“What sort of festival is this?” Zale asked.
Vidvan wrapped his cloak around himself. “A celebration of the tide. This time of year it ebbs very low and they believe making offers to the gods will bring the tide back to the level it is the rest of the year.”
Zale stared out at the festive banners, at the crowds dressed in bright greens and blues, lined with reds and yellows. “This is the time of year for a low tide?”
The older man nodded. “Yes, it is odd. Not the same as the surrounding areas. It certainly does make it seem as though the gods are focused on this particular spot to draw the waters away.”
Vidvan didn’t believe that was the answer though, Zale could tell. He smiled. “Or an interesting creature with an annual tradition.”
“That would be more likely.”
The excitement in that single sentence was contagious. “Perhaps we should see if we can find it.”
“Zale, my boy, if only Deston was as adventurous as you,” Vidvan praised. That said, the two of them made their way through the festival.
“I am not prepared for this weather,” Zale admitted.
Salimah had to agree. Despite having the proper gear for the mountains, Zale didn’t appear at all able to hide from the snowy chill. “Use this.” She removed her over cloak, handing it over to him.
Zale smiled, but shook his head. “I won’t take your warmth, lady Salimah. I might be uncomfortable, but I can survive this.”
She did not retract her offer. “I live in this ice. It doesn’t cause me the same discomfort. My temple garb in its entirety protects me from this, under my faith. I am simply sharing a portion of it with you. Please, while we traverse this snow at the very least.”
He did not deny it again. It came down to his ankles, but it was better than prior. “Thank you. I see why you wouldn’t make this offer when we are with the others. You always wear many layers, but that is certainly not enough to share with all.”
Salimah nodded. “Let’s keep this between you and me then. I am trusting in your strong arm to protect us, if we are attacked.”
Zale nodded. “Of course.”
The two of them trudged onward.
Zale struggled against the current, which had shifted out of nowhere. The signs he had looked for within the water had not warned him of this surprising change until it was too late. It had been years since the waters had surprised him in such a way. His boat stayed upright in the tumultuous waves, but barely. Only through the expert craft of its creation and every single drop of knowledge he had learned in managing it did they so survive the ocean.
Yet Zale knew better. No matter how much talent, skill, or luck anyone could have, sometimes it was never enough to combat the wrath of the Sea Gods. And this time it felt as though multiple had been angered, a comparison he never would have made before.
There was no moment when Zale consciously realized they were going down. The gradual knowledge that his situation was unavoidable gave him time to mentally give his boat the farewell it deserved as he continued the struggle.
By the whims of the Gods, Zale and his boat disappeared into the sea’s foam.
Deston stared down at the water, where Zale moved around like one of the fish that they would be eating soon.
“The nets are full. Help me bring them up.”
He did so, climbing down the side to hoist the fish up on deck. Two small nets, set up wherever it was Zale had decided they would best harvest. He had, as always, chosen correctly. There would be enough to last them some time. Zale handed up the second and Deston threw that one up as well. Reaching down, he took Zale by the wrist and pulled him up out of the water. They both returned to the deck.
“I have to say, I think we got lucky this time,” Zale said brightly.
They sorted through the catch and got started with the packing. “The weather looks like it’ll hold up. The wind could take us further east, to the reef. What do you think?”
What he thought was that Zale knew more about this than he did, but he appreciated being treated as though he was on a similar level. He nodded again.
Zale smiled at him. He held up one of the fish. “Your favorite.”
At that, Deston couldn’t help but smile. Zale patted him on the shoulder, a hefty clap, before moving around him. Deston continued with the task and the two of them enjoyed the day with Zale’s occasional speech.
It was a good day.