Vela Natura

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Vela Natura Velella velellaA name is not an idle whim.  A name can be mighty or ruinous.  A name can exalt.  Or it can curse.  A name can hold one still.  Or it can transform.

Vela Valora was the sailor’s name.  Her family was not particularly wealthy.  And while they were noble in spirit, they were not noble in blood.  But House Valora was—as Vela sought to be—courageous, loyal, honorable, and strong.  Vela had never known need or poverty or true sickness.  She had been taught kindness and charity by a mother and father who practiced kindness and charity.  But Vela was young in those days.  Her simple understanding of charity was that she, as the giver of aid, must be superior in some way to those who were the receivers of aid.  She had a heart, but it was a proud one.

She was proud of her heritage and longed for the day her name would earn its place among the records of heroes and adventurers and champions in House Valora.

She entered and won many contests in her youth for prowess in strength of both body and mind.  She accepted and failed many challenges, learned from her failures, and accepted and won many challenges.  She loved the sea and became a sailor, and soon had her own vessel, a small and swift ship of exploration.  For many years she sailed the many seas of the surrounding districts and brought back knowledge and treasure.  Once, she brought back illness and while the healers were able to heal those who fell ill on her crew and keep the illness from spreading to the township, Vela learned to be wary.  She made friends.  She made enemies.  She made a name for herself.

But so had many in her House.  Vela wanted an adventure that would fix her name in the minds and hearts of her people.  And better still in the chronicles of her district, Redhaven.

 ***

 In those days, there was an illness plaguing Redhaven and the surrounding districts.  The healers could find no remedy and many begin to die.  Those who survived were disfigured.  Some were left blind.  Some lost a limb.  The Weep, it was named, for the first sign of illness was the tears that would stream, unbidden, from the eyes of those who were stricken.

The best the healers could do to ease the suffering of those who had the Weep was to bandage wounds, give draughts to aid sleep, tinctures to relieve pain, and creams to sooth the welts and wounds of the flesh.  The best the healers could do to prevent the Weep from spreading was to keep the sick away from the hale.  The healers too succumbed to the Weep.  Word spread to other lands of the plague.  Ships would not land in the district’s harbors.  Redhaven’s vessels were likewise not permitted to land in far harbors.  There was no trade.  There were no visitors.  Before too long, there would be no hope.

Rumors reached the oligarchic rulers of Redhaven about a land where there grew a weed, a wildflower with healing powers so complete that the people of the land never grew ill and lived lives that were far longer than their natural span.  There was no map to this fabled land.  Rumors gave only a direction.  East.

The Oligarchs held a great counsel, which it seemed, everyone in Redhaven attended.  All of the district’s present woes came from the Weep.  The Oligarchs discussed what could be done to save their people, those who were ill, and those who feared they would be next.  Neighbor was turning against neighbor.  Those who wept out of joy or grief were met with suspicion.  A few other districts had made the attempt to send out ships to try and find the land that rumor spoke of.  The healers debated over placing faith in the whisper of a rumor, and hope in a hopeless endeavor.  The priests and priestesses advised consulting the ancestors for guidance and praying to the gods for mercy.

In the midst of the counsel, there came forth some who offered to undertake the journey, the quest to find the miracle wildflower.  Three captains came forward.

The first was Vela Valora.

While the other two captains looked grim and resolved, Vela looked as she felt, excited and eager.  The Weep had not touched her family or any else she held dear.  She had never even seen the afflicted.  She had never seen the man who once sold her sweets lose the sight in his right eye and the hearing in his ear when the Weep corroded his face.  She had never watched a healer wash the crusty rash on the back of the mother who had to leave her young babes to live in the mountains beyond the district.  The Weep was an unseen foe, an obstacle, a challenge for Vela and her fellow captains to meet.  But the true challenge was this rumored land.  At first, Vela had taken it to be the storied land where the dead lay their feet upon the earth for the last time before passing into the next world.  But then vague rumors became promising details when a traveler came to port bearing proof of the healing weed.  He had but a withered petal. Some said he had little more.  But when he spoke of traveling past a stair that looked to be made for giants and a tunnel so dark and vast that he feared their vessel would be trapped in starless night for eternity, the captains of the seaside district took heed.

