The Far Sea: Chapter 58
BELOW decks it was darker than before; some of the candle-lamps had gone out, either from burning down or from being smothered by wax, and nobody had been to trim them. The soldier had gone, and now Link's feet splashed down in half an inch of cold water. Standing up was like trying to balance on the back of a leaping horse; the waves were hitting broadside now and the Golden Queen reeled drunkenly back and forth. A deep harmonic humming was coming out of the wood: the song of rope and timber under severe strain.
The ship lurched again as he was trying to find his balance, and he fell back hard onto the steps, bruising his shoulder. For a moment it was just too much effort to get up.
The kargaroc's eyes, burning in the darkness...
It had twisted through the air like a falling leaf, frayed ropes streaming behind it...
Such power, such deadly beauty--reduced in the space of a single breath to a broken hulk of tattered flesh.
The way it had looked at him--
Nausea swept over him, and he shuddered. The cold water was seeping through his clothes; they clung wet and clammy on his chilled skin. Painfully he dragged himself to his feet and stood somehow, leaning heavily against the wall, taking great gulps of the damp salty air. In a little while the sickness passed and he was able to straighten up against the ship's motion, shake the worst of the water out of his sodden clothes, and begin to make his laborious way along the heaving passage. He wanted to lie down quietly, as far as it would be possible.
He was halfway along the corridor when a door opened on his left and Zelda looked out at him, her eyes wide and nervous. "Link? What's happening? We heard a bang--"
"It's all right," he mumbled. The ship lurched again and he had to grab at the door frame to steady himself. "Just a storm..."
The Princess stared at him; behind her in the cabin Sofia's face swam into view, pale, red hair loose and hanging bedraggled around her shoulders. "Link, your face is white," Zelda said, reaching for his arm with her free hand. "What in Nayru's name happened out there?"
Behind his eyes the bird fell, twisting, writhing... He drew in a long shaking breath.
"Someone killed a kargaroc. It was an accident. It--it got caught in the rigging--they were trying to get it free--"
Her expression was frozen, somewhere between shock and disbelief. "What's going to happen?" she asked softly, speaking to the air as much as to him.
Suddenly he was inexplicably angry. "Nothing! I don't know! It's superstition, there's nothing in it! It's just a story!" He pulled away from them and hurried on, nearly falling headlong into the wall at the end of the corridor. His own door was stuck; he had to jerk it open.
The cabin was dark: one lantern had gone out and the other was burning lower and lower in a pool of wax. He ought to have gone looking for spares, but he couldn't face going outside again. Water lashed against the porthole window as he staggered to his bed and lay down on top of the coverlet, sodden cloak and all. Something small rattled noisily back and forth on the floor. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes, doing his best to summon up Calatia. Anything to forget the bird.
Shouldn't have said it that way. Should have tried to reassure them...
Well, surely they'd be able to figure things out for themselves. The ship's motion was changing again, he could feel it through his body as he lay here on his back. They had control of her again. She was wearing round to face the storm, pushing her streamlined nose into the wind so that its force slid over and around her rather than hitting her broadside. The change meant that she bucked through the waves like an unbroken horse, crashing down into each wave trough with a jarring impact, but she was built to endure that sort of punishment and anyway, it was better than the drunken rolling they had suffered before.
The last candle went out in a little spiteful hiss. In the sudden darkness he stared at the ceiling, concentrating hard on the feel of the great ship around him. She was moving smoothly again, running with the wind and water. As if linked to the ship his own heartbeat was slowing, and a sense of calm began to rise in him. It would be all right.
He was still worried, though, and not about the safety of the Golden Queen. No matter whether the sorceror story was superstition or not, a kargaroc had been killed aboard the ship. It could not have happened in a worse way--or at a worse possible time, at the start of a new and unusual voyage, while strange and unknown passengers were aboard. Would the crew blame the misfortune on them? Even he had felt it out there, an almost otherworldly presence. Certainly the kargaroc had been real, mortal, a creature of blood and bone--but those glaring eyes, that scream! No wonder the sailors feared and revered it.
