Chapter Fifteen: Family



by

Josie Beaudoin







The Eleli Rei stopped twice more for water and supplies in Zamburrha before heading to their next destination, the city of Pah Durik in the northern land of Djanara. The stops were entirely uneventful. Brand did not even ask to go ashore the first time, his back still hurt too much. The second time, his request was flatly denied. Manty was assigned to stay by his side and make sure he stayed put. The very thought of having a gaoler offended Brand so deeply he refused to engage anyone in conversation the entire time.

Willow would not be persuaded to leave the ship for fear of being recaptured, and Ashia was of much the same mind. Though she was clearly not Zamburrhan, her scars nonetheless marked her forever as a slave. Galen and Morgan spent as much time ashore as Jasper would allow, practicing spells in out-of-the-way places and gathering or buying items that would be useful in future spellcasting. Many of the Ria spent time seeing and catching up with old friends or passing on letters or messages to be taken to friends and relations on yet other ships.

At last they were ready to go. They set out from port one bright, breezy morning on a heading that took them nearly due north. Land was soon out of sight and the ship was once again all alone in between the blue water and the blue, cloudless sky.

“We shouldn’t have any trouble in Pah Durik,” Jasper said as he stood at the helm. “The people there are highly civilized, even by Rian standards.”

“That’s an invitation to disaster,” Emmy joked. “Now we’ll all be captured and pressed into slavery, just you watch.”

“Pah Durik doesn’t have slavery, it’s been outlawed in all of Durikon. You know that perfectly well.”

“I know, but your confidence scares me. Captain, this trip has been wrought with trouble so far. It’s unlike any journey we’ve ever taken.”

“For God’s sake, don’t let the Landers hear you say that,” Jasper said. “They’re all downwind.”

“You do realize we’ve taken on six more passengers than we’d planned on?” Emmy lowered her voice. “It was supposed to be just Morgan. Now he’s got an entire entourage, including a new baby. Which makes seven. Captain, we’re dancing with death on this voyage. Laric is tracking us like a shark.”

“Laric’s powers don’t extend this far,” Jasper said. “Don’t be silly. The assassin and the poison was a fluke, there’s no way he could have deliberately hunted us down. Now unless they’ve cut off my arm, there’s no way he can track this ship.”

“What if he’s found a way to disable your tattoo?”

“Emmy, stop. You’re borrowing trouble. He found one Pyriate willing to hunt for me. By random chance he found me. I was fool enough to raise the royal standard when we came into port. In a way, you could say that incident was my own fault.”

“What if he sets a fleet on our tails?”

“A ‘Pyrian fleet?’ Think about what you’re saying. And if he does, how are they going to catch up to us even if they could find us, which they can’t? Put a little faith in my ship, Emmy. The Eleli Rei is the fastest ship on the water.”

“I don’t know, Captain. A magic wind? I mean, I know what you say is all true, but there’s something in my gut that just doesn’t sit right.”

“Probably because Alta let Obrad cook breakfast this morning,” Jasper said. “He’s a fine assistant, but not the best cook in the world.”

“Very funny.”

“I thought it was. Look, Emmy, everything’s going to be alright. We’re through the worst of it now.”

“I hope you’re right, Captain, I really do.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Galen, is your grimoire caught up yet?” Morgan sat on the bed by a window in Jasper’s cabin playing with his little niece. Reina giggled and cooed as he tickled her belly.

“Nearly so, Sir.”

“Well let me know as soon as it is. I want to look it over before we go on. You’re being careful with the grammar, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Magister.”

Never had Galen felt so much joy from his Master as when he played with the baby. She seemed to light up his world, and he was so happy he forgot to be afraid of happiness as was his usual wont. Not even the constant reminder that she was the Emperor’s daughter could dampen his love for the child. And that was it, really: Morgan was in love.

As well he might be. Reina was a beautiful baby with a sweet nature. Though he would never tell his master, Galen also knew she was a mage, that is, one born with Magærum, the power that would allow her someday to be a wizard and perhaps even a magician. If Morgan knew, it would rip him up, and Galen would never deliberately do anything to hurt his master. Ruby had come to the same conclusion when they consulted on the matter in private. Knowing of the girl’s power would only serve to hurt her uncle, so the magicians kept quiet on the subject. To Morgan, she was just his niece, and that was more than enough.

Another little girl was giggling on the ship. Vmaa, or ‘Willow’ as she insisted on being called, was making excellent progress learning Avysh so she could speak directly to Galen without a translator. In the process she had made friends with several of the other children on board the ship, and they were playing and laughing on deck. She was shy of climbing in the riggings, and received a little teasing for it, but when her tormentors realized they would get no reaction from her, the teasing did not last long. Willow had not gotten where she was by being thin-skinned or easily upset, and the Rian children were raised to accept people as they were, odd or not.

