Hekaba's Demon
by Sarah Prineas


 

My father's ship, Hekaba, was a lateen-rigged, rotten-hulled brigantine, manned mostly by superstitious Chinamen and Lascars.  We ran a ragged trade route smuggling Malwa opium from Bombay to Canton.

The signs were auspicious as we set out.  A brief morning rain had settled the heat of the day before, and a fresh breeze took us easily out of Bombay harbour and into the Arabian Sea.  The journey was uneventful; we crept along India's western coast down to Alleppey, where we snuck into port to resupply.

The night was hot, humid, with no wind.  Hekaba was rocking herself to sleep at anchor and most of her crew were ashore sampling the delights of the port's snake boats and twisty canals.  My father was in his cabin with a bottle of whiskey for company.  To distract the attention of nosy British East India Company officials, hed taken on relatively innocent supercargo: missionaries on their way out to China to convert the heathen masses.  They were safe in their bunks.  I was aft on a watch no one else could be bothered to keep, listening to the creak of stays and the lap of wavelets against the hull, watching lantern light spill onto the oily swells, thinking about nothing in particular.

My reverie was interrupted by the hollow thunk of the dory against the hull, then the slight dips of the outboard ladder being climbed.  A round face appeared over the taffrail.  The first mate.

"What's going on, Chen?" I asked in Mandarin.

He swung a leg over and landed barefoot on the deck.  "Passenger, Griffin."

Nothing unusual in that.  Another passenger wouldn't make a difference.  I nodded and leaned against the rail to watch.   

The men followed Chen aboard, escorting into the circle of lantern light a veiled figure.  As I watched her catch her balance on the rocking deck, her veil parted to reveal a smooth, brown cheek and a wickedly glittering green eye, which looked me up and down and then winked.  "I am Daevas," she said in Hindi.  Behind the veil her mouth curved into a smile.  "And you're a handsome young sailor, are you not?  Shall I barter with you for passage?" 

 "No.  Not with me."  I glanced at the first mate.  "All right, Chen, take her to my father.  But don't let the foreign devils get a look at her." 

*     *     *

As the tide turned the next morning, we tacked out of Alleppey port.  On this trip our passengers, besides Daevas the Malabar maiden, were the Goforths, father and daughter.  He was a Presbyterian patriarch with a square-cut gray beard and plenty to say about fire and brimstone.  A missionary, of course; true to his name, he'd been spreading the Word for years in Shangxi Province and had gone back to Edinborough to fetch his daughter from Bible school.

Emily Goforth was a complete mystery to me.  At first I'd thought her a proper minister's daughter, but as she walked the decks with her father, I saw her sneaking keen-eyed glances from beneath her bonnet at the men as they, shirtless and singing, hauled up the anchor and hoisted the sails.  She was blonde, smiling, glowing with health--a peach of a girl.  But not for long, I feared.  Inland China would do for her in no time, chew her up and suck out the sweet juice, leaving only the wrinkled stone behind. 

As we coasted out of Alleppey, the Goforths stood amidships, taking the breeze; I was aft at the wheel, Chen squatting on the deck nearby.  My father had not yet emerged from his cabin.  "Did Daevas stay aboard?" I asked Chen.  The breeze must have carried my words to Miss Goforth's ears, for she looked at me over her shoulder, blue eyes sparkling.

Chen was picking at a spliced rope with a marlinspike; he paused to finger his amulet which, he'd told me, had been smeared with fluid from a dog's eye, enabling the wearer to see into the spirit world.  To see phantoms, ancestors' souls, and demons.  "The girl is not here anymore, Griffin," he said, without meeting my eyes.

I shrugged and spun the wheel to bring the ship about, shouting at the crew to man the lines.  Hekaba, the recalcitrant bitch, groaned a bit, then responded.  The patched sails bellied, pregnant with wind. 

Over the next few days, pushed along by remarkably friendly breezes, we rounded the blunt tip of India, squeezed past Ceylon and headed out into the Bay of Bengal, leaving the subcontinent sinking into the sea behind us.

Which is when I found out we'd picked up another passenger.  Or, rather, the same passenger in a different guise.

*     *     *

As India disappeared over the horizon, I turned from my contemplation of our wake and he was there, at my shoulder.  I didn't need to wear an amulet made with the fluid from a dog's eye to know what he was.  A demon.

He was tall with curling black hair and a thin, tan face.  It was like looking in a mirror, except that he'd chosen to make himself taller, older, and handsomer than I was.  And better dressed, too.  He greeted me with a mocking bow.

