Nolan was ill again. We had only been out to sea for a couple of hours but he had spent most of that bent over the ships railing dumping all he had eaten, and more, into the sea. I had given up trying to comfort him long ago, as had Maeve. Eshrin just stood watching and chuckling. He and Tralin were the only ones of us who had even been on a ship. I took to it rather easily, the others did not. Galen had boarded fully dressed in his armor. Even though Eshrin told him it was a bad idea he was very proud of it and had worn it anyway. At the first listing of the ship he had gone tumbling and each time he tried to get his feet he would go tumbling again. It took all of us, except Nolan who was being ill, to get him back on his feet, only to watch him hit the deck again. In the end we took off his armor while he was prone, and though he still had difficult balancing, we all did even Eshrin and Tralin at first, he managed. I had some difficulty adjusting to the ships listing at first, but I have always been light on my feet, years of dancing, training to roll and tumble in combat with Jesimae, and my natural sense of balance allowed me to adjust and get my 'sailors legs' almost as quickly as Eshrin and Tralin did. Rhia, who had spent years in the woods traveling over uneven and often treacherous ground, seemed to never have lost her balance. Maeve eventually came around as well, but Galen still stumbled all over the deck. Nolan had done nothing but hug the railing so I could not tell if he could walk about comfortably or not.
I liked being on the boat, surrounded by the sea. I felt better than had since I had left the temple. I enjoyed the briny smell and the cool breeze all around me. I liked listening to the slosh of the ship on the water, and the sway of the ship as it rode the waves. I found my way to the railing and leaned on it gazing out over the blue. It didn’t take long to leave the Dragon Reach and into the Sea of Fallen Stars. Though we rode close to the land, the Pirate Isles were further out to sea and they were far from safe, on the far side the sea stretched out into the horizon eventually blending with the light blue sky. Galen stumbled over and leaned on the rail next to me, "Beautiful isn't it?"
I nodded, "I have always loved the sea. It is so serene, so calm and peaceful. But it can become so violent, and terrible."
He smiled, "Like you."
I started a bit, I had never thought of that. "I suppose... It sings to me."
We stood in silence gazing out over the water for a few moments before he spoke again, "You're an orphan?"
"If you have never met your parents how did you come by your surname?"
"My mentor gave it to me. She said I should have one should I decide to ever have a family and children of my own."
He nodded, "And will you?"
I did not respond at first, I had to think of how to answer that. "I do not know. I think I would like to, but I wonder if it would be right for me to pass the curse of my blood on. I do not know if I can control it, and if I cannot how would my children? I think maybe the world would be better for it if I did not."
Galen stared at me a minute and I became uncomfortable under his gaze. "You have managed this far. In the end you will defeat the taint."
That gave me some hope. I sighed, "I hope so. But it scares me and I do not know how to fight it. Nor do I have the means."
"You do. You have your faith, and you have your friends. Those are your strength, and alone they are stronger things than any evil. But together, so long as you remain steady in both, you will master your fears and your blood." He gestured out to the sea, "Storms come, but they will pass. It is in weathering them and coming out stronger into the sunshine beyond that makes us what we are. Not how we enter, but how we emerge." There was more silence for a moment. "I don't think the gods give us more to carry than we can shoulder. I think you are stronger than you believe, and I think you will win out in the end. For what it's worth, I do, and will continue, to pray for you."
A warm tear rolled down my cheek, and in a barely audible whisper I said, "Thank you." He grasped my shoulder and squeezed it gently before stumbling off to see to still sick Nolan. I spent the rest of the day leaning on that rail, gazing out over the sea, thinking. I thought Galen was right, or maybe I just dearly wanted to believe he was. Deep down some part of me doubted, and there was another part, a part that terrified me absolutely that hoped he was wrong, hoped I would lose the struggle and become that terrible thing completely.
Night fell soon enough, and though we were to bunk down below decks, I chose to sleep up top, under the stars. It was a clear night. Many stars shone brightly above me and the moon was bright. I wanted to sing and dance. I could not the way I would at the temple or if I were alone, it would not be appropriate to strip down here on the deck of the ship. So I contented myself with sitting against the rail and playing my flute. Like always it made me feel better, and even more so there on the sea, knowing the Goddess was looking down on me. I played as beautifully as I could and I thought maybe she was smiling. After a time I became too tired and lay down to sleep.
I was awoken with the sunrise. The crew was set about their tasks on the ship and I saw Galen kneeling facing the rising sun, deep in prayer. I watched the sun rise, it was quite beautiful. Even being out on the road with my companions I had not really got to watch such a thing, and back home since the temple was underground I never got the chance to see a sunrise. Afterwards, with a smile on my face, I went down below deck to see if there was any breakfast. It would be a good day I thought. There was and I was the only one of our group there to eat. I assumed the others, besides Galen, must be sleeping still. It was not much of a meal but it still seemed very good.
