"I want to sail east."
Leonardo's words hung in the air. He had gathered the Halglarans, his crew, and the Darvoni household on board his ship to discuss their future. Utren also spotted Ajad lurking behind the mast. He had returned to Crystal Cove the same evening she, Drinean, and Adrinna had.
"Allea is the only family I have left," he continued, his voice determinedly steady. "I can't sleep at night knowing she's holed away in a dungeon being shipped off to some unknown city. If I go east, maybe, just maybe, there is some hope of saving her from a lifetime of captivity or worse. Any who wish to come with me are welcome to, or you can remain here, as Pentol has offered his hospitality to any who wish to stay." He paused, taking a moment to survey the group around him. "I don't need any answers now, but I set sail tomorrow at dawn."
His words were met with nods and a murmur of conversation as people broke off into groups to discuss the matter. Utren crouched on the roof of the captain's cabin, her mind heavy with indecision.
"What will you do?" she asked as Drinean pulled himself up to sit beside her.
"I think I may join him," Drinean replied, clasping his fingers together on his lap. "I have nothing better to do, and some good may yet come of this."
Utren smiled. "I thought that would be your answer. You have some loyalty to this group still."
"Perhaps. And you?"
She stared past the wooden cabins of Crystal Cove, toward the community of stone brick houses she knew hid behind them. "My loyalty is now divided."
"Go, then." Drinean pointed with his chin toward the settlement. "You have the day yet to make up your mind."
And so she did, threading through the cabins until she reached her destination. She breathed in deeply, absorbing the smells of home. There were no cookfires this time, but the scent of junglewood smoke lingered in the air. A few people were gathered under a canopy by one of the dwellings, conversing together in her native tongue. Derrin was among them, though he strode up to Utren upon spotting her.
"I hear your group intends to sail east tomorrow."
Utren nodded, unsure of what to say. Unsure, yet, of her decision. This place offered her a new beginning. Somewhere, finally, to call home again. She could live out her days among her kindred, a life she thought she had been robbed of.
But, as she thought it over, she realized that in a strange way, this was not the only home she had found. For so many years she had relied on no one, had hardly spoken to anyone. But after the shipwreck, that had changed. She had stuck by people, and them by her. Just now, she had spoken to Drinean of loyalty, but he was not the only one to find it with this group.
Mere days before she had risked her life in an attempt to save those three girls because it was the right thing to do. Had that suddenly changed now that one had been rescued, or because it was now a greater endeavor than before?
No. It had not.
She remembered all too well the hopelessness, the loneliness, of being trapped in a foreign land far from home. And she could not in good conscience fall into the embrace of home while others had that choice stripped from them. Until they were returned home, or passed into the hearth of the next life, Utren could not take her place in hers.
At last she returned her attention to Derrin and clasped a hand on his shoulder. "I sail with them. Someday I will return here, but this is a thing I must do first."
Derrin inclined his head. "Then may the gods bless you in this endeavor."
The sun had just begun to rise past the ridges and mountains, casting dazzling hues of pink and yellow across the water of Crystal Cove. People had begun to stir on Leonardo's ship, readying themselves for the coming voyage. Most, if not all its inhabitants had gathered to join Leonardo on his mission. Orjan and Rovella were there, along with Edrea and Penelope and the men of Leonardo's crew. Drinean and Utren too, lingering in the shadows.
To Adrinna's surprise, Nedaro and Anarion had showed up as well. When asked why, Nedaro had simply remarked, "I'd like to see this East place that everyone's been carrying on about."
Sahrin had also come. Leonardo had told the steward that he was no longer under any obligation to serve his family, to which Sahrin had said, "all of my livelihood was taken away the day the Easterers took the city. The household I had managed for over two decades, gone. My son, murdered. There is no life left for me if not the one serving at your side."
As Adrinna surveyed the group, she realized that there was one person absent, one whose presence was impossible to miss.
Jorum was not with them.
Adrinna had not had a proper conversation with him in the day that she'd been at Crystal Cove. It was mostly her fault, as she had spent that time alone, allowing herself to contemplate now that she was safe again, but Jorum had hardly been seen either.
"Have you seen Jorum at all this morning?" she asked Escelor, who stood beside her. Out of all of them, he had been the most convicted in his decision to go east, except perhaps for Leonardo.
"I haven't," Escelor replied. "I suppose it isn't surprising that he's staying."
"Maybe he just slept in," Adrinna said. "Make sure they don't leave without me."
She hurried off the ship, heading for the warehouses by the docks. That's where Jorum had been in the instances when she had seen him. Sure enough, there he was, sleeping in a crevice between a wall and the sloping rocks that led up to the tavern, his feet poking out from the blanket that covered him.
"Hey." Adrinna kicked him lightly. "Everyone's about to leave, you need to get up."
Jorum rubbed his eyes and peered in the direction of the ship. "Oh." Then he turned to look up at Adrinna. "Uh, I'm not going with."
Adrinna stared at him. It was foolish to assume everyone from the group was going east, yet now she realized that is exactly what she had thought would happen.
"You weren't even going to say goodbye?"
"I figured it'd be easier this way." Jorum shrugged. "Didn't think anyone would care."
Adrinna knelt beside him and put a hand on his arm. "I guess I'm here to prove you wrong, then." She shook her head. "Can I at least hear why?"
"You know how you found someone in Elizabeth? Someone worth sticking around for? That's what I have here. I've finally found a place where I can contribute something and people who value me."
"You have that with the group too."
"Maybe. But the group isn't gonna last forever, and I'm no hero."
"Well," Adrinna said, withdrawing contact, "I guess there's no point trying to change your mind, then." She stood slowly. "I hope this works out for you."
They exchanged nods and that was it. Adrinna headed back to the ship, a strange weight off her shoulders, and she was filled with anticipation for the journey and the strength of her purpose, a purpose greater than any she had known her whole life.
Elizabeth, I'm coming for you.
As she stepped on board, Escelor offered a sympathetic smile and she went to stand by him. A cool breeze billowed her hair as they set off. Adrinna leaned into it, laying her arms over the railing. It was a fine morning.
"Do remember, everyone," Drinean warned, "we are heading into unknown territory with no map to guide us. This won't be an easy voyage."
"Oh, lighten up, you," Nedaro told him. "This ship is manned by some of the best sailors in the world."
His words were met with whoops and cheers as the docks of Crystal Cove were left behind them and they sailed into the morning sun.
Author's Note: And that's a wrap on Book 1! First off, I want to say a huge thank you to anyone who has read all the way through. It means a lot to me.
With that said, I have a decision to make. Both Books 2 and 3 are fully written and edited. However, it does take a bit of time to get them properly copied over and formatted from my Word document, and it's only worthwhile for me to do that if I know people are going to read them. As I write this, Unknown Isles has frankly gotten very little attention, and while I knew that was likely going in, I'm not going to waste time posting the next two if no one is going to read them. So please, if you've read all the way through Unknown Isles, let me know. Of course I would love any feedback anyone has to offer, but even a favorite tells me someone read and enjoyed it and that there's a potential reader for Books 2 and 3.