Spirits of Alaruk

Chapter 4: Voyage

As this was Treke's first voyage across the sea, she made sure to be prepared for travel. Siku's family helped with packing some food for them, which included several smoked fish fillets wrapped in dried seaweed, coconut canteens of fresh water, as well as some fresh nangangu and lirre fruit. She had no idea what she would need for exploring a desert climate, however, but she decided to bring along a hemp-woven robe and one of her sister's blankets. Siku warned that her things might get wet during the trip, so she decided to bring along some waxed paper, the same kind used for her umbrella, to wrap her belongings in to protect against any splashing.

Siku didn't bring along nearly as many things as Treke. Aside from a bundle of edible kelp and a collection of seashells meant for trading at Hulerin port, she brought along a fishing net, a fishing pole, and a fishing spear. Treke thought she might be a little over prepared, but at least she was ready to catch anything at sea if necessary.

"Now, keep in mind that the ride may get a little rocky," said Siku as they both climbed into her boat. "There's a lot more wind out there on the open sea. How well do you know how to swim?"

Treke wrung her hands, concerned at the question. "Umm... not very well."

"Ah, well... We should be okay!" Siku untied her boat and pushed it away from the pier, letting it drift a little. "I've made this trip so many times and never had any problems."

Treke gave Siku a nervous smile, the story of the sea fuglan's father going missing at sea still fresh in her mind. She didn't know Siku very well yet, but after witnessing her capture the giant fish in the lagoon, she trusted her capabilities well enough.

"While we're at it, would you like to learn how to paddle? It might come in handy!" Siku proudly brandished one of her canoe's oars.

Treke admired the craftsmanship of just the carvings alone, almost afraid to hold it for fear of damaging it, but she imagined the oar must be rather sturdy if it was used frequently out in the middle of the sea. "I... I suppose it wouldn't hurt." She accepted the paddle and turned it over in her hands to get a closer look at it. It was made of hardwood and intricately carved with beautiful spiral-shaped waves and crescent moon motifs along the handle and butt. There were several notches along its length, likely used to secure it with rope when needed.

"The sail does most of the work when the wind is blowing, so we only need to steer it with this." Siku demonstrated with a second oar at the back of the canoe that was used as a rudder. "But if there's little to no wind, then you'll have to paddle!"

There was indeed very little wind on the lagoon at the moment. Treke tested using the oar, dipping the blade into the water on the port side of the boat. As she noticed the canoe was starting to spin left, she switched sides and tried to correct it, soon spinning the boat in the other direction. Realizing she wasn't getting anywhere, she looked back helplessly at Siku, who returned the look with a chuckle of amusement.

"This is a lot harder than I thought," said Treke. She was unsure if she wanted to continue, worried she was making herself look foolish.

"Hey, it's okay! You'll get better with practice. You just have to get a feel for the water and how the boat moves. Can't get it right on the first try, you know?"

Treke tried again, moving the paddle in the water in various directions to see how it would propel the canoe. Switching back and forth on each side of the boat took too much energy, but she soon figured out a method to rotate the paddle to make sure the canoe would go in a straight line. Although she was enjoying how smoothly the boat slid across the water, it was tiring work to keep at it continuously. She did her best to keep paddling until they were far out enough, away from the village, that she could see the mouth of the lagoon.

"I think that's enough," said Treke sheepishly, handing back the oar to Siku. She managed to get to the edge of the village before deciding to stop. "Thank you for letting me use it."

"No problem," said Siku, taking back the oar. "It does take some stamina, but I'll take it from here! Once the water gets choppy, it gets a lot harder."

It was still a ways to the edge of the lagoon before it would transition into the open sea. The edge of the island's land pinched the lagoon's inlet on either side, serving as a buffer against harsh waves. There were far less palm trees on this side of the atoll. Treke held on tight to the boat's sides as the wind picked up, with Siku steering at the stern of the boat.

"Say good-bye to Sridez Island!" Siku shouted with excitement as the boat passed through the inlet, carefully guiding it through the shallow channel with the use of the oar. There were only a few other boats out this far that ventured past the protective shoreline, their owners all looking for fish.

