Island of the Kahts 18
I realized that I have been terribly lax in my responsibilities as a Monthly, and also that Island of the Kahts has grown to be much longer than I originally intended-as is evidenced by the fact that I call the chapters Parts. So, here I am, going to post a new chapter/part whenever I can to finish out this story. (Mostly, so I can concentrate on other projects, although I love the light-hearted 'easiness' of this one, and it is much loved.)
The first ship sailed past that evening. Skirting as close to the shoreline as it dared, we could hear the soldiers and see them standing by the longboats from where we hid in the fronds. Several times we also heard the shouting of soldiers in the dark of the jungle. Once they came far too close for comfort, forcing us to move a safe distance away from our makeshift camp. After a period of frantic shouting—Fern was hopeful someone had been fatally snake-bit—the soldiers moved off again.
We didn't know whether to be relieved or anxious that the ship we saw was not the Waveblade, and Craigin was clearly distraught.
Daarimere was large enough for our game of hide-and-seek, but Fern's food supply was gone and I, for one, was starving.
Gern, for another, was about to turn cannibalistic.
Once the [i]Sea Gate[/i] was out of sight, Savadra divided us into groups of two with one person staying on the beach as lookout. The Thistlewhight-Fisks headed out together in one direction and Savadra and I went in the other to forage. Craigin had first watch.
“Tory,” Savadra said as we searched for coconuts, starfruit, or anything else edible. “I really am sorry.”
“I told you not to worry about it, and I'm serious.” I said, climbing a promising tree.
“But I was blind, Tory!” she exclaimed. I understood then that, whatever she thought her intentions were in apologizing to me, it was her own judgment she was concerned about. “How could I miss something so obvious?”
I was too high up in the tree to bother with a reply, but I was pretty sure we were thinking the same thing: We had trusted Bart, all of us had. Based on his word and the word of the smarmy king he served.
Reaching blindly through leaves the size of my torso, my fingers groped for the elusive starfruits.
Somewhere below me, Savadra was still talking, but my mind wandered, reviewing privately all the things I knew about the treacherous Captain Remus as a man. He was a confusing individual. One hand he seemed homesick, on the other he took a special joy in island life. He was charming and certainly a gentlemen, but he was also a snake and a liar. Precision and skill marked him in a fight, but he was compassionate towards his men.
“What were they arguing about?” I asked aloud.
Savadra stopped talking. “Who?”
“Bart and the soldiers, that one night. They were arguing about something, and most of the soldiers didn't seem to be on his side. Were they talking about us?” I climbed out of the tree with five starfruits tucked in my pockets.
We moved deeper into the jungle, always keeping the beach over our right shoulder. Whenever one of us climbed a tree searching for food higher up, we'd check our position.
Between the two of us, we managed seven coconuts—as much as we could fit in a sling made from my shirt—and a dozen of the little star-shaped orange-and-green fruits. We passed a few of the plants Bart had showed us to be edible, and Savadra made sure we avoided one she remembered being poisonous to the touch. It was one of the few things we knew Bart had not lied about, as we had eaten these plants before in the camp.
I turned to Savadra. “This is enough, I think. We should be—”
“Calm, Tory.” she whispered.
Savadra was silent a moment and then shook her head. “I thought something moved over by that tree. Sorry.”
Leaving my load of supplies behind, I crept toward the tree she had indicated.
“Tory, what are you doing?” she hissed.
“Checking it out.” I pulled my axe from my back, holding it in a firm two-handed grip.
As I drew nearer to the tree, I realized that there was something on the ground beside it, slumped against the trunk like so many discarded bundles.
Only, when I was about ten feet away, my eyes finally made sense of the shape and I froze a second time.
Not just any person.
Captain Bartholomew Remus.
I rather felt like removing his head from his shoulders right then and there.
He didn't rise to greet me, though in the deepening gloom of the jungle night, I could see his gaze was fixed on me. He didn't move, didn't say anything.
“Uh...Savadra?” I called a little shakily.
She came up behind me and her eyes lit with rage. “You!”
I held her back from leaping at him. “Wait. It's sure to be a trap.”
Bart spoke for the first time. “Good thinking, Torinnir. But don't you think if it were a trap, it would have sprung by now?”
I hesitated. “Maybe. Where are Han and the rest of your louts hiding?”
“I don't know.” His eyes drifted lazily shut and I almost let Savadra take her swing at him then. But the same feeling I'd experienced a lot of late was nagging at me in the back of my mind. Something was off here.
“How can you not know?” Savadra growled at him. She then called him a few choice names that I've decided not to print. “And do you care to try to justify your miserable, murdering self before I feed your miserable hide to whatever miserable jungle carnivore I find first?”
Bart grimaced as if Savadra’s words had struck him…Almost as if he cared what she thought of him. It was dark enough that most of his body was hidden in shadow, which made me nervous. He could pull a weapon without us ever seeing him move. He hadn't changed positions from where he sat reclining against the tree as I had found him in, but his eyes opened enough to look up at us. “I can explain it to you now.”
“Oh, yes, I’m sure we’d all be delighted to hear what you have to say.” she hissed.
“I’ll willingly tell you,” Bart began. “but I think you’ll need to give me time.”
“Time to do what?” she demanded.
“Take...a nap...I think.” he said and started to slump over.
Enraged at his attitude, Savadra once again reached out to strike him, but I jumped forward and stopped her. I had just realized the something that was bothering me—better late than never.
“Tory!” Savadra yelled at me. I ignored her and caught Bart as he fell to one side. I knew now that his earlier grimace did not so much come from Savadra's rebuke as it it did real physical pain.
“Savadra, he’s injured!” I shouted back. Savadra looked stunned as I carefully pulled the traitorous captain’s jacket open and revealed a bloodied white shirt beneath. I recognized the wound as soon as I saw it, even in the dark, and my confusion and horror locked together, causing my breath to catch somewhere in my chest. I had indeed seen this wound before—on dead men.
Captain Bartholomew Remus had been run through with a sword.