She came into the tavern and sat by the door. She ordered a glass of wine and pulled a fold of sheets out of a sling bag. She looked up at the tavern door after a minute. She looked down at the sheets and then picked up her glass and moved to a table near the back of the tavern. She sat facing the entrance with the kitchen and bar in front and to her right.
He noticed her when she first took her seat. She was pretty and young. He had his own problems and consumed by the decision to find his answers in a cup of cha or a mug of ale. Both sat in front of him, barely touched. He noticed again, when she moved to the table in the back. He turned on his chair so that he could see both the doorway and the female.
She saw him for the first time when he moved astride the chair. He must have been there all along but she had not noticed there was anyone else seated in the tavern. He was pretty and young.
They were only a couple of tables apart. Both were looking at the doorway and then sweeping their attention around the tavern. Their eyes met. He was wondering why she had moved. She was wondering why he was there. Then he wondered where she was from. She wondered where he was from.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Oh yes,” she said, “just getting my bearings.”
“Did you just embark?”
“Yes, my father is loading up some supplies and I went for a walk?”
“May I join you?” he said, flashing his biggest smile.
“Please, let me come to your table, there is no reason why I should mess up another table here.”
“Of course, I would be pleased to receive you. I wondered when all these chairs would serve some purpose.”
She supposed he was trying to make a joke, to make her feel comfortable. She felt comfortable. The wine was warm and smooth, with a fruity flavor and a comfortable glow that seemed to be moving from head to toe.
He stood and took her glass of wine with one hand and moved a chair under her so that they were sitting next to each other at his table.
“What are you having?” she asked.
“I have cha and ale,” he answered, “not a common mixture for me.”
“It does not sound like a combination that many would enjoy,” she giggled.
“No, I have been trying to decide if I should be good, have a relaxing cup of cha and head off to bed or have mugs of ale until I fall asleep right here.”
“How long have you been thinking about it? Your cha looks cold and your ale warm.”
“I think you have saved me from my indecision. I am going to join you with a glass of wine.” He ordered two of the same, pushed away the cup and the mug and was gratified to see the two wine glasses arrive.
“My lady, my thanks, you have saved me from this indecision you noted. I am free to enjoy your company and your fine choice of libations is another sign of your impeccable taste and charms.”
“You are laying it on a little thick, my new friend,” she responded with a chuckle. “But fine, I was lonely and you were lonely. We will enjoy a glass of wine and get to know each other.”
“I will start. My name is Evan. I serve this great ship Yartal, but was born on my father’s ship Apmarmac.”
“What a great beginning, I have so many questions for you, Evan. First, I am Michline. I serve on my father’s ship Nemerite, and am looking for a position on Yartal.”
“I think I know how you feel. I grew up in a family that loved me, gave me a job I loved and everything else I could wish for. Yet I wanted to serve all shipborn.”
“That is true. My family loves me although this is a cruel life. I am well trained but I want to serve all shipborn.”
“Michline, why is your life cruel?”
“I am always training, my father is always teaching me, he hides me when we come to other ships, I know he is looking for me now, to take me back to his ship,” she banged the table with the roll of sheet she was holding.
“Finish your wine, we will find a place to hide you,” he said with a note of alarm in his voice. There were stories of strange behavior on a few ships where its captain made all the rules and the crew was more captive than family.
She looked at him with wide eyes as she sipped at her wine. She laid the sheets on the table and smoothed them out. “Yes, he is looking for me, he will be here soon. But he is a good captain.” She looked into his eyes for a moment before blinking and looking to her sheets. She looked to her sheets and started turning pages as if looking for some particular information.
He drained his wine and asked, “Are you ready to go? You are lovely and I will not let anything happen to you.”
“My father loves me too,” she said uncertainly, “He tells me many times each day and always just before he locks me in for the night.”
“What do you mean?”
“Every sleep shift he locks my door so that he can find me when he wakes up.”
“Come on, we are going to my rooms. We can lock the doors so shipborn like your captain can not get in.”
“What?” she was flipping from page to page looking for something written there.
“He might be able to find you here in a tavern or in the corridors, but your captain will not find you in my rooms.”
“Yes, Evan, that is how he finds me,” she looked up from the sheets to the doorway and then to Evan. “I go to a tavern for something to eat or drink and then he finds me.”
“We have to go.”He stops and reached out to her.”Take my hand. We will go before he can find you.”
“You are sweet,” dropping the sheets into her sling bag. “This is an adventure.”
