It wasn’t dinner time yet, so the dining hall (if you could call it that) was quite empty. In the back, there were two, quite rowdy, Bastets. They were chopping food and tossing it into various boiling and sizzling pots and pans. An overwhelming roasted aroma filled the room. It reminded Pip of when her father used to cook for her.
"Abby and Sylas," Gideon said gesturing towards the chefs. Pip kept staring at them as they both danced around the kitchen. They were singing back and forth to each other as they went. All the while, items of food kept making its way to pots and various bowls. It truly was dinner and a show.
"They bring life to the ship both literally and figuratively. Fantastic chefs, the both of them," Gideon explained. "Abby! Sylas!" He shouted a bit louder over their antics. They turned around. "I won’t interrupt for too long, but this is our newest crew member, Ms. Pip Rogers! We’re going to talk in here for a little while before dinner!"
"Ah, Pip Rogers, Miss Pip Rogers! It’s got quite a ring, isn’t that right, Sylas?" Abby said as she threw some vegetables into a pot. Her voice was higher and sing-songy, even when she wasn’t singing.
"A very unimpressive ring. Looks like a small Bastet," Sylas retorted. His voice was darker, but still very theatrical.
"Seems like the right size for a Bastet of her age if you ask me," Abby said. At this point, they had both turned back around and continued cooking.
And their banter faded behind the sizzling and cracking of food as Gideon sat down and began talking. "So, Pip, the Captain and I were very impressed with your letter and the knowledge you seem to have about Rijeka, despite never leaving your home island-"
"Well, I did sail out a few times, just not to another island," Pip interjected as she sat down at the table across from him. The fairy was still perched on her shoulder, watching as each of them talked. Pip tried to ignore it.
Gideon continued, inquisitively. "Well, how’d you come to know so much about the world?"
"Reading and talking," Pip explained. "I read every book in our island’s library and some of them more than once. And I spent a lot of time in the tavern near the dock. Lots of information from travelers. I actually wrote it all down, whenever someone said something. Then I would re-read my notes every once and awhile."
"Well, Pip, that’s perfect. I knew you’d be a great fit for this role. Do you know what a ship’s Scribe does?" He didn’t wait for an answer. "Almost exactly what you were already doing. Your duty on this ship is to maintain our ship log. It contains maps, details of the islands, where we can find foods and resources, details of towns, and other information useful to our missions."
"Can I see the log now?" Pip asked with more enthusiasm then she’d shown on the ship before. If she learned enough about the world, the Naval Academy’s courses would be a breeze! And she needed a headstart on all the kids who had a better education.
Gideon chuckled a bit at her request. "All in due time, Pip. It’s a very important item, one of the most valuable resources we have. It’s the collective knowledge of the ship, the storehouse of information. At times, it’s our guiding light, it tells us our path forward, where to stop, how to get what we need." He paused, realizing he should get down to the details. "Now, on The Spirit of the Arrow, we keep two ship logs. One rough log that can leave the ship, and one official log which you will enter into every time you make changes to the rough log. That official log stays on the ship in a secure location, in case anything ever happens to your rough log," Gideon explained. Pip perked up when he said ‘your’ rough log. "Any questions so far?"
"Do you trade information from the log with other ships? It seemed like that happened a lot back at the tavern. People would gamble away information or trade it," Pip said. She thought back to the times in her home tavern where she'd walk by the exchange of information to try and get a glimpse. Most of the time the exchanges were too stealthy or quick. Every so often, though, Pip would hear or see some information she could add to her notebook. One time she got caught and the tavern owner reluctantly kicked her out (at the demand of the sailor whose information she had ‘stolen’).
"Yes, the typical procedure during docking is to try and exchange information with other ships. As we are a smaller ship without any guild affiliation, we need as much information as we can get. You should be able and willing to trade information, especially with larger guild ships," Gideon instructed.
"Wait, do I have to trade for common Guild knowledge?” Pip asked.
Gideon seemed impressed by her question. “Yes. The guilds may give the same information to all their ships but it’s constantly changing and being updated. And they don’t just offer that information for free, especially to independent ships.”
“Well, that's just stupid. If the guilds weren’t a bunch of privileged idiots, they’d give us the common information they give all their lackey ships," Pip burst out.
Gideon smirked, seemingly in agreement, but then his expression changed. He hid his smile and got serious. "Don’t let the Captain hear you speak like that," he urged. "No matter the merit of those kinds of declarations, the Captain believes that we should not badmouth, slander, or defame any other person, ship, or organization. 'Everything has its purpose,' she'd say."
