That night was the longest of my life to that point. Worse than any night before major exams at the Academy. Worse than the night we were attacked by lizardfolk on the river (only by virtue of sheer terror, not accounting for the loss of Calum). Writing this with Dawn almost upon me and surrounded by allies in relative safety, it is difficult to feel the same constant fear and unease as on that long, endless night.
The Bonnie Heather gathered speed with favorable winds. Those men not assigned to hide in defensive posts were sent below deck. Silent running was ordered; the Elf on watch would communicate by hand-signs to the Elf at the helm, and all men above or below deck held their tongue, lest their conversation or sounds carry on the wind.
I did not sleep that night, not a moment. The rush and pound of water against the hull, the creak of the timber and joists, and the random thumps of the cargo in the hold, were the dirge to my fears. At any moment I expected to hear the silence broken with a cry of alarm, and I knew I would have to go above, shelter myself from harm, and look for a way to help the crew in what would certainly have been a lopsided and fatal battle for our ship.
On, and on, that night dragged, the ship heaving and dipping, my possessions sliding and my hammock swaying, the enforced quiet and the darkness gnawing at my nerves. By the captain’s orders all oil-lamps below deck were choked to the smallest possible flame, so by a pea-sized blue orb of light I counted the endless minutes and endless hours.
We came through. By how close a margin I never found out. After weeks of waiting -as it felt to have been holed up in that gloomy cabin- word came that we were clear of the last island and that dawn saw us well inside Ælim waters. Angus would not tell the crew what happened during the night, as nautical superstition and need of morale forbade him discussing close calls or any such reflections on the whims of the Fates.
He said that it was clear sailing and that there had been no signs of trouble at all. But I saw the look exchanged by the elves, and a stern look at them from Flask. They had seen something last night. I know not what, but they saw something out there. What it was or how we evaded it, I will never know.
I was groggy all that morning and afternoon, almost asleep as I meditated for the day’s spells and listless on deck all day, and for dull days after until we made Ælim.
For all the time aboard and my role as allegedly part of the crew, departing the ship was no grand affair. Angus was engaged with ship’s business, and didn’t spare me more than a few cheap words of farewell when I presented myself and declared my departure.
Of the rest of the crew who even noticed I was leaving, it was only Stubb who remembered my name when I disembarked. Though, he said I would do well in my profession as a dentist, so the impression I made on him was not so much better than on the rest.
The journey by ship was ended. I would spend several days in the city of Ælim recovering my land-legs.