I check and double check that every chalk line is correct - both the djinn’s circle and my own circle of protection. I lay the pendant in the center and exit the circle to enter my own. My eyes follow each line, each symbol again and I am confident everything is done right. I call him. My tongue lets foreign words crawl across my lips. They taste bitter and I want to spit them out, but I go on. A curl of smoke appears from the pendant. Black and green. Curling up as if alive and it takes shape. It’s a boy – I know better than to think ‘just a boy’. It takes the shape of a boy – hardly 12 years old – to fool me into thinking it weak, into thinking that I am smarter than it is. But I know well enough not to be fooled. ‘You called, Mistress’ he says. His voice is honey, with a tang of spiky bitterness. He would twist my neck, if I fail anywhere along the line, and he would take centuries doing it. ‘I am your mistress, and you are bound by my command’ my voice is strong and unyielding ‘I command you to build into this ship a compartment big enough to hide all the goods presently on the deck. It must be undetectable to all that has not been given the knowledge of it by the ship’s captain and it will be build in a way that will never endanger the ship or its crew and it will not diminish its speed or manoeuvrability. When this is done you will return to the pendant as bound to it as you are now’. He writhes and turns his head this way and that. He looks at me with a hint of anger and says very softly ‘As you wish’. I dare not smile. I’ve done it right. Had he instead said ‘Is that your wish?’ I would have had had to check each word and phrasing for faults that he could have used against me. But I did it right.
Calcifer has really built a masterpiece. The cargo hold looks perfectly normal. Only I and the captain standing next to me know that on each end, each side and under the deck there is plenty of room for hidden goods. He smiles at me with that crocked smile of his. ‘Well, done, little one’ he says. His hand brushes across my cheek and my heart pounds stronger. He is so handsome! Only for him would I have invoked Calcifer. He will sail me away from all I’ve known to new shores and new adventures. And now I’ve paid my fare.
Oh, how I love the strong winds in my face! I feel almost like an air sprite myself, as my clothes lashes around me in red and gold. I really should not have spent so much money on this fantastic outfit, but it makes me feel beautiful and powerful. The way the men look at me –They are just enough in awe of me not to bother me. They had seen some of my little tricks and they are a little afraid. And then I smile at them with just a curl of my mouth and a lift of an eyebrow, and I feel a woman again. The captain would never let anyone else touch me and I am devoted to him. I smile at thoughts of nights in his cramped cabin, of hands and mouths and whispered caresses, of gasping and cries of pleasure. I adore his look of surprise just before he comes, and I adore what those calloused hands can to do me. The wind plays with me and tosses the end of my scarf in my face. I flutter and regain my dignity and I can almost hear her laugh at me. I smile at her. Yes, yes, I know, it’s just a game. And she and I love games. She changes her direction and I call back to the first mate at the wheel: ‘North north-east in a minute!’. He corrects the course and cries orders to those in the masts to get the best out of it. Then he nods his acknowledgement to me. They call me a witch for want of better word. I guess to them I must be, surrounded as I am by magic. I let them. As long as the captain wants me, and as long as what I do aids them, and as long as they fear me just enough, I will be all right.
The shore is in sight. Epirus. They speak a foreign language there, but several of the sailors originating from there has taught me a little. I will learn it soon enough. I like that the coast line is green in a shade I have never seen before. I long to have steady ground beneath my feet again. I like sailing, but it does get tiresome after a while. The captain says that he will put me up in a house in the town we come to. I might stay there awhile. He is so sweet, so dedicated. I shall miss him.