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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Enjoy the Fourth Chapter of "The Rebel" from Melody and the Pier to Forever: Book Two!

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His Third Home

“ANURAG? ANURAG? Are you there?"
Anurag stirred, lifted his head from his pillow.
He sat up, wiped the sleep from his eyes.
"I'm here," he called out.
"Do you need help?"
Though the voice was somewhat muffled, he could tell it was Dohbdy's.
"Be out in a minute. Come aboard if you'd like."
He got to his feet and stretched while he dressed. Last night's sleep was so deep that it felt like only seconds had passed since he lay down. He glanced at the clock on his desk. It was mid-morning. He yawned one last time and opened the door to his cabin, stepping out into a bright blue day.
Dohbdy was just mounting the stern stairs. She smiled when she saw him.
She wasn't alone. A powerfully built young man followed her.
"I woke last night to check on you, but you were gone," she said. "I thought that delirium might have claimed you and that you were out, lost in the fog. You were very ill. I am glad to see that you are up. How do you feel?"
The young man watched him, his face expressionless. Offhandedly Anurag considered what it would be like to fight him. He looked like he would be a powerful opponent.
Dohbdy must've caught a whiff of his thoughts, because she said, "Oh. Forgive me. This is my brother, Danhin."
He gave Danhin a nod. Danhin remained still, imposing.
"He does not understand the Coastal Tongue," said Dohbdy.
"How is it you do?" asked Anurag.
"I don't. I'm a Storyteller. Do you know what that is?"
"I know another one," he said. Storytellers were individuals with unusual abilities. Some could understand and speak foreign languages without any training or prior exposure to them. Others were master tacticians and strategists. Still others were soothsayers or empaths.
There was a Storyteller somewhere on Aquanus who was a good friend of his and a Courier and Insutalon like him. And he could control the local weather. Anurag had seen him do it ...
"You look much better," she said. "I guessed this was where you went. The perversions have lost their hold on you. Are you hungry?"
It occurred to him that he was starving.
His face must've given him away, because she said, "Come back with us. We have plenty to share at our camp."
"I'd like that," he said. He did a quick mental calculation concerning the Arrowsparrows. He still had plenty of time to make sure they were well fed and rested before sending them off.
Dohbdy turned to say something to her brother. She spoke Poet to him. Anurag could understand the language, but only if it was spoken slowly. She told Danhin to make room for him. Her brother turned and descended the ladder to the canoe floating alongside the Selaki, where he began moving items around. His task completed, he said, "Ki—" ("Ready—")
As Danhin rowed, Dohbdy, sitting opposite Anurag, who offered to row as well, said, "We have much to discuss. The ueto's Elders would like to talk to you about what happened to you. Your story will influence their decision as to whether or not we should remain south."
An hour later, his belly full after a delicious breakfast of flame-kissed fish and a mushy, spicy bean and root dish, he stood before them. There were three of them, one woman and two men. The youngest was a man in early middle age, like he was, the oldest an ancient, bent man. Dohbdy sat with them. She translated their questions and Anurag's answers.
He told them what he did, how he killed the Constable and most of the Tracluse guards. He told them he was a shark Transform, and why he slaughtered them as one.
"The Constable wanted me to lead an expedition into the mountains to find the demon that had gone missing. I wanted it to look like the demon had returned and for some reason attacked them. The Constable had threatened my family and I wanted to protect them. I knew his mother lived in Raretail Holm and I used that information to force him to my will and to cover my tracks."
"You wear the metal of constriction," said the youngest, pointing at his neck. "How can you defeat it?"
Anurag fingered the necklace, then brought the silver pendant out from under his shirt. The dragon curling captive in the inscribed circle stared at him.
"It's dead," he said. "I wear it for appearances only."
"A Master of the Aecxis destroyed it?"
He nodded. "A very powerful one."
"A traitor against the emperor?" asked the woman disbelievingly.
"A king," he said. "From beyond the Edge of the world."
Dohbdy gaped at him, then translated his answer. Their eyes went wide. They looked at one another, then back at him. They spoke animatedly to each other in Poet.
The ancient man raised his chin to speak.
Dohbdy, translating:
"Our legends speak of lands beyond the Great Arch. It is said that men are not originally of this world, but of those lands. There are sacred scrolls that tell us this, written long ago by those who say they were swallowed up by a mighty storm and brought here. You have seen these lands? You have been there?"
Anurag nodded. The group goggled at him.
"A storm took you there?" asked the woman.
