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 10: Midwinter
“Wake up, Raelin!”
Anwyn’s shout made Raelin grumble and bat at the curtain shielding her bunk from the big kid’s room. It was Midwinter, the three days that didn’t belong to a year. She didn’t have to go to work at the Shipyards. There weren’t any chores down in the warehouse. For the first time since the Tourmaline limped into port, Raelin could sleep in.
“Raelin!” Anwyn whined.
“Annie, I’m trying to sleep in,” Raelin complained.
She pushed the curtain aside only to start. Anwyn was right there, standing in front of her with no crutches or cane. Raelin blinked and stared at Anwyn’s food. The cast was gone. When she looked up at Anwyn’s face, Anwyn started giggling.
“I’m free!” Anwyn cheered.
“And I’m trying to sleep in!” Raelin huffed. “Go pester someone else, Annie.”
Anwyn stuck her tongue out at Raelin as she hobbled out of the big kid’s bedroom. Her ankle looked a little wobbly but it looked like Anwyn would be up to her normal speed in no time at all. Before the curtain had even fallen all the way Anwyn’s excited chatter echoed in from the other room.
Raelin sighed as she wrapped her pillow around her head. Sleep. She wanted a chance to sleep in. They’d managed to get the majority of the decks in place before Midwinter break. There was still a bunch of work to do below decks but the Tourmaline was finally looking like a ship again. The masts had been put in place just before Mistress Chie called it quits for the holiday.
“That’s it,” Mistress Chie had shouted once the third mast had settled into its socket and the last of the supports had been hammered home. “We’re done for the day.”
Cheering had broken out all over the dry dock, Raelin joining in as much as anyone else. Granted Raelin was cheering for the Tourmaline finally looking like a ship again while everyone else was cheering for three days off to spend with their families and friends but that was okay. It had still been a moment that made the hair stand up on the back of Raelin’s neck.
“Quit staring and get your coat on, Dana,” Mistress Chie had laughed. “I’ll walk you home tonight.”
“Reports for Mother?” Raelin had asked as she happily scrambled into her coat or at least tried to. The other women had kept thumping her back and patting her shoulder, making it hard to get the coat and scarf on.
Mistress Chie had nodded, looking back at the Tourmaline with the same sort of satisfaction that Raelin felt, though hers seemed quieter than Raelin’s quivering delight. For the first time since the Tourmaline arrived at the dry dock, it felt as if she was merely sleeping instead of hurt and nearly dying. The Tourmaline looked like a ship again, granted an incomplete one surrounded by scaffolding and ropes, but still a ship.
Raelin pushed her pillow off her head, smiling at the ceiling of her bunk. Outside the big kids’ room she could hear her family’s voices chattering together. Aravel was singing something off tune with Andros whose babbles weren’t at all related to whatever Aravel was teaching him. Annie’s chatter was higher and unbearably enthusiastic. If she didn’t get in a fight with Gwen sometime today Raelin would be shocked.
“Getting up?” Father asked as he tapped on her bunk.
“I suppose I should,” Raelin sighed. She pulled aside the curtain and then grinned because Father had a mug of Midwinter cider in his hand. “Thank you!”
“I’ll tell the little ones to let you sleep tomorrow,” Father promised. “Drink your cider and then come out. We’re making fry bread and winter eggs for breakfast.”
“Oh yum,” Raelin breathed as she blew on the mug of cider. Spices and sweet sugary goodness drifted up to her nose. “I’ll be right out, then.”
He laughed and tugged at Raelin’s hair, trying to straighten it for her. No surprise, Father gave up after a moment. Raelin shrugged that it was okay, earning one of Father’s warmest smiles before he got up and headed back out into the other room.
Raelin let the curtain fall again so that she could enjoy her cider in peace. She’d comb her hair out after she finished. It was nice having a moment of quiet away from work and her family, even if Raelin knew that it was destined to be very short. By the time she’d finished drinking, the laughter from the other room told Raelin that she might as well get up before Aravel came to drag her out of bed himself.
Breakfast was loud and full of laughter. The fry bread had been dipped in spices and sugar. Their winter eggs were bright orange with paler yellow centers that ran when they broke them open. Raelin gladly ate hers. She liked the orange ones much better than the cheaper green ones that Aravel preferred.
“Want some?” Aravel asked after he’d eaten half of his.
“Of course,” Raelin said, switching plates with him despite the despairing sigh from Father. “Love these.”
“Too rich for me.”
