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Chapter 17

Night fell on the open sea. Andre was ready to slip off to the shelter of the cabin until morning for some much needed rest, but he was wrong to assume the option was available to the exhausted interns. There would be very little sleep for them on the Leverandør. Kirkeby’s crew worked in shifts with short, one- to two-hour breaks when they ate quickly and slept hard. The interns weren’t expected to follow this exhausting regimen, but they weren’t allowed to slack either. The captain had them help in the galley preparing a late meal for the crew. These meals usually included some sort of stew consisting of whatever they happened to have on hand and set to simmer until everyone managed a chance to dip in the pot.

Declan had no interest in eating and was no help with the cooking, so Kirkeby’s first mate, a sandy-haired bachelor named Trent, sent him off to one of the bunks to sleep. The others chopped vegetables and tossed in seasoning without much culinary skill. Svana turned out to be a decent judge of taste and did her part to help the meal from becoming an indigestible disaster.

Andre ate quickly and returned to the main deck as another haul was reeled in over the stern. The crew grumbled about low quantities of fish, but Kirkeby didn’t seem bothered. He sat in front of his sonar screens and appeared completely unconcerned with their take so far.

“Captain?” Andre poked his head into the wheelhouse.

“Come on in, Agabus. How’s the stew?”

“Edible, sir.” He stepped in and closed the door, shutting out the wind and spray.

“That’s something, isn’t it?” Kirkeby swiveled in his chair with his eyes on the monitors blinking on the control board. “They’re having a bit more luck on the Aurora,” he muttered and scratched his chin thoughtfully. “We may have to veer further east a mile or two. What do ‘ya say?”

Andre wasn’t really qualified to answer that question. “If you think it would help.”

Kirkeby barked a loud guffaw and slapped the prophet hard on the shoulder. “If I think it would help... Did you stop in for a reason? Did you think this would be a good time to ask for my daughter’s hand?”

“What?” The question took Andre by surprise. “No. No, I—” He couldn’t remember why he had come.

“ ‘Cause it’s not, you know.”

“No,” he agreed completely. “No, I know.”

“Hold the line, boys,” Kirkeby spoke into the radio. “I’m bringing her up to speed. Say again, son?”

“I just wanted to check if you had any new orders for the interns.”

“Take it easy for a bit, Agabus. Sjøen er vakker i kveld.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And keep that pot hot.” The captain tossed a last instruction over his shoulder as Andre reached for the door. “I’ll want a taste of the fine, edible stew you made.”

“Svana made it, actually.”

“Even better.”

Andre closed the door behind him, bracing himself against the wind as he descended the ladder. The sea was a black abyss beyond the reach of the bright lamps lighting the deckhands’ progress gathering the net and untangling lines. Jumping the last few feet to the lower level, Andre was about to turn and grab the handle of the cabin door when he saw a bleak wave surge over the side of the boat. White with foam, it rose like a wall and careened over the deck like a raised hammer poised to strike a blow.

Andre backed up against the cabin door, stumbling slightly as his insides grew cold at the sight of black wings and yellow fangs carried on the crashing wave. With poised claws, the Daimon flew over the deck with the force of the sea at its back, slamming into the prophet and knocking him hard into the side of the cabin. He lost his footing as pain sliced like an electric charge searing deep into his skull. Andre dropped like a dead weight into unconsciousness on the deck floor, losing sight of the rolling sea as images raced in rapid-fire motion in indistinguishable forms and flashes of color.

Shapes of things Andre had only heard of with names he could not place flew before his mind’s eye: a high speed train moving through foreign countryside, an explosion of rubble and billowing smoke, a swirl of blinding snow dancing with obstructed shadows, a faceless form stepping onto a ferry, a cemetery gathering before an open grave, the vindictive cackle of triumph…

“Andre!” Svana’s voice yanked him abruptly out of the reeling vision. Andre opened his eyes in time to flinch as she slapped him across the face. “Sorry,” she apologized, kneeling over him where he lay on the floor in the middle of the cabin. “Did the wind knock you over? We heard you hit the door and thought you’d passed out or something.”

Svana, Jora, and AJ’s faces swam before his vision, appearing worried and perplexed. The door to the cabin banged open and shut in the wind, and AJ reached behind him to secure it closed.

“I did,” Andre muttered trying to pull himself to his feet. “I mean I didn’t.”

“Don’t fret,” Svana grunted, yanking on his arm and helping him stand. “Just sit there a minute. Did you hit your head?”

Andre gratefully sank onto a cushioned bench behind the compact table in the galley. Jora sat across from him with a concerned frown. “I don’t think so.” He couldn’t feel any bumps or bruises. He just felt dazed and confused by the images imprinted in his mind. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t apologize.” Svana slipped into her rain slicker and prepared to leave the cabin. “Your odd behavior has ceased to surprise me. Ready AJ?”

“You sure you’re alright, mate?” AJ hesitated as Svana began to pull him up the short stairs out of the cabin.

Andre rubbed the last remnants of pain from behind is eyes with a nod. “Go ahead.”

Farvel, venner.” Svana stepped out, held the door for AJ, and they rejoined the crew on deck.

The boat rocked in a relaxing rhythm, and Andre glanced up to find Jora watching him. They weren’t technically alone; Declan was asleep on a nearby bunk, but Andre grew uncomfortable anyway. Mr. Kirkeby would not consider the technicalities should he enter the cabin at that time.

“I should go back out there.” He began to rise from his seat, but Jora stopped him with a hand over his on the table.

“You just passed out,” she reminded him. “Take a minute. I’ll go.” She got to her feet. “I’ll go see Papa and bring him some supper. You’ll be okay?” Moving to a cupboard, she pulled out a container with a plastic cover and ladled a hearty portion of meat and vegetables inside.

“Yeah, I will be,” he told her honestly, glancing around the cabin for something to write on. “Do you see a pen or pencil?” He picked up a spiral notebook amid the mess of items strewn on a shelf behind the bench and leafed through it before finding a blank page and ripping it out. Jora pulled a stubby pencil out of a drawer and handed it over. “Thanks.”

“Need anything else before I go?” She paused while cradling the stew container in both hands with a sleeve of saltines and a spoon in her slicker pocket.

Andre met her eye and held it a moment, trying to see past the repeating images obscuring his vision like a photograph negative held up to a dim window. “Come here.” He blinked them away and waved her back to the table. Reaching up, he drew her hood over her head and tucked a loose tendril of hair behind her ear. “The wind is pretty fierce out there.”

“No joke,” she smiled. “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Andre nodded and waited until she was gone before using the pencil and paper to quickly record every detail about the vision he could remember. A train. Silver in color, traveling fast before a backdrop of thick trees followed by an explosion of rock and dusty smoke, then a swirl of white and shadow…someone leaving on a journey…leaving not to return? And a grave…possibly a Koinonian grave which was also a form of departure. Each vision in random order, or was it chronological? Complete with that sniveling, pretentious…

Andre loathed that laugh and hated the ringing of it in his ears. The vision was a relief despite the foreboding feeling it left in his gut. An abstract word was better than sitting in the dark without a clue. The meaning wasn’t clear, but he was confident it would come at the proper time. Folding the sheet of paper half-covered with scribbled writing, he stuck it in his pocket and returned the pencil to its drawer.

There was movement in one of the bunks, and Declan’s shocking blonde hair emerged from behind a concealing curtain drawn closed.

“Feeling better?” Andre asked.

“Are we still on a boat?”

“ ‘Fraid so.”

Groaning, Declan disappeared back into his hole and closed the curtain tight.

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