Timer: 45 minutes
I seriously need to write faster these two-parters are ridiculous.
The Queen of the Reef looked to the stranger with a needling horror that she could not place nor control. The displeasure of being so helpless before such a small creature was the only thing to center her. She replaced the shock on her gray features with a scowl.
“A collector, you say?” A stream of bubbles passed through her teeth in a restrained hiss, “Of what, might I ask?”
There was something in the stranger’s black eyes that flickered, an understanding that was above Sibylla’s head. He bowed once more, “Of many things, my Queen. Fossils, plant life, jewelry–”
“Jewelry?” Her eyes narrowed, lips ready to spit her accusations–she paused. No, she was smarter than this. “Where do you get your wares from, exactly?”
“All sorts of places–cities, countries, planets. Your world is my fifteenth, in fact.” He bounced back and forth on his stiff legs, a youthful smile on his lips.
The comment did not surprise the Queen as much as it had the rest of the throne room. Her guards and servants whispered among themselves, few of them having even been to the surface and seen the stars. She didn’t care. World travel did not effect her or her kingdom in any meaningful way, but those pearls…
“What have you collected here so far?” She feigned amusement, falling back into her throne. “Are you stealing from my kingdom?”
The Stranger and the Queen locked eyes for the briefest of moments, but an energy cut through the water so powerful she swore she felt the current change. Her tentacles tightened around the throne’s legs.
“I never steal. I trade. Which is why I’ve come to you, your highness,” he reached into the thick strap around his waist, pulling out what appeared to a black pebble. The Collector held it outwards. “I take pride in finding the most interesting items. For example–” His thumb rubbed against its surface. Within seconds the room was filled with shimmering lights, causing all seafolk to press against the walls, gasping at the abruptness. But their shock was replaced by awe as they noticed a sphere–larger even than the Queen–floating above his head. Small explosions pricked at its ghastly green surface. “This is a map from the last planet I was on. It’s of their sun, and as you can see all the stars and galaxies around it. Beautiful, isn’t it?”
The ‘sun’ burned in Sibylla’s eyes, warping her gaze to primal distrust. It was wonderful– filled with magic the Queen had never encountered. She prided herself, however, on seeing through tricks and illusions. This was nothing more than an elaborate show he was performing.
“I find it to be distracting at best, and useless to me and my people. If that’s all you have–”
“Of course not, your majesty. How about this?” The sun vanished, and was replaced by a silver square frame. The Queen was sure to clearly display her boredom. He grinned like a jester, plucking a strip of seaweed from the floor. The seaweed fell through the frame harmlessly. Her eyes narrowed, displeased. Another piece of seaweed fell from the frame, though she did not see any go in. Then another, and another–they were piling up on the floor.
“It clones organic matter until you set it down. Imagine if there was a food storage, and you needed to feed your daughter–”
“Daughter?” Her legs were slithering up nearby furniture. Her voice managed to stay flat, “What makes you think I have a daughter, traveler?”
The jester paused, smile still in place, “I’ve heard talk. There’s a princess here, isn’t there? Very beautiful from what I’ve been told.”
The Queens nails tapped at the arm of her throne, “Very, indeed.”There was a heavy pause. She smirked, “Would you like to meet her?”
Everyone in the room stilled. She could nearly hear the confusion mixing with the water. But what she wanted to see most was his face–It was dumbfounded. Her grin grew. He knew, he knew more than he was letting on. The Queen continued to stare him down, waiting for his move.
He recovered quickly. “Oh, of course. Where is she?”
You tell me. “Resting in her room. But I don’t think she’d want to come out now, the poor dear’s red hair is all knotted, and she really is such a vain thing.”
His eyes shifted back and forth, as if scanning an invisible script to see what his lines were. They stopped, however, on the solider by the Queen’s side. The solider was staring at the Queen with brows knit. The rest of the room had similar perplexed looks. Sibylla’s fangs clenched, her people’s confusion was so blatantly obvious. Morons. The traveler looked back to her with a grin. She wanted to grab that unsightly body with her tentacles and snap it in half.
“Well maybe I’ll come later. Actually, my Queen, I have many more… oddities on my ship,” his smile grew even wider, “If you would ever like to see for yourself.”
The stress on the you‘s of the sentence made it perfectly clear it was a private invitation. Her voice was flat,
“You think you’d have something of interest for me?”
“I think…” he said softly, “You’ll find at least one thing you can’t live without.” Come get her.
Sibylla’s thoughts drifted to the little princess, that youthful beauty and welcoming nature. Her eyes fell to the pearl necklace on the Stranger’s neck. Her step-daughter wasn’t dead, she was at this ship. But he was not simply going to hand her over. He wanted something from the Queen, something of value. A trade. And if he was a man to abduct creatures for pleasure, she did not see the merit of risking herself.
“When do you leave, Stranger?” Her stomach was sinking. The image of Lisbet in a cage came to mind, but the image quickly flickered to seeing herself trapped. After all her hard work, trapped in a cage.
“From this side of the planet? Tomorrow, sadly… So I’d strongly recommend you come before I leave with all my treasures.” He spoke slowly, nailing home the private conversation they were having.
Sibylla thought it over. So loved was that girl, so popular was she… She stared at the traveler, his smirk still wide.
“Yes, my Queen?”
“Tonight, you said?”
“Yes, your majesty.” His leaned forward, ready to reel in the bait. “Shall I make the arrangements for your visit?”
Silence, except for the rumbling contraption on his back.
“Make your arrangements.” The Queen sat tall, “But…”
“I suggest you make them before the light leaves the water.” She raised from her throne, tall, strong, “I don’t want to see you or your ship in my kingdom again.” She smirked at his shock, “And take your junk with you.”
I almost kept going. Almost. Being timed is terrible.