A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.
– Joan Didion
Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?
Mannarius Klaverning III leaned back in his chair and opened his lion-like jaws in a slow, wide yawn, then glanced over at the the red-hair woman who had joined him on the bridge. He pulled his booted feet up to rest on his ottoman and arched his back in a feline sort stretch before speaking to her.
“And why should yo be the deciding where we go?” he drawled.
The red-haired woman gave him an fastidious look. “If this is your nap time, I can come back later.”
Mannarius raised a brow. “I invited you onto the bridge, did I not?”
Looking around the room, hardly bigger than a commoner’s living room, and lined with control stations manned by a variety of alien races, the red-haired woman conceded a sigh. “I need to get home.”
“I hear that a lot more than you seem to realize,” he replied.
“And does that mean you take nobody home?”
With a shrug, he asked her, “If it is worth my while.”
The red-haired woman gave a weary sigh and stood up, moving towards the doors of the bridge.
“I take it that you cannot make it worth my time?” Mannarius asked as though half-dreaming.
She stopped in the doorway and turned to look at him. “I have no reason to bribe you with the promise of a large reward. I know very well that you have nowhere else that is imperative for you to get to, and I am not the kind of leader who plunders who her people’s wealth just for the sake of getting somewhere faster. If you are in less of a coy mood later, then perhaps we can have a more reasonable discussion.”
“‘Your people’?” Mannarius repeated as he sat up a little straighter. “Well, milady, I suppose you will also be adding that your people will suffer without you there? Do you have an item of great import that must be returned to your capital at once?”
One of the aliens turned from his station and peered over at Mannarius. “Sir, I hate to intrude, but I am not so sure that she has the kind of sense of humor that you do.”
“Relax helmsman. I was just trying to get to know our guest,” he replied with a slight grin. Then he looked back to the red-haired woman. “Come, have a seat and I will listen to you tell me about your land. Are you some kind of princess?”
Shaking her head, she sat across from him once again. “I come from a royal line, but I am not considered a princess.”
“Hmphh…” he let out with a grin. “You carry a lot of a certain… regal flair.”
“I am the leader of the city responsible for the highest technology on my world. I was only on that space station because it was along my flight path for my new ship.”
“And what happened to your ship?”
The woman scowled and looked away. “I have a feeling that those foul-scaled lizards either stole it or destroyed it along with the rest of the space station. The crew would have tried to get it away safely when they realized there was an attack, but…” She shook her head hopelessly.
Mannarius sat up, beginning to feel more sympathetic of her situation. “Where you are from… what do they call you?”
“Allanah,” she replied. “Allanah Spyrytte IV, Leader of Technor II. My great-grandparents were monarchs in an older kingdom, but my grandmother aspired to far more technology than the realm was interested in, and founded a new city instead.”
“Well, Allanah, I suppose you have no other way to get home.”
“You could take her to the nearest transit station,” the helmsman cut in. “There is one not too far off our course.”
With a shrug, Mannarius ignored the helmsman and looked straight at Allanah.
“I could find my way back to Lorata from there if you do not want to take me yourself,” she told him. “The sooner you decide, the better. I have to get in touch with my council in Technor II and let them know that I am alive. It will be far more difficult to tell the families of my guards that my entourage was killed by those lizard cretins, but it is my responsibility nonetheless.”
“You seem very devoted to your city,” he noted.
“And you seem unnecessarily coy,” she snapped back. “If all space-captains are like you, then my people may have to re-think their ideas about travelling the stars.”
“Calm down,” Mannarius told her, sitting up straight so that he could look at her directly. “There is no reason for you to seclude yourself to your own planet after one expedition ruined by the K’zzyrch. I would wager that your kind have the potential to help fight them off. Citlally seemed to have nothing but good to say about you being… what did she call you…?”
“I am of the race of elves,” Allanah answered. “Her people have written stories about elvan-kind for centuries, it seems. Still, with their lizard venom, I am not sure how much help we would be against the K’zzyrch.”
“Surely your world holds wonders that you have not yet spoken of. Why not tell me about the place that you come from?”
“Lorata?” she asked, unsure how much she was willing to trust him with information about her world. In the end, it was pointless to hold back when she wanted him to take her there; he would learn about it either way. “It is a world with a long history; I am not sure what you would be interested in knowing. We have vast continents inhabited by elves, faeries, and even dragons. We have lived together for millennia.”
“Are there deities looking over your world?”
Allanah nodded. “Do most worlds not have such guardianship? Our gods and goddesses are how we receive our magic… although I have also learned that my power fades the long I am away from my homeworld. I need to get back to the mountains and valleys of Lorata if my magic is to return to me.” She thought for a moment, and then added, “There is a valley in my family’s kingdom, where my cousin rules, known across the continent to be filled with dragons. The mountains around that valley are riddled with caverns where the dragons keep their eggs.”
Mannarius seemed very interested in that fact. “A valley of dragons? I would love to visit such a place. I imagine that it would be the worst possible place for a K’zzyrch to find himself.”
“I suppose it would,” she conceded with a slight grin. “Does that mean you will take us there?”
“I suppose I have to now,” he chuckled. “But will you tell me more about your world while we journey there?”
“He will take you anywhere for a story,” the helmsman added wryly.
“Keep quiet and set the new coordinates!” Mannarius ordered his officer. Then he showed Allanah over to the controls and allowed her to set a flight path for Lorata. “You never complained about visiting other worlds before.”
With a knowing smile, the helmsman locked in the new flight path, and the ship adjusted its course. Mannarius escorted the red-haired elf from the bridge to the ship’s cantina, where they spent the next few hours discussing the vast continents and rocky islands of her homeworld.