"Well that’s dumb because every Azure Sword I’ve ever met has been incredibly rude and didn’t bring anything but drunken fights to my island," Pip sassed, mostly truthfully.
Gideon’s expression changed once more, another shift towards seriousness. He sat a bit taller and his voice grew with authority. "Pip! You will not speak like that about our Captain’s opinion. She is your superior and you’ll respect and adhere to the values she’s declared for this ship."
Pip furrowed her eyebrows.
"Am I clear?" Gideon asked.
"Sure," Pip agreed, albeit begrudgingly.
"I expect a yes or no," Gideon said, sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed. It was a little quieter in the kitchen now, the singing seemed to have stopped. Pip glanced at Abby and Sylas out of the corner of her eye and saw them not so subtly staring. As soon as they saw Pip looking, they whipped their heads back around and began whistling and cooking again.
"Yes," Pip said, defeated.
"Good. Now I don’t know what your experience with authority is, but this ship functions because of our structure. If you cannot fit into that structure, you weaken our effectiveness. It’s not often that superiors give orders, but when and if they do, they are to be followed wholeheartedly and without reservation," Gideon said, still in his somewhat-angry voice. Then, his composure changed back to normal. "We don’t like to give orders. We want to operate on respect, which is probably the most important thing we’re going to ask of you. Respect this ship, respect your role, and respect the other crew members."
"I understand," Pip said without prompt.
"Good. In that case, I present you with your log," Gideon said as he produced a worn, leather book from the sleek messenger bag at his side. The book was pretty large, too large to fit in an average pocket. Pip would have to carry her backpack around to keep it in. Her eyes lit up as she imagined the plethora of information contained within the pages. The perfect study guide for the Naval Academy!
"Dinner’s soon so you’ll get a chance to see everyone. I maintained the log before you and would recommend following the style and organization already present. If you have questions, let me know. For now, go ahead and familiarize yourself with it," Gideon said, handing it over.
She didn’t hesitate to take it from him. Without saying anything she started skimming the pages, which had a strange sheen to them. The front two pages folded out into a spectacular map that seems to encompass the entirety of Rijeka, all the way to the fog. The maps contained a grid and subsequent pages were labeled at the top if the information they contained was specific to a portion of the grid. Some pages were more detailed maps, others had bulleted lists of different organizations, inns, shops on various islands, and still more had lists of resources available and where to get them.
Pip was so engrossed in the log that she barely noticed that the fairy had moved forward on her shoulder and was looking down at the log with her. She felt a tiny tickle on her face and looked over. There it was, staring inquisitively at her. "Ewww, what?!" she yelled, recoiling.
Gideon was already gone. How long had she been staring at the log?
The fairy looked back at the log, which Pip subsequently closed and glared. "Mine." She said to the fairy. "Do you even talk?" The fairy tilted its head. It was a bit creepy to be so close to such a creature, it was so… gross, like a giant bug.
Pip lowered her voice, "Look, I don’t know what you want with me but you can tell The Divine that I pray every night, so I don’t know what the problem is. I’ve never spoken against them or anything. I’m very glad for everything they do for us." The fairy just stared. If it did understand, it was doing a pretty good job of acting stupid. Pip grunted. "You’re making this so weird, so whatever you’re supposed to do, just do it. I don’t like animals or bugs very much so you’re really just creeping me out," Pip said bluntly.
"Aye, Pip, is it?" A voice came from the sizzling of the kitchen.
Pip looked up, it was the female, Alanna? Wait, no, that was the religious lady that helped with the fairy. Abby?
"Would you do us the favor of ringing the dinner bell over on the wall there?" Abby pointed to a large, metal bell hanging from a hook to the side of the room.
"Uh- yeah, sure," Pip said as she got up from the table.
Within a minute of ringing the bell (which was much louder than Pip thought possible), all the crew had crammed into the dining hall. A cacophony of voices echoed all around, sprinkled with where’re-the-bowl’s and what’s-for-dinner-today’s. Then, as if the entire group noticed Pip at the same time, it changed to "a fairy!" and "whoa, the new girl has a fairy". This was somewhat quelled by Alanna warning everyone not to mess with it and that it was a blessing to have such a creature aboard The Arrow. Pip was kind of upset that the stupid orange thing was getting more attention than her.