For her part, Willow was astonished with how free the Rian way of life was. No one gave orders, yet everything got done because it needed to be done. The ship was a very small community, and everyone did their part to keep it and the ship running smoothly.

One thing that frustrated her, though, was a word she was unable to learn from the Rian children. Again and again she returned to the subject in Zamburrhan, but either got confused looks or laughter from her playmates. At length she turned to her original, adult translator Thele for help.

“The word you’re looking for does exist, child,” he told her, “but you’ll find no use for it here on the ship. Why do you want it, anyway?”

“For Galen,” was her reply.

Thele shook his head. “Your ways are very strange to me, Lander,” he said, “but here is the word.” And he told it to her. Willow thanked him and scampered off to go use it.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Alright, Sir, I’m ready,” Galen said.

Morgan was holding the baby tight as he spun around in circles, making her giggle. Sighing, he spun to a stop and handed her back to Paige with a bounce and a kiss.

“Sorry, Littlest Princess, but duty calls,” he said.

“That’s the Morgan I know,” Paige said.

Morgan stopped smiling, turned on his heel and walked over to the work table. He sat next to Galen to go over his work, steadfastly ignoring the rest of the room.

“Your structure is good overall,” he told his apprentice, “but your prepositional phrases are a bit clumsy. Why don’t you try this instead?” Morgan scribbled on a corner of loose paper. “You’re not wrong, mind you, but it could be more elegant.”

“I see what you mean, this is nicer looking, but begging your pardon, Master, does it matter that much as long as the spell works?” Galen flinched in anticipation of a tongue-lashing, but Morgan only glowered at him.

“It matters if you get in the habit of sloppy work and then something goes wrong as a result,” Morgan said. “Look, spells themselves can be taught at any time, including up to the last minute, but technique is at least as important. Now I want you to look at these sample spells I’ve written for you, and pay special attention to the grammar. I expect translations into Avysh before dinnertime.”

There was a tug at Galen’s sleeve. Morgan had not noticed the little girl come in, but he had, and could tell the girl was brimming with excitement. He had not spent much time with Willow since the incident with the slavers, but whenever he was not working, she tended to show up and follow him around the ship.

“Galen, I learn,” she said in Avysh.

“Galen, play later. Work now,” Morgan scolded. Willow looked up and up and up until she found the face of the tall, grim man before her. He scowled down at the little girl. With a gulp, she pressed on.

“I learn,” she said again. “I talk to you.”

“Yes, that’s good, dear,” Galen said. “I’m very proud of your progress, you’re doing well. I have to work now, why don’t you come back later?”

“Hmmmm, no, I talk to you now,” she said after careful consideration.

“No talk, go,” Morgan said. Willow stood back so she did not have to crane her neck quite so far, and giggled at Morgan.

“I talk to Galen,” she told him. Her mind was quite made up.

“Morgan, why don’t you just let her talk to him, and come play with the baby some more. Surely after all these years you know how stubborn little girls can be,” Paige said.

Morgan surrendered to the proffered baby and left Galen to converse with the girl. He paid not the least attention to their discussion, but both Paige and Ashia were keenly interested, though they were decent enough to try not to show it.

“I look for word,” Willow took Galen’s hand in her two little ones when it was clear they would not be disturbed. “I think not is word, but I find. I have word for give to you. Word is ‘father.’”

‘Father?’ I don’t understand,” Galen said.

“You save Willow - um, me. No slave, no Vmaa, just Willow. You say “Willow,” you father for Willow. Why Ria no say ‘father?’”

Galen sat back in his chair, stunned. Though her Avysh was broken, it was clear enough, assuming she understood the word she was using. Reaching out with his Vada showed him she was quite sincere, and saw him in a paternal role. She understood the word ‘father’ clearly enough, and was telling Galen that she thought of him as hers.

“Oh, Galen,” Paige said in the silence that followed. Willow startled and turned at the sound of her voice. “That’s so incredibly sweet. She wants to be your daughter.”

“B-but Willow, why?” Galen asked. “You already have a father, and a mother too.”

“Slave have no father, mother,” she insisted. “You save Vmaa, name Willow. You father for Willow. Galen father.”

Ashia was in tears. “It makes perfect sense,” she said. “You saved her, freed her. It’s no surprise she looks up to you. Who else would she think of you as but her father?” She cast a sidelong glance at Morgan, who steadfastly ignored her, concentrating on his own family.

“But I didn’t,” Galen objected. “I didn’t free her. If anyone did it was Jasper. He got us all out of there. I was just... there.”

