Day 329: Garbol’s Sea Voyage

Garbol’s RV pitched with the ship. The crew had strapped it down extremely well, so it felt like a cabin, except the rain pelted the exterior. After a day of studying sea curses, he eased back in the dinette booth with a Tony Hillerman novel.

The Marisol was to drop him off at Mooten’s Archipelago where phantom ships terrorized the natives, raiding their stores and setting their houses afire. No deaths so far, but a fire injured a woman pretty badly, and a man with a bum ticker was hospitalized, the hospital being a small converted hangar on Dumdrick Island.

Garbol brought the RV because the islands had very few accommodations, fewer after the fires.

The door banged with three knocks.

“Come in,” said Garbol.

The door opened, rain sprayed through it, and Captain Gregory stepped up. He closed the door and stripped off his slicker, working it around a covered tray in his hand and hanging it on the hook next to the door.

“Hello, captain.” Garbol set his book down open-face on the table.

“Hello, Garbol. I trust you’re comfortable.”

“Best cabin on the ship.”

Gregory smiled and nodded. “Quite.” He set the tray on the table. “And the best food with that package.”

Garbol lifted the cover. Black bean soup, a piece of chicken, and a roll. Same thing everyone had yesterday.

“Garbol, my crew’s getting jittery, and I was wondering if you had any way to get your RV onto the islands from a distance.”

“Of course, I do—your ship. That’s why I hired it.”

“I mean—”

“I know what you mean. You think that because I’m a wizard I can snap my fingers and my RV will sprout wings and a jet engine. That’s not going to happen, and even if I could do it, I’d be too exhausted to face the phantom ships afterwards. You need to honor our agreement.” Garbol took a spoonful of soup and picked up the roll.

The captain sat across from the wizard. “I understand your position, and I wish to honor it. However, I must consider the crew. I can only expect so much from them.”

“Didn’t they know they’d be going to the Mooten’s Islands?”

“Aye.” Gregory rubbed his fingers. “But a good sea captain knows the limits of his crew. He knows that agreeing to something is not the same as coming face-to-face with it, so far apart the idea and the reality as only a seafarer can appreciate.”

Garbol cut the chicken into pieces and dropped them into the soup. “Wizards appreciate this disparity, trust me. We face it very early in our careers, and we don’t revile the few who cannot go through with it. Be that as it may be, we have an agreement, and I must insist you do follow through. I’ll ward the ship, and anyone who doesn’t like it can answer to me directly.” He took another spoonful of soup.

“But you see, they won’t admit it, but they’re frightened to death of the phantom ships—more than they are of you.”

Garbol set his spoon down. “That’s one of the wonderful things about sailors—they really believe. Nowhere have I known another kind of people who believe so viscerally as they. But for all that, they have so very little faith.”

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