Before anyone could introduce themselves to Pip properly, "Come get your soouuup!" rang from the kitchen and a line formed. Pip noticed that everyone already had rough wooden bowls and spoons in their hands. She found the bowls on a side table and headed towards the line. All of a sudden she felt a huge force knock her down and everything fell out of her hands. The fairy, in the blink of an eye, was hovering above the incident, refusing to go down with Pip.
Pip looked up angrily to find, quite possibly, the largest Bastet she had ever seen (aside from her mother of course). Not that he was that big but definitely pudgier than most.
"Oh, I’m so sorry, are you okay?" he asked as he extended his hand. Pip took it. It was dry and calloused. He helped pull her back up.
"Fine," she said. They both fumbled to get the stuff off the ground they had dropped.
Pip wondered what he did on the ship where he could put on so much weight. He had semi-long brown and tan hair but a patient face. Pip couldn’t quite tell how old he was. His face looked worn, but not aged. His eyes, though sparkling and friendly, seemed sunken and tired.
"I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there," he said as they both got back in line.
The fairy flew back onto Pip’s shoulder. She flinched, but let it be. She was sort of getting used to it creepily hanging out.
"It’s whatever. I’m fine. Oh, I’m Pip by the way," she said simply and without waiting for a reply. "What do you do here?"
"Oh, well, name’s Connor. I’m technically the ship’s Crafter, but not quite university trained," he explained.
"A Crafter?" Pip exclaimed in surprise. "I didn’t expect such a small, ‘pendent ship to have a Crafter!"
"Well, like I said, I’m nothing special. The Captain is gracious to have me aboard, I make myself useful where possible," he responded. "So you’re the new Scribe, huh?"
"Yup," Pip said. "Just got the log today. Gideon gave it to me."
"Awesome, you’re starting off on a good foot. Gideon might be the most organized person I know. He tell you about the essencing schedule?" Connor asked.
"Uh- essencing schedule? No, he didn’t mention it."
"Ah, okay. No big deal, just one of the things I do around here. The log gets re-essenced every few months so it remains waterproof," Connor explained. Pip remembered the sheen on the pages.
"Oh, that’s why the pages were kinda shiny," she said, thinking out loud.
"Yeah, after effect of the essence. I think it’s good for another month," Connor said as he turned around to dish himself soup from a large pot on the counter. Without ever realizing she had moved, Pip was suddenly next in line. Abby and Sylas stood behind the counter cleaning. There was a large metal pot with a red-broth soup loaded with various vegetables. Pip wasn’t so fond of soup. She looked around, there didn’t seem to be anything else. She ladled the soup into her bowl begrudgingly.
Turning around, she was met with the same situation as lunch-time back at her public school: figuring out where to sit. There were four tables with groups of people already laughing and talking and eating. Pip scanned for familiar faces:
- Gideon, first officer and log guy. Kinda mean.
- Captain (next to Gideon)
- Some other nervous looking Bastet, hmm, next table
- Alanna, the fairy-tamer
- The deck crew who all gawked at her when the fairy smacked her in the face
- A table full of people she hadn’t met yet…
"Pip!" came a familiar voice to her left. It was the Captain. "Why don’t you join us?" It sounded like she didn’t have a choice. She made her way to the table. At the moment, it was The Captain, Gideon, and the nervous-looking Bastet. Oh! Pip, recognized her, she was the one who left the meeting early.
"Hi," Pip said as she sat down and stared into her soup. The environment was much different here. No reprimanding or talking about duties, just casual conversation. Gideon finished telling the Captain some story and they both laughed.
Then the Captain was addressing Pip. "I heard Gideon handed over the log, and I heard all about your new fairy friend. Anything strange happen since it showed up?" she asked casually as she took a slurp of soup. It was strange, seeing the person with oil paintings of herself slurping soup.
"Not particularly, it sorta seems to want to hang around me all the time. Hasn’t said or done anything weird yet, other than hitting me in the face at first," Pip said. The nervous Bastet chuckled at that, immediately noticed that no one else laughed, and turned her head back to the soup. Pip stared angrily. The Captain smiled.
"Well surely it meant no harm. We’ll have to treat it as precious cargo until it reveals its purpose," the Captain said. "This, by the way, is Eliza Botwright, Ship’s Keeper," the Captain said, gesturing to nervous-looking Bastet. "She’ll be your direct superior."
Pip stared in surprise. Direct superior?
