Thursday, December 13, 2012

Changes

Among the most important things to happen to me this year, yesterday I finished my last math test for the rest of my life. Assuming that I pass, anyway, and I'm reasonably sure I did. It is refreshing to know that I will never have to suffer through an hour of a teacher mumbling to the blackboard about the integration of e to the x power. (It's e to the x, by the way.)

Also important is the fact that I am flying home tomorrow. Sarah will take me to the airport, and I expect to land at around six-ish. Then it's The Hobbit with Anne and Keely! I've seen some people on Facebook saying that The Hobbit is obviously a rip-off of Lord of the Rings. If you are one of those people, then this post is for you. The Hobbit is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy; it tells about how Bilbo got the Ring from Gollum in the first place. There are a number of very subtle changes that irk me somewhat - primarily the location of the shards of Narsil; they're in a closed room, whereas before they were in an open corridor - but the one thing that remains the same is the very creepy manner in which Gollum says "Prrrrreciousssss..."

And finally, my former roommate moved out today and my new one moved in. Lindsey decided she wanted to stay on the third floor, and Emily wanted the second floor. I made sure to be absent during Lindsey's moving out, but I was there for most of Emily's moving in. Helping her were Sarah and her (Emily's) boyfriend, Cody. After Em put all her stuff away, we sat around and joked for a long time. Cody made all kinds of snarky comments that made us all laugh. We listened to Christmas music and drank hot chocolate. I had to leave partway through to go take my Honors class exam - we took that one in groups of four, and Em and Cody both went on Tuesday. Right now they're out on a date, leaving me to finish packing for my flight, but they promised to come back and hang out later. Next semester is bound to be very different, but I'm sure I'll survive it much better than I did this semester!

Friday, December 7, 2012

More of My Favorite Show

You all knew I wouldn't be able to keep away from NCIS for long, right? I only just saw the most recent episode online, called "Gone." The main subplot was about trying to get Ziva and Abby closer together. However, the more amusing subplot was, as usual, between Tony and Ziva.

It started when Ziva began talking about her male friend "Schmeil." Of course Tony got jealous, but he was also amazed that Ziva could be attracted to anyone with a name like "Schmeil." Tony being the movie connoisseur that he is, I guess he thought of "Smeagol" for a while. Anyway, most of the episode was about Tony trying to figure out who Schmeil was, and why he had such a name. It turned out that Schmeil was a very old poet who knew Ziva since she was three - so not exactly a dating option. Of course, Ziva just let Tony run with his dating-theory-sparked jealousy.

This now seems to be a running theme - Tony thinking Ziva's going on a date and then she isn't. The first time that happened was during that arc with the arsonist, Harper Deering. That time it turned out Ziva was just going for a Pilates weekend with her landlady. Then there was Shell Shock part 2, when Ziva kept trying to get tickets to the opera. Tony (and McGee, Gibbs, and Abby) all thought she had a really serious date, but she was really just going to remember her sister, Tali, who died in a Hamas suicide bombing.

(By the way, has anyone else found it interesting that we hear more about Ari now than we do about Kate? It's true - Ziva is still haunted by her brother, but nobody seems to miss Kate much anymore.)

Anyway, my friend Sarah is big into the whole "Tiva" thing, the supposed coupling of Tony and Ziva. I rather like it as it is - uncertainty, hinting, joking, etc. It's funnier that way. Best part, though, is that Tony keeps talking about the "post-elevator us" - meaning after he and Ziva we trapped in an elevator after Harper Deering's bomb went off. He says they're supposed to be more open and transparent with each other, but so far Ziva has yet to really adhere to that. Well, I'm not surprised - after all, she is Ziva.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Hobbit

Finally! It comes out a week from tomorrow!

I have been watching all the trailers on YouTube. I plan to go see it the day I get home with Anne and Keely, two of my good friends. And the music is just fabulous! I cannot wait!

Now all that has to happen is a Ranger's Apprentice movie, and I will be content...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Whisper "December"

I realize the title didn't make much sense, but there is just a very subtle, icy power in the word when you whisper December... On the other hand, if you think of it as the end of a semester, it's more of a joyful shout. It's December!

My posts for a while will be full of the happenings, mostly. After all, this is definitely the month it all happens in! First off, today is the nineteenth birthday of one of my high school friends. Happy Birthday, Cody! A bunch of other birthdays, including mine, take place over the next two months.

Semesters are next week, and I expect to spend most of tomorrow and much of the weekend studying. But after that ... I can chill, pun intended, until the spring semester!

Tonight is the Christmas party/ church service for WLC. I'm going to use the lid of a tin that has a Christmas tree on it to stand for mistletoe. Of course, it isn't real mistletoe, so I doubt it will bother any of my friends who happen to walk under it. All I know is I won't be under it. Tomorrow, I'll be sure to post more about the service and the dinner. After I'm done studying, anyway.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Quest for Rinaria (Part IV) ~ The Whale's Eye

Yes - it's finally here! After such hard work and so many long hours, it's finally here! After all the work on late nights and rainy days, I have finally reached it.

My hundredth post!

(Yeah, I'm sure that's what you were thinking of.)

And to mark this special milestone, I am posting the fourth Quest for Rinaria (that's probably closer to what you were thinking of.) This one is the part about the whale's eye, so guess who this one will focus on!

And without further ado - a real reason to celebrate!

The Quest for Rinaria

Part IV ~ The Whale's Eye


Shartalla better be right this time!”
Eneng rolled his eyes at his sister. They stood on a rocky beach on Ribasco Island. Said island was covered in colorless, sharp stones and had little growing on it and no inhabitants. It was exactly the kind of place Eneng, with his practicality, would expect to be the home of a dragon. It was a place for tough creatures that could fly, were impervious to sharp rock, and could cause intense destruction. The images Ksheygha had of brightly-colored, magnificent, beautiful creatures guarding many-hued caves, or Shartalla’s of a clear blue, mysterious beauty frolicking gracefully between reefs and beneath the waves, did not figure largely in Eneng’s imagination.
Eneng and Winterblade’s crews had spent the last day, night, and early morning scrambling over sharp, poky rocks searching for the whale’s eye as mentioned in the riddles, only to be informed by Craic the raven that Shartalla’s hint had been wrong, that they should have been looking for a reef.
Eneng was just as annoyed, but not with Shartalla like his sister was.
Winterblade,” he said coldly, “y’er the one who translated it wrong. Don’t point yer paw at Shartalla.”
I translated it fine,” Winterblade snapped. “Even Ksheygha said so!”
Eneng did not reply. He had no desire for his crew to see him and his sister quarreling. Besides, his mind was occupied with the next clue.
The whale’s eye. The whale’s eye. North through the whale’s eye. Whisperin’ waves, why does that sound so familiar?
He gestured to his bosun to sound a horn that his crew knew meant to return to ship. The ferret complied and Eneng led the way toward the boats that were floating in the sea nearby. Further out in the ocean were the two ships Searaider and Seawraith.
The larger one, the Searaider, was Eneng’s command. He was a mercenary by trade, and had sailed under the flag of numerous kingdoms, but usually he sailed for Lady Crow of the Rangers. But Crow, the headstrong ruler of the northern lands, didn’t need his services for the time being, which was what had landed him on this surreal quest. Treasure-seeking wasn’t something his crew was used to.
Winterblade, in contrast, was what seafarers called a raider. She made her living by attacking trade and merchant ships – and her usual targets were enemies of the Rangers or the Wraith Mice. The Seawraith was painted blue all over, making it very hard to see from a distance.
Eneng waded out to the dinghy that would return to Searaider, but instead of clambering into it, he leaned against the hull and faced his sister. “You ever been to Mauggiak Island?”
Winterblade shook her head. “It’s just a whaling center that’s been scrapin’ by fer ages. Whalers ain’t got much in the way o’ treasure.”
Eneng frowned at her. “They’re big merchants, though.”
Winterblade jerked her head back. “What do they got but whale meat?”
Oil, whale bone, perfume, fuel, hide, and dye,” Eneng reeled off. “Whales are like gold in the sea.”
Wait,” Winterblade protested, holding up her paw. “Perfume? How do you get perfume out of a whale?”
Eneng grimaced. It was something he didn’t like to think about. “Some kinda juice in the whale’s head.”
Winterblade wrinkled her nose. “For perfume? I mean, for fuel, or oil, or somethin’ practical, I get it, but perfume?
Mighty expensive perfume,” Eneng added dryly. “A bottle the size of a candle flame sells fer eight times its weight in gold.”
Winterblade stared at him. “I al’ays knew there was some dead’eads ashore,” she said finally, “but I ne’er knew anyone would pay gold fer fish blood.”
It was in Eneng’s nature to be particular about details – after all, it wasn’t blood, and a whale wasn’t a fish – but as the end result was the same in his eyes, he didn’t say anything contradictory to his sister. Instead, he mused, “I’ve been hired by a whaler or two t’ look after their ships when they’re out whalin’. But never around Mauggiak Island.”
I ain’t even exactly sure where it is,” Winterblade put in.
Eneng glanced back to the shore to see most of their shore parties returning. “We’ll talk more when we get there,” he said. Then he vaulted into the dinghy.
Winterblade jumped into hers and leaned against the side. Eneng looked away out to the open sea. Even if Shartalla was right about Windcrier’s Reef being the dragon’s nested clutch, there was no way to verify that. If there was any landmark there, it would have vanished long ago, as reefs were so constantly changing. Windcrier’s was a good guess, assuming Mauggiak Island had been a whaling center back in the time of Rinaria; although Shartalla was more likely to know that than any of them. What they needed to find at Mauggiak Island was some kind of verification that they were on the right trail.
Of course, the odds of Shartalla actually looking for verification were slim. For her just being on the ocean was verification enough that she was in the right place. But Eneng had become a pirate out of practicality, and even though he had a deep-seated love for the sea, his practical side couldn’t be ignored.
He hoped the whale’s eye was more definite than the dragon’s nested clutch.

