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“With a moderate wind, we should reach Indian Island in two days time,” said Cap’n as the ship left the bay where Marc had met Andrew. “I’ve got some captain things that need looking to, so you and your friends are welcome to walk about and find your sea legs. Come to my mess for lunch and we’ll talk.”

“It would be our pleasure, Cap’n,” said Marc looking back the way they had come.

Cap’n left him to his thoughts, and walked towards two of his men who were having a grave conversation. Marc looked up at the sails, Rin and Karteen were together up among the ropes and sails. They were laughing and playing away from the affairs of the angels below. This was the first time Marc had seen Rin enjoying himself since they had first met.

“You’re right, you know,” said Lily wrapping her arms around his waist. “I am very happy that Rin has found someone to be with. I can only hope they will be as happy as us.”

Marc leaned over and kissed her, quite naturally. He did not know why he did. It was not her words, he was not listening to her, but nonetheless the kiss made him feel belonged.

Joel, joined them and they talked of the unknown lands that lay ahead of them. They decided that they would ask Cap’n about this Indian Island at lunch. They then went below to their cabins and unpacked.

Cap’n was busier than he had expected and could not make it for lunch. He instead invited them to supper. The three angels ate lunch with Rin and Karteen in Marc and Lily’s cabin. The cabin was large and well decorated with objects from the ship’s many travels. The companions took the opportunity to get to know Karteen, a very nice and polite but also rough and abrupt little bird.

They were all seated or perched, depending on their species, in a very large room. Cap’n sat at the head of the table and ate with the appetite of a starving lion. By the time his dinner guests had finished buttering their buns, he had finished his meal and was watching them.

“On the planet Prûka, someone would have stolen your meal by now,” said Cap’n grinning to himself, thinking back to his life on Prûka. “Well actually, on Prûka you might even be the meal.” He let out a small guttural laugh.

Joel looked up from his plate and swallowed his mouthful of fish. “Cap’n, we were talking earlier and none of us know what to expect from this Indian Island. Could you tell us of what you know?”

“Well Indian Island is the first Island that belongs to the group that is known as Newhaven. In the past it was mostly ignored because of its natives and their way of life.” Cap’n took a drink of water. “We used to steer clear of her and only do business with the rest of the islands. But now the Métis have formed a colony there, being not quite native and not quite mainlander, they like the company of both. Now they mediate for us and we trade with them as well as the natives.”

“And this will be your only stop before returning home?” asked Marc.

“Yes but don’t you fret, there are always ships stopping and leaving. It won’t be hard for you to find another to bring you farther.” Cap’n refilled his plate with food and his goblet with the very tasty wine.

“What are you trading with the Métis this time? Furs? Gold?” asked Joel with a very sincere look on his face.

“No, nothing that extravagant. Only vegetables, I’m…” started Cap’n as a knock came at the door. “Yes!” growled Cap’n.

The door opened timidly, and through it came his young first mate, Petrid. He took time to close the door behind him before addressing Cap’n. “I’ve an infraction to report Cap’n. It seems we have a stowaway.”

“Seems! Seems indeed. Send her in,” said Cap’n cursing under his breath.

“But Cap’n, it isn’t Meribah. It’s a young man.”

Cap’n nodded and motioned that he bring the man forth. Petrid opened the door and called for some unseen guard to send the boy. The boy entered with his jacket collar pulled up around his face and a long brimmed hat covering his eyes. Even without seeing his face, Marc could tell it was Nathanial.

“Nathanial,” Joel finally screeched, “what are you doing here? Your grand’ will never forgive us.”

“Nonsense,” laughed Cap’n slapping Joel on the back. He then walked over to Nathanial and tossed him into a chair. “The boy, isn’t a boy. You have to remember that within that small body is the mind of a two hundred year old man. Who is anyone to tell him how to live, short of his maker. Have some food my little stowaway, I bet it will beat the raw fish that you had to choose from in the hull.” Cap’n began to laugh hysterically. “I remember a time or two when I did the same.” He managed to pronounce through his laughter.

When at last he returned to his seat, and the meal continued. Marc looked over to Cap’n and asked, “Cap’n, when your firstmate came in, you thought the stowaway would be a girl named Meribah.”

Cap’n jerked his attention from his plate to Marc’s surprised eyes. “Meribah, is the most beautiful, spirited, wild, and bright Soren ever to be born. But you had better stay to your eternal-mate young one, or she’ll break your heart and your will to carry on.”

“Father!” came a muffled yell from behind Joel.

“Meribah?” choked Cap’n.

Everyone turned toward the cabinet that had screamed not more that a second ago. The bottom right door was kicked suddenly open, and from within emerged what Joel could only describe as a creature of enigmatic beauty.