Willow followed the exchange only a little, but the meaning was plain enough. “Men hurt me, you magic, men no hurt me,” she clarified.

“Looks like you’ve got a family,” Paige said. “I wouldn’t try to fight it, Galen, she won’t understand, and you’ll only break her heart.”

Tears filled Galen’s eyes and spilled down into his stubble. “But I have a family,” he whispered, “and my heart is already broken.”

“Well there’s no need to break hers,” she said.

“I learn words for you,” Willow said. “I learn ‘I love you, Father.’” Willow closed the remaining distance between them and gave Galen a big hug. “I love you, Father,” she repeated.

There was nothing Galen could do. As he wrapped his arms around the little girl his tears plinked on top of her hair and he squeezed her close.

“I love you too, Willow,” he said through a tight throat.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Willow discovered rather quickly that listening to her newly-adopted father and the tall thin man was not a good way to learn Avysh. For one thing, she was not permitted to sit on Galen’s lap (though Morgan often held the baby), and secondly she was not permitted to ask questions. Their discussions were complicated with lots of big words, and when she asked others on the ship she was reassured that no one else really understood what they were saying either. That was some small comfort, but it only raised the mystery: what were they talking about? Willow was told it was something complicated but good, and so she decided it did not matter. She spent her days studying Avysh and her nights curled up in her father’s hammock with him, whispering her new words into his ear until they both drifted off to sleep.

For Galen’s part, once he became accustomed to the idea, he discovered he quite liked having Willow around. No one, including herself, knew exactly how old she was, but she appeared to be five or six. If Dreyma and the baby had survived, his own child would be about Willow’s age, give or take. He tried hard not to think of them, but having Willow constantly calling him “father” kept reminding him of his lost past. Still, he grew used to it eventually, and fell in love with the little child who put her life so trustingly in his hands.

The Ria found it highly amusing.

“I don’t understand,” Galen said one day. He was eating lunch with a few crew members while his master worked on new lessons. Willow, of course, was curled up in his lap. “What is so odd about having a father?”

“Of course everyone has a father,” Manty said, “but it’s really irrelevant. It’s almost impossible to know exactly who he is, so he doesn’t matter much. A mother, on the other hand, is obviously seen giving birth to a child, so everyone knows it’s hers.”

“Why is it impossible to know the father? Do none of you believe in monogamy at all?”

“People change, like the sea, and one day’s lover is the next day’s boredom. Certainly we form lasting relationships, but even then, the whim may strike one or the other to take someone else for a swing in the hammock, just for fun. So a father may or may not be known. A mother is always known. Unless the couple are married, the concept of ‘father’ as a title or as part of a child’s life is simply unknown to us.”

“And if they are married? How is that different?”

Manty gave Galen a withering look.

“Landers,” she said, “are such disgusting people. You make promises and break them without a moment’s hesitation as soon as they become inconvenient. A marriage vow means nothing, and is broken as soon as another beautiful woman or handsome man walks by and stirs lust in your heart. The Ria, on the other hand, are more self-aware, and knowing we are as prone as anyone else to do just that, we do not promise not to.”

“But then, you are never devoted enough to each other to marry?”

“It’s very rare, but it does happen. Then a husband and wife may lust, but may never act on that lust with anyone else. A promise is more binding to us than to Landers. Marriage vows can be legally broken by ‘divorce’ or ‘annulment’ by Landers, but in our own tongue we have no words to equal those. If you marry, and love another, you are an Oathbreaker, and no longer Rian. Since we know we are likely to love others, that our eyes and our hearts are likely to stray, we simply do not make a promise we would be hard-pressed to keep.”

“Promises are important to us too,” Galen insisted. “Not all of us are as libelous as you would have us be.”

“Perhaps,” Manty said, “but the majority of you are. You did not even flinch when I said ‘divorce,’ whereas the word nearly chokes me. The concept is not only not foreign to you, it’s not even repulsive to you, is it?”

“Not particularly, no. But sometimes marriage does not turn out the way you hope it will. Things change, and sometimes a man beats his wife, or one of them breaks a law.”

“Exactly why the marriage should not have happened in the first place,” Manty said.

“But these things can only be known after the fact,” Galen said.

“No, they can be anticipated by understanding human nature,” Manty replied.

“Marriage binds two people forever, not until it becomes inconvenient. If you think you might be tempted by another someday, it is wiser to avoid marriage, and if you are human, you are likely to be tempted.”

“But what about the children?” Galen asked. “Surely every child needs a mother and a father to help raise them properly.”

