A little over a month later, Jaelyn Sharpshadow stood at the bed in her old hut, stuffing her belongings in her pack and humming under her breath.
Now that Tega had given her the okay to travel, the trio were looking forward to heading back to the mainland. She would certainly miss the island, but she missed her family, she missed ale and having a decent bed to sleep on. More than anything, she wanted to get Baeylene to the dragon clan as soon as possible.
Although her leg wasn't completely healed yet, it was still good enough for her to walk on with the aid of a crutch now that her arm was healed. She'd taken plenty of walks in the past week but most of those had been just around the village. The trip to the boat would be the longest journey she'd take since having her leg broken.
She thanked the Gods that they were bringing along the cart. Jaelyn wasn't certain she could travel all that way on a crutch and she definitely wasn't going to be carried around like a child.
She cinched her pack closed and knotted it up. She then pulled her bow over one shoulder, lifted her pack onto the other, and reached out for her sword, the purple-glowing weapon that had once belonged to her now-dead father. She used it as a second crutch to balance herself out as she exited her hut.
The cart sat on the south end of the village and a few natives were loading things on to it; baskets of fruit and meat, blankets, clothes made especially for them, and whatever else the kind people thought their heroes might need for the long trip home.
Kalandiin was there, lending a hand to the natives. Quin and Gulaonar stood nearby, talking to Olland with Grimnar standing loyally at his side.
The halfling noticed her the moment she came out of her hut. He excused himself and hurried over to her to give her a hand.
"Oh, here, let me help you with that." Quin offered, reaching for her pack.
Jaelyn shook her head and pushed him lightly in the chest with the end of her crutch to ward him off. "I'm perfectly capable of carrying my own pack a few yards, Quin." Her voice was light, but there was irritation underneath it. The halfling's kindness and courtesy had been excessive in the past month. She was tired of him acting like she was going to fall apart at the slightest thing.
"Yeah, but you shouldn't put anymore weight on your leg if you can help it."
She laughed. "I'll be all right, Quin. I'm just going to the cart."
"Well...okay. But I'll be right here if you need me."
Jaelyn sighed. "I wish you would stop fretting over me."
"I can't help it." he replied. "You almost died."
"I know it. But I'm not dead, I'm fine. And I won't be dying anytime soon. So stop your fretting."
Quin merely sighed as they continued their short walk over to the cart.
Jaelyn tossed her pack on it, then placed her bow and sword next to her pack. She looked at Quin and gave an exagerrated labored breath, then pretended to wipe sweat from her brow. She did all this with a grin.
The halfling made a face. "Oh, ha ha. Very funny."
Jaelyn laughed and smacked him companionably on the back. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yep." He sighed. "You know, I like this place, and the natives and all, but it'll be good to get back home."
"For once, I agree with the little shit." said Bishop, suddenly appearing from his shelter behind them. He dumped his pack on the cart and turned to them. "And the sooner we're gone from here, the better. I don't care to ever see this place again."
"There were some good times here." Quin said.
The ranger crossed his arms over his chest. "Not many. Even with the ones there are, this place is still about as interesting as listening to your Shadow Thief stories."
"Hey!" Quin cried. "You wouldn't know a good story if it walked up and kicked you in the groin."
Jaelyn laughed, put her arm around the halfling, and steered the coversation away from an argument. "So, my friend, what will you do when we get to the mainland?"
"Well...first and foremost, I'm going to find an inn, get myself a nice room and eat the biggest meal in the world!" he replied, throwing his arms wide. "After that, I'm going to count all the gold and jewels from the cave that we got loaded on the boat. Can't wait for that. What're you going to do?"
"I'll be joining you at the inn." she said with a smile. "At least for one day. Then I'm going to take my sister to the dragon clan. I'd like you both to come with me. I mean, if you wanted to."
"I thought this clan home of yours was forbidden to outsiders?" Bishop asked.
"It is, but the two of you can come along on the journey until I have to go on my own." She grinned. "It might be fun!"
"Is that a yes, then?"
Bishop smirked. "Maybe. We have to get to Faerun alive first."
