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The Southern Port

The day passed surprisingly quickly and, before she knew it Ella stood on the old wooden porch in the pitch black, waiting. The air had an unseasonable chill, though it was still the middle of summer. A breeze tickled the back of her neck as her hair was swirled about her shoulders. Ella looked skyward trying to search for the moonlight. The sky itself was filled with rushing clouds that glowed almost iridescently as they raced across, the light from the almost full moon behind them.

Will wrapped his hands around the bridles of two horses and led them to the front of the house where he caught sight of Ella standing with their bags. He found her silhouette gorgeous. Her dark hair rippling down her back, but what really stunned him was her style of dress: tall black riding boots that came to her knees. Her trousers were made of leather, which was not uncommon, but the way they hugged her thighs and hips made it hard for him to look away. Her tunic was plain and white, and cinched about her waist with a black corset. Will could swear that the gods above were just torturing him at this point for the fun of it. Then, realizing he was staring, Will cleared his throat and lead the horses close to the front steps.

Ella turned and smiled, relieved that no one had spotted them yet. Silently, she lifted the bags at her feet and watched him secure them to the saddles. She came down the stairs and stood beside her horse. While smiling at Will deviously, she swung herself up onto the horse's back with a surprising agility.

Will raised his eyebrows and mounted his own before nodding at her, signaling that he was ready to go. Ella smiled and urged her horse forward to a trot with Will not too far behind her. As they entered the forest that surrounded the property. The pair urged the horses into a full gallop and Will felt a lightness and an excitement in his chest that he hadn't felt in ages. Wind whipped the hair from his face and the sound, combined with the rhythmic pounding of hooves on the forest floor filled his ears. Ella looked back and caught sight of his expression, highlighted by the beams of moonlight that filtered through the trees, it brought a sheepish grin to her face.

Some time later, the trees began to thin out until they cleared and a open field lay before them. In the distance, near the faintly rising sun they could see the skyline of the port. Ella pulled on the reins, slowing her horse down to a walk. Will suddenly appeared by her side, "We're making great time. We can stop here and rest for a bit and have some breakfast. The horses could probably use some water as well." Ella said, allowing her horse to come to a full stop.

Will pulled up next to her and smiled, "Yes, breakfast sounds good." he said, swinging his leg over the horse and landing on his feet with a soft grunt. Ella dismounted as well and started rummaging in the satchels. She finally pulled out a few loaves of bread and some dried meat; while Will debridled the horses and let them graze. Ella walked off and sat down in the grass, it was green and soft, rippling in the slight breeze. She noticed a few small purple flowers dotted the field as she silently began to eat. Will eventually joined her on the grass and silently took one of the loaves and placed the meat on top of the bread. They both ate in silence like this for a few minutes, neither of them having realized that they were unbelievably hungry.

Swallowing his food Will paused, "Why do you sit that way? I've never seen that before." he asked gesturing to her legs that were crossed neatly in front of her. Ella paused raising an eyebrow before looking down at her legs and smiling as she considered his outstretched legs. "Oh, um everyone in my homeland sits like this." she replied with a shrug, "It's comfortable, and considered more polite than taking up a lot of space by sitting like that." Ella finished, teasing him gently before taking a bite of the meat.

Will felt a grin break across his face and he chuckled at her gest. He then shifted his position and awkwardly tried to cross his legs in the manner that she had. After moments of struggling and a few stray giggles from Ella, he forced himself into a crosslegged pose. His hips felt stretched and awkward. His legs almost trembled with the effort of trying to keep them crossed and he gave her a bewildered look, "How could you possibly find this comfortable?" he exclaimed, a hint of amusement in his voice. "It feels as though my legs are just strained from trying to stay in this position, let alone relax in it." he complained before letting his legs spring free and stretch out in front of him. He shook them briefly before letting them rest in their previous position. Ella smiled at him, "The reason you find it uncomfortable is because you're not very flexible, you need to let the tension out of your hips." she added, making a vague gesture to his waist.

He smirked at her gesture, "You want to show me how to stretch out my hips then?" he asked, almost blatantly provoking her to touch him. A dark eyebrow arched on her forehead and she silently took his challenge. "Yes, alright. I'll show you how to do it." Ella scooted so she sat in front of him. "Spread your legs." Will smiled slightly at her almost commanding tone and hid as he was bid until his legs made a 'V' shape in front of him.

Ella reached out her hands, grasping Will's at the forearm. "Ok, now what?" he inquired almost mockingly as he stared at her. Ella grinned and didn't respond. She then slowly began to lean back, pulling Will's torso forward until she heard a disgruntled sound. "By the gods woman are you trying to tear me in half!" Will asked through gritted teeth and he saw a smirk of laughter play at Ella's lips. "Oh, so you think this is funny?"

"I really do," She retorted finally giving into her laughter. Will let a devilish grin play on his lips and he began to tilt backwards, pulling Ella up and then forward until her torso was pressed against the soft grass of the field beneath them. Some of the blades tickled her nose and she smiled at the scent of the wildflowers. "If you're going to keep me in this position, you might as well do me a favor and press on my hips a bit." she called out, not totally sure if he could hear her. Or, if he had, would do what she asked.

