A young girl, aged a mere fourteen summers, sat high on the
northernmost cliffs of Atunluck. Over her left shoulder she watched the Sun as
it sank into the darkening waters of the
The young girlís name was Zeffa. Her short, disheveled, sandy-blond hair batted in the northern winds as she smiled sadly at the brilliant purple and red clouds streaking the sky. Her face was darkly tanned against her sea-blue eyes. Her skin was smooth and unblemished, though it was difficult to see that, given the layers of dirt that matted her cheeks.
Zeffa loved her father. She had pleaded with him not to leave. Her brother and cousin had already been killed in the war, along with so many others from her village. All she had left were her parents. With the deep emotional wounds left by her brotherís death, she couldnít bear to lose another member of her small family.
Why canít life be as simple as it once was? Zeffa wondered.
As Zeffa stared at the horizon, empty now of the Sun and any approaching ships, she recalled the picnics that her family once enjoyed on the very spot where she now sat. She would play in the water and along the cliffs, digging in the gravel and climbing the giant boulders until nightfall. When she was exhausted and her legs could no longer support her weight, her father would lift her into his strong arms and cradle her against his broad shoulders. He would carry her home, and when they arrived, he would gently tuck her into bed.
Sometimes when she wasnít so tired, her father would tell her about the stars and the constellations. He would teach her how to use them to navigate and to calculate the summers.
Picnics werenít the only things she loved to do with her father. She especially loved to go sailing with him. She would lie high up on the stern and hold her head out into the incoming streams of air and sea mist. Captain Melvious taught her the fundamentals of sailing his small ship; how to tack so the ship could sail into the wind, how to command the helm. He would even let her yell out the orders for the crew to jibe or bring the craft about. But when he was given a large war ship by the provisional government, to Zeffaís disappointment, she had not been allowed on board.
Zeffa and her father sometimes took smaller boats out to sea, just the two of them. It was during these trips that Zeffa truly learned the art of sailing. Once while tacking, she had knocked her father overboard as she brought the boat about without warning. The boom of the sail had broadsided him across the face and sent him flying into the water. From this, Zeffa learned that you can not make mistakes at sea. She vowed to become a sailor worthy of her fatherís command.
As Zeffa pondered her memories, the clouds above her grew dark and threatening. Lightning streaked the sky where colors once had reigned, and a heavy downpour began. The rain pelted her mercilessly, soaking her clothes and washing the dirt from her face and hair, revealing the surprising beauty that lay beneath. When the sea began to mirror the skyís angry and combative mood, Zeffa noticed her fatherís ship far in the distance.
It seemed strange and awkward, floating deeper in the water than she had ever seen it before. It wasnít gliding with the strength she expected. As it drew nearer, Zeffa was horrified to realize that it had been severely damaged. One of the three masts was missing altogether, and the sails on the other masts were tilting clumsily.
ďFather!Ē Zeffa called out in a burst of panic.