The carved patterns in the tabletop were really very interesting. At least, that is what Jaci tried to convince himself of in an attempt to keep his anger under control. After a few moments of dutifully studying the tabletop he raised his head to meet the dark eyes of Mr. Herington, the object of his anger and one of the creditors from whom Jaci’s father had borrowed from.
He took a deep breath and said as civilly as he knew how, “I already told you that you will get your money but I need more time. It will take me perhaps a month to outfit my ship with a suitable crew and five months to make the journey to Port Mistral. Once there of course, I will sell my cargo and I will pay what is owed to you at your offices there.”
Mr. Herington gave him a condescending smile and said, “And I already told you Mr. Mericri, that the deadline for your father’s debt, your debt comes up in three months. If you do not pay what is owed our company by then, then the estate is ours as your father used it as collateral. We have already given an extension on this particular loan before. I’m sorry but I’m afraid we simply cannot give you more time.”
Jaci might have believed that he was sorry if the man wasn’t positively gleeful about putting Jaci and his sister out of their family home and taking everything they owned.
Jaci tightened his jaw and said through clenched teeth, “Even if I were to get my ship outfitted by tomorrow it would still take five months to sail to Mistral. Please, two more months, it’s all I beg of you.”
But Herrington shook his head. “Three months, Jaci,” he said, “That is all you have. Find a way or give up now.”
Jaci glared but swallowed tightly and stood up. “I’ll have the money in your offices in three months,” he said stiffly. “Good day Mr. Herington.” He donned his hat and stalked out of the building.
He continued down the road for sometime this way ignoring the people who scattered out f his way and eventually stopped next to a little bench under a tree, off the walkway, titled back his head and sighed. The wind ruffled his hair, fluttering over his face; bringing with it the scent of moisture in its cool touch. It would rain tonight. Jaci closed his eyes and breathed in greedily of the cool air before orienting his head back to its natural position and reopening his eyes.
Three months. He had three months and three days to be exact, to get his ship across the sea to the Port of Mistral. It was a journey that usually took five months with a few stops along the way to restock on food and water along the coasts. There was no way to make the journey in five months. Not going that way anyway. But there was a way, if you could even call it that. Chances are if he took that way though, he might as well go jump off a cliff with a cannon attached to his leg because most likely he would never make the journey alive. Also no one would come to crew the ship and he could not crew the ship all by himself. Because the only way to get to Port Mistral in three months would be to go as the crow flies, and that would mean going through the Sea of Ghosts.
The Sea of Ghosts is just what it sounds like: A Sea of Ghosts. Long, long ago there used to be trade routes across the Sea of Ghosts, but there were so many ship wrecks there, and so many people lost overboard that ghosts started to gather there. Now, years later, it’s a maze of wreaks beneath the waves, the hunting ground of ghost ships, and a home to many, many lost souls, most of which aren’t pleasant.
Ships that have accidently sailed too close to the nebulous borders of the Sea have been attacked by the ghostly marauders and pulled down to the depths to join their attackers in life ever after prowling the waters to claw at anything alive. To sail the Ghost Sea meant certain death and Jaci wasn’t sure if he was that desperate to attempt to gamble his life.
Jaci heaved another sigh and turned his steps towards home.
When he walked through his front door he found his younger sister sitting in the living room, embroidering, waiting for him. He stopped by the doorway and after a moment, she lifted her head sensing she wasn’t alone. Her, fourteens year old eyes lifted to him, hopefully and Jaci felt his heart shrivel.
“How was it?” she asked.
Jaci stared at her for a moment longer and then forced a smile onto his face. “Fine,” he said, “It went fine.”
“So are they going to extend the deadline?” she asked.
“Ah, yes,” he said, “Only by six weeks though, so I’ll have to leave very soon but I think we’ll make it.”
She bit her lip and stared at him hopefully. “Really?”
“Really,” he assured her. “But I have to go back out soon and get things ready. I just came back to tell you.” And with that he turned and walked briskly down the hallway.
He hadn’t gone far when he heard her voice.
He stopped but didn’t turn. After a moment she continued:
“You’re going to do something very stupid aren’t you?” Jaci closed his eyes and was glad that she couldn’t see his face, that she didn’t see the way his false mask cracked and disappeared.
He swallowed hard and said, “Yes.”
There was a moment of silence and then she tsked softly and said very steadily, “Don’t die…You’re all I have left you know.”
At that he did turn.
“I know,” he said softly.
“Promise me,” she said but he shook his head.
“I can’t promise you that Mea.”
She bit her lip, eyes filling but she said, “You better try to make it back Jaci. You better do.”
“I will,” he told her.
“Good,” she told him and then disappeared back into the living room.