Maxwell G’hent looked down at the map on the table. The land was almost surrounded by the vast sea, with a small point in the middle of the two islands. “Where are we going?”
The High Priest of Sh’Tol double tapped the middle point, which zoomed into a much smaller island that appeared to be encased in shimmering blue crystal. “Trá’C’X’Gor’M,” he said.
The priest smiled. “It translates to ‘The Water Lord’s House’. It is one of the four places where the Great Father created the Elemental Lords.”
G’hent raised an eyebrow. “Did you just pronounce your capitals?”
“Never mind.” The Bull cleared his throat. “So, why are we going over there?”
“We have heard reports of demons appearing in the area. And you know what that means.”
G’hent nodded. “Yeah. D’Volx.”
The priest nodded back. “How’s our mate?” he said.
G’hent sighed. “He is still complaining, of course. I managed to get some medication into him, but…”
“Let me visit him,” the priest said. “The worse he would do is to try to punch me.” He tapped on the map, which contracted back to the original view. “Let me know when we are headed over.”
The priest crossed the room and threw open the doors, letting in the dazzling sunshine and the fresh scent of brine. “Another perfect day.”
“Says you, mate,” G’hent said, his eyes watering at the brightness. “Great Father Above, why is it so sunny in these regions?”
“Probably to annoy bulls like you,” the priest said, hiding a smirk. “I’ll be back.”
Sylvester M’Gorrn, High Priest of the Southern Church of Morning, walked around the ship’s promenade, feeling the cool breezes and the rich tang of the ocean around. He placed his hands on the railing and looked down, seeing foam-capped waves and the mysteries therein.
He turned to a petite lady dressed in pink and orange. Crimson hair cascaded lazily over her shoulders and back. “Greetings. May the Father find you in perfect health.”
She nodded. “Indeed.”
“What brings you on the ship?” he said.
“I was sent here for my health,” she said. “My doctors found a bit of rattle in my lungs, so they told me to come to the archipelago.” She smiled and looked around the wide expanse of sea. “Isn’t this the most amazing place?”
He returned the smile. “I take it you are a newcomer to this world?”
She nodded vigorously. “My husband passed away last year, and I found myself with so much time on my hands. And of course, nothing changes you like travel.”
“Oh, so you moved?” he asked surprised.
“Indeed. That was several years ago, and we both enjoyed the place.”
Sylvester felt a small buzzing on his wrist, and he looked at the glowing dial there. “Ah, it seems I am needed.” He bowed slightly to the lady. “I will talk to you later?”
“Of course, of course.” She bustled off without the customary parting.
The wrist unit buzzed again.
“Coming you…” He couldn’t find any name strong enough to call his mate, and he grasped for several ideas as he walked down the corridor. Soon, he was in front of a bright blue door, which he opened.
“Arrrggghhh…” a bundled lump of blankets groaned out from the sofa.
Sylvester sighed. “And how is our patient today?”
Another groan. “I feel so bad…”
“What you needed was the patch, mate,” the priest said as he entered the room.
“Don’t want one,” the lump grumped out. It shifted to show a grizzled head with a thick scar across the left cheek. “Great Father, not you.”
“And what is wrong with me, hm?”
“Nothing, it’s just that I wanted Max.”
“He’s busy with the map,” he said absently. The priest took a small staff from the wall and twisted it. It unfolded into a chair bound with oceanic blue canvas. He placed it next to the suffering Bull and sat down. He placed a hand on the seasick bull’s clammy forehead. “Father Above, I would have thought you would have stopped being a calf and taken the patch when we boarded.”
He snorted. “I didn’t want to,” he said sullenly.
Sylvester shook his head. “You shouldn’t be cooped up in here, S’zalt” he said. “It is wonderful outside, all sun and sea.”
“I don’t want to.” The Bull burrowed a bit more into his bundle.
“And in another few hours or so, we will be landing in K’Aolet,” Sylvester added.
His eyes lit up. “Really? I’ll be on dry land at last?”
Sylvester nodded, smiling a bit. “Now come on. I’ll help you up.”
Bundled in the blankets, softly grumbling, and as weak as a kitten, S’zalt was deposited on a deck chair. He laid there, eyes closed against the bright sun.
“Now, I’m going to check on G’hent,” Sylvester said. “You just enjoy yourself.”
S’zalt grumbled in his chair as the priest walked off. He gazed sullenly at the endless plain of deep cyan and felt a bit better.
The porter came up, a brisk-looking woman in crisp whites.
“Ah, we were wondering if you were going to head out here. Your husband took you out, hm?”
“Yes,” he said, pulling the blankets closer to himself against an imaginary chill.
“Ah, don’t worry,” she said. “We had a rough patch at the port, but now it’s smooth sailing, as you can see.” She waved a hand at the ocean. “And don’t you worry about a thing, sir. I’ve seen people far worse than you and a day or so later they’re the life and soul of the ship. You’ll be the same, I’m sure.”
S’zalt didn’t feel the energy to call the girl a liar.
“Ah, we’ll be landing at K’Aolet in a bit.” She smiled. “If you were on the other side, you would see the city.” With that abrupt statement, she walked off.
He scowled at the ocean, trying to ignore the crowds of Bulls and humans cavorting past. The day was edging for extra sun, and a light breeze ruffled the blankets. He gently closed his eyes and sighed deeply, involuntarily enjoying the scene.
Soon enough, sonorous calls came though the megaphone speakers, first in various Bull tongues, then in various Earth languages, all saying the same thing:
“We will be docking for K’Aolet in fifteen minutes. Please prepare for docking.”