.

    Understanding what she was implying, Cassi replied, And you have been here all alone, all this time? In hiding?

    Piper nodded and pleaded, No leave.

    We are not going to leave you, Piper; you are coming with us. And we will take care of you, I promise. Okay?

    Piper nodded.

    They obviously now had an orphan on their hands; and Cassi was saddened in that it was highly unlikely they would ever find her parents. The orphan was now their responsibility to deal with.

    Finally Megan found the strength to regain control of herself, and she begin wiping Piper's tears as she said, Cassi is a good friend. She came and saved me, too; just like you. She always keeps her promises; everything is going to be better now.

    Being that Megan was still holding her the tightest, Piper then held out her arms to Megan, who in turn picked her up and rose to her feet.

    Cassi said, I'm sure she managed for a time with leftover food from the galley; but she has got to be starving by now.

    My but you are just a wee thing. Megan said with a tender tearful smile. I am sure you must be hungry.

    Piper nodded.

    Megan then turned and smiled at Cassi who had also risen to her feet. I don't know about you, but I think this is enough adventure for one day.

    Cassi smiled and answered, Most definitely. Let's head back.

    As they turned to leave, Piper then surprised them when she asked, Say goodbye?

    They both stopped and looked at her. Say goodbye to whom? Cassi asked.

    To their further surprise, Piper turned her body in Megan's arms and pointed towards the mirror strapped in the corner of the cargo hold.

    You want to say goodbye to a mirror? Megan asked.

    Piper nodded. Mirror friend. Friend pretty.

    Looking back at Cassi, Megan asked, Shall we ... say goodbye to the mirror?

    Cassi smiled and winked at Piper. But of course. We can't leave until we say goodbye to our pretty reflection friend in the mirror, can we? I am sure she is just as pretty as you.

    Megan grinned at her as they began walking towards the mirror. Is it me, or is someone as good with kids as I think they are?

    Cassi chuckled. Really? Already you are getting ideas?

    She needs a home. And you know very well how remote the chances are of finding her ... uhm ... you know ... 'guardians'?

    And I see where you are going with this.

    She is adorable, don't you think so?

    Megan, a pirate ship is not suitable for raising a child. I was thinking that we could take her to our families. I know my mother would gladly take her in. Let her grow up in a village, proper; it would be much safer for her, and a much more stable and nurturing environment.

    Megan sighed sadly in disappointment. Awww. You don't think we would be nurturing enough?

    Cassi smiled at her. I have to say, I've never before pictured you as being the ... 'mother' type. Really? You have become attached to her already?

    I've never thought of myself in that role, either. Because ... obviously. I lost my girl parts.

    I know.

    And I certainly never believed I would ever get a chance to ... you know ... have a child of my own.

    I know, Megan.

    And now all of a sudden? This ... beautiful opportunity presents itself? I don't know, Cassi; she has just ... struck a chord in me.

    Yes, I can see that. I can see the connection and I can understand why. Not to mention that rescuing an innocent from slavers would mean a lot to you, personally. Tell you what. We don't have to decide anything right away. Let's just get through the first step of getting her back to the ship to get checked out by Constance, and get her fed and clothed. For now let's just get through the day, and we'll talk about it more tomorrow. After we've finally gotten some proper sleep! Deal?

    Megan grinned and leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Deal. Thanks, Cassi.

    They then both looked at Piper, and were both surprised to see twinkles in Piper's smiling blue eyes.

    I think she liked that! Megan exclaimed.

    What? Cassi smiled. You kissing my cheek?

    Let's test it out!

    Uh ... Megan....

    Ignoring her Captain's mild protest, Megan then leaned over further and briefly kissed Cassi once more on the cheek.

    Piper giggled.

    Which of course made Megan giggle. See!? Piper likes it!

    Then Piper exclaimed at Megan, Mommy! Then she looked at Cassi and exclaimed, Mommy!

    Megan giggled again. Isn't she precious!? She thinks she has two mommies!

    And Cassi sighed as she put her hand over her eyes. How do we get ourselves into these things?

    Megan laughed, I don't think even Jeffrey can save us from this one.

    On the positive side, this would at least give the crew something else to talk about for a change.

    *** *** ***

    They stood before the mirror, and Piper asked to be set down. As they watched her walk up to see her reflection, she pointed and asked, Pretty?

