Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here.
Welcome to the Ongoing Tale. To my new readers, it is another chapter or episode about the Land of La Longi.
The ship in fair condition, Captain Nicholas set course for La Longi with the immigrant farmers and the pitifully small remainder of produce from Vijayapura.
To his frustration, Ashton was forbidden to work on any other task other than the role of ship’s surgeon and he set about cleaning the small room and the equipment.
He hoped to prove himself among the men aboard as a seafarer and found himself very much alone with his thoughts instead. His mother was very much on his mind, but the memory of Pitmerden faded greatly.
The present commitment of removing Admiral Gryll from the La Longi coastline superseded all memories and a slow burning hatred kindled for the pirate. It was one thing to rob ships of cargo, and yet another to set immigrants on fire. He watched hopes and dreams unceremoniously buried on the shipwreck site when the finality of death was fully realized.
A sailor shouted, “Crow on the line!” Breaking Ashton’s focus. Ascending from below, he could hear the boos of the men.
Captain Nicholas was disheartened. “A bad omen, a crow on the line. I will send a lad to shimmy up the ropes and drive him away.”
It was Erbe, Ashton’s friend he had rescued months ago, high in the rigging. He had no intention of going anywhere and seemed to revel in the insults below.
“Erbe!” Ashton proclaimed! “Come down here at once!” The bird swooped down and gracefully landed on his shoulder.
The sailors glared in disgust. For a surgeon to befriend a crow was distasteful.
Ashton ignored them. Reaching into a pocket, he procured a small bit of the ship’s biscuit. “Good bird! You came when called! Great job Erbe!”
Erbe accepted the treat, looked off in the distance, lowered his center of gravity, and took flight.
Captain Nicholas’ good eye twitched. “Good riddance. Crows have no place aboard my ship. Bad luck, all of them.
Ashton did not reply. It was not his ship after all and he did not sign Erbe aboard.
The farmers of Vijayapura we’re elated at Ashton’s performance and said as much below deck. There was a great curiosity in how he had acquired Chandra’s dagger as well, something Ashton could not adequately explain.
The Netty Northwich was in no way voyage worthy requiring frequent pumping of water. Petra, a passenger known to the crew as a cheese thief, effectively oversaw this task as she had acquired an education in the matter somewhere or the other.
Ashton took a liking to converse with her and Theodore, the chemist. They had much to offer in the realm of higher learning.
Theodore started his life in Vijayapura and had been everywhere.
He spoke of La Longi, Carsiolia, and of a little village called Northwich nestled deep in the northern forests. His voice was higher pitched and he spoke rapidly.
“Chemistry is the future, Ashton! A man of science will have a place in the generations to follow. Even in the woodlands of the North, the natives dream of the stars, and one day we will travel to them, Ashton. Perhaps not in my lifetime or yours, but we must open the minds of our youth to the idea!”
Theodore was a visionary. Ashton was enthralled with the ideas however fantastic they may be. He claimed he could control fire by the rate of burning with bird excrement. It was beyond Ashton’s comprehension.
The days passed slowly for him as they sailed. He longed to be above deck singing the ballads and working with his hands.
He dutifully practiced the kata or form taught by Ishaan with Chandra’s blade.
Heafrith, one of Captain Nicholas’ best mates, came for a visit.
“My boy, you have excellent form with the blade. May I impart a few things to you?”
Ashton reluctantly consented. He was still a little upset for being told to keep his hands soft and uncalloused for a surgeon’s work.
Heafrith smiled. “I never block, Ashton. I trained with Ishaan a few times and he doesn’t either. Every block is a strike. Every single time. I prefer to strike my opponent’s extended arm with my bladed forearms when in close combat. The bones in the forearm are a weapon in themselves. The elbow is an excellent weapon as well, but it takes conditioning and practice.”
Ashton absorbed this information but had no frame of reference. Heafrith continued.
“When I have downtime, I would like to train with you if you will allow it.”
“But why though? The Captain will hardly let me above deck, let alone work. I think you would be shut of me when we arrive at La Longi when you refit the Netty Northwich. “
“Ah, Lad. There is more at work here than can be spoken of and Captain Nick has plans for you in the future, I just know it. He needs a surgeon more than a deckhand right now. He would be most displeased if you were to leave; there is much fighting to be done soon and we need your steady hand to stitch us up.”
Heafrith was thoughtful.
“We also need you ready to defend yourself if we be overrun by pirates.”
Ashton raised an eyebrow. ” I suppose I could stand to learn a few things about combat, Heafrith. I really would like to learn the rigging and the wheel, to be honest.”
Heafrith shook his head. “Na on this voyage.”