We stayed in the cabin for one more winter, perfecting concoctions and building a vessel to carry us downstream and back to the so-called civilised world. We stocked up on minerals and herbs and seeds. I wrote a new feast ceremony for diners, extending it and adding some mysticism to make it more elaborate and believable. I readied myself and Luke for the hardship to come and we took many hikes for our health and to find new and more exotic ingredients. It was a good time in our lives. We worked hard and long hours, but we slept like kings – secure in ourselves and our ultimate goals of security and prosperity. By the time that the following thaw came Luke was a fine example of manhood, stronger and more confident than he had ever been. I was so proud to call him my brother. And I was proud for him too. We launched our vessel loaded with furs to trade and of course our stock of foods as soon as we were ready. The waters were swift, but we still had to spend several days sleeping under our boat onshore before we reached the Bay of Ferns. We had no idea where we were, but it was a beautiful and lush place. There was every walk of life represented there too. A heaving port that fed the surrounding area with all manner of goods, from foods and textiles to workers and migrants. It had been a small town one generation previous, but it was growing by the day. There were slums on the fern covered hills which swept down to the bay. With one road running along the coast, around the base of the hills and west toward the unknown distant lands where only the traders went.
Those traders, ambassadors of the exotic realms from which they came, they were fascinating people. They all shared the language of trade – hand gestures and shouts and laughter, which rang our though the entire bay. The bay itself was the naturally formed, with one large jut of land swinging south into the water for some two hundred yards, curving towards and almost meeting a smaller jut that came out form the shoreline some fifty yards. Each was twenty yards wide where they protruded from the hills, then tapered along their length to blunt ends of two to five yards across at the mouth of the bay. It was into this bay that the river on which we had travelled flowed. The two seawalls took a constant battering from the waves but were covered in people and goods at all times nonetheless. It was mesmerising to watch hard men fight the bitter waves that threatened to wash them into the sea at any moment. Luke and I sat and watched the dockworkers for hours on the first day that we arrived. But as noon fell into the evening we set about acquiring a room and then bedded down on proper mattresses for the first time in over a year. They were tattered and uneven, but they were heavenly.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey