The Scarred Goddess, Chapter 8

Fiction By Bridget // 9/27/2009

Life at sea was hard.  Not that I didn’t like it, however.  I was used to hard work by now, and life as a beloved goddess-child was a memory, and a vague one at that.

The men still called me Kantula, for a nickname more than anything else.  I had my own berth, which was uncommon, but some of the men refused to bunk with me in defense of their friend Kat.  It wasn’t large, necessarily, but it was private.  I couldn’t believe I had gotten so lucky.  It seemed everything was going my way so far.  What my way was, I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t have a specific goal in mind.  I figured I would just be a sailor for the rest of my life.  I really should have guessed I would be found out before too long.

I was a sweeping boy for about a month before the captain called me into his cabin and asked me if I wanted a little more responsibility.

Now, that’s a hard question.  If you say no, you’re liable to miss out on something big, and if you say yes, then, obviously, you get more work.  You lose either way.  But I said yes.

“Good.  You can do a little extra in the galley.  I want Wilom to teach you how to cook some.  It’s fitting that our ‘girl’ should learn to cook, don’t you think?”  And then he laughed uproariously.

 

So after that, I spent the time when I wasn’t cleaning at the galley with Wilom, the cook.  He was nice enough, but set in his ways, and would blow up in the most extraordinary way at the smallest things.  If I were to drop the fish on the dirty floor, he would tell me gently to pick it up and be more careful next time, but if I were to cut it just a little bit differently than he had taught me, he would go into a rage, stomping and yelling at me.  Five minutes later he would be sweet and mild as a lamb.

We usually had fish and hard crackers for supper, and mid-day meal was always a mystery.  Even I couldn’t tell what it was, and I helped make it.  But anybody who refused to eat risked Wilom’s fury, and that was really not advisable.

 

After I learned to cook well, the captain removed me from the galley, and told me I was going to stand night watch with the rest of the crew.  Dryl was the helmsman, fifty or so, gray, with a lined face and a love for stories.  He would tell stories to himself when there was no one else to tell them too.  Most of the sailors dismissed him as crazy.  The captain thought the same, but kept him because he was an undeniably good sailor, and knew the sea backwards and forwards.  I kept him company many nights while I was on night watch, and gave him someone to tell stories to.  We were both lonely, and we had good times on those nights.  He would tell me stories of when he was younger, about sailing to the great ports of Calamas Bay and Toiu City.

He told me tales of the girls he had met in port, tales that made me blush and tales that were so sad they almost made my heart break.  He told me once that he had been fighting three pirates at once, and another one came at him, screaming like a wild animal.  The rest of the pirates made way for him, and he came at Dryl with a fury.  Dryl was driven back to the edge of the deck.  Then, he said, somehow, the pirate disarmed him, pushed his sword against his throat, and laughed.  Then the pirate took his bandanna off.  Long, wild black hair tumbled out.  He, said Dryl, was a she!  The girl pirate removed her sword from his neck, and drew an X on her chest with her finger.  Then she took the sword and cut an X on his chest.  She wiped the bloody sword on her clothes, stuck it in her belt, and walked away, tossing her hair.  Dryl never saw her again, but he never forgot her.  He told me that he had kissed hundreds of girls, and forgotten them after a day, but the one girl who kept his heart was the one who had cut the X into his chest all those years ago.

That tale fascinated me.  I asked him to tell me the story again, and he obliged.  I listened close, absorbing every word.  Every night, he would tell me stories, and when my watch was almost finished, he would finish with that one.
I never forgot it.  I memorized every word until I knew it by heart.

 

It was around this time that I realized I didn’t know what we were doing.  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to ask before this.  I remembered Yuru telling me that I was “embarking on a trip of madness”, but I was too shocked then to ask what he meant.  I asked Iope, but he didn’t know, and when I asked Dryl, he looked sad.  There are some people, he said, that think everything that happens was meant to be, “but there are some things that should never happen, and couldn’t have been meant to be.”

I never got another word from him on that subject.  I was wary of asking the captain.  I couldn’t help wondering about him.  The way he laughed, the way he talked; everything about him told me to watch my step.  I didn’t ask Yuru either, because of what he said in connection with the captain.  “The captain and I are your truest and only real friends here.”  If I couldn’t trust the captain, I wasn’t sure I could trust Yuru.  And so I didn’t say a word, and I wondered instead.

My wonderings took me everywhere.

 

Right now, I remember another tale that Dryl told me, and it should be set down before I go any further.  In his own words:

Once, on one of my trips to Calamas Bay, I happened upon a trial in the middle of the city.  This young boy was on trial for murder.  He was standing up real straight and tall in front of the trial master, and when he was asked why he did this thing, he said, “I haven’t admitted my guilt.  How can you ask why when you don’t even know if?”

The trial master laughed and said, “Nobody else could have done it.”

Boy: “Don’t I have the right to plead my innocence?  Does the law not require you to ask the accused if they did it?”

Trial master: “Very well, for fairness, I ask you:  Did you kill your father?”  Everybody expected him to deny it, of course, but he straightened, looked the trial master in the eye, and said, “Yes.”

The trial master had to call the guards to get everyone to be quiet after that.

Trial master: “I see.  And why did you do this?”  The boy didn’t say anything.

Trial master: “Very well, since you won’t answer, you will now accept the customary punishment for this kind of crime: apology to the family members involved, in this case your own, and death by beheading.”

Boy: “I’m not sorry.  I would do it again.”

Trial master: “It is customary, and you will do it.”

Boy: “I won’t.  I don’t think you can make me either.  What could you do?  Behead me twice?”  The trial master was a bit quiet after that.  He wasn’t altogether a bad sort, but I think he was used to having his way, especially at trials, and he wasn’t sure what to do with this headstrong boy.

It wouldn’t have mattered what he said though, because that’s when the arrow got shot, and next thing everybody knew, the boy fell down clutching his blood-soaked shirt.

I didn’t see him after that, and I don’t know the story behind the whole scene, but it always struck me strangely, because it turned out that his older brother shot the arrow.

 

It struck me the same way, but I felt a bit different, because I wondered if it was better to have no family, or one who hated you?  I know the choice seemed obvious, but I couldn’t understand how you could really hate your family.

Then I thought of some of the things Keste had done, just to prove his sovereignty, or even just to hurt someone, and I realized it was because of something he had done that I was here; his fault that my brother Thosu was dead; his fault my mother was dead; his fault Shifa was gone.  And I understood.

For a drunken insult, most likely, my father killed someone, and set in motion everything that had happened.  And who knew what would happen now?