Tothelea: Chapter 3

Trevor's mind raced as fast as his body, all the way to his father's dock.
What had happened?  Was it true?  Of course it was--Ambany wouldn't have run
all that way otherwise.  Was Pa all right?  What if he couldn't work anymore?
What if I have to support him and Harmony?  I'm not ready for that!  Is
Harmony all right?  He prayed to the Aravolir, prayed hard, as he ran.  

He arrived--less winded that Ambany had been, but then, Trevor was younger and
in better shape--to a scene of commotion.  People were everywhere.  It seemed
as though the whole town were converging on the dock, to see what had
happened.  How had the news spread that fast?  Maybe Ambany hadn't come for
him right away.  Maybe he was too late.  Maybe-- 

Trevor pushed his way through the crowd.  People quieted when they recognized
him, but still he heard more than a few murmers of "it was her!" and "always
knew she was no good!" and "poor Dannel." 

He pushed his way past a knot of people at the entrance to the boat house and
made his way in.  A modest sized, mastless vessel was tied between the arms of
boat houses's U--shaped dock, held fast with several large dock--lines so it
could be worked on.  Trevor saw it was a Tithoran vessel, with its markings in
their strange, foreign writing.  It was quieter inside, although the buzz of
voices was still palpable.  Another of his father's employees saw him, and
called.  "Trevor, over here!" 

The man led Trevor around to the port side of the vessel, to a corner where
two other men stood.  Trevor could feel his hands and feet start to tingle and
go numb, and a rushing sound building in his ears.  On the floor between them
was a blanket, with a man-sized lump underneath. 

"I'm--I'm sorry, Trevor," the man said, as he took Trevor's elbow and guided
him down to kneel beside the blanket.  Knowing what he would find, and
dreading the sight of it, Trevor reached for a corner of the blanket and
pulled it back.  The under-side of the blanket was cool to the touch, with a
sticky moistness.  Trevor pulled the blanket back, the cloth making a soft
tearing sound as Trevor unstuck it from the body beneath. 

His first thought was, that's not my father.  That's just a body.  But it was
his father, and no mistake.  He looks like he's sleeping.  Except he's not
sleeping, Trevor forced himself to think, to acknowledge it. 

His father's face was tranquil.  His eyes and mouth closed.  But the arm and
shoulder nearest Trevor were crushed, and part of his chest as well.  Trevor
caught a glimpse of pink rib showing through Dannel's torn shirt and turned
quickly away. 

The quick turn of his head was a mistake.  Dizzyness washed over him, and he
could feel the rest of his body going numb.  The rushing sound was a roar now,
and Trevor's sight closed in around him in a storm of color and light.  Trevor
reached clumsily for the ground, and eased himself down onto his hands and
knees.  His stomach lurched, and he heaved, but nothing came out.  He was, for
a moment, glad not to have had his lunch already, glad to be spared the
further embarassment of vomiting in front of his father's workers. 

Trevor chided himself.  So selfish, to be worried about that at a time like
this!  Still, another thought reminded him, they're your workers now. 

Trevor stayed on the floor, gathering himself for several long moments.  The
men were kind enough to leave him alone, for which he was grateful.  Slowly
the lights faded from his eyes, and as the rushing left his ears with it, he
heard a small voice above the murmur.  "Trev?"  Harmony. 

He stood slowly.  One of the men had replaced the blanket, and again, Trevor
was grateful. 

"Where's my sister?" 

The man nearest Trevor scowled and pointed to a group of people on the other
side of the boat house.  Trevor crossed the broad space.  Harmony was seated
on a wooden chair in the corner, her hands clenching the its sides next to her
legs.  Her head was turned awkwardly, face to the ground, withering under the
weight of everyone's gaze. 

The men standing around her were quiet, their jaws clenched.  Most of them
Trevor recognized as his father's men, and one from a farm not too near their
house.  One man, though, was strange to Trevor, both in his face and in his

"Let me through." 

The men parted, and Harmony looked up at the sound of his voice.  She looked
terrified.  Her cheeks were streaked with tears.  She opened her mouth to say
something, but her words caught in her throat.  He knelt beside her, and took
her hands, gently unlocking her grasp.  He looked at her, and asked softly
"Are you all right?  Are you hurt?" 

