Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Ninety Six

Sebastian looked back at the island as the wind caught their sails and they sped toward the south.

The Watcher and Pancho were taking the first shift at the tiller and sail, and Sebastian had been ordered to rest. His head felt a bit peculiar, and things seemed a bit fuzzy than he liked. He wasn't quite sure, for instance, exactly why they had left the island so quickly. And he had no idea the purpose of the Watcher's masquerade nor their destination.

He was surprised to find that the rocking of the boat was so soothing, so he leaned back against a rope and let the rhythm of the waves carry him off.

Far away, Nan ground herbs into fine powders, mixing potions, contemplating the bright green leaves of the trees in the street outside.

The Watcher shifted his weight to push the tiller over, coming about so Pancho could adjust the sail.

Tor sat quietly, his pipe in his hand, watching the men prepare a young doe they had trapped as she stooped to drink from a spring.

Pancho swung the boom, and fixed the lines, the little boat leaping as the wind caught the sail again.

Ava was sitting with Cathy on the porch working on table linens for Daniel and his bride, watching Andy and Paul digging, raking and filling the road. The potholes filled, the edges of the road redefined, Andy sauntered off to join some friends in the park. Paul waved and disappeared behind the house with a shoulder-load of tools.

Pancho sat at the Watcher's feet and took a long pull from the water skin. The wind whipped over his head, and the boat skittered along on the waves as if pushed by dolphins.

Gilly stopped by Polly's new home on her way home from the village and admired the loaves of bread her daughter had just pulled from the oven. Polly's form was swelling as a young bride's should, now that she wasn't sick in the mornings, and Gilly noted that she moved no less gracefully.

The sky was bright, the water was clear; far ahead a large bird wheeled above a rock. The Watcher set course for the rock, and joined Pancho in a light meal of cakes and cheese.

Helena poked her head out the door and asked Inga to fetch more water. Peter turned green as Helena removed a bandage from his hand, and looked away. Helena laughed and kissed him lightly on his ear, "Silly man! It's just a scratch."

Pancho sighed contentedly, and worked on an elaborate knot while the Watcher checked their course and disappeared briefly below.

Doris and Meg were waylaid on their way home from school by a gaggle of younger girls, eager to talk about an upcoming dance. They stopped in the shade of a tree, laughing in delight at some joke.

"Well, young Pancho, time for you to learn a bit about yourself!" murmured the Watcher as he sat back down, holding out a leather box to the young man.

Otto and Owain sang as they swept out the market stalls, anticipating a night at the tavern, money jingling in their pockets. They paused respectfully as Esmeralda darted past, on her way to someone's sick bed, and finished in time to get the best table by the fire.

Pancho looked up in surprise, and warily took the box. He wasn't sure he wanted to learn about himself -- at least not his past. He quite liked who he was at the moment.

Daniel looked up from the cabinet he was planing as Peter walked back in. Wordlessly, his father picked up a hammer and started joining the sides of the drawer he was working on. Shavings of wood littered the floor, shik! shik! as the plane smoothed the rough edges. bump! bump! as the hammer tapped the drawer.

The box held a long tube of metal with bits of crystal at the ends. Pancho held it to his eye, and took a look. The bird over the rock popped into fine detail. One could count the feathers...

The kitten sat on the old cat's chair, then yawned lazily and jumped off as the ancient feline walked in. "Hmph." thought the old cat, and carefully rearranged the cushion before settling in for a nap. The kitten watched in amusement, then decided to see where the sunbeam led.

The Watcher repositioned the spyglass, and Pancho gasped in amazement. The rock was a promontory he recognized, the entrance to the port near his home.

Sebastian sat up and rubbed his hair. It felt salty and gritty. He hadn't had time to bathe since Pancho found him. He waved at the Watcher and Pancho, and jumped over the side of the boat, coming up quickly.

The water felt good. The warm sun had felt good. The nap had felt good. The dream of home had been good.

Sebastian started swimming, easily keeping pace for a bit, then fell behind. Pancho grinned at him over the rail and tossed a line, hauling him close enough for Sebastian to grab the ladder.

The Watcher looked at them with an inscrutable look, then stood and stepped overboard also. He didn't come up immediately.

Pancho and Sebastian watched the spot he had gone down, wondering whether they ought to be concerned, when a large dolphin appeared, the Watcher hanging on to its dorsal fin.

Pancho set the spyglass carefully in its case and raced to the bow in time to see a school of dolphin cavorting... then the Watcher let go and drifted back along the hull, catching the rope casually and hauling himself up.

Sitting back with the wind drying his clothes, the Watcher laughed -- a clear, bright, perfect tone, carried forward into the sail. And the little boat sprang forward again, eager to reach its destination.