Photo credit: Edward Musiak
Ekadwikasenala inhaled the salty air, watching the land recede. They had a long journey ahead.
He leapt to the foremast to oversee his crew. Lithe men and women flowed across the decks and ropes, the dance of his people, in practiced synchrony.
Even if Jallen weren’t the only person standing still in a river of bodies, her pale skin would set her apart. A lone beach pebble in a blue bowl of onyx stones. To him, a pearl.
Eka counted, again, all the customs this violated. He prayed to Xinxoni for forgiveness. Surely Xinxoni had given him this heart, these eyes, this mind.
He prayed also that his parents would see Jallen’s worthiness. She was wise and calm and brave—no weak lander, to flail and wail when the waves hit. She would share the risks. She would take the vow.
Being wedded by her priest would mean little to the Ossarač. Eka touched the blank black space on his forearm, imagining the bond mark there. White. It would barely show on her.
Eka knew the storms ahead. His people were no more accepting of foreigners than hers. Less so, in some ways. And their children, would they be water-blessed? Would they ever bear the blue and green sea-marks?
Eka insisted Jallen understood how the winds blew before she came. The more he warned, the firmer her stance, crouching down against his rolling words. He grinned, remembering. She would try to change an ocean current if it crossed her, that woman.
And what if his mother did not allow it? She may not. For all she loved him, she may not. He could find a rogue waves-eye to bond them, but they would be banished, both from his islands and from the trade routes to her homeland. Or he could return here, to leave Jallen at her father’s door, and his heart as well.
He could not ask her to abandon her people forever. It would be up to her.
Eka pondered how Jallen would choose. He watched her at the rail, staring at the port village fading into the distance. She kept her eyes locked on the building on shore, as though memorizing it for the last time.
He thought he knew.