I recognized the eyes, green and glittering and nothing at all like my own muddy brown ones.  "Daevas," I said.  What did he want on my father's ship?

"Davis," he corrected.  "For now.  You're very quick, Captain."

"You know I am not Hekaba's captain."

Daevas smiled.  "Your father may be captain, John Griffin, but I can see very well who runs this ship.  Now, do tell me how you figured out what I am." 

"I have eyes in my head."  I gripped the spokes of the wheel and tried to keep my voice calm.  Dealings with demons invariably ended in disaster for the humans involved. 

"So you do."  His voice sounded almost approving.  He leaned back against the rail and put his face up to the sun.  "The ship's holds are rather cramped and dark," he said with a sidelong glance.  "And you're carrying some very interesting cargo."

I nodded.  "That's the captain's business, not mine.  What do you want?" 

Miss Goforth chose that moment to emerge onto the foredeck from her cabin.  Catching sight of us, her face lit with a smile.

As she approached, the demon straightened.  "What I said before, boy.  Passage."

"Why passage?"

"I have my reasons."  With a sly wink at me, he assumed a cultured smile and bowed.  "Miss Goforth, good morning."

She greeted me with a nod and then returned his smile.  "Good morning to you, Mr. Davis."

Apparently they'd met below.  As acquaintances they spoke for a few minutes, all polite comments on the weather.  I kept quiet.  Finally, the Reverend Goforth appeared from below.  After he'd sent a glower her way, Emily nodded to me, gave Daevas another keen look, and went to join her father. 

The demon smiled lazily and stretched.  "Charming, isn't she?"

I shrugged.

"My, what a sulky pup you are, Griffin."  He leaned in to speak in a conspiratorial whisper.  "That girl is not the perfect minister's daughter she looks, you know."

I caught my breath.  I knew a thing or two about demons, and if Daevas had his eye on Emily Goforth, she was in trouble.

"Not to worry, Griffin," the demon said.  "She is perfectly safe with me."

With that, he walked gracefully away to continue his pursuit of the girl.

*     *     * 

The next morning I braved my father's cabin, for I was going to need some help dealing with the demon.  I should have known better.  Someone--I could imagine who--had supplied him with a fresh bottle of whiskey.  He gave me a blow that made my ears ring and shouted at me to take the charts, compass, and sextant and get out.  Which I did.  I'd have to deal with the demon myself.

As a start, I cornered Emily Goforth in the bow.  Her father was safely below.  Praying, no doubt. 

"I see you've gotten friendly with Davis," I said.

She brushed a tendril of golden hair from the corner of her mouth.  "That is my own affair, I think, Mr. Griffin."

How could I make her wary of the demon without terrifying her?  "He, um, is not what he seems, Miss Goforth."

She smiled.  "I can see very clearly what kind of man Mr. Davis is."  The sea behind her glinted sapphire blue in the sunlight, and for a moment I was dazzled.  "The question I have," she went on, "is what kind of man are you?"

I blinked.  "Me?"

Miss Goforth gave a brisk nod.  "I have a feeling your father is a smuggler of some kind, Mr. Griffin.  I did notice, you know, how quietly we left Alleppey and how carefully the crew guards the cargo."

"Well--"  I was ready to deny her charge, but then I had a better idea.  "Did you drink tea in Edinborough?"

It was her turn to blink at the change in subject.  "Yes, of course."

"I reckon you'll miss all the tea things in Shangxi Province.  China Black, lemon slices, little teaspoons."

She turned away from me to look out over the waves. "I'm not at all certain I will, Mr. Griffin.  I was never much interested in tea table conversation."

That was a surprise.  Miss Goforth, as Daevas had noted, was a very surprising girl.  I leaned on the rail beside her and looked out at the horizon, where sea met sky in a blurred azure line.  "Did you ever think about how much tea the English drink?"

She raised her eyebrows.  "Why, it's the most English thing I can think of, drinking tea."

"Right."  I gazed down into the blue-green water foaming away from our hull.  "The Chinese send us their tea and d'you know what we send them in return?"

"Money, I suppose."

I shook my head.  "No.  Opium."  I could see that this was a surprise to her.  She'd led a sheltered life, in Scotland.  So I told her about how the English government and the East India Company had dealt with a huge trade debt to our tea suppliers by creating a demand, in China, for opium grown in England's crown possession, India.    

