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 15: School
“You’re here early,” Mistress Chie commented to Raelin as she unlocked the door to the dry dock.
“I wanted to get back to work,” Raelin said.
She waved hello to Befind and her husband, grinning at the way Befind’s husband smiled approvingly at her before returning to his low-voiced scolding that made Befind lick her lips and caress his waist as if she wanted to carry him off somewhere private. About half the crews were there. When Raelin had shown up there had only been a couple of people.
The cold snap had lasted four entirely too long days. By the fifth day things had begun to warm back up but there were a lot of people who’d been hurt by the cold. She spent all of that day helping her family give aid to those in the neighborhood. The sixth day was spent at the Temple passing out goods and food and bags of coal to poor people who needed them.
On the seventh day things had gotten more or less back to normal but all the news sheets were full of stories of ‘Dana Generosity’ and ‘Delbhana Stinginess’. Raelin had sighed over the news sheets as she ate breakfast that day, yesterday. Every time the news sheets focused on the Dana versus the Delbhana some stupid plot got hatched to make them look bad.
Getting back to work today was a relief. Raelin didn’t have to listen to her siblings chatter or her elders worry about what would happen next with the Delbhana’s endless political maneuvering. She could just grab her sanding block and work with whichever team she was assigned to today to get the Tourmaline ready to sail once more.
“Dana, you’re with Team Two on resin,” Mistress Chie said once everyone was there and ready to work. “Nainsi, show her how the resin melting and mixing works but don’t let her handle the fire pots. I trust the girl with brushes, not with explosions.”
Raelin’s little huff of disappointment made most of Team Two grin. Nainsi snickered, jerking one thumb over her shoulder for Raelin to follow her. It really wasn’t a problem not to be able to mix the resin, though Raelin was a little disappointed that she wouldn’t get to do it herself. Her huff was more a matter of tradition at the dry dock. Everyone else made similar complaints when Mistress Chie said that couldn’t do specific tasks.
“It’s not hard,” Nainsi told Raelin. “The resin part’s actually pretty small in proportion to the rest of the components. We get the resin chunks from the hinterlands, ship it in so that we can use it as we wish. The important part is not to get the mixture too hot. Mistress Chie wasn’t kidding about the explosions. Have a cousin who lost her hand because a resin pot blew up on her.”
“Wow,” Raelin said, whistling.
The actual process was pretty straightforward. Raelin helped weigh out the various components using an old, battered scale and tiny weights to make sure they used the correct quantities. It was precise work but satisfying in Raelin’s opinion because she got to think and measure and then create something to use to fix the Tourmaline.
They were just finishing stirring the first batch together when Raelin heard shouting from the front door. It sounded like a kid, making her frown. Nainsi took the stirring stick away from Raelin as Mistress Chie’s bellow echoed through the dry dock.
Raelin ran. When she got there, Gwen was standing by Mistress Chie’s side, panting and as black-faced with anger as Raelin had ever seen without people bloody and screaming. Mistress Chie looked equally angry though her anger seemed to be more a matter of frustration than Gwen’s fury.
“Dana, you’re needed back home,” Mistress Chie growled. “Do your best and don’t embarrass us, girl!”
“What happened?” Raelin asked, staring at Mistress Chie and then at Gwen.
“We have to go to school,” Gwen snarled. “The Delbhana got our home school disqualified so we all have to go to the regular school in the neighborhood to be ‘tested’ to ensure that we’re not ‘contributing to the rising state of ignorance in the country’.”
Raelin stared at her, mouth dropped open. She stared some more once they got home and found one of the Delbhana there looking utterly smug as all the Dana kids under the age of fifteen had been gathered up. The Delbhana was one that Raelin didn’t recognize, an older aunt or maybe a cousin, but she had that same white blond hair, ice blue eyes and snooty attitude that always annoyed Raelin.
“This is silly,” Aravel complained. His grip on Raelin’s hand was painful but she didn’t try to pull free. Uncle Jarmon had all but ordered the boys to keep the girls from getting into fights.
“So we go test out and come home again,” Raelin said with a shrug. “It’ll be annoying but not a big deal.”
Aravel glared at her but he didn’t reply. The trip to the local school was full of her siblings and cousins giggling and talking. Well, the younger kids giggled and talked. Gwen and everyone older like Gavin was silent and so grim that Raelin was quiet too.
