The story so far: Tollon, Inacha, and Chypa the Stranger are sailing back to Auspulia to set things to right, they hope. There are preparations to be made. Now read on . . .
We’re a happy trio as we sail toward Auspulia. Inacha and I explain contemporary Auspulian politics and society to Chypa. Chypa teaches Inacha some good tricks to use in her business of brokering information. And she teaches me magic, intensively. That’s she’s bedding me makes it all the more sweet.
Hey, she seduced me. And I hadn’t been with a woman since before we left Auspulia.
Who am I kidding? I’m getting too old to use the “she seduced me” excuse. She may have taken the initiative, but I knew what I was doing. Or at least I thought I did. You see, I know I’ve fallen in love with Chypa, but I’m pretty sure she’s not in love with me. In fact, if she’s in love with anyone at all, it’s probably Inacha. The two of them share far too many long gazes and giggles together. But if they’re doing more, I don’t want to know.
I can’t say I’ve ever had a relationship in which the woman loved me less than I love her. Which sounds a lot better than saying I’ve always loved the woman less than she’s loved me. I would think I’d be bothered by the current situation. But I’m not. I don’t really understand why, but I’m taking Chypa on her own terms.
If there’s one thing that mars the trip, it’s the occasional short bouts of seasickness I get on this trip. None last as long as a day, but they do tend to be violent while they happen.
One day, after getting over a bout just after breakfast, I come up to the main deck for air. The two of them are chatting away on deck chairs, wearing so little clothing I’m torn between staring at them and looking away in embarrassment. I take the leftmost chair, beside Inacha, and mumble a greeting.
“How do you like our swim suits, Tollon?” Inacha asks me. She and Chypa start giggling.
“They cover so little, why bother wearing anything at all?” I ask.
“Because there’s a difference between flirting and advertising that you’re open for business,” replies Inacha. “Besides, Chypa tells me this is what women in Dagutsina were wearing forty years ago.”
Chypa leans forward and says to me, “Glad you’re up and about. I’ve been in communication with Vorana. We are going to have problems.”
I lean forward myself and look at Chypa. Her skin is now an attractive lime green, and it’s hard not to stare at her figure and think of some recent occasions in my cabin.
Chypa must notice my gaze, because she gives me a grin before going on. “She had indeed bewitched the king, and is effectively running the government. She’s trying to be cagey, and won’t tell me what’s happened to Sarton, or what she wants.” Chypa frowns. “And there’s something definitely wrong with her, something not quite right. When one uses magic to communicate, there’s a sense of personality that comes with it. Vorana’s character has changed, as if something is driving her. I can’t quite figure it.”
It’s true about personalities coming through. I’ve been keeping in regular touch with Lady Gwella. I can pick up her lust for power and a coldness in her heart. “Any idea of what she wants?” I ask Chypa.
Chypa shakes her head. “I don’t think she yet knows what she wants. I imagine it was some impulse that motivated her to take over the palace and the kingdom. But we have two advantages. If she’d killed Sarton, she’d have said so. I’m certain of that. And she doesn’t know you’re with me.” Chypa gives out a bright laugh. “She might be jealous if she knew.” Which sets Inacha to giggling.
Chypa gives Inacha a fond glance and turns back to me. “Oh, I almost forgot. A sea serpent’s coming this way. Should run up against the ship just after noon.”
(To be continued . . .)