Suddenly she felt the warmth of his hands leave her forearms, and the heat of his body behind her, his hands appeared on her hips. Their touch was gentle as he guided them forward. At this moment Ella was rather glad they weren't facing each other, or he may have noticed the heat rushing to her cheeks. It was odd, plenty of people had done this stretch with her but in this case it felt so much more, intimate. She could feel her cheeks turning a slight pink before clearing her throat and shifting so she was no longer beneath him. "We should probably keep moving."

Ella stood, not turning around and moving toward the horse trying not to let him see how flustered she was. Will smiled as he saw the faint tint in her cheeks as she strolled away from him. He smiled to himself as he picked up the blankets and saddle packs and headed toward his horse. There was a comfortable silence between them as they mounted and started riding off towards port.

The port appeared rather suddenly on the horizon, the central tower rose high into the sky, blocking some of the intense morning light. The light reflected off of some of the bronze plating that glinted; like second smaller suns near some of the air balloons tethered to it. Ella smiled with relief as the horses slowed. The port, although it was small was busy in the late morning. Burly men carried crates, loading them onto and off of ships while their captains surveyed them from above. Will was fascinated by the fuss, he'd never been so close to so many different kinds of people before in his life. Every race, a few cyborgs and a woman with a long swishing tail and eyes like a cat all rushed past the pair; going about their business as if they were simply trees in the background.

Will pulled alongside Ella and stopped, surveying the somehow organized chaos in front of them. "So, how do we know which one is ours?" he asked scanning the slips in front of him. Ella didn't answer him right away until she found what she'd been searching for and pointed. A couple hundred feet down the row of slips he saw, over her finger, was a ship of a medium size. Sunlight shown off of it's copper hull where he could see huge blades rotating, keeping the ship out of the water.

They directed their horses toward it and he could see that the ship was named: The Wanderer. As they neared it, Ella dismounted and strolled up the metal walking plank toward a man standing on the deck. Will frowned but waited on his horse, not sure if he should help unload the horses. But something in him wouldn't let him take his eyes off of her. He couldn't hear their conversation but he could see the deck clearly from where he sat from his horse. He saw them embrace fondly and place a kiss on each cheek. Something about this made his stomach clench and a bit uneasy, as the custom was unfamiliar to him.

After a few minutes of chatting they both walked down the ramp way, back to Will and the horses. Ella smiled, a loose curl falling into her face as she beamed up at him, "Will," she said in an almost chiding tone "Come down and say hello. This is captain Helios of The Wanderer." Will smiled politely as he jumped down from his horse and offered his hand. For some reason he couldn't imagine himself hissing another man, even if it was on the cheek. The captain took it and smiled, 'I can see why this man is called Helios' Will thought as he surveyed the captain.

Helios was tall and lean, his hair was golden, long and his eyes were a bright amber color. It was as if his whole persona gave off a bright cheery glow. "Delightful to meetcha'!" he said, moving to the horses and starting to help unload them. "This little lady says you've been quite the help. Which is good because we could use some free labor on this ship." he finished laughing heartily at his own joke.

Will smiled, humoring the man as they finished unloading the saddle bags and made their way onto the deck of the ship. The worn wooden deck somehow fit in with the panels of copper metal that surrounded them. The sunlight glinted off the hull of the ship, obscuring the upper levels from view. A few men wandered about, loading crates and their supplies and things into the rooms and cargo hold below.

Helios led the pair to the center of the deck and held out his arms, "Welcome to my humble ship, your things have been taken below to your room and dinner will be served soon." he said with a bright grin. Ella smiled as a small woman came up to the group of them. Her long hair was also a golden blond that fell down her back. Her hands rested on her distended stomach that showed her well along pregnancy. She rushed forward and embraced the woman fondly, placing a kiss on each cheek. "Look how big you've grown!" Ella exclaimed giggling as she looked back over at Helios with a devious grin, "It looks like you've been keeping busy." she teased.

Helios winked and glanced over at Will suggestively and then back to Ella "If you want I can give you two a few minutes and you could be the same." he countered. Ella rolled her eyes "Shut up Helios, you both can keep your babies to yourself." she said wrapping her arms around her friend. "Lets go and catch up while we leave the boys to their devices." Ella said before staring at both of them pointedly before turning away an walking down to the deck below.

Will smiled and looked over at Helios, "Ella and I aren't close in that way." Helios grinned and nodded, raising his eyebrows "I'm sure you're not." he said smugly before one of the men on the deck looked up over at him and nodded. "I need to see to it that we're properly cast off." Helios said before nodding with a kind smile, and walking off to the bridge.

Will smirked to himself as he turned around and leaned on one of the railings. He could hear the low sound of engines humming as the ship lurched forward and began to head west out over the sea. The wind blew his hair back from his face and Will breathed in the salty scent. He suddenly felt something in his stomach, it was exhilarating and free. He was finally free; finally leaving home. And going to a place he didn't know where, and he couldn't have been happier.

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