Lupin's logbook

— Chapter 15 —

Day 2

Morning

Hello Logbook. Dorake's passage is a day away. Our progress is good, but slow. The wind comes and leaves as it wants, and when it's gone all we can do is wait.

Hours of still desert paired with a clear, clear sky, makes it difficult to believe that the wind will ever return. Tarka's sails hang from their ropes, as if asleep. Everything but my mind is still. I am impatient, unaccustomed to a vessel dependent on weather for movement. The Ilk never has to wait for wind.

My eyes found movement in the sand, spotting the top leaves of a cactub off Tarka's stern. Plants like cactubs can survive almost anything, that is, unless they fall prey to a hunter. In calm weather they emerge to take in moisture and light, but small avians time their exits with theirs to take bites out of them. Many of the desert perennials I've seen have leaves or nubs missing, their flesh covered with craters.

I used to think I knew the desert well, but I had a giant's perspective, blind to tiny details. From up there, the world below looked quiet and barren, but there is life here too.

Most creatures here live in the topmost layer of the sand dunes, some live here always, while others dig out homes in passing. Many creatures will only ever show themselves under specific weather conditions, like hespers. Hespers bloom into existence every hundred years, but have very short lives. They're in constant flight, soaring on wind currents. They go where the wind takes them. That is all they can ever do because they don't have limbs, or wings. I think I saw one floating high above the mast yesterday, carried by an impossible wind. I climbed up to see it, but by the time I made it to the top it had already drifted out of sight.

There are reptavians flying around our vessel too, the sound of their leathery wings evident in this quiet. I've never been good at identifying reptavians, but Eka identified them straight away. "Crested-hirudines." They are quick flyers, with red crests on their heads and bright green scales on their bellies. Their movements are jerky, but precise. They always fly in tight groups, sweeping up together against the sky, twisting at great speed. I sat on deck a while to enjoy the show, gasping whenever the group narrowingly avoided our mast. They would fly near and around it, mesmerized by its perfect verticality.

In Volare we have hololomimos. Small, bulgy-eyed reptavians that like to nest in houses. We didn't used to have them, we think they climbed aboard during one of our stops in Montore. They like it on the Ilk because there are plenty of shroos to eat, but of course this is a problem for my people because our food supply is limited. No one wants to harm the hololomimos, so now we have trappers that look for nests to move them back on land. When I was last there, the relocation efforts were going well.

Later I spotted a group of yellow avians with long forked tails. They stared at us for a long while, immobile, feet anchored in the ground. Eka & I were sitting on deck and stared back. We did this for a while, neither us or the avians wanted to be the first to look away, because that would mean losing the staring game. But then the group all moved at once, they moved quickly, scattering before diving into holes in the ground for shelter. "We won," I had told Eka then, but I then understood the reason for their hurry... the wind was back! They had sensed its return, and knew that when the wind came back, bigger and faster avians and winged reptavians would also come out, putting them at a disadvantage.

We too rely on the wind for forwardness. The air filled our sails, and Tarka's hull creaked as it began to slide forward. I pulled in the sheets for extra power, and we started to glide.

The calm was over, now it was time to fly.

Afternoon

Every afternoon I sweep the sand from the deck, but it is an impossible task. There is always more sand coming. I clear it anyway. It's become a routine, an activity I've come to enjoy. While I sweep I look at the deck, I look at the lines, sails and blocks, to make sure all is fine.

When Eka gets up, we eat breakfast together. We still have loaves of muckwheat to eat, although I choked on a piece of purple bean sausage this morning. I dipped it in mapple jam and it was like eating flames. Eka laughed, but never did explain.

In the afternoons, I read. I've finished reading Volare's letters in the Tale of Three. Most are short messages between Volare and Uno, but there are also poems. I rather like them, and plan to memorize them to pass the time.

Eka is sitting at the bow, staring ahead at far-away mountains. It is a nice, nice day, and I hope it stays that way.

Having so much time to think is nice, but it also makes me realize how forgetful I am. I forgot to ask Renzo about the story of Aristollo. I am so distracted most days that I don't have the mind space to remember these things. Out here, my eyes lock onto the horizon, and thoughts that lay deep inside my brain bob to the surface. All day they transit in and out of my head. Sometimes, I latch onto a passing thought, and hold onto it to dissect for hours and hours.

I wonder what Eka is thinking about now. I ask a lot, and fear I've asked too much already.

Yesterday Eka was thinking about the mountain top. The green place that could charm anyone into staying forever. I think about it a lot too, and hope that I get to go again. There are plants there that I've never seen anywhere else. Sometimes I catch their scent in the air, as if the wind carries their perfume across the desert, and that these nostrils were lucky to catch them in passing. Tarka is comfortable, but no place can rival the fragrant mountain top, not even my hammock in Volare.

