Later that night, while resting on the deck, Iricah had a brilliant idea. “Thrak,” she sang, finishing her ballad and strumming her lyre, “Thrak was back and my tale is through!”
“His tail is threw,” alright laughed Ding and Dong, dancing along the deck railing. They had been acting out the moments of the reptileman’s death in Iricah’s song. Reptile man being the name they gave him mostly, but there was also now Stumpie, and Wiz-Liz. Ding pretended to throw Thrak’s tail over the side. Areia was drinking heavily, surprised and excited that she seemed not to become inebriated at all.
“Is there any alcohol at all in this thing, seriously?” She would ask again and again. She swished the last of the Kill Devil’s Rum in the bottle and chucked it at the little sprites. As always, they had some sort of a seventh sense and dodged long before it got there. They screeched at her, and ran away laughing hysterically and cursing her mother, whom of course, they had both recently bedded. From time to time, one or another of the ship’s crew, for example, would find a charcoal cartoon sketched along some walkway or another. Many a sailor it was that noticed that a stick figure in a likeness they could identify was sitting while behind him two little stick figures did rather unlordly things to a clear image of a middle aged woman in some type of nightgown.
Iricah looked over at Areia, and the two shared a chuckle. They couldn’t be more different and yet it had only been until recently that Iricah noticed how much they shared in common. “You know Areia,” said the bard, as she kept strumming along, filling the silent night with a soft music, “I don’t believe there has ever been a Celn vessel officially named after a member of the lizard folk.”
“Well, if you are suggesting we rename The Wake after our pal, Lickyfingers over there, I don’t think that’s going to work.” She pointed at the sleeping Thrak, bandaged like a mummy from snout to clawed toe. “You’d need some kind of official kingly decree or something.” Areia pulled out her dagger and began to wittle a little figure she had been working on. She was considering calling it “A Tail With Thrak”. It was a lovely piece of driftwood which she had carved into a long spindly tail, and a lizard climbing along it.
“But Areia, lest you forget, we now find ourselves the proud governors of Three Harbors’ largest port town. That means….”
Frank interrupted her. He was sleeping on the deck near them, and had his eyes closed. Nevertheless he had heard them well and knew exactly where Iricah was going. He thought it was a great idea. “That means, Areia, that we can officially name this Celn vessel.”
Areia glanced over at the sleeping warrior. Although rarely something she cared to admit, she had grown an affinity for the big dumb beast. In fact, she hated admitting it. But she supposed he had deserved it this once. So long as it didn’t go to his head when he woke up. Or his tail.
Iricah stood, and placed her lyre by her side. She hadn’t had much of the Devil’s Rum, but she didn’t need much. She raised her index finger and spoke seriously. “I make a motion that we hereby refer to this Celn vessel as “Thrak’s Rage!”
“Yes! Yes!” Cried Areia. “Thrak’s Rage! May those who would dare to attack it, suffer a tale of death!”
Ding had stuck a spoon between his legs so that the handle pointed out behind him. He had just found some rum left over in a wooden cup somewhere below decks when a sailor passed out before finishing his drink. “Look Dong!” he wailed. “My tail of….death!” And he let the spoon go, acting surprised as if his tail had disappeared. Dong howled.
Zy’an, who had been meditating, allowed himself a smile and opened his eyes. “I second the motion.”
“All those in favor?” asked Iricah, swaying side to side.
“Aye,” said them all.
Zy’an navigated the ship into a natural harbor of clear crystalline water. The calm bay was ringed by a white sanded beach of incredible beauty. Beyond, lay the green of the jungle. His eyes moved to the trees and up into the clouds that seemed to cover the island.
“What’s up there?” Asked Iricah.
“Deep in the island is a mountain as tall as any in the isles. At the top of this mountain above those clouds you see is my monastery. The monastery of the Way of the Long Death.”
“Why, Zy’an. Why are we here?” asked Frank looking up into the clouds above.
Zy’an saw them all searching through the clouds as well. He spoke in his usual crisp yet simple way. “Enceladus showed us what the Kasillians were getting ready for, before the End Days. Our monastery was on the same path.”
“To what end, monk?” asked Areia. She was sharpening her magical daggers together. She often appeared to be elsewhere, but all knew the rogue was waiting for an answer, patiently.
“To survive the darkening of course, Mistress Rogue.”
“And what makes you think the place you left will welcome you back?”
Zy’an was momentarily taken aback by the swift question. She doesn’t trust me, he thought. I suppose she has every reason to after what we’ve been through.
Like a sabre’s slash, Areia dealt her questions quickly. In truth, she didn’t trust the mission. Something about Thrak’s “death” had brought something up in her. Something she had long held below with humor and drink. She was thinking now of her friend, Molly. Humor was her weapon she had often said, not my fault. It was a running joke with the others, but maybe she wasn’t always joking about it. Her daggers stopped their work in her hands. She eyed him intently.
“The rogue…the rogue in Silvershore. She was once Sasser, but she is no longer.”
“Can one stop being a Sasser?” Asked Frank.
Iricah couldn’t help herself. “Sassers connect to the host. They are of many races, as we now know. What makes a Sasser is this connection. Therefore, it comes to reason that if one were to disconnect, one would cease to be a Sasser.”
“Well now that that’s taken care of,” said Areia. “How do you know she isn’t Sasser anymore?”
“Because she can do that which I can as well.”
Areia twirled her daggers atop her fingernails, hilt side down. With lightning speed, she then sheathed them. Her blazing eyes locked on to Zy’an intensely.
“And how is that so, Zy’an?”
“Because I was once Sasser myself.”
Frank froze. Areia, Iricah, and Ulua stared at the monk.
Thrak snorted. “Humanssss and their changesssss…”
Then, Areia asked the question that mattered to them all most.
“And how do you know you aren’t now?”
“I think the answer to that question is up there.”
Zy’an walked to his pack and prepared his supplies to go. The others followed him without a word and did the same. Straws were drawn and Areia and Ulua were selected to stay with the ship. There were after all a few treacherous sorts that had been chosen for their sailing skills, more than their ability to be trusted alone with a fine vessel such as Thrak’s Rage while the rest of them were off on a nature hike sorting out Zy’an’s past.
“Have fun, kids,” said Areia. She was standing on the bowsprite as they pulled their longboat to shore.
Ulua came to stand next to her. Her face was blank, her expression calm. Whatever she had thought since she came back to them during the incident with Thrak was unknown for she had said nothing.
She no longer spoke to them in their mind, nor could they speak with one another that way either.
Nevertheless, Iricah gazed at her from the stern of the longboat. She was regal, standing there. She really is a princess, a warrior princess she thought. Perhaps. Perhaps, if there is such a thing as a great mother. Perhaps, Ulua, you are it. As if from the habit of speaking in minds the last few months, she suddenly became aware that her thoughts were open now. Open to be heard.
She can’t hear you anymore Iricah. She told herself. None of them can.
She turned back around to look past the shore and into the dark, deep, shadowy spaces in the trees.