"The king took me," he said. "His Armada sails in the shadow of the Great Arch, and beyond it."
"How is that possible?" said the young man. "The emperor rules all."
"He doesn't rule you, does he?" said Anurag.
Dohbdy translated his answer. The Elders looked at one another, then back up at him.
"The emperor is not concerned about the peoples or lands near the Edge, like us," he said. "We are too few and too scattered to present a threat. The Imperium only just discovered your existence, and only then by means of their demons, which were preying on you. The king and his forces defeated the Imperium at the Edge just when the invasion was coming north, this way. His kingdom has waited many years to return."
"He is from here? From Aquanus?" the woman asked.
"Originally, yes. The mutineers of ten navies of ten nations of this world joined forces with him during the invasion. They have been waiting for the right time to return. That time is now."
Dohbdy translated. The Poets talked among each other. The woman spoke to her. She looked up at him.
"They want to know where your allegiance lies," she said. "Is it with the villagers or with the kingdom from beyond the Edge?"
"It is with both," he said.
She offered his answer. The woman seemed displeased by it. She talked to Dohbdy at length.
"She says that you probably made the ueto's decision for them when you killed the Constable and his guards. A new Constable will be sent, along with new guards and a new demon. If they believe one of their own monsters massacred the perversions, they'll surely send troops into the mountains to seek it out and destroy it. The perversions won't stop there; from the stories she's heard, they never do. If they know of us they'll come after us as well."
"That was inevitable as soon as they learned of your existence," said Anurag, holding on to his temper. "When the first demon killed one of your own, all your lives were in danger at that point. The emperor may not find you noteworthy enough to send his armies to destroy or enslave you, but that won't stop the local Tracluse—perversions—from hunting you down, if for nothing more than sheer sport."
Dohbdy gave them his answer. The woman seemed unsatisfied by it. She shook her head and spoke in very spirited tones to the ancient man, who eventually held a hand up to quiet her. He looked to Dohbdy and spoke to her.
"He wants to know how the king knows that it is the right time to return."
"Because the emperor's destroyer has come," said Anurag, "as prophesied to the king long ago by a Samanlainen Guardian, a Pier god."
This news silenced the Elders for a good while. When again they spoke, it was in furious debate with one another. It appeared the two men had sided against the woman, who after a while threw her hands up in frustration and quit talking.
The old man said: "The ueto would like you to stay as one of us. Your knowledge and bravery would be of great service to us."
"With respect, I cannot," replied Anurag, offering a bow of gratitude. "My duty now is to let others know of the king's return. There are many who have waited to hear this news. It is my job to tell them. I must voyage to the Edge to assist the kingdom upon its return. But I thank you all the same. I am honored."
"Then please stay with us one more day," said Dohbdy on her own. "We will help you prepare. We will give you provisions for your journey."
"You are very generous. Thank you," he said, bowing again. Dohbdy informed them of what she said. The younger man spoke. The woman objected to what he was saying, but the old man cut her off.
"Poets have no lasting allegiance to kingdoms," translated Dohbdy. "But a decision has been reached, and the Elders would like you to inform this king that we of this ueto will stand with him when the time comes. Will you tell your king this, Anurag?"
"I will," he replied. "And I will bear the mark of your tribe upon my vessel, if you would allow it."
"We would be honored," said the old man.
Dohbdy watched as he readied his bow. He set it in a corner and then went down to the Selaki's cabin. She followed.
Poets were busy on the deck of his singleship. They had arrived with food and fresh water. Some busied themselves with sharpening his knives and broadsword; others checked the boat's canvases and ropes and inspected the hull for holes or other damage. It felt strange to be such a focal point of activity. But Poets, once they accepted you as one of their own, were renowned for their generosity and kindness.
"Please thank them again for me," he said, listening to the sounds of footfalls above his head. "If it weren't for you people, I'd be dead."
Dohbdy smiled. "I will."
She was a pretty young woman, and Anurag, only a few hours into his waking good health, finally noticed. Her straight black hair hung to just above her shoulders; her eyes, brown and wide, complemented full lips and a bright, innocent smile.
"May I ask if you have a husband?"
"I will," she said, smiling. "He's above. His name is Generach. We're to join later this month."
"He's a very lucky man," he said, nodding away the disappointment. "My congratulations to you both."
"Why are you not married, Anurag?"
"It seems pointless," he shrugged. "I can't see myself raising a family in the shadow of the Imperium. I don't want to bring a new soul into such a world. It feels wrong even to consider it."
