The adventures of Anforth the racoon, Flutesam the otter, Crow the crow, and their new friend Ru-Shi the racoon continue! They are asked by the Council of Elders and Youngers to open up trade between the Inner Islands and the creatures who live near the Drowned City on the mainland, and while doing so encounter undersea adventures and things that go bump in the night!
Could those things be human?
And what does a sky-whale have to do with it?
Here’s how part of it goes:
“Hey!” Anforth shouted without thinking. “Who’s there?”
He jumped up and drew the sword called Knife from the scabbard at his belt. It was a human knife he had found before discovering Lucky, and he always carried it with him when there might be dangerous creatures about.
Ru-Shi had stumbled to her feet when her cushion had leaped up, and was looking around sleepily. Raccoons were naturally nocturnal animals, but since the humans had done whatever the humans had done they tended to spend more time in daylight than not, and weren’t used to the darkness. Their eyes adapted quickly, though, and showed them nothing much. The city was peaceful, the sea was calm, and no boats were near. But the moonlight reflected off a circle of ripples in the water, as if a fish had jumped.
“What is it?” she asked, as Flutesam poked his head out of the cabin and asked the same thing.
“I’m not sure,” said Anforth, putting Knife back in its sheath. “I heard something. And I think something banged into the hull. It might have been a fish jumping, but it sounded like something made of metal.”
“Shall I have a look?” asked Flutesam. “I’d like to see a metal fish! Although I don’t suppose they’d be very good eating.”
“Could you?” Anforth said. “Will the moon cast enough light for you to see?”
“I should think so!” said Flutesam, who had no doubt about the power of his eyes. The moon was half-full, and cast a silver glow across the water. The other boats, and the shape of the Thin City itself, made sharp silhouettes against the bright sky.
Flutesam slipped over the side. Anforth and Ru-Shi looked anxiously after him, not able to do anything to help.
“The professor’s diving suit would come in handy about now,” Anforth said.
“It would be clumsy and awkward compared to Flute,” said Ru-Shi.
“Did I hear my name?” said Flutesam, surfacing near Lucky‘s stern.
“What did you find?” Anforth asked him as he climbed awkwardly back on board using the transom ladder. He held something against his body with one paw.
“This,” Flutesam said. Using both front paws he held out a dark lump, like a six-sided cone that had the tip cut off half way down, so it was blunt on both ends. Anforth reached out to take it and Flutesam said, “Careful! It’s very heavy.”
Even with the warning Anforth almost dropped it. It was heavier than any rock of that size would be. He was reminded of the gold the professor put in the diving boots. He sniffed it. It smelt like iron, not gold, and the surface was hard under his claws. He couldn’t scratch it.
“I don’t like this,” said Ru-Shi.
“Neither do I,” said Anforth.
“That makes three of us,” said Flutesam. “But what should we do with it?”
“Put it on the dock and we’ll have a look at it in the daylight, I think,” said Anforth.
At that point Rufus stuck his head out of the cabin. He was a heavy sleeper, but they hadn’t made any attempt to be quiet.
“What have you found?” he asked, his nose pointing to the thing in Anforth’s paws.
“I don’t know,” said Anforth, holding it up for him to look at. “Something stuck to /Lucky/’s hull. There was a noise… a clang, a splash, and then Flutesam found this.”
Rufus looked at it more closely, and sniffed. His eyes grew wide and he seemed to shrink away from the object.
“You’ve got to get rid of it!” he said in a loud, fearful voice.
“What is it?” Anforth asked, holding it a little further away from himself.
“A thing that explodes!” Rufus said. “There’s a place up north where humans used things like that. Parts of the sea bed are littered with them. All kinds. My people don’t dive down very deeply, but a sea lion brought one up one day. Everyone was curious about it, but no one knew what it was. We all gathered round and poked at it and turned it over and talked about it, but in the end we couldn’t make any sense of it, so we went to our beds, and in the middle of the night it exploded!”
Anforth found within himself an urge to hold the thing very far away from himself.
“How far away does it need to be for everyone to be safe?” asked Anforth.
“I don’t know,” said Rufus. “A long way.”
“We should get the sails–” Anforth started to say, but Flutesam interrupted him.
“No time for that! And there’s no wind! I’ll take it out to deep water.”
“But what if…” Anforth said.
“It won’t,” said Flutesam confidently. He took the object gingerly from Anforth’s paws and moved to the edge of the boat, slipping under Lucky‘s makeshift rail. “I’ll let it go in deep water and be back long before it goes bang!”
He dropped over the side and vanished before Anforth or the others could think of anything to say.
“Be careful,” Anforth said to himself as the ripples of Flutesam’s splash died away.