"You are part of that vicious trade," she commented when I'd finished.  "And I can see very well that you've had enough of it."

With that, she left me looking out over the bow, thinking my thoughts.

Only later did I realize how adeptly she'd shifted the conversation to my own sins from the subject of her friendship with Daevas.  She was pretty, Miss Goforth, but she was also very, very clever.

*     *     * 

That night, we were attacked by pirates.

I was sound asleep in my hammock when the shouts of the crew awoke me.  For a moment, in the utter darkness of my cabin, I was disoriented.  Pirates infested the Straits of Malacca, but they seldom ventured into the middle of the Bay of Bengal.  Stumbling out onto the deck, I saw the night was pitch dark, when we should have had a full moon in a cloudless sky.  I heard the thud of another hull bumping up against ours, a patter of bare feet on the plank deck, and a man's shrill shout.  Chen, carrying a lantern, stumbled up to me.  "Pirates, Griffin!"

Shaking off my bewilderment, and realizing that my father was not likely to make an appearance, I snapped out orders: all hands on deck, break out the rifles, prepare for boarders.  "And put that lantern out, Chen!" I shouted.  "Dyou want to give them a target?"

From out of the darkness loomed another shape.  As it passed, I saw a ship far larger than Hekaba; lining its rails, far above, was a row of eagerly grinning, pale--no, glowing--faces.

The demon appeared at my shoulder.  Around him shadows gathered, flickering with glimpses of contained lightning.  "They are bottles of smoke."

I whirled.  "What?"  Two Lascars rushed past carrying rifles.  "To the foredeck!" I shouted after them.

Daevas grabbed my arm, his fingers sharp and urgent, like claws.  "You cannot kill them with rifles, boy."  The deck rocked as the other ship collided again with ours, and I looked wildly away.  "Griffin!"  He shook my arm.  "It's my enemy--she's sent them for me.  You cannot fight them, but I can.  Get all the men below, at once, or they'll be killed."

It took a moment for his words to penetrate.  I looked searchingly at Daevas, and in the shadowed phosphorescence from the other ship, his face looked pale and earnest.  For only a moment I hesitated.

"Break off the defense!" I shouted.  "Get below!" 

I heard Chen echoing the order and the men fleeing for the hatches.  They didn't need much persuading, as the pirates had begun boarding Hekaba in great glowing leaps from the other ship, shrieking as they came.

I was the last one in, slamming the hatch after me.

Finding Miss Goforth among the others, I sat on the deck at her side and held her hand while her father engaged in an eloquent condemnation of the evils of this world intermixed with prayers for his immortal soul.  As a counterpoint, the crew moaned out prayers of their own.  We huddled in terror for all the long hours that remained of the night.

The ship rocked and shook and once even seemed to lift from the sea and slam back down again with a crash.  We heard thunder and saw flashes of brilliant violet and crimson light through the cracks in the decking.  At last, in the hold, the darkness was replaced by the more natural light of dawn. 

When we emerged, shaky and peering about with lingering fear, we found the pirates gone and Daevas sprawled facedown on the deck.

*     *     * 

"Who," I demanded, "is this enemy of yours?  Is she going to send the pirates back for another go at us?"

Daevas was leaning against the taffrail watching the crew go about their business.  For their part, the crew kept their eyes averted, as if ignoring his presence would make him cease to exist.  The demon looked as elegant as ever, his eyes as glittering, but I suspected he leaned against the rail because he needed its help to remain on his feet.  He shrugged.  "I've dealt with the pirates; they won't be back.  As I said, they were bottles of smoke."  He forestalled my question by explaining.  "They were corpses, Griffin, each one animated by a puff of magical smoke breathed into them by my enemy."

"And she is?"

Again he shrugged but didn't, I noticed, meet my eyes.  "A demon."  He paused.  "She is tracking me somehow.  Like a dog on a scent.  That is all you need to know."

I nodded.  And having heard stories about the ways of she-demons, I went to prepare the ship for another attack.

*     *     * 

It came in the late afternoon as the sun was setting.  The sky had been clear and bright all day, with a fresh following breeze.  For a while, dolphins had joined us, flirting along Hekaba's hull, drafting off the swiftness of our passage through the water.  Hoping it was a good omen, I brought Emily Goforth to see them.  She laughed with delight when one of the dolphins rolled sideways as it raced along, peering up from the clear water to watch her, peering down.

