As he drifted into the sea of his own mind, Theodas felt a soft breeze in his hair and smelled the bittersweet odour of seaweed, salt and stone.
The sea… Theodas did not want to think about the sea… He knew only too well where this memory would take him; through a door, he had opened long ago and did not wish to open ever again.
Theodas tried to open his eyes, but his body would not respond to him. He was too deep in his trance now, there was no turning back.
Theodas was looking to the end of the pier. The moonlight was shining dimly over an ink sea. The stars were shining above him like billions of lighthouses in an ocean of darkness. The waves were crashing on the white sand just like last time he had been there… with Ranala.
They had seen each other many times before she left. They knew that they would have to part soon but chose to ignore it. When he was with her, nothing seemed to matter anymore. The sun was always shining, and the air was still warm. Flowers were blooming in her eyes, and her smile was glowing with happiness.
On the last day, they had walked along the beach to the pier… hand in hand. They had never told each other how they felt, but somehow both of them knew. Theodas assumed that was real love: not having to name it to feel it.
They had walked alone together, like any other couple, until she had taken him to the end of the pier. She sat down with him and turned her eyes to the horizon. She pointed to the end of the world.
“This is where I live… Beyond the clouds and sun…”
Theodas had looked to where she was pointing and saw nothing but sky and sea. He could not imagine that she would be so far away from him that he would probably never see her again.
“Couldn’t you stay?”, asked Theodas with hope.
“My life is there, Theo. My adventure here has come to an end…”, she answered as she turned her gaze to the water beneath them.
“Your life could be here too… I… I could be your life.”
Ranala had turned to Theodas and looked at him. A tear appeared in her eye, but her face lightened up with a smile.
“I know. If it were different, I would say yes. I deeply want to say yes…”, she started.
“But you won’t.”, ended Theodas.
She shook her head.
“I have a duty to Tymora. To my family… I have to go back to them.”, Ranala said with a saddened voice.
Theodas nodded. He knew this would have happened, but he had to try.
“I love you, Theodas.”
Theodas turned his head to Ranala. His surprise was clearly shown on his face. He never expected her to say anything like that.
“I love you, Ranala.”
Ranala had smiled then… Not the smile she used to have with him before… This was happiness he was seeing. True happiness… True love…
They had kissed there. Their first kiss. Hesitant and fragile. When her lips met his, he trembled slightly. He had brushed her hair over her ear as she had rested her hand on his shoulder. Those few seconds had seemed to last a lifetime to them. But it had been too short as well.
When they had broken their embrace, they had looked at each other and smiled again.
“It is now or never, Theo!”, Laucian had said that night on the pier.
Theodas had dismounted from his horse. They had ridden all night in all haste. Time was against them, and the guards were not far behind.
Thamior was still on his horse, wearing his armour of the city guard. He towered over Laucian and Theodas both and looked down at them, an expression of anxiety in his eyes.
“I’ll try to slow them down. Give them a false direction or two, but they might be untrusting of me. They know that I am your brother, Theo”, Thamior had said.
Laucian was unloading the cart as Birel came onto the pier with three of her crewmembers, massive piles of muscles and tattoos that seemed to have more pirate blood in them than the regular sailors.
“Are you sure they are after me?”, Theodas had asked.
“They asked for you by name. They interrogated me. I don’t know what they want from you, but it’s bad. Very bad… Bad enough for them to send the whole garrison after you!”, Thamior had answered.
This had not been the answer Theodas wanted. He did not know what answer he had wanted to hear.
“But I did nothing wrong! You know that, right?!”
Laucian turned to Thamior, sweat dripping from his hair from the riding.
“Theodas is no criminal! I know criminals, and I can swear in front of any jury that he’s clean! I’ll swear it on my head!”, Laucian had lashed out.
“The trouble is they won’t listen to us, brother. They are out for blood. They mean to take Theo’s head and then they’ll think on if he had anything to reproach himself with.”, Thamior said with a dark tone. “We have no choice Theodas. You have to go for now! We’ll do everything to bring you back as soon as possible.”
Theodas nodded, but his eyes were full of tears. He did not want to leave. His place was here with his family.
