The shark-thing circled us twice and then reached up with two hands -- yes hands -- and pulled himself into the boat, dripping a bit of water, though it disappeared as he settled into place.
"You two both made the right choice," the man said. Or maybe fae, I supposed, given the magic he'd used. He wore a shirt and pants, barefoot, hair braided back. Pale skin and blond hair, too -- I didn't know what to make of him. But he did smile, and that looked better than the shark smile.
Was he a were-shark?
"What is going on?" I finally asked.
"I was a test," he said and leaned back, clearly at ease. Edmond was still on my shoulder. He kept sniffing as though he expected a shark rather than a fae. "And you made the right choice. I could tell you wouldn't change your mind."
"What now?" I asked.
"I'm Ellin. We are going somewhere to talk," he said with a bow of his head.
"And how long is it going to take to get somewhere?" Edmond asked. "That's a lot of water around us!"
"Illusion," Ellin said with another smile. "There isn't any water at all, really. Haven't you looked down?"
I carefully turned and looked down, a hand on Edmond to make certain he didn't fall. The water shimmered --
But then I realized I was not looking down through clear, pretty water to the sand below. No. I was looking through air to the land far below.
"Ack!" Edmond shouted and threw himself off my shoulder and into my lap, trying to burrow into my shirt again. "I hate flying!"
I couldn't say I was very happy with it, either. It was one thing to be sitting in this little boat magically moving across the ocean. There was a sense of relative safety with the water below us. Nothing but air? If I could have burrowed into something too.
I glanced down. Was that the jungle way down there? And the walkway. Could I get the boat to fly down there and let Edmond and I get off so that I could maybe catch up with the others again?
I could find no way to control the boat. We were at the mercy of this fae and I couldn't say I had shaken off the worry that he would turn back into a shark soon.
"You're safe," Ellin said when I looked back at him. "You are safer here than you were the rest of the places you've traveled. And we'll be to land soon."
I looked out across what still appeared to be open water, but at the same time Ellin waved his hand and it all shimmered. No more than half a mile away in front of us stood a tall, wide sky island of rock, floating in the air. It didn't look any more stable than the boat as far as I could see, but since neither of them were falling, I supposed I should stop worrying about it.
We were bound to have other worries soon enough.
Other boats were already pulled up on the rocky shore and I wondered what kind of trouble came in those craft. It was bound to be a problem. Everything was a problem.
Edmond only brought his head up when we reached the land and bumped against the shore. He was the first to leap out onto the ground. I didn't tell him that the over-sized rock was floating in the air, too. I wasn't sure he would handle the idea very well, and I didn't want to see him panic. However, I was more than aware of the rock's precarious position as I stepped off the boat and onto the land. I figured I could panic enough for both Edmond and me.
I suppose people who were used to magic and had lived with it all their lives would have had less trouble with this floating rock concept. I kept expecting the ground to give way beneath my feet.
Ellin had yanked the boat up on the shore -- or whatever you called the edge between land and open air. I glanced back once and decided that was not a good idea.
"Who else is here?" I asked.
"Other fae, mostly. People who have been in this realm for a while," he said and seemed to be weighing whether he should tell me something more or not. He opted for not and just kept walking.
We entered a cavern. I expected darkness, but there were lights in the wall and I could see another bright opening at the far end. The cavern must have gone straight through the rock and Ellin led the way. He had moved well ahead of us. I didn't know if I trusted that from someone who had been a shark not so long ago.
"Where do you think the others are?" Edmond asked. We hadn't passed any openings and I could see no one ahead. The passage was starting to angle upwards now, too. "I don't hear anyone."
That was another good point. I saw Ellin glance back our way, no doubt hearing what Edmond had said. He still offered nothing.
I reached down and picked up Edmond. "Just to be safe," I said softly. He gave a silent nod and settled into my arms.
I wished Maggie, Davis and Lord Snow were with me. I glanced back, but what was the point? Go sailing in the sky again didn't appeal much to me right now.
So I kept going forward, w atching the light at the end of the tunnel -- yeah, that just didn't look good.
To Be Continued