Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Darag in Portoreayl – Part 4
“What do you mean you don’t know how to sail?”
Versea held onto the rail of his gently bobbing skiff with a possessive grip. He stared at Darag in complete exasperation.
“How can you know how to build a boat but can’t actually sail it?” Versea lamented.
Darag had to clear his throat to keep from laughing. “I can find someone. I’ve been busy the last few days,” he added, gaze falling on the little boat. “This was just a test to see how it rested in the water. And if you haven’t noticed, we still need a sail.”
Versea blushed, impatience fading from his face. “I’d forgotten about the sail. I think I can find something. How big will it have to be?”
Darag had a vision of Versea stripping the covers from his bed, if the boy even had something as nice as a mattress. “Actually, I can find something. I need to go to the docks anyway to look for a sailor.”
Darag had seen all he needed on the little boat as well as what needed to be fixed. The beam was too wide for a skiff of that length and the ship took the waves broadside. Darag doubted it would steer straight. The keel needed to be deepened. But Versea held onto the boat, rubbing hands along its length with such awe that Darag let the boy have some time with it. Watching him gave Darag the idea to add oars and oarlocks. If he’d done that, Versea could have a go of rowing in the small sheltered cove where they sat.
In the end, Darag had to prod Versea along, pulling the boat above the high tide line and then following the boy back to the city or Darag suspected Versea would have slept in the boat. The city had fallen into shadows by the time they reached the warding stones, making today the latest they’d returned. But Versea did not seem concerned that anyone would be looking for him as he glanced along the shore toward where his boat was stashed beyond the bend of the peninsula. He gave Darag a wave before scooting down an alley.
It had taken Darag eight days to fashion the boat for Versea, mostly because the wood the boy had found had been so foul as to be unusable. Not that Darag would admit that to him. He’d had to scavenge lumber or use power to improve marginal pieces. But he couldn’t create good boards from nothing nor remedy holes from wood worms. He’d done what he could to build a fine little skiff that would hold two as long as one was a child. Finding a small adult to teach Versea wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
For once Darag did not return to his rented room. Evening was the time to find a sailor who might be looking for work. Ships were docked with a few men remaining aboard to watch over them and their cargo. Most of the men who worked and lived on the boats were in places Darag had avoided since his arrival. Darag walked in the evening shadows along the line of taverns, cheap inns, and other places of evening commerce warily. This was as far as he could imagine being from the place and ways of his home, short of visiting the Temple of Solaire. And Darag guessed he might find more in common with the inhabitants in Solaire than he did those stumbling from bar to brothel.
It wasn’t that the Kith didn’t drink. Even as young as he was at almost thirty, which for the Kith equated to mid-teens, Darag was accustomed to brewed cider and some ale. But the Kith didn’t drink until drunk. And there were no bars in Lus na Sithchaine. The inn located in Drufforth was the closest thing Darag had seen to the establishments along Portoreayl’s harbors and its quiet peace felt nothing like the dangerous edge lingering in the dark streets of the city.
And love was another matter entirely.
Shunning any tavern that housed women who worked as more than a barmaid, Darag chose one that had more lanterns than most and where patrons could sit and order a meal, finding a quieter corner along the wall. The barmaid sized him up with a quick glance and demanded money when she took his order of ale and soup. He felt as young as he looked in her eyes, and even fumbled the coins as he handed them over. Which earned him a quiet laugh and a bit more warmth from the woman.
As he ate more off-duty sailors entered, the tempo and atmosphere of the bar picking up. A musician played the fiddle in the corner while men from two recently docked ships shouted jests over who would unload first in the morning. He hated to admit it, but Darag was at a loss. He’d begun to ponder looking for an older sailor along the docks in the morning when a man shouted, turning with his fist swinging. He struck the shoulder of the sailor behind him a glancing blow that sent the man stumbling into a table. He and the table toppled, spilling drinks as patrons leapt clear of the mess.
“Thief!” the first man yelled, pointing a weaving finger at the man sprawled on the floor amid beer tankards and foam.
The second man kicked a chair clear of his leg, his face red with anger as much as embarrassment and drink. “I’d na touch you!”
As voices rose arguing over who’d pay for spilt drink, the first man’s missing coins, and the man who’d been struck’s innocence, Darag eyed the distance to the door. That is when he saw someone slip out. The shouting had progressed to pushing as Darag maneuvered through the crowd. An early education in fighting given to all Kith kept him on his feet and able to avoid poorly aimed fists. It wasn’t a minute after the other man had left that Darag found himself on the street with the harbor before him. A shadow hurried through the lamplight to his right.
Darag had no reason to follow the man other than it was the general direction to his room. And that even though his actions had indicated this was the thief, he’d looked like a young sailor, no different than most in the room. He’d look like a man with a good trade by his clothes and tanned face, not someone who needed to steal. Maybe someone who wanted to?
Curiosity might lead to trouble, especially as the man made his way deeper into the waterfront area and completely away from any path Darag could pretend to take to his inn. Traveling as quietly as possible through the alien stone streets, Darag wished it was the forest. There the trees would hide him and soften his footfalls. He stuck to the shadows, attempting not to be too discreet. The last thing he wanted was a false accusation about bad intent leveled on him.
Along the warehouses where goods from the ships were stored, the man hurried. At the end of a building, a quick grab dragged him into the alley between two warehouses. Darag trotted faster.
“I was coming to find you.”
“Sure you were. That is why you are nearly an hour late, Skree. You better have it or I’ll not trust you with another item.”
Cautiously, Darag glanced into the narrow alley, thinking all the while he shouldn’t be there. Laith Lus would never forgive him. A dozen feet away three men stood around the one Darag had followed.
“I have it,” the thief said, pulling out a bag of coins.
The other man, tall and broad shouldered, and made all the more imposing by the large, dark cloak he was wearing, grabbed the bag, and hefted it. “That isn’t enough. It isn’t half the value I should get! You said you knew someone who would pay. Which means you are going to have to, Skree.”
The three men closed ranks around Skree, one striking him on the temple so quickly Darag didn’t see the punch until Skree’s head rocked back against the warehouse wall. One of the men whistled through his teeth and nodded down the alley. “We’ve got company.”
That was when Darag realized he’d stepped forward when Skree was hit. Skree’d slumped toward the ground, bent knees and the wall behind barely keeping the young sailor upright.
“Skree, did you bring a friend? Maybe he has the rest of my money?”
Darag hesitated. He’d sworn to himself, his mother, and Laith Lus that he wouldn’t seek trouble. Not so far from home and not when the Church was so close and such a threat. And to do so here where his the ability to control plants would do him little good was folly. He’d only been trained to fight, but hadn’t ever.
Two of the three men approached, the last remained standing over Skree, who glanced toward Darag. Blood ran down across his eye and cheek. There was no fight in Skree’s look, just hopelessness. Darag stepped into the alley toward the approaching men.
Read part 5 here!