In the previous episode, Celia arrives at a seaside port and meets a strange girl who offers her clothing and shelter. Readers voted that the girl works at a local tavern and has lived in the port her whole life.
Celia followed the girl past the roaring main room of the tavern up an old wooden staircase and through a long hallway, lit by iron lamps bolted to the wall. The light was warm and Celia imagined them flickering in the hold of an old whaling ship, illuminating praying faces as the ship pitched and tossed in a raging storm. She shivered. The girl continued down the hall to the very end, and Celia looked around, expecting her to take out an old brass key and enter one of the rooms. Instead, the girl smiled and reached up to the ceiling, unlatching a trapdoor. A small ladder fell down, and the girl moved up it quickly, spider-like. Celia followed, poking her head up tentatively.
The girl lit a lamp, revealing a wide attic room. It was sparse, with nothing but a sailor’s cot in the corner, a large sea chest, and a rack with a few items of clothing and linens draped over it. As Celia hoisted herself up onto the hardwood floor however, she saw that the walls were decorated with drawings – some rough, some intricately detailed – of everything from a sunrise through a masthead to a foreign slave market to a sea serpent thrashing in a storm. Some were large, on wide pieces of parchment, others small and crumpled, done in charcoal. One was even on the back of a wooden plank.
“The sailors draw those for me,” commented the girl, upon seeing Celia’s wonder as she looked at the varied images. “I ask them to show me places they’ve been, or people they’ve met. I live through these drawings, imagining I’m there as well.”
“Haven’t you been to any of these places,” Celia asked.
The girl laughed. “No,” she said somewhat wistfully. “I’ve never left this port.”
“Not ever?” Celia’s eyes widened. She couldn’t imagine never having traveled, and yet she could distantly recall a time when she herself had never left the sleepy little town she was born in.
The girl gestured for Celia to sit down on the cot, and she arranged herself cross-legged on the floor.
“One day, a long time ago,” she began, “one of the fishermen found a woman washed up on the rocks, just past the pier. She was around our age, and she had no memory of who she was or where she had come from. Some people say she was in a shipwreck and suffered from amnesia, others claim she was a creature of the sea and banished by her own kind for being part human. Raised by mermaids, they said, and not to be trusted. But the fisherman and his wife were kind people and took her in, and later she worked at this tavern and they let her live here, in this room.”
The girl ran a hand through her choppy blond hair and looked around the room for a moment, before continuing her story.
“One night she met a sailor whose ship had blown off course and had landed here. This woman had met many sailors but none who told such beautiful tales of faraway lands, lands that she felt like she had visited in another life. They talked long into the night.” The girl smiled. “His stories. That’s all I know about my father. He left the next day to continue on his journey and my mother never saw him again. But she used to tell me his stories, over and over, as if she thought they would bring him back.”
The girl shifted on the floor. “My mother died when I was still a child, and Robert, the tavern owner, let me live here until I was old enough to work. It’s a good life, but someday I want to leave and see all these places.” She gestured to the drawings on the wall.
“By the way,” the girl smiled and extended her hand. “Let me introduce myself.” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.