The Sun crests with a blazing blast of yellow light just as one of the grey ramshackle dwellings sitting on the lip of the rocky cliff gives up in its fight with gravity and shifts with a crack of dry alpine wood. The unexpected screams of terror of those inside, echo against the wet granite and the splash 300 meters down, as the home disappears into cold deep waters of Lichen Bay.
The ferry captain rides the resulting wave.
He eyes the white-capped wake for survivors but the blue-green water smooths quickly swallowing all tell that a house even entered the water.
His two passengers stir in their berths. Soon they will come out on deck and ask what has happened. Only the dead could sleep through that kind of noise and he will tell them the slums of Lichen happened.
People called to the flames of Lichen with no better place to live call the cliff slums home.
Bits of gravel pling off the rocky slope.
Until the house next to the now sunk home collapses and its dry wood catches fire.
Probably embers burning in the hearth, the captain thinks.
He shifts his eyes to the ledge above and watches as buckets are thrown into the bay to be pulled up and used to douse the fire that spreads quickly. A black smoke already smears across the morning sky. At least the slums have that. A sense of camaraderie. They all know it could be them tomorrow.
The sun rises fast in the East, yellow and glittering off the crystal buildings in Lichen. It does nothing to warm up the early Fall crispness, but that is expected.
The smoke from the fire above stays off the water and in the shadows between the two famous cliffs the captain smells the mold covered rocks that reminds him where he is.
Witnessing death livens his senses.
It has been so long since he has been back here. Honestly, he never thought he would return. He doesn’t quite know why he did.
He dips his oar mechanically. Watching the horizon above and seeing the approaching city center glitter with every conceivable color.
It was warmer down south and maybe a bit safer but it was dull there. Maybe he came North again because there is only so much sun and relaxation a man can get before he hungers for adventure or something to do.
“Captain, are we there?”
“Aye, lass. Nary a dozen more miles and I will have ye and your father on the dock.”
He does not look at her. She is different. When he looks at her he wants to protect her and do things for her like undock his ferry boat and cruise up the Southland coast and deliver her and father to Lichen.
With every row the water laps against the cliffs and echoes back and it suddenly dawns on him once he gets her safe on land he will have to worry about how to get home again. He is as broke now as he was when she asked for his help. Not many passengers look for passage South. “umm Ms. about payment, the dockmaster is going to want money for use of a slip…”
“Don’t worry Captain. Our adventure has just started. You’ll get money. And more. Much much more.”
And he believes her. He stops worrying. In fact, he digs his oar even harder in Lichen Bay. He has passengers to deliver. He has more to look forward to. Much much more.