Chapter Five and a Half: The Isle of the Knitters (Or no experience required, please apply within.)
The rolling seas seemed endless to Parry as she hung over the bow of the ship and retched out her guts. Retrospectively she wondered if taking the position of captain without any previous sea experience was such a wise thing. Really, though, it was far too late now to question her decision. They were close to a week out of port, and though they were traveling along the coastline (or at least the first mate assured her that the black line she saw so far off in the distance was indeed the coast) she really did not know how far they had gone, or even how much farther it was until they hit open water and set off on the real adventure; the search for the famed knitting needles was about to begin.
While Parry was busy at the side of the ship, Saeti, who had taken to the ocean much more easily than her friend, bounded up and down the deck, enjoying a game with some of the crew members. The only bad part about this was that the crew members did not view this as a game, and most certainly not as fun. Saeti had managed to steal their friend’s shoe (which she was now carrying around proudly in her mouth as some sort of a token) and they were going to get that shoe back no matter what it took. Finally one of them happened to spot Parry as she stood up to make one last attempt to get back to the wheel before she passed out from dehydration.
“Cap’n!” The one with the blue slash mark over her nose called out, catching Parry’s wavering attention, “Can yah plehse do supim ‘bout yer dug?” She called out in her piraty accent.
“Oh knock it off, Dirwe,” The one with blue lines falling from her eyes like the tracks of old tears interjected, “Can you not see that she is still sea sick? I doubt that she even knows what we are talking about in the state she is in. In fact, she should probably be below. At least then she would not be in danger of falling overboard every time she goes to retch.” She laughed at her own joke, joined by most of her companions.
Parry, who was actually much more alert than the two pirates were giving her credit for, made her way slowly down the set of stairs that led from the helm to the deck. With uncertain, halting steps she crossed the expanse of boards unnoticed, a grim expression set on her pale face. Finally she reached where the others were still chuckling and reminiscing about how many times she had messed up in the past two days. Not really caring to relive those things again (she had been embarrassed enough the first time they had happened and really did not care to be reminded about them) she turned to the wolf - were.
“Drop it.” With those two words she commanded the attention of everyone present. The crew members who had moments before been standing around making jokes at her expense were suddenly at attention. Thinking she had been speaking to them, they started stuttering out excuses. Turning a very distinctive shade of rid in the process. “Here.” She cut off all of their attempts at speech as they stared at her. It took several minutes for one of them to realize that the slobbery piece of leather she was holding up was actually the shoe that they had been trying to get for so long.
“Thank yah, Cap’n!” Dirwe exclaimed, “We ‘ave been tryin tah get tha’ from ‘er fur clus tah an ‘our.” She shook her head, realizing that Parry was not listening, it appeared that the girl had passed out while standing. Pulling Parry’s left arm over her neck, she turned to the tear streaked crew member. “Tsidu, grab her other side. It looks like we are going to have to get her down below. Big sister Tanildra, er, I mean the first mate, will have our hides if we do not get the captain back on her feet, and soon. You know that we are supposed to reach the Isle of the Knitters today, and if the captain is like this, then she will never complete her quest and we will never be rid of her!”
Tsidu hauled Parry’s other arm around her neck. “I know, I know, I am no that stupid. Honestly.” She blinked, then looked over at Dirwe, “By the way, what happened to your accent?”
Smiling mischievously, Dirwe shook her head, “Oh, that, well I always wanted an accent, and the captain did not know that I did not have an accent to begin with, so I figured that I would give it a try,” She shook her head, grinning, “It is a lot harder than it looks to keep it up all the time.”
Tsidu giggled. “Is it really a good idea to try to pull one over on the captain like that? I mean, what if she finds out that you really do not have an accent and have been tricking her all this time?”