“If you find this land,” the traveler told them, “a land covered in fog and sharp stones that look like a starry night sky, you will find what you are looking for.”  He shook the hands of each captain and bid them farewell, for it was on his word that they left behind all they knew and cherished for a journey through distant waters on a shadowy quest.

The journey would be a long and dangerous one, though Vela’s vessel was solid and true.  It was named the Mazarine, for the ship had a sail that was deep blue, the color of her house.  Her ship was the smallest of the three that set sail.  Vela was mindful of her journey’s purpose, but she considered it secondary to showing off her prowess as a sailor and adventurer.  She secretly hoped to best her mother and father, who had grand accomplishments in their pasts both before and after they wed, accomplishments that were recorded in the Book of House Valor.

***

The sailing was fair to begin with, and then the vessels encountered storms and rough waters.  The crew of the Mazarine bore these well with skill and with luck.  They all would be sailing farther than ever they had sailed before and seeing unfamiliar sights.  But every sailor knew the tale of the Giants’ Stair.  Once, it was said, there were giants upon the earth.  They became dissatisfied with the gods who managed all mortals.  The giants called the gods down to battle for dominion over the earth and over the heavens.  The gods did not come.  So it was said that the giants built a great stair that reached up past the stars to the realm of the heavens.  A great battle ensued.  The giants were defeated, driven back down to earth, their stair shattered by the angry gods.  What the traveler had spoken of with awe was only the ruins of that once-great Stair.  Every sailor knew as well the story of the Tunnel Eternal.  The tales said it was once the burrow of a great sea serpent who lived at the beginning of the world.

The three ships kept in sight of each other in the first months of the voyage.  Soon, one of the ships, the North Star, pulled ahead of the Mazarine, while the other, the massive Seacastle, fell behind.  All three came upon the Giants’ Stair.  The stones were massive.  They formed what seemed a wall upon the sea.  When Vela looked to the north and to south, she could not see the end of the stair, even through the far-seeing scopes.  Tall and vast, the structure might have been mistaken for a mountain range from a distance, but closer Vela saw that the rock faces were smooth and even.  Even broken, the shape of a stair could be seen.  Most of the first three steps, bits of the fourth, and perhaps fifth stair remained.  The Giants’ Stair was indeed a ruin, however, and there were gaps large enough to let vessels through.  The ships headed toward the closest gap, but it was soon apparent that the Seacastle would not fit.  The captain of that ship changed course to search for another gap.

Vela wished them luck and safe harbor.  But she also wasted no time in surging ahead of a rival.  Nor did she fail to congratulate herself for having a small vessel, though there was no skill in that.  The gap was large enough for Vela to see that it passed all the way through the Stair.  But there were high winds in the region.  And pieces of the ruin, worn away by wind and water, would break off and splash into the ocean below.  Both remaining ships lowered their sails and navigated through the gap on oars and prayers.  When the North Star was struck by a falling rock the size of a man, the crew of the Mazarine called out to them to offer assistance.  But the North Star and its crew recovered and called back their thanks and their condition.  Vela was grateful for her pilot and proud that he had steered the Mazarine safely.  But she saw the constant rain of rock and knew that it was luck and skill both that had spared them.  Soon, they too were struck.  And the North Star called out to them.  But the Mazarine too survived the blow with no crewmate injured and no irreparable damage.  When both ships finally passed clear of the Stair after a few hours, both crews burst out in relieved shouting and laughing.  The pilots of both ships had earned the praise and cheer they received at the evening meals that night.

