Monday, June 13

River Funeral

The River Guards won't let us bring the bodies into the city. Carabos, by ancient law, can hold no corpses. This is, I am told, to discourage necromancers. That school of magic is out of favor since the wars, but back in the bad old days, they had a stranglehold over the government. It's ancient politics.
When these old days were, precisely, is unclear to me. I've heard this from the captain in fits and starts as he was getting the deck ready for the funerals. In any case, back then, the body traders were everywhere. The crypt-raiders ruled, and the resurrectionists openly peddled influence. Needless to say, you couldn't spit without hitting a zombie. (his words, not mine.) It was decades and three popular uprisings before they were pushed out of the city. They still ply their dubious trades a mile or so outside the city proper. The captain was adamant that we see to the bodies before then. He lost (x) good men on his crew, and even he didn't wish reanimation on his enemies. I just see another sign of the dangers of this place. Was this really such a good idea?
Hilda meditated this morning, but she simply didn't have enough, I don't know what to call it, holy power? Guidance? to purify all of the remains. I guess spiritual magic would be the phrase. If it does differ from the arcane arts of the mages. Revival is likewise out of the question. Even if she had the power to pull that kind of favor down, it has its own costs.
With no other options, the captain determined that we were going to give them a burial in the river. One of the lifeboats, which was undamaged in the attack, and it was used as the bower for the ceremony. First, it was brought down and arranged at the side of the deck. Then, everyone was laid down inside of it. Tina, three of the sailors, and the four pirates who were left behind. They were just laying them out when it struck me that this was my work. That I had killed two of those men. They were dead because of me. I reminded myself that every deed has a cost, and that killing them saved us. Watching Tina's lifeless form, I thought that inaction is just as costly. Again, I silently cursed the Magus for his weakness, and wished that somehow Mr. K had stayed on. He would have done something, I'm sure.
The Magus is still on deck, acting as though nothing is wrong, as though his cowardice hadn't left those people to their deaths, as though his inaction hadn't killed Tina. I really hope that among the teaching staff he is the exception, not the rule. She wasn't in his care, but with a wave of his hand, he scattered those slavers. The pirates wouldn't have been a greater challenge. His level of power demands respect, but it comes with the burden of using it to protect the weak. Otherwise, what's the point? You've got to be honest about the big things. It's what makes all the little lies, the harmless self-promotion, alright. It's what makes you a hero instead of a thief.
The eight bodies just barely fit into the boat, with Tina's small, bird-like frame at one end. They were each wrapped in a shroud, made of their cloaks, or in the pirates' cases, blankets, with only their faces exposed. Hilda said prayers over each of them, though the ones over Tina were the most solemn, and slow. She placed on each one a sheet inscribed with Dwarven runes, to name them and guide their way in the afterlife. A pair of silver coins were laid over their eyes, to pay their passage. Flowers, what could be found, were arranged at their heads, and branches and cinnamon bark was arranged at their feet. Captain Pitt eulogized each of his crew, and weapons, if they had them, were placed with them. Hilda said more prayers, and talked a bit about Tina, whom she had known very briefly, but was the most prepared. Melody played her travel-harp, and the Magus sang an elven song. It was slow, and sad, and sweet, and for a moment, though I didn't understand the words, it made me forget everything that had transpired, and I was united in deep genuine grief with him. He touched each of the piles of cinnamon, and the boat began to burn. As the song finished, they lowered the boat into the water, and we stood and watched those we had lost fade into smoke and flame. Soon, I couldn't find Tina in the ashes anymore, and she was gone. I hadn't really known her for a day, and I was surprised to find myself crying. I made it a rule never to be seen crying, but then, it was alright. I stood with the four of them and mourned the friend I'd never have.
The Magus continued to sing, as the boat broke apart and eventually sank, even though Melody had finished. I was surprised when after a moment, his voice was joined by two others, as high as his was deep, and as filled with sorrow. A pair of figures were swimming in the water, and as they easily treaded the water, they sang out in clear voices. They resembled elves, but with bluish-green skin and long silver hair. Their necks had straining gills on the side, but in the brown water of the river, and they dressed in a soft fabric that billowed out from them like seaweed. Every move they made seemed to carry with it unnatural grace. After they finished singing, they spoke with the Magus for quite a while after the funeral. I couldn't follow their conversation, but I heard the word Peredhil several times, which I think means Half-elf in their tongue. the captain greeted the two humbly, and in perfect unison, they gave a perfect flip in the water, but said nothing to him. He was satisfied, so I took it for a bow or courtesy. The Magus gestured to Gloria and I several times, and the pair stretched curiously out of the water, exposing patches of silver scales that were either natural, or some sort of underwater jewelery. They whispered something to each other, and giggled like schoolgirls. The Magus looked embarrassed, whatever they said. In time, the boat sank, and the two Sea Elves, or I suppose River Elves, departed. We rounded a bend in the river, and came face to face with the City of Carabien.
The grey concrete towers reached for and were lost in the low-clinging rainbow smoke that hung over the city. Dawn light, weakly sparkled through it, leaving no shadows. On we wound our way forward through the strange, decadent outskirts towards the harbor. The river was filled with tiny boats selling, it seemed, just about anything, and on the shore, all manner of questionable businesses thumbed their noses as the river guards' patrols. It was a lively chaos, and I reveled in it.
I had traveled far, to a strange country. I felt sorry for Tina, she never saw this spectacle. I wonder what she would have made of it. The boat ignored the hawkers, and indeed nearly broke one of them apart, but we pushed forward into the city, past the towering concrete cliffs that the Captain called 'elevators' and into the busy harbor. We somehow made it!

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