“Tricking?” Dirwe raised an eyebrow at her companion’s choice of words, but decided not to say anything about it. “Anyways, it is just a harmless little joke.” She paused, considering her own word choice with slight annoyance, Tsidu was obviously rubbing off on her. Shaking her head she continued, “Anyways, we had better get the captain down below. I hear that Tanildra and Edandri have been making some sort of magical sea sickness potion for the past two days that is sure to cure madam captain of all that ails her. With any luck it will wake her up too.”
“Sounds like a good thing to me,” Tsidu replied affably, starting off towards the door that led to the stairs. Fortunately for Parry, Dirwe started in the same general direction very soon after that.
Two hours later and Parry was not only up and about, but feeling great while she was doing it. While the potion she had been forced to drink while she had been unconscious had been noxious (judging from the horrible aftertaste that still lingered in her mouth almost two hours after drinking it) it had most certainly done its job. Parry was now able to stride the deck confidently, checking on knots she did not know how to tie, examining sails she did not know anything about, and generally wishing that she knew at least one thing about sailing, or that some benevolent djinn would take pitty upon her and grant her knowledge of what the heck she was doing. Unfortunately, there were no such djinns in the area, and she was left to fend for herself. Carefully she made her way up to the bow of the ship, looking out over the sea with roving eyes. Edandri had informed her upon her waking that the Isle of the Knitters should be coming into view. Indeed, there was a misty area not too far ahead that was bound to be the mystical island. As the ship plunged into the mist an expectant cry rose from the crowded decks as the crew searched for the Isle.
“There! Dead ahead!” Came a voice near the front of the crowd.
Through the mist the shadowy image of an island came into view. There was something wrong with it, though. It looked to Parry as if it had been knitted. In fact, she was almost she that she could see the gigantic weave of the mountains and the bits of yarn trailing off to the left as the island was continually knitted. Parry blinked. She could see the yarn leading away from the island!
“To the left!” She shouted, running towards the railing, “That is not the real thing! Turn the ship to the left!” The crew groaned at her lack of sea terms, but did as told. A good thing they did too. As the ship passed the knitted island, it collapsed back into the sea, creating a wave that rocked the boats mightily, nearly capsizing it. If they had been any closer, all would have been lost. As it was, several people were thrown overboard. Luckily for them, Saeti knew a strong version of the doggy paddle, and so was able to dive in and help keep them afloat until a long boat could be lowered to rescue them.
With a new affection for the wolf-were all around, the crew turned their attention towards the direction Parry had indicated. Parry, however, was not looking towards where the island must lay. She was instead looking back at the mass of yarn that had been the island once. She had seen the stitches coming down the yarn. Someone on the island was not quite done with this trap yet. Moments later Parry was proved right as the mass suddenly came to life.
“Ball of yarn!” She screamed in warning, pulling out her own knitting needles. The crew members turned, gaping helplessly at the massive thing bearing down on them. Parry sent her needles, tethered to her by yarn of her own, into the mass, feeling it quiver as her needles struck. She pulled back, taking the creature like ball of yarn with her, her needles embedded within it. She jumped, flipped once, and landed on top of it. She felt it shudder again under her, but paid it no heed as she went to work disentangling the thing. Five minutes later and she jumped off, pulling her needles out as she went. The ball of yarn collapsed back into the sea as the crew cheered, slapping Parry on the back, and congratulating her all around. Parry, however, was not listening. She was watching the lines of yarn, that undoubtedly lead back to the Isle of Knitters, wondering what she had gotten herself into. Not in her wildest dreams could she think of controlling yarn the way these people obviously could. Though she had an inkling of how they were doing it, she really did not think that she would be able to emulate them if it came down to that. They were on a totally different level from her. Grimly she leaned on the railing, staring out at the sea, even as those around her celebrated.
Soon another island appeared before them from the depths of the fog. It looked so much like the fake that had appeared first that even Parry questioned whether or no this could really be the genuine artifact. There was no mistaking the aura that surrounded it, though, the aura of those who lived to knit, the aura of those who gave up everything they had for their knitting. This was an island where knitters ruled.
