Bandit stood above him, on a jutting slab of rock, still as bewildered as he had been the night before. Somehow, in a matter of hours, his island playground had become an underwater disaster area. But at least the cub— whom Max still tried to think of as such, even after all these months— had finally slowed down. After over a year of sustained growth, Max was starting to wonder just how big his feline companion was going to get.
In the end, it was Max’s “failed” experiment at shipbuilding that may well have saved their lives. The storm started innocently enough, but within the hour it became clear to him that this was more than just a passing storm, for the water and waves were advancing beyond the beach. Sloshing through the water, Max had gathered up the most important of his base-camp items, wading— near the end, practically swimming— to the raft. Which he had never dared take beyond sight of the island. The waves pushed them steadily inland, and he had to struggle at every turn to maneuver through the obstacle course of trees.
After that, it had been a harrowing climb up the mountain through treacherous winds and stinging sheets of rain. Bandit almost didn’t make it. The whole way, thoughts and fears racing through his mind about how he was going to distill water, where he was going to get food…
What in the world was he going to do if the water didn’t stop.
That night, he had gobbled up all the berries he had gathered for an after-dinner snack, not knowing when next he would get to eat. Though he was greatly relieved that the waters were receding now, he had stayed up almost all night under the roots of the Crow’s Nest tree, reassuring an overgrown kitten and quietly wondering if the seas were going to swallow the entire island. Had stayed up all night, telling Bandit all the tales he could think of.
The storm itself, the rising tides and flooding, reminded him of the legend of the Wandering Spirit. The very ship the Ancestors arrived on Layosha in, run aground in Shipwreck Bay centuries ago, its remains maintained by successive generations as a monument to the Ancestors. Though some even scoffed at it now, and questioned how anyone could survive such a cataclysm, a colossal tidal wave the like of which had never been seen in the Islands’ known history, great enough to deposit a vessel that massive beyond the beach.
For all accounts, even the wreck itself, testified to just such an event.
Though only scant records remained of it, somebody survived the disaster and founded the island nation of Layosha. Though many suspected that the survivors welcomed some Outlanders to join them, and the Elders often cited this theory as the reason for their periodic acceptance of Outlanders, such as his mother, into Layoshan society. Aside from the disastrous similarities between the legend of the Wandering Spirit, and his current situation, he wondered if it was starting a new life from scratch here that brought to mind the aftermath of such an event. Made him wonder how tough the Ancestors had it before they got settled, yet somehow he doubted anyone was going to drop anchor here any time soon, as his solitary year or so here attested, this place seemed to get even fewer visitors than the Islands’ rare Outlander arrivals.
Even after Bandit had finally gone to sleep, still he dwelt on that legend, wondering what he could learn from it, bleary-eyed as he watched a cloudy dawn. Of course, Max often told his feline friend stories about his old life. Stories that slowly began to take on all the distance and half-reality of some of the old legends. Sometimes he wondered; he knew it was all real, just as he believed in all of the places his parents told of, still at times it felt more like a dream than the past.
And he sometimes longed to go back, yet dreaded to face everyone. He refused to believe Robert was dead— if he could survive that, so could his father, end of story— yet he still felt unbearable guilt over not jumping in and helping him against Slash. But he felt even worse about stowing away in the first place, wondering what he could possibly have been thinking. Every time he thought about it, he couldn’t help thinking that he had only gotten in the way; with his son’s safety as a distraction, there was no way Robert could focus his full attention on fighting Slash. Had only gotten Ron— and possibly the others— killed. More than anything in these moments, he hated that sense of helplessness that accompanied these memories, and vowed that if ever again the lives of anyone he cared about were on the line, he would not hesitate to jump in and help them.
It was yet another thing he thought about a great deal over the past night.
But in general, it was a thing he thought about less and less as time drifted in and out with the tide. Though any time he looked out on the Ocean for long, he always wondered for a moment where his father may be.