This wasn’t just an annoying diversion from their daily routine Raelin realized as they arrived at the school and were separated into age groups so that they could attend regular classes. Gavin looked so offended by being told that he was in with the little kids that Raelin winced. Caddie’s grip on Anwyn’s arm was the only thing that kept Anwyn from hitting the man who was sorting him out when he called her an adorable little thing.
“I thought we were to be tested,” Raelin asked when it was her and Aravel’s turn. “Why are we going to regular classrooms if we’re supposed to be taking tests?”
“Well, we need to assess your social skills,” the man said in a too-bright tone of voice.
“Really?” Raelin asked, raising an eyebrow at him. “That wasn’t what our parents were told. I’m afraid that I have to insist on Mother coming to talk to you, sir. If you’re going to have us doing things that our parents don’t know about and haven’t approved then there are some serious issues here.”
The man stared at her while everyone in the room went still, even Anwyn and Cadfael. He blinked a couple of times before smiling hesitantly at Raelin as he reached out to pat her on the head. Raelin frowned and blocked his hand, pushing it to the side so that he couldn’t actually touch her hair.
“That’s very rude,” Raelin said in the tone of voice she reserved for her baby cousins and baby brother when they were being obnoxious. “You ought not touch people without their permission, sir. Please send someone to get our mother. She’s the head of the Clan so she should be able to speak for all of us.”
“Ah, aren’t you the smartest little thing,” the man said, laughing so nervously that Raelin was tempted to smile.
“Not at all, really,” Raelin said. “Gwen’s much smarter than me and Gavin’s a genius. I’m quite ordinary, actually. Our mother?”
The man stared at Raelin, swallowing hard before nodding and hurrying out of the room to get someone else. Gavin moved closer, leaning over to mutter at Raelin while she smiled up at him as if trying to comfort him. The two other men in the room looked at Raelin as if she’d sprouted a tail like the Ladies.
“Rae, what are you doing?” Gavin muttered.
“Holding them to what they said we’d be doing,” Raelin murmured back. “We’re supposed to test, not to start taking regular classes.”
Gavin made a strangled little noise that might have been a laugh he tried to suppress. His face didn’t change much other than his lips pressing together for a moment. All he did was nod as if that made sense before going back to where he’d been.
His calm response appeared to make everyone else relax too. Anwyn was still glaring but her shoulders weren’t tight as if she was getting ready to hit someone and Cadfael wasn’t clinging to her wrist quite so hard. A minute or two passed before the man came back in a rustle of petticoats with a very severe woman by his side.
“I’m just not sure what to do,” the man said to the severe woman. “This…”
“Enough,” the severe woman said, waving to shut him up. She glared down at Raelin as if she was thinking of beating her. “I’ve been told that you’re refusing to comply.”
“We were told that we were to test to determine what our actual educational level was,” Raelin said respectfully and calmly because she wasn’t going to be the one to start a fight. “He said that we were to attend regular classes. Our parents agreed to testing, not to enrolling us in the school. No fees have been paid that I’m aware of. We’re not properly registered. None of the paperwork has been done. I don’t feel that it’s appropriate for us to disrupt the other students’ learning when we’re not regular students. I asked that Mother be summoned so that she could straighten this out. She is the head of the Dana Clan, you see.”
The severe woman sighed in exactly that ‘I have had enough of this’ way that Mother got when the cousins were too rambunctious while working in the warehouse. Raelin was very aware that all her cousins and siblings were watching her to see how they should behave. It was a strange feeling, one that Raelin wasn’t sure she liked. She thought it might be how Mother felt all the time and she really wished that Gavin had been born a girl so that he could take the lead instead of her.
“You’ll do as you’re told,” the severe woman snapped at Raelin.
“Excuse me,” Raelin said in as close to Mistress Chie’s ‘starting to get annoyed’ tone of voice as she could manage with Aravel clinging to her arm and whimpering, “but who exactly are you and what’s your rank here? We haven’t been given any introductions.”
“What?” the woman asked, so obviously insulted that Raelin pushed Aravel behind her.
“You could be anyone off the street for all we know,” Raelin explained. It would be so nice to be taller. She barely came up to the woman’s waist. “If you’re a person in authority, then that’s fine but until we’re introduced how are we to know that?”
The severe woman snarled and slapped Raelin hard enough to knock her from her feet. Raelin sighed, touched her nose to make sure it wasn’t broken and waved at Gwen and Anwyn to stand down. A brawl was the last thing they needed. She also glared at Gavin because he looked like he was about to start punching too.
“That was very inappropriate,” Raelin said as she stood back up. “I fail to see how a person such as yourself could get into a position of authority.”
