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Generated: Aug 27, 2019 12:30 PM
Post last updated: Aug 27, 2019 12:30 PM
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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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A boy in a blue coat yells down from the side of the ship. "Can I help you, miss?" 

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"Boats hire magic girls, right?" she asks.

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"You'll be wanting to talk with Captain Price, miss!" 

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"Yeah. Where's he?"

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"Aboard the Clarence. She's the big second-rate just over there, miss!" 

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She flaps over there.

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A helpful midshipman directs her to Captain Price's cabin. He's at his desk at the moment, going over some charts. 

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"Hello sir. Do you hire magic girls?"

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Captain Price is a tall, spare man with cool blue eyes, graying a bit around the temples. He looks her over calmly. "That depends. What can you do?" 

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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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Miss Hart is waiting in the hallway! She has long brown hair, pheasant wings, and a vaguely East Indian motif.

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"Hi! I'm Rebecca."

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"Emma! I'm so pleased to meet you, dear, come right this way - don't mind us, Mr. Pascow - our cabin is small but it's really quite nice, of course we're the only sort of women one can have on a battleship so we've got it all to ourselves - Braithwaite, you little beast, eyes on your work! - the midshipmen are all ghastly except Mowett, he's a lamb -" 

If Rebecca keeps listening, she'll learn that they report to Lieutenant Head, that tall redheaded fellow, that she and Emma are the only two magical girls on the ship, which is currently under strength, and that the West Indies are beastly hot all year round. 

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"I suppose I don't have to pack for the weather."

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That stops Emma up short for a moment - but only a moment. "Goodness me, no! Why the first time my Sophie came back from India she was all over cotton so fine it felt like a breath of air on the skin, I never wear anything else when I'm the tropics and it's all very well except around midday - but you then you can make ice, can't you - I'm sure it would fetch a tidy price in San Domingo, if we're lucky enough to get shore leave - has the Captain fed you yet, dear?" 

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"Tea," she says. "Your Sophie?" Damn. "- selling ice is a good idea thank you."

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"The men have already eaten but I have a bit of jam and biscuit squirreled away." (They're in the cabin now. Emma starts pulling things out of chests). "My Sophie was a great traveller. Africa, India, even Tahiti. She always did want to visit the West Indies. Would you like to see her?" 

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Oh! She's dead. Okay. "By all means."

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Emma pulls a very pretty silver locket out of her décolletage. Sophie had black eyes and dark blue hair, what can be seen of her costume is made of silver lace. Emma sights. "Battle of the Nile. Five years ago this August. One would think it would get easier."

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"I'm sorry. - It doesn't?"

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"There I go all maudlin. It does, of course it does, except sometimes on hot summer nights on board ship. Wonderful girl, my Sophie." She looks like she wants to ask Rebecca something, but thinks better of it. "Have you ever slept in a hammock before? There you are, I'll show you how to hang it - watch the beams now - on second thought I had better do it over myself, there's the way, just you watch -" 

Eventually she gets both hammocks straightened and blows out the lamp. 

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"Good night."

Rebecca gets rid of all the hard poky parts of her dress and lies in the hammock and sleeps.

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Then Emma will wake her up at 7:00 for breakfast (provided, of course, she can sleep through the bells). 

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She does wake up the first time but goes back to sleep all right and sleeps through the remaining bells.

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Breakfast is oatmeal and strong coffee. Emma sits herself and Rebecca down in the middle of a knot of sailors and starts introducing them. Thomson and Ainsley are maintopmen, and no more than seventeen - "they've been up for hours, poor dears" - Martin, Croft, and Benwick are gunners, and Elliot is a carpenter's mate. 

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"It's nice to meet you all," says Rebecca.

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"And you, miss," says Benwick. Thomson blushes and mumbles something that sounds a bit like "our pleasure." Elliot elbows him. "Is this your first time on a ship, miss?"

 

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"No, I took one to America as a passenger not too long ago."

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"Did you see any sea monsters?" Ainsley sounds like he very much hopes the answer is yes. 

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"No. I didn't even feel any little ones, once they started paying me to check."

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"And a very good thing too," says Emma. "Sea monsters are great terrible creatures who'd make half a mouthful of a little boy like you." 

Ainsley protests that he is a man and what's more, a sailor in the Royal Navy. If Rebecca doesn't have any questions, they'll go back to gossiping amongst themselves. 

