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Ocean Gypsies

by Haven 

Posted: 23 November 2005
Word Count: 1725
Summary: This is my first time uploading anything so I'm a little nervous! I'm looking for some constructive criticism to find where I need to improve etc.

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Reiver scanned the beach where his mother had left the rowing boat she had used to get ashore.
“She’ll be fine, love,” a soft voice said behind him.
He looked down at his wife as she came to stand at his side and smiled at her. He reached out to brush back the long strands of her chestnut hair that kept blowing into her green eyes. Eyes that had so reminded him of the sea, they had captivated him so long ago now.
“I know she’ll be fine,” he replied, “I just can’t help being concerned, she’s been acting oddly these past few weeks. She wouldn’t even tell me why she wanted to come here!”
Angel squeezed his arm reassuringly, “She must have good reason for all this. I’m sure she will tell you when she’s ready to.”
Reiver sighed and turned his eyes back to the beach. Angel watched him as he tried to hide the hurt that his mother’s secretiveness had caused. When you were part of a family that was this close there was no such thing as secrets but now Mara was acting strangely, demanding to be brought here for no other reason than she had to.
Reiver raked his fingers through his long black hair and his blue eyes looked at her apologetically as he deliberately turned away from the sight of the beach. Putting his arm around her he guided her back to their cabin. With the ship anchored in calm waters no one was on watch tonight so only the creaking of the timbers could be heard. Even so, Reiver fell into a troubled sleep until first light.
Byren and Bodin were already up and cheerfully greeted him as he came up on deck. Five years separated these two and yet they could have been twins, both were the same height, the same broad musculature that came with constant hard work. The same red hair that fell in waves to their waists when it was not tied back in their usual braids. Angel often joked that they had hair most women would kill for which always made the younger Bodin blush.
“She’s not back,” Byren said before he had a chance to say anything.
Reiver frowned at that and strode to the side of the ship to look over to the beach. The rowing boat was still beached and there was no sign of Mara.
“That’s it, I’m going to find her!” Reiver snapped taking off his shirt and boots.
Just as he was about to jump over the side Byren stopped him, pointing to the shore. As Reiver looked he saw his mother appear on the beach and climb slowly into the rowing boat. While she made her way back to the ship, Reiver put his clothes back on, frowning as he noted how slowly she was going.
She finally reached them and secured the little boat to the side of the ship. She made her way up the ladder until she could reach Reiver’s outstretched hand, then he pulled her up and on deck.
She held up her hand to stop the questions that began to form on his lips, “Before you ask anything I must sleep. Afterwards I will explain all to you but just now I have to rest.”
Reiver bit back his words when he noted the lines of weariness in her face and almost, he thought, a tinge of fear in her eyes.
Mara disappeared down to her cabin as Reiver sighed in exasperation at her unusual behaviour. He turned to Byren and Bodin and began giving out instructions to get the ship moving back to Rucian, a small port just a few miles north of where they were.
Angel and the children came up on deck followed by Laurel who was still braiding her long golden hair. Six-year-old Caisha ran over to her father and hugged him around the waist. Ten-year-old Darvon was more reserved in his greetings, pinching his sister to stop her questions.
“Father would tell you what Granny was doing if it had anything to do with you!” he told her in a superior tone of voice.
“Stop being a pain Darvy,” Caisha told him, “You want to know as much as I do!”
“Stop it, both of you,” Reiver said with a smile, “Granny went straight to bed without talking to anyone so you will have to wait like the rest of us.”
The children’s expectant faces fell in disappointment, which caused the adults to laugh. Their laughter did not upset Darvon and Caisha as they knew there was no malice to it. In truth, the children were well loved by everyone. Laurel sang her songs to entertain them; Byren and Bodin would often play with them even if it were one of Caisha’s little games she liked to invent. Angel herself made up stories for them but usually everyone would sit and listen to her tell her tales.
“Right you two, I want you to be quiet today while Granny is sleeping,” Angel told them firmly.
She directed Caisha to the galley to help with the breakfast while Darvon ran to do his father’s bidding.
Ten-year-old Darvon was very much like his father with his plait of black hair and blue eyes but where he had his father’s sense of familial loyalty and shrewd intelligence, he also had his mother’s creativity and interest into the magical side of things.
Caisha had her father’s black hair too, but her eyes were so dark that they were almost black themselves. She had a sunny disposition and never complained about anything and already climbed the rigging like a monkey. Both she and Darvon helped with the running of the ship just as they all did.
The ship, called The Ocean Gypsy, had been specially made by Reiver’s grandfather who had worked most of his life on ships to earn enough money to build his own. It was a scaled down version of a trireme with beautiful carvings along the handrails that had been carved by a sorcerer to bind spells of protection and good fortune into the wood.
The sails were made of the finest canvas money could buy and had been embroidered by a team of a dozen seamstresses to depict an image of a large moon in a starlit sky shining down on a calm sea where a small boat floated, lit from within. The canvas was a dark blue, which was unusual for use as sails, but when it was also embroidered most people thought his grandfather mad or else a romantic fool with too much money to waste.
And so The Ocean Gypsy became home to the Elbirrich family. It was not an easy life; many times the unique and beautiful ship had been attacked, either for the hope of gold or for the ship itself, which would fetch a King’s ransom if sold to the right buyer. But over the years the Ocean Gypsy became known in the ports and oceans she frequented just as the Elbirrich family became known as fierce defenders of their home.
Only a few people were allowed on board, those who had become dear and loyal friends were the privileged ones. Most of these could not believe how comfortably cosy the ship was. Over the years, and each additional generation, personal touches such as rugs, tapestries and ornaments had all been added to the interior. While on the decks small comforts had all been allowed, like a table and benches so meals could be eaten outside on beautiful days. Also large cushions could be found in a specially made box for anyone to relax on, especially the children.
The joy of living on a boat was that they could travel anywhere they wanted, so if the weather got too hot or cold they just moved on. It meant that they had been just about everywhere in the world and a few secret places that no map showed, at least not the ones bought in towns.
Every now and then they would spend a couple of weeks in the small village where Angel and Laurel had grown up and whose families still lived there. Those were usually awkward times for Laurel who had not left under good circumstances. The life-long friend of Angel had demanded to go with her when she had been swept off of her feet by the handsome sea captain. Angel had agreed gladly, relieved that at least she was not leaving everyone behind.
Laurel’s father had forbidden her to go but she had left anyway much to the anguish of her mother. Now at twenty-seven years of age, the same as Angel, she had almost given up hope of ever finding her own true love. When she had come aboard twelve years ago she had had dreams of romance and high adventure. She had definitely got the adventure but the romance had been somewhat elusive. She felt like an old maid.
But she did have her music. All her life she had played and sang but had been limited by the small village she had lived in, not many bards travelled their way. But with the travel of a sea-faring family the opportunities to learn a new song or instrument were limitless.
Laurel stood at the rail gazing out to sea. She never quite got over how beautiful the sea was first thing in the morning.
“Hey, Laurie!” Byrne called out from his perch in the rigging.
Laurel’s blue eyes glinted as she shot a sideways glance at the large first-mate. He knew she hated that nickname but called her it anyway in that jovial manner of his that no one could stay mad at.
“Master Byrne,” Laurel replied sweetly, “Is it breakfast you’re wanting? I’ll see if Mistress Elbirrich has your pig swill!”
Byren’s eyes widened and his hands flew to his chest as if pierced by an arrow then he toppled from the rigging only to be caught short by the rope around his ankle. He laughed uproariously when he saw the look of fright on her face.
Laurel muttered an oath under her breath at the scare he had given her but could not help smiling as Byren swung back and forth by the foot laughing fit to burst at his own joke.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 08:51 on 25 November 2005  Report this post
Hi Haven, welcome to WriteWords. I love the idea of ocean gypsies - it feels fresh and original with loads of scope for magickal happenings. Your writing is thoughtful and there's the feeling that a great deal of love and care has gone into this. I'm assuming that it's the first chapter of a novel. You haven't indicated what level of comments you'd like so I'll go by your own in the summary and give you a few initial impressions.

