Rebuilding the future that was nearly lost.
When the Tourmaline Seas limped back into port, everyone in Raelin’s family was stunned that she’d made it. She’d lost a mast and had so many holes in the hull that it was only with the Goddesses’ blessings that her crew and cargo had survived. More than anything, Raelin wanted to see her back on the seas, blue Dana sails snapping in the wind as her crew sailed around the world. To her shock, Raelin got to observe Mistress Chie, owner of Sunrise Shipyard, as she rebuilt the Tourmaline Seas.
Raelin’s joy in repairing the Tourmaline darkened as the Delbhana plotted to steal the Tourmaline away. When that didn’t work the Delbhana struck straight at the heart of the Dana Clan, trying to steal all the children, Raelin included. If she failed, Raelin knew that she might never see her family and home again.
Repair and Rebuild is a fantastic coming of age story set in the Matriarchal world of Muirin.
Chapter Two: Skeleton
Raelin groaned as Anwyn hissed and shook her shoulder. She batted at Anwyn, trying to savor a last few precious moments of sleep before she had to get up. Anwyn growled and tore the blankets off Raelin’s bunk, nearly rolling her onto the floor. When Raelin glared at her and opened her mouth to yell all that came out was a gasp of horror.
“It’s midmorning,” Anwyn huffed at Raelin. “You were supposed to be up by dawn!”
“Oh no!” Raelin squeaked as she scrambled out of bed. “I’m late!”
“I woke you up four times,” Anwyn complained, her crutches thumping against the floor until she sat on the bunk opposite Raelin’s. “You said you were getting up every time.”
“Why didn’t Father wake me?” Raelin wailed as she pulled off her sleep shirt and pants, scrambling into her sturdiest work clothes.
Anwyn just snorted. It took a moment for Raelin to remember that today was market day. Father and most of their uncles and brothers were busy selling goods, buying things and recording all the transactions. He’d said the night before that they were all responsible for getting up on their own, with an especially stern look at Raelin.
“I’m so late,” Raelin complained as she dragged a comb though her hair three times and then decided that was good enough.
“The back is all knotted,” Anwyn commented. She grinned when Raelin glared at her. “It is. Looks horrible.”
“I’m late!” Raelin groaned as she struggled with the knots.
“Yeah, and I tried to wake you up four times,” Anwyn said. “You’re lucky I didn’t give up entirely.”
The thought of not waking up at all until Father came home made Raelin whine. She tore her comb through the last couple of knots, wincing as she pulled out chunks of hair. Anwyn winced with her but she just pointed at the great room. When Raelin ran out there was a now-cold breakfast bun and a piece of fruit. Anwyn growled when Raelin ran past them to get to her boots.
“Eat them,” Anwyn huffed.
“I’m late!” Raelin said while waving one boot at Anwyn.
“You’ll only be a little more late if you eat,” Anwyn said so sternly that she seemed like a miniature version of Mother, “and you won’t be as distracted while working if you have food in your belly.”
Raelin stuck her tongue out at Anwyn but she still ate the breakfast bun as quickly as possible because she knew that Father would fuss if he came home and found that she hadn’t eaten. She ate the fruit in two big bites that had her cheeks bulging as she chewed but at least that got her back to her boots and then out the door.
She heard Anwyn call something but Raelin was too focused on taking the fastest route through the Clan house and then running down the stairs and through the hallways towards the north entrance. Several times she nearly ran into someone, male relatives that she didn’t pause to apologize to, but there weren’t any impacts so Raelin didn’t fuss over that.
“Late, late, late!” Raelin panted as she ran the six blocks to Mistress Chie’s dry dock.
“You’re late!” Befind shouted when Raelin ran in.
“I know!” Raelin yelled back at her.
Three other shipwrights called the same thing to Raelin as she ran the length of the dry dock, homing in on Mistress Chie by aiming straight for the most activity and loudest yelling. The women around Mistress Chie went silent when Raelin skidded to a stop in front of her, panting and sweating and red in the face.
“You’re late,” Mistress Chie said.
“I know!” Raelin whined. She didn’t stare at her feet like a boy about to be scolded but she did let her hands curl into fists from the sheer frustration of it all. “I’m sorry. I overslept. I got here as quickly as I could once I woke up.”
Mistress Chie snorted before turning back to the other women. “Get to work on those last timbers. I want them all down so that we can verify the keel by lunch. You,” she said turning back to Raelin, “come with me.”
