“Mah good Gad!” Kaylebuh couldn’t help the exclamation, as the Hound rounded the outer island of Haiu Menshir. First of all the islands were green, covered with jungle-lush vegetation, with wide swaths of beaches, pink and white and black sand, draped with seaweed mounds raked aside here and there to give invalids easier access to the water. Naked children ran along the beaches, waving, people lay in the shaded verges, some waving, some not, depending on how healed they were, he supposed.
Flyers soared above, mostly for pleasure as near as he could tell, people inside the lagoons paddling canoes of all shapes and sizes, crazy people outside the reefs on boards with sails on them, making like flying fish in the little waves in this land-locked ocean.
Flocks of bright birds and clouds of insects so bright he would have thought they were made instead of hatched, except that they moved. Nothing like the dark and mosquito buzzing mangroves and bayous that he knew.
But the thing that made him exclaim was the floating land they’d built in Haiu Roru’s lee. He couldn’t see how many hulls they’d used, but they were all the Arkan big ‘uns. Buildings were built on the central platform, he could see that, and then there were sloping angles, floating on smaller hulls, until they became artificial beaches, letting people into the water. There were trees waving their hairy leaves over the buildings as if they’d been planted years ago, green edges everywhere, where Haians had placed pots and raised planters so the vines could trail down to the sea.
The highest towers, on the outside edges, were watch towers, and anchor points for wide, white triangles to give much needed shade. The whole thing moved, slowly, as the water moved under it, but the Arkan soldiers… the solas, seemed perfectly comfortable at their watch posts.
“Rather than have a ferry, Haiu Menshir decided they would build a bridge, around the other side, closest to Sailortown. It’s been letting ships dock all along the length of it.”
“An’ all of it, Haian, no weapons?” Kaylebuh just couldn’t wrap his head around that.
Alfalaria, leaning on the rail next to him, nodded. “Utterly pacifist. It’s up to us to protect them. They’ve forgiven us Arkans for conquering them in the last war, and say it was because the old Imperator was crazy, but a lot of Arkans still feel guilty and are doing a lot of work for Haians for free.”
Kaylebuh just looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “They wouldn’t have stopped healing y’all?”
“They knew it was Kurkas, the Crazed Baby, not us.”
“But y’alls trust is back?”
“Mostly. We’re working hard on getting it back. The new Imperator has been doing a lot of donation to the University.”
“An buildin’ this?”
“Part of it. The rest of the signed Alliance Nations have been helping too. It seems that we Arkans can add to the coalition.”
She stared out to where a floating gangway poked out of the island where the Hound could safely tie up. “Looks like a good winter storm ‘d twist ‘er up and blow ‘er apart,” Kaylebuh said quietly.
“That’s why it’s all built to come apart,” she sniffed. “Even the ‘beaches’ and docks. Unlash them and float them into the harbour.”
“An’ t’ General Mud?”
“I don’t know,” she said quietly. “That shot didn’t kill him and they actually flew him here after field surgery."
"Ah, wish Aesh had acted just a bit sooner, but she still din't blow his head off like she could'u.”
She nodded. "Captain might send me to find out."
Kaylebuh nodded back and they watched the ship tie up. “Ah hope y’all don’t mind, Missy Alfalaria, if I stick with y’all fer a bit? Until I git m’legs under me?”
She looked at him and looked away, didn’t correct him when he gave her the title ‘Missy’. “I might stay with the Hound, if t’Captain’ll have me. If you don't want that, you’ll find a lot of work here on Haiu Menshir if you don’t want to go to your embassy in Arko.”
“Yas, Missy Alfalaria.”