I have always found writing a very frustrating procedure in which I have what I consider to be a good idea, write a bit about it, don't like how it is going, get depressed, leave off from the whole project for a period of time, and then somehow begin the process again. Over time, the story itself is shaped into its final form, but the process itself is chaotic and insufferably lengthy.
This story that you are reading now is yet another example of what has become, probably to the entertainment of outside observers, my compositional style. The germ of this story, which would be unrecognizable compared to what you are reading now, was initially set down when I was a teenager. Through the years, I would almost sadistically take it back up and wrestle with the beast, altering key points, adding or dropping key characters, and basically tearing the thing apart in the hope that such changes would permit the story to finally "take" and get completed.
I report now that I am in my forty-fifth year of life and I still torture myself with the production of this story. It cannot seem to abandon me to some peaceful place where it is unnecessary to revisit my old and tempestuous drafts and find something approaching closure. Over the years, I have always been brought back to this point, somewhere in the beginning chapters, where I have run screaming from the newly abandoned text, vowing to stay away until my sanity somehow returns. As always, I just give sanity a miss and soldier on, trudging through beginning, middle, and end just to get the thing accomplished and finally find an ounce of peace, if I am ever capable of having such a thing.
I would wish the same thing for that wretched man that was rescued from the shores of the channel near the stone post that bears the Mariner's Log, but Daavor, which you will recall was the man's name, was not really trying to accomplish anything from which he could be distracted. There was no plan when he started his day of laboring on his Lady's fishing boat. There was no plan when the net tore in two places and a part of a haul of fish was lost. There was no pain or disappointment relative to the time he was asked to take in mending the net as others on the boat continued their work. With little apprehension and fear, he faced the roughening seas that day as the ship's pilot attempted to skirt what looked like a typical squall as there was again no particular plan in sight. There was no larger purpose or obsession that had ship-wrecked Daavor and his compatriots upon that far beach. It was just another happening in another day to which he was quite unintentionally accustomed to seeing in a very long string.
As I have said before and will likely say many times in later parts of this story, there is very little that goes on that is not at least tweaked by larger purposes formulated by seemingly much larger people. I have already alluded to the fact that the God of the Mariner is blessedly at work here, but there are other hands, of a more delicate sort, that also make tiny adjustments at the helm of the lives of men that they hope to manage for their own purposes. The delicate hands I allude to had no part in the shipwreck, but the larger hands of Deity most certainly did, which will become more clear as we move forward in the story. Just as I sometimes feel compelled by outside influences to continue laboring to produce this story, Daavor also feels a similar gentle and relentless prodding, for his life, like mine, is also being gently steered. In this Alaed's case however, he is also manipulated so often and overtly by feminine hands that it would be impossible to see something larger and yet more subtle happening to him.
"What am I doing here?" The haggard voice of the young Matron that rescued Daavor asked to perhaps the fishes that she had just fed with her vomited lunch off the port side of the boat. There was no response or thanks from the sea. There was also no comment on the matter from the various sailors and fishermen that worked on deck near her.
Daavor, only hours from his rescue, was laying on a pallet nearby. Occasionally, he was opening his eyes and looking quietly up at the incredibly clear blue sky through the mast rigging. From my perspective, it is difficult to know if Daavor was still stunned by the shipwreck into this variety of catatonia, for it seems that this was the sort of regular attention that the man paid to every aspect of his rather disappointing life. As I mentioned at some length before, the fisherman approached everything in a rather amiable stupor, perhaps waiting for some interesting event that would give him some reason to respond differently and perhaps more actively. Unfortunately for all of us, that event has not yet occurred.