Both ships again unfurled their sails.  For many days they sailed and Vela almost forgot why they sailed.  She was only glad to be on the ocean and happy to see the blue sail of her vessel billow in the fair winds.  Her good cheer spread to the crew and they spent their days in hard work and their nights in song and well-earned sleep.  They caught fish and told grandiose tales.  They spoke of finding wonders in the faraway lands.  They teased each other about finding dangers as well.  The ships had sailed beyond the lands that knew of the Weep.  They were sure of it.  So they were not likely to be denied port if they should find it.

But it was not port they found next.  It was what could only be the Tunnel Eternal.  There was a vast chain of mountains before them.  Rugged and jagged mountains, nothing like the smooth and ordered stone of the Giants’ Stair.  So vast was the tunnel that the vague directions the traveler had given them to go east in the earth’s girdle was direction enough to find it.

Vela did not think such a wide tunnel—wide enough to let pass a fleet of ships side by side and near as high—could ever be devoid of light.  But she was soon to find out that she was wrong.

Once again, they furled their sails.  The Mazarine entered second, sailing as close to the tunnel wall as they dared.  Within moments of sailing into the tunnel, they were surrounded by a pitch black, save for one point of light.  It was the torches on the North Star.  Vela ordered that their torches be lit too.  She cautioned the crew to assure that they sail ahead and follow the curve of the tunnel wall.  But they could no longer see the tunnel wall even with all torches lit.  And they could not risk trying to come closer now, for they had no signs to guide them.  They had only the ship ahead.  Onward they sailed.  They could not know how long the tunnel would truly be.  The traveler told them it would take a fortnight to cross unless they became lost.

So for a fortnight, the crew sailed and their spirits waned.  For Vela saw that their lamp oil would not last and she ordered that the lamps be put out at night, or what would be night outside of the tunnel.  For within the tunnel, it was eternal night.  The North Star did likewise, but in reverse, lighting their torches when the Mazarine’s were dark, and damping their torches when the Mazarine’s were lit.  Rivals they might be, but the two ships were stuck in the same dark tunnel, and it was no time for a contest.

So it continued, until one night, when the Mazarine damped their torches and waited, and the North Star did not light theirs as expected.  Vela watched and waited for a few hours.  She and her crew called out, but the ship had been far ahead of them.  After some hours, a crewmate reported seeing a dim light ahead.  Vela put the crew on alert and as they drew closer to the light, they saw that it was a single lantern.  They called out and when answer came, they found they had come upon their fellow ship.  Some of the North Star’s crew, fearing they would never reach the tunnel’s end if they did not sail faster, had stolen one of the ship’s small boats, and most of the lamp oil.

Both crews now worked together and shared their light.  They kept close to each other as they sailed onward.  Again, Vela was grateful that her crew was more loyal and steadfast.  But after spending more than a fortnight in the tunnel already, she had unexpected sympathy for those who had fled in desperation.   Another seven days would pass before the ships sailed all of a sudden into a bright blue open sky.

It pained them all to see it at first, and this time, rather than celebrate, the crews merely felt gratitude.  Many wept.  And the tears reminded them of their purpose.

***

The ships sailed closely together after that.  And Vela began not to mind that she would share her glories with the captain of the North Star, for he was valiant and worthy in her esteem.   At last, both ships, in need of supplies and rest, reached a land with a port.  Vela was suspicious of foreign ports, ever since the time she brought an illness back home from a voyage.  Her crew begged for leave to go ashore, but she would only let one boat with scouts go forth.  When they returned, they reported that the people were welcoming and civilized.  They did not speak any common tongue, but the scouts had drawn symbols and pointed to the ships out in the harbor, and the people seemed to understand.  Much like their own seaside township of Redhaven, the people were varied in color and kind.  They had but one unusual trait in common.  They were exceedingly tall.  Their young children were as tall as Vela, and she was uncommonly tall among her people.  The women and men stood half again as tall as the tallest of the Mazarine’s sailors.  Vela suspected it was her crew’s small stature that had charmed the people of the port.

She had some goods and coin to trade and sent a small number of her crew to trade for supplies, reminding all else that they could only rest once their quest was complete, and that people back in their homeland lay ill and dying, and more would die if they dallied.  She sent the healers they had brought aboard too so that they might search the marketplace for any new medicines or potions that might help with the Weep or any other malady.