And now the ship herself had killed one of the demons of the sea--for who could be held responsible for that death but the Golden Queen? Link grimaced in the darkness. Janiver would most likely lose a good portion of his current crew when they landed. If they made land as they had intended. Everything depended on how the captain handled the next few days, how he reassured his frightened, rebellious hands.
"It's straightening out," Zelda said, tilting her head to one side. "Can you feel it?"
Sofia, sitting huddled on the bed with a shawk pulled tight over her shoulders, grimaced irritably. "All I can feel is the up and down, up and down. We're being shaken about like dried peas in a child's rattle."
The Princess sighed but did not comment. After a little while she stood up again and went to the door, taking cautious wide-apart steps to keep her balance on the rocking floor. She turned the knob and peered out into the corridor for a moment. "It's dark--most of the lights have gone out. And there's water on the floor."
"How much? Where from?" The other woman's voice was alarmed.
"Not much," Zelda said. She knelt down and dipped her fingers in the slick that covered the boards, sniffed her fingers: scent of nothing much, very faintly salt, a clean smell. "I think it's mostly rain. The hatch was left open earlier, I think."
Sofia nodded distractedly, then looked up and made a rather tight smile. "So--do you think Link would admit that it's rough now?"
The jest was darkly funny, and to her own surprise Zelda found herself laughing uncontrollably. With the fear and nausea something just had to give. "I'll go and ask him, shall I?" she said finally, wiping tears out of her lashes. A thought sobered her then. "Did you see, Sofia? His face... I'd never seen him looking like that before."
"Someone killed a kargaroc," Sofia said, frowning. "Well, that's ironic, after what happened to the two of you this morning."
"We weren't anything to do with it." Zelda shrugged and sat down at the desk. "I can't understand what's so special about those things anyway."
"You didn't see them though, did you? I thought they were too far away to make out when you were on deck."
"I saw enough," the Princess said, and an odd shiver ran through her at the memory. "I didn't like them, to be honest. I didn't like the way they moved, like knives. They reminded me of that fish."
Sofia sat up and adjusted the shawl, taking it off for a moment to shake it before wrapping it tighter. It was new, made of brightly dyed Kakariko wool woven into geometric patterns; she must have got it in Saria. "Ah yes, the gyorg," she said, looking toward Zelda over her shoulder. "Isn't that what it's called?"
"That's what Link said it was," Zelda answered. "Personally, I don't know."
"Hark at that wind... I wonder how long it will keep up this way? Do you think the ship can take this sort of beating?"
"I think the ship is all right. Whtever they've done, it isn't rocking about as much as it was now. A good thing," she added wryly. "Every time it lurched to the side like that, I thought I was going to be sick."
Sofia sighed. Zelda heard it, frowned, and looked harder at her friend, noting the drawn look of her face.
"Sofia," she said softly, "is anything wrong? Aside from the obvious, I mean."
The other woman glanced at her, swiftly, almost furtively. "What would be wrong?"
"You tell me," Zelda said, folding her arms.
A wave smashed and broke against the front of the ship as it slid into the bottom of another trough. Sofia sat silently until they had climed again and were teetering on another brink. Then she dropped her head as if in defeat. "It's stupid, it really is. I just had a dream which upset me. That's all."
"What sort of dream?"
"A dream about home, if you must know." Her knuckles were white where she gripped handfuls of her shawl, crushing and crumpling the bright material. "It didn't even make any sense. There was a black horse running in the desert, and... But it felt like--oh, like your fish, I suppose."
Zelda frowned, unable to fathom why or how a dream about a horse should be so distressing. She could see what it was costing Sofia to admit weakness, though. Sofia had always seemed so... strong, as if nothing could touch her...
"You can stay here tonight, if you like," she offered gently. "If it would help at all. I don't mind, honestly--I can sleep on the floor."
