Chapter 13: Luck
Jaâ€™eshuk trudged up a hill overlooking Shushwuk, hoping her companion hadnâ€™t made things more difficult while she was out. At the top was a small cabin. Broken shutters dangled from the empty windows, the roof partially caved in. What drew her attention, however, was the smoke curling out of the chimney. Alarmed, she pushed through the broken door and into the dank interior. There sat Risawal, staring into the fire. Though he had slipped his bindings, he had made no attempt to escape.
â€œYouâ€™re learning,â€ Jaâ€™eshuk said quietly, tapping him on the shoulder.
â€œIâ€™ve decided that Iâ€™m going with you,â€ Risawal replied, â€œI believe thereâ€™s good in you.â€
â€œThatâ€™s sweet,â€ Jaâ€™eshuk said, leaning over him. â€œOh, I saw your friend earlier today. She was worried about you. Virpan, I think her name isâ€
â€œW-what?! B-but I saw her, and the guy, downstream.â€
â€œI saw her too,â€ Jaâ€™eshuk said smiling. Then she held up the strangely shaped block. â€œAnyway, I got the key, so now weâ€™re going to Kagnangk.â€
â€œWe need to get going.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I just said.â€
Without thinking, he marched straight past her outside. She followed after him, curious where he might lead them. Down from the hill and toward the sea they marched, Risawal only vaguely aware that he could not swim to the islands. Somehow this was all meant to be, he thought. It was not until they reached the shore that he stopped for a moment to consider what else they would need.
â€œWe need a boat,â€ he whispered, looking out over the crashing swells.
â€œYes, that would indeed make things much easier. This way.â€
She led them down the beach, towards a small fishing hamlet. As they approached, Risawal started to feel uneasy. The houses lay dark, their doors open, and there were no sounds, save for the echo of the sea. By the docks was a small harbor office. Pinned to it was a now tattered declaration. Risawal looked close and read the order.
â€œBy order of King Shvalah, this town is to be abandoned. In response to the growing threat of Simkagle, the people of this indefensible hamlet are to be relocated into the city of Shushwuk. Compensation will be afforded for lost property.â€
â€œRead that earlier,â€ Jaâ€™eshuk said quietly, â€œthen I found this.â€
She walked out to the end of the dock and pointed at a small fishing boat. â€œLooks like my old acquaintance wasnâ€™t as thorough as he had hoped.â€
â€œUm, you know how to sail a ship?â€
â€œIâ€™m a fast learner,â€ she said smiling. â€œNicked a few navigation books from the office there.â€
â€œOff to Kagnangk, then,â€ Risawal said, clapping his hands together.
â€œIndeed,â€ she said stepping onto the boat. â€œCome on, letâ€™s ship out.â€
Feeling oddly optimistic, Risawal boarded the boat. While Jaâ€™eshuk pulled her hair back into a ponytail, he cast off the lines and began fumbling with the ropes. She quickly pulled open one of the books and began directing him around the ship. Soon the sails were out and their vessel was underway.
Risawal looked out over the ocean, towards their future. He would turn Jaâ€™eshuk away from evil, he would find Virpan, and he would take the helm and then return the world to the light of Valtor. From this moment onward, he thought, he was not Jaâ€™eshukâ€™s prisoner. He was her companion and guide to her redemption.
â€œI am the chosen one,â€ he whispered, believing it fully for the first time.
After a long, dull night, Virpan awoke to the sound of a crowing seagull. She rose from her nest on the floor, having found the bed uncomfortable. She walked to the window of their cupboard sized rented room and for the second time looked down as the morning wagons rushing along the harbor road. Past them lay the vast ocean. Virpan sighed, the doldrums already setting in. Howngthirr let out a loud snort, reminding her of his presence. She turned and watched him toss and turn for a time.
A pang of hunger pulled her down stairs. From the main room of the inn wafted enticingly sweet smells. Virpan followed these to the hearth and poured herself a bowl of sweetened porridge. She sat down on one of the long tables and began eating. A young maid walked over to her and offered a steaming mug.