“There are dozens of men and women on this ship,” Manty said. “We are a community. We all raise the children. Mothers nurse each others’ children when convenience calls for it - oh don’t look at me that way, look at Paige and Ashia. Paige is the only mother of a nursing child right now, or others of us would offer the same service.”

“So all of the men on the ship serve as fathers to all of the children?” Galen asked, steadfastly ignoring the subject of nursing.

“To your eyes, I suppose so,” Manty said. “But the word is never used. The concept of one man being father to a particular child is not a part of our everyday lives. Look at that boy over there.”

Manty pointed to a boy of about nine who was practicing throwing his knife at a target. He had blond hair and blue eyes and bore, when Galen looked at him closely, a strong resemblance to Jasper. Galen looked at Manty, and she nodded.

“Yes, Arnue is very likely Jasper’s son,” the Rian woman said. “But he neither knows nor cares, nor does anyone else on this ship. What he knows is that he is Alta’s son, whom he also resembles. Were Jasper and Alta active together at the time the boy was conceived? It’s possible. But it doesn’t matter. Jasper would no more claim Arnue as his son than you would. So you see, Willow’s decision to adopt you as her ‘father’ is particularly amusing to us. We know what a father is, we just don’t care. To the two of you, it has a great deal of importance though, and we understand that. Well, I do at any rate. Not everyone here does, and you Landers are much of a mystery.”

“As you are to me,” Galen admitted. “But tell me, what about the monarchy? Jasper is a prince, is he not? Is his father not the king?”

“His mother was queen, as his sister is now,” Manty answered. “We have no king unless there are no women in the royal family. There was a brief time when it was thought Jasper might have to marry because of the crown, but he has managed to evade that net.”

“How’s that?”

“Their mother had seven children,” Manty said. “All but two of which were lost at sea: Zirah and Jasper. Zirah was childless for a long time, and it was feared she might be barren. With no daughter to carry on the line, Jasper was the only heir. If she had remained childless much longer, she would have forced Jasper to marry, to ensure that his child would be... his.”

“You mean Arnue?”

“No, he would not have married Alta,” Manty laughed. “Even if he did, Arnue’s father is technically unknown. He is no part of the royal family. No, Jasper would have been married off to a high-ranking woman of a noble line. It would be a marriage strictly for the begetting of children of the royal family and nothing else. Still, Jasper would be stuck in a loveless marriage, the most dire situation, for he is a man of highest honour. Our captain would rather die than break an oath. Luckily for him - and the rest of us, especially Morgan - Her Majesty recently gave birth to a daughter, so Jasper is no longer the sole heir and will not have to marry.”

“She would not permit him to go ashore until she had another heir,” Galen said.

“Absolutely not,” said Manty. “Jasper waited as long as he did to go to Morgan’s rescue because he was forbidden to. His sister flatly refused him permission to put his life in danger while he was her only heir.”

“Well that makes sense even to me,” Galen said. “Most Lander kings would do no different. I know I would not, were I in her position. You’re right, though, that was unfortunate for Morgan.”

“I learned new word today,” Willow said when she heard that name mentioned. “Learn from Morgan, he say you will like it.”

“And what word is that?” Galen asked, grateful for the distraction.

“I learn to say ‘pappa,’” Willow announced proudly. “Is like ‘father,’ but more love.”

‘Pappa,’” Manty rolled her eyes. “You’re not even related, and she calls you ‘pappa.’ It’s very sweet, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also very peculiar. You have a strange family, Galen.”

“Yes, so it would seem,” Galen said. “Thank you, Willow. Morgan was right, though it surprises me he would think of it. I like ‘pappa’ very much. Did he teach you anything else?”

“No, only ‘pappa.’ Other words too big.”

Galen and Manty laughed together at that.

“Yes, he does tend to use big words,” Manty said. “But then, I suppose that’s a hazard of the trade? You use them too, though not as much as he does, not with the rest of us, at least.”

“The concepts require special words to describe them,” Galen admitted. “Some of them I never even heard before meeting my master. Now I couldn’t get through a lesson with him without them. ‘Adjectivals’ and ‘potients’ and ‘orinarosas’ - they’re all new to me within this past year.”

“Well I don’t know about that,” Manty said. “I thought everyone knew what a potion was.”

“A potion, yes. A potient is something different altogether. Don’t ask, it’s complicated.”

“I won’t, ‘pappa,’” Manty said solemnly. “Really, I don’t understand why Thele didn’t just teach her the world ‘uncle.’ It’s more appropriate, and much more common among us than ‘father.’ She must have been very specific with him to have requested ‘father.’”

“She’s a very smart girl,” Galen said. “And between her and me, ‘father’ is more appropriate than ‘uncle,’ I think.”

