Tothelea: Chapter 25

The first day was indeed the worst.  After that, he settled down to a
generally uncomfortable queasiness, but as long as he came up for fresh air
now and then, and made sure not to turn his head too quickly, it wasn't nearly
as bad as the sailor had made it out to be.

As soon as he felt able, he sought a meeting with the captain.  Trevor was led
to the captain's cabin, located at the stern of the vessel.  The room was
large, by comparison with anything else Trevor had seen on the ship, save for
the sailors' mess hall.  Real glazed windows covered the aft wall of the room,
providing ample light and a view of the sea.  When he arrived, the captain was
busy at a desk, studying a chart.

"Sit, sit," he said, waving Trevor vaguely over to a chair.  Trevor waited
nervously while the captain finished his business.  He did not so much as give
Trevor a glance until he was done.

Then, he rolled up the chart, and gave Trevor a skeptical look up and down.
"I'm Arn Dansik, Captain of the Gale's Edge.  I gather you're our passengers
for this voyage?"  His manner was gruff, making Trevor even more nervous.

"Yes, sir."

"What happened to the old fellow, the one who arranged passage?  I understood
he was to be along as well, but now I'm told it's just you and your woman."

"Harmony.  She's my sister.  Beleden, the man you spoke to before, he's--  He
died."  Trevor said the words, flatly.  It still hardly seemed real to him.

"Did he?  Sorry to hear that."  He paused for a moment.  "And you came to sea
anyhow.  Interesting."

"We had to," Trevor said, softly.

"Is that right.  Well, out with it.  What did you wish to see me about?  Is it
your quarters?  You'll get none finer than what you have.  This is a cargo
ship, lad, not a pleasure vessel."

"No, it's not that at all," Trevor stammered.  "Only, the man who killed him--"

"Murdered!  Why didn't you say so?"

"Well, I didn't see it, but yes, I'm sure he was.  The man who killed him is
after my sister.  Beleden stayed behind, to buy us time to get away."

"Well we're to sea now, lad," said the captain, his manner softening just a
bit.  "You'll be safe enough now."

"That's just it," Trevor said.  "I'm not sure we will.  I was watching the
dock, when we set sail.  In case, somehow, Beleden had gotten away.  Just
after we cleared the dock, the man--his name is Weilin--"

"Weilin.  He's Tithoran?"

"Yes.  His ship's markings are Tithoran, anyway, and he does not speak
Hardalan with ease.  Anyway, I saw him and two big burly fellows running down
the dock after us.  Only he was too late.  But he has a ship.  He tracked us
here all the way from White Sands--"

"Never heard of it.  Where's that?"

"It's a tiny town.  No reason you'd have ever been there.  It's in Larad,
south of Merlon."

"Anyway, he tracked us to Merlon, and Church, and all the way up to Olanton.
He'll find out where this ship is headed, and he'll come after us.  I just
know it."

The captain was quiet for a moment, eyeing Trevor with nothing close to a
cheerful expression.  "What are you into, lad?  If you've brought trouble to
my ship, I'll--"

"It's not our fault!" Trevor blurted out.  He paused, briefly collecting his
thoughts.  Best not to get into the whole story.  The captain would never
believe it.  "He's crazy.  He blames my sister for something that happened,
well, a long time before she was born.  I'm sorry, I had no wish to bring any
trouble to you or your crew.  But we had no choice.  We had to get away
quickly.  I only thought you should be warned."

"Ah, well.  You're right about that.  I suppose I should thank you for that."

"Sir--Captain Danisk, sir, is there any chance he'll be able to catch us before
we reach Tithora?  Find us at sea, I mean?"

The captain stroked his short beard.  "Hm.  Could be.  It's possible, but not
easy.  Is it a fast ship?"

"I don't know.  It took us four days to go from White Sands to Merlon, walking
and by wagon.  He was there ahead of us, even though his ship was docked for
repairs when we left."

The captain questioned Trevor about the nature of the damage, and how much
time had really passed before they reached Merlon.  In the end, he concluded
that if pressed, a good crew could have made the repairs in perhaps two days.
Counting the day Trevor sold the boathouse to Carlu and their house had been
burned, that left three days to sail to Merlon.  Plenty of time for an
ordinary vessel to cover the distance.

"He might catch us, it's possible.  We're still ten days out of Wesso, I
reckon.  How big is this ship of his?"

Trevor described it, as best he could.  In truth, the Amun Mesemat was quite a
bit smaller than the Gale's Edge.

