Chapter Thirteen: The Traitor’s Daughter
"Him serve with mirth," Elspeth sang. Next to her, she heard her father's
strong bass, mingling with her soft soprano. She loved the way their voices sounded as they joined with the rest of the congregation in the open air. Were it not for the reason they met far from their city of Wyan, Elspeth would have rather worshiped with other followers of the Creator out in the countryside. But no, Daron's rule had forced them to meet outside of any city. Even here, if they were found, they would be considered traitors - at least those who were openly known as followers of the Creator. Elspeth often wondered if this was what it was like for those people long ago in the time of Adan, meeting out in the woods to avoid Fàolan. Traces of his rule remained, even in Sealyn, where his grip was never strong. But then, all sorts of evil showed in Sealyn, for it was the place that Daron first entered the hearts of men.
The worshipers stood in a circle as they sang. A man in the middle led them, keeping the beat and clearly singing the words. Elspeth watched him carefully most of the time, but from time to time, her gaze wandered to her friends or to the trees beyond the field. But today something else caught her glance. A tall, bearded man, with a protruding nose with dark hair and pale skin had joined their circle. Usually Elspeth knew everyone that came to their meetings, but this man she had not seen before at the meetings, although he looked familiar. Instinctively, the girl drew closer to her father. He put his arm around her small form.
"Papa," she whispered, barely audible even to him, "there's a man over there, I haven't seen before."
Elspeth's father, James, looked to where Elspeth's eyes rested. He shook his head. "I don't know him either. No matter, who is here is not the focus."
"No, papa." Elspeth continued singing. But all through the sermon, Elspeth could not keep her eyes from wandering to the tall man. He looked almost awkward in some movements, in others, menacing, still in others, gentle and kind. His dark eyes wandered around the circle. When he caught Elspeth’s gaze, the girl quickly lowered her gaze. Somehow, knowing that he was watching made her feel uncomfortable. Then he looked down. In that moment, Elspeth realized why he looked familiar. He was one of Daron's men, the one that had bumped into her one day as she walked home from the well. She had spilled water all over him, hence the ominous look, but he had not been angry, rather, he apologized - the kind and gentle look. But he was one of Daron's men - what was he doing here? Did he recognize her as well?
Perhaps he is seeking the Creator. Elspeth could only hope. Even still, the girl scooted closer to her father. Every now and then, she cast a wary glance at the man. They're here, upon us, to take us away, she could not help thinking.
After the time of teaching was over, Elspeth ran to her friends as they helped prepare the fellowship meal. Then she helped serve. The tall man stayed off at the edge of the people, taking no food.
"I'm going to take some food to that man over there," Elspeth said to a friend, cutting off a piece of chicken, scooping up some rice, and pouring sauce all over it. Somewhat nervously, Elspeth carried the food to the man. If he was one of Daron's men - and if he was here as a spy – what would it mean for them?
As she approached the man, he did not seem to notice her, but stood staring at the people. "Would you like some food?" Elspeth asked, clearing her throat beforehand to get his attention.
Startled, he looked up. "No thank you, I'm not hungry.
Elspeth turned to leave.
"Is that your father, the man over there?" He pointed to James.
Turning back to face the man, Elspeth hesitated. "Aye," she said at last.
"Can you bring him here to talk to me?"
"Can't you go talk to him yourself?"
He avoided her question. "Haven't I seen you before?"
"Yes, I think so, at the well."
"Ah, yes, you bumped into me. And spilled water."
Suddenly the man looked even taller. Elspeth dared not disagree with his comment, even though it had been he who had bumped into her, not the other way around.
Elspeth returned to the subject. "Why do you want to talk to my father?"
I don't like this. "I think that if you want to talk to him, you can go talk to him yourself." Elspeth started walking back to her friends.
But the man reached out and grabbed her by the elbow, whirling her around to face him. Sauce from the chicken sloshed out onto his tunic. In other circumstances, Elspeth might have laughed at the repetition of events.
