Fighting on the sea

After a couple of days I felt better. At least I didn’t feel sick all the time any more, only when there was a bit more wind than at other times, and when I ate anything and forgot to look at the sea for a while afterwards. Rhinla was high up in the mast most of the time being lookout, lucky girl! And even Vurian was climbing up now though he wasn’t nearly as good at climbing as us. But there it went up and down, and back and forth, much more than on deck so I didn’t even try. It wouldn’t do to puke from the mast and hit someone below!

But at least I felt a bit like myself again and Cynla saw that and wanted to practice with us. Rhinla still got a headache if she used her mind too much, but Cynla said we’d only practice a little. “I expect there will be fighting,” she said, “so I want to teach you how to defend yourselves!” We’d already made the shield when the man in Veray threw the knife at us, but that was only on one side, now we were going to make something on all sides. “You protect yourselves, and I’m going to hit you, if I get through you’ll feel it. Can you make a cloak of spirit?” We all could. “Now pull it as close to yourself as you can, and make it as hard as possible.”

“Are you going to punch or stab?” Rhinla asked. “Because if you’re punching I need a cloak of leather or cork, but if you’re stabbing it needs to be of stone or iron.”

“I’ll stab,” Cynla said, and Rhinla covered herself with stone, and I made a copper kettle to sit in, and we didn’t know what Vurian did but he did look protected. Then Cynla stabbed with a knife made of ryst! And my kettle went “poinggg” like copper kettles do but she got through Rhinla’s cover a bit and the knife stuck in it so Rhinla could grab it and try to pull it out, but Cynla made it disappear.

“I see,” I said, “you’ve imagined it so you can unimagine it too!”

“Now I’m going to lie in my hammock below,” Cynla said, “and then you touch me with your mind! But if I spot you, I’ll attack.”

“Can we work together?”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t,” Cynla said. And down the ladder she went.

When she was out of sight we put our heads together and decided that two of us would protect all of us while the third went down to get Cynla. Rhinla was first, and she made a lot of spirit gnats, but they couldn’t get through Cynla’s protection until she kicked her in the mind-butt to startle her.

Then it was my turn, and I imagined a fork — first a pitchfork, but that was too big to handle, so it became one of those large forks that cooks prick meat with to see if it’s done — and went down the ladder with it. That frightened Rhinla and Vurian! Because my spirit went down but my body stayed with them, without the spirit in it.

When I got down I couldn’t see Cynla at all, however hard I looked! But she’d said she’d be in the hammock so I stabbed the fork into the hammock from below and she yelped and became visible. Then I went up the ladder again before she could catch me.

“You were gone!” Rhinla said. “You were out of your body!” But I was in my body now, and my hands and feet were very cold and my legs were stiff so I had to stretch before I could help protect Vurian as he went down.

Vurian didn’t send his whole spirit down, only a sword he’d imagined, and after a while we heard Cynla yelp. Well done, all of you, she said in our heads.

Later, I complained that she’d been invisible, and she said “well, I thought I shouldn’t make it too easy for you!”

“Next time you could go somewhere else when you’re being invisible,” I said, “because it was easy, you said you’d be in your hammock so I pricked the hammock!” “Yes,” she said with a grin, “you were cleverer than me.”

Then Rhinla, who was in the top of the mast again, called out “There’s a ship in front of us!” And so there was! “May we look for people?” we asked, but Cynla said no, she’d look herself, and then told us to make ourselves as invisible as possible. The ship was full of people of the Nameless! “What are they doing there?” I asked. “Do you think they want to catch us? Or Vurian?”

“I don’t know,” Cynla said, “but better be careful, we want as little as possible to do with them.”

Rhinla curled up on a rolled-up rope and went to sleep, like a cat, and after a while the real cat joined her, while I went and helped the cook cut up carrots and turnips for the stew. The carrots were much nicer raw, and I nibbled on one while working, the cook didn’t mind.

After we’d eaten the stew we were all so tired that we really wanted to turn in, even Rhinla who’d been asleep for a couple of hours. When we were in our hammocks I noticed that Vurian was dreaming, a little uneasy but not very much, so I brushed him a little from where I lay but soon fell asleep myself.

Then Rhinla shook me awake! She’d got up in the middle of the night and went on deck to help Cynla keep watch, and now someone was trying to set fire to the ship with their mind! I scrambled up the ladder, and Vurian too, and we spent half the night throwing buckets of water at the sail and several other places that someone on the other ship was making hot enough to catch fire.

“Now I can look!” Rhinla said, “they know where we are anyway!” And she did, from behind a shield she made, just peeking past, and she saw three people of the Nameless on the other ship. One of them was the woman I’d hit with the oar when she and her friends were trying to kill us, and Rhinla drowned one after she’d bitten his ear off!

