Chapter 23 Water

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They quickly split into groups of four and make their way to the rooms on the second floor. The beds offer much more comfort than the cold ground and soon everyone is fast asleep.

The morning greets them with the sounds of waves crashing and sea birds crying out. The smell of freshly cooked food lures them down to the main room and they eat until they can’t fit any more in their stomachs. Lorel easily handles the group’s appetites and drinks seem never-ending.

The few other patrons from the night before sit in the same seats, almost as if they never left. They seem more open to speaking with the group, if only out of curiosity. The former Redland raiders were of particular interest with their rugged clothes and appetites.

“So our next step is finding a ship to Deirak,” Tal says, finishing her fourth helping of meat. “We’ll have to go into the city proper for that, I have a feeling.”

“With so many ships I hope it won’t be too difficult to find one. But do we even have enough money?” Kemp asks.

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Ari says. “First, we’ve got to find a ship.”

“You won’t find any heading to Deirak,” Lorel interrupts, appearing next to Ari.

“What?” Crofton asks.

“There aren’t any ships foolish enough to sail to Deirak right now and you should give up trying to get there.”

“Why?” Tal asks.

“You’re trying to go there but you don’t know about the wars?”

“Wars? What wars?” Vesna asks, fear entering her voice.

Lorel places her hands on her hips. “Let’s see…there’s the war between Cassack and Eirak, the two major countries of Deirak. They’ve been arguing over territory for years, but it only recently exploded into all out war after the prince of Eirak stole away the princess of Cassack.”

“Stole away?”

“In retaliation the king of Cassack killed the brother of the prince, but still his daughter is held in Eirak and no one knows if she’s even still alive.” She shifts her weight and snags a piece of meat from Ari’s plate. “Then there’s the civil war in Meiran that’s been going on for about five years. Every year they say it’s getting close to a conclusion, but then it only escalates. No one really understands why it’s happening. Then again, Meiran is a very exclusive country. Very few ever travel there and those who do find it difficult to be allowed entry.”

“Why’s that?” Tal asks.

Eating the small piece of meat, Lorel smiles. “The people of Meiran believe those from other lands only bring disease, discord, and destruction to them. They say the ruler forbids the people of any outside influence and as a result they’ve developed an extreme distrust to any not born in their borders.

“And, of course, there’s the continuous war between magic users and non magic users. Or rather, the hatred of magic users.”

This catches everyone by surprise. “What do you mean?” Kemp asks.

“Unlike here, magic is not as prevalent in Deirak. Powerful magic users are rare and the few known across the land…were tyrants or created devastating catastrophes.”

Crofton locks eyes with Ari. “That’s a lot of wars going on at once.”

“And a lot of danger for magic users,” Vesna says, squeezing Kemp’s arm.

“That also doesn’t even begin to cover the pirate attacks.”

“Pirates, too? Can’t get any better than that.”

Placing a hand on the back of Crofton’s seat, Lorel leans down close to him, smiling. “I’m not finished. Pirates have always attacked ships traveling between Myldea and Deirak, but now they’re activity has increased since the pirate lord of the east died. They’re not only attacking travelling ships, but also each other vying for the title.”

“Audra Sellin died? How?” Ari asks.

She never met the pirate lord of the east, but her mother told her how Audra had been the only aid from Deirak when the Blood War truly broke out. She also assisted in protection, helping small cities plagued by rogue groups of sympathizers for the Blood King.

“She died a lot older than most pirate lords. Don’t really know how, but some say it was in her sleep, natural.” Lorel’s tone softens. “A far more pleasant death than many pirate lords could even dream of having.”

“When did she die?”

“About five months ago. Out of respect for her passing, the pirates parlayed a truce for two months. They didn’t attack a single ship and their crimes were forgiven. But once those two months passed, the violence increased exponentially.”

Crofton shrinks away from her, his discomfort clear on his face.

“And then there are the rumors that even have the pirates rarely venturing too close to Deirak.”

“What rumors are those?” Ari asks.

Standing up straight, Lorel slowly moves towards her. “We don’t hear as much here on the coast compared to the city, but there are stories of monsters hunting ships across the sea.”

“Monsters?”

“I don’t know any more details, but I’m sure if you ask around the docks in the city someone would be willing to tell you more.”

“You said we wouldn’t be able to find a ship.”

“Not one sailing and even if you were able to convince someone to sail, I doubt you have money enough for anyone to risk their lives.” She shrugs. “But sailors love telling their tales. You’ll find no lack of men willing to talk.”

One of the few patrons from the previous night waves to Lorel and she leaves the group to mull over what she’s said.

“What’s the plan?” Kemp asks.

“We need a ship to take us to Deirak. So there’s only one plan,” Ari says, finishing the last of her drink.

“We find one.”

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