All good stories start with bad decisions.
This is the questionable mantra I repeat in my head as we watch the boat come in. It’s a beautiful vessel, so unlike the plain wooden canoes that always flock Atera’s river docks. The hull is glass, and through it I can see the dawn and the orange sands of the desert; the water and the reed-choked shore. As it draws nearer, the sun ignites along its edges like fire, the deep blue canopy above seeming to flutter in the heat. Guards with golden leopard masks and sickle swords patrol its railings, and in the river, the magic propelling it glows like a trail of fading stars.
It is a ship where legends are made.
Life out here is hard, my mother used to say, so you have to be harder. Even she wasn’t strong enough to fight off the sickness. By the end she was just a shell of herself, her skull showing through the skin on her face, talking nonsense when the delirium took her. Sometimes she didn’t know who I was or what was happening. And then she remembered, and it was worse.