Grey Falcon Chapter 3 Part 3
This is the third part of Dark Waters this being the third chapter of the Grey Falcon.
Nearing the third turn of the hourglass and Red was at the tiller. Tinker looked up, tipped his hat back and scratched his head. “Jarron! The flag,” he said, “she’s confused, flicking where she likes an’ leading us a merry dance.”
“Must be nearing the mouth of the estuary,” said Jarron. “Red, keep her as she is for the moment.”
Then Mie’s voice rose above the sound of the waves. “Breakers off to port!” she cried.
“Do you see them?” asked Jarron.
“No, but I hear them. They’re some way off,” she said.
“We’ve been slowing now for some time,” said Jarron. “She’s starting to wallow; I can feel her.”
“Yes, we may have come too far south and east,” said Ash. “Make a new heading, due west and as she comes about, make sail.”
“All hands! Prepare to come about!” called Jarron, as he and Ash rushed to help draw on the sheets. “Tail on! Hand over hand. Come on, let’s get this sail up!”
The sail rose briskly up the mast, battens clattering and fabric rippling noisily as it hunted urgently to gather the breeze. Then the smaller fore and aft sails rose. The prow responded heavily and the Grey Falcon sluggishly slewed round in the mouth of the estuary. A vague horizon could be discerned over the port side; the merest hint of a growing change spreading across the far eastern sky. The sails filled and strained, the timbers creaked, and they could feel the difference as the Grey Falcon began to gather away, driving against the waves to leave a fine pale wake trailing astern.
Now, with their fervour returning, they worked and toiled, skillfully employing the forces that propelled her, and in that moment it did not matter where they were going for the Grey Falcon was free, they were free, free from grasping hands and acquiring hearts. They were in control again and they felt the rewards of their labours, the exhilaration, the
freedom, as she responded to their touch.
Tinker puffed and let out a groan, which moved quickly into song, and he lifted his deep gruff voice as he hauled upon the sheets. Red’s voice joined him and Jarron’s, then Cookie’s, Mie’s and Ash’s. Their voices rose and fell heartily and lustily in waves to the rhythm of the sea: a song to rouse the dawn and speed its light into the sky. Nicci listened from below deck as the song’s chemistry worked upon his heart and he tasted a different world of people working and straining together. Here, there was purpose, vision and not just expending all to survive. And then, as if drawn by their voices, the first light grew over the rim of the sea and their spirits rose and set them against their troubled minds.
When dawn finally arrived, the folds beneath the receding clouds glowed red for a few moments, and the Grey Falcon sailed burnished in fire amid waves flecked with crimson crests and sweeping green-grey troughs.
Around the ship there was less said; a contemplative mood held the air as they went about their chores. There was relief, but uncertainty lingered for they knew that danger lurked behind and before them.
Ash and Jarron stood at the prow and looked upon their new horizon. “Well,” said Jarron. “It’s good to feel the breeze at my back once more and the deck moving beneath my feet.” Ash nodded, but remained silent. “We’ve land to our starboard and clear water all around us, a dubious cargo and extra passengers ahead.” Still Ash made no reply. “I’m unsure of this one they call Mouse; he was too tight with that fellow Scrubbs, and I don’t trust Scrubbs. That man’s difficult to read, sort of like the wind weaving across the land, changing his story to suit the moment.”
“I’ll put Tinker on to Mouse; he’ll get to the root of things. And when Scrubbs comes aboard, we’ll keep the two of them apart where possible. This game is far from over, I feel it … I feel it here,” said Ash pointing to his heart.
“Aye,” Jarron nodded.
“If that Obesar is still after the Grey Falcon … I don’t know, I can’t fathom it. Tell everyone to stay alert and let’s put a healthy distance between us and Kara Tau.”
The weather was changing. Bright blue peered through thinning clouds and columns of slanting sunlight increased and roamed the sea. The Grey Falcon was steadily running off the left side of their only remaining chart with one landmark left; a watchtower, half a league from the headland. Red estimated their speed, but that didn’t take into account the current that ran against them. It wasn’t until they reached the watchtower and were able to gauge their approximate speed to be around three and a half knots.
Nicci emerged on deck ahead of Cookie, his eyes blinking in the daylight and he stopped in surprise as he surveyed his new surroundings. The expanse of the deck and the rising masts dwarfed him. He gazed up to the battened fabric sails straining against their sheets and felt the fresh breeze press upon his face and ruffle his hair and clothes. The Grey Falcon was bigger and sturdier than he had imagined, and he felt small under its fluttering flag. He walked quickly to the side and looked out at the sea and then dropped down on a low step. He did not feel too well.
Moments later, Cookie stepped up on deck. A concerned look was on his face and he walked over to Tinker, shaking his head.
“You two’ve been a while,” said Tinker, “what’s up?”
“Poor lad. Gave him clothes, a touch on the large side, but they’ll do him for now,” said Cookie, and leant on the gunwale with his worried thoughts. “Why’re we taking on a street urchin?” he said and stared blankly at the gentle roll of the waves. “Mark me, this spells trouble, t … r … o … u …”
“I knows how to spell,” said Tinker and turning his head looked at the boy. “Has he eaten?”
“Eaten. Before the plate had touched the table he made a grab for the food and it went from hand to mouth as if he’d had word there was an impending famine on its way. Had to rap his knuckles – Not really, but told him there were regular meals, and that we eat together and others wouldn’t want to see a pig at the table. So I showed him – but I’m no teacher, no sudden father. He’s a survivor that one, Tinker, a taker, and people like that don’t give without there being some return. That’s not our way, not how we live.”