"You make it sound as if there's a chance we'll die on the way back." Jaelyn replied with a frown.
He shrugged. "Who knows what'll happen? Besides, the three of us-four if you count the other drow-don't exactly have experience with navigating a ship. There's a pretty good chance we'll end up shipwrecked. If that happens, go ahead and put me out of my misery."
"Don't be such a Negative Nancy." Quin scolded.
"A Negative what?"
"Never mind." Quin said, waving a dismissive hand in the air. "We're going to be fine. Navigating a ship isn't as hard as you might think. All we have to know is which direction to go, then we just steer the ship that way. Seeing as how you both are rangers, I don't see how we can go wrong."
"Not convinced." said Bishop. "But there ain't much of a choice, is there? All I'll say is, pray we don't sail into a storm." He looked over at Jaelyn. "You good to go with that leg?"
She shrugged. "We'll see. I have my handy crutch." She gave the wooden stick she was leaning on a little wave. "I'm definitely not going to be up to my normal traveling pace, though."
"I wouldn't worry about that since we're going to be pulling that thing along." He jerked a thumb at the cart. "I don't want us taking too many breaks on the way, though. So, if you need help, give a yell. I'll carry you if I have to."
"No, you won't." she said. "If I can't walk anymore, I'll ride on the cart. Besides, you and Kalandiin have to pull the cart along. Quin's too small."
"Hey!" the halfling protested.
Jaelyn looked at him. "Really? You think you can pull it with all that stuff on it?"
Quin looked at the cart, studying it for a moment and then frowned. "Well, fine, but you didn't have to put it like that."
She reached out and ruffled his hair with a smile. "Sorry."
"Well, it looks like our time together has come to an end." said a voice from behind the trio.
They all looked around at Gulaonar, who hovered there between Olland and Grimnar. Both men stood proud with their new weapons and with a fresh tattoo on their left arms.
Jaelyn briefly wondered what they were going to do when they ran out of places on their bodies for the tribal ink. Olland was pretty heavily tattooed already. Grimnar had a ways to go yet, but he was getting there.
She looked at Gulaonar and offered a warm smile. "So it has. I would hug you, but, well, seeing as-"
The ghost's laughter cut her off. "It's all right. I wish you could stay longer, but I understand that you must return home. I would've liked to get to know you better."
"You know what matters."
He inclined his head. "Very true." He gave her a look of regret then. "There has been something I've wanted to say to you since the fighting ended. I'm sorry."
Behind her, she heard Bishop say under his breath, "You should be."
She rose a brow, ignoring the man. "For what?"
"For the harsh burden that fell on your shoulders."
Jaelyn frowned a bit. "Oh..." She shook her head and then gave him her warm smile again. "It's all right. It had to be done."
"And you handled that burden with such grace. I'm very proud of you." He moved toward her until he was hovering right before her. His ghostly eyes stared into hers. "I'm also sorry for whatever grief it causes you, now or in the future. I'm truly very sorry. If I could have taken your place, if I could have-"
"But you couldn't." Jaelyn interrupted him. "Like you said to me once before, all this happened for a reason. I was meant to kill him. I had to kill him. But it's in the past now, and that's where it should stay. Don't worry for me, uncle. I'm alive and well, and I have my friends. I'll be fine."
Gulaonar smiled and nodded. "You will." He looked over her shoulder at the other two. "Both of you take good care of her."
Quin produced his inane grin. "You bet!"
The ranger gave the ghost a nasty smirk. "We'll do better than you at it, at any rate."
Gulaonar narrowed his eyes at the man and shook his head. "You wretched son of a bitch."
Bishop's smirk turned into a grin, then, placing a hand over his chest, he gave a mock bow.
Jaelyn let out a groan and rubbed the bridge of her nose in vexation. Even at the end of all things, those two still couldn't see eye to eye.
She dropped her hand and looked at Gulaonar. She pushed the moment on before either could make it worse. She didn't want to leave this place on a sour note. There'd been too many of those already.
"What will you do now?"
The ghost shrugged. "I will stay until my time comes to move on. My purpose here is not quite finished yet."