As they sailed further away from the shore, the bottom of the ocean quickly disappeared, engulfed by the inky dark blue water. It reminded Treke of her dream; her tail light unable to penetrate the darkness. She shivered, no longer able to look down without feeling a sense of uneasiness, as if she would fall into an endless abyss if she stared at it for too long.

The deep blue sky blended to a bright orange as it stretched along the edge of the open sea. Treke shielded her eyes from the sun slowly escaping behind the horizon to the west. She imagined what could be beyond the horizon--perhaps more beaches with sea fuglan villages or lands with endless forests? Or perhaps the sea went on forever, as she heard stories of fuglans that ventured out and never returned. She was eager to explore more of the world, but that would have to come at a later time. Her eyes switched focus on the course ahead, curious of their destination.

"Ah, the wind is picking up!" Siku's long frilled ears stood up straight, flicking back and forth as they tested the speed and direction of the wind. "We might get there sooner than expected if it keeps up like this!"

With a sudden jerk, a gust of wind slammed against the sail, pulling the canoe forward. Treke nearly fell backwards as it skidded across the surface of the water, making her stomach drop every time the boat skipped. If it weren't for a net securing all her belongings, they would be rolling all over the bottom of the boat.

"Ohh... I don't think I'm enjoying this so much now," said Treke, starting to feel queasy. She sat down low, trying not to look at the waves.

"Try to relax! It's going to be a bumpy ride."

The sky grew darker as they continued to sail to the northwest, revealing several stars that Treke could easily recognize. To the Nuek clan, stars were remnants of ancient ancestral spirits that had long passed on and returned to the sky from where fuglans once came from. She took a moment to pray to the stars, asking the ancestors to protect her on her journey.

The wind appeared to die down a little, enough where Treke could relax and chat with her friend. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but I overheard your conversation while we were eating... You have someone close to you who lives in Hulerin?"

"Yes! Her name is Lasranu. I've been seeing her for a couple of years now, but I would very much like to live with her in Hulerin. At this point, I'll take any excuse to travel there."

"I see... That must be nice to have someone like that."

"You don't have anyone you're interested in?"

"No. To be honest, I've never felt too interested in anyone else like that before. I don't have any experience in relationships, as I've never wanted one."

"That's just like my aunt. She has no partners and no children, but she's still part of the family."

"Ah... I wouldn't mind having more friends, though. I don't have many friends in my village."

"Oh yeah? I can't wait to introduce you to Lasranu. I'm sure we'll meet more people in Hulerin too. It's a big place."

Treke didn't know how to feel about going to a large village for the first time. She felt concerned about the current predicament with Ludaru. Finding the spirit couldn't be too difficult with all the rranha about, but she worried that other fuglans would be in danger with the spirit on the loose. "Y-yes... I'm looking forward to it."

A few more hours passed. They snacked on their smoked fish filets and some fruit, filling their bellies up. The trip was relatively smooth sailing so far, but Siku appeared to be on edge, her ears flicking and twitching for any changes in the current.

"The air feels odd," said Siku. "I hope I'm wrong, but... I think a storm might be coming."

"A storm? How bad?"

"I'm not certain... I only know what direction it's coming from. See the clouds over there, to the northeast?" Siku pointed to an ominous patch of clouds approaching.

"Can we avoid it?"

"We can try. It might delay our journey a little, but I'll try to steer around it so that we don't take it on full force."

"I'd rather we delay our journey than risk drowning at sea."

"Good point! Don't worry, I can handle this."

Treke was absolutely going to worry. As the waves got choppier, it caused her to lift off of her seat with each bounce. The rranha was also getting stronger, which wasn't helping with her anxiety. She shut her eyes, tugged on her ears, and wrapped her tail around the netting near the floor.

"The storm is getting pretty close now!" Siku shouted, the boat rocking around even more.

"Kalagala, make it end," Treke whimpered to no one in particular. She felt the boat lurch harshly to one side and then rock back to the other. As she tried to correct her balance, she felt it tip again, throwing her backwards and off the edge of the boat.

Treke hit the water with a violent splash, her limbs flailing about in a futile attempt to save herself. The chilling seawater slowed her cold-blooded body, sapping away her energy. She could not discern up from down from where she was, and the pressure of the water, compressing her chest, made her panic as she desperately wished for someone to save her.

