First, if this is your first foray into Journey’s End, please go check out the table of contents and start from the beginning!
Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted a chapter for Journey’s End, hasn’t it? The interesting thing about this chapter is that it was actually written months ago, but my focus on the presidential election drew all my energy and attention away from this story.
I had initially planned on making this chapter much much longer, but what struck me upon reviewing it in the process of writing it is that ending it exactly where I did just seemed to make sense.
Here we are introduced to yet another integral character to the story who I think I will ultimately add a little spice and comedy to the mix. Given the nearly saccarine sweet character of the relationship between Lindsey and Trevor, I think I would be in danger of having something so sweetly dull it wouldn’t be worth it. But this character kind of becomes the needed voice of dissent as the plot begins to take a more solidified shape.
As for Chapter 10, don’t hold your breath. Much has been written, but it is also a much longer chapter than this one is, and I haven’t even started contemplating how to continue writing it. Before that happens I have to get myself back in the habit of spending a little time in Journey’s End in my head.
The story so far and the actual chapter below the jump!
The Story So Far: Lindsey and Trevor have escaped the Golden Woods without further incident or visit from the dreaded stranger in black armor. With the last dying light of the day fading beyond the horizon, the two travelers race to the glimmering Port Town before them, with Lindsey outrunning Trevor easily.
At first glance, Port Town seems to live up to the name that the guard at the city gate gives it; the Jewel of Eastern Journey’s End. All of the buildings, crafted by the renowned builder Enzo, were shaped like gigantic versions of common beach sights; sand castles and beach balls, ship wrecks and exotic fish.
Lindsey finds herself immediately captivated by the city until both she and Trevor make a simple discovery; there doesn’t seem to be a single seaworthy vessel tied to the piers of Port Town.
The following morning, our two heroes head to the docks to investigate when a surly boy who apparently is the leader of a rag tag bunch of kids explains that no one sails the Roaring Sea anymore. No one.
And now, Chapter Nine; Marlin’s Tale.
Chapter 9: Marlin’s Tale
“What do you mean no one sails the Roaring Sea?” Lindsey asked the fat boy.
Spittle sprayed from his sausage like lips as he redirected his attention away from Trevor and answered, “I mean that no one sails the seas, period! Not since the comin’ of the Pylax!”
It was plain that Trevor had lost his patience from the edge in his voice. “Enough! What’s a Pylax? Why’s it such a big deal that no one sails anymore?”
“You Everywhere Towners,” the boy grunted in disgust. “You’d think the whole lot of yas would pay a little attention to current events once in a while. Not that this is much current, mind.”
The boy shook his head and slumped towards one of the pylons and sat. “You tell ‘em, Marlin!” a thin girl shouted in encouragement. Marlin turned to his followers, nodded with a sick grin on his face, and motioned for them to keep quiet. He then turned his attention back to Lindsey and Trevor.
“Seventy-five years ago these waters were flooded with sheets; you couldn’t spit in the water without hittin’ a vessel of some sort or the other first. That’s how this fair town came to be so great in the first place; far enough away from Westgate to keep up that good ol’ Eastern Journey’s End charm, but the tradin’ lines ‘tween here and Torrington let us collect some of the riches from our neighbors in the west.
“But while we was gettin’ fat off the riches, Eos and Creos continued their eternal feud…”
“Who are they?” Lindsey asked. Marlin shot her a dirty look, but Trevor answered for him.
“Eos is the god of the sky and the weather, and Creos is, if I remember, the god of the sea.”
“That’s right,” Marlin nodded. “Father and son, some say, only Eos hadn’t ever been too proud of his only child, and the storms that set about the Roarin’ Sea are really the two gods battlin’ each other.”
“I still don’t see what that has to do with whatever this Pylax thing is,” Lindsey said.
“I’m gettin’ there. Yeesh, oughta sew your lips shut. Might let a fella finish his sentence once in a while.” Marlin cast a sideways glance at Trevor, and Lindsey was pleased to see the suggestion met with a scowl. Quickly looking away, Marlin continued, “So… where was I? Travelers on the sea, plenty of ‘em, yes, Eos, and Creos, right. None of us who are of the sea ever paid the two gods mind. They got on with what they did, and we got on with what we did. Occasionally a ship would get caught up in one of their skirmishes, but no sailor worth his salt would be undone by a little storm.
