Frostfell is over. A new year's coming in. Everyone's looking to the future, wondering what change will come. Not Milo. Milo knows nothing ever changes.
Oh, it used to. Once upon a time there were so many people Milo seldom had time even to learn their names. The Far Journey would sail into harbor with Nyles at the helm. Ingrid would chivvy the bedraggled refugees into line while Captain Varlos looked on.
Milo would watch them all as they straggled up the beach, bewildered but you could see the hope in their eyes. These were the lost who'd been found. For refugees with nothing but the rags they stood in and the few meager items in their pitiful backpacks they always seemed to be in an awful hurry, Milo thought. And to have an enormous amount of energy.
From the first moment they came up the path into the Setlement, there they'd be. Taking instructions from the trainers, asking the guards for work, firing questions at anyone who'd listen. Then they'd be off through the great arches and Milo would see them only now and again, running back to make their reports, opening accounts at the bank with the few coppers they'd taken from the purses of the Qeynosians they'd downed, queuing up at the handful of merchants to sell sundered obsidians or the bones of the undead.
Lucan's men were generous. Lucan made it so. Milo watched as the raggle-taggle refugees turned into well-armored, capable fighters or flamboyant mages. Some came up from the crafting hall beneath the high tower, blinking in the strong island light, the sun glinting from chainmail newly-forged by their own hands.
In just a few days most were lining up again at the docks, ringing the bell and stepping aboard the Far Journey once again. Freeport bound. Lucan's great city welcomed all who were willing to bend the knee to him and work for the benefit of all.
Some lingered. The island was small but there was much to do, much to learn and explore. Some wanted to be the best they could be, to give themselves every advantage before stepping into Freeport's notorious, unforgiving streets. Others wanted to enjoy the soft grass, the bright sun and the cheap Ebb Tide Ale for a while. In the end, though, they all left.
All except Milo. Milo made the Isle of Refuge his home. He had the best armor, the finest jewellery, the most delicious food. He'd learned to find and make everything he needed. He'd explored the island from bay to bay, knew every byway like the back of his paw. There was nothing, living or undead, on the island that he feared and nowhere he dared not go.
Why would he trade such a life for an uncertain future in an unknown land? One day, perhaps, a fine ratonga girl with sleek chestnut fur and dark, dark eyes would step down from the Far Journey. The ragged hem of her sea-soaked dress might catch a splinter of broken board as she stepped ashore and Milo would be there to catch her before she fell.
So Milo dreamed. Then one day without warning the refugees stopped coming. Oh, Milo had noticed for a long while that there were always fewer, day by day, but always, every day, some came.
No more. Captain Varlos was curt. "That's all done with. Now, are you coming aboard or not? What are you waiting for? There's nothing for you here. Time to move on".
But Milo had waited too long. And if truth be told, he was still content. Yes, the refugees were gone, but Lucan's men remained. All the guards and trainers that he'd come to know so well. Callus Magnus and Kurgle Frogbane, always sparring in Ebb Tide's bar, always happy to take a break and sink a few of the gnome's fine ales. Arthur Merrin, who'd taught Milo to craft. All Milo's friends were there, and who, after all, did he know in Freeport? Or who knew him?
The Far Journey never seems to sail now. She sits at the dockside, Captain Varlos looking to shore. Milo knows who he's looking for and sometimes he feels a pang of guilt. That fine ship and her crew bound to shore because of him and him alone.
One day, perhaps, Milo will ring the bell, step aboard and let Varlos cast off for the last time. One day, perhaps. But not today.