The wicked heroine, p.18
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.18

           Jasmine Giacomo

  Chapter Seven

  The sun was bright and sharp as Meena and Sanych boarded their vessel for passage north across the Bay of Whales. This was in fact the same ship Sanych had used for transport to Miln; the captain recognized her. He approached shortly after they had cast off.

  “The little girl looking for an old woman, yes?” he rumbled. The portly captain wore his clothes as a peacock might display his feathers. His pantaloons were of the deepest red, while his coat was a silk wash that wandered from sky blue to sea green, depending on the light. Gold buckles and winking cut glass flickered in the sunlight at every angle.

  “Captain Verri, of the gracious lands of Hynd,” greeted Sanych.

  “Ah hah, you recall my homeland. What a wondrous child!” The captain grinned broadly, revealing a lower tooth space that was filled by a bright red gem. “And you did not find your old woman, I see, but instead a ripe plum in full fruit!” He grinned appreciatively in Meena’s direction.

  Sanych held her breath. Meena had been away from civilization for some time; things could turn ugly, considering her skill in fighting.

  Meena tipped her head to the side. “Bite a plum too greedily and you will choke on the stone, is it not true?”

  The captain’s eyes widened, revealing their golden-green irises completely. “By the hearth, it is true! My mother’s favorite warning, as I recall, and one I took pleasure in ignoring on many occasions. You have been to Hynd, then?”

  “It has been many turns of the season, Captain Verri.”

  “Yet you still recall our idiom. What a jewel! You must eat at my table this entire journey! I insist! You, boy,” the captain said, grabbing a passing ship’s lad by the shirt. “Tell that galley rat Gorin I shall have guests, two wonderful lovely plums, at my table every meal.”

  “Aye cap’n,” the lad said, scampering off to do as he was bid.

  “And so, my fair plum,” said the captain, who appeared about twenty years older than Meena did. “What is your name?”

  Meena seemed to hesitate a moment. “My name is lost to me, Captain Verri. Perhaps you will supply me with one that will suit.”

  The captain sobered suddenly, his eyes flicking from Meena to Sanych, but Sanych had no idea whether she was speaking in Hyndi idiom again.

  “It is true, my fair plum?” he asked. To Sanych, his voice sounded sympathetic.

  “By the hearth, and the stone, and the spark for my fire, it is true.”

  The captain straightened his shoulders, buckles and buttons winking. “Then indeed I can provide a name that will suit. I give you the name of Nurstei, and so you shall be known for myself and my entire crew.”

  Meena smiled. “The Northern Star. Thank you, Captain Verri. I will treasure your gift in my left pocket.” She put a hand over her heart and gave him a slight bow.

  The captain glowed. “Then come, come and see my magnificent vessel; she is the Ondanta.”

  After a tour of the ship, Sanych and Meena were informed that their berths had been moved, and when they located their belongings, they found they had been put up against the forward bulkhead, right next to the captain’s quarters. It was much larger and finer than what they had paid for. Meena relaxed full-length on her cot; something she could not have done in their former quarters.

  Sanych noted her grin. “What was all that about, with the left pocket and the spark for my fire business?”

  Meena exhaled happily. “I love the Hyndi. They have such a lovely tradition of giving out names. I’ve gone there several times just for that purpose.”

  “Why?” asked Sanych.

  “It’s a nice place to start over. You don’t think I was born as Meena, do you?”

  “I never thought about it,” confessed Sanych. “What was your first name?”

  Meena sighed. To Sanych, it seemed sad. “Ask me about that later.”

  She pursed her lips. It seemed there was a growing list of things Meena wasn’t ready to tell her about. “All right.. Will you tell me instead of one of the stories you think should be told?”

  Meena’s eyes cast over her list of memories, though it looked as if she were studying the ceiling. “Yes. Let me tell you about Gardarann and the Well of Grass…”

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