Chapter 2.2

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Ward woke suddenly during his first night at sea. He was parched with thirst. Pulling on his clothes, he crept out of his compartment and down a narrow passage to the hold where the water barrels were kept. He turned the tap on the nearest barrel and drank straight from it. The water was like ice. Fully awake now, he climbed a ladder to the deck.

There was no moon outside: the only light came from the stars, the navigation lamps, and the wheelhouse lanthorn. The deck seemed empty.

He went to the side of the ship. Clinging to the rigging he urinated over the side into the sea as he had seen the sailors do. Then he moved towards the stern, huddling in the cold wind. He had not thought to put his shoes on when he had woken, and moved silently across the deck, hidden in shadows. As he passed the wheelhouse he heard voices. He ducked down to listen.

"... do with him?" The Captain was silhouetted in the lamplight. His voice was deep, at odds with his red appearance - Ward had almost expected him to squeal like a kettle.

"The Western Marches." This was Corvus. "Healthy ones are sought-after."

"They don't stay healthy long down in the mines."

"True. It's a shame. I can't say I didn't consider keeping him as my own."

The Captain went silent. Ward got the sense that Corvus had said something the Captain disliked. There was a rattling sound. Corvus said, "Now Ludwig," and the rattling stopped.

"I never seen one of them take to a human bean before," the Captain said.

"It's nothing but the promise of food and a warm place to sleep. Animals have simple wants, unlike people."

"Still..."

"We'll leave it to the Brotherhood to draw hasty conclusions."

"It's nothing to me," the Captain said, but all the warmth had gone out of his voice.

"I'd better get some rest," Corvus said. "Good night."

The Captain grunted in reply.

Ward crept away from the wheelhouse and returned to his cabin. He lay awake for a long time in the bunk, his mind racing, and eventually fell into an uneasy sleep.


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