“Are you coming to bed now?” Gilly asked Tenshio, once she was safety tucked in the bottom bunk of the cabin.
The lamp light fell in a long slice of orange across the deck and onto her feet, and across the thick silver fur of Pidguyok’s back. He was curled up at the foot of the bed, his long snout resting on his front paws. Tenshio’s face was in shadow, but she could see his eyes glimmering. She could hear the sound of water murmuring and gurgling just on the other side of the hull of the ship, and for once, the sound was not soothing.
“No,” confessed Tenshio slowly, caught off guard. “I was going to read.”
“It won’t storm tonight, will it?” she asked, anxiously.
“That seems unlikely, though I have no expertise in predictions of that kind.”
“Will you say my prayers with me?” she whispered.
“Of course,” he said quietly.
“Go ahead,” she said, after a moment.
“Ah,” said Tenshio. “I go first. Very well.” He reached forward and placed his hand gently on her head. “Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch or weep tonight,” he said, his low, calm voice complimenting the quiet rhythm of the words, “and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, Lord Kyuusheishu; rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones; soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones; shield your joyous ones; and all for your love's sake. Amen.”
Gilly opened her eyes in wonder. “Where did you learn that?” she whispered.
“A philosopher who lived centuries ago in your world first prayed that,” Tenshio explained, putting his hand back in his lap. “I thought it would be appropriate.”
“Who’s Lord Cue-says-you?” she asked, suspiciously.
“You call Him the Messiah,” explained Tenshio, letting her pronunciation go, for once.
“My prayer isn’t that good,” admitted Gilly, embarrassed.
“God would not expect your prayer to be anything other than that of a child’s,” Tenshio assured her.
Gilly sighed and pushed the blankets back. She sat up on her knees, clasped her hands and composed herself for the trial.
“Dear Jesus,” she prayed. “Please forgive me my sins. Thank You for the ship and please make sure it stays up. Please be with my mom and dad and everyone. Thank you for Master Tenshio and Pid... yok. Don’t let the squid come up from the dark. In Jesus name, Amen.”
She looked up at Tenshio, questioningly.
“Those squid do not normally come to the surface, Gilly,” he said gently. “They prefer to stay in the deeps, where they are comfortable. They are not inherently evil; they are as they have been created to be.”
“God created them?”
“But there are evil things here,” Gilly said. It was almost eerie, the assurance with which she stated it. “They’re coming.”
The hackles went up on Pidguyok’s back; he lifted his head and looked at Tenshio, his blue eyes wide.
“Pay no attention them,” said Tenshio, calmly. “Their fate lies in wait for them. At the proper time, they will meet their end.”
“By you,” added Gilly.
“Some,” he qualified. “And some by you.”
“I will kill them?” she whispered, doubtfully. “But I can’t.”
“You do not yet know the full extent of your power,” explained Tenshio. “When you are an adult, it will be made clear to you.”
“But you will stay with me.”
“When you are in this world, I will,” he assured her.
“What happens when I leave this world?”
“God Himself will stay by you.”
“What will you do?” She looked up at him, sorrow in her face. Her fingers picked at the wool blankets.
“I will visit you.”
“For as long as you or I are living.”
“Will you have children?” asked Gilly suddenly, the idea just then occurring to her.
“I hope to, one day,” Tenshio answered, surprised.
This was an insupportable turn of events, to Gilly. All in one moment, she hated those children; she hated them with all the fire of her heart. Those lucky ones, those safe ones; cosseted, loved, taught, and secure! In the next moment, the hate turned to dust as she repented, horrified at how black and unacceptable her heart was. She was a covetous, evil girl.
Without realizing it, a tear trailed down her cheek. She turned and threw herself onto her pillow, hiding her face under it. She was the ragged one, the orphan. She was the one who wore the cast offs, who received the leavings of her parent’s life and affection. It was her lot and she must bear up under it, and be loyal to her parents. She must honor and obey them at all times.
Tenshio was bewildered, uncertain what had just happened. He put his hand gently on her back. “Gilly?” he asked.
“No!” she cried, her voice muffled.
“Gilly, what is the matter?” he asked, sternly.
“I don’t want you to!” she cried, sitting up and making a clean breast of it. Tears soaked her cheeks; she could not look at him. She looked instead at the ceiling. “I don’t want you to!”
“You don’t want me to what? Do you mean that you don’t want me to have children?” He looked at her in amazement. “Why ever not?”
“You’ll love them more,” Gilly sobbed out, abject, her shoulders bowed.
“Gilly,” he breathed. He reached out and pulled her close into his arms. “Little Gilly. Don’t you know that I could never love another child, or indeed, another person, in the way that I love you? Your place in my heart is unique, just as you are irreplaceable.”
He put his face against the top of her head, inexpertly combed and smelling of ocean. “It was not by accident that God sent you into my care,” he said, quietly. “He has a purpose, and every purpose that comes down from the Sacred Realm is a good, though many times we cannot know what it is.”