Nalishayas raised her voice. “Everyone. These are my friends. Treat them with respect, if you value your life, and leave their horses alone.”
“We already covered the horses,” Katie said.
“She told them they were poisonous,” Lockhart tattled.
“You lie like an elf,” Nalishayas said with a hearty laugh, and Boston looked up at the use of that old expression and laughed with her. Nalishayas winked at Boston. “Maybe I should say you lie like a pirate.”
“Welcome to the original pirate’s cove,” Nalishayas shouted. “We’re all pirates here.”
The crowd shouted their agreement, and Nalishayas pointed at a man. “Argh, me hearties,” the man said.
“But that was English,” Alexis pointed out.
“Some things don’t translate well,” Nalishayas admitted. “Some things do,” and she shouted, “Ale,” and again, the crowd shouted their agreement with that sentiment, and they all marched into town.
There was an inn in town, an oddity in a place that was super secret where no one came to visit, but Nalishayas said it could not be a real pirate town unless they built an inn, so they did. Nalishayas, it seemed, was something like an empress deluxe. Her whim was everyone’s command, and Lincoln suggested as long as she was successful in her piracy, that would not change. So they had an inn, and everyone got a bed, but they only stayed two days because the bed bugs were so bad.
“My story is simple,” Nallishayas said. The people of Akoshia, that is Crete for the geographers, and the Minoan homeland for the pseudo-historians, they are just starting to build the ships and establish the trade routes that will make them masters of the Mediterranean. Some are already rich beyond reason. But they are perverted in ways, morally, that give me the creeps. MeroVirias was a noble and rich merchant. One of the richest. And he decided he wanted to have me in his bed, whether as wife or concubine or to watch me love someone else or to have sex with his dog, I cannot say. My father said no. I was in love with a lovely young man. So Mero killed my young man and made his demand again. My father said no, so he took my family’s property and threw them on the streets. Then he offered a fortune, and my father still said no. So he killed my father, and mother, and brothers, and little sister and came to take me by force. So I killed him and ran away.”
“Dern right. Big bloody mess all over his fancy, expensive carpet. Then Tethys, the goddess, queen of the sea came to me and helped me grieve for all my losses, and for what I did. Then she guided me here, but that is a long story. Then she got the merpeople to give me this cove. Then I found a bunch of runaways from Akoshia. Everyone here has been mistreated in one way or another. Some not as bad as mine, to see their family murdered in front of their eyes. Some worse, who are lucky to be alive.
“So now you are pirates,” Katie said.
“We prey on Akoshian shipping, especially the Virias family. I would call us freedom fighters, but, alas, I know the future. I cannot overthrow the Akos and his perverted nobility. They are destined to become rich and powerful, but I am not going to make it easy for them, at least as long as I am alive.” Nalishayas downed her ale and called for more. She looked around at the group. “Any questions?”
“Yes,” Alexis wanted to change the subject. “Why do all the men call the women Muggys?
“A newcomer raped a woman. For being a mugger, the mugee got to take one thing of his treasure. I explained this to everyone. For being raped she had the option of taking more things, sending him into exile from the community, or seeing him hanged. He was hanged. But ever since then, the men have referred to the women as Muggys.” Nalishayas shrugged, downed a whole cup of ale and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Next.”
“Only one thing,” Katie spoke up again. “You have all these technical advances here on this side of the mountain. You have hoes and scythes and sickles, not to mention copper knives and all. But on the other side of the mountain, they have nothing. They are still working in stone and bone…” Katie trailed off because Nalishayas was shaking her head.
“I dare not share,” she said. “Soon enough the Akoshians will come here and take this island for their own. They might not succeed if the people have copper weapons to defend themselves. It troubles me every day. It breaks my heart, but what can I do?”
“What if the Akoshians come here?” Katie asked.
“A possibility,” Katie said.
“Possible,” Nalishayas agreed. “Now I want to get drunk.”
Two days later, Nalishayas came into the inn wearing a dress that looked like silk. “Fairy weave,” she admitted. “But I have been assured by those who know that it imitates silk very well.”
“But you are beautiful,” Alexis said.
“Breathtaking,” Boston squeaked.
She went with them to visit Coressus in the underground. Lockhart said he did not sleep that whole night, but the rest slept well enough. Then Nalishayas continued with them to the elf haven where the elf king, Issendilus explained that being confined between sundown and sunrise is what they would have done anyway, and so it was no hardship.
“And if it helps Mandible feel good about himself, and avoids a war, all the better.”
They stayed three days with the elves of light, and Boston fit right in with the elf maids who all said how lucky she was and how handsome Roland was. To be sure, she felt awkward, at first, but by the end she was saying she learned so much about being an elf and an elf maid, and about all the things she needed to do, and what was expected of her, and all the rules she had to follow. And when they left, she said, now she knew so much she didn’t know before. And she supposed there was no going back. Roland shook his head and held her hand as they moved through the time gate, but that was fine. She was kidding about going back, mostly.