Thamior leaned down and took Theodas hand in his.
“We will see each other soon, big brother.”, he had said with a broken voice. “I love you so much!”
“I love you too, little brother!”, Theodas answered with tears in his voice.
Thamior let go of his hand and turned his horse around. He rode back the way they had come without a look behind. Theodas looked at the figure of his brother disappearing in the darkness of the night when Birel took him by the shoulder.
“Theo, we have to go with the tide. Say your goodbyes quickly and then we’re on.”, she urged.
Theodas wiped his tears with his hand and nodded. He turned to Laucian who was giving the last of the packages and bags to the sailors.
“This is the time to say goodbye, Laucian.”, Theodas said.
Laucian turned to Theodas and hugged him fiercely.
“You’ll beat this, Theo. You’re my blood, and we always come back!”, he had said in his embrace. “Don’t do anything stupid while you’re away! Go find that girl and wait with her. It’ll be less of a trial with a friend by your side.”
“I will. Stay safe, okay?”, Theodas said. “You take care of Drusillia for me.”
“Like she was my sister…”, Laucian said with a small smile.
Theodas smiled slightly. He was grateful for that smile. It gave him courage.
He turned to the boat waiting at the end of the pier, slowly rocking with the waves. Birel was waiting in front of it with another sailor. He was only a few feet away when he heard her.
“THEO!”, she had shouted.
Theodas turned around and saw Althaea and Drusillia. She was running at him, her long wild hair floating in the wind like a sunset. She tackled and hugged him fiercely, crying in his clothes.
“Don’t go… Please! Don’t go!”, she begged, sobbing.
Theodas took her in his arms and hugged her fiercely. Althaea came up to them. She had been crying too he saw, but she was being strong for Drusillia… and for him. Both of them were wearing dark cloaks to conceal them in the night.
“I don’t want you to go, Theo.”, Drusillia had begged.
“I have no choice, little one.”, Theodas answered. “You know I don’t want to go.”
“Then don’t! Hide here in the forest or anywhere but stay, I beg you!”, Drusillia said, crying.
It was making everything so complicated. The guards were not far, the tide would not last forever… He had to go. But he could not leave her… not like this.
“The Gods have destined me to go, but they will bring me back. I know they will… ”, Theodas said.
He placed his hand on her chest, just over her heart. He could feel the furious beating of her fear and despair, almost breaking his own heart.
“And I will never truly leave you. I will always remain there, safe from harm…”, he added.
He took his dagger and cut a lock of his hair with one swift movement. Putting back the blade in his belt, he gave the hair to Drusillia.
“You are my darling sister, and I love you. I will come back, I promise.”, Theodas had said.
“You promise?”, Drusillia said with tears in her eyes.
Theodas nodded and wiped the tears off her face with his hand. Althaea was crying silently behind her.
“Promise me you will find mother and father. You will bring them back with you.”, Drusillia had said. “Promise me…”
Theodas had looked right into her eyes and smiled.
Drusillia had smiled then. Her eyes lightened up behind the curtain of tears. She kissed him on the cheek and hugged him fiercely one last time.
“We have to go NOW!”, Birel urged behind him. “They’re here!”
Theodas looked to the horizon behind his sisters. Torches could be seen in the distance. The guards… They were there already.
He turned to Althaea and took her hand in his. He had so much to say to her but so little time. He felt like he would forget everything he wanted to say…
“I will come back! I will!”, he just said.
“I know… We’ll wait for you. Go, now!”, she had answered in a broken voice.
He had hugged her fiercely as tears ran onto his cheeks. Their embrace lasted for only a few seconds, but it had meant the world to him. He was leaving home, maybe forever…
Theodas looked at the shore moving away from him. Small shadows were standing on the pier. He could not keep the tears from falling on his cheeks… Not anymore.
He loved them… He loved them…
“I promise”, he whispered in his breath.
The wind blew into the sail, and the ship steered into the mist. The shore disappeared forever, taking away his family, his home, his dreams…
Moving on a sea of ink, this ship was taking him far away… Never to be seen again.