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Unclothed foot slapped down on the bare ass with enough force to leave a red blush on the nearly white flesh.

 

You are still in my bed.

 

Yawn expanded his lips as the elf's bare feet padded towards the open double doors that led to his bathroom. The cream silk on the bed moved, a cerulean cascade of curls emerging from the sheets to peek gray eyes up after the man as he pulled the ebony locks through his hands to one side, exposing the sinewy muscled back and dimpled cheeks. The fae might have been horribly insulted but instead the smile lit the corners of her lips before she stretched and wormed her way out of the sheets. Truth was, as insolent and dismissive a playboy as he was in the morning, the Lord of Megildur was one hell of an attentive lover in the evening. It was not the first time she had been kicked out of his bed in the morning, it wouldn’t be the last, and she was far from the only woman that shared the dismissal fate.

 

Passing through the carved doors his dark hair shimmered with the morning sunshine as it glittered down through the glass ceiling that defied gravity, the limbs he had architected folding in beautiful sinews across the expanse to nestle the glass between the branches.  Expertly cradled against the mountainside, his shower was a natural waterfall that fell through a breach in the glass ceiling.  It was frigid in the winters, cold in the summers, and nirvana for the elf that was a part of nature more than the concrete jungles of man.

 

As he stood hip deep in the stream, water cascading over his head, the sensitive ears listened to the fae vacate his bed, her lyrical hum wandering all the way out of the masterpiece that was his home. Eyes that reflected the depth of ocean waters closed as he ran his hands over the cascade of ebony on his head. She had been a distraction at best.

 

The council had gone mad. They had their heads in the sand regarding this outworlder registration. They had decided they would stay put and offer no help to those outside their borders, nor would they bow to the registration.

 

They were asking for war to come to their shores.

 

Truth was a war didn’t concern the elf, it was the complete abandon of the outworlders that had yet to find their way to South America that boiled his blood. Just because they had been fortunate enough to get stranded on this world on the southern continent, didn’t give them the right to see the others as less than them. Well…..all were not as grand as him in his own eyes, but he also protected his own… something the council was SUPPOSED to be in place to do.

 

Well the council might sit idle, but he wouldn’t. Wet strides pulled him out of the stream, robe snapped off the wall and wrapped loosely around himself as he padded through the stone hallways. If he was going to start intervening he was going to need a transporter and while Eris had proved good for hauling his cargo, he wouldn’t trust outworlders to an earthborn no matter how much he trusted already. No…. he needed an outworlder and he had heard rumors of one already doing exactly what he sought, ferrying outworlders out of harms way. They just needed a place to go. That was where the head of NARWA came in. Megildur had room for hundreds more outworlders, and the thankful tended to be loyal so it was a win-win for the elf.

 

He needed to find that boatman.

 

A quick call had transportation on its way. He was heading to New York. That was where the rumor came from, that was where he would poke around. It was time he took action.

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The heat wave annoyed him.  He could tolerate it, being on the water helped a bit, but the sun.  Khakis were the only thing he could bear to put on, hair tied on top of his head in a knot. He’d tried braiding it, but the constant slide of the plait against sweating skin was irritating. Strands loose in a ponytail made him itch. It all had to be piled on top.

 

Knees bumped the side of the hull every so often when the boat undulated under waves rifled up from incoming ships into the docks.  Fresh coat of paint was almost halfway done, the boatman sitting on a suspended scaffold.  It reminded him of an old rope swing, but it did the job.  Forearm wiped over his cheek to rid himself of the paint spatter, resulting in more of a smear.

 

Damn it.  Eyes peering up at the late afternoon sun, it was almost time for a break anyway.  He’d finish this square foot section and grab a drink.

 

*npc*  “Calder, Calder Muireadach right?”

 

Glance cast over his shoulder.

 

“Yah?”

 

Demeanor was nonchalant as he continued to paint the deep blue.  Of course, a man standing on a working dock in a business suit was more than alarming. Maybe he’d finally caught the attention of some shipping interests. Maybe they were there to arrest him. The guy was too pretty to be a cop. Shipping.

 

*npc*  “Do you have a moment?”

 

“Yah.”

