Derek is just trying to survive when he discovers a ship werck that will change his life.
|Derek woke up to the chilled morning air. It was still early, the sun hadn't yet come over the mountains, but Derek had work to do if he hoped to make it through the next week. His money was starting to run low again, and his kitchen cupboard was starting to look emptier than usual. Derek got out of bed and put on his clothes, stained to the point that no one could tell what colour they had once been. Derek pulled back the grey, woolen blanket that separated his small bedroom from his not-much-bigger kitchen and dinning room. A potbelly stove, a table, and a pair of chairs were the only articles of furniture in the room. The spacing wasn't tight, but everything was comfortably close. Derek went over to the cupboard and pulled out some cheese and bread that he had bought yesterday. He ate one small loaf of bread with a wedge of cheese, another wedge and loaf went into a little satchel, and the rest went back into the small lidded box that Derek called a cupboard.
He grabbed the fishing pole standing beside the door and stepped outside. The air was chilly and moist from last night's rain. Derek shuddered from the cold as he set his fishing pole beside a basket on a sledge. The sun's rays were just starting to come through the mountains as he set out for the cove three stone throws away.
The roar of breaking waves on rocks greeted Derek as he left the trees for the open beach of the cove. The cove was still enshrouded by shadow and the water was black with the night sky that had not yet retreated from the rising sun. However, Derek still managed to make out the outline of something odd sitting in the rocks of the cove. Derek pulled his sledge harder as he moved faster to the shore to get a better look at the object. As he hurried down the side of the hill to the shore, the sun's light pierced the shadows in the cove revealing the first clear look.
It was a ship. What was left of the ship anyway. The bow was mostly broken boards on top of even more busted boards, the stern was mostly intact, and the middle of the ship was just a deck hanging over the wreckage. The opportunity was almost to good to pass up. Derek had gotten enough money from the sale of items he had found on a previous wreck to get himself his property a year ago.
"This should pay for some proper living," Derek said to himself as he raced down to the wreck.
Derek rushed towards the wreck dragging his sledge recklessly over the rocks. The tide was out exposing a long stretch of rocky seabed dotted with pools filled with a variety of sea creatures, and at the end of the whole thing sat the wreck that Derek now pinned his hopes on. He hoped to get as much stuff of the ship as possible before the tide came back in. Derek slipped on the rocks and fell into a pool. He quickly hoisted himself out, shaking the water off, and picking seaweed off as he continued his quest to the ship.
Finally, Derek made it. He immediately began sifting through the wreckage for anything that could be of value. At the bow, he found a pair of small, waterlogged chests under a pile of boards, and one small unbroken barrel of full of rocks. In the middle all he could find was broken pottery, busted boards, and . . . gold! Under a pile of rubbish Derek found gold coins streaming out of the sides a busted chest. Rushing back to the bow, he emptied the barrel of rocks, and raced back to the gold and began filling the barrel with it. Soon the barrel was full, and then soon what was left occupied the basket on the sledge. The gold was such a perfect find that he didn't leave one coin from the chest behind.
With the sweet taste of success penetrating his entire being, Derek began searching the rest of the ship to make sure he wasn't missing anything. The stern was the most intact so he hoped to find a small king's ransom inside. The sun was almost six hands high in the sky as he began to pull things from the stern of the ship. Amongst the trove of items in the stern, he pulled out a set of tools from the lower part of the stern; hammers, chisels, a saw, a couple of axes, and a pickaxe. The second level yielded three lengths of chains, a small chest, several swords, and a pair of gauntlets. The next level appeared to be the captain's cabin with its more elegant decorations carved into the walls. Searching through the debris revealed a small box. Shaking it Derek felt happy to take it along with the sheets of linen heaped in a corner. Packing the box into a tight ball of linen, he set out to leave the ship.
The crisp sound of metal bouncing off of the wood rang out behind Derek as he moved towards the hole in the wall that he had enter from. He turned around to see the gleam of a small, gold ring. Shifting the bundle to his right arm, he bent down and picked it up. Inspecting it as he left the stern behind, the light from the noon sun fractured into many colours as it hit the two white crystals on either side of the insignia in the middle. The insignia was itself stunning to look at; the level of detail was incredible. The ring's insignia was beautifully engraved with a crowned eagle flying above a seated lion with a scepter in its paws.
As Derek looked up from admiring the ring, he caught a glimpse of something floating to shore just before it disappeared beneath the window. Curious he left the ship, put his loot on the sledge, and walked around to the other side. Coming around the stern, he saw the craft that had caught his attention. It was a girl, soaked and tired, still holding tight to a busted board.
"Is this your ship?" Derek reluctantly called to the girl.
Slowly the girl lifted her head, but quickly lost the fight against gravity. As Derek slowly walked over, the girl's hands lost their strength to hold on, and she disappeared into the water. Panic ceased Derek. In a moment his coat and shoes were tossed against the rocks and he was diving into the cold water. Swiftly he dove down to her and got to her just before his ears popped. Grabbing her around her stomach with his left arm, he then struggled to reach the surface. Just as he felt like he was about to run out of air, he breached the surface. Quickly he pulled the girl onto the rocks, and, remembering what one of the villagers did when another boy had almost drowned a year ago, pushed on the girl's chest. A couple of pushes later, water splashed out of her mouth with a cough right behind it. The steady rise and fall of her chest told Derek that she was breathing again.
