On the Wolf…
Of all Y’lanna’s comments the one that brought the most immediate response was her statement that she had been alone on her strange ship of the stars. That response was visible relief on the faces of Ruili, the healer Middlepine, and the scholars, as if they had been trying not to express a worry. Ruili rose briefly to pull a cord that hung down the wall, setting off a distant ringing of a bell.
Resuming his seat he said, “What’s the card made of? Why, paper, of course. Or did you mean the Dragon’s Eye? That I couldn’t tell you, as I’m no enchanter. I know it starts with a quartz lens, but what else they do to it, I have no idea. I’ve never known how most of the charms I use work.”
Even as he said those words, the scholars could barely contain themselves. “Artificial gravity?” several of them asked at once, followed such things as “By what means?” and “Whatever would you need that for?”
All were interrupted by the arrival of a sailor, who entered the cabin in answer to Ruili’s bell.
“My compliments to Mr. Foxrun,” said Windwolf, “there are no more castaways. The lady is alone.”
“Yes, sir, and Mr. Foxrun sends as well to say they’ve pulled in all that can be found of the wreck, sir.”
“Very good.” Ruili turned to Y’lanna. “Would you care to come inspect what we have been able to retrieve of your ship, Milady Sparti?”
In Kledy Keep…
“My ship?” snarled the spriggan captain, Bom Boneshred, through block-like teeth. “You mean my murdered bonny lass, sunk unfairly by you pack of bastards?”
The poor logic of a pirate denouncing his victims for treating him as he had planned to treat them seemed lost on Captain Boneshred. He glared at Ionas Farseer through the iron bars as if they were all that was stopping him from snapping the selkie’s thin neck then and there, and his pirate crew did the same.
“You’d best have a blasted good reason to be daring to speak of my ship, lad.”
At the Alderman’s…
The ocean breeze eventually carried Peino into sleep, but it was a choppy and unrestful trip. The two cards given him by Lafitte lay heavy over his heart, inside his shirt. The charm of Nothingness held their evil emanations in check during the night, but that spell had no power to stop the dreams that rose from Peino’s memories. Dreams of a deadly game with more than lives in the balance, interrupted by a gambit more deadly yet. Memories of inhuman shrieks echoing in pure terror through a world of endless night and of black, monster-infested waters rising and rising…
The knocking at the bed-chamber door started him awake with a gasp in the darkness. Tap tap tap tap.
“Yes, I’m awake.”
The door opened, letting in a small candlelight, from which Peino shielded his eyes, carried by a chamber maid bearing also a water jug.
“Three bells, Your Highness. You asked to be called.”
While Peino rubbed warmth into his face, the maid lit the candle before the mirror, casting the tiny room into a yellowish half-light. She poured the water into a washing bowl on the shelf below the mirror.
“Oh, a sailor brought this for you, sir. Said it could wait till you were called.” She took a folded note from her apron pocket and handed it to Peino.
With a groan, he swung his long legs over the side of the bed and sat up, leaning towards the candle to squint at the paper. “Thank you.”
As the girl withdrew, a crumpled-looking Tahain entered, scratching over his scalp with both hands.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Heh,” said Peino, “Nothing surprising.”
He tossed the note onto the disordered coverlet. Tahain took it up and sat. While Peino splashed cold water over his face and turned to his clothes which lay over the plain wooden chair, Tahain read:
“My dear Cap’t. Starhand: Please join me for breakfast before the dawn tide so I may make amends for inconveniencing you last night. Yours, Jean Lafitte III.”
Tahain laughed gruffly, his throat still not fully enlivened. “Persistent fellow, I’ll give him that. He must think you’re one of those captains who lays about while others do all the work for him. Will you have time for one of those nicety-nicety breakfasts?”
“I doubt it,” said Peino, taking out his razor as he yawned. “Still…”
Indeed, Peino Starhand was not one of those captains who lays about of a morning. The carpenters of the Port of Kledy had been working through the night to repair the damage suffered by the Marsh King’s Daughter. Captain Starhand was needed on the docks to inspect the work and pay for it, too, as well as to oversee the provisioning and other preparations that had been put off till the laborers were done. The pre-dawn hours before him promised to be a whirl of workers and sailors and barrels of goods being loaded and invoices being submitted for signature and gold coins being handed out, all in a rush to be ready for the tide. Perhaps Captain Lafitte could simply float away like a thistle-down at will after a breakfast upon plates and linen, but Peino would be taking his first meal on board his ship, and he’d have a good day’s work already behind him by the time he sat down to it.
Still… That eorman was a puzzle, one that had figured in Peino’s dreams. He reached for a pen and paper from his leather traveling bag.
By the time the dawn’s light saw the Marsh King’s Daughter fully repaired, paint still wet, last hawsers of water being loaded, and her captain in his blue and white coat and gold-cocked hat observing all from the castle deck, Lafitte would have already read, if he was up from his bed, the following:
“My dear Cap’t. Lafitte: I regret the press of work forces me to breakfast aboard ship. To make up for it, and in the name of the friendship of all those who sail the seas and winds, I hope you will allow me the honor of giving you breakfast on the Daughter at six bells. Yours, Starhand.”