Tremayne (Part 2)
"Perrick said that?" Naylor laughed, loud and full heartedly.
"He did! He did!" giggled Skrawl, his four eyes darting nervously around the deck lest Perrick should suddenly appear behind him. "He said he hated towns like Tremayne because ... because ..." Skrawl did his best to stifle the explosion of mirth welling up inside him. "Because the people are so ... are so ..." He swallowed hard. "So antisocial!"
The two of them burst into a fit of conspiratorial laughter. They"d been travelling with Perrick for many years now and, as obsequious as his trade required him to be with potential customers, he'd never made any attempt to hide his true nature from his crew mates on board the Jennie Seaholme.
"So, what brings you out on deck?" asked Naylor. "You avoiding Marla?"
"Oh, oh no!" Skrawl replied, genuinely taken aback. "Why - why would I ever want to do that! Marla is ... Marla's ... Well, she's ..."
Naylor laughed his loud, good natured laugh. He was hanging upside down from the yardarm, painting an elaborate design on the Seaholme's main mast. He was held aloft by a single rope twined around one of his legs.
"Relax," he grinned. "I"m just pulling your leg. Or legs. We all know how devoted you are to the lovely Marla."
Skrawl eyed Naylor suspiciously, unsure of whether he was still being teased. He raised one of his four arms in the air and stabbed a bony finger in Naylor's direction.
"You sh-shouldn't joke about things like that," he chided him. "What Marla and I have is ... is ... well, I w-wouldn't expect someone like you to understand!"
Naylor sighed. He'd never get used to just how quickly Skrawl could take offence. He looked down at the indignant preen below him. Covered in rust-coloured scales and balanced on four scrawny legs, his coiled tail wound around one of his four arms, Naylor had always considered Skrawl a comical figure but, upside down and wagging a long, skeletal finger in the air, it was impossible to take him seriously.
"Calm down," he said, grinning even more widely than usual, "and tell me what you came out here for. It wasn't just to laugh at Perrick, I take it?"
"Ha!" Skrawl snorted. He could never stay angry at Naylor for long. "I just w-wondered if ... I mean, Marla w-wanted to know if you were, um, hungry? Are you? Hungry, I mean?"
"Nope. Give my thanks to Marla, but I really need to finish this logum."
Skrawl turned his attention to the mast. Every inch below the spot where Naylor was painting was covered in strange words painted in a script he couldn"t read. Each word comprised a sequence of gold letters, some presumably phonetic symbols, others apparently intricate pictograms. They were all interlaced with a delicate background pattern painted in a deep crimson, an intense green or a rich purple. The patterns appeared to be as much a part of the meaning of each word as the letters themselves.
"So that"s what they're called," murmured Skrawl, his interest piqued. He ran his finger tips lightly over one of the designs at his own height. "They're beautiful."
Logums tell the history of the ship," explained Naylor. "All turlish ships have them. Each one represents a port we"ve stayed in; places we"ve seen. Things we"ve done; fish we"ve caught; people we've ... met."
"So Marla and I are on here? Somewhere among all these ...?" Skrawl gestured widely at the logums decorating the entire lower half of the mast, excitement mounting in his voice. "One of these designs tells the story of how we came to be on board?"
"Of course!" beamed Naylor, his eyes twinkling. "The crew is the most important part of any ship. What kind of a captain would I be if I didn't keep proper records of all my new members?"
"I just said. All of them."
"No, I mean ... which logum is about Marla and me?"
"The green one. About six feet up. The first letter looks a bit like a rabbit."
Skrawl walked around the mast.
"I see it!" he squealed. "I see it!" He pressed his fingers against the gold letters and breathed deeply as if trying to inhale their meaning. "It's as beautiful as Marla herself. What does it say? Exactly? What does it ...?"
"Well, the letters are just your names and your roles on board the Jennie. But the background patterns add the context."
"The circumstances of our meeting. Where it happened; what I thought about you both; how that felt."
"No!" Skrawl could barely contain his excitement.
"You put your feelings on here? Really? What does it ... what does it say about us? No, wait. Maybe I"d better not ... But you"ve got everyone on here? Even Perrick?"
"Especially Perrick!" Naylor chuckled. "There are things about Perrick on this mast that even his mother doesn't know!"
"And Sandrine?" Skrawl was in full flow now. He couldn't have stopped himself if he'd wanted to. "You've got logums on here about Sandrine?"
And, suddenly, Naylor wasn't laughing any more. An awkward silence descended over both of them. It was Naylor who eventually broke the silence. He still wore a broad grin, but the muscles in his upside-down face were noticeably strained.
"Not as much as there is about Perrick," he said simply.