The ship struck ground gently, a thick barrier of knitted wool keeping it from any sort of harm. Parry, Edandri, and Tanildra jumped from the ship. Parry’s needles turned aside those that had been headed towards them from out of the mist.
Someone chuckled. “Well look, sisters,” came a taunting voice, “It seems that we have ourselves someone who fancies themselves a knitter. I wonder how long it is going to take us to rid them of that mistaken notion.” Harsh laughter barked at them.
“Careful, sister,” came another rather older voice, “Do not forget that they were able to not only see the knitted island, but were also able to untangle my ball of yarn!”
The first voice laughed again, “Do not compare my knitting to yours, you old hag. Just because you were easily defeated does not mean that the rest of us will fall so easily.” She snorted.
“Sisters, sisters, let us not fight,” Came a third voice, “Instead let us go and meet our guests.”
“Yeah, I want a look at who it is that I am going to be beating,” the insolent first voice replied.
From out of the mist three figures stepped forward. Parry blinked in surprise as she recognized the forms of a young girl, a mature woman, and an old crone. Was it possible that these three were the legendary fates who knitted all that happened in the world, deciding with their needles who lived and who died? The possibility that they were was almost frightening. Especially since it meant that on this Island, time had no meaning. A week here could be a few seconds outside, or a few years. Parry was starting to regret coming here.
“Alright, who here is the knitter?” the mature woman asked. Parry stepped forward, much to the surprise of the three women before her. “Why, she is not much older looking than you, sister,” mature woman said to the young girl.
“Hah, anyone can see that I am at least two years older than she is,” The girl replied, crossing her arms defiantly, “And I will bet that she is only an average knitter too, so do not compare her to me!”
The old crone laughed, “She is much more than an average knitter if she was able to dispel my Beast of Yarn. I think that she has had some sort of training. Be careful of her sisters.” And with that she melted back into the mists, leaving not a trace of herself behind.
“Show off,” The young girl muttered. Parry was sure that if her group could see the two remaining sisters properly, her group would have seen the younger one roll her eyes. She did not have time to ponder the implications of this, however, as the young one spoke again, “Alright, well I guess we get to test your abilities, then.” She sighed, “Sister, must I always do the testing? It is so boring!”
The mature woman laughed a little, “Yes, it is your job to do the testing, sister. And do not call your job boring. If they were able to get past our other sister, then there must be some sort of talent in them, right?”
“Not really,” The younger one replied sullenly, “At least, there has not been in any that have come to the island since the great needles were placed here.”
“Shh! Idiot, we are not to speak of such things so lightly!” The mature woman chastised.
“Fine, fine, I will go test her.” And with that, the fog and everything else around both she and Parry melted away, revealing a golden room. Parry did not bother to look around, though, her opponent was already right in front of her, and a mirror image of her, no less! Or at least she was almost a mirror image.
“Heh, sorry about this,” The other Parry said, rubbing the back of her head, “It has been so long since I needed to appear before someone that I have kind of forgotten what my natural shape is. So, um, yeah, I decided to borrow your shape. With a couple of revisions, of course,” She added as Parry opened her mouth to protest that she did not have jagged purple streaks running down her face. “Anyways,” she straightened up, suddenly looking very confident, “In this contest the rules are simple. All you have to do is cloth the other person in the most fitting manner and you win.” She nodded.
Parry did not bother to ask her definition of fitting; she already knew that she would loose if she did so, it was part of the test to determine on her own what the other thought was fitting. A magical spell would determine the winner. Parry looked over to where her almost mirror image stood, examining her, and marveling at the subtle differences she saw. Not only did the girl have the purple streaks, but she also was clothed in garments that were stylistically different from anything Parry would ever dream of wearing. They definitely did not covered everything, and there was a certain lack of decency to the clothing as they seemed to reveal her every curve and movement. So, that was the type of clothing the girl preferred, but was probably forbidden to wear, Parry thought, grinning. The other girl frowned at Parry’s smile, suddenly slightly worried in spite of herself. Shaking her head she pulled out her needles and a skein of blue appeared beside her. “You will have all of the yarn,” The other girl said suddenly, “And in any color imaginable, all you have to do is wish for it, and it will appear.” Her frown deepened as Parry pulled out her own needles, and a skein of bright purple yarn appeared next to her. “Alright, ready, and go!”