"I'm, I'm ok.  Not hurt."  Her voice was tiny, and full of fear. 

He turned to the men surrounding them, and barked "back away now!  Go on!" 

They obeyed him, but their silence broke and several of them started talking
at once. 

"She did it!" 

"It was her fault!" 

Their voices rose, trying to talk over each other, and Harmony began to
squeeze Trevor's hand. 

"Quiet!" Trevor commanded.  The chatter subsided.  Trevor stood and pointed at
Ambany's brother, Carlu, who was his father's foreman.  "You.  Tell me what

"We was hoisting Weilin's new mast up to deck.  That's this fellow, here,"
Carlu indicated the stranger. 

Trevor extended his hand.  The stranger took it.  "Hui Weilin," he said.  His
hand was cold, and felt like a dry autumn leaf. 

"Trevor Arkenstone."  He nodded curtly to the man. 

"My ship still need new mast." 

Trevor was taken aback at the callous comment.  "Yes, I can see that," he
replied acidly.  "Carlu, please continue." 

"Your father had invited him for lunch, and to oversee us putting it up.  We
got it up high enough, and my boys tied off the rope at the winch so's we
could set up to swing it over the deck.  I was over to the gantry arm,
watching the boys secure the mast so's we could untie it from the winch."
Carlu pointed and gestured as he spoke. 

"Dannel and Weilin here was down below, watching.  Your father was explaining
it all to him, what we was doing.  Then your sister comes in with the lunches,
and the fool girl she trips over the winch rope!  That mast dropped faster
than you could spit.  Your father pushes Weilin here out of the way, and he
couldn't duck it himself.  The mast hit him square." 

Trevor listened silently, his muscles tensing with every word, as Carlu spoke
and the other men added their ayes and assents. 

"We only had the butt end end tied to the gantry, and when the top end hit the
dock, the mast swung wild and the rope busted.  The butt end of it crashed
down right through the side of Weilin's ship, then rolled off the dock and
fell into the water." 

Trevor looked, for the first time, at the other side of the ship.  The side
not visible from the door to the boat house.  There was an ugly gash running
easily five feet down the hull, broken board sticking out at odd angles, and
bits of loose wood still on the dock.  Trevor couldn't see down to the water
from where he stood, but he could see the gap between the dock and the ship's
hull, and how the mast could easily have rolled like Carlu said if its butt
end were hanging off the edge of the dock.  He could see blood where his
father had been standing, and a trail of it leading to where his father now
lay, still and silent. 

Trevor turned to Harmony and knelt down in front of her again.  The pain in
her face pushed his rage away.  Softly, he asked "Harmony, is that what

She raised her eyes to meet his, glanced at the body, and nodded an almost
imperceptably.  Her tears welled up anew and ran down her cheeks to pool
together and drip from her chin. 

"It was an accident, Harmony.  It's all right.  You can't blame yourself." 

"Well I can," quipped someone behind Trevor.  He whirled, but whoever it was
had gone silent.  Trevor gave them all a stern look, as if to remind them of
who their boss was now, and let it go.  He turned back to Harmony. 

"Don't listen to them.  They're just upset, too.  It was just an accident." 

Harmony's eyes took on a hard quality, he rarely saw.  She reached down and
touched her foot, and shook her head "no," such a tiny motion that Trevor
wondered if he'd really seen it.  But yes, he had seen it.  What did it mean?
Trevor knelt there, silently for a few long moments, striving to understand
what Harmony was trying to tell him.  But he knew she wouldn't talk, not in
front of all these people. 

Trevor rose, taking Harmony's hands and guiding her up to her feet.  "Come on,
Harmony."  He led her to their father's small office, opened the door, and
went inside.  "You sit here, ok?  It's quiet here, and I'll make sure no one
bothers you.  I have to attend to the--  I have to do some things, Harmony,
and then we'll go home, ok?" 

