The boat was an akron, a two-masted short-distance fishing boat. Usually, people who own such boats had a decent amount of wealth and could be considered the town’s middle class, having more than the average townsfolk but less than the elite.
There was a waterway around five kilometers long that led out of Sharkmouth Bay. Usually, akron owners would sail to the bay to fish as the waters were calm and the fish were plentiful. It was far less risky to fish there than to go out to the open seas.
Even though the expensive fish were mostly caught in the open seas and only smaller, normally priced fish could be found in Sharkmouth Bay, they usually came in large schools, making it more or less as lucrative as fishing pricey fish n the open seas without the risk to the crew’s life from the stormy seas.
A two-masted akron was usually manned by five to six crew members. The owners were normally the captains and the crew used cast nets and purse seines to capture fish. According to the town hall’s estimations, there were about a hundred akron boats in Whitestag and they were the main providers of fish to the town.
The akron Claude and Welikro boarded was called Miltiny and it was around 20 years old. She was captained by the young Syblon, who had inherited the boat from its former captain, his father, less than two years ago. As his wife was about to give birth to his first child, he stopped going out to sea since two months back and stayed home to take care of his wife.
To find a vessel that could go out to sea to find her son, Eilina begged Captain Syblon to help. He agreed to her request and lent her Miltiny, but she would have to find another captain to sail her since Syblon had let his subordinates go on break two months ago.
In the end, Eilina managed to find Makro and three other sailors at Mermaid. Given the high price she was going to pay, they agreed to help find Eriksson, but only for a span of five days. If they couldn’t find him, they would be sailing back. Given that winter was just on the horizon and snow was going to fall, it would be really dangerous at sea as losing one’s way there was all too easy.
Makro was a hired captain who didn’t have his own ship. The jobs he took, whether they be transportation or fishing, would split a certain percentage for him as commission. However, he didn’t have that good a reputation in town as a sneaky and cunning sailor.
Other captains for hire would be able to afford their own boat after three or four years of hard work. Yet, Makro had worked as a captain for more than ten years and spent most of his earnings on gambling and women. He still lived alone and had no family nor stable career, spending his days on earning what little money he did for his indulgences in the tavern.
The three sailors were called Ankess, Welik and Krin respectively. They were Makro’s acquaintances and had sailed with him before. But Claude didn’t know whether the names were real or not. Marko laughed and said that sailors didn’t care for details like those and called each other whatever was easiest to say sometimes.
Makro knew Claude and Welikro, but the other two didn’t know him. He claimed that he had quite a good relationship with both their fathers and would greet them and treat each other to drinks in the tavern.
Though he knew that Makro was merely boasting, Claude felt relieved. Since that man knew Welikro and himself, the sailors would take their jobs seriously instead of merely casually sailing before turning back. After all, offending Claude and Welikro was akin to offending the town’s chief secretary and head hunter. That would make it hard for them to continue making a living in Whitestag.
Though Makro had the bad reputation of being sneaky, his captaining skills were rather decent. The three sailors were also experienced men who coordinated well with his orders. Claude and Welikro wanted to help, but there wasn’t any room for them to do so. They had become guests instead. Miltiny moved as freely as one’s hand might and easily made its way through the zig-zagging waterway before making it into Sharkmouth Bay.
Upon entering the bay, Makro relaxed and started drinking his whiskey as he sailed. The three sailors on the other hand kept their whiskey and started drinking the ale instead. They had discussed the split before they sailed. Of the 24 bottles of whiskey, the three sailors would be given one bottle each day, making it 15 bottles for five days. The other nine bottles would go to the captain. Claude and Welikro weren’t included and they could only drink the ale.
It seemed like Makro wasn’t going to keep the whiskey like the other sailors as he drank it directly. Claude asked him what the plan was to find Eriksson, to which the reply was they would circle Sharkmouth Bay first to see if they could find his boat. Since Claude and Welikro wanted to help, the captain suggested them to get up to the mast to be the first ones to spot the boat.
Only after climbing all the way up did Claude realize that he had been duped. Climbing up the mast in the weather of the 11th month was nothing but punishment. The bone-chilling winds could freeze a person up completely. His hands that gripped onto the rope soon lost feeling, being numbed from the cold. He had no choice but to only use one hand and keep the other warm in his clothes before switching to the other.
