Wolff, under Ipsewas’ guidance, maintained pressure on a spot to hold the sailfish (for that was the literal translation of histoikhthys) on the beach. The zebrilla gathered several armloads of fruit and nuts and a large collection of the punchnuts.
“We have to eat and drink, especially drink,” Ipsewas muttered. “It may be a long way across Okeanos to the foot of the mountain. I don’t remember.”
A few minutes after the supplies had been stored in one of the natural receptacles on the sailfish’s shell, they left. The wind caught the thin cartilage sail, and the great mollusc gulped in water through its mouth and ejected it through a fleshy valve in its rear.
“The gworl have a headstart,” Ipsewas said, “but they can’t match our speed. They won’t get to the other side long before we do.” He broke open a punchnut and offered Wolff a drink. Wolff accepted. He was exhausted but nervestrung. He needed something to knock him out and let him sleep. A curve of the shell afforded a cavelike ledge for him to crawl within. He lay hugged against the bare skin of the sailfish, which was warm. In a short time he was asleep, but his last glimpse was of the shouldering bulk of Ipsewas, his stripes blurred in the moonlight, crouching by the nerve spots. Ipsewas was lifting another punchnut above his head and pouring the liquid contents into his outthrust gorilloid lips.
When Wolff awoke, he found the sun was just coming around the curve of the mountain. The full moon (it was always full, for the shadow of the planet never fell on it) was just slipping around the other side of the mountain.
Refreshed but hungry, he ate some of the fruit and the protein-rich nuts. Ipsewas showed him how he could vary his diet with the “bloodberries.” These were shiny maroon balls that grew in clusters at the tips of fleshy stalks that sprouted out of the shell. Each was large as a baseball and had a thin, easily torn skin that exuded a liquid that looked and tasted like blood. The meat within tasted like raw beef with a soupcon of shrimp.
“They fall off when they’re ripe, and the fish get most of them,” Ipsewas said. “But some float in to the beach. They’re best when you get them right off the stalk.”
Wolff crouched down by Ipsewas. Between mouthfuls, he said, “The histoikhthys is handy. They seem almost too much of a good thing.”
“The Lord designed and made them for our pleasure and his,” Ipsewas replied.
“The Lord made this universe?” Wolff said, no longer sure that the story was a myth.
“You better believe it,” Ipsewas replied, and took another drink. “Because if you don’t, the Lord will end you. As it is, I doubt that he’ll let you continue, anyway. He doesn’t like uninvited guests.”
Ipsewas lifted the nut and said, “Here’s to your escaping his notice. And a sudden end and damnation to the Lord.”
He dropped the nut and leaped at Wolff. Wolff was so taken by surprise he had no chance to defend himself. He went sprawling into the hollow of shell in which he had slept, with Ipsewas’ bulk on him.
“Quiet!” Ipsewas said. “Stay curled up inside here until I tell you it’s all right. It’s an Eye of the Lord.”
Wolff shrank back against the hard shell and tried to make himself one with the shadow of the interior. However, he did look out with one eye and thus he saw the ragged shadow of the raven scud across, followed by the creature itself. The dour bird flashed over once, wheeled, and began to glide in for a landing on the stern of the sailfish.
“Damn him! He can’t help seeing me,” Wolff muttered to himself.
“Don’t panic,” Ipsewas called. “Ahhh!”
There was a thud, a splash, and a scream that made Wolff start up and bump his head hard against the shell above him. Through the flashes of light and darkness, he saw the raven hanging limply within two giant claws. If the raven was eagle-sized, the killer that had dropped like a bolt from the green sky seemed, in that first second of shock, to be as huge as a roc. Wolff’s vision straightened and cleared, and he saw an eagle with a light-green body, a pale red head, and a pale yellow beak. It was six times the bulk of the raven, and its wings, each at least thirty feet long, were flapping heavily as it strove to lift higher from the sea into which its missile thrust had carried both it and its prey. With each powerful downpush, it rose a few inches higher. Presently it began climbing higher, but before it got too far away, it turned its head and allowed Wolff to see its eyes. They were black shields mirroring the flames of death. Wolff shuddered; he had never seen such naked lust for killing.