Chasing the Horizon

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Learning to Fly

The ship was once again sailing smoothly through the skies. After leaving the Tekoland capital, Dax set the ship to sail along the southern trade route that led right to the Toeaux border with the Furhan Wastelands. He still felt kind of bad bringing Konnor and Timothy along, but he knew he couldn’t just leave them in Tekoland. Whatever happened, he was going to keep Konnor and Timothy out of the action. He wasn’t going to let Konnor get hurt.

Dax smiled at the open sky ahead of them. Only clouds and a few other ships in the distance. It was so quiet, just the way he liked it. Movement in the corner of his eye got him to focus back on the ship. Konnor was walking up the stairs to join Dax at the helm of the ship. With Konnor back on the ship, Dax had nearly started ignoring him again. He hadn’t meant to exactly, he just wanted to keep himself from telling Konnor what to do. But now it looked like Konnor wasn’t going to let Dax keep his distance.

Konnor stood a few feet away, folding and unfolding his hands as he looked at Dax. “You’ve given everyone a job to do, but me.”

Dax stepped back from the wheel, turning to face Konnor directly. “Well what are you good at?” Dax would happily leave Konnor with nothing to do, but he didn’t want Konnor to think that the only reason Konnor could stay was to entertain Dax. That may have been why Dax picked up Konnor, but he knew it was more than that for both of them now.

“Um...” Konnor shrugged, refusing to look Dax in the eyes. “I don’t know, haven’t really worked much...”

“Really?” Dax tilted his head to the side. On one hand, he found that hard to believe, Konnor’s appearance made him seem like he came from a family that would’ve needed him to work at a young age. At the same time, Konnor was so gentle and soft. If he had worked, it certainly wasn’t in manual labor.

Konnor nodded. After a moment, he looked back up at Dax, “But I can learn though. If someone shows me how to do the cleaning, I will.”

“I have a better idea,” Dax smiled and reached out to Konnor, pulling him closer to the wheel. “When we get to Furhan, I’m planning to steal back a ship that the Kirinalli tribe took from Toeaux. I need someone to sail this ship so I can commandeer the other one.”

“B-but I can’t...” Konnor stared back at Dax for a moment, his eyes widening.

Dax shook his head, “I’m going to teach you.”

Konnor’s lips twitched up into a smile, even though it was small, it made Dax’s heart melt. Konnor turned his head, looking over the rest of the deck. “But don’t you already have someone in your crew who could handle it...”

“Do you not want to?” Dax didn’t believe Konnor wanted to refuse, but if he really did, Dax would give him the chance.

Konnor snapped back to look at Dax, “No.” He immediately dropped his gaze, his face reddening just a little. “I just thought...”

Dax shook his head, laughing to himself. Konnor’s reactions really were too adorable. “Let’s start here,” Dax turned to the controls on the helm. A big ship like his had a lot of controls to manage the sails, motors, and steering. When Konnor was looking where Dax was pointing, Dax started to go over each control and what it did. “This lever controls the amount of power in the engine, you can use it with the control panel for the sails to adjust your speed. All direction of the ship is managed by the wheel here, sometimes you have to use these switches to manually adjust the wings, but that’s really only if something is going wrong. This is a royal ship and really well kept, so there shouldn’t be any kind of problem like that.”

Dax continued to explain each lever, button, and switch at the helm. He stole a glance at Konnor as he described how it all worked and he could just see Konnor’s eyes sparkling. He smiled to himself and looked back down at the control panel. He was glad that he’d thought of this for Konnor. He could spend more time with Konnor this way, plus Konnor seemed genuinely excited.

“How about you give it a try?” Dax stepped to the side, leaving Konnor in front of the wheel.

Konnor looked back at Dax, his eyes shining despite his nervous tone, “I-I don’t know if I can...”