“If you say so,” Manty said. “Look, it’s time for me to get back to work. I imagine Morgan will be looking for you soon, too. Enough food and idle conversation. The wind has shifted.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Land ho!” The cry came from the top of the mast.

“Do they always say that?” Paige asked.

“It’s customary, yes,” Jasper said as he bounded to his feet and headed for the cabin door.

“Well what land is it now?”

“Djanara,” he called down the hall as he disappeared.

All the Landers, even Morgan, followed after the disappearing captain and up on deck. Paige strapped Reina into a carrier before going above, but she was as anxious as the rest to catch a glimpse of land again.

There had been several storms. The Ria relished them, thrilling to the battle of ship against water. The Landers were quite tired of the constant waves and flat horizon broken only by storms. Though Jasper pointed out that most of the trouble they had encountered on the voyage had been ashore, the travelers still preferred it to the isolation of the little ship.

As it turned out, there was not much to see. A smudge on the horizon from the top of the ship took quite awhile to become visible on deck. Jasper thudded to the planks from his climb in the riggings and Paige voiced her dissatisfaction.

“Here,” Jasper said, “See if this helps.” He handed her a metal tube with glass on the ends.

“What is this?”

“A telescope,” Morgan said, coming up behind her. “Just like we used to look at the stars at home, except this one is smaller. May I see it?”

“In a moment,” she said. “I want to see the land.”

“It still may not be visible,” Jasper said, “but look over that way and you might catch a glimpse.”

“It’s not straight ahead?”

“Not directly. We’ll be changing course soon.”

“Damn this wind, it’s blowing my hair in the way.”

“Ship wouldn’t move without it.”

“No, I suppose not,” Paige said, passing the telescope over to Morgan. He pointed it in the direction Jasper had indicated.

“Nothing,” he said. “Not close enough yet.”

“Why don’t we go back downstairs and I’ll show you on the globe?” Jasper suggested.

“Oh, yes, please!” This was from Kemen. The Eraso was passionate about soaking up as much information as he could. His grasp of the workings of the ship were coming along quickly, though to his disappointment he still had not been allowed on deck during a storm.

Shipcraft was not Kemen’s only passion. He read every book Jasper had in Avysh and listened eagerly to the tales the Ria told of lands foreign to him. He also found a ready audience for tales of his own adventures, though Jasper had warned him not to mention the turtles. The Ria especially loved the tale of their captain falling overboard. Kemen found himself telling that one repeatedly to an ever-appreciative audience. Putting all the stories together with the help of the globe was a special treat for Kemen.

Excepting Kemen and Brand, the Landers had mostly stayed together, usually in Jasper’s cabin, at least during the day. Officially Jasper had surrendered his cabin to Paige, and slept in a hammock with the crew. Emmy had also given up her cabin to the Landers, though it was mostly used for sleep. Each cabin on the ship had a built-in bed as well as hammock hooks, and some of the Landers still had trouble sleeping in the hammocks. Morgan and Galen had appropriated the table in Jasper’s cabin for their work, though, and Ashia spent most of her time sewing by a window, while Paige played with the baby or basked in her brother’s presence. Though he was not quite the same, much of his old self seemed evident in his behaviour now. It was almost like old times.

Kemen spent most of his time up on deck, and his presence did a lot to persuade the Ria that not all Landers were that bad, after all. He continued to absorb knowledge for its own sake, and showed a special love of the ship which endeared him to the crew. Willow played among the Rian children like she was born to it, though she hesitated to climb the riggings. Her skills with the Avysh language grew every day along with smatterings of other tongues, for the Ria were true polyglots, and among them spoke every language in the world.

Brand spent his time alone. Whether he was sulking, fomenting plots and schemes, or both, it was hard to say, for he spoke to no one but Paige, and kept his thoughts to himself.

The group descended belowdecks again and made their way back to Jasper’s cabin and the huge globe he had on a stand in a corner. Pulling it out into the center of the room, he turned it around until he found the relevant spot.

“Here we are, give or take,” he said, pointing out the area. “Longitude is always more difficult to calculate than latitude, so we can’t be precisely sure where we are until we see some landmarks, but this is our general location. The winds are with us and it’s a good, clear day, so we should be close enough by this afternoon to see where we are. If I’ve steered us right, we should be no more than a day out from Pah Durik, and then you’ll see some truly amazing sights. Pah Durik is one of the largest and richest cities in the world. There’s nothing you can’t buy there.”














This web page and all it's contents were written by J.C. Beaudoin, who is solely responsible for it, for better or for worse. Copyright 2005 and 20016. Hands off. Lookie, no touchie! :-)