Aravel made a lie out of that by grabbing another piece of fry bread, though he did split it in half to share with Raelin. The juices from the egg soaked into the fry bread were perfect as far as she was concerned. She wasn’t going to turn down the treat even if Aravel thought it was mean to steal the eggs from the sea cows that came up to shore every midwinter. It wasn’t as if they took enough eggs to wipe the sea cows out.
The rest of the day was spent at the Temple, much to Raelin’s dismay. She got stuck helping Aravel keep track of Andros who really only wanted to play instead of having to listen to the sermons about the Goddesses and how they’d all arrived on Muirin during Midwinter. According to the Priestesses that was why these three days didn’t belong to any year.
Except that Raelin already knew that Aingeal was the only country that counted the year that way. Other countries had different ways of ordering the days, weeks and months and they didn’t have days which didn’t belong to anything. She kept Andros from scrambling off the pew by hugging him and playing patty cake with him, whispering the words to him while Aravel tried to hush Andros’ whining babble.
Fortunately for Raelin’s temper, Father took Andros the moment the sermon was over. They didn’t stick around. Lady Etain was there and so was Siobhan, back on a break from her duty at the border. Mother had such a firm grip on both Anwyn and Gwen’s shoulders that neither of them tried to break free even when Siobhan stuck her tongue out at them.
Dinner was a full family thing with three big tables full of food and all the kids crammed at a fourth table. Raelin didn’t find it fun at all. For some reason the games and jokes seemed silly to her this year instead of entertaining. The food was good, as were the gifts they all got but Raelin realized as they all headed back up to their suite that she’d rather have spent the day with Mistress Chie and the crew at the shipyard.
“You’re full of frowns tonight,” Mother commented after the little kids, including a loudly protesting Anwyn, were put to bed.
“Am I growing up or something?” Raelin asked. “I would have had more fun with Mistress Chie today.”
Mother laughed and hugged Raelin, her arms like big oak bars around Raelin’s back. “You’re maturing. You’re definitely not grown up yet, Raelin. Do you want to visit them tomorrow? Mistress Chie did send an invitation for you to attend her midwinter celebration at the shipyard.”
“Can I?” Raelin gasped as she clutched Mother’s jacket in excitement.
“Yes, you can,” Mother replied. She tugged on Raelin’s ear and grinned at the way Raelin winced. “You’re expected back before bedtime but other than that you can spend the day with them.”
“Thank you!” Raelin squealed.
Raelin was the first one up the next morning. She slipped out of bed and got dressed, taking a piece of leftover fry bread and an egg and cheese bun that father had made for breakfast. By the time she was done Mother was up.
“That excited, are you?” Mother chuckled. “Don’t forget to comb your hair before you go, Rae.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Raelin said around a big bite of bun.
The streets were mostly clear of snow as she ran to the shipyards. Granted, that was because it hadn’t snowed in the last few days and Mother had said yesterday that they were expected more snow in the next few days but that didn’t matter now. Raelin only had to dodge a few snow piles and slushy places on her way there.
The streets were empty, too. No one else was out. As she ran Raelin didn’t see any lights in people’s windows. It felt like she was the only person alive in the whole city, like she was a ghost running through shadows of the places she’d once know.
To her relief, the shipyard was full of light and life. Mistress Chie laughed and nodded when Raelin ducked in the little door. Befind was there with her husband, a shorter man with a fierce mustache and hair pulled up into a complicated bun on the back of his head. Most of Team One was there though Raelin didn’t see Cait anywhere. Ornice waved a mug in Raelin’s direction, prompting her to come over after she hung up her coat, hat and scarf.
“Wasn’t sure you’d make it here,” Ornice said as she passed Raelin the mug. “Made some cider just in case you did.”
“What’s everyone else drinking?” Raelin asked as she sipped her cider happily. It was hot enough that it was hard to hold the mug in her cold fingers.
“Mulled ale,” Ornice replied with a wag of her eyebrows that made Raelin giggle. “Off you get. Go check in with Mistress Chie. We all know what we’re supposed to do. You don’t.”
“We’re doing something specific?” Raelin asked but Ornice just jerked her chin towards Mistress Chie.
Raelin frowned at her but headed in Mistress Chie’s direction. Team One was busily putting some sort of table up alongside the Tourmaline. She couldn’t see why or what they were putting on it because there were so many people surrounding the table. When she reached Mistress Chie, Raelin got a shoulder pat from Befind and a sharp-edged smile from Befind’s husband that made her grin.
