Later that day, released from sick bay with orders to relax, Gwyon Murphy looked out his window. It still felt strange to see stars outside without a treeline or rooftops beneath them. It was also strange to see stars at lunchtime. Stars had always been for night time in his experience. Now, unless they were visiting a world, they were all he saw.

A chirp at the door made him turn. “Yes,” he called. The door slid open and he blinked as the light from the corridor flooded his apartment.

“Master Gwyon, the captain requests your presence,” an ensign at the door said softly.

He pulled a robe on over his casual clothes and headed out into the corridor to follow the young man. It was his first meeting with the captain since Stevens had been killed. He wasn’t sure what to expect but he was vaguely worried. The sense of unease grew as he approached the captain’s office. He couldn’t tell if it was his gifts warning him of danger or just his own anxiety.

He almost sighed in relief as he saw that Merlian was also in the office. Then he saw the grim look on the older man’s face. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“What exactly happened to Stevens,” the captain said.

“He… the Teymarians killed him, sir. He was about to… well, he said he wanted a sample of them, sir. They didn’t seem to like that idea so they responded… strongly, sir,” Gwyon said. He darted a glance at his superior and saw that the man was smirking. Gwyon knew it wasn’t because of what happened to Math. It was something to do with the captain, he was certain.

“I see. You are dismissed, Mister Murphy.”

“With due respect, Captain. If you please, properly, I’m Master Gwyon,” he corrected, though his voice was hardly heard over the hum of machinery that was always present on the airship.

“You’re both dismissed. Thank you,” the captain said.

Gwyon echoed Merlian’s salute and followed him out of the room. “What was that about?” he asked as soon as they were alone.

“The good captain doubted my veracity,” Merlian said calmly. “Gwyon, Stevens wasn’t like us. He was chosen by the captain because the captain doesn’t entirely trust mages and he knew that Stevens would tell him if we were up to something.”

“What would we be up to?” Gwyon asked softly.

“Bewitching the crew,” Merlian said with a shrug.

Gwyon giggled and said, “You’re not – ” he broke off when Merlian shot him a serious look. “You are. You’re serious. The captain really thinks we’d… magic the crew? To what end?”

“We reach for the stars, Gwyon Murphy,” Merlian said as he glanced out one of the windows. “The captain is afraid that somehow something’s going to happen to send us crashing down to earth.”

“Even if we fall, we’re here to see that we land on a cloud,” Gwyon said quietly.

“Indeed,” Merlian agreed. He beckoned to Gwyon and said, “Let me tell you about who I think will replace him.”

continued here