Author Topic: The Rose of Tarmady  (Read 1313 times)


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Offline Shae Dravenmore

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The Rose of Tarmady
« on: August 16, 2008, 05:40:55 AM »
Ok, yeah, not technically fan-fiction, since the characters are my own...more of an "off canon" story?


The storm was wild from the moment it hit, pure nature’s fury unleashed on the ship.  The Rose listed dangerously in the massive waves, and ropes strained to hold their burdens in place as waves washed over the deck.  Shalinda stood in the small enclosure behind the helm wearing her oiled leathers, though they were pretty much worthless at this point.  Rain and waves had long since seeped under or through, and she was drenched through, just like everyone else who staggered around on the deck.  They were all roped in, oftentimes that being the only thing that kept them from being washed over the side.
“Nice bit o’ weather we’re havin’ ‘ere, eh Cap’n?”  Loren grinned at her from behind the wheel, arms straining to keep it from going wild in the frothy waves.  She grinned back and shook her head, flinging water from her dreads, not that it did much to dry them out any. 
“Oh, aye, best we’ve had in ages!  Might go out fer a swim later!”
Loren laughed, the sound almost swallowed by the raging storm.  “Careful ye don’t find waves bigger’n yerself!  Not that it’s hard ta do, yer still a slip of a girl!”  She gestured rudely at him, and he just laughed more.  She ventured out of the overhang to look over the deck, squinting to keep the water from her eyes.
“Watch th’ ropes!  Th’ ballistae are swayin’!  Git ‘em secure afore they fly all over the deck!”  Lue relayed the order, having taken over for Marek, and the engineers set to tightening the ropes.  Their Master at Arms was laid up in the infirmary from their most recent battle.  Shalinda envied the poor bastard.
Another wave washed over the deck, and as the ship righted itself and spilled the water through the rails, there was a distinct sound of tension overpowering its bounds, a snap as the ropes securing a large crate broke apart.  All eyes turned to the sound, and after a split second of hesitation, several men crawled through the watery deck towards it, racing to grab the frayed ropes before the ship heaved again and sent it skittering across deck.  Several hands lunged for it as the next wave approached, fingers just missing the severed ends as the ship listed again, and the crate moved beyond their reach.  It was easily as tall as Shalinda, about chest high on most the crew.  Time slowed as it slid across the deck, bearing down on where the engineers worked to secure one of the large ballistae.  Shouts of warning went up, and it seemed to Shalinda that the crew in its path took far too long to look up, to realize the danger that raced towards them.  When they did see it, it was almost upon them, but were trapped where they stood.  To jump out of the way would mean releasing their hold on the ballista, damning some other poor soul to be crushed under it.  Lue checked his ropes and stepped towards it, the massive man bracing himself for the impact.
She blinked.  That’s all the time it took for it to cross half the deck and slam into Lue, and he vanished from her vision.  The crate continued moving, veering off to the side away from the engineers.  But he wasn’t there.  It crashed through the railing and fell to the angry sea.  He wasn’t there…  Broken ropes flapped in the fierce wind, and the deck hands struggled to re-secure the ends, so that others would not fall off as well.
“…Lue…”  She walked slowly, numbly across the afterdeck, eyes wide as those on deck worked at the ropes or searched the waves. “…Lue?”  Her voice raised a little, and she reached the stairs, holding shakily to the railing.  Her eyes searched the deck frantically for him, but found only the broken ropes and shattered railing.  She descended the steps slowly, but each a little faster than the last, her body slowly coming out of the sudden shock.  “Lue!”  She reached the main deck and leaned over the rail by the hole, searching the wild sea for him.  She caught glimpses of the crate as it was tossed about in the waves, swallowed and spat back, but no sign of the man.  “LUE!!” 
Loren shouted something and gestured to her, too busy fighting the helm to go to her himself.  Her eyes were wild and her breathing ragged as she searched the sea.  She was dangerously close to the hole, and the ropes had not yet been completely secured.  The Rose keeled again, and she might have been lost as well were it not for the arms that wrapped securely about her waist as another wave crashed over them.  She held to the arms as the water rushed by, then resumed her search as it ebbed from the deck.  She reached for the rail again, ignorant of the voices yelling around her.  Only when the arms around her pulled her from the rail did she struggle.
“No!  Lue!  LUE!  We gotta find him!  Let go, damnit! LUE!”  She struggled savagely as more hands grasped at her, her single focus the hole in the deck and the ocean beyond it.  She bit and cursed at those who pulled her from the deck, scratching and kicking and throwing elbows in a desperate attempt to free herself.  “He’s out there!  Lemme go!  LUE!”  The crew men finally reached the hatch and carried her through, dousing the corridor liberally as the hatch opened and closed.  She nearly got away several times in the smaller confines, but ultimately they reached her cabin and tossed her bodily in, slamming the door and giving orders from Loren to the door guard to keep her inside.  She threw herself against the door repeatedly, yelling and cursing at them, damning them to rot at the bottom of the ocean, and begged them to let her out to find Lue.  Her anger turned to sorrow and she wept, having slumped to her knees against the door.  The men looked at each other sadly, then returned to the deck, leaving the guard with apologetic looks.  He would have gladly faced the rage of the storm than to sit and listen to the sorrow of his captain.


The Rose of Tarmady was a soggy mess once the storm had blown itself out.  Men and women crawled through the rigging fixing snapped ropes and patching holes in the sails, and a small crew worked on fixing the shattered railing.  It was a somber lot that worked that day, and Loren oversaw them with an emotionless face.  Once the sea allowed it they’d sent out the long boats to search the area for any sign of Lue, but each returned empty handed.  Only one boat had even found bits of wood, though they couldn’t tell it if was from the crate or the rail.  Luestoff was the only casualty of the storm.