Winterblade was no stranger to feeling like a fool, and this time she felt that she was completely justified in her mistakes. If even Ksheygha had missed the connection between the words leveatas and leviathan then no one could point paws at her.
As soon as her dinghy got back to Seawraith and a count was taken to be sure everyone had made it back aboard, she gave orders to sail.
She found Mauggiak Island on her charts – it was a tiny place in the middle of nowhere, and the nearest island was at least two leagues away – and gave her helmsferret the heading. Searaider, having a larger crew and thus a larger shore party, would be a ways behind them, but that didn’t bother the ferret. Her brother had an annoying habit of never disappearing.
Any signs of Nygoan?” she called up to the crow’s nest.
Negative, Cap’n,” the ferret called back.
Winterblade ran through the list of other pirates they couldn’t afford to encounter on this voyage, but with the exception of Arasam, she knew for a fact that all of them were on the other side of the mainland. It was the season for collecting ivory, after all, and the east shores were the best places to loot ivory-filled trade ships.
When Seawraith was under sail, she had some of the lightest motion out of any ship. She was so light that she sat atop the waves, but when she sailed she was fast enough that she wasn’t tossed about too much. Searaider was also a very still deck, but that was because she was so very large. In any case, Seawraith skimmed the waves under a southerly wind, sailing nor’northwest towards Mauggiak Island, and she was sure to be the first there – unless, as usual, Shartalla had better wind.

Eneng drummed his paw impatiently on the railing as Searaider followed in Seawraith’s wake. He knew these waters fairly well, but he could not, for the life of him, puzzle out the whale’s eye.
North through the whale’s eye. North through – so we have to sail through it. It could be a ring of rocks, I suppose. Could be a channel atween cliffs.
He didn’t at all like that last possibility. There were stories about living cliffs that collapsed of their own will as ships sailed between them. Such stories had always made him nervous when sailing between anything.
They first caught sight of Seawraith again at noon, and this time she was stopped dead and riding on her anchor. To Eneng’s complete astonishment, she was stopped right in front of two tall colonnades of red rock reaching right out of the sea!
Except … they weren’t two. Or at least, they hadn’t always been. The two sides were reaching towards each other as if they had once been connected. The top of the circle was missing, as if a giant tentacle had ripped it away. Eneng shuddered at the image that thought conjured up.
Searaider pulled up alongside Seawraith and Winterblade jumped onto the railings of Seawraith. “Took y’ long enough t’ get here!” she called impatiently.
Why’re you stopped?” Eneng called back.
Winterblade pointed into the ocean. “This is Windcrier’s Reef. I’m guessin’ that rock used t’ be the dragon guardin’ the nested clutch. Can’t be the whale’s eye, ’cause it’s facin’ east t’ west.”
Why d’y’ say it’s the dragon?” Eneng shouted.
Has t’ be,” Winterblade shouted back confidently. “That ‘map’ weren’t made fer creatures who c’d navigate the stars or follow the currents. They had t’ use landmarks creatures’d recognize.”
Eneng looked back at the rocks and imagined them with their top part back in. It might have looked like a dragon that had breached and was now diving back into the sea.
I think y’er right!” he yelled to his sister. “On to Mauggiak Island, then!”
Try t’ keep up!” Winterblade hollered back. “I’m tryin’ t’ beat Shartalla!”
Eneng rolled his eyes. “’Blade, she’s got an hour’s head start at least an’ a swifter ship!”
But Wynraser’s ridin’ heavy with provisions!” Winterblade yelled back, already starting for the bowsprit.
Eneng shook his head as his sister’s ship hauled up anchor and started sailing due west. Wynraser was widely known as the fasted ship on the seas. That was how Shartalla had fashioned her name – from the words wind racer. Eneng had no idea why she’d decided to archaicize the name, but whatever the reason, it still got her point across. Shartalla was not one to be challenged, and neither was her ship.
Nevertheless, Winterblade still insisted. Eneng would never understand why his sister repeatedly bashed her head against a wall.
But then, he also didn’t understand why Shartalla got such a thrill out of sailing over hundreds of leagues that all looked the same. Nor why Ksheygha would rather be suffering on a ship under a slave driver captain than on an adventure with a real friend. Maybe it was just the female spirit he couldn’t grasp.

Mauggiak Island was a lightly-wooded, fairly hilly island maybe three miles in circumference. Three-quarters of the island was taken up by the village of Maakah. The rest of it was probably uninhabitable. This was quite far north of Arashna and most likely parallel with the border of the Rangers’ land.
There was, much to Eneng’s relief, a wharf on the north side of the island – his paws were still raw from scrambling over the sharp rocks on Ribasco Island – but it wasn’t big enough for large ships. His lookout’s eyes caught sight of Wynraser and Seawraith moored in the shelter of the northeast side of the island, and Searaider made for there.
We’ll take the longboat around t’ the jetty,” he said to his bosun. “Round up a crew of eleven. Have some’n pack some treasures an’ some food, case we have t’ buy infermation.”
Aye aye, cap’n,” the bosun replied. Then he strode the length of the ship, calling out orders.
What’ll we be askin’ about? Eneng wondered. Guess this is why we need Ksheygha. She’ll know what needs t’ be asked.
Asking about a whale’s eye in a whaling community was bound to produce confusion. But, as the longboat glided around the island toward the wharf, Eneng saw the Oceanflower approaching from the south. He smiled to himself; at least he wasn’t the rotten crab that was the last to the party.

