Farewell Azraphel

A brief sample of the first chapter of the book just to give you an idea what awaits you in the world of Yorran.

Azraphel, forced by a strong wind, was heading south. Stubbornly she struggled through the restless sea, rearing up like a horse before a hurdle, only to plop between the tops of the waves again and again. Each additional impact wrenched the sea open. Salty spray rose up like a mist towards Abarhil, who was standing on the bow holding onto the railing. Since the first journeys, the bow of the ship had been his favorite spot to let his imagination run wild. He felt like ancient seafarers who, like messengers of ancient kings, spread their fame along the shores of the great ocean in bygone ages of faded glory. He raised his head and looked around at the horizon. On the right, he saw only the silhouettes of several dolphins, which were following their ship for a second day since its departure from Nirruch. The occasional shadow of an albatross flashed on the sea surface and from the rear, the upset shouts of seagulls could be heard as they argued over residue from the ship’s galley, which the chef rolled into the sea.

While standing there alone, he remembered the last few days. When he had returned with Oghlar from the Eagle’s nest, he had found Azraphel in the harbor with an angry captain and a lazy crew. More than two weeks had passed since he had left and they had fallen behind schedule again. Lominas had yelled at him, red from rage, as if he were a cabin boy.

„Abarhil, you are completely irresponsible. Do you even remember what you promised to your father? Instead of taking care of the ship, you are running around the mountains. This journey isn’t normal. This can’t end well! From the beginning, there are problems and difficulties! Gods, why do I have to be a captain on such a journey?“

Lominas had been irritated to the point of insanity by everything associated with the number of delays and unexpected events that had accompanied this sail. Before their departure, he had had a long conversation with Tharnizir, which had placed more pressure than usual on his shoulders; beginning with overseeing the business matters, through directing the restless Abarhil, and ending with complying with the plan of the journey. It had been similar to when he had had to hold a wet rope of a swelling sail in turbulent wind. Despite trying as hard as he could, he had felt like it was slipping through his clenched fingers. He felt the same this time. He did not have things under control.

Abarhil had to admit that he had been devoting his time to adventures and long postponed plans instead of small dull tasks so important for the business. Reluctantly, he had to admit that his fierceness and impatience were to blame for the failure of his previous trades in Osttar.

He was just about to return to the rear to talk to the helmsman when Oghlar joined him. He instinctively sensed what was going on in Abarhil’s mind. He stood beside him in silence, then broke it after a while.

„I think we should go further south than usual this year. What do you think?“

Abarhil looked at him briefly and said: „I don’t know, maybe. I’ve thought about it. Why do you think it’s a good idea?“

„I have got eyes, so I watch. There is an odd atmosphere on the ship and Lominas is as nervous as a primipara. I assume he got some tasks from your father. He should watch you and he knows well he is not managing. I must confess I do not envy Lominas. Indeed, it is not easy to watch over such a wild stallion and stick to the plan.“

As always, merry flames sparkled in Oghlar’s eyes when he tried and teased Abarhil. But he did not agree to partake in the game today.

„And how can going further south help us?“ replied ratty Abarhil with his eyes still fixed on the distant horizon.

„Well, I heard that further in the south, in the middle of the humid forests, a mighty river flows into the sea, and there sinam, ganilva, and spices can be bought. Furthermore, I heard that the locals trade, perhaps with gold. There we could make up for our losses so far. What do you think?“

„Perhaps you’re right,“ replied Abarhil thoughtfully, „I don’t trust the gold but spices could be a win. I’ll give it some thought.“

Oghlar stood beside Abarhil for another moment, but when he did not speak again he shrugged and left for the rear, leaving him to his own thoughts.

In the following days, the journey went without any difficulties or problems. They sailed along the coast where the continuous cliffs were broken only by the mouth of the Red River. The red water of Birighin flowed into the sea in split branches, creating a reddish spot which dissolved into the surrounding blue sea water. Two days later, they saw a distant dark volcano cone with a red irradiated top, which spewed clouds of ash into the sky from time to time. According to Chyrrkhan legends, it was the seat of Durghár, a dark lord of the underworld, who had been defeated by his brother Maghúr at the beginning of time and had been shackled and imprisoned in the underworld. Madrughin flowed through the desolation under the volcano, breaking its way through the plains of volcanic sediments that gave it the dark color that left the dark red spot in the sea. Madrughin was translated as the Border River in the common language. Indeed, its flow separated the sparsely populated plains of the southern Anghir from the deserted land of swamps and hills called Bôghir, the Wild land. Those were savannas covered by thick high grass, which turned into vast swamps and wetlands around the basins of the Falghin and Welghin rivers.

The mood on the ship was slowly improving during the calm journey and even Lominas ceased his grumbling for a while. Therefore, Abarhil was able to dedicate his time to his great interest, cartography. He had loved maps since his youth, they appealed to his imagination and he could spend hours pouring over them. He liked comparing them, marking new landmarks, measuring distance and he improved them and made them more accurate with every journey. It was difficult work but he liked it, so he never regretted the time and effort. With each journey his map gained accuracy and was quickly becoming his pride. After he exchanged the map of the northern coast with Deón, he was quite certain that there was a set of maps in his cabin which could not be found anywhere else in Merélos.