"The Imperium won't last forever," she said. "You told us yourself: the emperor's destroyer has come."
"That's true," he admitted. "And now you can help me tell the rest of the world."
"The world is a very big place. How can you tell all of it? Are you some sort of Dreamcatcher god?"
"No,” he said, laughing. One of the interesting things about Poets, he reminded himself, was that they could not Transform.
"When was the last time you saw a Dreamcatcher?" he asked.
"I haven't," replied Dohbdy. "I have only heard about them."
"There's a pen in the top drawer, and some small papers in a box. Would you get them for me, please?"
"Sure ..."
She opened the drawer and pulled out the pen and then the box of papers, studying both intently. Anurag in the meantime had taken the cover off the bird cage. The Arrowsparrows were all there, bunched together in a single nest. They'd gone through nearly all the food he'd left them days ago; their water dish was dry. They were probably very thirsty.
She looked up. "Oh, how beautiful ..."
"They need water," he said. “But they don’t look like they’re hungry.” He grabbed the dish and hurried out of the cabin, returning moments later with it brimming. He put it into the cage and watched as they crowded around it, drinking.
"I've never seen a bird of that type before. What are they?"
"They're called Arrowsparrows. They're from the world beyond the Edge."
"Really," she breathed, fascinated.
"I'm going to write on these papers," he said, sitting at the desk. "You can get them more water—seawater—if they need it. They probably know it's time to be on their way."
She watched them drink. Anurag was caught by the enchantment that colored her eyes.
"All that time on my back was probably good for them," he remarked, breaking himself free. "They got plenty of rest. They'll need it."
"These birds are how you're going to talk to the world?"
He nodded.
She stood over his shoulder as he wrote on the little papers. The pen had scarlet ink that disappeared only moments after he finished writing.
She stared.
"The paper drinks your message, Anurag! How can the world read it?"
"The ink is blood. The paper hides the message. It can only be revealed by those whose blood is compatible with the blood of the pen."
"Your blood is in the pen?" She appeared aghast at the possibility.
"No, the king's," he said. "These pens will only write on this type of paper.” He gestured at the box.
"What is your message?"
" 'The Apprentice has come.' "
" 'The Apprentice' ... You mean the emperor's destroyer?"
He nodded. Enthrallment returned to her eyes. He tried not to stare into them.
He considered how sickly, even grotesque, he must've been these past few days. He had lost count of the number of times he puked in her presence. And that was while he was conscious....
"Finished," he said after another minute of work. Dohbdy had turned her attention back to the birds. "Put your finger in the cage, and one will jump onto it.” He noted her hesitation and added, "They won't hurt you. They know who is good and who ..."
"... is a perversion.”
She gently reached a hand into the open cage. An Arrowsparrow gave a quick tweet from the middle of the bunch of them crowded in the nest and leapt onto it. She cooed gently at it as she slowly pulled her hand out.
"Oh, Anurag ... they're so beautiful ..."
He had rolled the message tightly and secured it with a thin tie. "Bring him down here.”
She lowered her hand very cautiously. He expertly tied the scroll about the bird’s right leg. He tapped the scroll three times.
The Arrowsparrow began to sparkle. Dohbdy looked like she was about to scream. Her eyes were as wide as they could go, her mouth open and slack.
"It's okay ... just keep your hand up. Watch," he said.
The sparkles quickly overwhelmed it, which gave one last tweet before disappearing. When that happened the sparkles lengthened. They brightened for a moment, coming together to form a single bright shaft of light before abruptly dying out.
His hand was under the arrow that fell from Dohbdy's. He caught it, held it up.
"Arrowsparrow ..." she said, gawking.
He held it out to her. She grasped it as one does something very fragile. "It's light as a feather," she said, spellbound.
"Pun intended."
She laughed absentmindedly. "It even has its colors—silver-blue and gold ..." She examined the arrowhead. It was sleek and metallic and sharp.
"Let's get another," he said.
Minutes later he held a quiverful of Arrowsparrows.
"Let's get them on their way."
She followed him up to the deck of the Selaki.
He grabbed the bow, fixed an Arrowsparrow to it. He aimed almost directly overhead, pulling back. The Poets stopped to watch.
He released it. The Arrowsparrow streaked into the sky. But instead of arcing and falling, this one continued on its trajectory, disappearing quickly into the high blue.
The Poets talked animatedly among each other.
He released another one. It followed the first.
"How do they know where to go?" she asked. "You're shooting them in the same direction. And the others want to know what powers the arrows."