 

He finished the section with a final stroke and stood up on the scaffold, hoisting himself back up to put the bucket and brushes on the deck. Unapologetic about his paint stained skin, he rifled around in his cooler for a soda and cracked it open, he loved Mountain Dew.  It was harder to get than holy Hell, but damn he loved the stuff.  After a long swig, he wiped the can sweat off his hand and offered it to shake.

 

“Calder, but you already know that.”

 

The man nodded, *npc* “Richard Stevens.  You are a small freight ship.”

 

“Yah.”

 

Obvious.

 

*npc*  “I’ve heard you’ve been successful in runs to what’s left of Britain, tried a South American run.”

 

“Not tried, have done.  Round trip in twenty two days.  Thought there might be some interest in freight transport but with air travel a bit more lucrative to South America I haven’t gotten much more response for water transport.  More profitable for me to the Isles.  Dragons tend to not like planes.   Water seems to be the only way in and out. Not easy to fight pilots that want to fly up there.”

 

He took another swig

 

*npc*  “Would you consider talking with my employer about a potential transport opportunity?”

 

He shrugged slightly, money was money.  A small transport?  Was this a smuggling bid?  It would probably piss the guy off if he said so.

 

“As long as it’s on the up and up I’ll hear out anything that can bring in money to keep my boat painted.”

 

The man smiled and nodded once.

 

*npc*  “Is this where we find you?”

 

“Few more days at least, until I finish painting.”

 

*npc*  “We’ll be in touch, Mr. Muirdeach.”

 

He nodded, watching the man walk off, finishing his soda.  It wasn’t the first time he’d been approached on the dock, he had a reputation for making trips nobody else seemed to want to try.  But, it didn’t always bring in the most reputable business.  He was interested to see how this one played out.  Tossing the can into the basket next to the cooler, he stretched a moment, then was back on the scaffold.  Boat wasn’t going to paint itself.

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Normally he would have travelled via Eris. Woman had an air vehicle that was better suited to his status in this world. But she was an outsider and this entire endeavor was strictly for his own kind. He trusted her with his business, not his people. No earthborn could be trusted with his own.

 

As it was he frowned at the small prop planes ragged interior as it bounced in for a less than smooth landing at the deserted Republic airport out in Long Island. It was a strip the veil crosser pilot used to stay undetected. The kid was not talkative which was something the elf appreciated, but he wasn’t the best pilot, which the elf found annoying.

 

npc: Thanks for….

 

The elf half lifted his hand in dismissal of the thanks as he trotted down the two steps that fell open on the side of the plane. Lights ahead turned on to show where the car was sitting.

 

Finally, some luxury…. thank goodness.

 

Sliding into the leather backseat he pulled the door shut as Enaleri put the sleek Lincoln Towncar into drive, the folder passed over her shoulder to him.

 

npc: Looks like the one we are looking for is currently docked in the harbor making repairs to his boat.

 

Mmmm

 

He flipped through the sparse number of pictures of the man. Didn’t look like an Outworlder but looks could be deceiving. The friendly fae at the wheel was used to his curt behavior as she continued.

 

npc: ….looks like we are not the only ones trying to find him either. Our Crea contact thinks the ones inquiring about him may be hostile.

 

Earthborn parasites likely….

 

Npc: Perhaps…..

 

The sun was just beginning to dust the sky with dawns light as the towncar pulled in along the main dock of the harbor.

 

npc: He might not want to be a part of it you know Durion.

 

Her words held a humor in them as she put the car in park. The idea that anyone said no to the head of NARWA was an absurdity. Even she as a fae was drawn to the flame. More important than his charisma however, he actually protected their own, something she had seen the council didn’t seem to actually care about doing.

 

Smirk lit his lips as he tossed the file onto the seat next to him and slid out of the car door, slamming it shut without another word.

 

Hands slid into the pocket of the elegant Armani slacks as he strode down the dock that held the bobbing boat he had seen in the pictures at the end. The gray tone of the fashionwear beautifully framing the lavender button down underneath the blazer. It was actually a bit tamer than his usual fair, his ebony hair hung loose to flutter down at his hips as the morning breeze picked up.

 

Cerulean orbs traced the lines of the vessel before the Ferragamo leather toe reaching out to lightly tap on the hull, "knocking" to see if the boatman was home.

