When Anwyn heard her best friend cursing over a letter from home, she thought it would be nice to give her a hand. A quick trip to a new country to protect Iola from an unwelcome marriage would be a chance to have fun while doing a good deed.
But the trip revealed plots against the Dana that Anwyn could never have anticipated. The simple trip became a complicated political trial that threatened not just the family’s fortunes but Anwyn’s safety as well. Stopping the Delbhana’s plot might be the hardest thing Anwyn had ever done but failure wasn’t an option.
Storm over Archaelaos is an epic coming of age fantasy set on the matriarchal world of Muirin. People of all ages will enjoy this thrilling adventure.
Storm Over Archaelaos
By Meyari McFarland
11. Simin Point
“Blessed Ragna protect us!”
Anwyn grinned at Aravel’s gasp of horror. She couldn’t blame him. The sharks around Simin Point were terrifying. Instead of more standard shark behavior where they swam up behind their prey, seized them in their tentacles and then ate them, the sharks at Simin Point attacked from deep under the water.
It was incredible to see, not that it happened all year round. Only in the spring and, as far as Anwyn knew, only at Simin Point, the sharks would swim straight up from the sea floor, thrusting out of the water in a great gout of water and air, biting their prey in half only to splash back down seconds later.
“That’s why I didn’t want you leaning over the rail, Ravi,” Anwyn said.
“I see that now,” Aravel said in a squeaky, terrified voice. “By Ragna’s flaming sword, I never knew sharks could do that. That one was easily fifteen feet out of the water.”
“I saw one leap almost twenty-five feet out once,” Iola commented from behind them. She laughed at Aravel’s startled shout. “Sorry, Ravi.”
“Why do they do that?” Aravel asked.
He edged further away from the rail, his back running into a mast. That startled him too, prompting him to whirl and then whine as he realized what he’d run into. Anwyn laughed under her breath, shaking her head at him. Iola looked equally amused though her smile was much smaller as always.
“Hunting seals,” Anwyn said. “There are huge colonies of seals that nest along Simin Point in the summer. When the babies hatch and start swimming the sharks show up. It’s an easy feast, I guess.”
“Um, do the mammoth sharks do that?” Aravel asked. He eyed the water so nervously that Anwyn finally realized what his problem was.
“No, no,” Anwyn laughed. “Just the rainbow sharks, Ravi. The mammoths and blue never do that. They don’t even come to this part of the ocean this time of year. Their breeding season has them in the far north or south around now. Don’t fuss. We’re not going to get dragged down by a Mammoth coming off the sea floor.”
“Not deep enough for them anyway,” Iola agreed. “The sea floor’s only a hundred feet or so down here. You have to go miles off shore to find deep water appropriate to mammoth or blue sharks.”
“Thank goodness,” Aravel sighed.
Captain Helene had noticed their conversation but she didn’t do more than glare. Since the stop at Delbar Island, Captain Helene had been marginally better behaved. Not much, but enough that Anwyn didn’t want to break her jaw for her. She was still short and clipped with the crew but yesterday she’d actually given Myrna a word of praise that shocked her so badly that she’d nearly fallen down the stairs up to the wheel.
Anwyn desperately wanted to know how Aunt Colleen had managed the change. It had to have something to do with the hours-long interview with the harbor mistress for Delbar Island’s one and only major port. They hadn’t gotten back to the Little Bird until nearly three hours after curfew. In fact, they’d had to be escorted back to the ship by guards so that they didn’t get in trouble for breaking curfew.
There hadn’t been a chance to ask Aunt Colleen about it, not that Anwyn was at all certain that she wanted to. Iola was still quite convinced that one of the crew members was a spy so who knew if they’d be overheard.
Anwyn sighed, looking out to sea in time to see another shark leap up out of the water, tentacles flailing and tooth-filled mouth gaped open with a seal in its mouth. The shark’s dark skin went from charcoal gray to rainbow shimmers of color as it bit down on the seal. Ash white feathers flew amid a shower of bright red blood.