The captain of the North Star sent a note over to Vela, teasing that if she stayed on the water all the time and showed no gratitude to the earth, the earth spirits would change her into a fish.  She noted, as did her grumbling but dutiful crew, that the North Star had sailed into the harbor and docked there, and its crew were disembarking.  Her own crew she allowed only to swim the waters and take turns rowing back and forth from the docks to help bring supplies aboard.

Along with supplies, the crew brought back what knowledge they could gather about the land they sought.  The tall folk had stories about the land, and in their stories the land was always covered in fog and upon it were black flinty stones that shimmered like the night sky.  It was eastward, not very far from their land, but it was difficult to see and there was nothing on the isle that the tall folk wanted or needed.  The only flower they knew of that grew on the isle was poisonous, but they described it just as the traveler had described it to the Oligarchs.  The crew also brought back word of a celebration the tall folk would have that evening.

Vela longed to give them respite, but knew she was right not to.  Yet she also knew that loyalty could only be stretched so far.  So she was not surprised when she learned that evening, just before she planned to disembark, that a dozen crew members had taken a boat to the port, having been invited to a great feast in the middle of the town in honor of the “little folk” as the people of the town were calling the sailors of the two Redhaven ships.

Vela was angered at her crew’s recklessness and disrespect for her commands.  But then she calmed.  She considered leaving the dozen behind.  Perhaps they had slipped away because they wanted to leave the quest.  But they were her crew.  She was responsible for them.  If they wanted to leave, they would have to face her first.

She sent two trusted crewmates to go after the missing dozen.  As they sailed the last remaining boat on the Mazarine out, Vela saw a yellow fire-glow coming from beyond the shops and dwellings in the port city.  She thought it must have been the feast.  She watched the port for her crew’s return.  Before the hour was done, she and the crew watching from deck saw a commotion near the docks.  One of her crew commented, more with regret than accusation, that they should have joined in the merriment for just one night at the least.  But then they saw frenzied movement near the docks and soon watched their boat sailing back, with the two crewmates that Vela had sent forth, and three more who lay upon the deck of the boat as if asleep…or drunk.  Vela saw torches moving through the alleys of the city and some instinct of fear and caution struck her.  She ordered the crew to weigh anchor and moved away from harbor as soon as their crew were aboard and the boat secured.

As the boat came closer, they shouted out to their captain.  Of all that Vela had feared upon landing in the port—disease, losing crew, learning that the healing wildflower she chased was but a myth—she had not foreseen the horror that befell her crew.

The two men in the search party she had sent had looks of such terror in their eyes and such panic in their broken voices that when they called out for the ship to flee and to unfurl sails and race away, Vela turned to the crew and echoed their commands.  As the Mazarine sailed away, Vela glanced back at the other district ship.  It still sat in the harbor.  And now the harbor was swarming with torches and the tall folk who lived there.

***

Lanterns were brought onto the deck.  Two of the recovered crewmates were dead.  Their bodies were burned and a limb was missing from each.  The third was burned, but not as badly, and still alive.  The healers rushed to his side and began to care for him, while Vela took the report of the men she had sent to find the deserters.

They reported that they were welcomed again as they walked through the city and up toward the center where a great bonfire had begun.  They saw that the tall folk were cooking meat, large animals on great spits in small pits around the bonfire.  Then they saw that the meat was not some native animal, but the men and women aboard the districts ships.  In a panic, the two retreated, certain they were doomed, but the tall folk let them pass.  The men saw that some of the North Star’s crew were spared too and were trying to rescue their friends or escape.  Those who interfered with the ritual, who tried to rescue their already burning friends angered the tall folk, and were themselves seized and stripped and killed before being tied to spits and cooked.  So the two crewmates retreated.  Finding three among their own crew, they managed to free them and escape while the tall folk sang and frolicked.  They did not know that the tall folk had given chase until Vela told them.

