he sky was a slab of slate. The people of the village were
inside their houses. Not long before, there had been hurried
preparations. The pulling in of laundry, gathering of tools, the
covering of the boats in the harbour, all these were
The village of Gerry's Port waited for the storm.
The air was calm. The grass trembled and small waves lapped
against the docks. Edna the gossip sat beside her husband Gimal.
Mangest sat inside his shuttered general store with his sons
Yejah and Tallie and the village folk who had decided to shelter
there. Horrie and Tanar smiled cautiously at the grateful
traders who they sheltered in their home. Yonni the widow opened
her shutters a crack and peered out at the sea. Lightning
flashed in the distance, highlighting a small dark shape upon the
A wind rose and began to howl around the village,
toying with the thatched roofs and the canvas tarpaulins. A cry
arose. "There's a ship out there!" Suddenly, the storm broke.
Cold water fell from the sky in an avalanche of rain. Jeg, a
lanky dark youth, ran out into the storm, bent over as if that
would keep the water off him. He shielded his eyes with his hand
and peered out through the rain. There was certainly something
out there. It was closer now, and it looked like a ship, but the
rain made details impossible.
The sky flashed with
lightning, freezing the rain in its place for a split second. In
the flash he saw the outline of the ship, black against the angry
skies. Jeg's clothes were already soaked from the rain. His
boots made squishing sounds as he ran to the dock. The ship was
headed towards them, but it was riding a foamy sea. The dock was
slippery in the rain and he nearly lost his footing. Again, the
lightning flashed. The ship was closer now. It was too small to
weather the storm. The silhouettes of the sails were torn
It was still too far away. Far too far to swim, even
on a clear day. Jeg retreated to the storage shed which lay on
the ground near one end of the dock. He wiped the water from his
forehead and squeezed his hair. He shook himself vigorously to
get the water off. It would be a quarter of an hour before the
ship arrived, if it arrived at all.
Jeg heard footsteps behind him. Someone was
running up to him, hissing curses as he did. The person ran past
the shed to the dock, and Jeg recognised his best friend Kerv.
Kerv was neither short nor tall. His round face had a bit of mud
on it. His black hair was shiny with water and he was shivering
slightly. He was also bewildered that the dock was empty.
"Jeg?" he called. "Where did you go?"
"Come in here," Jeg
replied. Kerv startled to hear someone so close behind him. As
he turned, he saw Jeg inside the storage shed. Shaking his head,
he came inside.
"Jeg, what's gotten into you?"
know if it's going to make it," Jeg replied, his eyes locked on
"The ship. I don't know if it's going
to reach the dock."
"Why shouldn't it? It's moving towards
"Yes, but we're on a peninsula here. The ship is
coming almost straight across. If it's a little bit too far
south, it smashes into the side of the point. If it's too far
north, it passes us and sails on into the open sea."
you know your mother's worried sick about you. After your
"That's why I'm here," interrupted Jeg, with a
quick stare at Kerv. He lowered his eyes to the heaving ocean
again. "Tell her that. There could be people on that ship."
"Jeg," Kerv said, waving his hand in front of Jeg's face. "He's
dead, you know."
Jeg batted Kerv's hand away in irritation.
"Of course I know. But maybe, if I'm here, I can save someone
else's father. Or someone else's son. Now are you going to go
and tell my mother, or are you going to stay here and help
"Sheesh! It's Kerv, remember? Of course I'll help
you. But what do you want?"
"Help me look. You've always
had sharper eyes than me. If we start to see the left side, it's
going to crash. If we start to see the right side, it's going to
The pair of friends settled down and began to peer
through the rain. The wind howled about them and thunder rolled
from time to time. The air was cool, so they moved closer
together. The rain hissed on the ground, made thudding sounds
against the roof and gurgled in the ocean. The longer they
watched, the slower the ship seemed to move. They watched and
The ship began to loom larger and larger. It was
not far off, when Kerv said, "I can see a side!"
one?" Jeg demanded.
"The right one!" Kerv replied.
Jeg screamed. He shook his fist in the air.
This ship was
close enough that it seemed to turn in the sea as it passed them.
The only things that really turned were their eyes. Suddenly,
there was a blur of motion on the side.
"What was that?" Jeg
said, turning to Kerv.
"Someone jumped ship." Kerv said,
pointing to a dark spot in the ocean.
Jeg stood up and
pulled of his shirt. "You're not going in there, are you?"
whispered Kerv in shock.
"Go and tell them that someone's
jumped ship. Make sure they bring blankets for two. Please," he
added, trying to soften the order. Then Jeg pulled off his boots
and ran onto the dock. As he dove in, Kerv turned away and raced
back toward the village.
His parents startled and the
candles flickered when Kerv threw open the door. He said, "Bring
some blankets. Jeg's jumped in."
"He's done what?"
demanded Kerv's mother Lundil.
"I think I saw someone jump
out of the ship. Jeg's trying to rescue him."
need two sets of blankets," commented Kerv's father.
"Yes," said Kerv, too frazzled to stay focused. "Yes, he said
that. Bring blankets for two."
"We can get some from Edna and
Gimal," Lundil suggested.
"Fine!" exclaimed Kerv. "Can we go
"I'll do that," said Kerv's father. "Go down to the
dock and I'll meet you there."
"Really, Kerv," said Lundil as
they left the hut. "No need to be rude. Try to keep calm."
