Water, and in the distance islands rising blue out of the night.
We have built a fire on the stones near the shore, from wood we bought at a gas station, out of pine wood and cedar, fragrant and damp-smelling. The younger Charlemagne has a joint for the smoking, half a thing, that he stole from his parents. He offers it round, but we are too nervous, us, so we say no and he smokes by himself. Good smell, anyway, blending with the flat brackish tide and the pop of the fire.
The ferries are passing, christmas gods restless on the surface of the water.
The older Charlemagne tells a story, about his parents, about his father and his many, many mothers. How many mothers can one person have? Always one more, he says, and shrugs; he offers to name them for us, if we like, but we have heard that trick before and want no part of it. His father is rich, so rich, with a room full of treasure and a house full of books. He is always reading something rare and wonderful, the older Charles Magnus, books full of herbs no one can find and beasts no one has seen. They are thin on plot, however, which makes them boring to hear about so we never quite listen.
The fire is dying. We kick wet stones over it and head shivering back to the car, point ourselves eastward and head up the hill.