“You see? I told you he would try. He can be as stubborn as a stone when he sets his mind to something.” Rashied nearly lost his grip on the slick ladder at the sound of the voice.
A woman’s titter of laughter followed, soft bells ringing in the great empty of the frozen world. As it faded, two figures appeared up in the nest, standing in the ruins of the rope that held him to the railing moments before.
“Are you truly any different, Zwi? I have seen how you spend centuries beating against anything that stands in your way, until it is nothing but dust. Can you fault this boy the same determination?”
The man, dressed in a sleeveless white shirt and loose blue pants, had hair as white as Rashied’s, and skin too pale to belong to a sailor. He chuckled lightly, and it was like deep chimes caught in a wind. “I didn’t say it was a bad thing, Nisi. You know he’s one of my favorites.”
The woman stepped forward, her white gown shifting around her lithe frame like clouds flowing across the sky. Her long hair fell in dark waves down her back, framing her alabaster face like a portrait. He was fairly certain the beauty before him was one he would dream about for the rest of his days. Assuming he wasn’t living the last of them already. She extended a dainty, cream colored hand to him and Rashied took it without thought.
The woman pulled him back up to the nest with ease, her bare arm not even showing the strain. She set him on his feet. Rashied was surprised to discover the right ankle bore his weight without complaint. He gaped at the both of them, realizing something that should have been obvious from the start.
These were gods.
“You are a very lucky boy,” she murmured lowly, as though the words were just for him.
Rashied nodded. “I always have been.” She was not the first to make the observation. “My ma said the goddess Fortune kissed me the moment I was born.”
She chuckled again, and he found himself swept up in the sound. “Perhaps she’s right. Is that what drew you to this ship?”
He shrugged, surprising himself at the casualness of the gesture. Did people shrug at gods? “Truthfully, no. I’m here because the captain pulled me and Chetana out of the water. The name was just an interesting happenstance.”
She tilted her head, an odd sort of smile playing about her heart-shaped lips. “And what were you doing in the water.”
Suddenly bold, Rashied dared a wink. “Swimming, mostly.”
She giggled and clapped her hands together, the image of amusement. Then she turned back to the man. “Oh, you are right Zwi! He is fun!”
Zwi grinned back at her widely. “I have excellent taste. So, is it time?”
The woman tilted her head and tapped her lower lip. “It might be.” She leaned forward and placed a hand on either one of Rashied’s shoulders. It felt like the two of them were cut off from the rest of the world. He swallowed hard but flashed her a smile. It won him a small laugh.
“If you knew with absolute certainty that you were going to die in the attempt, would you still go out there to your friend?”
“I knew it when I started. Believe it or not, my ankle was broken a second ago.” He shrugged and she chuckled. “I had to try. I’ll try again in a minute.”
She nodded. “I thought so. I can give you the power to save him, you know. But there would be a price.”
Rashied shrugged. His heart was pounding against the walls of his throat, trying to break free. She was a goddess, and she was offering him what he needed. There was always a cost for godly intervention. It didn’t matter. “It’s Chetana. I’ll pay whatever you want.”