“We’ll see,” said Tinker, patted Cookie on the shoulder, and then walked over to Ash. Together they talked on that same subject for a while.
Nicci sat on the lower step with his head between his legs and picked at the holes in his shoes. His insides were awash and his thoughts adrift upon the waves. Ash and Tinker walked the deck and stopped before him and spoke as if they had not seen him there.
“What’re you going to do with the little one?” asked Tinker.
“That depends,” said Ash with a deep sigh. “We could let him off at the next port, but then he’d be back in the same situation he’s just escaped from. Except it would be worse, as his surroundings and the people will be foreign to him.”
“Why does you talk of me as though I’m not ’ere like everyone else?” said Nicci.
“Or, he could stay with the ship and earn his keep,” said Tinker. “Take his chances with us, although we don’t know what we’ve let ourselves in for when it comes to where we’re going – could be a rough ride.”
“How do you feel about that?” said Ash looking down at Nicci.
“I feel –” and leapt up and leant over the side of the ship.
“Anything?” Tinker asked him with a grin.
“Nothin’,” Nicci gasped, and sat down again.
“Well? Do you have a mind to say?” asked Ash. “You have intruded into our lives and the feeling is that I should give you the choice, to stay or go. If you stay, then we’ll have an agreement between us to say that we’re tied to you and you to us. We’ll have it no other way. I must know who I’m responsible for and who’s responsible to me. Do you understand?”
“Hmm, well think on it hard and tell me when you’ve decided,” said Ash, and slowly walked away.
Tinker remained standing over him and pressed his straw hat hard to his head. “You’ve dried out I see, and you’ve some new clothes.”
“Clothes don’t fit. Too big, but I’m grateful, and my skin’s gone wrinkly,” he said sulkily.
“That happens when you hang around in water too long,” he said, and squatted down before him. “The clothes we can fix. Your shoes are still wet.”
“Didn’t ’ave nothin’ to fit. Had to put ownens back on.”
“Take them off. You won’t need them on deck; you won’t take a splinter. Give them here, let me see.” Tinker cast his eye over them and sighed. “You know who I am?”
“You’re Tinker, I heard them say.”
“It’s Master Tinker and Master Jarron or Mistress Mie,” he said hotly and then cooled. “Maybe not much of a name to you, little one, but it’s all there is to me.”
“My name’s Nicci, not little one or Mouse. Why does no one call my name proper?”
“Your name was given by your family.”
“Thought so and I’m sorry for that, but that’s by the by. Here, a name’s an earned thing, and respect for it has to be worked for. On this ship, we pull our weight, earn our names. If you’re going to be part of this crew, do as you’re asked and do it to your best. Ask when you need help; don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t sit around just ’cos your tasks are done. Watch and learn, ask to help, be of help, and be part of this ship, this family,” said Tinker, and softened his tone. “You’re lucky, little one; you’ve a chance to put aside many things of your old life and start afresh with people that don’t know you.”
“Wot do you know of me?” said Nicci.
“What I think and what I know of you may be worlds apart. What I think is that you were a hand-to-mouth; a hand in someone’s purse and too many things I prefer not to know or understand. But to do them you must’ve acquired a sharp eye; a quickness of mind to turn an idea upon its head the instant it appeared and put it to an advantage. Now you must put it to a different use and show us who you really are.”
“Would it help me if I said I was the unwanted son of a rich merchant, who wished to get rid of a discomfort and left me as a babe on the doorstep of a poor innkeeper?”
“Is that the truth?”
“Then it doesn’t help.”
“I didn’t think so. And who would you say you are, Tink … Master Tinker?”
“I, little one, I ensure the Grey Falcon has money and supplies to secure her future. I search for deals and bargains and …” He paused for a moment to consider his words. “Perhaps, before you hear it from anyone else, I should tell you now a little about me. A long time ago I was a slap-dash, shoddy tinker, a dabbler, a mender, but not any more. I’ve grown for the better, I would hope. Although the old name travels with me, for there’s not a name for how much I’ve changed, but now, I’m proud to be called Tinker. And there you have it. We speak our minds here; we don’t let feelings fester. You have something to say, get it out in the open. In fact, tell Cookie on the quiet. By the time he’s droned on and unburdened himself, your problems will seem very insignificant. But don’t ask his advice.”
“Does Cook … Master Cookie always complain?” asked Nicci.
“There isn’t day that passes when he’s not affected by some slight or malady that might’ve touched him in some way. And if others have it, no doubt he’s had it worse at some time previous, but that’s by the by. Just bear in mind, on board the Grey Falcon, we don’t rely on words, but actions. It takes more than fine words to get a job done. Talking a good job gets nothing done; only exercises the jaw. When I know you better I’ll feel the sorrier for your loss of family. Now,” Tinker paused, “do you have a head for heights, little one?”
“And a good pair of eyes?”
“There’s no of course.” Tinker’s eyes strayed to the top of the mast. “Can you climb up there?”
“Not so easy. You go careful! There’s a ledge and tether at the top; tie yourself to it. The ship sways more violently up top. You must say if it’s too much for you – nobody will think the worst of you, do you understand?”
Nicci nodded. “Wot am I looking for?”
“Smoke from a beach where we’re to pick up a cargo. You’ll know it when it appears, and more like as not you’ll see it before us. Be our eyes and shout if you see it.” He watched as Nicci climbed, wooden peg to wooden peg, until he was safely installed aloft. Tinker turned back to his work, and every now and then his eyes would glance upward as Nicci settled to his task and diligently scanned the land lazily drifting past.
Last edited by icedwaters; 08-07-2013 at 07:08 AM..