Daevas joined us at the rail and set himself to charming the girl.  As a demon, he could speak without accent any language he chose, so he corrected her attempts to speak Mandarin and read from a pamphlet on missionary work which he pulled from his breast pocket.  "'Malarial fever and dengue are common in many districts,'" he quoted.  "'They are carried to man by mosquitoes, and it is therefore imperative to use mosquito nets on the beds, or better still, to have the entire house screened with wire gauze.'"   He paused.  "Miss Goforth, I am compelled to ask.  Have you wire gauze?"  

She laughed at his sallies while I stared down at the weather-whitened planks between my bare feet.  I could say nothing.  She knew what Daevas was; she was clever enough to take care of herself.

Later, the sun was setting, blood-red along our wake while the purple of night crept up the sky before us.  I had just come up from my cabin, where I'd been checking our course on one of the charts. 

Daevas sauntered up, looking pleased with himself.  He also looked different; he'd made himself taller and darker, as if in preparation for the next battle.  "All ready?" he asked.

I gave him a brief nod in response. 

He looked over his shoulder as the last gleaming sliver of the sun retreated over the horizon.  "It won't be long now.  Get the men below."  

I nodded again and did as he ordered.

*     *     * 

A vicious storm pounded us all night, shredding the sails, cracking the foremast, and leaving us many leagues off our course.  Daevas lay in an exhausted, deathlike sleep until midday.  As soon as he awakened, I was at his side.  "What next?"

He was lying in state on the deck, supported by pillows on a bed made up by the crew, who had not yet decided whether he was to be propitiated or worshipped.  His face was lined and shadowed, but his eyes still had their sly, emerald glint.  He gave his elegant shrug.

"This enemy," I asked.  "Will she send another attack?"

Daevas nodded.  "Yes.  One more."

I sat back on my heels.  "One?  How do you know?"

"This next attack . . . ."  He paused to take a breath.  "It will be her third attempt.  If she fails to defeat me this time, she cannot try again.  It is the rule."

I shook my head and almost laughed.  "Demons have rules, do they?"

Daevas gave a weary smile.  "We do."

"All right," I said.  I sat down cross-legged on the deck.  From the corner of my eye, I saw Emily Goforth sitting with her head together with Chen's.  She'd asked him to teach her how to mend sails.  "What does this enemy want with you, Daevas?"

The demon's smile grew wry.  "She is not this enemy, boy.  She is the beautiful Angra Mainyu, the Shining One, the Demon of Demons.  You know, I think, of whom I speak?"

I nodded.  In the dark grog shops of Bombay and Shanghai, sailors spoke of many things unknown to most men. 

"And you know," the demon continued, "something about love, young as you are."

I shrugged.

"Griffin, I've seen the way you look at Miss Goforth."

"Leave her out of it."

He raised his eyebrows and gave me a keen smile.  "Oh, gladly.  If you will make a bargain with me."

I knew better than to negotiate or to succumb to his charm.  But for Miss Goforth . . . .  "What is your bargain?"

"Good."  Daevas nodded in approval.  "I will protect you, and her, if you will help me win this one last battle." 

"Why do you need my help?"

"I am--"  Daevas hesitated, biting his lip.  "Well, Griffin, I am only three hundred years of age, give or take a few decades.  Rather young, for a demon."

"Right," I agreed.  "Almost a baby."

"Not exactly, boy."  The smile in his eyes was replaced by a razor glint.  "But fit prey for this enemy, as you call her.  The fact that I . . . offended . . . Angra Mainyu gives her adequate reason to pursue me."

I had no trouble believing that Daevas had made himself offensive to the Demon of Demons.  Well, then.  We'd have to be ready for the third attack.  I got up from the deck and went to help Miss Goforth and Chen with their mending.

*     *     * 

That afternoon the wind died, leaving the patched sails hanging limply from the yards; the sun beat down until the deck felt like a frying pan beneath my feet.  The crew grew somnolent in the heat, lying about in any shaded corner they could find. 

Emily Goforth had set aside her bonnet, and her face was flushed, her nose sprinkled with freckles.  She greeted me with a sigh.  "My father sends me to ask if we can't make any better way."

I scanned the horizon.  The sea stretched out flat all around us, not a pawprint of wind on the surface anywhere to be seen.  It was unnatural, and it made me nervous.  "We can't make way without wind," I snapped.  "Why don't you tell your father to pray some up for us?"

She shot me a sharp look.  "Prayers have no power to help us, Mr. Griffin, as you very well know.  Not in this case." 

