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 Eight: Decks
“Can you breathe?” Mistress Chie asked as Raelin tied a scarf over her face to keep the sawdust floating on the cold winter air out of her mouth and nose.
“Yes,” Raelin said, sniffing and nodding. “Still can’t smell anything but Uncle Jarmon said that it should get better when the swelling goes down all the way.”
Mistress Chie snorted, the forceful breath making her scarf puff out. Her eyes looked amused above her scarf. Four days after the confrontation with Sinead, Raelin’s face was purple and red and blue. Her nose was pretty much back to normal but both of her eyes had turned black and she still felt like her head sloshed when she moved too fast.
That didn’t mean that Raelin was going to miss more work on the Tourmaline. Three days at home with Annie and her broken leg was too much. Of course, all three of those days Gavin and Aravel had been pampering Raelin by refusing to let her do anything. That was much more annoying that Anwyn’s constant questions and chatter. Getting to come back to work as the decks were put back into the Tourmaline Seas was a huge relief.
All the supports for the decks were off on one side of the dry dock, waiting for them. Raelin knew that she wouldn’t be doing much actual work with her broken nose (not to mention being too small for real work) but it was better to be here for the next stage of construction than not. Raelin really wanted to see the Tourmaline back onto the waters.
“Ready the hoists!” Mistress Chie bellowed.
Raelin held Mistress Chie’s clipboard, doing her best not to quiver with excitement. She grinned behind her scarf when she saw Befind bouncing on her toes in excitement just like Raelin. All the women looked to Mistress Chie, bodies tense as they held the hoist ropes at the ready. Time seemed to stretch out as Mistress Chie scanned the dry dock to make sure everyone was ready and that everything was in its proper place.
“Team One, go!” Mistress Chie bellowed.
Cait, the leader of Team One, whooped before dropping her upheld arm to signal her team. They cheered as the started hauling the first of the long straight deck support beams up into the air, chanting an old sea shanty to keep their rhythm.
“Ready Team Two!” Mistress Chie shouted over the sea shanty as the team rose over the top edge of the Tourmaline’s hull. “Go!”
Nainsi let loose a war cry that made Raelin jump as her team started hauling on the ropes that would drag the beam into position over the Tourmaline. Raelin held her breath as it slowly lowered into place, guided first by the ropes and then by Befind and Ornice, Mistress Chie’s third in command. They used their arms and legs, plus a long level, to help the beam settle into place. The entire dry dock went silent as Befind and Ornice verified that the beam had gone in level and square with its supports.
“Good!” Befind yelled from her place inside the Tourmaline. “Next beam!”
Raelin couldn’t help the little cheer she gave, not that anyone other Mistress Chie seemed to notice. They spent the next several hours hoisting and placing beams inside the Tourmaline’s belly, creating a framework that would let the women create the lowest deck. It took careful work to make sure that the beams didn’t catch on anything, didn’t settle in wrong, didn’t get twisted or placed incorrectly.
Each beam had been specially cut to match a specific spot inside the Tourmaline. By lunch time, when Mistress Chie climbed inside the Tourmaline’s belly with Raelin on her heels, the skeleton of the Tourmaline’s three decks was finally obvious to Raelin.
“Wow,” Raelin breathed, pulling her scarf down because there wasn’t as much sawdust inside as there was outside.
“She’s getting there,” Mistress Chie said, smiling as she followed suit with her scarf. “We should have all the beams in place by the end of the week. After lunch we’ll secure these so that they can’t shift, glue and nail them until they’re solid. Then it’s reinforcements for this level, installing the subfloor and we’ll move onto the beams for the next level. Hopefully by the end of the month we’ll have all the rough work done.”
Raelin blinked thoughtfully, gently rubbing her broken nose and wincing at the pain the tentative touch caused. “Subfloors. Reinforcements. Do Delbhana ships have those?”
Mistress Chie snorted derisively, her scornful expression answering the question for her. She slowly checked the beams one by one, gesturing for Raelin to stay on the scaffolding outside the Tourmaline. By the time she made her way around the interior of the Tourmaline, gesturing to Raelin each time that a beam checked out okay, Raelin had given up on getting an answer to her question.
“They don’t,” Mistress Chie grunted as she climbed the ladder inside the Tourmaline’s belly back up to the scaffolding.
“What?” Raelin asked, startled until she connected the comment to her earlier question. “At all? No reinforcement?”
“Virtually none,” Mistress Chie said. “The excuse I got was that our shipbuilding was strong enough that it wasn’t necessary. They’re fools, the lot of them, cheap fools. There’s a reason more of their ships sink than anyone else’s. They short the construction so badly that they’re not strong enough to survive the open seas.”
Befind whistled from ground level, waving a pair of meat buns at them. One of them was wrapped up in a red cloth, which made Mistress Chie laugh as she started climbing down. Raelin followed her, carefully keeping her grip on the clipboard. Once on the ground, Mistress Chie took the clipboard from Raelin. Befind passed the red fabric-wrapped meat bun to Raelin.
“Um, what?” Raelin asked, eyeing both Mistress Chie and Befind, especially as more and more of the women came around to grin at Raelin.
“It is tradition,” Befind said in an unnecessarily dramatic tone of voice while posing with one hand against her chest, “that we commemorate the first blood shed by a woman working on a ship.”
