It was late afternoon when Kiyoshi and Saxon’s carriage rolled into Whaleshield, a largish whaling and fishing town located to the north east of the city of South Pyne.
Whaleshield was a rough looking town which had a constant smell of fish and blood in the air. The docks were lined with inns, brothels, and old wooden warehouses.
Whalers, fishermen and sailors would celebrate their success after a good whale expedition or fishing journey at these places. As a result, they would become loud and rowdy places once the sun disappeared over the ocean.
The Whalers and Fishermen would be given their share of the spoils and the first thing they would do is spend their coin on mead, ale, or fruity wine. Once they became merry and drunk, they would spend their coin on women. These women would scour the inns and pubs, soliciting their services.
The carriage stopped at the Whaleshield stables, where the stable hand was given coin for care and boarding of the horses and the driver for a night.
As it was only late afternoon, Kiyoshi and Saxon explored the town. Saxon remained close to Kiyoshi, his eyes scanning the crowd; Whaleshield seemed to be full of suspicious characters he thought to himself. Kiyoshi didn’t seem to notice or care, and his eyes widened in awe and excitement as he took in Whaleshield’s busy atmosphere. Saxon smiled to himself, still so childlike he thought.
Saxon and Kiyoshi strolled along the smooth and eroded stones that paved the shoreline. They walked past buildings with the sweet smell of cooking food gently wafting through their windows. Kiyoshi paused and looked towards the ocean; he smiled and took in the beauty of the scene in front of him. The sun was setting low in the sky, its glowing orange light reflecting off the waves that gently lapped the shore. The ocean looked almost as though it was on fire, he thought. He took it in for a little bit longer before Saxon tapped him on the shoulder and said,
“Your Highness, I insist we find somewhere to stay.”
Kiyoshi sighed and followed Saxon. They walked passed an open warehouse and a river of red blood gushed from the building and flowed into the ocean. Kiyoshi heaved and put his hands to his mouth. Saxon grabbed hold of his shoulder and led him away. After they were away from the building Kiyoshi asked in a quivering voice,
“What was that Saxon?”
Saxon sighed looked at Kiyoshi and said gently,
“That’s where they process some of the whales that have been caught by the various whaling ships. Certain parts of the whale can be used as ingredients in items such as perfume. Some more important than others.”
Kiyoshi with a look of sadness on his face simply replied,
Saxon rested his hand upon Kiyoshi’s shoulders and encouraged Kiyoshi to help him find a place to stay. After visiting many inns, Kiyoshi and Saxon settled for a small inn at the very end of the docks; it was older than the others and seemed to be a lot quieter. They entered through a wooden door which led into a softly lit room. There were small wooden tables each with a single candle in the middle. Saxon smiled - it seemed to be clean and there didn’t appear to be many rowdy sailors, whalers or fisherman. They approached the bar where a sweet looking older lady smiled at them and said,
“Welcome sirs, to the Mysterious Orca. My name is Eliza and I am the owner of this establishment. What can I help you with?”
Saxon nodded in greeting and replied,
“My name is Saxon and this is Kiyoshi. We wish to rent two rooms for the night, preferably next to each other. Can this be done, Eliza?”
Eliza smiled a wide toothless grin,
“Ah! Of course, I can do that, it’ll be 2 silver coins each for the rooms and a meal.”
Saxon looked at her and shook her hand to seal the deal, and paid her for their rooms, his eye-patch gleaming in the light.
Eliza pulled two keys off a chain hanging around her waist. She handed them each a key and said,
“These are your keys; the rooms are 6 and 7. The meals will be served in around an hour’s time.”
She pointed to the stairwell behind them to the right,
“Go up the stairs and to the end of the hall, you’ll find your rooms. We at the Mysterious Orca Inn hope you enjoy your stay.”
Kiyoshi followed Saxon up the stairs; they arrived at their rooms and entered. They were small rooms, furnished with a single bed, a fireplace, a bedside table, and a slightly cracked chamber pot under the bed. They were clean and Saxon seemed satisfied with their choice. Once Saxon had helped Kiyoshi settle with his belongings, Kiyoshi dismissed Saxon from his duties and gave him permission to do as he pleased.
An hour later there was a knock on the door and Kiyoshi was startled awake. He yawned and said in a groggy voice,
“I’m coming Saxon.”
Kiyoshi got out of the bed, tidied himself up and walked towards the door. Saxon and Kiyoshi went down the stairs. The inn was a little bit busier than when they had first entered but not as busy as some of the other inns they had passed earlier on.
They both sat at a table in a dimly lit corner of the inn. Kiyoshi waited and watched the candle flicker as Saxon went to the counter and ordered their meal. As they were eating their meals a bard started to play a relaxing ballad of forbidden love in a forest far away. Kiyoshi sighed - the song made him think about Ronin and how much he missed him.
Ronin and Emrick arrived at the Eastern Port early afternoon and found an inn to stay the night. Emrick sat with Ronin as he drank goblets of wine, one after another until he was well and truly drunk. Emrick started to get concerned with the speed that Ronin was drinking, so he gently touched Ronin’s wrist and said,
“Ronin, please, you need to slow down.”
