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An Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar

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An Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar
Travel account
Full titleAn Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar
AuthorKenabelle Wright
Year published457 AV (66 years ago)
AvailabilityMost centers of learning
Average cost20 Mizas
Word count~20,000

An Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar is a book written by the Zeltivan navigator Kenabelle Wright. It contains a narrative of the 450-451 voyage of Wright and her crew aboard the Seafarer, which, as the book's title indicates, ended in the first -- and thus far, only -- circumnavigation of the continent of Mizahar.

The book draws extensively from Wright's journals, notes, and maps of her expedition. It was published in 457, and became an instant classic. Wright's book is still the most detailed, and in many cases the sole, source of information regarding Mizahar's far northern and western shores, and her obsessively detailed maps remain the definitive charts of Mizahar's coastline.

It is widely available, and any library or center of learning in Sylira, Cyphrus, Akvatar, or Konti will almost certainly have a copy. For many subjects concerning the western reaches of Mizahar, the book is the only available source of information in the east.



An Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar

by Captain Kenabelle Wright

Third Edition published by the University of Zeltiva, 486 AV

Preface to the Third Edition

We are delighted to have the opportunity to reprint Captain Kenabelle Wright's classic narrative, An Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar. Since its first publication in 457 AV, this work has become a classic of post-Valterrian literature, as well as an invaluable record of the places where Captain Wright journeyed, some of which have never been visited since.

This edition has been checked carefully against Captain Wright's original manuscripts. It corrects certain spelling and textual errors that had crept into previous editions of this work. Additionally, the monographs Vani Grammar and A Denvali Lexicography by Bethany Edgetower, A.M., which originally appeared as appendices to Wright's work, have been published as a separate volume by the University, and so do not appear here.

We appreciate the aid of the Wright Memorial Library, who generously loaned us Wright's original galley; Captain Charm Wright, who shared with us some of Wright's earlier manuscript drafts; and the Sailors' Guild, for contributing to the funding of this printing.

Edgar Workstone, Editor

Zeltiva, 486 AV

Chapter One

Who can say where a story really begins or ends? Everything that happens is inextricably interlaced with what has happened before it, and perhaps only the gods can assign a true point of beginning.

But, when one has decided to accept the responsibility of chronicling certain events, one is obliged to start somewhere. This document represents my attempt to record the details of the voyage of the [[Seafarer]] and its circumnavigation of Mizahar, and so perhaps the best place to begin is with the decision that led to the ship's construction.

By the mid-440s, the Zeltivan trading routes stretched as far as Novallas to the north, and around the southern coast of Eyktol to the shores of Syliras at the edge of the Suvan Sea. However, beyond these boundaries, the world was much less well-known. Visits had been made to the western shores of the Suvan Sea, and travelers from beyond occasionally arrived, but information regarding most parts beyond was sketchy at best, and no voyage had touched vast parts of the former realms of Suva since before the Valterrian. Curiosity about the remainder of the continent had been steadily increasing, and in the middle of 445, the Board of Regents of the University of Zeltiva authorized the College of Navigation to begin preparations for an expedition that would attempt to circumnavigate the entirety of Mizahar, map the coastline of the continent, and record as much information about the western regions as possible.

For days, the announcement was the talk of the city. I was fourteen at the time, and beginning to take an intense interest in the sea. Sailing ran in my family; my father, Edgar Wright, was a sailmaker by occupation, and my mother, Irina Wright (nee Rivers), was a shipwright with twenty years' service in the shipyards. Indeed, it was my mother who first brought the news of the forthcoming voyage home, breaking it to us as we sat down to our evening meal.

"What kind of ship are they going to use?" I asked between bites of warm bread.

"It's caravel-style, but larger even than the ones that they use on the run up to Syliras," mother said. "It's a triple-master, and they're planning on a crew of a hundred. Kind of excessive, I think, but they don't know how far the voyage will be."

"Don't they have maps?" It was my sister, Charm, who was barely eight, but was keenly following the conversation.

"Well, they do, but they're all from before the Valterrian," mother replied. "And, given that the maps of the eastern seaboard from back then hardly have anything to do with the way the coastline looks now, there's no telling how different things are now."

"Especially since Suva was damaged even more than Alahea was during the Valterrian." I probably shouldn't have broken in, but I couldn't help myself. "There's not so much as a puddle on the old maps where the Suvan Sea is now."

Mother gave me a stern look, but nodded in agreement. "That's right."

Charm tilted her head, an oddly solemn expression on her face. "Someone should draw some maps." It wasn't a comment directed to anyone in particular, and she immediately went back to her supper.

"I'd like to draw them," I said. "Or at least help the person who draws them." Cartography was already a serious interest of mine; I'd spent the previous summer mapping my uncle Joseph's farm, and poring over my father's collection of sailing maps. It was perhaps not the usual occupation for a girl of my age, but it was a subject that had seized upon me with nearly the force of an obsession.

Mother half-smiled. "You never know, Kena. The timetable for the beginning of the expedition is four to five years -- you might well be an apprentice cartographer by then."

I said something in agreement, but I wasn't really listening. I knew that the ocean was my future, and I knew that I would do everything I could to take some small part in this expedition. There was only one small obstacle. The University and the Sailors' Guild owned the city between them, and anyone who would be sent on a voyage of this scale would naturally be either a full member of the Sailors' Guild or a special representative of the University. My mother was a full member, but my father was only an associate, one certified in his shipyard trade, but not as a sailor. And I, young as I was, had no credentials at all. Most guild members began by working an apprenticeship at age eighteen or nineteen, sometimes as a deckhand or stevedore, but no mere apprentice would be permitted to sail past the end of the known world, and almost no apprenticeships lasted fewer than five years. I simply didn't have enough time.

But dreams die hard, and some dreams won't die at all.

Chapter Two

My mother owned a small boat; she had built it herself several years earlier. It was a single-sail design, and two sailors could handle it with ease. A few weeks after the conversation at the dinner table, I asked mother if she would begin training me to sail. She seemed flattered, and readily agreed.

She and father took me in the evenings, long summer evenings that seemed to last almost until the morning. They taught me to tack, to jibe, to work against the wind and to run with it, to manage the sails and maintain the rigging. I greedily sucked the information in, asking question after question until I thought my parents might lose patience and toss me over the side. Days and days passed, and summer slipped into autumn in this manner.

Autumn in turn gave way to winter, and my fifteenth birthday passed. The days had grown shorter, and my parents were busier; our trips in the boat had become more and more infrequent. But I felt confident that I had a firm grasp on the basics of sailing -- confident enough to have concocted what in retrospect seems an overbold plan.

I didn't think that my parents would be willing to let me take the boat on my own. But I wanted to show that I was a true sailor, that I had talent, and that I should be allowed to begin my apprenticeship early. It was the only way that I could think of to put myself in a position to become involved with the circumnavigation.

I waited until everyone in the house was asleep, and then got out of bed. I left a note, telling my parents that I had gone to Sunberth, and to meet me there.

Sunberth didn't have the best reputation, but it was hard for me to imagine that anything truly terrible would happen, especially if my parents had been apprised of the situation beforehand. From where I stand now, it sounds ridiculous, but it seemed perfectly logical to me at the time.

I made my way down to the docks. The night patrolman recognized me, but didn’t think anything was amiss, because I was such a frequent visitor. I told him I had left something on the boat, and he smiled and nodded. Once he was out of sight again, I crept aboard, cast off the moorings, and raised the sail.

The journey to the mouth of Mathews Bay was easy enough. It was early in the season, and the Bonesnapper had not yet come to replace summer’s prevailing westerly winds. Essentially, I was able to set the rigging, and then leave it alone so that I could work the helm. It was not yet mid-day by the time I sailed through the straits and out into the ocean itself.

I had never been on the ocean before; my training voyages were confined to the bay. I knew that the wind would pick up, but even so, its force surprised me. Quickly, I trimmed the sails, and began tacking northward, following the coast.

Here in the open water, it was much harder work than anything I had done with my parents. Without a second person to assist with the rigging, I had scarcely a moment to rest. Trying to navigate and manage the sails at the same time seemed an impossible task, but I was stubborn enough that I wouldn’t let myself pay attention to the difficulty.

To this day, I can’t tell how long the trip took. I slept in brief snatches, one or two hours at a time, when I was close enough to shore to drop the anchor. Every other moment was occupied with managing the vessel. The wind burned my cheeks, and the rigging cut my hands, but I continued like a girl possessed. Perhaps I was – the lure of the circumnavigation consumed me, and I felt powerless to resist.

At length, I recognized that I was near Sunberth, and turned the ship toward shore for the last time. The harbor was nothing like the one in Zeltiva – there was scarcely room for two ships, and the piers and posts were in a terrible state of disrepair. Fortunately, there were no other vessels docked, and I was able to bring the ship in.

As I finished securing the mooring, I looked up, and saw both my mother and father standing in front of me. I’m sure I was a sight to behold: filthy, covered in rope burns and abrasions, and bleary-eyed as a Nuit. I didn’t know what to say to them, and indeed, given the length of time that had passed since I had spoken to another person, it took me a while to find my voice. Their expressions were stern, my father’s even verging on angry, but they stepped forward and embraced me as I sank into their arms. I had expected a sterner rebuff, but their surprise at seeing me alive seemed to outweigh their natural anger.

I remember little of the voyage back – I slept for most of it, as my parents and a third sailor helmed our ship to Zeltiva. My parents were upset, as well they had a right to be -- and as they continued to remind me during most of my waking moments -- but there was also a certain respect for what I had accomplished. I accepted their chastisements without protest, but inside, a part of me was thrilled.

As soon as my foot touched the pier, one of the dockworkers spoke to me, and told me that I was wanted in the office of Josephine Helm. My heart caught in my throat – Ms. Helm was the senior member of the Administrative Committee of the Sailors’ Guild. I was conscious of my appearance, and asked if I had time to return home and change my clothes, but was informed that I did not have such a luxury. It was a short trip to the Guild Hall, and I was ushered into Ms. Helm’s office.

It was a luxurious room, with soft red carpet, oak furniture, and shelves with actual books on them. Even on the few occasions when I had visited the university, I had not seen such opulence. Ms. Helm herself was seated behind a massive writing desk. She was wiry, and her features were almost feline; although her hair was gray, she had the look of a person not to be trifled with. I lowered my head in respect, then took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes.

“You are Kenabelle Wright, yes?” Her voice sounded of salt air and dry rations.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You have recently returned from a voyage to Sunberth?”

“I have, ma’am.”

“You completed this voyage in your parents’ boat?”

“I did, ma’am.” I wondered whether I was going to be charged with theft, as I hadn’t exactly gotten permission before I left.

“And you did so alone?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Ms. Helm stood up. She was taller than me by a good four or five inches, and I was exceptionally conscious of my own unimportance. She regarded me like a specimen in one of the University’s museums for what felt like hours before she spoke again.

“Ms. Wright, as far as I know, no one else has been suicidal enough to attempt a solo voyage of that length in that type of ship. I can’t truthfully say much for your judgment in doing so, but what I can say is that you are either a personal favorite of Laviku, or you are exceptionally skilled. In either case, the Sailors’ Guild has taken an interest in you, and on behalf of the Guild, I should like to make you an offer.”