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He was hovering in silence, near darkness.  The bustle of the world, random noises, voices, yelling, stink of the air- was all gone.  Ears could hear the rustle of water- if that was even possible, feel the vibration on his skin from the thrum on waves on hulls; weightless, arms floating out from his sides as he remained suspended in a solitary world.  Current brushed the loose tendrils of his hair against his arms every so often, the sensation free, welcomed.  Eyes open slightly, having felt vibration on his dock, looking upward at the spindles of light trickling down from the surface.  A shadow near his boat, then the thump like a knocking on his door, whomever it was unaware that eyes were upon them from the deep.  A creature that this world had never known lurking beneath the depths.

 

Hands pushed downward slightly, ascending his body several feet.  He could see the man from behind, waiting patiently.  Two in as many days?  Well dressed, looking for him.  Thus far, all he’d ferried came to New York.  It wasn’t illegal, technically he’d done nothing wrong.  It had occurred to him that someone would have issue with it eventually, most likely from Gallaway.

 

Moments ticked by as he watched, patience of a saint.  Hands slid across the posts under the dock, weapons intact, before moving under his boat toward the ladder near the stern- hovering there for a moment.  Thumb ran along the patch in the hull.  It had been in dry dock for less than a week.  They’d done a good job.  Unless you knew it was there....

 

Now the mysterious visitor.

 

Hand reached up from the darkness to grab a rung and pull himself up, hair twisting and tailing down his spine in a rush of water.  Bare feet hit the deck.

 

“Kicking tires?”

 

Towel was whisked over his torso, reaching behind him to plait his hair.  It would take only a few moments to figure out if this string of visitors was going to become a problem.  He would solve it quietly.

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Nostrils huffed as the ears tuned into the surroundings. Eyes were caressing over the concrete structures that dotted the harbor and across the bay. He loathed the cold indifference of these things the earthborn seemed to treasure. There was no life in the homes they built themselves. Their cities were "dead" things.

 

Eyes returned to the ship, ears continuing to hone in on the soft lap of water and the first breach of its surface. For all his pomp and circumstance the elf was a patient creature. He had spent a lifetime waiting for his turn to rule, to step out of the squalor he had been born into. It had taught him infinite patience…… most of the time.

 

The drip of water off skin tilted the ears faintly down under the dark curtain. Crystalline gaze drug over skin as the man emerged over the edge of the dock. The pale ink caught the attentive eyes, tracing over the muscles as the patterns were instantly recognized as exotic writing, a fact likely lost on the ignorant earthborn.

 

This was his boatman….. he was sure of it.

 

“Kicking tires?”

 

Lips parted only to close with a genuine puzzled expression. Head tilted as eyes glanced around the area looking for something before cerulean orbs came back to the man, ebony brow lifting.

 

There are no tires….. and why would I kick it if there was one here?

 

The simple question exposed the elf as an outworlder. He did business with the world abroad but he secluded himself in South America with other stranded races. The nuances of earth expression were lost on him unless shared by the Iron elf that ran his ore division. He came in contact with the earthborn far more than the head of NARWA. As if on cue the billow of morning breeze caught the ebony silk that hung down his shoulders, exposing the elongated ears that curled back along his skull.

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His own brow cocked slightly as he peeled a gray t-shirt over his torso and found his worn boat shoes, the back of the heel having been pushed down flat so he could just slide them on...  and off, if the need arose that he was in the water for some immediate purpose.

 

There are no tires….. and why would I kick it if there was one here?

 

Amused smirk lit his lips as he exhaled once through his nose and clicked the pin on his gangway, but he didn't answer.  If a potential employer, he would probably want to see the boat.  Not yet though, he didn’t make any move to extend it to the dock.  Not the same as the suit yesterday, that was for sure.  Of course you couldn’t be sure anymore if anyone that looked “normal” wasn’t.  He wasn’t, which meant possible employment by the obvious altered.  Or, bounty hunter. Traitor.  Any number of things.  He didn’t like either prospects.  Come to think of it, he really didn’t trust anyone lately.

