Arc 705, 8th of Ashan
Mother and daughter sat side by side, both absorbed in their respective work. Aren Qy'Ufnaj was seated, legs crossed, in a proper writing desk and pouring over coastline maps. The hardwood surface in front of her was littered with ink, pens, and measuring tools. Occasionally, she would absentmindedly twirl one of the delicate instruments through her fingers. Her eyes squinted skeptically over one line and then the next, comparing any and all inconsistencies. Meanwhile, Rynata was seated on the cabin floor, bent industriously over a low table. Used sheets of paper spilled from her work space, disregarded in favor of her current masterpiece. She was busy capturing a scene from one of her favorite stories. An abandoned isle and the mysterious sea monster that guarded its secrets. Her representation of the monster could charitably be called menacing. However, the longer someone stared at the page, the more likely it was that they would become lost and confused between the seemingly order-less scrawls. It didn't matter. She was more focused on the general feel of the drawing anyway. Call it abstract art.
On this frigid trial of Ashan, Rynata and her mother had stayed behind with the ship while her father and three brothers went out to the port town. Rynata had pouted and asked to go with them, citing the fact that it was her birthday and that she was now 7 arcs old. She knew by now that these sorts of arguments worked well on her father. Yet this time, he as well as the rest of the family had been insistent that she stay home. It was too cold. It was too far. They would be back before she knew it. All these truths walled her off from crossing the gangplank and she had watched sadly as the four of them grew smaller in the distance. It had been hard not to be too disappointed at the missed opportunity of an excursion, but she had managed with only a reasonable amount of sulking. In fact, now that she was arranged quite comfortably in the toasty cabin, she found even less reason to complain.
Adding some small fish running away from the long, reaching arms of the sea monster, Rynata paused to look over her artwork. This one was a lot more chaotic than her usual sketches, but she found she quite liked how busy the page looked. Still, she also felt that a second opinion was needed. Standing up, Rynata wobbled a little on prickling feet that were numb from being folded under her for so long. She hopped over to her mother and nudged her finished work onto the edge of the writing desk, eager for a reaction. Roused from serious concentration, Aren blinked a few times and took up her child's strange artwork.
she asked, wry amusement trickling into her voice.
"It's from Treasure Island!"
Rynata replied enthusiastically. "See, this is the monster. He's eating the pirate ship."
She pointed to a particular set of scrawls that looked suspiciously like a ship with a broken mast.
"Oh, I see,"
her mother said, still humoring her. "Which treasure island story is this, again?"
Her poor husband was gifted at conjuring up wild tales, but not so much at giving them distinguishing titles. It was strange how Rynata managed to keep track of all the generic names. Perhaps to her, each was accompanied with a different meaning and nuance that couldn't be distinguished by an outsider.
"It's the one with the cursed wishing fountain. And then the singing statues,"
Rynata nodded matter-of-factly. One of the reasons why this story ranked among her favorites was because it was comprised of many short adventures. All of them fit together to create one epic quest.
"Is the sky meant to be upside down?"
her mother asked out of the blue, tilting the page and trying to get a better look.
Rynata crowded closer and pulled on her mother's arm to also peer in at the drawing.
"Well, these seagulls, yes?"
Aren pointed near the bottom of the page where a school of fish were swimming in and out of formation.
"No! Those are fish. In the ocean."
Slightly offended that her mother would make such an obvious mistake, Rynata tugged back her artwork and glanced over at the maps on the desk. "What are you doing?"
Different copies of maps detailing the same area were laid out side by side. On some of them she could see things crossed out and notes scribbled in a frustrated hand.
Picking up one such map, her mother shrugged almost disinterestedly. It was as though she had given up for the moment. "I was trying to see if I could improve on one of our maps from my own notes, but it seems the map was faulty to begin with."
Aren placed the larger sheet of paper where Rynata could see and pointed to a few marked points on the land formation. "Here, here, and here. The measurements are off. It doesn't match with what we've seen and that means the rest of the map is probably skewed as well."
Sighing, she wiped her ink stained hands on a piece of cloth. "It was a cheap thing, so I suppose I shouldn't have expected much. Probably some cartographer in training."
Rynata frowned at the strange word.
With a hint of a smile, her mother corrected her. "Cartographer. Map writer. So, the practice of it would be cartography."
"Oh. Ma, maybe next time you should only buy the ones with monsters at the side."
"Wh- monsters? Why so?"
It was Aren's turn to frown in confusion.
"If a map shows the monsters, maybe it's measured more carefully. Because they included the things that people will want to watch out for. Maybe they did better research?"
Rynata said. After all, if it was her sailing, she would want to know what creature infested waters to avoid. She thought that many an adventuring tale would have gone far more smoothly if only the crew had possessed an accurate monster map. Pattering over to wall opposite the window, Rynata reached up and pointed to a beautiful map that hung there. It was much larger and older than the rest of the charts they had, and along the sides curled strange creatures with numerous tentacles or gigantic pincers. "See? You use this one a lot. This one is better."
"I don't think map quality works like that, my star."
her mother said slowly, only half following her daughter's child logic. "Those drawings are just designs. Besides,"
she quickly added at the crestfallen look on Rynata's face, "sea monsters can move. Even if someone drew them, it wouldn't be much use to sailors if they swam away, yes?"
After a moment's pause, Rynata nodded in serious agreement. "But I would still draw them,"
she announced stubbornly. Maps were more fun that way. When she was older, she would make sure to have the most accurate maps that didn't forget to add local sea monsters.
Outside, the heavy clouds finally grew too dense to support themselves and icy sleet rained down onto the docks. Wet clumps sloshed against the glass window of the cabin and onto the ship's deck. Aren pushed back her chair and walked over to the window pane. Putting her forehead close to the transparent barrier, she looked out and hummed. She had hoped that the weather would hold until her husband and sons had returned. Still, she needn't have worried much, as she saw a familiar shadow fell across the gangplank.
Rynata's mother turned back to her and nodded with a smile in her eyes. "Well, you can show your father what you drew and if you like, he can help you draw up a map, yes?"
Accompanied with a blast of cold air that sent loose papers fluttering, the door to the cabin opened and the rest of the family crowded into the room.
One of her brothers, Korim, managed to roll his eyes and quip before the door shut behind them. "You wouldn't believe the mud puddles."
Rynata bounced across the room with a happy cry and leapt into her father's arms.
Andres Qy'Ufnaj barely managed to pass on the packages in his hands to his wife before he caught Rynata. "Happy birthday, Sirin! How do you fancy some chocolate cake?"
There was indeed a box containing large chocolate cake among the other packages of groceries and sweets purchased for a special dinner. On top of that, once she had been set down, her parents handed Rynata her presents. Both father and mother placed neatly wrapped objects into her hands. The one from her father was cylindrical and encased in a tube, while the one from her mother was a small, smart box.
Aren squinted at her husband's present and smirked knowingly. "You had that store wrapped, didn't you?"
Andres shrugged helplessly and watched his youngest child excitedly pass her eyes over the small notes attached.
To my precious daughter, may the path ahead always be clear.
To my precious daughter, may you always find your way.
Inside the packaging lay a shining, bronze spyglass and an older compass. Both practical tools, but also sentimental, in a way.