Meanwhile, in the Grand Navigators…
“Well, Milady Y’lanna,” said Ruili, “what would you like to do next?”
He invited her to take a seat beside him on the couch in the study. This room was both the office and personal retreat of his brother, the Sovereign Prince of the Grand Navigators, and it was designed to the taste of that gentleman. Shelves of books and rolled maps lined the walls, and stuck between the papers were treasures and mementoes of the sea — shells, corals, shark jaws, and so forth — and the tools and instruments of a navigator. One vast open desk, one smaller “secretary” folded up, green upholstered chairs and sofa around a campaign table, on which the tea-tray rested. Pink cherry blossoms bobbed on branches outside the windows, and the pinkish-red carapace of a crab nearly seven feet across, side to side, was mounted above the fireplace mantle.
“While we discuss our options,” the selkie said, “do try some of this black tea. My brother prefers coffee, and coffee is all very well, especially in the mornings, but tea’s the thing for a restorative, in my opinion.” He sitting forward on the couch, he tipped the teapot over two delicate, blue and white cups, filling them with the steaming, dark, perfumed liquid.
“And to go with,” he peeled back the linen cloth covering a basket, “plum buns, my favorite. Honey crumpets. And for savouries, ah,” he held up a tiny, silvery, dried fish, “minnow-crisps.” The stiff little morsel was popped whole, fins, bones and all, into his mouth and quickly crunched. “Mmm, tasty.”
“Now, lady,” he said, leaning back on the couch cushions, raising his cup to his lips for a sip, “it occurred to me while I was upstairs that you have no possessions. We should make a visit to my tailors and see you equipped with a wardrobe. Once you are properly fashioned, I thought we might take an evening and see the town. We might do this whenever you like. What say you?”
Before Y’lanna could answer, however, a knock on the front door sounded. Within seconds, Mrs. Bodling could be heard letting someone in, and that someone entered the study — a drastically pale elf in a loose, white gown, her braided ivory-colored hair covered in a white cap.
“Milord Windwolf, welcome home,” she said. “May I enter?”
“Of course, Doctor.” Ruili rose and greeted the newcomer with a bow and warm grasp of her hand. He introduced her to Y’lanna as a Doctor Cloudleaf, “my healer.”
The healer, dressed in the civilian uniform of her profession, set down her heavy shoulder bag and greeted Y’lanna but cut off conversation, saying, “Forgive my rudeness, lady and milord, but I am on my way to attend a birth. I only wished to take a look at your arm, if I may. I have heard that it has been bothering you.”
Ruili laughed. “You heard that, did you? From the runner my mother sent to you, no doubt.”
The doctor merely smiled. “If you would be so kind?”
“Oh, very well.” Without further ado, Ruili stood and stripped off his vest and shirt, right where he was. He revealed a lean, well-muscled torso marked by small scars here and there, and by two large, gnarled scars — one that put a dent in the upper part of his left arm, and one that laid a warped line over the ribs of his left side.
The doctor stepped up and began to manipulate the arm and prod the ribs. Only a few of the movements elicited winces from Ruili, and this seemed to please the healer.
“You’ve been eating your skate wings?”
“Yes, doctor. Regularly.”
“And you’ve been doing your exercises?”
“As much as I’m able — ow. Quarters are tight on board.”
The doctor seemed unimpressed with that excuse. “I presume stiffness develops over the course of the day? The exercises will alleviate that. You must make time for them, milord, mornings, nights, and before other exertions. As we say, the muscles remember long after the bones have forgotten. And no — more — hurling, sir, please. Not until the autumn at least. No use making faces. You’ll only keep tearing the tissues. I’ll leave a fresh jar of salve with Mrs. Bodling. Overall, the healing is progressing well. Now I really must hurry. It is good to have you home, milord, and very nice to meet you as well, milady.”
This was followed by farewells as warm as the greetings had been, and a friendly smile to Y’lanna as the healer took her leave to attend the birth of a new patient.
Ruili nodded after her as he pulled his shirt back on. “Dr. Cloudleaf is quite brilliant, but a bit of a tyrant,” he said to Y’lanna with a wink. “Have you given thought to the evening then, and what you’d like to do?”