Something Else, But What?

Something Else, But What? | The Red Raven, Part 3

Joseph DeCorvi . . . 

Was how how the letter began. When Joseph had found it tucked neatly into his back pocket a month ago he had been surprised, to say the least. Upon reading it, it had left him in a cold sweat.

I have heard that you are the right man for this particular job, or rather, for a job of this calibre. 

At the time he had been staying at a little inn near the shores of Waridge, an island located right on the border between Cannard and Oursar. Waridge profited from the two countries in trade, tourism, and as an official border crossing (of which only two ferrying companies legally benefited from). Another thing the island profited from was numbers. Its population was comparable to that of Tarano, comprising of many cultural groups.

We sketched a map! Now you can see into the future! Wait . . .

We sketched a map! Now you can see into the future! Wait . . .

The first and last thought that went through Joseph’s head was: How did someone find me? It was easy to get lost on the island. This meant two things: someone knew who he was, and someone was watching him.

I have heard that you are the right man for this particular job, or rather, for a job of this calibre. 

There is an artifact that I wish to obtain for scholarly purposes. Are you familiar with ravens? I myself prefer the red ones; they pose such interesting questions. Where do they come from?  Why are they red? And more importantly: what do they mean?

If you are interested, stay another night at this ‘inn’. You’ll find a set of instructions in the morning. Your clients will always give you difficult tasks, as you well know. Burn this and go on your way if my proposal has failed to interest you. Otherwise, enjoy your stay!

Every instinct that had ever been ingrained in him had shouted NO!

He held on to the letter for the entire day, wandering through countless streets and districts, one hand always in his coat pocket . . . More than one person had shied away from him. Joseph supposed that he would too, if he could see himself. Several times he had come close to burning the letter, but he always stopped himself at the last minute.

At the end of the day curiosity got the better of him, and he returned to the same inn.

He had always had a fondness for myths. The Red Raven was the most ambiguous and widespread myth that he could think of . . .

Where did it come from? Why was it red? And more importantly: what did it mean?

The very next morning he awoke to find a letter on the nightstand. His blood ran cold. The door had been bolted, and blocked for good measure; his vocation called for extra precautions like these . . .

When Joseph opened the letter his face paled. “I should have burned the damn thing!” he whispered.

What his new contractor wanted was for him to commit suicide! Yes, he felt that that sentiment summed it up just about. Basically he was to cross into Oursar, travel South for three to four weeks, and then find a way to the island of Reyk . . . What this stranger wanted was for him to rob the Iribou Clan* . . .

*

He found himself on the Oursar ferry to Waridge. It had been three weeks since he had fled Reyk with that forsaken crown. The plan was to cross the border into Cannard and then head to Mantou on the mainland. His journey was far from over though. . . Still, as the Eastern Port came into view he let out a little sigh. As soon as the ship landed he would make his way to the Cannard half of the island, then in the following morning he would take the other ferry.

It was simple in theory. There were three other border patrol stations he would need to pass through; it had taken him the better half of the day to get through the first one, and by the time he cleared the second it would be midnight. He groaned.

The ferry docked. For the next hour or so Joseph waited in line. By the time he was cleared it was a little bit earlier than he had anticipated.

It was a humid night out on the streets. Out in the distance thunder could be heard promising more rain; when the first drops hit the pavement the people cleared the streets, leaving them empty and lifeless. Joseph pulled the hood of his jacket down over his face some more, and wrapped his arms around his body for warmth. The sheer amount of rain he had seen over the weeks was a tell-tale sign of the approaching fall. He shivered.

The Cannard half of the island was fast approaching. All the time Joseph had been listening to the sounds of the rain. There was an unsettling tickle at the back of his neck; it had been there since the rain started, but he ignored it. There was a lot of splashing, but he had dismissed it. Rain made noise. Lots of noise. He felt a bit stupid for needing to reaffirm that fact within his mind. Of course, that noise could also provide cover for someone following him; it would not be the first time someone had tried to jump him in the rain. “Let them try,” he whispered. On he went, maintaining his pace. He didn’t bother to look behind him, but he did straighten out his back. For a second he blacked out–he saw a pathway before him, he was running, loud footfalls following him, someone gaining on him–and he blinked. What brought on that?

Joseph made it to the Western Port just in time. The woman in charge was just about to close the office.

She eyed him as she was about to shut the door. “You’re taking the ferry I assume?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“You’re lucky, the captain wasn’t going to take any more passengers.” She motioned for him to come in.

“Thank you,” he said.

The woman shrugged. “It’s slower this time of year. I don’t mind.” She looked over his passport, took his fare, and issued him a ticket.

Joseph looked out the window while he waited. He saw someone standing by the nearest lamppost. So, someone was following me! He wasn’t the least bit surprised by that. Whoever it was, they were tall–really tall, come to think of it. And thin.

Too thin.

There was something wrong, but he had no idea what it was. He only knew what they were after.

Joseph took his things and headed for the ferry.

*The Iribou Clan is one of the few remaining clans; these clans were essentially large warrior societies. They are housed on Reyk, an island on the Oursar section of the River Maria; they control the island.

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