    They both nodded at her and answered, Yes. Very pretty.

    Cassi smiled at Megan. I imagine her mother used to tell her that.

    How did you figure that out!?

    Cassi shrugged. My mother used to tell me that when she held me in front of a mirror.

    Awww. That's so sweet! And you remember that!?

    I remember every conversation from when I was a baby.

    You're very strange, Captain.

    Cassi laughed.

    But then I already knew that. That's why I love you.

    Uh huh. Cassi then stepped forward to take a closer look at the black rune carvings and etchings around the edges of the three meter tall polished obsidian mirror. These carvings ..., she mused to herself.

    Are you fascinated by those?

    Very. I have no idea what they are or what they mean; but there is definitely a pattern. The more I look at it, the more I am intrigued.

    Would you be offended if I said I think it's kinda creepy?

    I'm sure it's just the creepy surroundings of this place. This artwork is ... beautiful. And mesmerizing.

    I'm sure it's more than that. Megan argued. Can we go now? This terrible place is bad enough; but I am getting a bad feeling about this mirror in particular.

    Cassi reached out to touch the runes.

    Cassi don't touch it!

    I can't help it! It's just so ... beautiful.

    Cassi this is scaring me!

    But Cassi was becoming more and more mesmerized by the mirror. So ... beautiful. she repeated in a hushed whisper of awe.

    And then suddenly!

    To their great astonishment...

    At Cassi's touch, the mirror came alive!

    And they gasped when something appeared within the mirror; something which was not a reflection of the place in which they stood.

    It was another place.

    Some far away place.

    Though they were deep inside a sea cave, within the mirror they saw a vast plain of green grass; and misty mountains in the distance.

    Cassi! Megan gasped. What is that place!? Is that even real!?

    I ... I have no idea! It is like looking out a window into another world!

    How can this be!? What kind of magic is this!?

    You're asking me?

    Of course, they weren't the only ones who could observe the beautiful place in the mirror.

    Pretty!!! Piper exclaimed in delight.

    And then ... before they could react, the most astonishing thing of all happened.

    Piper started to walk into the mirror.

    PIPER DON'T! Cassi yelled.

    But it was too late.

    The small child actually walked through the mirror, and right out onto the lush field of grass.

    Cassi slapped her hand over her eyes and groaned. And it only gets better.

    CASSI! Megan gasped in alarm.

    I know. she sighed.

    We can't leave her there; we have to get her!

    I know, Megan. I know.

    Well ... don't just stand there! That's our daughter!

    Megan she's not....

    And of course, Megan didn't wait, and she was the next to run through the mysterious mirror.

    ...our daughter. Once again she groaned. Are we really doing this?

    Cassi took one last look around at the sea cave as if saying goodbye. Then she took a moment to commit all the runes on the mirror's edge to memory. She sighed one last time. And then followed after Megan and Piper into the mirror.

    *** *** ***

    She was now on the other side.

    Standing in the grass of some faraway misty land, in a landscape she didn't recognize. After seeing Megan standing nearby while holding Piper safely in her arms, she asked, You okay?

    Megan nodded back in the direction of the mirror and nervously replied, This is not what I had been expecting.

    Following Megan's gaze, Cassi looked back at the mirror, and was then astonished to see not just one mirror, but three. They were like three portals, which seemed to lead to three different places - each place a distant land which was also unrecognizable to her. Nor did the 'mirrors' themselves even look the same. They looked more like three doorways, or three archways - of three distinct sizes and styles. The smallest was two meters in height, the middle one was three meters, such as the one they had just passed through. And the tallest was four meters in height. But even the one they had just traversed didn't appear to lead back to the sea cave; rather it seemed to lead to some other distant desert region.

    But that wasn't the worst part. Things only went from bad to worse.

    Cassi felt a funny sensation. Or rather, a lack of sensation. She could no longer 'feel' her power. In this strange land, she no longer possessed her powers over the elements; rather she could instinctively feel that she was limited to her mere mortal strengths and weaknesses. In this strange land, Cassiopeia was no longer a Tempest.

    Then the next worst part came. For when Cassi approached the mysterious portals, all three of the mirrors instantly went completely black, and like three empty monoliths they had became nothing but solid cold stone.

