Alright, my last stand-alone story for the moment.
And actually, since November is National Novel-Writing Month, my output over here may drop again for the month. Hard enough to write 50,000 words without writing another 10,000 here.
â€œSo you see why it would be mostâ€¦ embarrassing were the ship to fail to reach its destination.â€
Nervask, Divine Minister of Western Storms, nodded absently, tracing lines in the sand that layered the top of his table. The room that he sat in was glorious by mortal standards; walls towering twenty feet tall, each depicting an area of the West that was under his observation, the corners made of living coral, with soft blue light filtering down, and a desk formed from the ivory of narwhales. His chair was padded with blue seaweed, and he was usually very pleased with it.
Still, there were days that he missed his old job maintaining coastal storms for the Neck.
â€œYes, yes.â€ Raising a barnacle-covered arm, he smiled in what he hoped would both encourage and dismiss his guest. â€œIâ€™ll be sure to speak to the areaâ€™s Storm Mothers about it.â€
â€œI should do more than that, were I you.â€ The man facing him sniffed haughtily, one hand reaching down to rub at the sand on the table. â€œThere cannot be any storms along the boatâ€™s path. Please impress upon your charges theâ€¦ importance of this.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Nervask raised his arm again, never looking up, as Elusive Wave frowned at him. The Chosen of Journeys might think he ruled the West, but Nervask knew better. Still, no sense antagonizing him unduly. â€œRest assured, Master Wave, I will take every step to ensure that the Storm Mothers know how important this is.â€ And perhaps one of them would sink the boat out of spite. Serve him right.
As Elusive Wave swept out of the room, Nervask returned his attention to his desk, carefully sculpting it into an intricate image of sand and stone. Time enough to warn the Mothers; after all, the ship wasnâ€™t due to set sail for another day, and it would be a week before it entered their territory. Terrestrial Exalts swarming onboard, acting like princes of Creation. Children in their parentsâ€™ clothes. It wouldnâ€™t last, but it was amusing enough to watch. And heâ€™d done well enough by it; when his predecessor had ignored one too many Immaculate directives, he had been unfortunate enough to be caught stealing worship, and had been heavily demoted. Leading to Nervaskâ€™s own promotion.
â€œGood afternoon, Master Nervask.â€ Nervask looked up as the wall rippled, and Cascading Hanlon slipped in, bowing. Nervask gave a half-wave, silently deploring having given so many people ways into his office â€“ either from Creation or Yu-Shan. Hoping the Exalt would leave after a few pleasantries, he continued shaping his sculpture, a family of turtles standing around one another.
â€œGood afternoon, Hanlon. Lovely to see you.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure.â€ Hanlon smirked, reminding Nervask of a dolphin sneaking up on a fish. Feeling uncomfortable, he kept his attention on his work as the Exalt continued speaking, ignoring the way that he casually draped himself over a chair. â€œI suppose youâ€™ve heard of the fleet that the Wyld Hunt is sending out to deal with that new Solar they spotted?â€
â€œYes, yes, itâ€™s been discussed.â€ Nervask waved a hand idlly. â€œIâ€™ll take care of it.â€
â€œI hope so. After all, it would be a great â€“â€
â€œEmbarrassment if the fleet were to fail to reach its destination.â€ Nervask yawned, carefully shaping a tiny shell. â€œI told you, itâ€™s been discussed.â€
â€œI was thinking more of how much trouble it will be for you, given that Sikanaru has vowed never to allow Ravall to cross her waters.â€
The sculpture exploded in a cloud of sand as as Nervaskâ€™s fist came down involuntarily. His head shot up, meeting Hanlonâ€™s amused gaze. After a moment, he spoke, composing himself. Think of the tides. The tides. â€œDid she. Howâ€¦ interesting. You know, I donâ€™t really think that came up. Nor did the identity of the fleetâ€™s captain, now that I think about it.â€
â€œProbably an oversight on my part. After all, Sikanaru would surely understand why the Bureau of Destinyâ€™s games come before her sworn vows.â€ Hanlonâ€™s smile turned to a grin, displaying sharkâ€™s teeth. â€œIâ€™m sure she wouldnâ€™t do anything foolish.â€
For a moment, Nervask saw doom falling before him. Then, suddenly, his eyes narrowed, and he looked up at the other. â€œIâ€™m sure as well. But itâ€™s better to make sure that nothing untoward happens, yes? I should warn her immediately.â€ Hanlonâ€™s grin widened, and Nervask found himself smiling in response. â€œMight the Pact be willing to keep an eye on that? Just to make sure that she doesnâ€™t do anything too foolish.â€
â€œOf course.â€ The Lunar stood fluidly, blowing. â€œBut travel can be difficult. We might not arrive quite in time.â€
â€œUnderstandable.â€ Nervask stood as well, reaching out to shake his comradeâ€™s hand. â€œBut Iâ€™m sure the Bureau will rest easier knowing that the Huntâ€™s artifacts will not be lost on the bottom of the ocean.â€
â€œIndeed.â€ Hanlon smiled, turning to go. â€œThank you for your devotion to proper duty, Nervask. We wonâ€™t forget it.â€
â€œAnd thank you, Hanlon. Youâ€™ve saved me from a long labour.â€ Nervask barely restrained his chuckle as the Lunar left. Sikanaru would soon be disciplined for going against the Bureau, he would come off scot-free, and the Pact would owe him a favour. Yes, for a god who knew where to look, there was always a way to get ahead.