I’m living with three mysteries. And it’s driving me crazy.
I’ve been traveling with Inacha for two weeks now. She’s attractive, sensible, and witty. We’ve even had to make do with sharing a bed on occasion. But we aren’t having a sexual relationship. Neither one of us has brought it up, and I can’t figure out why.
Inacha’s been very helpful with mystery #2: Chypa the Stranger. Inacha strikes up a conversation with the men in some inn or tavern we’ve stopped at, and eventually they come up with some story about Chypa. A lot of them sound like legends, but many of them come with a solid fact. Like a plaque in the park where Chypa killed a brutal earl.
And then there is mystery #3: what’s going on back home in the Kingdom of Auspulia? Thanks to the ring she gave me, I can communicate with Lady Gwella, who tells me her husband is raising an army to fight the king. But it’s a mystery to her, too, what is going on in the capital. Is Sarton alive? Did Vorana kill Zilla and take over Gehulia? What’s happened to Evana? To Paviara? No way to find out.
“Stop fretting,” Inacha tells me as she joins me at the stern. She knows me well enough already to tell that’s what I’m doing.
We’re on the ship Theonava, sailing for the port of Tanafisay. The stories have it that Chypa went there, decades ago. For lack of any better leads, we’re going there.
“At least I’m not sick in our cabin,” I grumpily reply. I’ve never been to sea before, never suffered from sea sickness. It’s an experience I could have done without. Inacha, who’s also never been to sea, didn’t suffer at all.
“I’ve been talking to the captain,” she says, smiling at me.
“Let me guess. He has a story about Chypa.”
Inacha frowns at my tone, and then shakes it off. “Seems she sailed on one of the big freighters, and defeated a man-eating sea serpent that crawled onto the deck. The creature’s hide is supposed to be on display in Tanafisay.”
“Chypa seems to have done everything,” I sourly reply.
Inacha nudges me. “What’s eating you? I’m beginning to think you were more pleasant when you were sick.”
I stare out to sea, back to Auspulia. “So far, I haven’t actually done anything, except run away. Meanwhile, for all I know, everyone I care about is dead. Or worse.”
Inacha leans on the railing, looking out in the same direction. “I’m a failed suicide, Tollon.” She turns to me. “Did you know that?”
I shake my head, wondering where this is going.
“Failure as a daughter, failure as a waitress, failure as a whore. And then I topped it off by being a failure as a suicide.” She shakes her head. “But I’m not a failure. You’re a short, slight figure of a man, but you killed a dragon, two of them, even. How’d you do that?”
Inacha laughs. “Okay, luck. You’re a lucky guy. Put that luck to use. And maybe the brains and magic you say you don’t have.”
“I didn’t say . . .” I stop, mid-sentence. I see what she’s doing to me. “You’re not going to trick me into a good mood.”
“Thank the gods for that,” she exclaims. She turns and leans on the railing, looking out to sea again. “Knowing how to stay in a bad mood is essential.”
It takes me a bit of time to say it. “I’m sorry.”
Inacha keeps looking out to sea as she speaks. “It’s easier for me. There’s no one back there I care about much. I’m on an adventure. I’ve got a dragon-killing wizard beside me. I’m alive.” Now she turns to me. “This is the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life, Tollon. But it’s really your adventure, not mine. And I’m fine with that. How about you?”
Inacha’s made her point. Instead of answering her, I lean on the rails and stare out to sea. Maybe we’ll find Chypa. Maybe she’ll help. And maybe I’ll have to consider how to proceed if we can’t find her. After all, I’m a dragon-killing wizard who’s tangled with gods.