The wharf was lined with long canoes carved with ferocious whale-faces. At each end was a pair of carved wooden poles depicting other parts of life on Mauggiak Island – a clam, a raven, a fish, and at the top, the legendary stormbird – a sea raptor that allegedly caused lighting when it opened its beak.
Waiting at the land end of the wharf was a ferret gray with age draped in a cloak of fish scales. The iridescent raiment made his gray fur look like a raincloud. Not sure who he was, Eneng inclined his head and bent his spine somewhat to show respect.
Identify yourself, stranger,” the old ferret said in a calm voice.
Captain Eneng of the Searaider,” Eneng replied, keeping his tone low. For some reason he had always associated a low voice with politeness. “My sister is Winterblade, captain o’ the Seawraith.
The old ferret smiled. “And she waits at the tavern,” he said, waving his paw behind him. With that, he stepped aside.
Right at the edge of the wharf was a well-worn path that led up a small but steep hill. Half-hidden behind two sky-reaching pines was a wooden building with windows that were grimed and dim. Eneng turned to two of his crew.
Stay here an’ watch fer signals from the ship,” he muttered. “One o’ you come up if trouble shows.” The two of them nodded reluctantly and took up places at the end of the jetty.
Eneng led the remainder of his shore party up to the tavern.
To his surprise, it was a tavern very similar to the one in Myanka, except for one thing – the tables. They were attached to the walls and jutted out a little, leaving a large open space in the middle. Part of that open space was taken up by a fire pit which, fortunately, was completely empty. It would have been boiling if there was any flame.
Get yer drinks,” he muttered to his crewmates. They hurried over to the actual bar part of the room while he scanned the dim area for his friends.
Shartalla caught his eye first; her brilliant flaming pelt was impossible to miss. As he started for the table where she sat with Dejuday, Zuryzel, and Winterblade, she spotted him. With her paw she kicked a chair away from the table, indicating where he was supposed to sit.
Dejuday twisted partly around as Eneng dropped into the chair. “Good, you made it,” he said as Winterblade slid a full mug toward her brother. “Any signs of Korep?”
Eneng nodded, raising the mug partway to his mouth. “I saw Oceanflower as we moored. I reckon Korep and Ksheygha’ll be here in ’round an hour.”
He took a swig from the mug; then choked on it. “What is this?”
It ain’t ale,” Shartalla sighed regretfully.
No, it ain’t,” Eneng agreed. “It tastes like seaweed without any salt!”
It’s clams cooked in vegetable water,” Zuryzel supplied. “The only beverage they serve here, apparently.”
She sipped from it with a pleasant smile and daintily wiped her mouth. In truth she thought it tasted like one of her mother’s remedies, but Eneng and Winterblade’s reaction to her apparent enjoyment was just too priceless.
Winterblade scowled and pushed her mug aside. “So – as we were sayin’, Eneng – we think ’tis best t’ wait fer Ksheygha t’ get ’ere. She’ll know best what t’ ask, an’ per’aps who t’ ask.”
Eneng nodded, rejecting his drink just as firmly as his sister had. “I agree.”
Eneng,” Shartalla said, her black eyes glittering, “look at yer crew.”
Eneng swiveled around in his chair to look at the bar. His crew, disappointed on being told there was no ale, were even more disappointed with the vegetable water they’d been served. A few seats down from them, Una the raccoon was on her fourth mug of vegetable water – apparently she liked it better than the usual fare aboard a ship.
“’ow’d Una hold up under way?” Winterblade asked curiously.
Shartalla grinned. “Not to bad, actually. I was surprised, but she was calm, collected, strong … anythin’ a sailor’d appreciate.”
Zuryzel took another sip from her mug.
Did anyone find what was on that drawing o’ the dragon’s clutch?” Eneng asked.
Shartalla grinned sheepishly. “Oh … yeah … we were ’oldin’ the paper upside down.”
She put said drawing on the table, then rotated it one-hundred-and-eighty degrees. Now the little round mounds looked more like dips beneath the waves.
They’re tide pools,” Dejuday explained.
I didn’t see any at Windcrier’s Reef,” Eneng frowned.
We got there just as the tide was comin’ in,” Shartalla explained. “Between the two sides o’ that rock, there was about a paw’s depth o’ water over real smooth rock. These pools are in the rock, deep enough t’ dive into. Couple o’ my crew did that, even.”
Sounds fantastic,” Winterblade yawned. “Did any o’ ye get any sleep last night?”
Sleep?” Shartalla exclaimed. “Sleep? We’re on an adventure! Who needs sleep?”
Winterblade dropped her head onto her paws.

It was another hour before the tavern door opened and Korep and Ksheygha entered. There was no doubt they had had the best place to search. Scattered Stones Keys were lush, sunny, and sandy. Ksheygha had tucked a magenta hibiscus flower into a mother-of-pearl bead bracelet she wore on her left paw, while Korep carried a flask that smelled strongly of rum and coconuts. They made a beeline for the table where the other captains waited.
So!” Korep said jovially. “I hear Shartalla’s search was the most profitable, but how were y’er others?”
Eneng glowered at him.
Is the ale ’ere good?” Korep continued brightly. “I c’d sure use a drop!”
There ain’t any ale, Korep,” Winterblade muttered.
Oh,” said Korep, comical mock dismay written all across his face. “What a shame!”
Shartalla rested her chin on her paw. “You’ve been here before.”
Korep grinned at her. “Enough times t’ know t’ stock up on ale in the Scattered Stones Keys prior t’ makin’ berth here!”
With that, he shed his sea coat to reveal six flat flasks hanging by a strap around his neck. Ksheygha rolled her eyes and sat in an empty chair, apparently not interested in whatever her friend was planning. Winterblade’s eyes grew round and she said sweetly, “Y’ can’t drink all that by yerself, y’d pass out. Maybe y’ c’d share some o’ the excess?”
Korep put one paw up on the only open chair and tilted his head thoughtfully to one side. “Hm. What d’ you think, Ksheygha?”
The ferret he addressed apparently didn’t share his playful mood.
It’s your rum,” she replied indifferently. “Do what you want.”
Korep rolled his eyes. “The right response would’ve been something like, ‘I don’t know, what do they offer in exchange?’”
The ever-irrepressible Shartalla stood up. “Here, Ksheygha, let me show you how it’s done.”
She turned to Korep and said, “Since it’s the only spirits on the island, y’ c’d charge what y’ wanted, Korep.”
Shartalla!” Winterblade yelped.
But Korep grinned, and picked up on the teasing thread. “True, true … an’ we’re sailin’ fer treasure, so they’ll all get rich at the end o’ this voyage. Two gold coins shouldn’t ’urt ’em much.”
Everyone was laughing, either at Shartalla and Korep’s teasing or at the look on Ksheygha’s face. Evidently she didn’t like being teased, because her expression resembled one who was sitting on a nail but refused to show it.
O’ course two gold coins shouldn’t hurt!” Shartalla picked up. “After all, y’ can’t be undersold!”
Korep grinned at Shartalla. “Thank you,” he said emphatically. He then turned to face Ksheygha. “An’ that, Ksheygha, is how y’ make a proper entrance with the only rum on an island!”
Korep’s flirtatious game appeared to be rubbing Ksheygha’s fur the wrong way. She offered a polite smile and said, “Whale’s eye. Lost city. Treasure.
Korep shook his head disparagingly, but he sat down and passed the flasks around. Eneng savored the taste of the rum; it was sweet and tropical, probably flavored with coconut milk or nectar.
So,” Ksheygha said briskly, “we have to find this whale’s eye. The advantage we have here is that we can ask living, breathing creatures, which was harder at any of the previous locations. Now, asking about a whale’s eye, or even the whale’s eye, might cause confusion. Asking straight up about Rinaria, on the other paw, will stick in creatures’ minds, and if anyone else ever landed here and asked about Rinaria, some here would remember we asked about it. However, since we should be long gone by the time that happens, I think it is best to simply ask about Rinaria straight out.”
But what if they know about the whale’s eye but don’t know it’s connected to Rinaria?” Zuryzel objected.
Ksheygha inclined her head. “That’s a very good point. If creatures do not know anything about Rinaria, then perhaps the whale’s eye should be mentioned. Oh, by the way,” she added as an after thought, “the ancient words for whale’s eye are kittik werra. Those words might have evolved the way leveatas did, so you can throw those around too.”
How long d’ you expect t’will take?” Eneng asked.
Ksheygha winced. “At least a week, Eneng. If the whale’s eye is here, and I think it is, then it may be a while before we stumble on what we need.”

