“It’s dangerous.” Liam shook his head.
“You said I would serve you, Aihuroa.” Mikaere looked up at him. “I cannot serve you if you leave me here.”
“You are serving me. You are watching out for my family.” Liam folded his arms.
“I can understand the trade language now, and I’ve beaten Chidike three times now in duels.” Mikaere lifted his chin stubbornly. “I can help.”
“Mikaere, if you…” Liam leaned on the ship’s railing. “If you come with me to the Wildlands, you’d have to pretend to be my slave.”
“I am your —”
“No.” He raised his voice, then almost regretted it as he saw the wounded look in Mikaere’s eyes. Liam exhaled. “Mikaere, you are not my slave.”
“Aihuroa, my life is —”
“Mikaere, I…” He looked up, and saw Uduak giving him a sympathetic smile. He’d once been convinced he was her slave. Except Uduak had… “You’re not my slave, Mikaere. You are part of my family.” The younger man’s eyes went wide, then started to shine with unshed tears. “And you’re right. You came to the Ilael because of me.” He squared his shoulders. “Next time I go ashore…” He smiled. “You may come with me.”
Mikaere’s face broke into a wide smile. “Don’t worry, Aihuroa. I’m sure Captain Adaeze will let you go ashore again.” He scampered off, pausing to help one of the crew tie down a line.
Liam looked up as Uduak approached. “I have a feeling I just became a grandmother again.”
“He’s too old to be my son.” Liam laughed, then let it die away. “I admit, when I go to the Wildlands and see Jurgen with Rutger and Rien, I…” He shook his head. “Have absolutely no idea how Jurgen manages to put up with little brothers.”
“Little sisters are better.” Ama’s voice came from behind him, and a moment later she was climbing onto his back. He shifted so she could settle herself more comfortably. He felt the slight spark of her power as it brushed up against his, and saw the hint of a smile that revealed she felt it too. “The storm is going to be big.”
“If we alter our heading a few degrees we can ride it out along the edge.” Liam nodded.
“Be more fun to go through.” She smiled at the clouds. “They are singing.” She snuggled into him as he shifted so she was sitting on his hip. “Listen.”
He closed his eyes, tracing his mind along the edge of her fledgling gift. Her head rested on his shoulder, and he knew her eyes were closed as well as she leaned into his focus. “They are.” He nodded. He started to open his mouth, then closed it before tracing the edge again.
In his arms, Ama tensed slightly. With their powers linked, he knew she’d seen the same thing he had. “I could try.” She lifted her head. “I could try.”
“I know.” He drew her further down the line, and heard her let out a small whimper. Then he let the vision fall away. “We can come around the other side. It won’t save the ship, but it will save the crew.”
“I’ll get stronger.” He opened his eyes to meet her darker ones, and saw the determination inside. “I will.”
“I know.” He touched his forehead to hers. “And I will help you.”