 

He nodded toward the dark bumpers attached to the side of the old wharf that kept his boat from bouncing into the dock, hands sliding into still wet khaki pockets.  They used to be tires, cut up for other purposes… somehow he knew it would be lost to the man… err…  elf.  Erm.. Nevermind.

 

“What can I do for you.. Mr..?”

 

Lean form stood for a moment and watched him calmly, then looked off toward another small “people mover” going out for the day.  Nod was slight and his hand emerged to acknowledge the other captain.  Good guy, ran people back and forth from Long Island to the mainland. Eyes moved back to the elf.  Relaxed, the picture of composed.  Inside?  He was indeed ready to drag the man into the depths and drown him at the bottom if necessary.  There were two types of people lately in New York… those that wanted his boat, and those that wanted to hire him for pennies and try to take his boat.

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The vaguely confused expression didn’t vanish, only punctuated with a faint frown as the amused smirk was not missed. Clearly there was something the elf didn’t understand as the boatman clothed himself. The nod towards the dark bumpers didn’t really clear anything up for the head of NARWA as he quirked a brow at the man.

 

“What can I do for you.. Mr..?”

 

…Caranthir.

 

While the soft accent could be mistaken for many things when he normally spoke, when his own name crossed his lips the lyrical heritage that belonged only to those not of this world was betrayed…. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say was proudly on display.

 

Cerulean watched the exchange between boatmen. Was this really the one he was looking for? Seemed so…. amiable… with these earthians. If not for the clearly unearthly writing that had been on the skin of the man, he would have serious doubts the man was outworlder at all. As it was……

 

Muireadach is it?

 

The name was in the file, the lyrical pronunciation however was all his own. It had a cadence and syllable percussion like elven names, rolling easily.

 

I have a long term business proposition for you.

 

Head tilted slightly studying the man.

 

One I believe you will be interested in because I have reason to believe you are already doing what I would be asking for in your free time.

 

It was a subtle hint but yet not so subtle. The elf clearly had not gotten his information from a business deal. The original source had actually been an outworlder that this boatman had supposedly rescued. There was either truth to the story, or this man had no clue and would be a useless sell out like so many outworlders the elf had come across… groveling at the feet of the more populous of the planet.

 

Perhaps we can talk inside?

 

He was not risking the outside world knowing what he was doing even before it had begun.

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Smile was in his eyes at the elf's confusion, but not on his lips, the relaxed visage more at home that he felt most of the time.  He’d been raised to exude relaxed confidence even in the face of danger or certain death.  Standing in front of an elf?  Fae?  …that was asking him questions of the sort he was reluctant to start answering out of the blue did actually fall into that category- as innocent as the conversation looked.  The man really did look out of place on his dock.  His slip wasn’t run down by any means, but suits were not the typical attire here.

 

…Caranthir.

 

He nodded, peering up through bleached frays that had fallen forward from his plait at the sun. He didn’t like the sun.  He loved the winter, the ice in the water.  He spent a lot of time in the water during the summer.  This guy, Caranthir, was definitely proud of himself, which these days was a death sentence if one was in the wrong place.  It was going to get him killed.

 

Muireadach is it?

 

“Mhm,” nod was soft again.  First time though in this big blue spinning globe that someone had been even close to pronouncing it correctly.  The gentleman yesterday had butchered it.  One thing he really hated about this world, people butchered names when they couldn’t pronounce them and were never interested in learning the correct way- as if their inability superseded the right for someone to be called their given name.

 

Interesting though.  Two. Two visitors in as many days.  Knew his name to boot.  It didn’t sit well.  The first was usually the jumpstart, hoping to catch someone’s attention in order to catch the business.  The second was usually who he really wanted to talk to.  He’d been in situations where it had been the opposite, but not often.  He was on someone's radar, exactly where he didn't want to be.

 

I have a long term business proposition for you.

 

“Are you following up for Mr. Stevens from yesterday?” It was now apparent, that he himself also was not likely a native of New York; language cadence not quite Swedish… Norwegian… English… Russian… not quite anything, but he spoke and understood English as well as any native and was comfortable with that.  A stray line caught his attention and he went to wind it on a clamp.  Odd.  Clean snap.  There were no such things as clean snaps.  Eyes began to follow all of his rigging.