Once all the repairs on the ship were underway, Loren handed the deck to Ferdan and went below.  He excused the door guard from Shalinda’s quarters and knocked gently.  When there was no response, he knocked a little harder, then let himself in. 
He looked around slowly, fearing for a moment that she may have done something to herself.  He let out a soft relieved sigh when he found her huddled in the corner.  Her knees were drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them, her face hidden in the hole her limbs created.  She still sat in her wet clothes in a small puddle of water.  “Cap’n…”
She hardly moved.  The only sign that she wasn’t sleeping, or dead, was the slight tightening of her hands on her upper arms when Loren addressed her.  He closed the door quietly and stepped to her, pausing a few feet away.  When it appeared that she wasn’t going to acknowledge him, he cleared his throat and started to speak.
“Repairs are going smoothly, cap’n.  Riggin’ held up well, n’ the only loss was the crate we kep’ th’ storm ropes in.  Rail aughta be patched by th’ end of th’ day…”  His voice trailed off, and for a moment he looked anywhere but at her.  “We sent out th’ long boats once the sea calmed enough…  We ain’t found Lue…”
The silence grew between them, neither moving or making a sound.  Finally Shalinda sighed heavily, her hands tightening around her arms.  “Thank you…please keep the deck for now…”  She didn’t lift her head, and in the darkness of her hollow hot tears began to flow once more.  Loren nodded, and left her quietly.


The repairs were finished in good time, and the ship went on the way it always did.  When Arma came topside for her shift at the helm, she gave Loren a worried, questioning look.  He just shook his head lightly and stepped aside.  She sighed, and nodded.  Shalinda was devastated…  They all knew it.  Even those who didn’t know the depth of their relationship were keenly aware of the loss their captain felt.  Arma cast a sad, longing gaze at the sea, then turned to her duties.

Shalinda remained in her cabin for several days.  She refused to eat for the first few, and only did eventually because the pain in her stomach managed to surpass that of her heart.  When she finally did emerge, it was almost as though she were a ghost.  Her eyes were swollen and red from the tears that seemed to endlessly come, and there were deep bags under her eyes from lack of sleep.  She tried…lord how she tried to sleep, to leave the pain of losing Lue in the world of the awake, but it followed her even through the night, saturating her dreams, causing her to wake in a new fit of tears when she’d cried herself to sleep in the first place.  Over and over she relived the storm, watched as Lue was swept from her sight.  Many times she watched him drown, struggling against the waves and calling to her as invisible hands held her back from going to him.  Even the tears shed with Jedda were of no help; it just hurt too much.
She immersed herself into the duties of being Captain.  Every waking moment was devoted to one thing or another in an attempt to keep her mind occupied.  If she didn’t she knew she’d go mad with sorrow.  She performed as well as she always did, but the joy wasn’t there.  It was like the fire in her eyes had been doused by the storm, and all that was left was a smoky cloud that hovered over the teal.  She didn’t even respond to the gentle barbs from Loren or Arma.  The entire crew felt the change, and worried for her.  This was not their captain, not the Shalinda they knew.  The goofy teenager that always had a ready wink and grin had been replaced by an empty shell that wore her face.

In time they came in sight of shore again.  The Waldenberg markets would make fine trading for their gems, and Shalinda made a good deal for supplies and armaments, as well as picking up a load of the fine spider’s silk.  It was a trade that even Cable would have been proud of.  Loren remarked as much to her as they oversaw the loading of the new goods, but she hardly made much of a reply.  It had been a couple weeks since the storm, and still Shalinda hadn’t bounced back much.  Even after they left Waldenberg towards Port Coral she’d hardly emerged from the shell she now wrapped herself in.  It was a cold, dreary, drizzly day at Port Coral when they were towed in to the docks.  It matched Shalinda’s mood perfectly.
The crew went about their usual business, shore leave by watches, resupply as it was needed.  Shalinda didn’t leave the ship, but rather retreated into her cabin once everything was set in motion.  It was understandable, after all.  Not only was Cable’s family here, but her mother as well.  And much of the crew had witnessed the far from loving relationship between the two of them.  She hadn’t come to the galley at all to eat, so Jedda brought a plate to her around sundown.  She was quite surprised to see Shalinda staring at an open knapsack on her bed, her own trunk opened and several of the contents laid on the floor beside it.
“Cap’n?”  Jedda looked with confused eyes between the bag and the girl that stood with her back to her.  She tried to ease her mind by assuring herself that it was simply an offering that she was going to take to Cable’s mother and daughters.  Bless her, but the poor girl always felt guilty for their prior captain’s death, when he was so close to home.  Jedda stepped in further and set the plate on the small writing desk.  “Brought ye supper, cap’n…”
“Thank you, Jedda…”  She still didn’t turn to face the cook, so the woman turned to leave with a soft sigh.  The girl was getting thin again, almost as bad as she’d been when she first joined the crew.
“One more thing, before you go…”  Jedda stopped and turned back.
“Yes cap’n?”
“If ‘e’s sober, can ye send Loren in?  If ‘e ain’t, send ‘im in in th’ mornin’.”
“Aye, cap’n…”  Once more Jedda turned for the door, and left as quietly as she came.

