Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Part X: Where To?

         Back aboard the Windy Biscuit, Declan was giving orders to the crew.  They were preparing to leave the end of the world; perhaps make for more hospitable places.  No one really knew, but the eagerness to move on from this adventure was palpable.  Like overripe fruit,  the mens’ spirits hung low; but no one felt lower than their young captain. 
“The lads are ready master,” Balric said as he approached Declan wearing his trademark satchel and backpack.
“Excellent Balric.  It’s past time we cast off and left this miserable place,” Declan said with a sigh.
“Where are we bound sir?”
“I don’t know yet,” Declan replied.  “Home, I suppose.  Not much point in sailing the globe aimlessly, is there?”
“No sir,” Balric agreed.
“I’m tired Balric.  For the four hundredth time on this quest, I know I shouldn’t give up.  But for the first time, I just don’t know if I can go on.”
“I don’t blame you.  You’ve no direction.  Which is why I made you this,” Balric said as he pulled a tied scroll from his satchel and handed it to his master.
“What is this?  A doodle?  Oh Balric, I don’t know where we’re going to hang this one,” Declan said.
“No need to hang it sir.  See for yourself,” Balric said.
The young lord let out a small, exasperated sigh and untied the string around the parchment.  He unrolled it and pulled it flat.  He squinted, then looked up, then looked back down and squinted harder.
“This can’t be…” Declan simply stopped talking, clearly taken up with a newfound fervor.
“It is sir.  Took me the better part of last night, but it is,” Balric answered.
“But…it looks like an exact copy of the map to Miranga Island!” Declan cried in disbelief.  “Did you doodle this?”
“Well, doodle don’t quite describe the effort, but if we’re simplifyin,” Balric couldn’t hold back a smile.  “Aye sir, I drew it.  Had to do it right when we got back too.  I’m terrible at drawin from memory.  I didn’t get everything, but all the important bits are there.”
“Drawing from memory?” Declan asked, more to himself as though he had heard Balric mention this before; but it must have been long ago.  “That’s why you were looking at the map on the run from Mad Murphy’s to the skiff.  You were studying it!”
“Yes master.”
“You knew the ferryman would want it,” Declan said at the same moment he realized it.
“Well, I didn’t know for sure.  But I guessed he’d want somethin,” Balric said as his cheeks began to redden.
“Balric, I can’t thank you enough,” Declan put a hand on his manservant’s shoulder.  Then he looked at his hand, removed it, and gave the fellow a big hug.
Balric, wide eyed and weepy, hugged his master back.  They released each other and Declan ran quickly to his navigator.
“Stanley, have ye slept?” Declan bellowed.
“No!” Stanley replied dreamily.

“Nor will you,” Declan shoved the map into his hands and clapped him on the shoulder.  “That goes for all of you!  We have what we came for.  We know our course.  Ready the sails and prepare yourselves.  We’re off to Miranga Island!”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Part IX: Returning Home

         The ferryman’s pole rocked back and forth in his hand, its other end already in the water, when Declan and Balric bounded onto the dock.  His back was to them, and he was poised to launch.  
“Hold!” Declan shouted.
The pilot turned to face them.  “Well now, just in the nick’o time.  I was leavin this place…an the two of ya woulda been stranded.”
“We’re back,” Balric gasped out.  It was all he could muster between heavy breaths.  
“And how did ya enjoy Saltana?” the ferryman asked with a tone that belied an impish mirth.
“We got what we came for,” Declan replied.  “We’re both still alive.  That’s all that matters.”
“Indeed ya are, boyo.  Very impressive.  I haven’t seen one livin soul survive this land in three hundred years.  I’ve never seen two make it out,” the pilot said.
“Well, we’re made of a different stock than the fellows you’re used to dealing with.  Heartier.  Meatier.  More seasoned in the face of death,” Declan panted proudly before turning to his manservant.  “Come on Balric, it’s time to go home.”
Declan climbed in and sat down.  He was silent for a moment, looking off toward the horizon; and the land of the living that awaited them.  He suddenly came to, having forgotten how long he was sitting in the skiff and looked back to the dock.  Both Balric and the ferryman were standing there.  Neither one of them had moved.
“Is something wrong?  We need to get back to the Windy Biscuit immediately,” Declan said.
“The young lord has forgotten the rules,” the ferryman sneered at Balric.
“What rules?” Declan asked impatiently.
“Somethin…from the land of the dead, master,” Balric replied quietly.
“Yer fat friend is right.  When I brought ya over from the land o’the livin, I required a boon from there,” the ferryman explained as he moved his cloak to reveal Declan’s old dagger which had been given as payment for the trip across the threshold.  “To take ya back from the land o’the dead, I’ll need a token from here.”
“But we don’t have a token from here,” Declan was getting frustrated.
“Don’t ya, boyo?” the pilot said smoothly.  
“You can’t mean my map?” Declan said as frustration turned to anger in the pit of his stomach.
“That’s what he means sir,” Balric said.
“Of course that’s what he means Balric!  Because wouldn’t that be the perfect kick in the teeth at the end of this hellacious quest!” Declan shouted.  He stopped himself then and breathed in.
“Let me go back master!” Balric blurted out.  “Let me barter for somethin from this place.  At least you can keep the map and continue the search.”
Declan turned to his manservant.  “No Balric.  We go back together, or not at all.  Give me the map.”
Balric already had the map in his hands.  On the run back to the dock, in an effort to distract himself from the intense pain of it all, he was reading over it.  He rolled it back up gently and handed it to Declan.  
Declan sat in the skiff holding it.  Looking at it.  This thing was the key; the promise of the hideout that had eluded him for so long.  The promise of being reunited with his sister.  The promise of justice on the man who took her.  But the promise was broken now.  With a sigh, he handed the map over to the ferryman.
“Thank ya boyo.  The token is paid,” the pilot said with a triumphant lilt.  
“Just, please…be silent,” Declan said.
“Master?” Balric asked as he climbed into the skiff.
“Yes Balric?”
“I know it wasn’t easy sir.  But I thought it was very brave to give him the map.”
“Thank you my friend.  I suppose bravery still counts for something.”
All was silent on the trip back to Declan’s grand ship, the Windy Biscuit.  There was nothing to see either.  The miracles that had baffled and dazzled the pair of heroes when they first crossed the threshold were absent on the journey back; as though they had responded to Declan’s mood and decided to honor his defeat.

Declan and Balric said nothing.  They simply sat, looking oppositely out at the sea.  It was calm, and the dawn was breaking.  But even the light of the sun could not warm their spirits.