It was a cold night, early October. The docks were quiet at this late hour. Drunk noises and foul language reached Ysolde McTavish as she glanced over her shoulder towards the city. This might be the last time she would look at Scotland and she was glad it was Dùn Èideann. Even though still part of the British Empire, Ysolde knew they would one they fight themselves free. Perhaps one day soon! Though, it had been this fighting that had forced half her family in the grave and the remaining ones, like herself, into exile. Her father had arranged a place on an Sky Ship for her, with the promise that her uncle Richard would be waiting for her in New York. Ysolde sighed at the thought of the new world. If the Americas could have freed themselves of King William III, the Scots could do it as well, she was sure of it. Ysolde sniffed, it was the dawn of the 20th century and still nearly a third of the planet Gaia was inhabited by the British Empire. It was madness.
The cold seawater touched the large merchant ship before them. It was a galleon; the main-mast and the fore-mast were the biggest, both with three white sails. Two white mizzens on the stern, yet none of the them bore a flag at the moment. The spirit sail on the beak was empty. Ysolde saw the beakhead was decorated with a mermaid, holding a book and a sword. Several electronical and technical devices were attached on the outside, though Ysolde had no idea what use they hold. She did notice that there were more than the sea ships. The windows of the two-story-high stern with leadlight windows. The other windows were of plain glass, giving a distinction between the captains chambers, and the crew and stockings chambers. The ship was heavily armed and Ysolde hoped it was more than decoration. Where travelling over the wide oceans was dangerous, sky travel was even more dangerous. Still, there were less pirates in the sky then on the sea, and where most of the sea was – for some mysterious reason – was owned by King William of Britain, the sky still belonged to all of Gods children.
As some seamen carried the luggage aboard the ship, Ysolde felt her
father’s hand on her arm.
“Be careful, alright lass?” Lucas McTavish said, yet again.
“I will, athair, I promise,” Ysolde nodded dutifully to her father, yet again. Not that she knew how she could misbehave on a ship. Well, perhaps she knew a few ways, but there was she knew for sure that she would not do it.
“Make sure she stays safe and nothing happens,” Lucas turned to the three men around his daughter. His grey eyes gave a stern look and looked colder between the black hair and beard. Ysolde raised her brow teasingly and looked at the men that had been chosen to be her guardians. Ewan McTavish, the bastard cousin of her father, who could have been her uncle with his black hair, broad shoulders and deep voice. Collin O’Brian, only seven years her peer being 28, was as much a loyal men-at-arms as his father, yet with his brown hair and blue eyes Collin resembled his mother. Kapa’a had been bought by her father nearly ten years ago. When he had first entered her home, Ysolde had been amazed. They had had other servants with a colour and she had seen other people with coloured skin as well. But Kapa’a had been different. His skin been a lighter brown, his eyes smaller than the Africans and he had wide shoulders and a length of any white person. His storytelling had made Ysolde fall in love with him as a little girl and he had been her protector ever since.
“We’ll make sure, milaird,” Ewan nodded.
“God be with ye,” Lucas gave the three men a firm handshake, both in warning and as a good luck wish.
“And with ye,” the men nodded and took a step back.
“Be safe, lass,” Lucas looked deep into his daughter’s grey eyes as he gently stroked her bright copper hair.
“I will, athair,” Ysolde replied, feeling the tears well up.
“Be strong, lass,” her father said as he embraced her, “Ye’re a strong woman and a Scot to the bone. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t,” she nodded and looked at her father, trying not to cry. There would be no promises, no empty words, only a small and fragile hope.
“Good,” Lucas gently patted his daughters cheeks, “Aye, off you go, lass, and be kind to your uncle. I will write you when I can.”
“God be with ye, athair,” Ysolde said and pinched her father’s hand.
“Long live King Bruce,” he replied, with a sparkle in his eyes.
“Aye,” the others murmured.
Trying her best to be strong, Ysolde looked once more into her father’s eyes than turned and lifted her dress just an inch to board the ship. It rocked gently in the calm sea. As she entered the deck, Ysolde smelled the strange combination of smoke, ale, men and seawater and hoped she would get accustomed to it. The sound of a carriage leaving told Ysolde her father had left; now there was no turning back.
“Ready, milady?” Collin asked. Ysolde stroked her deep green dress and wrapped her scarf around her shoulder again.
“Aye, I am,” she said, trying to convince herself and the ship crew. Several of the men were curiously peaking at her between their rushing to do their jobs. Most of them were scarred by their life on the ship. Some had robotic limbs or fake eyes, but most of them had visible scars.
“Welcome aboard, milady,” a calm voice that demanded respect said. Ysolde turned her head and saw a tall, thin man approaching her. He had catlike eyes and a narrow face, and Ysolde could not help but immediately dub him rich, English, and snobby.
“Thank ye, captain,” she said and gave a polite nod. He had the same outfit as sea-captains, with the only difference that he had goggles on top of his hat. His robotic left arm made Ysolde wondered whether or not the sky monsters were as true as the sea monsters.
“Captain Turing, at your service, madam. We will be leaving soon, my men are just preparing the last things,” the captain again spoke with deep voice as he joined her on the main deck, “My ship, unlike most, has some decent quarters below the Captain’s quarters, that’s where you and your men will be staying – as your father requested it.”
“Thank ye,” she replied kindly, but her eyes were wide and cautious. The captain spoke with an English accent. Quickly she looked at Ewan, who was calmly laying his hand on his sword.
“Not to worry,” captain Turing said, waving his human arm, “I’m American.”
“My apologies, captain,” Ysolde felt her cheeks flush.
“None to worry about, milady,” captain Turing nodded his narrow head, his sleek hair seemed glued to his head underneath his hat, “I share your distrust and disgust for the British.”
“Captain! We’re ready to go, sir,” a man in his early thirties said to the captain, ignoring Ysole and her guardians. His black dreadlocks were decorated with wires and lines, suiting the rest of his outfit.
“Thank you, master Jones,” captain Turing nodded, “Do take us out.”
“Aye, sir,” master Jones said and turned away.
“Lady McTavish,” the captain gestured with his hand to follow him as master Jones barked orders, “let me guide you to your room. Please, do get some sleep. I’ll introduce you to the crew tomorrow.”
“Thank ye, captain,” Ysolde nodded and followed, her three guardians carrying the luggage.