Re: Tying on

  • Markshire PCs:

“Cap’n, c’n I show ye summat?”

“Aye, Lars, what is it?”

“For’rd, Cap’n. Jacobssen, take the tiller for a minute. Steady course.”

As they walked toward the bow, Thrakh looked over the ship and crew. Everything looked good, but the crew…there was something odd there. It took him a moment to place what was wrong, because to all appearances they were acting entirely normal. Which was in fact what was strange—usually this close to the crossing, they’d be quiet, nervous of the upcoming ordeal. But today they were grousing, talking, and joking around as usual.

“O’er here Cap’n.”

Thrakh stepped to the sail and looked at the patch that Lars pointed to, right around the grommet—the damn sails always ripped out there, and they were constantly being mended. He’d have to remind the owner when they returned to lay in some new canvas. “One o’ ‘ers?”

“Who else, Cap’n?”

Thrakh grunted; the girl’s needlework was now as good as anyone else on the crew could manage, but right near Lars’ finger there was a small figure stitched in shiny purple thread. “What is it?”

“Dunno. Holy symbol, maybe?”

Thrakh looked at the symbol, a circle maybe a thumb’s width across, a snaky line through the middle, half purple with a dot of canvas showing through, half empty with a dot of purple. “Mebbe. Ne’er seen the like. That all ye wanted t’ show me?”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

The two men walked quietly back to the stern. “Thanks, Jacobssen, I’ve got it. Back t’ work,” said Thrakh. A moment later, he turned to Lars, “Ev’ry patch?”

“Since she got to be any good.”

“Hmmm. Why ye worried?”

Lars hesitated, unsure how to proceed. Thrakh knew he was eager to captain his own ship one day, and sometimes tested him in little ways, hidden behind his gruff and taciturn manner. This felt like one of those times, but Lars could never really tell. “Coupla things. First, where’d she get the thread?”

“Think she stole it?”

“Well, with what ‘appened t’ other day…” Lars referred to the discovery that the girl had been feeding herself on almonds pilfered from the hold rather than on Ratsnuh’s questionable efforts. When she was told not to eat the cargo, which was, in a way, the money of everyone aboard, she’d prostrated herself before Thrakh and released a torrent of words in her native tongue. “An apology, I think, Cap’n. My fault, I should’ve told her,” Marco had said, and promised to make good the minor losses from his own share.

“Ye’ve sharp eyes for spottin’ ships on the horizon, Lars, but ye can’t afford t’ o’erlook anythin’ on yer own ship. Know the robes she wears fer ‘er mornin’ dance? Where they ain’t patches o’ homespun, they’re that same shiny purple.” Thrakh smiled, briefly, at the recollection of that incident as well. They’d given the girl some more sailor-like clothes to wear, which were much too large for her, and she’d promptly altered them to her own size. When she wore them for her morning dance or whatever it was, though, the clothes made her feminine silhouette just a bit too apparent, and Thrakh had insisted she wear the shapeless, patched-up robes for her exercises. “Barely any purple left t’ see, but it’s there. What else?”

“Well..uh..I guess just: why?”

“Hmmmm. Ye’re a good sailor, boy. Ye’re skilled. Ye feel proud when ye bring t’ ship to dock clean in a tricky wind, right? Well, we can’t stamp our marks on a good dockin’ or an ‘ard tack change, but a craftsman—som’n who makes summat wit’ ‘is own ‘ands—can.” Thrakh paused, and went on. “’Nother thing about that—t’ take that fine thread through that thick canvas like that is some work, don’t ya think? Tells ya a bit about yer crewman.”

Lars thought about that for a second, hesitated, and spoke again. “I c’n see that, I guess, Cap’n, but that symbol looks a bit, I dunno, magical or somethin’. I mean,” Lars straightened, “some of the superstitious, and..”

“Good, good, Lars. Now ye’re thinkin’ like a captain. Ye just have ta think it all t’ way through.” Thrakh paused, and nodded over to the girl, who was seated by the port rail with a sail piled next to her and a corner of it on her lap, sewing. “Now does that look,” said Thrakh, as the ship corkscrewed slightly in chop and the girl vomited calmly in a nearby bucket, “like a girl with an ounce of magic in ‘er?”

They stood quietly for several minutes. At length another wave caught the ship just wrong, and the girl vomited again, half-missing the bucket this time. She moved the corner of sail carefully to one side and jumped to her feet. In a reasonable imitation of Thrakh—reasonable given her atrocious accent and her clear alto voice—they could just hear her say, “Clean that up, ye ninny.” She reached for a swab as the crew nearby laughed.

Thrakh frowned menacingly, but Lars—who had long noticed the crew’s improved spirits—smiled, nodded at the men about the ship, and spoke softly. “Some kind o’ magic, mebbe.” Thrakh’s eyes followed the gesture, then he made a single, strange low bark and clapped Lars on the shoulder. “Yer watch, Lars. I’ll be in me cabin.”

“Ain’t that somethin’…” Lars muttered to himself. “Twice in one voyage.”