I woke to the sound of seagulls and the gentle taps of a hand against my cheek. The clear blue sky blared down, hurting my eyes as I slowly opened them, soaking my retinas in the fierce glare of the day.
Suddenly, a mans face blocked out the intense sunlight and loomed over me, a pair of dark gray eyes peering down into mine, full of concern.
"Miss, are you alright"?
I looked up, trying to focus, my mind immediately going to Squanchie, who had departed from my shoulder at a considerable speed just before I met the boardwalk. There was only one direction he could have been going, and that was toward the sea. I was filled with a sudden, cold panic. "Squanchie" I murmured, my mouth feeling like it was stuffed with cotton wool. What an odd sensation. "Squanchie" I said again, searching the eyes that looked down into mine to see if they might have an answer.
"Is that your squirrel miss"? The face asked and I nodded, trying to sit up, but warm hands gently guided me back down. "Its alright, my son is getting him, try not to sit up too quickly, you took a shock of a knock"
So I lay there, looking up at this stranger's face, a little more relieved now, but not completely at ease. He looked like he could be one of the Pirates friends, a person who I was still sure was in cahoots with Nurse. The sea does strange things to people. He looked a little like the Pirate too,same age, 50 maybe, the same thick set, lined face, his iron gray hair falling in thick curls down to his bulky, tanned shoulders. A large, black tattoo ran the entire length of his left arm, tapering off at his hairy knuckles but I couldn't make out what it was supposed to be. Words and numbers wound around the flowing ink design but meant nothing to me. This man was stout, rough looking, like the wind of the sea had formed him out of rock. Yet there was something kind about his eyes, something I felt Squanchie would trust.
"Feeling better miss"? he asked.
His voice was also gentle I noticed , seeming out of place with his weathered and coarse appearance. It soothed me though, relaxed me. Nurse hadn't gotten to him. I was sure of it. I nodded, not yet ready to speak again. I think most of my words were still rolling down the hill, trying to catch up.
Some things move faster than others.
The stranger slowly helped me into a sitting position, and my vision blurred for a moment. I must have left a mark in the boardwalk. I remembered the dead shellfish and wondered was it in my hair.
Waiting for the dizziness to pass, I noticed an odd taste in my mouth, a little like bitter lettuce, or chives.It wasn't entirely unpleasant but it wasn't sweet either. My tongue glanced off something soft as I explored my teeth in curiosity. Reaching up, my fingers found the daisy I had acquired during my tumble and I picked it out. Always the optimist, I was thankful it hadn't been a thistle. I do remember my now smarting rear meeting with the occasional one as we fell. If Nurse didn't give me such awfully thin pyjamas this wouldn't have been a problem. Oddly, my scarf and sword had stayed on me as I flew down head over heels and I was relieved to see my legs were without blade marks. In fact I was relieved they were still there.
As I awkwardly got to my feet, swaying a little against the man, I searched for a sign of Squanchie, desperate to see if he was alright. I looked up and down the boardwalk, finding it empty each way and my heart began to hammer in my chest.
"Squanchie"! I cried, turning to the man. Had he lied to me? "Where's Squanchie"?
I heard the splashing of water behind me and turned around, still held steady by the man. An arm stuck out of the water, holding in its hand a soaked and bristling Squanchie. His little arms were folded across his water slicked chest, the letter clutched in one paw, the black ribbon i had tied around him gone.
"Squanchie"! I yelled in delight, running to the edge of the boardwalk and nearly tumbling forward before the man caught me and steadied me. I snatched Squanchie up from the outstretched hand and hugged him close, not caring to see his rescuer, occupied only by the return of my friend.
He slapped me, hard, across the cheek, wiggled out of my hold and sat at a distance from me, busily wringing water out of his tail, chattering away to himself in low squirrel tones. It seemed Squanchie's love for adventure was lukewarm compared to mine.
