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 Five: Rebuild
“She almost looks like a ship again!” Raelin exclaimed as the final few boards were hammered into place.
Her breath puffed in the air. It had gotten much colder over the last week or so, the weather promising snow that it hadn’t yet delivered. Raelin was glad. She wanted them to get as much done on the Tourmaline as possible before the winter weather closed in and made it hard to work. Mistress Chie had already said that they’d have a hard time with the glue and caulking once the temperature dropped too low. Cold and snow would slow their work dramatically.
“We’re getting closer,” Mistress Chie chuckled. “There are still the decks to install and the masts but the hull is getting there.”
One full month, forty days, after the Tourmaline had been brought into dry dock, they were finally getting to the point where she looked like a ship again. It made Raelin so happy that she didn’t mind running around constantly to carry Mistress Chie’s messages.
She was running farther now than she had in the beginning. Mistress Chie had her running to suppliers, to bring payments to the bank and to carry records both home and to the city court. The Delbhana had insisted on reports on what had happened to the Tourmaline Seas after their ship never made it to port.
“Damn meddling bitches,” Mistress Chie grumbled as she slapped the portfolio filled with the required reports shut. “I’ve told them before that they need stronger ships. Not my fault that they’re getting an object lesson on that.”
“Um, should I be the one to carry the report?” Raelin asked nervously when Mistress Chie shoved it into her hands. It was as wide as her forearm and as tall as her whole torso from chin to waist, plus being too thick for her hands to hold it easily. “I mean, it is the Delbhana requesting it and I’m Dana. They might try to say that I messed with the reports.”
Befind burst out laughing at the door to the office, turning away so that she could clamp a hand over her mouth to try and muffle her amusement. Mistress Chie snarled and bristled so badly that she seemed to grow several inches taller from sheer anger. She stabbed a finger into Raelin’s chest, or more accurately into the report held against Raelin’s chest, snorting loudly.
“They’ve questioned every single thing I’ve ever done!” Mistress Chie snapped, her eyes hot with anger. “From the moment I set foot in this country they’ve poked and prodded and acted as though I wasn’t good enough to breathe the same air as them. They’ll bloody well take what I give them and be grateful I don’t charge them extra the next time they want a new ship.”
“You do charge them extra,” Befind drawled from the doorway.
“Not my point!” Mistress Chie barked at her. “Get back to work!”
She turned and glared down at Raelin so ferociously that she had to work not to cringe as if she was Aravel getting scolded. The anger didn’t seem to be directed at Raelin so she made herself stand straight with her chin up. Her hands hurt from clenching so tight around the leather-bound portfolio and its paperwork but Mistress Chie didn’t seem to notice that.
“You march down to the local court office,” Mistress Chie ordered. “You go to the Records Clerk. You have him check in every single one of those forms and give you a receipt. Then you get your butt back here. And bring back my portfolio. They don’t get to keep it.”
“Yes, Mistress!” Raelin said with an automatic Chinwenduese bow of younger student to older instructor with that little pause at the bottom that was supposed to convey extra respect.
“Oh, stop that and go,” Mistress Chie huffed.
Her expression was much less irritated when Raelin straightened back up so maybe the instinctive bow had been a good response. Mistress Chie still ruffled Raelin’s hair as she passed, apparently just so she could laugh at Raelin’s annoyed growl, but she didn’t seem as upset anymore. Raelin brushed a hand through her hair, grateful for the heavier coat she’d worn this morning as she left the dry dock. It really was getting much colder.
The local court office wasn’t actually its own building like the big one downtown or the Royal Court across town. It was just a little office tucked in the back of the Market complex on the third floor above Father’s favorite greengrocer and Aravel’s favorite yarn shop. Raelin knew exactly where it was. She’d gone several times with Great-Aunt Gail when she was learning about the legal side of their shipping business.
It was midmorning, after the rush when people hurried to get to their jobs and before the various merchants sent out their apprentices to get supplies so Raelin didn’t have to dodge many other women as she walked. There were a lot of fathers with their sons out shopping but they gave way when they saw Raelin coming with her heavy portfolio.