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That's fine. She listens and eats her oatmeal and blinks parts of her outfit back on as she remembers where she's been putting them and tries to be surreptitious about staring at Emma.

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Then she'll learn that Emma is an inveterate gossip, if not as bad as Croft, the quartermaster is the very devil, there's need of another sailmaker's mate, and the captain of the Albemarle's daughter is a magical girl. 

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"How old?" Rebecca asks.

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Eight going on nine. 

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"I probably would've ignored it if I'd been that young."

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"She told me she'd rather go to sea with her papa than stay home with her mama and brothers and sisters in boring old Plymouth," says Emma. "Why, I was about that age myself, but of course I come from an old navy family." 

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"My family wouldn't have liked it. But when it happened to me I'd already left home."

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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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That's easy. "It likes that too. Huh."

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"The magic, like all great artists, appreciates unity of composition. It's happiest when the different components of your outfit match. In this case I thought the paler gold would set off your hair better - try growing your hair longer and weaving the gold through more of it." 

He's sketching furiously throughout. 

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"- yeah, it likes that."

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"Hmmm." He leans out the window. "Mrs. Copley! My sample book!" 

While they wait for the sample book, he has her change her belt to the same frost-on-glass pattern, experiments with various layers of necklaces, armbands, and bracelets, adds frost-flower earrings, and asks her to outline all her feathers in gold. 

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"The belt pokes me in the stomach when I breathe like this." The other experiments are fruitful.

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"Make it white leather with the pattern embossed in gold." She's wearing three necklaces of various lengths and a pair of matching armbands. 

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"That's not as good magically but it's comfortable."

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"Your choice. You can always change it out if you need the extra power during a fight." 

Presumably-Mrs.-Copley shows up with the book of fabric samples. He flips to the section on blue and has her cycle through 47 different shades. "And while you're at it, can you make the material less  - glossy?" 

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"Yeah? I was going for polished marble first but I guess it's not marble any more." The fabric calms down by slow degrees.

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"Stop when it starts to hurt more than it helps." 

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She stops. It's still a little shiny but not nearly as much.

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Once they've found the optimal shade for the dress, he asks her to make her wings a gradient from that blue to white. 

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She does. "- doesn't help."

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"Hmph. Worth a try. Can you make the wings white mother-of-pearl? Keep the outlines." 

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"Maybe? They still have to be feathers to fly... do you have any I can look at?"

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"I just want the effect, not the actual material." He rummages around in his desk for a shell. "Here, like this." 

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She holds it so she can look at it in starscape and tries it. "- oh, it loves that."

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He smiles. "Do the same to your sandals and the white parts of the belt." 

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"That's good too," she says when she has.

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"If you change any of your colors or materials in the future, do be sure to keep everything consistent. It'll hurt you otherwise, even if the change is a good idea." 

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"I'll remember. Thank you."

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"We don't have time to give you a proper cloak, not that you'll need it in summer, but -" he pulls another book off the shelf - "you should probably be alright with something like this, lined in fur, in the same material as the dress." The book is in Greek, it's open to an illustration of a woman in a chlamys

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"Will that be warm enough? Or should I just make it longer if it's really cold?"

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"Length shouldn't a problem. Sleeves will be trickier. If you're in the navy, you must work with other magical girls, ask what they do. The grecian theme is quite popular these days." 

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"Okay."

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"Good luck, Miss Arden. I hope your voyage is entirely uneventful." 

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"Thanks, I hope so too."

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And Mowett is waiting to collect her. Before she goes, Mr. Peale hands her a sheaf of his sketches - "for reference." His next client is waiting in the foyer; she doesn't seem to be magical at all. 

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Rebecca blinks at her, but follows Mowett without asking.

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"You look lovely, miss, if you don't mind my saying so." 

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"Thank you."

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"Mr. Peale's very good. And a real artist, too." 

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"Most of his ideas worked! I have to memorize all this now though. Maybe I'll write it down."

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"You can get paper and ink off Coombe, if you do." 

Soon enough, they're back aboard the Clarence

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Rebecca looks for Coombe to ask for paper and ink.

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Coombe is the ship's schoolmaster! He wants to know if Rebecca can write. (His tone suggests he would be terribly surprised).

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"I can, though I don't think my penmanship is good."

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"Just see you return the pen."

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"I will."

She writes down a checklist of her current outfit's features and then gives his pen back.

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And then it'll  be time for Rebecca's afternoon watch. 

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She goes and sits up in the rigging. She sings.

