Gerald Bryson, my old friend and Master of the Odiham Castle, was always impressed that I had insisted on taking all the seamanship training available. As Chief Purser, my duties were largely commercial and more concerned with the provisioning of the ship rather than its operation, and so I was only required to take some basic seamanship training. Nevertheless, I did all the training I could. I used to joke to Gerald that I was after his job. In truth, I never aspired to be Master of my own vessel, it was more my insatiable curiosity and it seemed a fine thing to know how to navigate, how to operate a vessel and such like. I never imagined that I would one day be the one giving such training. And yet, that is what I have spent much of my time doing these last few weeks. Kustav and a few of the guards, and a seemingly random assortment of the villagers, were the only ones who claimed any nautical knowledge, and two of those were fishermen rather than sailors. Marek and Ivor, two young lads who are still finding their place in the village workforce also volunteered and proved able students.
It scarcely seems possible, but in just a very few weeks, I seem to have acquired a moderately competent crew. They lack experience, of course, save for a few voyages around the bay and the island itself, but they have good heart and I am sure they will do well. Some things we have not been able to learn, though. The weather somewhat uncharacteristically, failed to produce anything approaching storms, but, you can’t have everything. The lads know the theory, but, well, we will just have to see.
And now, it is time for the big one, and in truth, I am terrified. Not about the sailing bit. I can master the ship well enough, and my crew know what to do. In these waters, and the waters around my intended destination, the English Channel and Thames Estuary that I knew as a young man, I am confident of my abilities, but there is one big hurdle to overcome. Getting from here to there. On foot, I know my way well enough, to get to London via the Shadow Roads, and I know well enough how to get there by the means that Alec gave me, that which Dyisi calls realm-walking. Of course, it is one thing taking myself to such places by that means; it is a completely different thing taking myself, my crew and the ship that way. I am almost certain that this was how Alec would take the ship on those New Moon voyages to get provisions for Jasper Cove. Almost certain, anyway, but there is another way I know of. Those masters and captains that would sail into the docks at the Isle of Legacies did so by mastery of the Nexus, but that is a skill I never learned. Perhaps Alec, in one of his guises there, had that skill, so perhaps his voyages from Jasper Cove were so achieved, but I don’t believe so. Legacies was lost because the Nexus became unstable and took that land, and maybe others, deep into the realms of, for want of a better word, impossibility, so I doubt Alec would risk that way.
I don’t have any of Alec’s writings. His offer to make me his librarian and archivist came only in his guise of Greyson, on my way from Jasper Cove to Ashmourne Wylds, and by then, his library was largely lost. I have only his writings in the form of Dee’s journals, and that knowledge that he passed to me via the blood when he gave me my freedom, if that is the right word. Having that knowledge, and applying it, however, are two very different things. Such time as I have not been training, I have spent studying every word, every page of the journals, at least, those sections that are applicable to the realm walking, such as there are. To that, I have added my own knowledge, my own powers, and those bestowed upon me by Maric. First, I bound the ship to me, and myself to the ship, much as I did with the castle, though the sentience of the ship is barely recognisable, the faintest vestiges of the trees that its timbers once were. I marked it and bound it with my blood, making the ship as much a part of me as is possible for a mass of timbers and ropes and iron.
Then it was time for my first attempt. In our sailing training exercises, we would make fast at a spot on the far side of the island from our birth before returning the way we came, or continuing and completing the circumnavigation. That, I considered was a safe spot to aim for. The first time, I did do without the crew. There seemed no point in taking unnecessary risks. I stood at the wheel, and spread myself, my essence, as it were, until the ship and I seemed one, and then exercised that, what shall I call it, muscle that allows me to walk the realms. It worked! I damned near capsized the ship, and there was an almighty crash as we hit the water, but fortunately, the timbers held. It was an elementary mistake, and one that was understandable, given my lack of experience in moving large objects. Sailing to that spot was one thing, as the ship was already in the water, and the water could flow around it as it moved. Moving suddenly from one spot to another, on the other hand, doesn’t allow the water to flow gradually. Displacing a very considerable amount of water in one go makes a very spectacular splash and a lot of noise, and I was damned lucky I didn’t capsize or destroy the hull. Having achieved the basic principle, however, I was able to adjust, and the return journey was considerably smoother and a lot less noisy.
The question then remained, could I do this with a crew? I explained as best I could, in terms they could appreciate, pitching it as the same process that brought them to this land in the first place, and allowed us to move the village from the hill, to the Shadow Roads, back again to its new location, and to our current location. Except, of course, this was under my control. After I had practised sufficiently that I felt confident moving the ship from one point to another, I did so again, only this time, with me and Kustav. Of all the people here, he is most closely bound to me. Having achieved that a few times, I then asked the crew to all make a simple blood bond with me. Not as deep as that between Kustav and I, but enough that I could include them in my influence.
Having established my confidence in that, I then tried to go further, to a spot I knew well, just off the Eastern Frisian Islands, where the Odiham Castle would often lay up for the night. That took a lot more effort and near drained me. I had to rest up for a couple of hours before I felt capable of making the return trip, but I managed to do so safely.
And so, I am as prepared as I can be. There remains also, the matter of finance. We do not lack for gold, but such coinage as are held in our vaults, those from Maric’s land, and such Midori as I retained from Jasper Cove, are unlikely to be met with anything other than suspicion in 19th century London. I made a few trips via the Shadow Roads, but my tame jeweller there can only take so much gold in any one trip, even with the aid of a couple of his less than honest acquaintances. I can only hope that I can find some means of exchanging gold for currency when I get there.
The ship is ready, the crew is as ready as it can be, and soon, I will provision the ship for our first journey into the unknown, our maiden voyage, as it were. May all the gods help us.