The other women burst out laughing. Mistress Chie snickered, nibbling at her meat bun. Raelin’s cheeks started going red as she realized that the ‘first blood’ Befind was talking about was a girl’s first menstruation, not a bloody nose.
“Now,” Befind said with a huge grin, “most of the time girls are a good bit older than you but we decided that you deserved the honor after making the Delbhana shed their blood too. Well done, Dana Raelin. Welcome to womanhood. Sort of.”
“Befind!” Raelin wailed at her while everyone else laughed uproariously.
Befind just laughed as she ruffled Raelin’s hair. When Raelin made as if to throw the meat bun into Befind’s face Mistress Chie stopped her. To Raelin’s surprise, as Mistress Chie dragged Raelin and her red-wrapped bun towards the big benches where everyone ate lunch, the shipwrights gave her hugs and praise.
She lost track almost immediately of how many ‘good job’ and ‘well done’ comments she got. Everyone took a moment to run their fingers through Raelin’s hair, affectionately even if it drove Raelin mad. Raelin shoved the bun into Mistress Chie’s hands after one too many hair rufflings.
“Hands off the hair!” Raelin bellowed. “I hate that!”
Raelin grumbled under her breath about people who thought curls were an excuse to pet, glaring at everyone as they grinned. Mistress Chie waited until Raelin had smoothed her hair down as best she could without a mirror, a comb and some hair oil before passing the meat bun back to her.
“You actually do hate that,” Mistress Chie commented.
“Yes, I do,” Raelin huffed. She glared at the bun, throwing a suspicious look at Befind. “This better not be weird or extra spicy.”
“It’s twice the meat as a normal bun,” Befind said with a grin. “Added beans, some onion and bits of tater, chopped up fine.”
“That sounds good,” Raelin said, surprised.
When she unwrapped the bun, it was still warm. It was even tastier than it sounded. While Raelin ate, Mistress Chie watched her. Befind settled by Raelin’s side, slowly raising a hand to ruffle her hair.
“Stop it,” Mistress Chie growled at Befind.
“Uh…” Befind stared at her, surprised, hand hovering over Raelin’s hair.
“The girl hates it,” Mistress Chie said. “Don’t do it. Just as bad as whistling at a boy on the street because you want to make him blush. Don’t be a bully.”
Befind’s cheeks went bright red while Raelin stared at Mistress Chie. The others seemed to take Mistress Chie’s order seriously, a few nodding apologies at Raelin. She nodded back, more annoyed now by the fact that she had to chew, stop and breath, chew some more, because of her broken nose. When Befind made her apology it was a shoulder bump that made Raelin shrug and smile at her.
She passed the red cloth back to Befind who grinned and sauntered off to take it back to her husband’s little shop. Raelin sighed as she rubbed her nose carefully. The whole ceremony was embarrassing, sure, but it felt good to be included that way by the shipwrights. Most of the time when Raelin participated in something it was just because Mother had arranged it. People didn’t usually treat her like one of them.
“You okay?” Mistress Chie asked as Raelin’s chewing slowed.
“It’s a big bun and I can’t breathe while I chew,” Raelin explained. “Good though. I bet Father would love to make this sort of thing though he’d probably stuff in a lot more greens.”
Mistress Chie laughed as she nodded thoughtfully. She stared out over the dry dock, her eyes tracing the lines of the Tourmaline and the ropes draped from the hoists overhead. Raelin wasn’t sure what exactly Mistress Chie saw as she looked out at her domain. To her, the dry dock was a welter of wood and rope, saw dust and snow that had drifted in from outside.
Even with the stoves burning around the edges of the dry dock, it was cold. She’d gotten used to seeing her breath long before the incident with Siobhan and the cold snap began. It was early winter after all. Cold was to be expected.
“Will you be closing the big doors down to the water?” Raelin asked. “Mother said that she thought it would be snowing hard soon.”
“Soon as the snow starts falling we’ll close them up,” Mistress Chie said, nodding. “Don’t want to do it until we have to. Sawdust flames up entirely too easily. If we can leave them open until we’ve got all the beams in place I’ll be happy. I don’t want to risk the place burning down.”
Raelin stared at her, the last bite of her bun halfway to her mouth. Mistress Chie shrugged as if it couldn’t be helped. The thought of the dry dock going up in flames with the Tourmaline inside it made it hard for Raelin to eat the last bite. Worse still was the thought of the entire shipyard going up with all its wood and stored tar, rope and barrels of oil. The whole place would burn like wildfire.
“That’s kind of scary,” Raelin admitted around a throat gone dry and scratchy.
“It’s one of the hazards of working on ships,” Mistress Chie said entirely too calmly. “You work with wood and tar, you’re working with fire. We take all the precautions we can to make sure that nothing ever strikes a spark.”
Mistress Chie stood and brushed herself off. The other shipwrights straightened up, leaving off their casual conversations. Befind came back in, smiling as if she’d stolen some kisses while at her husband’s shop. She squared her shoulders and grinned at Mistress Chie as if she was a general getting ready to lead them into battle or a Captain giving the order to set sail. Raelin stood too, brushing the crumbs off.
“Time to get back to work,” Mistress Chie yelled loudly enough for everyone to hear her from one end of the dry dock to the other.
Raelin grinned and added her ‘Yes, Mistress!’ to everyone else’s. There was work to be done and Raelin got to be a part of it. She grabbed the clipboard and ran after Mistress Chie, excited to see what happened next.
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