Sofia smiled at that, wanly. "You sleep on the floor? Better I should do that--I'm the one more used to it. But no, I thank you. I'd better go now."
"No, no more. I'll be fine, don't worry." She got up and went to the door. It closed behind her quietly, the sound almost lost in the rush of pounding water as another wave broke on the Golden Queen's hull. Alone again, Zelda bit her lip, frowned, and began to ready herself for bed. It was early, and she had not had an evening meal, but somehow she doubted she would be able to eat anything anyway.
She must have slept eventually, exhausted by fear and strain, but Zelda couldn't remember doing so. All she remembered was opening her eyes into a pale, thin early-morning light, and feeling as if she had not slept at all. A headache pounded behind her eyes. She lay abed for a while until the heat of the bedclothes became uncomfortable; then she slid out from under the damp covers and went to the window.
The sea was calm, at least compared to last night. The Golden Queen rocked gently back and forth in the grip of the waves, which rolled long and slow past her high window. She rubbed the fog of her breath from the glass and stared out into a wan and colorless dawn where the sun flitted unevenly between patches of misty cloud. The porthole had a slight curve in it, a flaw of the glass, which made everything look blurred and bent at the edges. It matched her mood.
At length, growing tired of the monotony, she turned away and went to look for her clothes. The storm had left her room in a mess; things she had forgotten to stow away had been left scattered across the floor. One boot lay by the door; the other had found its way under the bed.
There was only a dribble of water left in the brass ewer, and the basin was dry and gritty. She sighed, leaning on the washstand, and considered the merits of simply not washing. Her hair was thick with clinging salt; she thought longingly of the high-sided scented bathtub back in Saria. No. This stickiness was not to be borne. Surely there would be fresh water available somewhere, enough for her at least to rinse her face and hands.
Clutching the ewer, she tiptoed out into the corridor. A banging and clattering came faintly to her ears from somewhere down in the holds, but their own part of the ship was silent. As far as she could tell, at this hour she had it all to herself. There were no soldiers around this morning; the corridor was empty.
The casks were at the far end of the long dining room. With a knife from the table she levered the top off the closest opened one and found it half filled with a still dark liquid. She tasted it, rather nervously, and found it to be water--somewhat stagnant, tepid water, but water nonetheless. Feeling furtive she dipped her ewer to fill it, then replaced the lid of the cask and hurried back to her cabin with the precious cargo.
Tepid or not, the water felt good. She stripped down again and used a rag to sponge off the worst of the salt, then tilted her head over the basin and did her best to rinse her hair. It was not much of a bath, but at least her scalp did not feel so gritty afterwards. Sea travel, she thought wryly as she shook out the thin towel, was not turning out as glamorous as it had been in the tales.
Her washbasin lifted right out of its metal stand, for cleaning. She lifted the large round bowl with some effort and went out again to empty it into the privy.
On the way back she paused again, struck by another idea. The second door along, Dark's door, was closed. There was nothing unusual in that, but it left her wondering whether he was all right. To her knowledge, he had not left his room during the storm; she had not seen him since the previous evening. He was shutting them out, as he had not done since the very early times--was it really only a year ago that they had first met him? He had become... well, probably it was not in him to be warm and open, but he had become friendly, in his way, willing to sit quietly with them or even sometimes join in with the chatter and light-hearted teasing. And now, seemingly in a few days, he was back to his original self. That thought worried her now. It was likely he would not thank her for disturbing his solitude; but if he was really not well, and nobody bothered to...
She hurried back to her room and replaced the washbasin in its stand, then took up her light cloak and threw it around her shoulders. At least she could try.
It took her several minutes to work up the courage to knock. Finally, after going up and down the corridor several times, hoping that someone else might appear, she rapped timidly on the rough planed wood, and waited nervously for some answer. None came. Perhaps he had gone out on deck. But no, she thought; he had not. She listened, straining to hear anything from within, then laid her hand lightly on the polished brass knob. She waited a moment more, then turned the knob. It was not locked. The latch lifted with a soft click, and the door swung open.
