It took two weeks for the two ships to reach Tanikwa. There, rather than demand fresh conscripts as was customary for returning pirates, the Captain merely collected more supplies for the voyage and demanded a few extra trinkets that he could use as a late fee for the two quotas. They then sailed for another three months, only putting to land to replenish the water supplies, before they reached the Isle of Kevek. Here they tied up at the port to enjoy a few days on shore.
Except for a few crewmembers to guard the ship, Uungluk and the others stepped off the ship. The Captain planned to meet up with them the next day since it was nearly night and he had to dock in a different section of the port. Wet Zet led them to a tavern several streets away. The doorway was twice as tall and wider than normal. A sign hung above the door, painted blue with silver trim. “Chig’s Chigel,” Uungluk read. “What is chigel?”
“You’ll find out,” Wet Zet answered. “The proprietor is a fine Barbidon and he offers the best drinks that his kind has to offer. I must warn you though; the conversation may be difficult to understand. Many of the pirates that stop here are on their way to see the Overlord. However, the Overlord demands that everyone in his presence uses the Tikar language, and this island is one of the places where pirates practice speaking Tikar ahead of time.”
Uungluk had only seen a few Barbidons in his lifetime, all ambassadors to the Great King. Their great height and bluish skin were almost intimidating, but despite the aggressive appearance, every Barbidon he had met so far had been very cordial.
“As a captain, do I need to introduce myself?” Uungluk asked.
“Just slam the door open and stride in,” Wet Zet said. “I will do the introduction for you.”
Uungluk took a deep breath and nodded. He walked up to the door and slammed it open without breaking his stride. Stepping confidently into the tavern, he glanced around and scowled at the pirates that were sitting at the tables. All of them had stopped their conversation and looked up at him when he entered.
Wet Zet stepped in and walked up beside him. “Captain Uunglukar the Mightyish,” he introduced in a loud growl, “guardianar of Captain Ezrakar and beheadar of Captain Gorgar” Several others from the crew stepped in behind them.
One of the pirates arrogantly rose from his seat and walked up to Uungluk. He was very well dressed in silk and golden trimmings, and his immaculately trimmed hair conflicted with the scar across his forehead, enhancing his aura of success and martial superiority. “I’ve heard of the captainar of the Fasara Ru,” he said, “a goodish manar I’ve been told, but never has wordar reached me of an Uunglukar the Mightyish or the demisar of Captain Gorgar.”
“Captain Gorg perished four months ago at Lorak with my spear in his chest,” Uungluk boasted, “and if you wish to challenge me, your fate will be the same.”
“A valiant reply for a captain so young,” the pirate responded. “I’m Captain Ayjon of the Goldhammer. Welcome to Kevek, Captain Uungluk the Mighty. Engage in your business, care for your ship, and partake in the many pleasures found throughout these streets, but I don’t recommend you threaten every captain you may chance upon.” He leaned a bit closer to Uungluk. “And, you might want to practice your Tikar,” he suggested.
Captain Ayjon returned to his seat and Uungluk proceeded further into the room. The Barbidon behind the bar raised a glass. “Free chigel for the captain, and four ruth a cup for the crew,” he announced.
Wet Zet walked up to the bar and spilled a bag of large coins before the Barbidon. “How about fifty thimruth to cover our crew and that of the Fasara Ru, and don’t charge by the cup,” he suggested.
The Barbidon nodded with a grin and scooped up the coins. “Welcome to Kevek, gentlemen” he said. “Drink all you want for the next two days.” He handed a cup to Uungluk and another to Wet Zet. “My name is Chig and my chigel is yours. While you are here, feel free to stand before Pallas and ask to hear your fortune.” He pointed toward one end of the bar where Uungluk noticed a scraggly deathbird standing on a perch while primping its feathers.
“The bird can talk?” Uungluk asked.
Chig nodded. “I found Pallas many years ago with a broken wing and she’s stayed with me ever since. After being in here for so long, she’s learned to say a few words and phrases and will talk to everyone that talks to her. I haven’t yet had anyone return and claim she told their fortune wrong.”
“It might be interesting,” Uungluk decided, “but I don’t need to know about my future. Perhaps some of my crew will take you up on the offer though.” He held up his cup and nodded at the Barbidon before making his way over toward the table where his crewmembers were sitting. He joined them with his back to the rest of the room.