"Wherever you go, I hope it's a nice place."
"As do I. What will you do with the sword?"
"I'll keep it and use it for good." Her brows furrowed. "I want to find a way to break the curse on it...to free our ancestors' souls."
Gulaonar watched her for a moment and then nodded. "I understand your desire to, but I don't think there is a way to break it." He smiled. "Still, I wish you luck. If there truly is a way, I'm sure you'll find it. Well, I will head off to the shore now and meet you there. I'm almost certain the natives will need my help getting the ship into the water."
With that, the ghost floated off into the woods and soon disappeared from sight.
Jaelyn then turned to Olland and the two shared a smile. The native leader came forward and then to her complete surprise, he knelt down before her on one knee as if he might propose marriage to her. He pounded the left side of his chest with his right fist three times. On the third, he left his fist there over his heart and bowed his head. Grimnar went to one knee and mimiced his leader, pounding over his heart three times with his right fist and then bowing his head. All around the trio, the gathered natives followed suit until everyone was kneeling before them.
It made Jaelyn feel like royalty.
She looked over her shoulder at her friends with an expression of inquiry. Both males gave a shrug in return.
"Some form of farewell?" Quin ventured.
When Olland rose to his feet, Jaelyn turned back and saw the rest of the natives rising as well. The few men that had been loading things on the cart went back to work, putting on the last few items.
"What is it that you just did?" she asked in the only language they could communicate in-drow.
"It is the way my people show respect in its highest form. " Olland replied. "I only wish there was more I could do for you and your friends in return for all you've done for us, but I'm afraid that is a debt that cannot be repaid."
Jaelyn shook her head. "Whether it can or not...you owe us nothing."
Well, they didn't owe her or Quin anything. She had a feeling Bishop wouldn't feel the same way as they did, however. It was a good thing he didn't understand the drow language.
Olland smiled at her, the first warm smile he'd ever given her. "Your words are kind. And I must admit, I was wrong about you. In the beginning, I had thought you were no different than the other drow here, but you are far different, far better."
"Thank you. It means a lot to hear that."
"I hope your journey home is a safe and pleasant one." He held his hand out to her and she took it. "I would come see you off, but I have duties to attend to here. I will send with you a small group of my people to help you load up your boat. And my wife will be by shortly with your sister."
Jaelyn nodded, shaking his hand. "Thank you."
Olland bowed his head. "If you ever find yourself on the island again, you are always welcome here. You and your friends. Farewell and a safe journey to you."
As Olland went on his way, Grimnar stepped up to Jaelyn and eyed her with a somewhat intimidating expression. He might have been sizing her up for a fight. Then his perpetually hardened face softened as much as it could.
"I was also wrong about you." he admitted. "And I want to apologize for the way I treated you. You are truly a warrior. It was an honor knowing you, even though we never really saw eye to eye, and...it was an honor to share the champion ring with you, as well."
Jaelyn looked at the large man with a shocked expression. For a moment, all she could do was stare at him with her mouth open a bit.
"I don't know what to say." she finally said.
Grimnar held up a hand and shook his head. "Your words are not necessary."
She smiled and reached up, giving his shoulder a friendly pat. "It was an honor knowing you as well." She laughed. "I don't think I'll ever forget our fight in the champion ring."
"Nor will I."
He stood there for a moment with an uncertain look on his face, then, before Jaelyn knew what was going to happen, Grimnar threw his large arms around her in a bear hug, lifting her slightly off the ground.
The man was unaware of his own strength and it literally felt like a bear was hugging her. She made a strangled sound when his grip tightened, and she heard movement behind her as her friends stepped forward to her rescue.
"It's okay." she wheezed at them and patted Grimnar's back, awkwardly.
The man let her go with a sheepish grin. "May your journey be safe and swift."
After getting her breath back, Jaelyn said, "Thanks, Grimnar. Take care of yourself and your people."
