The sea was as clam as a millpond but this could not prevent Gawain from hanging over the side of the railings vomiting breakfast violently into the calm blue. Ardiath stood beside him for a while patting him slowly on the back making sympathetic clucking sounds. Though secretly she couldn't understand how anyone could be seasick on this type of water. Lancelot was chatting jaunitly with Galahad, both seeming oblivious to their fellow knights plight.
Tristian sat by himself crarving some wood into the shape of a hilt. It would make an excellent base for a hunting knife.
Gawain shoulders tensed and he began wretching somemore. There was nothing left in his stomach and Ardiath narrowed her eyes in concern. This futile heaving was going to damage his stomach. She swiftly fetched some water and made him tilt his head so he could take a couple of sips. He was clearly thirsty but Ardiath only let him have a little. She had seen land sicknesses like this. She knew what was coming next.
His face was peaceful for a moment but then he began breath faster. He was trying to maintain control. This valiant attempt didn't last long and he threw himself back over the rails just before a threw wave hit him. It was not a violent as the last one. Ardiath keep this up with the water. He steadily began bringing up less and less. This was a good sign but he was weakening. Ardiath had to warp her arms around him to keep him upright and even then he was slumping heavily upon her.
She was relieved when Tristian appeared and took his weight. "Is he alright?"
"I do not know," Ardiath confessed honestly.
"I am dying," Gawain contributed weakly.
"Don't be ridiculous," Ardiath scolded him but there was a ghost of a smile on her lips.
The captain walked over to them. "Some of my boys told me ye were having a spot of bother with one of your lads." He addressed Ardiath.
"Sea sickness," Ardiath explained.
"Uh a might Sarmatian Knight tamed by our lady ocean.. when she's in a good mood and all!" The crew near by laughed. Gawain couldn't retort but he managed a particularly rude symbol with his fingers.
This made them roar louder and the Captain clapped him on the back. "Still got some spirit in ye yet! We might be able to save you from death!"
"I am joking son. Let's get ye down in a bed. You can sleep it off." Between Tristain and the Captain they got Gawain settled. He fell asleep pretty quickly.
"Will he be alright?" Tristain repeated his question to the Captain.
"He'll be fine! Just needs to get his sea legs! He should thank his blessings the weather is like this but it's not much use for travelling."
As if the very elements themselves had heard him there was a shout. "Wind. Steady and strong!"
"Well then ride her," The Captain shouted back, tramping up the stairs. Ardiath followed him without looking at Tristain. The awake Knight shot a look at his comrade and satisfied that he was comfortable, followed her upwards.
The Captain was arguing with one of his crew. "We need the sail open!"
"We're short of crew cap'in!"
Ardiath shot a look at the sail. It needed it's ties undone but the rest were occupied with the other sails, steering and ropes.
"I can do it," She said eyeing the rope lader up.
"That's awfully high, missy!" The crew member observed looking at her doubtfully.
"I lived on a cliff most of my life," She replied. Ardiath strode over to the lader with more conviction than Tristain had seen in her. Lancelot and Galahad had moved over, drawn by the loud voices. Ardiath, tucked up her skirts so an indecent amount of leg was showing. They were too skinny and pasty from lack of sun however there were cat calls from the crew but she ignored them. The were soon silenced as they saw the ease she moved up the lader.
Galahad let out a low whistle. Tristian turned to glare at him.
Galahad looked defensive. "She's a good climber! Nothing else!"
Up top she moved with a slow grace untying the binds. The sun behind her shone on her hair. Tristian could understand why his brother had stayed and married her. She looked like an angel with her snowy skin. He could certainly see it now when she was too far away to see the empty eyes.
Ardiath was quite happy up here. It was dangerous and one wrong move could mean her death but she couldn't bring herself to be frightened. She knew as long as she was careful she would be fine. A few days ago she might have been purposefully reckless. But just as her fingers fumbled with the last tie she realised that she wanted to live. She paused. She looked down at the new people in her life. Joachim's brother and fiends. Were they her new family?
Down bellow they saw her stop moving as she looked down.
"She's frozen," one man commented ruefully.
"All bonny, lass?" the Captain called. She didn't answer. Tristian took a step towards the ladder intent on going up and saving her but she caught his eye. Ardiath shook her head and lifted a hand to indicate that she was sound.
The last tie came undone and the sail blew out.
She began the slow climb back down, somewhat shocked at her revelation. Hope was stiring inside her. The first hope in so very long. She was distracted and she didn't notice her foot tangle untill it was too late. Her hands slipped off the rope and she fell. Tristian was underneath and caught her with ease.
Two simple words but Tristian suspected they meant more than simple gratification at catching her.
"You are my sister. I am here for you!" The words felt unsually sour on his toungue. Brittle and false. Guilt, he told himself. Guilt at being an evil bastard. He placed her uncerimoniously on her feet before striding away.
Ardiath looked confused. Had she offended him? That man was a walking contradiction. So very different to Joachims stable love.
Ardiath opened her mouth to call out after him. To demand a confession. Something uncharacteristic for Ardiath. She was the one who made Joachim ask. He was her calming influence.
She was prevented from going any futher by the arrival of Lancelot.
"You better hitch down the skirt of yours. You're driving the men on board wild. All of them." He wiggled his eye brows suggestivly.
Before any such display would have caused nausea and fear. If it had been a Saxon who knew what would come afterwards. But it was Lancelot. Predestined to flirt with anything that moved. In fact his actions spoke more of the knights increasing acceptance of Ardiath then a real intent upon seduction.
Still confused but managing a rare smile Ardiath lowered her skirts to a modest level. "If my father could see me now," she muttered.
"Is he..." Galahad started to ask before Lancelot cuffed him on the back of the head.
"Dead?" Ardiath finished for him.
Galahad looked a little sheepish but nodded his head.
Ardiath sighed. "Yes." She had long ago coped with the death of her family, friends and neighbours. They were old wounds visible only in memories and in the scars on her arm. Even Joachim was fading. Yes fading. His loss thudded like a dull ache, echoing in her heart but the acute agony was disapating. She was torn between relief and fear.
Lancelot and Galahad thought that she would no longer say anything on the subject so the surprise was great when she started talking again.
"It was the Saxons. They took nearly everything!" Her face was calm but her blue eyes were cold.
"What did they leave you with then?" Lancelot asked curiously.
"Joachim and my will to live." It felt good to talk about it. Tristian closed his eyes in painful memory. He could hear everyword she said, obscured by the stairs of the boat. All that she had posssesed he had taken. And she didn't know who to blame even. She didn't know that the person who had promised to catch her was a murder. A brother slayer.
The knights were no strangers to loss but at least they knew their families were alive or were when they had been taken.
Galahad took a breath then began to speak hesitantly. "And we took Joachim. One of us."
"Still it was ultimately the Saxons who caused his downfall." Her eyes were over bright and she shuddered as she inhaled. "One of you may have drawn the arrow but the Saxons marked his downfall long before that."
Tristian felt hope rising. Maybe she would forgive him one day if she knew.
"Tell us what he was like?" Lancelot asked.
Ardiath looked startled by the request. "But you knew him."
"As a knight where he was rather unhappy," Galahad noted.
"He was happy when I knew him. Very stable, very loving. He enjoyed our simple life on the coast! I know he felt bad about abandonning you all. He told stories of the fort and the great men there. If he had to die he would be happy to know it was in protecting his wife. He loved me and he loved his knights. You were his family. He vaalued family."
Tristian couldn't listen to anymore. No one could see it by looking at him but the scout was aching. He looked down and realised his hands were shaking. He was going to have to tell Ardiath something whether he was forgiven or damned.