“Wet Zet, is there anyone here that I should keep an eye out for?” he asked.
Wet Zet quickly scanned the room. “For the most part, everyone here is engaged in honest merrymaking,” he answered, “but there are three pirates whose faces are downcast, and not knowing their circumstances, I would consider them to be unpredictable. There is also someone sitting alone in the far corner where we can just barely see him. The face is hidden beneath a hood, but it gazes in this direction. Until they move, I cannot say there is any threat.”
“Let me know if anything changes.” He held up his cup of chigel. “To fortune,” he said.
Wet Zet also lifted his drink. “Fortune and fame. Captain Uungluk, I can tell that you will have much fortune and fame one day and I will have been proud to have helped you.” They both grinned and took a drink of the chigel.
Several of the other crewmembers went to the bar and brought back drinks for the rest of the crew. Within minutes they were having a full-fledged drinking contest, amusing Uungluk and Wet Zet with their antics.
After awhile, Captain Ayjon came over and sat down at their table. “Captain Uunglukar, did you say you came all the way from Lorak?” Uungluk nodded his affirmation. “Then I doubt you’ve heard the newsar. Apparently even the family of the Greatish Kingar is not above scandal. I heard it from another captainar who heard it from a castawayish sailor he rescued from an islandar who heard it from a another sailor who heard it from a merchantar who heard it from a fishermanar who heard it from his wifar who heard it from someone highish up that Prince Turokar was murdered about sixish months ago, presumable by his own brother, Prince Turosar!”
Uungluk felt nervous when he realized that Captain Ayjon was talking about him, although he doubted the Captain was at all suspicious. “No, I hadn’t heard,” he replied, trying to maintain his composure. “What happened?”
“Well,” the Captain began, “the twoish brothers went on a huntingish tripar on Torham’s Point, and when they were all alone, having left everyone behindish in a campar on the beachar...” He quickly pulled out a dagger and thrust it into the table. “No one knows for sure how Prince Turokar died, but they all say that Prince Turosar returned to their campar after several days, dragging the coldish stiffish body of his brother behind him. There were four of them in the campar when he returned, and Prince Turosar turned and fled when they asked about his brother. The details are sketchyish at that pointar, but they said that one of them shot Prince Turosar in the shoulder as he fled.”
“Did they ever catch him?” Wet Zet asked.
“They chased him for threeish days,” Captain Ayjon replied. “On the secondish day they found half an arrow, the brokenish shaftar and feathers of the arrow in his shoulder. On the thirdish day they cornered him at the cliffar of Torham’s Pointar and ordered him to return to Atalanar and face justice.” He paused. “If he were one of us, he’d have lost his handar at that point, but I think that’s too goodish for anyone who’d murder their own brother. Anyway, Prince Turosar pulled out his swordar to attack them, and ended up getting another arrow stuck in him, this time in the thigh.”
“Did he kill any of the people chasing him?” one of the other crewmembers asked.
Captain Ayjon turned his head and scowled at the man. “Never interrupt a captainar telling a story,” he growled. The intimidated crewmember sank down in his seat. The Captain looked back at Uungluk and Wet Zet. “With half an arrow in his shoulder and fresh one in his thigh, Prince Turosar fell over the cliffar and into the sea.” He leaned closer. “One of the pursuers claimed a brightish lightar carried his body far out to sea, never to be seen again,” he said in a hushed voice.
Wet Zet leaned closer. “What kind of brightish lightar could carry a body across the sea?”
Captain Ayjon grinned and his eyes widened. “A Lunari,” he whispered, “but don’t say you heard it from me. I wouldn’t want a madish Lunari out to get me for spreading lies”
“I won’t say a word,” Uungluk slowly said, “but why would the Lunari be associated with a murderer?”
“No one knows,” Captain Ayjon answered. “I’ve heard a rumor that someone from Derel heard someone from Ha suggest that the Lunari were conspiring against the Greatish Kingar, his family, and perhaps even our entire race. Someone else suggested that perhaps the death was accidentalish and the Lunari were saving Prince Turosar from being charged and executed for a crime he did not commit. Either way, the Lunari are hiding the extentar of their involvementar.”
Uungluk fidgeted uneasily in his seat. “Why has no one asked the Lunari what they know about what happened?” he asked.
