Part Three of “It Takes a Thief,” in which our intrepid hauflin heroes find themselves on a slow boat to Solaria.
It Takes a Thief, Part Three
“I hate you.”
The twins were chained in the hold of a ship, the only light coming through cracks in the wooden planks overhead. Farris sat with his arms wrapped around a large bucket, usually used for cleaning the ship, now being used to hold the meager contents of a seasick hauflin’s stomach.
“I mean it, Fayra. I ha–” he belched, choking back bile before retching into the bucket for the fifth or sixth time since they left the docks at Redcastle. Neither of them expected the bucket was going to be emptied any time soon.
As soon as they had agreed to help Lord Redcastle, the two hauflins had been chained and escorted by a half-dozen soldiers to the Redcastle docks. The twins watched as one of the soldiers approached a holk moored to a dock along the eastern bank of the West River. The soldier spoke to a thin, hawk-faced man who was overseeing the sailors making the ship ready. He was shabbily dressed, like the other sailors, but his age and bearing told them he was the master of the ship. The soldier handed the captain a folded piece of paper and a small purse.
Fayra and Farris were brought on board and taken below. They could hear the sailors on the deck above, singing and swearing as they unfurled sails, tied off riggings, and loosed moorings. Fayra made note of a few particularly harsh phrases, never knowing when a venomous taunt would come in handy. They cast off. Everything around them rocked and creaked as the holk sailed south down the West River, heading to the open waters of the Edolian Sea.
If this was what river travel was like, Farris–and his stomach–was not looking forward to sailing on the open sea.
“It won’t be that bad,” Fayra said.
“The Edolian Sea.” How did she always know what he was thinking? Some would have called it a twin-bond, but Farris had seen his sister do it to strangers, too. Some people could just read others, he guessed.
“A ship this size wasn’t built for the open sea,” she continued. “We’ll likely sail along the coast of the Edolian Peninsula. The water shouldn’t be too rough.”
Farris retched into his bucket again. “H- how do you know all that?”
“Sailors can be … friendly. In the right circumstances.”
Why does she always have to over-share? “Okay, sea dog, how long do you think it will take?”
“Hard to say. A larger trader could sail from one of the bigger ports in Dal Varris to Solaria in about six days, if the weather cooperates. A ship like this? Maybe twice as long.”
Farris lost what little color remained in his cheeks. “Twice as– Twelve days? I’ll be dead by then.”
“Have faith, brother of mine.” She glanced at the platter of bread crumbs and wooden mug on the deck between them. By her best guess, this was their second day on the river. So far, they had been visited three times by either a sailor or a soldier who brought them a chunk of hard bread and a mug of watered-down ale. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep them alive until the ship reached Solaria. Unless her brother vomited himself to death before that. If Fayra’s estimates were right, the next meal should be arriving any minute now.
Someone opened an overhead hatch, letting sunlight into the dark, empty hold. “Listen up, you water rats,” the twins recognized the voice of one of Redcastle’s soldiers, “breakfast time. Now don’t go trying anything funny.”
The soldier, still wearing a full suit of armor even at sea, made his way down the narrow steps. Partially blinded by the sudden light, Farris was still able to see the outline of a drawn sword in one hand and what looked like a large mug in the other.
“My brother’s not well. Apparently sea travel does not agree with him.”
The soldier laughed. “And why the hell should I care?” He had wedged their bread into the top of the mug, which he dropped to the deck, barely in reach. He kicked the empty plate and mug aside with a smirk.
“Simple. If he dies, we won’t be able to complete Lord Redcastle’s little errand.”
“Then you die, too.”
Fayra smiled. “Wrong. When he dies, I no longer have a reason to behave myself. And when I stop behaving, you stop breathing.”
“I thought you were thieves, not assassins.”
“When I kill you and your men, it won’t be assassination. It’ll be retribution. And it will be divine and just.”
The lack of emotion in the hauflin’s voice made the soldier take a step back. “N- none of th- that…”
“Easy, friend, easy.” The old, honey-tongued Fayra was back. “All we want is to get some fresh air. Say, twenty minutes every hour. We’ll even take turns.”
Farris belched, clinging tightly to his bucket.
The soldier glanced at the seasick hauflin, a look of complete disgust on his face. “Very well. We were ordered to see you made it safely to Solaria. Beginning tomorrow, you each get time on deck.”
After the soldier had left, Farris looked at his sister and smiled weakly. “Remind me never to cross you.”
Fayra ripped off a piece of bread, dipped it in the ale and popped it into her mouth. Chewing, she looked at her twin and smiled.