Feeling rather depressed today. Hormones are driving me crazy. I didn’t feel like slogging through Protector of the Grey House yet again, trying to find something to share. So here’s the first chapter of Raven’s Blood.
“Oy! Are you hiring?”
Joe looked over the side of the Persimmon’s Take and looked into the upturned face of the young lad on the pier. “Perhaps. What can you do?”
“I just came off Alley’s Gateway. Larson stated you might be hiring.”
“Give me a moment.” Joe walked to the gangplank, then down it, jumping to the pier when he was most of the way down. He landed well, bending his knees to accommodate the pier’s movements. He caught his balance and looked to the young lad.
He was not much to look at, tall, but not too tall, some muscles, short cropped black hair and sharp, clear green eyes.
“What’s your name, boy?”
Joe waited for more, then raised an eyebrow.
Denny stood taller and looked the man in his eyes. Joe was as tall as Denny, with grey hair and brown eyes. “I understand you may need my last name, but my family does not want me on open sea fishing boats. I do not care to listen to them.”
“And if you gave me your family name…”
“They could track me.”
“All right, Denny. I’m the first mate of the Persimmon’s Take and I do not allow anyone on this ship I do not trust. Why should I trust you?”
He laughed. Joe had to admit he liked the lad’s laugh. “Do you really expect me to believe you will trust someone on the first meeting? Had Larson told me that, I would not have come here.”
Joe gave the boy a smile and nodded. “All right. Then why do you wish to fish on the open sea?”
An odd look came to Denny’s eyes. “I want to see an Oorii.”
The first mate scowled. “We do not fish Oorii.”
“I know, but I was told by a friend that if I wanted to see an adult Oorii, I should find the open sea fishing boat that has a man on it by the name of Joe Hall. If I did find I him, I would also find the crew that would help me see an adult Oorii.”
“What friend is this?”
“He asked me not to say his name, but told me to remind you of the first time you saw an adult Oorii. He wonders if you’ve started eating fish again.”
Joe laughed out loud then shook his head. “All right, lad. You’ve earned your place on board this ship, but I have to tell you how we operate. If you do not wish to stay, I understand. We are on the open sea for six months. It’s hard work and we don’t get paid until the end of the voyage. We are paid depending on the catch. The more we catch, the more we are paid. If we catch nothing, we get paid nothing. Sometimes we are paid a lot, sometimes nothing. Understood?”
“Do you still want to come aboard?”
Denny gave him a very nice smile and Joe could see how easy it could be for the lad to have any woman he wanted. Joe led the way up the gangplank to the ship and showed the young man around.
Being on the Persimmon’s Take was hard work. Denny didn’t mind. It was honest work and made him feel useful. He did anything the crew asked and took his breaks when he could. They hauled some fish, making sure to throw back the Oorii as soon as they were spotted. Denny proved to be very good at locating the Oorii in the large nets and was able to free them before anyone else could see them.
Three months into the journey it was obvious they were going to have a good catch to bring back to shore. The holding tanks were more than half full. It would be easy to finish filling them before heading back to shore. They had yet to see an adult Oorii, though and Denny was staring to worry. The juvenile Oorii were talking to him, telling him not to worry, he would eventually see an adult, but they were almost halfway through the journey and the storm season was approaching. If the ship turned around before they saw an adult, Denny would have to find a place to stay for the rainy season. He did not want to be on land for that long, even this far away from his family.
One morning, while enjoying a rare moment to himself, Denny saw a ship on the horizon. It looked to be coming toward the Persimmon’s Take, but as it was still far away, Denny was not sure. He turned, though and located Joe. Once he caught the first mate’s attention, he waved Joe over.
“What is it son?”
Denny pointed toward the other ship.
“Nothing to worry about.”
“Could it be pirates?”
“They are the People of the Sea and they do not bother us. If they come to us, they will board, see that we don’t fish the Oorii and leave us alone.”
“I thought they attacked fishing boats.”
“Yes, if they find Oorii.”
