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perhaps we are all conservative
yet we take things that are offbeat and outcast at times
and propose a better life that is more inclusive

of the individuals in a society

that is the liberal way
:Yes::wow::zonk:

Donald-Dawn A. Tom Meek Donald-Dawn A. Tom Meek

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After some minutes the three of us reached the island's tiny shipyard.  Despite the name it was only a small collection of equally-small tradeboats, but it was scheduled to take us from here to the region's main shipyard.  A few people had arrived before our trio and were standing around fussing with luggage and whispering amongst each other about mundane things.  For such a fear my father had, I don't think any of them took any note of our presence, let alone mine.

"Okay, you two," Parana said, gently standing Xhianei on the ground, "the boats will be boarding in a couple minutes.  Xhias, go through that bag real quick and check to see you have everything you need."

I released the bag from my shoulder and spun it around, unfastening the top.  Inside were the usual effects one might take on a trip: some clothing, some food, toiletries, and so on.  Pushing past a couple things revealed the sum I stole and safely hid away.

"I think we have everything, yeah," I assured, refastening the bag and returning it to my back.

"Good, good," Parana murmured, fixing Xhianei's hair.  "This boat here is already paid for, but you'll need that money when we get to the main yard, so hold onto it tightly."

I looked aside and squeezed the strap across my chest.

Parana patted my sister on the head and glanced over toward me.

"Scared?" she asked.

My ears fell and I took a deep breath.

"I...Where are we even going?  Why are we going anywhere?  I don't know anything about this plan of yours, or mother's, or whoever's, I'm just following what people tell me.  I want to know what's happening."

Parana sighed and opened her arms, motioning to me to come over alongside my sister.  Like a magnet, I was pulled without even a thought into her warm embrace and held tightly for what felt like an eternity.

"I'm sorry I hadn't been able to tell you anything," she whispered.  "I didn't want to risk your father finding out and ruining everything your mother and I put in motion.  I promise I'll tell you everything, but only after we get to the big shipyard, okay?  We're not quite out of hot water yet."

After taking a moment to parse, I nodded.

My ears perked to the shuffling of the others.  Parana slowly released the both of us, looking up to see the incoming boat and the others lining up at the dock.

"Alright, it's just about here," Parana smiled, taking our hands.  "Come on, you two.  We're almost out of here."

I walked while Xhianei skipped alongside our guardian up to the dock.  Having paid ahead we were allowed to continue past some of the others still standing in line.  We found some seats in the back of the boat and huddled together, looking out to the other islands and the channels between.

"This trip shouldn't take too long," Parana reassured.  "We couldn't have asked for a better night, so it should only take about fifteen minutes."

We set off only a couple minutes later.  My sister and I looked back to whence we came-- all the little houses and shacks and drying racks, the docks and bridges, and the trees and crags just beyond them.  The long, puffy clouds broke way for the moon and stars above while the ocean below both connected and disconnected the islands we called home.  I'd only ever seen those sights in some of the books and photos back at home, but seeing it for myself?  Even with much of the color gone, bathed in the pale moonlight, I was at a loss for words.

True to Parana's prediction we arrived at our destination after about fifteen minutes.  Holding tight to the bag the three of us stepped off the little tradeboat and onto an unfamiliar dock.  Our guardian took my sister and I by the hand and led us off the dock and onto the sandy beach just beyond.

"It'll be a little bit before the bigger ship gets here, so let's head over to the rest area until then," she said, tugging us toward a building off to the side.

Upon arrival Parana stopped at a front desk of sorts to fill out some paperwork, asking me for the money in the bag.  I dug through our belongings and took out the sum, offering it to her, and with it she paid for some tickets and returned the remainder to me to stow back in the bag.  I hadn't been paying too close attention, much of the words and context lost on me at the time and most of my interest directed toward the boats outside and what was to come.  After that was said and done we took some seats along the near wall.  I could feel myself getting antsier with each passing patron and I began fidgeting with the bag strap.  Looking over, Xhianei just yawned and looked around the building, growing curious seeing people unlike those at home but asking no questions all while Parana flipped through some papers and packed something away into an envelope.

"Okay, kids," Parana started, "it's finally time I tell you what's going on."

---

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