Ksheygha was right, and for once Eneng wasn’t grateful for that. Asking quiet questions among the whalers and other ferrets living on Mauggiak Island was tedious to varying degrees for the crews, and also largely fruitless. Ksheygha – to no one’s surprise – seemed to have the best luck, as she came up with two substantial theories for what the whale’s eye meant. After two weeks, they were preparing to split up again and follow her theories.
But somehow, neither of them sat right with Eneng. The whale’s eye didn’t ring any bells in his memory, but he had a feeling he’d heard it before.
Two nights before they planned to sail, Eneng, frustrated, decided to take a walk around the shore. To add to his frustration, the beach was interrupted by a large cliff, as if a portion of the land had simply risen up of its own accord. Eneng was sure that, if he went inland a ways, he would find a gentler slope to continue on his way, but he would much rather have stayed where he could hear the waves pound on the shore.
With a heavy sigh, he started wading out into the water.
Looking for something?”
He jumped a little and spun around.
The old ferret in the fish scale cloak was standing at the treeline.
Yeah,” Eneng admitted. “An answer.”
To what question?” the old ferret probed.
Eneng threw his paws in the air, tired of wondering. “Where by the jumpin’ jellyfish is the whale’s eye?”
He didn’t expect the old creature to understand, but to his surprise, the ferret’s head jerked back a little. He walked forward until he stood at the very edge of the waves and asked, “And why do you seek Rinaria?”
Eneng lifted his head hopefully. “You know where it is?”
The old ferret’s gaze turned to the expanse of the sea. “I do not know where the lost city can be found. I only know that the whale’s eye is a door that opens towards it.”
Eneng scowled. “The only way to find Rinaria is t’ sail through this door.”
The old ferret blinked and looked back at Eneng. “Strange words to come from a pirate. The sea is limitless, and where there are no roads, there are endless ways. There are unnumbered ways to reach Rinaria, wherever it is. But your ships will get there swiftest through the help of the whale’s eye.”
Eneng froze. Now he knew why the whale’s eye sounded so familiar.
Did you by chance serve aboard the Deathwind?” he asked.
The old ferret nodded reminiscently. “Only under the colors of Lady Raven. And those were fine days indeed.”
Eneng nodded. “Yeah – yeah.”
Suddenly full of excitement, he stammered, “Thanks fer yer help. I – I gotta find me crew. Thanks.”
He took off the costliest pawband he had – a silver piece with fine emeralds set around the edge – and tossed it to the old ferret. With that, he splashed out of the water and started running as fast as he could back toward the tavern.

Even though it was very late, all his friends were gathered in the tavern at a table in the far back corner. They were studying charts of the surrounding ocean. They were Winterblade’s charts, and seeing them, Eneng was reminded of another ferret captain bending over them.
We’ll sail west through the Brimstone, his father Redseg had said many times. Or every once it a while it was the Silver Eel. Bottom line – they were all helpful to ships that had a specific place to go.
Eneng didn’t bother to announce his presence to his friends; instead he ran up to an open space by the table, slammed his paws on the charts, and said instantly, “It’s a current!
In response to this, he received a host of strange looks. Korep was the first to catch on. “The whale’s eye?”
Eneng nodded fiercely. “Yes. It’s another way t’ make sure amateur sailors didn’t get lost!”
Shartalla snatched up the drawing of the “whale’s eye;” Eneng had never seen it before, and it was nothing more than a sketch of a wavy line, like a river.
I told you!” Shartalla exclaimed. “We’re lookin’ fer things that’re in the sea!”
She looked up towards Eneng. “I thought we were followin’ a rock or somethin’. Never crossed my mind that it were a current. ’ow’d you figure it out?”
Eneng waved a paw. “Had a bit of a tip. Look, are there any currents marked out on that chart?”
Winterblade searched the chart until she found Mauggiak Island. “Yeah – there’s one headed north. It’s the one father always called the Stingray Crawl.”
Korep slapped his paw to his brow. “Yer father had a strange sense o’ humor.”
That sounds like some kind of dance,” Ksheygha added, curling her lip some.
It’s about the same shape as the sketch ’ere,” Shartalla said, glancing between the map and the drawing. “An’ it goes mostly north – Eneng, y’ got it! This is fantastic!”
Ksheygha peered over Shartalla’s shoulder. “You’re right, Eneng. This is it.” She looked up and smiled at Eneng. “Looks like it’s time to set sail again!”


Monday, December 3, 2012

December

I chose the title for the post primarily because I love how the word December sounds. I've seriously considered naming one of my characters December. Well, if you can name a kid Hashtag Jameson, then I don't see why you can't name a fictional character December.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is the observation that the semester is nearly over. This morning in American Lit we began Emily Dickinson, and to my great delight we will end the semester on that high note. The last author we studied was Walt Whitman, and, truth be told, I cannot figure out why people think he's so fabulous. His Song of Myself (title kinda says it all) is 1700 and then some lines long, and not one of those lines is perceptive. He just states stuff like it is (or isn't but he thinks it is.) I guess you could say it's reflective, but reflection usually leads to perception. In sharp contrast, Emily Dickinson writes poems of two stanzas, eight lines, or of similar length, and not only do they show effort and contain beautiful metaphors, but they're perceptive. This woman actually knows what she's writing about. For instance: He knew no more that he was poor/ Or that his frame was dust-/ He danced along the dingy Days/ And this Bequest of Wings/ Was but a book - What Liberty/ A loosened spirit brings -

Very different, no?

For the record, I think that poem is very true. No matter what sorrows this world offers, a book is the best way to escape them for a little while - either by reading a book, or by writing one.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Good Christmas ... (NOT!)

Some various Christmas prices:
$7 can give a malnourished kid a week of hot meals (Samaritan's Purse.)
$10 can pay for mosquito nets in malaria-infested areas which can save a kid's life (Samaritan's Purse.)
$15 pays a month's tuition for a kid to learn to read AND includes school supplies (Samaritan's Purse.)
$75 can give an abandoned kid shelter and basic necessities, again through Samaritan's Purse.
$6,000 can bring a veteran and his/her spouse to a weeklong vacation in Alaska, an experience which can encourage someone wounded in battle and save their marriage - again, Samaritan's Purse.
$10,000 can provide a community in Africa with clean, drinkable water from a well
Somewhere in between the veteran's vacation and the well is the cost of publishing a book, but to make life easy we'll say its about $10,000 as well.
$4,000,000 - that's four million dollars - is an Obama Christmas vacation to Hawaii.

With the money he is using to go enjoy himself for three weeks, I could publish Graystone and Arashna (the tentative title for book 4) and still have enough left over to pay for at least two of everything on that Samaritan's Purse list. Probably closer to ten of everything. Oh, and I wouldn't have to worry about possibly not publishing book four and instead jamming it together with book three and leaving out half of an exciting story.