 

One I believe you will be interested in because I have reason to believe you are already doing what I would be asking for in your free time.

 

Blink was slow, but the hazel that looked back to him as he was finishing off the tie line had darkened slightly.  He yanked it tight and looked over the rest of the rigging within a few moments, enough length of silence to make most uncomfortable standing there. Mr. Stevens had been quite uncomfortable at the boatman's less than chatty interlude.

 

Perhaps we can talk inside?

 

He leaned on the gangplank, the small span of water between them separating their vast worlds, thump of water from his plait to the deck quiet and loud enough ironically to sound like a chiming bell.  He’d been betrayed by others like him, whether this man was an Outworlder or merely a homegrown bastard he didn’t know.  Long inhale preceded the metallic clank of the gangplank release, letting out the slow breath as metal lowered carefully and the surface of the water thrummed around the boat like heavy rainfall or sputtering surface fish for a mere moment.  There it was, his elusive… power.  Like a joke at all the wrong times.  It was there, he knew it, just out of his reach.  A puzzle he couldn't yet solve... a rope he was just inches from grabbing onto.  The settle of the aluminum to the dock groaned slightly, and the weird cosmic hoodoo glitch was forgotten like it had never happened.

 

Footsteps were quiet as he beckoned the man on and raised the gangplank again after he’d come aboard, clinking the pin.  He didn’t like people just “popping in”.  Nearly silent footsteps made their way below deck, the scent of truly scrumptious coffee still lingering from a pot he’d made this morning.  The main cabin was quaint, but it was elegant and personalized.  Dark smooth woods, clean lines, minimal except for a wall of exotic blades on display.  Nestled slyly in the wall of exceptional specimens were his own.  He still used them.  He still needed them on occasion.

 

He offered the elf a seat and stepped into the small kitchenette.  He was brewing coffee, not from some machine contraption… the old fashioned way.

 

“I don’t have free time, Mr. Caranthir.  I ship things, that is my time.  I picked this coffee up on a trip to South America.  Wanted to see if I could actually make the trip, had a few friends that wanted to go, had some things to trade, it looked interesting.  Ended up keeping it for myself… that happens sometimes.  Want anything to drink, eat?  I have an amazing coconut water I picked up south, Kilbeggan I picked up in Galway. Not a fan of the Kilbeggan.  Anything from the Isles smells like turpentine to me.”

 

He had a light palate.  Dishes clinked quietly.

 

“I would say then… I’m a trader of sorts.  People want things, I go get them.  People want to go somewhere, I take them there while delivering other things.  I have a few regular routes, but mostly go where the business is.  Not sure how that could be helpful to you since I'm not large enough for mass freight, but I do go where most won't, which has it's interesting applications.”

 

He took a long drink of his fresh ground heaven in a Japanese coffee cup, no handle... amazing to see unbroken pottery on a ship.  Seemingly chatty, it was anything but.  Useless information, yet so telling… and definitely revealing of intent in whatever answers the man had for him.  A verbal trap.  He was good at those.

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“Are you following up for Mr. Stevens from yesterday?”

 

Ebony brow quirked elegantly upward.

 

Mr Stevens? Most assuredly not. And I would recommend caution if this was the individual that came in the late noon hour yesterday. My contact advised there was a good chance he was a Vanguard representative.

 

It was becoming apparent the elf was no disconnected "outworlder". He waited patiently until the hazel eyes glanced back to him before offering to talk inside. Cerulean eyes did not watch the plank come down but rather the water between the boat and the dock. Something had caught attentive eyes and ears, brow quirking upward once more before letting the gaze drift back up to the boatman.

 

Interesting.

 

Beckoned over, the leather shoes covered the distance in just a couple strides. Hands gently clasped behind his back as he waited for the man to raise the plank, then followed him below deck.

 

Nostrils flared at a familiar scent. His higher end line of coffee beans were percolating on the air. The harvests off his lands had distinctly rich smells and were not found elsewhere in the world that he had found. Cerulean slid over the dark woods, appreciating their exotic grain before pausing on the blades. They didn’t all have the look of weaponry made on this world.

 

All things said the boatman was outworlder.

