"She was born of the sea,
Blessed by the gods of war,
And given a name,
to protect us evermore.
She was born from the sky,
Blessed by the sisters of men,
And given some wings,
To rise high and defend.
She was born of the fire,
Blessed by the saints on high,
And given a truth
That death is a constant fight."
As Anwil approached the ragged docks, the song carried on over the water. It was a song he had heard many times before. Smiling a bit, he turned to the others, leaning over the back of his glistening bay horse.
"We're almost there," he called back to them. Ic'enix waved her hand to acknowledge him, and everyone trotted their steeds smoothly over to the wooden harbor. Anwil leapt off and turned to see the elderly sailor up on his ship, still singing.
"And if, my child, we go down bleeding
Just know the life we lived
Is one of great sorrow and joy
And some wounds can't mend.
For if we bring our souls to rest
now that she will know
She was bless us in the end
and bring us home."
As Anwil poised to call to him, a young girl leaned over the ship railing from beside the man and shrieked, "ANWIL QUAR! YOU STUPID WOMANIZER! YOU COMING TO SHAME ME AGAIN?!" Anwil twitched, and turned to look at her.
"Hello Brior," he said a little bitterly.
"AND HELLO TO YOU!" she yelled. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!"
Jinokusa sniggered. "She your girlfriend or something?" He swung a leg off his horse, dropped down, and then lifted Shii gently off it. The black shire whinnied, swishing its tail. Jinokusa pulled his luggage off of its rump.
"No," said Anwil, "but we have history."
"FATHER!" said Brior, "QUAR'S BACK!"
The sailor quit his singing and looked precariously down the tall ship at the red-haired elf. His wrinkled face broke into a smile and he called down to Anwil, "Hey! You need a ride or something?"
"Yes," Anwil called. "Mind of we get on?"
"How big is your group?"
"Uh," said Anwil quietly, quickly performing a head-count, "There's 8 of us."
"Okay, that's 50 gold each depending where you wanna go," he said. "Cough up, and Brior, put the ladder down."
Mumbling, Brior grumpily swung the rope ladder down the side of the ship that was lowest. Jinokusa was the first up, carrying all their luggage,, Shii following him closely. Once everyone was up, Anwil placed his booted feet on the rungs and hauled himself up. Once on the deck, he stood up and was immediately berated by Brior.
"You crawling back?" hissed Brior. "After what you did to me?"
"That was years ago," said Anwil, "and I didn't mean it. What's wrong with you?"
Jinokusa leaned towards Brior, always wanting a good story on Anwil. "What he'd do?"
"Destroyed my engagement," said the woman, her dark eyes glistening with anger. "He chased off my fiancée years ago. And why? 'cause he was jealous? 'cause he's a low-belly lowlife?!"
Jinokusa made a face at Anwil. "Why would you do that to such a nice young lady?
"You don't even know her," Anwil sighed.
The sailor walked over. "'ello Anwil!" he said. "Where to, son?"
Anwil made a face. "I'm not your son," he said, but he said it quietly enough so that no one heard. This father-daughter duo had adopted him when he was younger, when his parents had went off to war and never returned. His childhood was peaceful, spending his days on this old ship, but as soon as he turned 19, he was off to Ein. It had been nearly five years since then. He hadn't seen them once.
Brior Azami had really grown. Last time she had seen her, she was 16, she was 21 now.. That was around the time a man from another town had proposed to her and she had accepted. Anwil, being a bit over-protective, ended up sabotaging the relationship before leaving. She had been heart-broken, and the man ended up marrying a rich government official from the Wyland Kingdom.
"Anwil," said the sailor, snapping him out of his funk. "Money, please. And tell me where to."
"The Council Island," Wryx piped up, Xiv and Ryn talking beside him.
Azami glanced at him. "Legal stuff? You guys get in trouble?"
"No, no," said Wryx. "It's something a bit more serious."
"O-kay. I won't ask." he accepted the coinpurse that Anwil handed off to him, and weighed it in old hand. "OKAY," he said loudly. "ONE OF YOU IS RIPPING ME OFF. I don't feel 400 gold in here."
Ic'enix grinned slyly as everyone else glanced around at each other, not wanting to be called out. Tezko noticed her smirk and hit her gently on the back. "Now's not the time, Chief," he said and Ic'enix begrudgingly tossed the remaining gold pieces to Azami.
"Okay," said Azami, his daughter still staring harshly at Anwil, "you guys can bunk up downstairs. We'll set out to sea in a few minutes, just let me check our wares and everything."
