Pinch chittered a string of orders and the urchin rolled away, chittering orders of its own. Soon, the manta leveled out and stopped moving altogether.
“What’s going on?” asked Adam.
“I have dispatched an envoy to Tiskaloo. I don’t want my manta too close to whatever strangeness is going on down there.
Great, Adam thought. More waiting.
Once Admiral Pinch received word that the Tiskaloons were busy preparing for the manta’s arrival his nerves eased enough to order the manta to continue downward. “They’re preparing for me?” Pinch asked the urchin who brought the surprising news.
“That’s what they said when we asked what all the hubbub was about: ‘We’re making a party.’”
“But for me?” Pinch didn’t believe it.
“For ‘The manta’s guest’ is what they said.”
“In all my life, I have never known a Tiskaloon to celebrate the presence of any other, let alone an urchin. Surprises abound,” he said with glance toward Adam.
Adam listened to this conversation in silence. It worried him that Admiral Pinch and the other urchins had misunderstood the Tiskaloons and thought the welcome party for them. It was fairly obvious who was the manta’s guest. The welcome party was for Adam.
The manta slowed to a stop above the blue section of Tiskaloo’s inner-circle plaza. The streets and nearby buildings were neatly packed with water-folk, balanced on their tails, riding atop giant snails and seahorses, dangling out of coral-adorned windows. The water-folk weren’t talking or moving about much now that that they’d gathered for the manta’s arrival. “What a reception,” said Admiral Pinch.
Adam nodded. “It sure is something.”
Pinch rolled away, toward the front of the manta. A small herd of urchins followed behind him. Once he got to the foremost tip, Pinch addressed the Tiskaloons below, “Water-folk of Tiskaloo, thank you for this unprecedented reception. I am Admiral Pinch, of King Altern’s Urchin Army, and this is my vessel, Weaver.”