Harmony nodded, taking a coat from a peg on the wall.  Their father's coat,
the one he kept for mornings when the fog lingered, making his bones ache.
Sat at Dannel's desk.  Trevor closed the door as he left.  Looking back
through the small window between the office and the dock, Harmony sitting with
her knees up, feet on the edge of the chair, her whole body wrapped around the
wadded coat. 

He no sooner turned back to the unpleasant task of arranging for transport of
the body back home, when he was accosted by Weilin.  "What about my ship," he
demanded, his accent as odd to Trevor's ears as his clothes were to his eyes.
"Who is paying to fix, eh?  Not me, I tell you that!" 

Trevor's rage returned, and he could feel his blood boiling in the man's
presence.  He gave Weilin an incredulous look.  "My father lies dead and
you're worried about your boat?  Sounds to me like my father saved your life,
and you ought to have some respect for that!  Come back tomorrow and we will
discuss your boat." 

Weilin was not cowed.  "I come here with cracked mast.  People say your father
so great ship man.  Say he fix, good job, good price.  Now I have no mast, no
hull!  Cannot leave!  Stuck here in small village.  Not even one good inn to
stay at.  Cost me money, every day stay here!" 

Trevor's ire rose.  "Oh, does it now?  Fine, come back in two days!  I can't
speak with you tomorrow, I have to attend a funeral." 

Weilin's voice only rose "Impudent child!  I--" 

Trevor knew he was too close to boiling over.  He held up a hand to silence
him.  "Weilin, I will not have this conversation with you now.  My family has
just suffered a great tragedy, and--" 

"Great tragedy, yes," he cut Trevor off.  "Girl should be punished!  In
Tithora, girl kill her father, she hang for sure!" 

Aran!, Trevor thought.  He really means that!  Somehow, he felt that Weilin was
just making a show, that he was inwarly smiling about the whole situation,
looking to get free repairs out of the deal.  Trevor reached his limit.  His
hand drew back, closing into a white-knuckled fist.  Weilin's rant stopped.
Fist quivering, Trevor said, "I will not have this conversation now."  He said
it slowly, emphasizing every word. 

He lowered his fist and returned to his father's body.  He called Carlu over.
"Send everyone home.  Particulary the foreigner.  Is there a cart or something
we can use to get him home?" 

"Aye, there's a lumber cart out back.  I'll have someone bring it in." 

"Thank you.  Would you," he glanced at his father, "get him on the cart and
all?  But wait for me.  I'll take him home, but I need to make some

"Of course." 

"And get rid of that crowd ouside.  I don't want them all pointing and

"What should I tell them, then?" 

"I don't know.  Tell them, tell them a beam fell and struck my father in the
head.  They'll believe that.  It's close enough to true.  They don't need to
know the details.  And please, tell the men not to gossip about it.  Out of

"Aye.  Dannel was a good man, and a good man to work for.  They do that for

Trevor nodded his thanks to Carlu, grateful that the older man seemed to be
handling this so much better than he was.  Slowly, he walked through the whole
boat house, examining everything.  Something about Harmony's little "no" made
him think it was important to see everything, really see it, while it was all
fresh, while the event still hung palpably in the air. 

He looked at the gantry arm, with a fray--ended piece of rope still attached,
extending out into the opening in the boat house's roof which allowed
tall-masted vessels to enter.  The roof matched the shape of the docks,
keeping them dry despite the day's mild rain.  He saw the new mast, floating
in the water below the dock, the winch rope still attached.  He followed the
rope upward, through a damaged-looking pulley, and over to the winch.  He saw
the cleat where the rope must have been tied, and how a person's foot could
knock it off, if it had been tied very carelessly. 

Even so.  He stared at the cleat.  I guess she could have done it, he thought.
But that's a heavy mast, probably half a ton.  That would make for a taut
rope, and Harmony's not a very big girl.  And wouldn't the rope have caught
her foot and flipped her head over heels?  Nobody had mentioned that. 

Still, many people had seen what happened, and they all seemed to agree.  He
would have to ask Harmony about it at home, away from everyone else.  He knew
she wouldn't lie to him.  In fact, he had never known Harmony to lie about
anything, although perhaps that wasn't difficult for someone who spoke as
little as she did. 