I felt an indescribable combination of nerves and excitement. Perhaps I would be allowed to begin my apprenticeship early! It might even be that I would be allowed to select a job of my choice. My mind whirled with the possibilities, so much so that I almost didn’t hear Ms. Helm.

“We wish to offer to you, Ms. Wright, full membership in the Sailors’ Guild. Are you agreeable?”

I’m sure my mouth opened, and I know it was several seconds before I composed myself enough to say anything. “Full membership, ma’am? Me?”

“Yes, you,” she said dryly. “Unless you’re hiding another Ms. Wright behind your back.”

I glanced over my shoulder without thinking about it, and thought I heard a brief chuckle from Ms. Helm. I looked back at her, and couldn’t keep from smiling. “Yes! Yes ma’am. And thank you, ma’am. I’ll do everything I can to keep you from regretting this.”

"Excellent," she said. "To begin with, I regret to inform you that you're being docked your first three months' pay for unauthorized use of a Guild member's vessel. We can't tolerate that sort of thing, and I warn you that a repeat offense will not be tolerated."

My face caught in an awkward transition. I could feel myself flush, and I started to stammer some sort of apology.

"I don't need your words, Ms. Wright -- which seems to be a good thing, given the way you're tripping over them. I need your actions, and I trust that through those actions, you will show me that my trust is not misplaced. Now go home and change out of those awful clothes."

Six days later, I was formally initiated into the Sailors’ Guild. I was, or so I was told, the youngest full member of the Guild in more than a hundred years.

Chapter Three

The next few years seemed to pass quickly. I was assigned at first to a vessel making trading runs to Mura and back. I put everything I could into the work, and after two years, I was promoted to captain, and given the route between Zeltiva and Abura to call my own.

I was ever conscious of the fact that compared to the other sailors, I was still only a child. The Guild is a closely-knit society, and I never heard anyone complain verbally about my presence or promotion, but I could not help but be aware that I was being scrutinized intensely. The only way I knew to respond was not simply to give effort enough, but to give effort far enough beyond as to seem exceptional. If the other sailors put in long hours, I would put in longer. If the other captains were firm yet fair, I would be especially firm, and yet especially fair. It seemed to work, given the way my crew responded to my command, but I was always conscious of the fact that I could not afford to rest.

Preparations for the circumnavigation had continued through all this time. By mid-449, it had been announced that the ship, named the Seafarer, would be finished by the spring, and that the voyage would begin soon afterward. The Guild members spoke of little else, and there was a palpable excitement in the air. Jockeying for position had begun, as many sailors hoped to be given the chance to be a part of the expedition. Exploration runs in Zeltiva’s blood, and in the Guild, it was even more concentrated.

Everyone knew that Timothy de Octans would be named captain. De Octans was originally from Lisnar, but had come to Zeltiva in his teens, and proven himself to be such a talent that he was quickly welcomed into the Sailors’ Guild. Most of the greatest navigational accomplishments of the past quarter-century, including the pioneering of the trade route to the Suvan Sea, belonged to him. He was the finest sailor Zeltiva had to offer, and it was taken as a given that the leadership of the circumnavigation would be offered to him.

As the months dragged on, however, a formal announcement to this effect had not been made. I was not in a position to be privy to the conversations of the highest authorities, but rumors began to circulate in the Guild Hall. The University’s Board of Regents wanted to offer the captaincy to de Octans, as planned, but the Administrative Committee had reservations. Surprisingly, their reservations had nothing to do with de Octans not being skilled enough; rather, they felt that he was too skilled.

As odd as this sounded at the time, they did have their reasons. I knew from my mother that final inspections had taken place on the Seafarer, and that some of the senior shipwrights had expressed reservations about its construction. It was the finest post-Valterrian vessel ever built to that point, but even so, there were concerns about its ability to withstand the waves and winds of the northern seas, especially as there was no hardwood timber of sufficient length available for the main beams, and so pine had had to suffice. The Administrative Committee knew this, and they also knew that if an expedition commanded by de Octans were to fail, it would be extremely difficult to raise the resources and support for another attempt at a circumnavigation. However, if someone else were to be named captain, de Octans would still be available to add credibility to a better-informed attempt.

That was the talk around the Hall anyway. I paid attention keenly, but also had other affairs on my mind. I had just celebrated my nineteenth birthday, and was beginning preparations for another run to Abura, when I was informed that Ms. Helm would like to meet with me.

This was no longer the kind of surprise that it had been four years earlier; as captain of a significant trade route, I was periodically called in to speak about the status of the route, the state of the vessels, and my informed opinions of crewmembers who might be up for promotion or facing discipline.

It was the seventh day of winter when my appointment came, and I once again faced Ms. Helm in her office. I saluted formally, and was met with an equally formal nod before she indicated that I should sit down.

“Ms. Wright,” she said, “I have some questions for you.”

“Yes ma’am,” I replied. I opened a small leather case that I had brought with me. “I’ve got the figures for the last two runs to Abura and back, as well as the repair reports, and a status report on the preparations being made for the upcoming run.” I prided myself on my ability to keep my information in order, better order even than would be typical for a captain.

Ms. Helm waved her left hand dismissively. “All in good time, Ms. Wright. I appreciate your preparation, as always, but it’s not Abura that I’m interested in. I assume you’re aware of the fact that the final preparations for the circumnavigatory voyage are underway?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said, even though the question was largely rhetorical.

“We’re in the process of filling certain assignments for the crew and staff of the Seafarer. Your track record, Ms. Wright, has been exemplary, and both your crewmembers and your superiors speak highly of your ability to lead, as well as of your cartographical and navigational skills.”

“You are most kind, ma’am.” I’m sure I was blushing, partly from embarrassment, but partly from excitement. This, it appeared, was the conversation I had been preparing for for nearly a third of my young life, and it seemed to be going well.

“Be that as it may, we should like to assign you to fill the role…”

This was it! I couldn’t keep the smile from starting.

“…of captain for this expedition.”

The smile stopped abruptly, freezing my expression in a less-than-attractive position. When I regained composure, I asked nervously, “Has something happened to Captain de Octans?”

Ms. Helm rarely smiled, but a trace of one touched her lips. “Mr. de Octans has been given a different assignment. As of the end of this year, he will be replacing me as head of the Administrative Committee, as I will be retiring. Since he will be unavailable, the Committee believes that you have proved yourself to have the skills and potential to bring this mission to a successful conclusion.”

From what I had heard around the Hall, that wasn’t a strictly accurate accounting of the Committee’s motives, but all I said was, “I am deeply honored, ma’am.”

She stood and, with her leathery hand, shook mine. “I don’t suppose that I need to tell you that this is perhaps the greatest opportunity you will ever have. Should you complete this mission, the rewards are immense. But you have much to do before then, Ms. Wright.

“The Seafarer is designed to hold a crew of 100. Of these, twenty-one will be observers, scholars, and others assigned to the voyage by the University. Seventy-five will be the finest sailors, deckhands, and stewards that the Sailors’ Guild can give you. One is you, and the remaining three – the senior officers of the ship – are to be chosen by you. After all, one has to trust the captain to name her own officers for the proper shipboard camaraderie.”

I nodded, trying to remember everything.

“You have ten days, Ms. Wright, to name your officers. At that point, a general public announcement will be made.”

I was dismissed, and started to walk back to my room. But I must have missed a turn, or forgotten what I was doing, because when I stopped, I was at the docks.

It was now evening, and work was winding down for the day. One of the piers was empty; I walked to the end, sat down, and trailed my fingers through the water.

I thought I knew what pressure was when I was first named to the Guild; I thought it again when I became Captain. But this -- this was something else entirely. They weren't sure that Captain de Octans could do it -- Captain de Octans, the finest sailor since the Valterrian, a Zeltivan hero, a man that I admired so much that it bordered on a schoolgirl crush. But somehow, I was supposed to do it. Or die trying.

But I couldn't think about that. I had to project confidence, because while it was true that if I didn't seem confident, we might all die anyway, a ship whose crew doesn't believe in its captain is doomed almost from the beginning. I could betray none of these emotions.

My childhood dream had been to be associated with this expedition, but it had somehow turned into its very opposite, a nightmare from which I could not escape, where the only way out -- if there were indeed a way out -- was through.

There was no one to whom I dared mention these things, or even hint at them. But I sat there at the end of the pier and cried, not standing up to go home until long after the stars had replaced the sun's last rays.

I was to give the names of the officers that I selected to Ms. Helm, who would contact them herself. I thought half-seriously about requesting Timothy de Octans, but I knew that I would be turned down. I also gave consideration to requesting my mother, but I already knew that she would insist that Charm wasn’t yet old enough to risk losing a parent. Besides, although my mother was a full member, and very good at her shipyard job, she hadn’t sailed in any official capacity in some twenty years.

At length, I decided that some level of consistency would be good for me, as I had never before commanded a ship of anything like this size (partly because none existed). As such, I resolved that I would request Joseph Plankman, who had been my first mate on the runs to Abura, to be my first mate here. He was forty-five, and something of a prankster, but his crew loved him, because in foul weather or in dangerous waters, he was invariably working right alongside them.

I decided to request Fern Mooring as my second mate. I didn’t know her very well, but she had an outstanding reputation among the Guild as someone who got things done. She was thirty-three, an excellent sailor, and was a holy – or perhaps unholy – terror when irritated, which was usually when someone was trying to cut corners aboard ship. She might make a good balance to Mr. Plankman’s looseness.

It was the ninth day before I settled on Stacy Ann Helm as third mate. Ms. Helm had perhaps been given Guild membership because of her mother, but she had more than proved herself since then. I had met her in Mura, where she had been overseeing the repairs on one of our ships that had been damaged in a storm. She never seemed to raise her voice even to the level of normal conversation, but her crew worked more efficiently under her than I had thought possible.

I gave my names to Ms. Helm the senior on the tenth day, and the word had spread across the city by the evening.

Chapter Four

The next several months were a blur, and it is only with difficulty that I can remember specific events from them. I remained in Zeltiva the entire time, preparing for the voyage, and spending time with my family.

Others continued their preparations too. However, preparing for this expedition took a great deal of time and effort, even at this late stage, and we were unable to set sail in the spring of 450, as all the necessary supplies and equipment had not been gathered. Instead, I and some of the sailors contented ourselves with taking the Seafarer on several short trips across Mathews Bay. The ship was enormous; it's hard to explain how small I felt the first time that I stepped onto its deck. But it proved not difficult to handle despite its size. The shipwrights had done an excellent job in that regard.

The official launch took place on the first day of summer. It was the peak of the sailing season; the wind was favorable, blowing from the southwest, and the sea was calm. However, despite the pleasant atmosphere, it was in the back of my mind that it would be much better if we were many leagues further north at this time. The delay meant that we were in a position where we would need to reach the western coast of Mizahar before the storms of winter began.

The issue was, we didn't even know how far away the western coast of Mizahar was. We had pre-Valterrian maps, but given how radically different the current eastern coast was from that shown on those charts, it was difficult even to guess what the western coast looked like now. None of our Zeltivan ships had sailed any further than the settlement of Novallas to the northwest, or the other side of the Faleyk Gulf to the southwest. We simply had no firsthand information.

