Both of these scenes introduced plot threads that ended up not going anywhere. The first would come somewhere around chapter 15, and the second is a longer version of the end of chapter 20.
"Speaking of maps," I said, "maybe declination charts would help."
"How so?" Father asked.
"The machines are pulling magic out of their surroundings, so the prevailing magical field should be weaker around them."
"That might work," he said, "but the strength of the field varies a lot over the world. I can't say I've ever seen any pattern to it. And the charts mostly cover the oceans and ignore the land."
Of course. On land, there were better methods to determine longitude. "It's worth a try, though, surely?"
He nodded. "Let's go and ask Ingryn."
Ingryn currently had the night watch, so we had to wait until morning to ask to borrow his charts. At first he didn't want to let us, but Rymad convinced him we'd be careful with them. We took them to the galley with an Elangic lantern to illuminate them.
Sitting by Father's side, poring over charts, brought back memories of childhood, when Father and I would move little pieces of wood over his charts and pretend to be explorers or merchants or admirals. Father would tell me of the places he and Uncle had visited, and while they were away on their voyages, I'd dream of how one day they'd take me with them. Then one day Uncle came back alone, and everything changed.
Spotting weaker regions of the magical field was nowhere near as easy as I'd hoped. The declination charts were actually a big book full of tables of numbers, giving the strength and direction of the magical field at various latitudes and longitudes - intervals of a minute around Asdanund and Nuhys, growing further apart the further one went from those countries. They didn't cover the two places where I knew the precise location of an Elangic machine, namely Krothtror and Turakingat.
Buronoskol had said there was a machine somewhere on Ash-Kalog, and another in the east of Asdanund, both of which the charts covered. Ash-Kalog was the smaller, meaning the distortion in the magical field might be easier to spot from out at sea. Limiting myself to a box five degrees by five with Ash-Kalog in the middle gave me about five thousand measurements to consider.
I decided to copy the measurements onto a map. The only surface big enough was one of the tables that the crew ate from. Decades of carelessly-wielded cutlery and spilt food and drink had left them with very uneven texture and colour. The wood didn't hold the chalk well, so I had to be careful as I worked that my sleeve didn't rub out previous work. Father left me to it, since only one person could read from Ingryn's book at a time.
At first I tried to represent both the strength and direction of the magical field, but found it too fiddly to draw so many little arrows. After a couple of rows I switched to shading squares according to the field's strength. That took most of the day, and I didn't reach the end, because I had to return the charts to Ingryn so he could calculate our position for the start of the night watch.
I stood, unable to see any pattern. I thought it might work better if I looked from further away, so I stood on a chair while Father supported me. I would've stood on the table if that got my head any higher, but it was nearly touching the ceiling already. Still my chart looked as though someone had dropped a box of mosaic tiles.
Father helped me down. "I hate to say, 'I told you so...'"
"But you're going to say it anyway," I replied.
"It might make more sense in the morning."
In the morning I found that someone had rubbed the chalk off. Nobody would tell me who'd done it, though several of the crew had guilty expressions. I stomped towards the stern, intent on telling Rymad or one of the officers to put the lot of them on a charge.
Father and Uncle intercepted me in the middle of the crew's quarters. "Who's cut your nets open?" Uncle asked.
I told them what had happened, feeling more and more ashamed with every word.
"I think," Father said, "you need better tools for representing the numbers than we've got on board."
"And perhaps," I sighed, "I need to understand mathematics better."
After we left the tavern, I plodded along behind Uncle, swaying and weaving. He seemed to be looking for something. We doubled back a few times, and he asked various people for directions. I just wanted to go back to the ship and sleep. Or perhaps sleep here. It was all the same to me.
We eventually came to a broad street with trees on one side and large white houses on the other. Near this end, a fountain burbled. I had a sudden urge to climb into its pond and splash about.
"I don't know who lives in which house," Uncle said, "so we'll just try all of them. Where d'you think you're going?"
I stopped, halfway towards the fountain, and turned to him. "Nowhere."
"And stop grinning."
"I'm not grinning."
"Do I have to fetch a mirror? Come on."
The door of the first house was answered by a smiling old servant. None of the people whom Uncle sought lived here, but the servant told us which houses they did live at.
That was the limit of our success. At the other houses, there was no answer, or the servant who answered the door said their master was not at home or not receiving visitors. That, I knew, was usually a polite way of saying not receiving visitors like you.
"I shouldn't have bought you that second pint," Uncle muttered after the last rebuff. "Let's go back to the docks and see if the guards have sold the boat."
The boat was still there. We handed back the numbered discs that proved we were allowed to be in Darmath, and waited for Gribekh and the sailors.
A man and a woman arrived, wheeling a small cart laden with boxes and bulging sacks. The woman spoke to the guards, and one of them pointed to us. She looked at the boat and the stairs leading to it, and then she and the man unloaded the cart onto the wharf. I guessed they didn't fancy traipsing up and down the stairs with all those goods.
Gribekh and the sailors arrived not long after the man and woman had left. With some grumbling, the sailors loaded the boat, and everybody boarded. I dozed off a couple of times, prompting whispering and sniggering from some of the sailors, but once we were in open water, the breeze woke me.
I climbed the rope ladder up to the ship's deck with no more than my usual number of foot entanglings. Uncle told me to lie down for a while, over my protests that I wasn't tired.
My bed was more comfortable than I remembered it being. I must've fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew was Father shaking me. He offered me a mug.
"No more beer," I mumbled.
"It's red tea." He waved it under my nose, confirming the assertion. I sat up and accepted the drink. As I sipped it, he said, "Tomaz told me what happened when you were ashore. I would've thought you'd be better able to cope with beer than that."
"I can cope with it. I didn't get sick or start a fight, did I?" Or maybe I had. My memories of the afternoon were a bit hazy.
"No, but you didn't make a good impression on the houses you called at. You might've ruined your chances with them."
"The beer was strong, and Gribekh said I had to drink the first pint in one go. And it was Uncle who bought me the second one. If he thought I was drunk, he could've waited until I'd sobered up, or sent me back to the boat and made the calls on his own."
"But you're a team," Father said. "Tomaz and Raltarn."
"Nobody in Darmath knows that."
"Well they should."
"I take it he hasn't told you what happened when we tried to apply for a merchant's license?"
I told him how the clerk at the Commercial Court had burst out laughing when she realised Uncle thought she'd grant his license then and there, and why Uncle believed that incident constituted a good entrance into Darmath's society.
"He always liked to run before the wind, that one," said Father. "I just hope he knows what he's doing."
Last update: 11/12/2020 23:43