All those things I’ve said before still hold true! This is still the material that needs rewrites. As most Chapter 2’s are wont to do, it follows immediately after the end of Chapter 1. I’d suggest reading all of Chapter 1 first.
The next several days passed in an unreal haze. Miska threw herself into her work, delivering the last finished sails they’d been able to rescue from the fire before returning to the docks, loading and unloading cargoes with her father. The port of Marseille was busy, even in the blustery chill of late winter. Ships came and went as they always had, none of Miska’s growing sense of anger and loss seeming to affect them at all. Spending so much time around the ships she loved, knowing that her plans to sail the seas were being swallowed by the ruin of her family’s fortunes, was torture.
“You do know we’ll do anything we can to help you, right?” Miska’s friends Yos and Clar looked at her seriously over their lunches. They sat on broken boxes by the end of the pier, waves sloshing below them and gulls calling overhead.
Miska shook her head, mouth full. They’d finished moving all the casks of olive oil out of the hold of Mercurial, a fat old merchanter that Miska swore shouldn’t have survived its last voyage. This afternoon they’d be ladening it with dried fish, and the merchanter would head west again for the coastal cities of the Toledan League. Someone would take the fish as rations for a voyage to the New Sea, no doubt, or trade them inland where Miska had heard they counted as a delicacy. She, however, would be stuck right where she was, on the docks of Marseille.
<Yos is dumb, but he speaks the truth.> Clar signed, chewing the jerky he’d just stuffed into his mouth. Yos punched his shoulder absent-mindedly.
Miska swallowed. “Thanks, Yos. Clar.” She looked out at the ships tied up to the wharf or bobbing slowly in the harbor. “But I think I need more help than you can give. We need too much money.”
Yos shrugged. “Every bit helps, does it not?” He followed Miska’s gaze out to the ships in the harbor. “Which one is that, there?” He pointed with his chin at the sleek lines of a two masted ship that Miska had been eyeing enviously for some time.
Miska cleared her throat with the weak beer she’d taken from the hall of the Association of Stevedores when taking her assignment that morning. “That’s Trident, a fast trader from far north of London.”
Clar snorted. <You sound more lustful about that ship than you ever have about a Marseillaise.> He gave an easy smile, taking the edge off.
“Oh, yes, have you met Miska?” Yos turned to look at Clar. “She’s never met a ship she doesn’t want to—“
Miska cut him off with a light blow to the belly. Yos laughed, coughing. Clar made his quiet huffing laugh.
<North of London, eh?> Clar continued, <So it’s a Northman ship. Orcish crew?>
Miska shook her head, back to staring at Trident. “Probably mixed. Only a few of those freed clans are pure orc. And they take on any crew that can pass their challenges.”
Yos was looking out at the ship now too, still smiling. “Some stevedore you are, Miska. You pay more attention to the ships than you do to their cargo!” Miska frowned, but Yos kept going. “Why haven’t you tried taking their tests? You’ve been training for long enough, haven’t you?”
<Are you kidding, Yos? Her mother would murder her if she joined a Northman ship.>
Miska sighed. It was true. Her best hope was to convince her mother that she was safe aboard an honest merchanter. Not on some ship that might trade one day and raise the black flag the next. “It’s hard enough telling her that I want to be a sailor, Yos.”
“Yeah,” he muttered. “So hard you haven’t.”
Miska turned to him, feeling the anger rising in her chest again.
“Whoah there, no need to fight me!” Yos raised his hands, placating. “I just…” he shook his head. “Maybe it would be better if you simply told her what you want to do with your life, instead of letting her think you want to work in the loft?”
“It’s not that easy!” Miska flinched at the sound of her own voice. Clar looked at her, wide-eyed, and several of the other people nearby turned to stare. “It’s not that easy, Yos,” she spoke more quietly. “You remember how she reacted when she learned of our little sparring ring?”
Mouth tight, Yos nodded.
“She hates the idea of me sailing nearly as much as she hates the idea of me fighting. Maybe more. I don’t know,” she tossed her hands and looked up at the gray sky, full of gulls. “I was going to tell her about my plans,” this came out nearly a whisper, “soon. At the right time. When I could leave within the day.”
She felt Yos’ arm settle around her shoulders, and she leaned into him. He smelled like work: sweat and the sea, and a little of pine tar, cedar, hemp and oak. She closed her eyes, hating their sudden hotness and the feeling of incipient tears.
“Was going.” Yos said. She could feel his voice through his chest. It was funny, she thought, that someone so tall and stringy could have a voice so resonant and deep. “And now?”
“How could I leave now? With my family like… this?” Miska clenched her eyes shut, wiping away the insistent tears. She felt Clar’s hand pat her knee, and reluctantly opened her eyes.
<Yos wasn’t wrong, you know. We will help you. However you need.> Clar’s smile was sad. <We’re here for you, Miska.>
Miska took Clar’s hand and held it, smiling through her tears. “Thank you, both of you.”
“Hey, Miska,” Yos squeezed her shoulders before levering her back upright. He pointed towards the mouth of the harbor. “There’s a good looking one, rounding the bell right now. Maybe that will cheer you up?”
Miska rubbed tears from her face with her wrist, sniffed, and looked up. Her heart plummeted. “That’s Captain Gartarken’s ship, Fancy Dancer. She’s the one I had an arrangement with.” She looked down, mumbling as the tears came back. “The one I have to tell I can’t go.”
“Oh, well,” Yos stumbled for words. He patted Miska’s back awkwardly as Clar glared at him. “Shit.”