"Well. . . that was close," Derek muttered to himself. "Now, what to do with you?"
He picked her up and brought her over to the sledge. With a lot of rearranging, and the addition of makeshift sledge, he soon was pulling the treasure and the girl back to his house. As he pulled, Derek noticed that the sun was four hands away from setting. He quickly tied the rope around his waist and got out his cheese and bread. Refreshing himself with his meager meal, he continued to make his slow way back home.
Kalyn awoke in a strange bed cut off from the rest of the house by a grey wool blanket hanging from the ceiling. She rubbed her eyes, and noticed that her left sleeve was gone. She then became aware that the entire left shoulder of her dress had been cut off with her sleeve. Looking at her shoulder she saw why. The green cloth stained with a few dots of red was wrapped around her shoulder.
Where was she? How did she get here? Were the people here friends or foes? Panic started to claw into her. Should she call out? Should she make a run for it? Suddenly the blanket was pulled quickly back.
"Ahhhhh!" screamed Kalyn as she sat up.
"Oh!" came the boy's voice, "At least I know there's no more water in you. Oh, my ears you can scream."
Covering her mouth to hide her smile, "I am so sorry." Kalyn then noticed the ring on the boy's finger. "My ring! Where did you get it?"
"Oh, I. . . I got it from the shipwreck just before pulling you out of the water." He balance the tray he was carrying in the one hand and took the ring off with the other. "Here you can have it back."
"Thank you," answered Kalyn as she put the ring back on.
"Would you mind if I properly dress that now?" Asked the boy as he gesture to her shoulder.
"Huh, oh, yes."
The boy sat down on the bed edge and placed the tray on his lap. He then reached over and remove the make shift bandage.
"What is your name?" Kalyn asked as he got a wet sponge out of the bowel.
"It's been so long since anyone asked me that." Kalyn shuttered as the boy press the sponge onto the wound. "Sorry."
Kalyn quickly answered, "Oh, no, it is alright, but I would like to know your name."
"It's Derek." He put the sponge away and got out a roll of bandages. "What's yours?"
"That's a pretty name," Derek answered as he began to wrap her shoulder, "fit for a princess."
"I am a princess."
"Okay, your highness, where does your daddy rule?" Derek asked sarcastically as he finished wrapping the wound.
"I am Princess Kalyn Sion daughter of King Joshua Sion, King of Haven."
"Actually?" asked Derek as he set the tray to the side
"Actually. I thought commoners were smarter."
Standing to his feet Derek turn to face Kalyn. "I'm not a commoner. I'm a republican of Tranquility. No royalty, no commoners. And another thing your highness, I saved you from drowning not for your company, but for whatever coin reward I could get for it."
"Fine, help me find my surviving crew, and you will be rewarded."
"You don't know then."
"The Republic has treaties with Hobtus, one of which is turning over people of Haven for a sizable bounty."
"You would not dare?"
"And I don't think you're in a good position to bribe me."
"You are making a mistake," said Kalyn as Derek resumed dressing her shoulder, "my father can easily pay ten times what they can."
He began bandaging her shoulder. "It's not just the coin, it's the social promotion and redemption. Come tomorrow I will have everything that I could ask for."
Derek awoke the next day on the floor. He was still unsure why he had let Kalyn use his bed for the night when she was technically his prisoner. He got up and peeked through the blanket at her. She was still there, still asleep. Derek then proceeded to get ready for the day ahead. He figured he wait a day before taking Kalyn in to the capital and use the time to assess the worth of the rest of his take from the ship.
Derek pulled back the blanket. "You awake yet?"
"What does it matter to you?" Kalyn snapped back.
"Well, I. . . I. . . I didn't want you to miss the sunrise."
"I think I will live missing it," Kalyn answered turning over to face the wall.
"As your jailer I insist that you come with me now."
"Not if you were the king."
Derek took a step to leave and then turned around with an idea.
"Ah, put me down!"
"Stop squirming," answered Derek as he carried her out the door. "You're just making this harder." Derek walked carefully out the door and up the side of the hill behind his house. Once at the top, he lowered Kalyn down to the ground.
"Here," offered Derek some bread and cheese. Kalyn looked at it and then at him. "I know its not much, but I forgot to pick up anything else when I ran to the village to get your bandages."
Kalyn at last took the food and started eating. The food tasted great to her, and she hadn't realized how hungry she was till now. As she enjoyed the food, Derek slip away without notice and came back with a fresh cup of water.
"Here you go," Derek said as he gave her the cup. "Don't worry I cleaned the cup this morning."
Kalyn took the cup and swallowed her mouthful of food. "Why are you being nice to me?" she asked before taking a drink of the water.
"I. . . your my responsibility since I pulled you out of the water, and I need you to be health when I take you in."
"Why did you bring me out here then?"
"I wanted to keep an eye on you while I'm working outside."