“I’m going back inside,” Aravel whimpered. “Blessed Ragna preserve us all. You’re completely certain that mammoth sharks don’t come in this far, Io?”
“Completely,” Iola laughed, flapping one hand at him. “They won’t be a problem until we’re heading back north again. The sea all through the Minoo-Azar chain is too shallow for them. Even blues are rare.”
Aravel fled back into his cabin, lifting his kilt so that he could run away from the predators lurking underneath the waves. His abrupt retreat brought Captain Helene down from the wheel. She marched straight over to Anwyn, glaring fiercely. The glare made her misshapen eye socket even more obvious. Anwyn tried not to stare as Captain Helene loomed over her.
“What was that?” Captain Helene demanded.
“That was Ravi being terrified of rainbow sharks,” Anwyn explained. “He’d never seen them jumping before. Didn’t even know that they did it.”
Captain Helene stopped, her mouth open for a moment before she straightened up to stare out over the ocean as well. “I know he’s been through here before. Colleen mentioned it.”
“Not at this time of year,” Anwyn said. “And I think he went the other way round Minoo. The sharks really don’t do this anywhere else.”
The mild-toned comment got her a thoughtful nod from Captain Helene. They all winced as a rainbow shark breached not more than a four yards from the starboard bow. One tentacle grazed the rail. Captain Helene whistled sharply but Myrna was already swinging down from the rigging to grab a shark spear. Iola grabbed two, tossing one to Anwyn. Along with Myrna and Berrach, they crouched, waiting for the inevitable attack.
It didn’t take very long at all.
One rainbow hued tentacle slapped onto the side of the Little Bird as the shark peered up at them with its dinner plate sized eyes. Anwyn cursed, stabbing downwards at the shark while wishing desperately that sharks were as smart as the Ladies.
Berrach stabbed as well. Their spear points dug into the tip of the shark’s tentacle, startling it into letting go of the hull. Several large circles of imprints from its suckers were left behind, the edges of the wood raw and pale compared to the darker tone of the hull.
“Get back!” Berrach shouted.
“Quit showing off!” Anwyn shouted back at her. “Ware!”
Another tentacle swung upwards towards the rail, higher this time. Anwyn saw it coming, saw the speed and realized in a split instant that she could slam her spear through the broader tip of the shark’s tentacle. She bellowed as she used both arms and a full body twist to hammer the spear through.
The shark jerked back wildly, jetting away from the Little Bird. Anwyn barely managed to let go before being hauled over the side. She heard Iola’s shout, felt someone grab her ankle and someone else seize her around the waist. They pulled Anwyn back on board just as the shark snapped the spear. Anwyn could have sworn she felt anger coming from the shark. She glared at it, one hand wrapped tightly around the rail. Splinters dug into her palm but she didn’t care.
“Not food!” Anwyn shouted mentally at the shark.
It started, huge eyes blinking once as if it had heard Anwyn despite everything that said it was impossible. The shark’s tentacles retracted under the surface of the water, contracting back towards its streamlined body. Two impossibly long seconds stretched as they all waited for the next attack, and then disappeared under the waves in a jet of black ink.
“Annie!” Aunt Colleen shouted as she ran over.
“Well, I guess that worked,” Anwyn said. She twisted and then went violently red when she realized that Berrach was the one holding her by the waist. “I’m fine! Let go!”
“Annie, do you have any idea how much we all hate it when you take risks like that?” Iola complained.
Both she and Berrach let go, allowing Anwyn to settle on the deck. It was only after she was back on her feet that Anwyn realized she couldn’t breathe. Her heart pounded in her chest. Every breath felt like she couldn’t suck in enough air. Anwyn groaned, suddenly aware of how hard her knees and hands were shaking.
“Girl, there are days when I think you shouldn’t be allowed out of your bunk!” Aunt Colleen said as she hauled Anwyn into a hug.
“Might agree with you after that one,” Anwyn mumbled. “Didn’t expect the jerk back to be that fast.”