Denny was silent for a moment. He knew all of this, but wanted to see if others did as well. “So we let them come?”
“We let them come. If they do board us, they will have an adult Oorii. They always do.”
Denny didn’t say anything, as his emotions were running on high. If they had an Oorii on board, then he could convince it easily to allow him on board. Surrounded by his own thoughts, he did not see Joe walk away, but a few moments later was very aware when his crewmates were calling out to him. They were about to haul in the net and needed his help. He hurried over and helped to haul in the catch, calling out the Oorii in the net, letting them know they would be freed soon.
Once the net was aboard, the others pulled out the regular fish and Denny went straight for the Oorii. He pulled the smallest out first, going to the railing and dropping them into the water. He saved the largest for last. When the Oorii was in his arms, he held it close and spoke to it.
Can you help me?
I know you.
I want to board the ship that is coming close to us. Can you tell the Oorii on board that I am here?
For you, yes.
Ask the Oorii to keep my identity secret.
Denny released the Oorii then, watching as it landed in the water and sped off to the other ship. He wanted to swim with the Oorii. Perhaps he would be able to at some point. Once the Oorii was gone, Denny turned back to the net and helped his crewmates with the catch.
“All right men! The ship is coming toward us. For the new crew members, remember, the People of the Sea are not a threat. We do not fish Oorii. They only have a problem with those who fish the Oorii. If we’re lucky, they will have an adult Oorii and you new sailors will see why we do not keep the Oorii. Do not make any move to harm the men when they board and they will not harm us. Understood?”
The crew answered as one. “Yes, sir!”
The second ship was upon them then and Denny saw the name: Dawn’s Break. He stood taller and watched as the other ship bumped against the Persimmon’s Take. The People of the Sea boarded quickly and one man nodded to Joe. He was a tall man with broad shoulders, grey hair and sharp sea grey eyes.
“Your Captain hiding again?”
The man shook his head and looked at the crew of the Persimmon’s Take. “I am not here to harm you. I am here to teach you about the Oorii. I am Captain Dawson and I expect you to listen.” He looked at each of the crewmen as he walked up and down the line. “Before I say anything else, Eesan will speak with one of you to show that the Oorii are not to be eaten.”
Eesan walked across the gangplank, listening to the gasps of the crewmembers. Some gasped in disgust, some in surprise and one in sheer joy. That person stepped forward in unabashed curiosity and stopped in front of the Oorii.
It was beautiful. It wore no clothing, had no hair, but beautiful yellow eyes, no nose, but it did have nostrils. There were no ears, but there was a flap of skin over what could be ears. It had fins that rose from the top of its head and ran down to the back of its neck, and had no genitals to speak of. Its scales gleamed a rainbow green in the sun. Denny could see its gills on its neck and the web between its fingers and toes. It stood taller then most humans and had two arms, two legs, ten fingers and ten toes.
Curiosity taking over, Denny reached out and placed his hand on the creatures slightly protruding brow. In the second their skin connected, Raven could no longer think of herself as Denny. Eesan’s thoughts were invading her own, greeting her and making her feel very welcomed. He knew of her and was very happy to meet her and see her.
Raven’s hand traveled down the Oorii’s face and rested on his shoulder. Eesan took her hand and placed it over his heart. She could feel it beating strongly against her palm. She smiled at the feel and stepped closer as the Oorii placed his hand on the back of her neck. They stepped closer again and rested their foreheads against each other.
Their thoughts connected fully and Eesan knew her story and why she was really here. Raven saw his story as well and saw how much the Oorii thought about her. She was a little embarrassed, but her heart was warmed by the sentiment. Once their thoughts were shared, Eesan pulled away. He bowed to Raven, then went to Captain Dawson. Eesan placed a hand on Captain Dawson’s shoulder and the Captain copied the gesture. In a moment, the human nodded and the two separated. Captain Dawson went to stand in front of Raven and nodded to her.
What name was the girl using? Oh, yes. “Denny. Eesan states you want to work for us, is that correct?”
