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.She awkwardly gripped Paska’s hand.“We’ll know soon enough.”Paska considered running up to the lookout point herself, but dismissed the idea.There was a better way.She shook off the dwarf’s grip and shouted, “Tipos!” She ran over to his hut and shouted again, louder this time.“What?” He emerged rubbing sleep from his eyes and adjusting his loincloth.“A schooner be comin’, an’ we’re takin’ Flothrindel out to meet ‘em!” Paska declared, glaring at Tipos as if daring him to suggest otherwise.“Good! You pilot and I’ll tend de sails.” Tipos ran a finger down her arm and smiled.“You must be happy; Chula comin’ back to you!”Paska smacked his hand away and glared at him.“One schooner’s comin’, Tipos, not two.But we don’t know which one it is.”Tipos’ eyes grew wide and his smile fell.“Well, go on, then,” Dura urged.“Stop frettin’ about it an’ do somethin’!”“Dura, watch little Koybur for me,” Paska said, waving her hand toward her son, who was playing in the sand.“Sure, you jist get goin’.” The dwarf looked skeptically at the baby.“Come on, Tipos!” Paska said, grabbing his arm.“Dey’ll prob’ly anchor in dat sandy patch off de west reef, and I wanna be dere when dey do!”“Okay, okay!” Tipos agreed, following her toward the beach without resistance.≈*I’m sorry, Trident Holder, but we could not locate the source of the sea magic.* The young scout fluttered her fins in unease and twisted a strand of her colorful shell jewelry—her namesake—around her finger.Shelly was one of Broadtail’s offspring from his second brood, and had inherited his sea sense.Her companion, Farsee, eldest offspring of Broadtail’s sister, also had sea sense, and he also looked worried.*But there are many warships at the seamage’s island, and we also found a partially sunken ship.**Warships?* Broadtail’s colors shifted pale for a moment as he shared their worry.*How many warships, Shelly?**Fifteen, Father,* she signed.*Fifteen!* Broadtail paled again; that was enough landwalkers to destroy the entire mer city! *This is dire indeed…* He flicked his tail in consternation, then remembered what else Shelly had said.*And the sunken ship; is it wrecked on a reef? What kind of ship is it, and where?**It was not wrecked, but lays partially sunken inside a lagoon, at the third island north of the great trench.Its hull was crushed, though it lays on sand, not coral or rock, and it stinks of blood and rot.As to what kind of ship…* She wrinkled her brow and looked to Farsee.*It is not a warship, and not one of the seamage’s ships,* Farsee reported.*It is very large, with three of the things that stick up and hold cloth to catch the wind.*Broadtail ground his teeth together, perplexed.What could crush a ship and leave it laying on the sand? A sea drake, certainly, but they wouldn’t enter a lagoon.*The crushing of the ship could have been the magic you felt,* Shelly offered.*The wood was pushed in on both sides, like a great hand had gripped the hull, but the anchor was still in the sand.There were no landwalker bodies.**Perhaps…* He thought about it for a time, and agreed with her assessment.But there was one more thing that he had to do, and that concerned the warships.*Spread the word, Shelly; no mer surfaces within sight of one of these warships.We do not know where they may go, so we will watch, but carefully.We have attacked them, and they still believe we are at war.We cannot allow them to discover where our home is.**Yes, Father,* she signed, sculling backward with a nod of acquiescence.*Well done, my daughter,* he signed, flaring his fins in approval.*You have both done very well.Now go and spread the word among the school.*Shelly and Farsee flushed dark with pleasure at the praise and darted off to do as he bid, leaving the trident holder to worry alone.≈“Bring her close enough to the reef’s lee to get us outta these bloody swells, Horace.Set fore and aft anchors, then rig kedges on her port side, but don’t careen her over yet.We’ll get the wounded off first, then get to work repairin’ the hull.”“Aye, sir!”Feldrin turned away as his orders rang out from his mate to crew.Orin’s Pride sailed into position, easing to a stop with her bow in the wind.The new main anchor, cobbled together from spare parts to replace the one lost at Akrotia, splashed into the sea.As the crew worked to rig a stern anchor, a flash of white caught Feldrin’s eye.A small boat was racing around the bend in the reef toward them.“That’s Flothrindel approaching!” called the lookout.Feldrin admired the boat as she cut a line toward them.That she was here wasn’t unusual; the natives often used her to run messages or people between Vulture and Plume.Then he heard Paska’s voice shouting out above the roar of the nearby surf, and smiled.“Capt’n, sir!” Chula darted up and snapped a salute, though his gaze remained fixed on the approaching smack.“Request permission to leave de ship to greet me wife properly!”“Well, I suppose we can spare you fer a bit, Chula.” Feldrin clapped the man on the shoulder, wondering that he’d even had the presence of mind to ask permission.“Go to her, man, before she runs Flothrindel into our side.”“T’ank’e, sir!” Chula whirled away, already stripping off his baldric.Three long strides took him to the rail.He leapt up, grasped a shroud and shouted, “Paska!”He dove into the azure water as Paska cried out his name, and the little smack rounded up into the wind, her sails luffing, the tiller forgotten.The crew cheered as their boatswain swam with powerful strokes and was pulled aboard Flothrindel by his wife’s eager hands.The two embraced with such ferocity that they toppled over into the cockpit, a tangle of wet arms and legs.Laughter broke out as the little boat bore off the wind, and Tipos struggled to handle both sails and tiller while avoiding stepping on the couple.Eventually he worked the boat to the schooner’s side and caught a line tossed down to him.By that time the tumultuous couple had regained their feet, as well as their composure, though they paid little attention to anything but one another.Feldrin felt a gentle hand on his arm.Cynthia had come on deck, Kloe yawning in her arms, and now looked toward Paska and Chula with mixed emotions on her face.“It’s good to see them back together,” she sighed.“Not taking Paska along was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.But why Flothrindel is here…I don’t have a good feeling about this.”“We’ll know soon enough, lass,” Feldrin said, giving her hand a squeeze.He knew that Samantha’s tale of an attack on Plume Isle weighed heavy on her mind.Mouse buzzed a silver streak around their heads while they waited for their friends to board [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]