Monday, June 15, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 34

< Chapter 33                                                                                                 Chapter 35 >
Jade has sailed off in the pinnace, looking for David and her boyfriend, Forbose.

Mrs. Cochran watched the pinnace speed off into the gathering darkness. “Lon, what are we going to do? I can’t lose my little girl!”

Captain Cochran put an arm around his wife and gave her a squeeze. “Pray and hope, Nell.”

Without bothering to lower her voice, Mrs. Sune said, “Well, I’m hardly surprised. Her parents let her run wild around the ship, doing men’s work and wearing men’s clothing. I mean, pants? I ask you!”

Mrs. Cochran stiffened and her husband whispered to her, “Ignore the woman, Nell. It won’t help Jade. On top of that, we may not have a ship right now, but when our new one is built we’ll sail under the Oshwindon flag.”

“No, Captain Cochran,” I said, “you’ll sail under the Mordanian flag unless you choose otherwise.” The captain looked at me in surprise, I added, “All fees waived and without waiting in the lists.”

Cochran kissed his wife’s hand lovingly. “In that case, if it will make you feel better, Nell, please give the Sunes a taste of the temper you’ve held in check these last two weeks.”

The Sunes were already backing away from the couple as a ghost of a smile crossed Mrs. Cochran’s face. “I’ve already said enough. Besides, it won’t help Jade.” She looked at one of the crewmen arrayed rather menacingly behind the nervous couple. “Mister Yarrow, please take the Sunes somewhere where decent folk can neither see nor hear them. I don’t want to see them again before my daughter is safely returned.”

“Aye aye, ma’am.” The second-in-command took the Sunes in hand, leading them away from us. Over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t you worry about Miss Jade, ma’am. She’s a smart and capable young lady.”

“Thank you, Mister Yarrow,” she replied.

“And don’t forget that David is out there,” I said. “If she does find him, rest assured he’ll take care of her.”

Mrs. Cochran’s tentative smile returned, “Well, that would certainly please Jade no end! But my daughter can be quite headstrong and impulsive—she might be more than your husband can handle.”

“She sounds remarkably like someone David knows extremely well.” I smiled at the Cochran’s puzzled expressions. “Jade sounds like me. David has managed to keep me alive through many trials and tribulations. He’ll do the same for your daughter.”

The Cochrans looked off into the darkness as if hoping for one last glimpse of the pinnace and its blonde pilot. When they turned back to face me, it was as the captain and lady of the Wind Dancer. They issued orders and, within minutes, had a cooking fire and a larger signal fire burning.

Young William eyed the fires with concern. “Should we have fires, Callan? In all the adventure stories Jade read to me and the ones I read for myself, the hero never builds a fire at night because it will give away his position to the bad guys.”

I laid a hand on William’s shoulder. “The bad guys already know where we are, William. They’re the ones who crashed your family’s airship.”

“Right… So Daddy—“ The boy gave me a sidelong glance at the use of the word for his father. “So, um, Dad hopes some good guys spot the fire?”

“Exactly. And you know you don’t have to be ashamed of calling your father ‘Daddy.’ I still use that name for my father.”

“Yeah, but you’re a girl,” William scoffed.

I suppressed a laugh. “Well, I can’t argue with that logic! Don’t worry, William, your little slip of the tongue is safe with me.”

Then Mrs. Cochran called for William to help her prepare dinner. When I volunteered to help, the woman shook her head in horror at my suggestion. “Goodness, Your Highness, what kind of hosts do you take us for?”

“Practical ones, I hope,” I said. “Look, Nell—may I call you Nell?”

“Of course!”

“Thank you. And you must remember to call me Callan.” I looked at all the activity going on around me. “Nell, you’ve got more to do than you have hands to do it. There’s no sense in having one pair of hands sitting idle just because they’re at the end of a princess’s arms.” Nell hesitated for a second, so I added, “Don’t make me use my princess glare on you!”

“Very well, Callan,” Nell raised her hands in mock surrender. She gave me an appraising look, obviously trying to figure out what task she could safely assign to me. “Um, what would you like to do?”

“What you really mean is what can I do without ruining it.”

“I’d never have put it so indelicately, Callan,” Nell grinned, “but yes, that is what I meant.”

“I’ve been known to stir pots without ruining their contents and can ladle food onto plates with the best of them,” I replied.

The simple tasks kept me busy and the next hour passed quickly. By the time everyone was fed and everything cleaned up, the crew seemed willing to accept me as one of the family. After that, Captain Cochran led a brief memorial service for the three crewmen who died in the crash. I mentally added the names of the airmen from my little airship, those lost from the Vanguard, and most especially young Chris during the prayers.

Captain Cochran was five words into the final prayer for the dead when the wind carried a distant sound to our ears. An airship was approaching from the east!

Whose airship approaches? Find out in Chapter 35, coming Wednesday!