07 February 2010 @ 01:58 pm
[Ships at Sea] Foundling  
Title: Foundling
Story/Character: Ships at Sea / Godscalck, Johim, Theophrastus
Rating: PG-13
word count: 2,205

brigits_flame prompt of "birds of a feather".

* * * * *

It was a beautiful, clear morning, cloudless and crystal bright all across the horizon, calm waves under the keel and the scent of spring hanging in the air. The cargo was more than half loaded, they were cleared to depart with the evening tide, not a one of the crew had reported trouble, and all in all it should have been a perfect sort of day.

Which was how Captain Heyne Godscalck knew it was going to be absolute and complete codswalloped hogswill before he ever rolled out of his bunk. God, in his own private and heretical opinion, simply didn't like him that much and certainly didn't grant him favors out of the blue. Which was why the perfectly beautiful morning was greeted with a snap at the deck hands to work faster and a growled bark at his first mate, followed by a monosyllabic grunt of displeasure when the cook slid a plate in front of him at the breakfast table.

He was most of the way through the plate, bread and cheese eaten in quick, sharp bites, when someone finally dared to join him at the table. "You're in a lovely mood, I see," was accompanied by a plate dropped into place across from him, followed by the plate's all too amused owner.

Godscalck grunted again. Johim Ruyter was older than he was, a lifelong ship hand and the best eyes the Eendracht had ever had, but like all Navigators he was more than a little touched in the head. It worked its way out in small ways most days, like the man's ever present smile and utter disregard for his captain's mood, much less the niceties of rank and order. "It's a beautiful morning, isn't it?"

The Captain sighed, because the only way to get around the other man's insufferable cheerfulness was to go through it. "Going to stay that way?"

Johim swallowed the bite of cheese he was chewing, sucking the pad of his thumb clean. "No," he replied without hesitation, in the same sort of tone other men would have said an enthusiastic 'yes' in. "Might want to hurry the loading a bit. Storm'll roll in by afternoon." He licked another finger and held it up, eyes narrowing for a moment, never mind that they were in the galley and all the ports closed tight against the outside air. Then he nodded, satisfied, and went back to his breakfast. "Two bells past midday, I'd wager. Coming in off the ocean, a nice big one."

Godscalck dropped the last of his bread and shoved his plate away, disgusted. "You couldn't, just once, prove me wrong?"

The other man's eyebrows - bushy white-flecked auburn things that pantomimed more communication than a ship's flags - twitched upwards. "What, and ruin your record?" He popped another bite in his mouth and Godscalck could swear even the man's chewing was cheerful. "I'll be off to the library. Need to double check some of our charts. I'd offer to hurry, but there's no point. Storm'll keep us in tonight."

The Captain swore, shoving himself away from the table, and stormed out of the galley with his first mate's name yelled loud and clear across the deck. The bright sunlight just made him snarl all the more, the blue sky and calm waves mocking him.

The City Eyes only had a first degree storm warning listed, which the ship's runner brought to him half an hour after he'd already laid into the crew to load faster and make damned sure every cask, crate and barrel was strapped down tight. If he had been another man it might have been reassuring, but he'd sailed a double handful of years with Ruyter, first as mate, then as captain, and the man, blast and damn him, was almost never wrong.

By the time the warning was upgraded to second degree at midday the Eendracht's cargo was stowed, every rope and inch of rigging neat and tight, the sails lowered and the ports lock sealed. The sky was still crystal blue, the wind just teasing the white tips of the waves, but Godscalck had sailed on the open sea long enough that he fancied he could feel the prickle in the otherwise warm air. He was no Navigator and God knew had no desire to be, but there was a tang to the wind that came ahead of Storms that sat sharp and metallic on the back of a man's tongue. It made him itch, made the deck hands scramble faster, and Godscalck drummed his fingers against the solid sun-warmed wood of the railing and ordered the gunnery crews to stand by just in case.

The Storm rolled in at two bells past noon, right on schedule, and the Eendracht wasn't the only ship in the docks fastened down tight well before the alarm bells started tolling. The Amsterdam walls extended past the harbor but only just and the feel of them was almost worse than the itch of the Storm, crackling pale blue spirit fire atop the highest points of the mast. Godscalck sent every man but the most necessary below deck and stayed himself at the wheel, though it did precious little good when they were tied to dock. It was a comfort, familiar and right beneath his hands, and the upper deck gave him the best view of the open sea beyond the harbor as the Storm rushed in.

