Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 12

"Thank you," said Nimiaane, "what do we do now?"

"I'm going to take their boat out to the seashore," said Tewer, "so it looks like they finished their search. Then I'll feed one to the murder-worms, and put the other on the shore, make him look like he was killed by his friend. Then I'll wash out the boat and get back here. I might not be back by dawn, and if I can't get back, I won't be back until tomorrow night. No fires, no lights! You need to keep watch, and if you see anybody, don't hide on the ship. I think we need to hide you someplace else, just in case. Here, get whatever food you have prepared and some blankets, and come with me. I know just the place."

They did as he instructed, and soon all three sat in his boat with some large bundles. He caught the painter of the dead men's boat as he went, and handed it to the cringing Nimianne, who took it and held on, though from her breathing he thought she might scream. He paddled the boats over to the far side of the cove, where the trees obscured a small sheltered area with a tiny shore about three feet wide and a thicket around three sides.

"Even if they find my ship," he said, "they won't find you. Just sleep in the boat, and I'll be back as soon as I can. Don't go back to my ship, until I come back. I might lose her, but we might still find a way to escape."

"Very prudent," said Nimianne, "but a great risk."

"Can't do nothing about that," said Tewer, "if I don't get these dead men out of here they'll find us easy. So we got to risk it. If I don't come back by tomorrow night, I probably won't be back at all. Maybe dead, maybe captured. I don't know what you can do, whether you can sail my ship or not, but don't leave for at least another twelve days. If you can stay hidden that long they'll be searching the whale-road instead of the swamps. If you lose the ship, just head north along the shore at night, and then go inland and go west! The Black Zils are right bastards but some of them speak Thellarnish and might understand you're worth ransom. Go east and you'll wish Captain Rask had you back. The Red Zils eat women, so I hear. Understand?"

Both of the girls sniffed and Nimianne answered affirmatively.

"You need to eat something before you go," said Darah in a choked voice.

"Right," said Tewer, suddenly feeling famished. "I forgot about that." Darah handed him a bowl, which had several little oblong bread-like things in it. He indifferently picked one and took a bite, and instantly gobbled the whole thing down.

"What is that?" He asked it as he took another. "It's good!"

"Beef and mango pasty," said Darah, "hard to make on a cook-stone but I wanted something that would keep a few days."

"Best thing I ever had," said Tewer, eating a third, and a fourth. He decided that had to suffice, though he wanted to empty the bowl. "I'd better not take any with me," he said, "the smell might attract other slayers. Thanks, Darah, I didn't know food could taste like that!"

Darah only sniffed. It sounded like they were crying again. Tewer felt impatient at his own ignorance. What was it now? He didn't have time to wonder, however, he had business to tend to. He climbed carefully into the other boat and sculled it away.

"See you soon," he said, "hopefully by morning."

"Be careful," said Darah.

"Farewell," said Nimianne.

Tewer emerged from their hiding place a few minutes later and sculled rapidly down the channel toward the sea. He could smell the charnel reek of the dead, and hoped the boat wouldn't be too disgusting. The green moon showed some of her face, and he saw that at least the blood wasn't draining into the water, but pooling in the bottom of the boat. He stopped sculling for several moments listening for anything nearby, and looking around very carefully in the dim moonlight. He hurried on and soon heard the waves of the sea. He stopped before they reached the shore, and pulled up by some big rocks on the right of the channel. He looked at both men and felt surprised when he knew them. Gars, the one he'd stabbed through the throat, was a sneak-thief, but had killed at least one man as well. Pirants, the other, was an Etriquín, rare indeed in Whaelhreow, who always swore some weird god named Zur. He'd always seemed fairly decent, and had once tousled Tewer's hair, and only his friendly smile had kept Tewer from taking offense. Tewer felt a little sorry at killing Pirants, but it offered an opportunity too. He hefted the Etriquín onto the rocks, and ladled blood all over, splashing the rocks until they were gorily gruesome. He took off Pirant's boots and kept them beside him, then cursed under his breath and checked the dead man's pouch and pockets. He had a shiny new silver piece in his pouch, and Tewer swallowed in unpleasant surprise. If Rask was paying Gars and Pirants to find the girls, they must be worth a fortune! They might make Tewer terribly wealthy, if he only survived.

He hurried down to the shore, and sculled a few yards out into the sea. He searched Gars, finding another silver piece, and took the dead man's boots. He then raced away as the murder-worms closed in, and when he could not longer hear them feasting, he turned back into the swamp and found a waterfall that fell on exactly the opposite side of the mogote that rose above his ship. Using the boots, he cleaned out the blood, letting the little waterfall fill the boat partway several times before he considered it clean enough. He had no way to tell if it really were clean, unless he wanted to give his position away with a flame. He hid the boots in a little cave behind the waterfall, and then headed back to the shore. He intended to circumnavigate the mogote, coming back from the West, but first he needed to put some distance between him and the waterfall. He sculled back into a large channel and turned west, and made steady progress for an hour. Turning north, Tewer saw light ahead of him, and he stopped at once, letting his boat drift under the mangrove branches, but it didn't work. Several boats approached, all with lanterns, and they saw him at once. He stayed where he was, gripping his spear, and kept his face emotionless.

"Here, it's Tewer," said one of the men, and Tewer recognized him as one of counter's guards. Three days ago he'd called Tewer 'Tumor.' Tewer tried to think of his name, then remembered: Floke.

"Hola, Floke," Tewer said, "are you searching for those girls?"

"Aye," said Floke, "how did you hear about that? I haven't seen you in town."

"Gars told me," said Tewer, "right before he tried to kill me. I killed him instead, found two silver coins on him. He had blood all over him, but claimed he hadn't seen the two girls. Worth a bit, are they?"

"They are," said Floke, "Cap'n Rask'll pay 1,000 nails apiece for them, so long as they aren't touched."

"Touched?"

Floke explained in graphic terms, and then said: "That plain enough?"

"Guess so," said Tewer, nodding. "I ran into Gars up over Riddler Channel, but I had to roll him overboard because the worms came in too fast for me. At least six of them. I reckon he didn't find them thataway."

"Did you see Pirants?" One of the other men looked suspicious, and Tewer shook his head.

"Not there," said Tewer, "though Gars was covered in blood. Was he out with Pirants?"

"Yes," said Floke, "they were supposed to check all Riddler Channel and Spearhook Channel, and meet us down by the shore. You got a lantern?"

"Nope," said Tewer, "wasn't one aboard when I ran into Gars. My own boat is out there somewhere," he gestured east, "I lost hold of it and had to get into Gars' boat. If any of you find it, I'll give five nails for it. I like it better than this tub."

"Show us where you found Gars," said the suspicious man.

"Why should I?" Tewer bristled and laid his hand on his axe-head.

"Do it, Tewer," said Floke, "that's Cap'n Rask."


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