It was a good day, and so was the day after, and the day after that. All our time at sea seemed good to me, I felt comfortable and more at home than I had anywhere besides the temple I grew up in. In all honesty I think it was the best time for me on all of our journey, and having seen the things I have that is saying quite a bit.
We encountered nothing of terrible interest on that journey. One day we spotted a ship far distant that our captain believed to be a pirate ship and it was tense going then. I did not know how well I would fight or how much use I would be on a ship. I had my sea legs but I doubted I could run and tumble terribly well. Tralin joined the ships wizards along the side of the ship and readied spells. The rest of us stood at the ready. The ship ignored us though and we soon enough passed beyond its reach. There was an almost audible sigh from the crew.
After some time I sea, I had not bothered to count the days, we finally came to our destination. Nolan practically squealed with delight when the city came into view, still hugging the railing in case he became sick again. Bringing the ship into port and all the things docking entailed seemed to take a small eternity and Nolan was down the plank on solid ground in a heartbeat as soon as it was possible. I half expected him to simply jump into the sea and swim ashore before the ship could dock.
Telflamm was far more bustling than even great Waterdeep. Though not as big as that city the streets were far more crowded and there were merchant stalls packed in as much as possible. This was truly a port city. I saw goods from all over Faerun and some I didn’t recognize at all that likely came from the far east. Eshrin had acquired some of the small fortune he had from before his families fall. He had hidden it in safe places and with trusted allies in Harrowdale and before we left he had collected some of it up since no one in our group had any coin to speak of anymore. This he divided up amongst us when we arrived in Telflamm, eight shares, one for each of us and one to buy provisions and horses.
We would stay a day in the city and leave with the sunrise the next day. Our first order of business was to find a place to stay. In the other towns and cities we had been to one of us knew the place and we had found comfortable places to stay. Not a one of us had ever been here before though and we were at a loss of where to go. I asked a sailor of the ship we had arrived on if he had any suggestions. He said there was a restaurant he was fond of and he believed it sported an inn as well. He was going there for his first meal of his very short shore leave and offered us to accompany him.
We traveled into a district he called Shou Town. I recognized the word Shou, I had read what very little information my temple had had of the Far East. The architecture of the district was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was beautiful and exotic. It is hard for me to describe it because I can not do justice to it. All around us were stall filled with strange, wonderful, and exotic goods. Even the people seemed exotic, their features were pointed and slender, like an elf’s, but more full, builds more like a humans. Their complexions ranged from very dark to quite fair. All in all I thought them quite beautiful. But even more beautiful was the language I heard spoken. So song like and lilting, it reminded me of the elven tongue. I knew enough to converse in most every major language spoken in Faerun as well as fluent elven and drow, but this I knew I had to study. I promised myself then that I would learn that language.
The meal was indeed delicious. It was composed mostly of rices, fish, and vegetables, but cooked in ways I had never tasted nor even seen before. There was an inn attached and we took rooms there, they were fairly cheap considering the comfort and exoticness of them. It was just after midday and Eshrin said he would go secure us provisions and horses. Tralin went with him, I think their relationship had healed considerably on the over see voyage. I wanted to look at the goods for sale and see what I could find and buy about learning the Shou tongue. Maeve agreed to go with me, Rhia said she would rather stay at the room and that she would like for Galen to stay as well. He blushed redder than the darkest of reds, but he stayed. I giggled a bit at that as did Maeve. Nolan smiled and said he did not think that particular invitation was extended to him so he would go with Maeve and I.
I spent more of the money Eshrin had given me on small useless but pretty trinkets than I should have. My pack ended up stuffed full of figurines of dragons in the eastern style, more serpentine than the depiction’s I had seen of them and far more snake like than the green I had seen with my own eyes, and wonderfully painted murals and portraits of people. I even got a portrait of me, painted in that eastern style on a small square of wood. But most importantly I purchased a small tome that was a guide to the Shou language. I knew it would not make me fluent but it was a start. Nolan chuckled watching Maeve and I squeal with glee at the various items and clothes. Maeve bought a beautiful shirt, it was called a yukata, that looked as comfortable as it was beautiful. She also purchased a multicolored tattoo across her back and shoulder blades. It was a dragon who’s brightly colored body began at the tail on her left collarbone, wrapped around her shoulder, all across her back, then back around her right shoulder so that its head rested just to the right of her neck. The day passed far to quickly and we all gathered together for another wonderful Shou meal. All through it Rhia passed knowing looks at Galen and we all laughed as he blushed at every one of them.
I went to sleep a happy woman that night. The next morning we would begin our journey to the Hordelands.
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