I found the number of characters and the information given difficult to keep track of. One way to get around this would be to 'show' rather than 'tell' - give the reader an image or action to remember the characters by; eg. instead of telling the reader that

...Caisha had her father’s black hair too, but her eyes were so dark that they were almost black themselves. She had a sunny disposition and never complained about anything and already climbed the rigging like a monkey. Both she and Darvon helped with the running of the ship just as they all did...

you could describe her ...swinging high on the rigging to catch a glimpse of her grandmother, limbs nut-brown and tightly muscled, black hair reflecting the blue of the sky, her laughter bubbling into the clear air... - you'll do it in a less clichéd way than my quick effort but it does take time to get descriptions right.

You could make it clear where Reiver is at the beginning - I found this quite confusing and had to go back and re-read.

The best advice I can give is to join a group and become involved in reading others' work and leaving comments - it's an excellent way to improve one's own work, and the mutual support and help of a good group is invaluable. I feel that you're serious about your writing and there's potential here as long as you're prepared to work on it. Write on!



Haven - ignore that bit about joining a group - I see you have already! I wish I'd noticed - hope the comments are appropriate.


Haven at 09:11 on 26 November 2005  Report this post
Thanks Nell!
It is the first chapter of a novel. The number of characters I did think were too many but there all needed later on (if you understand me!). I'll have to think of a way to make it less confusing - thanks for the suggestion on that!

Nell at 10:40 on 26 November 2005  Report this post
Haven, you could also introduce them more gradually - they don't all need to be in this first section.


Katerina at 09:21 on 30 November 2005  Report this post

I feel that the writer is bombarded with too many characters in this first chapter, if you really need that many, I agree with Nell, you should introduce them gradually over a period of a few chapters maybe.

The idea sounds great, but I did find the story rather confusing, like Nell, I had to keep going back and reading bits.

Possibly you are trying to put too much information in too quickly, whereas less is more if you get what I'm saying. Let the reader use their imagination, there is no need to be so descriptive.

I think it will need a lot of working on, but keep with it, good luck.

Kat x



Oops I meant reader not writer in the first sentence


Oh heck, didn't need to type added either. I'll get the hang of this eventually!

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