“All I know is that Prince Turokar was killed about sixish months ago. The Lunari rarely speak to anyone, and the newsar will not reach the Greatish Kingar for at least another fourish months. That leaves only one manar who knows the truthar about what happened, and he fell over a cliffar with twoish arrows in him. Even now there are people searching for Prince Turosar and hoping there will be a greatish bounty for finding him.”
Wet Zet had noticed Uungluk’s unease and, having already noticed the similarities between the story and the state in which they found Uungluk, he understood why. He also knew that none of the new crewmembers knew about it, and that it would be best to keep it that way. He frowned as the Captain finished telling them the news. “How do you know the four pursuers were telling the truth and not trying to cover up their own actions?” he asked.
Captain Ayjon leaned back in his seat with a confused look on his face. “I had never even considered that,” he admitted. “It would seem the most plausible explanationar.”
Uungluk finished his cup of chigel. “Excuse me,” he said. “I should be getting back to my ship.” He stood up and turned to leave.
“Wait just a moment,” Captain Ayjon said. “First talk to the birdar and let us hear her speak your fortune.”
Uungluk looked down at the sitting Captain with an annoyed look on his face. “Very well,” he decided, “but then I must go.” He walked toward the bar.
The Barbidon behind the bar handed Uungluk a cracker. “For Pallas, when you’re done with her,” he said.
Uungluk nodded to the bartender as he took the cracker and then stepped over to the black-feathered bird standing on her perch. “Hello, Pallas,” he said.
“Uunglukar,” the bird replied with her hoarse caw.
“What is my fortune, Pallas?” He waved the cracker in front of the bird.
“No crimes! No crimes!” the bird cawed, jumping on its perch. “Greatish secretar... highish reputationar... twoish wars... mightyish namar.” Pallas leaned forward on her perch. “Give, give!” she begged.
Uungluk laughed and gave the bird the cracker. “A strange fortune,” he said, looking back at Captain Ayjon. “I must return to my ship. Perhaps we will meet again someday.”
“Be sure to work on your Tikar,” the Captain urged as Uungluk left the tavern and began to walk down the street. He turned to Wet Zet. “Your captainar is younger than most sailors when they first join a crewar. What does Captain Ezrakar see in him?”
“Captain Gorgar bribed the Overlordar to give him Lorak and separated Captain Ezrakar from his family,” Wet Zet explained. “Uunglukar killed Captain Gorgar at Lorak, but now that he had twoish quotas to deliver, Captain Ezrakar made Uunglukar captainar of the secondish shipar.”
“I hope he did not let sentimentar cloud his judgementar,” Captain Ayjon said.
Wet Zet shook his head. “Captain Uunglukar may be a freshish sailor, but he’s proven himself many times.” He looked toward the door. “I should probably catch up with him and return to the shipar as well.”
Wet Zet stood up and walked over to the bar. The Barbidon handed him a cracker. “It’s been a fewish years since I last talked with Pallas,” he said, “but I see no reasonar not to break with traditionar.” He stepped in front of the bird. “What do you have to say to me?” he asked her.
“Wetar Zetar,” Pallas croaked. Wet Zet smiled as the bird remembered his name from years before. “Wetar Zetar... Uunglukar... find Turosar... visit oldish landar”
Wet Zet looked back at Captain Ayjon and grinned. “You hear that? I’ve got that bounty you mentioned coming my way!” He turned back to the bird and held up the cracker.
Pallas ignored the cracker and began to hop on her perch, talking rapidly. “Save Turosar... save Turosar... save Turosar... save Turosar... save Turosar!”
Wet Zet quickly glanced around the room and noticed that the hooded stranger in the corner had left. He slammed the cracker down on the bar next to the perch and ran out the door to find Uungluk.
Uungluk wandered along the dark streets as he looked for the port. The air was warm and humid, and despite the occasional torch for light, fog hid the view. Eventually he found the port and began to search for his ship. He would be safer there than on shore, where only his fake name and the clothing hiding his scars hid the truth of his identity.
As he walked past some of the ships docked at the port, a hooded stranger emerged from a shadow and stepped in front of him. Uungluk stopped walking and froze, ready to reach for his sword if necessary. “You escaped from me once, but now I have you,” the hooded man threatened. “I will not allow you to escape again.”
“Who are you and what do you want with me?” Uungluk asked.