I'm not against people having nice vacations, but he is the president and he can't afford to. America is racing toward a fiscal cliff on his watch - what is he doing in Hawaii? Some experts think we're going to hit the edge of the fiscal cliff during his vacation. Not a good way to spend Christmas ... at least, not good for America.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Lights

I don't think I'm the only one who loves the day after Thanksgiving because it marks the start of the time when it's acceptable to put up Christmas decorations. The first thing I did when I got back to the dorm was string up Christmas lights. They're the old kind that fail if one bulb doesn't work, but that's my favorite kind. They blink, too, which makes them more interesting.

Since I only have two classes today, I'll walk to the nearby store after lunch and get seme more decorations, especially tinsel. Maybe I can even get some wreaths to hang from our windows. Can't put anything on the doors, but I think you can around the doors. Bottom line is, this place will be all Christmased up after today!

By the way, let me know what you think of my blog's winter look!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Never Underestimate the Young!

First things first: No one should be surprised by that title. If you were, look to the left and read the blurb about me. I firmly believe that being young is NEVER a reason to not do what you feel you must. (So that I'm not misquoted, let me clarify - I do not advocate drinking under 21 or driving before you're 16, or 15&1/2, or whatever your state's age limit is. However, the reason to not do those things is not age, it's law.)

Today I had the privilege of seeing a very brave sixteen-year-old on Twitter. Her name is Bethany Bowra, and when one of the commentators on Twitter made a blatant, and rather disgusting, comment, she challenged him with calm reason. I won't take any stand on the issue they debated (using a polite term,) but I will say that Bethany did a fabulous job. In fact, she just about handed him his bottom (again, using a polite term.)

The point of this post is that just because you're young, inexperienced, insert your own synonym, doesn't mean you are at any particular disadvantage. Reach for the stars, and never let anything hold you back!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Upset

Please do not let the title deter you. I myself am not upset - in fact, I'm thrilled. Because there is nothing I love more than an upset. An upset in sports, that is.

Today for the first time in a number of years (the number is disputed between my uncle and my cousin) the WSU Cougs beat the UW Huskies!!! I don't care much about sports, because it's too much work to follow any of it, but I love watching a game with a bunch of people and the game goes well, and in my family that sport is usually football. That SuperBowl between the Seahawks and the Pittsburg Steelers was rough, because my dad came from Pittsburg, but for the most part everyone in my family is on the same side. Today was the Apple Cup, and the people who came over to watch it included my uncle and aunt; my older cousin whom I haven't seen in what feels like forever; and a family my family's been close with for most of my life, including the oldest kid's fiancee.

The second kid in that family is my age, and he's one of my oldest friends. We compared experiences and stories about college, and I have to say that I am very happy to be going to Wisconsin Lutheran College, but I don't think he would possibly enjoy it as much as Montana State, which is where he's going. What I'm very thankful for this year is that the people I love and care about are happy and doing well. Late last year and early this year had some tragedies happening to people around me. But God never left any of them, and they have pulled through the bad times. That is what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Not-So-Ordinary Day

Today I've seen a bunch of people leaving as soon as their first class is over, and for the most part I've been thinking, "It'll be my turn soon." I have a late flight out of Milwaukee and I'm getting into Seattle really late tonight. I cannot wait to spend Thanksgiving with some friends from church, and then I'll spend Black Friday with some family friends from grade school.

But I have four hours before I leave for the airport. Between then and now is a Western Civ class and the much-anticipated Honors class where Glaeske will chemically disprove love. (I still wonder why he got married if he doesn't believe in love.) That will be fun, as Tom has vowed to argue every point he can. I'll try to upload a picture of me at the airport when I finally get there.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Food

Today for lunch the cafeteria served turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing with cranberry sauce. I didn't go for the cranberry sauce, but the rest of it was fabulous. On the tables near to me were some papers and pens laid out and a box that said "Letters to the Troops." It was a very visual reminder of who we owe for that amazing Thanksgiving food. I mean, it's well and good to be thankful, but equally important is to know who to be thankful to. Obviously, God comes first and foremost, and then parents, but those troops serving overseas are definitely third, and it seems to me that people forget that fact so easily. This Thanksgiving, don't forget who you must be thankful to.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Honor's Shenanegans

Today was one of the best honors classes of the year. It all started when Tom didn't show up. Apparently he's missed quite a few classes, but this is the first time he's missed an honor's class. The hilarity continued because of a number of disputes about the validity of Ludicrous - sorry, Lucretius.

Glaeske: What are the Furies?
Ethan: They were the ladies who cut the string, right?
Sarah: No, those were the Fates.
Me: The Furies hunted souls that escaped Hades.
Ethan: Right! They were giant birds of prey with women's faces.
Glaeske: No, those were Harpies.
Ethan: Oh yeah, that's right. Medusa was a harpy.
Me: Medusa was a Gorgon.
Ethan: Maybe I should shut up now.

Another one:
John: I remember from Hercules that the Fates only had one eye.
Glaeske: Ah, you're caught up on the Ten Labors, are you?
Me: No, the Disney movie Hercules.
Glaeske: *facepalm*

And the best one:
Glaeske: He caught his wife in a rather uncompromising situation with another man.
Me (in an undertone): Technically that would be a compromising situation.

Anyway...

After Honors, Sarah, Emily, Cody, and I went to find Tom and torture him. Emily started by FaceTiming him, and the view of him in the phone was pitch black. Sarah was cackling, saying he'd fallen asleep. Since Cody lives on the same floor as Tom, he let us all in and Emily FaceTimed him again from right outside his dorm. There was the usual repartee of "Where are you?" "I'm here!" "Where's here?" "Right here!" and then Tom stumbled out of his dorm like a zombie. He had fallen asleep right before class - reading the stuff he had to read for class! As he was telling the girls this, Cody slipped into his dorm and locked the door, locking Tom out. We then proceeded to tell Tom that he missed Glaeske chemically disproving love, which Glaeske has been boasting he would do for the last few weeks. Although Tom says we didn't fool him for a second, the look on his face was priceless.

I think we fooled him. I know he missed some of the best interactions in Honors today.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Operation Christmas Child 2012

I should have posted this waaaaaaay sooner - sorry about that. Some of you may remember how last year I blogged about Operation Christmas Child, a project run by Samaritan's Purse that works to send shoeboxes filled with basic necessities to kids in impoverished parts of the world. Americans have been so blessed (I mean, come on - complaining that the food in the cafeteria tastes less good than it does at home? We have enough food not to be hungry every day, and a lot of people don't ever get that!)

Anyway, this year I packed a shoebox for a fourteen-year-old boy. Watching some of the video clips on the OCC website, they seemed to want mostly school supplies this year, so I focused on those. Also, they have something fabulous this year - a tag you can get online with a barcode. When they scan the barcode, they will email you and tell you where your shoebox went. It's seven bucks for this barcode, since that's how they pay for shipping.

Tomorrow is the last day to drop off a filled shoebox. I'm going to drop mine off today, since I have classes tomorrow. If you plan to fill up a shoebox - and I encourage you to do so - then you can find instructions and drop-off sites at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/. Also, you can include a letter and a picture of yourself, and whoever gets your box will really appreciate that.

If you don't have time to go shopping or go to a drop-off, the website has a possibility called build-a-box, where you can customize a box online for $30. You can choose what goes into the box, and they will take care of getting the stuff.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cody and Emily

I'm not very keen on the idea of making a blog post twice in one day, but today was monumental for two reasons. The first was registration, obviously. The second one is that this is my friends' Cody and Emily's first luniversary.

I say "luniversary" because it's been one month since they started dating. Anniversary derives from annum, which means "year." Luni is a reference to the moon and to a month, so I use the term luniversary. Whatever.

Anyway - congratulations to Cody and Emily. I wish I had a picture to post; maybe I'll get it after they come back from their date.

