Pahwon bobbed to the surface next to Tossmek, gulping for air. A shot rang out, the bullet slamming into the water inches from them. Tossmek dove back under the water, dragging Pahwon down with her. Panicked, he swam after her, keeping under as long as he could. Tossmek lead the way, though in what direction, neither knew. After a minute or so they came ashore, Tossmek desperately trying to keep her breathing under control. Pahwon washed ashore behind her, coughing up a lungful of water.

She seized him and dragged him off the exposed beach and into a few bushes near the shore. The sound of gunfire roared from somewhere nearby. The two panted for a few moments, Pahwon still unable to breathe properly. After taking a few moments to collect himself, he cautiously poked his head out of the bush, spotting the Tub and the soldiers down the river. A hand grabbed him pulling him back into the bushes.

“Pa-Pa-hu-an,” Tossmek murmured, embracing him, “Thank you for saving, I mean, no, no we need act.”

“What? You mean-but we’re unarmed and, and…”

“The saddle bags!” Tossmek exclaimed, “That man the soldiers sent, if we can get to him…”

“Yeah, that’s an idea.”

With that they were off, tiptoeing through the foliage parallel to the road. Soon they were at the top of the small hill and looking down upon a town nestled in a crook of the river. Suddenly there was an explosion on the far side of the hill. Pahwon looked back, but was unable to see anything through the dense foliage. For a moment he hesitated, wanting to know what happening to their friends.

With a sigh, Pahwon turned and descended the hill back to the river bank. Despite his lack of knowledge, Pahwon decided that it was the soldiers who had been blown up. He repeated the thought, until certain it was true.

They cautiously approached the outskirts of the town, noticing that most of the houses remained dark even though the sun’s light was fading. Pahwon took the lead, flattening himself against the nearest wall. He peered around the end, spotting a pair of soldiers standing just down the road. Hoping to avoid detection he slid along the wall, Tossmek following suit. They turned down a narrow street running parallel, moving as quietly as they could.

Soon they came to the Portuguese post, Pahwon carefully moving along the wall to get a better look. Through a window he spotted a pair of soldiers, one of whom was holding the saddlebags. The two were talking, about what Pahwon could only guess. He slid back to Tossmek, realizing that time was quite short.

“How many are there?”

“Four or so. This town seems to be partly abandoned, so I doubt there would be a large garrison.”

“Huh, and I was half expecting to see their whole invasion force.”

“Still, we don’t have a plan. Might as well be an army, for all the good it does. Shall we head back and try to regroup?”

“Actually, I have an idea,” Tossmek said smirking. “Can you get in through that window?”

“Yes.”

“Right, go stand by it then; I’ll have to act fast.”

Tossmek turned and walked away from Pahwon; who was quite perplexed. Hoping that Tossmek knew what she was doing, Pahwon carefully slid to his position. Inside a pair of Portuguese conversed, their language beyond Pahwon’s comprehension. He strained to listen, hoping to hear her signal soon. All the while, he wished he could understand even a sentence of the conversation taking place feet away.

“Este e um desperdicio do meu tempo,” The officer sighed, tapping his desk impatiently.

“Mas, senhor, estes nao foram contrabandistas ordinaria,” The other man insisted, holding out the saddlebag.

“Oh, muito bem, vamos dar uma olhada,” the officer sighed.

Pahwon watched as the soldier laid the saddlebag onto the desk. He held his breath, hoping that Tossmek would act fast. Pahwon watched nervously as The soldier undid the clasps. Then there was a commotion out in front. The officer sighed and walked out through the door to investigate. The soldier lingered for a few moments, much to Pahwon’s frustration. A nightmarish three seconds passed before the soldier strolled out to join the officer.

Seizing his only chance, Pahwon slid through the window and dropped down onto the floor with a thud. He sprang up and took a single step to the desk. Inside the saddlebag he found the sealed scroll. He also discovered a sack of coins. The thought of pocketing the money floated through his mind, but he realized that it would cause far too much noise. Scroll in hand he stepped back over to the window and dove through, landing in a heap on the ground. Behind him the officer and soldier strolled back into the room, forcing Pahwon to flatten himself against the wall once more. Inside the two men pulled the saddlebag open and discovered the coins.

“Bem, isso resolve a questao, os contrabandistas,” The officer said satisfied.

“Eu acredito que voce estacorreto, senhor,” the soldier said sheepishly.

“Agora, agora, que fazemos todos ospressupostos de vez em quando,” The officer reassured him, “O que eu preciso de voce fazer agora e chegar la e descobrir onde essas duas patrulhas passaram.”

“Sim senhor,” the soldier exclaimed.

