Authors: Nicholas Anderson
They took their time getting to
Tira the next day. They caught fish from the deck and roasted them over
the coals in the brazier. Molly had her hands full with children.
The boy leaned against the bow, staring over the endless two-tone blue of sea
and sky with his arms wrapped around himself. Paul, one arm in a sling,
the other holding a folded blanket, came up beside him. “How you holding
you up, kid?”
The boy gave a
little shudder and rubbed his arms. “It’s so cold.”
surprised by the sound of his voice. When he’d gotten over his shock at
receiving an answer to his question, he shook out the blanket. He draped
it over the boy’s shoulders and tucked it under his arms. “We’re heading
south now, and we’ll be ashore soon enough. It’ll warm up.” He
turned to leave and then paused. “But keep the blanket, anyway. My
brother brought a spare.” He walked away laughing.
The boy did not
know why, but a smile spread slowly and inexorably across his face. He
pulled the blanket tighter about him.
against the gunwale beside Fletcher Dibsy, one of the 40 they had pulled out of
pit. “Gawd,” Fletch said. “Are you sure I’m
not dead? This is all so weird.”
“How could you
be dead, Fletch?” Rawl said. “You slept through all the bad stuff.”
“I’m just not
sure of anything anymore,” Fletch said. “Maybe your sister can make it
all feel real again.”
“I don’t even
want to think about that,” Rawl said.
they’re going to have a problem with this?” Leech asked Dane, nodding to the
standard on the sail.
shrugged. “Just means we won’t have any trouble finding housing for all
our new friends. All the villagers will be running for the hills.”
against the starboard gunwale, staring off into the west. “What do you
think she’s thinking about?” Leech asked.
“Not that hard
to guess, is it?” Dane said.
He stepped up
beside her, covering her hand with his. “We both know how this will end,”
“There are no
fixed paths on the sea,” he said. “It is full of possibility.”
“But we can’t
stay at sea forever. Sooner or later we’ll be back on the mainland and
you know what that means.”
He looked at
She shook her
head. “Don’t act like I know the ways of your people better than you
do. I’m still Bax’s slave.”
“Bax is dead.”
“But he never
sold me to you. When we get home I’ll be parceled out with the rest of
his property. I wonder which uncle or cousin I’ll go to.”
“I won’t let
“You won’t have
“I’ll pay anything.”
they’ll be tripping over themselves to sell you his most prized possession,
seeing as it was your father who sent him to his death and your leadership he
He would have
kept up the argument but he didn’t have the heart. He knew she was
right. And he knew why she looked westward. Even if she were freed,
she’d still be hundreds of miles from home.
They had the
advantage of approaching Tira with the sun behind them, so people on the beach
did not look closely at the sail until they had unloaded.
Tomka, the Tiran
chieftain, kissed Dane on the cheek, this time with true affection. “Are
you a ghost who comes to mock my hopes?”
“I’m too sore to
be a ghost,” Dane said.
“You’re not a
ghost,” Tomka said. “You’re a god.”
“I don’t feel
that good either.”
“A man does not
walk into night and then step back out the way he has come. He must pass
through to the day which dawns on the other side. If you have been on
that island, not once but twice, and come back, you have won a victory beyond
Dane glanced at
Mirela. “Don’t blame me.”
to the ship. “Where did this come from?”
“Spoils of war.”
his shoulder. “Lord, you make me wish I was young again.”
“If you like it,
“I can’t accept
such a gift. Not from you.”
“Then trade me.”
“What do I have
that you would want?”
back at Mirela, saw she was distracted by the children, turned back to Tomka
and took him by the arm. “Walk with me.”
aided by contributions from the ship’s stores, prepared a feast long before the
sun set. There was laughter and even some singing. Dane smiled,
listening to Rawl’s and Paul’s caterwauling. He had seen them kill, but
his friendship with them felt more complete now that he’d heard their attempts
Tomka caught his
eye and nodded. Dane rose and crossed to the Thatchers. He shook
their hands and thanked them. They looked surprised but received his
words graciously enough. Dane stood by them for a moment, admiring this
barren couple now surrounded by children.
