The Tale of Captain Johne

The Eve of the Summer Solstice

The Eve of the Summer Solstice


Only two of us survived the journey that began under Britannia's sky.

And now I am alone.


* * *



We hoist our sails for Britain tomorrow, and not a day too soon. We have been harbored far too long in Lost Hope Bay, and I have begun to see why these waters have earned their name. A man's spirit dwindles here. Perhaps that is why the streets of this town overflow with the poor and the homeless. The Town of Sacrifice, they call Minoc, and rightly so.

But I should not complain. Over a dozen folk have booked passage on my frigate, the Ararat, and all are eager to reach Britain by the summer's solstice—the beginning of the Great Council and its festivities. They are mostly nondescript folk, save for the reclusive wizard, Sutek, who spends most of his nights studying the skies. 'Tis an honor to ferry a mage as young and respected as he.

I am eager to arrive in Britain as well. Even with the repairs from the Ararat's encounter with the sea serpent, I was able to save enough gold to purchase the ring that I will give Faulina. I can imagine the night when I will propose. She and I on the bow of this ship. The ring in my palm. I on my knee. The moons of the summer solstice igniting the stars above us.


* * *


"My name is Johne, Captain Johne."

A simple introduction, but I have used it since the day I first purchased the Ararat and took her to the seas, just as I used it for the man who waited patiently in the glow of a street lamp. He was tall, and despite the swells of his shirt and sleeves, his face betrayed him as a slender fellow just as his clothes betrayed his taste. Green and yellow laced his shirt, and a stained, orange cap topped his straw-colored hair. I reached the end of the gangplank and made the appearance of scrutinizing him.

"My first mate tells me that thou hast need of a ship," I said.

He removed his cap, and accompanied his greeting with a glorious and practiced bow. "Well met, Captain Johne. I am Astarol, a humble minstrel who ventures from town to town. Only last month did I travel from Yew where I entertained the courts of Judge Dryden. Now, after spending many weeks performing for the poor and wretched, I seek passage to Britain, and I have heard that thy glorious vessel can take me there."

Astarol grinned, and a mandolin, which had been concealed in the darkness, appeared in his hands. He strummed a slow, solemn tune as he spoke, "Alas! I bequeathed most of my gold to the mission at the southern end of town. I have only my stories and songs to give thee." The pace of the mandolin quickened. "But such wondrous stories and songs they are! Hear how the stranger from the strange land enlightened the darkness that was the Triad of Evil! Hear the tale of the mad mage Erstam, who rebelled against Lord British and sailed his people off the edge of the world! And finally, hear my own tale, of how I was imprisoned in the great dungeon Hythloth. Hear how I escaped with the aid of the Great Earth Serpent whom I encountered in the depths!"

From behind me came a low, dulcet voice. "'Tis doubtful that thou wert imprisoned in Hythloth, now that the dungeons are sealed."

I turned my attention to Faulina, who observed us from the edge of the ship, illuminated by the magical light of her yew staff. Raven hair cascaded beneath a tiara of emeralds, and her blue eyes shown brilliantly against her almond skin.

Astarol dropped to one knee, nearly crushing the mandolin with his bow. "Thou art correct, my Lady," he said. "I have never been to Hythloth, nor have I ever met the Great Earth Serpent. But can you fault a man for his self-adulation when he stands before a woman whose beauty glows as soft and fierce as the moongates?"

Faulina laughed and spoke to me. "This one is welcome aboard our ship. I think that I will enjoy his company." She left, the glow of her staff fading as she returned to our cabin. I watched the darkness where she once stood, then noticed Astarol regarding me with an amused twinkle in his eye. I could not help but laugh. "As the lady says, thou art welcome aboard. But thou shalt entertain my crew and our passengers morning, noon, and night. Is that clear?"

"Of course, my Captain," Astarol said, slinging the mandolin over his shoulder. Together, we strode up the plank. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders as if I had been an old friend, "I cannot thank thee enough. A compassionate soul such as I would not have lasted much longer in this town. Had I given any more gold to the homeless, I would have become a pauper myself." He glanced back at the dark rooftops of Minoc, a rueful smile on his lips. "Love and compassion," he chuckled. "It tends to drain the purse."

I thought of Faulina and the ring I bought her. "Aye," I laughed. "That it does."


* * *


Previous Page

Page 2

Table of Contents

Next page

Next Page