Courtesy of Applemag

Registration

So, as some of you may know, my two favorite classes are English and history. This morning I was registering for my second semester classes. It wasn't much fun. All the English classes are scheduled at the same time as most of the history classes I wanted to take. All the good theology classes were at the same time, too, and I need a theology class. I considered a chemistry class, but the only ones open are lab classes, which I don't want to take yet. Oh, and the pirate class I was so psyched about was full a week ago. I hope it comes back in a few years so I can take it,  but preferably not during my third year, because that's when I'll be studying abroad (most likely in Ireland or Queb├ęc.)

But I did get into most of the classes that I needed to, thank goodness. And next year, when I'm a sophomore, it will be so much better.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Twitter War

So maybe I'm a day late in bringing this up. Whatever. Something tells me I'm ahead of some of the media.

Yesterday morning the Israeli Defense Force launched a missile strike into Gaza and assassinated a senior Hamas leader. Hamas retaliated by launching a heck of a lot of rockets and shells into Israel -I think it was something like 140!! Three Israeli civilians were killed when their home was hit, but apparently Israel's defenses have done a good job stopping most projectiles.

Now the conflict is heating up... On Twitter.

No joke. The IDF and Hamas are exchanging very angry tweets about the conflict. Twenty-first century warfare! If you ever wanted to watch a war up close from the safety of your living room, go on Twitter. It's better than a war movie- it's happening right now. This is history being written.

Update: some rockets are hitting Tel-Aviv. First time since 1991 that Tel-Aviv has been a war zone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another Target Run

So, in spite of everything, I walked to Target today (again) after class. This time I went with Tom and Sarah. Primarily my intent was to carry on a discussion of Ludicrous - excuse me, Lucretius - that we started in Honors. Anyway, along the 45-minute way, we started talking about the best villains. I said Davy Jones immediately, primarily because he has some of the best quotes in all moviedom. After some thought, though, I changed it to Ari Haswari. (I mean, his entire script is quotable!) But Tom said that the best villain ever is the Joker. Having never seen the Dark Knight and stuff (or is it the Dark Night?) I asked what those movies were like. Sarah said something like this:

"I know Tom is going to kill me for this, but - Marta, Batman is sort of like a guy's Twilight."

I laughed. I laughed until my sides hurt. Tom did not; in fact, Tom just sort of stopped in the middle of the sidewalk with his mouth hanging open. It looked like a scene right out of a movie. Ahh, good times.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Shopping

I was never aware that reindeer, pine trees, and red hats with white fur and buckles were related to Thanksgiving! Well, of course they're not. Target today had a number of Christmas blouses right out front. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas in November, but the one thing I do like about it is that, as they're trying to sell the shirts ASAP, they also sell them ACAP (as cheap as possible.) I got three sparkly, well-made Christmas shirts for twenty-four dollars. That's eight dollars a shirt, and usually anything sparkly goes for fifteen dollars or above. Thirty or above if it's not in Target. Of course, since my roommate is the biggest enemy of Christmas in November, they're rolled up in the bottom of my emptiest drawer right next to her Christmas present (which is a little teddy bear - don't tell her!) and some Christmas-like socks. Now, I didn't put away all my Christmas socks; the ones I kept out all have snowflakes on them. And, in light of the fact that it snowed yesterday, I decided that snowflakes are acceptable for Thanksgiving. At least they are in Milwaukee; in Seattle, they're only acceptable for a fantasy convention.


I thought this was too cute!

It says JOY, if you can't see it.

And this one's my favorite...

So, enough shopping talk... I'm fairly certain you can guess who the next Quest for Rinaria will focus on. Remember that the clue they have to figure out now is the whale's eye, and Shartalla thinks they should look in a whaling center. By the way, if you want to see any of these pirate characters in Graystone, leave a comment, please. I would love to weave a little snippet of them in, but that would be difficult as Graystone primarily takes place in the world of the river otters, and river otters and pirates just simply do not mix. But if readers want to see them again, I would be happy to bring in Eneng, Winterblade, Ksheygha, Korep, and Snowhawk.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Quest for Rinaria (III) ~ The Dragon's Nested Clutch

As you should know, today is Veteran's Day, so I would like to dedicate this part of The Quest for Rinaria, which involves my favorite pirate captain, to all the men and women who served to keep our country free. God bless you all. If anyone reading this would please take sixty seconds of silence to remember the soldiers and sailors who made the reading of this story possible.

And now, part of the mystery of Rinaria is to be unravelled. Remember that Shartalla is only out for the adventure, not so much the mystery-solving or the treasure-finding, so she won't have a large part to solve.

If you need to read the earlier Quest for Rinaria stories, here are their links:
http://martastahlfeld.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-quest-for-rinaria-part-i.html
http://martastahlfeld.blogspot.com/2012/09/hoist-yer-sails.html

Now without further ado - The Quest for Rinaria, Part III

The Quest for Rinaria

Part III ~ The Dragon's Nested Clutch

Zuryzel had never been on a ship for an extended time before, so some small part of her was afraid of seasickness. But to her surprise, she felt absolutely at ease on the ship. Dejuday, too, was completely comfortable on the rolling deck.
Una the raccoon was not.
“It’s a good thing you brought ’er with us,” Shartalla grinned. “Any o’ the other crews’d never give ’er a moment’s peace.”
Una clung to the mast with all four limbs, her eyes squeezed closed and her forehead pushed against the wood. Shartalla’s crew was courteous enough to leave her alone, except to offer reassurances that the sea was calm and the ship was in no danger. While Zuryzel knew the pirates were snickering behind their sleeves, none of them said anything out loud. The princess suspected Shartalla had a lot to do with that; but perhaps the crew remained polite (or as polite as pirates ever got) out of respect for Zuryzel herself. However, it would undeniably be very different on any of the other ships.
“The others have rougher sailing, too, don’t they?” Zuryzel asked Shartalla.
The pine marten nodded and checked her compass once again. “They do until we reach Serapis.”
“What’s it like inside?” Zuryzel queried, scanning the sea for any sign of land.
Shartalla leaned against the wheel, a thoughtful look on her face. “Honestly … it’s kinda like a … ah, what are they called … not a hatch, not a funnel …”
She looked helplessly at Zuryzel. “Y’ know – where smoke comes out?”
“A chimney?” Zuryzel guessed.
“Yes!” Shartalla exclaimed. “Chimney. Sorry, been a while since I used that word in this language. Anyway, yeah, that’s what Serapis’s like. It’s eight or nine times as tall as the mast, and it’s very shady inside. There’s a bunch o’ springs in the wall. The rock’s grayish an’ rough, an’ that’s partly why ’tis so ’ard t’ get into. There’s six or seven exits, but only one entrance.”
“Sounds like it belongs in a legend,” Zuryzel smiled.
Shartalla grinned. “Y’ better believe it.”
Zuryzel lifted her face so that the wind whipped against her ears. “Shartalla, do you have any ideas at all about the whale’s eyes we have to sail north through?”
“It’s a waterfall,” Shartalla replied immediately.
Zuryzel turned around to stare at her. “And you know this how?”
“That’s the only explanation,” Shartalla explained. “If it were a ring o’ rock, then north is the only direction y’ c’d sail through it. Y’ can’t sail west through a ring o’ rock facin’ north.”
“You could sail south,” Zuryzel suggested.
Shartalla gave her a frustrated look. “C’mon! The riddle was clear fer a secon’!”
“Eneng’s probably obsessing about the whale’s eye as we speak,” Zuryzel murmured. “Did you see the look on his face when Ksheygha read that yesterday?”
“I did,” Shartalla replied briskly. “Obviously it ain’t a live whale. C’d be a ring o’ rock, c’d be a spring o’ some kind.”
“The riddle never said you have to sail through it,” Zuryzel offered helpfully.
Shartalla turned the wheel a little bit. “The next lines go then league and league … unless I’m much mistaken, that probably means a league o’ leagues. I ain’t sure about that number, but the only island bigger ’n a league an’ a half in these waters is Pelleck Island. That’s the most densely populated island that I know of. Rinaria ain’t there, so we have t’ sail somewhere.”
Zuryzel gave her a quizzical look. “Just how well do you know these seas?”
Shartalla smirked. “I only put to shore when I abs’lutely ’ave t’.”
Zuryzel smiled at her. She did not say so out loud, but she knew the real reason Shartalla was in such an especially good mood: on this voyage, she had both her best friend and the sea. However much Shartalla savored Zuryzel’s company, any experience on land was an annoyance to the pine marten. But if there was one thing she lacked at sea, it was a friend. Even for a pirate like Shartalla, the sea could be lonely.
Shartalla, in turn, had similar unspoken knowledge about the Wraith Mouse princess. Zuryzel had no interest in buried treasure; what she was interested in was the freedom of the sea. For all that Zuryzel loved being a princess, there was something very special about sailing on the open ocean. If the sea was the last barrier to the unexplored, a ship was the trick to breaking it. But anyone who had spent time aboard a ship, particularly one with a captain like Shartalla, knew that the sea was no barrier to be broken, but rather a gate to be opened, and a ship was the key. Zuryzel knew that, and she had been dying to actually see it.
Shartalla’s musings were interrupted by Dejuday as he clambered up the stairs to where they stood. “Poor Una’s finally opened her eyes,” he reported, smiling.
Shartalla grimaced. “I’d hoped she’d keep ’er eyes closed ’til we was inside Serapis. It ain’t nearly as intimidatin’ as the outside.”
Maybe bringing her along wasn’t such a great idea,” Zuryzel murmured.
She’d have snuck along somehow,” Dejuday teased.
Besides, she ain’t ’oldin’ up any work,” Shartalla added graciously. “Well, not too badly, anyway. She’s gonna have t’ move when we gets near Serapis, though.”
Where too?” Zuryzel asked. “And I’ll start getting her there.”
Shartalla shook her head. “Not yet. It’s another four hours ’til we even set our sights on it. Should get there right at sunset. That’s good, that’s the best time t’ arrive. Una should stay topside ’til then. She’ll just get seasick belowdecks.”
Zuryzel tapped the side of the ship. “You know, I’ve heard about seasickness, but I don’t understand it at all. I don’t feel seasick in the slightest, and we’re rolling around quite a bit, aren’t we?”
Shartalla rocked her paw back and forth. “So-so. Some creatures are just born t’ sail, Zyna. Y’er one of ’em. Y’ both are.”
Dejuday gave her a mock bow. “Thank you for that compliment!” he joked.
Shartalla laughed. She knew why Dejuday was glad to be at sea – he could spend time with his mate without affairs of the palace interjecting themselves!

