The sleek sloop, which was called the Storm Queen, was off under beautiful skies of afternoon. The sky was indeed red at night. The sunset was amazing. The dinner was pretty good too: jumbo phacopid trilobite in yak-apricot butter. Elena did most of the talking.
After a glass of red wine, then a custard that was almost unbelievably good even in Dream World, and then another glass of wine, Elena was still holding forth. She was a very old dreamer, and an old lady wherever her body lay sleeping, but in dream she was Elena, and she was on a long, long dream just now. She remembered a lot and she had a lot of ideas about it. Politics in Celephais, the cult of Nodens and its influence on the nightgaunts, whether the Aegri of the southern isles were to be kept in check, and the top ten wines of the Cerenerian Coasts. And of course she was all about how excellent a captain Alkwadir was.
He ate it up, of course, and he ate up her look too, changed into a red evening gown with a plunging neckline. Ryel figured she had noticed an advantage and was pressing it: Elena’s brassiere was doing a fine job, while Ryel did not wear a bra and had, really, rather little reason to. Ryel kept to nods and one-syllable assents, but Arkmar tried to actually get a word in edgewise. They found Dylath and the coastal cliff villages to the south to be a common interest, though Arkmar was into the shore-stabilization engineering while Elena seemed to prefer the shopping and cafés.
All through dessert, Ali had been trying to catch Ryel’s eye. She let him catch her at least three times but nothing was communicated that she could decipher. What was to know about what she wanted? He ought to know exactly what was on her mind. What someone needed to tell someone else was what he planned to do and when.
Ryel excused herself and went out to look at the moonlight. She waited for at least fifteen minutes, because that was long enough for her to do her regular meditation cycle. It went well: meditation in dream was actually kind of a cinch. Only once during the quarter hour, while the full moon moved through 3.75 degrees, did something feel like a menace from the vast churning dark of the ocean beneath her feet. The crystalline waves, the fractal wisps of cloud, the dusty, silvery, perverse, abandoned temple of the Moon: there was no foul influence in any of them that wasn’t always there. But beneath: something moved, cold at heart, cold as the deeps themselves and black of heart. And then it was gone.
She shook herself back into consciousness. “You’re awake, good,” said Arkmar, standing beside her at the rail. “We should go have another close glance at that little map of ours.”
“What? Oh, where’s—?” She stopped and just looked at him, thinking the rest of the question.
“She took him off to bed,” said Arkmar in a low voice, showing that the telepathy was working at least this time. He handed Ryel his flask. “You struck out for tonight.”
“For tonight,” said Ryel.
The next day it poured rain. By evening the solid downpour was over and fog moved in tight. The sails fell limp, until Elena came out on deck and went and had a talk with the main sail.
“Will you look at that?” muttered Arkmar: the dwarf and the elf were standing by the rail again. They weren’t throwing up, just escaping the imprisonment of their cabin.
“I’m gonna help,” said Ryel.
“What? Going to talk up the wind?”
“Gonna try.” She strode toward the stern, past underemployed deck hands. At the stern, Ryel put both hands together on the rail of the afterdeck, gazed astern and then closed her eyes. Her lips moved. Arkmar came back and stood nearby: indeed, Ryel was talking in a low voice and a slow breathy language. She opened her eyes.
The fog was succumbing to turbulence. A breeze was picking up. Zephyr was suggestible.
Ryel turned and smiled as she looked at Elena spelling at her sail: it began to billow, but so did all the other sails and so did Elena’s loose red hair. Elena turned and saw Ryel, then looked around and smiled.
“An elf,” said Elena from halfway down the ship. “You speak the winds’ language.”
Ryel walked toward her. They met, with Arkmar and Ferdinand converging on them in case they decided to kill each other. Ryel looked at Arkmar on her left, then at Ferd on the right. She appreciated their concern, but that was not the vibe she was getting.
“We should have a talk,” said Elena. She looked at Ferdinand. “Do you especially mind?”
Ferd looked at all three of his companions: elf, dwarf, human, elf, human, elf, human, dwarf. Finally the dwarf laughed and shook his head. “Come, Mate Ferdinand, you and I have things to say to one another about sword play.”
“Come,” said Elena. She gave Ryel one more meaning glance, but it didn’t mean anything to Ryel, who was now one of three on telepathy. So Ryel followed her to the stern, then down a hatch in the deck to a little store room, then out onto a tiny little balcony just above the rudder.
The fog was banished, at least astern. The sky to the east, aftward, was already a violet indigo, speckled with stars and a planet. They came out onto the little balcony, and in a moment the Moon broke the horizon. Over a minute or two, its coppery radiance spread down the waves to them. Ryel turned to look at Elena, who was still looking back, the moonlight in her eyes and on her pale silk shirt and her necklace of blue gems. Suddenly Elena turned her eyes on Ryel.
The elf had expected an attack, actually. She half expected that the other’s eyes would be flaming red. No, they had tears in them, actually. Elena smiled through them, taking Ryel’s hands in hers. Before Ryel could think of anything, Elena pulled her by her hands forward, half closing her eyes as their faces neared one another. Ryel reacted barely in time to tilt her head the opposite way from the way Elena was tilting her head before they kissed.
They kissed, once demurely, then separated by two inches, their eyes gazing down at each other’s mouths, then kissed again longer. Elena’s tears got on Ryel’s cheek, but she giggled a little. “I’m so relieved,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for you for a year, a month and a day. And you’re here.” She giggled again, just a little, and then they kissed for a long time as the sleek sloop sped onward.