01 Going Home
Draft 2019.04.08.03 – The winds were light as a small crew prepared to hoist down a longboat from the side of the Molly Red. A tall, massive cog ship made of oak, the Molly Red had several masts, with the mainsail at the center. It had fore and stern castles for crew and guest quarters. The mainsail, when pushed out to catch the wind, would display a large red whale breaching the water.
A cargo net was cast aside and secured to large hooks along the edge. The longboat was ready for boarding. The Molly Red had anchored just outside the Southport harbor of Rylie Glen. There wasn’t a place to dock as other ships already occupied the available piers.
Gulls floated in the breeze, squawking approval, as they watched ships unloaded cargo. Occasionally, the eyes of the workers ventured towards the Molly Red in the distance. Its sheer size commanded attention.
Back on the Molly Red, three young men walked towards the crew. They watched the boys approach, whispering something between them. But before the boys could start their descent down the cargo net and to the longboat, they heard a shout, “Wait!”
Another crew member ran towards the group. He tapped his finger on the chest of the long, dark-haired boy. “Josah,” he huffed, “The captain wants to see you before you go.”
Josah looked at Conall Evermore, the oldest of the two brothers who were to board the longboat. He was as tall as Josah but with long blonde hair. Caleb, the younger brother, lifted and dropped his shoulder, saying “Better go see what he wants.”
He dropped a leather bag and his Mandolin wrapped in a sack next to Caleb. Walking back to the Captain’s quarters, Josah took deep breaths, not sure what to expect. The ornate oak door displayed a carving of the Molly Red sailing towards a setting sun. Josah knocked on the door and entered when invited.
Behind a clean and organized desk sat Captain Munro, somewhat hidden by the back of his chair. He sat looking outside the window, staring as if looking for guidance for what he had to say. He casually turned his chair around and faced the young man who looked as nervous as he felt.
“Yes, Captain. You wanted to speak with me?” Josah stood still, letting his long hair hide his face.
The Captain wore a burgundy jacket with gold trimming, a black vest, and white shirt. He too wore his dark hair long, pulled back around his ears. His beard had streaks of gray, betraying his appearance as a younger man.
“Josah, I know we haven’t spoken much about that night you first came to the Molly Red…”
“There is no need, sir,” Josah interrupted.
“No, this can’t wait any longer.”
He shifted his large frame in his chair and gestured with his hand for Josah to sit down. “I first saw you eight years ago, early morning, dragged into my warehouse by a young man who was about your age today. You know him. His name was Luka Dey Robion.”
“He had two other young men with him, who told me that you killed a noble in Cornor Square. Luka produced the knife, fresh with blood, which he pointed out was on your clothes.”
Josah lifted his eyes and looked right into Captain Munro’s face. “I told you then, and I am telling you now, Luka Dey killed my brother with the help of the other two men.”
Rubbing his left eye, he felt the scar, a reminder of what happened next. “When I ran to defend my brother, Luka hit me with the hilt of his sword. I don’t remember anything afterward until I woke up in the warehouse.”
“Precisely,” nodded the Captain as he stood up and walked around his desk. He sat down and placed a hand on Josah’s shoulder. “I have heard stories of this Luka Dey. Your brother is not the only person he killed.”
“I want you to understand that these men wanted you dead. You were only 10-years old. Luka bringing you to me was pure providence. But I also knew if I didn’t take you as an indentured servant, they would have killed you and tossed you in the woods.”
The Captain stood up again and started pacing. “It was a quick decision. I had to make you an indentured servant right then. I was trying to save your life, boy. Can’t you see?”
Josah looked down to his boots. To avoid the conversation altogether, he tried to focus on his scuffed-up boots. He would make time to polish them again. His eyes moved on to the gleaming floors in a desperate attempt to push away his memories.
“Josah,” the Captain spoke with a softer tone. Josah looked up. “That mark you bare on your right arm, a circle with a number in the center, is more than the mark of an indentured servant. It was your protection. Once I branded you with that mark, Luka and his band left.”
“Sir, am I supposed to thank you for that?”
“No, no, no,” said the Captain, shaking his head and walking towards Josah. “No, that’s my guilt to bare. I should have fought for you right then and there. But Luka was the only noble in the room that morning, and he had two witnesses. There was nothing I could do.”
The Captain walked back to his chair and sat down. He allowed himself to smile a bit and said. “You were the most cooperative boy I ever met, working hard at every task I gave you.”
He cleared his voice and finally told Josah what he wanted to say all along. “My proudest moment was when you refused to give me your name, but you took my father’s name when I offered. Remember what I told you after some time?”
Josah nodded with a grin, “Yes, you said ‘You took my father’s first name, you might as well take his last.'”
The Captain slammed his hand on the desk, smiling, and said, “Yes, that’s what I told you.”
Josah added, “And I will honor that name, sir.”
