An Unknown Sailor | 6 February 4/685

The Samssonar - A red and white fishing vessel or ship sailing in the open seas.
The Samssonar

Dearest Jowan, Cora, and patrons of the Unarkida

This account, in four parts, is extracted from the journal of a sailor who crewed a working freight and fishing vessel out of Refuge.

We have not, to date, been able to identify the young woman or verify the veracity of her narrative. We are working to identify her and learn more for reasons we hope will become obvious.

Extract 1 from the diary of an Unknown Sailor on the Whale Road (circa 3/135).

Day 16 aboard the Samssonar

Baz—or rather, the First Mate—came down to eat dinner with the ratings and cadets last night. It’s the first time he’s done so since I’ve been on board. Some would consider this odd if they knew our circumstances, but he’s forbidden me to say why… especially in my diary.

Having re-supplied, we left our anchorage in the Wetlows yesterday. Our course took us southwards with a breathtaking view of Kimber’s Head to port. I understand that’s the last we’ll see of home for a while. I was surprised by how uncomfortable I found seeing the shore disappear.

I’ve busied myself with my duties since. That’s why I missed a day. Quartermaster-in-training is not glamorous, but I find the structure and routine rewarding.

According to the First Mate, we’re set for a long voyage. I had already guessed as much based on the supplies we took on. That’s why he came down to brief us over dinner.

First, we are running a supply route along the Danaran Sea fortifications—stopping at each of the three forts to deliver supplies. Then, we will continue on an easterly course along the Whale’s Teeth. That’s where he became a little cagey. He mentioned our meeting up with a factory ship. I supose we could be relaying their haul back to port, but something is off.

The Samssonar is not equipped with the sort of cold stores I would expect for that job. So if it isn’t that, and it’s not re-supply, then what could it be?

I planned to interrogate him on the issue if I could get him alone.

Today we had fair seas and clear skies, so I went on deck as soon as I finished the last of the inventory. Winter has set in sharpish, so the sun was a welcome sight, even if it barely took the edge off the cutting chill. I headed to the bridge to try and catch Baz alone when I overheard him and the Captain.

“—the crew will grow suspicious, and they won’t like it.”

“The crew will have to mind their own business,” the Captain snapped.

“Captain, these are good honest Freefolk. The Neutrality runs deep—”

“Like I said young man, they… you will all mind your business.”

There was a moment’s silence, then, “—Captain?” Baz was wounded.

I have yet to meet the Captain face-to-face. As I write, I realise how strange that is, considering how long I’ve been aboard. Baz has always spoken so fondly of him, but it sounded to me like his feelings for his mentor were being tested.

“Know your place First Mate,” the Captain answered. A silence followed, and even from my spot on the stairs, it felt awkward. “Barran, don’t take it personally. I am sorry, but we need the Coin. This trouble with the House tariffs on our last few voyages has cost me dearly, and—” he stopped abruptly, and I heard movement.

Thinking quickly, I tried to make it look like I had just walked up the steps. Fortunately, it was Baz who opened the door.

“What are you doing here?” He looked uneasy. I lied and said I needed to ask him questions about the ration plans.

We walked along the deck until we were out of sight of the bridge. Then I made my suspicions plain and told him what I had heard. Unsurprisingly he was not happy, but knowing better than to argue with me, he simply refused to say anything about why he and the Captain were fighting.

All he would say was that we had several weeks of sailing ahead of us. Also—that I should mind my own business. I told him that he should know me better than that, at which he swore and left.

I stayed on deck, hoping to catch some sun. What little warmth there was melted through my coat. I closed my eyes, faced the sky, and felt my face slowly thaw. The starboard view, where the sun fell towards the horizon, was like a living artwork being painted as I watched. Warm oranges and reds brushed into the clouds in real-time.

For the next bit of magic, the sea life joined the show. Five or six dolphins caught my attention as they wove across our bow. I’d never seen that sort of thing before, so much so that I was driven to silent distraction.

I didn’t notice Erka, an older deck officer, appear next to me. I nearly leapt overboard when she spoke, “The Whateroi!”

“The what?” I asked when I had collected myself.

“The Whateroi,” she said again, pointing out to starboard, unphased by my shock. I looked in the direction she was pointing and was again struck with awe.

I could sit for an hour trying to find the words to describe him and still not do it justice. A whale-like creature, easily as large as the Samssonar, with skin so black I felt like I could see through him into the water beyond. Aside from that, the thing that really caught and held my attention was his eye—a brilliant, white-hot orb burning and distorting the surrounding blackness.

“A boon,” Erka added.

“It’s enormous.”

“Young one. Seen one three times as big. Only my third sighting in all my life at sea. You should count yourself lucky,” she added, immediately walking off. The Whateroi rolled over and disappeared. I decided, from that moment, I would spend every spare minute on deck.

Just then, my attention was drawn back to the dolphins. They pulled off to our port side and started to bump at our hull as if agitated. I was about to look around and see if anyone else was witnessing this strangeness when there was a commotion behind me. Several Marines appeared from below deck and ran towards the bridge.

Moments later, the Captain shouted over the intercom ordering everyone back to their stations. My curiosity was tested, but I headed down to my berth. When I arrived, the other ratings were sitting around gossiping.

I quickly realised why. There was a loud knocking echoing throughout the ship. We all agreed it was coming from inside, but no one could guess the source. We also decided it did not sound like the engine, but that was the last thing on which we could all agree.

The noise continued for another thirty-odd minutes, and the theories got wilder and wilder as it did. When it stopped, I chose to come to bed. The day’s work and all the excitement have me completely drained.

I go to sleep tonight with my imagination running wild. Suspicious behaviour, real mythical creatures, strange sounds on board, what next, Baz?

Continued on 13 February in I Love Anaran Soldiers.

Illustration by Midjourney & G.G.B.

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