Dal Gurath

On to the Crossing

The Dead One...

The Dead One is gone.

Mr Kok pulled me out of the river.

The Dead One is gone.

I saved a Nolleh. He didn’t drown. I didn’t drown.

The Dead One is gone.

I…should have killed him. Made him dead. Earlier. Not wait. Never wait. Mr Quinn said to wait. Let the Nolleh give him justice.

He looked at Mr Quinn…often, on the trip down the river. Smiled at him. Mr Quinn, he would look back sometimes. Smile back. Like…a reassurance?

I’ve been sick. Mr. Quinn is my friend. Not The Dead One’s friend. My friend.

The Dead One is gone.

The river’s fast. We may have made it without The Dead One. Maybe. He said how much his life was worth. We trusted him too much…too much.

Belly and Mr Roland were on the oars. I think they did a good job keeping rocks away, keeping us in the middle of the river. The Dead One didn’t look scared. He didn’t look nervous. He looked at Mr Quinn, and he smiled. A smiley smile…I shoulda cut his bleedin’ throat.

We hit a rock. Or a stump. The boat bucked, tossed some Nolleh overboard. I threw a rope, I tried to save them. It was close…I don’t know if they lived. Roland was in the water, and the dwarf. We spun away and hit another rock. Del was eyeing the river ahead and screamin’ back at the tiller and Belly jumped back onto the rudder, tryin’ to keep the boat up. We hit another rock.

We hit another rock. Another Nolleh goes over. The current, sweepin’ him away. I jump. I didn’t think, I just jumped. My hand grabs around his hand. I pull, hard as I can, and then it got foggy for a bit.

That’s when The Dead One escaped. And now he’s gone.

I come to. Kok is standing over me and spittin’ and slappin’ my face. Del smashed the boat onto the shore.

And I’m alive. And the Dead One is gone. We bury some dead. Not all dead. We saved some. From the Dead One. But not enough. Could have saved them all. Could have killed him…made him dead. Made him Dead. They say I’m sick. Mr Quinn says I’m sick. But I saw his smiley smiles. I saw him and The Dead One. And now he’s gone. Not dead. Just gone.

We slept, and waked. There’s another trip downriver, and another, shorter each time, with more stops. Del is better at the tiller, but Kok is bad. Sick. We keep him away from us, for fear of catching it. Belly looks after him but has a look in his eyes that “scares the children off their milk”, like my Da used to say. Mostly, it smells like burning. I peek in one time, only one time. He has a beard! Belly hisses at me “for interrupting”.

We stop at inns along the river. I look for The Dead One. He isn’t there. No one has seen him. We play at troubadours. Mr Quinn has the whip and we are his ponies. We play at ponies. We make the children and widows laugh. I can’t find the Dead One.

One time, I can’t sleep, and I come up to the topside, and Mr Roland and Mr Quinn are fighting. Mr Roland is very angry. Mr Quinn says “necessary evil” a lot. I am not scared, but Mr Roland and Mr Quinn fighting leaves “a sour stone in my belly”, like my Da used to say.

Tomorrow, we reach The Crossing. Stories in the inns we passed say it’s been 2 years since we left.

And the Dead One is gone.



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