Dawson frowned, captivated by her green eyes. They were sharp and clear and promised of interesting times. She smiled and suddenly looked very familiar. He inhaled sharply, but said nothing more. It couldn’t be her, could it?
The Captain shook his head and looked back at the girl. “All right. Eesan likes you. You can join us. Get your things. Eesan will take you to my ship.”
Joe shook his head. “Taking another one are you?”
“He wanted to come to us for a long time.” Captain Dawson watched as Denny walked away then turned to the rest of the crew of the Persimmon’s Take.
“Your Captain is hiding in his cabin at this time because he is terrified of the Oorii. He believes if they read his mind, they will want him killed. He used to be one of the largest suppliers of Oorii. The first time he saw an Oorii, he understood his mistake. They are like us: they communicate, they have lives and thoughts and families. They are not to be eaten. If any one has any doubts, Eesan is willing to talk to you as he spoke with Denny. Does any one else want to talk to the Oorii?”
One raised his hand. Dawson nodded and Eesan stepped forward. Captain Dawson watched as the young sailor and the Oorii connected. The boy looked surprised, but did not pull away from the Oorii for several moments. When Dawson saw Denny, or rather Raven again, he waved the boy over. Eesan let go of the other human, nodded, then headed to Dawn’s Break with Raven. As they walked off Persimmon’s Take, Captain Dawson encouraged the others to talk of their experiences with the Oorii.
On board Dawn’s Break, Eesan showed Raven to the Captain’s cabin. Alone in the room, he touched her shoulder.
You must stay here for the moment. I trust you, but the crew does not know you.
Raven nodded and watched Eesan leave. He closed the door behind him and Raven looked around the room. There was a bed, a table with four chairs, shelves with some books, a bureau and a wardrobe. She wanted to look at the books, to see if she could learn a little more about Captain Dawson, but she was too tired. For the past two years, she had been doing everything she could to get to this point. She wanted to find her father, wanted to find Victor Blood and talk to him. Being on Dawn’s Break meant she had reached her goal. True, he was not on this ship, but the people on this ship probably knew of him or knew him.
Giving in to her fatigue, Raven went to the bed and laid down on her back. As she looked at the wooden ceiling, she thought about her journey here and sighed with relief. She placed her arms behind her head and relaxed for the first time in a long time.
Raven had been on too many different ships to count in the past two years. All of them as Denny. Her first fishing vessel laughed her off at the end of the weeklong trip. She was told to bulk up and come back when she could handle hard work. After that, she went to the passenger ships and the cargo ships, making her way down the coast until she felt ready to handle the fishing boats again. It took a year to get back onto a fishing vessel, but it was worth it. She was able to prove herself on that ship well enough to get a recommendation for another going on a longer trek.
For the past year, she went from fishing boat to fishing boat, improving her skills, asking the right questions and making the right connections all to be able to find a fishing vessel that was going on the open sea. The day she left home, Jarvis told her that once she was on a fishing vessel like Persimmon’s Take, she would most likely run into a ship carrying the People of the Sea. Persimmon’s Take was the second open sea vessel she traveled on. The other did not fish Oorii either, but had not been approached by any other ships.
Jarvis warned her it could take a lot of time to reach the people that could take her to her father, but she didn’t care. She had no other home now and needed to know who he was. When she told Jarvis what she wanted to do, he told her she could not go as a woman. Though the People of the Sea accepted women on their ships, civilian ships did not. He cut her long black hair into what approximated a boy’s cut and then helped her alter his own clothing to fit her. They stayed up all night, knowing they didn’t have too much time until Abigail started looking for Raven. By sunrise, Raven had two sets of clothing. It was enough. She thanked Jarvis and left for the pier, where she did everything she could to get hired onto a fishing vessel.
It was a long journey, but now, she was on the Dawn’s Break, headed toward her father. As the ship rocked softly with the waves, Raven felt as if she were finally home. Before too long, she fell asleep.