"Let me go!"
"Not unless you bring me your father."
"What do you want with him?" Elspeth asked again. When he didn't reply, the girl couldn't refrain from letting it out. "I know who you are; you're one of Daron's men."
"And I know who you are." He replied. "You're a traitor's daughter."
What irony. Those who were the first traitors are now calling others traitors. "You're a traitor first," Elspeth retorted. "A traitor to the Creator."
With a look of disgust spreading across is face, the man released Elspeth. Without a single glance behind her, she ran to her father's side, where she stayed for the rest of the afternoon.
"Papa, there are soldiers outside." Elspeth said, turning slightly from her perch near the window.
"Across the street, talking to Uncle Brock." 'Uncle' Brock was not really her uncle, but his family had grown so close to Elspeth and James that the children called the other parent's aunt and uncle.
James, too, now peeked out of the window. As he looked at his daughter, he saw the lines of worry etched in her face. He tried to imagine what it must be like for her, a young woman without a mother or siblings, facing the possibility of her father being taken away from her. "Come," he said, turning her around and pulling the Law off the shelf. "Let us calm our fears with His promises." He opened the book and Elspeth scooted close to her father. Her head rested on his shoulder as he read.
“…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with your forefathers, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law I commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”
Elspeth turned and looked out the window. James laid a hand on her arm, wordlessly asking her to come back.
“Pay no heed to them.”
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." As James finished reading, harsh knocking sounded on the door. Elspeth did not move as James opened the door, but as the soldiers stepped inside she ran to her father, clinging to him.
“Are you James?”
Elspeth recognized the soldier as the man she had talked to at the meeting, and buried her face in her father’s side.
"By order of Daron, king of Edaled, we arrest you as a traitor and disturber of the peace."
As they moved toward James, Elspeth tightened her grip around her father's waist.
"No!" Elspeth said.
"Elspeth, the Creator's plan is perfect." James whispered to his daughter. "Let them take me."
The tall solider moved in to Elspeth, grabbing her arms and pulling her away from James. He held her firmly, even though she struggled to get back to her father.
The tall soldier nodded to the others and they moved out with James.
For a moment, she broke free of the soldier’s grasp, but she did not travel even a step before he had her again.
Only when James was outside did the soldier release Elspeth. "Let this be a lesson to you," he said, moving to make eye contact, "as to what happens to traitors. Learn your lesson well lest it happen to you also."
He may have meant it threateningly, but somehow Elspeth caught a hint of concern in his voice, as if he were truly cautioning her.
"Are there any others in the house?" He asked.
"It was only you and your father?"
"Aye," She replied.
Poor girl. "Do you have a place to go?"
"This house will be boarded up soon. I suggest you leave."
"And don't let me be seeing you again. They've placed you as a traitor's daughter. Be careful." He turned to go, but stopped. "What's your name?"
"Elspeth." She said, barely above a whisper.
"I'm Benjamin. Ben. Ask for me if anything ever happens."
The door closed, and Ben was gone. Elspeth collapsed on the floor.
But soon she stood, straightened her shoulders, and tied back her hair. While she had lain on the ground, the Creator had been speaking to her as He so often does to those who are hurting. He reminded her of one of the greatest Truths: that she, Elspeth, was His. That He had called her as His own, and loved her.
With these things stored up in her heart, Elspeth moved quietly around the house, taking what few belongings she had. The Law was the first to go on a pile on the table, followed by a set of clothes, and a book of poetry that James had written. These she wrapped up in her cloak. With one glance behind her at the silent house, Elspeth opened the door and stepped outside. She walked slowly across the street to Uncle Brock's house and knocked on the door. Their oldest son, who was two years younger than Elspeth, opened it.
"Good evening, Elspeth!" He said cheerily. His name was Ardal and he was always smiling and always found the best in any situation. Usually Elspeth was right there alongside him grinning. But right now, she could only give him a weak smile.