They stopped after a while, but we stayed on deck to keep watch with the sailors, Vurian down in the hold, Cynla on one side, I on the other side and Rhinla in front. None of the sailors could keep watch with their minds, but they could see if the other ship sent a boat with people with grappling hooks and knives and swords. They didn’t, though. Only Vurian came to get us because someone had tried to make a fire where he was. And now the other ship had put its lights out so we couldn’t see it any more except with our minds.

“Can people see it when you look at them?” I asked Cynla.

“Sometimes. We’ll practice that,” she said.

Then Cynla said she’d ask the captain to make our ship go slower so there would be more room between the other ship and us and it would be harder for them to do things. But Rhinla wanted us to overtake them, and fight! Cynla didn’t think that was a good idea, but she’d have to speak with the captain anyway and the captain was asleep so they didn’t argue about it right then.

Rhinla and Vurian went to bed then, because they were both too tired to fight or even stay awake, but I stayed to keep watch with Cynla. We talked, mostly so we wouldn’t fall asleep. “What do you think of the whole thing?” Cynla asked me, and I thought for a bit and I said “they don’t have to be killed, they just have to be somewhere else than we are! It would be bad to fight on a ship with a lot of sailors who don’t have anything to do with what the fight is about. Better wait until you’re on land and fight only the people you have a quarrel with!”

“But the people of the Nameless would think it’s all right if other people die too,” Cynla said. Well, duh! That’s why I’m not with the Nameless.

When it was day again Cynla talked to the captain and he ordered the sailors to take in some of the sail so the ship went slower. The cook grumbled about that, perhaps he’d run out of food if it took too long to get to Selday! Then Rhinla hung a fishing-line from the railing, with a worm from the hard-tack on the hook. She forgot it for half a day! But when we remembered it was there, it had caught a great big fish and we ate it.

The other ship was now so far ahead that we couldn’t see it with our eyes any more, except the people who climbed into the mast (Rhinla was one). We could still see it with our mind if we wanted but Cynla said to be very careful because if we could see them, they could see us.

The cook still grumbled, fish or no fish, and made porridge from hard-tack with some worms in it for flavour.

We passed Selday (where the other ship had gone), and Rhinla and I asked to put us and Vurian ashore and not take us to Selday, because we needed to go to the west over land anyway! And if the people on the other ship couldn’t find us, they wouldn’t be able to catch us. So we got a little boat with a sailor in it (to take it back to the ship, we could have handled a boat between us, I think even on the sea) to put us on the shore, on a little bit of beach between the sheer white cliffs. You could see how high the water came, even in the dark, because there was a lot of seaweed lying there, so we could sleep between the cliff and the seaweed and not get wet by surprise.

In the morning we caught crabs and mussels and picked up some seaweed and dry driftwood, and found a place where water came down the cliff that was only a little salty, so we could wash the salt off ourselves. And we made a delicious stew with the crabs and mussles and seaweed (Seaweed is like salty cabbage, very nice). Where the water came down there was also a place where we could climb up, not really easily, but Rhinla and I could give Vurian a hand up in the places were it was too hard for him. And I had the cat in the front of my shirt for a while, but she escaped and found her own way up.

Now we were on top of the white cliff! It was almost completely flat there, with a line of trees further inland, round yellow fruit growing on them. We tried one, and the rind was tough and bitter but it was sweet and juicy inside, so we picked some more and sucked the pulp out and threw the rinds into the sea. Perhaps some fish will like it!

We stopped to look around with our minds, we hadn’t done that yet, and we saw a lot of people behind us, the way we weren’t going, and fewer people in front of us, and one person quite close by, also in the right direction.

That person came closer! And it turned out to be a man with very dark skin, and a herd of goats with him. “Hi!” Rhinla said. “Is your name Tao?”

“Why, yes,” the man said, “how do you know?”

“We know someone in Essle who looks like you and his name is Tao. You’re Ishey, right?” And that was also right.

The man called Tao was looking from side to side as if he was searching for something, and when we asked he said he’d lost one of his little goats. So we offered to watch the rest of the goats while he looked in the bushes! Then we learned that none of us were cut out to be goatherds, and that the cat wasn’t cut out to be a dog (but Tao’s dog stayed, and did most of the work). It was fun, though, to run after the goats when they tried to escape! And Tao came back carrying the little goat that he’d found down a crack in the cliff, and pointed the way to the nearest village.

That was tiny! Only five houses, I could count them on one hand! And nobody in the houses was gifted, a good thing, or perhaps they wouldn’t want Vurian with the Nameless still in his head.

The people were surprised that we were there (“where have you come from? From the sea?”) but they gave us soup and bread and let us sleep in the hayloft. We wanted to buy horses from them, but the village had only two and they couldn’t sell them both. Well, one horse would perhaps be enough for a while. But first, sleep!