The following is the first part of a work of speculative fiction. I was inspired to write this, in part, by the Space Bats Contest, which to date has resulted in three published short story anthologies and two more in production.
The captain of the sloop Salish Mosquito called down to Renald, who had taken shelter in the cabin of the small freighter to get out of the sun, which was already becoming oppressive even though it wasn't even noon yet. "We're almost there, sir. I see the dock now." Renald grabbed his pack and headed back up onto the deck, and squinted into the distance. Now visible was what was apparently their destination; one long spindly looking dock at the head of a narrow inlet from Washington Sound. Like most docks in this part of the world, it had a distinctly ramshackle and temporary feel about it. With the propensity of the sea level to fluctuate dramatically over the past centuries, mariners couldn't be blamed for not investing any more than the minimum effort in building moorages. It certainly wasn't like the old days, which were now all drowned.
A man emerged as the sloop approached the dock, and presently lines were heaved across the gap and the ship made fast. "Welcome to Thornport," the man said as Renald stepped onto the dock, which swayed slightly under his weight. It was even flimsier than the usual construction. "We don't have many outsiders come here."
"I should think not, here in this land of pirates and bandits," thought Renald, but outwardly his only reaction was a brief nod. He looked back at the captain of the sloop. "It may take me a day or two to get back. You'll be safe here . . . ?"
"Well, they did assure us that we would get a safe passage. I think we'll be ok."
"Very well, then." Renald turned and strode up the dock.
Unexpectedly, the local man who had met them fell into step beside him. "Do you know where you're going? This isn't really a region where people travel alone."
Renald turned and looked at him. "I have a map, and I have assurances that the person I am meeting is expecting my arrival. I'll be fine."
"Well, my commander has asked me to make sure you stay safe, so I'll just tag along, if you don't mind."
"Suit yourself." Great, a minder, or a spy. Renald had dealt with situations like this in the past, but it still irked him. "Nothing to be done for it now, though," he thought, and starting heading west at a brisk pace.
Continued in Part 2.