The next Yeoli ship to enter the port was on the way back to their home port of Selina, and they are willing to accept our passage. It was a full eight-day after we got Ili back, plenty of time for us to get Kefasbear fixed and for me to arrange to have some presents sent back to Arko for Kyriala.
I picked the books, after I proved to the Hyerne booksellers that I could read… They knew that foreign men could read, but were so used to thinking ‘males are not allowed’ that I had to prove it first.
Kyriala, this is vile. This treatment… It was more difficult to discern the letters through the lace-covered eyeslot. In Arko we think women are more delicate, less able to bear reading or study, or any kind of truly effective activity. In Hyerne they believe the same of men. Are we both wrong? Yeoli and Haian scholars… both cultures believe that men and women are equal in mind and body… and there must be studies.
I was just as glad to get away from Piri. There was a movement beginning aimed at ‘fixing’ unnecessary males. I finally figured out that what they called ‘fixing’ was castration and the speakers waving their pamphlets on the corners… I didn’t want Ili to hear that stuff.
I watch Gannara in the rigging. As in the other ship, the barokeresin--the whole group of people, mostly a family, who own the ship together—were treating him as a long-lost little brother. He still didn’t speak much Yeoli. It made him scared and nervous and I was bothering him to teach Ili and I. I was speaking to him in Yeoli now. And Ili was teaching Kefasbear the correct pronunciation.
“Heya, Ili,” I said to him, as he sat on my lap, he and Kefas reading a picture book. “You think it’s a good omen that we’re heading to Selina? The port is sort of named as if the Yeolis knew Selinae.”
He put his finger on a word to keep his place and looked up at me. “Yeah. I guess. Selinae is kind of like our mama, like in this book, right?” I looked down at the pictures and realized he was looking at a children’s version of the Book. I didn’t want to give Ili my fear and despair and conviction of sin. He did not deserve it even if he has our father’s blood. I swallowed hard.
“Yes. She is Mother of all Children, the Gentle Lady, Lover of the Innocent. Do you remember when you climbed up Her statue?” I thought it was safe enough to talk about it, on a Yeoli ship, in Arkan. He screwed up his brows, thinking.
“Did you come and get me?” He said at last. “I don’t really, but Kaita told me all about it. She said the Goddess caught us both when we fell.”
“That’s true. So the Goddess is looking out for you, little brother.”
“You too!” He protested. “She caught you too!”
“Arkani a saro!” The lookout from the topmast bellowed. “Arkans on the starboard!” Ili and I scrambled up to look in that direction and Gannara swung over to the ratlines over our heads.
“Itanavae voyel Arkani.” That meant five sails. There was one pair of far-lookers onboard and the month captain had them to his eyes, while sailors speculated all around whether they were actual Arkan ships or pirate deserters from the war.
“Can’t see what colours they are flying,” Gannara called down, and slid down to the deck next to us.
“They’re saying we can probably outrun them if we have to.”
“There’s no way we could fight them off.” And if it were me, and I was a pirate, I’d try to deceive people by flying false colours. People were scrambling up the ropes all over, standing by in case the captain gave the order to run. “Are they angling to intercept us?” I found myself hugging Ili tight to my legs with both hands on his shoulders.
“No. At least I don’t think so.” He checked an angle of some kind, his hand against the ship. “No, they’ll pass us on the laro.” That was Yeoli for left ship side. “But they’re looking for other signs, too.”
He was listening. “The captain is saying they look like marines and proper Arkan ships… I mean, they’re being maintained and they’re in their uniforms. Not trailing ropes or obvious stains. Arkan ships are kept in order… Yeah. They seem to be legitimate.”
“The course they’re travelling will put them between us and the land, right?” Then I checked, “No, wrong side, sorry.”
“Yeah, the group of ships always takes the side away from land, unless it would force them way out of their way.”
“Really, that’s one of the rules?”
“If they were pirates and we couldn’t outrun them we’d be fikked,” I said. “Unless we could stay ahead of them until the sun goes down and try to give them the slip in the dark.”
“You think you could swim to shore from here?”
I eyed the gap. It was somewhere between a half a malas and a full one. “I’d have a lot of incentive. I’m not sure Ili could.”
“I could SO!” He chimed in, indignantly. I patted his shoulder.
“I’m sure you could, little brother, but I’m not sure the Bear-corps could.”
“You know… I think we should all three go back to carrying… um… our stuff in the scarves like before. We've been lucky so far...” Gannara and I had been both carrying our funds. Ili had nothing but he should, should he be separated from us again. I had the Imperial book in its waterproof covering and the back-scabbard for the sword. With them slung on my back I could probably swim that far. And if I had to drop the sword in the deep water, then better there than somewhere on land for someone to pick up.
“Yeah, but we probably won't run into any pirates anyway. Ch’venga and the Arkan and Yeoli navy did a good job of cleaning up the deserters from the war… and the Tor Enchians and Hyerne worked together to clear out those island pirate nests.”
“Look, that’s as close as they’ll get to us,” Gannara said, squinting out over the water. “If they were going to try and intercept us they’d have to get higher into the wind and run down on us.”
I didn’t understand that, but just nodded. “There’s a courier!” Ili pointed up to the dot in the sky.
“How can you tell it’s not a bird, Ili?”
“It’s a wing!” He insisted stubbornly. “Let’s go to the bow and watch, okay?”
We went up to the front and Ili and I were treated to watching a pod of dayanal leaping and blowing and spouting, next to the ship.
“Hai!” Ili yelled “Look, look at him jump! So fast!”
“They’re showing off,” Gannara said. “They know how beautiful they are. They’re like that. They’re playing with the ship. They play all the time. Heya, Ili, if you fell in, a dayan might save you. They do that, too.”
Watching the sleek gray shapes arcing and splashing and rolling in the bow wave was comforting. Gannara was already bored of watching them. “There’s a story that they are reincarnated people, who’ve lived good lives and so deserve happiness in the next one.”
“Really?” That would be a kind of Selestialis. “I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.” Not what’s waiting for me. I wish I were not doomed to Hayel.
“I could stand swimming all day, worrying about nothing. I’d rather be a seagull, though. That way you get to walk, swim and fly.”
“People can do that now,” Ili said. “Min, I wanna learn to fly.”
“Me too, little brother. Me too, but I’m not sure there is a school that would teach Arkans…”
“There is. In Arko the city,” Gannara said. “I heard about it while we were there.”
“Really? That’s good to know. I wouldn’t go to a Yeoli flying school, or a Niah one. I’m done with teachers who hate my guts.”
“So when are we going home?” Ili asked.
“Well, first we have to get Gannara home,” I said. “Then we’ll figure out what we’ll do.” Gannara got this odd look on his face and then turned back to look out at the sea. “There’s some libraries in the Yeoli capitol I’d like to visit, so it might be a while.” Once Gannara is home, I’ll be more alone. I’ll be able to eventually send Ili home to Arko. But what will I do then? If I just fling myself off a cliff I’m just heading straight for Hayel, so I don’t want to do that. But I don’t want to be all alone either. I’ll think about that, later.
Ili sighed. “Will they stop looking for us?”
“Probably not ever, Ili, but we’ll throw them off our trail before we go home again. We will, one day, I promise.”