He walked over
to where Josie sat with her nieces by the central fire. Dioji lay
her, receiving the royal treatment; Chloe scratching
his stomach and Nelly between his ears.
forgive you for being you,” Dane said. “And I wouldn’t want it any other
way.” He nodded to her nieces. “Take care of these kids.” He
turned to watch Rawl belting out some folk ballad with eyes closed, fist
pounding the sand for emphasis.
“That one, too.”
He saved Leech
for last. “My father will give you whatever you want when you get home,”
he said. “You’ll be able to set up your own hospital if that’s your
“Maybe I’ll just
stay here,” Leech said. “I think I’d be happy if I never treated so much
as a splinter for the rest of my life.”
could use a good doctor.”
you get bored?”
over his shoulder to where several local young women sat watching him. He
turned back to Dane and shrugged. “I’m sure I could find ways to keep
Dane took his
hand. “You’ve been the very best of friends. I wish you the best.”
Leech pulled his
hand away and gave a self-conscious glance over his shoulder. “Why are you
always so dramatic? It makes me nervous.”
impossible to say goodbye to.”
Dane,” Leech said. “There’s never a need to say goodbye. Besides,
you’re so predictable, if I ever miss you I’ll go where you’re headed and get
there a week before you.”
Dane headed for
Mirela, who sat alone outside the circle of revelers, but Tomka intercepted
him. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Dane looked at
him. “I’ve been waiting for it all my life without realizing it.”
Tomka took him
by the shoulders.
you make me wish I was young again.” He shook Dane roughly and then
everything.” Dane turned towards Mirela once more.
“Ahthala will be
disappointed,” Tomka said. “She went into the hills to light incense for
you. We’ve sent a runner. She should be back soon.”
looking at the sand. Then he started walking towards Mirela, but said
over his shoulder to the Tiran chieftain, “I think she’ll understand.”
Dane took Mirela
by the hand and helped her to her feet. “I have something for you.”
He led her back
down the beach, to where a little skiff lay just above the water line. “I
think I got ripped off,” he said. “But I just had to have her.”
“Traded for it.
Gave Tomka our ship
in exchange for food and housing for all of us and passage back to the
Told him I
wanted something that could be manned by a single person but strong enough to
take on the open sea.”
“That’s not such
a bad break.”
“Well, I didn’t actually get him to agree to all of us.
Just all of us minus two.”
Mirela looked at
said. “We’ve got a fair wind now, and she’s ready to go. So why
don’t you get on board?”
“And where are
we going, Captain?”
“Why are you
asking me? I’m just first mate. You’ll find your things and enough
food for a month on deck.”
She stood for a
moment, studying his face. Then she turned and walked back up the beach
to the circle of fires. Dane waited for her.
A short time later
she returned, wiping her eyes. “I couldn’t leave like that. Not
without saying goodbye to Josie and the others.”
deftly over the gunwale. Dane set his shoulder against the stern and
pushed the skiff into the waves. Before he pulled himself aboard, he
shifted the boat in the water, pointing her prow towards the sunset blazing in
First and foremost, love and
thanks to my beautiful wife, Sarah, for making me get back on the horse and
finish the fight after I lost some 20,000 words of my original
manuscript. To Megan, my twin – please know I am just as much a fan of
the stories you are writing with your life as you are of mine. To all my
pre-readers (you know who you are) for your friendship, feedback, and
encouragement (a priceless and all-too-rare resource).
Robert Thiessen, for editing my work and being nice about it.
To Chris Leake, for his advice on how to get this thing into
To my dad, whose constructive criticism freed me
up to write more like me and less like them (whoever
To my mom, for giving me her blessing in pursuing this dream, all
the while praying under her breath that it wouldn’t leave me a heartbroken and
(Thanks, Mom, for the prayers
as well, as I have yet to see heartbreak or starvation).
And finally, to you, for getting this far.
This is the
end of the book and the beginning of whatever you’re going to do next. So
For, as that
flaming messenger told Bailus Conley:
This is now, and you are it
Nicholas Anderson lives in the
sun-bathed mountains of southern Mexico, where he helps people find wholeness
and healing in their relationships with God, others, and creation. He has
one wife, two children, and five chickens. He hopes to eventually
increase the numbers of the latter two. He writes for pleasure and to
support his LEGO habit. You can find him on
, or wrapped around the
little finger of one of his sons.
you enjoy The Silent Isle?
Anderson is already at work on his next book.