"The Adventures of Reur" — Part I — May 31, 2012
The stranger approached the shadelshif in his small, oddly designed craft. As far as Tread could tell, the stranger and his tiny boat with no sails or oars had come from the south, from the new, giant shadelshifs that sat like floating burial mounds far out in the water, close to the horizon.
Tread nudged Mucker with his foot. The other apprentice grumbled in his sleep. Tread kicked Mucker.
"What?" Mucker said, finally opening his eyes and sitting up.
Tread pointed at the boat as it coasted quietly over the water, unlit. If Fraemauna hadn't been up in almost first quarter phase, nothing would have been seen.
Mucker peered over the water, his broad face scrunched up while he squinted. He wasn't good at seeing long distances unaided.
The continuing story of Reur, the first mapmaker.
It is a actually a collection of shorter stories that have been arranged chrono-
logically into a saga. It is an example of the Mar mapmaker tradition — any story about the adventures of a reckless and foolish explorer who survives trials through a combination of cleverness, stubborness, and dumb luck.
"Hawk's Sight," Tread said softly.
Mucker nodded. Tread felt his friend use the magic to enhance his vision, but he looked at Hoth, their master, who slept a short way away. Fear rose in him, for he should wake his master, but his master had ordered not to be disturbed. The shadelshif guider had insisted on a stay on dry land for the first time in months, and the captain had acquiesced.
"This stranger seeks to kill himself," Mucker muttered.
Tread looked back out over the water, Hawk's Sight making the shadelshif, with its one muted lantern and the stranger's boat appear very close together. On board the boat was the captain, four warriors and the eight slaves who manned the oars. A formidable force, with the guider on board. Tread looked worriedly at Hoth again.
"Where's the sentry?" Tread asked.
They scanned the boat again, wishing for more light, but no one seemed to be awake on it.
"Surely, someone will wake if he boards it," Mucker said.
The stranger stood in his boat, a muted light near his shoulder, hunched over a little. Tread thought he was scratching on a piece of wood. The light was magic. It was dimmer than the lantern on the shadelshif. His small craft bumped against the shadelshif lightly, causing the boat to rock gently.
"Ears of a Wolf?" Mucker asked suddenly.
"It can't hurt," Tread said, and they enhanced their hearing.
The stranger didn't move. His scratching continued, even as his boat drifted away from the shadelshif. They could hear the water lapping against it. It had such high sides, Tread wondered if the stranger tripped trying to get in and out of it.
Finally, the light winked out. With only Fraemauna to see by, they could just make out the shadow of the smaller craft approaching the shadelshif again. Then the stranger moved, lashing the boat to the side of the shadelshif.
"I don't hear anything," Mucker said.
It was true. Despite his straining hearing, no sound came from the stranger as he jumped lightly on to the boat.
"Magic," Tread said, finally. "It must be."
"We should wake Hoth," Mucker grumbled. He, too, knew the wrath of their master when his orders were countermanded. He knew it far better than Tread did, because he more often forgot what Hoth had ordered.
Tread looked with dread on the sleeping form of their master. This morning, when on the ship, Hoth had burned his third apprentice to death for bringing him the wrong type of tea. Hoth was crazy. He spent most of every day looking at his apprentices sideways and muttering to himself, and yelling at them, and never really teaching them anything. Even now, he muttered in his sleep, soundly passed out but positive they would murder him.
Tread shook his head. "There are 13 people on the shadelshif. They can handle one stranger."
Mucker looked worried. "I may pray to my greatfather for guidance, here."
"Do as you wish," Tread said. "But remember, your greatfather probably won't skin you alive for disturbing him."
Mucker nodded and turned away, a veneration forming on his lips.
Tread focused his attention back on the shadelshif. The stranger walked slowly among the sleeping bodies of the crew, bending over at points. His hands were almost a blur through the light on the board in his hands. And no one moved! What kind of sleep had he put them under? Was that magic, again?
As he neared the totem, Tread peered more closely at the stranger. The light from the lantern on board hung from the pole above the totem, so he could get a better view. The stranger reached out to the totem.
"Ooooo," Tread moaned. "Oh, may all my ancestors burn this man!"
"What? What?" Mucker turned back, then looked over the water, squinting again.
"Ooh, he's moving your greatfather, Mucker."
"What?" Mucker used Hawk's Sight. "May my greatfather burn him!"
"Don't do it!" Tread said frantically. "You'll kill everyone on board!"
"I don't care. That's my greatfather." The guider's apprentice inexpertly used the ship's magic.
Tread felt it coming, turned and fell over, covering his head.
The ship exploded in the water. Its magic directed at the hull, the shadelshif splintered into a thousand pieces. The water rushed up into a space that was no longer there as the boom echoed across the inlet.
Mucker rose to his feet, moaning.
"Of all the things you could have done," Tread hissed. Suddenly his head whipped around to stare at Hoth, who had not moved, even as the water rushed back down to the sea, and bits of ship landed close to shore.
"But, it was him that did it," Mucker said. "Master said the totem should never be moved. Master said if it was ever moved, the power would use itself."
"You did nothing?"
Mucker didn't answer that, but his face grew sick with sorrow. He looked at Hoth, too. With worry.
Their heads turned as they heard a splashing sound, close to shore. It was far more rhythmic than the ship's pieces landing had been. Someone swimming.
"Someone survived," Tread said breathlessly. They moved to the water's edge.
It was no one they recognized. This must be the stranger, clothes torn. He looked at them in the half moonlight, a bright smile on his face, and started talking. They couldn't understand a word he said.
"Tread," Mucker said finally, as the stranger paused in his animated recital and smiled in anticipation at their horrified faces. "Tread, my greatfather did not kill this man."
"No," Tread said. "Nor did the explosion of your greatfather."
They ran back to the camp in horror. Tread stopped at the edge, staring at Hoth. There was no shadelshif for the guider to guide now, and though Mucker had destroyed it, Tread would still die for it. Hoth's wrath would have no bounds.
"We must wake Hoth now," Mucker said.
"He will kill us. Before, it was just disobeying orders. Now, it is, 'Master, your ship was destroyed, and the crew killed, and the reason we did it, the stranger who boarded it, he is still alive.' Mucker, we must do something else."
"We must run south and never come back."
"Even then Hoth may find us." Tread drew his dagger. "Your ancestor spared the life of this stranger. We must find out why. Then we can be forgiven."
Mucker moaned, his hands clenching.
"Hoth would not give us the chance. We must make our chance."
"I don't like this, Tread."
"There is no other choice."
The dagger slid quietly into Hoth's neck, and the blood spurted noisily out, covering Tread's hand and chest in warmth.
Mucker moaned again, and Tread looked up.
The stranger stood at the edge of the clearing, eyes wide and mouth open in a round O.
"So it goes," Tread said, finally.