Nor were there any reliable informants regarding what might lay beyond. The few residents of Novallas claimed there was nothing but tundra to the west, in which they had little interest -- little enough that none of them had ever actually ventured more than a mile or two into it. Falyndar of course was the domain of the Myrians, who had no interest in sharing information. The Sylirans had sailed across the Suvan Sea, but reports from Alvadas and Karjin were vague and conflicting. Some claimed the coast was a mere day's journey from Alvadas, while others insisted that it was hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Similarly, the few travelers who had visited Zeltiva from points northwest had proved hopelessly unable to provide consistent information. They could tell us what the terrain looked like, but not how much of it there was. Either you could throw a rock from the Suvan Sea and hit Avanthal, or you would have to walk half of your life in order to reach Morwen's city. Perhaps traveling too far had warped our informants' sense of perspective; at any rate, we couldn't get a firm answer.

The Sailors' Guild had attempted to sort through the details and the Administrative Committee personally assured me that, as far as they could ascertain, the coastline curved sharply southward perhaps twenty miles west of Novallas Bay. Even given the lateness of our departure, we should be able to escape the far northern seas well before the worst storms began.

I took them at their word as best I could, but I was of course aware that neither they nor anyone else could guarantee the accuracy of this information. We were simply going to have to gamble on it being correct. Seafaring is not a vocation for the faint of heart, and one becomes accustomed to taking risks that could well result in one's own death.

However, I kept these thoughts to myself for now. This was a celebratory day; it dawned bright and clear, and the docks were lined with people who had come to wish us well. There was the ceremonial raising of the anchor, the sails were unfurled, and slowly we began to ease away from the shore. I stood in the stern of the ship, waving farewell to the assembled throng until I was fairly sure they could no longer see the gesture.

Returning to the bow, I found Mr. Plankman at the helm. He smiled when he saw me, and gestured at the water in front of us.

"All we have to do, Captain, is get out far enough that they can't see us at all, wait there two or three months, and then come back. They'll never know the difference, I'll reckon." He punctuated this with a wink.

"That's fine with me, if you're willing to make the report to the Administrative Committee, Mr. Plankman."

He laughed, running one hand through his hair, which was beginning to gray. "Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea after all."

"Your loss," I said. After a few seconds, I added, "Steady as she goes, Mr. Plankman, out to the end of the bay. I'm going to make a first inspection tour of the ship and see how the others are doing."

He nodded, and I walked back along the port side of the ship. Several of the sailors were busy adjusting the rigging, and Ms. Mooring was directing them. The sailors seemed to know of her reputation as well, given the briskness with which they followed her orders.

“All well?” I called out.

“All well, Captain,” came the reply.

A few of the deckhands were busy coiling ropes and swabbing the deck; it seemed a little early for that to me, but I was aware that they likely wanted to make a good impression on either me or Ms. Helm. I remembered being in that position myself, and so I smiled and shouted, “Excellent work,” as I passed. The man in front, a wiry fellow likely just out of his apprenticeship, seemed to swell with pride. I wanted that; a ship whose crew maintain a sense of personal ownership in it is much more likely to be safe and secure than one whose sailors are merely marking time.

I passed from the main deck and reached the University’s cabin. A few of the representatives were setting up various instruments and otherwise readying themselves for the voyage. Mathews Bay was probably the best-known and mapped body of water in Mizahar, but once we passed into the ocean, the University scholars had a great interest in noting everything they could about the waters through which we passed.

“Captain Wright?”

The voice came from behind me, and I turned on my heels to face it. It belonged to a woman scarcely older than me, wearing a green coat that identified her as an Academic Master, one who was a true expert in her field. It wasn’t something one would expect to see on a person so young, but then again, she could say the same about my captain’s insignia.

“Yes?” I inquired.

“I hadn’t formally met you yet, Captain, and I thought I should introduce myself.” She had dark hair, which hung in a single braid to her waist, and exceptionally deep brown eyes. “I’m Bethany Edgetower, the University’s languages and linguistics master.” She nodded deeply.

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Edgetower.” My curiosity was up. “I didn’t know the University was sending a language master.” Most of the academics I had met thus far were in the fields of history or natural science, or were from the College of Navigation.

“Given how far we’re going, the University wanted to make sure that there was someone who could assist in communicating with anyone we might meet on the voyage,” she replied modestly.

“How many languages do you speak, Ms. Edgetower?” There was probably a better way of posing the question, but I couldn’t help myself.

“Common, Tawna, Kontinese, Shiber, Akalakian, Arumenic, and Nader-canoch reasonably fluently, and I know bits of Symenos, although it's very difficult to find anyone willing to teach it to you., I guess, where I'd be confident in my ability in most settings -- although it's incredibly hard to have technical conversations in Akalakian." She stopped herself suddenly, apparently thinking she might be talking too much.

"Seven?" I couldn't think of a language in the known world that she hadn't mentioned, except whatever it was that the Isur spoke among themselves. "How do you even hold all that in your head?"

"How did you sail to Sunberth, Captain Wright?" She smiled as she asked it. "Hard work and practice, yes, but on top of that, there's a gift that belongs to you. The gifts that Qalaya has given me help me retain what I learn and use it." She shrugged. "It's small, but it's mine, and I hold it close to me. Maybe it will be able to help you."

I nodded. "Perhaps." Our eyes met, and I felt no need to say anything else.

After a moment, Ms. Edgetower said, "I should let you get back to your work, Captain. If I can help you, please let me know."

"Of course," I said, and took my leave. All seemed to be in order elsewhere on the ship, and having made my circuit, I returned to my cabin and began re-examining the charts. Their familiarity allowed me to momentarily block out the anxiety that I felt now that the voyage was actually underway. We were gone now, and we would either return triumphant or not return at all -- and the responsibility of picking the proper option rested with me. It weighed heavily on my shoulders, and not even the fact that my girlhood dream was being realized was enough to entirely restore my spirits.

Once we left Mathews Bay, I began my own charting of the waters and coastline in earnest. Although we had maps, and good maps at that, I wished to make any necessary corrections or additions. The first leg of the journey was well-traveled, and so I was able to devote some measure of my time to both making my own measurements and comparing them with our current charts, and to preparing for the new mapping that we would be doing later. I arranged for Ms. Helm to continue measurements during the night watch, insofar as it was possible, so that I would be able to produce charts without any gaps in them. Although it was going to lengthen the voyage, due to the number of times we would have to slow down in order to obtain accurate measurements, both the University and the Sailors' Guild agreed that creating quality maps was one of the prime priorities of the expedition..

We had good weather and smooth sailing for the first several days. We passed by Sunberth without stopping, though I did take a nostalgic look in the city’s direction as we sailed by. Even from the ocean it appears dirty and dangerous, a squat collection of ramshackle, mud-blasted buildings, set against a backdrop of evil-looking smoke that wafted from somewhere beyond the city. No ship of our size would be safe there – we would all have our throats cut as soon as our feet touched the pier. I had been lucky once in traveling there, and I wasn’t going to tempt the gods any further -- or risk having Ms. Helm discipline me for unauthorized use of the Seafarer.

We passed through the strait on the south of Sahova. Despite the island’s forbidding reputation, it is not altogether an unpleasant place. When I was sailing the route to Mura, we had often stopped there to trade. The docks, populated entirely by a whirring army of soulless golems, are not an easy sight to forget. We never saw any of the Nuit at all, for which the sailors were grateful, but in many respects it is the most efficient port in Mizahar outside of Zeltiva. The island is peaceful, peaceful and sad, and the silence is remarkable. Not that that would make me any more likely to explore the interior, however.

The way that most ships, especially trading ships, proceed next from Sahova is to hug the coast, remaining perhaps a mile or two offshore, until they reach Nyka or Mura. This route is well-traveled, and there are no hidden shoals or reefs to strike the unwary vessel; it was the way our ships always traveled when I sailed this route. Because we were trying to make the best time possible, however, once we passed beneath Sahova, we struck out almost straight northwest, hoping to hit Konti Isle, and then skirt its eastern coast, rather than navigating the narrows between its western shores and the mainland. It had been done before -- the great Timothy de Octans had done it more than once, proving that it was both possible and practical -- but it required careful navigation, as even a slight variation from the course could prove disastrous, given that we were passing out of sight of all land.

Some sailors consider that the ocean is a hostile entity, one whose anger must be respected and guarded against at all times. But, in my own experience, this is not the case at all. The ocean is not hostile; no, it's something much more terrible, much more frightening. It is utterly, wholly, and completely indifferent. It takes absolutely no notice of one vessel or one individual. Away from shore, surrounded by the dark, unreadable water, one realizes how very small one truly is.

Fortunately for us, the skies remained clear, so we were able to navigate the passage precisely. No matter how often one makes it safely to one's destination, it still is an experience that brings a secret thrill to the heart of a sailor. Although Konti Isle was not where our journey was to end -- or even pause -- smiles still stole across the faces of both myself and the crew. Mr. Plankman in particular seemed as cheerful as if someone had just given him a million mizas and a cold drink.

There was a sense in which our journey really began here. Rarely does a ship sail past this point. The northern coast of Sylira is sparsely populated, with no settlements of note. Indeed, the only known coastal town past Nyka and Mura is Novallas, and the trading ship to there only runs once a year, in the summer, when the weather is more predictable. When we cleared Konti Isle, it was the fifteenth, not even a quarter of the way through the autumn, and we figured that we would have another fifteen or twenty days before any storms were likely. Twenty days should take us to Novallas, and according to our sources, such as they were, the coastline should begin taking us south, away from the foul weather, shortly thereafter. And, if the weather became intractable, we could always overwinter in the Novallas harbor, though we would prefer not to do so.

I spent even more effort on the charts, poring over them long into the evening beneath the flickering yellow of the oil lamp. De Octans had charted this coast decades earlier, but it had never been mapped since, and I believed we could make a more accurate reckoning of the lay of the land. In this, I proved to be correct; our revised charts showed more detail, and also more accurately indicated the position of some major landmarks. This, however, is no discredit to Captain de Octans, whose trail we were still following.

Novallas is a small settlement, with no more than a thousand inhabitants. There was a thriving city in the vicinity prior to the Valterrian, but the cataclysm destroyed it, and all that remains of it are the descendants of the few survivors of that grim day. The city is tucked away at the end of a bay shaped somewhat like the letter “C”; its inhabitants eke out a living through fishing the bay and raising root crops during the brief growing season. Their shipbuilding skill is rudimentary, and I do not believe that any of their craft would withstand the full force of the northern ocean, one reason why our knowledge of points west was so frustratingly incomplete. It is a hard life, and the people are hard in turn

The question at hand was, should we stop at Novallas or no? The weather appeared to be holding, and if we were to outrun the inevitable storms, any delay could prove costly. However, if we didn’t feel confident in our ability to turn southward soon enough, Novallas was the last place we could possibly stay where we knew there would be some facilities for overwintering.

