Chapter 20: "Devona"
According to the crew’s advanced calendar system, it had been two months since the beast’s attack. The inhabitants of the H.S. Mightier had come to respect and honor the small band of travelers; this was in no small part due to the sacrifice that Lesedi had made. His death had saved the lives of thousands. And Admiral Morton, the ship’s master, promised to make good on his word to deliver the travelers to Devona.
According to the admiral’s charts and calculations, by speed and by star, this was the day that they would reach their destination. Regina packed them each a satchel of provisions and explained that Devona was not a city or even a village as far as they had seen; it was charted as a barren desert island. An island devoid of life. Both she and Admiral Morton warned against it; claiming that its waterless expanse would spell death for them. The Old Man thanked them kindly for their concern, but insisted on Devona as their destination nonetheless.
The admiral was as good as his word and his charts had been accurate. As he had promised, they arrived at Devona that very afternoon. Unfortunately, it seemed as though Admiral Morton had been right about everything; the island of Devona was a wasteland. There were sea rocks cresting all around the shores. The H.S. Mightier could not come anywhere near the island to make port. And, despite the fact that Morton had mentioned nothing of rocks, he did not seem surprised or bothered one bit.
“So, that there be Devona, as you’ve been seeking.” The admiral handed a looking glass over to the Old Man casually. “You can keep that, good sir. The dinghy too. You’ll need her to get you from here to there. Ain’t nothing personal, o’course. We can’t ever pay the debt o’gratitude that we owe you. And the sacrifice that your man made. Lesedi—it’s a name o’light. Named true enough, he was. We’ll honor him rightly; I swear it.” Admiral Morton looked into the breaking surf, noticeably distracted, then, just as noticeably, snapped himself back to attention. “Anywho, I mean to say that I can’t get this beauty any closer to that dead island of yours. She’s a mighty sprawling city-ship o’course…but she stretches deep too. If I take her any closer, she ain’t never licking the waves again.”
The Old Man nodded regretfully, “We understand. This is where we part ways, I suppose.”
The dinghy met the water with a gentle swoop and its sleek wooden frame was immediately swept up in the tide, pulling and pushing it ever closer to the rocky shore of Devona. As they approached the rougher waters nearest to their intended port, the rocks beneath the surface became more present. The dinghy was very suddenly crashing and scraping and dragging over the myriad dangers below. It pitched and leaned, hurling its passengers side to side. As Felix and Kori tried desperately to steer the vessel, its movements continued to be led by the currents. They slammed against one of the crags and Marielle almost tumbled over the side. She was pulled to safety by the caring hand of the Old Man. The provisions pack that she’d been tending was not so lucky. In one fluid—almost graceful—move, all of the supplies that the crew of the H.S. Mightier had kindly packed them, were heaved into the depths.
Such a tragic event should have led to misery. But, having known real hardship, the travelers did not see it that way. Instead they all broke into fits of ironic laughter as they continued to punch a clumsy route toward land. Eventually, the pummeled dinghy finally managed to carry the four compatriots to the island of Devona.
They had found a way to laugh about it earlier. But four exhausted travelers—regardless of sense of humor—without provisions, wandering a barren desert island was a death sentence. And they all came to realize this very quickly. The days were fiery and delirium-inducing. The nights were frozen and deeply biting. Their food was non-existent and their water all but used up.
For the first two days, they kept moving all the time, heading into the heart of the island. But then hunger and thirst became two more, unwanted, companions. The breaks became more frequent. The pace slowed to a crawl…sometimes literally. Eventually, though, the four friends stumbled upon something a bit different. It wasn’t a structure or a city or a person. It wasn’t even a landmass. It was a small, ever-so-slight, mound of stone. It was barely distinguishable from the ground around it…but it was different from the sand and that, somehow, instilled a sense of comfort. They settled themselves onto this odd bit of terrain and slept in silence, the sun falling colorfully in the background.
The Old Man smiled softly as Kori and Marielle held each other lovingly, likely even in the face of death. He wondered for a moment if there had never actually been a Devona; never a destination or an adventure. If the woman was a mirage or a hallucination. If it had all been a series of coincidences and tricks. Even if all those things were true and the whole journey had been false, this scene was worth it. True love had bloomed here. That was magic enough for any quest. Love was always worth any cost. Lesedi had known that.
“So,” Felix’s voice broke the silence, “this is where it ends, huh?” He crawled weakly across the stone and hung his legs over the side. “At least it was fun. A real adventure, right? No regrets, and all that. And this is a nice place to…well, you know. And we couldn’t ask for better company. Thank you all.”
Darkness, like a death shroud, set around them. But before it could completely take over, the black pall began to ripple and hum and glow. The four sat up and stared at the anomaly. The air was moving; not like wind, but like it was making way for something. As though something was about to force its passage into this world from another.
And then it did just that.