Chapter 19a

"Then he fell in with bad company and ran off to sea."
-Davey Jones' mother

Zipping across the ocean was a strange, exhilarating experience, watching the endless waves roll majestically along a few feet below me, feeling the cool breeze beat me in the face. Occasionally a sleek-bodied sea creature would jump out of the water and hang suspended for a moment before dropping back out of sight beneath the blue-green surface. Force lines crossed the air at regular intervals, giving me fresh boosts of power whenever I needed them.

At one point, I pulled myself to a surprised stop and looked down at the water beneath the tips of my boots. Another force line shot past. Unlike the others, however, this one was down under the water. I had never seen one that looked like it before and in spite of the urgency of the situation, I dipped a little closer to examine it. It was a serene blue-green color, glowing brighter than the water and more ‘solid’ than a sky line. I tapped into it for a moment, and realized with a start it must be a water force line. I had never been near a large enough body of water to find one before. The power was cool, but strong and flowing and deep. Tasting it, I felt as if I could fly forever, run to the ends of the earth and back, dive to the bottom of the sea...

I pulled free. Now was not the time for experimenting and the taste of the power was actually a little scary. I resumed my charge toward the boat, angling my path to intercept it.

The power that I had just sucked up helped immensely. I tore along, eating up the distance. I felt so good for a moment, I risked doing a couple of loops and twists in the sky.

Whatever dimension this was, it was a very nice place to visit.

Unfortunately, by the time I was getting close to the boat, I was beginning to seriously tire. Even with the 'water' line’s major boost, when you levitate yourself, you're not just floating effortlessly along. It's work, just like running for a long distance is tiring for even the best of athletes.

I studied my target. The blue-gray boat was evidently powered by an elaborate arrangement of sparkling white sails, and bounced jauntily along, plowing through the waves. As I said before, I didn't know much about boats, but I got the vague impression that this wasn't one of the bigger types that you might encounter. Also, while not exactly streamlined and flashy, it looked well-made, with none of the crudeness that I now associate with dimensions like Klah. I floated alongside the ship for a moment, and looked it over more carefully. There was a word painted on the side of the vessel in an unfamiliar language, the scrolling letters large and ornate. Oddly, a pop-eyed, curly-haired wooden statue grinned out over the water from a post at the very front of the vessel. There was no sign of life on board. I tried calling, but the wind just blew my voice away. Finally I gave a mental shrug, and settled down on the ship's... floor? I knew there was a special word for it, but I couldn't remember it off-hand.

As soon as my feet touched down on the wooden planks, I staggered a little to one side and an unpleasant queasy sensation erupted in my stomach. The boat continued to go up. And down. And up... I staggered again. This was almost as bad as that Gezirahan cart-ride.. I had just been flying; how could riding on a boat make me ill? I felt my meal of fruit rise up from my stomach, but then grudgingly settle down again. I got a death-grip on a nearby rope and hung on grimly. I'd pushed myself far too hard with that flight, especially after Chirosovo and Rio Paulo, and now I was paying the price.

Suddenly, a nearby door popped open, and someone stepped out into the sunshine.

I was expecting absolutely anything. Walking trees. Giant orange and blue bugs. Winged purple-furred gorillas. Except what it turned out to be. 'It' was, to my immense surprise, a young female Deveel.

While I hadn't exactly gotten to know any of them personally, I knew that there was such a thing as a female Deveel; occasionally a more elderly specimen turned up running a booth at the Bazaar and of course some of Alcain's... er... employees could sometimes be seen shopping the Bazaar’s stalls, picking up various... whatever women in that profession need, I suppose. But being in close contact with one closer (relatively) to my own age was a definite rarity. Especially one dressed like this: she was wearing, to use the word in its loosest possible sense, two very small pieces of cloth, each stretched tentatively across her more private areas and leaving open large swaths of smooth red skin. It had been a while since I had seen so much of a Deveel's naked body, of either sex, and I had to say it wasn't at all unpleasant. The furry legs, delicate hooves and slim tail were a little off-putting, however.

She had been talking to someone still inside, her head turned back over her shoulder, her mass of black hair floating loose in the breeze. She was also wearing some kind of strange, billed, rounded hat, carefully shaped so her horns poked through it unimpeded. She finally looked forward, and saw me clinging grimly to the rope. She let out a startled shriek, and took an involuntary step backwards, almost falling back through the door from which she had emerged. I belatedly realized how battered and disreputable I must have appeared after what I had been through during the last few hours. Should have invested a few moments in a disguise spell...