I called a meeting. Mr. Plankman, Ms. Mooring, and Ms. Helm shortly arrived in my stateroom. Mr. Frederick Stevenson, the head of the University contingent, also came, bringing with him Ms. Lizbeth Books, a natural history specialist, and Ms. Edgetower. All of them took their seats around the table.

“By tomorrow, we’ll reach the entrance to Novallas Bay,” I said. “All of you know the situation we’re in. I’m asking for your advice and opinions here; I don’t want to make a decision without careful consideration. What do you think?”

“I think we need more Morwen-worshipers in the crew,” Mr. Plankman said. Soft chuckles were heard.

“Sadly,” I replied, “unless you were planning to hold a recruiting meeting, it’s a little late for that.”

“Ah well, can’t say I didn’t try to help.” A shady grin was visible on Mr. Plankman’s face.

“We've got the best information available telling us that the coastline is about to turn south," Ms. Mooring interjected. "What's it going to do to morale telling the crew that we're going to overwinter here with no storm in sight and the turn just around the corner?"

"I'm going to have to agree," Ms. Books said. "There's a hundred of us. That's ten percent of Novallas' population. Are you sure they would be able to handle our crew? Why test it if we don't need to?"

"We don't know about the accuracy of the information though," Mr. Stevenson said with a sigh. "We just don't know enough either way." Ms. Helm was nodding in sad agreement.

"And you, Ms. Edgetower?" Our eyes met again.

"Who can say?" She half-smiled. "None of us know for certain what the best course is."

I looked back at the rest of the group and drummed my fingers on the table. "As I see it -- and let me know if you think I'm wrong, please -- we can choose between what might be damaging in sailing on, or what will almost certainly have negative repercussions in staying here. The crew will be restless, we'll be short of food, and given that they're not expecting us in Novallas, we're likely to incur considerable ill will. The Administrative Committee has already spent considerable time trying to see if anyone in Novallas has tried going more than a day's journey into the tundra west of the city, and their efforts have turned up nothing; we're unlikely to find anything that they haven't uncovered, and at any rate, it would take time that we don't have. I think I'd rather risk something bad that might happen as opposed to taking a course that will almost certainly prove unfortunate."

Heads nodded in assent.

A chime later, I made the announcement to the whole crew, explaining to them the reasoning behind my decision. I felt that I owed it to them not only to tell them what we were doing, but why we were doing it. I could see discomfort in some of their faces, but no one disagreed openly with our course of action. I think they understood as well as I did that anything we did at this point was nothing better than an educated guess. The heart of any voyage of exploration, after all, is confronting the unknown.

The first two days passed uneventfully, though we were always attuned to the voice of the lookout atop the foremast. However, no cry alerting us to a turn in the coastline came. There were inlets and bays, which I charted carefully, but nothing representing a serious deviation to the south.

After that, both I and the crew became increasingly nervous. We were now sailing on borrowed time, and the promised turn had yet to arrive. The twentieth passed, and the twenty-fifth, and still there was no sign of anything. Even Mr. Plankman’s face took on a somber cast, and his jokes became less frequent.

The coastline of northern Taldera is as desolate as one can imagine. The shoreline is largely composed of sharp, angular rocks, with almost no vegetation aside from occasional tufts of sad-looking moss. At times, one can glimpse the boreal forest in the distance, but in others, there is nothing visible but the tundra. There are no dolphins in the water here to follow in a ship’s wake.

On the thirtieth day of autumn, we reached a headland, which we named Glacier Cape, after the large tongue of ice which came down from the highlands and licked the water. As we rounded it, the coastline fell away to the south. There were cheers all around, and the crew’s attitude became noticeably more sanguine.

For a moment, anyway.

The lookout sighted the clouds the evening of the thirty-second, coming out of the north-northeast. They were a hellish shade of purple, made more lurid by the declining sun, and they seemed to be advancing rapidly. We were still only a mile or so out from the coast, but the shore as far as we could see in either direction was made of the same jagged basaltic boulders, and I was afraid that if we were to anchor too closely, we might be dashed against them if the storm proved severe. Mr. Plankman and Ms. Mooring agreed, and as such, I made the decision that we would try to ride it out in open water. We furled the sails as much as possible, and tried to wait patiently.

Near the twenty-third bell, it started raining, moderately at first, and then progressing to a steady downpour. The wind increased, still from the north-northeast, and the waves became rougher, with higher swells. It was difficult, in the near-darkness, to see precisely how high they were, but the ship was beginning to rock severely. Mr. Plankman, who was at the helm, attempted to keep us steady, but there was only so much he – or anyone else – could do.

Sometime around the first bell, the rain turned to ice. Moving about the deck became a challenge, especially as the ice began coating more and more of the exposed wood. Shortly thereafter, the wind increased again, this time at least to the force of a severe gale. The ship was pitching violently now. Mr. Plankman’s face was white, and the strain of the hours he had spent at the helm was visibly showing. I relieved him; he attempted to return to the stern of the ship, but it was now impossible to cross from one side of the deck to the other. Defeated, he remained with me, trying to keep a lookout for any hidden obstacles in the swirling darkness of the storm.

I tried to keep the ship turned so that the wind wouldn't blow us into the rocks, but maintaining any control over the vessel was a quixotic task at best. Nonetheless, we remained far enough out to sea as to avoid that danger for now. The crew were doing their best to chip the ice off the deck and masts, though keeping up entirely with that task under these horrendous conditions was beyond anyone's abilities.

Perhaps at the third bell -- there was now no way to keep track of time -- I heard a voice, either Ms. Helm or Ms. Edgetower, calling out something about the sails. I couldn't make out the words, but I suddenly understood the meaning, as without warning, the ropes holding the fore-sail snapped. The sail billowed out to the wind, and was immediately ripped in half. To our great fortune, it did not blow entirely away, but it was gone for all practical purposes, at least for the moment. Five minutes later, the mizzen-sail followed suit. It did not blow away either, but it was quickly reduced to shreds by the ice-laden winds.

We struggled for another bell, or two, or three; I cannot say for certain. Then, shortly before sunrise, the ferocity of the storm began to abate. By the eighth bell, it had entirely disappeared, leaving the air clear but bitterly cold.

We now had only one operational sail, and it would be impossible to continue without repairs. However, it appeared that there was a large inlet slightly to our west, toward which we had been blown during the night. I turned the helm over to Ms. Mooring, and gave the order that we should make our way in that direction. Fortunately, the sea was now calm, and we were able to limp into the shelter of the bay, dropping anchor as close to the shore as we could.

As we moved into the inlet, I took a careful survey of the coastline. To my dismay, I could now see that there was no opening to the south; we had been following the curve of a bay with no outlet. We hadn’t rounded the corner of the continent after all. Our information had been inaccurate, and we had no way of knowing how much so, because to our west, the coast turned north again.

Once we stopped, we began repairing the sails as quickly as we could and otherwise trying to make the ship seaworthy again. I used what I had learned from my father, and pitched in as best I could. We had on board one Mr. Edward Saworth, who had been trained as a sailmaker, and he directed the effort. The damage was extensive, and precious days began to slip away, though Mr. Saworth and the others worked long into the nights.

The chill remained, and four days after we had anchored, the lookout spied sea ice forming along the shore. We redoubled our efforts, but still, another seven days passed by before the sails were in workable condition. It was only the forty-fifth then, with more than half of the autumn still before us. The ice was quite thick around the bay, and only a small channel remained for us to sail out.

We raised the anchor and unfurled our newly-mended sails. However, any anticipation we had was short-lived once we reached the head of the inlet. The ice had spread further, and our channel ended half a mile past the headland. We were surrounded; we were trapped.

The Seafarer turned around, and we eased it back into its former anchorage in the bay. Desperation Bay, Mr. Plankman said, and the name stuck. Although the official start of winter was still dozens of days away, for us, it had already begun.

Chapter Five

I was utterly despondent, though I could not show it to the crew. The worst-case scenario had happened. I could already see that our remaining rations would not take us through the winter, especially since we had no way of knowing how much of Taldera still remained for us to traverse in the Spring. I knew failure was a strong possibility, but were we going to die here, with so much of our voyage left unmade? When I spoke to the crew, I put a brave spin on things, but it required exceptional effort.

We tried fishing to raise our stores of provisions, but the returns were miserable -- the few fish we caught were stunted and twisted, and their flesh was essentially inedible. I tried some of it, but it was bitter and tough, and it made me violently ill afterward. “There's some sort of disease endemic to these waters that seems to be affecting the fish,” Ms. Books said, shaking her head. She was the expert in such matters, but it required no expert to look at the slack fishing lines and the grotesque shapes of the half-eaten fish that we had thrown to the gulls and realize that we weren’t going to solve many of our problems this way.

The boreal forest here ran very close to the coastline, no more than a mile away. In the hope that we would be able to hunt or trap some food there, I sent Mr. Plankman and half of the crew ashore to construct a base of operations. They labored for days, building a pair of timber buildings, twenty feet on each side. Some of them also ventured out into the forest, but the initial returns were disappointing. They managed to catch a few rabbits, but, as Ms. Books informed us, most of the normal fauna had either migrated south or were in a state of aestivation.

However, some of the crew managed to catch something else. Within a few days, some of those who had gone ashore fell extremely sick – including, in a vicious bit of irony, Ms. Kalinora, a Konti and the ship’s healer. Those of the sailors who had run the Novallas route before seemed frightened, and I heard the words whispered: White Fever.

I pulled Ms. Books aside – most of the crew were, at this point, not very interested in talking to her. “What is the White Fever?” Even though we were in my stateroom, my voice was low.

Ms. Books was a thin, angular personage of forty-five with worry lines on her forehead and short hair already gone to gray. She was trying to be calm, but her eyes betrayed her.

“No one is sure what causes it, but it’s a disease of the far north,” she said. “There’s never been a recorded case south of Nyka. It starts with a very high fever, which comes on suddenly. The skin often becomes very pale, which is the source of the disease’s name, and clammy to the touch. If the fever spikes high enough, the victim lapses into unconsciousness, often punctuated by brief moments of wakefulness filled with hallucinations. Open sores form on the lips and tongue. The heart beats faster, and in the final stages, the beat becomes highly irregular, until finally, the heart simply gives out.”

“How often is it fatal?”

Ms. Books looked away. “Half the time? Two thirds of the time? The records vary, but that’s about the size of it.”

Three days later, the first of the afflicted died. Ms. Kalinora was among them, as were two of the deckhands. The dirt was hard, but still we buried them, though we had nothing permanent with which to mark the graves. I dug Ms. Kalinora's with my own hands. It took hours, and by the end I was utterly exhausted, but I had done what I could for her in her death, though in her life I could do nothing at all for her. The tears froze on my eyelashes. I had hardly known her, but it was my duty to keep her safe, and I hadn't succeeded.

The weather turned even colder. The buildings onshore were somewhat warm, as long as wood from the forest was gathered for the fires, but they were beginning to fill with the sick as more of the crew fell ill. Within ten days, forty of the crew had contracted the White Fever. Others began to die. I worked with the others who were well -- the number of which was decreasing with every passing day -- giving the afflicted water, making wood-gathering trips, trying to find anything at all that would ease the pain of the dying as they burned from the inside. It was soul-crushing, wearying, and almost useless, but it was all I could do.