It was late evening when Loren approached her door.  He’d enjoyed the first leave shift, perhaps a bit too much.  He had been sleeping soundly in his cot when Jedda came bustling in and dragged him off the cot. 
“Hurry yer arse up, ye giant oaf of a man.  Cap’n wants ta see ye sober, an’ I aim ta present ye such.”  The cook dragged him down to the galley and filled him up with something awful, but when he awoke from her concoction he was mostly sober, if a bit hung over and nursing a powerful headache.
“Blasted woman, what are ye on about?!”  Loren cowered and held his head tighter with a groan as the volume of his own voice caused the pounding to increase.
“I told ye once a’fore, cap’n wants ta see ye sober, n’ I’d rather send ye off now than in th’ mornin’.”  Loren grumbled at her and turned away as she held another cup to him.  “Button it, ya big sissy, ‘tis jus’ coffee.”
Loren took it and sniffed it carefully before taking an experimental sip, watching the cook carefully.  “If she said sober, then she’s willin’ ta wait until mornin’.”
“Not by the way she’s eyin’ that bag o’ hers.”
That caused Loren to stop his scowling.  “Explain yerself, woman.”
Jedda sighed, partly in annoyance, partly in worry, and sank to sit across from him.  “She’s packin’ up a sack, or was when I brought her some sup’ a few hours back.  Whate’er she’s plannin’, she ain’t left yet, so ye’ve got time to find out what’s runnin’ through that fool head o’ hers.”
The news sobered Loren up quick, and he tossed back the rest of the coffee before standing and hurrying towards Shalinda’s cabin.  There was soft candlelight coming from beneath the door, so she was still awake.  He knocked a couple times, grimacing a bit as the sound knocked against his skull.  “Cap’n?  Ye wanted ta see me?”
There was a long pause, during which Loren began to get nervous.  “Aye…come in, Loren.”  He sighed softly, then waved off the door guard with an annoyed scowl.  The man fled quickly as Loren opened the door.  He was met with much the same sight that Jedda found, except now Shalinda sat on the bed next to the knapsack staring at a piece of parchment.  The plate of food sat on the table untouched.  He waited for her to speak, but no words came.  It was hard to guess what she was thinking; her dreads hung low over her emotionless face.  Finally, she stood and crossed to the table and set the parchment face down on the wooden surface.  She picked up the mug but, after a glance at the empty bottom, set it down again.  So the meal wasn’t completely wasted…
“She’s yers, Loren.”
“The Rose.  She’s yers.  I’ll not even ask fer payment.  Couldn’t take it with me, anyway.”  She turned from the table and crossed back to the bed, laying her hands on the bag a moment before tying it shut.
Loren frowned and looked at her hard, trying to figure her out, but her back was turned to him.  “I don’t want ‘er.”
Shalinda sighed and tugged hard on the last tie.  “Then sell ‘er, burn ‘er, do what ye like, because I can’t…”  Her voice caught, the first show of emotion she’d had since falling behind her cloudy walls.  She took a deep breath to steady herself, and continued.  “…I just can’t, Loren…”
“No.  No more.  Not anymore…”  She sighed, and sunk back to the bed, looking at the floor.  “I can’t do it anymore Loren…”
Her voice was soft; defeated.  “Yer just worn out…mayhaps a long break somewhere warm-“  His words fizzled out when she lifted her face to him.  Her eyes were pained, but clear.  More clear than they’d been in a long time.
“No.  I lost th’ heart ta do it with Lue…”  The name brought back the old pain, and her eyes closed as she fought the tears that threatened.  She stood once more and picked up the bag.  “I’m goin’ inta town, and ye’ll not follow me, and ye’ll not send anyone after me.  If ye do, I’ll send ‘em back with missin’ bits.  Yer the Rose’s cap’n now Loren.  It’s all in the letter.”  With that she hoisted the bag over her shoulder and walked out calmly.  The watch on deck just nodded at her respectfully, even happily that she was showing some sign of life, unaware that their captain was leaving.

Loren respected her wishes.  He didn’t even tell the crew about it until the next morning, when they were preparing to set sail.  He’d read over the letter many times, trying to understand why, but all that came to him was her broken-hearted admission.  I can’t…I just can’t…
He called the entire crew to the deck and pulled out the letter, looking at it faintly before reading it to them.  It spelled out her reasons for leaving, her feelings that she could no longer be the captain they needed.  The ship was given to Loren.  And under no circumstances were they to come seek her out.  The crew willingly accepted him as captain; he was a seasoned sailor and knew the ropes.  He’d worked closely with Chorgan and again with Shalinda; the crew didn’t know half of what she depended on him for.  Even so, they were clearly saddened to hear that the spunky girl was gone.  With the business of captainship taken care of, they left port a somber ship.  Several sets of eyes watched the port, hoping to see a glimpse of dirty blonde dreads, but no such hair was found among the bustling of the docks.

Teal eyes watched the ship go from the shadow of a building.  Watched her Rose slide away beautifully into the morning tide.  She expected that to be the last sight of her ship, and she was glad that is was a good one.  Shalinda watched the ship until it was a dark blob on the horizon, and then turned into town to find a room.  The next ship south wasn’t expected to even arrive in port for another week.  She could have taken the Rose south; she knew they sailed for Aldoreane, but if she let them drop her off where she intended to go, that would defeat the whole purpose of leaving.  They’d know where she was, know how to find her.  She knew she would miss the Rose and her crew, but it was too much of a reminder of Lue.
Damn him.  Damn him for dying, for leaving her alone, for making her realize just how much he meant to her…  She turned into the waning shadows as the sun rose, feeling like the light had left her completely.

