Chapter Six

Rev slept the blessed sleep of the dead. It didn’t matter he was in a carriage, folded awkwardly over a bench seat.

Slightly more worryingly, it didn’t matter very much when he got out of the carriage, and got into another carriage, which had armrests for some infernal reason. Even he was shocked, when he had the capacity to be shocked, that it also didn’t matter when he got off the carriage and got onto a boat at some point.

So Rev woke up on a boat. There is nothing more disturbing than to wake up on a boat when it is not expected. He was impossibly weak; he kept wondering how it was he didn’t simply flop out of his bunk and decided it was because even that required flexibility. His limbs seemed to have forgotten how to move. He had never been seasick, but he didn’t think this was seasickness.

“Oh! Rev!” Anik unfolded himself from where he was sitting at a cramped desk squeezed between the ribs of the ship. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a wrapped canister. Sitting on the edge of the bunk, he used one hand to help Rev sit up, like it was something he was used to, this moving him around like a doll.

At the moment, Rev didn’t mind, because everything hurt so badly and moving gave him a temporary relief. He reminded himself to be mad about it later.

“Come on, you have to eat while you’re up.”

He flipped the lid off the canister; it had been fitted with a narrower opening. Anik’s hand rested behind Rev’s neck as he held the canister to Rev’s lips so he could drink. Salty tang hit his tongue like he had never tasted anything before, before an oily warmth started to coat his mouth, not all together unpleasant – and quickly thereafter, he realized, delicious. Rev couldn’t help but think of its lowness – it was filthy, drinking lukewarm broth like it was the wine of the gods, being fed like a child or an invalid.

Right now, it didn’t matter, because it was saving him from dying.

In fact, Anik had to drag it away from him. Rev’s stomach hurt, and he wanted to clutch the broth to him, just to be certain it wouldn’t be taken away forever. Eventually, he let himself acknowledge it was gone.

“Rev, are you feeling better? We were worried – I was worried – that your injury was... bad. You seem better...”

Rev pulled his knees up, the very squeezing of his bones painful. He turned in the bunk, putting his back to the open space and Anik’s fussing, and wrapped his arms around his ears, so he could neither hear nor see.

He could feel the boat moving under him. He did not sleep – he wouldn’t return to sleep until the gods themselves pulled down the lids of his eyes – but tried at once to both stifle and live this waking dream. It was too much. Too much sleeping, too much speaking, too much hearing, too much moving. He was sick of waking up different places, with no account for how he arrived. He was sick.

He didn’t notice when Anik left, but then, Anik left quietly.


Anik was prodding carefully at his cheek and jaw as he walked to where Thespasian stood on deck. There were people everywhere – running to different ropes, letting them loose, hauling them down, climbing, painting, drilling with arms, sewing – or, in the case of the army officers like him, strolling. It amazing how much activity could go on in such a small space. Anik thought it not unlike a battle, though Thespasian assured him it was quite peaceful, in fact. In bad weather, Thespasian said, Anik would see a battle.

“How is it?” Thespasian asked.

“Better,” Anik said. He leaned up on the rail in decent imitation of ease. The noise, too, was incredible – not loud, but constant. The waves, the sails, the ropes, the wood, the people, the faint clacking and clanging of bells and blocks and any number of soft and hard things numbly striking in the dark recesses of the ship. Thespasian assured him that was peaceful, too.

“How’s his head?”

Anik made an ambivalent gesture, but said, “He woke up again. Maybe for good, I think.” Thespasian assured him that the only previous journey he had taken by ship, as a very young child, he had enjoyed thoroughly and talked of for days. Of that journey, Anik remembered nothing.

“Anything intelligible yet?”

“No,” Anik said, turning to face the sea. Unless Anik would admit that the passive refusal to address him was intelligible. Maybe it was, and he didn’t like what was being said. Anik looked down at the waves, the foam off the bow squirting up at him as the ship rocked through each rising swell. He wanted to spit, just to see what would happen, but he had already encountered enough warnings about what was and was not appropriate (or lucky) on a ship. Maybe spitting taunted the ocean-spirit, and they would all be doomed. Everything seemed to have the consequence of being doomed.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be appropriate to spit. Plenty of officers did, but Anik didn’t. There was a difference there – of breeding – that didn’t seem to be fading. He could feel its chafe, though, whenever he thought of what should be, and what was. He tried not to think of that often, of late. For now, he would not spit, partially out of spite, partially because the whole notion shocked him. He would not have even thought of it, but…

“If the little bastard’s awake, can you at least be sure of no more thrown punches or shouted curses?”

Anik opened his mouth, but thought for a minute before he said, “No guarantees.”