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A couple of topmen give her appreciative whistles. 

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That's sweet of them.

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And soon it'll be time for supper. Rebecca and Emma eat belowdecks, with the men. 

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Cool. What's for dinner?

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Same as every night -  thick stew of salt beef, potatoes, and carrots, with ship's biscuit and a serving of grog with lime juice. 

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Good enough.

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After supper, there's usually singing. 

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Fun!

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Most sea shanties aren't hard to learn. 

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Yup, she picks them right up and sings them all an octave or two above the sailors.

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After an hour or two of this, it's time for bed. Rebecca has to be up for the 3:40 watch. 

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"Does somebody wake me up for that?" she asks Emma.

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"I will,  when I come back in. And may I just say, Peale has outdone himself." 

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"Thanks!" She twirls.

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"Pleasant dreams, now."

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"Good watch."

She catches a few hours' sleep in her hammock.

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And then Emma wakes her up for the dog watch. At this hour, the Clarence is just starting to drag herself to life, but it's still mostly quiet in the harbor. The only light is from lanterns hanging along the ships, and from the stars. 

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The stars are gorgeous. Rebecca sings soft sad songs and watches them.

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The next morning, they set sail. 

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Wheeeeee.

Rebecca likes overflying their companion ships to check on them; it's nice to stretch her wings. She'll fill barrels with hail if anybody wants it to drop down their shirts to cool off.

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The sailors will be grateful, especially as they get further south. Except for the rising temperature, every day is much the same as the last. The little magical girl on the Albemarle is delighted whenever Rebecca or Emma flies over; when she's big she wants to have her very own ship to protect. They don't encounter any sea monsters.

One day, Rebecca finds a small swarm aboard the Exeter. 

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She sounds the alarm. And looks for a bucket of water so she can splash them and freeze them.

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Sailors come running. A few are carrying pistols, one has a bucket that's usually used for pitch.

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She starts making new ice around the bugs, but she has to do it one at a time to get it all the way around a bug in motion, a bucket would be suuuuper handy - "Is there water I can throw on them - EMMA -"

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The sailor with the bucket runs off. Emma is in the hold, two decks below. She'll have sensed the swarm, but it'll take her a couple minutes to get there.

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Well, she can keep icing them one at a time and backing away as they advance.

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Now there is a bucket line! 

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Good. She can throw the bucket onto the swarm and freeze it while they're drenched; that inconveniences a lot of them at once.

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Two minutes later, Emma bursts through the door. The rest of the swarm is immediately surrounded in a floating bubble of water. 

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And it's frozen.

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And Emma is hugging her. 

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Hug!

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"Oh, my dear, you were so brave - that was some very quick thinking back there, and you all by yourself - I never wanted you to find your first swarm like that, I'll be with you next time -"

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What a good hug. "I'm okay, they didn't get me."

(The bugs in the ball of ice aren't dead but they can be stabbed at leisure.)

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The Captain of the Exeter gives her his eternal gratitude, and a week's pay. 

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Woo! She will buy SHEET MUSIC.

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This will be difficult in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but she can definitely go for it when they reach San Domingo!

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That's the plan! In the meantime she'll just sock it away.

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Two days later, she and Emma are invited to dine with the captain of the Exeter and his officers. 

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Sure, okay! Maybe it won't be stew?

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Probably not! Captains usually have their own food stores. 

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She shows up with Emma come dinnertime.

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It's a regular dinner party. There's the Exeter's Lieutenant and Surgeon, and the Captains of the Ceylon and Albemarle, along with the latter's daughter. Emma and Rebecca are the only guests from the Clarence. 

The Captain of the Exeter is clearly well-off, judging by the quality of his flatware. Rebecca is seated at his left, Emma a bit farther down between his Lieutenant and the captain of the Ceylon. The first course is a clear soup. 

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Variety is nice even if it's just clear soup. Slurp. "Thank you for the invitation!" she tells the captain.

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"The pleasure is entirely mine." He inclines his head towards Rebecca and Emma in turn. "The least I could in recognition of your bravery." 

"Why, Captain Harville, no one in our position could have done less." Emma is smiling, but she's more subdued than usual. 

 

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"Couldn't just leave it there!" agrees Rebecca.

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"Vile little creatures," says the Surgeon with feeling. "Take chunks out of a man's arm the size of apples. Impossible to stitch. Good clean job you made of 'em." 

The little girl seated across from him looks fascinated. 

