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 Seven: Confrontation
“Raelin wouldn’t start a fight!”
Mother’s bellow carried through the warehouse easily. Raelin took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders to try and brace herself for the fight she knew was coming. She’d been right that the Delbhana were already there. Mistress Chie’s hand tightened painfully around Raelin’s for a moment as she tugged Raelin straight towards the fight that was the source of the noise.
Lady Etain was there, glaring down at Mother with enough fury that Raelin quailed for a moment. She couldn’t hang back for long because Mistress Chie pulled Raelin along like a tug boat guiding a ship to shore, except that their sizes were reversed for that. It was more like Raelin a tugboat wrestling with a too-large barge that was out of control.
The two big shipwrights pushed through the gathered Dana and Delbhana surrounding Mother and Lady Etain easily, depositing Raelin by her mother’s side with Mistress Chie. Raelin’s aunts made way easily but the Delbhana didn’t until a couple of Guards standing behind Lady Etain spotted her and waved at them to move.
“Raelin!” Mother gasped. She caught Raelin’s chin, checking her face. “What happened?”
“The girl delivered some paperwork for me and came running back like this,” Mistress Chie said.
“Mother, I’ll be okay,” Raelin complained, pulling her chin out of her mother’s grip. “Delbhana Sinead was there with some friends and they tried to make me start a fight.”
“Sinead wouldn’t do that!” Lady Etain immediately complained.
“Well, it wasn’t so much that she was starting a fight,” Raelin said thoughtfully while gingerly poking her nose. She winced. “Ow. I think my nose is broken. What happened was that they were blocking the way, Sinead and her friends. I asked them, very politely because I was on official Sunrise Shipyards business, if they could move to the side. I don’t think she realized that I was working because she was rude about our family and our schooling and then she grabbed Mistress Chie’s portfolio out of my hands.”
Lady Etain started growling as soon as Raelin started talking. There was a sort of wild look in her eyes that made Raelin edge closer to Mistress Chie. No way was Raelin going to get in Mother’s way by clinging, not when she was glaring furiously at Lady Etain and her fists were already clenched so tight that her knuckles were white. The two shipwrights straightened up to their full height, glaring at Lady Etain, too.
“So it was just a tussle,” one of the Guards said even though her companion coughed into her hand and nudged her.
“Not really,” Raelin said over Lady Etain’s squawk of outrage. “You see, one of Sinead’s friends grabbed my hair while the other grabbed my arm. They’re all twelve or thirteen and a lot bigger than me. I was afraid that they were going to hurt me so I kicked on in the kneecap. The girl holding my arm hit me in the face. I suppose I had that coming but still. And um, well, I broke free of her and punched her and then ran for it.”
“Why?” the Guard asked, one hand on Lady Etain’s shoulder. Raelin could see that the grip had to be painful just from Lady Etain’s wince.
“I thought they were going to really hurt me,” Raelin explained. “Siobhan kicked my little sister Anwyn’s ribs in, gave her flail chest and a broken ankle. Sinead looked so mad that I thought she’d do just as much or worse. She’s older than Siobhan, after all, and bigger and I’m little. Besides, the Guards who were there looked away instead of stopping Sinead and her friends.”
Raelin said that last bit in as tired and broken a tone of voice as she could manage, wanting to give the Guards the impression that Raelin was much more upset than she actually was. Annie and Gwen might not have listened to Gavin’s lectures about making sure to play up their relative shortness but Raelin had. It might be annoying to look like she was seven instead of nine but Raelin would definitely use it to her advantage if she could.
The tired tone of voice made Mother growl and pick Raelin up, something she hardly ever did. Raelin curled her arms around Mother’s neck, deliberately tucking her forehead against Mother’s neck the way Caddie always did. All Raelin’s aunts stepped closer, closing ranks around Mother and Raelin.
