But Pramil stayed behind, with a few of his men,
to examine the ship that had brought the strangers.
He approved of her lines, and her hull of leather,
such as the fisherfolk use on Torban and Tay,
for mussel gathering, for clams and for scallops.
Yet he perceived at once her Ocean-going form,
her two square linen sails, her foremast and mainmast.
He observed the stitching with fine waxed linen thread
that held hides together and kept the water out.
His fingers probed the hides with a most careful eye.
“These shipwrights knew their craft, and practiced it as art.”
So he said to himself, though his men heard also.
“And their keel is sky-oak, so they came from afar.”
“And see here, a sun-still, for making fresh water
from the salts of Ocean, the complex briny stew
that men cannot swallow without working their doom.
Look how they run their sheets, and their halyards, like that.
These men came from far off, and are not of this land:
Not Barra nor Torban, nor mountainous Kemblis.
No Orien island ever suckled these men.
They come from Oversea, or from some other world,
all capable sailors, and masters of Ocean.
Setting to sea in this, oh-so-fragile vessel,
facing the sea’s dangers, and the Long Passage ways,
they have journeyed for months, and maybe even years.
But winter is coming; the storm season has come.
They are sore and weary, injured by sun and storm.
Not one of them will stir from Alba ’til the spring.”
Then Pramil gave order and they launched the frail hull
back into great Ocean, from whence it had arrived.
They sailed it ’round the cliffs, and came into harbor.
Every man there liked it, that little leather ship,
for she danced on the sea, thumbed her nose at the rocks.
That vessel was speedy, far swifter than the gannets,
and the dolphins loved her, dancing before the prow.
But Pramil forbade them from taking anything,
not even the design, for he feared some magic,
some trick of destiny, or her captain’s ill-will.
“Men coming from far off possess peculiar fates:
their destinies tangle with their destination,
and Mother Ocean knows how this crew will change us.”
He sought his men’s silence and they granted his need,
and they said not a thing of Pramil’s suspicions.