The large man stepped past her and looked at her friends. He gave Quin's hair a rough tousle, making the sandy-blond strands stand up in every direction. The halfling made a face at the large man and then ran his hands through his hair to straighten it back up as much as he could. He really wished people would stop messing with it
To the ranger, Grimnar merely frowned and gave a curt nod of acknowledgement, then he was off on his way, heading in the direction his leader had gone.
"Looks like you changed his opinion of you." Quin noted with a grin.
Jaelyn chuckled. "It would appear so."
A few moments later, Kalandiin made his way over to them.
"The cart is loaded and ready to go." he informed. "When you are."
"Shouldn't be long now." Jaelyn replied. "We're just waiting on Olland's wife to bring my sister."
The male drow rose a brow. "Sister?"
"Well, half-sister. She was born not too long ago in one of your secret hideouts."
"Ah, yes." he nodded. "The child that was to be terminated. I was the one that escorted Ethedriira to that place."
Jaelyn gave him a sour look. "Of course, you were."
Kalandiin shrugged. "Only a fool would disobey orders from Dresmor."
"Only a fool would follow orders that aren't right." Jaelyn shot back.
"Only a fool follows orders." Bishop amended.
Both drow looked at him and the man shrugged as if to say that's just my opinion on the matter.
"I didn't care either way whether the child was terminated or not. I had my orders, I followed them. End of story." Kalandiin pressed on. "So, the child lives and the mother dies. What an odd turn of events."
"How do you know she's dead?"
"It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. She isn't here in the village and she hasn't been seen since being taken to that place. I presume she's rotting there along with the native children that died."
A tint of red blazed deep in Jaelyn's green eyes. "Children you murdered, you mean!"
"I murdered no one." he replied calmly. "At least, I murdered no native children."
Jaelyn scoffed. "I'm sure if given the chance you would."
"Think what you will. Your opinion matters little to me." Kalandiin replied with a petulant tone. "When you are ready, I will be waiting near the cart."
She sneered at his back as he returned to the cart and leaned back against it, patiently waiting to leave.
"Great." she groused. "Stuck for a tenday or more on a boat with him."
Bishop smirked. "We could always throw him overboard."
Jaelyn smiled, wickedly. "That sounds like a good plan."
Quin looked up between them. "You two can't be serious."
"Why not?" Jaelyn asked. "He deserves it!"
"Well, he did save Bishop's life, you know. And he did help out with the fight."
"That little bastard didn't save my life." the ranger said, heatedly. "What he did was torture me. He's lucky he's still breathing."
Jaelyn nodded. "And the only reason he removed that poisonous spider thing from him was because you promised him safety from Dresmor, Quin. Otherwise, he wouldn't have done it."
"I'm just saying it's not right." Quin replied with a sigh.
"Well, we'll just see how it goes. If he keeps up the way he's going, I'm all for throwing him in the middle of the ocean."
"Don't be surprised if you wake up one morning to find him gone." Bishop said, ominously.
"Haven't you gotten your revenge on him already?" Quin said with a frown. "You did rob him of two fingers, if I remember correctly."
Jaelyn stared at Bishop. "You did that?"
The ranger shrugged. "He had it coming."
"And here I thought all that torturing him was simply to get him to help us get down into the cavern." the halfling stated, rolling his eyes.
Jaelyn looked between them. "What're you talking about?"
"Dresmor warded the door into the cavern." Quin explained. "We couldn't get down there to you without Kalandiin's...erm, help."
"He helped, all right." Bishop laughed, devilishly.
Quin merely shook his head in exasperation.
Jaelyn continued to stare between them, not fully understanding what they were talking about. She decided she was probably better off not knowing.
Quin's exasperation suddenly turned into cheerfulness as something in the village caught his attention. He gave his goofy smile and nodded ahead.
"Here she comes."
Jaelyn looked over her shoulder to see Olland's wife making her way toward them, holding against her a bundle of lavender cloth. There was also a small whicker basket hanging from her right arm.
The half-drow looked back at her friend and gave a knowing smile. Quin didn't notice. He was too busy staring at the woman, his hands running swiftly through his hair once again to straighten it up before she arrived. He then stood tall(or as tall as a halfling could manage) with his chest puffed out.
