With everything sorted and everyone ready for their journey the morning came. The sun was still in hiding when they all gathered by the gates to the palace. Only when Kimi, who was the last to arrive, got there did the first rays of sunlight peek out over the hills to the east. Right behind Kimi walked one of the guards. A familiar face, it was Dylon, the guard that accompanied Cobal and Mana to town.
“Good morning, your highness,” He greeted him and then politely bowed to the others in attendance. “I’ve been instructed to accompany you all on your journey.”
Cobal let out a deep sigh. “Of course.”
“My sincere apologies, but these are the guard captain’s direct orders.”
Cobal waved his hand. “No, this is not your fault, I just don’t think it’s needed nor helpful. No offense.”
“None taken, your highness, and I’ll do my utmost to not be a hindrance.”
Cobal looked at the others. “I suppose we’ll be traveling with five instead of four then.”
“Welcome to the team,” Mirgia said, stepping forward. “My name is Mirgia, I’m the brains of this group.”
Mana chuckled. “Not a high bar by any means.”
“I think that was an insult,” Kimi said.
They all laughed, Dylon more sheepishly than the others.
“Well then, you got all your stuff ready, Dylon?” Cobal asked.
Dylon nodded. “I don’t need much, I have it all in my pack here.” The soldier pointed at his back. He was wearing lighter armor than he would when going around town. The goal of the palace guard was primarily to look intimidating and have a presence. Many of the guard members weren’t particularly experienced in actual combat and probably wouldn’t have to go through any. That doesn’t mean none of the guards were experienced. Dylon probably knew his way around a sword, else he would have never been sent on this mission.
Having confirmed that everyone was ready, they set off towards the harbor. By the time they reached the bustling ship, the sun was fully out and the temperature was slowly becoming more pleasant. Jeremiah Starfire was standing on the deck, talking to one of the sailors. When he spotted Cobal’s party approaching he waved at them, motioning them to come join him on the ship. They walked past some sailors who were dragging crates around and bringing them on the ship. They all bowed politely with their heads but kept working.
“Your highness, it’s good to say you made it here without a hitch. Are you all ready to depart?” Jeremiah looked around. The ship they were one was named The Moonfire which was probably a play on Jeremiah’s name.
“Jeremiah, good to see everything is ready. We are all ready and have everything we need, so whenever you’re able to set off from port we can go.”
He nodded. “Very well, let me point you to your chambers for the duration of your stay. Follow me.”
They followed Jeremiah below deck, where they walked past one sailor who was using a pile of rope to tie different boxes together so they wouldn’t shake around too much during the journey. The sailor nodded politely but didn’t really acknowledge them, she was far too busy with her work.
“These are the crew quarters, it’s a bit of a tight fit, but most of the time a lot of them are out and about, so you have a bit more breathing room then when everyone would be here all at once. Jeremiah chuckled. “My quarters are behind that door over there. They’re not much bigger, but I need my desk to continue my work, so it’s a bit more secluded.” He pointed off to the side. “Over there are your quarters. Before I show them to you, I will reiterate that I promised quick and safe passage to Fitseren, but never promised it would be very comfortable. I’m sure it doesn’t match up to what you all are used to in the palace.”
Cobal nodded. “I’ve been on the road before, I’m used to it.”
They stepped through the creaking door into a small room. There were four hammocks hanging on the walls in sets of two. Below each set of hammocks were two chests, currently empty. “This is where you can stay.” Jeremiah looked at Dylon. “I’m afraid I counted on four people, not five, so I didn’t prepare a hammock for your other companion.”
“I can sleep wherever there’s room, that’s no problem.”
“Would the sailor’s quarters be alright with you. I do apologize that I’m not better prepared, but I did expect only four people.”
“It’s fine, I’m used to sleeping in tight quarters.” Dylon looked at Cobal. “As long as you’re okay with me not being able to guard you up close.”
“It’s fine, Dylon, I promise we’ll find a ship with better quarters after we get to Fitseren.”
Dylon nodded. “Very well, please point me to the right hammock then.” He followed Jeremiah out of the small room.
“I have a feeling I’m not going to enjoy life on a ship,” Mirgia said.
Mana smiled. “Too cramped?”
Mirgia nodded. “I prefer the open air.”
“Perhaps you can sleep on the deck of the ship,” she suggested.
“I’ll consider that.”
Cobal looked around the small space. “It’s a good thing this is only for a short time, these aren’t exactly ideal.”
“Let’s spend as much time as possible on the deck of the ship then, it’s probably more comfortable there.” They all agreed. After putting all their stuff away, they went upstairs to help out the sailors in bringing the remaining boxes on board. Then it was time to set sail.
After sailing through the bustling town of Saphestan, they reached the countryside by late morning. Now being out of the sight of mindful eyes and busy riverside streets, Cobal and party decided to come up to the deck and have some lunch. After looking on hesitantly from a distance, two of the sailors that were on break joined them there. Mileia and Jarsis both introduced themself and told Cobal they’d been working on the Moonfire for a little over a year. They were hired alongside several of the other sailors in one big group.