Thespasian grunted. Anik watched the water. He should spit anyway, because either way they were doomed – at least, that’s what Thespasian thought. It was difficult to tell why, specifically, Thespasian’s degree of certainty had so extended itself. Anik was certain it was to some degree the secret orders, the return of Bohdan to their company, and the boats – and Rev. A pang made him touch his cheek.

“We’re all going to die,” Thespasian said, and Anik, who had become used to such proclamations before conversations about everything from the weather to the war to what to eat for dinner, nodded that Thespasian’s prediction had been noted, so he could continue, “but if you can’t get a handle on that shitstick Nisa goatherd he’s going to die first.”

Despair struck with the ‘whumpf’ of the next wave against the bow as Anik contemplated ‘getting a handle on’ Rev. “I don’t remember if it was goats, precisely, he said he herded.”

Thespasian turned and thumped his forehead against the rail.

“Well, what do you want me to do, Thes?” Anik said, hands spread over the water in a shrug. “I can’t assure you of what I don’t know myself.”

“I want you to have left that bad omen ashore!” Thespasian raised a hand against the storm brewing on Anik’s face, turning again to lean his back against the rail. “I know why you ‘couldn’t possibly do that’ – honor and promises and no where to put him and duty and ‘oh no he’s going to die, Thespasian, how could I?’”

Thes’ grunt elegantly expressed his feelings.

“Well?” Anik spat. He tried to look at the water, but he couldn’t remember anything of the journey that would have taught him to love it. In fact, he tried to look at the water, and saw nothing but the dark cabin, that dark shape, his back curled up like a wall against the world.

Against him.

Then again, had he not proved himself a traitor?

“I would not dictate your duty to you—”

“Horse shit,” Anik said.

Thespasian gave him a sour look, but he resettled himself against the rail with dignity. “If you can’t control your acquisition we’re all doomed.”

“More doomed?”

Unusually more doomed, yes,” Thes said through gritted teeth.

Anik led his head hang, but even if he shut his eyes, pressed them closed with his hand, he couldn’t get that image out of his mind. “Don’t call him that…” he felt Thespasian’s eyes on him, “…acquisition.”

“Did you not acquire him?” Thes said, then spun furiously towards the rail again. They must look like dancers practicing. Poorly. “Lord above, Anik, this is precisely what I am talking about. You don’t know what you’ve done, and–”

“I know what I’ve done, Thes,” Anik said, and the hardness of his voice – neither bleak, nor uncaring, but sheer steel – kept Thes from replying.

For a while.

“You must stay focused, Anik,” Thes said. “I fear you’ve no sense of the danger you’re in and any distraction could be the death of you – of us all. That boy is just the beginning—”

“I would remind you, Thes,” Anik said as he pushed himself straight, tugging down his uniform jacket, “that this is no more his first war than it is mine – and that war began well before either of us knew each other. We should both be well equipped to face danger, or we should both long since have died in it. Likewise, I should thank you for reminding me of all I have to do and have yet to begin; I shall return to my work. I’ll see you after dinner.”

He turned to walk away, but not, Thespasian noted, towards his cabin, but towards the hold. Where he could ‘work’ with the help of his horse.

Well, it wasn’t like the Sivery was going to be much help. The horse, at least, Thespasian trusted. None of them – neither horse, nor Sivery, nor Thespasian – could change Anik’s course once he had made a decision (Thespasian, at least, tried; the horse, at least, followed orders; the Sivery, Thespasian suspected, would be less useful than the horse).

But Anik had not yet made a decision. Something more than the mystery of their destination and their role in what was to come had, for the first time in Thespasian’s long years of knowing Anik, come between him and his unshakeable certainty. If it was the Sivery – well, such problems were easily solved.

If it was not the Sivery, then Baath – and if Baath, the world – might feel its back prickle, though it could not see the shadow stalking its way.
Chapter Four  by OllamhRemi
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Artist's comment:
This story eventually includes these elements:
Rape (indirectly described/referenced); Slavery (not the consensual kind); Violence (battles, etc); and explicit sex (but I assume if you're here you expected that one, at least)

Individual chapters will be tagged with the relevant themes and filters, but be forewarned and consume at your own discretion

If you haven't read the Prelude, start here: One
To start at the beginning of this story, go here: Chapter One

AN: In which the 'head injuries are bad' theme continues, and Thespasian, as Thespasian is wont to do, predicts disaster.

Really kind of an average day
Content details:
• Category – Literature
• Critique – Optional
• Filter – N/A
• Series – Original
• Theme – Romance
• Time Taken – Who knows?
• Tools – Literary Work – Prose/Stories
Posted on 2021-03-22 @ 2:27 AM
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