With that, the soldier turned and dashed out of the room, allowing the officer to get back to work. Once certain the officer’s attention was focused elsewhere, Pahwon slid along the wall to safety; the sealed scroll clutched to his chest. He couldn’t believe he had gotten it, the message was in his hand and now all that was left to do was escape. Carefully he made his way down the dark alley, trying not to make any more noise than a mouse.

Once around the corner he crept down the street looking for Tossmek. He spotted her leaning against a doorframe not a block away. She smiled at the sight of Pahwon, glad to see that he was alright. Pahwon raced forward and embraced her, feeling almost giddy from their victory. Tossmek leaned close and kissed him, feeling quite good herself.

“Here it is,” Pahwon said, showing her the scroll.

“Wow, we, we really did it,” she breathed, taking a step back. “Right, we need to get out of town.”

“On foot?”

“No, I lost my shoes,” Tossmek replied. “I think we should get a boat, going by river will be much faster.”

“Yeah, there’s no telling how far downstream Hiwei and the others have gone,” Pahwon said, tucking the precious scroll away.

They strolled down the darkened road, soon arriving at the harbor. Numerous boats were moored in the small port. There were also a number of soldiers patrolling the area, their lanterns piercing the air with a vile light. Tossmek looked carefully for some gap in the patrolling soldiers they could sneak through. While she was looking, two additional soldiers arrived, making the prospect of appropriating a boat even more remote.

“It doesn’t have to be a large boat, just big enough to get us back to the others,” Pahwon whispered.

“Right, I suppose so,” Tossmek said slowly. “What are you getting at?”

“Perhaps there’s a smaller boat somewhere we could ste-uh, borrow, borrow that is-”

Without warning a shout echoed through the town. The port guards looked toward the main road, as did Pahwon and Tossmek. A cold fear engulfed them, certain that their theft had been discovered. Then the soldiers began shouting too, leaving the harbor side. Pahwon glanced at Tossmek, wondering if this was their chance. Realizing this was likely to be their only opening, Pahwon dashed toward the nearest boat, Tossmek following behind him.

They leapt into a small canoe tied to the nearest dock. With a mighty shove Pahwon sent them into the current. Paddles in hand, they set out towards the dark north bank. Soon the sounds of shouting vanished into the background leaving them again in near silence. Tossmek leaned back and gazed up at the stars for a moment; the fear of the past few hours dissipating with each forward stroke.

“Think we got away?” Pahwon asked quietly.

“Yeah, I don’t think they’re after us,” she replied, scanning the river. “I can see any other boats, at least. Odd.”

“Perhaps they didn’t expect us to escape by boat?”

“Right, they probably thought they would be looking for someone on foot.”

The boat began feeling the tug of the current, pulling them back down stream. Pahwon carefully allowed the nose to drift further downstream than the aft and soon Tossmek was in the steering position. She carefully guided them to calmer waters on the far side of the current. Once across the middle of the river the dark north bank crept ever closer, bringing back old tales of the things that lurked in its depts.

Before too long they grounded out on the soft shore. Pahwon hopped out and began dragging the boat up the bank. Tossmek joined him, hoisting up her end. They carried the boat into the tree line, and then dragged it further still. After several minutes of trekking inland they stopped to take a rest. Pahwon looked inside the boat for something to snack on. Near the bow he found a small satchel with a piece of fruit inside. He plucked is up and offered it to Tossmek. She took it before drawing out her knife and slicing it in two.

They sat down in the clearing, feeling a bit a of Déjà vu. Still on edge, they waited in silence for some time listening for any sound in the forest. Pahwon tapped his fingers against the ground nervously, his eyes slowly adjusting to the dim light. Tossmek scooted over and leaned against the tree next to him. After awhile he began to relax a bit, the danger of being pursued seeming less and less likely.

“I don’t think we’re being followed,” he said quietly.

“Yeah, let me go take a look,” Tossmek said, rising to her feet.

With that she departed back down to the beach. Pahwon remained still for a second before jumping up and going down with her. Once near the water they peered out into the night, looking across the river for any sign of the Portuguese. There was nothing on the river, not a single other ship for miles. Feeling relieved, Pahwon tapped Tossmek on the shoulder before departing back to the clearing.

“We seem to have gotten away.”

“I know. We stopped that message. Our home, is, saved.”

“Huh, right,” Tossmek murmured. “So, what shall we do now?”

“Wait here until first light, I guess.”

Pahwon lay down and gazed into the night sky. He pulled off his lucky cap, sliding it under his head. Tossmek lay next to him; her warmth causing him to feel content. he slid his arm around her. Then Tossmek leaned over and kissed him. They looked at each other for a moment before Tossmek smiled and flopped onto her back.

“Pahwon, I’m glad you’re here with me.”

“I-I’m glad too.”

 

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