Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 15

When he woke it looked dark outside his cabin. He rose with a groan and drew on some breeches, then made his way up onto the deck. He had only slept a few hours, just until the twilight. Nightfall had not yet arrived.

Nimianne waved to him from the top, and he waved back. Darah emerged from below a few minutes later with something hot and delicious, and Tewer wolfed down his food, feeling much better as the warmth spread out from his belly.

"Thank you," he said to Darah, then called softly up to Nimianne. "You can come down now! It's too dark to see anything."

She climbed carefully down, and Tewer squatted down on the deck, trying to think. After a while he nodded several times to himself, and turned to the two girls, who waited expectantly.

"The hardest part," he said, "is getting the Martlet out of this cove. There's no wind here, so we need another way. I think I know what to do."

Three of the five moons rode the sky-fields before they put his plan into action. They tied a very long rope to the prow of the little ship and raised the anchor. Then they took Tewer's boat out into the channel and pulled the rope around the largest tree they could find on the far side. Anchoring the boat against another tree, they pulled the rope, hoping to draw the ship out of the cove. For several minutes it seemed like they were only pulling the spring out of the rope, then the Marlet emerged into Riddler Channel quite unexpectedly. Tewer cut the rope and made it fast to the ring on the back of his boat, and pushed away from the shore. He sculled while the girls paddled, and soon they began to move slowly towards the sea. The wind began to pick up, but it blew from the south, so they had to keep at it. The sluggish current helped them as they neared the surf, and then only two hours after they started, they pulled the Martlet past the waves into the open sea.

They turned and got back aboard, towing Tewer's boat behind the little ship, and with some difficulty got the triangular mainsail unfurled. The wind caught it almost at once, and even with it only partially open the little ship seemed to leap as it moved forward. Tewer had to stifle a whoop, it excited him so much. He'd only been sailing a few times with Krasten, enough to know how, but little more. The feel of the wind and waves had always filled him with glee, and he felt it more strongly than ever before. His ship! He sailed away from Whaelhreow forever in his very own ship!

He set his course southwest, and tying the tiller, ran up to the top, looking all around for other ships. He saw none, not even a glimmer of sail on the horizon, and he had to stifle another whoop. He put a hand over his heart and thanked Laome for his good fortune, and then patted his crotch just in case.

He climbed back down and untied the tiller, and both of the girls smiled at his exuberance.

"We're well away," said Tewer, "and you two will just have to learn as we go. Let's get started now. I'll probably have to sleep again by morning and we'll have to use every bit of wind we can get."

He launched into an explanation, and had each of them try the tiller, showing them how to turn it to capture the wind, and letting them feel the thrill of movement that came with sailing. Neither seemed quite so excited as he, but that didn't matter. They were madwomen anyway.

The wind grew all night, and instead of fully raising the mainsail and unfurling the jibs, Tewer left well enough alone. When the sun rose he could see nothing on any side—no land, no islands, nothing but blue and green waves as far as the eye could see. He knew then that they would soon be out of the Theljan Reach. Surely not even Captain Rask would look for them so far away!

The girls took the tiller for several hours while he slept and when he woke he looked at the sun with satisfaction. They had kept the course!

"You did it well," he said, "you kept on course! It's past noon, and we've been running since midnight—call it eighteen hours I guess. And all on the same course. We must be getting to the edge of the Theljan Reach by now!" The girls blushed at his praise and smiled again at his enthusiasm, and he refrained from clapping them on the shoulders. He didn't know how they'd react.

The speed of his little ship astonished him. He didn't know much of the outside world, but he knew it was more than two hundred miles from the southernmost point of Whaelhreow to the Ivory Sea. The sun still hovered a few handspans over the horizon when they passed the first of the famous sunken cities gave the Ivory Sea its name. At first it seemed only a white blur in the water, but as they passed over it they could see fallen towers, long white streets or walls, and many buildings still standing far beneath the waves. It looked like ivory, white but slightly yellowish, and it gave him a feeling of such happiness that he almost started crying. He'd never felt anything like it.

Two hundred miles in twenty-two hours! Maybe a bit more than that. At that rate they could've made Ascalon in only seven or eight hours. He realized that his plan now seemed foolish. They should have run the gauntlet.

He had Darah take the tiller for a while and climbed to the crow's nest. As he looked all around he blinked in astonishment. Straight ahead lay land, green and yellow, fading into the distance. They had reached the Ghazwah Shore already? He climbed back down, uncertain of what to do. He didn't want to go anywhere near the Gray Zils or the Naharvals; he'd heard of them and nothing good. There was also a bay by Oak Marsh where traders met, and sometimes they traded with the pirates of Whaelhreow. That wasn't a good idea either. He didn't know enough about the coast to risk going ashore, so he decided at last. He turned the ship directly south, running right before the wind.

He took the tiller most of the night, and the wind dropped a little in the early hours. In the dawn light he saw another island to the south, and wondered if it were Buland. He didn't know exactly where that island nation lay, but Sir Rudigar had mentioned it to him. Would it be safe to land there? He didn't know, and when the girls came on deck, they didn't know either. So instead of heading towards it, Tewer turned east, back toward Ascalon. He didn't know how far from Buland to Ascalon it would be, but he thought a day or so would probably do it.

They made good progress all day, and Tewer rested again while the girls kept the course without fail. By noon they could no longer see the island to the south, and Tewer wondered again just how far they should head east before turning north. There were many other countries east of Ascalon, and some of them not much better than Whaelhreow. He wished he knew more about the world, or could read the charts in the captain's cabin, but though Nimianne and Darah could read, they had little more idea on how to interpret the charts than he did.

That afternoon the wind died, and the Martlet slowed down until it floated upon the azure sea unmoving.

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