"Are Uncle Brock and Aunt Cara at home?"
"Aye, they're right inside." As he said this, Uncle Brock appeared behind his son.
Elspeth dropped her bundle and ran to him. "Uncle Brock," she said. "They took papa.”
“Oh God,” Brock groaned. “On what charge?”
Elspeth bit her lip. “As a traitor and disturber of the peace.”
When Brock did not reply, Ardal asked the question that was at the forefront of Elspeth’s mind.
“What will that mean?”
“I do not know. Some traitors they execute immediately. Some sit in the dungeon, forgotten.”
“If he is in the gaol, will I be able to visit him?”
“You, most likely, yes. But they only let family in, no one else.”
“Yet it is hope… a small hope, but hope nonetheless.” Ardal said.
From then on, Elspeth spent her days in the gaol with her father. She would bring the Law with her, sit on the dirt floor outside of his cell, and read to him quietly. Soon she found that every day someone brought a small stool for her to sit on as she read. She did not know who it was that brought it, but she was thankful. It was Ben who had left the stool for her. Although she did not see him, Ben would always stand and listen from around the corner. At first, he did it to protect the girl. Yes, he served Daron, but not all servants of Daron are not as evil as Daron himself, though they are still fallen. The Creator was moving in the heart of Ben, moving the gentle spirit that he had had from the time he was young. Ben knew the darkness of the hearts of his comrades, and knew that a girl like Elspeth needed to be guarded while she was in the gaol. Yet after a few days of watching this young maiden with her father, Ben was enthralled. The quiet, reverent way in which she read the words of the book, and the loving way her father held her hand through the bars while she read made him curious. Even more astonishing was the way that they were ever joyful. At every farewell, James would remind his daughter that the Creator's plan was perfect. Elspeth would grin and nod. One day, though, about a month after James’s arrest, this had been met with tears, to which James reached out and pulled her head toward his. Head to head, with the bars between them, he spoke to her in whispers.
"Do not be passively resigned to His will, Elspeth. It will only bring anger at Him, which is a sin. Knowing His perfect plan should make us joyful - submit joyfully to it, Elspeth, and He will bless you. I love you."
"I love you too, papa."
"Go now, your aunt will want your help for the evening meal."
Ben turned from his hiding place and climbed the stairs to go to the courtyard of the gaol. Elspeth followed close behind him. As she entered the courtyard, she clutched the Law close to her. The eyes of the soldiers following her made her uncomfortable, yet she walked on until one stopped her at the gate.
“What do you have there, lassie?”
“A book I read to my father.”
The soldier reached out to take it, but Elspeth stepped back.
“Let me see it,” he demanded.
Elspeth handed it to him hesitantly. But before he could look at it, Ben was there between them.
“Leave her alone.” He said it calmly, not angrily, but still authoritatively. Snatching the book, he handed it to Elspeth.
“Come.” He took her arm gently and led her outside of the gaol.
“It was you who brought the stool, wasn’t it?” She asked.
She lowered her eyes. “Thank you.”
“Will you be alright?”
“I – I think so.”
“I’m sorry he bothered you. He won’t do it again.”
Nodding, Elspeth thanked Ben again.
“Would you like me to walk you home… that is, where you’re staying?”
They began walking.
“What is it the book that you bring to read to your father?”
“It is the Law of the Creator.”
“I did not know it was like that.”
“Daron makes many believe that it is different. He twists the Truths that are in it to convince people to follow his ways.”
“I… I hope you do not mind, I have been listening while you read and talk with your father.”
Surprised, Elspeth looked up. “No, I don’t mind. My father explains things so much better than I do. Come sit with us when you can.”
“I just might.”
