The One the Sea Will Claim
The girl was young, especially in the ancient, salty world of the e’nethaine, but this didn’t mean she was untrained or awkward with her gift. She did a fine job patching Gray back together. However, he—always the observer—found it interesting to compare her work with that of the best healer he knew.
Hamal could have healed Gray in a surprisingly short amount of time. His talent as a healer set him apart; indeed, healer almost seemed like an inaccurate word for him.
Yet the overall process of healing would have taken him longer because, in wisdom’s true form, Hamal would have seen no reason to hurry.
This girl hurried. It was like she didn’t wish to stay with Gray any longer than she had to.
An interesting thing, he thought, watching the side of her face as she used her gift on his hand and arm. She was the one who had volunteered for this position as his rescuer, but now she didn’t seem to be pleased with her choice.
He didn’t often have opportunities like this one: a few minutes of shared space with the heart of the sea. An encounter with his bloodline, many ages past. And with one of their children, no less.
“Have you observed the Islanders long?” he asked.
She didn’t look at him. “No.”
When she offered nothing further, he prodded, “Why not?”
“I am not of this location,” she replied.
He waited before saying, “I am not of this location either.”
She glanced at him.
He shrugged. “I am making conversation. If you have a different topic in mind, I am open to it.”
She turned back to her work. “I prefer to use my gift in silence.”
“I would not have expected this.”
She breathed a sigh and tightened her grip on his little finger. “And why is that?”
“I have an attachment—a healer, like you—and he likes to talk to his patients. All the time. Perhaps even more than those patients would wish upon occasion. He says that speaking to patients can help them recover.”
“That has not been my experience.”
Gray considered the awkwardness of this little conversation, let it grow more awkward in its silence, and then added, “His name is Hamal. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.”
The girl seemed to pause. Just for a moment.
At least, he thought she did. He had trouble reading her, which would be unusual for him with a lander, but he wasn’t all that surprised to be half blind down here in the sea. Though he shared blood with this girl, however distant, he came from an entirely different culture, one that she and her people saw as beneath them. When the sea looked at the land, it saw only what it wished to see.
“I know of Hamal,” she replied. “We have read all of his prophecies, too.”
This time he was the one who paused. He began to withdraw his hand but managed to stop himself before dislodging her healing. Hamal and the sea? “Is that common with a sage? For the sea to read his prophecies?”
She looked up. For the first time, Gray saw unmistakable interest in her eyes.
“Hamal is a sage?”
Wait. The sea seemed to slow all around him. The currents grew still. Signs of life took a deep breath and held it.
“Yes,” Gray murmured, looking at the girl in a new way. Her skin was like a combination of pitch and sapphire, and it was perfectly smooth, without any of the common blemishes found among landers. Blemishes Gray himself possessed. “What interest does the sea have in Hamal if it is not the fact that he’s a sage?”
Making a noise in the back of her throat, she released his hand. “There. You are healed, save for the scars you insist on keeping.”
Marks on the skin. She wouldn’t like those.
He flexed his fingers, testing skin and muscles that would have complained fiercely at the movement less than two minutes ago, but there was no pain now, not a single flinch. There was just line upon line of thin white scars. Like Nari’s.
“What did you mean?” he asked, examining his fingers. With his other hand, he reached into one of several pockets in his trousers and retrieved the pearl that honestly had not been worth the trouble.
When he looked up again, she was watching him with narrowed eyes. “You will need to be more specific.”
“About Hamal and reading his prophecies. If it is not due to his gift, then what is it? Why are the e’nethaine interested in him?”
She studied him in silence, her look once again unreadable. She was twelve; it was a little disconcerting that he felt this uncomfortable around a child.
“You have all the information you need to answer that question,” she replied finally. Her brows lifted. “You are the one who can break the laws of the earth. What can remain a secret with you? I do not think you need to ask me for an answer that is already in your possession.”
Something simple. That was what she implied. It was simple to her, not quite as obvious to Gray—but something for which he already knew the answer. He had the pieces but hadn’t arranged them yet.
So, as she stared at him, he did.
She was familiar with prophecies that Gray himself had only just learned. Why had he learned them? Because of the par’salthaine. So it made sense to him that that was her reasoning as well; she’d read his prophecies because of the par’salthaine. He should have expected this, actually. Whatever the gods were doing was always of the utmost interest to those who dwelt in the sea. The par’salthaine, therefore, was something to be guarded—not out of respect for the one who received it, but because it was the work of the gods. So she knew Gray’s prophecies.
But she also knew Hamal’s prophecies. And it was not because he was a sage.
That implied something Gray had never considered. It had not, a single time, even entered his mind.
Wait, wait. Did Shel know about this? Did he know but hadn’t bothered to say anything?
Gray nearly groaned. Not again.
It was an honor to count Shel Galen among his friends, but sincerely—the man came with a price.
The girl tilted her head back and looked toward the surface of the sea shimmering nearly fifty paces above their heads. “I see that our conversation is at an end. Please do not act stupidly a second time. I would not enjoy healing you twice.”
He followed her gaze, saw the shadow sliding toward them through the water, and released his breath in a hiss.
This he had not expected.
– H –
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Copyright notice: © 2019 by Lauren Stinton. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.