Considering your recent acquaintance with this creature's fluidity of form, you're not sure why it should come as such a surprise, when it forms more and thicker tentacles from itself—and when those tentacles wind around your calves and thighs and belly and lift you bodily up to where you can reach the harpoon's eye. But a surprise it is nonetheless—and more than that; there is a great deal of you now which bitterly regrets the present necessity of doing anything, except simply to stretch yourself full length atop the deep thing's skin once more, and surrender yourself to whatever use it might choose to make of you from there. And your concentration is not at all aided by the pair of tentacle tips which press against your inner thighs, just inches away from that part of you with which you most strongly desire they make a much more intimate sort of acquaintance—strongly enough desire, indeed, that the slickness of their surfaces is no longer entirely due to the deep thing's own exudations.

But you do have a task in hand at the moment, and one of no little importance, at that. So you do your best to put the alluring images aside, and try to ignore the scent of yourself strong in your nostrils, and with slightly unsteady fingers reach out to examine the knot holding the broken line-end to the harpoon's eye. Before long, you know that it's not coming loose. If you still had your fid and Lu's knife, perhaps—but you lost track of them in your rough landing atop the creature, and by now they're probably halfway to the seafloor, and without them you'd tear the claw off every finger just trying to make a start in prying this knot to pieces.

But perhaps you do not need to. Despite being still but a tyro of the sea, your time as a woods scout gave you much opportunity to practice ropework, and your particular predilections even more so. A good thing—with such knowledge, it's the work of only a few minutes to bend the severed harpoon line to your own heavy line with a barrel knot sturdy enough to stand up to the capstan's force. You've trusted your own life to bends like these often enough; now you will trust another life to this one. It's as solid as you know how to make it.

Time for the next part of the plan, then. Looking up to the Bitch's quarterdeck rail, you see no one there ready to haul you back up to the deck—and you've no bosun's chair to ride back up, in any case. It'll be an exercise in climbing, then, which is straightforward enough—or will be, as soon as you figure out how to ask the deep thing to put you back down, so you can paddle over to the trailing line.

"Figure out"—but the thought and the action prove one; even as the concept forms, you feel the tentacles shifting against you—time enough for another moment of fascination, sweet and dark and full of promise—as they return you to the creature's back. And, from the alien mind which rests so gently against your own, the resorption of those tentacles carries with it an overpowering sense of relief, of relaxation after supreme effort and abatement of a pain you weren't quite conscious of feeling. Though, you realize, you weren't feeling it, save perhaps at one remove.

Perhaps, you suddenly realize, in a way very similar to how the deep thing might well have experienced your own recent paroxysm. You never did lose that feeling of presence, after all...and for all that there is aught both mortifying and powerfully exciting about such a possibility, at the moment it carries with it the seed of an idea, the suggestion of a means to communicate. You focus your thoughts...