What Lies Beyond: Chapter 2

The sun was high in the sky when Corsair’s ship pulled into port. As he gave the order to tie down the ship, Corsair caught sight of a commotion farther up the dock. A short, skinny man was being accosted by three ruffians.
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay home today”, said the one with the big nose and flat chin.
We wouldn’t want you to be involved in an… accident”, the fat one snarled.
The smaller man backed away. “Please… just leave me alone!”, he cried, almost literally.
The third man was winding back to hit him when Corsair stepped between them. “What seems to be the trouble, gentlemen?” he asked nonchalantly.
Who the hell are you?” barked the fat man.
Who cares”, said the lanky one, clearly still eager to punch someone. “we’ll show him to mind his own business”.
The lanky man took a great swing at Corsair, but Corsair was too quick for him, ducking right under his hook and sweeping out his legs. The lanky man fell sideways off the dock and into the water with an undignified splash.
Corsair stood back up in time to see the fat man charging at him, but a short step to the side and a little nudge sent the fat man into the water as well. The lanky man was just barely able to avoid being flattened, but he was completely drenched by the resulting explosion of water. The third man with the big nose thought better of trying his luck, and ran off toward the harbour as his two accomplishes slowly began to swim back towards land. “This isn’t over, kid!” cried one of them, but he could scarcely be heard as the fat man floundered about, splashing and kicking every which way.

Are you all right?”, Corsair asked the shorter man, after they had gone.
Yes, thank you, mister”, the short man replied. He was still trembling a little, but seemed unhurt.
Why were they after you?”, asked Cross, appearing behind them. “Sorry I missed all the excitement, but someone had to make sure the ship didn’t float away.”
Because of the big boat race today”, he said, timidly, “I might not look strong, but I’m a good rower, and my family needs the prize money or we’re going to lose our house. Unfortunately, they’ve already scared off my teammates…” Suddenly, his voice picked up. “Hey, mister, you and your friend came in on that big ship, right? I bet you must be pretty good at rowing yourselves! Would you help me win the race?”
If your pals there row as poorly as they swim, I’d say we’ve won already”. Corsair pointed the fat man, who still had yet to reach the shore. The short man laughed, and they shook hands. Together, the three of them walked down the dock towards the harbour.

Towards the east end of the harbour a large crowd had gathered along the edge of the pier. The race had already been set up, and various participants were milling about along the dock that was to serve as the starting point. It was not hard to spot the three from before, as two of them were still dripping wet. “Hey kid,” said the one with the big nose, “it doesn’t matter who you found as a replacement, we’re still gonna crush ya.” The other two quickly turned away once they caught a glimpse of Corsair, and remained silent. “Our boat is the last one”, said the short man, and he lead them to the edge of the dock where his boat was tied. With their new friend in front, Cross in the middle, and Corsair in the back, they paddled up to the starting line along with the rest of the boats. The only one left on the starting dock now was the starter, holding his pistol in the air.

The starter’s pistol rang out loud and clear, and the boats took off. Corsair and Cross weren't used to racing and had a poor start, but the little stranger was as adept as he claimed, and they quickly found themselves pulling away from most of the other boats. Corsair turned his head briefly to glance at their competition – the two teams closest to the pier were ahead of them, with most of the rest of the rest of the boats falling back. None so far as their aggressors, though, who seemed to have lost an oar and were rowing in a zigzagging pattern and cursing each other. Corsair chuckled to himself and drove his oars harder, rowing with all his might. The boat closest to the pier began to fall back, and they pulled even with the lead boat. Corsair knew they were traveling fastest, and neither of his companions showed any sign of slowing down. He could practically taste their victory…

Russell!” came a shout from the crowd gathered on the pier. Instinctively, Corsair turned towards the sound, but amidst the great throng that had gathered to watch the race he could not possibly determine the speaker. “RUSSELL!!” cried the same woman again, much more louder and more insistent. This time, Corsair turned the other way, towards the ocean, and he immediately understood the source of the woman’s distress. A giant wave was bearing down upon them, it must have been at least fifty feet high. Corsair did not even have time to warn the others before the wall of water swept over them.

Their boat capsized instantly and was swept away by the giant wave. Corsair fought his way to the surface just in time to see the wave crash upon the harbour. The entire harbour and the city beyond were claimed by the sea in an instant, and as the giant wave passed and the waters grew still there was no sign that they had ever been there. Corsair searched about frantically, but there was no sign of the stranger or anyone else, only the ocean and his ship remained, and the sky above was rapidly growing dark and stormy. Suddenly, Cross’s head popped out of the water a short distance away, coughing and sputtering. “We have to get back to the ship!”, he yelled, but Cross was barely moving.. Grabbing Cross by the arm, Corsair swam with all of his remaining strength towards the ship. The sea was pitch black now, and Corsair could barely keep his head above the water. He closed his eyes and thought of Sister as he drove his arm forward for the final time…


Corsair’s entire face exploded with sharp, tingling discomfort. His vision was blurred, but he could see a silhouette against the night sky. He realized he was lying down, and as his focus returned, he could see Sabre kneeling over him, holding a bucket.