 

“I don’t have free time, Mr. Caranthir.  I ship things, that is my time.  I picked this coffee up on a trip to South America.  Wanted to see if I could actually make the trip, had a few friends that wanted to go, had some things to trade, it looked interesting.  Ended up keeping it for myself… that happens sometimes.  Want anything to drink, eat?  I have an amazing coconut water I picked up south, Kilbeggan I picked up in Galway. Not a fan of the Kilbeggan.  Anything from the Isles smells like turpentine to me.”

 

The elf listened in silence as he took the offered seat, the eyes lightly trailing over details others missed. One's surroundings said much about the owner.

 

“I would say then… I’m a trader of sorts.  People want things, I go get them.  People want to go somewhere, I take them there while delivering other things.  I have a few regular routes, but mostly go where the business is.  Not sure how that could be helpful to you since I'm not large enough for mass freight, but I do go where most won't, which has it's interesting applications.”

 

Ears had dipped a little as he listened to every word. Long breath pulled at the end of the speech before the elf finally spoke.

 

Not looking for mass freight. That I already have. Far too "visible" for the task at hand.

 

Crystalline gaze watched the hands work the old coffee brew press. It was a much better way to create the drink than those infernal machines the earthborn were married to.

 

The coffee you are brewing comes from my lands. I recognize its scent easily… and your "friends" now all work for me. It was why they "wanted to go" to the southern continent in the first place. It was one of them that let me know of your…. work.

 

Head tilted as the eyes finally settled on the boatman with an unnervingly direct gaze.

 

I am looking for someone to regularly bring more "friends" to the southern continent… specifically from the Ireland region at the moment.

 

It hung in the air ominously. Such an expedition, particularly on a regular basis, would definitely put the one ferrying in danger. The elf was asking a lot of this "business proposition".

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Mr Stevens? Most assuredly not. And I would recommend caution if this was the individual that came in the late noon hour yesterday. My contact advised there was a good chance he was a Vanguard representative.

 

Contacts, Vanguard and covert dealings.  He was deep in it now.  There was no outward response, or change of expression.  The Vanguard didn’t bother him, by the time they caught up with him he could be somewhere else completely, or sitting on a boat in front of them and they wouldn’t notice.  He. Lived.  The. Sea.  If he didn’t know better, it was his blood.  Anyone that challenged him on it would lose.  Overconfidence, maybe, but he refused to believe that with the loss of his powers he wasn’t a formidable force.

 

The niceties were what they were; small talk.  He never tipped his cards.  The “prince” had grown up in politics and negotiation, this world was barely different in that regard.  Noting the elf asked or requested nothing, he pulled an apple from his small fridge and sat on a carved wooden stool by the table. Small knife from the block was retrieved with a stretch.

 

Not looking for mass freight. That I already have. Far too "visible" for the task at hand.  The coffee you are brewing comes from my lands. I recognize its scent easily… and your "friends" now all work for me. It was why they "wanted to go" to the southern continent in the first place. It was one of them that let me know of your…. work.

 

Picking up his mug again, he listened, the apple and knife held in the other hand.  Mug clicked quietly on the table, one foot hitching up on a rung. 

 

I am looking for someone to regularly bring more "friends" to the southern continent… specifically from the Ireland region at the moment.

 

Crack of the apple’s skin snapped in punctuation of his final statement, the slice of flesh balanced on the knife brought to his lips to eat.  He chewed a moment, lips pursing.

 

“I don’t smuggle, labor or goods, if that’s what you’re asking.  I’m truly sorry if any passengers I’ve ferried led you to believe that.  I’m not sure what could have given them that impression.”

 

It was a simple answer.  He wasn’t playing games, he was the game.  A man that wanted something didn’t beat around the bush.  Mr. Vanguard had beat around the bush.  This man was doing it too, but was clearly stating his needs in veiled fashion.  Mr. Vanguard just thought he was an idiot and would fall for the “make some money” line.  Not everyone was in it for money, and he most certainly didn’t need it to survive regardless of what he’d broadcasted to the man.

 

The elf wanted it so badly, he had to come out and ask.  He was alluding… From Mr. Caranthir’s business proposition at face value, it sounded like he wanted labor for his coffee business.  Specialized labor, how did he know that the man wasn’t feeding off Outworlders and the gifted to work for him?  He didn’t. The guy would have to tell him more.  He would have to have the balls to ask him outright.

