Tothelea: Chapter 26

"Land Ho!"

Tithora came into view straight ahead, only a little ways behind the morning
sun.  The ship's first mate found Trevor and Harmony.  "Cap'n said to fetch
you as soon as we sighted land."

"Thank you."

The man led them to the captain's quarters.  He called them over to look at a
chart he had sprawled out across his desk.

"We just rounded this little point, here," he said.  "And here's Wesso."  The
two places weren't more than the width of the captain's thumb apart.

"How long?" Trevor asked.

"Current flows south along the coast here.  We'll make good time.  Six, maybe
seven hours from now.  There'll be plenty of light to dock, anyway.  You'd
best make ready."

"We will.  Thank you."

"I don't mind telling you, the both of you, I'm not too keen on this plan of
yours.  If the locals catch you--nevermind this Weilin of yours--you've had it.
These Tithorans, they get sort of edgy about us Hardalese."

"We know.  Enough people have told us.  We'll be careful."  It was true.  Once
word of their situation had gotten out, and Trevor's plan for avoiding
Aramathokoa, it seemed like just about every sailor they passed had a bit of
advice to offer--which as often as not went against advice someone else had
given earlier--or a harrowing tale of past narrow escapes with the Tithoran

"Best of luck to you, then," said the captain.  They shook hands, and went to
set Trevor's plan in motion.

Wesso harbor came into view.  The Gale's edge turned north, to port, to face
into the harbor.  Trevor and Harmony watched from the prow.  One of the
officers--Trevor still didn't have everyone's names straight--watched as well,
and pointed out what they were seeing.  The land sloped down to a narrow gap,
perhaps half a mile wide.  Extending out from the points of land were two
massive breakwaters, which came so near that from a distance the harbor almost
looked to be closed off.  At the ends of each breakwater, stood wide, tall
buildings jutting up like stubby teeth from the water.

"What are those?" Trevor asked.

"Fortifications," the officer explained.  "Every ship bound for Wesso has to
pass through them.  There's just no other route.  If we were to go to war,
Wesso would be very well protected.  Our navy would have to file through, one
or two ships at a time.  Of course, that also makes it easy to blockade their
navy inside."

"How's that?" Trevor asked.

"The harbor's behind those breakwaters.  There are two separate sets of docks.
The nearest ones belong to the Tithoran Navy.  The farther ones, right up by
the city, that's where we'll dock."

They passed through the gap between the two breakwaters.  It was like sailing
through a short, stone-walled canyon.  Trevor could not imagine how long it
had taken to build the impressive structures.  He wondered which had been
built first--these defenses, or the Guardians.  They were both quite
impressive, but he had to admit that these seemed more practical.

Once they were through the breakwaters, there was very little time.  Trevor
and Harmony ran to the back of the Gale's Edge, to put their plan in motion.
The dinghy was already there, loaded up with their packs and Trevor's staff.
There were several ropes attached, at the bow and stern, and a couple on the

Trevor helped Jad and some other sailors helped lower the small craft over the
side.  Trevor and Harmony said their goodbyes to the sailors.  Trevor slipped
Jad another couple of coins, for indeed, no one had harassed Harmony during
the voyage.  Then, over the side they went, down knotted ropes, into the

"Ye a'right?" Jad yelled down at them, once they were in the little boat.

"Yes, thanks!" Trevor called back.  He untied all the ropes except the one at
the bow, and the sailors pulled up the rest.

"I'll call down, soon as we know."

"Right," Trevor nodded.  They settled down into the lowest part of the dinghy.
This was the hard part.  The little boat bobbed and bounced behind the Gale's
Edge, riding the ship's wake.  The ship, looming above them, blocked much of
their view of the city and the docks until they were well into it.  The sun
was on their left, dipping close to the hills west of the harbor now, and the
light was turning orange.

The ship made a soft turn to starboard.  Sailors appeared above the rail, and
hauled on their lead rope until the dinghy was to port alongside the ship.
Hidden from view.  They would remain there until the ship was almost docked.

Several sails came down, and the ship slowed considerably as it approached the
docks.  The wake subsided and the ride got much smoother, which was just fine
with Trevor.

Jad called down to them a few minutes later.  "They're wavin' us t'dock ten!"
Trevor tried to remember what he had been told about the docks.  Dock ten
would be... somewhere near the middle, he thought.  Not ideal.  But, nothing
we can do about it either.  Jad let out some rope, so they were again behind
the ship.  Trevor stuck one oar into the water, using it as a makeshift
rudder, and guided the dinghy directly behind the ship.

They waited, tense with anticipation, for a dock to appear on one side or the
other of the ship.

"Get ready to untie us, Harmony."

She nodded, hands upon the loose end of their tow rope.  Jad had tied it so
all she had to do was give it a yank and they'd be free.  He prayed no one saw
them hiding there behind the ship.

There!  To port!  The end of a dock appeared, very close.  "Now, Harmony!"

She pulled the rope, and Trevor angled the oar to steer them.  The ship pulled
slowly away.  Trevor prayed they wouldn't run smack into a pylon when they
came out from the ship's lee.  But this time, at least, luck was with them.
They coasted along, drawn in part by the ship's wake currents, then  slipped
neatly between the pylons into the inky darkness under the dock.  The sun was
below the hills now.