What is occurring is the heavy breathing of the Matron. She doesn't like boats and it is easy to see that those who are accustomed to boats are not very fond of her and choose to keep their distance. The woman also doesn't have any nautical fashion sense, for she continues to wear the bright yellow sheath dress that was such a disaster on the beach. If one of you fine readers felt the need to pry her hands from the railing and engage the woman in some conversation, she might be persuaded to tell you that she thinks she is quite fetching in this particular color and cut of dress, though I would describe it as the unfortunate uniform of some 1960's flight attendant for some canary-themed airline. She would also be likely to say that her life is just as disappointing as the young fisherman's, but she chooses to be far more visibly aggrieved over this when she is not doubled over the side of a boat.
If the Matron in yellow were in a chatty mood, she would spit venom on the various seaside mansions that the boat was passing. Apparently, each mansion would seem to house some Lady that she had known from her Convocation schooldays and that she would vociferously feel the need to denigrate, if she weren't presently engaged with dry heaves. The tragic lack of fairness in the world would be the theme of the trip if sea-sickness had not blissfully intervened, for the woman was certain that in her youthful beauty contests, she had been often slighted for deserved crowns and that her obvious talents and tastes had been under-appreciated. None of the smarmy Ladies enjoying the fruits associated with these mansions by the sea deserved any of it, as far as she was concerned.
Daavor was as unaware of these attitudes just as the other men on the boat obviously were, and as you readers have been up until the moment where I revealed these thoughts to you. The only evidence of the woman's vitriol was the simmering evil look she leveled at the passing edifices, which look no one is really able to see. She would be perturbed at the lack of attention to her mood were she not distracted by her own maritime hell.
To her mind, life had dealt her a bad hand and she was perfectly willing to let everyone know it under better circumstances. She should have been a Lady. She should be living in a fine house, attended by servants. She should have a fine title, such as Baroness of Carp or Princess of Aquaculture. At best, the yellow Matron can only breathe strangely, sweat profusely, and glare at the forbidden scenery as an expression of her unrequited desires.
I return for a moment to the reclining Daavor for I have discovered something about his present condition and the larger universe of the man's handling of all things. The mast of the ship was causing a shadow to fall on his face and he pinched his eyes open just enough to incite some unhappiness around the corners of the mouth. Quietly, he lurched the bulk of his body to his left about an inch or so, flinging his head a touch further to one side and out of the shade. His eyes opened again to register an increase in contentment, but upon the approach of a deckhand, the eyes snapped shut. Perhaps it is just me, but it seems Daavor is playing a small game of "possum" alongside his now-revealed sunbathing. He also seems to be milking his circumstances, if I calculate rightly.
"Libation, ma'am?" It was the deckhand that caused Daavor to feign unconsciousness, who I failed to mention was carrying a decanter and crystal goblet on a silver tray.
Being the only potential "ma'am" on the boat, the hunched Matron managed to flop her head around to fix her glare on the serving man. Now, she may have been thinking to herself, this attention is more like it. In a very un-Lady-like way however, she practically fell on the offered liquor, knocking the goblet to the deck with a shatter, and glugged down the whole decanter.
The attending porter, decked out in his finest nautical uniform, complete with shining brass buttons, simply raised his eyebrows at the behavior of the woman. In his line of work, it was always wise to assume that any woman you met was of high rank and to treat her accordingly. Although it would have been perfectly appropriate to refer to this particular woman as "mistress" in line with her status, it never hurt to say "ma'am" or "madam" or even "my Lady", just in case you were serving a full Lady of the Convocation. In a more steady state, this woman would have insisted on being referred to and treated as the Lady she felt was her due, rather than the low-level Matron that she actually was. Men may be looked down upon in this society and have to deal with their status as mere pawns to the feminine ego, but that doesn't make them stupid.
I am guessing that the addled idea in the mind of the yellow-dressed woman was that the drink might settle her nauseatingly empty stomach. Nothing close to a minute passed before the Matron swung back and launched the entirety of the "hooch" into the welcoming sea. The serving man pursed his lips and sighed quietly at the sad loss of something he and his mates could have spent a raucous night enjoying. Daavor, who decided to open his eyes slightly to take in the scene began to jiggle a bit in his effort to stiffle giggling. The eyes snapped shut again and the body went cold-still as the deckhand turned and made off before he too began to laugh.