"Dark?" she said softly.
There was very little light in the room; the candles had burned out long ago--perhaps he had never bothered to replace them after they left port. The window was shuttered. She waited in the doorway, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, and began to make out the paler shapes of bed, basin, closet; the room was identical to her own and Sofia's. Except that it was bare. As far as she could see, he had still not unpacked anything.
He was sitting at the desk, his back to the door, and to her. The room was so dim that she did not see him until he spoke.
"What do you want?"
"I wanted to see if you were all right," Zelda said. It seemed foolish, now. Now that she was standing here, she could see that things evidently were not all right. On a whim, she added, "Actually, I'd hoped you might come up on deck with me."
"Why?" He did not bother to look round.
Because I'm worried about you. Because you've barely been out of your room since we left Saria, and when you do show yourself you're wrapped so tight in misery we can barely make you hear us through it...
"Because there's nobody else around to ask," she said. "And I wanted to talk with you for a little, if I could."
"Oh, all right," she said, trying not to let her anger show in her voice. "I apologise for disturbing you. I'll go away and leave you to suffer alone, if that's what you want. I was just wondering how long this was going to last." She did not bother to wait for a response, but stepped back into the corridor. It gave her some grim satisfaction to close the door very quietly and calmly behind her.
Dark's cabin had been hot, close and stifling, like an old attic; she felt a great desire for fresh air. Walking carefully on the floor, which was still slippery with water, she went to the far end of the corridor and climbed the steps. The hatch was heavy; she pressed her back up against it, and finally managed to heave it over on its hinge. Bright light blasted down on her, and the cool clean swirling scent of the ocean. She stepped up and stood for a moment, breathing deeply and looking about her.
Now she could see where the hammer-and-saw sounds had come from. The Golden Queen's rigging hung in tatters and one sail, the only large sail still present, drooped brokenly, torn through the center. Snapped ropes dangled everywhere. The forward mast was an eight-foot splinter, and the crow's-nest barrel had gone from the top of the mainmast. Sailors were climbing about repairing things and stringing up some sort of functional jury-rigging; the ship reverberated to the sound of hammers. Below, on the main deck, the great hatch to the holds was open, and they were hauling up replacement rolls of sailcloth with a pulley. A few of the soldiers were visible below on the foredeck, sitting miserably on the boards without armor or weapons; two or three were leaning intently over the rail.
"Nayru's Love," she murmured, awed.
She had intended to stand at the bow for a while and watch the sea, but she saw now that it would be difficult; there was too much mess and busyness on the main deck, and she did not want to get in anybody's way. After a moment she turned away and went up the ladder to the rear deck, which was clear save for a few fat coils of rope.
The sky, all around, was clear and cloudless, save for a few weak smudges on the north and eastern edges. She stood, holding her cloak tight against the gusting wind, and looked intently at the horizons for a while, but saw no sign of any kargarocs. The sea was still and shadowy blue-green.
"We've stopped," she said aloud, and knew it to be true. The ship's movements were different; they were at rest, anchored perhaps while essential repairs took place. It must have been a close call indeed. Last night... she shivered at the memory. So that was what a storm was like at sea.
And how strange... there seemed to be many storms lately, like the one they had experienced on the moors back home.
She leaned on the rail with folded arms and stared into the east, below the blinding light of the early-morning sun. Somewhere back there, beyond that brilliant glare, was her home. How far was it? A hundred miles, two? How far had they come? Last night's storm would have driven them on faster.
Behind her there was a faint scrape, as of boot-heel on wood. Someone was climbing the ladder. Link, she thought, and smiled to herself as she waited. The sun on the water lifted her mood; her tiredness was going off. She would wait until his hand fell on her shoulder...
She turned, her eyes widening. "Dark?"