“Yes, Mistress,” Raelin sighed, her dejected words disappearing under the loud, enthusiastic and amused ‘yes, Mistress’s from the other women.
She followed Mistress Chie back up the dry dock, acutely aware of all the other women looking at her and smirking. A few of the younger apprentices had sympathetic expressions but no one said a word as Mistress Chie and Raelin walked by. What could they say, after all? Raelin was horribly late and that’s all there was to that.
Once they were in Mistress Chie’s blueprint strewn office, Raelin stood in front of her desk while Mistress Chie settled into her seldom used chair with a tired sigh. She studied Raelin while rubbing her fingers through the hair on the left side of her head. Raelin waited. If it was Mother, Raelin knew that she’d get a solid scolding for embarrassing the family. If she was older, thirteen or so, Raelin knew it would have been more than that, maybe a beating. With Mistress Chie there was no knowing. Raelin hadn’t seen her discipline anyone in the week and a half that she’d been working at the shipyard.
“Do you want to be a shipwright when you grow up?” Mistress Chie asked finally, well after Raelin had started to sweat from sheer nerves.
“Me?” Raelin asked, started. “No, Mistress. I want to be a ship’s captain and a trader.”
“So why are you here?” Mistress Chie asked. She waved one hand at the dry dock on the other side of the wall.
“Because Mother wanted me to learn about how ships are made,” Raelin answered much more slowly. She wasn’t sure what Mistress Chie wanted as an answer. “And, well, it’s interesting. I like knowing how things are put together. It’s fun.”
Mistress Chie nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “You’ve been on time every single day. Never shirked, never asked for help, done everything we’ve asked of you even when you were too small to do it properly.”
Raelin nodded, sure that her face was a study in confusion. Of course she’d done as she was told. How else was she supposed to learn how ship building was done? You learned from those who did the job, practiced under their supervision, asked questions where you didn’t understand something. That’s just how learning things worked.
Apparently Mistress Chie didn’t agree with that because she snorted and stretched her arms towards the ceiling before sighing and dropping them again. When she leaned forward to put her elbows on her knees Raelin blushed at how amused she looked.
“I haven’t had another apprentice who was this diligent, Raelin,” Mistress Chie said. “Ever. Never seen anyone who worked this hard at something, either. Not since your great-grandmother swept me up and deposited me in this city. I wasn’t that diligent when I was your age. I thought that you were looking to become my heir from the way you were acting.”
“Me?” Raelin squeaked and then winced because her voice came out so high. “No, Mistress! I just…”
She looked towards the Tourmaline Seas, her heart hurting at its condition. In the fifteen days since she’d started helping, the Tourmaline had been stripped back to the keel and the ribs with practically nothing else left. It was a skeleton of a ship, just a sketch of what she had been before the storm broke her.
Raelin still hoped that they’d be able to save the Tourmaline. A lot of the boards had been stacked off to the side and most of the trim had been saved and was being restored. It was just a process of making sure that her structure was strong before they rebuilt her. The thought of her keel being broken made Raelin’s stomach churn her hastily eaten breakfast.
It was like Uncle Jarmon’s old religious stories of the Goddesses healing the ancient ship of the stars Muirin. In the old stories the ship Muirin had limped from the Morrigan’s Berthing to here but she’d died in the end, just as they made it to the world Muirin. Just the thought of a ship dying that way made tears well up in her eyes. Tourmaline Seas had done exactly the same thing, limping into port with her crew and cargo even as she died.
“The ship itself,” Mistress Chie breathed, reaching out to catch Raelin’s chin. “It’s the ship itself that you’re working so hard for.”
“I just… will she live?” Raelin asked in a quiet little voice that showed way too much of how much she hurt at the thought of the Tourmaline Seas dying. She dashed the inappropriate tears away with the back of one hand. “Can we fix her? That’s what I really want to know. Will the Tourmaline sail again?”
Mistress Chie stared into Raelin’s eyes, amusement mixing with a sort of deep emotion that Raelin didn’t recognize. There was sadness and pride and regret and a little bit of fear in Mistress Chie’s expression though Raelin didn’t know what there was to be afraid of. After a moment of mutual study that extended long enough for Raelin’s cheeks to go blazingly red, Mistress Chie nodded once, firmly.
“Let’s find out.”