When they arrived at the house, Elspeth opened the door and entered, waving farewell to Ben. “Thank you,” she said once more. He nodded, and then left. Elspeth closed the door to find Ardal watching her, with the baby, Brona, on his lap. Elspeth set the book down on the table. A smile quickly spreading across her face, Elspeth quickly crossed the floor to pick up the baby.
“Who was that?” Ardal asked as she picked Brona up. The tiny girl gurgled as Elspeth sat down.
“One of the guards from the gaol.”
“Oh?” Ardal’s eyebrows arched.
“And what do you know of this guard?”
“He’s been listening when I read to papa.” Elspeth said defensively. “One of the other guards was bothering me and Ben stepped in and stopped him, then offered to walk me home.”
“I don’t like it.”
“I don’t really, either. But I’m not going to stop reading to papa.”
“I’m not saying that you should stop. Only maybe one of us boys should go with you next time you go.”
“Aye. Though you’d have to wait outside the gaol.”
“It’s better than nothing, and if this Ben is as trustworthy as he seems, then you will be fine inside as well.”
“Aye. I want to believe that the Creator is working in his heart. He’s not like the other soldiers. He was there when they took papa, and he made sure I had a place to go. He’s gentle. He may come sit with me when I read to daddy next time.”
“Then take heart, Elspeth, for he would have no desire to join you if the Creator were not working in his heart.”
Chapter Fourteen: Aboard the Merchant Vessel
“Can we go up right away, Mr. Keegan?” Jeffrey begged as he dropped his bag on his bed in their cabin. Ten years on land had not lessened his love for being in the rigging.
“No, Jeffrey. We won’t be allowed in the rigging on this ship. It’s not our own.”
“I was afraid of that,” Jeffrey admitted. He sat down on his bunk. “It’s going to be a long journey.”
“I’m glad we can’t go up,” Kianna said. “I don’t like heights any more now than I did then.”
“You won’t be bored, though,” Archie said, entering the cabin with a trunk on his shoulder. “No chance of that with Mr. Keegan and me around. We’ll continue our lessons and work just as we would on shore.” Seeing a groan about to escape from Liam, Archie amended his statement. “Though there will be time set aside for being on deck and learning nautical skills.”
Even eighteen-year-old Kianna couldn’t resist a smile at this. She had finished her official studies over a year ago, but now spent most of her time in the kitchen or copying with the other followers of the Creator. Once a week she spent a day with a family on Tilkah, helping them. But now on the ship all of that would change. There were no other families on board, and she doubted that the ship’s crew would let her cook.
“Maybe if they see how good your cooking is they’ll relent,” Jeffrey had said.
“They’d have to do more than see it,” Liam retorted. “They’d have to taste it.”
Without her usual joys of cooking, playing with children, and talking with mothers, Kianna found the prospect of a month-long sea journey to be a bleak one. The hope of resuming lessons related to sailing did brighten her day, however.
Jeffrey stood, almost banging his head on the ceiling of the cabin. “I’ve grown too much since the days on the Jubilee,” he said. “Tall people weren’t made for sailing.” He looked at the doorway suspiciously. It was even lower than the ceiling. “It’s a wonder I didn’t bonk my head on the way in.”
Kianna looked up at her brother, who towered almost a head above her. “That’s why I told you to stop growing.” She surveyed the cabin. It was second in size only to the Captain’s cabin, but it was still small quarters for five people, three of which were much taller than she was, and a fourth who was on his way to being taller. But it would suffice. The beds weren’t too small, and the table would provide a place for studying.
“Can we see the rest of the ship?” Liam asked. Kianna knew that he would be almost uncontainable on the journey. He couldn’t stand being cooped up, even if it was only for a day when it was raining outside. And if it rained on the ship, being around him would be unbearable.
“Please, Mr. Keegan, may we go on deck?” Jeffrey begged.
“Alright, but stay out of the way of the sailors.”
“Aye, we will.”