I prepared roasted plumpkin for midday. I scooped out the seeds and will leave them to dry on deck, weather permitting. The seeds are very good to eat as a snack when dry, they are crunchy on the inside and gooey on the inside. As taught by Eka, I eat one, and toss one. A determined traveller could re-trace our steps by following our trail of seeds. I hope that they grow into plumpkins, and that they form a long line of greens across the desert.

The mountain ahead is getting closer and closer. A thick, yellow and brown cloud layer is obscuring its top. Nono did say that a cloud of that color was indicative of rain. Rain. I am excited, but also worried, because I remember something else Nono said... that if the sky showed that same hue, that it could mean severe localized weather. The sky doesn't have that shade now, but I'll keep an eye on it.

Evening

It's Eka's turn to prepare food. We had a dinner of bonan chips with a looma root stew! Because Bala was in Renate, we were able to get some of my favorite Verido produce. We now have a basket-full of looma and licky roots. Wik ate some of the leftover chip crumbs, glad that we are messy eaters. The deck was licked clean of all food particles, same for the ones lining our fingers.

Our woth friend likes to walk up and down the side of the mast, the tiny hairs on its legs have amazing grip! The wind is a bit stronger now, and Wik is unaffected, legs anchored to the mast!

The cloud on the mountain ahead is getting puffier, but again, no sign of a yellow brown sky. Eka and I prepared the storm anchor. Neither of us have ever used it before. We did not experience severe weather on our passage to Tiputa on Etyl. Nono explained how to set it up during one of Tarka's test runs. It was easy. All we had to do was to pull the anchor out of its locker, to attach a long rope to it. Then, we had to douse the sails, lash them down and throw the anchor off the bow, tying the bitter end to a strong point on deck. Doing it during calm weather wasn't hard, but Nono said it might be challenging with more wind. I practice my knots to make sure I can do them well, even in stressful conditions. Mago would be proud.

Eka is a fast learner, and always gets everything right on the first try. I sometimes wish I was the same. I know that wishing for this is useless, because it's not how I am, and my way of being is also fine.

Night

The night's shifts were easy, the wind died again. I walked around the deck all night, reciting Volare's poems aloud. I did not wake Eka with my recitations.

The last poem I learned, goes like this:

For poetry, I know that there are rules, but I don't know them. Despite not knowing, I think I will try to write some of my own.

Levi taught me how to write. We'd practice on flat bits of carapace, dipping our fingers in loobery syrup to use as ink. I never got to look at my writing for very long though, because I liked the taste of loobery syrup too much. As Levi wrote, I was there to mop up the juices from previous words. And so, I never did have time to study the letters to better my eye and hand.

Volare's writing has an illustrative quality to it, while mine is crooked and clumsy. Nothing is even. Volare's "A's" look the same throughout the text. I can see that this is my problem, my letters aren't ever the same. I know what beautiful letters look like, but even if I see them in my mind I can't reproduce them. Sometimes my letters shrink to a whisper, or grow big and loud, all in one word. Eka said that with practice I will be able to match the image in my head. I hope that's true.

The sand floor is empty tonight. Not a single creature in sight. Strange.


Day 3


Morning

I woke up to a roaring sound. The wind had risen, and the entire cabin was shaking. The yukwood hull creaked, as if the walls were aching to escape. There was sand inside of the cabin, covering the stairs and floor near the entrance. The hatch was shut, but sand had found its way inside, slipping through the cracks and filling every corner. I got up, looked outside and found an opaque wall of weather. No horizon. I could not see past Tarka's middle. I went back inside to slip on a pair of goggles and a scarf, the speed of that wind pushed the sand at violent speeds, and just like sand had gotten inside of the cabin with ease, it too would a way inside my nostrils. Too much could kill you. I followed Eka's tether to the bow, and was glad to find my companion there, safe.

All of the sails were down, and looking ahead I saw a line extending out into the sand. The line was taut, and led back to our anchor, disappearing behind the yellow veil. We were riding on our storm anchor. Eka too wore goggles and a scarf. We both stared at the rope, to make sure that the anchor had set. My friend's red hair had a muted color today, dimmed with dust.

The quiet world of yesterday was gone. In such weather all creatures were hiding in their respective shelters. We ought to do the same. Nono had told us that if there weren't any small avians around that it is a sure sign that the weather was deteriorating. We should have seen the signs, a barren land is a portent of disaster.

When we were certain that Tarka wasn't going to blow away, we retreated back inside and prepared some food. Eka explained that the wind had picked up fast, and threatened to turn us over. A storm had come under the cover of night.

The event I had been dreading had arrived.

Afternoon

Eka and I took turns shoveling sand from the deck. The wind was still screaming into our faces, and became more ferocious as the day warmed. Erring on the side of caution, we decided to throw another anchor off the bow. If our main anchor failed, then we'd have the second one to depend on.

