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 Nine: Inside
Raelin kicked snow drifts as she made her way back to the shipyards. The snow had started falling two days after her ‘first blood’ ceremony. Mistress Chie had kept the big doors open for as long as she could but after three days straight of snow she’d had to close them up.
That had led to a solid week of cleaning up the dry dock until there was hardly any sawdust anywhere. Every single nook and cranny had been swept out. Raelin and the smaller women and gone up the ropes to the rafters where they’d swept off the sawdust that had accumulated up there.
She still wasn’t sure how the sawdust had gotten that high up or how it had accumulated into such thick layers on the rafters but Raelin had found a couple of larger patches that had been warm to the touch. Mistress Chie had cursed in every language she knew when Raelin reported that. Once she was done cursing Mistress Chie had gone up into the rafters to check them herself, finding several places that they’d missed when they cleaned.
Today was the first day of regular work after all the cleaning had been done. All of the deck supports were in place so they were supposed to start putting in the reinforcements and subfloor. Raelin opened the little door to get in, still not used to the dry dock being closed in from the weather. Her coat, scarf and hat went with the other women’s on the peg that Befind had put up for her. It was set lower down on the wall so that Raelin could reach it without standing on tip toes.
“Dana!” Mistress Chie shouted from her office. “Go find Befind. I need her.”
“Yes Mistress!” Raelin shouted back.
Raelin ran down the dry dock, scanning the teams for Befind. She found Ornice right away, lecturing Cait about something. It looked as though Cait’s team hadn’t coiled their rope properly last night and now it was all tangled up. From the expression on Cait’s face someone was going to be very, very unhappy as soon as Ornice walked away.
Nainsi’s team was busily staging subfloor boards on the other side of the Tourmaline. When Raelin ran up Nainsi pointed at the Tourmaline with a little smile that told Raelin that Mistress Chie’s voice had carried through the entire dry dock. Raelin nodded back and then scrambled up the scaffolding until she could peek inside the Tourmaline for Befind.
To her surprise, Befind was down by the keel, almost hidden by the various support beams crisscrossing the Tourmaline’s belly. Raelin frowned and then scrambled over the rim and down to where Befind was.
“I heard,” Befind said as she kept scratching a design onto the keel of the Tourmaline.
“What is that?” Raelin asked.
The back of Befind’s neck went red as she blushed. Instead of answering, Befind shrugged one shoulder and continued her work. After a moment she sighed and nodded, finally letting Raelin see what she’d been doing.
Right at the center point of the keel, in a spot that would be completely hidden by the subfloor and flooring, Befind had sketched in a rough image of two Ladies holding up a ship in their hands. Raelin blinked at it and then looked at Befind who grumbled as she smacked Raelin’s shoulder.
“Builder’s superstition,” Befind said gruffly. “Come on. Not good to keep Mistress Chie waiting.”
“Do all ships have that?” Raelin asked as she climbed out of the Tourmaline with Befind.
“Most,” Befind said so shortly that it was obvious that she didn’t want to continue the conversation.
Raelin grinned, well aware that it was a wild Dana grin. “Do the Delbhana ships have them?”
That finally broke through Befind’s grumpiness at being caught. She laughed and wagged her eyebrows at Raelin. It was answer enough that Raelin just laughed with her even though the laughter made her nose hurt. After a week her nose didn’t hurt as much but it was still sore and her face was only just starting to lose the bruises. Befind nodded her approval at Nainsi’s team’s work before striding off towards Mistress Chie’s office.
Raelin followed more slowly. Her legs just weren’t ever going to be as long as Befind’s and she knew that she’d spend the rest of the day running so why do it now? By the time she got to Mistress Chie’s office both Befind and Mistress Chie were coming back out, the ever-present clipboard and blueprint in Mistress Chie’s hands.
“Come on, Dana,” Mistress Chie said as she passed the clipboard and red pencil over to Raelin. “Time to get to work.”
By the time they reached Cait’s team, the ropes had been sorted out though Cait’s entire team looked as though they had just gotten thumped hard. Cait’s second in command had a huge bruise on her chin and enough anger in her eyes that Raelin stayed firmly behind Mistress Chie. She wasn’t going to get into the middle of a battle with grown women. It was bad enough with Gwen, Annie and her cousins.
To her surprise, Mistress Chie didn’t say a word about the obvious problems that had happened that morning or the anger in Cait’s team. She just checked the reinforcements that needed to go into the Tourmaline and nodded approval.
