I finished yesterday 300 words short of target and went “oh well, I’m at the end of the chapter so I’ll call it a night.” Yeah, no. I realize now that the first page and a half of “chapter two” is actually the missing words from yesterday. It would be poetic if it was another 300 words exactly, but it’s 800.
The smell of the sea brought me to the river Laz, where ferries loaded with goods brought raw materials in and out of Montpellier. But this was not the harbor I’d been promised. There were no great ships, nor great crowds of seamen. The little skiffs that carried goods up the Laz were manned by two or three men each, and they were met by local sellers and craftsmen. I cautiously approached one of the traders and asked how I could get to the sea.
He laughed, and told me to follow the flow of the Laz. I thanked him and hurried along my way, piously walking as close to the banks as I could. The Laz flowed lazily to my left while the road bustled with carts and people to my right. The Laz ran straight and true, and it was easy for me to plod along as we both made our way to the sea. As we went I scanned the faces of the men on the road and on the river, so I’d be sure not to miss David.
I quickly passed out of the city proper, but the road was lined with occasional stalls and carts from which local and foreign traders plied their wares. The river was thick with the small boats destined for market. Soon the road curved away from the river to avoid the small hills over which my nimble feet passed more easily than would the traders’ heavy carts. I wondered whether I should follow the road, and worried that I might miss David on the road, but if I followed the road I might miss him on the river… and if the road deviated far from the Laz I might become lost. I stuck to the river, and soon lost sight of the road traffic.
With my only company the passing river boats, I was more alone than I’d ever been. Aside from the warmth of my extra layers, though, I felt wonderful. I was free among the wildflowers that dotted the Laz’s shores. The sailors smiled and called out to me as they passed. Birds sang in the olive trees… and at the very top of a hill, my heart skipped a beat as I caught sight of a wand, rising over the horizon for a moment.
I ran to the top of the next hill, standing on my toes to catch another glimpse. The wand reappeared, dancing behind the hills ahead. I chased the flirting hints of masts from hilltop to hilltop until one mast became many, distant wands growing into great towers of wood and cloth. The road turned back toward the river as I was chasing masts, but I was too captivated by the promise of the sea to check everyone on the road.
Suddenly, the bustle of the port was laid out before me. Lumbering giants dispatched their cargo into tiny rowboats that would carry goods up the Laz or to waiting wagons. Menacing warships with rows of guns kept vigil, and lithe galleys slipped between the behemoths like alley cats. It was dizzying to watch such a flurry of activity. A steady flow of wagons and skiffs provided mysterious crates, barrels, and bushels to the floating castles, even as they dispatched crates and barrels to be loaded onto carts and skiffs headed back to town. And the people. There were sailors and workers and traders, all rushing about or working. I feared I’d miss David in the rush.
I timidly approached a sailor between heavy loads, but he dismissed me in an alien tongue. Another and another spoke strange languages, but finally I heard a snippet of French and followed it to the source.
“Please, monsieur, do you know David Bessette? He’s a sailor with La Royale. I must find him.”
The sailor smiled at me. “I don’t know your sweetheart, jolie, but I’ll keep you company.”
“No merci. But monsieur, will you tell me what ship you sail with?”
“And you’re sure there’s no David Bessette onboard?”
He was sure. I made my way from one ship to the next, and sailors from Brutal, Marquis, and Soliel d’Afrique had never heard of David. A sailor who’d been on Aurore, Volontaire, and Courageuse knew a man called David Bessette who had died at sea when the Courageuse was lost. The first tears fell before I could ask when David died, he said it was in the Battle of Polermo, before I was born. I thanked the old sailor, and went to continue my search. The veteran sailor called after me to tell me that it was Daniel Bessette who was lost on the Courageuse. Or maybe Davet.
A moment later, a felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Merci, sir. I know, it was Dandre Bessette or Dalphin Bessette or Destin Bessette.”
“No,” said a woman with a smile in her voice. “I’m quite sure it was David.”