Olland's wife-Illena, as Quin had said her name was-arrived with a smile and tears staining her cheeks. She gently handed the bundled infant over to Jaelyn and wiped a hand across her eyes.
"I will miss her." she said. "She is a good child. I put together this basket for her. It has just about everything she will need for the journey."
When the woman handed off the basket, Quin nearly fell over himself to get it.
"Here, I'll take it." he offered with a grin full of sunshine.
Illena handed him the basket with a warm smile and then reached out to pat the halfling on the cheek. Quin's face burned a bright red and he averted his eyes as the native woman and his friend went back to talking.
No one noticed the halfling's blush. No one but Bishop. And the chance to tease the halfling couldn't be resisted.
"I didn't think you had it in you, half-man."
Quin didn't look at him when he responded. His face still felt too warm to make eye contact with anyone.
"Huh? What're you talking about?"
"Chasing after a married woman."
Now Quin looked at him. His face, still red, carried a slight expression of guilt. He'd been caught red-handed(or red-faced).
"W-what? I don't know what you're talking about! I-I'm not chasing." the halfling sputtered.
The ranger smirked. "Perhaps not. But you want to. Too little too late."
Quin made a face at him. "Oh, shut up!"
He turned around and stomped off toward the cart to load the basket onto it, then he perched himself on the cart where there was room.
When Jaelyn and the woman finally said their farewells and parted ways, the half-drow ranger stood there for a moment, taking a mental photograph of the village. When it was placed in her mental picture album under the label of Places Never To Be Forgotten, she let out a sigh and turned to her companions.
"My friends, let's go home."
It took two days to reach the shore.
Jaelyn was able to travel through the first half of both days, then her leg would start aching and she would have to sit on the back of the cart the rest of the way.
Bishop and Kalandiin shared the cart-pulling duty with the natives. Whenever one got too tired, a native took their place. There were shift changes about twice a day and when the need for the shift arose, they also took the time to take a fifteen minute break.
They made better time than Bishop had expected, despite the encumbering cart. The damn thing weighed a ton, but he'd been assured by Jaelyn that they needed everything on it.
He didn't doubt her. The supplies they had been given probably weren't enough to last the trip home, but he kept that unsavory thought to himself. They would have to ration everything to make it last. That was the only choice they had.
When the beach finally came into view on their second day of travel, the ranger was overcome by a wave of relief.
The vessel that would take them home was already anchored out in the water and it had no trouble staying afloat. He was more than a little surprised by this. Whatever the natives had used to patch up the hole in the side of the ship was working just fine for now. But its greatest test was out in the open sea.
He'd be lying if he said he wasn't a little worried. It was a long way to the mainland, and if they sailed into a storm...well, he wasn't certain the ship could handle it.
Bishop tried not to think about that as he and Kalandiin struggled to pull the cart across the sand. It stalled once, twice, and then on the third time, they gave it up and left it there halfway across the beach.
Jaelyn's head popped up over the top of the stacked supplies, a look of inquiry on her face.
"Why have we stopped?"
"I'm not pulling this damn thing anymore." Bishop replied, laboring to catch his breath and leaning back against the cart, wiping an arm across his perspiring face.
Kalandiin wasn't doing much better. The drow was breathing much harder than the human and sweating more profusely. He also looked ready to collapse.
Jaelyn's head disappeared and the two males could hear her rummaging around back there, then her voice called out, "Hey!"
A canteen went sailing over the top of the cart right at Bishop. Keen reflexes had him catching it casually with his right hand. He took a few long, refreshing drinks from it, then looked over at Kalandiin.
There was a part of him that wanted to drink every last drop of water in front of him or to pour it all out into the sand just so he couldn't have it, but he didn't do it.
With a look of total indignation, he shoved the canteen into the drow's chest and then made his way up the beach toward the shade. Kalandiin stared after him with a risen brow and then took a drink from the offered canteen.
Jaelyn moved off the cart, steadying herself with her crutch. She picked up Baeylene from the little space on the cart Jaelyn had made for her and handed her off to Quin. She then headed off toward the shore.
