In sight of Essle
There are lots of things people can earn their living with, but I’m very sure I’m not going to do it as a sailor. I was only a little seasick but it’s not the work for me. I know that a person can learn to understand any kind of work if they apply themself, Father taught me that, but that doesn’t mean they can do it! It’s a good thing Aunt Mahsab and Uncle Rhanion are sending me to the trade school and not to the seafaring school. Trade I know about, it’s interesting, almost as interesting as clockwork. In the same way too: it’s all cogwheels fitting together, one pushing the other, and what you do on one end comes out on the other end, often different but there’s no mystery about it, if you know what’s going on you can predict it.
I did some clerking for the captain, intriguing sets of numbers that she said were her astrolabe readings (she tried to teach me how the astrolabe worked but that was when I was still seasick so it didn’t stick), but if I’m going to do any more sea-clerking I’ll do it on the shore, than you very much. I’ll probably take a job with a trading house or a shipping company, that’s what you get in Essle much like in Albetire, Father always said. Albetire has industry too, of course, the foundries and the ironworks. That’s where Father got me all my good tools at the last Feast of Mizran. His last Feast of Mizran, that is, for all I know there may have been another Feast of Mizran while I was on this confounded ship, I’ve lost track of time completely. But I’ve got a round hammer and a flat hammer and an awl, and a pair of steel shears that will snip through copper sheeting that I can’t bend with my hands, and two different pairs of pliers, and a set of files in different sizes, and a tiny anvil that’s so heavy that I almost left it at home, it’s solid brass, but I’m glad I didn’t because I wouldn’t have known what to use instead.
(I can hear Mistress Suria saying “You’re rambling!” and that’s probably right, and also I should perhaps practice keeping a diary in Síthi because you never know who will read it. But then the other students at the trade school might be able to read Síthi as easily as I can write it, it’s better to find a good hiding place. And you should really write Síthi with a brush anyway and that’s awkward on a ship.)
I was born in Essle but I don’t remember much, only that we had to go places by boat because there’s water everywhere. There was a boat belonging to our house and I think Father paid someone to row it, at least I don’t remember him ever rowing himself. I was too small to learn to row, and when I became almost big enough I’d just been sick and my arms and legs didn’t work at all. That’s a lot better now but I’m still a clumsy weakling, half a year on a ship didn’t do anything to help it.
Just about when I was old enough to go to a proper school Father packed up everything including me and took off to Albetire. Once we were in Albetire I did go to school, but for the rest our life wasn’t much different, Father still took me everywhere and let me in on everything. I liked school, I’ve always liked to learn things and I turned out to be good at languages and have a clear writing hand in all three that I was learning to write in. My body may be clumsy but my hands sure aren’t! We ended up living next to a watchmaker, and she taught me everything I know about clockwork that I didn’t figure out myself. Her daughter Arzu was my best friend, but she died in the epidemic a couple of years ago, and after that Aunt Mahsab mothered me even more than she was doing already because I don’t have a mother myself, never had one, Father doesn’t talk about her and I don’t even know her name so when I need to tell someone my mother’s name I use my grandmother’s. If Father can be Mialle’s Ferin I can surely be Mialle’s Leva! There’s only one generation between her and me anyway.
But then Father died too, not of the epidemic but of someone’s fit of temper (not his) at a dinner. And Aunt Mahsab organised for me to go to the trade school in Essle because I was the right age for it and I’d just finished school.
So here I am on this ship that’s just come in sight of Essle, but it’s only a smudge on the horizon right now so I’m not going on deck to gawk at it, I want to fix this stick-climbing clockwork monkey so it doesn’t keep trying to climb up and up and up when it’s reached the end of the stick. (I say “monkey” but it’s only a sketch of one now, it would need Arzu to sew it a brown woollen pelt but Arzu is with Naigha and even if she wasn’t she’d be too far away.)