Chapter Links & Complete Story in One Page
Seek and You May Find (or not)
The clanging of the village bell and subsequent crash, scream and squawking of upset chickens echoed through the forest and across the open water.
Christopher Marlowe heard the aftermath as he fumed his way along the path back to the village, furious his awkward wooing had been interrupted just at the moment of its fruition. The women gathering shellfish on the beaches heard it. Rothgar the sea-bear, browsing on berries, heard it. Even the sailors on the White Hart, which was rounding the headland and entering the bay on the rising tide, heard it.
And high in their arboreal fastness the five leaders of the Coastal Conclave of the Fey heard it.
“More of them arrive,” said Athis morosely, the Senior Junior and nominal leader of the Conclave.
“What shall we do in response?” asked the woman to his right. She went by the name of Slash, as her swordplay was famously deficient. She could only split a hare.
“Kill them and eat them?” Athis suggested. He wasn’t entirely disappointed when no one laughed.
The White Hart drifted on the tide, sails slack, turning gently in the whirlpools around the point at the head of the bay. Captain Stone watched the smoke rising from the village chimneys and muttered to himself, “Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.” Then he shuddered, as if someone was walking over his grave. “This place, it likes me not.”
In the water below, sight unseen, a small round head wearing what appeared to be a seaweed crown raised itself above the surface. “Troubles,” it said. “More troubles.” Then it slipped quietly beneath the still surface.
On shore the villagers began to gather along the beach. Grace, trailed by Yee-Ha, was soon joined by her sister Felicity and their cousin Hope, who was muttering dire imprectations of doom. Marlowe came striding grumpily down the shore, eventually followed by Cat, who picked his way delicately amongst the driftwood, a dead fish in his mouth.
Together they waited, tense and unspeaking, as the ship came to anchor.
The silence of the little group of villagers was broken by the arrival of the hunters, lead by the redoubtable if excitable Sir Bombastus Hyphen-Dash, earstwhile Governor of Her Majesty’s Most Secret Colony of New Albion.
“SPANIARDS!” he roared, brandishing his blunderbuss. “Fire cannons!”
“Father, the cannon are sunk,” Grace reminded him matter-of-factly. “And I don’t think that’s a Spanish flag at the masthead.”
“False colours! Duplicitous dogs! Dangerous! Violent! Not like us! Kill the lot of ‘em!”
Marlowe felt a flash of existential dread as he gazed across the water. “Your daughter is aboard.”
“Nonsense! She’s right here! Both of her!”
“Your OTHER daughter,” Marlowe clarified, which produced a sudden return of silence.
While the colonists gathered to watch the ship come to anchor, Drunais flumped on a stone by the shore around the far point and pulled her lute out of its hand-carved case. She had left her long-bow in the forest, abandoned as her human lover had abandoned her.
“dear one far away
She let her fingers trail over the strings, singing a lover’s lament in her own language:
“dear one far away
clouds gather while darkness falls
my life is so sad”
She’d written it herself.
A round, crowned head raised itself out of the water nearby.
“So many Troubles for the land-dwellers,” said Tuc to himself. Then he said more loudly, “Bark?” causing Drunais to leap into the air with a scream.
“You scared the starlight out of me, Tuc!” Drunais complained as she regained her composure and the seal king bellied himself up onto the rock beside her. Then she sobbed, “He left me!”
“Your har’un?” asked Tuc, using the Fey word for the English. Drunais could only nod silently in response, then asked plaintively, “Why would he leave me?”
“A ship,” Tuc told her, wondering why he didn’t keep his bewhiskered nose out of it.
Drunais thought for a moment, then decided all news was bad news. “He’ll meet some golden-haired harlot and leave me!” she wailed. “And I don’t even know what a harlot is!”
If she had been one of his wives Tuc would have rubbed his chin on her head and offered her a fish, but he didn’t think that was how land-dwellers did things.
Drunais gripped her lute and began to play.
Drunais twanged her lute and sang a sad lament in a sad voice about how sad she was, a sad lonely girl sadly in love with an unsuitable suitor:
“Sadness suffuses saffron skies
“Sadness suffuses saffron skies
Sadness softly sorrowing sighs
Sadness stuns somber souls
Sadness sentimental strolls
Sadness sings, she sadly sits
Sadness doesn’t give a sh…”
Tuc interrupted her song with the loud clapping of his flippers. Seals weren’t much in the opposable thumbs department, but as Marlowe had once told him, “You could applaud for England.”
“Lovely!” he said. “And so very sad!” He paused, “Though I think it gets a little more angry than sad at the end.”
“I am angry!” Druna told Tuc. “We had a fight, and didn’t get a chance to, you know… make up.”
“Ah,” replied the seal king. It was all so much simpler for his people. Females were only interested in mating once a year, and males competed for their attention with submerged acrobatics, gifts of fish, and singing the secret, silent seal songs of the sea… although on reflection maybe it was a little bit complicated after all. Hitting silent high notes isn’t as easy as it sounds. “I’m not sure his people settle their differences the way you do.”
“He would have! We could have! I’m not a child any more!” Drunais reminded her friend.
“And how old is he?” Tuc asked, and she moaned, “He’s probably a thousand! I never asked. He was too busy talking about ‘knife fights’.”
“It’s how they settle their differences. But I have no idea how they get the knives to fight.”