"Speaking of Dreamcatchers, there's one beyond the Edge of the world who can answer those questions." He shrugged away his ignorance. "All I know is it has something to do with aecxes and sea horses and how they communicate with one another and with people."
"Sea horses?" she blinked.
"And now you know as much as I do.”
"The Arrowsparrows can read your mind, decipher your wishes?" she asked after translating his answers to the Poets, who had stopped what they were doing and now crowded around him. He shot the remaining Arrowsparrows into the sky, then turned to answer them.
"Yes. I've always wondered why Poets don't use sea horses. Why is it that I've never seen a Poet on the back of one?"
She smiled. "You will learn in due time, now that you're one of us."
"But you're not going to tell me just yet, right?"
"When you return. You are going to return, aren’t you, Anurag?"
He looked in her eyes and felt something very lonesome tug at his spirit.
“I don’t know,” he said, choosing the honest answer over the hopeful one. More to tear himself away over the disappointment that came over her gaze than any real curiosity, he glanced briefly at the men and women aboard his singleship and asked, "Which one is Generach?"
She turned and stroked the arm of the tall, skinny young man who had just come within range. She spoke to him. He extended his hand, which Anurag shook. It was a truly generous gesture: Poets did not greet people by shaking their hand.
Generach spoke to her.
"He would like to fix the ueto's mark on the bow of your ship," she said.
"I'd be honored," said Anurag, nodding at him.
"I'm concerned that the mark will be illegal," she said after another quick aside with her betrothed.
"Tell Generach that the Imperium can kiss my ass. Illegal is my middle name. Besides, where I'm going there won't be many of their warships, if any."
She told this to Generach, who gave him a knowing grin. He shook his hand again, then left the singleship to his canoe, where he began painting the ueto's mark on the Selaki's bow.
Hours later, the Poets left. Anurag left with them. The blue sky had since been swamped by windy fog, which was quickly replaced by dark, driving rain and booming thunder. He voiced his concern that Generach's work would be lost to the weather, but Dohbdy assured him that the paint was durable and would hold. Once back at camp, he helped the ueto secure the teepees against the storm, which now blustered and boomed at full strength.
He'd gotten the Arrowsparrows off. That was all that mattered. They would fly nonstop to their respective destinations. The storm couldn't stop them. Four of them had to cross almost the entire face of Aquanus before landing, a trip that would take them less than two Aquanian-days to complete. It was why the Arrowsparrows were created in the first place. Two days to cross the face of Aquanus was virtually instantaneous communication. As he lay in bed later he smiled. The Arrowsparrow that was sent to Raretail Holm had already made it to its recipient.
The news was rapidly spreading. The Apprentice has come.
They would reply when preparations at their end allowed them to. That could be days, even weeks away.
In the morning he checked on the Selaki by Transforming and swimming out to her. Even here in the cove the waves were still quite substantial; as a shark he had trouble navigating due to the murky, churning water. He climbed aboard (he'd left his clothing behind with Generach); shivering, he did a quick, sweeping check (the ueto's mark, a red-and-white cursive U with an odd squiggle through the center, was fine) before leaping back into the water and hurrying back to shore. The water was frigid, even as a shark. Generach handed him a towel and his clothes as they stood under the fragrant high canopy of fennaca trees. Anurag shivered as fitfully as he had while sick.
Back at the ueto, he warmed himself next to a fire and then ate, then helped to resecure two tents after they blew over, slightly injuring a child and two men.
"The Elders think this is an Edge storm," said Dohbdy to him later. "It's been two years since the last one. That one killed hundreds of Poets. They're concerned. If you had left earlier, Anurag, you'd probably be dead now."
He nodded knowingly. "Are they thinking of moving the ueto?"
"Not yet. They think the cove is safer than venturing back into the mountains. We're sheltered here by the trees, and high enough from the water to avoid the tide. The mountains ... they have floods. And mudslides."
"And demons that kill other demons. You don't know if something that powerful won't come looking for you."
"Yes. So here is where we'll stay," she declared unsurely. "If the storm strengthens we'll have to reconsider our decision."
Anurag thought of Orion and his mother, of Brinkley and Tal. He hoped they were all right. Edge storms were fearsome.
A double dose of inspiration alighted on him that moment, and he smiled against his worry.
"What is it?" she asked, puzzled at his look.
"I've got something I'd like to give to the ueto before I go. Something that will protect you. And I’ve got a favor to ask you."
"Against Edge storms? What is your favor?"
