A sibilant sound shattered his concentration. He turned and caught a glimpse of a slight figure silently moving in the shadows of the deck. He screwed his eyes into a squint to see. He was sure the shadow was not one of the sailors; it was too small and thin. Unconsciously his right hand wrapped around the bone handle of his curved dagger. His fear awakened a sense of the bear; his nostrils flared as the spirit of the baresark rose into his conscious mind.
The figure stopped, sensing his presence. The wind changed direction and he detected a faint musky perfume. He knew then it was the woman, the Xipponese diplomate, who walked in the deck’s shadows. He moved away from her, searching for a darker shadow in which to hide. He suspected his attempt to hide was futile, because he sensed she knew intuitively that a baresark lurked in the shadows.
She slowly approached him, granting him a few moments to relax. She stopped a few feet away from him, waiting in a beam of the moon’s light that was now spreading over the waters. Although the light was faint he could clearly see her thin figure, her pale white face, and her long black hair pulled back and elaborately braided in a thick cord that hung to her waist. She wore a dark purple robe and flat leather shoes. A silver pendant dangled around her neck; she wore two rings: a large silver ring on her left hand and a ruby ring on her right. She had a prominent nose, thin lips and heavy brows.
As she drew closer, he noted her teeth were white, strong and straight and her eyes pale blue, like cornflowers. Finally, he decided, somewhat subjectively, that although her expression was feral, she exuded an extreme intelligence.
“You are a Keltoi?”
He cleared his throat. “I don’t know that to be true, although the Keltoi accepted me as one of them. I suspect I am related to them, especially after the things I have experienced over the last few weeks.”
She took a step forward and reached out her hand to touch his cheek. Her fingers were long and well shaped. At first he pulled back but when she reached toward him a second time, he let her touch him.
“Where are you from?”
“I am a Frenchman. I live in Paris.”
“Where is this place?”
“The Keltoi called it middangeard.”
“Yes, I have heard stories of this place. There is an ancient poem-éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended. However, I have never really believed it existed.”
“What does it mean?”
“Hail Earendel, brightest angel, above middle earth sent to men.”
“So you are from this mythic world, the home of Earendel?”
Her hand held his jaw and he suspected she used touch as a sort of lie detector.
“Yes, I am from middangeard.”
She stepped back and he let out a breath.
“How did you come here?”
“Through a portal opened by a witch.”
“What witch?” Her voice rose.
“Her name is Jacqueline Le Tourneau.”
“Where does she live?”
“In France like me.” Now it was her turn to breathe a sigh of relief. He suspected she feared a witch from Okeanus, the watery realm, was opening portals to middangeard.
“Does anyone on board know what you are?”
“Good. If they did they would throw you overboard. I sensed your presence from the start but you have been asleep and it was difficult to see you. I have a lot of questions but we have little time now. I have agreed to dine with the Captain and I will soon be summoned.”
“I have also been invited.”
“You must never reveal who or what you are.”
He noted for the first time some sympathy in her pale eyes.
“What do they call you baresark?”
"The Captain knows me as the sellsword-Tatyx.”
“What is your real name?”
“Oiseau, I am Sor Michaelsdottir. My friends called me Mikk. I am a diplomate for the Xipponese. Do you know what that means?”
“It means power, power in all its forms, and it means magic.”
“What were you doing on the Island? I heard that the King hates witches.”
“The King desires power so he is forced to deal with the Xipponese. But he hates all forms of magic, which makes his intercourse with us particularly distasteful. Nevertheless, we supported him in his war against Brasilika because it was in our interest to do so but now that the war is over, the relations between our two countries is strained. I came to the Island to tr y and smooth the King’s ruffled feathers.”
“Did it work?”
“A little. He lost the war with Brasilika and decimated his mercenary army in the process. He is now weak and needs his allies more than ever. Although it offends him to admit it, he knows he needs us. Imagine Oiseau, being afraid of witches, dragons and daemons in our world. It is like being afraid of life itself.”
“You are right Sor Michaelsdottir. We do have many things to discuss because dragons are the reason I left middangeard.”
She cocked her head to the right and Oiseau knew he had her attention: however, at that moment, the botswain rang the time and Roby called for them.