Relieved to see him alive, I took no offense at the cold shoulder I was getting now, sure he would come around soon. I untied the scarf from around my waist, taking care to place the sword down and approached my friend, laying the scarf down next to him "Here, dry yourself off with this " I beamed, trying to decipher the look he shot me as I handed my offering over.He turned his back to me and continued to work furiously on his tail.
The man was helping me to my feet again, as I realized I had sunk to my knees, still slightly dizzy. He looked into each one of my eyes intently for a moment, as if making sure they weren't crooked and his craggy brow furrowed, making the lines in his forehead deeper. "You need some rest miss, you and your squirrel"
Squanchie looked up and nodded briefly, then went back to his tail. It was important for a squirrel to have a well groomed tail, it established authority. I looked up at the man and felt a wince of mistrust. Rest?
"I don't want any pills though, and you are most surely not giving any to Squanchie"! I told him, wondering again had Nurse perhaps recruited him after all. He may have had kind eyes, but that could be part of the plan. I checked about his person for hints but was frustrated to find none. He didn't have a name badge either. He also looked confused at my answer as if I was speaking in a different language or had just made a funny face. This was a very odd situation altogether.
"Sleep" he said gently, " You need sleep, and from the looks of you, a much needed change of attire"
"I agree" a voice behind me said.
I turned around and found myself looking into a pair of deep gray eyes, similar to the mans, but darker, harder. They bore into mine from beneath wet black hair, his fringe reaching his dark brows. He looked a little like the man, his face strong and broad, but paler and younger, features finer more handsome.He was shorter perhaps, but well built, his shoulders broad like the mans and his arms well muscled. I found myself unable to look away from the eyes that seemed to burn into mine. They may have looked like the mans but they held none of the kindness. Instead they glowed with an angry kind of watchfulness, and there was an air about him that seemed superior as he looked me up and down. I felt small and angry all at once, my cheeks burning red for a reason I couldn't quite place.
"Tilo" he said, extending one wet hand. "I saved your squirrel"
I reached out and shook his hand, surprised to find his hands were soft and warm. "Yo-Ho" I replied tentatively, not at all sure how to act around this young man. He was far too close to my age. A slight smile crossed his lips and I saw white teeth flash momentarily, noticing his incisors were unusually pointy. This set me more at unease but I wasn't sure why. I think I liked them.
"Interesting name" he said and with that he turned away, seemingly bored with the conversation and I sighed inwardly with relief.He picked up the purple scarf and proceeded to dry his hair in it. I started forward to give out but I felt the mans hands on my shoulders as they gently guided me back.
"Come along miss, Tilo will take care of eh..Squanchie" He put a comforting arm around me and walked me towards one of the odd wooden buildings above us. "Im Brov by the way. Now, lets get you fed and rested" He turned and called back to Tilo " Get this young woman's sword will you son"?
"No pills"? I asked, straining to see if Squanchie was following.
Brove looked confused again. "No, just fish miss ...miss, eh...."
"Yo-Ho" I replied, relieved to see Squanchie had decided to come along too, after, much to my delight, snatching my scarf back off Tilo.
Brov was true to his word, there were no pills, just fish. It was delicious, unlike anything I had ever tasted before. We sat at a big wooden table, Brov at the head, Squanchie at the other, munching happily on some sort of leafy mixture with purple berries. He seemed to have cheered up immensely upon receiving food.Curled up next to his bowl was the Queens letter. Tilo sat across from me, occasionally throwing a few glances my way, none of them all too friendly. I didn't return them, afraid to meet those dark eyes too much.
We sat in a large room, entirely built out of wood, with ropes and strange boat related items hanging from the thick beams above us.My knowledge of boats was sparse so I was only guessing this is what they were. Four doors led from this room into others; one of which Brov had told me my room was going to be for the night. Tilo had pulled a dissatisfied face at this but I was unsure why. He would be sleeping in the hammock that hung by the large fireplace across the room. I would have much preferred that to the bed I was being offered and I had wanted to say something but Squanchie had given me a look , his eyes reminding me to appreciate what I was given.