It came in silent, bringing cloud and grey sky and the hitch of the wind with it. From the deck Godscalck could watch the leading edge of it roll over them, sun and blue skies on one side, grey and clouds on the other, and feel the crackle of the air and the pressure rise in his ears as it pressed against the city walls. There were ghosts there, thin and translucent at the edge of where the walls fell; the phantom of strange docks and ordered rows of clean, sleek ships. It was a Storm of what would-be, not what-was, and that was the kind Godscalck liked best. He wasn't uneducated; he knew his histories and enough of the sciences to name most of the beasts that ever lurched out of the open oceans in the midst of what-was. But no one knew or could write what would-be and the Storms that brought that never failed to fascinate him, skin alive to the electricity of the air and eyes wide open to the tantalizing glimpse of the phantasms.

That close to the city, what would-be was no threat and the wind itself that seeped through the walls was nothing but enough to rock the decks in a quickened sway, rife with smells that were familiar and strange all at once. Godscalck let the crew stand down an hour into it, all but the port and starboard rails because it never hurt to be cautious. He weathered the entirety of it himself on the upper deck, leaned against the rail and watching, watching, as the ghosts slipped and slid, there and gone again, just beyond the harbor walls. The ships that he glimpsed there were smooth and bright colored; little fishing ships of all make and sizes, and every so often one of the squat would-be ships that he didn't know a proper name for, bereft of sail and moving where they would regardless of wind and wave alike. He watched, hands gripping the rail with a frisson of something like wonder as one of the greater would-be ships tacked across the open waters well beyond the docks, taller than the Eendracht's highest mast and longer than any ship the VOC could put to sail. It was a wonder of layered ports stacked row upon row, like a gigantic city itself floating effortlessly on the waves without rigging or sail to guide it.

The Storm blew itself out within two bells, passing as quickly as it had blown in and leaving only blue skies and calm winds and a tide already rolling out behind it. Godscalck sighed and leaned his head back across his shoulders to dispel the tension in his neck and the last of the itching crackle of his skin before pushing away from the rail and calling out the all clear. Behind them, in the city, the passing bells took another quarter hour before they began to ring.

It was coming up on late afternoon and the sky tinged with the first shades of evening before his Navigator saw fit to stroll back to the docks, and Godscalck never knew, when coming back from the library, if the man would be flush and bright eyed with eagerness or crackling with temper from some dispute with his peers. It must have been a good day, because Johim whistled and waved a hail from the base of the ramp, with a broad grin Godscalck could see from the deck. "Captain! Permission to come aboard!"

Godscalck snorted and beside him the first mate, Beeck, swallowed what might have been a laugh. "God's balls," the captain growled, "he only does that when he's got himself in a fix." He leaned over the rail, raising his voice. "Get your scrawny ass up here and stop dawdling!"

He didn't realize, until Johim was already stepping foot on the deck, that there was someone else shadowing so close behind him as to near tread on the man's heels. Scowling, he set himself before the other man, arms crossed firm across his chest. "What's this, then?"

His Navigator beamed. 'This', when hauled out to where Godscalck could view it proper, was a half grown slip of thin boy, all legs and elbows and sun kissed hair as he squinted, alarmed and with a brow full of worry, up at the captain. "I found him up at the edge of the docks," Johim announced, full and pleased with himself.

Godscalck cast another quick look over the boy. He was better dressed and cleaner than the captain might have expected, which at least spoke well for his health and a lack of infestation, and he stood solid enough which bespoke a soundness of limb. His Navigator seemed to be waiting, expectant like, and Godscalck narrowed his eyes. "If I'd known you wanted a boy for your bunk," he growled, "I'd have picked you up one in Siam."

The boy, he was pleased to see, gave a half-frightened start, but Johim only laughed, loud and delighted. "No, no, no," he assured the captain, "he's useful." Then, to the boy, like a man trotting out a pet who does tricks, "What's the square root of one sixty-seven?"

Godscalck watched the boy squint even harder, eyes pinching near closed, but he didn't fidget and answered fair promptly after only a moment's thought. "Twelve and nine two three."