Ronin quickly removed his wrist from Emrick’s touch and looked directly into Emrick’s yellow eyes. His brown eyes reflected back and he said emptily,
“Just let me be, Emrick. The love of my life has just gotten married. I try to remember that he married out of duty and not out of love. He loves me.”
He slammed his cup on the wooden counter, drawing the attention of people nearby. Emrick flashed them an apologetic smile and grabbed Ronin from behind with little resistance and led him out of the inn for some fresh air.
The afternoon sun had faded and now the night sky was gleaming with stars. The once busy port now seemed abandoned; the only noises audible were the lapping of waves, the groan of the ships as they gently bumped against the pier and pulling on their ropes, and the occasional slurred ramblings of a drunken sailor. Emrick led Ronin over to an empty space on one of the piers, sat him down and said,
“Ronin, he loves you, there is no doubting that. You need to remember he only married Princess Ebony out of duty. His heart will always belong to you.”
He slid in beside Ronin and squeezed his thigh reassuringly. They both sat in silence, listening to the waves. Ronin was sobering up and Emrick intended to stay with him until Ronin was safe in his room asleep.
An hour passed before Emrick was happy that Ronin was sober enough to go back inside the inn without making a scene. Emrick accompanied Ronin to his room and made sure he was settled for the night.
Emrick awoke the next morning to the sound of a rooster announcing the start of a new day, his harsh crowing startling Emrick a little. Emrick knocked on Ronin’s door. Ronin answered, his hair a tangled mess of knots, his eyes glassy and bloodshot. He stood at the half-open door and in a mumbled whisper he said,
“Morning Emrick, just let me get ready and we can leave.”
Emrick nodded, smiled quaintly and waited for Ronin at the bottom of the stairs. He felt his heart flutter; everyday Ronin became more and more desirable to him.
Around ten minutes later Ronin had started his way down the stairs and as he came to the last few his feet stumbled and he started to fall. Emrick moved towards Ronin and caught him before he fell. Ronin went bright red and quickly pushed himself out Emrick’s arms and mumbled quietly,
“Thank – you Emrick.”
Emrick smiled and replied,
“It is not a problem, my Prince.”
After he had said this he took Ronin’s key and his own to the bar and handed it over to the Barmaid. They both exited the inn and started to look for the ship that would be taking them back to Norsika.
The ship they were looking for was a small merchant ship called ‘The Gem of Sanisuess.’ They headed in the general direction of the docks. Once they neared the farthest end of the bustling port, they started reading the names painted on the sides of each ship.
At the end of the line of docked ships they finally came across ‘The Gem of Sanisuess’ and Ronin let out a gasp of surprise, turned to face Emrick and said,
“Are you sure this ship is seaworthy?”
He turned and took in the sad sight before his eyes; the ship was smaller than expected and very old, the name on the side was peeling and it appeared that it had lived a very harsh life on the sea with minimum maintenance and upkeep. Emrick nodded and said reassuringly,
“Ronin, it is a very reliable ship apparently….. Well according to Captain Ryker anyway.”
Before Ronin could reply, a small man approached them. He was in his late 50’s, with grey hair and an unkempt beard. He interrupted them and in a gruff voice said,
“This ship is the best ship out there today. She might not look like much, but she has faced storms that would easily sink even the newer ships. She was built to last and has never let me down.”
Ronin looked at the man, and, a little surprised by his statement, he addressed the man,
“Good Morning Sir, my name is Ronin and my companion is Emrick. Am I safe to assume that you are the captain of ‘The Gem of Sanisuess’? And may I ask your name?”
The captain seemed taken aback by Ronin’ politeness, coughed uncomfortably and replied,
“Yes, Sir, you are safe in assuming that I am the Captain of this ship.”
He extended his hand in greeting and said,
“The name’s Sewell”
He roughly shook both of their hands; a look of surprise crossed his face for a moment when he shook Emrick’s hand and felt the iciness of Emrick’s skin as they touched.
He motioned for them to board the ship. They both smiled at him slightly as they walked along the gangplank.
Once on board Sewell said,
“I’ll show you to your quarters”
He led them along the starboard side of the ship and stopped at the front of a cracked and weathered door. He pushed hard on the door, but it failed to budge even the slightest, he struggled a second time with the same result, he mustered some extra strength with the third push the door creaked open, revealing rickety old stairs that led down to the ship’s sleeping quarters,
“You’ll both be sleeping here for the remainder of the journey to Norsika. As Captain Ryker has paid me to take you back to Norsika, you will not be required to help with the running of the ship. My crew are the most experienced sailors out on the ocean today, they’re loyal and hard working.
However, if we happen to run into trouble, you will both be required to assist in any way possible to keep this ship afloat. Is this understood?”
Ronin and Emrick nodded in agreement simultaneously and both replied
“Yes, Sir we understand.”
Sewell nodded and said gruffly,
“I’ll let you two be. The rest of my crew will arrive shortly, and we will set sail at noon.”
Sewell turned and headed towards the bridge, leaving Ronin and Emrick to prepare for the journey ahead.