The journey to the new land took a month and four days, but by the time that three weeks had passed both Allula and Batic stopped counting. There was a certain meditation they formed while working aboard the ship. Allula could not recall having so many blisters on her hands, but Batic could never forget. He cringed at the memories of torture, but reminded himself that justice had been found. All that mattered now was meeting the new challenges to come head-on and that meant killing the captain before they docked.
“We are to reach the new land in two days, La,” Batica explained to the young thief. “In that time we must buy ourselves a head-start in this new world.”
“What do you mean?” Allula asked munching on some of the last of the stale bread soaked in water.
“Most likely the captain or worse yet, the crew, know there is no longer a sultan in the Everlasting Desert. We either flee or buy ourselves a month.”
“You are suggesting murder, aren’t you?”
“What would you do, La? You said it yourself, we are now wanted criminals of one of the highest crimes. We must take no chances with what is to come.”
“A chance is exactly what we must take. The Royal Guard in the desert had no idea we were on this ship, which means when we reach the new world they won’t be expecting us straight away, if at all. For all we know they think we passed away in the desert.”
“You want to take that risk, don’t you?”
“I do, Batic. These men, we’ve worked with each and every one of them the past month. Made friends and shared memories. We share the same hands and have the same tired muscles. We cannot be so cold.”
“You speak so kindly of them, but you know full well if they knew who we were we would be executed on the spot.”
“Maybe, but I rather leave them with a memory of two sailors they can count on than criminals who left knives in their backs.”
Allula didn’t seem angry, but her words cut. She was a thief and one who was well known by the Royal Guard, but in the end she seemed to hold the value of others lives higher than her own.
“Have you ever killed anyone?” Batic asked.
“No, I have yet to meet anyone deserving and even then I doubt I would have the will to do so,” Allula explained.
“I believe eventually the most cruel people face a darkness of their own in return for the darkness they created.”
“Do believe you and I will face such retribution?”
“Perhaps me, but I’m not sure about you. You seem to be retribution.”
Batic didn’t know what to say in reply. It seemed that Allula behaved both with wisdom and naivety. Still, she had a point. There may not be a need to kill anyone and perhaps if he did it would only point towards there being a killer in the new land. With that in mind he held himself back, but only just. The captain would live with the crew, but Batic did this out of fear rather than mercy. If he was to be retribution in Allula’s eyes he had to kill those deserving.
That night the crew stood on deck and watched the land come into view. It was something truly amazing to behold. A land so green and dark, unlike the dry, deathly desert. There were lights in the distance, fires made by the people who lived in their cool homes build along the coast and up the mountains. Something surely wonderful awaited Batic and Allula, that is until they both heard the sound of metal being drawn behind them.
Both turned to see the captain with a drawn sword pointed towards Batic and Allula. The crew gathered closed around their captain, ready to back him up. Batic and Allula realized then and there that they were the ones that had been made into fools.
“You think that I don’t know the men I hired as my crew?” the captain asked. “You think that getting away with what you did is so easy, huh?”
The captain was crazy eyed and seemed more than dangerous, but the corners of his mouth seemed to twitch. It was then that the captain broke his facade along with the rest of the crew. All of them laughed loud and with great enthusiasm.
“What is happening?” Allula asked Batic. Batic shrugged.
“Calm, my friends,” the captain told them. “You are lucky to have stowed away on our ship, for we are the rebels of the Everlasting Desert. We were going to reveal ourselves when we were day away from the harbour, but when we wondered how long the girl could last wearing that carpet on her face.”
The crew once more broke out into laughter as Allula tore off the beard angrily. Her skin was already dark, but made darker by the month at sea. Removing the beard revealed her old skin tone of the same shape as the beard. In doing so she only added to the power of the rebels laughter and even Batic cracked a smile. The captain stepped forward and held out his hand to Batic.
“I take it you were the one who did the deed?” the captain asked seriously. Batic nodded. “That is a hard thing to do in these times. So many people were still deciding what kind of man the Sultan was.”
“I knew he was no man,” Batic replied coldly.
“You will have no argument from us, but we can also warn you that returning to the desert should be at the back of your mind. You have more enemies than friends there, but you can rest assured that you made friends of the rebellion.”
“I have done all that I can in my country. Now, I do as the girl tells me.”
Allula looked up surprised at Batic and the captain seemed to wear the same expression. The captain shrugged off the matter and called the crew together for celebration long overdue. However, Allula felt touched that Batic offered his life to her and remember that fact always.