I hope you attentive readers have noticed that I have thus-far refrained from calling Daavor, the deckhand, or any other man a "slave" of the Convocation. Though it is true, for example, that Daavor is essentially managed and controlled by other people, there is no deep-set need for freedom or escape in his heart, as you will find in other stories that feature those in bondage. No money changed hands in relation to him being moved from one Lady's household to another and it would be probably far more accurate to say that Daavor was simply a vassal of the Convocation-at-large, to be placed and used in whatever circumstance the organization, in whatever wisdom it could marshal, deemed prudent. It is instructive to know that he and the vast majority of his fellow men have never known any other existence besides a light and swaddling servitude and would not spend much time considering a different one. In short, they are not displeased particularly with their lot, as one would suppose most slaves would be. It may be interesting to describe to you fine readers exactly why this may be so.
As a short interlude in this exposition, the woman in yellow managed to find something hiding in her most reclusive gut to spew forth spasmodically to the fish. The incident sent the limp form of Daavor jiggling once again, but no one besides us noticed this.
To continue, the very essence of the Convocation attitude toward men is one of gentle appeasement to their baser natures in exchange for what is intended to be total devotion. These women learned long ago that one does not fight natural inclinations but rather uses them as a bridle point. If you want to softly control someone (notably a male someone), you use a person's temperament, passions, hormones, strengths, and most especially, a man's weaknesses to liquor, sex, and violence to bind them to your service. The goal of an effective Convocation household in relation to its assigned men is to produce devotion in them, specifically to the larger system. Cold intoxicants, heated romps, and state-sponsored gladiatorial games seem the primal desires of the male heart and as such, most men gladly run headlong into the service of the "weaker" gender for its admittedly man-pleasing benefits.
Annoyingly, I will avoid the whole topic of gladiators for now. You will see it in spades soon enough, which will hopefully impel the bo-hunk-ly sorts to buy this story. You patient readers will just have to know that certain sorts of men and women really "get into" such brutality and further sorts actually enjoy participating in them, perhaps even to the point of nearly killing and nearly getting killed. However, I will speak no more on that subject for now.
It is sufficient to say at this point that the Convocation knows what satisfies the puerile portions of the male soul and provides it copiously in exchange for their service. This is why our man Daavor, instead of jumping overboard in the lax attention of a sea-sick taskmistress, only jiggles with barely suppressed humor at her plight. Why escape in the face of such sun-bathing opportunities and free entertainment?
If Daavor had any clue as to the future God was moving him toward, perhaps he would behave differently, but I am not certain that is true. The man already pushes some notably strange circumstances out of his mind and chooses to ignore facts that would likely complicate his life enormously if he paid them any heed. It isn't a bad way to approach life, if your scruples can tolerate it.
For example, only an elite group of men called consorts are branded with a star in their left palm and typically only when they reach manhood and earn that mark. Daavor has had a star in his palm since before his childhood memories began and always wrote it off as some happy accident that he could occasionally use to get free drinks at upper-crust parties.
Also, he never really gave any thought to why this atrociously yellow Matron rescued him from the shipwreck in the first place. Why didn't she bother to rescue anyone else? It might do the man a nice ego-stroking, but Daavor was not that priceless a fisherman or a consort and the Convocation has men enough to fill all its needs without chasing down the ones gone missing. What is so special about him? I would say, but the truth will come out itself in due order.
These are the circumstances through which one quite special man returns home to his specially managed circumstances that prepare him for his unique Convocational destiny, of which he knows absolutely nothing. Even further from his understanding than the inexplicable interest in him from highly placed women, a much-differently motivated and far more cunning God has his eye upon him, also with plans for the future.
Of course, to all of these machinations, the youngish Daavor is blissfully unaware and his only thought at the moment is that the one thing needed to top this relaxing and entertaining homecoming would be a cold alcoholic beverage with a very long straw.