Meanwhile, Azraphel continued along the deserted coast, which Abarhil jotted down in his map as Azar Gôwilb, the Sea of Tranquility. Their next stop, however, was much further south, on the border between Bôghir and Schadarghir. Two weeks after their departure from Nirruch they arrived at their annual target, the mouth of Ogghin, the Southern River. Here, like every year, the crew of Azraphel met Nomghans to exchange the products of craft workshops from Merélos for local goods. As mentioned earlier, those were only shepherds and hunters but they could still offer interesting goods for trade. The most valuable commodities were ivory, exotic furs, colorful feathers and exceptionally rough gems which were collected by the locals in the streams and caves on the upper reaches of the river. Like every year, hundreds of locals awaited Azraphel in the temporary camp. Although the trading went well, Abarhil could not stop thinking about what Oghlar had told him. So far, Azraphel had never dared to sail so far south that Tharnizir could buy rare southern spices himself. Pepper, sinam, ginger, cinnamon, ganilva, those were all goods of which the price was rising in proportion to the distance it traveled to the North. On the market in Merélos, the price of these spices was twice as much in Osttar, and four times the price in Nirruch where Tharnizir traded with Tighan sailors. Abarhil could only guess what price would he get from the locals who collected spices in the forests or grew them on small fields near their villages.

Spurred on by Oghlar’s notes and his own thoughts, he decided to persuade Lominas about this plan. He invited him to his cabin where he had prepared his maps and calculations. He was expecting a lack of understanding, however, he was not ready for the fierce resistance he encountered. When he briefly presented his plan, Lominas‘ face flushed with anger and resentment and he blew up: „Abarhil, I do not agree! By the Gortar’s whip, you have gone mad. It is madness to go further south. No, and again no! Damn it! Have you not had enough of adventures?“

However, the outburst calmed him down, and so although his attitude and gestures still expressed disapproval, he continued calmly: „The lower deck is half-full and we have to pick up the goods in Nirruch we left there. Where do you think we will store it all?“

Abarhil went back and forth across the cabin several times. He was trying to read Lominas‘ eyes and gestures and find a way to persuade him. But Lominas stood like a statue. Clenched fists and arms crossed against his chest revealed his internal struggle and the strain with which he controlled his feelings. He looked out the window at the open sea. Abarhil spoke unusually softly and slowly.

„But Lominas, you haven’t heard my reasons yet. We’re friends, aren’t we? Could you then at least hear me out?“

Lominas turned his attention back to the cabin and nodded almost imperceptibly.

„You know as well as I do that spices aren’t ivory, fur or bags of cotton. They won’t take up much space and the profit of each pound we deliver will be much higher than of any other goods. And trust me, I calculated it maybe ten times.“

Abarhil paused and watched Lominas to see whether his reasons somehow eroded Lominas‘ solid disapproval. He saw nothing, so he decided to play another of his trump cards in this strange game. „And you know very well that until now we haven’t done such good trades. My father won’t praise us for that. Neither one of us. Do you really believe that I propose this only because of my adventurous whims?“

Lominas was not ready to back down. „Very well, Abarhil, but it is almost the end of the month of first blossoms and in a few days Slaven begins. Azraphel has been sailing for three months. Autumn storms may begin in the next four months and what if we do not return on time?“

Yes, this was a compelling argument but Abarhil was prepared even for this.

„They may or may not. Usually the storms begin at the end of the month of withering. Trust me! To Nirruch, it’s two weeks and from there to the mouth of the Great River it’s another two weeks. We will have a couple of days in Nirruch and another one or two in Osttar. Altogether, it’s about a month and a half. I think we still have a good two months!“

Lominas walked away from the window and came to the table where the unfolded maps, a pitcher of water, and a few tin cups lay. He poured water into one of them and drank it all. Reluctantly he had to admit that Abarhil made some sense. However, he was not going to back down easily.

„Of course, Abarhil, but you are counting on a good wind, and no delays or difficulties. You know yourself what we have encountered during this sail already. I know I have been complaining a lot over the last weeks. But I have had an unpleasant feeling about this sail from the very beginning. We have talked about it already.“ He turned to Abarhil and looked him directly in the eyes, before forgivingly adding: „Please, consider everything very carefully!“  

Abarhil turned the unfolded map toward Lominas and pointed a finger at it.  

„I agree with you. I’m also aware of the delays and difficulties, but you must admit we’ve managed so far. Therefore good fortune and the Gods are on our side. I think that with their support we’ll manage sailing even further south.“

He put his finger on the map.

„We’re moored here. According to Oghlar, it’s the same distance to the mouth of the Forest River as it is from the Western Cape to the mouth of Ogghin. About two weeks.“

When Lominas heard the navigator’s name, it looked like Abarhil had just pricked a hornet’s nest.

„Oghlar! Oghlar said so! Oghlar agreed! I talked to him too. Only the Gods know why he yearns to sail south so much! Does he want to surpass his father? And furthermore, has our navigator become our captain to say where we’ll sail?“ His face became tight and tense as he grabbed Abarhil’s hand. „Abarhil, please, I repeat what I’ve said from the beginning. I do not like this. I have never seen so many unexpected difficulties. And it is not only me. Even the others say that this sail cannot end well!“

Abarhil slid his arm from Lominas‘ grip. He crossed the cabin and then walked back again. Silently, he turned and looked into Lominas’s strained and worried face. Lominas is right, he thought, this year’s sail has certainly not been usual. What if something unexpected happens and they do not manage to return? He recalled his conversation with his mother just before their departure. She had told him he might need to spend the winter in Osttar. If they got caught up in the autumn storms before they were able to return, Azraphel could anchor in Osttar Bay and sell the goods there. Spices can earn amazing sums even there. He could leave Azraphel in Osttar over the winter and travel to Merélos with a caravan across the Wastelands. At present, he was not even thinking of the crew and their families who would be awaiting them in vain. He looked at Lominas again who silently watched him and tried to guess what was going on in his mind.  

 

 

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