“Yes, I know you will. When I finally learned your real name, I went to look for your father. That’s when I heard he had passed, which is why you are leaving us and going to Bon Abbi to pay your respects. “
“But, Josah, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Luka is now the ruler of Casselberry. Murder has become a hobby for this man. For you to get to Bon Abbi, you’ll have to go through his city. “
“Handing you over to me when you were ten was as good as a death sentence, or at least, what he thought.” The Captain reached into a desk drawer, pulled out a leather pouch and tossed it to Josah.
“When you make land on Southport, go to the Pouring Rain Pub, and get a room. Leave early in the morning, walk fast but without drawing attention. Don’t stop until you reach Neardore, the next city. Understand, you aren’t safe until you make it to Midland, and then Bon Abbi.”
Josah shook the pouch and could hear the clinking of coins. “Thank you, sir.”
He stood up and offered his hand to the Captain. With a few swift moves around the desk, Captain Munro grabbed Josah with his left arm and drew him into a hug. “Those boys of mine are not the only ones fond of you, my lad.”
Josah pushed away once the Captain released his grip. “Thank you, sir, as I am of you and your family. I don’t plan to stay long so I should be back to Southport within a fortnight. Will you be there?”
“Aye, you can count on it.”
With that promise, Josah raised his hand to his chest and bowed his head. That was the Evermore way of saying thank you. He turned around and made his way out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Josah dropped his head down, took a deep breath, and then walked back to the crew. The two brothers were already in the longboat. Two crew members, holding onto the oars, waited for Josah. He saw his belonging in the boat, so Josah climbed down the cargo net and sat down at the stern.
The youngest Evermore watched Josah holding on to the edge of the longboat, with his back to the Molly Red. Caleb could see his father, Captain Munro, standing on the ship, with his crew, as the longboat made its way to Rylie Glen.
“The waters are calm,” said Conall. Two crewmen were rowing the boat as the three boys sat waiting for the inevitable. Josah couldn’t see Captain Munro, but he could feel his stare. He took deep, slow breaths of salty air, an unexpected comfort.
The Molly Red typically carried cargo from the Mainlands. But today, it wasn’t business as usual. The ship was empty, as its real load was the boys, now heading for shore. The Molly Red would sail west to Mercil, once the stop on the island of Rylie Glen was over.
Josah finally let go of the longboat. He had spent most of his last eight years on the water, so he had no fear of the sea. However, he was afraid he would lose what he gained, his new family. Josah felt every bit a brother to Caleb and Conall, as he was to them.
He pulled his long dark hair out of his face, revealing that scar under his left eye. Summer was coming to an end, but he could still feel the sun on his tanned skin. The fresh sea breeze brought instant relief from the sun. It wouldn’t be too long before the sun slipped behind the Filgore Mountain range.
The longboat finally made it to the shore. The three boys stepped into the water and onto dry land. “Wait for us,” said Conall to the crewmen, as they walked to King’s Road.
Southport was busy with merchants and travelers, coming to and leaving Rylie Glen. Josah didn’t remember the Island being this active. But of course, it’s been some time since he was on Rylie Glen.
New buildings and streets expanded the harbor square, almost unrecognizable to Josah. Cobblestone roads welcomed people to various storefronts. Merchants displayed their wares under striped canopies, enticing people to browse. Men from ships unloaded their cargo into wagons and took them to the warehouses in back.
For a moment, Josah stared at the two oldest warehouses in Southport. The buildings, framed in wood, had strips of waddle interwoven between posts like a basket. Covered by a blend of soil, clay, sand, straw, and dung, the mixture dried hard. The buildings had fresh thatch attached to the roof.
And between the buildings was the very alley Josah still saw in his sleep. It was here where his life had changed eight years ago. He looked away as an act of defiance, refusing to remember what had happened there.
He dreaded his walk to the next burg called Cornor. There he would find the Pouring Rain Pub, food to eat, drink and bedding. He would do what the Captain suggested before heading to Casselberry. But he knew every step would make him relive what he tried to forget years ago.
Josah stopped at the edge of the road, then turned to Caleb and Conall. “Go no further. You need to get back to the ship.”
They could still see Captain Munro aboard the Molly Red. He held an open hand and waited for the boys to respond. Conall and Josah held their open right hand in the air. Caleb made a fist with his left.
Josah held his hand high in the air long after Captain Munro pulled his down. The Captain walked away. Turning to Caleb who still held his fist in the air, Josah asked, “What are you doing? The left hand in a fist means you need help.”
“Well,” said Caleb as he looked down, “You know why.”
“We’ve been through this before. I must go back home. My father passed away in spring, and I need to go.” Josah stumbled at the word ‘father.’ The man who passed away was such a stranger. When Captain Munro brought the news back after a recent visit to the island, he insisted Josah make the trip.
“But, we’re your family now. I’m afraid you won’t come back. ” Caleb kicked at a stone.
