The setting sun had begun its trajectory over the horizon as the drifter finally caught a breeze to carry it southwest. The wind had been travelling to the northeast, making it difficult to sail faster than four knots, but with each stroke, they slowly made their way. They were rounding the peninsula of an unmarked territory guarded by ferocious but unseen whirlpools and could see storm clouds from both the southwest and northeast areas.
Charlotte was resting her sore and tired arms from all the work it took to steer the drifter throughout the day. While Aden, Damien, and Xavier weren’t breaking a sweat in their duties, she on the other hand had started feeling blisters forming on the pads of her fingers and thumbs as well as numbness running up and down her forearms. She could not lift her arms above her head, and what was worse was that she felt slightly nauseous.
“You all right there, Char? You look a little green around the gills.”
The group had decided to take a fifteen-minute break to prepare a light snack and replenish their thirst before preparing another three- to four-hour rowing fest again.
“I’m okay,” she replied with a smile, keeping her hands in her lap. The girl would have normally waved them up and down, but she didn’t want to alarm them with her slightly red, inflamed blisters.
“When was the last time you had water?” Damien asked, coming up from behind the girl with a canteen of fresh water. “Even though we’re surrounded by the sea, you should be sure you’re drinking some. You will be surprised by the amount of people who faint from dehydration.”
She looked at the offered canteen but shook her head. “I had some water five minutes ago. I just felt worse after drinking it.”
“That’s because you guzzled the thing,” a fourth voice popped up at the rear. He still had an oar in his hand, steering them in the direction of Spiro. They realized the ship would steer itself off course if no one had been at the rear acting like a rutter.
“I did not guzzle!” she retorted with flushed cheeks. “Look, I am fine. Can we continue on please? Spiro is just around these rocks!”
It was nearing the end of their time limit anyways, but no one moved to their spots. Charlotte had waved her arms and hands up like she normally would have and immediately saw what they were staring at. Snatching her hands back into her lap, she looked down at the floorboards.
“Those looked painful. Are you sure you’re all right?” Damien finally replied before taking a seat next to the girl and carefully taking her wrist into his hand. “You should have told us. These abrasions and blisters are from the undercurrent and controlling the oar.” He lifted his own hand to show her his gloves. “Did Olivia not give you gloves to use?”
The blond looked at the brunette before she laughed nervously. Aden in the rear only sighed out, “I can’t wait to hear this.”
“Olivia gave me gloves, but I somehow lost them when I was running around the ship. Jakob, Leo, and I were cleaning the cannons. But we decided to play a prank on Sarah who had come out with snacks. I think Leo took my gloves, filled them with sand, then tied a rope to one before hanging it off the netting,” the girl explained while Xavier heartily laughed.
“Ghost hands, that’s brilliant!” the older man of the group said between his chuckles while Aden glared at him.
“The best course would be to pop those blisters, clean them with some antiseptic, and wrap them in gauze,” Aden relayed out the orders while Damien pulled out the medical kit from underneath the bench they were sitting at. “It’s only our first day out, and you’re already causing trouble.”
Charlotte pouted. “Sorry for being a nuisance.”
Damien grabbed her hands and turned them over, palms up, and while his head was slightly down, he looked at her through his lashes. “This will hurt a bit.” Damien began popping the first blister near her index finger and her thumb. While he was doing this, the girl winced in pain, whimpering every now and again. After five agonizing minutes of pinching, prodding, and shedding skin off her hand, Damien then pulled out a bottle of antiseptic that was in the first-aid kit. Charlotte hissed out a quick curse as he poured the antiseptic on her open wounds and then let them air out.
Once he was done with the task of cleaning her hand, he gingerly wrapped her shivering, pale, and petite hand in the gauze they had. Damien could tell she was holding back tears since there was water forming at the corners of her eyes, and the shaking in her hand also accentuated it. “Almost done now,” he reassured her when he moved to her other hand. Her right hand was finished with, and he meticulously did the same process as the last one.
Xavier whistled with an oar in his hand, “Well, we’ll begin rowing again. Just join in when you two are done. You ready, Addie?”
The male with raven hair just glared without making a comment.
“Why are you so sour, Aden?” The male with the beanie cap on his head went over to the port side of the drifter and started to row. He noticed as the ship was nearing the end of Refrazzya and the unknown territories continent’s that the whirlpools underneath them were getting viciously stronger.
