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 14: Cold Snap
Ice. Ice and snow. Raelin battled against the snow drifts trying to block her way to the shipyard. Every time she managed get past one another formed in front of her. The snow drifts wrapped around her and dragged her backward so that the big door to the dry dock got ever farther away instead of closer.
Raelin tried to shout, tried to fight, but the snow muffled her voice and wrapped around her arms and legs keeping her from breaking free no matter how hard she kicked. It infuriated Raelin. She strained against the snow holding her back but didn’t make any progress.
“Let go!” Raelin shouted, jerking her right arm hard.
She gasped, abruptly waking to find her blankets wrapped around her body. Raelin gulped and shivered, seeing her breath in front of her face. It was so cold! Untangling the blankets took a minute. Wrapping herself up in them helped a little bit but the house was still really cold.
When Raelin slipped out of her bunk she found that Gavin was already up. He smiled wryly at her as he spread a spare blanket over Aravel. There were several more blankets folded neatly on his bed and a little hot pot glowed by the door.
“What happened?” Raelin whispered.
“Cold snap,” Gavin whispered to her as he added a second blanket over Aravel. “It’s the middle of the night, Rae. Grab a couple of blankets and go back to sleep if you can. I’ll be bringing in some hot bricks in a few minutes.”
“It’s that cold?” Raelin asked even though it was a silly question.
She could see her breath even though they were inside where it should be too warm for that. Gavin shrugged and nodded. Raelin remade her bed, adding the two extra blankets that Gavin gave her. She also grabbed her warmest socks and her robe, putting both of them on before going out to look out the big window that overlooked the city.
It was frosted with ice. Just getting close to it made Raelin shiver. Cold radiated from the window like an invisible waterfall of ice flowing into the suite. Outside, the rooftops were covered with a thick layer of frost. When she peered towards the port, Raelin thought she could see ice on the ships’ masts. The water seemed at least partially frozen, moving in chunks instead of smooth planes.
“Back to bed,” Father murmured as he passed Raelin a flannel-wrapped brick.
“It’s so cold,” Raelin whispered to him.
“You probably won’t be going to work,” Father said as he firmly escorted Raelin back to her bunk, tucking her in with the brick at her feet. “We’ll send a message in the morning to verify if Mistress Chie doesn’t beat us to it.”
“Yes, sir,” Raelin murmured.
It took a few minutes for Raelin’s bed to warm up enough that she could relax. She listened to Gavin and Father whispering together as they worked to heat the house back up. Gavin said something about Mother having gone down to check the warehouse for freezing damage but Raelin didn’t hear exactly what they were worried about having frozen.
It could be the new perfumes they’d gotten overland from Gobnait. Anwyn had helped unpack the precious little bottles when they arrived a couple of days ago. Her eyes had been wide at how much the bottles were worth. Raelin wasn’t sure why a bottle the size of her fist was worth as much as a full month’s wages. If Andros hadn’t chosen that moment to swallow wrong on his dinner, choking and then sobbing loudly, Raelin would have asked Mother to explain it.
Of course, they could also be worried about the new pipes that had been installed to allow water to be pumped up to the apartments. Having those freeze and break would cause a huge amount of damage to not just the warehouse but to all of their homes.
Raelin sighed as she pulled the blankets up over her head. Missing a day of work on the Tourmaline would be horrible. They were finally done putting trim into place. All the walls had been installed. The bunks were in place. Now it was time for massive amounts of sanding and then finishing the wood. When Raelin had asked about it last night before heading home, Mistress Chie had chuckled and patted Raelin’s shoulder.
“There’s still at least a month and a half of work, Dana,” Mistress Chie said. “We need to seal all the wood. That’ll take several rounds of sanding and applying resin. You can’t rush the drying. It damages the finish which leaves the wood vulnerable to sea salt. That doesn’t even count all the fittings that have yet to arrive from the blacksmiths. There’s still a good bit of work for you to do before this is over.”
Gavin came back into their bedroom, pushing a brick to the foot of his bed before adding a thick quilt that Great-Grandfather Sean had recovered just before he died. He checked the hot pot, nodding that the coal was burning slow and steady before curling up in his bed. With the curtains open Raelin could see the way his shoulders quickly relaxed. After a few moments he started snoring quietly.
The warmth and quiet dragged at Raelin, encouraging her to sleep. The tip of her nose disagreed though. It was still cold enough to keep her awake. Raelin pulled the covers entirely over her face, leaving a tiny air hole. In moments her nose warmed up as her body seemed to get heavier. She yawned, squirming to get more comfortable.
“I hope I do get to go to work,” Raelin thought sleepily, the dark and warmth making the thought a distant, unimportant one. “Rather help there than here.”