Her little tactic worked well enough that Lady Etain looked away, ashamed, for a second. The Guard holding Lady Etain back winced and looked away, too. The one behind her flinched and nodded an apology at Raelin that she pretended not to notice. To her surprise, Mistress Chie put her hand on Raelin’s back while stepping in front of Mother and Raelin.
“The girl is apprenticed to me,” Mistress Chie declared. “She went to the local court office on my orders as part of her job. That little bitch of Delbhana caused trouble because she saw a Dana girl alone and thought she could get away with it.”
She turned and glared so fiercely at Lady Etain that Lady Etain backed up a step. “You have a problem with me and my shipyard you take it up with me! I’ve told you fools a thousand times that you need to reinforce your damn ships better. You go cheap on the construction and it’s no surprise that they sink well before the Dana ships.”
“It’s still suspicious that the Tourmaline made it back when our ship didn’t!” Lady Etain shouted, her cheeks going blotchy red with rage.
“No, it’s not!” Mistress Chie shouted right back at her. “The damned ship was lucky to make it out of port, much less to its next port of call! You refused to pay for it to be built right so it’s no surprise the thing sunk. The Dana pay for four times the reinforcement that the Delbhana do and they pay on time instead of so late that I have to threaten them with lawyers!”
The last sentence was bellowed so loudly that the whole warehouse echoed with Mistress Chie’s voice. Raelin winced, her ears ringing. Before Lady Etain or Mistress Chie could do more than raise their fists and draw in breaths of air, Mother whistled so sharply that Raelin winced again.
“What?” Lady Etain snapped at her.
“Rae, you okay to go upstairs on your own?” Mother asked. “No concussion?”
“Um, I don’t think so,” Raelin said, poking her nose again. It really hurt, much more than it had at the time. “Ow. I should go see Uncle Jarmon. I think it’s broken.”
“Then stop poking it,” Mother said, setting her down. “Grania, escort Rae to get her nose set and then make sure she makes it back to our rooms. Rae, you’re staying home the rest of the day, maybe tomorrow.”
Raelin huffed in outrage at the thought of being denied the right to go back to work but Mother’s stern look quelled any thoughts of arguing. She nodded and then put her hands over her cheeks when the movement made her head throb. Aunt Grania’s hand on her back was reassuring. She was almost as tall as Lady Etain so it was big and warm.
“I’ve got her,” Aunt Grania said. “Come on, Rae. Let’s get you patched up. Looks like you’ll have a terrific black eye.”
“Really?” Raelin asked as Aunt Grania pulled her away and then up the closest set of stairs.
The others started arguing immediately, Mistress Chie scolding Lady Etain for being cheap and Lady Etain trying to deflect everyone’s attention enough so that she could imply that the Tourmaline had turned pirate and that’s why there was damage. Raelin waited until they had a closed door between them and Lady Etain before taking Aunt Grania’s hand even though the support would have helped. Her head really did hurt a lot.
“Sinead knew that I was delivering paperwork on the Tourmaline, Aunt Grania,” Raelin said as they climbed the stairs together. “She went for the portfolio because she wanted to keep me from delivering it. Or to get the receipt that Mistress Chie insisted on. I put the receipt in my pocket automatically.”
“You sure?” Aunt Grania asked, just as fierce as Mother when she was furious.
“Yeah,” Raelin said without nodding her head because the pain was getting worse by the moment now that she was home safe. “When she saw that the portfolio was empty she told her friends to search me for it, to catch me and keep me from getting away. And I saw one of the older Delbhana in the back hallways of the Market while I was escaping. She said something I couldn’t quite hear about receipts and plans so I think this was a plot to keep the Tourmaline from being repaired or maybe to make it look like they sank the Delbhana ship on purpose or something.”
Aunt Grania cursed all the way up to Uncle Jarmon’s room. Normally Raelin would have tried to memorize the curses she used. A lot of them were in languages that Raelin didn’t know yet. But her head hurt too much and her legs were shaking now that she was home safe so she just let Aunt Grania’s anger wash over top of her.
