The storms were playing a little rough that season, which Surrell supposed was only fair.
The summer had been long and sweet, an endless string of lazy sunshine and warm breezes that gave the canvas curves in all the right places. Magnificently, the sun and the wind had conspired together to make sailors greedy for the chance to lay about and turn their faces up to the sky, and make the ship nearly sail itself so that they had no need to move. Autumn kindly delayed itself to let summer sprawl about a little longer.
Then it fled past to give as much space as possible to the snarl of winter coming up close behind it. The storms, thrashing just as wildly in their haste to get away, had thundered over the ship like herd animals, and no one was happy to feel the breath of winter threatening its bite.
Surrell would have run too, if he had enough deck to get back into summer’s good humors. As it was, however, he only had sixty feet of broad beams, two masts, and a sturdy belowdecks in which to hide. Walking out of his cabin to find an almost blue sky, he was simply glad that the whole mass of it had chosen to cling together rather than declare every splinter for itself.
Surrell took a deep breath, straightened his coat – glad for once that it was dry five breaths after departing his cabin – and stepped down to the main deck.
His navigator, Ellin was leaning expectantly against the rail, and pushed off when she saw him. She crossed her arms before she had completed her first stride, and her mouth was set in a dry smile that didn’t quite manage to communicate amusement. At any moment, he expected her to sigh, or shake her head, or just give up and glare at him. But, on the other hand, she might just as easily grin. She had equal habits for both.
“Good morning,” Surrell said, daring her to contradict him.
“Good morning,” Ellin returned, and managed the phrasing perfectly to gently poke fun at him for saying it.
“Did you manage any stargazing last night?” Surrell asked.
Ellin shook her head. “I was far too busy,” she said. “Surprisingly, I still had a lot of curses I hadn’t thrown at the clouds yet.”
“Amazing how much of your schooling falls out of mind when you’re in tight situations,” Surrell agreed.
Ellin smiled. “But I finally had the time to repair my interrupted relationship with my sextant this morning.”
“And?” Surrell asked.
“We’re not lost any longer, sir,” she said.
“Good, good,” Surrell said.
“We’ve accidentally invaded the Isander again, sir,” she said.
Surrell muttered a few of his own curses. Ellin nodded along, glancing up at each one, as if checking them against her own mental list to make sure she had not missed any. Each of them passed.
“Again?” Surrell asked.
“Turn us about, please,” Surrell said.
“Aye, aye,” Ellin agreed. She saluted with three fingers and started to turn away for the helmsman’s post.
Surrell paused before he returned to the upper deck. “Exactly how many times in a row does a fruit basket make an honest apology?” he called to her.
“Six,” she said over her shoulder.
Surrell tossed out one more curse. “So, I’ll need something different then.”
“Aye, aye,” Ellin agreed.