The Longest Walk (1)
Characters: Lineal, Rahona, Fog, Lihona, Barr, Denna, Nalin, Neke, Tahna, Linli, Vaheri, Vidon, Jardon
Description: The riverboat crew and their holder relations bury Jesten.
Location: Elsewhere on Pern
Date: month 6, day 5 of Turn 4
The Sungazer arrives at the waypoint "They're early." Jardon made the remark for the second time, the first having brought no reaction. "That can't be good."
"No, not when they're arriving several candlemarks before expected."
Vidon sighed, knowing that the only time the riverboats put on enough steam to arrive well before schedule were those that involved injury or death, matters that needed more immediate attention. "But we'll know soon enough why." He glanced toward his son. "Don't just stand there -
run to the Hold and let them know. The others don't seem to have noticed yet."
With a nod, the younger man started off on his errand, though his head turned back to watch the approaching paddleboat, wanting to be present when the reason was announced.
His actions were mechanical, throwing out the heavy rope to the youngster waiting on shore, watch the rope being tightened around the bolster and feel the paddleboat bump gently against the dock. All mechanical, no change from the last time they had docked - well, not as far as the young boy on the dock knew.
For Fog, everything had changed since the last time they had docked.
Lineal wasn't just another crewmember he was Captain now. Jesten - no longer the Captain. Jesten - he shook his head - he couldn't bear to think of his uncle up on the deck above as if asleep - but not. Another shudder went through Fog's body.
The Sungazer crew gather on the crew deck
He was grateful the girls were standing with him, even little Linli was by his side. He heaved a heavy sigh and another shudder went through him - he stifled a sob. His hand reached up, kerchief ready to dab at the tears that welled in his eyes. His other hand hung limply at his side, trembling a little - but then he felt something warm slide into his palm and felt a small squeeze of comfort.
He looked down, Linli's face was tilted up, her own eyes sad, but dry met his and she gave a small, comforting smile. It was the first connection he had felt with her - he gave her a small smile back and once again felt a sob building in his chest.
Rahona listened to her husband's words with her arms wrapped around the two children. It was all foreign to her; the long, drawn-out death.
Weyrfolk took their people /between/. Said their goodbyes and then it was over. Nothing but memories - quite different from this lingering physical presence.
Lineal, though, seemed to be perfectly comfortable with what was going on. With his father's body in the midst of the crew where they had gathered near the now-stilled paddlewheel for their last words to the man who had been their captain.
She wondered if the stopped paddlewheel was symbolic to the riverboat folk. The end of the journey.
Nalin moved a little restlessly in her arms and she looked down at him.
It was the end of Jesten's journey, but just a brief stop in her son's. Whether he became riverboat- or Weyr- folk, he would always remember this.
She hugged him a little tighter and listened to the next speaker.
Vaheri stepped forward, her eyes on the body that she had helped to prepare for the interment ceremonies. She took a deep breath, thinking on what she wanted to say, the words that she had rehearsed since Jesten's death suddenly gone from her mind. Instead, she spoke to him, as she would have addressed him had he been sitting in his usual deck chair, gazing out over the water.
"Good-bye, my friend. When your brother brought me to this boat as his bride, you welcomed me." Her mouth curved into a smile. "Though you offered a criticism now and then of how differently I sometimes did my chores, the way they had been done on the boat of my birth family. You chided me into acting 'the right way,' the way that was the norm for this boat. And as you did, you helped me become a part of this family, to make this boat my home, the one that I would choose even after your brother - my husband - had been carried to the same caves where we will take you."
"You questioned me when you decided to take a bride, asking me of the merits of this woman or that. In the end, you made your own choice, but you came to me the night before your wedding and said to me, 'Help her, please, to learn our ways. Make her a part of our family.' It was then I knew that I was truly part of the Sungazer."
Vaheri swallowed as she continued. "We raised our families together, caring for each other's children through illnesses. We watched some of them leave the boat for other lives." She glanced to Lineal. "We welcomed some back. Through it all, you were my friend, the constant that I could count on." She bowed her head, silently regarding the deck at her feet, before glancing up once again to the body of the former riverboat captain. "Our journeys part now, but I miss you already."
Last updated on the September 13th 2007