Dunk responded by nodding his head and followed me as I worked my way up the stone staircase. The second floor was dimly lit, only a few small torches sparsely spaced throughout the room. A pentagram made fine red powder, laid on the middle of the floor. Two dead bodies were carelessly piled on top of it. I wondered if these people had been the original people that owned the tower. There was no possible way Mailk would have been able to build this tower in two days so someone must’ve lived here before we reached this island.

Two books were scattered on the floor and a small dresser sat at the back of the room. One of the books looked like a journal and the other was a book on sailing. The handwriting in the journal was messy but I was able to make out some of the words in the book.

It read:

Day 1,

The island is small, without the necessary resources to make it back to the mainland. So far our stay here looks permanent, exiled by the mage council over our involvement in the mental altering scandal. After talking to the others, our outlook on the verdict is that is unjust since we had no involvement on the clinical side of the scandal. Those involved kept tight control of the information of what was truly happening. Only I had any semblance of what was going on but it was a vague understanding at best. All of that is in the past now. What matters is finding shelter and food, this topic will be further addressed once situated.

Captain of Red Fox Guard, Julius”

I swiveled my head as fingers touched my back. I was still slightly paranoid after the conflict. My muscles loosened when I saw it was just Dunk trying to get my attention. I closed the journal, still grasping it in my hand.

“I searched the dresser. I found two rings, one gold, and one silver. They have writing engraved on them from a language I’ve never seen before. I also saw a quill in there with some ink but I figured it wouldn’t be worth taking.”

Dunk handed me one of the rings. It was large for a ring but still was too small for my fat fingers so I handed it back to Dunk. He’d get more use out of the rings than me.

We headed back through the forest we’d come from. It took a while to reach the shore but eventually, Captain Pickford’s humble ship came into view. Two figures stood on top of the ship, looking into the forest. I waved at Captain Pickford and Eyes, who waved back.

Dunk and I watched as their rowboat slowly made its way across the pristine turquoise blue water that sparkled as the rays of sun hit it.

The rest of my time on the ship was uneventful. Dunk explained the situation to Captain Pickford who didn’t ask any questions. I couldn’t tell whether he just didn’t care what happened to them or just decided to mind his own business. I had many questions that I hoped the journal I found would answer. I had trouble flipping through the pages on my own so Eyes helped me get to the page I wanted to read.

I hadn’t learned much from the journal entries during the voyage. I had gotten through a quarter of the entries. Most just told of everyday survival and the challenges that the mercenary group had to go through, only the occasional disdain the writer had toward wizards struck me as noteworthy. Whatever event that had taken place between the wizards and the mercenary crew had caused bad blood between them.

Now that Mark was gone, Captain Pickford relied on me more to help with the sailing. I didn’t mind. There wasn’t much to do on the ship so working made the time pass faster. The oceans were calm so it wasn’t long before we’d reached the other end of the endless lake.

Another small fishing village greeted us that was not much different than the previous one. The buildings were moved around a bit and the dock was smaller but other than that they still looked identical. People were walking up and down the dock carrying everything from nets to fish to barrels filled with who knows what.

I watched as Eyes and Dunk struggled to lift the anchor over the side of the ship. I had asked if they needed any help but they refused. Eyes said they wouldn’t have a job if they stood around and did nothing.

“Well, it looks like we’ll split ways for some time. I’m not gonna ask where you’re headed. None of my business really. Just make sure you make it back to the docks in three weeks. That’s how long those two maniacs paid for my service.” said Captain Pickford.

I was startled when I heard the Captain's calm tone. This wasn’t the same person who’d been screaming at his crew and me like we were worthless scoundrels. I didn’t mind the change, maybe I’d see more of this type of Captain on the return trip. I was looking forward to some peace and quiet alone on the open road.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been alone with only my thoughts to keep me company. With no one around to help me, I knew that bringing my mysterious journal would be pointless. I had nowhere to put it and no one to flip through its delicate pages so I gave it to Captain Pickford to safe keep. If I didn’t make it back in time, I figured I’d have larger problems than losing my journal.

I waved goodbye to the sailors before I was reunited with solid ground beneath my feet. I relished the sturdy ground that didn’t sway back and forth. It was reliable. I wouldn’t have to worry about drowning on dry land.


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