The Keys to the Kingdom

Drowned Wednesday

"No!" screamed Arthur. Then, as Sunscorch continued to lift him up, "I'm a friend of the Mariner! Captain Tom Shelvocke!"

Sunscorch lowered Arthur to the deck.

"Prove it," he said coldly. "If you're lying, I'll carve you a set of gills before I throw you over."

Arthur reached with a shivering hand into his pajama top and pulled out his makeshift floss-chain. For a dreadful moment he thought the disc was gone, then it slid free and hung on his chest.

"What are you waiting for, Sunscorch?" yelled Doctor Scamandros angrily. "Throw him overboard!"

Sunscorch looked closely at the disc, flipped it with his finger, and looked at the other side. Then he sighed and let go of Arthur. Just then, the ship rolled to port and back again, almost sending Arthur over the side anyway.

"Do as the doctor says, Mister Sunscorch!" called Catapillow. "We must have a course to get away!"

"I can't, Captain!" shouted Sunscorch. "The boy has the mark of the mariner. If he asks for aid, as sailors we must give it."

"I am asking," Arthur said hastily. "I don't want to be thrown overboard. I only want to send a message to the Lower House. Or the Far Reaches."

"He has what? The who?" asked Catapillow.

Sunscorch sighed again and helped Arthur along the sloping deck to the group gathered around the wheel. Doctor Scamandros still had his hand under his arm. He scowled at Arther.

"No seaman will go against the Mariner," said Sunscorch. "The boy has the Mariner's medal, so you'll have to figure something else out, Doc. He ain't going over the side."

"The Mariner," said Scamandros"A figure of reverence for the nautically inclined. One of the Old One's sons, I believe?"

"Yes," said Arthur, though the questions hadn't been asked of him. "And the Architect's."

"Perhaps I was a little hasty," Scamandros continued. "I thought perhaps you had something in your pocket we wouldn't want aboard. But any friend of the Mariner…please do accept my apology."

"Sure," said Arthur. "No problem."

"Well, ah, welcome aboard," said the Captain. "We're delighted to have you here. Though I fear that our voyage is…, um, about to be cut short."