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

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"Miaow! I never thought I'd ever say this, Master, but I am sick of fish!" T'Vril said.

"At least you have something to eat. My supplies of food ran out yesterday," Tinker grumbled, his paw on the tiller. The wind was brisk, and they were making good time heading due east into the rising sun - though whether they were actually going anywhere or were simply going to die out in the open ocean remained to be seen. T'Vril had spent the first two days being ill from the boat's constant motion - and watching her lean over the rail and make sick noises didn't make Tinker feel any better, either. T'Vril asked how he was able to avoid getting sick from it yesterday, and Tinker hadn't bothered to tell her that mice don't have a vomit reflex - he'd felt just as bad, but didn't retch. Instead, he simply told her that he was tough enough to deal with it. As soon as he said it, he knew how ridiculous it sounded coming from his lips, but T'Vril seemed to be impressed by it - when she wasn't retching over the side of the boat, that is. The next two days had been better for T'Vril - there was a small catch of fish aboard, and she apparently could eat it even when it stank to high heaven. In fact, she'd gorged herself on it, and spent much of the day time sleeping. When she wasn't sleeping, she used bits of the remaining fish to bait a hook with and try to catch some fresh fish. And, when she wasn't doing that, she was complaining.

"Miaow! Master, we are nearly out of water! Are we there yet? Will we arrive soon?" T'Vril whined.

Tinker suppressed the urge to snap at her. He remembered his own trip with Xaa and Merle, and he suddenly knew how they must have felt listening to his constant whining. He knew why T'Vril was upset - she was surrounded by water, none of it was drinkable, and all of it might be full of strange creatures that might want to eat her. He'd been upset for similar reasons traveling with Xaa and Merle. Now, he dearly, deeply wished he had been able to keep his whining to himself back then. His memories of that trip winter trip were fond ones, now. It had been exciting and thrilling and one of the greatest times of his life. And Merle had loved him then, too. Sometimes, he wished he could do it all over again - if only so that this time, he wouldn't whine so much, and make Merle unhappy.

Tinker sighed. Instead of snapping at T'Vril, he simply reached to the thong around his neck and lifted his mattang up, gazing through it at the ocean.

The mattang was a simple object. Consisting of seventeen sticks, four of which were curved to just the right angle, it formed a cross-like arrangement supporting four overlapping semicircles. How it worked, however, was one of the mice's secrets. Waves, as they lapped at the shores of distant shores, rippled back in the direction they came and to the sides. This was like the ripples from a pebble tossed into a pond rippling back from a stone that rises above the surface of the water. By seeing the patterns in the waves, one could detect land masses as far as forty leagues away - sometimes more, when the ocean was right. So far, he'd seen nothing - no pattern in the waves was evident. He was sure it worked. All the Lore of the Mice worked. But he had never had the opportunity to try it. No mouse had, for over eight centuries. As such, he didn't know if he could see the patterns, even if they were there. And if there wasn't an island at all, if they were simply heading out into open ocean, then he wouldn't detect a thing, anyway.

Tinker looked through the mattang, trying to relax his eyes and just see the general pattern of the waves. "Our people are good at seeing patterns," his teacher had said. "Patterns in sound, light, the wind, the stars, the rhythm of nature. This is one of our strengths. Use this strength, students. Open your mind as you open your eyes and ears, and sense the patterns of reality around you. Organize them, sort them, and understand."

Tinker blinked, and looked again. There was a pattern! He tilted the mattang slightly, rotating it counter-clockwise a bit as he held it before his eyes. He turned the tiller a bit to change the ship's course, then looked again. Again, he saw the same pattern of wave-tops, curving away from something ahead, beyond the horizon. Gently, he tilted the mattang until it seemed to match the pattern of the waves he saw. He then turned his wrist slowly, taking a guess at the angle he was holding it at based on the thongs hanging from the sides. 'Less than fifteen degrees,' he thought to himself. Tinker grinned.

"Mrr? What is it, Master?" T'Vril asked.

Tinker let go of the mattang, letting it hang by it's thong around his neck again, then pointed with a paw towards the rising sun. "There - about twenty or thirty leagues ahead. There's an island there. We should see it in an hour or less, and perhaps make landfall sometime this evening - spirits willing, we'll be there before dark. If it's not the island we're searching for, we'll stock up on supplies and decide what to do from there," Tinker said.

"Mrowr! How wonderful, Master! I knew you could do it!" T'Vril replied, smoothly sliding over next to Tinker to hug him.

"Thank you," Tinker said, puffing his chest out with pride.

"Mrr... And if it is the legendary island of the mus, then we can find their source - and perhaps eradicate them forever," T'Vril purred.

Tinker nodded grimly. "Yes. And that is what I am dearly hoping for."

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