The crewmen were masked and nervous and it wasn’t only because Ch’loi stood on the rail over them, balancing herself with a ratline. Nine days of their macabre task had not been enough to inure them to the risks. “I do not care for our odds of making it back to port without contracting the fever ourselves. This is a cursed voyage if ever there was one.” Captain Rayjay summed up what they were thinking. “Stand by there!” The crewmen grabbed their first wrapped bundle of the night at the corners with thick gloves. “Heave ho!” The first plague cadaver went over the stern, followed by Ch’loi leaping to the sand below, closely followed by the other three sheet-wrapped corpses as fast as they could grab them and heave them. When the last one was safely in their wake, they stripped off the gloves and tossed them too. Captain Rayjay removed his mask and spat. “Good riddance.” Kurga thought it prudent not to ask which the good captain was more pleased to be rid of, though he did wonder. “Are you still set upon your fool’s errand?” the Captain asked Amisbhake.
“I am,” the Lord Counselor said.
They skimmed the dune crest, gathering speed from the higher winds and then when the Captain felt something only he could sense, he heeled the catamaran over and down the back side and into the trough. The boat careened and plunged with familiar if sickening speed and Kurga waited for his stomach to find its customary place again. The other nine nights they had put as much distance as they could, upon her orders, from Ch’loi and her silent cast aways until the second watch when they would tack back and pick her up, alone, well after dawn.
Tonight however, the Captain navigated the boat through a maneuver designed to bring them as near to the drop point as he felt he could without being seen. This took some time with the contrary winds and his efforts to keep the mast’s tip from breaking the horizon. He drove on in a glowering silence but the time came and he announced it, “Make ready.”
“I’d like to join you if i may,” Kurga heard himself say.
“Really?” Amisbhake said.
“I’m .. mildly shocked.”
“As am I,” Kurga said, “I wasn’t sure myself until just this moment, though I’d been considering it all day.”
“I suspect it’s going to be rather dangerous?”
Kurga smacked his lips and found them dry, “yes.”
“Alright then,” the Lord Counselor assented, somewhat to Kurga’s chagrin.
Captain Rayjay shook his head. “Get the fool a weapon,” he ordered his first mate. The mate brought a heavy rifle to the merchant.
“You’ve used one of these before?”
“Something similar.” The mate pointed out the safety, the ejector and which end the bolts came out. Handed him an extra clip and patted him on the shoulder. Kurga was less than reassured but he had no time to reconsider for the Captain gave the word and Amisbhake grabbed and handful of Kurga mounted the rail and leapt.