For a moment, the stranger was silent. “I saw you fall into the sea and I saw a Lunari carry you away from the shore. I saw the memorial made to your brother and the carcasses of the beasts that killed him. I know you are innocent,” he finally said, “but that will not be enough until the full story is known. I will take you to Atalan whether or not you want to go.”
“I told you before, I will not go,” Uungluk replied, realizing it was the attendant. “Go to Atalan if you must, but let me make my own decisions.”
“The Great King would not want me to let you escape, my Prince, but...” He reached for something beneath his cloak.
An arrow sped past Uungluk and struck the hooded attendant in the arm. A dagger with a piece of parchment tied around it fell out of his cloak to the ground as he cried out in pain and clutched his arm. Wet Zet stepped into view. “Captain Uungluk, have you been harmed?” he asked.
Though visibly shaken by meeting the attendant, Uungluk shook his head. “I am not hurt, but I do have a problem.”
Wet Zet stepped up beside him and looked over the attendant. The hood had fallen off his head and he was struggling to hide the pain caused by the arrow sticking from his arm. “It will only be a problem when Captain Ezrak’s crew hears the latest gossip and they start talking about pulling you from the sea. As for this man, I can either finish him off so he never speaks again, or we can take him back to the ship and decide his fate later.”
The wounded attendant dropped to his knees in front of Uungluk. “Please, Prince Turos, spare me. I do not mean you any harm. Protocol requires that I attempt to take you before the Great King, but failing that, I have brought you a letter and a gift from your father.” He picked up the dagger and parchment, and held it up in front of Uungluk.
Uungluk took the dagger and parchment and tucked it into his belt. “Having fulfilled your obligations to the Great King and my father, whom now do you serve?”
“I serve you, Prince Turos,” the attendant answered.
“Then you will stay in my service and know me as Captain Uungluk until I say otherwise,” he ordered. He turned to Wet Zet. “Let’s get him to the ship and call Parven from the Fasara Ru to tend to his arm.”
Wet Zet knelt beside the attendant and pulled out a knife. “I’ve had enough arrows in me to know how to take them out without calling a doctor,” he said. “If you’re at all squeamish, you may want to look away while I take it out.” He took the man’s arm and stuck his knife into the wound. With the wound held open, the barb came out easily without tearing the flesh. He then ripped a strip of cloth off the attendant’s cloak and tied it tightly around the wound. “There, almost as good as new,” he announced when he was finished.
“Then let’s find our ship,” Uungluk said.
Wet Zet picked up his arrow and helped the attendant back to his feet. A short while later, they found the right ship and boarded it. Wet Zet took the attendant below the deck, and Uungluk went by himself to the captain’s office to read the note from his father.
As Uungluk stepped into the dimly lit room, he noticed someone sitting in his chair with their feet up on his desk. The man turned his head and looked at Uungluk. It was Captain Ezrak.
“I know who you are, Uungluk” he said somberly. He set an arrow and part of a second arrow on the desk. “I know who you are, but I only want to know one thing. Did you do it?”
Uungluk stepped closer to the desk. “I did not do it. My brother was killed by a springing jeket even after I warned of their threat.”
“Good,” Captain Ezrak said. “If you had done it, I would have you punished for reaching too far, and a captain without a hand is no longer a captain. Still, I may find myself having problems caused by harboring a fugitive prince, despite his innocence. Light a few candles so we can see and discuss what must be done for our mutual benefit.”
Uungluk set the dagger and parchment on the desk and began to light the candles about the room. “I’ve already had one problem just returning to the ship,” he said. “I was given a letter from my father and probably would have been taken all the way to Atalan against my will if Wet Zet had not arrived in time. It was the man who shot me in the shoulder when he saw my brother had died.”
“Did the man survive?”
“Wet Zet has him below. The man has affirmed his belief in my innocence and swore his allegiance to me.” Uungluk answered. “I have not taken the time to ask how he thought to search for me here.”
Captain Ezrak frowned. “If there is one man looking for you here, there may be others, and you must be on your guard. One cannot easily escape the notice of spies send by those in power.”
“I do not believe anyone else at the tavern suspected me,” Uungluk said. “I left shortly after another captain told me the news of my brother’s death.”
“I’m going to guess that Wet Zet took you to Chig’s Chigel,” Captain Ezrak said. “Did you talk to the bird?”
