Once everyone hit the sand and pebble shoreline, the men rushed back into the ship to retrieve what they could. The wagon had been well made and would survive the soaking. The blankets and tents, being made of fairy weave, rejected the water and felt dry. The saddles, however, would dry, but probably squeeze out water for the next month or so every time someone sat in them.
Boston, Sukki, and Millie gathered whatever wood they could find. Lockhart and Even broke off some pieces of the ship to burn, knowing that Boston could get a fire going no matter how soaking wet the wood might be. Lincoln and Elder Stow checked their equipment, while Decker checked the area, and Alexis and Katie looked over the horses. They paused on finding only three horses.
“Dog…” Katie called out to Lockhart’s horse that sometimes behaved more like a loyal dog than a horse.
Alexis got Katie’s attention. “Dog and Honey fell into the sea when the rocks tore a hole in the side of the boat.”
“Damn…” Katie whispered.
“She is an elf,” Alexis explained. “Her love and attachments are strong.”
“I think Boston would have cried even if she was still human,” Lockhart said, looking plenty unhappy about the loss of his own horse.
“It is midnight,” Lincoln interrupted. “The tents and blankets are dry. We should think about getting some sleep.”
“Robert and I have the first watch,” Katie said. “Major, and Elder Stow, do you mind a two-hour nap before the middle watch?”
“Don’t worry about us,” Major Decker said.
“If I can sleep at all,” Elder Stow said. “I am worried about my equipment. It is all safe and working, but the power sources are severely depleted. I don’t know how much use they will be from here on unless I can find a way to charge them up.”
“Rest while you can,” Major Decker said, and Elder Stow nodded.
Sukki spoke up. “Boston and I will take the morning, as usual.”
“Everyone get some rest,” Alexis agreed, even as Katie put another plank from the ship on the fire. The ship did not burn well, but they were limited on what they could find in the dark, in the way of wood. At least they found enough food stores to fix a meal.
Boston still sniffed in the morning when she saw the Greek soldiers in the distance. When the sun cracked the horizon and the world became bathed in light, Sukki saw them too. They appeared a long way off, so the women cleaned up the camp in the light, brought the fire to life, and made whatever they had that might substitute for coffee. Lockhart and Lincoln still complained now and then about not having real coffee in the morning, but they were the only ones.
Katie got up first. Being an elect, she had a natural sensitivity to enemies and potential enemies approaching. She looked, and then agreed with Boston. They would make the soldiers welcome and hope they did not turn hostile.
Elder Stow got up shortly, after only an extra hour of rest. He worked on his equipment and ignored whatever the women talked about. Wallace got up, and Lockhart stumbled out of his tent and sat quietly drinking what he often called witch’s brew. That opened Wallace’s mouth.
“Do you think Nanette is near?” he asked.
“I am sure she is not far,” Katie answered, but by then, the soldiers started to get close enough to where they decided to wake the rest of the crew. Evan and Millie tumbled out of their tent and sat with Lockhart, sipping their morning drink and rubbing their eyes.
Lincoln and Alexis came awake more quickly. After a couple of years of rising at sunrise in the wilderness, they had gotten used to the early hour. They went to the horses first before they joined the group around the fire.
Major Decker grabbed his rifle and scope, and immediately checked out their visitors. He came back to confirm the impression of the others. “They do not appear hostile. Just a patrol sent out to check on their visitors. Probably saw the fire in the night. Probably think we are a beached merchant ship.”
The sea turned completely calm by morning, and only a few fluffy white clouds scurried across the sky. The surf splashed against the sand and pebble beach. It did not roar or thunder. Sukki clearly enjoyed the sea, and watched the waves as she helped pack and store the tents and blankets in their little wagon. She let out a little peep when she saw Galatea rise up and walk across the top of the water.
“Eating my fishies, I see,” Galatea said, when she arrived. Everyone stopped what they were doing, and some held their breath. Upsetting a goddess would not have been a good thing. Galatea looked at the faces and took a second to figure it out. “Oh, it’s all right. I have fishies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve had cow and bird, and oinker, but they are not as good as my fishies.”
“You are welcome to join us,” Alexis said.
Galatea counted, and then appeared to be counting something else that no one could see. She pointed to the fire and there appeared twice as many fish as they found. “That should be enough,” she said. “Though I don’t know. Some men are really big eaters.” She disappeared and reappeared on top of the rocks Katie and Decker used to hide and keep an eye on the approaching soldiers. Galatea smiled and waved. “Hurry up,” she shouted. “Breakfast is ready.”
