The Fifth Path (7/30)

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Nisanu 28th

Dear diary, I am not sure where to begin. So much has happened since last I wrote to you. Much of it I don’t recall well for I was very sick during our sea travels, but the last few days were memorable indeed. Let me sketch for you the basics of the days I did not truly experience, dear diary, then I can get into the parts that I did.

So, last time I wrote we had just boarded the ship again. It was captained by the same pale not-man as before. I have much more respect for him now, but at the time I still felt a little bit uncomfortable around him. We had left Hadia behind, something I still have reservations about, but was decided by our Baal, so there is no use dwelling on it. Then we set forth. I immediately became incredibly ill, as the seas were rough. We traveled for a long time by boat. The journey apparently took about twice as long as it was supposed to. The few times I remember being awake and moving about, the ship was rocking back and forth with incredible force, and the wind and rain were enough to make shouting necessary if one wanted to talk. I am afraid I don’t recall our original destinations name. I generally leave that part to the others, and we didn’t end up staying anyways. Some kind of crazy cultists or something had apparently taken over a large number of islands. The heathens apparently were enslaving all those who refused to be a part of their false religion. Again, I slept through the decision making process, but we because we couldn’t go to our original destination, we decided to take another route, one apparently filled with danger. I think it was Nabua’s idea. I kinda wonder if he is trying to get us all killed as revenge for leaving Hadia behind or something. Not likely I suppose, though he did like that girl to a degree that might be considered inappropriate considering her age.

In any event we headed into a section of the ocean which apparently regularly maroons and kills most of the people who try to cross it, because it apparently seemed like a good idea at the time. A half day into this endeavor I largely recovered from my illness, as one of the effects of passing through the “Green Sea”, a section of ocean thick and colored by underwater plants, is that it slows and steadies the boat. So the rocking became much less, and I was able to recover. Having been largely unconscious since we left the northern port of Hadia’s island, I was understandably confused by our location, and the endless green filled water which surrounded us. I must admit that it took a few minutes of explaining by Baal Uras before I was convinced we had not been killed in the storms and been sent to some kind of green hell. Based on his description of the danger of the place and the possible outcomes of dying of thirst or throwing oneself to the sharks, I was slightly concerned about the mental state of my companions who had decided to enter into this strange section of ocean. They explained that there had been little choice, that turning back was no true choice, and that all other options would likely have led us to being enslaved by fanatical heathens. While those choices did seem less then desirable, I am not entirely convinced they are worse then being trapped on a boat for the rest of one’s short life, a fate that we all found ourselves contemplating less than a day after I woke up.

As it turned out, we were not in fact more special than any of the other ships that try and cross through the “Green Sea”, and a little less than half way through the green hell, we became stuck, completely. We considered many options, and I volunteered to swim down, fight the sharks, and cut us free, but it turned out, that we could apparently live, somewhat indefinitely on the boat. Considering the experience I have thus far had with boats, I did not relish the idea, nor the looks I received from my companions once they realized they might never see another human being again. While the idea of a marriage with my Baal is not entirely distasteful, I had reservations about the moral character of my other two companions in that scenario. I am not sure how long all of us would have lived if we had really tried to simply exist on the boat. I feel confident in my ability to deal with Nabua, and likely the not-man too, considering his small stature, but it was still not a scenario I wanted to envision. Thankfully, Bel had different plans for us, and the next day we experienced an event indescribable. I trust not my words to convey the experience of that day. In the calm after the storm, I composed a short poem in order to try and encapsulate my feelings, for I felt as if I had been torn apart and put back together. I shall leave you, my dear diary, with that poem alone to convey the events of the next day, and then I will move on to the events following.

Of our god Bel, the priests do speak, in poem and word and song,

What they tell, unto the meek, is tales of right and wrong.

Yet when you see the power unveiled, the hand of Bel unhidden

One can contemplate alone, to act as Bel has bidden.

I saw my god, his power pure, he dragged me to the sky

Tossed and turned, filled with fear, through prayer I did fly

He set me down, my gentle god, his hands both wrath and kindness

By my Baal’s crown, I vow to god, to follow alone his guidance

My god I’ve seen, to heav’n I’ve been

What more’s there to see?

I serve as a Protector still, yet now my life is free.

We survived by the grace of god, rescued from our grisly fate in the “Green Sea” by the hand of Bel himself, tearing us out, and setting us down. We paused for a while after that. All of us, I think, contemplating our lives in the face of the divine. I wonder what the not-man thought then? What god did he serve? Could he truly believe that was anything but Bel himself? We waited half a day in silence, talking not at all. My Baal wrote. I composed that poem. The not-man fixed the boat. Nabua seemed to do not but stare out at the sea, then down into some books he had retrieved from down below. We slept, and in the morning we started talking, but notably, not about the experience we had just had. Together we cleaned all of the kelp off the boat, storing a bit so that Nabua could try cooking some. Then we got down to the business of figuring out what we were going to do.

