- Markshire PCs:
“Come,” Thrakh gruffly answered the knock on his cabin door, looking up from the charts to see the girl come in, bow, and step aside so Marco could enter behind her. “Prop the door open, Marco. What d’ye need?”
Marco shuffled a bit. Thrakh wondered why he was nervous—he knew the watches better than anyone, knew if he had a rest from steering then the two of them had breaks from bailing. “She, er, wants to understand the Crossing, Cap’n. Asked me to translate.”
Thrakh snorted, then thought better of the comment he’d been about to make, and looked at the two speculatively. “Alright. Step up here, both of you. Cheng, can you read a map?”
After the translation, she nodded, then shook her head as she looked at the sea charts covering the table. “Right,” said Thrakh, “Those’re all depths and shoals, but these,” he paused as he pulled two maps from a wide thin drawer, “might make some sense.”
Putting one map on top of the other, he continued. “This is where we were, before the Crossing.” He pointed to an anchor on the map, “That’s Sevarik, the port where she came aboard, right? And that way over there is where she’s probably from,” he said pointing to a spot on the very edge of the map, decorated with dragons, figures in pointy straw hats working in fields, and one figure with a large strange sword wearing odd, brightly colored armor and a helmet and mask resembling a demon’s head. The girl smiled briefly, then pointed and asked something.
“Cap’n, she says the people look kind of right, but that her land ends in a normal coast, with islands out past it—not that huge cliff and the oceans pouring over like a waterfall.”
Thrakh snorted. “Tell her that’s why I use the charts—mapmakers just make stuff up.” The girl shrugged as Marco translated, and Thrakh went on. “But she wants to know about the Crossing, right? That’d be right about—here,” and he pointed at a spot in the middle of the ocean, not too far from Sevarik.
“Can’t really explain it much better than to say you sail through it, and you end up here.” With that, he pulled the second map out and put it on top of the first. The lands and oceans looked completely different, and Thrakh’s finger was clearly pointing to a different spot in this map’s oceans. “Winds seem to blow to that spot, pretty steady, from all directions, which is strange enough, and why we’ve had to beat upwind so long to get away from it,” he added, as the girl vomited in her matter-of-fact way into a bucket she’d brought in. “Sun and stars are different, too, and when we pass through it’s a few hours later in the day—was near sunset as we went in and just dawn when we came out.”
“Brought a mage along one trip who wanted to study it—twas before you joined, Marco—he wanted to learn what happens…” Thrakh frowned, then went on, “inside it. Had all kinds of ideas about gates and planes and the like, kept talking about fabrics and materials and holes and wrinkles, too. Pretty sure he was mad.” Thrakh shrugged. “’E didn’t make it.”
Thrakh took a drink from a flask while Marco translated, then he spoke again. “That’s it, really. Should be in Malkir, here, in a week or so,” he said, pointing to another anchor drawn on the top map. “Refit there for a bit, but she’ll leave us there, as we make a few local runs before we head back.”
His voice didn’t exactly soften, but he spoke more quietly. “Only way I know for her to get back, get home if she ever wants to, is to sail through it again—and with her stomach?” Thrakh shook his head. “Take her if she wants—tell her we’re in Malkir a few times a year and a few other ships make the run from time to time. Up to her—she knows the risk now.”
When Marco had finished repeating the Captain’s words in elven, Sun-Ok stared at the map, then lifted a corner of it high to look at the one below. After a few moments, she lowered it and raised it several times, eventually leaving the corner raised and reaching out with her other hand to trace gently the straw-hatted ink figures toiling in the fields of the Far Lands.
Thrakh took another swallow from his flask, watching as she placed her palm over the drawing, unsure whether it was a gesture of obliteration or blessing or something else. She withdrew her hand from between the maps, lowered the corner of the top one back in place, and looked up at Thrakh.
“Thank you, Cap’n,” she said, and reached to touch him gently on the shoulder. She bowed and left the cabin, Marco trailing after. Without being told, Marco pulled the door quietly shut.