Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
If you want some coffee, chocolate, or tea, pour yourself a cup and
Finding a criminal is not the glamour of a storybook in many cases. Captain Nick sailed the mundane route every other ship took when traveling to Carsiolia. No one had seen him the other direction so it was a good bet to begin the search south.
The days were long and boring. The monotony of hard work grated on the senses.
What grated on Ashton was his desire for another drink of the Screaming Peaches. All he wanted was another sip to take the edge off. The nights on the brig bothered him little as the crew wanted an apothecary and surgeon aboard and they slipped him all the necessity he desired. This did not assist in tempering Ashton’s selfish entitlement.
Captain Nick, tired of Ashton’s youthful antics, relented and gave Ashton work above deck he worked with a deck brush, scrubbing away. The work he had desired initially, he now hated. It was hard on the back, hard on the knees.
The short experience in dock life with coin in hand had sown a lot of seeds that his fellow sailors didn’t quite approve of.
He felt shadows above and a tense ambiance; a crowd gathered where he worked.
“Ashton, we have a job for you, being so full of spit and vinegar as you are, we have agreed on it to be fitting.”
It was Commander Nicholas accompanied by the entire crew.
Ashton was handed a wooden spatula. “It is time for you to learn some manners, namely your place on the Netty Northwich. You are given a half share more than all of my men because you are a skilled surgeon and handy with a needle. This is no cause for you to run your mouth and pick fights aboard. It is time to check for barnacles on the hull. They need scraping.”
Without much in the way of consent, Ashton was lowered to the waterline by block and tackle in a harness.
It was amazing to Ashton how a newly refitted ship could have so much unwanted riff raff attached so soon. He was eager to get the job done quickly as the water was particularly cold. Also, if he was not careful to move with the ship, his body would smash alongside. It was not pleasant. With every list of the ship, Ashton found he must extend his legs to take the brunt of the abuse. There was no doubt that the crew were purposefully adding to the uncomfortable task above in their actions with the rudder and sail.
It did not take long for this task to take hold, bringing wisdom to Ashton’s stubborn mind.
The message was loud and clear. Captain Nick was not about to have anything attached to the ship that did not belong.
The writing was clearly on the wall of the Netty Northwich:
In life, you can become attached to things that are not beneficial and you have to roll with the movement of the ship and her crew.
Unfortunately for Ashton, the harsh form of imparting this newfound wisdom was not the only reason he was there. The work was necessary for these waters and ongoing.
When brought back up for a rest, Ashton was treated like any other, an equal, making it difficult for Ashton to feel resentment. They fed him better on this ship than he ever ate growing up.
Ashton took to finding himself away from the crew, isolating himself. While not being actively bothered or bullied, he did feel alone.
Baldwin Mailer, one of the 16, came and sat beside Ashton. He was known for his wit, and humor, but was a little serious today.
“Ashton, in the words of the cheese thief Petra, you are pig headed. She wanted to ensure you were clearly aware prior to our departure. I am sorry for the late passing of this message. We agree as a crew.”
Ashton ignored him and chewed on his ship’s biscuit. He had soaked it in a bit of water and they were not that bad. Reflecting, it was better than the squirrels if Pitmerden. A ship’s biscuit did not bring the anxiety of the poaching he had engaged in and they were not rationed.
Baldwin smiled. “Ashton, embrace the barnacle.” Using Ashton’s shoulder as a handheld, he stood up.
“You have a long way to go, Ashton, but we have your back. We need you to have ours. There may be tough times ahead and we need you.”
On his third day of the treacherous work, Ashton had become accustomed to his duties. He learned that the wooden scraper was used over a metal one to preserve the integrity of the hull. In these waters, it was full time work.
With permission, Ashton used some extra rope to more efficiently descend and ascend for the task. (The initial rigging was quite visibly designed as punishment.) The games of purposefully listing the ship had stopped and he could now work properly.
He took to lowering his ship’s biscuits in a bucket so he could snack while he worked. He liked having the food around made him feel a little secure for some reason. Having a lot of time to think, this was likely due to scarcity in harder times.
He was portside, taking a break when he accidentally dropped part of his biscuit in the water. A shadow appeared below, but it was no fish or shark for that matter. It was enormous. He tried to relax in case the creature could sense the tension. Eyeing his rope, he looked at his options. What he lacked in brawn, he made up for in speed. He was ready to scurry up on a moment’s notice if need be, but he was fascinated. Was it a whale?
A shout came from high above on the crow’s nest. “Kraken Below!”
The shadow disappeared into the depths and Ashton resumed working. It was almost frustrating that an alarm had been given. He has never heard of a Kraken and wished to see one.
“Ashton is below! A sailor shouted. “Pull him up!”
Ashton refused. “Nah, this pig head is embracing the barnacle.”