“So, do you think Erix survived?” asked Corrick as they walked among the booths of the Island Festival. Given both his new friends’ ‘hero’ status around these parts, as well as how well-liked the big cat had become during his short time here, even Bandit was allowed to attend with them.
Among those who were in the know, it was the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the week since the battle, and the jury was still out.
“I don’t know,” Shades replied, though he quietly hoped he hadn’t in spite of his doubts. Still limping slightly, but his ankle was doing much better, markedly on the mend. “Most of the Island Patrol guys think he’s dead, but I’m with Toma. They never found his ship, and Max and I survived, so I think it’s safer to assume he still alive.”
The Festival itself was the Island Paradise version of the traditional block party. Food, music, dance, games, with a blend of local customs for flavor. A melding of Native and Outland. There were parties being held on both Kalona and Miribar, but the big party was on Kalona. And for this festival, there were fireworks, as well, a rare and spectacular sight in these parts that delighted one and all.
“And probably really pissed!” Justin laughed. Although the prospect really didn’t appeal to him.
“I agree,” Max added. Though, given that it had been days since the battle, and Erix hadn’t turned up anywhere to give them trouble, his best guess was that he chose to retreat. It would be weeks before his own arm was healed enough to continue training, and there was no telling what injuries Erix may have suffered, too. But that still left him at large, somewhere out there. “He probably did survive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants revenge.”
“Well, I sure hope he doesn’t come back,” Corrick remarked. “He caused enough trouble the first time.”
“I don’t think he will,” Shades told him. “If both of us got injured this bad, I doubt he came out of it unharmed, either.”
“Still, I wonder what he planned to do with it…” Corrick mused.
“The thieves were probably going to take it to another realm and sell it on the black market,” Shades told them. At least that was how those sorts of things worked in his world, at any rate. “And I imagine that was Erix’s plan, too.”
“By the way,” Justin asked, remembering the arbitrary and draconian judgments that passed for law in the Triangle State, “what are they gonna do with those guys?”
“I hear they’re going to be split up into several groups and sent out on some old boats Toma rounded up.”
“With a week’s rations and unarmed, of course,” Corrick added, sounding uncharacteristically grim. “After all, these islands have a few holding cells for the occasional criminal, but nothing to hold that many prisoners.”
“And they must never return, on pain of death, right?” Max intoned. Remembering that exile was the traditional punishment for murder in the Layoshan Islands, as well. As he recalled, it was a penalty not invoked since his grandfather’s day.
Unlike Earth, Shades reflected, in this world of endless oceans and random destinations, it was a convenient way to get rid of people you never wanted to see again, without having to soil your own hands. Sent on their way, at the mercy of the sea, and whoever they came upon— including predators and scavengers of similar inclinations to their own.
“Speaking of them,” Corrick told them, “I heard about what happened the other day. Shan is an old friend of mine, and I want to thank you for helping him out back there.”
“No problem,” Shades replied. “Bullies piss me off anyway.”
“Just glad we could help,” Max added.
“Hey! It’s you guys!” a voice called out from the crowd.
They looked over to see Shan the fisherman running a booth for the festival. Max, remembering what he said about setting up on Kalona for the Island Festival. Bandit immediately perked up, remembering him instantly.
And Shan apparently remembered, too, as he brought several pieces of fish over. He also thanked them for helping him out the other day, apologizing sheepishly for running away, as he wasn’t used to dealing with people like those thieves. Though by then they were beginning to tire of the topic of the treasure heist and Erix, both of which had become the talk of the islands.
“This is a party,” said Max. “Let’s just have fun.”
“I second that motion,” Shades agreed.
“Hell yeah!” Even Justin seemed to lighten up and relax.
Walking among the crowd, Chief Toma supervised the Island Patrol members working security detail. Keeping the thieves under lock and key until the Council’s tribunal made their banishment official, combined with the casualties of the battle itself, left them short-staffed, so he had to curtail his own enjoyment of the Festival this time around. As he watched the three travelers again, he wondered.
He kept a collection of high-profile wanted posters and bounties from other realms, just in case any of these lowlifes decided to pay their fair islands a visit. And was in the midst of documenting this ex-military gang’s members for that same purpose. In addition to Erix, he also looked up this “Justin Black” and wasn’t sure what to make of it. Still, this kid didn’t really look much like the infamous outlaw. Even what Shades and Max said of him didn’t fit the bill, either, so he finally shoved the file back in its drawer.
Concluding that it must be a coincidence of names. After all, it was a big world out there. Or so he was told.