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"Thank you," she says to the surgeon. And she smiles at the little girl. "What's your name? I'm Rebecca."

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"Kitty!" 

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"It's nice to meet you, Kitty!"

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"Papa tells me you fought a swarm! I've never seen a swarm except once back home and Plymouth and then Mama made it go away before I could even get a proper good look. Was it very frightening?" 

"Mind your manners, dear," her Papa says absently. 

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"It was a little scary! I'm sure I would have been much more scared if I'd gotten hurt but I stayed out of its way and just used magic."

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"What sort of magic can you do? I can make things move about just by thinking, it's terribly useful." She demonstrates with the salt-cellar. (Captain Tilney plucks it out of the air with the disinterested expression of a man who's done this many, many times before). 

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"That's a good one! I can make ice." She hands a hailstone across the table.

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Kitty accepts it solemnly. 

"My Mama does lightning! She also used to go on ships before she married my Papa and had me." 

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"Lightning would be useful if you found a big monster, I bet!"

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"Wouldn't it just?" She slumps in her chair. "I never have, though." 

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"Well. Y'know. That's good."

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"That's what Papa always says. But if I do find one I won't be scared and I shall give it a good thumping." 

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"Perhaps you shall."

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"There was a monster at Plymouth when I was a very little baby, Mama says, and she and Mrs. Forster - Mrs. Forster is Mama's very particular friend - and Miss Allen and Miss Carter and Miss Wright all together had to drive it off so it wouldn't get into the port." 

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"That was very brave of them!"

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"I do not think it can have been a very big monster." 

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"Well, maybe it wasn't. There was one the size of a horse near where I grew up once but I didn't get to see it, my mother kept me in the house."

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"Very sensible of her," opines Captain Tilney. 

Captain Harville wants to know how she's finding life aboard the Clarence.

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"It's all right. I suppose the only thing I'd want really is a piano and it'd be a bit difficult on a boat, wouldn't it?"

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Captain Morland had a Captain had a piano when he was ship's boy on the Royal George, but of course that was the service and things were different then.

"Do you play?" 

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"Well, I haven't practiced in weeks and weeks."

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The Surgeon has a violoncello, which she is welcome to come over and play if it's any good to her. 

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"I'd love to, I've never tried it but it'd be such fun to try."

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"Do you know your way around a violin? It's not so very different." 

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"Never had a chance!"

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"It wouldn't be any trouble to teach you, Miss Arden - only if you like - one does so rarely meet a music-lover at sea." This last is said with a pointed glance at Captain Harville.

(The second course was some sort of whitefish with lemon. It is being replaced by a roast). 

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Mmm, roast! "Music's my favorite thing in all the world."

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This is all the encouragement the Surgeon needs for a lengthy excursus on that time he saw Mozart performing in Vienna and could have died perfectly content right there in the theatre though really he thinks very little of the contemporary German composers and less of the French and doesn't she find American performers have no notion of taste? 

Captain Harville elbows him in the ribs. 

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"I tried for a bit to perform in America but it didn't work out. I'm not sure it has to do with anyone's taste though."

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"If it didn't work out, my dear, I'm sure it has everything to do with the audience's." 

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"It was my agent. I only got in front of a real audience one time."

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This leads to a lengthy discussion between Captains Harville and Morland about the cultural privations of life in the colonies. Emma is telling Kitty a story about an Indian sea monster with seven heads, all of them with terrible great fangs. 

(They take away the roast and bring out some Ambiguous Pudding).

 

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The ambiguity of the pudding will not stop Rebecca from having at it.

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And eventually it will be time to go. The Surgeon invites her over at 19:00 tomorrow, before her evening watch. 

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"I'll be there! Thank you."

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At 19:00 the next day the Surgeon will be enthusiastically tuning his cello! (It sounds a bit like a dead cat). 

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"Good evening! Do you have sheet music or will it all be by ear and memory -?"

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"I have some - it all depend on what want to sing, of course. I have some music for Haydn's Battle of the Nile, if you'd like, I've been looking forward to it but it does call for a female vocalist. Admiral Nelson performed it himself, you know, with the Lady Hamilton, her singing and him on the pianoforte." 

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"I know it! Does it translate well to cello?"

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"Not particularly! But we've already discussed the difficulties of getting a pianoforte at sea." 

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"Well, I suppose we'll figure it out!"

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His arrangement is actually quite good, condition of the instrument aside. 