They were off, knitting at a pace that ate the yarn so rapidly they were almost invisible. Suddenly the other girl stopped and grinned at Parry, “Here, I will show you a secret if you promise not to tell anyone.” She then reached into her side pouch and pulled out another set of knitting needles.
Parry almost laughed. Instead she transferred her knitting over to her left hand, and without stopping pulled out a second set of needles herself. The other girl seemed amazed as Parry said calmly, “Secret art of the knitter: Two handed knitting technique.” She was then off at a pace that left the other girl struggling to catch up, even with the two handed knitting technique.
“How?” She finally demanded, panting slightly, the pace she was going at taking its toll on her, “How can you use the secret technique? Only the best knitters in the world can use it.”
“I was trained by the best,” Parry replied, with a dogged smile. The pace was starting to wear on her as well, but she knew that making her opponent think that she was not as tired as her was important. The truth was, though, that Parry really was not as tired. She trained every day, and the result was that she had an almost inhuman level of endurance. “I will not lose to you.” And with that she finished the shirt she had been knitting with a flourish before sticking out a hand to catch the next skein of yarn.
Growling in frustration, the other girl suddenly sat down, kicking off her shoes. Parry laughed. “I would not bother if I was you,” She said, grinning, “This is not really a race, if you remember, and you should save your strength for the hard parts.”
“You know what I was going to do then?” The girl asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Of course,” Parry replied, grinning now, “My master was an expert in the use of the three pronged knitting attack, so of course he could do a three angled knitting technique.”
The girl shook her head in pure amazement, “It seems that my sister was right. I have underestimated you.” She grinned herself, “And I have not had this much fun knitting in a long, long time.” A third pair of knitting needles appeared between her toes, “And you are wrong about this not being a race, it is just a different sort than you are used to. Even if it were not, I would still use this technique: you have piqued my interest, and so I will show you all of my secrets.” And like that she was off.
Five minutes later they both finished. Parry held up a purple shirt that flowed and swirled, and a pair of pants that looked like blue jeans, except for the purple lace woven in at strategic points. The other girl held up a very revealing halter top and a mini skirt so short that it really did not have any value as a piece of clothing if the wearer intended to do anything at all in it, including breathing. Both were so heavily adorned, though, that Parry wondered whether or not they would actually stay up of their own accord.
Mist entered the room, surrounding them both, swirling, tickling, and probing. Then it was gone, and they were back with their companions. The girl was very apparently wearing the clothing Parry had made, and Parry was wearing what she had been when she jumped off of he ship (and very thankfully not the things that had been made for her).
“It appears that you have lost, sister,” said the mature woman with some amusement in her voice, “Though I must say, I do approve of what was made for you. Much better than those things you usually make.” She chuckled. “I am assuming that you did make another extremely skimpy thing, right?”
“Sister,” The young girl said gravely, “This is no ordinary knitter. She knows both the two handed knitting technique and the three angled knitting technique.”
“Oh?” The mature woman suddenly seemed very interested, “Did you see her use both of these?”
“I saw her use the two handed knitting technique, and she spoke so lightly of the three angled knitting technique that she must really be a user of it.”
The mature woman shook her head, “I never thought I would see the day that we would get another protégé knitter here at the island.” She sighed, “I really do hate to have to have to destroy such a promising youth.” She shrugged, “This is supposing of course that you have come here to train,” She said, turning to Parry, “That is why you have come, correct?”
“Actually,” the girl replied with a slow sort of smile, “I have come to claim the knitting needles.”