“You little brat!” the severe woman shouted.
“Raising your voice?” Raelin asked. She could feel excitement starting to build, the Dana luck as Mother called it. Everyone in the room was staring at Raelin and the severe woman. “All I did was ask your name and rank. There’s no need to strike anyone or to shout. It’s a perfectly reasonable inquiry.”
“Agreed,” Gavin said from behind Raelin. “We’ve never attended this school before in our lives. We don’t know who you are.”
“Yeah!” Cousin Sean echoed, wincing when Raelin looked over her shoulder at him. “Well, we don’t. Raelin’s right. This isn’t what our parents agreed to and there hasn’t been a single piece of paperwork done. Something’s fishy.”
Behind the severe woman, whose face was going so red that Raelin wondered if she had heart problems in her family, the first man that Raelin had question slipped out of the room with a terrified expression on his face. Raelin sighed, taking two steps closer to the severe woman.
“Name and rank,” Raelin demanded.
She got a fist to the face this time, making her lip split and bleed. Raelin stood back up, rubbing the blood off with the back of her hand even though her cousins were starting to mutter and growl. The severe woman glared at Raelin, something like fear in her eyes.
“Fine, I’ll go first,” Raelin said as she took another step towards the severe woman. She smiled grimly when the woman backed off. “My name is Dana Raelin, daughter of Dana Laoise, current head of the Dana Clan. I’m ten years old. I’m currently apprenticed to the Sunrise Shipyard to Mistress Chie, the owner of the shipyard, learning ship building while helping rebuild our ship the Tourmaline Seas. And you are?”
“You’re ten!” the severe woman said, confusion and surprise in her eyes. “You’re not old enough to be apprenticed to anyone. You should still be learning your sums and letters!”
“And you are?” Raelin asked with a deliberately exaggerated ‘get on with it’ gesture. When the severe woman didn’t answer Raelin huffed. “I learned my sums when I was four years old, helping my Father sort things. I learned my letters when I was five, helping out in the warehouse. We have our own school, you know. Tutors from the college come in and teach us every single day other than holidays. I passed all the basic stuff by the time I was six.”
The severe woman gaped at Raelin, looking over her head at Gavin and the others. Gavin nodded and shrugged so calmly that the woman frowned at him. She took a step towards Gavin but Raelin stepped to block her way, earning a hiss of fury from the severe woman and a gasp of horror from Aravel.
“Dana kids get into as many fights as the adults,” Gavin said entirely calmly. He sounded a little amused, not that Raelin looked over her shoulder at him. “All the kids were pulled out of public school after our mothers got into one too many fights. You’re lucky you’re talking to Raelin. She’s the calmest in our generation.”
“Other than you,” Raelin said with a grin that made her wince from the pain in her split lip.
“I’m a boy,” Gavin snorted. “That doesn’t count.”
Raelin turned back to the severe woman who was shaking slightly. When Raelin raised her chin and took another step towards the woman she winced and backed off two steps. Outside, Raelin could hear children’s excited voices plus the sound of a man’s frantic voice talking with women.
It was probably the guard. The Delbhana had to have been expecting a battle from them. Everyone knew the Dana Clan’s reputation as brawlers. Raelin smiled up at the severe woman as the voices came closer. To her relief the severe woman seemed to be completely focused on Raelin rather than on what might be coming outside.
“Once again, what’s your name and rank?” Raelin asked.
“Stop making demands, you little brat!” the severe woman shouted just as the Guard appeared at the door.
She swung her hand hard enough this time that Raelin saw stars as she fell to the floor. Behind her Gavin shouted something angry. Gwen’s voice was a higher counterpoint full of rage while Anwyn screamed at the woman to stop hitting Raelin.
It was Aravel’s wail of terror that made Raelin roll back to her knees and then up to her feet again despite the way her head swum. She put one hand on her cheek, feeling the bruise already swelling, as she turned and looked at the severe woman.
“All I’m asking is who you are,” Raelin said, utterly pleased at the way the entire room went still. “You come in and start snapping orders at children, making fists and threatening us. The orders don’t match what we were told would happen. Nothing about this makes sense. I only want to know your name. There’s no reason for you to beat me.”
The severe woman took a deep breath, her fists coming up as if she intended to lay into Raelin like Siobhan had into Anwyn during the summer. Raelin stared at her, waiting. This might hurt but if she was smart and talked quick, they might get out of testing today. That might be long enough for Mother to get their family school reinstated without all the stupid testing. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too many more blows to the head. Raelin’s head hurt.
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