Shartalla’s predictions were true; they saw Serapis four hours later. Zuryzel stared at the huge rock formation in amazement. Her friend was right – it did look like a chimney, a round chimney sticking up out of the sea. Zuryzel could imagine smoke billowing from it. Una had managed to detach herself from the mast and had pressed herself up against the wall that marked Shartalla’s cabin. Shartalla had left the wheel and climbed gracefully up the bowsprit to look out over the sea. When she saw Serapis, she scrambled back down and returned to the wheel.
Skorlaid the ferret, her first mate, relinquished the wheel to her. “Orders, Cap’n?” he asked.
Leave the hatches open awhile,” Shartalla instructed. “But make all other preparations t’ enter Serapis. Double-rope the sails, an’ make sure no ropes are frayed.”
Aye aye, Cap’n,” Skorlaid answered.
Instead of using the stairs, he vaulted over the railing and landed on the main deck. From there he strode forward, bellowing out his captain’s orders.
Tsanna!” Shartalla shouted. “In the crow’s nest. Keep a weather eye out fer any sails, ’specially the Nygoan!
Una lifted her face feebly to face Shartalla. “What’s a Nigh-Grown?”
Nygoan,” Shartalla corrected. “It’s Snow’awk’s ship. Don’ worry, though, Una. I doubt she’ll be able t’ find us. It ain’t like y’ can track a ship.”
As Serapis loomed closer, the sun just touched the horizon. Una fled belowdecks of her own accord while Dejuday and Zuryzel found the place on the deck that was least likely to hamper the crew.
Approach from the west and batter down the hatches!” Shartalla shouted from where she stood at the wheel. At her command some pirates scurried to the headsail to change its position, while others scrambled belowdecks to close the hatches and prevent any water getting in. There was a smooth lurch as Wynraser swung to port, so as to approach Serapis from the west, and the sails flared as they caught the evening breeze.
Zuryzel got a taste of what the Wynraser could do.
It was only a few minutes before they were on the southwest side of Serapis. Shartalla steered Wynraser so close to the edge that Zuryzel almost felt she could reach out and touch the rocky wall. She couldn’t, of course, but it showed Shartalla’s skill at the helm that she could keep the ship steady through the shallows.
Shartalla’s crew was braced and poised, each one at some designated place on the ship. When Wynraser approached the entrance, they were ready.
Shartalla appeared to have been counting something – maybe the streaks of quartz that shot through the gray basalt. Whatever it was, when Wynraser passed a certain number of them, she suddenly spun the wheel to port, away from the wall.
Set the sails!” she shouted, and her crew complied. Immediately the sails changed sides, and Wynraser gracefully turned in a half-circle. It was the kind of turn that larger ships, like Oceanflower, could never make, and that only a skilled crew could execute even on such a small ship.
And when it was complete, Zuryzel saw something she hadn’t seen from the other direction: a huge gap in the stone, wide enough for a ship. The gap seemed to lead to a narrow channel going in at an angle. The stone on each side of the gap was so perfectly symmetrical that the only reason Zuryzel knew there was a gap was the shadow thrown by the setting sun.
Wynraser’s turn had put her at the exact angle to enter this gap, and she glided in with perfect smoothness. Now Zuryzel really saw how skilled Shartalla’s crew was: the steering was so perfect and the sails arranged just so that Wynraser’s side never once touched the rock. Zuryzel found herself staring up, craning her neck, but the rock walls were so high and narrow that the sky was only a blue streak far above her head.
Bear King, she prayed, why did you make something like this? Just so pirates can marvel at it?
Shartalla would say the Bear King had.
Apparently the steering wasn’t over. Shartalla was still at the wheel, tense and strained, staring fixedly ahead. Zuryzel looked at her, and then straight forward, and gasped.
They were sailing at solid rock.
Ready for the tough part, crew!” Shartalla called.
The ferrets that made up Shartalla’s crew scrambled here and there to set the sails differently. Shartalla remained positioned at the wheel. When the ship was only a few feet away from the rock, Shartalla spun the wheel starboard.
Wynraser veered sharply to starboard, and Zuryzel, who hadn’t been prepared for such a sharp turn, was suddenly thrown sideways. She staggered and tripped, trying to keep her balance and take in what was happening all at once. But a moment later Wynraser veered to port, and Zuryzel tripped and fell flat on her back.
From her back, she noticed that she could see a circle of sky far, far, far above the mainmast.
She pulled herself into a sitting position and saw Dejuday laughing.
How did he not fall over? Zuryzel wondered sullenly. It used to be Dejuday was always the clumsy one. But he did stop laughing enough to cross the ship’s deck and hold out a paw to her.
You should’ve held onto something,” he teased.
She gripped his paw and managed to stand. “I wasn’t expecting that,” she mumbled.
It was then that she noticed a huge change: everything was still.
Everything. The ship, the air, sound, everything. There was an unnatural and disquieting stillness that seemed to hold this place in a vice-like grip.
What is this?” she whispered.
Shartalla’s paws descended the stairs from the wheel, and they were mercifully loud. “Welcome to Serapis,” she said calmly.
Zuryzel turned in a full circle, seeing but not really believing. The outside of Serapis had been grim, lifeless, and harsh, but the inside was almost a paradise. The walls were steep but not so steep that they couldn’t be explored, and they were covered in lush green vegetation. Almost right next to the place they had entered from was a waterfall cascading down and splashing in the water below. It was the sight of the waterfall that dispelled the disquieting stillness in Zuryzel’s mind. Most peculiarly, light seemed to be coming up from the bottom of the inside sea. Looking over the railing Zuryzel saw pure white sand; the sunset must have been reflecting off the bottom.
We’re sailing in fresh water,” Shartalla told Zuryzel. “There’s some kinda underground spring that shoots up enough fresh water t’ get rid o’ all the salt water. It’s in the rock itself.”
Where’s that waterfall coming from?” Dejuday asked, sounding as astonished as Zuryzel.
Also from an underground spring,” was Shartalla’s response. Then she strode along the length of the deck, shouting orders. “Ready the boats and assemble fer shore parties! Break out the climbing gear! Get casks ready t’ collect water! Cooks, get yer baskets out and fill ’em with fresh food! Look lively, crew!”
She reached the bow and remembered something. “An’ leave the standin’ stones alone! Don’ go near ’em!”
She leaned on the railing and heard Zuryzel’s pawsteps behind her. “What are the standing stones?” her friend asked.
Shartalla exhaled heavily. “Who knows. Who cares. They’re big, big, heavy pillars o’ stone standin’ upright every thousand steps up there on the rim.” She nodded at the top of the rock. “There’s twenty-five of ’em. Not sure how they got there, but y’ know how superstitious sailors c’n be. Some o’ the crew try to leave offerings t’ the sea at these stones. But we ain’t got time t’ puzzle over those things now.”
Maybe they’re part of the riddle,” Zuryzel suggested.
Shartalla shrugged. “Maybe, but I doubt it. I’ll show ’em t’ you if y’ want, but honestly Zyna, I think they’re more recent than Rinaria.”
The pirate heard a smile in her friend’s response. “You afraid of them, Shartalla?”
Shartalla shook her head. “I am not afraid of them. I just don’t want my crew wasting time over a bunch of nonsense.”