He had combed his hair, at least, and tried to straighten his crumpled clothes before throwing on the black Kakariko cloak. The hood was down around his shoulders, and wisps of his shadowy hair drifted feather-light in the breeze.
"You look terrible," she said, and meant it. "Why don't you put your hood up?"
He shook his head wearily. "It is the first time I have been out..."
"Since Saria. I thought it might be." She looked at him for a moment, head tilted, then moved slightly to one side, an invitation for him to join her at the rail. He did so, and they stood for a little while in silence, looking down into the greenish water. It was at once clear and opaque; ghostly shadows seemed to drift at unimaginable depths.
Twice she opened her mouth to speak but thought better of it. The peace between them was as delicate and fragile as seafoam. He would speak, she thought, in his own time.
At last, a sigh. "Last night..."
"The storm?" she said.
She nodded slowly. "It frightened me. I felt as if the ship would fly apart every time one of those waves hit us. Looking at the state of things this morning, I suspect it was a close call. If it had been any stronger, or gone on any longer..." She hesitated. "Did you hear about the kargaroc last night?"
"Link saw it. Last night they killed one--some sort of accident, apparently. Despite that dire warning they gave us!"
"Ah, yes," he said softly. "The birds that turn into sorcerers..."
She glanced at him for a moment. "I... I really don't know what to think. It was almost as if they brought the storm to us last night. When I heard that one had been killed, right before the storm hit us... it's like a ghost story, a tavern tale..."
He had closed his eyes, leaning on the rail to listen silently as she spoke. "And then," he said, after a moment, "there is Link's version of the tale: they are mere birds, that fly before the storm, and there is nothing in that more mysterious than clouds moving before the wind. Perhaps winds and waves bring up fish for them to catch."
She frowned and stared down into the rolling greenish water. "Which do you believe, really?"
"I? Why ask me?"
"Why not? None of us have heard of them before--you know as much as anyone."
He shrugged. Another painful silence, then, "I sensed no magic at work last night... But magic, like the sea, is something I know very little about." His strange eyes were unreadable as ever, but she caught, or thought she caught a flicker, as if he glanced swiftly towards her and away again. "Perhaps you should ask Sofia."
She stared. "What do you mean by that?"
A moment. "Nothing. I meant nothing by it."
"You don't usually say things without meaning it." She folded her arms and waited for a response, but did not get one. "And the kargarocs?"
"I reserve my judgement." He began to move away. Zelda went after him and caught his sleeve.
"So you think it might be true?"
"Might? Many things might be. Again--why are you asking me? Do you think I have some knowledge I withhold from you? I have never left the land in my life--and if Din was merciful I would be there still!" He jerked his arm away with some force. She bit her lip and forced herself to remain still, knowing that somewhere she had missed an important chance.
At that moment Link popped his head up through the hatch, looked around and saw them. He waved and scrambled up the ladder. "Good morning!" he said cheerfully. He too had changed his clothes--and found the time and fresh water to wash his hair which hung down damp and tangled but more or less salt-free. "Good to see you abroad for a change," he added, glancing at Dark. The shadow gave the smallest of nods; Link took it as an invitation, grinned, and came across to join them at the rail. "So... what are you two doing?"
"Getting some fresh air," Zelda said. "We had quite a night, didn't we?"
"We did," he said, and seemed oddly sombre for a moment as he looked out across the ocean. She looked closely at his face and was about to speak when he turned to her again. "Well, do you want some breakfast? I have just been in the dining room, and they're setting the table for something."
"Trust you," Zelda said, smiling. Even so, she realised, she was hungry. "Yes, I'll come in. Dark?"
The shadow shrugged. "If I must."
"It's not compulsory," she said with a laugh. "But it would be nice!" Link was already moving towards the ladder, stepping aside for a couple of sailors coming up with a box.
