Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Darag in Portoreayl – Part 5
“Give us the rest of the money, kid. We’ll let you and your friend go.”
Both men had a few inches in height on Darag and a least a handfull of pounds. And, unfortunately, both looked to be fighters. The one who’d spoken was the same who’d hit Skree. Which meant Darag knew he was fast when he threw punches.
The other man was the one who had seen him and whistled. Whistler distanced himself from Swift, at least as much as he could in the narrow alley. The two approached Darag from opposite sides.
Swift leaned away from the wall as he launched a fist. Darag sidestepped the punch, grabbing Swift’s arm and yanking him forward. Swift stumbled, falling hard onto his knees with a grunt. With a growl, the second man charged.
Darag saw the dim glint of a knife at the last moment. Instead of bracing for a hit, he jumped sideways. A cut with a metal blade would harm him far more than a little blood loss. Metal was toxic to those soulbound with trees. Darag spun as Whistler pulled up short, turning his lunge into a slash. Darag kept turning, spinning inside Whistler’s reach and close enough to sideswipe his legs.
Whistler fell, the knife skittering a few feet away. Swift slammed into Darag from behind.
Darag kept himself from going down with a step forward as he wrestled Swift to keep his arms free. They stumbled into a wall, Swift turning to brace his back against the wall. Darag caught a glimpse of Whistler scrambling for his knife.
“Give it up. You took on more than you can manage,” Swift hissed in Darag’s ear.
Darag threw his head back and hit Swift in the nose, the force knocking the man’s head into wall behind him. Swift released Darag, who hurtled himself across the alley in Whistler, catching him around his waist. They fell in a tangle as the last man standing over Skree cursed.
Darag managed a punch to Whistler’s temple, which stunned him enough that he dropped the knife again. Darag glanced toward Skree in time to see Skree trip his guard. The man fell with a quick kick that connected with Skree’s head.
Swift and Whistler were down for the moment, the last man was rolling to his knees. Darag bolted upright, kicking the last man in his stomach as he raced by and hauled Skree to his feet. Skree groaned, eyes unfocused. Darag’s fingers tingled as he fed power into Skree, easing the injury to the sailor’s head as best he could in the few seconds they had.
“We have to run,” Darag said, dragging Skree with him down the alley.
Skree’s stumbling turned into a jog. By the time they reached the far end of the alley, they were racing side by side.
“This way,” Skree said as they reached the main road along the dock.
Skree darted left toward the city, running along the water’s edge in the shadows of the docked ships. Ducking under mooring ropes, Darag followed, hoping he could trust a man who’d already shown himself to be a thief. They passed three ships before Skree veered up the gangplank to a three masted merchant vessel, hopping over the rail with a quick leap. Darag made the same jump as the sound of footsteps echoed onto the main street.
Darag landed as quietly as possible, dropping into the shadows of barrels set against the mast. Next to him, Skree remained motionless, holding his breath to keep from panting due to the run. Together they waited. One of the three men walked buy, eyeing the ships as much as the road to the city. He swore before walking on.
Another minute passed before Skree released his breath and sat crosslegged on the deck. “We should wait here a bit longer, but I think we’ll be alright.”
“What about the ship’s guards?”
“That would be me,” Skree said with an awkward smile. “My post started ten minutes ago. I told Kifford I might be late and not to worry. If anything went wrong it’d be on my head. Speaking of which, what did you do to my head? It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Darag eyed the young sailor. “Why’d you steal money?”
“I’d ask you why’d you help me if you knew I’d stolen the money in the first place, but we’d most likely keep tossing questions at each other the next ten minutes.” Skree put a hand to his forehead, pulling it away and looking at the blood. “I do want to know why you helped me, but since I was in the wrong, I’ll go first.
“I met those men awhile back and they had goods, probably stolen, I know that. The whole lot of them has connections in Sardinia. But I know some markets in other ports and they said if I sold what they had, I could keep a share. Only the stuff wasn’t packed right and was damaged in a storm. They’re not nice men so I had to come up with some way to pay them.” Skree shook his head. “Stupid run of bad luck.” He eyed Darag again. “So why did you help me?”
Darag took in what Skree’d just told him. Finally he answered, “I need someone who can teach a friend to sail.”
Skree stared at him, looking away after a moment with a laugh. “I don’t want to believe you, but you just helped me and I don’t even know your name. Why’s this friend need to learn to sail?”
Darag flexed his shoulders and back. “The boy wants to apprentice as a sailor, but says no one will take him off if he doesn’t know at least the basics.”
Soreness was setting in quickly. Swift had gotten in a few good hits and he hadn’t healed himself. Skree looked fine with eyes bright despite the blood on his forehead and cheek. But Darag wouldn’t risk easing a few aches with Skree so close and already aware he’d done something.
“That’s true, at least here in Portoreayl,” Skree answered. “There are too many apprentices wanting to be sailors even with all the ships in harbor. You either have to know someone who’ll get you on a ship or know how to sail. And if you know someone with a ship, you probably already know how to sail. This friend must be young?” Skree asked at Darag’s nod. “You’re from the far north, right?”
Darag froze at the question, eyeing Skree more closely. “I’m from the north,” he said, tense again. “How do you know that?”
Skree shrugged. “Sailor’s stories mostly – of a port way up the coast where there are people with ways of healing and mending boats who also have strange skin. Like yours.”
“Just sailor’s stories?” Darag couldn’t see any indication Skree had elemental ability. But it didn’t mean someone in his family wasn’t a Priest or Priestess with the Church.
“You worried about someone else hearing you’re here?” Skree asked with a half smile. “You think I’m looking for more trouble? I’ll be avoiding those men the next week, and you just saved me a beating. I won’t be tellen I met you. This kid who wants to sail family of yours?”
“Not mine.” Darag leaned against the mast, growing comfortable with Skree despite their untraditional introduction. “Will you teach him? I’ll pay you. You need the money if you’re willing to make such poor deals. And my name is Darag.”
The young sailor in front of him leaned back bracing himself with his arms as he tiltedhis head to look at the stars. “Yah, alright,” he finally said, gaze dropping back to Darag. “I’ll help. Tell me where. I’m Skree, but I guess you already knew that. It’ll be interesting to figure out why you are helping me and some kid wanting to sail.”
Darag snorted. “I’m still trying to figure that out too.”
The next morning, Darag walked Skree to where the little boat was stashed. Versea was already there, sitting in the boat daydreaming. He jumped when he realized he wasn’t alone.
“I found someone who can help,” Darag said, beginning introductions without elaborating how he’d met Skree, who wore a scabbed gash above his right brow.
Skree raised an eyebrow at Darag when he looked over the boat, but said nothing. Darag suspected he’d just added a bit more to the sailors’ stories Skree had mentioned. He watched as Skree showed Versea how to rig the sail Darag had brought, and then guided the gently bobbing boat into the calm morning waters of the bay.
Alone on shore, Darag glanced northward, looking beyond Portoreayl’s stone bulk. That direction lay home and family as well as the resolution to the incessant pull on his soul. It offered safety, but not peace. At least not for him. He was going to have to be more careful if he meant to stay away.
“Starboard is right!”
Skree’s shout echoed across the water. The boat canted as Versea hauled on a rope, the small boom wavered over the deck before finding the correct side. Darag chuckled, wondering if Skree would teach him a bit as well. Versea was right, it was a shame he could build boats and didn’t know how to sail one. He walked down to the shore to pay better attention.