I kept silent, ashamed of my comment.

She went on, her voice shaking.  "We're too small.  We cannot hope to strive with the likes of Daevas, or with his enemy.  We are in his hands now."  With that, she crossed the deck to sit beside the demon.

I went to turn my hand to the crew.

Chen and two of his mates were slouched in the bow, boneless and heavy eyed.  Over my head, the drooping sails waited to be brought down and stowed; the foremast needed more bracing, too, and we needed to rig a storm anchor.  "Let's go, Chen," I ordered.  "Get the men up.  We've work to do before the demon's enemy attacks again."

The superstitious crew should have been jumping with anxiety at such a prospect.  Chen barely twitched an eyelid and the two Lascars at his side lay like dead things.  A feeling of dread gathered in my stomach.  Going down into the sweltering hold, I found more of the crew sleeping, unwakeable.  I hurried next to my father's cabin.  He lay on the floor in a stinking, drunken stupor.  No, I realized, examining his tarry black fingers and lips, not drunk.  Drugged.  He and the crew had been at the cargo.  The opium would keep them out for hours; I'd have to prepare the ship myself.

*     *     * 

One of the casualties of the storm the previous night had been the dory; its staves along one side had been sprung by the battering winds.  Once he'd recovered some of his strength, Daevas had set to work repairing it, poking wads of oakum into the cracks between each narrow plank.  Miss Goforth kept him company, perched on a low stool by his side. 

I crouched down beside her.  "He's told you what is happening, about the Demon of Demons?"

"Yes."  She looked at me with worried blue eyes.  "What are we going to do?"

I took a deep breath.  "I don't know."  I stood and turned to Daevas, who was sitting cross-legged on the deck, a pot of pitch at his knee.  "What are you doing?" I asked.

He looked up.  "The crew--" he nodded toward a sailor, curled asleep in a shady spot.  "This is Angra Mainyu's doing."

I nodded.  That much had been clear to me; we did not take on opium addicts as crew, for obvious reasons.  "Yes.  Why are you mending the dory, Daevas?"

"This attack will be the worst one yet.  With your permission, Captain--" he shot me a wicked look--"I will fulfill my part of the bargain and save you, if I can.  I am going to take the dory and make a run for it.  Angra Mainyu will follow."

I frowned.  Bargain or not, this altruistic idea didn't sound very demon-like.  Daevas was, I reckoned, planning to use Hekaba as a decoy while saving himself.  In short, we were doomed.  "I see."  I glanced at Emily.  "Then you must take Miss Goforth with you."

Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth to speak, but the demon forestalled her.  "Whyever would you place a human girl in the midst of a battle between demons?" he exclaimed with false astonishment.  Then he sobered.  "Anyway, you cannot make decisions for Miss Goforth, of all people.  You must ask her what she will do."

I stared down at the weathered planks of the deck, unable to speak because I already knew how she would answer. 

"Look at him, Miss Goforth," the demon said.  "Rather quiet, but a handsome, intrepid young man, acting captain of this ship, smuggling opium under the noses of the East India Company, dealing with demons--all this and he's not yet twenty years of age.  A goodish prospect, don't you think?"

"He is certainly more interesting than anyone I ever met sitting 'round a tea table," she replied, and I could hear the smile in her voice.

"What do you say, then, Miss Goforth?" Daevas asked.

"I believe I will stay aboard the Hekaba, Mr. Davis." 

I looked up, astonished; she gave me a smile, her blue eyes sparkling. 

That gave me the energy I needed to prepare the ship for the coming storm, for the better prepared we were, the more likely we would survive.  With Emily's help, I brought down the sails and stowed them, coiled lines, and braced the foremast. 

As we worked, Daevas rigged a mast and sail in the dory, then launched it over the side.  He was almost a foot taller and broader than he'd been, and his skin seemed to barely contain him, as the true demon spirit seethed and sparked beneath that fragile covering.  His eyes flashed now like glimpses of lightning in distant thunderclouds.  I was glad the crew was unconscious.  They probably would have leapt overboard rather than share the deck with such a creature.

The sun was reddening into late afternoon, beating down on a molten sea, when Daevas readied himself to leave.  "She is coming," he said, with a glance at the horizon.  To me, he didn't seem frightened.  A touch concerned, perhaps, but his look had an element of . . . anticipation.  I wondered again what kind of insult he'd given the lady demon.