In retrospect, I suppose that isn’t entirely true. There was one other thing I could do – fall ill myself. Which, as it happened, is what I did.

It was twenty days after the White Fever had first appeared. I had just returned from inspecting the buildings ashore, a grim duty with predictably grim results. Another three crewmembers had died during the night, and another five looked to be returning to Lhex at any moment. I climbed aboard the Seafarer, but as I headed for my cabin, I suddenly found myself dizzy and disoriented.

“Why is it so cold?” I asked through gritted teeth.

“Captain, we’re in the middle of Taldera at the height of winter and you want to know why it’s cold?” Mr. Plankman’s question was asked in jest, but he seemed to freeze as he turned toward me.

“Captain? Captain, you’ve got to get to your cabin. Ahoy there, Marks, Spanaway! Get the Captain to her bed!”

Arms surrounded me, and I collapsed into them. I was dimly aware of being carried away, but after that, the world seemed to dissolve and disappear.

I had no sense of time; the disease stripped it all away. Occasionally, someone raised a cup of water to my lips, but I didn’t know who, or how often. Sometimes, it seemed as if the entire crew were with me; at others, I felt completely alone. The sounds that came to me were distant and vague, as if an army of Akvatari were singing underwater.

At one point, it seemed as if I had left the ship entirely. I was back home, in the foothills of the Zatoskas, on ground I had been over hundreds of times. The sky was impossibly blue, and the weather warm. I half-expected to see Charm there with me, but she was nowhere to be found.

Not that I was alone, however. I turned to my left, and saw another woman walking beside me. She seemed young, though I could not guess her age, and wore a yellow dress. Her hair was dark, and she regarded me with sad eyes.

“Hello?” It seemed a stupid thing to say, but I couldn't think of anything else. “Have you come to carry me back to Lhex?”

She half-smiled and shook her head. “Kenabelle, if he sent someone for you, it wouldn’t be me.”

“But…even though this looks like home, I know it isn’t.”

“No,” she sighed. “It's not home. It’s not a place at all, not in the strictest sense. It’s a world constructed from your own memories, not the thing itself, but the image of the thing.”

I waited for her to say something else, but she didn’t. Finally, I turned and asked, “Then how did I get here? Or, maybe, why? Not that I distrust you, but I don’t think I understand.”

Again, the half-smile came. She brushed her hair back over her shoulders. “The how doesn’t matter. As for the why, consider this a moment of rest before you finish what you have to do.”

“The voyage?” Since the White Fever had attacked the crew, I thought less about that, and more about simply trying to keep as many of us as possible alive.

“The voyage, yes, but also the record of the voyage. The maps, the logs, the information to return. The thing itself, but also the image of the thing.”

I walked another dozen steps, then stopped. “Which one am I going to finish? Or, more to the point perhaps, how will the voyage and its record end?”

The woman seemed even more wistful than before. “Others can answer questions about the past for you. But for the future, you’ll have to ask yourself, Kenabelle.” She touched me gently on the shoulder, and I felt an inexplicable warmth there.

“Kenabelle, Kenabelle…”


I sat up in my bed. Shadows from the oil lamp danced uncertainly around me. Ms. Edgetower was seated on a stool beside me, and was leaning over me. She held out a cup, and I drank it greedily. My shoulder was still sore, but most of the joint pain had subsided.

“Bethany?” My own voice tasted foreign in my mouth, and even the simple act of speaking seemed to require more energy than I had left to use.

She put the back of her hand to my forehead and smiled. “The fever’s broken. You’re going to be all right.”

“Maybe,” I replied grimly. “But what of the others?”

“The illness seems to have run its course,” she said, looking away. “But there’s already forty-three dead.”

My heart sank. Forty-three? Almost half the crew? There had been only twenty-five who had died before I had lost consciousness, and I had fervently hoped that the number would not exceed that. I slumped back against the headboard. “Who…?”

Bethany still didn’t look back at me. “Ms. Mooring, Ms. Books, Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Saworth…they’re all gone. Mr. Plankman is alive, but the sores spread to his left arm, and…he had to have it removed.”

I didn’t respond immediately. I felt tears beneath my eyelids. These were people who had trusted me, had relied on me to lead them in the right direction, and they were gone now. Even Mr. Plankman, my old and true friend, was disfigured and beaten down. I’d tried to make the right decisions, but I hadn’t done it, and I’d let them down.

I felt Bethany’s arm around my shoulders. “It’s not your fault, Kenabelle. They chose to follow you, and besides, who’s to say it would have been any better if we had stayed in Novallas? There were reasons we didn’t stop there, very good reasons.”

My answer caught in my throat, but Bethany finished. “Sometimes, none of the choices in front of us are really the right ones. Not the way I used to think about it, anyway.”

Chapter Six

We survived the rest of the winter, the fifty-seven of us, largely because the shortages in our supplies were much less pronounced now that we had so many fewer people among whom to share them. Our hunting and fishing efforts still yielded little, but, combined with our shipboard stores, it saw us through. The ice hemmed us in, but there was enough wave action in the inlet to keep it broken up enough to prevent the ship from being destroyed. The Talderan forest had little in the way of food, but it was a near-inexhaustible source of fuel, and we kept the fires in the buildings going for the entire season.

Mr. Plankman was in surprisingly good spirits, though I could tell he was more subdued than before. He had been a brilliant helmsman, but a helm requires two arms to master, and to be cruelly separated from one's talent is a harsh fate indeed. I tried to assure him that I still valued his leadership and insight, and he clapped me on the back and swore with a smile that he'd get me back home to my mother's arms yet. He had always had a sort of avuncular tenderness towards me, and I appreciated his gesture more than I knew how to express. Still, I knew that he was trying to be strong for me, just as I was trying to be strong for the crew. Neither of us could afford to be emotionally honest, because the only honest emotion in this frozen wasteland was the desperation after which we had named the final resting place of forty-three good men and women.

I still didn't know what we ought to do next, but as it happened, the weather made the decision for us. On the sixth day of spring, the pack ice, which had been thinning, finally broke. It broke only to the west, however -- to the east it remained firm. We could, I suppose, have attempted to wait out that passage, but given that our rations were still running low, and that the prevailing wind was easterly, I gave the order that we should resume our course around the continent. We left the bay on the seventh, and proceeded along the coastline.

I have seen many places in my life, but I can think of none more forsaken than Taldera's northern shores. Everything before us was exactly as it had been on our voyage the previous autumn. If it had not been for the charts I continued to measure and draw, I doubt I would have been certain we had even been moving. The days, which had been brutally short, slowly began to lengthen, but there was nothing for us to see.

With Mr. Stevenson and Ms. Books gone, Bethany assumed leadership of the University contingent; she had already been third in command, and none of the academics seemed inclined to challenge her authority. Ms. Helm quietly took over the duties that had belonged to Ms. Mooring, and also worked the helm more. A longtime veteran sailor of the Mura route, Charles Mizzen, was pressed into service as an additional helmsman, now that Mr. Plankman was unable to do so. He did his service well and without complaint, and we were much obliged for his faithfulness. The crew would rather have had Mr. Plankman, I think, but that wasn't an option anymore, and Mr. Mizzen was a well-respected sailor; indeed, several of the crew had trusted their lives to his helmsmanship on previous journeys. Losing Mr. Plankman at the helm was a blow to the crew's confidence, but not a severe enough one to cause more than a few complaints.

From the time I was admitted to the Sailors' Guild, I had been at sea at least three hundred days of every year. Due to my unique circumstances, I was invariably surrounded by men and women far older than me. I had a vast circle of acquaintances, but, save for Charm, whom I rarely saw, no one I would consider a friend, not in the strictest sense of the word. For the vast majority of my days and nights, I had no confidante, no lover or best friend or sister, no one to share the crushing weight of the pressure with which I lived.

Bethany was different. We were of similar ages, in similar circumstances, and of similar temperament and interests. She also had a special gift of perceptiveness, perhaps because she was so close to Qalaya, and I came to give a great deal of weight to her advice and suggestions as we traveled. A captain is always answerable for her decisions, but it helps a great deal to have advisors and counselors that one can trust.

On the twenty-eighth day of Spring, we rounded another cape. We had long since ceased to hope that any given point would mark the continent's northwestern edge, but to our delight, once we passed by this Northwest Point, the coastline turned abruptly south and east. There was a mighty cheer from the crew, and it was with grateful hearts that we continued sailing.

Chapter Seven

We were going to need to stop soon, in order to take on water and see if we could replenish our meager supply of provisions. I kept my eye out for any place that might be suitable, but as fate would have it, when the place arrived, even someone who was half-blind would have had trouble missing it.

Taldera, as I have said already, is a desolate land. It is the last place in the world that I would have expected to find a major settlement -- indeed, since we had passed by Novallas, there had not been so much as a single mud hut visible from offshore. But as we continued around the horn of the continent, it was impossible to miss the dazzling white building at the head of an inlet. It appeared like a combination of a castle and a temple, and it was truly enormous. None of us had ever seen anything like it, but that didn't mean that we didn't know what it was.

"Avanthal," whispered Ms. Helm, who was standing next to me.

Avanthal: the legendary ice city of Morwen, goddess of winter. We knew of Morwen, of course, and even of people who had seen and spoken with her, but no one whom I had personally met had ever been to the city. Indeed, prior to this moment, we had no firm idea where Avanthal might even be, save that it was somewhere in the far north.

There was a sense of trepidation among the crew, largely because of the harshness of the winter we had just endured. But it was unlikely that we would find a better place to obtain supplies, and so I gave the order that we should turn into the inlet and approach the docks.

We docked without incident. However, it was clear that our arrival had not gone unnoticed. A group of fifteen or twenty people had gathered, and all of them were accompanied by white bears. These bears, however, were not like those that one might find in Novallas, or even in Nyka. Each one must have been twenty feet long, and the experience of being stared down by more than a dozen of them is not one that I shall easily forget.

We lowered the gangplank, and I motioned for Mr. Plankman and Bethany to accompany me; Ms. Helm was to remain with the ship, alert and vigilant. The three of us approached the leader of the guard and inclined our heads.

They said nothing, and so I made the first overture. "I am Captain Kenabelle Wright of the Zeltivan Sailors' Guild," I said. "Our expedition has come to Avanthal from the other side of the world, and we humbly seek water and provisions so that we may continue our journey."

The guard appeared to think about this for a moment, and I wondered whether he had in fact understood me. We had no reason to believe, after all, that Common was the main language in this isolated place. I was about to ask Bethany for help, in case she knew another language that might be of use, but before I could do so, the man broke into a wide grin.

"Visitors from the other side of the world! Captain Wright, comrades, welcome and good cheer!" He nimbly dismounted, and made a sweeping gesture in the direction of the other guards. "Make haste, and find sufficient provender for our guests!" Turning back to me, he added, "All that you have need of for your voyage will be provided for you in the best time that we can manage." He clapped me on the back. "But, if your sailors can manage without you, I imagine that the honor of your presence will be requested shortly in the Ice Palace."