She heard the sound of another splash and felt something grab her leg soon after. She wanted to gasp for air and scream, but she dared not open her mouth for the risk of drowning. Whatever grabbed her leg was dragging her along as she tried to break free. She feared she was going to die when she noticed some familiar green glowing lights next to her. Calming down, she allowed herself to be pulled until she was able to reach the surface.

As Treke gasped for fresh air, her head lifting out of the water, she realized Siku was right next to her in the water.

"Are you okay??" Siku was trying to get them back onboard while the wind was whipping them about.

Unable to speak from still trying to get enough air into her lungs, Treke responded with a reluctant nod. She was still trying to take in what just happened.

"We need to get back into the boat quickly! The storm is almost right on top of us. Here, grab this!"

Siku had tied a rope to her boat and was holding onto it for dear life. Treke took a hold of the rope as well, pulling herself up into the boat after Siku.

"Hold on, I'm going to try steering us out of here!"

They braced themselves against the wind as Siku took hold of the oar rudder, attempting to change direction. "This is bad! I need to adjust the sail! Here, take the rudder for a minute and try to keep the boat going straight ahead."

"B-but I..." Treke froze, too afraid to assist her friend. What if something went horribly wrong and it ended them both? She was still sopping wet from falling into the sea and didn't want to think about it happening again.

"Come on, Treke, I need your help! I can't do this alone!"

Something went off in Treke's head, reminding her why she set out here in the first place--she wanted to help others. Like Siku, her journey too was something she couldn't do alone. "Y-yes... I must keep going." She grabbed the rudder and held on tight, struggling against the violent sea that threatened to smash apart their vessel. Siku, free to tighten the windward spilling line, flattened the triangular crab claw sail into a curved shape, reducing its surface. The boat's rocking soon died down enough so that the fuglans were able to catch their breath for a moment.

"We should be okay now as long as we stay away from the storm," said Siku, taking back the rudder.

Treke let out a relieved sigh and sank down into the boat, enough where she could no longer see the churning waves. "Thank the ancestors. This is so nerve-wracking," she muttered, wringing out her soaked robes. She was fortunate that the night air was warm enough not to give her the chills, but her robes would still need to be dried in the sun. She quickly changed into her spare hempen robe that she brought along and set the wet one aside to let it air out a little. Looking up at the sky, she noticed the clouds were clearing, which helped put her at ease. With the stars in full display, it was much easier to navigate at night.

"Look, you can see Gezuitaid!" Siku pointed to the largest moon, its pale yellow light basking everything in a comforting glow. It was only a few days from being full, meaning a new month would soon begin. "She's been protecting us this entire time."

"Thank the moons and stars," said Treke, bowing her head. She felt her mind begin to clear under the soothing starlight, when she heard a soft familiar voice alert her.


"Ah!" Treke jolted upright at the voice and looked around for the source of the voice before remembering there was no one else on the boat. She was still not used to having a spirit taking residence inside her own head. "Ancestor Klaiune?"

"I apologize for my absence, child. I should have warned you that I have limited kenha during the day, and dealing with the tukra took the last bit out of me."

"Is that so? Well, I'm happy that you're back with me."

"For now, child. The light of the stars energizes my kenha like a flower in the sunlight, but frugal when there are no visible stars in the sky, or you may find yourself caught in darkness with no magic to save you."

"I understand. I don't intend to waste this gift on frivolous matters; I want to use it to help others."

"My dear Treke, you are a gift to fuglankind. I see that I did not choose poorly."

"Thank you, Ancestor Klaiune. I appreciate you." Treke looked up at the stars again, admiring their glittering brilliance that speckled the swirling pink and purple pools of the night sky. She let out a long sigh, happy that she was able to make it out this far, despite just nearly drowning in the sea. Perhaps she was still in shock from the whole ordeal, but she didn't want to think about what could have happened if Siku hadn't been there to save her.

The sea was much more gentle now, paired with a breeze that pushed the outrigger canoe with short bursts of wind. Treke rested her head on her bag, the soft blanket inside making a comforting pillow. Allowing the gentle rocking of the boat to calm her nervous energy, it was enough to help lull her off to sleep, if just for a few hours.

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