Emily stood at my side.  "Good luck, Daevas," she said.  "I would pray for you, but I'm not sure it would do you any good."

"And I would give you a kiss for that," he answered, the usual mocking gleam in his eyes.  "But I'm afraid Griffin here would have something to say about it."  He turned serious.  "Head south as best you can, my children.  Keep quiet and she might pass you by."

Perhaps I had succumbed to his charm after all, for I believed him.  I nodded and held out my hand.  He hesitated, then clasped it.  A darting grin, and he was over the side and into the dory, where he raised the sail and set his course, away.

Emily and I stood at the rail, watching him go.  He'd conjured a bubble of wind, so he went fast and without a backward look, skidding away over the slick surface of the sea.  He became a dot on the horizon and disappeared.

"Where is your father?" I asked.

Emily gave me a level look.  "Below, praying.  He thinks the Day of Judgment is at hand."

"Maybe it is," I said.

"And your father?"

"Drugged."

"We are neither of us," she said, taking my hand, "very fortunate in our fathers."

That was true enough.  Her hand was cold, despite the heat.  I put my arm around her and she leaned into me, shivering.  After a moment, I asked, "Will you come and help me rig the storm anchor?"

She set aside her fear, and so did I, and we got to work.  We were both rolling with sweat and cursing our bruised fingers by the time the anchor was ready, perched atop a nest of coiled rope.  We were dragging the last of the crew into the hold when night fell as if a swathe of black velvet had been dropped over the ship. 

Emily and I battened the last hatch and hurried together to the taffrail to look out over the stern. 

A fiery glow approached from the horizon, gleaming out of the darkness like a torch, growing huge as it hurtled toward us over the black, black sea.  The waves leapt up before it and the dead air awoke with a shriek, fleeing in terrified gusts that buffeted the ship as they passed.  Hekaba groaned and tossed with pleasure at the attentions of the wind and waves.

Emily and I, too awed and frightened to seek shelter below decks, clung to each other as Angra Mainyu approached.  The Shining One came on feet of flame, striding across the surface of the sea.  Clouds of steam billowed up at every burning step; the veil of mist surrounding her was penetrated by beams of light which sliced through the darkness like white-hot knives.

Angra Mainyu's attention was focused beyond us.  I imagined a tiny speck, Daevas in the dory, darting away like a Jesus bug on the surface of a puddle.  Perhaps he'd make it to the many island havens in the Malacca Strait, or perhaps he would turn and fight.  It was possible, likely even, that Angra Mainyu, the most beautiful demon as he'd called her, would not destroy him after all.

The Shining One paused in her passage to spare us a glance.  The waves boiled around us and the wind howled through the shrouds.  A flaming hand descended, picked up Hekaba and shook her.  Finding nothing she wanted, Angra Mainyu flung us down again and went striding on through the night of flame and darkness, leaving us to battle the storm that raged in her wake.

*     *     * 

Hekaba at once yielded to the demands of her lover the sea and went willingly into his watery arms.  We tried to drag the crew and our fathers onto the deck, to save them.  Our fathers refused to come out of their cabins and the crew were limp, dead weights.  As the ship went down, Emily and I lashed ourselves to a spar.  We clung to it all that night and all the next day, and into the next night.  Emily's heavy skirts dragged her down, so with clumsy fingers I helped her out of her dress; later, I removed my shirt and used it to make her a head covering to protect her from the sun.  Sharks glided silently past but took no notice of us, as if we were under the protection of an almighty hand.  We talked a little, and Emily wept for her father, and we took turns sleeping, and watched the horizon. 

As the dawn of the second day broke, Emily nudged me awake.  I opened salt-encrusted eyes to see before us a crowd of ships at anchor in a dirty harbor, docks piled with bales and barrels, a city of ramshackle huts and filthy streets.  Madras. 

Daevas had kept his part of the bargain.  Emily's father was gone and so was mine, sunk in the sea along with Hekaba and her crew and cargo.  There would be no going on to China after this, no more smuggling of opium and no conversion of the heathen masses.

We were utterly bereft.  Lost, but found.

 

 

About the Author:

Sarah Prineas is an active member of SFWA; her stories have appeared in or are forthcoming in Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Talebones, Cicada, Paradox, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Lone Star Stories, Ideomancer, Flytrap, and Escape Pod.  Two of her stories were honorably mentioned last year, and one this year, in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror

 


Story 2006 Sarah Prineas.  Painting by Willem van de Velde, the Younger, circa 1700.