    Furthermore, they had no sigils or runes, no markings or etchings. She had memorized the runes on the mirror just before they left, in anticipation it might come in handy to find their way back. But the edges of these portals were smooth; leaving her with no clue how to access them.

    She walked up to them, and tapped on each of them, and confirmed to her great dismay, that they had no way to return home.

    Cassi sighed and turned back to look at Megan. We're lost, we have no idea where we are, and we have no way back. Happy now?

    Megan grinned at her apologetically. Oops.

    Chapter 3

    Eight months later

    Cassi, dinner is ready.

    I'm not hungry.

    That's what you say every day. Will you please stop playing with those mirror portal things and come join us? I've made baked fruit salad! This time I used raspberries! Actually it's more like a cobbler; those buckwheat seeds we discovered are a wonderful replacement for flour. You'll love it, I promise!

    Cassi sighed and gave up her efforts for the day, and walked over to sit down on a woven grass rug beside Piper.

    Thus far, they had built no shelter, for the weather had been perfect and ideal room temperature for the past eight months; which was odd, in and of itself. The land they were in was still as much a mystery as it had ever been. They had seen signs of birds and wildlife, but not up close. However there had been no signs or evidence of predators. It was like a perfect world in which they had found themselves in. They slept outdoors on the woven grass rug, with a lighter woven grass blanket to cover them. Like a perfect paradise, even the nights were warm and comfortable with no threat of rain or bad weather. However the predominant reason why they had not attempted to build themselves a shelter was due to the fact that they had no tools. All they had brought with them were the clothes on their backs and their small daggers; the very same clothes which was still all they had to wear.

    They had found some flint, however; so that was a very helpful aid. Not only in starting cooking fires but Megan was also convinced she could fashion a crude axe using flint as a blade; and possibly use it to build themselves an actual home.

    They had attempted a little bit of traveling, in order to discover more about the strange world around them. They had traveled a week in nearly every direction, but everywhere they went they saw only the same. No other signs of humans or settlements, no signs of a distant sea or ships. Nothing but grass and trees and distant misty mountains for as far as the eye could see. Eventually they would always return back to where they started; the same grassy plain where the three silent monoliths stood; in hopes of someday learning the secret to activating them once again and hopefully find their way back home.

    As of late, Cassi had been growing increasingly irritable and frustrated at their predicament; while Megan and Piper had become more patient and accepting of the situation. As she sat down on the woven grass rug to join them for dinner, Cassi complained, All we ever have is fruit salad.

    Because all we have is fruit. At least until our vegetable garden matures. Be thankful we have at least found many sorts of fruit trees and berry bushes by the underground spring. Those will suffice until our garden is ready. All of our basic needs are met. Megan then arched her eyebrow at Cassi. At least Piper is grateful for what little we have.

    Cassi turned and smiled down at Piper. I believe I am being taken to task. I guess I have been complaining a lot lately, haven't I?

    Now approaching two years of age, the little blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler smiled up at Cassi and replied, I like fruit.

    As always, Piper's innocent smile melted Cassi's heart. I like fruit, too. I am sorry if I have been a little grumpy. Or ... maybe a lot grumpy. I just wish we could find a way out of here. I am afraid I do not do well when faced with problems I cannot solve. It has been a lifelong problem of mine.

    It's not just that. Megan said as she began dishing out a small portion of raspberry cobbler for Piper. I think I know what is really behind what's troubling you.

    Oh? What's that?

    Megan looked at her sadly and said, Jeffery.

    Ah. nodded Cassi.

    He was the only one who could keep you calm and steady; and he hasn't been around for eight months. Although I must say, you have been doing remarkably well, considering. Megan then paused and sighed. I will never forget how much you deteriorated the last time you ... separated yourself from us.

    I know. Things got pretty bad.

    But it's not as bad this time.

    Cassi smiled. Maybe because I at least still have you with me.

    Returning her smile, Megan replied, And you know what else I think? She then looked over at Piper. I think our daughter is also helping you.

    Cassi reached down and tenderly stroked Piper's blonde hair. You really think so?

    Cassi had long ago ceased protesting referring to Piper as their 'daughter'. Because it was indeed turning out that way. They were in fact now raising her as their own child. Whether or not Piper would ever find her biological parents was a complete unknown and anyone's guess; but to Cassi's mindset it was highly unlikely. Thus, even Cassi now thought of herself as Piper's adoptive mother, in the same the same way as Megan. And even Cassi now called her 'daughter'.