Almost instantly, another Deveel appeared in the doorway, this one a young male, wearing an equally small piece of clothing around his waist and a similar headpiece. "Yilla? What's wrong? Are you..." He saw me and trailed off. I took a deep breath and plunged in:

"Look. Folks. I'm very sorry to... um... drop in uninvited, but I just need some information and then I'll... be on my way."

"Drop in...?" The female (Yilla, presumably) asked weakly, staring at me wide-eyed. "How... where..."

"Miss, please. I just need to know where I am. I'm a little lost."

"I'll say!" The male stared at me with unabashed curiosity. "Klah’s at least two dimensions from here!" He hesitated. "You are a Klahd, aren't you?"

"Yes, I'm a Klahd." I sighed. I suppose one of these days I should come up with a new name for my species, like Aahz and his fellow Pervects have, but I never seem to get around to it. "Like I said, could you just tell me where I am?"

"Uh... you're out in the middle of the Great Western Ocean.. Did you dimension hop here? I didn't think Klahds knew how to do that." They both seemed to be getting over their initial fright in surprisingly short order. Of course, the way I was clinging weakly to the rope may have hinted that I wasn't much of a threat to them.

"I didn't think anyone could do that." Yilla commented. "Right onto a moving boat? Wow! Talk about lucky!"

"No." I shook my head. "I flew here. From an island. Back over that way... somewhere..." I gave a vague wave.

"Klahds can fly? I never heard that before, either..."

I sighed again, heavily.

"I'm a magician, OK? Now, could you please tell me what dimension I'm on? It's rather important."

"Oh! You're on Toros Daglari!" He hesitated. "A magician? Why didn’t you just use one of the-?"

Yilla leaned over and interrupted her compatriot conspiratorially, still keeping her dark eyes on me. "Are Klahds normally that greenish color?"

That did it. I relinquished my grip on the rope, staggered to the side of the boat and threw up.

"Are you going to be all right?" The voice came from beside me at the waist-high rail that ran around the edge of the ship. I looked up. The male Deveel was standing next to me, now pulling on a striped shirt in addition to the rather skimpy 'pants' he had been wearing before.

"I don't know..." I admitted. "I feel sick and queasy."

"Oh. you ever been seasick before?"

"Uh... no. But this is my first time out on an ocean."

He nodded sympathetically and called over his shoulder: "Yilla! Could you bring that seasickness gunk?"

"Seasickness...? No... I couldn't... really..." I protested feebly.

"I insist. You look like you need it."

"How much is this going to cost me?"

To my utter surprise, the Deveel laughed cheerfully.

"I see you're familiar with Deveels. But we're not all like that." He must have seen my look of disbelief, because he continued more seriously. "OK, most of us are like that. Most of the time. I suppose I'm no exception in my own way. But I'm on vacation at the moment. I came out here today to relax, not sell seasickness cures. Besides, now a magician owes me a favor. Never know when that might come in handy." Somehow, his last comment was bizarrely comforting. I was back on familiar ground. I straightened up as best I could, and went into haggling mode.

"If all I get for dishing out a favor is a tube of ... erm... anti-sickness gunk, I'll pass. However, if you're willing to let me stay on your boat until you get back to... port, then we have a deal. I'll do my best to help around the boat or just stay out of your way, and you throw in the gunk."

Yilla had appeared beside us, now wearing a fairly modest robe and holding a small white tube. The male looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

"Is this deal acceptable to you, Yilla?"

She shot him one of those indecipherable glances that close couples use with each other, then smiled. I was suddenly strongly reminded of my meeting with the Woof Writers on Limbo.

"I suppose so, if it's acceptable with Mr.... " she looked at me, her own narrow eyebrows raised.

While I had forgotten about a disguise spell, this was something I had considered before landing. For once, Aahz would have been proud of me. I didn't even hesitate:

"Penbrius." I felt a brief spasm of guilt at the lie, but if Dierack and the other Executive Branch Deveels really were looking to arrest Skeeve the Great, at least this way I'd possibly be avoiding trouble for both me and my new hosts, as friendly as they seemed.

Also taking another cue from Aahz, I watched their expressions closely for any strong reaction as I said the name. There didn't appear to be one.

"Welcome aboard, Mr. Penbrius. My name is Karrik, and this, as you may have guessed, is Yilla. So we have a deal?" He extended his hand and I shook it.

"We have a deal."



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All Contents ©1999 Robert M. Cook