It took most of the day before the Golden Queen was on its way again, and then they limped forward at a fraction of their previous pace, without fore-mast or lookout. Their only comfort was that they had gained distance--the ship had fled before the storm like a deer before wolves. Once the repairs were done, the captain took himself to his cabin and stayed there with his maps and sextants, trying to work out how far they had been taken, and how far they still had to go. They went on steadily into evening as the sun set before the prow.
Dinner was an awkward, quiet affair; they ate hurriedly, with little conversation, and then departed early for their cabins rather than sit together in the long room. Zelda felt horribly tired--last night's strain seemed to have caught up with her at last, and the only thing she hoped for was a deep and dreamless sleep.
In the corridor, Link tapped her on the shoulder and held her back. "A word," he murmured softly in her ear. She looked at him, startled, and stood back to allow Sofia through.
"What's the matter?" she asked, pitching her voice low likewise.
"Will you come up on deck with me for a moment?"
"Go outside?" She frowned; she was not in the mood for a stroll. "Link, it's cold out, and I am very tired--"
"I know, but I need to talk to you."
He shook his head, glancing towards the soldier at the end of the corridor. The man was too well-bred to show any sign of whether he was listening or not.
"Well, if I have to," Zelda said, mystified and more than a little annoyed. "Let me fetch my cloak."
The night was chill and misty, with a thin silver moon drifting high in the hazy sky. Clouds clung to the horizon here and there, gray-black billows touched at their edges with a fractured silver light. They stood together at the stern and watched the water slip away beneath them. "What's the matter?" Zelda asked at last.
"I talked to the first mate earlier," Link said very quietly, turning to face her. "That's why I was gone so long. He doesn't want this to get out to the crew yet because it might frighten people, but he's not entirely sure where we are. We have gone either north or south of our destination."
"You don't mean we've gone past--" she began in terror.
"No, Zel! Farore, no!" He laughed. "That'd be quite a storm to carry us eight hundred miles in a single night! No, it just means that we're off course. The Captain doesn't know how far yet."
She was silent for a while, thinking about what she had just been told. "This is a problem," she said at last. "It must be, or you would not be telling me now. Link, how big a problem is it, and is there anything we can do?"
"We're just going to go on as we are for now," he said. "We're going in the right direction by the compass--we're just a little too far north or south. If the captain can just get a good sight of the stars tonight we'll know more about it. As for the problem, it shouldn't be a problem if things stay steady. We'll still get there--it will just take a little longer than we all thought."
She nodded slowly. "I wonder what we will find when we get to the Isles of the Winds?" she said. "It seems to be hard enough getting there in the first place."
"I know nothing about them, except that they started as a colony a few hundred years ago, and still acknowledge Hyrulian rule... more or less. We don't really have much contact with them aside from the long-haul merchant ships. The voyage is too long for most trade--"
It caught them unawares. The great shadow soared slowly over the stern of the ship, and over them where they stood together at the rail. For a moment it blotted out the moon. Something fell, something small. Then, as smoothly and silently as it had come, the kargaroc glided away into the darkness and vanished as if it had never been. Nobody shouted from the maindeck; nobody else had seen anything.
Zelda ran to the rail. The sky, all around, was smooth and dark to the horizon. There was no sign of any impending storm.
Behind her, Link made a small sigh. She turned, and saw what the kargaroc had dropped. He knelt before the mangled body of a gull, oozing black blood onto the pale boards in the stark colorless moonlight.
She pressed a hand to her mouth and said nothing.
Calmly he slid his hands under the torn body, cradled it in his fingers. A white wing hung, mauled and broken. He walked to the rail and dropped the small corpse over. Then he just stood for a little while, looking down into the dark water, his expression unreadable.
"Link--" she said.
"It's all right. Let's go in--it's getting too cold."
If she dreamed that night, she did not remember it. When she woke, though, it was with a sense of something wrong. She opened her eyes, stared up at the wooden beams, and tried to think what it might be. A lack... something that had become so familiar she had ceased to notice it, was now worrying by its very absence--
The ship had stopped again.