"But mom," said Kerv, "Right now, every moment counts. That sea
When they reached the dock, they scanned the sea
for Jeg or the sailor. There was no sign of them. The ship was
sailing away from the village, the mast broken. The howling wind
hid any sounds, and the constantly moving waves obscured
Suddenly, Kerv saw Jeg break the surface some
distance from them. "Jeg!" Kerv cried. "Are you okay?"
found him!" was the faint response. Kerv squinted into the rain,
and saw that there were two of them, Jeg holding the stranger's
head above water. "He went under a minute ago."
about you?" Kerv screamed against the gale. "Can you make it
"I think so," Jeg replied. "I'm so cold!"
swimming," Kerv yelled.
"I'm doing that already!" Jeg said
with some irritation. He was swimming a sort of desperate
backstroke with one arm holding the stranger.
rushed up with more of the blankets. "I'm going in," Kerv said,
his teeth chattering.
"No you're not," said Kerv's father.
"No sense throwing good money after bad."
"I don't care what
you say. I won't leave my friend to die." Kerv said, turning
and starting toward the end of the dock. His father grabbed him
by the shoulder with his gnarled fisherman's fingers. "Let me
go!" Kerv demanded.
"Kerv," said his mother, "there's still
a good chance he'll make it."
"And if can't
swim any further, you can go then. Only, for Han's sake, be
The moments that followed stretched into eternity
for Kerv. As Jeg maintain his painful progress, getting weaker
with every stroke, the villagers slowly gathered around him.
Suddenly Jeg stopped. He seemed to converse with the air. Kerv
made ready to go after him, but Jeg nodded to himself and started
again his tortuous swim. He reached the dock soon after and was
lifted to safty by as many hands as could grip him at once. He
was a difficult weight to lift, because he refused to let go of
the stranger from the mysterious ship.
Jeg says that his dad appeared to him just like that in the
middle of the ocean," said Ralah to her husband Jorvic. "Of
course him and the stranger were deathly ill. The man from the
ship's got an awful fever. At least, he did when the traders
left the village. The boy's on the mend, though. No one knows
who the stranger is, or why he's there. He's been asleep and
raving the whole time. All they can tell is that he's a
"From where?" said Jorvic.
"Not too far," Rala
replied. "Grochin or Sornia, so they say. Got yellow, thin hair
and a pointy nose. Got a scar over his eyebrow."
eyebrow?" Jorvic queried.
"You know him do you?"
that's a yes, then I need to go," Jorvic said. Rala noticed him
rub the old scar on his shoulder.
"To Gary's Port?"
"Yes, my love. It's a point of honour."
"Well. How long
will you be?"
"Two days there and back," Jorvic muttered,
"a day or two in town..." He added, out loud. "About six days.
I'll send word if I need to stay longer."
"All right, then,"
Ralah sighed. Her husband had never behaved this way before.
She saw him fumble in the back of the closet and pull out his old
sword. "Han's heart! Do you really need that?"
and it's much better to have it than to wish I did."
don't know what to say. I've never seen you act like this."
"I'm sorry about this," he said, rummaging in the closet for
travel clothes. "I'll tell you everything about it when I get
back. And I'll get back in once piece, I promise. I have to get
there as soon as I can."
Rala pursed her lips. "Well,
goodbye then," she said.
"Goodbye, my love." He stood at
the archway and blew her a kiss. The he turned and strode
outside. A few minutes later, Rala heard the sound of Jorvic's
horse trotting away. She settled down and waited for six days.
At the end of the sixth, she waited still.
It was a
strange time for the quiet village of Gerry's Port. Now there
were two strangers in the town. Jorvic was almost as inscrutable
as the fevered man. The only information he provided was that
the fevered man's name might be Turlon. Jovic spent nearly as
much time with Turlon as Jeg, who had been recovering from
exposure in the same hut.
Jeg and Turlon had a strange
relationship. All day, as they waited for the sickly man to
become lucid, they would exchange glances. Jeg had quickly
learned that Jorvic was not interested in small talk. He was not
exactly unfriendly, but he made it clear that he had important
things to think about.
Jorvic was about as tall as Jeg,
but he was much thicker set, most of the extra mass being muscle.
His features had certain similarities to those of Turlon, but
they seemed muted. His hair was brown, his eyes a gray-blue. He
had a sword with his baggage, and he spent a great deal of time
polishing the rust from the blade. And from time to time, he
rubbed the scar on his shoulder. He seemed like the central
mountains to Jeg: big, quiet, immobile and distant.
on the third day, Turlon awoke. Jorvic was the first thing he
saw. "Jorvic!" he cried. "Was it all just a dream - I know I've
been sick - was it just a dream that I had a wife and daughter
and lost them both?" Turlon's eyes narrowed. "No. You're
older. This isn't an army infirmary."
"No, the army was a
long time ago. It is strange to see you hereabouts," Jorvic
said. "The tale about your arrival is even stranger."
is Gerry's port?" queried Turlon. Jorvic nodded. Turlon sagged
back into the pillows, as if crushed by the weight of the news.
"Then it's true. I hoped it was a delusion--some kind of fever-
"What burdens you, my friend?" said Jorvic.
"Crimson fever took the one, and General Ratlief took the other.
And I'm here because I hoped you would help me."
© Copyright 1995 Aaron Bentley
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do not redistribute.