Your goal will always change in the end
The Expedition
CHAPTER
1
The Explorer
The sun was high in the sky: in a few moments the Explorer would set sail for glory, for riches, for the new that awaited exploration in the west.
The Explorer was in bay in the port city of Aumleus, it’s tall masts rising above the other ships that surrounded it. It was a huge ship, with three huge masts, and huge sails, and a huge body. The Warlord himself had given funds to help build it, three years ago. Now he also funded Gammet’s expedition to the far west, which was finally about to begin.
The men and women who were to board the ship were thronging everywhere, buying supplies from the market before they set sail. As a result, the ship was unguarded, except for a couple of the Warlord’s guards.
So it was very easy for Tyral to walk importantly toward the gangplank, one hand behind his back. At the sight of the Warlord’s son, the two guards bowed hurriedly and mumbled useless apologies.
‘The Warlord has ordered us not to allow anyone on the ship,’ said one, slightly suspiciously.
‘Fool!’ said Tyral dismissively. ‘The Warlord is my father. He won’t mind. Now move aside before I get angry. I have it in my mind to inspect this ship. Don’t worry, I shall be back before it sets sail.’ He resisted the urge to grimace at the odd way he was talking. He sounded like his father. He hadn’t expected to be so good at talking like a nitwit.
The guards reluctantly allowed him to pass, and he strutted up the gangplank while tutting disapprovingly. Guards were so annoying. If only they minded their own business for once.
On the deck, he quickly checked if no-one was around, then put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. A boy appeared from behind a crate, looking nervous yet excited.
‘Hurry up,’ hissed Tyral, slipping off his tunic and exchanging it for the boy’s simple grey one. ‘There. Now when I say so go down the gangplank and walk like you owned the place. Don’t bother to talk to the guards, they’re dumb. Here’s the money.’ He passed the boy a few shining coins and nodded. Then he hurried over to a crate and climbed in.
He took a good look at the sky before he closed the lid.
Lene’s thoughts were far away as she headed up the gangplank, without giving even a second look at the guards. She stretched her arms lazily, and when she was halfway through a boy in rich clothing strutted down, avoiding her gaze as if she was nothing but a tree, or something on those lines. Her attention switched to him suspiciously.
What had he been doing on the ship? She hadn’t seen him before.
Never mind. He’s getting off now, she thought.
But she couldn’t help noticing he was dressed in noble clothing. In fact, the tunic he wore held a small badge near his heart - the symbol of the Warlord.
Immediately Lene lowered her gaze, almost whistling at how close she’d come to getting in trouble. But the boy didn’t even look at her. He looked odd for a warlord’s son. But who was she to judge him?
He walked out of her sight and she shook him away from her thoughts as she reached the deck. They didn’t even creak, unlike her father’s old ship.
The sailors would be getting on soon. She was terribly eager to head off to the unknown, those lands her father talked so much about, while he’d never been there. The Explorer would discover what had never been discovered, and they would return to Warlord Rauden’s domain with tales of greatness and riches to fill the treasury to overflowing-
‘Lene!’
She whipped around to where her father, Captain Gammet, was standing. He was a tall man, dressed in an elaborate purple tunic and overcoat. His hat and neatly-trimmed beard made him look like a noble. A sword even hung from a sash at his hip. The Warlord had furnished him well since he had sunk the attacking Berfort vessel, fours years ago.
‘The sailors are coming on soon,’ he said, taking off his hat to run his fingers through his hair. ‘Would you go and get me some mint tea from the hold?’ Her father loved mint tea, ‘and the sea,’ as he liked to say. Strange combination, she always thought, but didn’t press any further.
‘Okay, dad.’ She pushed hair out of her face and headed toward the trapdoor that led below-decks. Getting to the hold would require crossing several stairs, since the under-decks also contained the sailors’ sleeping quarters. She hated being under-deck as much as she loved being on the deck, tangled in the ropes and breathing the pure air. The under-decks were dark and smelly, and depressing in the whole.
She descended the final set of steps to find herself in almost utter darkness. In the farthest corner she could hear a faint scratching.
Rats?
She swallowed. It didn’t sound like a rat.
Her eyes weren’t adjusted to the darkness yet. Whoever was there could see her. While she couldn’t.
‘Who’s there?’ she asked, her voice shaking.
The scratching stopped, to be replaced by a brief throat noise, like a cough. She felt a chill run down her back. She took out her dagger.
‘This is delicious,’ came a boy’s voice. ‘Has the ship sailed away yet?’
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