Sleep was a deep, dark well. Raelin didn’t remember any more dreams before a hand shook her awake. She pushed back the covers to find Mother looking down at her. There were bits of frost on her hair, melting rapidly, and Mother held a note that she gave Raelin.
“No shipyard for you, Rae,” Mother said. “Get dressed. Grab some breakfast and then come down to the warehouse. We’re mustering everyone. The cold snap looks like it’s going to last a few days. We’ve got insulation to install to protect the goods and keep the houses warm.”
Raelin blinked at her, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “It’s that cold?”
“The whole city is shut down,” Mother said so grimly that Raelin sat up and took the note. “Bay’s frozen over. River’s solid ice other than right around the city of the Ladies. No one is going anywhere for at least three days.”
Before Raelin could ask more questions Mother stood up and started shaking Aravel awake. Raelin stared at her, then stared at the note from Mistress Chie. Even in the dim light of the bedroom Raelin could tell that Mistress Chie had rushed as she wrote it. All of the letters slanted to the left far more than normal for Mistress Chie.
“Dana, it is too cold to work. The resin would freeze and the wood splinter if we were to try. I will send a message when it is clear to work again.”
Her signature was a simple ‘C’, scrawled so badly that it looked like a ‘U’ instead. Raelin sighed before setting the note down on her shelf before fishing the now-cold brick out of the foot of her bed. Aravel grumbled and whined as Raelin scrambled into her warmest long underwear, two pairs of warm socks, her heaviest pants and two shirts with a heavy sweater Aravel had knitted for her on top.
“It’s so cold!” Anwyn breathed when Raelin went to claim some breakfast. Her breath steamed out in a great cloud even with the stove crackling and thumping from the force of the fire.
“People are going to die,” Raelin said, more concerned with the danger of the cold than the way their breath puffed. “If they don’t have coal and enough clothes and blankets to keep warm, they’ll freeze.”
Anwyn’s face went white. She stared at Raelin with her mouth dropped open. Her horror made Raelin wince and hug Anwyn until she calmed down enough to stop staring. By the time Raelin had eaten her breakfast of a hardboiled egg and toast with jam, Aravel was up, as was Gwen. Cadfael showed up just as Gavin came in, clapping his hands and rubbing them together to warm them up.
“Eat quick, Caddie,” Gavin said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“What are we doing?” Raelin asked as Caddie crammed his egg into his mouth while spreading jam thick on his toast.
“The new pipes are probably okay,” Gavin explained, “but everyone needs more coal, including us. We’re on coal duty. When that’s done we’re supposed to gather as many spare clothes and blankets as we can spare to give to the Temple. There are a lot of people who don’t have enough to stay warm.”
Raelin nodded. When she looked over her shoulder Father was already going through their clothing shelves for things that they could spare. The Dana always had spare clothes. They were such a big family that hand-me-downs passed back and forth and around until no one knew where they had come from originally.
Once they were down in the coal bin, Raelin realized just how warm their rooms were. The air was so cold that it hurt her nose and mouth to breathe. Pulling her scarf up so that it covered her nose and mouth helped a little bit. She was really glad that Gavin had insisted on coats, hats and scarves for all of them. Her heavy gloves just barely kept her fingers from going numb. Even with them her fingertips ached with the cold.
“All right,” Gavin said once they were all gathered with the buckets and shovels. “Gwen, Rae, you’re on hauling duty. Annie, Caddie, you’re on shoveling. I’ll be doing both as necessary, plus getting buckets from everyone else’s houses. Make sure you use the lifts to haul things up. We don’t have time to run up and down the stairs.”
“Yes, sir,” Raelin said.
Gwen’s ‘yes, sir’ was a lot less enthusiastic but she didn’t pout or sulk. It looked more like Gwen was already bored with the chore to Raelin. Annie and Caddie shoved their first two buckets full of coal, passing them over to Gwen and Raelin with a jaunty little salute on Anwyn’s side and an annoyed huff on Cadfael’s.
“Which lift?” Raelin asked as she hefted her bucket. “Is it really full?”
“You’ve gained a bunch of muscles, Rae,” Gwen laughed. “It’s full. You’re just stronger than you used to be.”
“Huh,” Raelin said. Her face hurt from the wideness of her grin. “How about that?”
Gwen laughed at Raelin as she led the way to the closest lift. The two of them together with their buckets barely made the lift shift. Once the door was shut Raelin helped Gwen work the rope pulleys that made the lift go up.
Normally Raelin loved getting to use the lifts. They were like magic, a quick and efficient way to carry things from floor to floor without having to climb the stairs. Today it wasn’t as nice. The lift was freezing cold, so cold that the ropes groaned as they hauled on them. The lift shuddered and jerked as they made their way upstairs, acting as though it was trying to stick to the walls of the shaft.