“Don’t worry,” Dax smiled, stepping behind Konnor and reaching around to take hold of Konnor’s hands, “It’s really a lot easier than it looks.” He took Konnor’s hands and put one on the engine lever and the other on the large wooden wheel. Dax used Konnor’s hand on the engine lever and slowly pushed the lever forward. They could feel the ship gently start to speed up.

Konnor turned his head to look back at Dax. It was only then that Dax realized how close he was to Konnor. Konnor’s body was nearly pressed up against his own and their faces were mere inches apart. Dax swallowed, releasing Konnor’s hands and taking a large step back. “How about you try slowing the ship down and then speeding up again?”

If Konnor was bothered by their closeness or by Dax suddenly stepping back, he didn’t say. He just looked forward again and slowly pulled the engine lever back. The movement was just right because Dax didn’t even feel the change in pace as the ship slowed down. Konnor moved the lever again to speed the ship back up. This transition wasn’t quite as smooth as the first. The ship jolted to be going faster, the inertia causing everyone on the ship to fall back.

Dax was able to keep his footing, but Konnor completely lost his. Konnor stumbled back, about to fall onto the hardwood floor of the helm. Dax quickly stepped forward, catching Konnor in his arms. He let out a laugh, smiling down at Konnor. “You’ll get a hang of it.”

Konnor stood at the helm, looking out at the cloud horizon in front of the ship. Dax had spent the last couple days teaching Konnor everything about the ship and how to sail it. Right now, Dax was even trusting him to sail the ship himself.

Konnor had gotten much better at adjusting the controls after that first time. Honestly, Konnor had just been too nervous the first time Dax showed him how it all worked. Of course sailing the ship was exciting and a bit nerve wracking, but moments before Dax told him to try, he was being held in Dax’s warm embrace. How was he supposed to just ignore that? Dax certainly did his best to ignore it. Dax hadn’t gotten so close to him again and Konnor couldn’t help but feel a little sad about that.

They hadn’t talked about feelings again since Konnor confessed to Dax and that was mostly fine. Konnor got his chance to feel free again since he could now go wherever he wanted on the ship. But Konnor was still frustrated with Dax. He knew Dax felt something for him, Dax wouldn’t be acting so carefully around Konnor now if he didn’t. Konnor let out a long sigh, wondering why things had to be so complicated.

“What’s the matter Konnor?” Timothy’s quiet voice pierced Konnor’s ear.

He had been so lost in thought that he hadn’t noticed his friend walk up onto the helm. Konnor shook his head, “Nothing’s wrong.”

Timothy just looked back at Konnor for a moment, “Why were you sighing?”

“Nothing new really,” Konnor shrugged and looked back out at the horizon. Just to the sun was sinking into the clouds, bathing them in pink and orange lights. Konnor looked back at Timothy, smiling, “I can actually sail an airship now. Too bad I didn’t know this before we left Seslin.”

A small smile appeared on Timothy’s face, “That’s nice that Dax has decided to teach you and even let you do it by yourself.”

“I know he has other people in his crew that could do this,” Konnor glanced down, “But it feels nice that he’s actually doing something with me.”

“Do you...” Konnor could sense the hesitance in Timothy’s voice, “Do you still like him?”

“I don’t know if you were hoping I’d say that I don’t feel that way about him anymore or not, but I do,” Konnor squared off his shoulders, staring at the horizon, “I’m not pushing my heart on him and I’m not asking for his. I think he does feel something too, but I’m not rushing it.” Konnor looked down at Timothy, “I actually feel happy right now, so I’m holding onto that.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Konnor,” Timothy reached up to touch Konnor’s arm, “Dax certainly has been better these last couple days.”

Konnor nodded, smiling, “Yeah, he has. I like the way things are right now.”

Timothy pulled his hand away, eyes dropping a little, his expression serious, “How long do you think this quiet will last?”

“Not long,” Konnor shook his head, he didn’t want to think about being escorted back home. He just wanted to disappear, but with the with big scene he made as a “prophet” back in the Tekoland capital. He had to have been recognized. Konnor let out a sigh and turned to survey the horizon again.