He shook his head. "I’ll tell you later. I’m talking about another kind of storm. Much more evil than this."
"What can be worse than an Edge storm?"
"What indeed," he answered.
"You have given us valuable information, Anurag. You have given us more than we could ask for. You need give us nothing else."
"I'd like to return someday. I'd hate to leave knowing I could've done more to protect you than I did. Please ..."
She looked into his eyes as though probing them for something; then, reluctantly, she nodded. "You are a very interesting man, Anurag."
"De Bouchard."
"I'm sorry—?"
"My full name. Anurag de Bouchard."
"Anurag de Bouchard," she said. "I thought your middle name was Illegal."
They laughed.
"I will pray for you on your journey back to the Beyond Kingdom, Anurag Illegal de Bouchard."
The storm didn't strengthen, but it did last four more days, which brought Anurag to believe that it wasn't an Edge storm, just a very strong gale. Edge storms, as fierce as they were, generally did not last longer than a day or two. The camp seemed to agree with his assessment. In their tents they waited, eating and napping and telling stories.
Poets, he noted, rarely let their hands stay idle. Always they employed them to sew new clothing, or to carve wooden toys for the children, or to gesticulate enthusiastically while telling a story. Few ever raised their voices loud enough to be heard beyond their immediate circle (in direct contrast with Anthtreeans), and few ever spoke more than they had to. They were a quiet people, very reserved, very thoughtful. As the storm gradually cleared he considered how much he would miss them. Especially Dohbdy.
The demons preyed upon them, and that infuriated him. On day five, as he stepped out into a windy but rain-free morning, he resolved to make good on the gifts he wanted to give them.
He went back to the cove. The storm had broken many of the limbs of the fennaca trees; two or three had fallen on their neighbors. The cove's shore had eroded substantially and was clogged with debris. Beyond, the leaden water looked just a degree or two from freezing over. He stepped out of his clothes, securing them under a newly fallen limb, then tiptoed into it.
He swore richly. The water was indeed just above freezing. He took a deep breath and plunged forward, flashing immediately.
His great shark bulk fought and wriggled against the storm-tossed sand, but eventually he got free and ventured out to deeper water. Minutes later he stood on the deck of his singleship, which looked like it had weathered the gale with no problems.
Under the dash, in the dark, were the sprigs of Antarctic Cottonwood. He took the smaller one out, closed the dash, and then hurried down to his cabin where he grabbed one of the little rectangular papers he used to send messages with Arrowsparrows. Back on deck, he jumped over the Selaki's railing into the sea, flashing in mid-air, the items in his grip held tightly to his chest.
The aecxal principle of rendan non ar complet a ne duinus was what allowed soldiers to flash into seabirds or whatever and then flash back, their clothes and weapons still on their bodies. Like the Arrowsparrows and how they knew where to go, how they knew how to find their targets, Anurag did not understand fully how rendan non ar complet a ne duinus worked. He did not need to. When the sand started grating against his shark tummy, he Transformed back to human. He still held the sprig of Antarctic Cottonwood and message paper to his chest, which was as a human under water. Struggling to shore, he lay them on drying sand and put a rock over them to keep them from blowing away, then hurriedly dressed. The air was as frigid as the water, and he looked forward to a warm fire to sit next to. He grabbed the sprig and paper and marched quickly back to the ueto.
With the Elders and Dohbdy seated around a fire with him, he held up the sprig.
"This is from a tree that is both from this world and from the kingdom beyond the Edge," he said. "It has very strong protective properties. You can use them to shield yourself from the perversions and demons once they return. To keep it alive you need merely place the bottom of it in seawater. It doesn't need much light, and it can go many weeks without drinking, which will serve you while you camp in the mountains. More than two months without, though, will probably kill it. Over time it will grow into a full tree. You can plant it where you will, even many misons from the ocean. It doesn’t require seawater to survive after it is planted, and any seawater you give it it will convert to drinkable freshwater. It is very hardy."
Dohbdy translated. The Elders nodded.
The community tent was crowded. Everyone listened quietly.
"It turns saltwater into freshwater? Did I hear that right? What protections does it offer?" asked the woman Elder, who with this gift seemed to warm to Anurag considerably.
"It Transforms seawater into fresh, yes. If the rains cease for too long, you can still drink and water your plants and animals if you are near the sea. As for protections, it can make you and your entire camp invisible to outsiders, to name just one," he said.
This news excited the camp greatly, who whispered among each other.