They both stopped talking while a little bird continued to sing his song. Derek pulled up one of the small chests and using a hammer busted the lock off. The song disappeared for a moment and then returned. Derek opened the chest to find several changes of white shirts and blue trousers. There was also a red handkerchief inside with the same design as the one on Kalyn's ring. There wasn't any thing else in the chest: so Derek got out the small box he had found. It was sealed with a simple latch that he easily unhooked to look inside. Jewels were inside, adorning necklaces, rings, and all sorts of gold and silver trinkets. Derek again secured the latch to the box, and set the clothes to hang on his clothesline between two saplings beside the hill.
As he walked back from the clothesline, Derek grabbed the swords that he had tied together with a piece of rope. He sat back down three steps off from Kalyn. He untied them and spread them all out in front of him. He had five swords, all about the same size and shape. The scabbards weren't much to look at; just simple black and brown leather casings. The swords on the other hand were spectacular; steel blades with runes down the middle and the name of each sword inscribed in gold just above the hilt.
One sword in particular caught his attention. Unlike the other swords, it had no runes, no name, and a hole in the center of the hilt. The shape of the hole struck him as familiar. He opened the jewel box and took a single gemstone that wasn't attached to any ornaments. The gem was a sardonyx stone pale grey-pink stripped with red bands. Derek didn't think much of the colour, but something in him pushed him to fit it to the hole in the sword. Instead, he pocketed the gem and just strapped the sword to his belt. The other swords he simply tied back up.
Kalyn suddenly took off running towards the forest. He took off after her. Kalyn had a good head start, but Derek's longer stride was cutting down the distance in a hurry. As he entered the treeline after Kalyn, a hand reached out from behind a tree and forced him to the ground mid stride. A kick to his gut reached him before got a good look at his assailant. All he had seen was a tall man with burning blue eyes. Another kick incapacitated him through the shear pain of it, though he remained conscious. He hoped his ribs were not broken.
"Don't hurt him!" came Kalyn's voice.
"He'll live," said the stranger in a gruff tone before delivering a final kick to Derek's head.
Derek awoke in his bed with a splitting headache. Before he could wonder if it had been a dream, he heard the low murmur of quiet talking inn his house. He turned his head to see four men sitting around his small table along with Kalyn. They were talking about something. Groaning he tried to sit his tenderized body up. Everyone turned in his direction; the man with the burning blue eyes held a knife.
"Easy, Zelton," said a man with a hand on the brutes shoulder, "you've already beat him senseless once."
Zelton snorted a little as he kept his gaze fixed on Derek. The man stood up his warm smile neatly framed on his face by his black beard. "Good afternoon. Derek was it, so sorry about your rough treatment."
"Get out of my house," He groaned as he stood to his feet.
Zelton shuffled in his seat, but didn't get up. The man looked at Derek with slight distaste at having been interrupted. Kalyn leaned back into the wall as if to say I not getting involved with what happens next. The third man smiled at him in amusement, and fourth seemed to be studying him. The whole thing was far too claustrophobic for Derek's liking.
The man stood up, hunched a tiny bit so as not to hit his head on the low ceiling. "We will as soon as..."
"Soon is now," responded Derek gesturing to the door.
The man maintained his composure with the look of distaste relegated to his eyes. "As soon as we have secured transport to Haven."
"You'll be compensated," interjected the fourth man as he scratched his scruffy chin.
"How?" asked Derek looking past the man in front of him.
"You're out of line," snapped Zelton standing suddenly slamming his head into the ceiling.
"I don't think I am."
"Petross," turned the man in front of Derek.
Petross cut him short, "We are guarding the princess, in hostile territory, and I'm certain the king would appreciate rewarding anyone that helps us. Wouldn't you agree, Judas?"
Judas turned back to face Derek. "So, what do you want?"
"You can't be serious?" asked Zelton rubbing his head.
Judas raised his hand to signal silence from him. "Well, boy, what do want?"
"I... How can I trust you?" questioned Derek looking up at the pressed up against his roof.
Petross spoke up first, "Take your time deciding what you want, but will you help us."
Derek hesitated to answer. This definitely could be classified as treason to the Republic, but he was out matched and out manned. He had to hope that these men would honour their deal, or at the very least hope he could turn this to his advantage somehow. "I help, but I expect to be well rewarded."
"Excellent," said the final man at the table, "Now for some formal introductions: Judas, our leader in front of you, Petross, fellow intellectual, Zelton the Brute, and I am Adolphus weapons-master. You've already met Princess Kalyn of Haven. Name's Derek right?" Derek nodded. "Excellent," said Adolphus as he made room on the bench between him and Petross, "come join us."
Cautiously, Derek made his way past Judas, shuffled between Zelton and the wall, and squeezed into the space Adolphus had made on the bench. Looking at the scene before him, as Judas and Zelton sat back down, everything looked different. His small table had been replaced with a larger one that, with the addition of the new chair Kalyn sat on and the bench, took up a quarter of the tiny house. An actual cupboard stood in the corner, and a tall stack of firewood between it and the potbelly stove. A round of cheese, small bread loaves, salted meat, and fresh carrots decorated the table with a leather map and candle serving as center pieces.