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I hope to make the next installment by September 2, as I think I will be done with the move by then and have the internet on. The laptop has not been repaired yet either, and that is unlikely to happen until after classes start and my aid packet has arrived, so it is unlikely that I would be able to post from my brother's home if such is not the case.
Etain growled. "Would you LEAVE MY SHIELDS ALONE!" The Selkie woman shook her fist off the poop, toward the Triton that had hounded her the past week. One week of battle between the two over control of the weather, the current, even the tern that Etain had sent off with a letter to the Order had resulted in a strange bond forming between the adversaries.
Whether the tern reached the offices with her report as to her progress and experiences, she could not be certain. All she was certain of was that she had caught a tern, and that it had agreed to carry her report. He had even tried to wrest control of her craft's will while she had been distracted with the task, and communicating with the tern had not been easy in the first place.
As annoyed as she was at his interference, there was a part of her, likely the human blood given the generally more peaceful nature of the Selkie ilk, that enjoyed the challenge. The Triton broke the monotony of her sail, now that they had at least agreed to leave the weather alone.
"Yer still in me territory, wench. Either get out, or have the decency to sink, halfbreed."
"I'm working on getting out of your territory. I can't teleport a whole boat! Though trust me... I would if I could!"
"Yer a seawitch. Work harder!"
He shook his trident at her, and it crackled irately, purple lightning playing over the black triple blades on the spar that formed the shaft. Water from the tips, propelled by the shaking, splashed her face while they glowered at each other through the shield. It landed harmlessly, stripped of any negative effects by the protections it passed through. Uncaring, barnacles continued their slow, methodical takeover of the hull while the merfolk went at it yet again.
Etain narrowed her eyes further, paying attention to what the Triton looked like, since he was close enough this time. Brown eyes glared back at her past crow's feet, set in a leathery face that had seen decades of sun. Long wild hair the color of sea weed bearing froth roiled around his head, the corona of hair and beard tamed only by a roughly wrought crown of beaten gold likely rescued from an ancient wreck. The body below the face was muscular, as one would expect of a being that lived always swimming. His arms were thick from shark wrestling, and every once in a while she saw the flash of a scaled tail, but could not tell if it was grey, or green.
"No seawitch that I've heard tell of ever successfully teleported a boat without a wreck." She continued, reining in her temper. "And I am not going to anger Mara by wrecking the boat she entrusted to my keeping for the sake of a cantankerous Triton baiting me, oh 'Lordship.'" Etain leaned on the rail, watching him while the sea bobbed her boat with the swells.
The Triton paused, sinking several inches before starting to tread again. "Yer Mara's own?"
"Aye, bred, bonded, and branded so." She displayed her wrist and the silver and gold bands where they twined each other, a third conspicuously missing, as it had been for generations. The bracelet's light pulsated with the beat of the sea.
He growled, grumbled, then huffed. "The Shark goddess is not one of my favorites right now."
"Why?" Etain kept her face schooled, waiting to finally find what was at the root she had suspected when first leaving behind the soulfish, and sailing into his own temper tantrum.
"The humans." He growled again, twirling his beard with a free finger. "She lets them press into our seas, and does nothing when they overfish. She is OUR goddess, yet she reduces her sharks along the coasts, and does nothing when the true seafolk are displaced, despite our prayers and offerings. Where do you think those sharks hunt?"
"They eat the local shoals of fish where they move to. And where I come from, they eat the seals and Selkies." She replied carefully during the pause in his rant.
The Triton nodded. "They've been harassing the borders of our cities, and the humans forcing a move has not helped."
"She does send her sharks to other coasts as well..." Etain sighed, thinking of how reports of shark attacks were increasing in the warmer waters, in the Cowan's news and how oceanologists of all kinds discussed them more and more. Many of the reports Finnol would bring home with him had mentioned this. "You're in the middle of nowhere... How could you be found?"
"Oil closeby." He crossed his arms and spat, wrinkling his brow, then pointed northward at her look, answering before she even asked, slowly easing into some level of comfort with the woman that smelled of seal. "We lost one of our cities to the drill recently."
"I sorrow with you." She bowed her head formally in sympathy, careful to use the more ancient wording. "Perhaps there is at least something that I can do still?"
"You offer help, even with me harrying you all this time?" He eyed her dubiously. "You're part human."
Etain drew herself up to her full height and glowered down. "It is my duty to my deities, just as yours is to patrol certain territories. Human or not."
He nodded, causing the waters to lift his large frame closer, and as no malice was intended this time, the shield let him pass. "I can take you there. We can't live there anymore, even after repairs, but the fish will still need to pass safely, seawitch."
"I will do my utmost, Triton." She grasped his hand gravely and squeezed the best she could, though her hand was positively dainty in all its callused glory in comparison to his textbook sized ones.
The Triton released his hold and began to swim, arrowing and leaping like a dolphin through the swells at the prow of the ship. Instead of due north, he took a tack 30 degrees to the west, and the Sea Witch followed gamely. Etain went to the prow, allowing her vessel to follow him on its own.
At last, the ships and offshore platform could be seen, mist in the air from the swells breaching on the stays that dove down to the seabed far below. Though there was no oil slick evident yet, and it seemed to be running as clean as possible, she felt a dull ache through her body, and the queasiness of taint seeping into the water. The closer they came, the more she felt it, and when she got to a better angle, she could see buoys and floats containing the leak she could feel. The Triton slowed, the oil also effecting him adversely. When he halted, and turned to look at her, he was another few decades older.
"You see what I mean. There were many already cleaning, but this is since then."
Etain bit her lip and pushed her nausea and tears down. "I do. I'll try to sneak aboard first, and see what I can do there, before I go below."
Heart in her throat, Etain left her boat below, as securely as possible in such conditions, and climbed the ladder. As she rose, she hoped that there were no security cameras watching her ascent, and employed the basic cloaking spell that had served her in so many other instances of trespass. And trespassing she certainly was, in ways that the most active members of protests know and employ in their pursuits of defending their cause.
After what seemed like an endless ladder, she made the deck, and then picked her way across to the door. The scents of the place churned her stomach as much as the knowledge of what surely had once been below the waves here.
No security rushed her, and carefully she unlocked the door. As the spell worked, she could feel each step completed, and she opened the door softly as possible. An empty hall greeted her, and she slipped in. In the corner, the expected camera stared toward the door with a fixed lens, and Etain drew her cloak more fully over her head, despite the spell she had placed on herself.
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