The brothers scrambled out of the room – somehow without a bonk on the head from the doorway – and up the ladder to the deck. Then they climbed up another ladder to stand on the poop deck. Jeffrey ran to the railing and stared out across the water. In the distance, he could see the shore of Minarea rising up off the horizon. It was faint, but still there. He longed for open sea, with its cool breezes, the lull of waves lapping against the ship, and the quiet movement of the ship. He loved the way the wind filled the sails and how a small turn of the wheel could change the direction of the huge ship. He ran his hands over the ropes of the rigging, and ached to feel the same ropes beneath his bare feet.
Jeffrey sighed contentedly. “It’s so good to be at sea again.”
“I don’t even remember what it’s like.” Liam looked up at the rigging above them. “But I wish we could go aloft.”
“Maybe they’ll let us sometime.”
“There’s more chance of them letting Kianna cook that there is of us going up.”
“True, but you never know.”
“I wish this was the Jubilee.” Liam said.
“Aye, so do I. But it’s not, so let’s make the best of it anyway. What’s the name of this ship, anyway?”
“I think Mr. Keegan said that it was the Resolve.”
“What sort of cargo does it carry?”
“I didn’t hear that.”
Jeffrey leaned over the rail to look at the side of the ship. “It probably carries rock and wood. I hear that that’s what the Minareans have a lot of, and they sell it at the ports on the islands, because it’s a good market.” He ran his hand along the wood, but jerked it away as a sliver entered his finger. “It’s not nearly as nice of a ship as the Jubilee,” he said as he yanked the wood out. “But it’s twice as large,” he added, surveying the distance from where they stood to the water below. “Though our cabin seems to be twice as small,” he said, remembering the low ceiling. He watched the crew working on the decks. He smiled as he thought about the days aboard the Jubilee when he helped Keegan and Archie prepare the ship for departures.
“Look, they’re getting ready to set sail,” Liam said. He pointed to men climbing up the rigging, then to another man taking the wheel. Dockworkers undid the moorings. The brothers looked at each other and grinned. They were going to be at sea again!
The first week of their journey passed without incident. Kianna was able to help in the galleys, although they didn’t let her cook. She spent her mornings there, helping with breakfast and the midday meal, but her afternoons were devoted to studying and copying. She walked the decks with her brothers after dinner, and then they met with Archie and Keegan for a time of worship together before bed.
But on the first day of the second week, dark storm clouds gathered. Kianna was the first of the travelers to notice as she walked from the galley to ladder down to the hold. The air was cooler, too, and the wind seemed carried a different smell than usual. She shivered. Rain fell as they walked on the decks while the sun set, but the three siblings didn’t take refuge until thunder clapped overhead. Then they scurried down into their cabin, dripping wet but smiling.
It was still raining the next morning when they woke. Liam lay awake in bed, listening to the rain falling on the deck. Every now and then thunder clapped overhead. “I hope this storm doesn’t last for long,” he said. He pictured himself, a week later, still cooped up in the cabin. That would be insufferable! He thought. Jumping down off his bunk, he made sure Kianna was awake, and then stood under a covering on deck to watch the rain in relative safety. Kianna joined him a few minutes later.
“Come to the galley, it’s warm there,” she said.
He nodded, and the two of them ran across the deck to the galley. There Kianna dished out bowls of porridge as the hands came out of their quarters and to breakfast. Many of them told her that her smiling face brightened their day. Liam helped, too, carrying empty bowls back to the galley, where Kianna washed them later. After the ship’s crew finished their meal, Keegan, Archie, and Jeffrey joined Kianna and Liam, and the five of them ate together.
Still the rain did not stop. Kianna began to cough as the chilly air continued to blow, even through the galley. She ignored it – her past bouts of coughing had always healed quickly.
But like the rain, Kianna’s cough persisted. Soon she was not the only one sick, Keegan and a few of the hands also suffered from various coughs, fevers, sore throats, and other such sickness. No one was too sick – yet.