“Bet this is where a lot of the cold is getting in,” Gwen commented once they were on the third floor.”
“Wouldn’t be surprised,” Raelin agreed. She closed the doors and shuddered.
Father smiled when they showed up with their buckets of coal. He helped them dump them into the bin and then shooed them out again to make another run. Raelin stared at the stack of socks, shirts, kilts and blankets that Father had already gathered. She hadn’t realized that they had that much to spare but maybe Father thought they could make more when the weather improved. The Dana family had money, after all, unlike the people who would get the donations.
Their next run was to Uncle Tavish who gave both Gwen and Raelin a hug before dumping the coal and sending them on their way. Everyone was delighted to get the coal but by the time they’d done a dozen runs up and down in the lifts Raelin was starting to get tired. Gavin looked twice as tired. Raelin didn’t blame him. He was taking two buckets by himself and carrying them up the stairs when they got back.
“All right,” Gavin said once they were all together in the coal room again. “Time to switch over to a different team.”
“Other teams?” Raelin asked, perking up because that was so much like working at the shipyard.
Gavin grinned and patted her head, unable to ruffle her hair because of her hat. “Yes, other teams. Cousin Gail’s working with some of the older cousins to take over now that we got started on it. She thinks she’ll get it all done by lunch.”
His snort of disgust told Raelin what he thought of that. Raelin thought it was pretty silly, too. There were too many fireplaces and stoves throughout the Clan house, from the warehouse itself on up to the third floor. Even if they did get one run to everyone Raelin was pretty sure that there would be another run tonight and then more each day until the cold snap ended.
“What now?” Caddie asked in that whiney tone of voice that promised temper tantrums very soon.
“Now we go get cleaned up,” Gavin said as he scooped Caddie up into his arms, “get some lunch and help gather clothes and things to give to the poor.”
“Oh,” Caddie sighed.
“That’s not so hard,” Aravel said in a tired enough voice that Raelin took his hand to comfort him.
It really wasn’t for the boys. Gwen, Anwyn and Raelin exchanged looks, each nodding that they’d do all the running around while the boys stayed at home and rested. In practice, that turned into Gwen and Annie keeping Aravel and Caddie busy while Raelin and Gavin went to each of their aunt and uncle’s apartments to gather the things they’d set aside.
When the whole stack was assembled it was huge, easily as big as a pallet of wood from Idoya. Raelin helped Gavin tie cord around the bundles of clothes and blankets, using her best knots so that nothing would slip free. Then she helped carry everything to the nearest lift so that it could all go downstairs to the warehouse.
“We gathered a lot of stuff,” Raelin commented to Gavin as they helped load everything into a series of sleds that her aunts were going to use to carry it to the local Temple.
“That we did,” Gavin said. “I hope it helps.”
“It will,” Uncle Jarmon said. He chuckled and patted Raelin’s shoulder when she started at his sudden appearance behind her. “This will help quite a lot. We’re also donating a large sum to the Temple to help feed people in need. If this goes on more than a few days we’re also discussing buying a large amount of fuel for the poor to use free of charge.”
“Oh,” Raelin said, surprised that her elders were doing so many different things.
After a moment she wasn’t sure why she’d been so surprised by it. The Dana always helped people as much as they could. Granted, the Delbhana tried to make that into a bad thing but it really wasn’t. Raelin didn’t know how anyone could take donating to the poor during a crisis and twist that into something bad but she wouldn’t be surprised if Lady Etain tried it.
Not that it mattered for Raelin right now. All that mattered to her was that her legs left like they were made of lead and her stomach was growling. Even with all the work she’d been doing at the shipyard the running around at home today had worn her out. Gavin guided Gwen back towards the stairs, smiling when she leaned against him as they walked. His arm around her shoulder felt good, warm in the midst of all the cold, and comforting.
“Now what?” Raelin asked.
“Dinner and resting,” Gavin said. He grinned when Raelin eyed him skeptically. “Rae, you’ve been working all day long. It’s time to rest now.”
“Mmm, okay,” Raelin said. “But you know there’s going to be something at home. How much do you want to bet that Father, Cadfael and Aravel have come up with a complicated way to make the bedrooms warmer?”
“Oh, I am not taking that bet,” Gavin groaned. “It would be just like Father to humor another of Caddie and Ravi’s wild schemes.”
They shared a wry, tired grin before heading up the stairs. No matter what they found when they got there, it was still home. Raelin smiled. She actually was hopeful that her brothers had figured out a way to make their home snugger. After her ice and snow dreams last night Raelin really didn’t want to freeze in her own bed. If they managed to fix the problem that was all the better as far as she was concerned.
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