Aden also noticed the slight change and abandoned the back of the ship to go on the starboard side to help Xavier maintain control.
Damien had finished with Charlotte’s left hand when they felt the undercurrents shake the ship. Damien grabbed his oar and prepared to take Aden’s spot on the rutter. While the two power steered up front, he kept them steady on the water.
Charlotte went to stand, but Aden snapped to the girl to stop. “Sit down before you fall off the ship.” Charlotte froze midway, unsure of what she should do. “I don’t have time to jump into the water. We already have problems with this storm coming in.”
Her hands would be okay now that they were wrapped, but they were still stinging. “Oh . . . okay,” she mumbled at the command and sat down again. The rocking of the ship and the movements of the whirlpools underneath kept the four on edge until a couple of hours later when the waters finally calmed down.
Refrazzya and the unmarked territory were becoming smaller and smaller as they travelled southwest, and likewise, Spiro began to appear bigger and bigger. The clouds were threatening to release a shower of rains over them, but luckily, they managed to reach the shoreline of Spiro.
Cesium was the first of them to jump off the ship and roll around in the sand with a blissful expression.
“Cesium,” Charlotte called out to it with a giggle. “I cannot believe you were so sad through the voyage. Are you feeling better?”
The robot lifted itself up and gave a small woof before running around again. It was running close to the border of the forest but was still within the distance of them setting up camp.
Aden, who had finished setting the anchor, was wiping his brow with his forearm. “Who cares if it is feeling better? The damned thing didn’t even do anything,” he sneered while Damien chuckled nervously in the background. The blond had been wrapping their excess ropes into bundles and then laying them underneath the seats so they would not shred or come apart in the future.
“Well, we should find a place to camp before it gets too dark. Xavier, can you help me with the tarp for the top of the drifter?”
Xavier had already grabbed the large and heavy material in his arms and flapped it out into the wind. To Charlotte, it was really long and would easily cover the top of the drifter. There were also spots within the tarp that had holes, probably to wrap around the masts in the middle of the vessel, and she watched as the two were positioning it in the correct spot.
Aden had jumped on land and began making a makeshift tent for four people near some trees that provided some coverage from the gray clouds above them. He had dropped all his tools on the ground before situating the bottom of the tent out flat.
“Do you want some help?” Charlotte asked when she was standing right behind his crouching form. She knew she had no expertise with ships, but a lot of inland stuff she could do.
The male looked over his shoulder to the girl and then at the start of their temporary living grounds. With his free hand, he pulled up a utility belt and merely handed it to the girl. “Front pocket, right side.”
The girl straightened out the belt and grabbed what he needed before tying it to her waist. It was a box of long nails, and there was a hammer hanging near the right side but not by the front pocket. She figured the male would need the hammer regardless of whether he asked for it or not.
“Here you go,” she replied, handing him his supplies.
The boy merely stared at her before sighing, “Thanks.” Then reached to her right side and pulled out ten three-inch poles Olivia had invented that could extend into taller poles. “But just so you know, that was the left side you pulled that stuff from.”
The girl flushed a deep red before looking away. “Oops,” she said with an abashed expression.
Looking at her with his own bemused expression, the male merely continued with his task. “Normally, one would put the belt on and then grab what was needed,” he remarked before climbing under the top portion of the tent to place the first pole in. When it was in place, he extended it and then moved on to the next four corner spots.
Charlotte watched as the tent, which had been flat moments ago, had turned into a tent with a pentagonal shape. It could easily fit all of them inside, and when all ten poles were in place, some interlacing mechanics activated and connected the poles together through the creases of the top of the tent. Aden then meandered his way out of the front flap of the tent’s entrance to the side where he pulled out some of the nails to begin hammering the excess fabric down.
The girl watched in awe as he worked, and shortly afterward, Xavier and Damien joined them. They had pulled the ship on shore and made sure it would not float away by adding some extra safety precautions to their work. Besides an anchor, they also hammered some of the excess ropes from the ship down into the ground. Now they would be there for quite some time.
“Olivia is pretty brilliant with these types of things, isn’t she?” Xavier remarked as he stared at the tent’s contraption inside.
Aden had handed the hammer back to Charlotte, who easily put it back into the slot allotted for it on the belt. “It’ll do.”
