The Last God
(Book I of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 1999 BY

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T'Vril rose from the prone body of the mus fisherman, looking back to Tinker in the bright noon sunlight. "Mrowr... He won't be giving any alarms, Master. I struck him with your hammer a bit hard. He's dead." T'Vril then gave Tinker his hammer back, and began dragging the fisherman off the beach, into the nearby trees.

Tinker shuddered. The plan to capture a boat had worked, but he didn't like the death of the fisherman. T'Vril had lain on the sunny beach, her tail beneath her, her head artfully concealed behind Tinker's pack, placed as it was to look like it was simply being used to shade her head from the sun. From the water she would strongly resemble a nude female mus, quietly stroking her body in the warm spring sunshine on the beach. Something that interesting would certainly be worth closer examination, and the little boat they had sighted just offshore had turned to land nearby. Tinker had watched from behind one of the nearby trees with a mixture of fear and lust. Now that it was over, he felt almost as sick as he had when T'Vril slaughtered the helpless birds.

Tinker took a deep breath - it wouldn't do to show T'Vril how he really felt. He needed to be strong. She seemed happier with him when he repressed his feelings of fear or loathing or unhappiness, put on a grim face like one of the mus, and carried on. It had been very hard for him to set Brownie free once they reached the sea - he'd worked hard to train her, and he was going to miss her deeply. T'Vril had caught his expression, snorted with disgust, and assured him that they would be alright. They were more than capable of finding food by themselves, and they would easily be able to find their own way back to W'Mefa's castle once they realized they were on their own. They also were banded around their left leg as belonging to W'mefa, anyway - any local lord who found them would return them to W'mefa as a courtesy. Even so, the confused expression Brownie gave Tinker when T'Vril had driven her off had made Tinker very upset. Tinker steeled himself, now - he didn't want T'Vril learning to despise him, too, as Merle apparently had.

"Well, that can't be helped. Let's get our things aboard his boat and get going," Tinker said, and strode out into the water, grabbing the edge of the boat and struggling to pull himself aboard. It was difficult - even beached, the water was still up to his chest. When he finally managed it, he reached for the paddles. "Come on - toss our stuff in the boat, then push it out into the water and we'll get going."

Tinker looked back, and was startled to see T'Vril was shuddering. "What's the matter? Come on!" he yelled.

"Miaow! Master, I am afraid," T'Vril finally replied, trembling.

"Of what? Getting to the island? Don't worry - we'll make it. I know a few tricks that the mus don't. We'll be fine," Tinker replied, slipping the oars into the oarlocks.

"Miaaoooow! No, Master - I am afraid of the water! I cannot swim!" T'Vril yowled.

Tinker looked up to T'Vril in surprise. Her tail was firmly between her legs, tight against her sex, it's tip trembling between her breasts. She was wringing her paws, staring at the water between herself and the boat, and shuddering. She was truly terrified.

Tinker started to say something sharp, then stopped. 'Well, if anybody knows what fear is like, it's me. I guess I can help her get over this - it's just water,' he thought. Grabbing a rope that was tied to the front of the boat, he hopped back out, splashing back into the chest-deep water. He waded out, then tied the rope around a nearby tree. Walking back to T'Vril, he picked up his pack wordlessly, holding it over his head as he waded back out into the water, then heaved it over the side and into the boat. Finally, he waded back over to T'Vril, to stand dripping before her on the beach. "Give me your paw," he said, holding his own out to her.

T'Vril slowly, tremblingly held out her large, soft paw to Tinker, and he gripped it firmly in his tiny, work-callused one. Gently, Tinker pulled her forward, until her feet were in the water. She froze then, the cold ocean water splashing over her footpads. "Miaaooooow!" she yowled.

"It's alright. We're going to teach you to swim. You'll be just fine. Trust me. Now kneel, right where you are. Come on," Tinker urged, just like he was teaching a little mouse to swim.

T'Vril tremblingly complied, and a small wave splashed water across her thighs. "Mrooooooowrrrrr..." T'Vril complained.

"It's alright. See? Nothing bad is happening. Now, lay down right where you are, on your back. I'll hold your head up out of the water. Nothing bad will happen. Relax."

A few minutes later, T'Vril was floating quietly in the water at the edge of the lonely beach. She had finally stopped fretting, and simply lay there. "See? You're doing just fine. Now, I'll teach you how to move yourself in the water," Tinker said, gently taking hold of her arm. "Move your arms through the water like this," he said, demonstrating very slowly. He then took hold of her foot, and continued. "While you're doing that, kick your feet like this. I don't know if your tail is flexible enough, but we mice move our tail back and forth, too. That also helps move you, too. Try it," Tinker said, holding T'Vril's shoulder and hip.

T'Vril clumsily followed the motions Tinker had shown her. After a few minutes, she began to smile a bit. "Miaow... This isn't so bad, Master. Though I hate the feel of wet fur," she said, her feet splashing. Tinker gently let her go, then waded along side her, grinning.

"There - now you're swimming. You're doing the backstroke, incidentally. Now, I'll teach you the other beginning stroke - the side-stroke. It's easy, too - and you can see where you're going with it," Tinker said, subtly leading T'Vril out into slightly deeper water.

After an hour, Tinker grinned broadly. T'Vril was splashing around the boat, enjoying herself. A wave occasionally would wash over her face, causing her to sputter, but she would simply grip the sides of the boat for a moment while she recovered. Tinker went back to the beach, untying the rope and coiling it as he returned to the boat. After he'd tossed it in and climbed in himself, he turned to T'Vril. "Okay - I think you've had enough swimming lessons for today. The only other things I can tell you are this: First, don't swim after eating - you can get a cramp, not be able to swim anymore, and drown. Second, don't swim when you are tired - same reason. Also, our legends say that swimming in the ocean is only to be done when necessary. There are creatures that hunt in the ocean, just like on land, and they may mistake you for a fish and try to eat you. There are also other creatures that are dangerous to touch or step on - they are the ocean's equivalent of poisonous snakes and spiders and such. So you have to be careful."

"Mrowr!" T'Vril yowled, then scrambled into the boat. "Miaow! Master, why didn't you tell me this before you had me swimming around in the water?" T'Vril complained.

Tinker almost said 'Because our legends say the big dangerous fish usually don't stay near shallow water - they might beach themselves and die - and besides, I looked and didn't see anything dangerous, and so I decided it would be alright'. Then, he suddenly stopped. He decided that an opportunity like this shouldn't just be tossed aside. He looked T'Vril straight in the eyes and said "Because I'm smaller than you. If any dangerous fish came along, I knew they'd eat me first," he replied.

T'Vril blinked. "Mrr? You risked being eaten just so I wouldn't be afraid?"

"Of course. You are important to me. You're my one, true friend," Tinker replied.

T'Vril leaned forward, taking Tinker's head between her paws and nuzzling his face, rubbing the scent-glands below her eyes into Tinker's fur over and over for several seconds, purring loudly.

Tinker grinned when she finally let him go, then laughed when she suddenly exclaimed "Miaow! But now I'm all wet!" She then began to groom herself with her rasp-like tongue, and Tinker reached out a paw to stop her.

"No, no. Ocean water has salt in it - a lot of salt. It's bad for you - you can actually die of thirst drinking it," Tinker said.

"Mrrrooowr! But I need to groom myself! Otherwise, how will I get dry?"

Tinker smiled, pulling out a small towel from his pack, wiping T'Vril's collar dry, then stroking the damp fur of T'Vril's breasts. "I would be happy to groom you, T'Vril. You are my property, after all," he replied with a smile.

T'Vril smiled and lay back against the stern of the boat. "Purr... Yes, Master."

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