Smoke came to himself again to the sound of chanted prayers. He drifted as he listened to the sing-song praises, and in bits and pieces he remembered.
It was supposed to be just another death at sea like many others before. There is nothing quite like being lost at sea for drawing another chapter, grown uncomfortable and confining, to a definitive end thought Smoke. This time the end had almost been too definitive.
Having the bottom of his skiff torn out on rocks and being beaten, nearly to death, on the stony shore hadn’t been according to plan, nor the storm that had driven him to it. Come to think of it, he wasn’t quite sure that he hadn’t taken a mortal hurt with the way his body ached, and he was thirsty. He was hungry too, but mostly he was parched.
Still, there were worse things than being bruised and thirsty. Smoke, for his part, had felt worse. His youth had been an extended association with want closer than any partnership, or marriage.
He wondered what his wife’s reaction to his reported death would be. She wasn’t a bad woman, really, but then she wasn’t a very good one either. Likely she would be delighted to have the freedom of her lovers, her children, his estates, and the full control of the portions of his business he hadn’t hidden and left in the care of his lieutenants.
It would be a relief for her not to have to worry about him discovering her infidelities, as if the children hadn’t told him, as if his spies were all blind, as if he hadn’t seen it all before. Soon enough she would be dust, her brood would have squandered all his wealth, and all would be forgotten.
Well, not everyone would forget, he remembered them all. He was due a vacation, a forgetting time, renewal. But first he must learn where he was, and get something to drink, yes, he was so thirsty.
His eyes fluttered open, there was dim light coming in the door of what appeared to be a stacked drystone room. There was no ornament or furnishing save a ledge around the perimeter of the room that he assumed was where he lay. It looked as if he was saved from death into poverty.
He could hear the wind against his room, the sea not far away, and the voice that he had heard in the night, the voice of White Hands. A curious fellow, White Hands, a prayer, a holy man it would seem.