Last week’s snippet was the first half of a quite long section that got cut; here’s the second half.
Evion looked down the front of his vest, brushing at imaginary lint. “He would never insult a professional of my stature by asking me to work for free.”
“So, yes.” Aine brooded out the window. “With that, and the rest of what you’ve earned, will we have enough to hire a ship?”
Evion snorted. “I’ve told you,” he said, “the problem isn’t paying for it, the problem is convincing a captain and a crew to sail out into the deep ocean on our say-so, without knowing where we’re going or how we’ll know when we get there. The problem–” warming to his theme, “–is that damned erratic compass never pointing in the same direction for more than a day at a time; who’s to say it won’t switch again the minute we set sail?”
“Can’t they just … turn the boat?”
“Ship,” Evion said. “Yes, they could, depending on a number of highly technical variables that I won’t go into now, since you’re not interested and they’re not really the point anyway–and they probably would, once. But believe me they will begin to balk when it happens again, and again, and again, and we no closer to our goal than before. Not to mention, those who sail on the sea in ships don’t usually have a lot of patience for landlubbers.”
“Landlubbers.” The word made her smile. “Is that a real word?”
He slapped his forehead with an open palm. “Gods help us. ‘Is that a real word.’ And that right there is why we can’t just plunk down a sack of coin and hire a ship.”
Aine thought, gnawing on her lower lip. Outside the edge of town, south from the busy docks, was another center of activity; if she leaned forward and put her cheek against window glass, she could just see the edge of it: three ramps sloping gently from shore to sea, and resting on them huge constructions like the belly-up skeletons of some enormous animal, surrounded by scaffolding, workers crawling about them like ants. The shore beyond these ramps was taken up with a vast orderly yard, surrounded by a guarding wall, filled with neat stacks of timber and other such things. Her eyes had passed over it several times without really seeing it or wondering what it was.
“The shipyard,” Evion said, coming round behind her chair and following her gaze. “They’re building ships. If you look there, beyond the slips, you can see the ordinary, where the finished hulls are waiting for their masts.”
“The … slips?”
“Those ramps with the half-built hulls on them.”
She barely looked; a new thought made her catch her breath. She glanced up at him, but all she could see was the line of his jaw and the edge of his cheek, pointing out to sea. “Evion,” she said, and he turned his head to look at her. “Could we … buy a ship?”
Evion stared at her for a long moment, his mouth open; then his legs collapsed as though cut out from under him, and he fell to the floor and laughed and laughed.
When he recovered himself (and it took some time), Evion devoted himself to explaining to her why, exactly, they could not buy a ship. It was suppertime before he was done; she kept asking questions, most of them beginning with “but”: “but what if we–” “but wouldn’t they–” “but what about–” He fielded her protests as best he could, but he wasn’t sure she was entirely convinced–she was wearing the same stubborn look he’d seen when she told him she was staying to learn fencing with Tyne, whether he liked it or not–but they were both hungry by then, and good smells were drifting up from the Seacrest’s kitchen.
“Listen to me,” he said, “you’d have to be rich as a king to commission a private ship, even a little one, and it would take years to build. You’d have to crew it, and ballast it, and arm it, and supply it, all of which takes both time and money, and oodles of both. And even if we had oodles of time and money, which we don’t, you don’t just saunter down to the Royal Shipyard of Brene and say, ‘Hi there, I’d like to buy a ship,’ especially not in a time of war! It’s just not–it isn’t–it’s not some farm wagon or a new headboard for your bed, it’s a ship!”
She was gazing at him steadily, like a madhouse doctor observing a fascinating new patient. “And we can’t hire one either,” she said.
“So what do we do?”
“I don’t know!” His hands came up and clutched his hair, pulling until it stung his scalp.
“What about a boat,” Aine said, “just a little one? Like that?”
She pointed down into the darkening harbor, where a newcome ship, probably a merchant by her lines, was anchoring, surronded by a little fleet of bumboats and dinghies.
Evion gaped out loud. “You can’t put out to sea in a dinghy!”
“We might not have to go very far,” she said.
He didn’t know whether to be charmed or exasperated. “It wouldn’t work,” he said. “Please trust me: it just wouldn’t. We’ll think of something, I promise. Are you hungry? Come on, let’s go get some supper. We’ll find a solution, we will, but not when we’re so famished we can’t think straight.” He took her elbow and helped her stand, and to his surprise she made no protest, not even when he tucked her arm through his and led her to the door.
Ridiculous, he thought, glancing at her sidelong. She’s half a head taller than I am.
She leaned against him a little, as though tired. He held onto her arm tighter, and led her downstairs.