An Unloved Harbour, like a Rejected Swain

(c) Nin Harris 2010–, based on ideas and concepts that have existed or have been in development since 1997. The author asserts both her legal and moral rights. All Rights Reserved.

Yildie frowned at the refuse that slapped against the stones of the ferahian harbour every time the currents swirled the water against its rugged surface. Less than five years since her family’s business was wiped out by a Wild Hunt – and there was no one left to tend to the warehouses, the docks and the cobblestoned walkways. There used to be ferahian pirate ships coming in, day in and day out, but each ship hired their own thugs to look after their docks and warehouses. Now, even the thugs had disappeared, and there was no one left to care for the harbour itself. Now, even those ships were dwindling in number, and it had been almost a fortnight since this had been an active port. Worried by the news,Yildie had ventured down from Domus Exsulis to check on things. She almost wished she hadn’t; she had neither the energy nor the inclination to take on the responsibility of her deceased uncles.

Yildie took after her father, both their proclivities were either for the fluidity of water or the etching of ink upon smooth parchment. And yet, there was something about the ocean that called to her, something about having generations of piracy in her bloodline. Yildie felt sad for the harbour, which once sang with the approach of more than one ship, which was a bustling hive for not just infamy, but commerce and the exchange of information from more than one land, both of their world and of Terra Cognita.

“I keep hiring people to take care of the harbour, but they keep disappearing on the job,” came a new voice, behind her. Yildie turned, surprised and a little wary. It was Maryani, the mother of one of her tenants.

“Why do they disappear?”

Yildie asked this, still wary of the older woman.

Maryani shrugged, and said,”Who knows, this is Mykologosia, after all. You know how it’s become wilder. Who knows what lurks in the water of these harbours? Even as we speak there are less and less ships that dare to visit us. Commerce is down. My business suffers as well.”

Yildie slumped, her webbed fingers gripping the sides of her tunic as she made an effort to contain her conflicting emotions.

“I suppose I should do something about this,” she said slowly, “but it is just too much. I just…I can’t, not after everything else.”

She despised herself for the admission, despised the weakness of it.

“It’s okay,” Maryani said, her voice reassuring, “We’re working on it. Our interests as a city-state are bound to this Harbour. It allowed us independence from the Guardian, after all. We need the goods and profit that the ships bring.”

“What about these waters? They seem so polluted I do not think any of the merfolk would care to descend into it to unearth the mystery of the missing beach-bogeys. What would scare a beach-bogey anyway? They’re pretty scary bastards as it is!”

Yildie’s voice was doubtful as she looked at Maryani. The older woman shrugged.

“We don’t know, but Vita reckons we need something inorganic to work out what’s going on. So, she’s building us a mechanical beach-bogey. You should visit Ohn and Freya to see what they’re up to. They’re beginning to sound a little unhinged over at your place.”

Yildie looked intrigued.

“A mechanical beach-bogey? How would she even begin to make it sentient enough to…?”

“I’m a bit worried about that myself, to be honest. I hear Grisette is involved. You know the company she keeps.”

“Oh. Oh dear.”

“Yes, exactly. Now, let’s get back to my place, I’ve made a lovely bread and butter pudding for tea, and it will do you no good, moping around this harbour all Sunday. The ships will not come today. They did not come yesterday, and they will not come tomorrow.”

Together, they walked out of the unloved harbour. Alone again, the harbour felt the slap of old bottles and discarded newspapers against its sensitive pores. There was an infection in its liquid depths and a sad emptiness in its bereft warehouses. It missed the pirate captains, and the dancing pirate queens, it missed the caw of raucous birds of paradise and the clambering feet of monkeys, reaching for fruit kept in high, overhanging nets along its beams and rafters. An unloved space is like a rejected swain, the harbour’s numen thought to itself, curling inward until a new ship slowly made itself known upon the perimeters of the harbour’s purview. It brightened up, and its waters began to look less murky.

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