Still like a statue, Simon sat. The tide rose, creeping slowly up the harbor wall, bringing with it the fishing boats that were being made ready for departure on the high tide later that day. Morosely Simon stared at all who walked across the harbor front, and when it began to empty in the lull before the evening's activity, he stared at the fishing boats and their crew instead.
Simon did not realize how threatening he appeared to the fishermen. He still had a certain brooding quality to him, and his Magykal green eyes had a commanding stare, which was not lost on the superstitious fishermen. His clothes also set him apart from normal Port folk. He wore some ancient robes that had once belonged to his old Master, DomDaniel - when the Necromancer had been younger and a good deal thinner than he later became. Simon had found them in a trunk and had thought them rather stylish. He was unaware of the effect that the embroidered Darke symbols had on people, even though they were hard to see now that the cloth had faded to a dull gray and the symbols themselves had begun to unravel and fray.
Most fishermen were too wary to approach Simon, but one, the skipper of the nearest boat - a large black fishing boat named Marauder - came up to him and snarled, We don't want your kind here, ill-wishin' the fishin'. Bog off. Simon looked up at the skipper. The man's weather-beaten face was far too close for comfort. His breath smelled of fish, and his black-button little piggy eyes had a menacing look. Simon got to his feet and the skipper stared belligerently, his short gray hair standing on end as if personally offended. A large vein in his wiry neck throbbed underneath a tattoo of a parrot, making it look as though the parrot was laughing. Simon had no wish for a confrontation. With a certain dignity, he wrapped his tattered robes around himself and walked slowly away to the Customs House, where he trailed up the stairs to the attic room and resumed his watch from the window. The window looked across the quayside, quiet now in the hiatus between the daytime bustle and the nighttime Port life. The only activity worth watching was on the Marauder. Simon saw the skipper yell at his crew - a boy of about fourteen and a thin, shaven-headed man with a nasty scowl - and send them off to Honest Joe's. A tall, bony woman with spiky hair emerged from the Harbor Master's house and went across to the Marauder, where she stood on the quayside, talking intently to the skipper. Simon stared at the woman. He was sure he knew her from somewhere. He searched his memory and suddenly her name came to him - she was Una Brakket, someone with whom Simon had had dealings during an episode involving some bones, an episode he would like to forget. What, he wondered, was Una Brakket doing with the skipper? The boy and the shaven-headed man came back clutching armfuls of rope - the boy carrying so much that he looked like a pile of rope on legs. They were sent back for more, and the skipper's conversation continued.
Simon thought the skipper and Una Brakket looked like a most unlikely couple, but you never knew. After all, who would have thought he and Lucy...Simon shook his head and told himself to stop thinking about Lucy. She must have found someone else; he was just going to have to get used to it. He watched Una Brakket hand over a small package, give the skipper a thumbs-up sign and stride off. Not the most romantic of good-byes, thought Simon gloomily - but who cared? Romance was a waste of time. A waste of time or not, Simon could not tear himself away from his window. The shadows were beginning to lengthen and the wind was picking up, sending the occasional pie wrapper skittering across the old stones. On the water the excitement of the high tide was beginning to take effect. The last of the nets were being stowed, and fishermen were beginning to unfurl their sails and make ready to leave. The Marauder already had her heavy red canvas staysail fixed at her stern, and her crew were hauling up her mainsail. Simon felt his eyelids begin to droop. He had had very little sleep since Lucy disappeared, and the soporific feeling of the late afternoon was beginning to catch up with him. He leaned his head against the cold glass of the window and briefly closed his eyes. A chorus of shouts jolted him awake.
"Bad luck - look away, look away!"
"Cast off, cast off!"
The crew of the Marauder were frantically untying their last mooring rope and pushing off from the harbor. And as Simon wondered what could possibly be sending them into such a panic, he saw a boy and a girl hand-in-hand, dirty and drenched, come tearing across the quayside. The girl was dragging the boy behind her, her braids flying just like Lucy's always did, and -
Simon was out the door, leaping down the narrow stairs three at a time, down, down through the tall Customs House he flew, skidding around the corners, scattering the returning line of children and at last hitting the harborside just in time to see his Lucy leap onto the departing Marauder with the barefoot boy at her side.
"Lu - !" Simon began, but his shout was cut short. A great roar like a furnace came from behind him and something Darke pushed him out of the way. Simon fell through a tangle of ropes, hit his head on an anchor and tumbled into the deep green water, where he drifted down and came to rest on the harbor bed.
