In the previous episode, Celia leaves Felix in the village and continues on her own through the mountains. Readers voted that she comes out at the edge of a wide sea.
After what seemed like weeks of wandering through the mountains, Celia was hungry, cold, and exhausted. She had long since finished the last delicious scraps of salted goat, and only a few crumbs of bread remained at the bottom of her bag. She looked up at the sky, willing the rain to come down and sooth her parched throat. A few streams had crossed her path, their crystal clear water bubbling invitingly, but Orion had warned her of these.
“You will pass freshwater streams;” he’d said, “they will only make you thirstier and thirstier the more you drink. You must wait until it rains, and collect the water that falls from the clouds – it is the only safe water. Don’t worry; the mountains will not let you die.”
She had learned to build fires at night, and would lie curled up next to the flickering flames. Sometimes a raven would fly overhead and she heard their raspy voices in her head telling her stories from the mountains. She felt oddly comforted by their presence, and as she fell asleep, images of ancient dangers and wise protectors swirled around in her mind.
One morning she had woken up before dawn to hike around a particularly high peak. She rounded a bend and in front of her, as far as she could see, stretched a vast ocean. Directly below she could make out a small port, miniature ships swaying in the wind. Celia caught her breath – the sea was a deep, dark blue with foamy white crests churning with life. She had never seen the ocean before. Mesmerized, Celia began her descent and managed to reach the shore before nightfall.
As she followed the rocky path along the shore she found herself parallel to a long wooden pier. Celia hid behind her mane of long black hair, wild and unkempt from the mountains, and observed the sailors readying their ships for a journey. After being alone for so long, it was jarring to hear shouts and laughter. There was no city here, just a large market for trading and supplies, a few ramshackle boarding houses, and one very old tavern. A stopover port, she thought, although she had no idea between where and where.
She reached the tavern and peered in through a dirty window. The room was alive with all manner of people talking, laughing, plotting, and dealing – scrawny deck hands eating their first hearty meal in months, a distinguished ship captain talking to a tall thin foreign-looking man with gold spectacles, a chiseled sailor roaring with laughter, his arm flexing to pick up his mug of beer and showing off the green mermaid on his bicep. Celia watched, fascinated.
She felt someone’s hand on her shoulder and whirled around to find a girl about her own age, with dirt smudged on her fair-skinned face and uneven cropped blonde hair that looked as if she’d cut it herself. She was wearing work pants and a man’s shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
“Sorry,” the girl said hurriedly, “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I haven’t seen you around here before.” Her pale blue eyes flickered to Celia’s torn silk gown. “I’m guessing you don’t work on one of the ships.”
Celia didn’t answer. After a moment the girl continued.
“Come with me.” She gestured toward the tavern door. “I’m staying upstairs here and I have something you can wear. Trust me you don’t want to be walking around in that.”
She turned and pulled the heavy wooden doors open, gesturing for Celia to go through. After a beat Celia nodded and wordlessly entered the dark tavern. The girl followed, letting the doors slam shut behind her. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.