I have no appetite. My stomach is full with worry, and fear. What I don't eat, Eka takes. As usual, the Wonder doesn't share my fears. I am glad for this, because two worriers would not be very useful right now.

Evening

The accumulating sand is beginning to bury us. I don't know how we'll be able to get the anchors out. We went out often on deck today to push the sand off from around the bow, but the wind carried more back. I wonder if it would not have been better to run with the weather, but I remember what Nono said. Running in heavy winds might result in Tarka pitch-polling. Pitch-polling means that the sandfin would roll head first. Few sandfins could recover from such an ordeal, the rig would likely break. I bet that's how this area acquired its reputation of being a graveyard for sandfins.

Even after hours of shoveling, I still can't eat anything. My whole body is on alert, putting aside regular processes to attend to this stressful event. Hunger doesn't happen under stress, nor thirst.

Night

Both of us stayed awake, the noise outside made it difficult to sleep. We spent a lot of time stuffing bits of fabric into openings, to try and keep the sand out. With time though, the sand always finds a way in. It sends fingers of grains through cracks, like soldiers to war. Given enough time its hordes would overwhelm, and entomb us.

The mainsail got loose. We could hear it shaking the entire rig. The sail was whipping violently above our heads. The two of us went out to try and lash it back down again. Opening the hatch to exit, even for a second, sent a geyser of grain below. We closed it tight, tied our tethers, and felt our way forward, moving towards the mast. The wind was much stronger now, and the sand scratched any bit of exposed skin. We'd noticed that the rocks in the area were all smooth, and now we know why. If we stayed out here too long, we too would start to shrink in size, our sharp edges ground down by the weather.

I had to re-tie the scarf around my mouth and nose many times. The wind has skilled and patient hands, able to untie any knot. It did manage to loosen my scarf all the way, I could feel sand funneling inside my nostrils and into my throat. I plugged my nose shut with one hand while Eka rushed over to fasten the knot again. I coughed and wheezed from under the strip of cloth, in a hurry to expel the grains from my lungs. My throat was burning for a long time after that.

We tied the boom down again and wrestled the sail in. This was a task that required 4 hands. We folded the sail down in sections, with Eka adding rope as we went along. I trust Eka's knots more than my own. It doesn't look as though the sail cloth was damaged, although we found one broken batten. Fixing a batten is not too difficult, Nono made us carry spares.

We were lucky that the wind did not shred the sail. Nono would hate me using that word. Lucky. There is no such thing as luck, just good and cautious sandfinners.

Once everything was lashed down well we hurried back inside. I am tired now, but I don't know if I'll be able to sleep today.


Day 4

Morning

The storm abated, and when it did it, rain fell from the sky. A gentle, cool rain. We sat for hours in it, smiling, letting it wash the sand from our clothes and skin. It helped strip the sand from the deck too. Rain is rare in the Soronan Desert, but the geography here is perfect for it. Now that the wind is down, we can see plants coming out of the soil, their leaves fanning out to try and catch it. Nono told us that this place had many hidden waterstone caverns, but no one ever stayed here long enough to uncover them, the area was too dangerous.

After the rain subsided, we began the long task of freeing Tarka from the enormous sand bank that had engulfed it. The whole front of the bow disappeared under a thick, and heavy yellow canopy. Now I understand why Nono insisted on us carrying a pair of heavy shovels. I found my appetite again then, and ate half of a muckwheat loaf.

Afternoon

We are still busy clearing the sand away. The bow is almost free, but then we'll have to try and retrieve the two anchors. Tarka has a drum that we can wrap the anchor line around. It has a hole at the top, where we can insert a handle to hoist them back up. I tried to use it but could not do it, still too much sand... we need to keep digging.

We keep finding sand inside of the cabin, under floorboards, in cups and within the pages of Volare's book too.

Evening

We did it. We've cleared most of the obstructions away, and were able to remove both anchors. Our timing couldn't have been better, because the wind is rising. We are both exhausted though, but sleep will have to come later for me. I volunteered to keep watch on deck first. Eka went below to rest. I can taste sleep in my mouth. Whenever I feel sleep coming I eat a slice of chililly, the sting is enough to keep me awake for a while.

The sails are up and full, we are heading through Dorake's pass under clear skies. The suns are still with us, this too helps to keep me awake and alert.

While in the pass, I saw masts buried in the sand, their bodies broken, splintered. I placed my hand over my chest as Tarka ghosted by them. Nature's indifference is cruel, but only inexperience can bury a sandfinner. Hearing Nono say that, I was nervous, because we didn't have Nono's expertise. But our teacher assured us that if we kept our eyes on the horizon, that if we smelled the air, and that if we listened well, we would know that bad weather was coming. "If sky turn yellow to brown, sandfinner take all sail down". Mnemonics worked well for me. Nono had said that when you go through Dorake's pass, you make a bet with yourself, that you've understood the signs in the sky, in the clouds and in the air. If you missed any, then things might not end well for you.