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She's delighted to have someone to do music with!

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So is he!! 

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She stops midphrase.

"- monster," she says. And then she bursts out of the room, hollering about it at the top of her lungs. "I FELT A MONSTER, UNDERWATER, STARBOARD -"

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By the time she makes it to the upper deck, lots of things are happening at once. The merchantmen are at full sail and tilting hard to port, while the Clarence holds back to stay between them and the monster. Unfortunately, that puts the monster in a direct line with her stern, outside the spread of her guns. She'll have to pull around to hit the monster with a full broadside, and the wind is against them. Rebecca and Emma will have to hold it off on their own for at least half an hour before they can count on artillery support. 

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Rebecca gets into the air; it's not like the monster can't reach for her there but at least incidental rocking of the ship won't foul her balance and it'll have to reach farther. She starts freezing chunks as fast as she can.

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Something seems to be holding the monster in place. If she looks up, she'll be able to see Emma hovering a hundred feet or so above the surface of the water, pulling it into a massive current. It's taking all her strength to just to keep it in place. 

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Rebecca steers clear of Emma so the monster won't be able to get them both in one grab, and wheels around - she's not good at hovering - to get another angle of view. The monster is shaping itself against the current, getting narrower to cut water resistance and get to the ship, but hasn't managed to slice through the tide yet.

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Emma sees what the monster is trying to do and redirects the current to push against the monster's length, angling it away from the convoy. 

Another ship is visible in the distance. A series of flags start to run up the Clarence's mainmast. Rebecca probably isn't familiar with maritime signaling conventions; if she is, she'll see they spell out SEA MONSTER - AID REQUESTED. 

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She's not really looking at the mast anyway, she's looking at the monster, freezing it as fast as she can.

It shoots out a tendril toward her with astonishing speed; she drops, more than dives, to get away, and has to spend the next fifteen seconds recovering and dodging sideways to avoid a second grab before she's back at the altitude they've been maintaining.

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Little Kitty Tilney darts across her field of vision. She's wearing an eight-year-old girl's interpretation of a Royal Navy captain's dress uniform. The coat terminates in a full skirt, with lace. There is a remarkable quantity of gold frogging. She looks very determined. 

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"- Kitty! Kitty, you don't even -" She's not sure what Kitty doesn't even but she certainly doesn't even something. It's likely Kitty can't hear her, though, the noise of the water freezing and rushing in strange directions is tremendous.

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At least Kitty is staying high, tossing spars of wood and bits of shot at the monster from hundreds of feet in the air. 

Another ship is visible in the distance. Rebecca doesn't have a glass, but Captain Price does, and he can see they're flying a French flag. 

He turns to his first lieutenant. "Make ready to fire the first broadside." 

"But, sir - " He doesn't need to finish. They don't have enough powder to engage the monster and the French. The noise will draw the other ship to their position. The girls are holding it off - for now.

"Tell Mr. Baynton he may fire when ready." 

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Rebecca, for her part, hopes the other ship is going to send them some backup, because she can't freeze this thing very quickly relative to its size, especially not when she keeps having to flinch aside as its shape ripples.

The monster tries diving.

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The water under the Clarence swells and rises. Emma falls back to the surface of the water and starts wrapping the monster in current to keep from surfacing under one of the ships. She gestures frantically at Kitty, who seems to understand - and shoots off in the direction of the French ship. They won't be able to reach the battle in time, but they must have magical girls. She hopes. 

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Rebecca can't just outright stand on the water, but she can alight on some rigging, close enough to the surface to track the monster by swarmsense and keep freezing bits of it, especially any bits that reach up.

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That's helpful! Emma follows her lead, focusing her attacks on any part of the monster that looks likely to surface. It's working so far, but she can't do much about those lightning-fast tendrils except dodge, and her reflexes are getting slower. 

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Rebecca's not sure how much effort it takes Emma to stand on the water, and if something happens to her that messes with her magic it'll get harder, maybe impossible, very suddenly; she makes her an ice platform near where she's at to step onto.

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Emma lands on the platform and seems to slump. She might have nodded at Rebecca gratefully - it's hard to tell, with the spray and the rising waves - but after a minute she's off again, always keeping in contact with the water's surface. 

If Rebecca turns around, she'll see a V-formation in the sky. Maybe birds, maybe magical girls. It's hard to tell at this point. 

The water under the Albemarle starts rising alarmingly. 