About a month later, a small crew rowed a longboat towards a fishing village in the south, her mother ship waiting some few hundred feet out.  Shalinda stepped onto the small dock and waved them off with a small grateful smile.  The men sitting about on the shore mending a net gave her the usual distrusting look they gave every stranger that came to their dock, but they recognized the tattoo around her neck, and so went back to their duties.  She approached the first hut of the small village, eyes lowering as the man who lived within emerged.  His arms crossed in his usual manner, eyeing the girl that stopped by from time to time.
“Brat.”  He watched her, somewhat confused why she was here alone.  His eyes looked up to the ship as she remained silent, and understanding dawned on him as he watched the merchant pull away.  His features softened, and his arms uncrossed.  One draped around her shoulders and pulled her to him.  “C’mon…”  He gave the girl a brief hug, then led her into his hut.
The Rose of Tarmady continued on, just as she always did after losing a captain.  Except this time there was no finality, no funeral, no great battle that was worthy of taking a captain’s life.  She was just gone.  The crew went on with life, however.  There was nothing else to do but to go on with life.  Loren made a fine captain, even if he did grumble and grump about giving up his helm.  It was almost the same as Shalinda’s wistful looks at the map board had been after Dargas came on as the new navigator.
The Rose traveled along her usual path once they left Port Coral.  Waldenburg had been a special trip to unload the gems they’d collected.  Down south to Aldoreane and around the tip of the continent to the far shores to seek the spoils there.  The Sea Tigers were still making trouble of themselves, and so they made several returns to Aldoreane, either to resupply, or to turn in the latest bounty wanted by the Palatine.  Then back east, back up the coast to Crab Island where Shalinda had first joined the Rose, and then on to Fortunel, and Port Coral once again.  Loren and Dargas stopped in to see Cable’s girls, all three of them.  They were still living quite comfortably from the cache they received after Cable’s death, and the little girls were beginning to sprout like weeds.  They were five now, going on six, and plenty of trouble between the two of them.  Cute as the little golden haired monsters were, Loren was reminded of a dirty blonde head that he would have liked to have seen.  He asked around if anyone in port had seen a young woman of Shalinda’s description, but always received a head shake and a ‘sorry mate.’  So, she had likely moved on from Port Coral.  Which was good.  He’d hate to think that she ended up back with her mum.
From Port Coral they crossed the sea to Waldenburg, stopping once more in Poplar Cove.  They’d tried to hire some hands, but there were hardly any of good mettle.  The Harbor Master suggested another port to the south a couple days; there’d been word of more sailors in the area there looking for ships.  Normally Loren would have just sailed for Aldoreane and looked around there, but they were low on numbers, lower than he liked to be.  So, the Rose went south.
Indeed there were more quality men to be found here, and Loren was just wrapping up the additions to the roster when the cabin boy came up to the afterdeck.
“Sir, there’s another feller wantin’ ta join up.”
“Tell ‘im we’re done hirin.’”  The Boy looked down the steps to where he’d left the man, his features looking like he’d rather face a beating than tell whoever was waiting ‘no.’  Loren sighed annoyedly and sent the cabin boy away, and stood from the desk.  “And ‘oo th’ bloody ‘ell ain’t takin’ no fer an answer?”  His features were twisted into an angry scowl, arms on his sides.  The look melted away into one of shock as the large man rounded the corner and came into view. 
“I ain’t takin’ no ‘til I’ve spoke with me cap’n.”  Luestoff, that lucky bastard, stood on the main deck, arms crossed and a grin on his face.  Loren looked like he might faint for seeing a ghost.
“Lue! Bloody hells, it’s really you!”  He came down the steps to him and clasped his arms in his hands, eyes wide, afraid he was imagining things.  He then regained his scowl, and glared heatedly at the once dead man.  “And jus’ where the bloody hell have ye been, huh?  That’s plenty o’ time an’ effort ye’ve wasted of ours!”
Lue just laughed his warm deep laugh, and drew Loren in for a hug for joy of seeing him again.  There were plenty of amazed faces on the deck; half surprised at seeing this stranger hug the captain so openly, and the other half wore shocked smiles of relief at seeing the large man to be alive.
“I figgered I be done workin’ shore fer a bit, so I come back ta tell me cap’n I’m ready ta sail, if’n she’ll take me back.  Where is she?”
Loren sighed and dropped his arms from Lue’s.  He motioned him to follow up to the afterdeck.  “I’m afraid I’m the only cap’n ye’ll find here…”
Lue went white.  “No…she ain’t…she didn’t…”
“No, yer right, she ain’t,” Loren consoled him.  “She ain’t fell, but she is gone.  Bugger all Lue, losin’ ye was the worst thing ta happen ta her…”  He sat back at the table, looking absently at the roster before adding Lue’s name back in.
“Where is she then?  What happened?”
“She quit.  Couldnae go on with it.  Broke ‘er bloody heart ta see ye go…  Last we saw of ‘er, she was walkin’ off ship at Port Coral.”
“Port Coral?  She ain’t gone back to ‘er mum, has she?”  Lue wore a worried expression at the news.
“Nay, I don’t rightly think so.  She hated that woman.  Likely she hopped a ship somewhere else.”
Lue thought for a minute.  “If she gone anywhere, she gone south.  To Jastafan.”
“Who.  We stopped there a’fore taking down the Northern Lights.  ‘E’s family, though buggered if we know how.  Their tattoo’s a marker,” he gestured to his neck, meaning the one Shalinda and Jastafan had in common.  “He’ll take care of ‘er if’n she got there.”
“Bloody ‘ell, we passed that squat several times since droppin’ ‘er.  Alright, back to Aldoreane.  And if the little snot complains, it’s on the way.”  Loren grinned, relieved that someone knew where she might be.  It never sat well with him just letting her go like that.  It was like just sitting and watching a daughter walk away, and never knowing where she got to.
As they were coming down the steps to get Lue settled back in, Arma and Jedda were returning from the market.  There were two sets of wide eyes and gasps, and sounds of disbelief from both women.  Lue smiled a bit bashfully, and stood by as they rushed at him to hug him senseless, then beat a couple bruises into his arms.
“And just what the bloody hell is all this, eh?” Jedda harped at him.  “Gone fer more n’ a year, and then back ye come dancing aboard like nuthin’s diff’rent!”  She punched him again, but there were tears of joy in her eyes.  Lue swept her into a strong hug and held her close for a few minutes before easing her back and wiping away her tears.
“There now, mum, no more tears fer me, eh?”  He smiled warmly at her, and she wiped away the last of the dampness from her eyes with a smile of relief at him.  He turned to Arma, expecting a similar show of emotion, but got instead a swift punch to the face and a split lip.
“Ye damned dirty scum suckin’ bastard!  What th’ hells d’ye mean comin’ back after all this time?”  Her eyes were angry, fists curled and poised to strike him again.  But below her anger was a deep sadness.  “Where th’ blazes where ye when ‘er ‘eart was breakin’, eh?  Where th’ hell was yer grin then?”  She swung blindly at him, and didn’t struggle when he caught her fist and drew her close into a crushing hug.
“Aye…I know…Don’t think I dinnae try me damnedest ta find th’ Rose…”  They shared quiet tears, those around them turning away to give them at least a semblance of privacy.  Arma wept for Shalinda, the girl who’d been like a younger sister to her, and how the only thing that could have saved her had shown up a year too late.  Lue just wept for guilt, for being the cause of her leaving the ship.  “I ain’t never meant ta hurt ‘er, and I aim ta make it right again…”
“Well if yer gonna make it right, then stop blubberin’ all over me clerk and git yer gear stowed,” Loren interjected gruffly to battle off his own threat of tears.  Arma turned to him with a confused look, then looked at Lue before looking back at Loren.  “Make ready t’ sail, hop to!  We’re heading out as soon as th’ tide finishes comin’ in!”  The crew scrambled, and Loren approached the two, drawing his lover out of Lue’s arms and into his own for a quick hug.  “’E knows where we might find ‘er,” he murmured into her ear.  He smiled and nodded at her shocked look, which turned into joy, and another smack for Lue, just because.