The sun had almost completely disappeared beneath the clouds, it was getting dark fast. There didn’t seem to be any other ships out anymore. Except for one coming from the north, following a similar tack to the one they were flying on.

Konnor furrowed his brow, thinking out loud, “Maybe we should ask Dax if it would be best to head to one of the floating towns for the night.”

Timothy tilted his head to the side, “Is there something wrong?”

Konnor shrugged shaking his head a little, “It’s just kind of... eerie to be the only ship out in the sky. I guess I don’t mind it during the day, but something about it being night...”

“We haven’t stopped since we left Tekoland Capital,” Timothy’s words were so flat that Konnor couldn’t tell if he was just pointing out it being normal or if Timothy was concerned.

“I know, this ship is built to go long distances,” Konnor shrugged, “Maybe I can just get Dax to take over for the night.” Konnor really did wish Dax would come take over again. Especially because the other ship from the north was getting closer to them. Dax had told Konnor that there was a certain etiquette to passing other ships. That was a lesson Konnor had been able to avoid since they mostly just avoided all other ships on the horizon.

Konnor eased the acceleration lever, gently sending the ship into a higher speed. Timothy’s eyes widened ever so slightly, “You’re really getting good at that.”

Konnor half smiled, “Thanks.” He glanced down at Timothy, “Could you go find Dax?”

Timothy looked back at Konnor for a moment, nodding, “Yes.” Without saying anything else, Timothy turned and walked back down onto the main deck. He made it to the other side of the deck, going right to the kitchen. Konnor could hear many voices and cheers as Timothy opened the door and disappeared through it.

Konnor shifted his focus back to the horizon, keeping the ship sailing along the Tekoland trade route. He looked back and the ship behind them was still getting closer despite Konnor increasing their speed. He hadn’t noticed the ship when it was daytime and the other merchant ships were flying through the sky. Where had it come from? It seemed to have just appeared in the sky and now was getting seriously close.

Before long, Dax walked up the stairs and joined Konnor at the helm. Dax smiled, and in the fading light of the sun, Konnor could see that it was an actual smile, not a smirk. These last couple days, Dax had seemed so much happier, they both were. Dax still stayed a few steps away from Konnor. He seemed to afraid to get too close to Konnor again, but Konnor wasn’t going to bother him about that right now. Dax looked back at Konnor, “Something going wrong?”

“I don’t think so,” Konnor shrugged, glancing down, he couldn’t help feeling embarrassed, “I just don’t really want to fly at night...”

“You know, if I sail the second ship and you sail this one,” Dax dared to take a step closer, still smiling as he were trying to hold back a laugh, “You might have to fly this ship at night.”

Konnor couldn’t help blushing, he just hoped that it wasn’t visible in the fading light. “I know, it’s just we’re not alone out here and I don’t want to have to deal with passing ships...”

“We’re not alone?” Dax’s expression suddenly changed, the smile disappearing, “There shouldn’t be anyone else out at this time of night.”

Konnor turned to point behind them at the ship that was now completely visible and far closer than when Konnor last noticed. Dax walked over to the controls and picked up a spyglass, opening it to look at the ship flying directly towards them. After a moment, he cursed something under his breath that Konnor couldn’t make out.

He turned back towards the control panel, pushing Konnor out of the way to take his place. Konnor stumbled back a step but caught himself from completely falling. He furrowed his brow, he didn’t understand why Dax had so suddenly changed. “Dax, what’s going on?”

Dax didn’t say anything, he just kicked the speed of the ship into full gear. Konnor nearly fell over from the force of the sudden speed. He asked again, “What’s going on?”

Dax just kept looking straight ahead as he said, “Get my crew, I need all hands on deck.”

Konnor started to walk down to the main deck, looking back up at Dax, “What’s wrong?”

Dax finally looked down and right into Konnor’s eyes, “Pirates.”

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