***

Vela wept that night.  She wept tears of rage and grief and regret.

And for the first time, she felt fear.  She had been afraid before, to be sure.  Storms, the Stair, the Tunnel.  But while that fear was not tamed, it was a familiar beast and one she knew how to manage.  But this new fear came with other emotion, ones she could not control, ones she could not bear.  Despair.  So many were lost and in such a vile way.  Shame, for though she knew that she and her crew were not warriors, that she could not have saved anyone by staying in harbor, she felt like a coward for fleeing.

She was the captain.  She did not want to lose any more of her crew.  Gone was her petty irritation with their grumbling and their complaints.  Gone was her frustration when they could not complete a task to her satisfaction.  She had always known they were a good crew.  She had always been proud to be their captain.  But now she felt how dear they were to her.  Now she wanted to be their guardian.  Now, she wanted to leave them behind while she completed the quest herself or died in the attempt.

She composed herself.  In the morning, she said words over the bodies of those that were dead before casting them into the sea so they would float to their eternal rest.  She said words for those whose bodies they could not recover.  Their own crew.  And the entire crew of their sister ship.

Then she told her crew that she must carry on alone.  She ordered them to turn back.  To watch for the ships of the tall folk and evade them.  To be steadfast through the Tunnel.  To cross through the Stair.  To brave any storms and rough seas and to return home.  She turned to her first mate so she might hand over command to him.  But he refused it.  And her crew spoke up and they refused to turn back.

When she argued that they must not lose any more lives to the quest, the crew argued that they had all come aboard knowing that they risked death.  When she argued that none knew they would risk mutilation and debasement like that their crewmates and sister ship suffered, for no crime other than the longing for rest, her crew argued that her caution had saved their lives.  When she argued that her caution was born of a superstition from one experience and a fluke, her crew argued that her caution was born of her judgment.  And they trusted the judgment of their captain.  If she believed there was still a chance for them to find the healing wildflower that could save their people, they would trust her judgment.  They would follow her.

She jested about their mutiny, or tried to, for she was so touched by their loyalty, and their courage, and their honor, and their strength, that she herself was filled anew with courage, honor, strength, and loyalty to her crew and to her people.

***

That night, she looked up at the sky.  She had always believed in her ancestors, but hardly thought the gods were worthy of regard.  But she and her crew needed aid.  She needed guidance.  And she asked for it.  As she slept later that night, she dreamt of a figure appearing out of a fog.  He looked a bit like the traveler who had visited her township and told them of the healing weed.  The figure said he was a god, that he was there to answer her prayer for guidance.  And he told her to turn back.  He told her that if she did, she and her crew would live, but if she did not, she would lose the ship.

Vela woke the next morning.  She told the crew of her dream and of her fears.  But then she told them that they must sail onward, for that is what they all had chosen.  Sail on they did, and soon they saw land ahead.  The land was covered in fog and there were glinting black stones.  It fit the description that the crewmates had gathered at the port of the tall folk.

Vela warned her crew to brace themselves for any obstacle.  Fire from the sky, serpents in the sea, monsters on the land.  What appeared to thwart them was a field of maelstroms.  It would be a challenge to get through them, but Vela wondered if there would be worse.

She was right to wonder, for there was.  As the Mazarine began to wend its way around the maelstroms, the sky darkened.  Clouds advanced from the south.  And clouds advanced from the north.  A heavy rain began to fall.  Vela encouraged her crew to stay steadfast and keep the land in sight.  Lightning flashed and thunder cracked the sky.  And suddenly, the maelstroms vanished as the sea heaved up and down, tossing the ship with it.

The crew were flung about the ship.  Several fell overboard, and Vela shouted for everyone to go below decks.  The storm had come upon them so suddenly.  The ship heaved up and tipped toward starboard, and Vela knew it would turn over and sink.  But the wave dropped and the Mazarine righted itself.  Vela held onto some roping on the deck.  She dared not move or she would fall overboard.  She watched as a giant wave loomed over the ship, like a gloved hand.  The wave it descended.

