The writing surface had been on the Swift since the day I Shaped her, and the fact that I’d never pulled it down made me want to bash my head against the cabin wall when I saw the map Mable had found.
In my defense, I was never much of a reader. I knew how to read, of course. My parents were respected tradesmen, and they made sure their children knew their numbers and their letters. But reading never really interested me, and I’d never gotten into the habit. And naturally, I’d never gotten into the habit of writing things down, and always relied on my memory to get back to the ruins I’d explored.
This had the added bonus that if something isn’t written down on paper, it can’t be stolen by some other enterprising scavenger.
Add that to my awe at Shaping the Boat, and at finding yet another Pattern inside her, and I think I can be forgiven for neglecting the useless looking writing surface.
All of which did nothing to make me feel less stupid when I looked at the map and saw that the flying island we were heading towards was far to our port quarter, and that we’d overshot our destination by at least half a day of sailing.
Fortunately for both my self-esteem and my desire to get my brother off the Swift, I’d spent enough time on the Boat to figure out that the wind tends to blow in different directions at different heights, and I’d grown quite skilled at finding the best winds for whatever direction I wanted to sail towards, and that half day of sailing wouldn’t be translating into two or three days tacking against the winds.
The map itself was an absolute wonder. It only encompassed the areas I’d sailed the Swift through, limiting it to the roughly triangular circuit from Whitecliff to Gerald’s Rest, which it already listed as ‘ruins’, and from Gerald’s Rest to the wilds, and back to Whitecliff.
The map was small enough that it fit perfectly on the limited space of the writing surface, but whenever I focused on any part of it for long enough, that part seemed to grow until I could see it in far more detail than a map of that size should be able to hold. I could see the ruins I’d found the Boat Pattern in, marked as ‘ancient ruins’ to distinguish it from the remains of Gerald’s Rest. I could see the tiny Outposts, one near Gerald’s Rest and the other near Whitecliff. The river I’d followed in my first incursion into the wilds was visible in a vivid blue color next to the bright green of the grasslands. I couldn’t see any indication of the border between the kingdom and the wilds, but there was no reason for the Swift to know where it lay.
I took me a few minutes to tear myself away from the map, and I rushed back to the wheel and turned the Swift around. With the bow now facing the correct direction, I faced the masts and started to slowly raise the Ship higher until the sails caught the wind properly to drive her at the closest she could get to her top speed with only a partial crew.
“It’s not ideal as a permanent home,” I told Richard early the next day, “but it should keep you safe until I can find something better for you.”
We were both standing on the grass covering the flying island. We’d reached it after the sun had set, and none of the passengers felt brave enough to disembark before morning. Marjory and I had swept through the tower to ensure that there was no new monster residing on the island, but found that nothing had changed since our last visit.
With the news that the island was safe, the warped townspeople were finally willing to leave the Ship, and I was getting anxious to sail away with only the people I want on board the Swift.
“We can’t leave the island without you,” Richard said unhappily. “You’ll have to keep us supplied.”
“We’ve talked about this. You have everything you need for at least a month, and as soon as I leave I’m heading off to Whitecliff to get you fresh provisions and seeds you can use to grow your own food.”
“I know that!” he growled, than took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Jack. We’ve never seen eye to eye, and ever since I got warped I can’t stop being angry all the time, but I know you’ve done everything you could to help us.”
I’d gotten so used to my brother berating my choices in life over the past few years that hearing him apologize had me staring at him in shock for long enough that I could see his anger starting to return.
“It’s OK, Richard. I’ve been dealing with a lot of warped lately, and I figured it’d take a while for you to get to grip with things.”
“It’s not about being warped,” he sighed, looking as dejected as a two and a half meter tall troll could get. “You kept telling me how you wanted to be able to defend yourself if the raiders ever returned. That you had to become a Shaper so that what happened to our parents wouldn’t happen to you again. And I kept being angry at you for abandoning their way of life. I was so sure that the Forresters would protect us, like old Gerald protected the town. And now here we are, with the town burned to the ground, and the only reason I’m still free is that you were right all along.”
I’d been shocked at Richard’s apology, but his little speech left me completely stunned.
“Look Jack, I… I need time. I need to come to terms with being warped, and with being a refugee. But after that… I’d like to sit down and talk, OK?”
Rather than wait for me to reply, he turned around and started walking towards the tower, leaving me to stare at his back until I could shake off my confusion and head back aboard the Swift.