As we walked, the guard, Coren by name, told me something of his people's history and situation. The residents of Avanthal were called the Vantha. In appearance, they were human, but with the most striking eyes. Not one of them had a set eye color -- it seemed to shift and change with each Vantha's emotions. Indeed, many displayed several colors at once. As the story goes, Coren said, the Vantha had come to Mizahar long ago from the stars, and retained the stars in their eyes to this day.

We had been fortunate that Coren had been there to greet us, as the general tongue in use was, as we had guessed, not Common. They had their own language, Vani, which seems almost more sung than spoken. I was only able to learn a word or two, but Bethany spent nearly her entire time in Avanthal studying it, and even though we were only there but a few days, she was able to carry on a conversation in it proficiently by the time we left. She documented her research into the language in a series of notes, which now reside in the University of Zeltiva's library, and which I have appended to the end of this volume.

The Vantha support themselves through hunting, fishing, and some small amount of agriculture, which they conduct in the heart of the Hold itself. There is little need for protection from others in that isolated place, but the guard who had greeted us, the Icewatch, take care of any difficulties that may arise.

Mr. Plankman had returned to supervise the onloading of supplies, and Bethany was being directed towards storytellers and bards who might be able to support her research. As such, when we arrived at the Ice Palace, it was only Coren and me. He bid me wait in a large foyer, but returned after only a minute or so had passed.

"Captain Wright! Queen Morwen wishes to meet you."

I would be lying if I said I felt no fear. Few things in life make one quite as aware of one's own insignificance than meeting a deity. Nonetheless, I summoned my courage and was ushered into the Queen's room. There she sat, cold and regal, appearing perfectly at home in the ice that surrounded her. I inclined my head formally, in the best Zeltivan tradition. Two of the massive bears flanked her, each accompanied by one of the Icewatch.

"You have come far." It was less a question than a statement of fact.

"Yes, your majesty," I replied. "From Zeltiva."

"I know Zeltiva well," she said. "What has brought you this far?"

I answered slowly. "Zeltiva is built on a thirst for knowledge and discovery. As such, the city outfitted this expedition to sail around Mizahar and see what is on the other side. I hold these principles dear as well, and I was honored to be selected to lead this voyage."

She looked at me for a long time, and I felt even more uncomfortable than I had under Josephine Helm's gaze on my return from Sunberth. At length, she said, "I think, Captain Wright, that you would feel unfulfilled, no matter how much you saw and learned, if you were unable to return and tell your city about it."

I nodded in assent, as thinking of any further answer proved quite impossible to me. Queen Morwen thanked me for coming, and reassured me that my crew and ship would be given anything we needed to continue our journey. She warned me to stay inside Storm Bay as long as I could, to take on water at the last stream before the bay's end, and, last but not least, not to worry about a belated winter storm, as they were quite finished for the year. I wished I could have discussed the weather with her back in the autumn, but who can say whether that would have made any difference. Queen Morwen was kind to me and received me and my crew well, but I had the definite feeling that changing her mind about the season over which she ruled would be something quite beyond my feeble power. I was the captain of the largest expedition ever organized by the not insignificant resources of Zeltiva, but meeting a goddess reminded me that there were forces as far beyond us as we were beyond a child playing with a floating block of wood in a bathtub.

Chapter Eight

After leaving Avanthal, we continued to follow the coastline south, staying within the large bay that the Vantha called Storm Bay, as Queen Morwen had clearly stated that trying to cross the entrance to the bay would lead us into dangerous, storm-swept waters. After some six days, we came upon a large inlet to our east. According to my charts, we were still a long way north of where the Suvan Sea would be; still, however, there was the possibility that we might find a passageway to it, in which case Mizahar would have in fact been sundered into two separate continents during the Valterrian. No rumors to this effect had ever reached Zeltiva, but it was also true that the western side of the Suvan Sea was not particularly well-known, given that there were no settlements of any note north of Alvadas. Either way, we elected to follow the inlet.

As he could no longer fulfill his previous duties, Mr. Plankman had appointed himself my cartographical assistant. He noted the sounding numbers, the declinations and the azimuth readings as I read them off, and helped me make sense of them as I drew the charts. I mention this because, if my charts prove to be useful to future sailors or explorers, Mr. Plankman deserves a share of the credit. He would never have claimed it, but he earned it nonetheless.

As it happened, there was no passage; although a river emptied into the inlet, it was far too small to be navigable. The nature of the coastline here was far different from Taldera's northern coast. Massive trees, the like of which I have never seen before or since, dominated the landscape as far as the eye could see. They seemed to grow almost to the sea's edge; the beach was extremely narrow, with no sand. The trees nearest the water were at least three hundred feet tall. It seemed to me that the ones further inland were of an even greater height, but we had no way to measure such a thing. I would have liked to ask Ms. Books if she knew anything about them, but her voice had been silenced, and neither Bethany nor any of the other University representatives professed any knowledge of the giant forest.

We did not land, having taken on sufficient provisions at Avanthal, but turned about and exited the inlet. We continued following the coastline, remaining inside Storm Bay. Given what we had been told about the conditions of the ocean outside the bay, I had no wish to test my luck in the open sea until it became strictly necessary.

The coastline remained heavily forested, although the size of the trees returned to more normal proportions. We saw no more tundra. The winds remained favorable, and we believed that we had passed out of Taldera and into Kalea, although the exact location of the boundary was vague.

On the fifty-fifth day of Spring, 451, we sighted another settlement. It was located on a coastal plain, just over a mile wide, that was nearly devoid of trees. The plain was surrounded by a massive heap of broken and jumbled rocks, hundreds of feet high. There were some eighty huts; most of them had been constructed of the stone from the talus pile, and they appeared very old, although the workmanship was not of a particularly high quality. We might not have stopped, but as we approached, we saw several dozen people on the shore, waving to us and calling out. I gave the order for us to drop anchor, and Bethany, Mr. Plankman and I, along with three other sailors, climbed into a rowboat and soon made our way to shore.

The people were human; all of them had dark, shaggy hair and were clad in rough garments of coarse cloth. It was clear that they had a hard life here. They seemed ecstatic to see us, but, although some words seemed familiar, I could make nothing of the language. Bethany had a look of intense concentration on her face. She tried all the languages she knew, including Vani, but had no luck. Still, she gathered three of the people around her, and began attempting to decipher their tongue, approaching the task with the acuity of a scholar and the enthusiasm of a religious champion. The group that had welcomed us brought out a large pot of stew made from some sort of tuber. It was gray and tasteless, but they offered it in the spirit of generosity, and we ate in the spirit of gratitude.

One of them, an older man who seemed to be the leader, gestured for us to follow him into one of the stone huts. There were several straw mattresses inside, and blankets made of the same fabric as the people's clothes. We understood that we were to sleep here, and we smiled in return. Mr. Plankman observed that it had been years since he had slept on a straw mattress, and though the stuffing pricked our backs, we all slept soundly.

Bethany had not come with us, and in the morning, we awoke to find that she had not arrived. We found her soon after exiting the hut, however, with a light in her eyes that was unmistakably the thrill of discovery.

"I finally figured it out," she said, as if she had been working on the language problem for years, rather than a single day. "Once I understood the trick, it wasn't hard. These people are descended from Suvan soldiers, and so their language is basically Imperial-era Common, except that the sound changes and some odd vocabulary things hide it from you unless you pay close attention."

I hugged her, and then we all sat down. I asked her to tell me what she had learned of the people, and she willingly obliged.

The name of the settlement was Denval, and the people called themselves the Denvali. Before the Valterrian, Denval was a military outpost of Suva, as well as a center for fur trapping. The outpost was destroyed during the Valterrian, but almost half of the inhabitants managed to survive. They found, however, that the violent changes that came with the cataclysm had rendered the roads out of the settlement impassable, and that they were essentially enclosed within a wall of broken rocks and heaped-up sand.

The residents thus had no way to get out and were forced to make do with what they had. They hid within the pile of rubble for the first many years, and then began eking a living from fishing and growing cold-weather crops such as tubers. In time, succeeding generations came to assume that all of Mizahar's inhabitants save themselves had been killed in the Valterrian. This was why we had been welcomed with such excitement, as our expedition was the first proof they had had of any other civilization in the world.

The population was about 700 people. As we had guessed from our observations, all of the permanent residents are human. The man who had shown us to our beds was Captain Albinout, and was the leader of the settlement. The leader of Denval is always styled Captain; the position is hereditary, passed down to the oldest child of the current Captain. The first holder of this position was in fact the Captain of the Suvan army garrison in Denval, and all since that time can trace their genealogy back to him.

We spent four days there. The Denvali were understandably curious about the state of the rest of Mizahar, and asked us hours upon hours of questions. We answered as best we could. They were disappointed that Zeltiva was so far away as to be unreachable, given the primitive nature of their shipbuilding skills, but we told them of the location of Avanthal, and this seemed to raise their spirits.

Chapter Nine

The next stretch of days was calm and uneventful. We sailed the full circuit of Storm Bay, and Mr. Plankman and I spent long hours making and correcting our charts.

At the bay's western edge, we saw a volcano inland, one that appeared to be thousands upon thousands of feet high. It dominated the headland; there is nothing in the eastern realms to which to compare it. It would have been an interesting place to explore, but we could not spare the time or energy to mount an expedition away from the shore.

Perhaps, after all, it was for the best. Several times as we passed the vicinity of the volcano, we saw eagles overhead -- eagles with wingspans the length of two horses and beaks as long as a man's arm. Bethany and I stood at the stern of the ship and watched them nervously, but they appeared to take no interest in our vessel, and never approached closely. Even when we stopped to take on water at the stream that Queen Morwen had mentioned, the eagles remained carefully aloof.

We rounded the edge of Storm Bay and proceeded back into the unprotected ocean on the seventy-fifth day of Spring. I was concerned for the weather, but we were blessed with clear skies and gentle waves. We began making our way south, but, as we would come to know intimately over the course of the ensuing days, the winds on the western side of the continent are not helpful to a vessel traveling in that direction.

Late one night, Bethany and I sat in the stern of the ship, looking down at the wake. The water was full of luminescent creatures that glowed as we passed, leaving a long trail of light to show from whence we had come. I had seen this phenomenon many times before on my trips to Abura, but it never lost its magical appeal to me.

"What will you do when we get back?" she asked, her chin resting on the ship's railing.

"I don't know," I said. "A lot of it isn't up to me. I don't know if the Sailors' Guild will reassign me to the Abura route, or give me something else to do. Actually, I don't really know what I'll be expected to do once I finish the voyage. They'll want reports, of course, but I don't know what else. There's nothing really to compare it to."

Bethany tilted her head and nodded, brown hair falling onto her shoulders.

"What about you?" I asked.

"The University will want a full report too, and they'll expect me to write up my research on Denvali and Vani. Probably, I won't have to teach for a while as I do that. Then? Maybe the University will let me travel. As a linguistics scholar, what I really want to do is look around, see what's out there. We've already found two new languages on this trip, and we've been on the ocean for most of it. There have to be others."

She sighed, and I could tell that she was trying to decide how to phrase the rest of what she had to say, and so I kept quiet.