The Rose of Tarmady was the first ship out of port once the tide was in, and she made swift time out to the deeper sea and the southward currents.  Every scrap of sail was unfurled, and the wind filled them out completely, sending the ship sailing quickly through the waves.  Good fortune was on their side; not a cloud threatened rain or worse, and the sea was clear of other ships that may confront them – or distract them.  In time, the shores of the western realm came into the lookout’s view, and they sailed ever onward.  A quick stop at Aldoreane, literally less than a full tide cycle, and they were off again. 
It was nearing evening when the Rose finally reached the small fishing village.  A single long boat left her deck, bearing Arma, Loren, Lue, and a few others to propel the craft.  As always, they were met with untrusting eyes, but the fishermen said not a word to the small crew.  Which was fine, because they had nothing to say to them, either.  Loren, Lue and Arma walked quietly towards the leader’s hut, and were met shortly outside his door. 
“Kin I help ye?”  Jastafan looked the three over slowly.  He recognized the ship; there would be no easily mistaking a vessel of her lines.
“We’re lookin’ fer our cap’n.”  Loren’s tone was neutral, his own gaze holding steadily to Jastafan’s eyes.
“No one by that title ‘ere ‘bouts.  I’m th’ one in charge ‘ere.”
Loren sighed, and his gaze hardened slightly.  “Where’s Shalinda?”
Jastafan’s gaze matched his, and he crossed his arms slowly, clearly not intending to say much else.  It likely would have ended in a stalemate, both men glaring at the other, but for Lue.  He stepped forward a little, laying a hand on Loren’s shoulder to calm him, his eyes pleading with the island man.  “Jas, please…d’ye know where Lindy is?”   Jastafan turned his glare to him, but it melted away at the desperate look in the large man’s eyes.  He knew to the depths of which Lue carried his oath.  Hell, even when the girl had still been a child he’d hovered around her protectively.  He and her father had laughed about the two’s antics years before, how seriously the young Luestoff took to caring for her, and how completely ignorant of his protection little Lindy had been.  Jastafan sighed, and canted his head towards the treeline beyond the little village.  “Ye might try th’ bluffs…good view a th’ sea there…”
The three signed in relief, and after a short discussion it was decided that Loren and Arma would go look for her, and that Lue would wait in the village.  Seeing Lue right off might be too much of a shock for her.
Loren and Arma were at odds with themselves.  Part of them demanded that they hurry to the bluff to find their captain, while another part wanted as much time as they could get to prepare for seeing her again.  It had been over a year; they couldn’t help but wonder what the time away had done to her.  Although neither said it, they were both relieved that she was somewhere where she could see the ocean.  And though he hadn’t said it outright, Jastafan’s tone was enough to say that she went where she could see it a lot.  Which meant Shalinda missed the ocean.  There’d been a nervousness that Shalinda would have settled into land living in the time she’d been ashore, that she would have turned into a complacent village girl who, rather than plowed through the waves and tides of life, simply let them carry her along.
They almost didn’t recognize her when they found her.  At the very end of the trail at the top of a bluff, where the forest broke and the land sailed out over the sea like a bowsprit, stood a woman, facing the sea, completely oblivious to anyone or anything around her.  Shoulder length dirty blonde hair fluttered in the soft sea breeze.  At first they were afraid they’d simply found a stranger, but a particularly strong gust pushed the hair enough away from her neck to reveal the tattoo.  It was her.  Arma and Loren exchanged a look, both surprised at the change in their captain.  When she’d left, Shalinda had still been a girl.  But now she was a little taller, and her body had begun to fill out in a more womanly shape.  She still didn’t wear skirts, but the loosely flowing blouse and pants suited her shape well.  If it had been any other reunion, they may have been amused to see that she went barefoot now, just as she always liked to go before.
“She looks like a widow,” Arma murmured softly, and Loren nodded in agreement.  Just like a widow who watched the sea endlessly for a lover’s return.  A reunion that would never happen, but waited for nonetheless.
“Shalinda?”  Arma called her name softly.
She didn’t respond, and hardly moved.  She just stared at the sea, lost in her own thoughts and memories.  Arma exchanged a look with Loren, and he cleared his throat quietly.
Her head lowered some, and she sighed heavily, as if under a great burden.  When she did speak, her voice was tired, and empty of life.  “Don’ answer ta that…ye all know that…”  It had been so long that she didn’t even recognize their voices.  She was lost in her own mind, and to her they seemed to be people from the village once again pouring salt in her wounds.  She’d heard plenty from them about the captain that lost her ship.  Heard all the barbs and jeers about how her Rose was likely better off without her, that they were off having grand adventures without her, and no one missed her.  Heard plenty of times their whispers of how she wasn’t fit for the sea, and that even it didn’t miss her.
But they were wrong, she knew it.  Every day she heard the sea calling her, keening for her return.  Felt the waves caress her skin like a lover she never knew she had, and missed the gentle rocking of her arms as she was lulled to sleep in her waves.  It was part of why she went daily to the bluff.  Everyday, from when she was done helping Jastafan to when the sun went down, she made the short journey through the jungle to look over the water.  She saw ships passing now and again, and wished so much to be on their decks.  She had even likely seen the Rose pass on occasion, but never knew it was her.  She heard the sea calling no matter where she was, felt in her bones the keen loss of the water.  And it hurt, as much as losing Lue had hurt.
She’d gotten over that, as much as she could, anyway.  It still hurt to think about him, but she no longer wept at his memory, and she’d stopped dreaming about him for a while.  But by the lack of emotion in her voice, it could just be that she no longer had the energy to cry.  Arma opened her mouth to call to her again, but was stopped by Loren’s hand on her shoulder.
“Cap’n,” he spoke firmly, just as he had when reporting to her before.  “the tide is right an’ she’s ready ta sail.  Shall we take ‘er out ta lift ‘er skirts fer a good run?”  He held his breath for a moment, hoping that his words would reach her.
His words did, but not in the manner he may have hoped.  She heard them, but only heard the sting of caustic sarcasm that she’d heard in the other voices so many times.  It would at least relieve her two former friends and mentors that rather than take it, her fists curled tight in preparation for counter.  “Damnit all ta bloody ‘ells, ‘ow many bones do I gotta break a’fore ye’ll leave off?”  She turned slowly on them, her body curling into a stance that was ready for a fight.  However, the fire left her suddenly as she saw the two faces that were so familiar, and yet so foreign.
Loren couldn’t help but smile gently; she recognized them.  “Girly, th’ day ye break a bone o’ mine’s th’ day I quit th’ sea.”
“You…”  She looked conflicted, like she was staring at the images from a dream, now made real.
“Aye, me,” his smile widened, and he stepped towards her, Arma following a few steps behind.
Shalinda looked at them as if she were looking at a paradox; she took a single step backwards, an expression of her disbelief, but then held her ground.  “You…what are you doing here?”
“We come ta take ye home.  We caught a notion ye might be here, and came quick as we could.”
“Go away,” she shook her head, her face hardening, and turned from them again.  “I tol’ ye, I’m done wi’ it.”
“Shalinda,” Arma sighed.  “Please…at least come back to the village with us?  Folk’ll want ta at least see that yer doin’ ok…”
“Besides, there’s a certain feller what told us ye’d be here that’d like ta see ye again,” Loren added.
“Tell ‘im ‘e kin stick it up ‘is arse,” she growled, and turned away again, with every intention of leaving by a different trail, when Loren’s next words stopped her cold.
“It’s about Lue.”
The silence hung thick between them for several moments, no one moving.  Finally, Shalinda spoke, her voice low.  “’E’s dead.  An’ I’ll thank ye ta not be bringin’ ‘im up again.”  She started off again, but again was stopped by Loren’s words.
“He ain’t.  He’s the one what knew ta come lookin’ fer ye here.  An’ sure as we’re standin’ here, ‘e’s waitin’ fer ye down there.”  Arma had shot him a look when he first brought up the large man; they’d agreed to not mention him until they’d gotten her to come back to the village.  But, it seemed that mentioning him was the only way to get her there willingly.  So she held her tongue, and looked to her former captain.
For all the hesitant hope that Arma and Loren were experiencing, Shalinda felt like she’d just been kicked in the stomach.  The revelation left her blood cold and made her feel dizzy and nauseous.  For a moment she actually looked like she might throw up.  Alive…could he really be…?  No, it was too much to believe.  She’d seen him go over, seen the crate be smashed to pieces in the storm.  There was no way he could have survived.  The long boats would have found him.  It wasn’t true…
But…  He’d survived going over in a storm before…  Survived the blow that, as far as she knew, had claimed everyone but herself and Lue from her former ship.  Could he have…?  Slowly, she turned back to them, searching each of their faces for the truth, or for some sign that it was just a horrible lie.  Arma smiled gently and nodded, whereas Loren gave her his serious ‘why would I joke?’ expression.