    And Megan couldn't be more happier. She herself was surprised as to how much motherhood suited her. And to Megan's unique mind, the three of them made for the ultimate family. As much as she had enjoyed serving as Cassi's First Mate, she couldn't imagine anything better or more fulfilling than raising a child with her beloved Captain.

    As she handed Cassi her portion, Megan said, You had another dream last night.

    I did!? Cassi asked in surprise.

    Megan nodded. First time in a long time. I think being in this strange unexplainable place has been bothering you in many ways. I know that things don't make sense for you here.

    Did I....

    Cry out in your sleep? Yes.

    How....

    Megan smiled at Piper. Our daughter helped.

    Really? Cassi exclaimed.

    Megan nodded. While you have been trying to figure out those mirrors, I've been teaching Piper to count, with a little song we made up.

    She counted to me? In song?

    And it seemed to have helped. You began to calm down once she started singing the numbers.

    Cassi turned and put her arm around Piper. You helped me! Thank you!

    Piper smiled up at her. I love you.

    And I love you, too. Cassi replied with a grateful hug.

    Megan then grinned at Cassi. I love our family.

    Cassi then turned a knowing look at Megan. Why am I getting the feeling that you are in no hurry to return to our ship?

    Because I am not.

    I thought you loved being my First Mate.

    Of course I do. I love everything about it. I love the ship, I love the crew ... but what I really love, is you. I'll follow you anywhere, Cassi; wherever you go. I will do whatever you need me to do, I will be whatever you need me to be. That's the way it's always been with us; and that's the way I always want it to be. That ... is what makes me happy.

    Cassi gave her a tender smile. I'm glad you're here with me. I don't know what I would do without you.

    Megan gave her a serious look. You would probably die. I know how we are connected.

    Cassi sighed and looked down. I was only a baby; I didn't know what I was doing at the time.

    You knew that you needed me. That's all that matters.

    No. Cassi replied. That's where you are wrong. We need each other. Then she smiled down once again at Piper. We're a family.

    With a grin, Megan said, That we are. Cassi, I don't know how long we will be here. But I for one, am determined to make the best of it; even if I don't understand it.

    Well put. And point taken. Thank you, Megan; I think I needed to hear that.

    Yes you did. Now set a good example for our daughter and eat your dinner.

    Yes, Mother. Cassi laughed.

    Chapter 4

    Three years later

    Well what do you know. We have a home! Cassi proudly declared.

    Not yet. Megan said from the roof. Just need to tie in two more panels ... almost there....

    From the ground level, Cassi chuckled. Who would have thought our fathers being homebuilders would come in handy, someday.

    And ... done! Yay! We did it! And with a joyous shout of triumph, Megan jumped down off the roof to the ground to land beside her near the front door and then promptly threw her arms around her. We built a home, Cassi! We actually did it!

    It only took us three years.

    But we did it! We actually did it! Megan then yelled out towards a distant patch of dandelions, Piper! We're ready! Come and see!

    And from the dandelion patch, five-year-old Piper jumped to her feet and came racing over as she exclaimed, All finished!?

    All finished. Cassi grinned.

    And then all three began hugging each other and jumping up and down and dancing in celebration.

    To the casual observer, it didn't seem like much to celebrate; it was only a small grass thatch hut made of woven grass panels and a straw thatch roof.

    But they were proud of their hard efforts just the same. Even Piper had helped with collecting materials and they had all played a part in building their very first home.

    And while it didn't look like much, it had taken a lot of time and work and effort and blood and sweat and even tears. They had also suffered a couple of setbacks, as on two occasions there had been injuries in the construction. Cassi had at one time slipped off the roof and fell, resulting in a fractured ankle. Fortunately it wasn't serious and a splint was all that was needed, but it did cost them significant delay. The second injury occurred while Megan was cutting down a tall tree with her new flint axe. As the tree fell she was caught in the right side by a tree branch which opened up a long gash. But that too, wasn't serious and the gash wasn't deep; and she only had a thin white scar to show for it. Of course one of the most difficult aspects was just building the necessary tools themselves; for they had started with nothing.

    It was just large enough to house two beds - one larger bed for Cassi and Megan, and a smaller one for Piper; and some sitting chairs. Any and all cooking would be done outside in a stone fire pit.

