The situation had been out of hand for a long time, but now it had quickly derailed to what looked like the final disaster. Sel’ma had witnessed the murderous, crazy naer push little Be’rine overboard and then do her best to stop Jao’vier from saving the child, trying to murder him too. This was how it had looked to the sevir. She didn’t doubt that she would be attacked too.
In her mind and in her feelings, she stopped seeing Linika as a human being and saw only a raging beast, an animal set on meaningless, mindless murder. Her experience of wilderness and it’s grim necessities kicked in and her well-honed survival instincts ruled her. She didn’t think and she didn’t feel. This wasn’t the time for analysis or for being emotional. It was survive or die, and all her training from early age had been about surviving, and not die. It was deeply, permanently ingrained in her to fight to win and save her own life as well as other lives, and never leave walkover.
To her there were not mock battles and had never been. There was no losing and had never been; losing was death. Sel’ma would fight to the last drop of blood if needed, and she would do all she could to make that drop be the blood of the opponent and not her own. This was the only possible mindset in the wilds.
They were at sea now and not in the forest, but it was essentially about exactly the same thing, just with other kinds of wild beasts. Total determination seized her and her mind and her whole being narrowed down to one single focus : kill the beast. This dominated her totally as she grabbed the harpoon. She didn’t even think of Be’rine and Jao’vier right now. Right now, in this moment, it was all about killing Linika.
If she won she and the other sevirs would live. If she lost she and the other sevirs would live too; their lives would be recycled by nature and move on in new and other forms, in the never ending dance of change of life. And this was also what would happened to the naer if she died; the life that had for a while taken the form of a naer would go back to nature, be reshaped and continue.
The end of specific beings existed, but death itself didn’t really exist. Only the cycle of life did. This knowledge made Sel’ma totally fearless, and she also felt no guilt, would feel no remorse once the naer was gone.
Her body moved with the determination, speed and coordination that could be expected by a person who was competent at surviving in the wilds. With the weapon in front of her, held at waist level in her strong and steady hands, she lunged forward in a well calculated leap. This might have been the end of Linika if not for one thing; the boat suddenly rocked and Sel’ma lost her balance and instead of impaling the naer on the spear she stumbled into her opponent so hard that the impetus sent Linika overboard to join the two sevir in the water.
For what felt like eternity she saw the naer fall, heard the splash that followed, saw her sink in the waves and then come up again just in time to grab a piece of driftwood and then reach out for the outrigger in an attempt to hold on to it. But already as she watched she felt her own body follow, as she wasn’t able to stop the forceful movement that had been meant to be discharged by the harpoon going into the near. She went over, under and up like the others had done, and now they were all in the water, all still swimming or at least floating, a few living people blending with all the naer corpses and the general debris that was all that remained of the naerikk ship.
She saw Jao’vier and Be’rine now. They were holding on to a log, and had started to drift away from the boat.
And then she saw the fin. The shark fin. It was only one single shark fin, but it seemed huge, it seemed monumental, it seemed like the fin of a monster of a magnitude seldom seen or heard about bar in the kind of stories told by reckless and inebriated storytellers in taverns late at night.
Sel’ma watched it and a sudden feeling of recognition arose, inexplicable and mysterious, yet strong and undeniable and shining like a vision in her spiritual sevir mind. Without knowing why, it seemed to her like Linika’s mindless screamed accusations and rage against nature itself, and her shout about a monster, had been carried by emotion so strong that it had struck through the world and into the realm of dreams and summoned this monstrosity out of a nightmare far away.
And so the monster leaped up in the water. It was huge and pale, monstrous, unbelievable, it’s jaws open, lined with giant teeth, and … she didn’t know where the thought came from, but it passed by in her mind : The fish had come. The giant fish. The really big one.
Her sev’ryn fearlessness and her experience of wilderness and danger made her stay in control of herself and intent on surviving. But somewhere in the background of her awareness it felt like her thoughts where sent whirling, swirling, writhing, curling, flickering like candle-flames in wind, against a fond of black and sunless terror without end.
The shadow of a dream echoed there, and told her they were all going to be to fish-fodder, and their only bodies would soon be counted to the huge and unknown numbers of those who went before them to ... a blackness of unfathomable depths ...
All this flared up inside her in no time. Already as she experienced this, it was like she was waking up from a dream where she had been frozen and unable to do anything else than wait in terror for inevitable death. But she wasn't frozen and unable to defend herself. She was Sel’ma, and she felt no fear, just an intense will to survive and live, and an unwavering resolution to kill the beast. Her focus had shifted from Linika to the shark, but it was still the same.
You or me. Live or die.
This kill belonged to her. She knew it without any trace of doubt. The enormous monster fish was hers, like it had always belonged to her and meant to be finished by her. And as the leap reached its highest points and the animal started to go downwards again, she stabbed upwards with the harpoon with all the force she was able to muster, while threading water to keep herself floating.
“DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE! “
It had been herself shouting this, oddly in common, but it had been her. At least she thought so. Or had others joined into the chorus? Sel’ma had no idea. And she didn't know if anybody else had joined in and done what they could to help kill the shark. She just knew the harpoon had hit its target. She would never have been able to achieve this just by throwing the harpoon the way it was meant to be used by a fisher. But the shark had caused its own death, by leaping and enabling her to just hold the weapon and stab right into the very predictable trajectory of the fish.
Groggy, exhausted now, she took in the surroundings. They were all still floating in the ocean. The waves had moved Be’rine and Jao’vier yet another bit away from her; they were already out of reach, and despair ran through her. She knew it was already beyond her swimming skills to go for them. And at a distance she could see other, darker shapes advancing through the water, orca, swimming towards them at high pace ...
The waves slammed the now freely drifting canoe into her and she took a blow to her head. It didn’t knock her out, but it was the second blow to her head that day and it weakened her. All she could do was grab the rope hanging out from the boat in the hopes of it being worth holding on to. As she did this, the sail turned, caught the wind, swelled and started to set the boat in motion.
She felt sometime soft move like a caress against her shoulder. It was the dark hair of the drowned naer. Disgusted, she let go of the rope with one hand and hit out blindly to get rid of the corpse. Something hard met her fingers and a as reflex her hand curled around it. Groggily she observed that it looked like a small flute, a musical instrument made of pale metal.
She aimed to get rid of the flute, but confused now and not really knowing what she was doing anymore, she tucked it inside her wet skin dress instead of just letting go. Then she grabbed the rope again the sail moved anew. It was catching even more wind and the boat started to drift, gaining more speed by each bit. She heard Jao’vier call out, and Be’rine, as she was carried away. But all she could do now was wrap the rope around her hands, hold on, and hope to survive.
The boat dragged Sel’ma with her it on its journey toward unknown destination. Behind her she heard the two sevirs who had been left behind starting to sing the song they had sung in the boat not long ago. Jao'vier's deeper, darker tones seemed to merge with the sound of the ocean, but Be'rines clear voice could be heard over it all, like the light and delicate sound of a flute.
Where the naer, Linika, had gone, she didn’t know.