Many smiled at her as she passed, nodding approvingly of her as if it was surprising that she’d be working. That had to be her size. Raelin knew she was short, just like the rest of the Dana, but it was still annoying to be mistaken for a much younger girl. It would be so nice to be taller than average when she grew up, no matter how unlikely that was.
The market building was crowded, as always, so Raelin took the side entrance in the alley behind it, going up the back stairs. That meant that she had to walk the full length of the building to get to the court office but at least she didn’t have to fight through the crowds below. Even with three stories of offices and stores between her and the huge main hallway that extended the full length of the building, Raelin could hear the roar of people’s voices. To her relief, the court office was empty other than one old grandfather counting out pennies to buy a permit of some kind.
“Excuse me,” Raelin said as she stood on tiptoes to peer over the counter towards the records clerk’s desk. “I need to deliver this to the Records Clerk.”
“Aren’t you a little young for… oh, it’s a Dana,” the records Clerk said as he looked over the counter at Raelin’s red hair and freckles. The counter stood chest-high on him so he had to crane his neck. “Well, come on around then. Easier to do this if we’re not shouting over the top of the counter.”
“It’s too tall,” Raelin complained as he opened the gate and let her into his part of the office.
“Just right for the non-Dana women who come in,” the records clerk sighed. His little bronze nametag said ‘Sean’. “What do we have? I thought that Gavin was delivering papers for the Dana right now. Your family having someone else take over the deliveries?”
Raelin nodded as she carefully opened the portfolio and took out Mistress Chie’s paperwork. “He is doing it. I’m working as the family representative with Mistress Chie who runs Sunrise Shipyard. They’re fixing the Tourmaline Seas for us. The Delbhana wanted reports on our ship’s damage and well, she sent me to bring them since everyone else is working on the ship.”
Sean nodded as he pulled a clipboard out of his desk drawer and set a piece of paper on it. “She’ll want a receipt, then. She always does.”
“Yes, sir,” Raelin said. “You’re supposed to check every page, record it on the receipt and um, I’m not supposed to give you the portfolio. Sorry, but she was very firm about that.”
Sean laughed as if he’d expected that. He took the stack of paperwork and solemnly went through each sheet one by one, recording what the form was and the date and time he’d received it. It took about twenty minutes for him to go through every single one. Raelin watched and waited, grateful at first for a chance not to be running constantly but eventually bored out of her mind. She tried not to fidget but it wasn’t easy.
“How do you do this all day?” Raelin sighed as he finished noting the last form received and gave the receipt to her.
“I don’t know how you Dana deal with running around all the time,” Sean said with a calm shrug. “Some people like routine. I’m one of them. Dealing with paperwork in my nice quiet office is perfect for me.”
“My little brother Caddie would probably love it,” Raelin mused as Sean escorted her back to the gate and let her through. “He hates it when his routine gets changed.”
“Is he the cranky one with the twin sister who has a broken leg?” Sean asked. He smiled when Raelin grinned and nodded. “He probably would be a good file clerk. Gavin complains about how much Cadfael hates dealing with people every time he comes by. Off you go. I’m sure you’ve got more work to do.”
“Yes sir!” Raelin said as she tucked the receipt into her inside jacket pocket, buttoned her jacket, and then tied the portfolio shut. “Have a good day!”
She heard Sean call ‘you too’ as she ran out the door and down the main stairs. This time she took the main stairs that were wide enough for four grown women to walk side by side. The first flight was empty but by the last flight she had to dodge around people going up and down the stairs. A few shouted at her but no one grabbed her so Raelin just shouted back ‘sorry’ and kept going.
Running down the main hallway was more like running through a covered street than being inside a building. The market was a lot like the Dana Clan house. It had started out as regular buildings on either side of a street but over time it had been build up with additional stories so that it had engulfed the street below and spread out to cover nearly a full block.
Normally Raelin liked to take her time and look at things when she was at the market but she needed to get back to the shipyard. Mistress Chie had said that Raelin was to report back right away and she honestly wanted to. Watching the Tourmaline Seas come back to life was one of the most exciting things she’d ever done.
