203/366 – Aboard the Whitehall

Day 61 of 100 Word Prompts: Boat


As the sun rose over Port Bordbalt, the docks were busy with sailors moving all over, carrying out various tasks needed before setting sail. Byron walked along the docks, looking for the ship he had booked passage with the night before, the Whitehall. Being from a town landlocked and only traveling through small river towns, he had never seen anything quite like the spectacle of three-masted ships that was this port.

From three docks over, Byron spotted the Whitehall. It looked majestic compared to many of the other ships around it with its two-tone wood treatments and the crane seemingly protruding from the side of the vessel. Contrary to most of the other ships, this one’s crew all looked clean and healthy as they worked diligently to load their cargo.

“Let’s get moving, lads!” a voice boomed from the rail on the deck. “The day’s wasting, and we have to make it to Alborming. If we get lucky, we may make it there in two-span!”

Byron watched a man step to the side of the ship, surveying the crew’s diligent work as they cheered in unison at his comments. The man wore a loose-fitting shirt with comfortable pants. At his waist, he had two swords secured to one side with a dagger to the other on his belt. His eyes darted from worker to worker, taking in every minute detail of their job as he observed them.

“Are you Captain Chathem?” Byron asked, stepping to the bottom of the gangplank.

“Are you Byron?” the man replied with a big, toothy smile. “I am the man you’re looking for, permission to board.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Byron said as he reached the deck of the ship.

“Thank you for your patronage,” Captain Chathem replied with a nod. “We often have passengers aboard our vessel, but none is as well known as you. There have been at least five port towns I stopped in in Teshal in which I’ve heard your name whispered in the tavern. Pretty impressive, despite appearances.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Byron asked, looking at his clothes. While not silk, his clothes were fine linen, nonetheless.

“Nothing at all,” the Captain replied with a wink. “It’s just a joke. Why don’t you follow me and I’ll give you a tour of my ship?”

“Lead away,” Byron said, motioning with his right hand.

“Have you ever been on a ship before?” the Captain asked.

“Not one this large,” Byron replied, looking up to the top of the masts. “This is easily the largest I’ve seen as well.”

“Why, thank you,” the Captain replied. “Where we are now is the main deck, and on either end is the forecastle and the quarter deck. Now, while we are traveling, you are welcome anywhere on the main deck and forecastle, but not the quarter deck. Do you understand?”

“Why not the quarter deck?” Byron asked.

“That’s where my helm is, and I’ll not be risking having anyone try to take control of it. Under no circumstances are you to be on the quarter deck,” Captain Chathem said before he pointed to the door leading under the quarter deck. “Those are my quarters as well. While I appreciate your patronage, there is a vast number of things that I need to take care of during our journey. As such, I would appreciate limited knocking on my doors, okay? If you need something, the first mate is generally available, and if not, you can speak with the bosun, quartermaster, or cook.

“My advice is to avoid asking the cook, or the crew, for anything unless essential. We serve meals six times a day to allow the crew to operate at all times. If you miss one, wait a few hours, and another will be on its way. As for where you’ll be staying,” the Captain said, walking briskly to a door in the forecastle. He led Byron down a steep set of stairs to a thin hall that went from the front of the ship about a third of the way back. He pointed to the doors lining either side of the hall. “These are the crew’s quarters. They often have gatherings here, even when we aren’t at port. If you’re a drinking man or a gambling man, I’ll likely find you here before long. Further down is the upper hold, and further still is the passengers’ quarters.”

“At the back of the ship?” Byron asked.

“If we run into trouble out on the water, and people try boarding the ship, I put as many people between them and you as possible to ensure your safety,” the Captain replied, moving on with his conversation. “You’d be ill-advised to go down to the lower hold. It’s just crates and spare cannonballs down there. Nothing really worth seeing or doing.”

“Thank you,” Byron said again as the Captain turned to walk back up the stairs.

“No problem at all, Byron,” the Captain replied, flashing him another smile. “I’d say we have another forty minutes or so before we shove off. You’re welcome to pick a passenger cabin or wait on the main deck, but I will warn you, if you come up to the main deck, don’t slow my men down. They don’t take kindly to delays.”

“Understood, Captain,” Byron replied with a nod.

“I’ll see you once we get underway,” the Captain said as he walked up the stairs back to the main deck.

Byron turned and followed the hall back to a large open room. Several of the crew were guiding cargo down from the crane onto the port side of the ship, where it appeared large lattice had been put on the floor, allowing a glimpse into the lower hold. From here, he could see that the starboard side of the ship opened outward, and the crane rolled out on massive tracks letting it rest next to the side of the ship. He watched the crew call commands back and forth as the crane operator moved it with stunning efficiency.

“Hold!” one of the crew yelled closeby to Byron. Byron immediately saw that the sailor was looking at him. “If you’re coming through, get on with it quickly,” he snapped, waving Byron through the cargo area.

Byron darted from one end to the other as fast as he could, hearing the same sailor shout another command before the sound of the gears began anew in the crane. He reached the back of the ship, where six doors sat closed before him. With a shrug, he grabbed the third from the left and pushed the door open to find a simple room greeting him. It had little more than a bed, a chest on the floor, and an oil lamp that had been secured to a stand, but it had a small window that looked out the back of the ship.

Byron looked out the window overlooking the port and said a silent goodbye to Teshal, uncertain if he would ever come back.

 

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