The fifth in a seven part series, Nifi, a short story, follows the character of Nifidorian Feltwood, who lost his mother when he was just a boy, and now at the age of fifteen has to deal with the potential loss of his father. He embarks on a search but along the way encounters interesting characters and creatures whilst also having to deal with not having the very person he is searching for beside him. A desire for wanting to explore the world in search of a purpose outside of seal hunting turns into him having no choice but to do so. All of this is intertwined within a fantasy backdrop within the port town of Glaceport.
. . .
Nifi awoke below deck, the air moist and dark. The only light was that of a candle sat on top of a barrel in the corner of the room. To his left, he saw a wooden framed bed perched against the wall and a desk filled with papers and quill and ink directly in front of him. It was a very modest thing, with four feeble wooden legs plagued with rot that swayed to the rhythm of the boat and the waves. It quickly dawned on him that he was in the Captain’s chambers, as he saw Thoren sat on his chair behind the desk, polishing his eye patch like it was his pride and joy. Nifi observed him for a few seconds before the Captain realised he was awake. Thoren One-Eye was dirty, old and scruffy, but beneath that Nifi could see something more. His scruffy, greasy hair if washed and trimmed could have looked regal. It was silver in colour and when the sun shone in threw the window behind him it shimmered in a way that almost looked pleasant, as if a crown should have perched around it. His one eye, too, when observed, was beautiful. It was a pale blue that matched the glacial waters surrounding his vessel and within it was mystery. Nifi had noticed something within his eye when he first looked into it back at the harbour but had thought nothing of it, now he could see something special. It held wisdom and a past, like it had seen some extraordinary things. Lastly, his left hand, the one holding his eye patch, had on its smallest finger a silver signet ring with an engraving of a Griffin reared onto its back legs and its wings spread. It was the most openly fancy thing about old Thoren, but Nifi felt that if washed and groomed there would be more to the Captain than first thought. He was someone. Before.
“AH! You’re awake,” Thoren said when his good eye flicked straight into Nifi’s wondering pair.
“How long have I been out?”
“An hour, give or take.” The Captain rose from his chair, circled around to Nifi’s side of the desk and perched himself on the edge, creaking under the weight of him. Although he was by no means a heavy man, he was almost as slight as Nifi. “How are ya feelin’ lad?” he asked.
Nifi thought of the darkness that had him wrapped up like a snake. “Like shit.”
“I mean the sickness, we’ll get onto that other stuff,” Thoren stated.
“How do you know I didn’t mean the sickness?” He said it almost as an accusation. Any nervousness that Nifi had felt towards engaging with the crew of Safe Passage had dissipated. He had spilled his stomach and passed out in front of them, it was no good being embarrassed now.
“’Cause I can read me lad, I’ve been round a time, in case you ain’t noticed,” he said whilst pointing at his silver hair. But Nifi couldn’t help but think it wasn’t silver from age, despite the evident wrinkles that plagued his face.
However, Nifi gave in saying, “the sickness has passed. I don’t think there’s anything else to throw up besides.”
“Aye, you’ve emptied that stomach o’ yours going back weeks. Now, laddy, talk to me about the darkness.”
Nifi looked up at him in astonishment. Thoren has experienced it too. There was no use in hiding it now. “It has me wrapped up like a snake, a tree consumed by ivy. He’s really dead. I can’t keep it at bay anymore,” Nifi explained in a depressed tone, fear consuming his heart.
“I have a tale for ya lad,” Thoren replied and his tone changed and his accent dropped. “I wasn’t always Thoren One-Eye, but I suppose you know that. I felt your eyes weighing me up whilst I was polishing my patch. Oh, how I envy you,” he chuckled. “I was once Prince Dorandon Celtigar, second born son to King Erdwin Celtigar of Great Isle and of all the Kingdoms of this country. A member of the Celtigar clan who hold the Griffin as their sigil,” as he pointed to his ring. “I felt the darkness too Nifi, it took route within me. You’ve probably heard the tales of how house Celtigar fell into ruin. My father, my mother, my two brothers all poisoned whilst that slimy coward who called himself loyal took over. They called it a ‘period of transition’, whilst I was found to take my place on the throne, but I believe he sat that thrown for a good twenty years until his son took over,” he said mockingly. “I should have counted my blessings and the Lord of Luck that I had felt it wise to rebel and not attend my brother’s birth feast, for my absence spared me of the same poison that fell onto my family’s lips. But instead all I could feel was sorrow, guilt, and the darkness creeping into me after what had befallen my family. My life had crumbled into dust and I was left naked and alone,” he fell silent for a moment until Nifi wasn’t sure if he would speak again.
“However, that was until I stopped looking backwards and started looking forwards, to the horizon. That was when it dawned on me that the darkness doesn’t exist. It isn’t a part of the world like water or fire, it is simply something made up in the minds of us and when we look forward it has nothing to wrap itself around, it just…disappears.” He looked Nifi dead in the eye, “you’ve made it up Nifi, you’ve made it up because you don’t know how to deal with what’s been put in front of you. You’ve felt the pain of losing your family and mistaken it for the end, the end of your life, a bottomless pit. But Nifi, this is the beginning. Stop pretending, stop taking the easy route and look up to the horizon and live your life. It is merely the start. When I realised that and got up and carried on I found my calling…..fishing.” He smirked. “It may seem tedious and unrewarding but it gives me more happiness than I ever got living in that castle with servants kissing my boots and wiping my arse. I miss my family, of course, but I carried on and found happiness and you can do the same.”
“It is important to remember the past, it makes us stronger and it teaches us more than we know, but don’t dwell. This ring is a reminder of my past,” as he slid it off his pale, dirty finger, “but what is around me now is my present and my future and that is what truly matters,” as he placed it down on the desk he perched on.
Hearing that loosened the grip of the darkness around Nifi and for a moment, things didn’t look nearly as bleak. However, he had no idea what he would do when this voyage ended and what his calling was. “But what now? Where do I go?” Nifi asked.
“That is for you to decide, not me. One thing I can say however, is that the way you bartered back at the harbour was quite something,” he replied with a hint of admiration. “I’m sure there are a few places outside of Glaceport where that would serve you well.”
“I should leave Glaceport?” The idea of leaving had disappeared when he had lost his father, Glaceport was all he had left.
Thoren gave a shrug of his shoulders as much as to say, “why not?”
“I’ve felt a desire to leave for years now but it’s harder with no one left. Harder to leave a place that gives me that last bit of familiarity,” Nifi sighed.
“It takes little time for a place to become familiar, get out and familiarise,” the old Prince urged. His words made sense to Nifi and it filled him with a belief that things may be alright.
Nifi sucked his air back in and stood up tall, “you’re right,” he said defiantly, “I’m sure there are plenty of places that would take seal skins. We have a surplus that I can take with me on the road, I’ll take them to each of the ports down the eastern coast” he finished, scratching his chin in thought.
“You have yourself a plan my young friend,” Dorandon said with a smile.
Nifi got up to leave… “Oh, before you get back to work, what is my name?” the Captain asked.
Nifi looked confused and was unsure on what answer to give, “your name is…”
“My name is Thoren One-Eye, you know nothing of what I’ve just told you, understood?”
“Good, an’ oh laddy? Don’t go thinkin’ I forgotten about those skins neither,” as the one-eyed sailors gruff tone and accent returned.
When Nifi emerged above deck he noticed a certain warmth in the air, and the small sailors were rushing around in an orderly fashion. He quickly realised they were dropping anchor. They had arrived at the volcanic fishing springs where they were to find their booty. Nifi approached the side of the boat to inspect their destination.