Quin watched her for a moment and then called after her, "Would you mind a little company?"
"Not at all."
The halfling followed along with the infant drow safely in his arms.
As the two walked the shoreline, the natives that had come with them and the ones that had already been on the beach gathered at the cart and began moving the supplies onto the ship via the makeshift boarding ramp that had been constructed.
"How are you doing, Jae?" Quin inquired.
Jaelyn gave him a funny look and a small laugh. "Fine. Why do you ask?"
"I mean, how are you really with everything that's happened? Where's your mind set with everything now?"
She shrugged. "I'm not sure exactly. A part of me knows I had to do what I had to do, but there's also a part of me that insists there had to be another way, a part of me that...grieves, I guess. All my life, I had wanted to know him-my father. Now I will never have that chance, because I killed him. My own flesh and blood!"
Quin put one hand on her arm while his other held the infant close. "There was no chance to get to know him, Jae. Your father died a long time ago. What you destroyed in that cavern was the monster that had killed him. You avenged your father, Jae, you didn't kill him."
Jaelyn didn't reply for some moments as she deeply considered this. Then she smiled a bit and nodded. "Yes, I suppose that's true, isn't it?"
Quin grinned and patted her arm. "Of course! I said it, didn't I? So, it must be true!"
At this, Jaelyn burst into laughter. "Watch it, Quin. You're starting to sound like Bishop."
"Hey, what did I do to warrant insults?"
Chuckling, she reached out and pinched his cheek gently. "I love you, Quin."
"Well, I love you, too, Jae."
They trekked up and down the shoreline in silence, enjoying the sound and sight of the waves crashing on the beach. By the time they made it back to the ship, the natives had finished loading their supplies onto it. They waited on the beach now with Gulaonar. Kalandiin and Bishop were on the deck of the ship already, inspecting things.
"Your vessel awaits, my child." Gulaonar greeted Jaelyn for the last time.
She smiled at him and nodded, a tearful glimmer in her eyes.
Gulaonar returned the smile. "No tears now."
She laughed and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "I told myself I wasn't going to cry, but I'm really going to miss you, the natives, this place..."
"And we are all going to miss you, too." he replied. "But who knows? My spiritual path may cross your corporeal one again."
"I hope so."
"Now, come on, get going. You have a home to return to." He turned to Quin. "And farewell to you, Quince Bramblebrow. Take good care of my niece."
"You bet I will."
Half-drow and halfling began making their way toward the ship and as they boarded the makeshift wooden ramp, Jaelyn paused and looked back.
The natives had gathered behind Gulaonar and the small group lifted their hands and waved to them. Jaelyn waved in return and then stepped onto the deck of the ship.
She felt a little queasy, and she knew it was a symptom of something else, something like homesickness. After all, that island had been their home for almost three months. She'd felt the same way when she'd left the dragon clan for the first time.
Jaelyn stood at the stern and waved at Gulaonar and the natives again while Quin, setting aside the infant in a safe place, hurried over to Bishop and Kalandiin to help them pull up the anchor. The crank mechanism that lifted it was well-rusted, so they were forced to do it by hand. It was a job that needed every hand.
"Hey, drow, get your ass over here and help!" Bishop called across the deck to Jaelyn.
She turned and hurried over after setting her crutch aside. She didn't need it as much as she had it, but she'd gotten used to it being with her. It was more of a simple walking stick now than something she actually needed contant support from.
Jaelyn got in place behind Quin and grabbed a hold of the large chain connected to the anchor. After a count of three from the human ranger, they began pulling the anchor up out of the water. It was incredibly heavy, and by the time they had it up on deck, Jaelyn's leg was aching from the effort.
As Bishop and Kalandiin began working on getting the sail up, Quin hurried across the deck to the navigation wheel. After retrieving her stick, Jaelyn limped over to the halfling.
"Do you know what you're doing?"
"Well, I've tried it once, so yeah, a bit." he replied with a grin. "More than any of the rest of us, at any rate. The problem is we don't know which direction to take. The island was moving, remember? So where the mainland was when we arrived here, it's not in that direction anymore."
