Aug 19, 2019 2:31 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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"Don't you worry, my dear. Families do have a way of coming around." 

"Where are your people, miss?," asks Martin. 

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"Birmingham."

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Martin and Benwick both have family near Birmingham, which is enough to keep them occupied until the end of breakfast. 

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"What do we do all day waiting for sea monsters?" Rebecca asks Emma.

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"We fly around all the ships at least three times to check for the little ones, but most of what we do is wait. I took the dog watch last night, since you looked positively done for, but we'll switch off. Sometimes I'm called to smooth out a bit of rough water, but I don't think there'll be much call for ice." 

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"Makes sense. Will people mind if I sing?"

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Emma laughs. "What do you think sailors do all day?" 

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"I don't know all their songs! I'll pick them up but right now I mostly know less seaworthy music."

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"I can't imagine anyone would object, particularly with you all the way up there in the rigging." 

Pretty soon it'll be time for Mowett to show up and take her to her appointment. 

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Yup. Off she goes.

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Mr. Peale's studio is a bright, spacious room in a building near the docks. He dismisses Mowett with a promise to be back in three hours, and then turns to Rebecca. "What do you do, Miss - ?" 

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"Arden. I do ice."

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"I see."

Can Rebecca describe her current outfit? 

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Rebecca is wearing a chiton-style dress, cinched up in the back to accommodate her wings. The shiny, satiny fabric is blue marble patterned, with some gold veins restrainedly threading through it. Her wings are blue-white with golden edges on the flight feathers and her hair's up in a loosely ancient Greek style with gold frost-on-glass patterns holding it in place instead of laurel branches. She's wearing blue sandals, also loosely Greek, and there are some gold frost ornaments on those too. The pins at her shoulders holding her dress in place are also frost-flowers in gold; the belt around her waist is just a gold chain with lapis lazuli beads, though.

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Mr. Peale pulls out a notebook and starts making sketches from various angles. "I like to get something on paper before I start making changes," he says apologetically. "Do try and stand still. Have you tried using the frost-pattern on your dress instead of the marbling?" 

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"No, I haven't been magic very long, I haven't tried that much stuff."

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"Try that - actually, let's get the silhoutte down first." 

He has her run through a dozen or so variations each on the height of the waistband, the drape and gather of the fabric, the neckline, and the length of the train. 

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She holds obligingly still. "Can I frost your window to see how it looks?"

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"Go right ahead. Of course, you can work on a much finer scale." 

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She frosts the window. "I haven't done any clothes stuff with a lot of frost pattern, just the little bits for the jewelry." She studies the window and then shuts her eyes and tries replacing the marbling. It doesn't come out all that well. "It's about the same," she says, opening her eyes.

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"Try -" he starts sketching again "something like this pattern, in pale gold, lines half as thick as what you've got now." 

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"Instead of the blue?"

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"Try the gold first. I want to do something about the blue anyway, this shade is adequate but uninspired." 

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She squints at his pattern and changes her dress. "Yeah, it likes that better."

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"Now change all the gold in your outfit to match that shade." 

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