"Well, he's probably faster then.  But if his ship's as small as you say, he
won't have the crew to try and attack us outright.  Still, I'll put on a bit
more sail.  Don't like to, usually, unless we're trying to outrun a storm, but
you paid for passage, and I owe you as safe a journey as I can manage."

"Thank you," Trevor said.

"Don't thank me yet.  Thank me when we get in to Wesso.  And mind you, if his
ship is fast, and if I were him, I wouldn't try to find us at sea.  Too hard.
I'd put out all my sails and try to get to Wesso first."

Trevor nodded.  The same thought had occurred to him.

"We'll be at least two, probably three days, in port.  If he's there first,
it'll be plenty of time to find us.  And if he's Tithoran, he'll get the
locals there to board us and haul you off.  I know you booked passage clear to
Persa, but if he finds us in Wesso, well, I wouldn't want to be in your place.
You'd best think on what you're going to do when we get there."

The captain dismissed him then, leaving him with much to think about.  Trevor
found Harmony and went up on deck for some fresh air.  He relayed the
conversation to her in quiet tones as he stared out at the horizon.  They
stood there, leaning quietly against the rail.  Their escape was feeling less
like safety and more like a brief respite before facing much greater danger.

That night, as they lay in their bunks, Trevor said "Harmony, tell me about
Tithora.  What you remember from before."

"I only know the land," she said.  "Not the people, at all.  Except Eman.  And
things have probably changed, a lot.  I can remember, before, towns and cities
blooming and withering away.  The towns, the roads, they may all be different
from what I remember."

"That's all right.  That's still more than I know now."

"Well, it is narrower than Hardal, but longer.  That is, it extends farther to
the north and south.  In the far northeast, in the lee of the High Plateau,
there is a dense forest.  But in my day, no one lived there.  South of the
plateau, the forest gives way to open land, much like we traveled through..."

She painted him a picture of a land, not too dissimilar to Hardal, but
different in all its particulars.  There were mountains, like the Spine range
in their size, but which ran north-to-south in the middle of Tithora.  They
did not extend north to the plateau, however, or south to the sea.  So, it was
possible to go around them.  The mountains grew in two sections, with forest
between them, if the forest was still there.  In the far south, by the sea,
was a sandy, dry region.  She knew little about it, since almost nothing grew
there.  The east side of Tithora, she said, was fringed with a thin strip of
mountains, right up against the sea, except for here and there where there
were gaps.

When she finished, he asked "And where is Monolshoeat?"

"There is a blunt finger of land that sticks out, on the east side.  It has
water on three sides, and a few peaks out at the tip of it.  In my time, much
of it was covered in forest, hot and moist.  That was true of Hardal, too,
though.  I think, somehow, the world has dried up some since then."

"So that's where we're headed?"

"Yes.  Beleden helped me remember that as the place where I fell.  When we get
there, perhaps the land itself will help me to remember more."

They lay quietly in the dark room.  Trevor pondered what they might do.

"Harmony," he said, breaking the silence.  "when we get to Wesso, we'll have
to find a way off this ship.  The captain is right; Aramathokoa will just have
the ship searched, and they'll find us.  We can't sail all the way there.  If
we can do that, and find a way out of the city without him spotting us, do you
think you would know how to get to that finger of land?"

She considered.  "Yes, I believe so.  I can picture the lands in my mind, as
they once were.  Forests may now be praries, and praries may now be forests,
but the shape of the land will be the same.  Hardal's shape hasn't changed.
We could..."  She paused, thinking about the problem.  "We could probably go
between the mountains.  Wesso may be a bit north, or a bit south, of the gap,
but from the cities I remember it cannot be too far from it."

"Good.  You think about that, get the path clear in your mind.  When we get
there, I think we should get horses--"

"--But I don't know how to ride!"

"I know.  I'm none too comfortable on horseback either."  That was one of the
problems of growing up in a small place, where everything was close enough to
walk to.  Trevor could probably count on his fingers the number of times he
had ridden a horse.  "We'll just have to learn.  We can't take the time to
walk, or even to ride wagons.  And we know Aramathokoa will go on horseback,
if he catches wind of us getting out of Wesso.  I don't know of a faster way
to go than on horseback."

"No, neither do I."

"We can do it, Harmony," he said, encouragingly.  He even believed it.  "Good
night, Harmony."

"'Night, Trevor."

This was good, Trevor thought.  They had a plan.  They weren't out of danger,
by any stretch, but they had a plan.  And several days to figure out how they
were going to get past Aramathokoa this time.

Well before they reached Wesso, Trevor had it figured out.  He spent the last
two days of the voyage making preparations.  Now, to see if it worked.