Jaelyn burst out laughing, making Quin give her an odd look.
"I don't know why we didn't think of it before," she said. "But we do have a map, your map. The magic one that showed where the island was while on the move."
Now Quin laughed. "What a dolt I am!"
He hurried off toward where all their supplies had been piled and began going through it all for his pack. Once found among the hodge-podge of traveling supplies, he began rummaging through it and let out an exclamation of "Aha!" when he found the map, then he scurried back over to her.
Quin unrolled the map drawn(or magicked) on old, weathered parchment. It showed the island precisely in its position now, quite a long ways to the southwest of Neverwinter's port.
Jaelyn looked at it with dismay. "From here to Neverwinter's port, that's at least a twenty day trip. We should try for another port further to the south. Highcliff, maybe. That'll cut the trip by at least a few days."
"Shouldn't we go over this with the other two?"
Jaelyn waved a dismissive hand in the air. "Bah! I doubt Bishop would disagree with the itinerary and no one cares what Kalandiin thinks."
The halfling shrugged. "All right, then which way is home?"
Jaelyn looked up at the sky, shading her eyes from the sun with her hand. She studied its position without blinding herself and then pointed in the northeast. "That way. Full speed ahead!"
"Tell that to the wind and the sails."
And just as Quin said that, there was a mighty whap as the sail was finally brought up and spread out to catch the wind.
Everyone on the boat stared up at the swelling, white material. The sail was constructed surprisingly well by people who'd never contructed one before. The natives certainly had a future in ship building.
The vessel's wooden structure gave a few creaking sounds as it began moving away from shore. Jaelyn, Kalandiin, and Bishop all looked around at each other with uncertainty.
"It's normal!" Quin called to them from the navigation wheel. "They all make that noise at first."
That set shaky nerves at ease, but only a little.
Jaelyn went over to her little sister where she was gurgling and staring up at the sail in one of the baskets of blankets the natives had given them. She picked up the infant and cradled her close as she went across the deck to the stern.
The natives and Gulaonar were still on the beach, watching as they sailed away. A few of them waved again and she waved back with a sigh.
Some moments later, she was joined by Quin and they stood there in silence and watched as the people they had come to know grew smaller and smaller on an island that grew further and further away.
"Is it wise to let that drow man the ship?"
Quin and Jaelyn both turned slightly to look at Bishop.
Jaelyn shrugged. "He should be all right. If he does something treacherous, he does it to himself as well. Besides, it'll give him something to do instead of bothering us. Where did you go?"
"Below deck, checking to see if we're taking on water."
"Dry as Anauroch." he replied. "Looks good for now, which surprises the hells out of me."
"Future ship builders." Quin remarked with a smirk.
"I doubt they'd ever be able to contruct a ship like this." Bishop said, leaning back against the ship's wooden railing between Jaelyn and Quin. "But they're full of surprises, I'll give 'em that."
Jaelyn grinned. "Oh, they finally grew on you."
He snorted. "I didn't say that."
She only smiled and looked back out at the shrinking island. He didn't have to say it, she knew they had. Somewhere along the line, they had gained his respect, even if it was only a small portion of it. She knew it for the fact that he had pretty much stopped berating them for being cowards and didn't sneer and scowl at them half as much as he had when he'd first met them.
If he'd realized this, he probably would've thought he was going soft. Jaelyn merely thought he was gradually gaining a more compassionate soul. Gods knew he needed one.
"Stop reading into it." Bishop said, breaking the silence.
Jaelyn looked at him in surprise as he gave her a calculating stare.
"Reading into...? What?" she replied. "How could you possibly know-"
"I know." he cut her off. "'Cause I know you."
Quin looked between them and shook his head with a grin. "What? Are you two reading each others' mind now? Next you're going to start finishing each others' sentences." He laughed.
"Shut up!" both rangers responded in unison.
Quin laughed again. "Well, I hope I'm invited to the wedding."
They both gave the halfling the same appalled expression.
"I hate to burst your bubble, Quin, but this drow is never getting married."
