I’ve heard a lot of great opinions about traveling by sea. Personally, if I never set foot on a ship again I’ll be a happier man. The waters were always choppy, the wind was uproarious, and the food consisted of turtle soup. The reason for the soup, of course, was that the poor creatures could be stored on the ship upside down for long lengths of time without dying. They would be down in storage the whole way, just waiting for the chef to come and take them to the kitchen. I remember seeing them one day and feeling awful about it the rest of the way.
Then again, it was really good soup.
The trip was fairly uneventful and I had just allowed myself to relax about the the whole thing when the skies overhead started to turn black. Within the hour, we had been ordered to help pull down the sails. Another hour passed and I started to lose my balance. The waves beyond our vessel continued to swell into larger creations. Looking out across the ocean and looking at the black water that rose and fell beyond us, I felt very small.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, that we’re just these small beings in this massive universe, but until you experience it for yourself it doesn’t really mean anything. That moment, for me, was standing on the deck of that boat and looking at the black wall of water that continued to grow closer and closer.
I thought we were going to die. I’d heard stories of ships being smashed to pieces in the sea. I watched, unable to move, waiting for the ocean to swallow us whole.
I waited. The wave passed.
Another bigger wave came. It passed too.
The skies began to lighten and the water began to calm.
I was finally pulled away from the center mast by Lady Sonea. Despite my objections she took me into the cargo hold where I fell asleep next to those upside down turtles.
When I woke, the ship was coming into the very small harbor of Stormhaven. The sun was rising on the horizon. The others on the ship had varied responses to the night before. Some of them agreed with my concern, while others laughed at us and commented that they’d been through storms far worse before.
Lady Sonea and I departed shortly after the ship was harnessed to the main dock. A small parade of supplies, soldiers, and animals followed us up the cliffside and into the stone walls of the city. Many of the city’s solid structures looked charred and cracked.
“These are the walls that withstood the assault of the Yunai,” Lady Sonea explained. “These were standing here the day the city was sacked. They survived the First Invasion and the Second. Many of the stone structures survived in some fashion or another. The rest of the city didn’t fare so well.”
At the end of the harbor, there was a large sign that directed “Survivors of Stormhaven” to travel in a different direction. I looked to Lady Sonea and she gave me a slight nod to confirm my unspoken question. “You’ll want to visit them to get things in order.”
“What about you?”
She grinned. “I was already in Udiria when the First War began. My family escaped. I don’t have anything to see them about.”
I grew nervous. “I have to go alone?”
“I have business that requires my attention. Where is Appoleon? He could go with you?”
I hadn’t seen Appoleon since before the storm the night before. I thought briefly about looking for him, but I realized that he would probably rather not sit with me while I filled out paperwork about my dead family.
I said a quick goodbye to Lady Sonea and marched over to the line that had formed from the ship. I watched as she walked away and with each step I felt my heart rate increasing. I know that it’s insane to think about now, but the further she got the more alone I felt. I was in a new city with new people and if I lost track of Sonea I would just be another person.
I stood in line for what felt like hours, but I started listening to the conversations of other survivors from the wars and I was surprised to find that many of them were happy. They had returned for posterity in the name of Stonehaven, or just to see how bad the damage had been, or even to try securing some of their old belongings. There were very few who were sad, alone, or scared.
Apparently, I was the only one.
When I finally reached the large wooden table I saw a middle-aged man with a thick beard and several scrolls of paper. The first thing I noticed was that this individual was writing things down and then sending groups off to other people lined up behind him.
“Name?” the man asked me.
“Sionis Sepher,” I replied. “I’m the son of Alemendor and Lilia Sepher.”
The man with the beard looked up at me. “Sepher?”
“That’s right,” I replied. “I’ve come by ship from Udiria.”
The man squinted at me and then leaned to look at the men and women lined up behind him. As if by magic, they all stopped scribbling and looked at him before he even spoke.
“Everyone,” he started. “Pull all the information you have on the Sepher bloodline.”
One of the men stood from their place and marched toward a large box with even more scrolls crammed inside. The others went back to their work, but the man with the thick beard turned his attention back to me.
“Do you have your mother’s maiden name?” he asked.
I shook my head. I had never thought about my mother’s original name. It never crossed my mind that she had a life, a home, that she was anything other than my mother.
“I have it,” the man at the box of scrolls said as he pulled several rolls of parchment free. “Send him over.”
“Alright, young one,” the man said to me. “Visit with the historian.”
I nodded and did as he said, rushing over to the table where the man with the scrolls was now carefully placing them.
“What can you tell me about your family?” he asked.
“My father lived in Stonehaven. My grandfather was Ciganis Sepher. He died before I was born, but my mother said he was a Flamecaller.”
The historian unrolled the scrolls one at a time and read things over carefully, scribbling some words every now and again as he read. Finally he looked up at me and asked me to carefully show him my face. I leaned forward and let him look me over before he gave a simple nod.
“Where were you born?” he asked.
“Near Darthmonte,” I replied. “We moved to a farm in the foothills to the southeast of there.”
“I lived there until I was five. Reports of the second Yunai Invasion drove my mother and some neighbors to abandon the crops and head to Udiria for shelter.”
“Your mother was slain,” the historian said firmly.
“She was murdered,” I replied. “Killed by the Yunai.”
“Then what?” the historian asked, ignoring my hatred.
“I stayed in Udiria from then on,” I replied. “Lady Sonea has been my watcher. She came with me, but I am not sure where she’s gone right now.”
“Of course,” the historian replied. “Things check out, young Sepher. We already had word that you’d be coming on the latest ship.”
“Of course,” the man replied. “Lady Sonea was eager to see you reunited with your family ties.”
“I don’t understand,” I said bluntly. “What family ties?”
“You have an Uncle still living here. He’s your father’s brother. He’s been caring for the Sepher Manor while you were away. I do believe he’ll be overjoyed to meet with you.”
I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know I had any relatives, much less that Sonea apparently knew about them and had said nothing to me. I felt slightly hurt, but instead of dwelling on the lack of information I decided to relish the excitement of learning someone was alive.
“He sent this stuff ahead for you,” the historian said as he pulled a few bags from a nearby crate. “The key is to the Sepher vault in the great bank. Your grandfather’s protection spell kept your riches nice and safe until the city was reclaimed. Though, the Yunai didn’t care much for gold or jewels..”
“Riches?” I asked again.
“Yes,” the historian said. “Quite frankly, the Sepher family is one of the most wealthy in Stormhaven. Your Uncle had been a key player in the successful reconstruction of Stonehaven.”
“Why did he stay after the war?”
“He said it’s what his father would have wanted. He can’t have kids, you know, but he’s done some hefty work toward keeping the Sepher name and property alive for years to come.”
I had a lot of respect for this suddenly-discovered Uncle. I thanked the historian for filling me in on some of the details and then asked where I might find the Sepher Manor.
“Not far outside of the city walls to be honest. The Manor is in the hills near Bantari. Our notes show that your Uncle is already in the city. He gave us directions to pass along so that you can meet him here.”
“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you very much.”
“Take care, young Sepher,” the historian replied. “You’ve got some great adventures ahead of you.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “I sure hope so.”