Idalia surveyed the scene. Hay scattered everywhere, chores half done, girls avoiding each other like the plague. She let out an exasperated breath. How could everything have gone so wrong so quickly? They had only been an official crew for two weeks! She retreated back into her cabin and gulped down copious amounts of water, hoping to dispel this ever-present migraine. What could she do to fix these shattered relationships? She was in the process of brainstorming ideas when Verity knocked.
"Come in. Sit down, maybe you can help me."
"Of course, I would be happy to. What do you need help with?"
"I'm thinking of ways to bring the crew together since they're always arguing. I have it narrowed down to a choreless game night or a treasure hunt where if they don't work together they lose privileges. Yes, I know I sound like a mother. What do you think?" Idalia valued her input on everything, they had been friends for almost three years now.
"I think that, while your tenacity is honorable, these people will never be close. They are too different, too segregated. You should stop trying before you get harmed. I have foreseen a great destruction, ending in fire and water and blood!"
Idalia was unfazed. "You're a Lytira. That's your job. And you know I don't appreciate dark magic! El forbids it!"
"El is dead," Verity refuted matter-of-factly.
Idalia bit her cheek. They had been through this argument a thousand times, but she was tired and she had a headache and her feet hurt. She decided to let it go.
"I am going to do this, regardless of what your rocks are telling you. Game night it is." Idalia opened the dusty game cabinet and sighed. She knew that they weren't going to be playing much, but two games? Pathetic. She grabbed Assassination and got ready to be yelled at.
Verity shook her head and threw her hands up. "Do not say I did not warn you."
Idalia ignored her and rang the bell that called everyone to the deck. Ruri was there first as usual, running over as fast as she possibly could decked out in gold armor. Morgan trudged up from the hold, squinting in the sun. It took Farzeen another moment to come as she was at the top of the Crow's Nest. She was the only one who offered a greeting to her fellow crewmates. Verity joined them from behind Idalia.
"Listen up," Idalia announced. "We are playing this game now. There will be no arguing, with me or anyone else. You don't have to do any chores tonight, as long as you behave yourselves and be nice! Y'hear me? No fighting!" She glared at each of them in turn until they nodded and agreed and mumbled that they wouldn't get in trouble.
The sun cast gold and pink shadows across the deck, causing the sea to sparkle and half-blind Idalia. It might have been pretty, if only she could take her mind off that stupid prophecy. She was making her own destiny, she wasn't following Lord Order's rules, she was a fearless- she sounded stupid, even in her own head. Did she honestly think that jumping on a ship and sailing to El-knows-where would save her? Selfish. That little voice whispered. Her conscience. Your death will save millions. You're going to let them die so you can romp around with murderers and misfits? She pushed it away. Was it really so selfish to preserve her own life? Yes. She gritted her teeth and pretended not to hear it.
"You sit over there- no I'm sitting here!"
"Well maybe you're not the only one who likes that spot!"
"You people are so. Cursed. Annoying. I'M sitting there!"
Idalia kept glaring at the ocean as a fight broke out behind her. The game hadn't even started yet.
"No no, I will shuffle the cards."
"Oh, so I'm so disabled that I can't even shuffle cards now?!"
"You want another concussion, harpy?!"
Idalia stopped staring at the ocean and whirled around. "Hey! What did I say?! No fighting! Morgan! Let go of Verity's arm! I swear, I will throw you all overboard if I hear- detect- one OUNCE of animosity! Understood?!"
A chorus of "yes ma'ams" rippled across the ship like a reluctant wave merging back into the sea before it caused destruction.
"What could you POSSIBLY be fighting about that would warrant violence?!" Idalia looked at Verity.
"They are fighting over who gets to sit on the patch of planks that the blue paint was spilled on."
Farzeen, Ruri, and Morgan glanced away sheepishly.
"Yes, but, then Verity told Z she wasn't allowed to shuffle the deck because she was disabled!" Morgan pointed at Verity.
"Her words." Verity sounded bored.
"Let's start. We're starting, and whatever anyone said, just let it alone, okay?!" Idalia sat in between Farzeen and Verity with the game box.
They began the game in complete silence. The tension between the five of them could be cut with a knife and served for dinner. Any attempts that Idalia made to lighten the mood or start conversation fell flat.
Farzeen stretched and accidentally bumped Idalia with her wing. "Sorry! My wing is asleep and my leg is asleep and I just need to-" Farzeen stood up and stretched again.
Morgan smirked. "Oh, how awful," she declared in a dramatic voice. "Saige has been ASSASSINATED!" She was referring to Farzeen's character in the game.
Farzeen stopped mid-stretch. "Not fair! I wasn't even sitting down!"
Morgan sniffled. "I can still hear our beloved Saige crying out for justice."
"I was STRETCHING!"
"It's almost as if she's still with us!" Ruri clutched her hand to her heart.
"Idalia! Please! That can't count!"
"We're going to miss her terribly," Idalia spoke as solemnly as she could. "But we must learn to move on."