Shalinda was running even before she realized her legs had begun to move.  Into the forest, through the dense tropical growth, leaping bushes and entire switchbacks in an attempt to get there faster than by just following the trail that twisted and turned all over the place.  Her legs and feet were scraped up by the time she reached the thinner portion of the jungle close to the village, and for all her speed in getting there, it was as if the life was drained out of her limbs as she came out of the darkened forest and into the light of the village she’d lived at for the last year.  And as she saw him there, speaking with Jastafan as if nothing were amiss, all the momentum left her body, and she found herself rooted to the spot, just staring at him.
Lue’s back was partially to her, so he might not have noticed her entrance had Jastafan not looked her way.  He looked around, following the other man’s gaze, and then turned to face her fully.  It was a shock to see her now, so different from the way he remembered her, but there was no doubt that it was his girl.  Shalinda, for her part, looked like she was looking at a ghost, and she began to tremble lightly as Lue approached her slowly.  Everything within her told her that he was dead, that it wasn’t possible for him to be before her now.  But he was there, slowly closing the distance between them to stand in front of her.
Lue expected her to come out swinging the way she usually did whenever he gave her a scare, but there was no such lashing out.  She just stood there, looking dumbly at him.  When her hands finally did rise, they shook visibly, and she just placed them on him, to convince herself that he was really there.  He could feel the way she trembled as her hands slowly slid up his arms from the wrist, across to his chest, and slowly down to his stomach, and he realized just how much he’d missed her touch in the year they’d been apart.  He lifted his hands to hold her, resting them on her hips – hips that had widened a little, he now noticed – and stepped a little closer.  “Lindy…”
Only now did Shalinda look up to his face, and he once more hated himself for the tears that he saw streaming down her cheeks.  He gently brushed them away with a roughened thumb, and allowed his hand to continue along the side of her face to run his fingers through her hair.  It was a strange sensation; as long as he’d known her, she’d worn dreadlocks.  It was the first time he’d ever been able to run his hands through her hair.  Her time on the island had also lightened her hair, so it was like running his hands through gold.  He forced himself to smile a bit, looking into those teal eyes, but was unable to come up with anything better to say than, “Hey you.”
Fresh tears spilled from her eyes, and she latched to him with a sob, pressing her face to his chest and holding him as tight as she could.  He wasted no time in tightening his arms around her and crushing her even closer, setting his cheek against her head and murmuring how sorry he was.

