Supper, tasteless and cold was it on my family's tongues with father fading near. His cough grew till not a moment went by without its quake in the air.
Lyle couldn't raise his head, and Mother's eyes were empty. Only I sat at the moment, searching for a way to break the loud silence. I failed. Lyle went to bed without conquering his meal, and Mother followed. Nature would have children outlive their elders, but the drift was anything but easy.
Lucky or perhaps unlucky for me, I had work calling.
I left my family to rest while I stepped outside into the salted night air to make way for the Barrel.
"I can save him," Quill said
"I'm telling you, Bastien."
"Stop talking, or I'll bind you to a wall."
"I swear I have a way."
My nightly duties had never been such a slog before then. Quill and his annoying persistence refused to let me read in silence. I meant to come to terms with reality. I meant to ready my heart for the hour Father's spirit might leave the mortal world. With Quill, loud and stupid, peace was nowhere to be found.
Did he want my rage? Did he wish to have me up in arms? It took all of me not to abuse my power over him. So why wouldn't he shut up?
"Bastian," he repeated, and finally, I put down my book.
Only when my pages were sat on the wooden table did he finally cease his pleading for attention.
Seated in my usual wooden chair, I turned my head away from him before muttering, " out with it."
From my peripheral, I watched him release his cell bars to adjust himself.
"I know of a crew, a ship, who would take us anywhere. A woman owns it, a girl, I know well."
"Then why haven't you taken this ship? Why do you live in Jordan's city?" I remarked with rolling eyes glazed in disbelief.
He had to be lying. Turning my gaze on him directly, Quill paced the floor of his cell before he spoke again.
Stammering, he explained, "The price of a voyage is service. They wanted my service as a member of their crew indefinitely."
"And you'd be willing to pay that price now, for me, for my father?"
We spoke without filters. Indeed, by then, the other inmates knew Quill and I had a relationship beyond prisoner and Guardsman.
"What happens to me is none of your concern, Guardsman. What matters is I have a way," he argued.
"So you would break your word and disown them? How can I trust someone who plans disloyalty?"
"You're father can be saved."
"No, he can't."
I stood from my seat to approach Quill's cell.
"A voyage from Island to Island is four to five weeks minimum. Assuming your friend owns a ship at all and you can successfully perform the water steps, my father would die just as we arrived on new land. He can't be saved. It's impossible."
I assumed my sound logic would be enough to kill his optimism, but no. Quill mirrored me with a grin that said the impossible.
"You assume my friend's ship sails water like most, but it cuts through the air."
My eyes, fixed on his, couldn't part deception from insanity. I laughed, and many prisoners did as well.
"Your friend owns a flying ship," I could hardly get the words out between my jubilation.
"It's true!" Quill yelled before adding, "it's real."
I returned to my seat without further inquiry into Quill's delusion. I attempted to relinquish thought. But as the laughter subsided, the idea remained. Even if Quill's tale was a farce, he was a witch. His powers were already confirmed. He could perhaps travel beyond my known ocean and venture out into worlds beyond.
If only he hadn't stolen my Satchel. Could I blame him for my father? If his words were true, the medicine had already been lost before he plucked its box from my shoulder. My recklessness and my childish ignorance were to blame. As dumb as Quill might have been, in the end, I was a boy just as dim even with my books. But he made it no better.
Picking up my book, I was paralyzed by a sudden disturbance that rattled the spiral of the Salt Barrel.
Jumping to my feet, I ran to a window and witnessed stone falling from above to the beach and waters below. Walls began to crack, ready to dislocate from one another. I hadn't been trained for the situation. Not a cloud sat in the night sky, but thunder clapped above our heads. Who was trying to escape? Who possessed the power to crumble the Salt Barrel?
The Gods had trapped us in their territories. Ships could only travel so far before hitting what we came to know as an ocean's divide. They were large gaps between territories, between oceans, with the sole purpose of keeping mortals dependent and loyal to their Gods. If a ship tried to cross the gap, it simply fell off the water's edge into a black void of seemingly nothing. No one knew what existed in the void, and no one ever returned from its abyss.