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October 4, 2009

In Memory of Veyris Silvereyes
by Impet

I didn't notice you at all when you first boarded my boat, but now that I check my records I see you were the first of my hires that day. You must have planned for some time, then timed your arrival with great care to make this happen, and I suspect you may have even had to fight to keep your place. I'd just commissioned the third Dance of the Fae Gull when one of my clanmates called me away to help them. The ship sat empty at the docks for some hours, and when I returned, I saw quite the crowd around my vessel, must have been at least five hundred other unemployed and poorly educated men around you, every one of them eager to be selected for employment as a deckhand.

I admit I didn't care which of the crowd became my crew, just as I had not when I'd staffed and stocked the first two Dances. My first order to the thirty seven pairs of hands who had been fastest to climb aboard was to turn back the hundreds of others as I went about selecting guns and ammunition. I paid so little attention to you then, you might have been one of the ones who took a moment to walk past me, smiling and hailing me as captain, but knowing you as I do now, I don't think so. Your head was always down when you thought I might look you in the face, and you went out of your way to be where I needed you, doing whatever was most important. Likely you were already at the base of a mast, just waiting for me to call to the hands to help me raise the sails so you could be the first with a hand on the lines in helping me.

I might have noticed you were never one of the ones firing the guns, except I didn't pay attention to that either then. I gave almost no attention to who was doing the shooting, so long as when I called for a volley one was fired. And it was your voice I noticed first, despite your incredible eyes. I don't know how you came by your name, there was nothing silver about them, and I think they embarrassed you. Once I did start watching you, your head was almost always down even when I don't believe you could have known I was there. You almost never looked even the other crewmen in the face, and the one time our eyes met you turned away so quickly, with so little expression, you could have been blind.

I suppose you might have been that nearsighted, and you actually didn't realize you'd let me see your face so clearly. Maybe that's why you never manned the guns. Of course, back then I never asked for every hand to be at a gun. I wonder now though, would that have been the one thing you disobeyed over? I wish I had asked you so many other things now. Now that you are lost to me and it is far to late, I wish I'd taken your face in my hands, taken you away with me off that ship, perhaps to my clan's hall where we could have given you a safer job. Maybe you could have even learned to become an adventurer as I am, maybe we could together have... No. Even in memory and longing, I will not write of some things I wish. But I saw you, Veyris. Be you alive somewhere in hiding, or be you truly lost beneath the waves, know that I saw you and your amazing eyes.

Back then, I always kept at least two hands ready to clear the bilge water. Checking the records, as I have so many times since, know now you were always one of those two, or working to repair the ship when that was needed, and always the worst-damaged parts or the ones I needed fixed first. I'm ashamed that I didn't see this sooner. Were you a pacifist? Were you actually almost blind? Maybe you simply feared to sometimes miss a shot as everyone sometimes does, for you certainly were perfect in everything else you did in my service. But I never even noticed, Silvereyes. The job got done, I saw that and looked no further.

You first came to my attention after we had been rammed by a fast serpent, and your voice rose above crash of the waves and the creaking of the injured ship. You were shouting that thirty four tons of water remained aboard, but in the tone of your voice I heard so much more. That the ship would be safe, that I would call the shots as they were needed. That the water would be pumped away, the damage put to right, and us all come back to shore again safe. There's a lot of noise on a fighting ship, even when the guns are not firing, but it all went away for me as I heard that shout. And you were right. We killed the giant violent serpent and quite a few others before returning to dock, and the struggles I'd been having with understanding when to fire and when to not, when to turn the ship into a serpent's charge or away, and how to put these things together, that confusion simply went away.

So I started watching you, and began to realize how special you were. I'd begun to wonder if you did have silver eyes as your name suggested, and that's when I realized how often you kept your face turned away, especially when your duties brought you past me. That was when I realized that you never spoke directly to me, as the other hands did. Often, the others I commanded would greet me by name, praise me as serpentbane or their captain, but you never, ever did. And you wouldn't work when I stood beside you. You'd hurry off to another place to repair or another of the bilge pumps if I so much as lingered near you.