The rain stopped, and the hands healed from their maladies, but Kianna and Keegan remained sick. Kianna tried to hide how weak she felt by keeping up her usual optimism. But Jeffrey knew her too well.
“I don’t like the sound of my sister’s cough, Mr. Archie,” Jeffrey confided.
“Nor I. Your sister is very dear to us all… but her compassion and cheerfulness can be a curse as well as a blessing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think she doesn’t want to hurt us by letting us know how bad she feels, and she thinks she’s better than she is.”
Jeffrey stared at the wooden planks that made up the deck. When he looked up, worry showed all over his face. “Is she dying?”
“I don’t know, Jeffrey. I’m no doctor. I’ve never heard a cough like that before.”
Pain tore at Jeffrey’s heart. “I can’t lose her, too, Mr. Archie.”
Archie bit his lip. “That’s something we can’t control.”
“But would the Creator do that? Leave me with nothing?”
Archie was silent.
“No, really, Jeffrey, I’ll be fine.” Kianna reassured, dishing out another ladle full of soup and pouring it into a bowl.
Jeffrey took the bowl from her hands and set it down on the table. “Kianna, I mean it.”
“I mean it too!” She protested, picking up the bowl again.
“Tomorrow I want you to rest – no work.”
“Kianna… I couldn’t bear it if I – you…”
Kianna looked down. “Alright, I’ll rest tomorrow.” She reached for the bowl.
Kianna nodded silently.
True to her word, Kianna stayed in the cabin all of the next day. Keegan, under the orders of the ship’s doctor, joined her there. Keegan was much sicker than Kianna, but he, too, refused to show it. In the hiding of the cabin, though, he slept the whole day. Kianna could get no sleep. Whenever she drifted off, a fit of coughing woke her. Jeffrey came to see her around dinnertime, bringing her a bowl of hot broth.
“How are you?” He asked. His question was followed with a look that said. Really, Kianna. Don’t hide anything from me.
“I didn’t get any sleep.”
She handed the spoon to Jeffrey and lifted the bowl to her mouth. He smiled at her. Drinking soup was one of their family’s many eccentricities. Even in the presence of strangers, Kianna always drank her soup. So did he and Liam, though the two lads had grown more self-conscious over the years, and sometimes refrained.
“Every time I was about to fall asleep, I’d start coughing.” She coughed again. “Like that.”
“Are you feeling stronger, though?”
“Maybe a bit. I mostly feel tired right now.”
“How is Mr. Keegan?”
Kianna shook her head. “He’s slept all day. I’m worried for him, Jeffrey, I really am. He’s so much sicker than I am. Not a cough, but in other ways. Have you gotten a good look at him?”
Jeffrey turned to look at Keegan. For the first time, he noticed the man’s ashen face and sunken cheeks. “Why didn’t I see it before?”
“He’s good at hiding it. He’s not young like we are. He’s even older than the hands.”
They were quiet as Kianna finished her broth. When she spoke, her voice quivered. “Can we pray for him, Jeffrey?”
“Aye.” He took her hand in his, and they bent their heads in prayer. They stopped when a knock sounded on the door.
Jeffrey got up to open the door. It was the doctor.
“Is Keegan here?”
“Aye. He’s sleeping over there.”
“Thank you.” The doctor noticed Kianna as he entered. “Do we have another invalid here?”
“Aye.” Jeffrey nodded.
“I’ll take a look at her after I finish with Keegan, if you like.”
Kianna was about to protest, but Jeffrey spoke first. “That would be wonderful.”
The doctor gently woke Keegan and asked him a few questions, but let him go back to sleep. Then he turned to Kianna. “So, what’s wrong with you, lass?”
“A cough,” Jeffrey answered.
The doctor laughed. “She can talk can’t she?”
Jeffrey blushed. “Aye.”
“Then let her talk!”
“You’ve got a cough, then?”
“Let’s hear it.”