â€œWill you and your companion be out today? I didnâ€™t get a chance to clean your room yesterday.â€
â€œI think so,â€ Virpan replied, â€œIâ€™ve got to find some way to those islands.â€
â€œSplendid, I detest untidiness.â€
The woman marched behind the counter and retrieved a broom. Virpan watched as she methodically swept the floor from end to end. Howngthirr appeared, coming down the stairs. He made a beeline to the long table.
â€œGood morning,â€ he said, stretching. â€œHowâ€™s the porridge?â€
â€œItâ€™s all right,â€ she replied, poking the mush. â€œHowngthirr, I donâ€™t know how much longer I can keep waiting.â€
â€œAbout twelve days, thatâ€™s when the ship will be here.â€
â€œThatâ€™s too long, far too long.â€
â€œShall we build a raft then?â€
â€œIâ€™m going to look for a ship.â€
â€œIf you must.â€ Howngthirr sighed, standing back up. â€œIâ€™ll eat some breakfast, and then figure out how to pay for the rest of our stay here.â€
Virpan exited the inn and jogged down the nearly empty street to the dockside. A feeling of guilt came over her for leaving her only companion behind. She tried to push it away, spotting a huge ship pulling into the harbor. Excited, she sprinted the rest of the way. A disheveled looking crewman stopped her at the end of the pier.
â€œHare cha tink yer goâ€™n?â€
â€œWhere, chu, think, yuer, goâ€™en?â€
â€œI need to speak with the captain,â€ Virpan pleaded. â€œPlease, I need a cabin.â€
â€œHeiy wudna no antâ€™ng boud tat.â€
An older man in more formal attire walked up to the commotion. â€œWho is this young woman?â€
â€œSes boud ya.â€
â€œAh, and do you want with me, young lady?â€
â€œYouâ€™re the captain?â€
â€œExcellent, because Iâ€™m in need of transport.â€
The man raised his eyebrow. â€œAnd, what, pre tell, would you have transported, miss?â€
â€œVirpan, and Iâ€™d be transporting myself and another person.â€
â€œSorry, weâ€™re booked for passengers on our next run. Youâ€™ll have to look else ware.â€
â€œPlease, Iâ€™d do anything to reach Ilvrin beforeâ€¦â€
â€œListen young lady,â€ he snapped. â€œI donâ€™t know how you think this business operates, but weâ€™re not about to weigh anchor for some random jungle dweller.â€
â€œStop accosting my crew unless youâ€™re going to offer them your personal hospitality.â€
She shrank back, the captain shaking his head. Deflated, Virpan walked away. She made her way down the harbor road, a terrible sinking feeling settling into her gut. The unfamiliar sound of the sea sloshing against the harbor washed over her as walked. The vast blue expanse still seemed alien and foreboding to her, partially she thought, because it was an impregnable barrier. While taking in the strange sight, she heard the sound of approaching footfalls. Howngthirr was racing towards her.
â€œVirpan, I managed to bargain the innkeeper down to a more reasonable rate,â€ he said breathlessly. â€œWe should make it the rest of the week at least.â€
â€œThatâ€™s nice,â€ she murmured.
â€œHowâ€™s the search going?â€
â€œItâ€™s not going anywhere,â€ she sighed, looking back out at the vast ocean. She blinked, spotting a shape bobbing out in the water. Within moments it became the outline of a small ship approaching the harbor. â€œâ€™Look!â€
She ran down the dockside road as it grew larger. She and the single-masted ship arrived at a slipway around the same time. At the vesselâ€™s helm was a young, black haired man in patched clothing. He appeared to be the only crewman, as he jumped onto the dock and tied up the ship himself.
Without thinking, Virpan dashed towards him, hoping this was their ticket to the islands. As the young man secured the boat, a very clean looking man in fine clothing approached him. The two of them shook hands; both appearing quite pleased. Virpan slowed her approach, looking over the two figures.
â€œYouâ€™re looking well, Laikau,â€ the suited man said quietly.
â€œThink so?â€ Laikau asked, leaning back against the small cabin. â€œWell, hereâ€™s my cargo.â€
With a flick of his wrist a small pouch flew up to the other man. He caught it, pulling it open immediately.