She clung as discretely as she could, utterly grateful for the support. Fortunately, there wasn’t any of the normal nausea that came from talking to the Ladies. Anwyn didn’t know if it was because the shark hadn’t said anything back or if it was because she hadn’t actually managed to communicate with it at all. Honestly, she didn’t care.
Anwyn was just glad that it had backed off. If they could make it around Simin Point without another close call, that would be perfect. Aunt Colleen eventually let Anwyn go though she did keep on hand on her shoulder. Berrach had pulled back by the mast but Iola was right there to take Anwyn’s elbow as she swayed.
“You hurt anything?” Iola asked.
“I have no idea,” Anwyn said. She rolled her eyes as everyone grinned. “Seriously, stop that. I don’t know. I probably strained something in my arms or back. I really didn’t expect the pull back to be that quick. Jerked me right off my feet.”
“Go rest for a bit, Annie,” Aunt Colleen said. She glared at Anwyn’s automatic refusal. “No, I’m not listening to you. If it’d been any of the other sailors who almost got eaten I’d tell them the same thing. Iola, put her in her bunk for a bit and sit on her if you have to.”
Anwyn blushed so violently for that idea that she got a round of shaky laughter from the crew. Even Captain Helene smirked at her, which said something for just how obvious Anwyn’s attraction to Iola had to be. Fortunately for Anwyn’s injured pride, Iola only nodded and then guided Anwyn back towards the officer quarters.
It was nice to be out of everyone’s sight. Anwyn leaned against the wall in the narrow hallway, counting boards in the wood paneling as she tried to get her heart rate to slow down. As a method for meditation, it wasn’t much of a success but it did give them both a chance to see little Flidais poke her head into the hallway a few seconds later.
“Oh!” Flidais gasped, blushing nearly as brightly as Anwyn had earlier. “Sorry. I was going to ask if you needed anything to drink?”
“Rum would be nice,” Anwyn said.
“No rum for you,” Iola countered. “No, I think she’ll be fine, Flidais. Thank you for asking.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Flidais said.
Iola pushed Anwyn towards her cabin, all but shoving her into the room. Instead of closing the door all the way Iola let it gently close without latching. Anwyn frowned. She’d never seen Iola do something like that before. Several seconds later the door swung inwards, followed by a flurry of footsteps ran for the main deck.
Anwyn stared, mouth dropped open in shock. “Flidais? Seriously?”
“I’m beginning to think so,” Iola said as she shut the door properly. “She’s got the greatest freedom of movement on the ship, other than me.”
“She’s eleven, Io,” Anwyn hissed.
“Don’t think I’m not aware of that,” Iola said.
She pushed Anwyn back onto the bunk firmly enough that Anwyn toppled backwards. Iola immediately pulled off Anwyn’s boots, checking her ankle where she’d grabbed earlier. Anwyn winced as Iola’s fingers found a sore spot at the bone and then cursed as Iola manipulated her foot. The movement woke a whole series of pains that Anwyn hadn’t noticed until that moment.
“You have a sprained ankle,” Iola announced.
“I noticed,” Anwyn said, panting and sweating. “Damn that shark to the Morrigan’s Hells!”
“It probably came straight from there,” Iola said with a little snort of amusement. “Come on. Let me check your arms and back.”
Anwyn groaned but let Iola help her locate even more aches and pains. She was pretty sure that she’d pulled something in her back under the shoulder blades. Her right wrist ached more than it should and her shoulder felt as though it had been partially pulled out of the socket. About the time Iola had Anwyn’s shirt off so that she could check for bruises the door opened, letting Aunt Colleen and Aravel in.
“Whoops!” Aravel said so cheerfully that Anwyn glared at him. “Sorry to interrupt!”
“Stop that,” Anwyn said. She gasped as Iola’s fingers found an incredibly sore spot just below her right breast. “Ow! Damn it, Io. That hurts!”
“What’s the damage?” Aunt Colleen asked.
