by Haunted Sox
entry for 8/21 world weavers championship prompt 2: Water approx. 1143 words
|Raen followed Master Honor Baggood through the tangled streets along the waterfront. Raen was careful to keep Honor in sight. Without him she was completely lost, she had never been to this part of the city. It was located on the western edge of the city. There had been no reason to venture this far out.
Honor stopped in front of a long wide boat docked along the river. “Here we are.”
Raen shifted her small bag of possessions on her shoulder and adjusted the strap of her messenger bag. “We just get on?”
Honor turned to look at her and a kind smile landed on his face, “Don’t worry. Traveling by barge is far less dangerous than what we are on our way to do.” He tossed his duffle onto the barge and carefully stepped aboard. Then he turned to help Raen. The other members of the expedition were either already aboard or were actively boarding themselves.
Raen shifted her bag off her shoulder and handed it to Honor, playing for time. When it came to the river, Raen knew next to nothing. She had only ever had the concept of water in a small controlled form like a fountain or the water pumped through a courtesy spigot. Until now she had never seen the raw untamed chaos of a natural watercourse. This one was quite the introduction. She could barely see the other side of the river and the color of the water was silty brown as opposed to the clear tame water that came from city sources.
Briefly, the thought that it could swallow her passed through Raen’s head. What was she to do if she fell off the boat? “I don’t think I can swim sir.”
“Raen, it’s okay come aboard. I’ll help you with a life jacket. You will be perfectly safe,” Honor stated.
Raen respected the man for all he had done for her but this water was the dividing line between the civilized city she had always known and the wild places beyond Marketown. The emotion causing Raen’s legs to lock and refuse the three steps onto the boat was alien to Raen. It was something more than the fear of not finding a meal or being scooped up by unscrupulous people wanting to sell her as a slave off-world. This was blinding, paralyzing terror.
“Raen Davis! Get your butt on this boat!” Honor yelled abruptly.
In the year since she had met him, he had never spoken so harshly to her. Her automatic reaction was to comply. She was on the boat before she could think. Raen stood on the slightly swaying deck in front of Honor. He had a broad grin on his face and was holding his hand out to someone. One of the other members of the expedition handed him a puffy orange vest. “Put this on.”
Like an automaton, Raen put the vest on. She struggled a bit with locking the clasps closed across her chest. Honor helped her with them and adjusting the vest for comfort. “There safe as a bun in an oven. Captain, you can cast off now. We’re all aboard.”
Raen took the few short steps to the center of the barge and sat as far as she could from any of the sides of the boat. This was going to be okay. Raen sat still and closed her eyes, letting the slight motion of the deck rock her in a nearly soothing way. Focus, she thought. She needed to prepare herself for their mission. She was one of eight people on this expedition to catch specimens of the planet’s venomous snakes and other creatures. The apothecary guild specialized in milking the venom. They both used it in the medicines they produced and shipped it off-world to satisfy the empire’s need for the complex chemical compounds found in the venom.
The gentle swaying of the deck and sensation of motion reminded her of a dream she had often had when she was younger. In the dream, chaotic swirls of light flashed and shimmered around her. Vertigo gripped her stomach churning it and what little it held. Abruptly darkness and stillness dropped on her like a heavy curtain. Her universe contracted around her. She felt the barest whisper of fresh air flowing in her nostrils. A tiny bubble of moisture wet her lips. She sucked at it and drank deeply fresh cool water.
Raen licked her lips and felt the humidity of the river. In that dream, the water had soothed her. She had never felt fear in that dream, no matter the strange chaos of it. Raen opened her eyes, her apprehension shoved to the deepest part of her stomach, where it barely itched. She got up and walked to the side of the boat. She watched the water as the boat glided through it. They were traveling upstream. Honor said it would take two days to get to their base camp on the other bank of the river. That was okay since all of her meals on this expedition would be provided. If the meals she had shared with Honor on other occasions she worked with him were any example the food would be plentiful.
Fish surfaced in the river, drawing Raen’s attention. What small portion of them she saw left her in awe of their size. She had only seen small fish in the market stalls. A hand rested on Raen’s shoulder, “Impressive isn’t it?”
Raen looked over her shoulder to see Honor. “There is nothing like it in the city,” Raen replied.
“That’s why it was named The Great River. They say you can see it from space. It is one of the reasons our ancestors chose to colonize Tradehub.”
“Yeah, not every world has such an abundant and easily accessible source of water. Between that river and the placement of Tradehub in the galaxy, the colonial authorities decided to colonize this planet. They sent ahead terraforming ships to release the plants and animals we would need several hundred years before they sent us to live here. Somehow something about this planet caused rapid evolution and the ecosystem was almost unrecognizable to the colonist when they got here,” Honor told her.
It was information she didn’t have. With no formal education, she had a surprisingly complete knowledge base when it came to natural laws, the sciences, mathematics, and some languages. The holes in her knowledge mostly existed in the areas of history and culture. “I didn’t know that.”
“With everything you have locked up in that wonderful brain of yours, that statement surprises me,” Honor tussled Raen’s hair, “Come on, the captain’s wife has lunch on the table.”
Raen looked out over the river for a moment and then followed Honor and her stomach towards the smell of some kind of fishy stew.