Nightshine, p.39
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       Nightshine, p.39
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         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 39

 

  Tlemi pointed to the wavy lines. “Water. ” She moved her fingertip to the others. “Food, cloth, blade, club, arrow, spear. We make, hide. Save for leave island. ”

  Samuel tapped the symbol she had identified as “blade. ” “How many of these did you hide here?”

  “I not know number words. Every moon make two. Now have this many. ” She held up all her fingers, curled them over, and extended five on one hand and one on the other.

  Sixteen blades would arm everyone on the island, but they wouldn’t be enough to overcome Segundo’s guns. “How many of the other weapons did you make?”

  One of the men said something to Colotl, who went over to speak in a low voice to him.

  “Same as blades. Make two, every moon. ” She took out another napkin and opened it to show the island embroidered again, but this time with a network of lines that indicated the topographical features. At three points around the island, stitched lines radiated out, ending in small crescents.

  “Segundo boats. ” Tlemi pointed to the crescent shapes, and then traced the stitched lines over to the outer edge of the island. “Come this way. ” She tapped a ridge of lines on the island parallel to the approach. “Wait, watch here. Segundo come, use arrow, fire. ” She made an arc with her finger from the ridge to the crescent.

  Samuel shook his head. “We can’t burn the boat; we’ll need it to get everyone off the island. ”

  Colotl rejoined them. “Samuel. ” He turned and spoke quickly to Tlemi, who argued with him before heaving a sigh.

  “Liniz, Ihiyo worry. ” She touched her lips. “You open mouth, show teeth. ”

  “The men want to look at my teeth?” he asked, just to be sure. When she nodded, he stepped forward into the light, turning to Colotl as he opened his mouth.

  The islander bent his head to look inside, and then gestured for Liniz and Ihiyo, who came over and did the same before Ihiyo muttered something.

  Colotl drew the blade from his belt, but instead of attacking Samuel he slashed it across his palm and held the bleeding wound up in front of Ihiyo’s face.

  Samuel held still. “What is he doing, Tlemi?”

  “Showing Ihiyo blood not make you change. ” She gave him a hesitant look. “You no want drink?”

  “I’m afraid I don’t drink blood. ” And why would Ihiyo and Liniz think he would?

  Before Samuel could ask, scuffling footsteps came from the outer passage. Instantly the men spread out while Colotl pushed Tlemi behind him.

  Charlotte emerged into the cave, her hair a wild tangle, her face shiny with sweat. “Thank God. ” She hurried over to Tlemi. “Where is Pici?”

  Her question caused Ihiyo to surge forward, but Colotl caught his arm.

  “Pici sleep,” Tlemi said.

  Charlotte shook her head. “No, she’s wide-awake. ” She turned to Samuel. “Someone has to take me to her, right now. ”

  “Why, Charlotte?”

  “My thought stream crossed hers, and I felt everything she was feeling,” she said. “Pici is going to kill herself. Tonight. ”

  As soon as Charlotte uttered Pici’s name, Ihiyo shoved his way past them and ran out of the cave.

  “Wait,” she called after him, and then turned to Samuel. “She’s not inside. She’s walking on the beach. I don’t know where. ”

  Her voice trembled, and Samuel realized Pici’s decision to drown herself must have brought back memories of her adoptive father and the horror he had put her through on the bridge. “We’ll find her in time,” he promised.

  Once they left the cave, Samuel scanned the surrounding area. Even if they all scattered, the island was too large for them to search every inch of shoreline. “Charlotte, did she think of a particular place when she left the house? A favorite swimming spot, or a cove, or something?”

  She shook her head. “She just kept walking and looking at the water. ” Her eyes shifted up. “She could see the moon, but that doesn’t help. ” She closed her eyes and concentrated. “Driftwood. She had to walk around piles of it. ”

  Tlemi spoke quickly to Colotl, and then said to Samuel, “We know where she is. ” She pointed to the west side of the island. “Colotl will guide us there. ”

  “If you’ll hold on to me,” Charlotte said as they followed the islanders into the brush, “I can try to reconnect to her. ”

  “No. ” When she gave Samuel a surprised look, he added, “There are some things you should never have to feel again, honey, and this is one of them. ”

  She bit her lip before she nodded. “It’s not her fault. She’s so young, and she’s afraid for the baby. ”

  Colotl guided them along a barely perceptible trail through several thickets and groves before the vegetation began to thin and Samuel could hear waves washing up on the sand. As they emerged into the open, Samuel saw Ihiyo running ahead of them toward the water. He was shouting Pici’s name.