Harmony took up the other oar.  Paddling as quietly as possible, they made
their way past the Gale's Edge, to the muddy shore underneath the dock.  There
was probably no great need for them to be so quiet, Trevor mused.  The noise
involved with docking the Gale's Edge would surely conceal them.  But they had
learned not to take chances.

They reached the end of the dock and ran aground in the darkness.  There were
many voices up above, and the sound of feet and cart wheels on the wooden
dock.  They carried their belongings as far up as they could, nestling into
the secret angle where the dock met the sloping shore.  Trevor snuck back down
and pushed the dinghy loose into the water, letting it drift away on the
harbor currents.

He returned to Harmony.

"Well, we're in Tithora," he said in hushed tones.

"That we are."

"I'm sorry the accomodations aren't better."  She stifled a laugh, and elbowed
him in the ribs.  Trevor smiled.  She was in a good mood, and he was about to
make it better.

"Guess what else?"


"If he shows up, the captain agreed to tell Weilin that we asked to be put
ashore at that point of land we first passed this morning.  If he believes it,
he'll be days riding there and back before realizing he's been tricked."

"Clever!" she said.

"Thanks.  Of course, there's no way to know if it'll work."  Once again, he
wished he had Aramathokoa's knife back, and hoped it had served whatever
purpose Beleden had intended for it.

They opened their packs, and withdrew some food.  They ate, while waiting for
the light to fade enough for the next part of their plan.  Captain Danisk had
given them a general sense for how one traveled in Tithora.  The docks and
warehouses, he said, were walled off from the rest of the city.  They would
need to declare themselves to the Tithoran officials, purchase travel papers,
and declare their business.  Only then could they enter they city itself
without incurring the wrath of the Tithoran state.

Which was fine, only, officials can be bribed, and if Aramathokoa had arrived
ahead of them, it could be dangerous.

When it was dark, Harmony slipped out.

"Don't let anyone see you," Trevor reminded here, entirely needlessly.

"Don't worry, I'll be careful," she promised.

"Easy for you to say," he muttered, after she had gone.  This was the
dangerous part of the plan.  He hated separating from her, but they both felt
it was just too risky for them to be seen wandering around together.  Harmony
would be faster, and more stealthy, alone.

She can do it, Trevor told himself.  Of course she can!  He reviewed the plan
in his mind.  All she has to do is locate the nearest Declaration Office, as
Captain Danisk called them, get the name of a different Hardalese vessel to
claim to have come in on. If she spotted the Amun Mesemat, so much the better.
But there were too many docks and too many ships for her to check them all.
That was all.  And then return, of course.  Unseen.  The familiar knot of
worry--or was it dread--settled again into his stomach.

Trevor waited.  The darkness deepened there in his cramped space under the
dock, until he could barely see his hand at arm's length.  No, this was the
hard part, and the dangerous part, he told himself.  The waiting.  He was
reminded of having to wait, hidden in Pious Garron's room, while other people
attended to the plans for their safety.  The feeling of frustrating
helplessness returned to him.

How long had she been gone?  Long enough, surely!  He willed her to return,
for her slim form to duck back under the dock and rejoin him.  It didn't work.

He waited some more.  I should go look for her, he thought to himself.  What
if she's in trouble?  He started to plan, but then stopped.  No, that was
crazy.  She knew where he was, and he had no idea where she might have gotten
to by now.  Better to wait.  She would be fine.  She was a goddess, after all!

But, he reminded himself, a mortal one just the same.  He clenched his teeth
and fists alike, and forced himself to wait.  He thought about trying to
sleep.  He was so tired.  Tired to his bones.  All the travel, all the worry,
all the decisions that meant life or death, safety or peril, weighed on him
and made him weary.  But he knew he would never sleep, not until--

He heard a whisper.  "Trev?  I'm back."

Relief flooded through his veins.  She crouched down under the dock and came
to sit by him again.

"What took you so long?"

"Trevor, I wasn't even gone an hour!"

"Well it felt like three!" he hissed.

"Shh!  Lower your voice!"

"I'm sorry," he whispered.  "I'm not angry.  I was just worried, that's all."

"Well hush, and listen.  I found another ship.  The Oak Runner.  It looks a
lot like the Gale's Edge, at least, what I can tell in the dark.  I didn't see
the Amun Mesemat, though."  Trevor nodded, although she probably couldn't see
him.  "There's a Declaration office three docks down, to the west.  They're
closed now; I saw several people turned away who didn't get through in time.
They'll have to wait till morning.

"The wall looks to be thick, with gated passages through it.  There's an
office by the passage.  I watched several people go through it to get their
papers.  There are guards watching everything.  I'll watch in the morning.  As
soon as I see the clerk go into the office, we'll come out and get out

Trevor mulled over her plan, trying to picture what she had in mind.  They
would have to walk, in the open, three docks down to get to the office.
"Maybe tonight in the dark we should sneak down and wait under the other

"No," she said.  "I thought about that, but from where the office is, the
guards would surely see us come out."  Trevor hemmed a bit.  "It'll work Trev.
Don't worry.  As long as we act like we know what we're doing, nobody will
look at us twice.  Come on.  Let's get some rest.  Tomorrow will be a busy