In which Taryn feels very sorry for herself.
IT WASN’T SUPPOSED to be like this. Whenever Taryn had planned her escape into a life of endless adventure, it included epic sky chases and death-defying climbs across yawning abysses. There would be fights, close encounters, monsters and endless amounts of victory and glory. She would never be bored, never overlooked, never ignored and never lonely again.
Except it hadn’t turned out like that. The most exciting part of her adventure so far was sneaking aboard the Miryhl Heart in the middle of the night and hiding behind a barrel of salted pork. Gods, that stuff had reeked and the scent had lingered in her clothes and hair for days. She didn’t think she would ever be able to eat pork again.
Instead of thrills and adventure, Princess Nataryn Henstrati Henrykma, youngest daughter of the great Stratys Henryk III, was sloshing buckets of dirty water over the noisome jakes.
“I will never complain about scullery duty again,” she muttered, using the same dirty water she had earlier disdained to wash down the disgusting bench, whose four oval holes opened out over the Cloud Sea below. She couldn’t understand how, when the holes carried all the foul waste away, the little room could still stink so badly. Three buckets of hot, soapy water had done little to alleviate the smell, even if they did leave the bench damp and covered in bubbles.
She didn’t know if she was supposed to scrub as well as slosh, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t scrubbing – or worse, picking up – anything. She had reached her limit.
“That will do,” she announced, picking up her buckets and raising her chin as she turned on her heel, imagining all the courtiers she had once longed to give such a cut direct.
That, like her dreams of adventure, had never happened either. She’d spent most of her life shut away in the upper rooms of the palace, fettered close to her mother’s side. By the time she was old enough to attend balls and parties, her father had sent them all away. Princess Nataryn had never attended a single ball, never danced so much as a jig and never been allowed to talk to even one courtier, let alone become offended by one.
Taryn decided she didn’t care. Princess Nataryn was a fool who had daydreamed foolish dreams and cried herself to sleep when each and every last one of them was crushed. Taryn didn’t dream. She didn’t cry. To be fair, she barely even slept since coming aboard the skyship, but sky-sickness didn’t fit with her image of a great adventurer, so she ignored that too.
“I’ll be the judge of whether you’re finished or not.”
Taryn jumped and glared at the woman looming in the narrow door to the jakes. First Mate Dakka was a fearsome woman, with her scars, bandana and wooden leg, and Taryn hated how intimidating she found her. She hated being scared of anything, especially people, so she squared her shoulders and raised her chin again.
“I am finished,” she announced.
The first mate snorted and put her arm around the short figure beside her. “You’ll have to be. Captain has new orders for you.”
Taryn heaved a put upon sigh. When she’d stowed away on this ship, she had thought she was making a sensible choice in choosing a ship run by her adopted uncle-of-sorts, a trusted friend of her brother. How very, very wrong she’d been.
“What does he want now?” Captain Derrain always wanted her to do something: learn to tie knots, learn to untie knots; read star maps and cloud maps; swab the deck; scrub the dishes; wash the jakes; muck out the bullwings. The chores were endless and Taryn was not used to chores of any kind.
“This is Orla.” Dakka almost shoved the little figure forwards. “She’s our passenger to Nimbys. Captain says you’re to show her around.”
Taryn looked the Ihran girl up and down and fought down a sneer. Short and stocky, like most of her people, Orla wasn’t much to look at. Her eyes were black in the shadowy room, her hair was thick and bushy. She was dressed like some kind of labourer and her whole demeanour was lumpish.
Taryn rolled her eyes skywards. Why me?
“Got a problem?” Dakka demanded.
Taryn shook her head. The first mate would just love for her to complain again, because then she could drag her back to Derrain and get her another long list of punishment chores. Dakka had been champing to punish Taryn since the day she came aboard, but today was the first time Derrain had given in. Perhaps she had pushed a little too hard when asking to be taken to North Point, but how else was she to get where she wanted to go? She couldn’t go back to Nimbys, she couldn’t.
“Good. Orla, this here’s Taryn. She’ll take care of you now or she’ll hear about it from me later.” With a smile for the Ihran and a stern glare for Taryn, the first mate stalked off, already snapping orders at whoever was foolish enough to get in her way.
The Ihran stood in the door like a rock, staring at Taryn with dark, dark eyes. Taryn stared back having no idea what she was supposed to do with the girl. She wasn’t used to looking after anyone else; she was barely used to looking after herself.
Clenching her fingers around the bucket handles, she impulsively shoved one in Orla’s direction. “Take this,” she snapped, sounding not unlike Dakka. “I’ll show you the galley. This way.”
The Ihran stepped back out of the doorway and Taryn escaped the noisome jakes with relief. Then she stalked down the corridor on a grumpy tour of the ship, hardly caring if the lumpy girl bothered to keep up or not.
~ Next Chapter ~
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