“Let’s get to work,” Mistress Chie yelled loud enough to carry through the dry dock.
Team One worked to get the reinforcements hauled up and into the Tourmaline while Team Two put them in place. Raelin spent the morning running back and forth between the office and the scaffolding around the Tourmaline for Mistress Chie. She climbed the scaffolding so many times that her shoulders and arms burned with exhaustion long before Befind and Ornice went off to get their lunch buns.
“You okay, Dana?” Mistress Chie asked, chuckling at the way Raelin draped herself over the edge of the Tourmaline’s hull.
“I’m tired,” Raelin sighed. “Do broken noses make you more tired than usual? Or an I actually doing that much climbing?”
Mistress Chie laughed out loud, patting Raelin’s shoulder. She’d stopped ruffling Raelin’s hair entirely, as had the entire crew. It was so nice not to constantly be fixing her hair because people couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. Nainsi grinned up at Raelin too, wobbling one hand.
“I felt a lot more tired when I had my broken nose,” Nainsi said as she carefully tucked a tiny red ribbon behind one of the reinforcements, making sure that it didn’t pull free as she hammered the reinforcement into place.
“You have been climbing more than normal, too,” Mistress Chie said.
“What’s the ribbon for?” Raelin asked.
Both Nainsi and Mistress Chie looked uncomfortable. Raelin frowned at them, realizing that it was another superstitious thing that the ship builders did to ensure the safety of the ship. When she looked along the length of the Tourmaline she could see other little bits of ribbon peeking out from behind supports and reinforcements.
“They’re for good luck?” Raelin asked.
Mistress Chie sighed. “Yes, they’re for luck, Dana. We don’t talk about it.”
Raelin grinned at her, leaning her chin on both hands and batting her eyes up at Mistress Chie just to see if she could get Mistress Chie to laugh like Befind had. “But do you do them for Delbhana ships, Mistress?”
Her question made Nainsi splutter and then laugh so hard that she had to lean against the Tourmaline’s hull. Mistress Chie didn’t laugh. Her lips did curve up and her eyes danced with amusement but she didn’t laugh. When she shrugged casually Raelin started laughing too.
“The Delbhana don’t believe in ‘luck’,” Mistress Chie said so piously that Raelin’s laughter turned in spluttering belly laugh. “Far be it for me to go against their beliefs.”
“They sure don’t believe in luck,” Raelin snickered. “That’s because they’ve got so little of it.”
When Mistress Chie smacked the back of Raelin’s head for being rude it was a light smack, more like a pat than anything serious. It still hurt because of her broken nose but it wasn’t half as bad as it should have been for a comment like that. That was all that happened because Befind came back with their lunch buns.
Raelin groaned once she was back on the ground, shaking her arms out. It wouldn’t be half so bad if she weren’t so short compared to everyone else. What the others saw as an easy reach was stretching way too far for her. Still, lunch helped make Raelin feel better. The spicy buns didn’t seem half as spicy now that she’d been eating them for so long. Her lips didn’t even burn at all.
“Is it bad luck to talk about the little things you do?” Raelin asked Mistress Chie as they ate.
“Not bad luck so much,” Mistress Chie said with a sigh. She pulled out a little Chinwenduese pipe, tamping some weed into it and then lighting it from the heating stove. “It’s considered dangerous to tempt the Ladies to pay too much attention. We do more for Dana ships than other ships. Your family tempts the Ladies every time you wake up in the morning.”
Raelin snickered and shrugged. “Can’t really disagree with that, not after Annie’s stunt this summer.”
“That girl takes her name far too seriously,” Mistress Chie agreed.
Her eyes wrinkled with amusement as she slowly puffed on her pipe. The smell of the burning weed quickly chased Raelin away. That might have been Mistress Chie’s goal, honestly. Raelin didn’t really care. She went and helped Befind gather up the various rags that she’d brought the buns in.
“Not sitting with Mistress Chie?” Befind asked.
“She’s smoking,” Raelin complained.
“Your mother smokes,” Befind commented. “I’ve seen her.”
Raelin made a face as she held the door for Befind. “Mother doesn’t smoke the cheap weed that Mistress Chie does. Besides, Father doesn’t let her smoke in the house.”
Befind laughed as she ducked outside into the snow. During the morning the snow had started falling again. The entire street was deep with fresh snow. Raelin frowned. Getting home was going to be a challenge. Already the snow drifts were knee high on her. They would only get higher as the day went on.