If the sea at summer seemed full of life, then the sea at winter gave off the feeling of endless loneliness and ruthlessness. Dark grey colored the scene all the way up to the horizon. Waves rolled and beat against the oscillating boat. Claude stood on the mast and rose and fell with the boat, but wasn’t able to see another vessel in sight.
For three days, he switched with Welikro nonstop to keep watch up on the mast. However, they didn’t find a single trace of Eriksson’s small fishing boat. Though they encountered a few other returning fishing boats, when Makro sailed Miltiny close to ask them, the sailors of those boats all said that they didn’t see Eriksson.
Miltiny had sailed around the whole of Sharkmouth Bay during those three days. When they rested that night, Captain Makro told the two youths that he had discussed with the sailors to begin their voyage back along the coast slowly. That way, they would arrive at the jetty in Whitestag on the fifth day.
Welikro argued with Makro in a fit of rage. He thought that it was just a perfunctory effort. Makro had agreed to five days of searching, which didn’t include the voyage back after all.
The captain merely shrugged and said that the weather was getting colder and the clouds were growing thicker by the day, making it hard to see due to the sunlight they obscured. All that pointed to the coming of a huge snowstorm. As a qualified captain, he said that it was his duty to ensure the safety of his crew and the passengers. He couldn’t let them take any unnecessary risk.
Additionally, Claude and Welikro should be well aware that the fact that they weren’t able to find any traces during the past three days near the whole bay meant only two possibilities. The first was that Eriksson had already made his way back and missed them on the way. Perhaps they would see him standing at the jetty to welcome them back. The second was that Eriksson didn’t come to the bay at all and further searching would be pointless.
Makro’s words were sound and Welikro couldn’t find any fault to argue against. But Claude suddenly thought to himself, if I were Eriksson, where would I be waiting for the fleet to return?
Borkal already knows about our fathers’ plan to start a new trade route to Nubissia, and I found out about it from him. That means that Captain Altroni, the first one to tread that path, will tell his only son about it as well. It’s possible that Eyke went to Sea of Storms to wait for the fleet’s return.
“I think I know where Eyke is,” said Claude.
“Really? Where is he?” asked Welikro joyfully.
“Krulu Flying Fish Island,” said Claude confidently.
Makro put down the bottle of alcohol in his hand and furrowed his brow. “Impossible, why would he go there?”
Krulu Flying Fish Island was at the borders of Sea of Storms. It was a rather small island with a volcano on it. There was also a spring at the slope of the volcano and many seafarers liked to restock on clean water there. Had it not been for the fact that it was frequently assailed by storms all year round, the island shaped like a flying fish might even have a town on it.
When the weather was pleasant, the island was incredibly scenic. The sides of the island were all beaches and there was even a rather small date palm forest there. But as it was situated near Sea of Storms, it would frequently be submerged by the storm, leaving only the volcano above water. The beaches and forest would be underwater. Given that krulu flying fish was common near the island and the island’s shape, it came to be named as such.
“Are you sure that Eyke went to Krulu Flying Fish Island? Isn’t Captain Altroni leading the fleet to the south of the kingdom to establish a trade route with the nations there? If Eyke wants to welcome his father’s fleet back, he’d be waiting at this bay instead of going to the island in the Sea of Storms,” said Makro as he looked at Claude doubtfully.
Claude shook his head in frustration. “I’m pretty certain that he’ll be there. I think I heard him say something about climbing to the top of the volcano to watch the sea from there. Given that he has a fishing boat, he wouldn’t lack food either. And if he runs out of water, he can go to the island to fetch some. We’re already at the bay, so it’d take only a day and a half’s voyage to reach there. I think we can go check it out. If he isn’t there, we’ll head back immediately. I just have a feeling that he’d be there!”
“What about you?” Makro asked Welikro, “Do you think Eyke will be on Krulu Flying Fish Island as well?”
Welikro didn’t understand why Claude insisted on that, but that didn’t stop him from supporting Claude’s decision. It was far better than sailing back immediately anyway. “I support his decision. He has always had a sense for these things. I think Eyke will be there too. If he’s not, we’ll just go on our way back.”
Makro looked at Claude and Welikro before making up his mind. “Alright, I’ll take you there. Rest in shifts and night. We’ll be sailing through the night and reach the island by dawn. That way, no matter we find him or not, we can start sailing back during the day. I hope that our luckholds up and it doesn’t snow before we head back!”