“I can’t make myself do –“ Kianna began, but her words were broken off by coughing.
Jeffrey studied the doctor’s face, trying to read his expression.
“Not as bad as it could be, but better than some I’ve heard – some I’ve heard that have gotten better, mind you. Keep resting. No work in the galleys until I say so, young lady.”
For Jeffrey, Archie, and Liam, the days were long and dreary, even though the sun shone. They were not allowed in the cabin for long lengths of time, and slept in another cabin to avoid catching the sickness. The doctor visited the invalids every day, checking up on them and bringing various remedies. While Kianna’s cough did not worsen, it did not get better. She grew weaker as lack of sleep took its toll on her. Keegan lost strength even more quickly. Soon he did not move from his bed. Jeffrey and Archie spent as much time by his side as the doctor allowed, reading to Keegan, praying with and for him, and singing hymns with him. They took turns so that he would have more encouragement. But as they passed in the halls, Jeffrey and Archie shared a look that said Keegan’s last days were at hand.
Jeffrey was with him that day, singing quietly to him. He sang the lines that Keegan requested, lines that spoke of seeing the Creator after death. As Jeffrey began another verse, Keegan moved his hand on top of Jeffrey’s knee. The lad stopped singing.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I’m going on before you all. I’ll see the face of my Beloved Redeemer before night falls.”
“Mr. Keegan, don’t…” Jeffrey began.
“Hush, lad. I have accomplished the work that the Creator sent me to do. Now I am going home to Him.”
Jeffrey blinked back tears.
“There are no tears where I am going, Jeffrey.”
His words were meant as comfort, but to Jeffrey they brought only foreshadowing of his friend’s death.
“Mr. Keegan, you’ve been like my father all these years. Thank you. You have taught me many earthly things, but what matters is that you have taught me to love the Creator.”
“Nay, He taught you to love Him. All I am is a tool in His hands.”
Jeffrey could hold back the tears no longer. As they flowed freely from his eyes, Jeffrey felt Keegan’s hand on his head. Jeffrey knew that the man was praying for him.
Oh God… Jeffrey prayed. Do you have to take him from us?
He said it himself. He has completed the work I laid out for him to do.
A few minutes later, footsteps behind Jeffrey caused him to wipe away his tears.
“He’s gone,” he said, without lifting his head. He felt Archie’s strong hand on his shoulder.
“He is with His Maker.”
Death. Death. Death.
Jeffrey moved his hand across the rail of the ship, staring out to sea. The wind blew through his hair, and he closed his eyes. Why does my world have to be so full of death? He wondered. The boy straightened as Archie approached him.
Jeffrey pushed back the emotion straining to get free from his heart. “Good evening, Mr. Archie.” Formality. It was needed so that he didn’t completely lose control of himself.
“The men are ready.”
Jeffrey nodded, keeping his gaze on the water.
“I’d like to see you outside our cabin when we’ve finished.”
“Yes, Mr. Archie.”
Jeffrey felt Archie’s arm around his shoulder, turning him away. “Come.”
Together, they crossed the ship, both quiet. On the Starboard side, the crew of the ship gathered. The passengers stood behind the crew, heads bowed. Many were crying. A still form wrapped in sheets lay on a wooden plank. Jeffrey blinked back tears as he looked at it. Oh, God, why?
“… and so we commit the body of Keegan, beloved captain and teacher, to our Creator and to the deep.” The second mate was saying as Jeffrey called himself back into reality. “And we pray to You, our Lord, that you would comfort us in the loss of this great man.”
This man knows nothing of what he speaks! Jeffrey thought. He didn’t know Keegan as we did; he’s only repeating the words that Archie told him to say!
The sailors lifted the plank and Keegan’s body slipped into the dark blue waters. Jeffrey stared at the deck of the ship. The splash seemed to echo the immense wealth of tears that Jeffrey had cried.
It’s all that happens any more.