“Sprained ankle, partially dislocated shoulder that popped right back in, strained wrist, possible cracked ribs but I think that’s a bruise,” Iola said so grimly that Aravel’s smile fled like the rainbow shark. “Bring over the first aid kid, Ravi. Let’s get her wrapped up.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Aravel said. “And here I was hopeful that it was something more fun than damage assessment. Aunt Colleen tells me that I went back inside at the right time.”
They started wrapping bandages around Anwyn’s ankle and shoulder, Aravel taking her ankle while Aunt Colleen and Iola handled her torso. The pain was bad enough that Anwyn didn’t have the breath to tell Ravi that he had left precisely when he should have. It was also bad enough that Anwyn was grateful for the fact that her breasts were tiny little things that didn’t get in the way of the bandages circling her torso.
It didn’t take long before they were done but it was still longer than Anwyn would have liked. She collapsed back on her bunk, panting. Much like when she’d had flail chest and a broken ankle, Anwyn found it hard to do anything but think about her injuries and all the things they would keep her from doing.
“Aunt Colleen,” Anwyn said as Aravel packed the first aid kit up again. “How long to our next port?”
“Two days,” Aunt Colleen said with a wry smile that said she knew exactly what Anwyn was thinking about. “I doubt you’ll be up to going ashore, Annie. Iola and I can take Aravel if he wants to go.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Aravel asked curiously. “Would you like my new blanket, Annie? It’s nice and warm.”
“Ravi, we’re in the tropics,” Anwyn said, smiling at his sheepish grin. “I’m more than warm enough without my shirt. Don’t fuss.”
Aravel nodded and shrugged one shoulder only to pause as Aunt Colleen put her hand on his shoulder. Her expression was the sort of grave look that promised jokes back home that pretended to be the bearers of bad news. Anwyn smiled automatically, sure that it would be a good one.
“Ravi,” Aunt Colleen said and then had to visibly fight a grin at Aravel’s suspicious look. “Nahal is a fishing port. They process fish on the beach right next to the port.”
“…How bad is the smell?” Aravel asked warily.
“I’m going to keep us there for less than an hour if I can manage it,” Aunt Colleen said, her grin winning against the desire to tease him. “I never buy anything that holds smells if I can help it. Frankly, I’d keep the windows to your cabin shut, not that it makes much of a difference. The stench gets into everything.”
“Eww,” Aravel groaned. “Do we have to stop there? Really?”
“Yes, we do,” Aunt Colleen laughed. “You’ll just have to deal with it.”
“I’ll deal with it by staying with Anwyn, thank you,” Aravel huffed as he snapped the first aid kit shut. “Get some rest Annie. Sounds like you’re going to need it. I suppose they toss the guts into the bay?”
“Tons of them,” Aunt Colleen sighed. “The fish love it but it does make the entire bay reek.”
Iola’s thigh, pressed against Anwyn’s hip because she hadn’t gotten up yet, shook with silent laughter. Aravel complained as he left with Aunt Colleen. It wasn’t until they were gone and the door was shut once more that Iola’s laughter became audible. She shook her head, dark eyes smiling with a sort of contentment that made Anwyn’s heart squeeze once more.
“Get some rest,” Iola advised, patting Anwyn’s good shoulder. “I’m going to see what’s for dinner.”
“Be careful,” Anwyn said, smiling wryly at the stern look Iola leveled on her. “Who knows if there’ll be another shark attack.”
“I will be,” Iola said.
Her nod told Anwyn that she understood what Anwyn really meant. Lying back to rest was an exercise in finding new places that ached, not that Anwyn was focused on her damaged body. No, that would heal on its own.
Could Flidais actually be their spy? Why would a little girl turn against the Clan that had hired her mother and grandmother; that employed all of her sisters? It didn’t make sense and yet Iola had a point that Flidais had the greatest freedom to be anywhere on the ship. She was a suspect, a very valid suspect. Anwyn would have to make a point of asking Aunt Colleen about it later.
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