“Tell me again what happened to your hand, uncle?” Lio asked.
His uncle shook his head, the scar seaming his face writhing as he smiled. “Just this once more,” he said, as he always did, pulling his chair a little closer the the fire, and stretching his legs out towards the flames’ warmth.
Lio waited patiently. There was no rushing the story.
“Once, on the parts of the map we weren’t sure of, we wrote ‘here be dragons,’ and drew a serpent with teeth. And we stayed away, because people who went there often didn’t come back.”
Uncle Georg rubbed the stump of his arm. “I was on the ship Adamant, three days out of Port Oris, when a storm blew us off course, into one of those dark quarters. We were wary, but not wary enough. Out of the water came a shadow, the great grabbing arms of a kraken wrapping the boards, making them groan and sing. While we were trying to cut ourselves free, a shiver of mers came out of the water, climbing the arms to our deck.”
Lio shivered in delighted terror.
“Fierce they were, armed with sharpened shells, and coral clubs. Their skin was pale, except where it was dappled grays and blacks, with jagged edge teeth and sharp claws. If they touched you, they felt cool like death, and death was what they brought.”
“But you lived, uncle.”
“Of course I lived, little one. One of them cut me on my arm, and the cut festered. I lost the arm, but I kept my life. And I dedicated the rest of my life to better understanding those monsters.” He ran his fingers across one of the keys, each symbol for the monsters that roamed the seas.
Even a one-handed man could be an excellent map-maker, with determination.