The Last Artican

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Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Watched with unmoving expressions, I had a feeling the sailors didn’t want the kind of trouble I was willing to bring upon them. My rage subsided. I didn’t like using my power like that. It made me feel fake, not myself. At least I knew it was there, that I could summon it when I needed to.

Decker started moaning on the ground next to me. I crouched down next to him so he could hear me clearly. “Take us where we want to go and the power I spoke of will show itself to you. Betray us and the power will destroy you.”

It wasn’t exactly a lie. I would destroy him if he did anything to us, but I still felt bad threatening the man.

Decker crawled up from the ground, holding his stomach with his hands. I didn’t doubt it hurt after the impact I had given him. “I understand, little lady. You have my word that no harm will come to you while you are on my ship.”

“Good. You should probably go clean yourself off. Your face is bleeding.” I let him go. He snuck away half hunched over to hide in his quarters, blood dripping on his white shirt.

Arsan stood at my shoulder, a grin on his face. “Nicely done, Tabri. Did Delah teach you that?”

I laughed. “No. My magic did.”

~*~

It wasn’t long before twilight lit the sky, waking me from my wrestles slumber. I had fallen asleep under the stairs to the upper deck sometime around midnight. Storm clouds lingered in the distance, making their way toward us to drop its load upon the Stallings. Some of the men had fallen asleep and lay sporadically around the deck. Others made rope or whittled on a piece of wood, but all were quiet and swayed with the ship.

Arsan was curled up next to me, shivering with the cold. The bruising on his face was gone, healed by his magic. The cuts were almost completely hidden, scrubbed from his skin like dirt. It was amazing.

I stayed in my hiding place trying to warm my hands. The weather had become surprisingly bitter while we slept, but cold felt nice, even the cloud of warm breath that lingered around my face when I exhaled was comforting. I belonged in the cold. It was home to me.

It made me wonder how far north we were. Pretty far I thought. It would explain the icy spray that splashed over the sides of the ship and clung to the rail.

The Captain stumbled nosily from his quarters. His blood stained white shirt and black eye stood out in the soft morning light. He was drunk. He’d probably been drinking all night. I was in no mood to listen to his rants. I emerged from the cover of the ladder and waited in full view for Decker to notice my appearance.

Decker turned, stumbling to look at me with that cocky grin smeared across his face again. For a split second I saw his expression falter and fear was present, the fear that I had put in him last night. He knew now to be more careful around me, to not provoke me. A smart choice, but one that I was still unsure of.

The rain began to fall from the sky, one drip at a time. I welcomed it. It brought a calming feeling that rested on my shoulders and fell down my body like a waterfall.

“I… You…” Decker’s tongue seemed to be tied up in his mouth. I couldn’t tell if he knew what he wanted to say and was too scared to say it, or if he had forgotten the reason why he had emerged from hiding. His brow was set straight as he thought about his next words carefully.

“Storm ahead!” yelled a man from above. “It looks like it’s going to be a nasty one.”

Decker pushed past me and headed up the ladder to the upper deck. A gold cylinder slipped from his jacket pocket. He held it to his swollen eye peering toward the ever growing storm on the horizon. I shook myself free of my gaze and ran to the bow of the ship to get a better look at the storm that bore down upon us.

Flashes of lightning sprang from the clouds to the sea, lighting up the black mass for a fraction of a second. Then the rumble came, low and ominous over our heads. We were sailing straight into the eye of the storm. The Stallings was a small ship. There was no more than the wood around us to keep us safe. There was no place to hide, no place safe to sail. What would happen when the storm struck us with its full wrath?

“Lower the sail!” shouted Decker to his men. “Batten down the hatches.”

The sailor from above dropped from the rigging, landing on the deck next to me. He flashed his soft understanding grin at me. “Wouldn’t want to be up there when the lighting hits.”

“Will it be dangerous?” I asked. “To sail through the storm?”

“No more dangerous than ridding a pack of wild hogs.” He could see the worry on my face and reacted to it. “But don’t worry Lass. Captain Decker is an experienced sailor. We’ve made it through worse, but you would be safer below.”

“Mr. Deddub. Get your scrawny ass back to work before I strap you to the main sail,” yelled Decker from behind the helm.

