A Crimson Shore 27.2 The Citadel

Little sparks lit up the darkness at the end of the world. At least that’s the way Iricah saw it whenever she would watch the sunrise by ship.  Out here in the isles, she felt isolated, and that was what she had wanted all those years ago. Did she still? The sunrise reminded her that the world had another side to it. And that side was still there, shining through the darkness.

Mornings gave her peace of mind, and even though she would reflect, she enjoyed the calm winds and the sounds of the sea while the sailors slept. It was the afternoons and the late nights of scroll reading that stressed her out.

The voyage to the citadel had been short. They knew it would be, less than a day in good wind. She had kept her distance from the Prince, and he had, to his credit, given her space as well. As much, she supposed as could be found upon a ship.

Having spent so much at sea, and yet never much interested in the workings of a vessel, Iricah found herself gathering snippets of various discoveries in her downtime.  She watched and noted how the sails were furled and unfurled, how the tacking was done with Celn precision.  She took an interest, especially, in how the navigation was done, and so, into the deeper part of an afternoon, she found herself sharing a spot at rest next to Thunder, the tabaxi from the wilds.

The tabaxi were an interesting race. Catlike. Humanoid.  She wondered if they suffered from lycanthropy as others did, but supposed they did not. The Celns saw lycanthropy as a cancer in civilized lands and disposed of it as one would toss their refuse in a firepit. No, she figured this race was another race of halves. They certainly looked the part. Catlike ears, almond eyes, hairy bodies and hands with claws.  Even sharpened teeth.

“You’re Thunder,” she said to the tabaxi sailor. “Any particular reason why?” She chuckled a bit to herself, “Born in a hurricane?”  Iricah knew the tabaxi did not name their kin for such things, but she was pretending they did. This was her attempt at humor. And as it usually did, it caused her listener some confusion.

The creatures’ reply was catlike too, more r’s and m’s than anything else. “I’m from the wilds, east of Alpha. I was named for my uncle’s tribe.”

“Is he a chief?”

“He was,” purred the tabaxi.  “Until he was killed in the battle at Alpha.”

Iricah’s pulse quickened. Genoran, so coy, so elite. She had listened to his familiar excuses about the decisions he made. Wiping out the Trebian forces, ignorantly, when treaties could have been made. She knew people who would have helped if the Lighted army, under his command had only waited. And here, another civilization from the wilds, had paid for his ignorant pompousness.

“Was he killed by Celns, Thunder?” Iricah couldn’t help herself.

“No,” hissed Thunder. Iricah quickly looked at the cat creature.  The tabaxi were well known for clever and wit, but were not particularly astute as deception.

She waited, certain he would explain. She was curious now, but she didn’t want to kill the relationship before it started.

“I don’t really know who killed him,” said Thunder, “But I know that Genoran saved the rest of our tribe.  It’s why I came with him.” He said no more, and left her to the morning breeze and the warmth that came with the rising sun. Iricah bent over the rail, and breathed calmly.

Curiosity, like cats, was now killing her. And she hated herself for it.

______________________________________

She had decided to wake early, mostly because she had pulled the short stick out of the captain’s hands. That meant she would bunk with Thrak, the lizardfolk barbarian.  Ordinarily, she might have even been able to handle this.  But a lizardfolk who had lost his tail and was slowly growing it out while he tried to find a comfortable spot in a swaying hammock? That was a different story, and one not even the bard could find humor in. So up she was.

A feint break in the peace of the waves against the hull brought her attention back to the ship. Something sounded like cursing at the stern, and she knew that it was coming from the officer’s commons. She thought about letting the curser curse in peace, but something about it sounded familiar. It wasn’t the words, it was the tone.  Against her better judgment, she walked over and gazed into the only porthole into the galley.  She saw a figure sitting on a stool, his hands thrown over a large map as though he were sleeping. She knew there was only one other person who made a habit of waking up so early.

She twisted the handle  and swung the galley door inwards slowly enough to allow her ex-fiance to save face. Then, she walked in and saw Genoran was sitting up straight with a fake smile on his face. Below him was a map of an isle and in the center of the map, which lay atop a wooden table, was his boot dagger, buried at least two inches through the parchment and into the wood.

“You don’t know exactly where you are going, do you?” Iricah asked.

“This mission is too important to avoid some risk,” he said staring blankly at her.

“You’ve led us to believe….”

“I led you to believe nothing Iricah! You always do this! You knew exactly what we were getting into here.  This is beyond all of us.  It is the heroes themselves. Legends and myth, reality. I can’t make it all out. I just follow a fucking card and try not to get killed by demons and devils from Ket!”

Iricah stared at him for a long time. He had aged so much she thought. She honestly never thought she’d see him again, once she left Cillandar. Maybe, that was more of a plan than a prediction, she still didn’t know. But now, maybe for the first time in more than she could remember, she saw him. Just him. Not the man who let her brother die. The man who was on the same mission as she was.

She sighed. “How can I help you.?”

 

 

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