The Kiss Goodbye rode the waves in a similar fashion to a drunk descending a staircase: haphazard, swaying dangerously from side to side at each crest before careening downward once more, seawater slopping over her rails like a spilled drink. Sunlight baked her weathered planks and salt-encrusted rigging, drawing bitter curses from the crew that scurried across her deck. Still she plodded on, her bobbing nose invariably returning to the growing mass on the horizon.

"Not long now." Tarth commented gruffly.

Gallus shot a sidelong glance at the short, gray-haired man who had joined him at the railing before returning his gaze to the approaching land. "Landfall before sundown, the captain said."

"With this wind?" Tarth snorted and spat a stream of tobacco over the ship's edge. Some of it was whisked away by the wind; the rest sluiced down his chin. "We'll be unloading in two bells at the most."

"What's it like?" Gallus asked suddenly. "I know you've made this voyage before."


"Yes, and...Keribas in general."

Tarth wiped a sleeve across his mouth and shrugged. "Dehlos is like any other port town. Buildin's are diff'rent, but it's a lot of new blood and new money. The older families and older ways are further inland, but if yer smart you'll sit your ass in Dehlos."

Gallus laughed at that. "On the contrary, I plan to leave immediately. I have an appointment in Tressemie in two weeks."

"Best be ware then, ser, and keep a sharp eye out on the roads: this isn't Corone."

"Gallus," he shook his head. "Not ser, just Gallus." he continued, prompted by Tarth's confused squint.

"Well, beggin' your pardon, but word gets around. Even if you weren’t totin’ a bloody sword, old Lady Darris herself swears she saw you knighted back in Radasanth.”

He opened his mouth to reply, hesitated, snapped it back shut. For a moment the young noble considered telling Tarth the whole story: that the Order was nothing more than a gang of bored, wealthy brats playing at chivalry; that, aside from their training, they did little but drink, boast, and wander the streets, displaying their swordbelts for young maids to swoon over; that the moment it seemed like Corone could face real danger their fathers had broken up their little game and sent them away.

But a rumor of cowardice or disgrace was the last thing he needed following him to Keribas, and as reluctant as he was to admit it to himself, he feared losing face with the old man. He glanced over again, but Tarth was staring out to sea, his face unreadable. He gripped the railing with gloved hands as the Kiss Goodbye lurched forward, once again rushing downard to the bottom of another swell. Saltwater sprayed the two men.

“Never mind what you heard.”

The old sailor finally tore his gaze from the horizon and, still expressionless, looked up at the flapping sails. The wind had picked up again, pulling the ragged fabric taut. “As you will. Better gather your things then, Just Gallus. Like I was sayin’, not long now.”