When she looked up at the sky, Raelin could see that the snow wasn’t going to stop falling anytime soon. The clouds hung gray and heavy over the city, so close that Raelin felt like if she was just a little taller she’d be able to reach up and touch them. Snow drifted down at her. It wasn’t the big fluffy flakes that were so pretty. These were tiny flakes that fell like flour from the sky, dense and heavy over everything.
“Shut the door!” Mistress Chie called.
“Sorry,” Raelin called back as she did as ordered. “We’re going to need to start shoveling soon.”
“Roads getting clogged?” Mistress Chie asked with much more interest. She tapped her pipe clean, dropping the ember of weed into the fire before coming over to stare out the door with Raelin. “Damn. This is going to make getting out shipments difficult.”
“It’s going to be fun getting home,” Raelin said. Her scowl hopefully made it clear that she meant the exact opposite of ‘fun’.
Mistress Chie put her hand on Raelin’s shoulder, warm and comforting despite the tightness of her grip. Raelin thought that Mistress Chie didn’t really know her strength sometimes. When Raelin looked up at her Mistress Chie raised an eyebrow.
“How would your mother handle this?” Mistress Chie asked.
“She’d get all the girls outside with shovels,” Raelin said with a tired sigh for last winter’s snow detail. “And some of the bigger boys who wanted the exercise. We push the snow into big piles and then sometimes our older uncles come and carve things out of them. Or we push the piles into the bay. Depends on which side of the Clan House you’re on.”
Befind came trudging her way back through the snow, frowning as if she’d had another fight with her husband. She glared at the snow, stomping her feet and huffing from the cold as she blushed off her shoulders. Mistress Chie nodded to Raelin, looking over at the sawdust shovels that they’d used to clean up with. Raelin’s eyes went wide when she realized that in the very near future she might be shoveling snow instead of working on the Tourmaline.
“Oh no,” Raelin groaned.
Mistress Chie chortled, patting Raelin’s back. “Oh yes, Dana. You and Team Two will be on snow duty this afternoon. I need some… instruction time with Team One.”
She marched off, shouting orders to Team Two to gather the shovels and get to work. From the expressions on Cait and Team One’s faces they fully realized that they were getting the worse duty. Raelin sighed as she pulled on her coat and scarf, not as upset about the snow duty as she would have been.
“Have fun, Rae,” Befind murmured.
“I’m too sore to have fun shoveling snow,” Raelin complained.
“If you’d stop trying to do a full grown woman’s job you’d have less aches,” Befind said.
It seemed to be actual advice rather than teasing. Raelin looked up at her, frowning. She hadn’t been trying to do a grown woman’s job. All Raelin was trying to do was learn as much as she could while helping them all rebuild the Tourmaline. Her frown made Befind laugh and shake her head.
“Just don’t overdo it, Rae,” Befind said reassuringly. “Let the bigger girls handle the majority of the snow, okay?”
“Well, it seems like shirking,” Raelin sighed, “but okay. I really am sore.”
Raelin headed outside with the Team Two, taking her smaller shovel gladly. Behind her Befind shut the door on Mistress Chie’s rising voice, cutting off a lecture that made Raelin wince. It was nearly as bad as one of Father’s ‘so disappointed in you’ lectures except that it was delivered in a tone that closely resembled Mother’s ‘I can’t believe you’d be this stupid’ tone of voice.
Not that it was any of Raelin’s business anyway. She followed the other women as they set to work clearing out the snow drifts filling the street, working on the road towards home. One way or the other, she’d have to deal with this snow tonight so getting it out of her way during the daylight made much more sense than waiting until after dark and trudging through it then.
Hopefully with all of them working together they’d clear enough of it that the street wouldn’t completely close down. Raelin would be glad to get back to working on the Tourmaline. She was curious about all the good luck charms they were building into the ship, though Raelin thought that she needed to ask if it was okay to record them in her journal. It felt as though they were things thing Mistress Chie wouldn’t want shared with anyone.
“Don’t go too far, Rae!” Nainsi called when Raelin had cleared a path a full block towards home.
“But I’m not done clearing a path home yet!” Raelin called back with her biggest grin.
The others laughed and waved for her to come back towards the shipyard. As she headed back a couple of shopkeepers came out and smiled their thanks at her at the same time they pushed other girls with shovels out the door to take care of the snow drifts. Raelin laughed and ran back to Team Two. Maybe the trip home wouldn’t be as bad as she’d been afraid, even with the snow still falling on all of them.
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