She slowed down as a group of older girls stopped in front of her. They were all dressed in nice enough clothes that Raelin didn’t automatically push past them. Their coats were heavily embroidered, a few with gold thread, which told Raelin that they were probably from important families at Court. Raelin rolled her eyes as the older girls, none older than thirteen, stopped right in the middle of the way and blocked traffic entirely. How six girls managed to block the entire street Raelin wasn’t sure but they managed it quite nicely.
“Excuse me,” Raelin said loudly enough to be heard over their chatter about what present to get the oldest girl’s little brother for his birthday.
“Oh, look, it’s a Dana brat,” the oldest girl sneered.
All of the girls turned and looked down at Raelin. It was only when they turned around that she realized that the oldest girl was one of the Delbhana girls, Siobhan’s cousin Sinead. The others were friends that Raelin had seen surrounding her and Siobhan several times before fights between Gwen, Anwyn and their older cousins. Raelin was usually back-up in the battles. Gwen and Anwyn were so much better at fighting that it was easier to pile in after the fact than to go first.
“Awww, she’s cute trying to look like she’s working,” one of the taller girls cooed as if she was dealing with a much younger boy instead of Raelin. “Shouldn’t you be in school, little girl?”
“Didn’t you know?” Sinead said in a similar tone of voice even though her eyes were locked on the portfolio, not on Raelin’s face. “They pretend that all the kids work. It makes them seem more like real merchants instead of the smugglers that they are. None of them actually go to school. They’re too stupid for that.”
The first insult was bad enough. Raelin and all her cousins had their own tutors. They didn’t go to the school in the area and hadn’t since before Raelin was born. Dana girls got into too many fights and Dana boys were just as likely to punch as they were to cry when insulted or frustrated.
The second insult made Raelin’s blood boil. Coming from Delbhana Sinead it was infuriating. She knew perfectly well that Sinead and her family didn’t do anything other than play at politics up at Court. Their shipping business was a joke and everyone knew it. Despite the fury, Raelin didn’t snap at Sinead or start throwing punches.
Raelin could see the crowd around them backing off. There were Guards watching, a few with concern but most with bored expressions as if they thought that this was nothing more than kids causing trouble. She had no back-up while Sinead had all sorts of friends to back her up. For Sinead and her friends this might be just causing random trouble to a rival family but Raelin was pretty sure it was strategic trouble, something planned by Lady Etain.
Sinead was too focused on the portfolio and their appearance here was too convenient given the sudden demand for records on the Tourmaline Sea’s damage. Mother had said many, many times that Lady Etain used any method she could to cause trouble for the Dana. This had to be another one of her efforts to take the Dana down a notch.
“Excuse me,” Raelin said in the most polite tone of voice she could manage while furious and trying not to show it. “I need to get through here. If you would please move to the side so that traffic can get through?”
Sinead’s jaw muscles tensed when Raelin didn’t immediately start throwing punches. Anwyn would have already have started a fight. Gwen would have been yelling. It was probably a good thing that it was Raelin instead of her sisters. Gavin had lectured them all about fighting smarter and never being the one to start a fight. Raelin had listened even if Anwyn and Gwen hadn’t.
“Why should we move for you?” Sinead asked, lifting her chin to glare down at Raelin.
“You’re blocking everyone, not just me,” Raelin replied just loud enough that the Guard couldn’t help but overhear the conversation. “Please move closer to the stores so that people can get through. This is a public thoroughfare.”
Someone murmured agreement with Raelin, an older male from the creaky sound of his voice. Sinead glared at her and then over her shoulder at the man who gulped audibly. The Guards finally looked like they were paying attention, not that they moved from their spots along the walls. They actually looked away, pretending that Raelin wasn’t there. As Sinead looked back at Raelin she realized three things.
First, she wasn’t getting out of this without a fight. Second, she might not be able to keep the portfolio. And third, if she wasn’t very, very careful and very, very fast, she was going to be on crutches just like Annie and Aunt Kennis, if not much worse.
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