If anyone had suggested that Peino Starhand moderated the speed of the Marsh King’s Daughter to allow La Danse Calinda to keep her in sight, the selkie prince would have laughed scornfully and pointed out that he never would insult his ship by not letting her run free in a race.
Some in the Daughter’s crew were not so sure, but that may have been no more than sailor’s pride. Whatever the case, whether the Calinda was that swift despite the upward pull of her balloon, or whether the Daughter was loath to leave her suitor too far behind, or whether both ships were receiving a boost from the storm that chased them, the truth was that the airship was seldom out of sight during the days of the passage from Kledy to Sesus.
Peino kept an eye to his ship’s wake where, in the distance, the airship flew, but he was more focused on the charcoal-colored clouds behind it, dragging heavy skirts of rain across the sea. The gale that Nyora Watersinger sang into the sails smelled of lightning, and the waves under the schooner’s hull were raked into a slate green froth by the same hard wind.
But that was behind the Daughter. With and before her, all was clear and bright, and the long, trim vessel ran, riding the wind and surfing the waves across the Arian Sea. Since they had a pursuer, Peino ordered racing drills, and this kept the crew busy day and night. Each station of the ship had its team for all the four shifts of the day, and at one time or another, every hand on board would put his or her hand to every station. Thus, each team knew its tasks and the timing to coordinate with all the other teams. Overall, the captain governed the day from the castle where he could see everything. At night, it was First Mate Tahain o’th’Farwind, and the sailors sang the wind songs themselves while the ship’s wizard slept. The galley cooked broth and biscuits around the hours, repairs and cleaning carried on. Peino and Tahain shared tea and reports twice a day, at dawn and dusk, when one was rising and the other making for his bunk. They talked a great deal of the storm that did not abate for days on end.
“First a monster, now this,” Peino remarked.
“At least it seems not to be chasing us,” said Tahain.
“Or at least not catching us,” said Peino.
Through it all, the Daughter never stopped. The wind in her sails, the rainbow spray flying from her bow never lessened for a moment. In the night, the sea’s bubbling hiss helped Peino sleep despite the nagging awareness of the monstrous cards lying beneath his pillow.
At dawn on the fourth day, the headland of the southern peninsula of Raurugia appeared over the horizon.
“Land!” shouted the lookout.
“Land, sir,” said Tahain as Peino appeared to take over the day.
“Yes, so it is,” said Peino. “Land indeed.”
“Mr. Moonwood, Mr. Longblade,” he called to his officers as they too came up on deck to take over from the previous watch, “take us to the Three Sisters, then trim sail and wait for our flying friends.”
The Three Sisters were the broken outcroppings of a barren island some three miles off the coast of the vast island of Raurugia. The enormous tall rocks, bashed by the sea, marked both the offing of Sesus harbor and the mouth of the Serpent Straits. There, the Marsh King’s Daughter slowed and waited for La Danse Calinda to catch up.