Chapter Eighty-Seven

“You know, that would have been a lot easier if you still had your sword.”

“Yes, but the important thing is that we came back with something.  You need to eat.  If not for you, for your passenger.”

“You say the oddest things.”

“Of course I do.  I was raised by a sword, not by people.  And if you don’t eat, our child will be the same way.”

“Fine, fine.  If I don’t stick around the child will be drunk before it can walk.”

“No, they gave me something approximating coffee first.  Alcohol was later.  I could definitely walk by then.”

“I can just see our child full of coffee, lugging Cairbre around and pulling his ears.  This will not end well, I tell you!”

“Well then you had better stick around to keep me from influencing our child.  That doesn’t sound right…”

While Irian and Namid continued to banter back and forth, the rest of the crew watched.  Irian had visited death’s door, but had turned back at the final step.  After, he’d retreated so far into the cup that they weren’t sure he knew which way was out.  But he’d survived that, as well.  Now he was almost as much machine as man, and they were trying to catch up for lost time.  But any person knows that you could just as much hold onto the wind as recapture time, and they knew it as well.  Sometimes all you can do is live right here, right now.

While they said a lot about nothing, elsewhere across the ship people were involved in something a lot more substantial.  Ssanyu was looking over topographical charts in James’ cabin, as he was adjusting the pair of pistols he carried for combat.  Hariel and Elanor fussed over and doted upon their new child.  Thor, some fugue come upon him, sat on the prow of the boat, a dangerous perch indeed, and looked out across the waves.  He had been there for a long time, and he didn’t look like he was moving for another long time, if you asked the deckhands.  But his eyes were focused out across the horizon, where heat lightning flickered over the shore.

Something about the lightning disquieted him.  He knew heat lightning all too well here, far from his frozen home.  He never could get the knack of reading the weather like Hariel.  But he was sure that when the snows fell, that he’d beat Hariel with knowing how to use them and how to survive them.  Small comfort, in a world where they had love and family, and as always it was he and his hammer.  And while it was lonely, it was also right.  He had other dreams of his own, and they didn’t follow the path that theirs did.  At least here he was under the same stars as home.  A falling star raced toward the horizon.  He gave a thought to exchanging his eye for wisdom as did the Allfather, when he realized that the falling star didn’t actually make it to the horizon.  A few moments later, a massive wave nearly rolled the ship.  Thor hugged the prow for his life as the deck was covered in sea creatures and weeds.  The surf behind the wave was still pounding, concentric rings of water lashing at the already damaged and foundering ship.  He could hear nothing for a few minutes as the pressure wave had temporarily deafened him, but the sounds that filtered back in as the deafness left him were not encouraging.  Deckhands were already scrambling to retrieve those tossed over before they were crushed against the ship by the receding waves.  Apparently, it wasn’t fast enough, as the next wave deposited broken bodies on the deck.  Some should have been dead, but weren’t.  Thor saw to the ones he could-some were too far gone to call back to their bodies.  Some begged for release themselves.  He helped those to Valhalla-he would place one of the knives on his belt into their hands, and then he’d end the suffering that no doctor could heal.  But as he worked his way across the deck, he heard a sound that made his blood run backward.  Amidst the shouts and screams, the piercing scream of an infant in pain filtered onto the deck.  Even the dying lifted their heads to see the cause of the sound.  Not even death prevented them from the human instinct of attending a screaming child.

 

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Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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