Arsan came to my side. The look on his face was that of terror as he also watched the storm brewing.

The wind was picking up, tossing the ship side to side more violently. We stayed on the deck until the storm was overhead and the rain began to dump buckets on the bow of the Stallings. It came in quick waves and moved up the deck toward us. We ran down the ladder to hide below, just in time for the rain to pore through the opening. I pulled the hatch shut behind us to stop most of the water from entering our hiding place.

Being below deck wasn’t where I would have wanted to be, but there was no safer place to hide from the wrath of Mother Nature at the moment.

The rocking of the ship turned my stomach, threatening to spill its meager contents on the floor. I swallowed the bile back down my throat and sat on a bag of potatoes to calm myself.

Thunder rolled over head. The small portholes on the side of the ship let in the light when the lightning cracked outside. The immense power of the wind and rain were amazing. If I hadn’t been on this damn ship I would have enjoyed listening to it rage outside the window. Instead, I sat curled up like a ball, willing my stomach to hold it together while Arsan tried to comfort me.

Arsan seemed untouched by the motion. He moved around the hull like nothing was happening above. I wondered how many times he had been on a ship. More than I had for sure.

It was no good. My stomach only stay calm for about an hour and then the sickness overcame me. I ran to the porthole nearest me and heaved the acid into the sea, watching it float away on the surface.

“Drink some water and move around. Your sick feeling will go away shortly.” Arsan handed me a canteen. My hands shook as I poured the liquid past my lips and down into my gut. I could feel each cold gulp as it hit bottom, half expecting it to come back up immediately. When it didn’t, I took a deep breath and relaxed a little. The churning feeling had subsided slightly, but wasn’t completely gone. Maybe I could manage my nausea now. “Thanks.”

Thunder rolled again outside the porthole and the ship pitched wildly to one side. I lost my footing a slammed to the floor. Arsan fell at my feet. The sway of the ship threw us into a wood crate on the other side of the hold, my shoulder contacting the solid box and knocking the wind from my lungs. I gasped and sucked air back into my burning chest.

I was convinced now that I hated the sea, wanting solid ground under my feet and the feel of dirt between my toes. Even the warm weather of the south sounded good at this point. But those things were a long way off. Every passing minute took us further from land. I wasn’t sure when we would see it again.

Arsan held out his hand to help me to my feet. My legs were unsteady and unsure of standing. The ship had righted its self, mostly, but it still swayed slightly in the storm. I took another drink of water. It helped with the pounding headache and gave my stomach something to throw up if I got sick again.

“Where did you learn the water trick?” I asked, curiously.

Arsan smiled and pulled a sack of potatoes over from the wall for me to sit on. “My mother. She was a sea merchant. She took me sailing a few times, taught me some tricks of the trade. She told me when I was old enough she would buy a second ship for me to captain, you know, expand her business.”

I could tell from the tone of his voice that those plans never came to pass. “What happened?”

Arsan pulled another bag of potatoes up next to me and sat down. “My mother died when I was seventeen. I tried sailing her ship myself, but no one would respect a child merchant. I had to sell the ship so we could eat.”

Another flash of lightning lit the room and my gaze locked on his for that split second. He was sad. I fought the urge to raise my hand and caress his rosy face.

I wasn’t paying attention to anything but my thoughts, but I found myself staring at Arsan, watching his features like a hawk. He held his hand out toward my face. Giving in to my emotions, I leaned forward and let him touch my cheek. His thumb wiped away a tear that I didn’t even know was welling in my eye, it felt nice. The warmth of his palm across my pale skin seemed to make everything better.

I pulled away from his touch. “I couldn’t imagine having to live through the emotions of losing someone so close.”

“You’ve lost people close to you.” Arsan’s voice was quiet, almost undistinguishable under the loud roll of thunder outside.

“Yes, but I don’t remember them.” I let my body sway with the ship as it rolled in the wind.

“Not remembering is almost worse.” He smiled slightly. “Every child should get the chance to know their parents, even if it’s only for a little while. That’s what the Overkeeper intended.”

The lightning cracked again and I could see the tear that now ran down Arsan’s cheek. We were one messed up pair of human beings. It was amaing to me we had made it this far.

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