He stood, and found Carlu again.  "I need to go see the priest about the
funeral."  He pointed to his father's office.  "You make sure she doesn't go
anywhere?  And see that no one else goes in there either?" 

"Aye.  He's ready to go, Trevor," Carlu said, indicating a lumber cart now
loaded with his father's blanket-covered form.  "I'll send everyone home, and
stay here myself to watch over her." 

"Thank you, Carlu." 

Trevor saw the village priest, who said that yes, he could perform the funeral
service the following afternoon.  And he saw the stone cutter to arrange for a
headstone.  And there was no one to help him. 

The crowd was gone when he returned to the dock.  He collected Harmony, took
the cart handle firmly in hand, and began the walk home.  They walked slowly,
and in silence. 

At home, Trevor pushed the cart out behind the woodshed, covering it with a
large tarp to secure it against animals.  Inside, he found Harmony sitting on
the floor before the cold fireplace, wearing only her underclothes, her arms
wrapped around her knees.  The "something nice" clothes she had worn were off,
in a neatly folded little pile on her bed.  Had their father even seen her?
Had she even had the chance to greet him?  Her nice shoes were laid out just
so below them.  He wrapped a blanket around Harmony's shoulders and built a
small fire to keep her warm.

He cut an apple and some slices of cheese.  She still loved apples.  He smiled
briefly at the memory of the first apple he had seen her eat, in such tiny
bites, what, nine years ago?  He took her the plate. 

"Here, Harmony.  You need to eat something." 

She glanced at it as he set it on the floor beside her, and returned her gaze
to the flames dancing in the fireplace.  Trevor sat down beside her, saying
nothing, but telling her by his presence and his posture that he was not angry
with her. 

Eventually, she ate, and he shared the food with her.  When they finished, he
asked "Will you tell me what happened, Harmony?" 

She shook her head no. 

"Harmony, everyone is saying it's your fault.  I don't know if I should
believe them.  I need you to tell me." 

She stared at the fire. 

"Please, Harmony.  It's important.  I need to know". 

Harmony shook her head, and began to babble.  "Iva ge, iva ge, iva..." 

"No, Harmony.  You need to tell me.  I need you to use your words, and tell
me what happened." 

She quieted, but pursed her lips and turned her head away from him.  He

"It's all right.  I'll do the talking.  You made extra for lunch, like Pa
asked, right?"  She nodded yes. 

"And I saw you wearing your best dress.  You looked very nice."  Another nod. 

"And you took the food down to the dock at lunch time, right?"  Nod. 

"And you went inside.  Did you see the rope going up from the winch?"  Nod. 

"And you stepped over it?" Nod. 

"And your foot caught on it?"  Shake.  No. 

"No?  Are you sure?  Something made the rope come undone." 

Harmony looked at him intently, and stuck her bare feet out from under her
slip.  She looked to her feet, and Trevor looked too.  They were her feet.
Just like always.  Trevor shrugged his confusion.  She reached a hand down to
stroke the place where her feet met her shins.  She pointed to her shoes, next
to the bed.  Trevor fetched them and carried them back to examine them in the
fire light.  And then he understood what she had been trying to tell him. 

"Ah," he said slowly, nodding his head.  "It really wasn't your fault, was

She shook her head intently, confirming.  Trevor was relieved, tremendously
relieved, but he didn't say so.  He couldn't let her know, not now, that any
part of him might have doubted her.  Sitting next to her he put his arm around
her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. 

Still, he needed more than this.  The shoes wouldn't convince anybody.  He
would go back, first thing in the morning, and look again.  But not tonight.
Tonight, he needed to take care of Harmony.  Poor thing, he thought.  This
must be the second set of parents she's lost, and she's not even sixteen yet. 

They sat by the fire for a good while, Trevor's arm around his sister.  They
cried together for a while, missing Dannel's presence there in the house with
them, and when the fire burned down, he sent her to bed and kissed her
forehead.  "Goodnight, Harmony." 

He turned to get ready for bed himself, when her voice stopped him.  "Trev?" 

"Yes, Harmony?" 

"Love you." 

"I--"  Trevor paused, choking back a lump in his throat.  "I love you too,