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Rebecca takes off again, skims as low over the water as she dares, keeps trying to freeze chunks of monster when she can catch them.

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It's staying under, but the water keeps rising. The Albemarle is nearly on her side.

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Rebecca doesn't know how to handle that without punching through the hull with ice. She tries to ignore it and just concentrate on the monster, which is at least very attention-getting.

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An enormous black mass shoots out of the water in a nimbus of ice and shattered timber. Between the writhing tentacles, there are gaping holes that look like they might be mouths, with teeth the size of clipper's bowsprit, and things caught halfway between wings and fins - none of it the same from one moment to the next. The Albemarle goes down. So does Emma. 

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- is she at the monster's periphery so Rebecca could maybe shield her long enough for her to extricate herself or -

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Not that Rebecca can see. (She's under, but trying to drag the monster down with her). 

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The answer to a surprising number of mid-combat tactical questions is "continue trying to kill the monster", isn't it.

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Yep.

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She flies. She ices. She keeps glancing at the French ship. It can't have taken that long for Kitty to get a magical girl, can it?

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Lightning splits the sky. The monster - well, it doesn't wail, exactly, but it makes some sort of a noise that can't and shouldn't be described. More importantly, it pulls away from the ships. 

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Maybe that's a French girl. Rebecca tries to make herself a bit obvious, dart around a little less, so she won't be collaterally struck.

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It's definitely not natural. The wind picks up, blowing the other ships (and Rebecca) away from the monster. The lightning strikes get faster and closer together, interspersed with pure concussive blasts. For a moment, the air glows white. 

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Rebecca's not sure whether to interpret that as an accident or a suggestion that she get out of the way so this other more combat-oriented girl can solo the monster. She tumbles through the air and blinks spots out of her eyes and brakes when she seems clear of the worst of it. Lands on an ice platform to collect herself.

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The monster is nowhere in sight. The French magical girls - if she can make them out - are hovering above the Clarence.

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She squints. She catches her breath and flies toward them in case any of them has enough English to tell her if she ought to stay back from the weather, or add hail to it, or what.

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At least one of them does! She looks like a Greek goddess straight out of Jacques-Louis David's studio. (In fact she is; he does a sideline in magical girls). Her scarlet cloak billows dramatically without getting in the way of her wings (golden, aquiline). She's wearing a laurel crown, and there's a general laurel motif on her breastplate and in the shifting gold embroidery of her gown, along with ploughs and sheaves of wheat. Her eyes are gray, unusually - possibly unnaturally - bright and intense. 

She flies out ahead of the others, motioning Rebecca down to the ship.  "I have just accepted your Captain's surrender. On the deck, now. Stay where we can see you." 

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"I thought you were here to help with the sea monster."

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"And so we did. The deck, if you will."  

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"I mean I thought you were just here to help with the sea monster."

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"It cannot have escaped you that our nations are at war. The duty imposed by our common humanity demanded that we save your lives, which we have; my duty as a soldier of the French Republic demands that I secure your ship, and I intend to see it done. The deck, if you will be so kind, Miss - "

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"Arden." She alights.

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A few minutes later, another girl lands beside her. She's got on a fantastical chasseur's uniform, green and pink. Somehow, it works.  She bows. "Lieutenant Amélie Gerard, of the Emperor's ship Foudroyant. I have been granted the - if I may - delightful duty of attending to your needs and ensuring your safe presence among us. Aside from some few regrettable necessities, you may consider me at your dispose for anything you might wish." 

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"How many regrettable necessities are we talking about?"

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"The Capitaine, she thinks you might try to leave the ship, or otherwise do us so harm. Naturally I do not believe this, I told her, anyone so beautiful is surely woman of honor. Of this have no doubt." 

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"Uh. Aren't all of us beautiful? - your captain's a she?"

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"You just met her, I think? Captain Serpière is our captain, I mean, the Capitaine des Filles Magiques, the captain of Foudroyant is still behind us.

And if all of us are beautiful, Mademoiselle Arden, I do not see why we cannot all be honorable."

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"I'm glad you at least speak English or this would be really complicated."

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"Our mother took our education very seriously. I read a great deal of Shakespeare as a child. I loved the English novels best, but she was always taking them away from me and I am afraid I complained rather bitterly - thought it was all worth it, of course, for the pleasure of being able to make your acquaintance." 

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"Where's Kitty?"

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"With her papa, of course!" 

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"Okay. What's going to happen to us?"