Carpathia III: Episode 76 - Adrift

The Arid Sea

The sand boat heaved gently on the wide, low swells of the Arid Sea. Jaze shifted his position on the boat throughout the day to stay in the shade of the mast. He wasn't inclined to do anything but let the boat drift, as he'd been doing for many days.

On the first day, Ryuu left Jaze to drift on the sand while he flew back to the village to investigate and help. Ryuu made it his first task to split the bridge that ran across the river in town so that the compound could not cross it. He then spent several hours watching the compound soldiers and distracting them with fireballs whenever necessary and making a nuisance of himself.

Ryuu couldn't be everywhere at once, and several of the kids managed to loot a great deal of meat and vegetables. When it seemed clear that nobody was looking for villagers anymore, Ryuu checked up on the rock in the river, where the tunnels ended. There, he found everyone safe, except for Nita. Jacob and the village elders were helping to keep order while Ryuu delivered news, including the fact that Jaze managed to escape. Flying back, Ryuu watched as the compound kids loaded up their remaining sandboats. He did not disturb any of the compound kids at the boats, figuring that the sooner everyone was gone, the better.

It wasn't easy to find Jaze again after that. The Arid Sea was vast and even his eyes had trouble finding a little boat on the sandy waves.

A small crate of food and water on the boat kept Jaze and Ryuu fed for a few days, but it eventually ran out. At that time, Ryuu began making regular trips to the shore to gather food and water and bring it back to the boat. Sometimes, it took a distressingly long time to find the little boat. Ryuu did his best not to show his frustration, but Jaze's inertia was beginning to annoy him. Gently, Ryuu tapped Jaze's chest with his paw.

Ryuu: Jaze, why don't we go back to the village? Everyone wants to see you again.

Jaze rolled over in the shade of the mast, facing away from Ryuu.

Jaze: I can't go back there. They came for me.

Ryuu: It had to be a coincidence.

Jaze said nothing. Ryuu knew about Jaze's nightmares as much as everyone else. However, nobody understood how unusual they were. There was a presence to them that wasn't normal and Jaze felt like the yellow eyes were watching him even when he was awake. He wasn't sure how to explain this or if he was just going crazy.

Ryuu: If you want, I can read your memories. That way, you don't have to talk about it.

This was out of the question for Jaze. If there was something in his mind, he didn't want to pass it to Ryuu and he didn't want to give anyone a chance to know about what happened at the compound, particularly about Mitani and his relationship with Rhoskel. In fact, with Rhoskel in mind, he decided to change the subject and rolled over to face Ryuu again.

Jaze: Ryuu, I've been thinking about what you said back at the village. You were saying something about telling Mira... I mean... Rhoskel's story. What did you mean by that?

Ryuu sat on the canvas and scratched his chin with his paw.

Ryuu: I guess you don't know how dragons work. I'm mostly a white dragon, which means I can read your memories. Dragons like me are the keepers of of stories and history and we pass that along to all the other dragons. Even dragons that have long since died live on in our thoughts. In a sense, we believe that no dragon truly dies as long as we remember. The greatest tragedy would be for a dragon to die without sharing memories. I could see you cared for Rhoskel and I didn't want that tragedy to befall either of you.

Jaze allowed Ryuu's words to sink in. It was true, he thought, that nobody but he would be able to tell anyone about the side of Rhoskel that he knew. He also realized that he was the only one who at least cared about the sacrifice that Mitani made. Jaze sat up and looked at Ryuu directly.

Jaze: I see. Stories are very important to you.

Ryuu: You have your books and your computer network to leave a piece of you behind. We have our shared memories.

Jaze: That makes sense, I think. Maybe sometime I'll give you my memories. I'm just not ready yet.

Jaze leaned back on the mast, touching his left arm to it, having forgotten that his wound was still tender.

Jaze: OW!

Jaze immediately leaned forward and gently held his hand on his arm, waiting for the pain to subside.

Ryuu: Let me take a look at that.

Ryuu stepped forward and checked Jaze's wound carefully, gently poking it very lightly with his claw.

Ryuu: Definitely healing. It's going to be tender for awhile, though. It's a good thing it missed your muscle.

Jaze leaned back again, this time taking care not to touch his shoulder to the mast.

Jaze: I can only imagine what my mom would say if I ever get home and I'm full of holes.

Just as Jaze finished his sentence, his stomach rumbled.

Ryuu: Should I go get something to eat again?

Jaze: I think I'll be okay for a little while. I miss Nita's cooking, though.

Jaze looked over at the crate that once contained the food and water.

Jaze: Hmmm... Maybe something fell through the cracks.

Jaze pushed the crate onto its side and looked around for any crumbs that may have slipped through. There were many little berries and pieces of bread laying where the crate once was.

Jaze: There is a little bit here. Doesn't smell bad or anything.

Jaze began picking through the crumbs on the canvas until he reached one of the support beams on the side of the boat. There, he saw something he never noticed before.

Jaze: There's a stamp here. "Property of the Kingdom of Zhail."

Jaze sat on the canvas again and scratched behind his ear.

Jaze: Did they steal this? Come to think of it, I don't remember the compound having anything like this.

Ryuu: I don't know. This whole planet is a mess.

Jaze: That's definitely true.

Ryuu: We should go to shore. I'm afraid every time I go out to get food that I won't be able to find you again. It's a lot harder than you think.

Jaze sat in silence for a moment. It was, perhaps, time to finally get off the boat. He was far enough away from the village now that nobody would come looking for him there again, he thought.

Jaze: Yeah, I think it's time to get off this thing. Let's wait until night. I don't want anyone else seeing us and I'd like to have a nap first.

Ryuu tilted his head to the side and stared at Jaze, wondering if he was sincere.

Ryuu: Okay, I'll wake you up when the sun goes down, okay?

Jaze: That will be fine.

Once again, Jaze scooted himself in the shade of the mast and laid down on the canvas as Ryuu curled up next to him. As he allowed his mind to drift to different thoughts, he wondered what he would do once he reached shore. Perhaps he'd find a secluded place and build a cabin. The big problem with this, of course, is that he had no idea how to build a cabin. Many uncertainties piled up in his mind as he drifted into an uneasy slumber.

The next thing Jaze remembered was feeling a jolt from the boat. Panicking, he sat up, wondering if they were sinking. Bleary-eyed, he looked around. The sun was setting and, unless the dusk was playing tricks with his eyes, he realized the boat hit land. Jaze reached down and gently shook Ryuu to rouse him from his sleep. Just as Ryuu stirred, a sharp, metal object was suddenly thrust into Jaze's face, stopping mere inches from his nose. Jaze looked up to see a nekohuman boy standing over him with a spear in his hand, glaring menacingly at both of them.

Boy: Who're you?

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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