Reading the weather is difficult though, there are too many factors. The effect of wind on an area depends on topography and on temperature. They interact with one another, and when you think you've understood everything, then a new element is thrown into the mix, and their interactions produce new conditions. To the sandfinner, to the one who doesn't understand this complex network of interactions and number of possible outcomes, this made nature appear fickle, and mean.

My people are subject to superstition. I am too. I feel good when a series of random actions produces a favorable result. And when I do these things again, and get the same result this re-enforces my beliefs. "Wiggle your ears while looking at the sun while singing, it makes the wind return. Really! It works! Try it!" But when rituals didn't work, then it is a sign that something out there doesn't agree with me. "Well you've done it now Lupin! You've insulted the weather. The desert hates you, and the wind will never fill your sandfin's sails again." Then the only thing to do is to find a new ritual.

It is silly. I know it is, and it is laughable that I continue despite knowing this. Sometimes we need rituals. We need to believe that there is someone responsible for the weather, or lack of it, and that we have the power to change things. Although my time in the desert has taught me that we can't reason with the wind, nor can we will it to change direction. My rituals have become a pastime, a game, but nothing more. Shouting at the desert while becalmed did little to appease my anger. These hands cannot control nature. It is healthier to accept that sometimes local conditions produce a destructive event, and that no celestial being had anything to do with it. It is nature being nature, it buries bodies and vessels without prejudice.

I thought about the graves out here in the desert, the ones not marked by masts. It is possible that we have walked over many bodies since our voyage began. If it hadn't been for Uno, I too would be there, buried, forgotten, and unknown to the living. To those laying in unmarked graves, I say to you that I know you are there. I know you have a story. I will never pass over sand again without thinking of you, and of your possible pasts and futures.

Goodnight fellow travelers. You are now sand. You make up the road that carries our vessel onward. One day I will be sand too, and then we'll have ample time to tell each other our stories.

Night

We made it through the pass in good weather. After Eka and I traded places, I slept long, and hard. It was the best sleep I've had. My mind was still empty of dreams. Now, Encela and Protus are out, they light our way east towards the Rupture. If the wind keeps, and our navigation is correct, we will be there the day after tomorrow.

I am nervous. I don't know what I'll do when we find Vol, and I'm not sure what to do if we don't. I've resolved to put it out of my head until I see Vol, and by then I'll be too busy to worry.

Growing up, I remember Levi putting my ear to the ground, to listen to Vol's heartbeat. I could hear it, resonating through its thick carapace. My mapa said it was the most important sound in the world, and that I had to listen to it always. Now I think I understand why my mapa said this. Vol's heartbeat was a way to measure its health, but it also served to measure the time we had left on its back.

I plan to spend the night atop the mast, eyes on the horizon. Being up there calms me.


Day 5

Morning

The wind is still with us, but we are the only ones out there.

We are in the East Ash Plains, it is easy to tell because the ground is no longer yellow. The desert is black, inverted. I've never seen anything like it. Vol's path around the world never included this region, with reason... it's known as the place where all things go to die. No one comes here for any other reason, not even as transit.

I imagined that it would be a scary place, the air thick with dread, but it is pleasant. There is life here too. The area is full of sooty agocets. Small, wispy, elongated creatures that swim in the black sand. We've had many dive aboard, startled by our passing. When they land on deck they twist and shimmy their bodies until they find the edge of the vessel, to freedom. In doing so, they leave little sooty trails everywhere. We passed through an area teeming with them earlier, they exploded out of the ground and covered the deck in black dust. We laughed, no amount of cleaning could rid the deck of this soot. Tarka was now a true creature of the East Plains.

We also saw larger agocets too, rising out of the sand in the distance. Some measured up to 40 mitres, 4 times Tarka's length. They would launch themselves up, balancing on their flukes for a moment before diving back into the sand. They stayed far away, uninterested in us and our travels.

Evening

Hello precious logbook, this is Eka. I thought I would write because Lupin hasn't found the time to do it, too busy trimming sails and steering Tarka. We've found tracks in the sand, fresh tracks that have not yet been covered with sand. Vol is close, but the wind is weak, so our speed isn't great. This is why Lew Blue is working hard to catch every puff of wind! We were approaching rapidly at first, but this decreasing wind sure has bad timing. It's at times like this that I wish I could take enough air into my lungs to blow into our sails, I bet this is something an Ilk could do.

The logbook will end here for now, my Lew needs me up on deck. We are going to have to work hard to catch up. Good morning, afternoon and goodnight dearest logbook, thank you for allowing your pages to be filled for this purpose, and to document Lupin's thoughts.

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