And Vela could not hold on.

She held her breath and tried to stay calm as she found where the surface was.  She saw splashing to her left and swam toward it.  She swam up and she broke the surface of the water and took a desperate breath.  Around her the sea was still roiling.  She could not see the Mazarine.  Her ship.  It was gone.  The land.  It was gone.  She looked around and found a barrel floating on the waves.  She swam toward it and held onto it.  Only then did she note that the heavy rain still poured upon the heaving sea.

She held on to the barrel, she knew not how long.  She feared she would tire soon, and fall asleep.  If the stormy sea did not drown her, she would drown when she let go of that barrel and sunk into a final sleep.

But then she saw something she could not fathom or believe.  A boat was coming toward her.  It seemed as if the sea began to calm the closer the boat came to her.  There were two people aboard.  One of the healers on her crew.  And one of the deckhands, the oldest member of her crew.  They had no paddles but were using their hands to row toward her.

When they reached her, they pulled her aboard and the old deckhand told her to rest and that they would reach the land soon enough.

Vela did not understand what he meant, until she looked to where they were paddling and she saw the land, the fog-covered land.  It was swimming distance, but she hadn’t seen it.  It was still raining.  And the sea tossed, but the storm was done.  She turned back in the hopes of seeing her ship, but behind them was nothing but more sea under a wet gray sky.

***

When they landed on the shore, the old deckhand wanted to search for shelter.  Vela cautioned him to wait until she had recovered herself, so they all three could go together, whatever came next.  But as they spoke, a figure appeared in the shadows and approached toward them.

The remaining crew of the Mazarine had no weapons but a small ax in the boat.  Vela grabbed the ax and stepped before her crew.  To Vela’s surprise, the figure who approached them appeared much like the traveler who had come to their township.  The traveler who had first set them on their journey.  The face was the same, only now the traveler was a woman.  She kept her distance from them.  She was dressed in a dark cloak trimmed with swirling shapes that Vela could not quite discern.  The woman bowed and by way of greeting asked them who were they.

“We are sailors,” Vela said.  She had much more to say but bit her tongue.  She did not yet know what manner of being this was.

The woman smiled.  “You have made it through all obstacles.  You deserve your reward.”

Vela tightened the grip on her ax and said nothing.

“I understand your caution, for I have followed your journey,” the woman said.  “The gods are not fair.  They never have been.  But even they cannot break an oath.”

“You are the traveler who came to our township,” Vela said.

“I am.  And I shook your hand and made an oath.  If you found this land, you would find what you were looking for.”

“Was it you who set those…obstacles in our path?  To prove we were worthy?”  And Vela wondered for the first time where the Weep had come from.

The woman, the god, shook her head.  “That was another.  I have only ever aided you.  And some of those obstacles are just in the world.”

“Are you here to aid us now?”

The traveler god pulled something from her sleeve.  It was a small pouch.  “Here there are seeds to grow the wildflower that you need.  It will continue to bloom in your lands, but each generation will lose its potency, until at last, they will be only wildflowers.”

She took a step forward, but Vela did not lower her ax.

“Do you know what has become of my ship?” Vela asked.

“Yes.  You have lost it, as I said you would.”

Vela felt a pang in her heart.  But she pushed it away.  She would grieve later.

“Can you help us return to our home?”

“Of course, you can use the vessel upon which you landed.”

“The small boat?”

“The vessel will be true,” the traveler god said.  “But the vessel will hold only two.”

Vela frowned.  It was another test, she was certain.  For if the god could enchant that small boat to sail all the way back to Redhaven, why could she not enchant it to hold three?

“The healer must go and the captain must go,” the old deckhand said.  “I am ended here.”

But Vela commanded him to go.  And she commanded both her remaining crewmates to guard the seeds.

“I’ll abide no more mutiny,” she said as the old deckhand opened his mouth.

The traveler god instructed the deckhand and the healer to eat one seed each and lay down on the boat.  They fell asleep and she helped Vela to push the boat back out to the sea.

