Avalon 1.9: Hard at Sea

            The land began to fall away behind the travelers, slowly.  They had to row against the wind.  The ship, as the marines called it, was just big enough for the eight of them.  The rowers sat on two benches, side by side.  Lockhart and Captain Decker sat toward the bow and Roland and Lincoln toward the stern.  They each had an oar and had very little room between them as they tried to row in unison.

            Alexis and Mingus sat on the two benches in the bow where they stowed some of their packs.  They had a fairy weave tent and spare oar between them and they were trying to rework the plain flat sail into a sufficient fore and aft style where they could tack in the contrary wind.

            Boston and Katie were in the stern on the simple oar that acted as a rudder.  They had pulled it up to let the rowers work, so there really was little for them to do other than watch where they were going and watch where they had been.  The craft was big enough so they did not worry about standing up, but Captain Decker did point out that there was only a short, built-in keel so there was a chance of tipping over if they were not careful.

            Boston kept her eyes on the amulet and kept them generally headed in the right direction.  She ignored Lincoln when he complained he could not possibly row twenty miles.  Katie watched the land recede and the waves roll.  After a while, she thought she saw something different.  She had to reach down to her pack which was stored in the stern and retrieve her binoculars.  After a look, she handed the glasses to Boston.

            “What is that, there?”  She asked.

            “Another ship,” Boston confirmed.  She looked without the glasses and then tried the binoculars again.  “It is beyond twenty-twenty sight, but with these…”  She paused before she finished her thought.  “I would say it is following us.”

            “Yes,” Katie confirmed when she got the binoculars back.  “Only I can’t see anyone in it.”

            “Oars up,” Alexis was up in the front.  Whatever she and her father had concocted was ready for a trial.  Some of the concoction was magic.  Boston and Katie both expected that.  Most of it, though, was simple technology.  They managed to adjust the square sail rigging to give more side to side action so it could be used for more than just downwind sailing.  Then with the oar and fairy weave, they made a jib which they erected in the bow.

            “Not very strong,” Mingus admitted.  “We might not go much faster than the oars, but that is just as well.  We don’t want to roll.”

            “I have grown the keel a little,” Alexis added.  “But there are limits.”

            The oars came up and if anything the ship slowed down, but it continued on its forward progress and the men were glad to think they did not have to row the whole way.

            “Roland.”  Boston called the elf having thought of his hunter’s eyes.  “Come look at this.”  They reached for each other and held one another at the elbows to carefully traded places.

            As soon as Roland got to the rear he announced, “Another boat, following us.”  Boston concluded that the elf eyes were better than twenty-twenty.  She had guessed as much.  When Roland took the binoculars for a closer look, he said something they did not want to hear.  “Gott-Druk at the helm.  One in orange.”  He returned the binoculars.  “Cloaked.  Invisible to human eyes, but not so sophisticated as to prevent my seeing.”

            The click they heard was Captain Decker attaching the scope to his rifle.

            “Hold,” Lockhart said.   “It is staying beyond normal human sight.  It probably doesn’t imagine it has been seen.  We are too vulnerable at sea.  As long as he keeps his distance, we can ignore him.”

            “I am sniper trained,” Decker said.

            “But he is invisible to your eyes,” Roland reiterated.

            “Besides, return fire given the weaponry that is probably at his disposal would blow the ship out from beneath us.”

            “At least,” Katie agreed.

            “So we just ignore him?”  Lincoln asked.

            “For now.”  Lockhart nodded.  “If it follows us through the time gate, we can probably set a better trap further on.”

            “Agreed.”  Captain Decker unlatched his scope.

            Then they sat until the silence became complete.

            They sat for a long time with nothing to look at but the sea and each other.

            “Hats,” Alexis insisted early on.  “We are getting much too much sun.”

            They sat and listened to the water splash against the sides of the boat.

            “I wish I brought a deck of cards,” Lockhart said.

            The Mediterranean smelled especially strong of salt and brine.

            Boston fingered her khaki shorts made from that marvelous fairy weave.  She began to change the color, tried stripes, dots and flower prints before she changed them back to khaki.  That entertained everyone for a few minutes.

            The sea looked as endless as the time.

            “This database is interesting,” Lincoln said.  “Did you know there are whole novels downloaded.”  Several hands shot out and slapped Lincoln hard enough to almost make him drop the handheld.

            “I was wondering why you kept staring at the thing,” Lockhart said.

            “What are you reading?”  Boston and Alexis asked together.

            “David Copperfield,” he answered.

            “Not some science fiction like Lord of the Rings or something?”  Captain Decker wondered.

            Lincoln shook his head.  “I prefer realistic fiction.”

            “Yeah,” Lockhart said.  “But I have found that realism is not necessarily realistic.”

            “I can see that,” Katie said.

            “Storm coming up fast.”  Roland was still looking behind, keeping an eye on their follower.  The wind shifted to blow from the stern and while a good blow might have tempted them to try running with the wind, these clouds looked very dark.

            “Lieutenant.  Help me get the sail down.”  Captain Decker ordered.

            “Lincoln, you and I need to hold the rudder,” Lockhart said.

            “Father!”  Alexis stepped forward to bring down their makeshift jib, but Mingus was staring at the clouds.  The lead cloud had a face, and one that did not look happy.

            “Djin!” 

            “Probably unhappy that we keep killing his lesser cousins,” Roland suggested.

            “The ghouls,” Mingus explained to the Captain and Lieutenant who paused.

            Mingus shook his head and went to help Alexis.  Everything was down and tied by the time the storm hit, including the crew, and good thing.  The first strike snapped the rudder and nearly capsized the boat.  Katie and Lincoln would have been washed overboard if they were not secured.

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