“This wasn’t meant to be a five-star hotel. Give some credit where it is due,” the male with the beanie remarked.
“Hmm,” the male with emerald eyes replied in a bored tone and climbed inside. Just as he did, the storm clouds echoed with thunder and started to let the rain fall.
Xavier and Damien ushered Charlotte to go in first before them, and when she did, they followed shortly after.
Xavier, the last one to enter, somehow had his shirt soaked from the rainwater. “It sure started raining cats and dogs, didn’t it?” Xavier took off his beanie to squeeze the excess water out of it on the floor before receiving a glare from Damien.
“Dude, we’re sleeping in here. Mind not getting water all over the place?”
Xavier merely waved his concern with a smirk. “A little water won’t kill you.”
“Yeah, but pneumonia will.”
Charlotte had taken a kneeling position near the corner of the north and western sides of the tent. She had her bag in front of her, but she was not going to go through it until she knew what exactly she needed out. The less she needed to get out, the better in her opinion. Although she could not rub the feeling that she was forgetting something and it was something important.
Aden had taken the top center area of the tent where he was laying out his sleeping bag and then straightening out his own utility belt with his weapons on the ground beside it. He dropped his bag in an unorganized heap at the head of his sleeping bag. It was then that he turned his smoldering emerald eyes to the girl.
“If you forgot your stuff in the boat, I am not getting it for you,” he sarcastically replied, and the girl tensed up.
“I’ll have you know it is right here!” she curtly said and slipped off her backpack. Inside her bag was a sleeping bag neatly curled and her pillow for a restful sleep. There were also a change of clothes and small food packets for snacking. Feeling a flush in her cheeks, she continued, “But it’s true that I feel like something is missing.”
Damien and Xavier had finished laying out their own sleeping arrangements and joined the two’s conversation. The blond chuckled while Xavier plopped himself on top of his sleeping bag.
“Well, it wouldn’t be the same if Charlotte had everything with her,” the boy with blond hair teased, much to the girl’s chagrin.
Xavier added to that by remembering her antics on the Division and the Phoenix. “Well, one time, she forgot to wear that vest, which became the newest scandal.”
Charlotte flushed a crimson red before throwing her pillow at him.
Aden just shook his own head before adding salt to the wound. “Then there was that time recently where she forgot the shopping list and tried to buy everything off memory.”
Charlotte turned to him with an aghast expression before he continued. “Instead of buying ten pounds of oranges, she bought ten pounds of strawberries, and we had to eat them as soon as possible.” Aden shook his head while Damien laughed.
Xavier nodded his head. “Never in my life had I wished to never see another strawberry.”
The boys all chuckled while Charlotte pouted where she was.
“Strawberries are good too,” she muttered before looking over her shoulder. “Cesium, you agree with me, don’t you?” She was expecting a bark to resonate in that small space with the four of them in it, but no sound came. “Cesium?”
The tent went silent before all the boys gave a groan. Charlotte, on the other hand, began to freak out and searched through the tent in vain. The massive Great Dane was nowhere to be seen.
Finally, when she couldn’t find the robot, she jumped up and went to unzip the front flap of the tent. Large droplets of rain splashed her face, but a strong hand gripped her forearm.
His strength alone was enough to drag her back into the dry space. “It’s not a smart idea to go out in this storm. Just look at the strength of the wind blowing. It would blow your stick figure off into the distance before we could grab you.”
Charlotte yanked her arm back from Xavier and looked at the others for help. Damien was looking at the ground, unsure of how to look at the girl while Aden unsympathetically quirked his eyebrow.
“It’ll come scratching on the tent if it wants to come in.”
Charlotte would not let them give up on the idea of searching for it. “But Cesium could have been scared by the thunder and rain! What if it saw the storm coming and freaked out? It is probably terrified somewhere out here in the middle of nowhere.”
“We’re actually on Spiro,” Aden interjected, but Charlotte ignored him.
“You guys can sit on your asses for all I care, but I am going to search for that Great Dane!” She ran out of the tent into the rain, leaving the three there to groan at their misfortune.
“Who wants to grill Cheric for her stupid invention when we get back?”
Xavier and Damien shook their heads before Aden clucked his tongue. “It was worth a shot.” The three of them made their way out of the tent into the pouring tropical storm.
۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