They popped open again as a particularly large wave hit, sending a jolt through the wood. I clamped my arms around my stomach and moaned. Was there anything worse than being seasick?
"We'll be hittin' calmer water soon," said a cheerful voice behind me. I looked back to see one of the sailors. He ambled forward and leaned over the rail. "Almost to shore."
I grimaced and turned away. "At least you'll be able to get off and walk around on solid ground. I'll still be stuck here as the stupid figurehead." I reached one of my wooden hands down to tug uselessly at the nails that held me to the front of the ship.
"Well, now, I'm not so sure of that," said the sailor. "Cap'n ain't been too impressed with your performance on this trip. He thought you'd bring us luck, like. Not go bellyachin' the whole time to anyone who came near." I twisted to see him grinning.
"You think he'd leave me ashore?" I asked, hope and fear bubbling up inside me. "That would be great, as long as he doesn't smash me to pieces or anything. I mean, even if he just tosses me in a junkheap, I can drag myself out of there."
"Reckon you'd have to, without legs," he observed, glancing down at my solid wooden base. "How'd you get to be here, anyhow?"
I faced forward again, watching the horizon to avoid looking at the unsteady water below me. "I was made by an old wizard who was half wood nymph and half human. He died just a few days after he woke me up, so I don't know what he was like, really." I shrugged. "The captain of this ship – or this stupid boat, I'm not even sure it's big enough to be called a ship – anyway, he helped clean out the wizard's place. And he thought it'd be cool to have a talking figurehead." I made a face. "He didn't even ask me first. And now I can hardly move, and the spray is bad for my wood, and I'm seasick all the time!" A seagull screeched overhead. It was probably just my imagination that it was laughing at me.
"Well, now there's a misfortune," said the sailor. "I remember when I first came to the seaboats as a lad, I used to get the bellychurns something awful. But I got used to the water, I did, and I reckon you might, too. Still, there don't seem much point in you sticking around if you ain't drawn to the sea."
A selkie poked his head out of the water beside the bow and barked a question. The sailor nodded down at him. "Aye, that'd be fine. Cap'n will pay well afterwards, like always." The selkie's round head vanished under the waves.
I turned to the sailor. "What did –"
"The sealfolk guide us through the rocks hereabouts. Other times, they make mighty fine fishing partners, too." He grinned at me. "Tell you what, when we get ashore I'll ask the cap'n to resign you from your current position as figurehead, gentle-like. He'll listen to me. I'm the first mate, if you didn't know, and he ain't too attached to you anyhow... even if the ship is."
"Really? Thank you so much!" I said. "I might not know much about the world yet, but I know I'll like it more if I'm not always getting bounced up and down on the front of a big boat. It will be great to get ashore!"
"Aye, there ain't nothing wrong with good solid land, if that's your likin'," he said. A yell came from above, and he glanced up. "Reckon I better get to handling the docking. I wish you the best of luck." He spread his wings and buzzed away into the lower rigging.
I turned back to the open water. It had calmed somewhat while we were talking, and now the waves only rolled the ship lightly. As shouted orders floated from the rigging, the ship wheeled to starboard, and in front of me the harbor opened up. The docks, and the town behind them, looked wonderfully solid and steady.
A seagull swooped overhead, cackling. This time I laughed, too. "Laugh all you want," I called to it. I spread my arms wide and let out a whoop. "I'm going ashore!"