Hand in hand, they left the tavern and headed down the corridor to his rooms. They did not have far to go. He felt good. There was no indecisiveness now. He was holding the hand of a pretty, young female. He had purpose. She was looking at everything, getting her bearings again, holding the hand of this pretty, young male. He was taking her where the captain could not find her.
He lived close to the tavern. They had just a quick short walk down the shopping corridor from the tavern to a main corridor leading to the main areas of Yartal. They slowed at the flow of shipborn moving in every direction as they headed for the corridor leading to his residence. Just as they turned into the residence corridor, unexpectedly he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Where do you think you are going?”
She turned and screamed, “Captain!”
Evan turned and stood between them, “Run Michline, I will catch up in a minute.”
She scampered down the corridor as Evan shifted to block her father from following.
“Who are you?” asked the captain, with some exasperation. The captain was a mature male, dressed indiscriminately and was not forcing his way past Evan. Evan thought the captain seemed confident and more amused than distressed that Michline was running away down the corridor.
“Who are you to be locking her up in your ship, who are you to prevent her from serving all shipborn on Yartal?” He raised his voice to get the attention of the shipborn milling around them but his voice was lost in the sounds of shipborn movement and their own conversations. He could see that only a few interested glances came his way and that interest lasted only a second. He shifted as if he were going to throw a punch and then turned away to run after Michline. In a moment, he could see her walking quickly ahead. He was able to catch up, grab her hand and pull her after him. They were only a few meters from his door. He caught a glimpse of the captain over his shoulder. It would be close but he had the advantage of knowing where they were going. Again, he felt a hand on his shoulder and the captain moved in front of them.
“Enough of this exercise, Michline, we have to get back to Nemerite.”
“Father, please, I like talking with Evan and he is showing me around the ship.”
“I am happy for your enjoyment but we have to go.”
Evan pushed between them again, “She is not going back with you. You are not going to lock her up again.”
The captain took his time to respond. It was clear he was not comfortable being asked to explain his actions. “Is there a tavern where you would like to continue this conversation?”
“So you can meet up with your crew to take her away, no, leave us alone.”
“I am sorry but I cannot leave you alone. Michline, it is time to say goodbye. It is time to come with me.”
“Do not listen, Michline. I will take care of you. Stay away from him.”
“Captain, where am I?”
“Check your sheets, Michline, go to sheet eight and head home.”
Michline rustled the sheets out of the sling bag again and squatted down against the corridor wall to look through them.
“Stop, Michline, we can get away, just jump up and come with me. No one will stand in our way.”
“Okay now,” said the captain, “She is already confused, just let her do what she needs to do.”
“I will not let you hurt her. She said you were cruel.”
“I do not think she said I was cruel…she usually says life is cruel. Am I right?”
Evan remembered when she said life was cruel. He felt his anger at the captain draining and now he was confused too. Michline stood and walked back towards the main corridor. The captain lifted a hand when Evan was about to follow her.
“Not even a goodbye now. I hope you enjoyed the afternoon because I hope she enjoyed the afternoon. Perhaps she will remember you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“My daughter had an accident when she was even younger. Something in her wants to go exploring all the time. When we dock with another ship, she often gets away. A long time ago, I made sure I could find her and that she could find her way home. She likes to use the sheets to solve problems. They tell her where to go so I can find her. They tell her how to get home.”
“We had so little time together. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted her to learn more about me.”
“You are special, perhaps when we return, you will meet Michline again.”
“I want to meet her again.”
“I will do what I can,” said the captain with a wry grin. Again, he grasped Evan’s shoulder and then made his way to follow Michline.
Evan watched him walk quickly after Michline. He was about to follow when he realized how little time they had spent together, how little they had said to one another. He was about to return to the tavern when he realized he had more to do than choose between cha and ale. He turned and went up to his rooms.
Serial story by Sylva Richmond
Copyright © 2016 by PICogeneration
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Please enjoy this story of the great ship Yartal and a brief part of the unfolding shipborn and planetbound universe.
Articles, short stories, novellas, and novels based in the universe are in various stages of publication.
Support for this project. Please feel free to contribute and comment about this writing project. It is important to indicate the story name in the message block included in the order form. The minimal cost is meant to reduce trolling that is so common with female artists. In addition, as more and more projects are added to the site, contributions will be used to prioritise which projects will be updated regularly. Thank you for all your support, past and present. Sylva.