Lazy Luddite Log

28.11.11

The Deep Calm

This is a short story I wrote last Summer for a specific purpose and a select audience. Now however I am putting it here for a wider circulation. It is nominally set in my Lands fantasy setting. The 'curds and whey' notion was devised for the story but now may as well form part the texture of my setting too.

Capella woke feeling utterly waterlogged. She wondered why, but then all her senses went hazy and dim, and she sank into memory.

* * * * *

Matriarch Alessandra had instructed Sister Capella in meditating on the deep calm that hid below every raging tempest. Kandoth the Master of Storms was but the child of Marumi the Lady of the Sea. While the younger god rampaged there was always the overwhelming stillness and closeness of the goddess Marumi. Focusing on that deep calm was a boon to everyone who venerated the Sea. Capella was one of the best novices Alessandra had met – she seemed to sink entirely into herself and return with a calm that filled the entire shrine.

* * * * *

Capella woke once more and this time tasted saltiness and smelt brine. She felt cold water pummelling her and rolling her body over a fine gritty surface. Just as she formed the image of a beach in her mind, she faded from consciousness once more.

* * * * *

Commander Marco looked critically at the new whey-druid assigned to his ship, The Viola, and wondered if she was right for the job. It was customary to take on such a crew member to make the crew feel safe during long voyages, as they would then have clergy to intercede for them if nature got too cantankerous. Marco, however, was also keen for anyone on board to contribute to the daily work of a cargo-vessel, and was concerned that Sister Capella was a bit too delicate for the job. She seemed willing to do whatever was necessary, however, so he would make the best use of her, and gave her over to Lieutenant Nadia to be guided round the Viola.

* * * * *

Capella woke a third time, and this time seemed to stay awake. She started to flex her aching muscles from toe to neck to see if everything still worked. Her whole body hurt. She knew now she had washed ashore and wondered why. Had the ship sunk? Or had she simply been swept overboard? Her mind was a mess of wind and waves and from it came the memory of a most trivial conversation with Nadia.

“Why do they call me a whey-druid Lieutenant?”

“Oh child, it is but an old joke, a way of separating those who follow the sea goddess and those who follow the earth god. You are whey while they are curds. Get it?”

“But we are one and the same – one family just as Nature is one.”

“That may be, Sister, but you do each prefer one over the other I’ll wager.”

Capella had to admit to herself that Marumi had always mattered to her more than Garlomen, the Lord of the Land, and suppressed a pang of guilt at this realization.

Personal examinations aside, Capella had been washed ashore, so perhaps Marumi had passed her into the care of her spouse, Garlomen. But what had happened to the ship? She attempted to sit, looked around her, squinted in the sunshine and looked for signs of her fate.

* * * * *

Nadia cursed audibly as she held onto the wheel of The Viola. They were half-way from Port Grazia to their destination, Nartellfar, when a huge storm had arisen over night. Sails were rent, rigging snapped, sailors rushed hither and thither. The panic among the crew was as palpable as the spray that seemed to fill every pore.

The Lieutenant looked over to Capella, who was standing at the bow, summoning what she called “the deep calm” and hoping to save them all from drowning. Nadia added her own silent prayer to that of the whey-druid, even if she, like Commander Marco, wondered if gods and goddesses were simply a tale told to scare children. She put more trust in Marco, who right now was below deck directing the horrendous task of removing water from the ship, bucket by swollen bucket. Then she heard the most hideous cracking and looked round just in time to see the central mast falling.

* * * * *

Capella wondered if she would stay awake for long. Possibly it was best just to lie here forever and fade away. But then she remembered Marco, Nadia and the crew, all working tirelessly to preserve life and limb, all sharing the same small world of timber and rope with her, all of whom mattered incredibly to her at this moment. Capella started crawling, then walking slowly, then wandering around. Sand. Surf. Rolling hills. And all about her she saw boxes and barrels and loose bit of timber. And people. Some were lying on the sand. Some, like her, were moving. One was walking towards her – Nadia. As they got closer, Capella sank to her knees.

“Forgive me, Lieutenant, for I failed to save the ship.”

“Nonsense, child, some of us are alive, and that is never something the sea promises.”

Capella stared at the dishevelled yet hale Nadia, and wondered at her resilience in the face of this disaster. Tears began to well in her eyes, as salty as the ocean. Nadia continued in her strident tones.

“We have lost the Commander, but many yet live, and we have work to do, in caring for the injured and salvaging our cargo. Come!”

Capella nodded dumbly and started to follow Nadia, who called back as they walked.

“I know this crew, Sister, and I can tell you that having you there mattered, having you work with us every day, and having you call on your powers, however great or small they be, mattered. Hope makes a sailor fight all the more to stay alive. Now, I know you can tend to the sick and injured, so come along and let this day begin”.

Nadia felt the deep calm once more, far beyond her person yet with her at this moment. She put it to the back of her mind and set to work helping the crew to which she now belonged.

At the time of writing this water was ravaging parts of Australia and so it was depicted in a destructive way. However as I edit this for blogging it is a warm evening and I wish to be enveloped by water. I look forward to drawing on some of that calmness as we once more experience the Summer months.

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