You two cut it way too close this time”, she said disapprovingly, putting the bucket down beside him.
It all happened so fast” said Cross, to Corsair’s right. His voice sounded weak, but Corsair was relieved to hear it. “A giant wall of water washed everything away in an instant. We had no warning”.
Corsair tried to pull himself up, but his arms would not respond. “Keep sailing northwest”, he said, weakly.
What kind of thing to say is that, after what you’ve just been through?” She leaved forward and lifted him up into a sitting position. His body felt like it was made of stone, and he very nearly toppled back down to the deck. “You should regain your own strength before you go on worrying about others”, she chided him. Nevertheless, she disappeared from view.

With great effort, Corsair turned his head towards Cross, who was also sitting up with some difficulty. “Thank you”, he said, “I thought I was a goner back there.”
I can't believe such a giant wave could get right behind us without us hearing it”, Corsair said, trying to knock some of the water out of his ears.
Cross shook his head a little. “I could barely hear anything over the sound of that woman shouting.”
Yeah, I wonder what that was about? I'm pretty sure that wave wasn't there until that started. Do you think she was trying to warn us, or maybe she created that wave somehow?”
I don't know, and I don't think it really matters. We're lucky we made it back here at all. It's another reminder of just how dangerous these adventures can be.”
Corsair said nothing, he was looking past Cross into the night sky. This was not the first close call they had faced, and it would not be the last. But what would have happened if he had been a little slower? Would Sister have made it if it happened to her?
Sabre returned. “We have a guest”, she said, disapprovingly.

Somehow Corsair found his way to his feet. He really didn’t feel up to facing Lay again, and he was desperately trying to come up with an excuse to get rid of her. Perhaps he’d tell her that he had to update his journal, but she wouldn’t appreciate why that was important. Or maybe he’d tell her that his crew had barely made it back and needed his attention, but then she’d accuse him of being irresponsible or bring up Sister again. He was wracking his brain for another excuse, but he was too worn out to think clearly. However, he didn’t need it, “Good evening, Corsair,” came a man’s voice, “how have you been?”

In stark contrast to Corsair’s bedraggled appearance, Captain Pack was as prim and proper as if he never left his ship, and sometimes Corsair wondered if he ever did. His grey fur was trimmed short and tidy, his whiskers were perfectly straight and all the same length, and his dark grey nose was so shiny it must have been polished. He was not as tall or broad-shouldered as Corsair, and a little pudgy around the middle, but one had to give credit to his consistency – He looked exactly the same every time Corsair saw him.

I’ve been doing well, myself”, Pack offered, answering the expected response Corsair hadn't yet given. “My crew as well, they’ve been completing their duties quickly and without incident.” He paused a moment, noticing Corsair's current condition. “It's what we all strive for, eh?”
I suppose that might be nice.” Corsair said, dryly. His arms still felt like they were about to fall off. He tried to clench his right paw, but a sharp pain shot up his arm. He remained still.
Indeed so”, Pack continued, “it’s best to keep your head down and stay out of trouble. The alternative is simply dreadful”.
No one knows what the alternative is. Not truly”.
Those who know can never tell their tale”, he said, betraying a hint of something buried beneath his jolly demeanor. “I've seen what happens when people get too close, that’s enough for me.”
Corsair had to admit that he was right. The thought of Sister going through what he experienced tonight was bad enough, let alone whatever might happen if she hadn't made it back to her ship. “I think Sister might be in trouble”, he said. “I’m trying to find her”.
Oh, is that how it happened?” Pack replied, sounding both exasperated and annoyed. “Honestly Corsair, deviating from the program only leads to pain and problems, you know that better than anyone. I know you want to help, but we just have to be patient and hope she comes back safe and sound.” His voice softened, he had some sympathy for Corsair's plight: “Don't worry, she'll pull through. I’ll hope for her as well, so please don’t do anything you'll regret.” He put a paw on Corsair’s shoulder.
I’m sorry about Lapse”, said Corsair, lifting his paw away. “I know you tried. But I have to try, too.” Pack looked hurt. “She’d do the same for me”.
His lips quivered as though he was going to say something, but he turned away. “Then I will hope for you too, my friend", he muttered, walking back to his own ship with his head drooped.

With his strength mostly returned, Corsair returned to the helm. He hoisted the sails and corrected the ship's course. Cross was not around to monitor the ship’s course, but Corsair saw no reason to trouble him. Their destination was still a long way’s off, and he needed time to recover from their ordeal. With a last glance out across the night sky, Corsair descended the steps to his cabin.

Inside, Corsair glanced into his mirror and laughed aloud. He was not usually well-groomed, but tonight he looked especially disheveled. The water Sabre had poured over his head had pulled all the fur on his face towards the back of his head, like he had been caught in a very strong wind. His whiskers had all drooped downward, he had a lump on his forehead above his left eye, and his eyes themselves were almost completely red. “No wonder Pack was worried about me”, he thought, jovially, “I wonder how he managed to keep a straight face.” Corsair took a moment to fix his fur and straighten his whiskers. With his features halfway-rearranged to his satisfaction, he flopped down into his chair, suddenly exhausted. He knew he needed to update his journal, but for a long while he merely stared blankly at the wall of his cabin. When he finally found the strength to pick up his quill, he found that his recollection of the stranger he met earlier had almost completely faded. The man had been short, that much he remembered, but he could not say for certain what the man had worn, or what his face had looked like. He sighed. So many of his journal entries had been vague. He flipped through the book briefly, hoping to find something, then put it away. He knew he should go back to the deck, but he didn’t feel quite up to it yet. A little longer in his chair couldn’t hurt…

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