Farzeen sat back down and pouted. "This isn't fair! I wasn't even playing the game!" She undid her hairtie, letting her halo of black curly hair fall around her shoulders.
They continued the game. Azzura, or Idalia, was also assassinated. There were a lot of laughs when that happened as well. They eased into comfortable conversation, with some friendly taunting to awaken their competitive streaks. Idalia almost cheered when Ruri laughed and complimented Morgan without a second thought.
It was a tough game. Only Morgan, Ruri, and Verity were alive, and one of them was the assassin. Whoever it was hadn't managed to kill anyone in half an hour and everyone was getting a little antsy. A high-pitched whining noise cut through Idalia's head, reawakening her migraine.
"Bunny! What's wrong?!" Bunny launched himself into Farzeen's arms and whined again. "Shh, baby, what's going on?"
"Do you... do you smell smoke?" Morgan sniffed delicately and stood up.
Idalia took in a deep breath. A hint of smoke settled in the back of her throat and caused her heart to fall through her stomach. Fire?! On the ship?! Out in the middle of nowhere?! "Fan out and find the source! Don't panic, we need to stay calm!"
They ran around, searching for the fire. It was somewhat orderly thanks to the drills that Idalia made them practice from day one.
"Fire!" Idalia heard Farzeen scream from below deck. "Fire!"
Idalia took off running and jumped down, foregoing the ladder. What she found was a terrifying sight.
Angry red flames were devouring the supply room. Barrels of essential food were already engulfed, the smoke thick and black. Terror sunk its claws into her heart as the fire started licking their water purifiers.
"Farzeen! Where are you?!" She coughed, trying to find her through the smoke.
"I'm here!" A voice behind her panted. Farzeen was holding a bucket of water, which she splashed on the purifiers.
"Oh, thank El." Idalia gripped Farzeen's arm and could somehow breathe a little easier.
"Farzeen! Farzeen! Where are-" Ruri ran down and saw the horrific scene. Her already white face paled even more but she sprung into action immediately. "Grab some more buckets! I'm bringing water!" She shouted, sprinting back up the ladder.
They both did as she ordered, coughing and jumping back as the fire grew and reached out its fingers to burn them. The next few hours passed in a blur. There were countless runs for water as they killed the fire again and again, only for it to be reborn with new fury. Idalia did a headcount every opportunity she could, eyes roving for injuries. The sound of coughing grew louder and more frequent as the smoke burned their eyes and lungs and made them lightheaded.
Long after Sol had sunk under the horizon and Mani rose above the ship, the supply room was finally reduced to the cold ashes of their necessities. The five of them collapsed in exhaustion and took in gasps of fresh, clean air.
"Is everyone," Idalia wheezed. "Is everyone alright?"
"I'm fine," Farzeen panted, sprawled out on the deck and clutching Bunny.
"So am I." Ruri was passing out cold glasses of water. She looked angelic, the moonlight reflecting off the armor she still had on and her face the epitome of sainthood as she handed Idalia the cup. Idalia reckoned she had dealt with a lot of fires in her old position.
Morgan just nodded and wiped away the sweat from her face. At some point during the night, her dress had caught fire and she had gotten a few burns, but they weren't bad. Idalia grabbed the first aid kit and started treating her.
Morgan seemed very confused. "I can administer first aid to myself."
"I know, but let me help you."
Her brow furrowed but she didn't say anything else.
"I also remain uninjured, although I cut my hand on something that I could not see." Verity was already bandaging it up. "You should be cautious about treating traitors."
"What do you mean?" Idalia looked at Verity.
"The fire," Ruri chimed in. "It kept coming back. It was magically set."
"And?" There was a dangerous edge to Idalia's voice.
No one answered. No one said the obvious, that it was arson, not an accident. No one had to.
"None of you will investigate this." Four heads snapped suspiciously in her direction. After all, it was Idalia who could manipulate fire. "You may investigate me to your heart's desire, but you are forbidden from snooping around each other. I will find out who did this. Are we clear?"
They nodded in agreement. This was fair. Idalia scrutinized them. Who could have done such a thing? Morgan was the obvious choice, with her magical talents and history, but Idalia didn't think she wanted to hurt anyone, especially Farzeen. Farzeen was so sweet and kind, but she had the magic and the know-how to pull this off. But why would she? Verity couldn't have done it either, she needed things in the supply room and she had no motive. Ruri had no magic but she could have easily acquired powder or oil to set a crewmate up from one of her old contacts. She couldn't believe any of them would do it, but then there was no one else to consider and she had to start again.
Idalia got a queasy feeling in her stomach as she thought back on the past two weeks. Faulty rigging, snapped ropes, torn sails... little things that could be written off as accidents until something like this happened. Someone had actually wanted a crewmate to get hurt, someone standing in front of her right now. She felt sick and retired to her cabin, tossing and turning all night, unable to sleep for fear of her throat being slit by one of her closest friends.