"There are stories that need to be heard, voices to be preserved and records to be kept," she said at length. "I could have stayed in Avanthal or Denval for months, listening to stories and writing them down. The present is just the past's logical conclusion; we are what we remember. That's why it's so important, Kena. We have to hold our memories close, and write them down. Through the gifts of Qalaya, we can step outside ourselves for a moment and see ourselves for what we really are."

"What are we?" I hadn't meant to ask the question, but it came out anyway.

Bethany's smile was a sad one. "We're a long way from home, Kena, both of us, busy trying to do something that's impossible. Whether we'll succeed or not, I don't know, but in a way, that's not even the important thing. The important thing is to remember."

We sat there for a long time, neither of us saying anything more. A trail of light connected us to the horizon. I put my head on Bethany's shoulder and watched the glow play on the waves, which proceeded in an inexorable sequence as long as we remained there to see it.

On a long voyage, one of the challenges any crew must overcome is boredom. It might sound strange, the idea of being bored on a voyage of exploration, but it's very real nonetheless. It began to set in for us after leaving Storm Bay. The western coast of Kalea is monotonously similar -- mile after mile of rocky beaches and forest. Even the process of charting the coastline became monotonous, as the variations were so slight that it was all I could do as I drew the maps to keep from losing my place or repeating the same feature twice. The poor winds also meant that we were now not making good time, and this was frustrating, not only to myself, but to the crew as well. They knew that this was part of what they had signed up for, and they did not complain to me. They were an excellent crew, and would not do such things. But the mood on the ship began to be noticeably depressed.

One interesting thing did happen the evening of the eighty-ninth. It was nearly sunset, and I was preparing to leave my shift at the helm and work more on our maps. All at once, something broke the surface of the water some three hundred feet off the port bow. It had the appearance of an eel or snake, save that it was much larger. Estimating sizes at sea is problematic, but I would hazard a guess that it was eighty or ninety feet in length. Its legs, if it had any, were not visible, but three loops or humps could be seen at regular intervals. Its head resembled a boar's, but without any hair. It had cold, reddish eyes, and when it turned its head in our direction, I could not help but feel a chill. However, it turned away from us again, and quickly disappeared beneath the surface.

I looked around to see if anyone else had spotted the creature. Ms. Helm was on her way to relieve me, and I quickly inquired whether she had seen it. In a shaky voice, she responded that she had, and that she was glad that it had seen fit to return to the depths and not trouble our vessel.

Spring passed into summer, a full year had passed since we had left Zeltiva, and we were still wending our way down Kalea's coast. Judging these things is hard to do from offshore, but it appears that Mizahar's western shores are even less populated than its eastern. After leaving Denval, we did not pass a single settlement, and there was scarcely any sign that these forests had been traversed since the Valterrian. About halfway down the Kalean coast, we did sail by what appeared to be a large fire pit that seemed to have been used recently, but there was no sign of any people. Instead, the whole area was overrun with what looked like brown lizards, but at least four feet long from nose to tail. Or rather from nose to tails -- each creature had two tails, which swished back and forth in constant motion, but somehow never hit each other. There must have been two dozen of them, crawling around the edges of the fire pit and poking their claws into the dirt. The university contingent would like to have captured one, I think, but they looked formidable, and at any rate, we had no place on a ship to store a giant reptile.

On the thirteenth day of summer, we came upon another large inlet. Now, we were far enough south that there was a good chance that this might open directly into the Suvan. Indeed, the foliage was changing from broadleaf forest to more tropical vegetation, and it was clear that before long we would be offshore from the jungle itself. I made the choice to explore the inlet and see if there was any connection to the Suvan.

The bay curved northward, although at a gentle angle. We mapped it thoroughly, but we were once again defeated in our attempt to find a passage to the Suvan. The largest stream of any kind was still far too small to sail on, and the head of the bay was a definite dead end, with no hidden pathways.

Our food supplies were still holding out well, but we were once again in need of fresh water. The large stream was near the mouth of the bay, on the southern side. The area appeared as desolate and uninhabited as almost anywhere else we had been in the past three seasons, but we were still wary. The south side of the bay was jungle, and we knew the Myrians were always a threat -- we assumed, correctly as it happened, that we were now on the edge of Falyndar. However, if we were where I thought we were, we would have to take on water in Falyndar, because once we were on the other side of the Faleyk Gulf, there was nowhere to water until Abura, and there was no way we would be able to make it that far.

We anchored the Seafarer, and we watched the shore for several hours, during which time we saw no movement or sign of any people. Next, we sent a group of five of our strongest sailors in one of our two rowboats to scout out the area. They scoured the area for half an hour, both from the boat and on the shore, but also saw nothing to alarm them. At this point, I assigned Ms. Helm to organize a party to go ashore. Twenty more of the crew, including Ms. Helm, Bethany, and Mr. Mizzen, climbed into our other rowboat and went to refill our water casks. The rest of us remained on the Seafarer and watched their progress nervously.

They managed to fill the casks and reload them onto one of the boats. That boat had just pushed off, and the other was preparing to do so, when my heart fell into my stomach. There had been no sign of anyone watching, no motion from the foliage, no sound or stir of any kind, but suddenly, the entire beach was filled with tawny-skinned warriors, armed with bows, arrows, and vicious knives, and they immediately set upon the shore party. Where they had secreted themselves was a mystery I never solved, but we never saw them until it was too late.

I have never felt so alone as I did at that moment. I could see everything unfolding before me, but I could do nothing to stop it. Our vessel had no military capabilities, and we had no wizards or marksmen who could have stopped or slowed the Myrians -- both our longbow experts had perished with the White Fever, and there was no one to replace them. If I live to be a thousand, I shall never forget that scene, and it burns itself onto my eyelids even when I sleep.

The boat still on the shore had no chance. Its crew of fifteen was dead, their throats slit and stomachs ripped almost before any of them could raise a cry. Ms. Helm was among them, and I watched her fall lifeless onto the ground. One of the Myrians reached into her body, pulled out a piece of flesh, and barbarically thrust it into her mouth, feasting on the flesh of my fallen comrade. I was dizzy, and I leaned over the railing, vomiting into the water.

The Myrian party had no boats, not so much as a canoe, and so they were unable to pursue our other rowboat. However, they did have excellent archers, and a hail of arrows enveloped the crew.

Some died instantly. However, those who still lived continued rowing, trying to get out of range of the Myrians' bows. By the time they were two-thirds of the way to the Seafarer, they were no longer in danger, but by then, the damage had already been done.

We brought the boat aboard as quickly as possible. Three of the crew were already dead; Mr. Mizzen was among them, an arrow through his neck. Two more were gravely wounded. As Mr. Plankman ordered bandages to be brought, I saw that one of the wounded was Bethany. An arrow protruded from her stomach, and she was bleeding severely.

I dropped to my knees and propped her head up with my arms. "Bethany?" I was sobbing now. "Bethany...are you going to be all right?"

Her face was pale and haggard, but she still managed a smile. "Kena...I think so...but not in the way you mean."

"Mr. Plankman's almost here...we'll get you bandaged up."

"It won't do any good." She grimaced. "But do whatever you need to."

The other woman, Jolinda Sparks, was wounded even more seriously, and was already pale from the loss of blood before she even got aboard. The sailors tried to patch her wounds, but it was only a minute or two before she gave one last rattling sigh and left this incarnation. A pair of sailors came to look after Bethany; they did not remove the arrow, in fear of causing more bleeding, but bandaged tightly around it and moved Bethany to her quarters. I followed, stopping only to take a cup of water to bring her.

She took the drink, but then closed her eyes. In a way, it was good -- we had nothing to alleviate her pain. For four hours she slept, and I sat keeping watch over her. I could feel that the ship was moving, taking us far away from the Myrians, but I couldn't leave my friend to die alone.

At length, Bethany coughed, and her eyes fluttered open. She caught sight of me, and smiled weakly. "I guess you're the undertaker too, eh Kena?"

I took her hand. "Bethany, Beth...don't say that please. I've seen people recover from worse wounds. Rest will do you good, and I'll see to it that you make it home with me. You have to. I have to."

She coughed again, and then her face grew more somber. "Kena, I'd like nothing more than that. isn't going to happen." She grimaced in pain. "Rest will do me good, but not the kind of rest I'll get here."


"Kena...if Qalaya didn't have something else for me to do, I wouldn't be dying. I've...I've been there. And I'll be there. I'll be everywhere." She broke off, coughing once again, and this time, I saw blood on her lips.


Any remaining color was draining from her face. "Kena...just remember. That's all it takes...remembering. Everything you see is just the manifestation of memory. And...write it down."

"I will, Bethany. I promise." I squeezed her hand more tightly.

"Then...good-bye for now, Kena."

We buried her at sea, as we pulled out of the bay. Or her body anyway. The rest of her can't be buried, or contained, or held in the present.

Chapter Ten

There were now only twenty-three of us. It was a perilously small crew to handle a ship of the Seafarer's size, but we all knew that we would have to manage. With Ms. Helm and Mr. Mizzen gone, and Mr. Plankman still unable to take the helm, we had to press a second helmsperson into service. Ms. Stephanie Brooks volunteered. She had signed on as a deckhand, but she had some prior experience with fishing vessels in Mathews Bay. It was not much, as far as experience went, but she was willing, and that was more important than anything else at the moment. The crew, what was left of them, were quieter now, and they especially avoided talking to me. I overheard snatches of conversations about a "curse" and a "doomed voyage," though they always stopped immediately when I walked by.

Mr. Plankman continued making measurements and soundings for our charts. I worked on them during the day, as I was at the helm during the nights. They were long, empty nights, and I had plenty of time to myself to think.

I knew I couldn't have saved anyone from the Myrians. But I kept thinking it over. Was there somewhere earlier we could have stopped? Other precautions we could have taken? Those people were my responsibility, and their deaths rested upon me. I accepted, and do accept, full blame for what happened. I still don't know how I would have prevented it, but as Captain, it was my responsibility to find a way to keep my people safe. I had failed, and because of my failure, people died. It was a weight and a condemnation that seemed too broad and heavy for my tired back.

Maybe Bethany was right. Maybe none of the choices would have been the right ones.

The water casks had made it on board, and there were far fewer people now to use those rations. We were able to sail without stopping down the rest of the Falyndar coast. It is tangled and dangerous, a mass of snarled vegetation and impenetrable darkness. Wherever the Myrians' capital is, it isn't visible from the coast. The jungle lurked off to port like a monster, and I don't think any of us closed both eyes while sleeping until it was safely behind us. We are fortunate indeed that the Myrians have no shipbuilding skills, and that they are separated from us by the Suvan, the grasslands, and the Zatoskas. Even Zeltiva's finest warriors would be no match for the Myrian band. I am not even sure that the Syliran Knights in full force could withstand a concerted attack.

Summer was quickly drawing to a close. The winds fought us at every turn, and it was only with great difficulty that we could make any forward progress, especially as understaffed as we were. It was the eighty-fifth day of summer, far later than it should have been, by the time that we made it to the Faleyk Gulf.

The Gulf is remarkably wide, wide enough at its outermost point that the other shore is not visible. Like the rest of the Suvan Sea, it is a product of the Valterrian. Once we crossed it, we would be able to sight Wadrass, and ride the current up past Akvatar and on to Zeltiva. We were still hundreds of miles away, but in a sense, it felt as if we were almost home.