"Oh- hi, nice to meet you," Eliza nodded her head towards Pip politely. Her voice was quiet, calculated, and a bit nasally. “Oh, don’t burn yourself with the soup, by the way. It’s very hot.”
"Sorry," Pip said back at the Captain, ignoring Eliza’s comment. "Superior?"
"Yes, as Ship’s Keeper, Eliza looks over the non-deck members of the crew, which includes the Scribe. You two can talk about business after dinner if need be," The Captain said as she turned to Gideon, seemingly ending that conversation and beginning a new one. "I’m curious, did you hear anything more in port about the fog?"
Pip recalled the women at the tavern spreading some rumor.
Gideon took another spoonful of soup and answered, "It was all the buzz at the tavern closest to the port. At this point, it’s just a silly rumor, I couldn’t get any reliable sources. We are headed in that direction though..."
"It’s a curious rumor. The proximity to the bridge makes me nervous that it's true," the Captain said, taking another spoonful of soup into her mouth.
"We’ve heard worse, remember when the taverns on Ordugh were buzzing about how the volcanoes on Griage erupted and destroyed the whole island?"
"Indeed! Another curious rumor!" The Captain exclaimed.
"I wouldn’t call it curious... it was a complete and utter lie. Probably the damn merchants looking to get some extra money for their red stones. Took weeks for The Council to confirm and spread information that Dearg was, indeed, still there. None of the volcanoes even erupted," Gideon explained.
"Ah, but remember when The Azure Swords had claimed to discover a reliable source of light for essencing?" The Captain prodded Gideon.
"That’s different," Gideon said firmly. "It was inevitable and believable."
"So says who? You? What makes the fog lifting not believable?" The Captain retorted.
"It’s just… ludicrous. It’s another ‘island-exploded’ rumor and nothing more. We’re humoring it too much, I was gonna forget about it had you not brought it back up," Gideon said, returning to his food.
"What’s ludicrous is that we hear such a rumor and then a fairy pops its head onto our ship." Both the Captain and Gideon looked over at the creature on Pip’s shoulder. "Strange that we’re headed in the direction of the bridge."
"It’s a coincidence. The poor creature lost its way and it recovering from injuries, I’m sure," Gideon said plainly. The creature was cleaning its wings again and did not look injured whatsoever.
The Captain didn’t look convinced. "You ever seen a fairy before?" she said, almost as a declaration and not a question. Gideon put his spoon down and turned to her.
"To be completely honest, I have not."
"Well, they don’t just go losing their ways. They’re signs. Omens good and bad. People catch a glance of them right before something big happens in their life," The Captain said.
"Those are just tales. Not every story people tell is true."
"But I saw one before, Gideon. You believe me, right?" The Captain said in a somewhat vulnerable state.
Gideon hesitated. "Of course."
"I saw it before we bought this ship." The Captain looked over at Eliza too.
"Well, hopefully this is another good omen then," Eliza said.
"You see, Pip? Your presence on The Spirit of the Arrow comes at a momentous time!" the Captain said quite loud. She rose from her seat and turned to face the rest of the crew, who had stopped eating. They all turned towards their Captain. "I, Captain Crawford of the Spirit of the Arrow, want to thank each and every one of you for your service on this ship!" She was using her official, theatrical voice now. "We are rounding out another mission tomorrow and will be searching for new work. Every mission we complete is another stepping stone for me and you! Thank you so much for your continued and dedicated service! Now, you may have already met, but I wanted to more formally and joyously introduce the newest member of our crew, our new Scribe, Pip!"
Pip was so thrown off guard by this that she choked on the soup she had been eating. Everyone was looking at her. "Pip, welcome to greatest ship in the seas of Rijeka!" The Captain proclaimed and starting a rousing, welcoming applause. Pip got the feeling that maybe she should say something to the crew, but before she could, the Captain began speaking again.
"It’s also apparent that for one reason or another, The Divine have found an interest in our ship," The Captain gestured towards the fairy on Pip’s shoulder. Pip felt the spotlight moving to the annoying creature. Why should it get all this attention? "So, please take care and do not treat this welcome guest with any hostility!"
The Captain turned towards Pip and bent her knees to lower herself to the level of the fairy. "Divine Fairy, I am Captain Crawford of The Spirit of the Arrow and would like to welcome you personally!" Pip rolled her eyes. The fairy didn’t seem to show any interest. In fact, it was staring into the distance, completely unaware of the attention it was receiving.