The ancient Elder held up his hand, quieting them. They looked to Anurag to continue.
"There are many ways to get it to work for you," he said, "but I believe the most direct route is the best in this case ..."
Very carefully, he removed the smallest of the five leaves on the Antarctic Cottonwood sprig and gave it to the woman, who held it in her palm at eye level, inspecting it carefully.
"You must decide amongst yourselves who will eat this leaf. For this to work, it must be the man or woman whom you believe loves this camp the very most, and is also its fiercest protector. You need to decide that right now."
Dohbdy translated.
The Elders talked. Several from the camp spoke up. What appeared to be a heated argument between three of the ueto and the young Elder ensued.
Anurag interrupted. "This isn't a competition, so don't make it one."
Dohbdy, raising her voice, translated. The camp halted, staring at him.
After more discussion—more peaceful discussion—the woman handed the leaf to the youngest Elder. The camp, for the most part, appeared pleased with this decision. The Elder held up the leaf, studying it, then abruptly stuffed it into his mouth, chewing.
From experience Anurag knew it would be very bitter. But the Elder did not show it. He swallowed, then looked to him, ostensibly for more instructions.
"Wait two days," said Anurag, speaking to him. "In that time you must be totally focused on this ueto and why it means so much to you. You must focus on your love for it. Let nothing distract you. Let others from the camp present themselves. Look at them—" he pointed at his eyes then out at the others—"I mean, really look at them. Touch them. Hold their hands. Kiss their cheeks. Do this with all your energy, all your focus, because what you touch will fall under the influence of the Antarctic Cottonwood leaf that is now part of your flesh and blood."
Dohbdy translated as he spoke. The young Elder nodded in understanding.
"Those you touch have things and fellows they love and cherish, too. It's by those means that the influence of the Antarctic Cottonwood will grow and spread its spiritual roots that will eventually encompass the entire camp, not just the people but also their belongings." He held up the sprig. "Indifference and apathy among you and towards this kills this," he said warningly. "Love and water, fresh or salt, will nourish it. Never forget that."
"If the Elder should die, will that destroy the leaf's effects?" asked Dohbdy.
Anurag shook his head.
She translated her question and his response to the ueto.
The ancient man spoke.
"We love many things, Shark Warrior, not just our camp. Not just our own. Is it possible that we can make all our land invisible?"
Anurag shook his head. "Not the land, no. But all you cherish that lives or stands on it, sure. Use this sprig and its leaves with great discretion."
"Would an enemy be able to see us up close?" said the woman Elder.
"He'd never see you coming,” he said.
The camp murmured.
"Can we make ourselves visible again?" asked Generach, who stood directly behind Dohbdy.
"Freshwater consciously sprayed upon the sprig’s leaves will render your ueto invisible. Remember: consciously, with attention and intention. But beware: seawater that touches the leaves, by conscious intent or not, will render it visible once more. You’ll find however that fully matured trees can be sprayed with seawater and yet still retain the cloak of invisibility, provided certain conditions are met first, ones you need not concern yourself with at this point. You will discover that there are ways of 'nesting' invisibility so that some of your camp can be visible while others remain invisible. You will discover those means in due time, I'm sure."
He gazed at the young Elder. "Two days. Understand?"
Dohbdy translated. The Elder nodded solemnly.
The woman Elder spoke.
"This is a great gift," she said. "When the new Constable and his perversions come, we will be free of them. The demon, too. Please ... when you return, seek us out. You are no longer a guest. You are one of us now."
Dohbdy translated, then asked, "But Anurag ... won't we be invisible to you as well?"
"Only if you want to be. Please tell the Elder thank you, and that I'm honored by her words."
Dohbdy did her part, and the woman gave him a rare smile, which he returned.
He mounted the stairs of the Selaki. Dohbdy and Generach stayed behind in the canoe.
"You have a long voyage ahead of you," she said. "We will keep you in our prayers, Anurag de Bouchard."
"I will send an Arrowsparrow when I arrive at the Great Arch," he said. "The sea paper ... you don't need the king's blood to respond. You can send word back as I showed you. And don’t forget: Claire de Bouchard. The lighthouse."
“Claire de Bouchard, lighthouse,” she repeated. “I won’t forget, Anurag.”
“Thank you for everything, Dohbdy. And please thank the ueto again for me.”
She nodded and smiled, and then she and her fiancé rowed the canoe out of the way of the Selaki as he pulled up anchor.
Looking back as he left the hidden cove, he saw them waving at him. He waved back.