“I’m just saying I don’t think it’s a great idea just sailing right into a busy port before we find out more about what actually goes on there!” Lotan is saying, again. “What do you say?” he asks Kerilas.
We’ve been sailing for three days. Supplies are running low. We can catch fish, but out here we can’t catch any fruit or vegetables. Or bumwool for that matter, which is a source of growing anxiety on board. Someone’s using too much.
Apart from anything else, we’re sick of the sight of each other. I’m probably doing better than any of us, with the possible exception of Jalese. I’m kept busiest running the boat; doing things or giving orders; and I suppose Taniel was always used to it anyway. Everyone else is getting snappy.
We’re off the coast of another island; a larger one this time, big enough to support a population. We’ve sailed past fishing harbours and have found a larger (but not very large) trading port which Jalese says is Port Denhall, and that she lived there for a while and it’s okay (not her words). The name sounds vaguely familiar, but no particular alarm bells are going off. Still, we’re sitting off the coast by a mile or so, unsure.
“Well, what do you suggest?” Kerilas says. It’s ironic given the James we were used to back home how he’s apparently settled into a position of authority. I’m in charge of the boat, but Kerilas is the one who we all seem to turn to to make the calls. Not that there’s been that many for him to make while we’ve been at sea.
“Can’t we put in somewhere out of the way and walk into town?”
“I think that’s a very bad idea,” Jalese says. We’re talking in Jeodine all the time now, not least in deference to her. We’re using our character names all the time as well. When I stop to think about it it’s still remarkable how easily it all comes to us. We all feel like we’ve been called these names all our lives. It’s that dual-awareness again.
“Why?” Kerilas asks. He’s not being combative; he wants to know.
“We’ll have to leave enough people to guard the boat itself,” Jalese points out, as if that should have been obvious. “And anyway, anywhere we can put in is going to be a fishing harbour. We’re not going to find anywhere deserted.”
“We can’t afford the harbourmaster fees,” Samila says. She’s been quiet for the last two days, taking to moping about belowdecks by herself when she could. “In case anyone forgot, we haven’t got any money. We haven’t got anything we can sell to make money. I still think we should sell the boat.”
“No!” Jalese and I say in unison.
“Samila’s right,” Kerilas points out. “We literally don’t have any money. We can’t even go into a market to buy food, and no, we’re not going to start stealing,” he adds. “The only thing of value we have is this boat.”
“And then what?” I ask hotly. “We’re going to be stuck on this island, that’s then what! If you don’t have a ship or a boat of some kind you’re not mobile! We might as well settle down and become sheep farmers.”
“There’s worse things we could do,” Kerilas says.
I just stare at him, amazed. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”
“I think we might have to sell the boat, Taniel,” he says. I start huffing. “Listen, we can properly equip ourselves then. We can get some decent clothes and… and weapons I suppose, and whatever else we need, then maybe we can buy passage on a ship—”
Jalese is shaking her head.
“Why not? What’s wrong with that plan?”
“You want to get taken by pirates again, don’t you?” she says, stressing on the ‘again’ pointedly. I notice that she’s saying ‘you’ and not ‘we’. I also note that I don’t remember Ken saying how we were all captured in the first place. All in different ways, I think, meeting up at the holding camp. I—
Flash to a memory. Chaos and fire on a wooden ship. People are fighting. My father bundling me into a hidey-hole. My father…? I can’t make his face out, but I know it was the last time I saw him alive. I’m afraid. ~How long ago was that?~
“Listen to me,” Jalese continues, “we don’t have to pay harbourmaster fees up front. The boat itself is surety, you see? We can go ashore and then who knows what could turn up? We might find some other way to pay the fee and get what we need and move on. And if we don’t then… then I suppose we might try to find a buyer.”
Everyone’s thinking about that. “We can’t just sit out here forever,” Lotan points out. “I think that’s the fairest option,” he adds, looking at me. “We’re not going to get anything done out here.”
“We must still do everything we can to keep the boat,” Jalese insists.
“What do you think, Sami?” Kerilas asks Samila.
Samila just waves a hand. ‘Don’t care,’ the gesture says.
Kerilas looks at me thoughtfully.
Finally I sigh. “Whatever. I still think it’s a bad idea. We could get stranded ashore.”
“Yes, it’s a risk,” he agrees. “I don’t think we have another option right now. We are running out of supplies.”
That point at least is unanswerable.
“Will you take us into the harbour please?” he asks directly.
I bite my lip and nod. “Okay, ready-about.” We need to bring the boat about and zig-zag towards the harbour mouth. It’s called ‘tacking’ in English, I believe. Seeing everyone’s face saying ‘ready’, I announce, “About we go,” and turn us around onto the other tack. The boom swings across above our ducked heads and the sail refills.