“Then out goes the old Skupper, fine beauty of a rig piloted by old Cap’n Bone, bless his soul. Not a finer skipper on the water back then than old Bone. He goes out with cargo for Torrington; a hold full of blue skins and valley wheat. Didn’t a single one of us see a thing the morning they sailed off that would have foretold tragedy; no, not a dark spot in the sky, and not an omen on the plate as we like to say. Just good, strong, sailin’ winds and a full hold; any sailor’s dream.
“A few days later a couple of old Bone’s mates, Ragged Pete, and Bird Dog, were spotted driftin’ on the water. Me and a couple of the boys hauled out there in our dinghies and found the pair waterlogged, unconscious, and lashed to a bit of the Skupper’s hull like rats. They stayed down, too, for days, holed up in Miss Winjum’s care until finally Bird Dog came to. When he did, no one was prepared for the story he would tell.
“He said they hit a squall not long after they got underway. It was a vicious storm, the kind where the clouds turn day into night, and lightning threatens to split the waters. Eos, Bird Dog said, was furious. But Creos was too, and he had gotten to churnin’ up the waters somethin’ fierce, hurlin’ waves back to the sky that reached higher than the crow’s nest.
“In the first hour, Bird Dog said they lost a quarter of the crew; Katie Quick, and Loose Lou, Beachhead and Clever Phil. Good sailors the whole lot of ‘em. By the second hour, Cap’n Bone had given order to the rest of the crew to head below and wait out the storm, but just as they was about to, it seemed as if it was lettin’ off. There weren’t but a few down below before Bone was givin’ orders to catch the wind again, and that’s when they saw it.
“What they didn’t know was that Eos wasn’t done, not by the half. No, he was only preparin’ to unleash his most faithful and terrifying beast, the Pylax. To hear Bird Dog tell of it, the thing was a mammoth of a fish, as long as the three largest ships Port Town has ever seen lashed together fore to stern. Its teeth were the size of sails and sharper than any cutlass that ever came off of Blacksmith Ben’s anvil.
“It descended from the cloud covered sky and when its massive body cut the water it sent the Skupper pitchin’ and rollin’ so fierce that Bird Dog thought they was gonna capsize. He said it was a blessin’ that they didn’t. But that was just the beginnin’ of their troubles.
“The Pylax tore through the waters as though they was air, and thrashed at the hull of the fine Skupper. It battered the vessel ruthlessly, sending Bone and half the crew to a watery grave with just a single lash of its tail, but it wasn’t satisfied with that, oh no, that blasted thing kept beating the ship mercilessly until it wasn’t more than splinters floatin’ on the surface.
Marlin paused for effect, casting a glowering set of eyes over his entire audience before continuing.
“At the time, I was but an officer in the fisherman’s guild, but I knew then, from that moment on, as long as that creature paroled the depths, no ship was safe on the Roarin’ Sea. Me and a few of the other officers in the guild lobbied to have the lanes shut down, to keep the ships in harbor, but back then the fisherman’s guild didn’t hold hardly any weight over maritime law. That rested with the seagoin’ folks, and they were having none of it.
“They thought Bird Dog’s story was a load of rubbish. They thought that Cap’n Bone had probably gone off his rocker. They said Port Town couldn’t afford to have cross-sea traffic come to a halt. So they ignored us.
“No one wanted to sail, though. Not for a bit after Bird Dog and Pete returned. Neither of them survived either, by the way—died in their beds a few days after they each came to. So the sea was quiet for a few weeks and then the Black Mary went out, bearing blue skins and valley wheat just like the Skupper before her.
“We hadn’t heard from them in months, so we dispatched messengers to Torrington and Jagged Crescent Bay, the only other two cities on the sea. We sent the messengers by land, and we had to wait for months more before they finally returned, and when they did, they both had the same tale to tell. Not a soul had laid eyes on the Black Mary.
“That’s when we shut it down, and that’s the way it will stay until someone sees the carcass of that cursed fish lyin’ bloated on the shore.” He grunted and nodded for emphasis, and then stood. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, miss, these lazy meat sacks have been loafin’ long enough. We got livin’s to make and fish to catch.”
