The Outsider city was dirty and squalid and disgusting, a stain on the otherwise pristine view of wide sandy shores and the heaving sea beyond. She had heard of the endless waters, of course, but she had not really believed the stories. Storytellers were wont to exaggerate, after all, and a tale of a lake so large you could not see the other side had seemed preposterous.
Clearly, they had not been making this story up, at least.
The rank smell of the Outsider city only emphasized her poor opinion of the place and regret began to stab the back of her head. Perhaps it was not too late. Perhaps no one knew she had left. Perhaps…
But such thoughts were useless. Whether any of the other Viera knew, the Wood certainly did. Even if she went back, she would be no more than an Outsider herself to it at this point. It was a thought to speculate: could she still call the Outsiders Outsiders when she, herself, was now an Outsider?
A thought to pursue on a different day. For now, after looking the city over from a distance, she felt suddenly loath to meet any of them. It was, of course, inevitable, but she decided to put it off as long as possible. She edged around the town until she reached the sea, where she found a stack of large empty wooden crates huddled against a wall. The had holes drilled into them, for unknown reasons, but they gave her an idea – she could observe the Outsiders without being noticed, at least until she had some understanding of what to do next. She climbed into the first one she came to, pulled the lid loosely over top, and peered through the holes.
The Outsiders had built massive constructions in the water, linked to the shore by wooden walkways. The construction seemed unsteady – they bobbed with each wave that…
The realization came to her all at once that she was looking at boats. Giant boats, big enough that she would not have believed someone who had tried to tell her about them. The scale of them was breathtaking. Perhaps she could get closer and…
“Aye, grabbem ‘ere. Hurry, she sails on th’ ‘our.”
The voices were difficult to understand – Shae had never found the study of the Outsiders’ language to be interesting or important – but she certainly understood when she felt the crate shift as someone lifted it.
“Umph. This’ns heavy. Weren’t they s’possed to be empties?”
“They are, you’re jus’ weak.”
“What’ver, gettin’ th’ cart.”
In retrospect, such as she had time for in spades the next several days, she had several choices she could have made at that time. She could have jumped out of the crate or, once more crates had been stacked on top, making it impossible to get out, she could have made noise to alert the Outsiders of her presence. What her panicked mind decided to do instead of any of those things was to huddle in the smallest, quietest ball she could manage. It wasn’t until the light of the outside that streamed through the holes suddenly went out and the motion of the crate being rolled ceased that she dared rise to peek out. All she saw was darkness. She pressed with rising panic at the lid but it would not budge. She felt panic well up from her gut and a scream tore itself from her lungs as she beat mindlessly on the sides of the crate.
She heard voices and footsteps, but even the fear of being discovered by Outsiders could not overrule her panic. She did not screaming until the box was shifted and the lid lifted and she was unceremoniously dumped onto the floor.
“By th’ Twelve! It’s one o’them Veras!”
“Viera, yes. Are you all right?”
She nodded, though her fear-filled eyes and panicked gulps for air likely gave up her lie.
“You’ll be all right.”
“She’s a stow’way?”
“Nah, just a bunny straight out of the Wood. Believe it or not, this happens…not a lot, but every now and then. Sometimes one of them has to leave their jungle for whatever reason and then they’re not allowed to go back, but they’ve been taught not to trust anyone else, so they hide. You’ll be all right, girl. Go get some water for her.”
The second man hurried away while the first spoke gently. Once she was able to get her breath to a normal level and her heart slowed to a speed where it didn’t feel as if it would jump out of her chest at any moment, she accepted his help up. They went onto the deck, which was a relief in that she wasn’t trapped in the enclosed space underneath any more, but was a shock when she saw nothing but water on all sides. And then there was the motion, although it was no dissimilar to the higher boughs of the Wood during a strong wind, so she found she was able to adjust to walking on the pitching deck.
“Yer a natural. Maybe after you get situated in Limsa, you can come back and be a sailor.”
She shook her head, still staring at the water. It unnerved her not to be able to see land.
“Yeah, haven’t met one of you yet who answered different. The world is big and there are bad people but there are also good people. I expect it’s the same where you’re from, right? You’ll be okay.”
It felt odd to be comforted by an Outsider, but comfortable she certainly felt. She gave him a hesitant smile and, as he nodded and stepped away, she looked in the direction they were headed. For now, she gave herself the luxury of ceasing to speculate on what might be and simply allowed herself to hope.