The trembling fingers were my own, they rattled on the cockpit like bones in a bucket. I stood before a sun I thought never to see and marvelled. Like a giant tomato cresting the horizon, our dying star illuminated the world with colour, the Arctic ice suffused blood-red by its near death. No longer was my world awash in moonlight, but actual daylight.
If not for Linka's steadying grip, my tether to the world I'd left behind, I might have drifted away swamped by such overpowering brilliance, but as her fingers tightened about mine, my confidence grew. If I'd had a soul to anchor, I'd have said she did, but I didn't, a salient fact I'd forever regret.
The Zeppelin we travelled in sped on in silence through a vampire sky, hues of vermillion, crimson, and ruby parting like red wine at our passage. A hushed still settled, and if I'd been alone with my darling, I should have said it a pleasure. The Nordic royalty, beacons of pearlescent light that competed with the weakening sun, a people of myth and majesty, were an ever-present reminder that alone was one thing we weren't. The Nordics stood almost invisible to eyes which sought the delights of the day, almost, but not quite.
The airship's inner tranquillity enhanced the Arctic landscape's barren calm, and for the first time in centuries, as I stood there enveloped in shades of blood, I experienced contentment.
“Look, Jean, the ocean,” Linka gushed, her voice of unconcealed glee shattering my meditative peace.
I resisted her tugged enthusiasms, instead, preferring to stare out upon the ruby plain. Undeterred, she resorted to more direct methods and gave so hard a wrench, she almost yanked my arm from its socket.
“Good grief, an ocean of blood!” I exclaimed. And it was. “I wonder if it goes on forever?”
“Of course not,” Grella's stern voice corrected.
He cut through my rouge world like an out of tune violin at a party making me feel quite stupid. “No, I don't suppose it does. I don't know why I said it.”
“You're just excited,” Linka beamed.
“Am not,” I huffed.
“Are so,” she retorted.
A trail of lavender preceded Narina's berthing at my side, as she whispered iced words in my ear.
“Ignore him, Jean. I was just like you all those centuries ago when first I saw the sun. So much more than one could ever imagine, is it not?”
“It has a certain novelty,” I replied, unwilling to be made a fool of twice.
“Must you tell that old tale, sister? Don't forget, some of us were born to it.”
“Ah, the voice of an impetuous twin,” Narina cooed. “Let me introduce the pair of you to my brothers,” she said, laying a pure, white hand upon my arm.
Narina turned me to the other ruby-goggled Nordics. Linka spun around too, but not without casting momentary scrutiny to my being touched by another woman; there was just a flash of anger in those blazing emerald eyes, but it soon passed.
“These two uncouth fools are my twin brothers Verstra and Serstra.”
The two nodded and grinned as one. The action was a tad unnerving as it was the first time I'd seen the Nordic royalty show any sign of emotion. Even during the slaughter of Vladivar's men, they had remained impassive, predators at work. I returned their nods regardless.
“This is Ragnar their elder brother,” she continued. Ragnar made a point of making up for his brothers' joviality by what could at best be described as a twitched response. “Grella, the eldest of us and future king of our people, you already know.”
“Enough of the pleasantries, sister, we must prepare,” Grella snapped. He spared neither Linka nor myself a single look. The future king, although lacking the bulk of Ragnar, or eloquence of his sisters, was indisputably the man in charge.
“If you would excuse us.” Narina indicated to seats at the Zeppelin's rear; a polite dismissal.
I cared not, I was already quite bored with the Nordics' austere demeanours and glad to be rid of them.
I led Linka to the furthest end of the airship and sat down to peer out of the wrap-around windows.
“Are you well, my love?”
“You seem flustered,” Linka stated.
“Not really. You know how it is, five centuries or so in the dark, at last, you get to see the sun, and you can't be left in a bit of peace and quiet to enjoy it.”
“I suspect there'll be plenty of time for that soon.”
“There better be, I've dreamed of this all my life.” I swept my arm across the ruby vista to emphasise the fact. Or to be more exact, the view that was solid ice to my left and churning red waters to my right. “Do you think they're following the conjunction of solid and liquid to achieve our destination?”
“We are,” Ragnar interjected in a voice like rolling thunder.
“I wasn't asking you,” I hissed.
“He was saving you the effort,” laughed one twin.
“I don't care. It is impolite to eavesdrop on private conversations.”
“We can't help it, good ears,” replied the second twin.
“What if I discussed matters of an intimate nature?”
“But you weren't,” the twins said in synchronicity.