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12

F I V E D A N C E S W I T H D E A T H

13

C H A P T E R O N E

red and yellow, f lew on ropes here and there.

I also noticed the unusually strong energy of emotions and thoughts surrounding the ships. Most people have never felt emotional energy, although intuitively even some non-sorcerers suspect it exists. That’s because most people have never looked at the world from the point of view of a double. The majority knows the world as a blend of color and shape, sound and smell, temperature and texture, darkness and light. But when one looks at the world as his double, a being of pure energy, one understands how limited that view of the world is. The double recognizes the energy holding that mixture together. It can touch thoughts as if they had shape. It can savor emotions as a vapory liquid of sorts.

The thoughts and emotions permeating the air above the boats were chaotic, more like the clamor from a roving band of monkeys rather than the voice of human beings. Some wounded men despaired over their pain. Another person sang prayers to a god, his mental voice clean and elevated. A few men bawled lusty verses, dominated by the image of a buxom woman.

Menace seems too strong a word for this bunch,” I said. “This isn’t a small army. It’s a cabal of mutiny.”

“Mutiny? Listen well. You won’t hear much of it.”

Steadying myself, I listened more closely to the noisome babble. At first, there was nothing but more of the same chaos, but as I relaxed I began to detect several firm voices beneath the discordant drone of weaker souls. One such voice, possibly the most lucid, came from a little shanty near the boat’s stern. It projected authority and confi-dence, although at times it dropped into spells of insecurity. At that moment, it was saturated with one of the oldest emotions known— desire for a woman. An overgrown low-life, the size of a small man, hovered over the spot, gobbling up the energy of that lust. “I can sense their leader,” I said. “He’s copulating.”

“Ayya! Well done, Wasp. Do you sense what his woman feels?”

Who cares what women feel? I wanted to reply. But Plume always had made sense in the past, and I had learned from her observations. So I listened more. Soon, besides the confident male

thin line of dark sand between the sea and forest. Several large boats, larger than any I’d seen before, thrashed about on great waves not far from the coast. They carried tall tree trunks with pieces of cloth wrapped around the branches, their loose ends f lapping in the wind. People were there, too, perhaps a few hundred crammed inside the boats. Some were sick and wounded, with death written on their features. Even the healthy ones seemed shadowed by fear.

“I don’t see a single sign of Dew there,” I said, contemplating the vision.

“This one isn’t about her. I found this while exploring last night.” “But why are you interested?”

“It’s the third time they’ve come here in three years. Both times before, they left, but now I sense menace.” “Menace?”

“Yes. Do you recognize the location?”

Her thought made the spot perfectly clear—the seashore south of the Three-Hearts People, where the Mayan lands began. “I do.” “I’ll take you there. Follow me.”

Some experienced sorcerers had become masters in the art of instant travel using their double, although that sort of travel, unlike the slow gliding over the earth surface, was always limited to the places already known to them. Plume was one such sorcerer. Her double expanded, absorbing the energy f lowing through our room. That great surge of vitality drew me into a whirlpool of tickling sensations. The next moment, we hovered above the largest boat, not far off the coast. We had made a journey that otherwise would have taken at least ten days.

The sheer speed of Plume’s action threw me off balance. In my own travels, I used to glide slowly above the trees and hilltops, my point of view adjusting as I skimmed along. But in matters of sorcery, Plume never concerned herself with my sensibilities.

With a great effort, I arranged the spinning world into its habitual shape, with the sea beneath me, the clouds above, and the coastline in the direction of my home. I noticed that the boat below us was not only the largest but also the most colorful. Little f lags, mostly

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