Maps and Paths
Chapter 1: The Sea and the Port
Location: Mapmaker shop in Port
Timeline: Some November day, after lunch
The bell over the shop door rang, as Captain Daenelia opened the door to the mapmaker's shop. It was musty. Dusty, even, she thought as she felt a sneeze coming on. She sneezed with her eyes closed and promptly walked into a huge parchment map hanging from the ceiling.
"Yes? May I help you?" a male voice from behind a drawing table asked.
"Are you the mapmaker?" asked Daenelia as she walked over, to see a short balding man sitting behind the table, drawing a map in.
"Ye-ees," the man drawled, obviously more interested in his map than the new customer. Daenelia took the map out of her pocket.
"I have a map. I am not sure ..." Daenelia started, but was cut off by a 'shhh' from the mapmaker.
"I will be right with you, sir." He looked up. "I mean, madam." And he went back to work. Daenelia sighed and waved the map around. 'There must be more people in this shop who could help me', she thought. Just as she was considering where to look to find someone else, she heard the door crash open behind her. She whirled around in time to see two people topple into the shop and fall to the floor in a heap. The mapmaker gasped at his table and nearly fell out of his chair as he leaped up, his screeching voice mixing with the shouts of the other two.
As the mapmaker started to dance in fury behind his desk and yell about how the duo wwas apparently banished from his shop, fists began flying between the new arrivals. One was a tall, lanky man with sandy hair, and the other was a willowy girl with long dark hair. The man was winning the fight, despite the fact that the young woman was the only one throwing punches. They ignored the cries of the mapmaker, instead directing much of their shouting at Daenelia.
"Twas me that Beau told about the cap'n first! Cap'n marm, I hear tell yer lookin' for a navigator! I'm your man, marm!"
"Shut UP, Cletus! Beau was drunk as a skunk when he told you about the job! Ignore this idjit, cap, if brains was leather he wouldn't have enough to saddle a june bug!"
Daenelia's expression changed from surprise to amusement to anger. "Will you shut up?" she shouted. The two visitors did so, but the mapmaker was still screeching and pulling and pushing the two, trying to get them out of the shop before they destroyed his precious maps.
Daenelia walked over to him and picked him up. She carried him to his chair behind the drawing table, even though he voiced his protest in the same shrill voice. "Please!" Daenelia bellowed in his face. The mapmaker fell silent and sat down.
She straightened her shirt, adjusted her hat and walked back to the two rowdy visitors. "So. You are both looking for a job as navigator?" She paused as the pair looked at the floor in front of them. They both mumbled their 'yes'-es. "I really only need one. Which if you is the best navigator? And which of you has been sailing the skies the longest?" Daenelia was still holding the map, and one of the pair was looking at it intently.
"I've been sailing longest!" Cletus shouted at the same time the woman yelled "I'm the better navigator!"
They glared at each other, and for a moment it was clear they were both considering settling the issue in a fight. It was clear Cletus would win if it came to such a thing. Though nearly all he had done was keep the woman at bay as she attacked him earlier, she had still ended up with a black eye, which was already beginning to swell. Her eyes flickered away from Cletus to the captain, lingering for a moment on the map still clutched in her hand. There was a determination in her gaze that Cletus did not possess.
"Look, cap'n, Fern is handy enough with a compass but she doesn't have 'alf the experience I do," offered Cletus. "I've been sailin' longer, seen more o' the world, and plum know the skies better'n she does. Twas my father--rest his dear soul--who trained me in the art, and I'm the one who, outta the kindness of me own heart, took the pains to learn young Fern how to read a map!"
"You lyin' dog!" spat Fern. "You learned me maps because you'd always hated the job and got stuck with it after your ol' man was so sick of being harped on by your mama that he turned hiself in to the law to get a lil peace! An' yer here tryin' to steal my job for the same reason!"
The remark about his mother left Cletus momentarily speechless, and Fern took her chance. Turning to Daenelia she stuck out her chin stubbornly and laid out her offer.
"I want the job, I'd serve you well, and I'll play me fiddle for ya ev'ry night if'n that'll keep ya happy. But I gotta get outta this town and back in the sky!"
The captain looked at both. Then back at the young woman named Fern. "The fiddle, eh?" She stroked her chin thoughfully. Cletus looked like he was steaming with something close to rage. Fern just looked desperate. Daenelia already had hired so many desperate men and women, there was always something tugging on her heart. And though she knew that a captain must lead with her head not her heart, she knew she already made up her mind. Hotheads were never a good choice. People with a drive that came from something strong within always worked out better.
"Fern, if you would like to collect your things, and go to my ship, ask for McGinty. Tell him you are hired as a navigator, he will find you a spot for your stuff." Daenelia turned back to the quivering mapmaker.
"What? Cap'n!" Cletus exclaimed. "Ye can't be serious! I 'ave sailed on the Albatros, the Meagre Mary and... I 'ave references, I do!" Cletus stopped talking under Daenelia's stern look.
"Then you will have no trouble finding another ship to take you on, Mr. Cletus. Goodday." And with that she took up the matter of this odd map with the mapmaker.