Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Darag in Portoreayl – Part 3
“So why are you here?” Versea asked.
Darag glanced at the skinny boy he’d met on the forested shoreline outside of Portoreayl. Versea hunted between boulders on the shore for timbered remains of broken ships. Curious about a child who dared to venture outside the protection of the city with nothing more than a sharpened stone as a knife, Darag had followed Versea along the water line, getting the boy’s name if not much more out of him.
“Where I am from the forest comes down to the shore. I guess I’m a little homesick. I was trying to decide if I wanted to return,” Darag answered.
“You’re not on your apprenticeship?” Versea asked. “You look like you should be.”
Darag chuckled at the scold in Versea’s tone. “My people do not have apprenticeships as yours do. They rarely leave home, which is why you’ve never seen anyone with skin like mine,” Darag pointed out.
Versea grunted in acceptance, distracted by a board wedged tight. He yarded on it until the tangled mass of weed, wood, and barnacles broke free, tumbling along with him into the shallows. Darag tried not to laugh as he helped Versea to his feet. The boy didn’t mind the dowsing. He did look upset by the condition of the board though. Examining the rotted end, Versea sighed and dropped it into the sea.
“Are you simply looking for shipwrecks or is there a purpose to this?’ Darag asked.
Versea blushed. “I want to apprentice as a sailor, but no captain will ever take me if I don’t know anything about sailing. I’m trying to build a raft or sailing skiff, anything so I can learn. Otherwise my mom will apprentice me to a cook so I can bring home leftovers.”
Darag took in Versea’s threadbare and frayed too short pants again. What the boy hadn’t said was that his parents had no money for a luxury like a sailing skiff. Though he had admitted that extra food was enough of a welcome addition that his parents were organizing their son’s future around it. Laith Lus had told Darag about much of the lands outside of the Lus na Sithchaine. He knew of apprenticeships and that folks made their own way in life, a concept that had drawn Darag. For the Kith, life involved community. Food, fabric, and shelter were shared and easily come by. No one, but him, wanted for anything.
“How long have you been gathering boards?”
“Since the last rainy season. Four months? A ship broke up outside of the peninsula and the debris came all the way to the harbor. A lot of people scavenged good wood for houses and such. I’ve got a stash of lumber above the high tide line. I think it is almost enough.”
“And it doesn’t bother you to want to learn to sail after seeing a shipwreck?” Darag asked, amused and impressed.
Versea glanced at him and shrugged. “I hate cooking.”
Darag remembered when life was that simple. Answers were yes and no. Life was to be long and peaceful. And then his father had weakened. The tree his father’s soul was bound to shed yellowed leaves by branch fulls when no tree in the forest ever lost more than a handful. Laith Lus had tried everything, and as the most powerful of the Kith Darad had believe Laith Lus would succeed. His father’s tree would heal. But Laith Lus had failed. His father had died as his tree died. And one morning over a year later, Darag had woke up and wondered what lay beyond the forest. Now he didn’t know where he headed or what the day would bring. Including meeting a little boy with dreams bigger than he realized.
“Do you know anything about building a boat?” Darag asked.
Versea’s face scrunched, anger in his voice as he snapped, “Do you?”
“Yes, actually I know quite a lot.” Versea dropped the one good board he’d found and stared at him.
Versea’s mound of lumber was a poor boy’s treasure trove and a sailor’s nightmare. The boards held cracked ends, bits of rot, and gaping nail holes. Darag wanted to give the boy a lecture on how foolish his idea was, but the boy’s hopeful dark eyes reminded him too much of his young sister. Though older in years that Versea, she looked younger, and was by Kith reckoning, than this boy. And she’d followed Darag around with much the same expression, as if he could answer the question of what had happened to their father, and if it could happen to their mother, or him, or her.
Versea’s problem was actually very easy to solve in comparison. “This should be enough to get started,” Darag told the boy. “It’ll take a few days, but I can make a small boat from this. We’ll have to find something better for the mast and boom. Plus the sails.”
“Don’t you need tools? I only have the head of a hammer that I found,” Versea said.
Darag did not know how much to tell him. He was away from home and in a city where Darag had seen, and avoided, Priests and Priestess of the Church of Four Orders every day. The last thing he needed was Versea to bring them to him.
“You have a secret,” Versea said. “You won’t help me.”
“I do,” Darag said, hesitating still. “I will still help you, but if I share my secret with you, you must swear not to tell. Or you cannot watch me work on the boat.”
“Is it big secret?” Versea asked, eyes somber for one so young. Just like Darag’s sister.
“A very big secret.”
“Don’t tell me. I won’t watch you. I… told my little brother something once, something I wasn’t supposed and got someone hurt. I don’t want to do that again.”
That wasn’t the answer that Darag expected. But as Versea gazed at his lumber pile, sweeping Darag with the same somber look as if he trusted all of his dreams to Darag, and walked away, Darag realized the lad was earnest. It took Darag a minute to shake off the sense of responsibility and focus on the wood in front of him.
He picked up the longest and heaviest of the beams. Under his hand and will, it lengthen and curved into the true line of a sturdy keel. Darag hoped his good deed remained simply a distraction from his longing to go north, and that it would not lead to the troubles Versea had caused once before.