"Chefs! Let’s get some food for the divine fairy! Everyone," the Captain said turning around. "Enjoy the rest of your meals! For Spirit!" She shouted. Everyone else took up their glasses and responded in unison, with vigor and heart, "For the Arrow!" And then the ritual was over and everyone was laughing and eating their meals again. The Captain sat back down.
"Tomorrow, we make port to finish up a delivery and look for new work. You’ll have the opportunity to trade information at the taverns there so read our log. Eliza will show you to the crew quarters," The Captain said to Pip.
"Well, here you are. Shared quarters with the night shift crew, so sometimes the bed isn’t made," Eliza explained to Pip. They were in a tiny room with bunk beds lining the walls. There was a single desk at the back and storage underneath the beds for people’s personal belongings.
The fairy flew from Pip’s shoulder, startling her and Eliza, who took a step back. Almost silently it floated over to the desk in the back, wings a blur. It landed and settled on the desk, curling into a ball in the corner. Eliza chuckled nervously and looked over her shoulder as if another fairy might appear. Pip was just happy it finally left her shoulder.
Looking around, it was slightly upsetting that Pip would be sharing quarters with everyone else… she hadn’t thought of that. Zero personal space. She didn’t even get the bed to herself, some night shift people were sleeping on it apparently.
"Where are the night shift people now?" Pip asked.
"Oh," Eliza responded, surprised (presumably more so by the asking of a question than the question itself). "They were at dinner with us, smaller group, they join us in the morning for our daily debrief as well."
"Must have to have done something really wrong to have to work the night shift!" Pip said, mostly not joking. She kinda laughed at the end though, which threw Eliza off.
"Hah, yeah," Eliza started, but then, "oh, but not really, no."
"Oh, okay, right. Well, thanks," Pip said, she suspected wasn’t gonna get any normal conversation out of Eliza.
"Of course. Please be safe and watch yourself. There’s a floorboard by the desk that has warped a bit. And the beds do squeak but definitely hold. Do you roll in your sleep?"
"Uh, a little I guess," Pip said, thinking about it.
"Well, maybe take the bottom bunk tonight then. Make sure you’re not going to fall off the bed," Eliza said hurriedly as if she was very concerned.
"Okay, yeah, I’ll do that," Pip said and without thinking added, "Why are you so nervous and weird? I mean, you act so strange."
Eliza, instead of being shocked by her response, hung her head down a bit in shame. "Yeah, I just act a bit different than everyone else." Then she raised her chin up and looked a bit happier, adding, "Captain says it’s a good quality for my position."
"I guess…" Pip responded. "Well. Good night."
"Good night." Eliza turned around and headed towards the door. Before exiting, she put her ear near the wall and knocked on it with her hand. Pip thought about how weird she was for a moment and then turned to look at her bed. It was small and dirty. She was glad she made it to the room before everyone else though. She got some quiet time. If quiet time was accompanied by incessant creaking and splashing of water.
As Pip sat on the bed (which was not the least bit soft), it all finally started to set in. She was really on a ship sailing away from home. She didn’t have to make dinner for her mother, do the laundry, clean the house, or make sure her brother was home safe. Even though she had recently begun to despise her responsibilities, they were somewhat grounding. They made her feel useful.
She did care about her mother… she had to, right? But now, with everyone gone, miles away, she felt a little empty. Even though she knew that her brother would take good care of her mom, she felt a little upset. She wasn’t going to help her mom to bed tonight. Not even one day and she already missed home a bit.
Pip sighed as she laid her head down on the rock of a pillow.
Pip eventually drifted off to sleep. The fairy shifted on the desk and popped its head up, eyes glowing. Tilting its head towards Pip’s bed, it quietly rose and flew over, perching right above her sleeping head and staring as she slept.
The rest of the crew slowly made their way into the room to go to sleep. A few shoved a small material into their ears or covered their heads when they laid down. Pip, however, was a heavy sleeper. She awoke a couple times as people entered, but just rolled over and drifted back into her dreams (which she rarely remembered). And then, hours later, the silence of night enshrouded the ship as it drifted through the sea.
Pip awoke to screaming and shouting. Everyone was jumping out of bed and throwing on clothes. So many voices at once, and then, it happened again. Pip had never heard the noise before. It was unlike anything she had imagined. It was loud, for sure, but it was muffled. More of a pounding than a ripping.
In addition to the huge thud from outside, she saw a flash of light against the ship. Gunpowder igniting in the distance.
"Cannon-fire! Cannon-fire! Everyone up! We’re under attack!"