She let Raelin’s chin go and stood, striding back out of the office as if the discussion had never happened. Raelin stared after her, shocked by the sudden switch, only to scramble after Mistress Chie when she barked “Dana!” over her shoulder. Befind passed Raelin the precious clipboard and its blueprint, giving her a stern look and a fond cuff against the back of her head for her tardiness.
“Is the keel fully exposed?” Mistress Chie called to her crew.
“Almost, Mistress!” one of the senior shipwrights called back, sounding and looking thoroughly harried. “Start at the bow. We’ll have the rest done by the time you get to us.”
“You better,” Mistress Chie snapped but she was grinning and the rest of the women on the dock grinned back at her. “Dana, you’re on notes. Stick by my side.”
“Yes, Mistress!” Raelin said, her voice going squeaky again despite her efforts to keep it firm.
For the next three hours Raelin clambered over the spine of the Tourmaline, taking notes on everything that Mistress Chie found as she examined the keel and the ribs. Every time she crouched to check something on the keel Raelin held her breath for fear that this would be the sign that the Tourmaline was truly dead.
Six of the ribs on the port side had to be removed and replaced. By the time Mistress Chie and Raelin had made it to the aft and the mount for the rudder Befind had a team of women working to remove the cracked ribs. Mistress Chie nodded once they stepped out of the Tourmaline’s skeleton, brushing off her pants and shirt absently.
“So?” Raelin asked quietly enough that hopefully the other women wouldn’t overhear her being a baby about the ship.
“She’ll live,” Mistress Chie said smiling at the way Raelin gasped with delight. “There’s a long road to recovery for her but she’ll sail again. Might have them take all the ribs off and laminate on another layer of wood to strengthen the keel just in case but she’ll make it.”
Raelin managed to throttle her urge to cheer but she still made a squeak of joy. Mistress Chie laughed, ruffling Raelin’s hair before striding back towards the office. She gestured for Raelin to follow with the clipboard. Once inside the office Mistress Chie carefully unfolded the blueprint and laid it out on her desk.
She started adding instructions to the careful notes that Raelin had taken. This was to be replaced. That was to be laminated. Several places needed extra cross-braces and one set of bulkheads in the hold were to be eliminated entirely to allow for larger loads but Mistress Chie added notes on strengthening the beams all around that area.
“Do we know what happened to the Tourmaline to break her?” Raelin asked as she watched Mistress Chie’s pencil. Her handwriting was much sloppier than Raelin’s.
Mistress Chie froze and then sighed as she set the pencil down, looked over her shoulder to make sure that the door was shut and then leaned back in her chair. Her expression was black and angrier than Raelin had ever seen. Raelin held her breath, abruptly worried that she’d poked her nose into something that she should have ignored.
“Two possibilities,” Mistress Chie said without meeting Raelin’s eyes, “either they ran into a rogue wave that damn near sunk them in a matter of seconds or they tried to belly up alongside another ship and broke the hull in the process.”
“…pirates?” Raelin hissed in a shocked whisper that finally made Mistress Chie meet her eyes.
“It’s possible,” Mistress Chie said. “I’ve seen the same sort of damage from your great-grandmother’s battles. Not that severe, granted, but the same sort of thing. She used to break her ships on a regular basis. That’s why I’m here. She needed someone to repair her ships after battle.”
Raelin realized that her hands ached from gripping the edge of Mistress Chie’s desk so tightly. She let go, staring blankly at the blueprint for the Tourmaline Seas. Wouldn’t Mother have said something if the Tourmaline had been attacked by pirates? She normally ranted for days whenever pirates were reported in areas that they shipped to and from.
It took Mistress Chie putting her hand on Raelin’s shoulder for her to realize that maybe Mistress Chie wasn’t worried that the Tourmaline had been attacked by pirates. Maybe she was worried that the captain and crew had gone pirate while out at sea. The sheer thought of it made Raelin’s stomach lurch.
Aunt Kennis wouldn’t have let that happen, not after all the effort the family had put into reforming the Dana Clan’s image. Great-Grandmother Anwyn was the last pirate in their family. There was no way that it had been their ship attacking another ship.
“Time to get back to work, Dana,” Mistress Chie said.
Raelin nodded, following her back outside onto the dry dock. Her thoughts weren’t on the work they did, though. For the rest of the day Raelin tried not to think about the possibility that the Tourmaline might have attacked another ship while at sea.
She wasn’t very successful at avoiding those thoughts.
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