Uncle Jarmon stared at Aunt Grania when he opened the door but she just pushed Raelin into his arms before whirling and stomping back towards the stairs. To Raelin’s relief, Uncle Jarmon just shrugged and pulled Raelin into his apartment. His wife, Great-Aunt Mauve, wasn’t there but the rooms were warm and dim, only one lamp lit on the big table where Uncle Jarmon did most of his embroidery work.
“Well, let’s get you taken care of,” Uncle Jarmon said. “Delbhana trouble or did you upset Mistress Chie?”
Raelin squeaked a laugh and then whined because of the way it made her head throb. “Delbhana Sinead tried to beat me up and steal some of Mistress Chie’s paperwork, Uncle Jarmon. I got a broken nose but I think I broke the knee of one of the girls who attacked me and I’m pretty sure I broke another’s nose.”
“Good for you,” Uncle Jarmon said. He lifted her up and settled her on one of the chairs, pulling a big chest of medical goods out from one of the cabinets along the wall. “Can you breathe through your nose?”
Raelin tried and then winced. She shook her head no and then whined because it made the room lurch dramatically. Uncle Jarmon’s hand, cool and firm, cupped her chin. When she opened her eyes he was smiling gently at her, wrinkles like fishing net around his eyes. He put a wad of cotton in Raelin’s hand and then, before she could do more than open her mouth to ask what to do with it, he pinched her nose and twisted sharply.
“Ow!” Raelin yelled. “Ow, ow, ow, ow!”
“There we go, all set,” Uncle Jarmon said. He carefully pushed the cotton into Raelin’s nostrils to catch the fresh blood, not letting her squirm away from the pain of it. “Sit still, Rae. I know you’re hurting but this has to happen unless you want a nose like my sister Vanora.”
“It hurts,” Raelin complained but she stayed still as he carefully checked the bridge of her nose to make sure he’d set it right. Great-Aunt Vanora’s nose was so flat that she almost didn’t look like she had one. “A lot.”
“Well, of course,” Uncle Jarmon replied so calmly that Raelin glared at him. He grinned. “It’s broken. Broken bones always hurt, Rae. Let me wash your face off and then it’s off to home for you.”
“Yes, sir,” Raelin sighed.
Getting her face washed hurt. Letting him pick her up hurt. Setting her head on Uncle Jarmon’s shoulder hurt too. It sort of felt like her head was a half full cask of brandy. Every time she moved her head it made something slosh and throb. By the time Uncle Jarmon carried Raelin up one flight of stairs and back to her family’s home she was ready to apologize to Anwyn for being less than sympathetic about the broken ankle. Maybe after sleeping for a day or two; after everything that she’d been through today she was too exhausted for the fight that was sure to follow.
“Oh wow!” Anwyn gasped when Uncle Jarmon carried Raelin into their apartment. “Father! Raelin’s got a broken nose!”
“What?” Father gasped from the kitchen. He hurried out, wiping his hands on a towel. “What happened?”
“Delbhana Sinead is a bully,” Raelin said, aware that she was pouting but not caring all that much. “And so is Lady Etain. I hope Mother breaks her nose.”
Father chuckled as he took Raelin from Uncle Jarmon. “Well, I’ll look forward to hearing the whole story later. Let’s get you tucked in, sweetie.”
Raelin grumbled as she curled up in her father’s arms. She wanted to say something about not being sweet at all but that seemed like far too much effort. Father and Anwyn helped her get out of her bloody work clothes and then into her night clothes. Anwyn gave Raelin extra pillows to prop her head up, patting Raelin’s hand comfortingly.
“You’ll feel better after some sleep,” Anwyn said.
“Thanks, Annie,” Raelin mumbled.
She heard Anwyn say something else but Raelin couldn’t figure out what it was. Sleep was too strong, sucking her under like a rip tide of warm, dark, exhaustion. The darkness was shot through with flashes of pain but they weren’t bad enough to keep Raelin awake.
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