***

Vela kept the ax.  She watched the boat until it vanished into the fog.  When she turned around, she found that she was alone.  She walked inland and found some trees there.  And sharp, flinty stones.  She feared to eat or drink of the land, for she suspected it was enchanted.  She found no flowers or fruit anyway.  She found only a spring.  She drank from it.  She built a small raft and used her blue cloak, a deep blue like sea and the sky, the color of her house, as a sail.  Then she pushed the raft out to sea and set sail upon it.

She had no food.  She only had a small amount of spring water that she had placed in some wooden bowls she carved.  She sailed and sailed and lost count of the days.  Rain replenished her water.  And she managed to catch and eat some raw fish.  But she knew she would starve soon.  Even through the pain of hunger and thirst, Vela was glad to be upon the sea.  She was glad she would die upon it.

She did not know that the traveler god watched her.  That the god was impressed with Vela’s resolve and her love of the sea.  Vela had drunk of the waters of the fog-draped land.  And the waters were indeed enchanted.  The traveler god used the enchantment and started to transform Vela into a fish so that she could survive the sea and swim home.  But Vela did not transform into a fish.  She transformed into a strange creature shaped like a disc.   Her body was deep, deep blue, with delicate tendrils hanging below her, which she began to use to catch prey.  She had no eyes.  She could not swim.  But she had a delicate sail right in the middle of her body, part of her body.  The traveler god was surprised for Vela it seemed had taken in part directed her own transformation.  She was a sailor and wanted nothing more than to be a sailor.  So even as a creature of the sea, she was a sailor.

The winds were fair.  They brought her to the shores of her home and when she washed ashore, she transformed again, back into a woman.  But not the same woman.  She was changed.  From her journey.  From her transformation.

She was humbled.  She learned she had been gone for years and was thought to be dead.  But she had helped to save her people, for the healer and the deckhand had arrived safely in harbor with the seeds.  Vela saw the wildflowers growing all over the township.  The Weep was no longer.  The healers had triumphed over it.

And she had happier news yet to hear.  For the Mazarine had not been destroyed.  It had survived the storm, the remaining crew rescuing those whom they could and searching for their captain and the fog-covered land.  They searched until they ran out of provisions before turning back.  When they passed the land of the tall folk, they stopped and hiding in a secret cover, they returned to the port city to out if any among the crew of the North Star survived.  Some did and were rescued.  The Mazarine itself was rescued.  Just outside the Tunnel Eternal.  The great ship Seacastle had emerged and was heading eastward.  The first mate of the Mazarine, asked the great ship to keep going, to find the wildflower and perhaps their lost captain and crew.  But the Seacastle turned around instead and escorted the damaged Mazarine all the way back home.

The Weep had ravaged many more by that time, and the crews of both ships were warned to stay onboard, to sail away and settle elsewhere, to save themselves.  But only a day passed before the little boat containing their salvation arrived.  Many more would suffer and die before the healers could grow the flowers and make salves and potions from them.  But were it not for the brave sailors of the three ships, the entire district might have perished forever.

The traveler god was not wrong when she said that Vela would lose her ship.  She had not been captain of the Mazarine for more than two years.  Nor did she long to be.  When all was taken away, she sailed not for prizes or glory, but because she loved the sea and the salt air.  So she sailed.  She lived a long life, full of many more adventures, full of true courage, honor, strength, loyalty, and love.

At last, when she died, her sons and daughters placed her body in a small boat with a deep blue sail, and they released it into the sea.  As it passed out of view, the boat was tossed around, and Vela’s body lifted up by a wave.  As the wave dropped, it held not a woman, but a strange creature, shaped like a disc, a deep, deep blue, with delicate tendrils below her.  And a lucent sail in the middle of her body.

As Vela sailed one last time in her mortal life, from her body came more sons and daughters.  The creatures became familiar to the people of Redhaven.  They become Vela’s legacy.  For they were known as the “natural sailor.”

They were named Vela Natura.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Nila L. Patel.

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