“Yes,” Uungluk replied. “It didn’t reveal who I am, but it did mention no crimes, a great secret, a mighty name, and a few other things. I doubt anyone there would have associated that with the rumors about me.”
“That bird is a real quack!” Captain Ezrak grinned. “I don’t know why anyone would bother asking...”
There was a knock at the door. “Come in,” both captains said, both looking at the door.
Wet Zet opened the door and walked in. “Captain Ezrak, Captain Uungluk, we have a real problem,” he warned. “There’s a tavern full of pirates that may have realized who Captain Uungluk really is.”
Captain Ezrak looked at Uungluk. “I thought you said that crazy bird didn’t say anything revealing.”
“It didn’t to him,” Wet Zet interrupted, “but it did to me. It mentioned, ‘Uunglukar,’ and then, ‘find Turosar.’ When I tried to give it a cracker, it kept repeating, ‘save Turosar.’ Taking its advice, I ran from the tavern and found Captain Uungluk just in time to keep someone else from taking him hostage or worse.”
Captain Ezrak put his head in his hands and groaned. “There is no way I can harbor such a high-profile name without it being discovered!”
“We heard the news from Captain Ayjon and he would most likely have realized why I left the tavern in such a rush,” Wet Zet said. “It may be possible to convince him that keeping Uungluk’s identity a secret would be in the best interest of all of us. Once he’s convinced, he can use his influence to silence anyone else who may spread the news.”
“I don’t like relying on others in such delicate issues,” Captain Ezrak said. “If I did go to Captain Ayjon, he would want something in return for his cooperation and I am currently unable to provide any such compensation.”
“Would it be better to go to the Overlord?” Uungluk asked.
Both Captain Ezrak and Wet Zet shook their heads. “The Overlord would send you back to Atalan,” Wet Zet said, “or at least he’d send your head. He has held a grudge against the Great King ever since five of his favorite captains were defeated and their ships sunk by the royal fleet.”
“Wet Zet is right,” Captain Ezrak agreed. “The Overlord cannot be trusted to help you, and yet to seek out the help of Captain Ayjon would be to ignore the authority of the Overlord.”
“The Overlord would not be pleased,” Wet Zet said, “but if anything were to happen, I think the Fasara Ru would be the most fitting ship to be at the center of events.”
Captain Ezrak thought for a few moments and then stood up. “Captain Uungluk, stay here and take the time to read the letter your father sent you.” He picked up the two arrows off the desk and handed them to Wet Zet. “Wet Zet, take these arrows as a sign and discreetly fetch Captain Ayjon. I’m going to the Fasara Ru and gather up some strong crewmembers. We’ll meet back here as soon as possible. If we’re going to discuss something behind the Overlord’s back, I’d prefer for it to start on a ship with no name than on a ship the Overlord would think to watch.”
After Captain Ezrak and Wet Zet left, Uungluk was all alone. Sure, there were a few crewmembers left guarding the ship, but the ship was still silent and all that Uungluk could hear was the soft splashing of the small waves against the side of the ship. He picked up the parchment and unrolled it from around the dagger. He sat down in his chair and began to read.
My dear son, Turos,
If you have received this letter, then you are either being taken to Atalan and we may soon be reunited, or you have managed to stay free. Either way, I am personally convinced of your innocence and have no doubt that the Great King will be fully convinced that your place in this affair is misinterpreted and that his trust conveyed to you and your brother was never misplaced. Unfortunately, there can be no official absolving of alleged crimes without standing before the Great King so, should you escape, your past will forever follow you.
The man I have chosen to bring you this letter can be trusted with his life even though he once turned on you at the time of your brother’s death. If you have escaped his attempt to apprehend you once more, he will never do so again. Should you wish to reply or correspond at any time, he will be willing to deliver your messages and will not divulge your whereabouts or secrets. I am sure your mother will be extremely concerned when she hears the news and would be grateful to hear if you are safe.
If you are indeed alive and free, then, as a father, I am leaving you with a dagger. Keep this with you at all times, if not for protection, then as a reminder that you will always have to keep a watch for men who, knowing your name, may abuse you for their own gain. Once again, I wish only that you are alive and well.
Your father, Hifur
Uungluk wiped away a few tears after he finished reading. He would have to send a reply at a later time. Right now there was a much more urgent matter to deal with, keeping his name secret.