Conall pushed the younger boy, wanting him to stop. “Come on, you know better. If Josah says he’s coming back, then he will.”
Caleb mumbled something not meant for hearing. “Don’t worry about him,” Conall told Josah. “How much time do you need?”
“I told your father that I would be back by a fortnight. I’ll leave word at the Pouring Rain Pub, down King’s Road, if something changes. It should be the first pub in Cornor if things haven’t changed.”
The three boys stared at each other, a bit uncomfortable. Conall laughed, “Well, you won’t have me ordering you around for a while.” He stood up straight, standing a little taller than Josah.
“Or me correcting you,” said Josah with a smile. He clasped right forearms with Conall, gripping tight. He whispered, “Your father told me the man who killed my brother is now the ruler of Casselberry.”
He looked at Josah, knowing he didn’t want Caleb to know. Conall nodded his head and said, “Be safe.”
Josah turned to the younger boy and extended his arm. Caleb clasped his forearm and pulled him close. Making every word count, Caleb said, “You’re one of us now. You are an Evermore.”
Nodding his head, he looked at the two boys. Conall, the same age as Josah, wore a beret that held his long blonde hair in place. He wore a tan tunic and vest, a wide belt carrying a ship’s knife in its sheath, and baggy trousers tucked into his boots.
Caleb, two years younger, wasn’t as tall as Conall, his blonde hair trimmed around his ears. He wore a flowy linen shirt, vest, and leather trousers midway down his leg. Josah grinned, realizing he dressed the same way. “You two look like high sea bandits. Go on, get out of here. I’ll see you in a fortnight.”
Before Josah turned to leave, he told Caleb, “Yes. I am an Evermore. To the end.” Seeing Caleb smile was all he needed to start his journey to Cornor.
The three held open right hands in the air, grinning. Josah turned and adjusted his leather pouch, and the Mandolin stuffed inside a cloth sack. His smile disappeared, realizing he was alone with each step he took down King’s Road.
Conall turned to the sea and placed his right hand on Caleb’s shoulder. Caleb watched Josah walk down the cobblestone road. “Come on. Father’s waiting for us.”
The two boys walked back to the shores. Caleb stared at the faces of the people walking by him. Those leaving the docks did so in a leisurely pace. Some were in a rush to get to a ship. He saw a woman crying, followed by a man carrying leather bags behind her.
Caleb paused for a moment and watched as the man dropped his bags on the docks. Conall waded into the water, ready to board the longboat. “Caleb, come on. We have to go.”
Caleb walked closer to the man until he could hear the conversation between the man and the woman. He then turned to Conall, waving his arms to come. Reluctantly, Conall walked out of the water and to Caleb.
“Conall, you have to talk to this couple. Something happened to their son last night in Cornor. That’s where Josah is going.”
Caleb didn’t wait. “Excuse me, excuse me,” he stammered.
The man who started to pick up his bags turned towards Caleb. “I couldn’t help but hear you say something happened to your son in Cornor. We have a-a brother…”
Caleb paused. He always wanted to call Josah a brother out loud. The man dropped the bags again and walked to Caleb. “Well, he’s not safe if he is young and in Cornor. Casselberry is recruiting young men for their army.”
“Stealing, you mean!” shouted the women. “While we were eating, a group of soldiers dragged him out of the pub. Told us we’ll see him again in a few years.”
The woman sobbed into her sleeve. “We went to Casselberry and asked to speak to the council, but they refused. Said it was a protection matter and up to their commander.”
“If you have a brother there, get him out before it’s too late!” said the man. He turned to his bags and yelled back to the woman to follow.
Caleb ran his hands through his hair. “What do we do?”
“What do we do? You know what we have to do.” Conall ran to the longboat, told the crew they would stay on the island with Josah. “Tell the Captain we’ll see him in a fortnight.”
“He’s not going to like that news,” said one of the crew as he spat into the water.
“It’s okay. Tell my father we ran before you could catch us. Josah is in trouble. But don’t tell the Captain.”
“Don’t you need our help?”
“No,” said Conall. “It’s not that kind of trouble.”
The two men expressed their concern as they jumped into the longboat. With a final push on the longboat, Conall joined Caleb. They quickened their pace down the cobblestone road and towards Cornor.
Shadows appeared as the sun started its descent behind the mountain range. There was a steady pace of visitors making their way to Cornor. “How long will it take to get to Cornor?” asked Caleb.
“Don’t know. Never been here,” huffed Conall as he outpaced Caleb.
“How are you going to find the Pouring Rain Pub?”
“Should be the first pub,” shouted Conall.
Caleb started to ask another question when Conall stopped. “Caleb, I don’t anything about this place, so don’t ask any more questions. All I know is we need to get to Josah before the soldiers do.”
“Okay. What do you want me to do?”
“Keep up with me,” Conall shouted back as he started walking again. “Stay behind me when we get to Cornor. If they are going after Josah, they may go after us too!”