The mist was suddenly gone and Parry found herself staring into the eyes of the mature woman. “What did you just say?” She demanded in a voice that sounded like it might break something.
“I said that I have come to claim the knitting needles.” Parry repeated herself.
“By the knitting needles, you are of course talking about THE Knitting Needles, that we have guarded on this island for many centuries, keeping them from harm, abuse of other disfigurement, right?” She asked with narrowed and somewhat scary eyes.
Parry blinked then nodded, wishing that the woman would get the concept of personal space and let Parry enjoy hers in private. “I suppose those would be the ones if they are the largest in the world.”
The woman turned and stalked off, before stopping a short ways ahead, and turning, “Well, are you coming or not?” She asked in a somewhat irritated tone.
Parry quickly scampered after her, pocketing the needles that she noticed suddenly she was still holding. The path that was somehow appearing before them seemed to lead up and up and up. After her knitting challenge against the young girl she was a little tired, but she was definitely not going to show it. Suddenly they came to a stop and the mature woman pointed to a hut off to the side of the trail. “You will rest here for a while,” She said sternly, “Then when I come for you again, we will see if you are worthy of even approaching The Knitting Needles.”
“But what about my crew?” Parry asked, suddenly concerned, “Will they not wonder where I have gone?”
The woman snorted. “They will not have occasion to wonder; time for them (and the rest of the world) stopped the moment the two of us were out of sight in the fog. It will only start again once you have mastered The Knitting Needles, or, as is more likely, you have passed on.”
Slightly confused by the archaic term for dying, Parry shrugged in an unconcerned manner. “Sounds alright to me.”
“I guess we shall see when next we meet.” The mature woman replied with contempt in her voice.
Edandri suddenly had a crick in her neck, even though Parry had only just disappeared from sight. She started stretching, noticing that Tanildra was doing the same.
“Ugh, ever feel like you just spent an eternity in one place?” Tanildra asked in an annoyed voice. “I do not know why, but I think I am going to have to get a massage after we get back to the ship.” She groaned, rolling her neck. “I really feel crappy all of the sudden.”
Edandri nodded in commiserating agreement as she bent and twisted to crack her aching joints. She yawned, “What is worse is that I feel like I have not slept in two years.” She worked on cracking her back.
As they were talking the mist around them was slowly but surely lessening. Soon they were able to see all the way back to the ship. Then all at once it was gone, like a curtain being rolled back. There was a splash as Saeti fell the remaining two feet into the water. Standing up with as sour an expression as a wolf can make plastered over her maw she shook herself off. Something had caused her to misjudge her jump, and she was not happy about it. On her back, Aitys was even less pleased, and made sure that Saeti knew it.
A noise from the top of the path caused all motion to stop, however. There stood Parry, dressed in strange, billowy garments, a gigantic pair of knitting needles strapped to her back. After shaking her head she started quickly down the path to them. There was something strange in the way she was running, but they all attributed it to the weird clothing she was wearing. Soon enough her running normalized and she was there.
“Ah, it is so good to see all of you again!” She exclaimed, embracing everyone, much to their surprise. She stopped, and laughed nervously, rubbing the back of her head with one hand. “Sorry, I forgot, it has only been a few moments for you, I guess.”
“What are you talking about?” Edandri asked in confusion.
“Oh, um, well, you see, time stopped for the rest of the world when I went further onto the island. I was here training with The Knitting Needles, but you guys (gals, whatever) will never remember any of that time, because it did not happen for you. I cannot believe that the narrator just skipped over everything that happened! I mean, it is not every day that you learn magic, or invent a new technique, right?”
There was a pause as the two girls tried to assimilate what Parry had just said any failed. “What?” Tanildra asked, shaking her head, “Oh, never mind, you have the knitting needles, and that is all that matters.” She paused, “Now that you have them, I do not suppose you have another quest, do you?”
“Actually…” Parry started, rubbing the back of her head.