"He bloody well did, crazy bastard," the sailor said. Moor, they called him, but for a reason Zevan could only fathom. He was large and tattooed, bald of head with the ink running up his neck and onto his pate. A starling sat in roost on his crown, for gods and crows to see, but Zevan saw only the goateed face, snarling into his ale. He spit on the floor, thick green globule landing with a splat, and the three sailors joining him added their thoughts as well. Zevan frowned, but said nothing from a few tables away.
"Fucker'd likely have drown us all, if Gorm hadn't kicked him in the arse," another said, this one named Kelven. Gorm, third of the four at the table, hoisted his goblet and chugged the liquid, foam floating down his clean-shaven, pockmarked face. He smirked as his massive tongue flopped out and lapped up the alcohol, the other men hooting. The last, a quieter man, simply observed his crewmates with a small smile. He knew them, and he knew where this conversation was going.
"Yeah, if I hadn't, he'd've drowned us for sure. And just off port, too," Gorm added, rousing the other two. They all hoisted and drank, long draughts that gave rise to massive belches. They guffawed and continued on.
"Prancing about, talking mad about his poor old dad having gone to the grave," Kelven chuckled, "If I had a son like him, I'd've gone off too. A mediocre sailor and a whiny one at that," he laughed, the others nodding in agreement. From behind them, strange eyes peered through dark bangs, catching Zevan's eye for only a moment. He knew why she was here. To direct.
"And that fucking iron box... It should have been the weight dragging him to Chrien's slimy cunt, if you ask me," Moor said, spitting again. The spot on the floor was rather slippery now from their errant saliva, and Zevan was glad he was not the poor sod who had to clean the puddle.
"Poor Pavel and his iron box with a lock," Moor continued, and this caught Zevan's attention. No key. Kova's eyes shone with an ethereal light from behind the men, staring through them, directly into Zevan's. A coy smile danced on her lips. It reminded him of that night.
"Kicked his arse out in Bayward, and better to be rid of him. The Captain's Ire can't use no more bad luck, and that green-haired son of a carbuncle ain't nothing but bad luck," the fourth man said. His eyes met Zevan's, and it was as if the two knew each other. They hadn't met, but he certainly recognized the son of Cassion. Zevan stared back, but the sailor broke eye contact quickly. Zevan felt something pull at his flesh, the faintest prickle of a spider's legs on the back of his neck. He knew this man. Or this man knew him... Well.
Zevan knew he was being sent to Bayward, to find this green-haired sailor named Pavel. He understood his quest, his part in the story. But he didn't understand hers... Why she was there, why she was guiding him. All those arcs ago, she had told him his fate, unwanted and unasked for, and now she was here to steer him. Perhaps the story wasn't his to tell, but hers and he was her protagonist.
He rose from the table and walked by the men, each of them sensing him as he passed. They were transients, never to settle but always to be at sea, and his passing was one they would note. Zevan, they knew, his name was. Stopping, he dropped a few nel on the table.
"Next round is on me," was all the Mortalborn offered before pushing from the doors of the Crest Break, sailing out into the evening air just as it began to cool. Spring in Ne'haer, what a beautiful array of sights and smells. The toast to Zevan rose in the tavern behind him, but Zevan's path was away.
"You should have stayed to drink with them," the silken voice of Kova Rain chided him. He need not turn to see the desert witch's body beside him. She was the wind he heard in the trees, and she always would be that.
"They have a great many stories, I am sure. But I know when I am being called to adventure," Zevan added, lightly, "It's in my very soul."
He could sense Kova's delight.
"You were never good at stopping to enjoy the lows before the highs, Zevan," she purred, close enough that he could smell the dust on her. Or perhaps
that was himself.
"Three lives I've lived. I'm sure I stopped at least twice," he laughed, the joke falling on silent winds. Kova was gone, and so too was Zevan's elation.
She was right, he often did not stop to smell the roses. He floated from story to story, never pausing to consider the time in between. Rest and relaxation were not for the son of Cassion, and were he to find his way, no longer be lost and wandering, perhaps he could do so. Perhaps one day, he would stop and enjoy the scenery, take revelry in the cast of characters.
But he himself was wandering, always the traveler. Perhaps that was his character.
"The past beats inside me like a second heart."
— John Banville