When Arma and Loren returned to the village, having taken their time in coming down the trial, Lue and Shalinda were still holding tight to each other, though the embrace had loosened some to a comfortable closeness while Shalinda still tried to get her head around the fact that Lue was back.  And she likely would have just stood there the whole day and night if a sharp wail and cry hadn’t gone up from inside Jastafan’s hut.  The older man looked inside, then ducked into the dark interior.  A moment later the crying eased, but didn’t cease entirely, and soon he emerged again, holding an infant loosely wrapped in a cloth, and looked at Shalinda.
The former captain had looked up as soon as the baby cried, and when they came to the door, she regretfully pulled back from Lue’s arms to go to them.  All who had come from the ship were focused on the baby.  Wispy tufts of hair bore Shalinda’s coloring, and those closest could see that the eyes had begun to turn to her teal.  So there was no mistaking that the child was hers, especially when the fussy cries turned more demanding when she came within sight of it.
“Seems she be wantin’ ‘er mum,” Jastafan said as he handed the infant over to Shalinda.  The young woman gave him a look as she turned to go back inside. 
“Cuz she knows ‘er mum hae supper.”   The look she gave was as much of an order to prepare the same for them as it could get without being vocalized.  Jastafan just sighed and turned off, presumably to see to food for them.
Lue was dumbstruck.  A child…  Shalinda had a child…  For a moment, he couldn’t think.  He could hardly breathe.  The thought of his girl having a child by someone else was almost too much.  But, then again, what right did he have to her anymore?  He’d been gone over a year, presumed by all to be dead.  It was natural for her to have moved on.  The faint markings around the baby’s neck hadn’t been lost on him, either.  The infant was too young to sport the entire tattoo, but the markings were clear enough that one day she would.  The same tattoo that Shalinda’s father had given her as a kid.  The same tattoo she shared with Jastafan…
“Well, what’re ye standin’ ‘bout out here for?” Loren groused at him, having come closer after Shalinda went inside.  “Yer cap’n’s in there,” he jerked his head at the hut.  Though the look on his face was clear.  Go to her.  The current captain said nothing more, and turned from the hut.  So long as he was captain, he might as well make some use of this visit and procure some more supplies.  After a moment, Arma turned and followed after him, leaving Lue by himself.
The interior of the hut was dark compared to the brightness of the outside, and it took a moment for Lue’s eyes to adjust once he’d gotten up the courage to come through the draped fabric door.  He heard her humming before he saw Shalinda again, a tune he remembered her father singing to her so long ago.  When his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw her sitting in the back next to a small basket.  The infant was held in her arms, suckling hungrily from under a light cloth Shalinda had draped over her chest.  She looked beautiful, just like a mother should with her baby.
Lue felt like he was going to suffocate in the darkness as he crossed to Shalinda, unable to come any closer than a few feet from them.  “What…what’s ‘er name?”
The soft smile she’d worn while watching the baby feed faltered, then returned, a small bit of sadness in her eyes, but there was also happiness.  “Luella.”  She sighed softly, and shifted the baby in her arms when she stopped suckling and started fussing again, until she was happily attached to her other breast.  “An’ she’s a pig, jus’ like ‘er da.”
“O…oh…”  It was a miserable response, but it was about the way Lue felt inside.  Another man’s baby, named after him…  Shalinda looked up at the tone in his voice, and furrowed her brows in confusion at the look on his face.
“Lue…?  She’s your’n, Lue…”  She looked at him oddly, as if it should have been obvious he was the father.  It was the third shock of the day for him, and he met her gaze with his own confused look.  She just smiled, and nodded, and somehow he found the ability to take another step closer.  “It must hae happened just afore the storm…”  Her voice faltered a little thinking about that night.  But here was here again.  He was back with her, so she shouldn’t be sad about it anymore, right?  “I dinnae find out until after I came here.”
Without realizing he’d kept moving, Lue found himself at their side, and he knelt down by her as Luella was lifted to Shalinda’s shoulder for burping.  His.  She was his…  She was so tiny, he was afraid to touch her, lest he hurt her.  And with that simple revelation, he saw them both in a new light.  Shalinda was still his girl, and the baby was no longer something that would keep her from him.  He hadn’t realized it, but a part of him had feared that, with a child by another, Shalinda wouldn’t leave the island.  But it wasn’t another man’s, it was his!  His child…  And suddenly he saw all his own features in the tiny body.  A darkness of skin that could only be a mixture of his own and Shalinda’s, a nose that was a baby version of his own, even ears that stuck out a little like his own.  She was his baby…  His daughter…
“How’s about holdin’ ‘er, Da?”  Shalinda smiled at him, and all the strength fled from Lue’s body.  Da…  Despite the sudden tremble in his hands, Shalinda got him to cradle his arms, and carefully transferred the now sleepy bundle to his nervous embrace.  Holding her only confirmed how tiny she was.  She yawned and stretched within her wrapping with a coo and looked with sleepy eyes up at him, and he couldn’t help but smile down at her.  Nor could he help the tears that sprang to his eyes.  He was a father…  “Ain’t she som’thin’?”  Shalinda sat back and watched them, smiling warmly, a bigger smile than she’d borne since arriving at the island.  Her man, safely back with her, and their baby. 
“Aye…”  It was the only thing Lue could think to say.  Luella finally fell to sleep, and Shalinda carefully transferred the baby from Lue’s hands back to her cradle.  They both held their breath as the infant shifted, fussed a little, and then sighed, settling back into sleep.  Once they were sure the baby was asleep, Lue reached out for Shalinda, his hand trembling as he reached her arm.  She turned to him, and didn’t resist at all the pull that brought her back into his tight embrace.  The tears began anew, from both of them, and they just held each other.
So long…  It had been so long…  Lue’s hands began to move over her body, trying to reacquaint himself with her, but found that almost everywhere her body had changed.  She wore the body of a woman now, a woman who had birthed a child, not the body of a girl that his hands remembered.  He pulled her close and kissed her fiercely, his own desperateness echoed in the way she returned his kiss.  His lips moved all across her face and down to her neck.  It brought him no end of joy to feel her body respond the way it always had when he kissed her neck, and his lips continued to roam, teasing her ear, down to her collar bones, back up the other side of her neck, and finally back to her lips.  And he needed her.  Already he could feel his body rising for her, and he pressed himself against her, his kiss conveying his need.
Shalinda was more than eager to have him, needing to feel him even more than he needed her.  A quick look shared between them confirmed their thoughts, and after a quick, but quiet shuffling of clothes and bodies, they’d loosed themselves of their clothes and descended onto Shalinda’s bed, Lue’s hands and lips moving everywhere.
Outside, Loren arranged for a medley of goods to be transported back to the ship in the morning.  Until then, there was celebrating to be done.  Though no one really made any effort to collect Shalinda or Lue just yet.  Loren and Jastafan shared a knowing look, a bit of a grin on Loren’s face; there was much ‘catching up’ to do between the two of them.
It was an effort to keep quiet as they assuaged their fears with the other’s body, lest they wake the baby, but she was his, and he was alive.  And by the time they laid still again, there was no doubt of either of these things.  They laid together, one entwined about the other, breathing heavily, their bodies very convinced of the other’s presence. Soft, loving kisses were exchanged as they worked on regaining their breath, each amazed that Luella had remained silent within her crib.  And as energetic as their reunion had been, it wasn’t long until they followed suit, and fell asleep in each others’ arms.