Bishop looked at her with an expression of true surprise. He didn't think it was possible to love her anymore, but there it was, that 'love' feeling wrecking havoc tenfold on his insides. It actually left him feeling queasy in a butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of way.
"Glad we're on the same page." he said to her. "Nothing as pointless as marriage. Leave that to the religious and city-folk who actually think it matters."
Quin pouted. "How disappointing. I like a good wedding."
"Then get married yourself." Jaelyn opted.
"Don't think it's never crossed my mind." Quin replied. "I just haven't found the right woman yet."
The ranger smirked. "Or at least one that isn't already married."
Quin frowned and put his hands on his hips. "For the last time, I wasn't chasing after her!"
"If you say so."
The halfling let out an annoyed groan. "I'm going on the other side of the ship now, far away from you."
Jaelyn gestured her infant sister at him. "While you're at it, take her and a few blankets for her below deck for me."
"All right." Quin said as he took the baby from her and headed off toward the mound of supplies.
Jaelyn turned back and leaned forward on the railing as she looked out across the water with the wind in her hair.
The island was nothing more than a green and brown splotch on the horizon now. Soon, they would no longer be able to see it at all.
Bishop turned to lean forward on the railing beside her and stared at his hands as he desperately sought the courage he needed to say what he was about to say. No matter how hard it was for him, she deserved to know, to have it put in words.
"There's something I've been meaning to tell you." he said at last.
Jaelyn looked at him, but he continued staring at his hands. The courage wasn't quite there yet and he struggled to go on.
Instinctively or perhaps intuitively, Jaelyn knew what was coming and she found her heart quickening in anticipation, yet she reached out and grasped his hand in her own, giving it a light squeeze.
"When you need to." she said. "When you want to and when you can. Only then."
She began to draw her hand back, but he gripped it tight before she could and straightened up from the railing to face her.
The courage was there now. No more holding back; no more fighting with it.
He stared down into her eyes and then those words flowed out of him almost as naturally as his sarcasm.
"I love you."
Jaelyn smiled and there was much happiness in it, but before she could reply, Bishop pulled her up against him and kissed her soundly.
When they finally drew apart, her joyous smile turned into a playful smirk.
"I know." she said. "It just means you're a fool."
He laughed, and although it naturally sounded like it belonged to a devil(and more or less did), the reason for it was what made it sound so wonderful to her. "Damn right it does."
Her laughter joined his and they turned back together to stare out at the water as their ship sailed out of the past and into the future.
Well, I'm proud to say I can finally give this the ol' 'Complete' status.
It's been an interesting journey, and although I had my ups and downs with this story, I still had tons of fun. I hope you did, too.
I'd like to thank my reviewers(Listed in order of when they reviewed): Mira Maerin, Arc Ascendent, GraphiteHeron, Velvet, Madhatt, Gaspode, Kaana Moonshadow, Midge, Kendallvon, AnnikaLisbethCousland, and APen'sSoul.(I'll be keeping an eye out for anymore reviews in the future and those people will be added to the list if/when they come). I really appreciate the time you took to not only read the story, but also to leave an honest review for me. It means a lot.
And to you, Loyal Readers, the ones who could put up with my many mistakes and stay with this until the end, thank you. You're all wonderful and I love you. :) Not in a weird, perverted way. :P
What's Next: Some of you may be looking forward to the next part of this story, but I've gotten side-tracked by another story I'm writing and it's become my priority now. Don't hate me. Well, you can, but it wouldn't be very nice. After all, when new inspiration comes strolling along, you don't just ignore it and let it pass you by. You kidnap it and keep it locked up in your 'basement' until you've bled it dry. Er...kind of a dark way of looking at it...but yeah. Anyway, the one I'm working on now is for the GTA universe. This time around, I'll be trying my hand at writing Niko Bellic, another awesome dude who won me over with sarcasm. I'm thinking it won't take me long to write it; it's certainly not going to be as long as this story was. Should have the first chapter for it uploaded around the start of September. So if you're a fan, keep an eye out for it.
Until next time, my lovlies...