She jumped out of bed and pulled off her nightgown, then struggled into a chemise and a pair of thin woollen trousers. Without stopping to find shoes, she ran out of the room and climbed the ladder-steps onto the rear deck. It was morning, early; the eastern waters were aflame as the first white flare of the sun crept out of the sea, and the sky stretched over her head in an impossible gradient, gold to lilac. A few last stars hung faintly over the wooden prow at the other end of the ship. She glanced towards the masts and saw that the sails were furled.
Two figures stood on the main deck beside the forecastle, facing the sea and talking quietly. One was shrouded in a long black cloak although it was not cold; the other had a mane of reddish hair that ruffled in the breeze. She slid back down the ladder onto the main-deck and ran towards them; they turned at the sound of her feet on the wooden boards.
"What's wrong?" Zelda said as she trotted up.
Link looked at her for a moment. "That is," he said, and pointed out to sea. On the horizon was a smudge, a dark greenness in the blue. She frowned and tilted her head, trying to make it out better.
"Land?" she said.
"And where no land should be. There's six islands we can see from here, two large and four small, plus a few little rocks that are hardly worth the name." He stared out at the green mounds in the distance. "They aren't the Winds archipelago. Even if we could have got all that way in three days, they're the wrong shape."
"Where are we then?" Zelda asked.
"Nobody's quite sure. There's no islands like these on the charts. Not that that means very much," he added hastily. "The ocean around here is poorly mapped. We know the way to and from the Winds, and that is about it."
"We are at anchor," Dark said. "Apparently the water here is shallower, too. The captain has called a halt until he can discover from his maps where we might have ended up."
Captain Janiver did not appear all morning. The ship swayed gently in still waters, its rigging empty for once of climbing figures. Boredom hung over the companions like a shroud. Sofia brought the chess set up on deck and persuaded Dark to play with her; Zelda fell asleep with a book in her lap.
A little before noon, Link went into the captain's cabin. It was an act of great daring to invade a sea-captain's inner sanctum, and he did not do it with the lightest of hearts; but here he was standing behind a stiff-backed hardwood chair and watching the fair-haired Janiver measuring and plotting, peering at the intricately detailed maps spread out on his desk. The man was, he thought, trying very hard not to look puzzled.
"Hmm," Janiver said. Half a minute later, "Ah." At last, he looked up. "Well, lad? What is it?"
"Sir, I'm sorry to disturb you." Link clasped his hands tightly behind his back to stop himself fidgeting. "But I was wondering about those islands..."
"Wondering! Oh, aye!" The tone was so weary that he was quite unnerved. "I daresay you are, young lad," Janiver said, laying down his ruler with a deliberate air. "I daresay. Well, so am I. Well! What of it?"
"What if we went over there and had a look, sir?" he said. He'd gone this far; if he were going to hang himself he might as well use all the rope. "I think those islands are inhabited--at least the largest one. There's green slopes without trees, and that probably means sheep or cows, and that means people. If there are people there, they might tell us where we are."
Janiver's golden brows drew together slowly, like clouds on the horizon. "Oh?" he said. "Where did you say you'd sailed, lad? Some lake or other, was it? And you presume to tell the captain his job, do you?"
"No, sir." Link met his gaze. "I always thought I was a good sailor, but I've never been out on the sea before now. I know nothing about running a ship like this, and I can't read those maps. But all the same, I felt bound to tell you my idea."
"Hmm," the captain said disapprovingly. He picked up a pair of compasses and laid them on one of his maps. Link waited for another half-minute before assuming that the interview was over. He had tried at least. He backed away and moved quietly towards the door. At once Janiver looked up. "You want a job, boy?" he said.
"Fetch me my first mate and get one of the dinghies launched. You can go take a look for us, since you're so keen. Know how to handle a small boat, do you?"
"Yes, sir!" Link said, grinning.
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