Shartalla had assigned her crew to groups for shore leave a long time ago. It cut down on the preparation time if the ferrets already knew their orders ahead of time. Skorlaid and seven ferrets were usually left aboard to keep the ship secure, while nearly everyone else, even the cooks, went ashore.
Shartalla had a small group that included Zuryzel, Dejuday, and Tsanna with two others. The captain tried very hard to concentrate on the task at paw – finding the whale’s eye – and not think about the twenty-five stones atop the ring of rock.
But as her group gradually spread out more, she reluctantly acknowledged that she would accomplish nothing until she had visited the stones.
Stealing quietly (though not silently – pirates have very little woodcraft) through the lush forests, she ascended the steep sides of Serapis until she came up to the top.
The trees ceased growing at a distance of about twice her height from the top, and the ground leveled out a little and became dry, rough rock. Shartalla stood at the very top and looked first into the harbor at Serapis, where the sight of her ship was reassuring; then she looked north, and then west across the ocean. She could see a few dark spots that were islands, maybe a couple of ships, and far below her, waves and seabirds. The sun had completely set by now, though it wasn't dark enough for many stars to appear. The pirate scanned the sky for some time, looking for stars she usually found reassuring. Finally Shartalla looked left – south – to the nearest pillar.
It wasn’t far away, and as the very rim of Serapis was only a few paw-widths wide, Shartalla dropped to all fours and crawled along until she reached it. It was nothing obviously special; the thing was twice her height and about three times her width. But at a little above eye-level on the side facing in to Serapis, hardly legible in the twilight, was a carving of a shark.
Shartalla wasn’t afraid of this pillar. Nor was she curious about it. She was saddened.
The pillar marked a mass grave.
She had seen carvings on similar stones elsewhere in the western ocean. The theory was that they were set there by sea otters who had lived there before migrating to the shores of the mainland. Shartalla knew what the symbols on the rocks meant: a starfish was one dead, a conch shell was five dead, a wave was ten, a fish was fifty, and an octopus was a hundred. But there were no sharks on any other stones in the western sea. That meant a shark was more than a hundred. Probably five hundred at the least.
Shartalla set a paw on the shark. Then, satisfied that she would now accomplish something, she spun around and whisked back into the trees.
Bear King,” she prayed aloud, “please grant that none o’ my crew saw me actin’ like that.”

Shartalla’s crew searched into the early hours of the morning and found no sign of the whale’s eye. Their captain even allowed them to search the top of Serapis, and still they found nothing.
We don’t even know what we’re lookin’ fer,” Skorlaid murmured.
Shartalla, Zuryzel, and Dejuday had rejoined him in Shartalla’s cabin. Shartalla was staring hopelessly at the table cluttered with charts and Winterblade’s translations.
The dragon’s nested clutch,” Shartalla repeated for the eightieth time.
She was so absorbed in the accursed riddle that she only half-heard the conversation of the others.
Maybe some of the others are having better luck,” Zuryzel guessed, clearly out of ideas.
Maybe it’s on the ocean floor,” Dejuday suggested. “Could you get some of the better swimmers to examine the sand?”
There was silence for a minute; then Skorlaid’s voice. “Cap’n?”
Sounds good t’ me,” Shartalla replied absently. “Get a group on that.”
The cabin door briefly opened and she half-heard Skorlaid yelling out her orders. At a complete loss for anything else to do, Shartalla turned to the original riddle in the ancient language, where she read the line about the dragon’s clutch.
Braech leveatas cae daugh branmaer.
The only word she recognized was braech, which meant west. But another word caught her attention.
Leveatas.
Levy-at-us,” she repeated. “Levy-a-thus. Le-vigh-a-thus. Le-vigh-a-thun. Le-vigh-
She caught her breath. For a moment she stared at the paper. Then she whispered, “Leviathan.
She looked up sharply and saw her friends all looking quizzically at her.
Winterblade did translate it wrong!” she exclaimed. “The word ain’t dragon. It’s leviathan! The leviathan’s nested clutch!
A water dragon?” Skorlaid protested. “What difference does that make?”
Water dragons allegedly lay their eggs under water,” Shartalla explained, mentally kicking herself for not realizing it sooner. “We were looking fer an island when we were supposed t’ be lookin’ fer a reef!
Zuryzel snatched up Winterblade’s translations and stared hard at them. Dejuday looked over her shoulder for a minute, then asked, “Any idea which reef?”
Shartalla hesitated. She scanned the chart, as if she didn’t already have it memorized, and it was a good thing she did because one place caught her eye.
Windcrier’s Reef,” she said quietly.
Why Windcrier’s?” Skorlaid asked, staring at the spot in confusion.
Shartalla touched the reef with her paw and then drew a line straight west a few inches until her paw landed on the drawing of an island. “Because due west is Mauggiak Island,” she explained. “An old whaling center.”
Skorlaid whooped with delight. “I’ll go recall the crews?”
Yeah, go,” Shartalla replied, asserting her decisiveness. “If Craic is around, tell him t’ bring the news t’ the others. Then get ready t’ sail as soon as the crew is all back.”
Skorlaid slammed his paw once on the table and then hurried out onto the deck. Dejuday and Zuryzel both grinned at Shartalla. “Nicely done,” Dejuday praised her.
His compliment embarrassed her, especially since she had been the one to send them on this wild goose chase in the first place. She looked down at the chart and replied. “Let’s just hope I’m right this time.”

As soon as Wynraser broke out of Serapis, Shartalla leaned against the wheel and lifted her face to the early morning breezes. The western ocean spread out before her and she couldn’t resist a smile. Even if they never found Rinaria, she had all the treasure she would ever need right in front of her.