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Al The Great . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 6

“Very well.  Many thanks, great Earth-Shaker.”

My subjects await your arrival.

The presence withdrew.  As the trident slowly sank back into the depths, glittering golden particles came to rest on Al.  When the trident vanished beneath the sea, light flashed and the particles were no longer visible.

Al stood, blinking.  All the men around him stepped back except Lem and Heph, who stepped closer, examining Al’s face.

“Your – your eyes, Alex,” Heph whispered.

Al reached for his face.  Nothing felt wrong.  In fact, he felt better than ever before.  Not truly different . . . but more powerful . . . stronger than his seven years.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“They’re not brown anymore,” Lem breathed.

“Of course they are,” Al said.  His eyes couldn’t change color, could they?

Heph leaned closer.

“You’re both right.  You’ve still got brown eyes, Al, but. . . now there’s blue around the brown.”

Nestor slipped closer, until he stood just behind Al’s friends.  After scrutinizing Al’s eyes like a prize catch, he stepped back and nodded slowly.

“The Earth-Shaker has placed a mark on you.  Not many of the gods act so – he is pleased by your actions concerning the other boat.  Pleased indeed.”

Al nodded.

“He told me that the merchildren wish to thank me personally, and that I’m to spend the rest of the day with them.  I’ll come back to the ship afterward.”  He mentioned nothing of his meeting with Ares; everyone about him looked worried enough without that particular news.

Lem looked like he wanted to object.  He opened his mouth, but only closed it and swallowed.  Heph looked excited.

“You’ll tell me everything?” he asked.

“Of course.”  Al smiled.

“You had better get going,” the captain advised.  “It’s not wise to keep the gods – or their companions – waiting.”

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