"How long will the trip be?" asked Shii nervously. The rocking of the boat seemed to be unsettling her. Anwil walked over to hold her hand.
"It'll take all night if we start now," said Brior. "We should be there by morning or noon tomorrow." she turned around, her plain clothes and gold bracelets rustling as she crossed the deck and opened a door. "Here's where you sleep."
The methodical rocking and swaying of the ship on the waves made Anwil feel drowsy. He had retired to the bedrooms, which was really just one big room adjacent to the supplies room. The rafters and wood used to construct the ship were bare, reflecting the warm candlelight from the candle set on one of them.
Jinokusa was snoring away, lying in one of the beds scattered with their headboards against the wall. The sheets were thrown off on the ground, and his armor lay in a heap on the floor. As always, he wore just a T-shirt and pants that were too big for him. This seemed impossible to Anwil, since Jinokusa was a huge, tall, and muscular man to begin with, and finding a larger size would be a hard task. Shii was wrapped up in a woolen blanket, in a small cot beside Anwil's, wearing the same clothes Aomidori had bought her a few days ago. To Anwil, it seemed like an eternity. Tezko were also snoozing, his bed right beside Ryn's. It took Anwil a minute to notice that neither Ic'enix, Xiv, or Wryx were in their beds.
He swung himself out of his stupor. "Where are they?" he mumbled, but the constant swaying of the waves eased him back into a trance-like sleep.
"Draw your sword,
bring it through your enemy's head!
Raise your ax,
Paint the town red!
Oh, the great warriors are coming home
Coming back home to us!
The women, the men, trasping over the stone,
coming back home to me.
Raise your glass,
drink your mead,
bring a large feast
on which to feed,
Welcome the living back from war!
And celebrate the warriors of the dead!
Thank the four,
for bringing you home!"
The loud, upbeat music jerked Anwil awake. It was still late, so he guessed, rather groggily, that he hadn't been asleep long. "What's going on?" he mumbled, sitting up, where Shii was tugging at his clothes. She appeared worried.
"What do you think happened to the orphanage children?"
Anwil gestured for her to jump on his cot with him, and sat up straighter. "Ic'enix lured Aomidori away from Ein," he said, as the woman had told him that earlier. "And the headmistress moved the children to another building until they fix up the damage of the city."
Shii sighed, her breath shaking like she was nervous as she clambored up with him. "Anwil," she said. "I know I hardly really know you, but you feel like a best friend to me."
Anwil blinked. "Really? Why do you say that?"
"You saved me from Aomi," she said softly. "I thought all people were as blood thirsty as she is, but apparently there are good people in the world. Good people who want to help me. But why are we going to the Council? I asked Wryx but he seemed a little hestiatnt to tell me.:
Anwil stayed silent. What would he tell her? She would most likely die when she was "restored" to the Ash Country.
"Am I going to die?" she asked.
"Of course not!" he said, and quickly laughed, despite his uneasiness. "No, Shii. It's not that at all!"
"You're lying," she said, focusing on Anwil. "Dont lie to me, Anwil..."
After a pause, he said, "I dont know, Shii. But I'll make sure you stay safe, right?"
She nodded. "Right..." Then, regaining a smile, she hugged him, leaped down from ihis cot, and went over to hers. Pulling her sheet up and around her and burying her face happily into it, she lasped into a deep sleep.
Anwil sighed, and walked over to Wryx's bed. A heavy bound book caught his eye, and he pulled the dusty volume from the knapsack on Wryx's still empty cot. Returning to his own bed, he laid down and began flipping pages, reading in the dim candle he lit.
The Dragon Prophecy
This Prophecy has been upheld by many holy officials within the 3 Kingdoms. It speaks of the Ash Country and a young girl or boy, which must be sacrificed to the maw of the gaping dragon statue in the Fty Cavern Tunnels. It has been constantly fulfilled by attempts that have not worked, an average of 12 children a month are given to the Statue by local people. These children are usually beggars, orphans, or extremely sickly. There has been a recent crackdown on the increasing death rate, so one must go through the Council before giving a child up. There are many perisquites, such as a willing child and the child must be proven to be the prophetic one. The Prophecy states that if the correct child is supplied, the Dragon will be appeased, and the world will regain peace and harmony.
Anwil sighed: he couldn't help thinking that the "Prophecy" was a bunch of fake news, but Wryx was by far the smartest and most capable person he knew. He would be wrong not to trust the boy, to think he was misleading him, but it chewed at his heart. Turning back onto his side, he rocked with the waves, and fell into sleep once again.