The Harpooned Whale

'The Harpooned Whale' is set on the high seas and follows the adventures of Erin, a steely young woman with a violent streak, and Scarlet who is thrown into her world.

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7. Chapter Seven: Erin

 

      “Alderman?” I called, knocking on the crooked door to his cabin.

      I knew better than to burst into Alderman’s cabin without permission. If he was performing a complicated spell and I distracted him things could go badly wrong.

      There was the sound of a chair scraping on the floor and then the door opened, revealing the sleep tousled sorcerer. “Erin,” he said, his expression changing to worry when he saw me. “What can I do for you?”

      “I want to start learning magic.”

      Alderman looked weary. “Now? But it’s late.”

      “Yes, now.” I scowled.

      Fear flickered through his tired eyes when he saw my agitation. “Come in.”

      Alderman opened the door wider and I stepped inside. The cabin was Alderman’s workplace, his sanctuary. Dead jabadee birds, crystals and talismans, among other things, were dangling from the wooden ceiling. An open, worn trunk displayed numerous bottles of ingredients and the desk was covered in piles of scrolls and books. The cabin smelled of must, herbs and sweat. My eyes were drawn to the circle on the floorboards. It was Alderman’s casting circle, the place that he could cast magic safely. The older a casting circle was, the stronger the protective barrier it formed when you were inside it was. It seemed that I had picked up some knowledge over the years. For the briefest second I felt like a young girl again, in awe of my surroundings and innocent to the ways of the world and to the deceitful minds of men.

      “Please sit in the circle.” Alderman said, sweat forming on his brow.

      I did as he asked and watched as he gathered several items. “What are you doing?”

      “For you to use magic I need to perform an awakening spell. It will unlock any power you have. I have to warn you though, Erin, that not everyone has the ability to use magic. It may be that you can’t.”        

      He was warning me now so that I wouldn’t go crazy if it turned out that I had no magic.

      Nodding I replied. “I understand.”

      Alderman seated himself opposite me, his huge bulk filling up the rest of the circle. Into a wooden bowl he poured some pink sand, flower petals and a green liquid. As he mixed them together it occurred to me that maybe the reason Alderman had put this off for so long was because if I did have powers, he would have to spend more time with me. We had been close once, but that had been before. Now he avoided me like most of the other members of the crew tried to.

      I could tell by the sad look in Alderman’s dark eyes that he was thinking about the past too. Giving me a cautious smile he said. “I need to put this paste on your hands and face.”

      I held out my hands, giving him permission to touch me. The brown paste was like paint and Alderman used it to draw symbols on the backs of my hands and on my cheeks. It was cool on my skin and its scent was pleasant.

      After lighting a candle, Alderman pressed his palms to mine. “Are you ready?”

      “Yes,”

      Tilting his head back, he began to chant a spell. The words were foreign but I could sense the power in them. Around us the circle burst into life, briefly filling the room with light. The hairs on my arms and neck lifted up as a strange, prickling sensation travelled from where Alderman’s skin met mine and up my arms to my chest and heart. The next thing I knew a wave of energy pulsated out from within me. It was so strong that both Alderman and I were thrown backwards, our hands torn apart. The candle extinguished and I lay where I was panting. My whole body felt alive; every cell was buzzing with might. I’d never felt anything like it before. Hearing a groan I sat up to find Alderman rubbing his head as he struggled to straighten up. When his gaze fell on me it was filled with a mixture of wonder and alarm.

      “Is that meant to happen?” I asked, gazing at the symbols on my hands which were blazing intensely.  

      Alderman’s voice was careful. “It’s never been that... intense before.” he laboured to his feet and went over to the desk before rummaging around for something.

      I closed my eyes. My skin felt like it was straining to keep any more energy from escaping. It shifted and I flexed my hands and rolled my head. The skin settled and the power slowly ebbed back into my heart. I could still feel it there, but it was like it had been put to sleep. Opening my eyes I found Alderman staring at me.

      “What?” I demanded. This moment was important to me because just as I had always known deep down, I had magic. I’d waited for years and years for this to happen and Alderman was ruining it.

      “N... nothing.” he stammered. “I... I need to check something before I start teaching you, but I promise that we will begin your lessons soon. In the meantime, please don’t try to do any magic by yourself.”

      With a curt nod to Alderman I left the room and went up onto the empty deck, where I sat on the edge of the ship, my legs dangling out over the choppy water below. The moon had a green tinge in the dark, star filled night sky, a sign that a storm was on its way. It would be no ordinary storm. The mists of the Border Lands played havoc with the weather, which was why the winters of Lyttle Haven were so harsh. It was odd that there was going to be a storm so far away from the Border Lands though. Usually they didn’t happen as far north from Lyttle Haven as we were. Anything could happen during the storms. I’d seen it rain fish, day turn into night and sometimes the rain would burn you and your ship, setting everything on fire. I wasn’t worried though. Alderman used protective charms to prevent any harm from befalling the crew or the ship. I glanced up at the empty crow’s nest. Magic really was wonderful. Alderman had made it so that if anyone tried to board the ship while we were asleep, loud piercing cries would sound and wake us all. It meant that there wasn’t a constant need for someone to be in the crow’s nest. My eyes widened as an idea bloomed in my mind. Stomping below deck I searched the hammocks for the pristine face of Scarlet. He wasn’t hard to find seeing as the rest of the crew all had sea-hardened faces with scars.

      “Get up.” I said kicking him.

      Scarlet gave a girly cry and fell out of the hammock, landing on the floor. There was a whoosh as the air was knocked out of him. His topaz eyes were sleepy and he blinked several times. When he realised that it was me he hastily scrambled to his feet. Straightening his clothes and smoothing his hair, Scarlet stood to attention. He opened his mouth to ask about the symbols on my cheeks and hands, but he thought better of it. It looked like he was learning quickly.

      “Come with me.”

      As we left the sleeping quarters I could hear the rest of the crew trying to suppress their laughter. Once we were on deck, I climbed spryly up to the crow’s nest. Scarlet followed me at a considerably slower pace.

      “You never climbed up to a crow’s nest before?” I asked, noticing how his breathing was strained.

      His cheeks were red with embarrassment as well as exertion. There was a faint sheen of sweat on his face. “I... I don’t like heights.” Scarlet kept his eyes fixed on his feet, his hand gripping the side of the crow’s nest tightly. He had turned a sickly shade of green, but that might have been because of the green moonlight.

      Snorting I muttered. “Some pirate you are. You’re on night watch. Keep an eye out for any ships or creatures. I’ll send someone to replace you in the morning. Do not fall asleep. Any questions?”

      “I... err...” Scarlet was gaping like a fish out of water. “What should I do if I see something?”

      “If you’re sure that there’s something out there come and get me. Do you have a spyglass?” at the shake of his head I sighed and handed him mine. “If you lose it I’ll chop your hand off.” I growled.

      He stared at the golden spyglass and gulped. “Yes sir, I mean ma’am.”

      Rolling my eyes I climbed down the rope ladder and went to my cabin. I smirked as I dropped down into my hammock and removed my necklace. I closed my eyes, running the trophies of my battles through my fingers like a rosary. In my other hand, as there always was when I went to sleep, was a knife. 

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