Chapter 12 Into the Fire
S imon lay on the stony harbor bed, fifteen feet underwater, wondering why he had decided to lie down in such an uncomfortable, wet place. Dreamily he looked up through the murky green blur. Far above him, the dark hulls of the fishing boats moved lazily in the swell, long tendrils of seaweed wafting from their barnacle-encrusted keels. An eel swam across his line of sight and a few curious fish nuzzled at his toes. In his ears the swish-swash sound of the sea mixed with the rattle of the stones on the harbor bed and the distant thud of the hulls bumping above. It was, he thought as he watched his robes waft around in the cold currents of the incoming tide, very strange. Simon did not feel the need to breathe. The Darke Art of Suspension Underwater - something that the old bones of DomDaniel had made him practice every day with his head in a bucket of water - had automatically kicked in. Simon smiled to himself as he slowly came to and realized what he was doing. Sometimes, he thought, a Darke Art came in useful; he liked the almost forgotten feeling of being in total control, but...Simon frowned and a few bubbles loosed themselves from his eyebrows and drifted lazily to the surface far above. But that was not why he was down here. There was something he had to do - something important. Lucy!
At the thought of Lucy, Simon's Darke control left him. A sharp pain shot through his lungs, accompanied by an overwhelming urge to breathe. Panicking, Simon tried to push himself off from the harbor bottom, but he couldn't move. His robes...they were caught...on what - on what?
With frantic, cold fingers Simon pulled the frayed hem of his tunic off the barb of an old anchor and, with his lungs screaming to take a breath now, now, now, he kicked off from the gravelly harbor bed. The buoyancy of the water quickly propelled him upward, and a few seconds later he broke the oily surface of the harbor like a cork out of a bottle - to the amazement of a rapidly gathering crowd.
The crowd had not actually gathered to see Simon. But when Simon's seaweed-covered head appeared suddenly, coughing and spluttering, it quickly switched its attention from Linda and her FlashBoard to Simon. And while the crowd watched Simon swim to the steps and climb out, his robes dripping dramatically, the Darke symbols standing out against the water-darkened fabric, his green eyes flashing in a way that some of the female watchers found rather interesting, Linda took her chance. Quietly she picked up the FlashBoard and sneaked away.
Linda had not had a good reception when she had screeched to a halt on the edge of the quay. A crowd had quickly gathered, the majority of whom had been all for pushing her into the harbor. The Port Witch Coven was not popular in the Port, and as Linda slunk off into Fishguts Twist she knew that she had had a narrow escape. Saltwater and Darke Witchcraft do not mix well. A witch as steeped in the Darke as Linda would be in danger of dissolving into a pool of Darke slime within a few seconds of contact with the sea, which is one of the reasons you will never see a Darke witch cry. Lucy Gringe had taken advantage of this fact and had gambled that Linda would not dare take the FlashBoard out across the water - and she was right.
But Lucy had not thought past escaping the dreaded Linda. And as the Marauder sailed out of the harbor Lucy began to realize that maybe she had - as her mother would have put it - jumped out of the stew pot and into the fire. Lucy and Wolf Boy had leaped aboard one of the nastiest boats in the Port, skippered by a most unpleasant - and deeply superstitious - skipper. If there was one thing that this skipper disliked it was women on board, especially women with braids. Theodophilus Fortitude Fry, skipper of the Marauder, did not like women - or girls - with braids. Theodophilus Fortitude Fry had grown up as the youngest brother of eight sisters. And they had all worn braids. And the biggest, bossiest one had worn them with lots of ribbons, just like Lucy did. And so Skipper Fry surveyed his unexpected passengers with an expression of dismay, his bellow of, "Throw her off! Now! " was perhaps understandable - but not to Lucy and Wolf Boy. To them, and Lucy in particular, it seemed very unreasonable. There were just two crew members aboard the Marauder: one was the skipper's son, Jakey Fry, a redheaded boy with a mass of freckles and watery green eyes like the sea. He wore his hair cut short and a perpetually worried expression. Jakey thought he was about fourteen, although no one had ever bothered to tell him his exact age. The other crew member was Thin Crowe, one of the Crowe twins. The Crowe twins were, theoretically, identical, but one was fat and one was thin - and that was the way it had always been, since the day they were born. They were exceedingly stupid, possibly not much more intelligent than the average Port fish crate - indeed, there were some Port fish crates that might have successfully disputed that. Apart from their alarming difference in size, the Crowes were remarkably similar. Their eyes were as blank and pale as those of a dead fish on a slab, their heads were covered in a short black stubble and cuts from the razors that they occasionally scraped across their bumpy skulls, and they both wore short, filthy tunics of an indeterminate color and leather leggings. The Crowe twins took turns crewing the Marauder. They suited Skipper Fry - they were nasty and stupid enough to do what he wanted without asking questions. And so, when Skipper Fry yelled, "Throw her off! Now! " he knew that that was exactly what Thin Crowe would do, without a second thought. Skipper Fry didn't like second thoughts.