“It’s been good work. Hard work, of course, but the pay is not too bad and having a place to sleep and eat means we don’t have to spend all that much of our money.” Mileia said.
Jarsis nodded. “I want to work hard now and then one day buy and run an inn somewhere on the eastern shore.”
“That’s a big goal, I hope things work out for you,” Mana said.
“Thanks, I’m already learning how to cook, I prepare dinner most evenings,” he said proudly.
Cobal smiled. “If you ever start up a place, send me an invite, we’ll come by to see the place.”
Jarsis face lit up. “Really? That would be a huge honor.”
“Of course, as long as the food is free,” Kimi added.
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t make a member of the royal family pay for something like this.”
They all laughed except for Mana, who had a strange disapproving look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Cobal asked.
“Something about that irks me, and I’m trying to find a way to say this without being rude.”
She thought for a moment. “There’s a concept in my world that we call: being paid in exposure. What we mean by this is that someone will do something, like make art or provide food or something else for a rich or famous person. They will do this for free because being associated with this rich or famous person might make them more famous as well. It’s a very predatory concept that makes it so that rich and famous people sometimes avoid paying for things even though they’re the ones that can most easily afford these services.”
“I think I see what you’re saying,” Cobal said. “I’m rich, so I shouldn’t be given free meals.” He looked at Mana for confirmation. She nodded.
“It’s probably not really a thing in this world in the sense I know it, but I just thought it was interesting to mention.”
“You’re so wise,” Jarsis said. “No wonder you’re the hero.”
Mana blushed. “That’s a nice compliment, thank you.”
“And you, what is your plan?” Mirgia asked Mileia.
“I haven’t really thought about it much. I’m just saving up money so that if I ever get sick of this job I don’t have to worry about finding a new one immediately. But I’ve been enjoying traveling on a ship. I get to see many different cities and the open sea air is fantastic.”
“You should see the forests to the north some day, it’s even nicer there.”
“Perhaps one day you can show me,” she replied.
“Mileia, Jarsis, back to work,” a voice came from behind them. Two other sailors with sweat on their brow were ready to take their break.
“Well, it was nice talking to you both,” Cobal said, as the two packed up the remainder of their lunch and went back to work.
The four of them stayed on the deck for a little bit longer, they’d paid for their spots after all, so there was no work to be done for them.
“So what’s the plan when we get off the ship?” Mana asked.
They were slowly sailing into Fitseren and the two of them were looking at the people and houses passing by. They made a short stop at the tollbooth earlier but it wasn’t super busy, so they got through pretty quickly. It was nearing the end of the afternoon and it wouldn’t be long before the sun started going under.
“I suppose we find an inn for the night and try to get a ship that can sail us to Jasodar. That’s the best place to start, it’s got the biggest harbor in all of Rilodar and is known for being fast and loose with the law when it suits the people working there.”
“Well, looking for a pirate in a harbor with morally gray folk seems like a pretty good idea,” Mirgia said. He’d spent a lot of their journey talking with Mileia, exchanging stories about life in the forest and life on the sea. Cobal suspected he was more interested in the young sailor than he was admitting.
“Did Dionil give you any other advice on how to find our pirating friend?” Kimi asked.
Mirgia shook his head. “She’s a pirate captain that’s feared in the region. At some point she was friends with Dionil.” He stared out over the bow of the ship. “That did get me thinking though, if she’s friends with Dionil, and he’s been in Milinia for as long as I can remember. That means this woman is probably not a human, or if she is, a very old one.”
Cobal shrugged. “Doesn’t really make a difference either way. It’d be funny if a feared pirate captain turned out to be a grandma though,” he chuckled. “But that’s probably not the case.”
The ship sailed past the richer part of the city, which was pretty small, and then past the rest of the village. Eventually – as it closed in on the harbor – it passed by the slums, where people gathered around fires to keep themselves warm while they worked. Once they reached the harbor itself, the sun was slowly disappearing behind the ocean waves.
“Well then, it was a pleasure to have you on our ship,” Jeremiah said, as they were disembarking. “If you’re ever in need of my services again, please do not hesitate to let me know.”
Cobal smiled. “Thank you for the ride, and if we need you, we’ll know where to find you.” They said their goodbyes to the crew and made their way out of the harbor and into town. They quickly found a decent looking inn with a large sign above the door that read ‘The Wandering Whale.’ After paying for their stay, they had a quick dinner and went to bed early. The next day they would be searching for a captain to sail with and perhaps go about the town. Both Mana and Mirgia were interested in seeing what the town was like, and Cobal doubted they’d find a ship that would sail out immediately. If they did, then they’d skip the town visit, of course. But for now, it was nice to sleep on a solid bed for a change, and none of them had a problem falling asleep. Especially not Dylon, who’d had the least comfortable sleeping place on the ship. He was asleep before Cobal finished putting his back in the corner and taking off his shoes. He couldn’t help but chuckle and point it out to Mirgia. “Poor guy, he’s probably used to the comfort of the palace a bit too much.”
Mirgia smiled. “Can you blame him?”
Neither of them should have commented on it, as they were both asleep within a few minutes as well.