Our captains quick actions before the storm had meant the boat was largely whole, and the sails had been stowed below deck, so we were seaworthy, able to travel. He suspected that there might be damage he couldn’t see to the basic structure of the boat, so his priority was getting us to a place he could dock as soon as possible. The only problem was that he had no idea where we were. The path we were taking through the “Green Sea” was supposed to take us basically right to a large town on the other town, but Bel had seen fit to drop us off somewhere else entirely. We were on the right side of the “Green Sea” but the edge was more than a thousand miles long. There were dozens of islands we might be near, not all of which were necessarily friendly. Thankfully, it would seem our resident Scholar had been doing research in our quiet half day. He had been comparing the closest island we could see, and its apparent coastline with descriptors from an old travel journal, and he felt he had an idea where we might be and what the island we were close to was. When he gave the name to the not-man, our brave captain began cursing rapidly in several languages. I on the other hand was not entirely sure what Nabua had spoken was in fact a word. It used sounds I had never heard a human mouth make before.

Baal Uras did not believe Nabua at first, telling him that the island, which I still can’t pronounce or write down, did not exist, that it was only a legend. Nabua and our captain worked together to convince him of its reality, though I could tell that the captain rather wished that it didn’t exist. That my Baal too was able to speak the name of this place mystified me. I began to wonder if there was a problem with my ears, if they had been damaged in the storm. But, I was able to hear everything else just fine, so it must be something people are able to hear. I asked Nabua to write it down later, but he did not know how to write it in our language, and was only able to write down something that looked more like strange pictures then words. Something about the writing looked familiar however, but I could not for the life of me figure out where I might have seen it before. The eventual trend of the discussion ended with us once more making the decision that the best path was to head straight towards the place of mystery and danger, because every other option was potentially more dangerous than that. I suppose this is a good thing for you, dear diary, that my entries are filled with excitement, but I begin to wish, before the end of the first month, that our journey might be just a little bit less exciting.

With the decision made, the problem became actually getting there. It seemed that after the actions of Bel, the sky was completely done doing things. There was no wind at all. Apparently boats can travel towards wind, using some strange maneuver called tacking, but with no wind at all this was impossible. And, it seemed that the thing that the not-man was most worried about in terms of damage was the “en-jin”. While he was not certain it had been damaged by our fall, he thought it likely, and apparently trying to use it if it was in fact broken could lead to an explosion that would tear the boat, and us, to pieces. In the end we were forced to row. It was slow, and hard, and all of us had to do it to make any progress at all, but we were able to slowly row our way towards the island, and around the edge that Nabua thought would lead to a port of some kind.

As it turned out, Nabua was correct, and just as the sun began to set, we saw the lights of town twinkle in the distance. We slowly made our way towards the lights, and by the time the sun was truly gone for the day, we had arrived at the dock of the place. Someone on the dock held a light towards our ship, and after a brief bit of shouting between him and our not-man captain, it was determined we would not be allowed to exit the ship till the morning, but we could dock. Grateful for the chance to dock at least, we did so, and then all went to sleep. I was glad I had not gotten very sick in the last day, or the travel would have been much slower, as an even number of rowers is important to move the ship. It would seem that if the wind and waves are calm enough, I can stand the ocean, to some degree at least.

The next morning was interesting. It would seem that our captain’s ability to speak the strange unpronounceable language was quite limited. One of our Scholar’s books had something like a traveler’s dictionary for the language, so we were able to use that to very slowly speak anything our captain didn’t know, but basically no real progress was made talking with the folks running the docks until we managed to communicate the languages we could speak, and they went and found someone who could speak something called Himkalc, which was apparently a bastard mixture of Hishtu and Raltic, and while none of us knew that language, because we all spoke Hishtu, and all of the others knew a bit of Raltic, we were able to communicate, to some extent. A lot of this pseudo-communication occurred, and after a long time it was decided we would be allowed to enter the kingdom. It seemed that the unpronounceable lands were somewhat similar to the true lands, in that they rarely allowed foreigners to enter. However, because of Baal Uras’s status as a foreign dignitary on a diplomatic mission, a special exception would be made for our party. There were a number of conditions however. Foreign money was not going to be useful within the kingdom, so we had to convert some of our goods into the foreign currency right here and now. We would be allowed to travel within the kingdom only once, so once we left the boat, we would not be able to return to it until we were ready to leave, because the boat technically existed outside the borders of the kingdom. And, we would have to be searched before leaving, for various foreign items and substances were banned, and so everything we brought would have to be checked. And finally, we would have to dress in the local fashion, in order to not draw too much attention and potentially cause riots. This was all agreed upon by everyone after an entirely too long period of negotiations, which, according to Baal Uras, contained entirely too many hilarious miscommunications.

I was provided with a few changes of clothes in the local style, which are comfortable, though a bit restrictive to move in. I knew that woman in some other cultures occasionally wore something other than pants, some strange garment kind of like a robe with nothing underneath. This was apparently essential for women hear, and to my horror, it only went down to just past my knees, and had no covering for my arms at all, not even the shoulder. Its one concession to practicality was a slit along the side, but this of course had the downfall of making much of my legs visible if I took too long of strides, or sat down the wrong way. Thankfully I was allowed to wear some thin white pants underneath the garment, but I was barely able to bring myself to exit the cabin after putting it on. The men are able to wear clothes much less revealing, with both sleeves and pants. After I was ready to go, and had the possessions I hoped to carry searched through, only unable to bring my weapons, and strangely my belt, it turned out I would still have some spare time, as the captain was trying to negotiate to sell his wears. So, with free time, I sat down on the dock, apparently still outside the unpronounceable kingdom, and wrote to you, dear diary. It looks like some kind of agreement might have been reached, so I’d better finish up, but expect more exciting stories from this place. Just from the little bit I have seen, and the smells alone, I know it will be different indeed.

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