One look at that beautiful goddess, and the soldiers hurried their feet. Boston laughed. So much for hiding. Decker shrugged and got down from the rocks. He took his rifle over by the wagon where he could sit and watch the soldiers invade the camp. Katie came into the camp, and Lockhart said to her how glad he was to hear Boston laugh. Katie agreed.
When the soldiers clambered over the rocks, Lockhart introduced himself, and his wife, Katie. The sergeant responded with only his own name. “Petracles.”
“Greek,” Katie surmised. “Not Carthaginian or Roman.”
Petracles nodded, and looked again at Galatea who sat between Sukki and Millie. Galatea talked to Sukki about how she loved the sea, too.
“Breakfast is ready,” Alexis spoke up, and Lincoln waved for the soldiers to help themselves.
“Says the elf who appears human,” Millie interjected.
“Yes, but Sukki and I just wear glamours,” Boston nodded. “It is a bit more complicated for a goddess.”
“Yes,” Galatea agreed. “My sister, Amphitrite, taught me to tone down my awesome nature ages and ages ago. You know, it is no fun when everyone screams and runs away or falls to their faces in terror. Triton is okay at it, but my nephew, Proteus is the best. He is so good at it, he can sometimes even fool the gods, though he says he can never fool his mother.” Galatea let out that grin.
Lincoln came over, having found enough plates for everyone. “Fish. Fish. Fish. Fish,” he said, and handed a plate to each of the girls. “I remember Cat saying that once. He was talented.” He went back to the fire without explaining.
“I like the tail,” Galatea said, and traded plates with Sukki.
“Galatea,” Boston got her attention again. “I think you are much smarter than you pretend.”
Galatea smiled and tried to think of how to respond to that, but got interrupted by a couple of soldiers that went to check out the remains of the ship.
“The ship might be salvaged in pieces,” one spoke. “But with that hole in the side, it is probably not worth fixing.”
The other added, “It is a wonder you made it to shore with such a hole. What did you hit?”
“Rocks. A small island.” Lockhart pointed. “We banged right into it. We are a Greek ship, headed for Lilybae, and the god, Yam, wanted to sink us.”
Petracles spoke. “I know the place, I think. It is a long way from here. How did you get to shore with such a big hole in the side?”
Lockhart sat up and looked briefly at Lincoln, Elder Stow, and Katie, with a glance at Evan. Seeing no objections, he spoke. “About five days ago, we had good sailing, but when it became apparent we were headed for Lilybae, the Phoenician god of the sea decided to sink us. You saw the storm. Fortunately, Nereus, the elder sea god, sent one of his daughters to check on us, which she very kindly did. Then we got hit by the storm, and our rudder broke off when the waves pushed us on a collision course with the rocks. Thanks to Elder Stow’s quick thinking, we stayed afloat despite the gaping hole in our side; but we were at the mercy of the storm. Then Triton arrived. He kindly picked up the whole ship and flew it here, where it keeled over, as you see it. I understand Triton’s grandfather…” He looked at Galatea, who nodded. “Nereus talked to Yam, or at least kept him busy until we safely reached the shore. You may note, Triton did not take us to the city docks, but I guess Yam was willing to let us land here, in Greek controlled territory.”
“A fanciful tale,” Petracles said, though he did not scoff.
Boston appeared a bit miffed at the unbeliever, and whispered. “We could call him Rockhead.”
“Hush,” Galatea said. “I think he is cute.”
Sukki snapped her mouth shut, turned a little red and looked away. Clearly Sukki thought he was cute, too.
“This is Greek controlled territory, is it not?” Katie asked.
Petracles nodded. “King Pyrrhus has had the city under siege for two months, to no avail. He is talking to the city leaders, but has come to realize he will need ships to block the port if his siege is ever going to be effective.”
“How do you think that will work?” Lincoln asked.
Petracles shrugged. “The Greek cities don’t mind having Pyrrhus as their king. They appreciate the strong arm of protection he offers. They sent him some of their second-rate soldiers as a sign of support, though I believe some of them got dredged up from their city streets, like the losers and petty criminals the city wanted to get rid of. They might also like the island to be Carthaginian free, but I think they will balk when the king starts asking for money and ships. They don’t mind giving lip service, as long as it doesn’t actually cost them anything.”
“Not a recipe for success,” Lockhart said, and got everyone to start packing to leave. They would follow the soldiers back to the main Greek camp.
The travelers find Umma, arguing with Pyrrhus the Great about the city. Nothing is resolved, but the travelers can’t stick around. The time gate is all the way on the other side of the island, around Mount Etna. Enjoy, and Happy Reading.