 

“If you need workers, why don’t you just advertise for them and a fair wage.  I’m sure people need work and would be willing to travel to assist you.  I’d be happy to transport if they need it.  From Ireland, New York… anywhere.”

 

Another slice was cut, entirely too easy from the finger motion in a single hand.  He chewed a moment again… brow quirking.  Eyes were watching the line of windows just above the elf’s head facing the dock.  The knife in his hand disappeared, and the apple spun on his palm before he took a bite out of it.  Feet slipped out of his shoes and he made his way silently up the steps to the deck.  Well then… he was entirely enjoying this covert conversation until now.

 

“You might want to stay here, Outworlder,” voice was quiet before he opened the door and stepped out.  The simple statement was enough to confess everything, it was time to.  He heard those that he ferried talk, he didn't ask questions, all he had to do was listen.  The man admitted the coffee was his.  From South America.  They'd wanted to travel there.  They worked for him.  This was the man they were seeking for protection, not a labor trader.  "I’ll get rid of him.”

 

Well, that cat was out of the bag.

 

“Mr. Stevens,” he greeted, padding across the deck and picking up a bucket of paint as he made his way over.

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He was being assessed. The cerulean gaze retaining their icy indifference as he studied the boatman in return.

 

“I don’t smuggle, labor or goods, if that’s what you’re asking.  I’m truly sorry if any passengers I’ve ferried led you to believe that.  I’m not sure what could have given them that impression.”

 

It is neither labor nor goods I seek you to handle. Nor is it smuggling.

 

Eyes watched the ease with which the knife was utilized. A fighter. The elf was also trained but not in such mundane weapons, nor for such vulgar combat as hand to hand. He could strike an arrow through a victim's eye from further than most of these humans could see.

 

“If you need workers, why don’t you just advertise for them and a fair wage.  I’m sure people need work and would be willing to travel to assist you.  I’d be happy to transport if they need it.  From Ireland, New York… anywhere.”

 

There was the faintest crinkle at the corner of ageless eyes, betraying a frown.

 

Oh yes…. of course… why had I not thought of such a thing…. and that way they can be more easily slaughtered as they answer the ad? 

 

A stray ribbon of ebony silk was pushed back to wind behind the elongated ear as the pupils flushed in the watery abyss of vibrant irises ..

 

As I said… I am not looking for a smuggler…. I need a rescuer.

 

He froze, head turning slightly, the ears rotating back as he turned back to the man, words overlapping as the other seemed to already have taken notice.

 

“You might" …you have… "want to stay here," ..company… "Outworlder,”

 

Brow quirked as the man made his way out. So he noticed such things so easily. He was the right man. The head of Narwa needed such an outworlder to take on the burden of ferrying the others to safety. Someone that could protect them as it was the elf's experience that so many of them had not figured out how to be "powerful" in this world, living in fear and hiding. He found they were miserable at protecting their own lives.

 

"I’ll get rid of him.”

 

Head inclined in thanks, the elegant gesture betraying a royal lineage that he had built for himself.

 

“Mr. Stevens,”

 

Ears dipped, the eyes narrowing as he slid the phone from his pocket. He loathed the thing but found it a necessary evil at times. Flicking it open he pressed the speed dial for Enaleri.

 

I' lunt adan na-or i adan o vedui aur. Ho lothron baur dambeth, ben gweri- ho na- ú- na n- telyg. Cheb-tir.

((The boatman is above with the man from yesterday. He may need rescue, or betray he is not to be trusted. Keep watch.))

 

Phone snapped shut as sensitive ears listened beyond the walls of the vessel. The encounter would be telling. It was very possible the elf himself could be in danger if the outworlder had sold out to the Vanguard.

 

It was a risk he was willing to take. The need was far too great.

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It is neither labor nor goods I seek you to handle. Nor is it smuggling.

 

Spit it out.

 

Oh yes…. of course… why had I not thought of such a thing…. and that way they can be more easily slaughtered as they answer the ad? 

 

Spit it out.  He was about to ask about the ‘they’ when he spoke again.  Chewing slowed.

