Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 19

Tewer returned to the cabin and looked through the barrels. Two of them had the remains of fruit in them; rinds and a few seeds and pits. One had a few handfuls of wheat mixed with mouse or rat droppings, and the fourth, a firkin, remained sealed. He found a fifth, very large barrel that still held a little scummy water at the bottom, and then a sixth, which held nothing but dust. From the smell, it might've once been flour. He picked up the firkin, and decided it would not be too heavy, and set it outside the door.

He opened a large chest at the foot of the bed and found a hatchet, a broad-axe and several saws. He had all of those things on his own ship, but he took the hatchet, which might be useful if they had to stay for very long. He also found an oiled leather pouch, and inside eighteen golden coins, each stamped with a strange bird. They were big, over an inch in diameter, and had to be worth a lot of nails.

He tucked the pouch and hatchet into the belt of his loincloth, retrieved his spear, and shouldered the firkin. He had no fear that people lived nearby; nobody would leave eighteen gold coins lying around. It had to be many years since the man died, to judge from the thick dust, and nobody had found his cabin in all that time. He trudged back up over the ridge that divided the two coves, and as he neared the far side the rain finally stopped. He shook his hair and almost dropped the firkin, then steadied himself and walked steadily back to the little hiding place.

Both of the girls gasped when he appeared, but then began babbling in relief. Tewer put down the firkin and set his spear against the wall, and smiled at them. He didn't mind being judged after all. He felt relieved himself, just to see them. He wondered if it would always be that way. He still knew almost nothing about women, but he realized that most of the time, at least, their company gave him pleasure.

He told them what he had found, and showed them the gold coins.

"These are Imperial Eagles," said Nimianne, looking at one with a touch of awe, "they're very rare. The Empire of the Jeweled Sea only coins crowns, like almost every nation, but they do make larger coins for special transactions. Eighteen Imperial Eagles...what would they be worth?"

"Six crowns, isn't it? An Eagle is worth the same as a pound of silver," Darah said, "which is six gold crowns."

"How many nails is that?" Tewer had no idea how much any of it might be worth.

"Those silver coins Captain Rask gave you," Nimianne asked, "how many nails are they worth?"

"Fifty," said Tewer, "I hear some call them shillings, but we just call them coins."

"So then an Eagle is 144 shillings," said Nimianne, "which is 7,200 nails. Each."

Tewer's mouth dropped open. That ran far out of his reckoning. He had looked at the coins secreted aboard his ship, but hadn't counted them. There had to be two or three hundred of them, and he realized that with these 'Eagles,' he might be the wealthiest man in Whaelhreow. However if he went back, he surely wouldn't be able to keep any of that wealth.

"With the coins on the ship, I must be worth about thousands and thousands of nails," he said, "what do you suppose the ship is worth?"

"I don't know," said Nimianne, turning to Darah, who shrugged. "It's a lot, though. If you counted everything aboard, it has to be at least 500 pounds of silver, don't you think, Darah?"

"At least," said Darah, "maybe five times as much. I don't know how much ships cost. And she's so well-made, such a sweet little badan dhow."

"What's a bawdun thou?"

"Marlet is," said Darah, "there are many kinds of dhow, which just means an ocean-going ship. The badan is smallest, with one mast, then the baghlah with two masts, then the boom also with two, but bigger, and the largest is the ghanjah with three masts."

"Sounds like you know about ships."

"I know their names," smiled Darah, "but I don't know what they cost, and I'd never tried to steer one before we set out the other night. And I don't know what anything is called, except this kind of sail is called lateen."

"That's more than I knew," said Tewer, "but I guess I know how to handle it well enough."

"Yes," said Nimianne, "it's hard for us to understand, because we learned almost everything from books or tutors, so we think of education as being that sort of thing. You know how to do lots of things, even though you have no education as we know it. You don't know the names of things, but you know how to do them, while we..."

"Know the names, but not how to work them." Tewer nodded. "Between us we ought to do well." He leaned back against a rock. "I'm sure we're alone here. Nobody would leave that much money lying around. There are no people nearby, as so long as nobody stumbles across us, we should be fine until we can get Martlet off the shoal. It's not raining anymore, so do you want to look around? Or start teaching me to read?"

"Let's start with the reading," said Nimianne, "we can look around this afternoon."

They used the wet sand just outside their shelter as a slate, and taught him the 31 letters of the alphabet one at a time. Both expressed shock at how quickly he learned. Before two hours had passed he had all 31 memorized, and could write his name. He still didn't know the sounds or how the letters fit together, but he knew their names and how to draw them in the sand.

They stopped for lunch, and afterwards went to see the little graveyard and cabin in the other cove. They returned to their own cove and looked longingly at the Martlet, and Nimianne wished she knew more magic.

"I know a spell to make things lighter," she said, "but it only works on things that are ten pounds or less. If I had more strength I could move her off myself."

"Maybe we could dig her out," suggested Darah.

"It's about ten feet of water," said Tewer, who had seen it from above. "Can't dig when you can't breath. I thought though I might swim out there and take a look, see how badly she's mired."

"Oh, there you go again," said Darah with a laugh, "just can't wait to show off again, can you?"

"Oh, fine," said Tewer, "I'll wear my loinclout, if it makes you happy."

"Hey, we could swim too," said Darah, "our wrap and loincloth..."

"Yes!" Nimianne seemed very pleased with the idea. They ran back to the campsite to change, and Tewer tossed aside his tunic and waded out into the water. It took only a few moments to reach the ship, and he could see through the clear water to the white sand very easily. He dived down, and saw that only the keel had gouged the sand; only a few inches of tide would lift her off. He wondered why she hadn't already floated free, as they'd been there long enough for a tide to come and go. It shouldn't be low tide for a few more hours, and the high tide usually came in the evening at that time of year. Maybe they wouldn't need a three-moon tide. Maybe he could pull her free that very evening.

He rose to the surface and saw that Darah and Nimianne had returned wearing the scanty clothes they'd made to bear the heat. Nimianne's golden red skin shone in the sunlight, and Darah's rich brown skin seemed warm somehow. They splashed into the water, shrieking with laughter, and both swam out towards him with grins on their faces.

"How's it look?" Darah, splashed water at him him playfully as she asked the question. He wondered for a moment if she meant something other than what she said, then nodded.

"Good," said Tewer, "I might be able to pull her off tonight. Either the sand has shifted or she moved already with the last tide. Should be pretty easy at high tide tonight."

"We'll help," said Nimianne, "if we can."

"We might need to unload her a bit," said Tewer, "lighten her up. But first we'll just try to pull her free at high tide."

"So we can just play today?" Darah splashed him again, and he grinned.

"That's something I haven't done in a long time," he said.

"Tag, do you think?" Nimianne looked at Darah. "Kissing tag?" Darah laughed, and then suddenly came very close to Tewer. She kissed his cheek, and then splashed away, laughing.

"What's tag?" They didn't answer him, just laughed and swam away as quickly as they could. He followed, and figured he'd get the idea eventually.

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