The winds in the Gulf are entirely unpredictable, and the whole area is prone to storms. Trading vessels making the Syliras run stay as close inshore as possible in order to minimize the chances for disaster. However, this once, fortune smiled on us. The winds remained favorable for the entire duration of the transit, and when we sighted Eyktol, those of us still left let out a cheer.

We were now back into the part of the world for which we had pre-existing maps. As such, Mr. Plankman and I only had to check our previous charts for accuracy, which was much less time-consuming than creating new ones. This was good, as everyone on the ship was weary to the bone, and we had little excess energy to spare.

There was one remaining navigational hazard in our path. We would have to pass by Rockward Island, a difficult passage in the best of times. It is largely barren rocks and sand, like most of the islands in the south, and is poorly vegetated, with no springs or other natural resources of note. No one, as far as I am aware, has ever lived there.

The island did not exist prior to the Valterrian. It was discovered and named by the great Timothy de Octans, who drew the first maps of its coast. The trade route, which de Octans pioneered, goes through the strait between the island and the mainland. It is shorter than trying to go around the south side, but it is prone to violent winds that, during a storm, are enough to destroy even the strongest vessel.

As we approached the island on the second day of autumn, it was clear that one such episode was occurring. The winds through the passage were from the east and extremely strong, and I did not dare attempt to fight them. Instead, I elected to bring us around the south side of the island. Which might have been a good decision, except that the storm caught up with us there.

I had not thought, given what I had read about the weather patterns around Rockward, that the winds would meet us on the south side. However, to my dismay, I was proved very wrong indeed.

The waves rose almost instantly, and before we knew it, the ship was pitching violently. I took the helm and attempted to steer the ship through the storm. We made some progress forward, but it continued to be a struggle. The waves seemed to be as high as mountains, and navigating through them was extraordinarily difficult. The storm seemed to be intensifying. Then, with almost no warning, one of the waves crashed entirely over the ship, washing over the deck with heavy force. Most of the crew were working the rigging and so had something to hold on to that would protect them from being swept away. However, four of the crew were not, and the wave swept them overboard before anything could be done. One of them was Mr. Plankman, who, due to his injury, was unable to help with the rigging and was directing the crew's work from the deck. He had been by my side through the worst of the voyage, through trials and difficulties, and now that we were almost home, he was gone.

The rest of us made it through to the other side of Rockward. There were now only nineteen of us, and it was a serious effort to keep control of the ship with that few people. I appointed Ms. Brooks, one of the few people who was still communicative with me, as my new second-in-command; it grieved me to have to make that decision, but my grief wouldn't sail the ship.

We did indeed pick up the current, which made matters easier. The trip up the southeastern coast of Eyktol was an easy one, all things considered, and on the seventeenth of autumn, 451, we sighted Akvatar.

Akvatar is largely sand dunes and barren rock. Few plants can grow on it, and there is no native fauna larger than a lizard. However, it contains one oasis; the city of Abura on its eastern shore, built around the island's only spring.

Abura is a town of perhaps 6,000 inhabitants, almost all of them Akvatari. It looks like something designed in a dream, Massive spires, arches, and towers, in a bewildering variety of colors, dominate the skyline, structures far larger than the population would dictate. Many of them are laced with openings, some covered and some not. There are isolated platforms dozens of feet in the air, single rooms carved into the structural supports, and arches with corridors wound like rope around the outside. Stairs and ladders are almost nonexistent; visitors who cannot fly are largely restricted to the area surrounding the docks unless they choose to hire an Akvatari chair-flight. I had never been outside the dock area, though I had been there many times and knew many of the people.

Our stores were nearly exhausted, and we put into the harbor there in Abura. I had not set foot on land since Denval, and the boards of the docks felt strange beneath my feet. Ms. Brooks and I were the first ones down, and we were met by an Akvatari man that I had met several times before, Imtapptendosin. At first, he seemed not to recognize me, but when I managed a word of greeting, a look of surprise came into his eyes.

"Captain Wright? But...aren't you supposed to be dead?"

"Probably, yes," I answered. "But I'm not, all the same."

Apparently, we had been given up for lost in Zeltiva, and the word had reached Abura from the trade ship. The Akvatari seemed happy that this was not the case, and put us up in the Guest House, a building at the docks that served as a sort of hotel for visitors who could not fly. The beds were soft and clean, the food warm and delicious, and when I finally slept, it was nearly a full day later before I awoke.

I got dressed and left my room, but was immediately met by the rest of my crew. They looked nervous, and I could tell immediately that something was wrong.


One of them, a deckhand named Johnathan Watertide, looked me in the eye. "Captain, we've followed you around the world and most of the way back. But we've lost most of our crew, the ship's undermanned, and I'm afraid that we don't have confidence in our ability to make it the rest of the way home on the Seafarer."


"Meaning, Captain, that with all due respect, I don't believe that we'll be rejoining you." He waited, almost like a child waiting to be scolded after breaking a dish.

I shrugged. "The first thing any captain learns is that leading by coercion is impossible. I'm one woman -- if you're dead set on staying here, what am I supposed to do to stop you?" I narrowed my eyes. "Unless you're intending to do me personal harm?"

"No, no, nothing of the kind," Mr. Watertide said, his face flushing. "We like you, Captain, on a personal level. It's just that this expedition seems...cursed, or doomed, or something of the kind, and we would just as soon not die like the others did. We could just ask you to take on some more sailors, or switch vessels, but to be blunt, we think the curse extends beyond the timber of the ship or the number of hands on the rigging. How are you going to stop it, Captain? And if you could stop the accidents, the diseases, the deaths, wouldn't you have done it earlier?"

I winced, even though I tried as hard as I could not to. "Mr. Watertide, if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them, because it's my responsibility to get this vessel back to Zeltiva, and that's what I intend to do. At any rate, are all of you with Mr. Watertide, or are any of you still planning to come with me?"

"I'm still with you." It was Ms. Brooks, who stepped over to my side.

Two others joined her, one of the University representatives, Hannah Watchtower, and one of the sailors, Douglas Stone. The others remained with Mr. Watertide.

"All right then. I wish you the best of luck, Mr. Watertide, and the rest of you too." I turned to the three crew members that I still had left. "We've got work to do."

I never did see Mr. Watertide or the others again. They never returned to Zeltiva, and although I sent inquiries to Abura, none of the Akvatari were able to tell the end of their story, save to confirm that they had eventually left the island.

Chapter Eleven

Imtapptendosin found twenty-five Akvatari who were willing to accompany me back to Zeltiva. The Akvatari have no use for boats, capable in the water as they are, and are seldom trained in any manual labor at all, let alone working the rigging. Nonetheless, they were quick studies, and tried their hardest; fortunately, we were now on the easiest leg of the journey, one that I had made many times before. Each one, however, largely kept to him or herself, rarely speaking unless spoken to. They would sing, however, while they were working -- not the sea shanties or work chants that Zeltivan sailors sometimes use, but harrowingly beautiful lyrics of loss and regret. I couldn't focus on them, or I would often start to weep; I've never heard anything sadder in my life, and it's difficult to explain the depths of loneliness that one Akvatari's voice can plumb.

We took the normal return route, across Zindal Bay and then between Darva and the mainland. My shoulder was hurting again, but not so much that I couldn't steer the helm. As we came into the passage between Darva and the mainland, we did encounter the fog that often shrouds that area, but there are few navigation obstacles there, and it did not prove to be an issue.

Darva is a massive island composed of dark volcanic rock. The coastline is jagged, and the island is almost cut in half by Mystery Inlet. It is covered in tropical vegetation, which is thick enough to make travel difficult at best. Several peaks rise up thousands of feet from the sea, and due to the weather patterns around the island, they are shrouded in fog over two hundred days out of the year. The climate is hot and wet in the south, and slightly cooler north of Mystery Inlet.

It was discovered some hundred and fifty years earlier by one of the earliest post-Valterrian expeditions from Zeltiva; the pre-Valterrian histories, including James Damerilat's, make no mention of any island in that area. The captain named it after his girlfriend back at port. Given the island's appearance, it was perhaps not the sweeping gesture of love that one might have expected, but none of the crew, the story goes, were keen to mention this.

The expedition had anchored in the deep bay, and sent a party ashore to get water, but they hadn't penetrated more than twenty feet from the shore, given the density of the vegetation. Later sailors had sighted smoke, and even seen figures along the coastline, but attempts to contact the people living there were unsuccessful. We were interested in establishing a base of operations further south, and so we sent two further expeditions to colonize the island. Neither was ever heard from again; it was as if the island had simply swallowed them up. Their boats were anchored offshore, but there was no one aboard, and no indication of what had happened. The last such attempt had been made in 441; after that, we had always given the island a carefully wide berth.

But once we were past Darva, there was little else to do. We rounded the point that lay south of Lisnar, an easy course even in the worst of times, and then turned into Mathews Bay. It seemed somehow smaller than I remembered, but I knew it was all my imagination. We pulled alongside the docks and berthed on the first day of winter. It was my twenty-first birthday.

The people at the docks looked as if they had seen a ghost ship; I knew why, but that didn't make it any less unsettling. The Akvatari wished to make a quick exit; they would accept no payment, and barely any thanks, before diving into the water and vanishing beneath the waves.

That left the four of us -- Ms. Brooks, Mr. Stone, Ms. Watchtower and I. We walked to the Guild Hall, where we were offered refreshment and a seat by the fire. Then, leaving the other three, I went to the Senior Member's office to report.

It was the same room I had stood in so long before, but the person there was, if anything, even more intimidating than Ms. Helm. The great Timothy de Octans sat there, almost regal behind his desk. I could not read the look on his face. I inclined my head deeply.

"Captain de Octans," I said quietly, "it's done. We did it. I've got the charts and the notes to show you if you wish." I swallowed nervously. "The ship is in fair condition, though it will need to be refitted before another voyage. However...aside from myself, only three of the crew returned with me. I'm...I'm sorry, Captain."

He stood and walked around the desk, and I braced for the reprimand. But it never came -- instead, he embraced me, and I heard him say quietly, "You've done us all proud, Captain Wright."

Chapter Twelve

Most of the events after that are public knowledge, and should perhaps be chronicled by others. I was not reassigned to the Abura route, or for that matter to any other route. Rather, I was appointed Honorary Chair of the University of Zeltiva's College of Navigation, a position which has largely left me alone with my thoughts and the ghosts of the voyage, and given me the time and means to compile my notes and produce this work. I have tried to write what I remember, to leave a true and honest account for any who might be inclined to read it. I have tried to do what was asked of me, what I knew I must do, and if I have not entirely succeeded, I accept any and all blame without excuse.

Ms. Brooks was promoted to Captain and given the Abura run, which she has managed faithfully throughout the intervening years. Mr. Stone decided he had had enough of sailing the sea directly, and chose instead to become a shipbuilder, a task at which I am told he is very skilled indeed. Ms. Watchtower lectures for the University about her experiences during the circumnavigation, and is a speaker in the highest demand.

And so here I leave my record, hoping it may be of some small value. May those who read it look on it gently.

Kenabelle Wright