 

As I said… I am not looking for a smuggler…. I need a rescuer.

 

Of course.  He had thrown off that vibe from the moment the elf stepped into his cabin, either the man was just that good at reading, or word of his work had gotten that far.  A little of both perhaps.  The prince was definitely interested to see how much he actually knew.  If much, he would have to tell his passengers to be a bit more careful.  There was no way he could actually try to “hold back” when someone was attempting to keep a passenger from getting on the boat. 

 

They noticed the ‘intruder’ at the same time.

 

Noted.

 

He wasn’t necessarily getting rid of the man for the elf, but it seemed mutually beneficial. Of course he could turn the guy in, but it would do nothing to get whomever this was off his tail.  An elf was in his cabin, they were here to sniff around, if that wasn’t a bullseye on his back… Vanguard most likely.

 

The man was cordial enough, the Haugbui hopping deftly from his boat to the dock without the aid of the gangplank. Handshake was strong, the stuffy suit seemed…  nice?  Overly chatty.  He knew what would be said without even having to listen to it, paying more attention to what was going on around them.  He could listen without hearing, see without watching.

 

He was being watched, listened to.

 

It wasn’t just the stuffy, pretty elf in his cabin, it was from several directions.  An extra car or two in the parking areas near the docks, more joggers than normal maybe.  The bohemian boatman with the braid seemed just happy go lucky to listen to the man and finish his apple.  He looked at his shoe and adjusted it a few times.

 

“I don’t think I… I’m what you’re looking for.  I mean,” he scratched the back of his neck.  “I do take people back and forth with my cargo sometimes... we all do, pay isn’t that good but it’s company you know.  Sometimes they’re helpful on the trip.  Are you looking to transport people from a company or something’?”

 

He rubbed his neck again.  He played well.

 

They were either fishing for identities of his passengers, or they wanted him to be a prison ferry.  Either were unacceptable.  Or to kill him.  That would make his day more exciting.

 

“You know I hear there’s a guy… Joe, John maybe?  He comes and goes from the dock, not real chatty, keeps to himself.  Heard he makes runs back and forth to Ireland?  Galway I think.”  He finished his apple, holding the core and pointing with the same hand, “that boat over there with the gangplank down.  He’s there right now.”

 

Lie.  Lie lie lie.

 

The boat was for sale, and nobody was on it.

 

Mr. Stevens seemed delighted, thanking him for his help, shaking his hand and walking off toward the far end of the dock by the end of the pier as he flipped out a phone.  He jumped back on his boat, pulling all the lines but one, and trotted down into the cabin.  Shoes were kicked off as he opened the side window, core tossed into the trash across the room.

 

“Stay here,” he hissed, knife now in his teeth from somewhere, smoothly pulling himself through the window and dropping into the water without a splash. 

 

Honestly… he hated swimming underwater out toward the pier.  Muck and debris, engines overhead until he slid up alongside the boat he was looking for and boarded silently from the side facing the ocean.  Eyes scanned the harbor, and he slipped in.

 

Several moments later, slipped out and back under the water.

 

He was just as quiet climbing back into the boat, not saying a word to the elf for a moment as he dusted water off himself with a towel and slid on his shoes.

 

“I’ll drop you off up the coast.  If you leave now, everything you’ve asked for is compromised, and they'll probably try to kill me.  Sorry for the inconvenience,” he didn’t wait for an answer because there was no discussion, trotting up from the cabin and wrapping the last line before hopping up to the bridge and slowly pulling away from the dock.  Not any hurry, leaving calmly with the rest of the boats constantly trailing in and out.  Lever forward and he opened up into the bay like the others, effectively disappearing and leaving his deed behind.  Satisfied after almost fifteen minutes, he coasted to a stop.

 

“Well Mr. Caranthir, where to?” he called down to the cabin, buoy bell chiming in the distance over the span of water.  Hands pulled his hair from the plait and squeezed it out, this time just a ponytail.  He had made no decisions, but he wasn't about to sell this guy out to the Vanguard.  He shook the silver coffee mug.  Empty.  “Since everyone’s great timing effectively has blacklisted me from that harbor permanently, I need to know where to go.”

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LISTINGS / AFFILIATES / RESONANCE BUTTON

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