It wasn’t a horribly big surprise to see that Shalinda and Lue only emerged for a short time that night, just enough to get some food and for Shalinda to hug Loren and Arma with a quick discussion about what would happen come morning, before they vanished like smoke, back into the hut.  It amused the older couple to no end.  After supper, they cornered Jastafan to find out just what had happened to her since she’d shown up there.  It was going to be a bit of a long story, so he drew them aside where they could sit comfortably.
“Losin’ Lue broke th’ poor girl’s heart,” her kinsman sighed, and shook his head.  “Findin’ out she carried his child nearly killed ‘er.”  As his tale continued, they heard just how bad it had hit her.  She’d fallen into depression, had even tried to kill herself and the baby multiple times, unable to bear facing the child of the man she would never see again.  Until Jastafan had finally knocked some sense into her when she’d come very close to her goal.  That killing herself or the child inside her wouldn’t bring any joy to the man that had delighted in her for almost as long as they’d been together from children.  That if she loved him as much as she claimed, then she’d stop being so foolish with her life, and to live in a way that would do him proud.  In his retelling, though, Jastafan only barely mentioned the cursing match they’d gotten into, and that it had been a particularly vile oath from him that finally shocked her into listening.  “But, once she decided to keep the baby, she done better.  Not completely, but, short of getting him back, I dinnae think anything would put her back ta right.”  It was somewhat ironic then, that Lue had come back.  After more details and a few more tales of Shalinda’s stay, Loren and Arma finally returned to the ship, leaving Shalinda and Lue alone for the night.
In the morning, they returned, two long boats making for shore this time to load up all the goods Loren had procured.  Shalinda and Lue met them in the morning, Luella looking with wide-eyed interest at everything around her and reaching out for and cooing at the fingers that poked in gently to tickle her.
“She’s a darlin’, Shalinda,” Arma cooed back at the baby, almost giggling when the tiny bundle burst into a bright smile.  That smile turned to a frown and a fuss when Loren came over to meet the new baby though, and Shalinda chuckled at them both.
“She’s a smart ass, just like ‘er mum,” he grumbled, but couldn’t help the smile that broke through regardless.
“Ye don’ know how good it’ll be ta hae ye back, Shalinda,” Arma spoke again, smiling with relief at the young woman.  “We all missed ye.”  Her smile grew with a thought.  “An’ Jedda’ll hae no end at spoilin’ her,” she laughed gently.
Shalinda just smiled.  It was still surreal.  Her eyes moved to look across the beach, where Lue and a detail of the crew were loading the boats.  She was truly going back to the Rose.  “It’s been so long,” she mused.  “Cain’t help but feel I’ll be gettin’ in th’ way.”
Loren and Arma exchanged a quick grin.  “Oh, no worries, lass.  I’m sure we’ll find somethin’ ta keep ye busy at.”  True to their style of surprises, they had one hell of a surprise waiting for Shalinda back on the Rose of Tarmady.  Last night, Loren had addressed the crew, and announced that Shalinda would be returning to her post as captain.  Those that had served under her were a range from happy to ecstatic, and those that had come on since she left merely accepted it, since the others met it with enthusiasm.  Of course there had been many stories about the young female captain before Loren, though had she heard them she would have insisted that half of them were utter bollix. 
The time finally came to return to the ship.  Lue had taken his daughter to help Shalinda into the boat, but she stopped and looked back, and then went back up the beach to where Jastafan stood watching.
There was so much to say, so much to thank him for.  Not only for saving her, but her baby as well.  She opened her mouth, but no words were forthcoming.  He just stood there in his usual rough manner, then uncrossed his perpetually crossed arms and brought her into a gentle embrace.
“Thank you, Jastafan.  Fer everything.”  She hugged him close, unable to say anything more to express her deep gratitude.
“Thanks nothin’, little wharf rat,” he murmured back.  “Yer goin’ home now, back were ye b’long.  They’s yer family.  Always have been.”  He loosened his embrace, and then held her at arms length.  “Ye become a woman under me watch.  Now go back out there.  Yer done hurtin’, anyhow.”  He wiped a tear that had begun to fall down her cheek, and then cuffed her gently on the cheek.  “Go on, git.  Ye kin thank me by buyin’ up our stock whene’er ye come by,” he grinned gently.  She just smiled, and nodded, and then turned and hurried back to her man and baby.  Back to her friends.  Back to her family.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 01:37:44 AM by Lord Palatine »


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Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
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Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 19, 2018, 09:03:11 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 19, 2018, 08:16:30 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 19, 2018, 12:47:30 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 19, 2018, 12:32:27 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 19, 2018, 12:21:34 AM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 18, 2018, 11:44:55 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 18, 2018, 11:08:14 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 18, 2018, 09:07:24 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 17, 2018, 11:48:39 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 17, 2018, 11:38:05 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 17, 2018, 11:10:44 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 17, 2018, 11:06:29 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Lord Palatine
[May 17, 2018, 10:33:01 PM]

Re: The Tamber Saga by Milady Kim
[May 11, 2018, 09:32:31 PM]

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