“I like him,” Raelin said to Befind.
“The girl has good taste,” Befind’s husband said with enough triumph that Raelin knew another fight was going to happen sometime today especially given the way Befind glared at him.
“You remind me of a Dana man,” Raelin continued as if no one else had said anything. “Father’s got a smile that makes grown women cringe. It’s amazing.”
Mistress Chie laughed out loud as both Befind and her husband stared at Raelin. “That’s a Dana for you. Come on, girl. I’ve got a special task for you today. It’s not often that we have someone under the age of adulthood here for the ceremonies.”
Raelin hurried after Mistress Chie, being careful not to spill her cider. She barely managed to finish it before Ornice came and claimed the mug from her. Mistress Chie stood in front of the table Team One had been setting up, nodding approval of all the items on the table.
There were thick white candles that stood a good foot high flanked by jugs of wine and loafs of bread. A huge stack of Befind’s husband’s buns sat steaming on a tray in the middle of the table. Someone had found tiny crystals that looked a lot like the crystals in the City of the Ladies. There were only three of them but they were obviously precious because they were sitting on a beautifully embroidered piece of black velvet in the exact middle of the table.
“Um, what are we doing?” Raelin asked.
“Yesterday you went to the Temple to pray, yes?” Mistress Chie asked so kindly that Raelin blushed as she nodded. “Well, today we thank the Ladies and the Goddesses for giving us the chance to work on ships. It’s a rare gift, you know. Even before the Goddesses brought us to Muirin those who worked to make the ships live were a rare breed. You’re not going to be one of us but you’ll fill the same role that the Goddesses did one day.”
Raelin’s breath caught at the thought of that. If she became a ship’s captain the way she wanted, she really would be like Chin, Tahira and Ragna. She would be the one setting their path, giving the orders. It would be up to Raelin to choose the right path that best protected both crew and the ship itself. The sheer responsibility of it made her gulp and quiver. Mistress Chie put her hand on Raelin’s shoulder, smiling down at her with such kindness and approval that it made the red and black tattoos on the side of her face seem out of place, far too fierce for her.
“You’re learning just how special ships are,” Mistress Chie said in a gentle voice that somehow carried throughout the dry dock. “You’re Dana, Raelin. Your family has known the sea better than anyone else in living memory. Between what you learn here and what you learn at home, I have no doubt that you’ll chart a clear path for your future ships.”
“Um, I’ll do my best,” Raelin said, embarrassed at how hard her voice shook. “So today is to thank the Goddesses?”
“And the Ladies who grant us the right to live on their world,” Mistress Chie said. “Not everyone has forgotten that we’re here at their sufferance. Remember it as you grow older, Dana Raelin.”
The others gathered behind them, faces serious. To Raelin’s surprise, Befind had her arms wrapped around her husband as if he was the most precious thing in the world. Mistress Chie pulled a tiny gold bell out of her pocket, ringing it once, twice and then a third time before setting it down in front of the three crystals.
She bowed to the table, everyone else bowing with her. Raelin hurried to do the same. When Mistress Chie clapped her hands twice, again with everyone else, Raelin tried to match the slow, deliberate speed of their claps. Mistress Chie carefully lit a match, passing it to Raelin.
“Light the candles, one for each of the Goddesses,” Mistress Chie said.
Raelin carefully lit the candles, biting her lip as the flame flickered with her breath. Each of the candles flared up bright and true, letting Raelin blow out the match. Unlike her family’s celebrations or the sermon at Temple where everyone talked and joked (if in whispers at Temple) here everyone was silent, watching Mistress Chie as she picked up one of the crystals.
“As the Ladies granted safe harbor to the Goddesses,” Mistress Chie said, carefully touching the crystal to the first candle’s flame, “let our ships always find their way to their harbors.”
“So let it be,” everyone said, Raelin jumping and repeating it a little bit after everyone else.
“As the Ladies gave the Goddesses lands to dock to,” Mistress Chie said as she touched the second crystal to the second candle’s flame, “let there always be a port in the storm for our ships.”
This time Raelin was on time with her ‘So let it be’. She sniffled back tears as she prayed as hard as she could that the Tourmaline Seas always would have safe harbor as she traveled around the world. When Mistress Chie lifted the third crystal Raelin held her breath.
“As the Ladies gave us homes to come back to,” Mistress Chie said and her voice was a little thicker than before as if she was as tearful as Raelin, “let our ships always come home safe with their crews.”
“So let it be!” Raelin shouted along with everyone else.
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