Aug 24, 2019 11:31 AM
Fabulous Rebecca encounters the Napoleonic wars
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Rebecca runs away from the convent before she's been there a month and a half.

She's lucky in her timing fetching Catherine; Beth hands her through the window and puts a pillow in the baby blankets to make it look like Rebecca broke in on her own whenever the baby's found missing, and Rebecca makes a run for the harbor. By the time she gets there it's really obvious she doesn't have any milk left after her absence, and Catherine's wailing heartbreakingly with hunger, but Rebecca shouts over her to get passage on a ship for the value of the coins she took from Father's hiding place in the yard, and once she's aboard she can listen and watch for other babies, offer smilingly to trade off nursing them with the other mothers, and if there's five women nursing five babies and only four of them have milk that should work out, shouldn't it?

The trip is long. Catherine grows, Rebecca measures her against her arm, but then before they get where they're get going Catherine gets sick. She just keeps getting sicker. When she won't try to nurse any more Rebecca kind of knows.

Rebecca wakes up in the morning and sees herself all grimy and pathetic-looking on a backdrop of stars, and she wonders if she'd be able to nurse Catherine back to health, if she weren't just pretending - she doesn't know how to do it, she fiddles with her chest until she thinks it feels familiar -

- she blinks away the stars and Catherine already isn't breathing.

She doesn't remember very much of the next few days but more or less comes to with a piece of salt pork in her hand and one of the other women sitting next to her, rocking her still-healthy little boy.

Rebecca eats her salt pork and gets up and goes over to the railing and decides that if jumping in the water makes her not want to die any more she can just turn into a mermaid, now, can't she, and she jumps.

She turns into a mermaid and claws her way back up the side of the ship once she's got her legs back and one of the crew sees her and tells her they'll pay her if she gets wings and warns them if she feels bugs. She says all right. She sits in the crow's nest with beautiful angel wings, white edged in gold, waiting to feel something.

They're not far out from port; she doesn't notice anything before they arrive and she collects her money. She goes out and spends it immediately on a hot dinner and a room and a chance to sing for somebody who bills himself as an agent.

A week later she's been on stage just once and he's coming at her and it's no longer even thrilling in addition to frightening, it's just plain repulsive and dreadful, and she's cleaned herself up enough by this point that she can -

- well, he doesn't chase her.

She goes back to the harbor in her blue-marble Grecian dress, angel wings spread a little, and walks up to the first boat she sees. She'll get out on the water again.

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"Ice." She makes a little hailstone in her hand, offers it to him.

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He sets it aside. "How much at a time? How quickly? Is it always solid pieces? Can you control the shape and size?" 

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"...I'm new at this."

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He sighs. "Where are my manners? Mowett! Fetch the lady some tea. Now, Miss - "

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"Arden. Rebecca Arden."

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"Now, Miss Arden, if you would be so kind, please make as much ice as you possibly can. We can step out onto the deck, if you prefer." 

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"Okay." She steps out after them and starts hailing into the sea so she won't damage the deck. She can go at a decent clip, though the balls of ice don't appear with much force.

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"Can you make them strike harder?"

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"Maybe." She fires a single hailstone into the air; it sails along in a decently long arc before it plops into the waves. "I don't think they're bullets. - I don't have to make new ice. I can freeze water that's there."

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"How much at a time? Show me." 

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"Don't icebergs sometimes cut up ships?"

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"Miss Arden, do you mean to tell me you could make an iceberg?"

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"Well, I never have, but if I can wouldn't it be a problem?"

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He smiles. "Quite the contrary. But perhaps you had better fly out a little ways from the ship. I'll call for you to stop if it gets to be too big." 

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"You don't think one would wash up on shore and hit things?"

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"We have another magical girl who controls water. She can sweep it out to sea, if it comes to that." 

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"Oh, okay."

She flies out a ways and starts freezing seawater. It accumulates in a weird shape, bobbing with the tide, and after about a minute it's a few times her size.

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After another minute, Price signals her to stop. 

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She flies back. The iceberg grew linearly the whole time she worked on it.

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Mowett has their tea ready in the stateroom. Price orders him to go tell Miss Hart to see about the iceberg, and he scurries off. Price offers her a cup. "Sugar or lemon, Miss Arden?" 

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"Sugar no lemon thank you."

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"You're quite welcome." He settles back in his chair. "I hope you don't mind that little display. If you are lucky, Miss Arden, you will never see a sea monster. Some girls serve for years without ever coming across one. Make no mistake, though. The beasts are deadly. Circumstances being what they are, we are sometimes compelled to take aboard untrained girls, but I will not take any who cannot defend herself - for her sake as much as ours. I believe you will acquit yourself respectably.

The Clarence is to escort three merchantmen - the Albemarle, the Exeter, and the Ceylon - to the West Indies in two days' time. If you wish to accompany us, you will see an artist in our employ before we leave port, the cost will be taken from your earnings. Pay is £20.00 in the first year, plus board. Is that acceptable?" 

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She does some arithmetic on her fingers. "Yes, that's acceptable."

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"Welcome aboard, Miss Arden. You will be sharing a cabin with Miss Hart. Ask her to show you about, if you like, you should at least learn the names and faces of all the officers before we set out. Mr. Peale will be expecting you in his studio at 10:00 tomorrow morning, Mowett will escort you. That will be all."

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"Thank you." She gulps the rest of her tea, sets down the teacup. "Where's the cabin? Or Miss Hart?"

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