No one seemed inclined to speak following Marlin’s story, least of all his own people who just stared at him with looks of fear on their faces. For their part, Lindsey and Trevor both stood in place shocked, Lindsey with a million questions on the tip of her tongue, and yet none of them actually forming into anything coherent enough to be expressed by language.
It was no good. They simply had to find another way.
They traced the boardwalk back to the main strip in silence. Now the stench of the little fisherman’s village began to bother Lindsey intensely. She could almost feel it, clinging to her skin, seeping into her pores and soaking into her clothes, what she once thought of as curiously romantic now vile and oppressive, and she wasn’t sure if it was because of Marlin’s story, or the feral, hungry look of the rest of his group.
All she knew was that Port Town had all of a sudden become a little uglier in her eyes.
It wasn’t until they had actually stepped foot onto the strip when Trevor began apologizing again. “I’m really sorry, I didn’t know. Honest. News doesn’t get to Everywhere Town all that much.”
“It is sort of ridiculous that you didn’t know about it.”
“Sounded like a big deal.”
“And now I’ve lost a whole four days because of this.”
“I know… Lindsey I’m sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry I am…”
“Ten I’m sorries, and I’ll consider forgiving you.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m… Are you laughing at me?”
Lindsey couldn’t help herself. “I am.”
“But… I don’t get you, you know that?”
Lindsey took his hand, and this time it felt natural, normal somehow. This time she really didn’t mean anything by it, she just wanted to ease the guilt that Trevor couldn’t seem to shake. “We lost a couple of days. Considering that you said it would take months to get to Dark Iron if we went around the Roaring Sea, I don’t think a few days is really going to matter much, do you?”
Trevor shook his head.
“Besides, you tried to make it a faster trip. How am I supposed to get mad at you for that?”
“Do you get mad at anything?”
“When someone tries to kidnap my sister is a good place to start,” Lindsey answered. “When someone who barely knows me tries to help me get her back, that doesn’t necessarily fall into the categories that get me all that upset… even if he isn’t very successful.”
She gave his hand a squeeze and let it go.
“So you’re really not upset?” Trevor pressed.
“If you want me to be I can try.”
“No, no. I’ll take your word for it.”
“Good, because if I had to listen to you actually say you were sorry ten times I think I might have…”
And then a third voice cut over Lindsey and made both she and Trevor stop and turn to see from whom it came. “HEY! YOU TWO! WAIT UP!”
The owner of the voice was running full speed after them, a young boy with dark ebony skin, a tattered vest, and equally shabby trousers that ended at his kneecaps in ragged strips. He was waving furiously, stopping only once to keep his off white skull cap from sliding from his bald head.
“What’s this?” Lindsey asked.
“Wait!” he called again, even though neither Trevor nor Lindsey made any move to go. “I want to talk to you!”
The boy came to a skidding halt, and Lindsey could see his ribs poke in and out as he took several heaving gulps of air. She and Trevor remained silent as they let the boy catch his breath, waiting for him to explain what was so important that he ran after them all the way from the docks for.
Finally he spoke. “How bad do you want to cross the Roaring Sea?” he asked.
“We need to get to the Northern Crags,” Lindsey said. “So pretty bad if it will save us time. Why?”
“I’ll take you there.”
“How?” Trevor asked skeptically. “There aren’t any ships left.”
“That’s the catch, isn’t it?” the boy rebutted. “Look, here’s the deal, if you produce a ship, I’ll sail it for ya.”
“What’s your name?” Lindsey asked.
“Charlie, I’m Lindsey, and this is Trevor. Look, I really appreciate the offer, but…”
“I’ll build one,” Trevor interrupted, much to both Charlie’s and Lindsey’s amazement.
“You’ll what?” Lindsey asked.
With a careless shrug Trevor repeated himself, “I’ll just build one.”
“But how long will that take? Wouldn’t it be easier to just go around?” Lindsey pressed.
“You could just pay someone to build one,” Charlie offered. “If you could convince him to, Enzo may do it. He built all the ships back before the big shut down.”
Lindsey turned completely away from Trevor at this point, “How much do you think it will cost?”
“From Enzo? Probably about three gold, I’m not sure. I know I couldn’t afford that much.”