â€œHa-ha, youâ€™ve done it again my boy! Always bring in the finest pearls.â€
â€œIâ€™ve got my ways. Do you have my payment?â€
â€œYes, yes,â€ the suited man replied, his face dropping, â€œhereâ€™s all the information I could dig up.â€
â€œThank you so much,â€ Laikau said gratefully, accepting the bundle of papers.
â€œIs it really worth it?â€
â€œOf course,â€ he replied, a wide grin across his face. He carefully tucked the papers away.
â€œItâ€™s been nice working with you partner. I just hope you know what youâ€™re doing.â€
â€œSee you around then.â€
After a final look at his partner, the suited man walked back onto the peer. He brushed past a Virpan as she approached the captain in turn. She walked right onto the ship, Howngthirr following cautiously in her wake. A few feet away sat Laikau, who was already poring over the papers. For several moments he paid her no attention. She tapped her foot, hoping to get a reaction.
â€œWho are you?â€ he asked, without turning around, â€œand why did you barge onto my ship?â€ S
â€œIâ€™m Virpan, and youâ€™re going to take me to the islands.â€
â€œName your price.â€
â€œAnd if I ask for you to strip?â€ He asked derisively. â€œPerhaps you should think-uh, I wasnâ€™t serious-please stop.â€
Virpan slowly pulled her shirt back into place with a devious smile on her face. â€œWell, what will it take then? I need to get to Kagnangk Island.â€
Laikau sat back and considered the intruder. â€œKagnangk, hmm, perhaps there is something you can do.â€
â€œThere is treasure Iâ€™ve been hunting,â€ he said, tapping the maps.
â€œI can relate.â€
â€œItâ€™s hidden away, and Iâ€™m uncertain if I can make the trek alone. Perhaps you could assist me?â€
Howngthirr leaned forward. â€œWe can.â€
â€œThe both of us.â€
â€œWe have a deal then,â€ Liakau said, rising to his feet. â€œGather you supplies, we weight anchor in two hours.â€
The churning seas jostled Virpan as she tried to sleep. Water seeped into her blanket and the planks creaked unnervingly below. Then another sound wafted into the cramped. It sounded like two people were talking. She turned to her side where Howngthirr was snoring. It took several moments before she realized there should only be one other person on the ship. Suddenly alarmed, Virpan sprang to her feet.
She carefully edged to the door, hearing something besides the ocean. Virpan leaned out of the door and looked towards the noise. Laikau was kneeling by the side of the ship, leaning over the side. There was no one else on deck. Puzzled, she took a step forward, accidentally knocking over the lantern. It fell to the deck with a clatter, causing Laikau to sit bolt upright. Panicking, Virpan quickly scooped up the lantern and shined it towards him.
â€œGood evening,â€ he said, standing up. â€œNot used to the sea, I take it?â€
â€œWhat are you doing?â€
â€œChecking for a small leak,â€ he replied, holding up a mallet and a plug, â€œI heard some planks cracking.â€
â€œStrange, I thought it was something else.â€
â€œThere is a small storm coming,â€ he said, turning away, â€œIâ€™ll need your help to get everything on deck secured.â€
Virpan nodded and quietly helped him tie everything down. Harsh winds began whipping the sea. Strange sounds washed over the ship from the all encompassing darkness. Once the deck was secure, she walked carefully over the swaying deck back into the cabin, tired and worried. While settling down to the sleep, she looked back out the door one more time.
Laikau was leaning over the side again. The sound of the mallet reverberated through the ship, accentuating the thousand other alien noises assailing her ears. As he worked, he seemed to be murmuring something under his breath. She listened and stared at his lips, trying to make out what he was saying.
â€œKila siwali,â€ Virpan whispered. A wave crashed over the side, soaking the young man. â€œHey, why donâ€™t you come in here?â€
â€œCanâ€™t!â€ he cried, â€œI have to secure the patch.â€
Too tired to think, she pulled the soggy blanket over herself, wondering what â€˜kila siwaliâ€™ meant.