    Three years in the making, but all in all, it had been a fun family project. And a blessing in disguise, for it had given them something to do; a unified sense of purpose which had been very needful. They even bantered around the possibility of someday building something larger and nicer, possibly using clay bricks. But in the interim, they were very pleased with themselves for what they had accomplished; and all without the aid of men.

    Chapter 5

    Year Five

    Piper was now seven years old. And her honey-blonde hair had already grown out long, just like her 'parents'. Cassi and Megan were now twenty one years of age.

    By this time, Megan had not only fully accepted their new life, she had fully embraced it. She was convinced that this would be where they would spend the rest of their lives. And she was happy to do so. Megan loved her new life and her family; she felt safe, secure and fulfilled. She loved loving Piper, and she loved loving Cassi. As far as Megan was concerned, her life was now complete.

    Cassi wasn't as content. She did love Piper, and she did love Megan, both more than anything. But she also felt she was missing out on important pieces of her life. She couldn't draw; there were no fragments or materials for her to draw on. She missed her lute. Though she did enjoy singing occasionally for Piper and Megan. However she also felt her life's purpose was more than just being a homebody.

    She had all but given up on trying to activate the mirror portals; she had tried everything she could think of. But she insisted on staying close to the area, just in case, because ... well, you never know.

    She felt responsible for the Pirate Nation, and felt like she had let them all down. That in and of itself was very disheartening.

    She also missed certain people. Jeffrey, of course. And Liam and the crew. And she missed her mother. She even oftentimes wondered how Hector and her mother were getting along. For all she knew, they were already married.

    But there were other things she felt she was missing out on, as well. Some very personal things. And sometimes, those things which she was missing out on became almost unbearable.

    *** *** ***

    Late one night, Cassi woke up in a sweat. She bolted upright in bed, breathing hard and heavy. Her heart was racing, and her temperature was definitely running on the high side, almost to the point of a fever. It was all she could do to catch her breath.

    Megan woke up at her sudden stirring, and looked up to be surprised by seeing glistening tears in Cassi's eyes.

    Cassi? she asked out of concern, as she sat up beside her. Did you have a dream?

    Still trying to catch her breath, Cassi asked, Do you ever think about them?

    About who?

    Our ... friends.

    Oh. I though you meant our families.

    Them, too.

    I dream about them, sometimes. And I do miss Jeffrey at times, especially. Are you okay, Cassi?

    Cassi didn't reply.

    Which told Megan that she wasn't okay.

    After looking over to ensure that Piper was asleep in her bed, she then put her arm around Cassi's shoulders and quietly asked, You were dreaming about Ebenezer again, weren't you?

    Cassi nodded and wiped her eyes.

    Megan understood. You know ... I have always known that you are a passionate person; and that you feel things deeply. But even though I know you, I cannot imagine how difficult things can sometimes be for you.

    Wiping her eyes once again, Cassi replied, I'll be fine. Don't worry about me.

    But I do worry about you. I think about it a lot.

    Now it was Cassi's turn to be surprised, and she looked at her and said, You do?

    Megan smiled at her. While it is true, I do not have the same stirrings and longings as you; but just because I am not affected in those ways ... it does not mean I am altogether insensitive of your feelings. I know it's hard for you sometimes, Cassi. I am not stupid, and I am not blind.

    Cassi sighed. Worst part is, I never know when it's going to hit me. Sometimes it just comes out of nowhere when I least expect it.

    That doesn't sound easy.

    Cassi looked at Megan and said, Have I ever told you that I envy you?

    Really?

    Cassi nodded. More than words can say.

    Because I don't feel those kinds of things?

    Life would be so much easier.

    You have those kinds of dreams a lot, don't you?

    Cassi groaned. I don't even want to know what I mumble about in my sleep.

    It's okay; it's not that bad.

    It's embarrassing, is what it is.

    It's just a part of being a passionate person. You're only human, Cassi. It doesn't bother me; I don't mind.

    It bothers me. I wish I could make it stop.

    I don't think you can change who you are.

    If that is true, then this is a curse if ever there was one.

    You know Cassi, this kind of reminds me of something that Constance once said to me, back on the ship.

    What was that?

    "At the time, she and I were talking about me, and how I don't

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