I finally went to the deck above you and gazed downwards when I knew you were fixing a gun directly beneath. The sun was shining full on your face, and your eyes caught the light and reflected the palest of blues, the color of the sky near the sun at daybreak. So I thought your eyes were blue, but the next day I happened to turn from the helm and see as you were climbing the stairs to repair one of the top stern guns with the sun behind you. Your eyes were a brilliant pale green then, a lighter color then the new spring leaves. I snag meat from that gun, so on that pretense I followed you and gave you no time to turn and leave. As one of your hands lifted part of the gun so the other could work to replace the boarding under it, I rushed up beside you and stooped to get some of the serpent meat, my eyes on your face only inches away from mine.

The sun, low in the east, lit up the side of our larboard-facing faces. You shadowed eye was a very pale brown in that light, but the one the sun's light touched gleaming brilliantly like a mixture of gold and copper. I think I gasped, I know I forgot to actually get the meat I reached for. But you turned as if you saw nothing at all, and moved away towards the other stern gun. I let you go. I curse myself for this now, I should have stopped you there, talked to you, taken you away to safely. But I let you go. I think I thought I had a lot of time, and that you were safe. You were one of my crew, and I was a much safer captain ever since I'd heard your voice that first time.

But the serpent split, and the babies were fast, and two of them fantails. The ship was very badly damaged, but we had fae enough to call upon Vryce's mercy to halt time for the vessel and all aboard. I chose that, and called for a dragon to carry me back to land. I should have taken you, carried your timeless form if I had to, onto that dragon with me. I didn't even try.

I gave enough time for the serpents to have left that part of the ocean before I returned to the damaged ship. I knew then that the price of removing Vryce's protective hand from the ship brings monsters aboard, and this terrified me. I didn't understand that these monsters often could be easily defeated, and many of them did no actual damage to the ship, allowing them to be ignored while the vessel was restored to a fighting condition. So I was hurrying, and believed that the ship's only chance was for me to fire upon a serpent so quickly that the sound of the guns would keep the monsters away. And no sooner had I taken over as Captain again, Vryce's hand lifting from the ship and allowing time to happen for everyone else aboard, that a serpent, a giant ruby serpent, rose beside the ship.

Some rubies are fast, some are slow. All are very tough and take much punishment before they die. And it was on the starboard side of the ship, where I still had guns. Most of the larboard guns were crippled. I called for a shot to be fired, and as I did, before any of the hands were ready to volley their shots, a pack of night sirens boarded the ship as well. I should have ignored them. I should have ignored the ruby serpent, and called you all to repair the ship and pump as needed, until the Dance was ready to fight again. I could have shielded rooms from the sirens and repaired them myself, where my crew was to frightened to work. Instead, I tried to fend off both the serpent and face the sirens, believing that both were an immediate danger to us all.

And the serpent rose on the larboard side, where I could not harm it. It was a fast ruby, though I tried to time a volley between the stern guns and the two larboard guns that could fire. But I was not at the helm, the ship's course not straight, and the five fired shots all missed. I knew the ship was dead, and I... I will not lie to you. I did not think of you at all, I simply waited until I heard the crash of the serpent staving in what remained of the starboard side of the ship, then cast a teleportation spell. I lived, reaching shore safely as the echo of the Dance's death crossed the world. And you all went down with sirens aboard.

Vryce's magic's fill their promise, and almost no one ever dies for good. My pride was in tatters as I went back to the docks and commissioned the fourth Fae Gull, but I was not mourning you yet. You, being you, I expected you'd simply step aboard again when I hired my deckhands. You might have forgotten some of what you'd learned, but that's easily enough retrained. But you were not there. Others were, or other members of their families.

So I started looking, and realized, I could not find another deckhand who shared your family name so I could even ask them about you. The other deckhands I hired told me they didn't know anyone who worked at the docks with your name, and neither did anyone they knew. I kept looking for a time, then I really started to wonder, and looked at my logs from the voyages and realized just how different you were.

I miss you, Veyris Silvereyes. I'm not sure, but I might love you. I know I want you back aboard, sharing the Dance with me and putting things to right. Do the sirens have you? Have you found refuge on some ship I have never seen? Are you truly dead? Did I only imagine you? I am left with nothing but pain and questions, and what I want is you. You were a miracle, you were incredible. Please, contact me, someday, in some way. Let me know you live, return to me, please, if you can. The Dance is not the same without you as my partner aboard it. Please, do not be dead.


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