The captain felt his brows rising. Johim, beaming, gave the boy's shoulders an encouraging clap. "Square root of twenty-nine, divide by three and a half."

The pause was longer that time, by the space of a few breaths, and the boy sounded a bit more hesitant in his answer. "...One and five three eight?"

Godscalck shot a look at his Navigator for confirmation and found it in the other man's broad smile. Swallowing the sinking feeling in his stomach, he sighed. "From the Guild?"

Johim, if possible, smiled even broader. "Oh no. Found him on the docks, like I said. Mad about ships. Knows his letters and his histories, and his numbers, obviously. Quizzed him half the afternoon." He tilted his head, brows sketching broad arcs. "I could get him registered with the Guild tomorrow, or when we're in port next if you're that eager to be underway."

Godscalck huffed. "Not going anywhere 'til morning tide." He glared at the other man but Johim didn't flinch or back down, eyes wide and over-bright with the madness of all Navigators. "You're set on this, aren't you?"

Johim hummed agreement and Godscalck swore. "God's teeth, you're a right needless pain. Do as you like, then. He rooms with you, I haven't got bunk space below deck, and he'll start with the scrubbing crew in the morning. Work for his keep during the day, and I don't care if you're fucking him or tutoring him the rest of the time provided he's out from under foot and sight. Are we clear?"

Johim beamed. "Clear as a calm sea, Captain," he agreed and the boy between his hands stiffened to attention but had the good sense to keep his mouth shut. Godscalck waved a sharp dismissal and his Navigator grabbed the boy and fair dragged him in his wake, free hand gesturing expansively as he started in on a lecture that had nothing to do with ships and everything to do with a stream of numbers that made Godscalck's head hurt. Growling under his breath, he turned away to come face to face with his first mate's barely concealed grin, wiped away a moment too late in the face of his Captain's irritation.

"Get to work," Godscalck barked, and the man gratifyingly jumped to. "I want this ship tight and ready - we sail with the morning tide!"

[continued in Run Away]
wyld_dandelyon: flying wizard by djinniwyld_dandelyon on February 7th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
The storms of what used to be and what isn't yet are pretty cool!
Rosedarthneko on February 8th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I've been wanting to dabble in this world and hadn't found the right words yet - I finally decided it made more sense just to call it what it is instead of making up some fancy name for it. ^_^
rephen: pianocatrephen on February 8th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Seafaring stories with storms always makes me feel adventurous. And the storm of what would-be instead of what was. That was really cool. And I like the somber ambience that you kept throughout this. Very nicely written.
Rosedarthneko on February 8th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you! ^_^ I'm hoping to do more in this world; the idea of the storms is a fun one.
katden: pic#95589334katden on February 8th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've had the opportunity to comment much, but you should know I really dig your writing ;)
This seems like it should be the second chapter of a rather intriguing book and I love how you've managed to create your own language used by the characters here and there.
Nice job!
Rosedarthneko on February 8th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! ^_^

This probably is a second chapter. Maybe a first chapter with a prologue in front of it - I'm not sure yet. It's one of those stories that I've had brewing in my head for awhile but haven't actually tackled yet. I'm hoping to keep picking at it via flame prompts this month. ^_^
sue_bridehead on February 8th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Excellent tale. I really enjoyed your characters and the ride! :)
Rosedarthneko on February 8th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. ^_^
Zero Pixel Countzero_pixel_coun on February 8th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
...see? all perfectly clear. :D (And hello, Theo!)
Rosedarthneko on February 8th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Totally clear! Call it what it is FTW. =P

(itty bitty baby!Theo! For which I get given the "omgstfu" glare. ^____^)
Zero Pixel Countzero_pixel_coun on February 8th, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
Hasn't he worked out yet that "dignity" is a non-existent concept around here? :P
emmasobitxx on February 9th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)
I... really love your writing. I really do. This is awesome. And it's a nautical story! (These are my favorite things ever.) I loved it. Especially Johim. He just sounds too cute! :D
thewindforest: fairytales by ladypadmethewindforest on February 10th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Wonderful characterization and scenic descriptions! The idea of the storms of what-would-be was breathtaking :D I used to work on the U.S.S. Constellation museum, so your selection really brought back memories of my love of tall ships. I look forward to reading more of your work!