With Tilo smoldering quietly and Squanchie stuffing his face, it was Brov and I who did most of the talking. He seemed very interested in where I had come from and I was dodging some of his questions, still unsure of his motives. He might tell Nurse where I was if I gave him too many co-ordinates. More and more though, I found I wanted to tell him, drawn in by his kind eyes and gentle voice. He was reminding me less and less of the Pirate and I gradually found myself relaxing, even feeling a little sleepy.
"I notice you have a letter there Yo-Ho, and your dear little friend Squanchie has held fast to it all evening" Brov said, smiling warmly. " It must be important to him"
In reply, Squanchie placed one protective paw over the letter and continued eating. I nodded. "Its the Queens letter"
Both Tilo and Brov went instantly still, their eyes meeting. Then, Brov leaned forward, his voice a near whisper "Yo-Ho" he said " Are you an Otherworldlian"?
My heart soared, Brov must have recongnised that I was under Nurses spell. He knew I was magic!
"Yes"! I cried " My laces were taken"!
Tilo arched one dark brow then slowly shook his head and Brov's smile grew wider. "It makes sense now Yo-Ho" he said "We thought you were perhaps a little odd, but Tilo and I have never met an Otherworldlian before"
"Well" I said " Im the only one that I know"
Tilo's eyebrow arched again but he said nothing. Brov stood up, suddenly full of life, his eyes sparkling " It is such an honour! This is a great day for us Yo-Ho, your arrival into our midst is the most wonderful thing to happen to us"! He turned to his son who didn't seem to share the same sentiment, instead staring at me like I was an annoyance. "See Tilo my son! I told you that this time would come, go and fetch the parchment"!
Tilo threw another glare my way and slowly got to his feet, crossing the room and disappearing through one of the doors. Squanchie continued jamming food into his mouth, oblivious to the sudden activity around him, or just simply not caring. I wished I could be a squirrel right now, Brov looked suddenly business like and I was still rather confused. Also I felt that Tilo might want to strangle me in my sleep. My sword rested against the fireplace across the room, I could make a dash for it if anything looked like it was about to get out of hand.
"See" Brov said excitedly , leaning forward across the table, his great big arms holding him up like tree trunks
" We are going to help you find what you have lost, its what I have been destined to do ever since I was but a young man, younger than Tilo"!
I sat back, wondering where Squanchie had put my scarf.This talk of destiny confused me. I had not realized a man had been waiting his whole life to help me retrieve my powers. This would mean I was destined to lose them in the first place and thus Nurse was only fulfilling a purpose in my loss and hopeful gain.
Though, she could have been more gentle about it.
Tilo re-emerged holding a big yellowed sheet of parchment paper. It looked old and I wondered what was on it. I was surprised and a little disappointed to find it blank when he laid it out on the table, also I was a little lost as to why Brov was getting so excited about it. He looked at me "Yo-Ho, watch this"!
He placed his tattooed hand on the center of the paper, then closed his eyes. I watched, still confused. Even Tilo had lost his nonchalant air and was watching his fathers arm intently.
Slowly, almost hard to see at first, the black ink all over Brov's arm seemed to move! The various swirls, lines and words appeared to be flowing into one another and creeping down his arm towards the parchment as if drawn to it. I watched, my mouth hanging open, as the complicated patterns and pictures flowed across his hand and down his fingers, pooling onto the paper then spreading in thin veins across it. This was when Squanchie finally stopped eating and he too watched in awe as the tattoo moved from Brov's arm onto the old parchment. We looked on as a design began to take shape, becoming increasingly familiar, the words fitting into place and tiny numbers dotted along the various lines and curves that spread across the paper.
"Its"- Tilo breathed, his voice trailing off as he was consumed by watching it again.
"A Map"! I finished for him, eager to impress him so he might not cast those dark eyes on me again.
"Yes" Brov smiled.
"Your map, Yo-Ho"