  “We’re too late,” Charlotte whispered.

  “No, we’re not. ” Samuel kicked off his shoes and took off after Ihiyo.

  Colotl and some of the other men followed him in, but as soon as Samuel dived into the waves he shot ahead of them, cleaving through the rough water with broad, powerful strokes. He passed Ihiyo, who was still shouting, and turned his head from side to side until he spotted her. She was already a hundred yards offshore and swimming steadily away from the island.

  Samuel didn’t waste his breath trying to call her back, but headed directly for her, crossing the distance between them as quickly as he could. Pici looked back, and when she saw him she stopped swimming and sank beneath the surface.

  Water closed over Samuel’s head as he submerged to go after her. Moonbeams filtered down around him, silvering the silhouette of an awkward shape. Bubbles poured from Pici’s mouth as she rapidly sank toward the dark bottom.

  Pressure became a vise around Samuel as he swam down after her, reaching out and snatching the drifting material of her robe and using it to pull her limp body into his arms. He kicked with all his strength, driving both of them rapidly toward the moonlight.

  As his head broke the surface he dragged in oxygen, turning Pici so that her back was pressed to his chest. She didn’t move for several moments, and then she coughed out some water and began breathing.

  “Be still,” he told her when she made a weak attempt to push away his arm. Once he was sure he had a good grip on her, he used his free arm and his legs to propel them back toward the beach.

  Colotl met him halfway to the shore and flanked Pici, helping to support her. He spoke sharply to her, but when she didn’t respond he looked over her head at Samuel.

  “She’s all right,” he told the islander, nodding at the same time. “Charlotte will look after her. ”

  Ihiyo and the rest of the men converged on them as they reached the shallows, and Pici’s distraught partner let out a terrible wail as he saw her condition.

  “Tlemi,” Samuel called. “Tell him she’s alive. Charlotte. ”

  “Here. ” She pushed her way through the men and placed her hand on Pici’s throat. “Let’s get her out of the water. ”

  Samuel carried her up onto the sand, where several of the women had spread out some palm fronds. Remembering the recovery position Charlotte had used on Findley, he lowered Pici down gently onto her side.

  Charlotte knelt beside her and checked her pulse, then put her ear to the other woman’s chest and listened. “Her lungs are clear. ” She placed her hands on the sides of Pici’s distended belly, moving them slowly over the mound until she felt something. “The baby’s active. ”

  Ihiyo fell to the sand on the other side of Pici, his face stricken with fear.

  “We need to get her warm and dry,” Charlotte said to Tlemi. “Whose house is nearest to here?”

  “Yours,” Tlemi told her, pointing past the driftwood piles.

  Colotl helped Ihiyo to his fee
t while Samuel lifted Pici. The other islanders walked ahead, lighting their path with torches as they made their way down the beach.

  Charlotte paced Samuel as she kept an eye on Pici’s face. “This is not over yet,” she murmured to him. “I need to give her a complete examination and then monitor her for the rest of the night. ”

  “What are your concerns?”

  “Aside from the fact that she’s suicidal, trauma like this often results in premature delivery. ” She glanced out at the water. “If she has the baby tonight, by tomorrow morning they’ll know, and they’ll come to take it. ”

  Samuel looked down at Pici’s young, pale face. “Not if we convince them that she drowned herself tonight. ”

  Charlotte stopped in her tracks and closed her eyes briefly before she turned to him. “It’s too late. ”

  “They could have given me superstrength. ” Drew crawled across the bottom of the hold. “Or eyes that shoot laser beams. Yeah, that would be better; I’d just have to wear sunglasses all the time. I look good in shades. ”

  The nylon cords they’d used to bind his wrists and ankles had been knotted so tightly they cut into his flesh with every move he made, but he ignored the discomfort as he inched across the rough planks toward the shape huddled in one corner. Gracie hadn’t moved or spoken since the guards had tossed her below with him, but he was pretty sure she was conscious.

  “I bet you got a cool ability,” he continued, wincing as his knee rammed into a nail head protruding from the deck. “Like you can walk on water, or breathe it, or something like that, right?”

  Gracie uttered a muffled sob.

  “It’s okay,” he assured her. “You don’t have to tell me anything right now. Unless you’re a mermaid. ” He reached her, and shuffled around until he cradled her body with his. “If my kids are going to have fins or scales, I should know that now. I mean, after I figure a way to get that gag off you. ”

  Gracie made a choking sound as she turned and pressed her face against his chest as she wept.
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