Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 34

Red Winning Entry

Unloading of ships; normal hours, normal manifest, Shirin and Tracy are offloading different cargoes. They plan to meet at the city alehouse when this job ends, to regale themselves with stories of the day, stories about glimpses of valuables, of jewels and silks and all the rarities from Otten Odara, the land where Eledon roam and Quari play in the watercolor ocean.

Shirin, however, soon gets caught up in an extended dealing with the ship’s captain, who seems to want double the agreed amount for his shipload, and has to stay behind to calm his intense bargaining. She finally strikes a deal with him an hour late of sunset; once they’ve had their leaving salutations, she strikes off down the shore at a brisk pace, keeping one eye on the torchlit houses lined up atop the tall rocky cliffs and the other on the softly musing, murmuring waves.

Eventually she loses her focus, and is brought back by a light to her face; it is a beam off the prow of a great sailing junk, one perilously near to the shore and just as perilously unfamiliar. Shirin thinks to raise an alarm, for she has never before seen the sigil represented by the masthead, but someone shouts out to her from the decks before she can. She recognizes the voice for Tracy’s, and is rightly astonished that he should be on such a foreign ship. She wonders if they've stolen him away from the port, and if they plan to steal her too.

It takes her some time, and some goading from Tracy, but Shirin boards the ship, which is not quite beached but not too far out to sea, and Tracy informs her that he’s struck a deal with the Men of Rae’s Light, a group dedicated to the spreading of the Light, of Rae's word. Tracy had come across them in the morning, for they were stopped in port to drop tribute and consumer-goods off (because the local ruler funds their business of exploration, and expects constant reporting on their voyage). He found their creed attractive, and decided to become a shipmate.

Now the vessel (Merryman, she's called) is just on her way to the harbor over by Oceven, but Tracy had seen Shirin through his glass-scope and wanted to make sure she knew where he’d gone before he left. He’s not, after all, willing to abandon a friend without so much as a word of goodbye.

For this Shirin is grateful; but she’s hesitant to join him, to cut her employment and lose salary. But at the same time, she's hesitant to lose her best friend.

With some apprehension, then, Shirin comes aboard the vessel, and Tracy introduces her to the priesthood of the Light. They strike on well enough, and Shirin recognizes one as her other friend Murrat. And it is in such condition that the anchor rises, and the Merryman sets off on its way...