“I’m not sure we can either.”
“I said I’ll build it,” Trevor insisted, thrusting himself back into the conversation. “It can’t be that much different from building a house, and I can build one of those in a few days.”
He shook his head defiantly, and from his tone, Lindsey knew his mind was already made up. “I’ll spend a day or two looking some things up, get a good model going on, and then I’ll just build it. I don’t suppose you would have the plans for the old ships on public record?”
Charlie nodded. “I think there are a few in the library. Big building looks like a sand castle on the main road. You probably passed it on your way to the beach.”
“How’s lumber around here?”
“Are you kidding? This town is next to a forest, if you can’t buy cheap wood, you can chop it down for free.”
“Wait a minute,” Lindsey demanded. “Just… wait… Trevor, if you’re trying to prove something…”
“I’m not,” he assured her.
“And this isn’t out of guilt?”
He shook his head.
“And Charlie… What about the Pylax, aren’t you afraid of that?”
“What?” he snapped indignantly. “Of course not, I don’t think it even exists.”
“But Marlin’s story…”
Charlie’s face contorted into a mask of contempt at the very mention of Marlin’s name. “Marlin,” he spat. “Fat old fool, let me tell you something. I think he made the whole lot up.”
Confused, Trevor asked, “But why would he do that?”
Speaking as though both Trevor and Lindsey should already have known everything, Charlie explained, “Marlin’s a fisherman, always has been. He’s ugly and he’s mean, and he ain’t exactly book smart, but he’s no idiot. Back before traffic across the sea was shut down, the fishermen here had to compete with the fishermen in Jagged Crescent and Torrington. Sure, the rest of the people in Port Town did well, but the fishermen had to go up against some of the toughest competition in Journey’s End. I think old Marlin saw the opportunity to shut down competition from the other two cities in his market and took it.”
Lindsey crossed her arms and grunted. “It doesn’t seem like you’re doing all that well now.”
Charlie shook his head. “We aren’t. He is though. He’s head of the fishermen’s guild which is about the most powerful guild in town now that the sailor’s guild was broken up. So he gets nice and rich, lives in town while the rest of us muck about in the fishing village.”
“Aren’t you afraid of what Marlin will do, though?” Lindsey pressed him.
“I won’t be when I’m sitting in Torrington with a cargo loaded with loot. He can do whatever he wants then.”
Lindsey stopped and thought about the offer. She would do anything to get to Sara faster, of course, but this just seemed all a bit too reckless for her. “I don’t like it…”
“Listen to me,” Charlie interrupted her. He seemed to be on the verge of outright begging when he made his case. “I’m not a fisherman. I came out of the Someone Else Room a sailor thirty years ago, and from that time I ain’t never actually been out sailing. Do you know what that’s like? To have a purpose, to know your purpose, and not have the chance to actually do it? Look, you need to get across that sea, and I need to get on it, I don’t see what there is about that not to like.”
She bit her lip as Charlie continued to stare at her with pleading eyes. It was true, she needed to get on the other side of the Roaring Sea, and the idea of not being able to fulfill one’s purpose struck a deep and heavy chord with her. But what if he was wrong? What if he was wrong about the Pylax? And what about the ship? Yes, Lindsey had all the faith in the world that Trevor could build a house, but a ship?
A million things could go wrong with what Trevor and Charlie were suggesting, and if just one of them actually did go wrong, not only would their dooms be sealed; so would Sara’s.
She was on the verge of declining Charlie’s offer definitively when she felt Trevor’s hand on her shoulder. “Lindsey, give me two weeks, three weeks tops. If I can have the thing built in just three weeks, we could still get to Dark Iron faster than if we went around. Let me build the ship, and if you still don’t like the idea after it’s done, I’ll carry you myself to Asperia, and hopefully we can get a couple of horses there.”
Lindsey looked long into Trevor’s light brown eyes. He had lied earlier; part of his offer was about guilt, and part of it was about showing he could do something as good if not better than Enzo. She wasn’t sure how she knew this, but she did.
But there was something else, something that was more important than both guilt and envy; he really wanted to help. In those eyes, Lindsey could tell that he honestly wanted to do this for her, and though she didn’t understand why, she did nod. “Okay, three weeks, and then we go to Asperia.”