Monday, 1 June 2015

The Quest for Veridic (part 7)

"You see anything, boy?" First Mate Octavius Davelron shouted, leaning against the side of the ship. His beard, normally rugged and ever flowing, was freshly shaved off with one of the previously lost razor's he'd found in one of the old crew's jacket.
"Not yet." Replied Marcus. He was screwed up into a ball beneath the racks of fans that made up the rear of the boat. There was a thin track beneath that had been designed for a machine to roll along. Two weeks ago, the Black Addison had begun to suffer from technical difficulties and that machine had been the first to stop. "Typical." Emilia had sighed. "The mechanic is always the first thing to break." It had taken them the entirety of those two weeks to pull the fixing machine out, and then they'd given Marcus a spanner and ask him to go in instead, to check for any failure with the fans.
"Keep looking, lad." Davelron replied. "And be quick about it. We can't move until you're out."
"I appreciate that fact." Marcus said, shivering at a story the First Mate had told him. Apparently they'd invented the mechanic device because a young man had attempted to fix a fan whilst they were on and was shredded. "You won't turn it on until I'm out, will you?"
"Depends on how quick you are." Davelron laughed, standing up and making his way down from the raised platform where the wheel was. There was a small shed in the centre of the ship that concealed the stairs down to the crew's quarters, and on the other side they'd set up a table where Emilia was studying a selection of maps.
"Made head or tails of them yet, Emilia?" Davelron asked.
"Sort of." Emilia said. "I can see Vincent, which is here," she prodded a finger out at the island that had once been their home, "and I can tell that the beginning of the central continent is here. But I don't know where we are."
"The location diviner is broken, unfortunately, so we won't know for certain, but I expect we're about half way between."
"That would put us here." She said, pointing at it. "However, that would mean we should be able to see the floating ports."
"But we can't." Davelron said, looking over the side of the boats. There were countless nautical miles of clean, blue water, completely calm, completely still, but no floating port. He turned away as a cloud moved above, allowing the mid day sun to glare against the water.
Tick tick tick tick tick ding! Emilia and Davelron turned to the Mechanical Wizard, a robotic magician who could communicate only by the means of a type writer in it's torso. The ticker tape sentences poured out of the slot on it's front and Davelron pulled it off, reading, "There may be an obscuring mirage."
"I hope so, because I want to step on dry land soon."
Davelron didn't remind her that she wouldn't be doing that anytime soon, seeing that the port was floating and so was, in itself, a massive boat. He simply smiled and then jumped around, his ear's surprised at the sound of the scream from the rear of the boat.
"Help!" Marcus cried and they all raced to the end of the boat, to find him stuck beneath the fans.
"What's wrong?" Davelron cried.
"I've got my leg stuck in between a few of the fans!" Marcus replied.
"Then pull it out." Davelron replied, disappointed. He'd expected something exciting to have happened.
"I can't. It's stuck!"
Emilia sighed. "I told you I should have gone in, rather than him."
"Aye, it would have been a better idea." Davelron replied. "Alas, your shoulders are too broad. Now, think you can knock him loose?"
From the opening toolbox on the deck, Emilia pulled a hammer and grinned. "I don't see why not."

That night, they sat below board, the hatches firmly battened down. A thunderstorm had picked up, driving howling winds through the whirring fans. It sounded slightly like a robot was whistling, a sound that was strangely therapeutic. The sound that was therapeutic, however, was the crash of waves and frothing water against the oak sides of the boat. The Black Addison shook from time to time, but not enough to disrupt it's crew, safely huddled around the bolted down oak table.
The Mechanical Wizard standing sentinel to their side, Davelron handed around small coconut shell bowls of freshly spoiled pasta and sea weed.
"I remember when this was exotic." Emilia said, using a recently found penknife to place another curl of pasta into her mouth.
"Yeah!" Marcus said, smiling reminiscently. "How long ago is that now?"
"Three turns of the moon." Davelron said, then noticed the bemused faces of the rest of the crew. "That's about three months."
"Thank you." Emilia said. "Three months, wow! It doesn't feel like it."
"It feels much longer!" Marcus cried.
"No it doesn't." Emilia protested.
"It does if you suffer from sea sickness."
"I can't remember when I took up the trident." Davelron said, leaning back in his chair. They'd found an armchair floating one day, and so had heaved it aboard and dried it off, taking it below board. Now, every night, Davelron would lean back at the same time and begin to tell some old story about his day as the first mate of the Black Addison. From his belt he pulled a pipe and filled it with leaves from some far off plant called the "Camellia sinensis." Once he'd managed to light a match from his small pouch, he'd sit back and inhale thoughtfully. With the exhale, he'd begin.
"It was a good twenty years ago, or so I seem to remember. I was a merchant's son, living in his Narrow Boat tied loosely to a floating port. Me and my brother Gaius used to scribe the names of all the boats that passed into the port into a remarkably thick note book. We continued the tradition into the latter years of our third decade, by which time our parent's were both dead and we'd renamed the Narrow 'The Free Davelron.'" There was no remorse in his eyes, simply fondness for a time gone by. "One day, a boat like no other entered the port." This man who was so often restrained and quiet in his story telling suddenly leapt from his chair, throwing his arms around. "It was quite brilliant! As large as any barge we'd seen, but on it were the mightiest guns this side of the central continent, but I wasn't interested by them. I was interested by the racks and racks of fans and propellers on the back, pushing the boat through the water. The idea of the engines such as those needed to power the fans," his eyes glazed over with amazement, "well, it was quite inspiring. Me and my brother Gaius decided in an incident that we needed to join the crew. But we were untalented, not natural boat hands beyond the basics. So, what would we do? Well, only one thing. Stow away, of course!
"We got aboard the Black Addison whilst the rest of the crew were searching for food on the floating port."
Tentatively, Marcus raised his hand. "What's a floating port?"
"I've mentioned them in the past." Davelron waved it away as if it meant nothing. "Big cities built aboard buoyant slabs, left to float freely on the ocean. Traders, like my father, would tie themselves to them and then seafaring adventures can pull up at them and buy essentials on the move. Brilliant places. Anyway, we climbed on board the ship and hid in the cell room. The Black Addison spurred into life about two hours later, but the sudden movement trapped the door and locked us in. When the crew eventually found us, we'd starved for a month. They'd laughed, more than anything else. Found it hilarious! Gregory Defaut swearing he'd never have thought it so easy to stowaway aboard his own ship! George Izalathio wondering why nobody had been in the cell for so long! I remember, vividly, Zachary Forsooth complaining that he'd never seen mice so big!" And as usual, the story would end with Davelron on the verge of tears, remembering his old friends.
But there was something different this time, because their sentinel interrupted. Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick ding! They all turned to the Mechanical Wizard and Emilia took the ticker tape words and read them in her head. "That can't be right."
"What?" Davelron asked.
"He's detected life outside."
The First Mate grabbed his trident and kicked open the door and began to charge up the staircase, out onto the deck whilst the other's followed them. He raced to the side and faced his trident to the side of the boat. "Blazing Hell Torrent!" He cried. "There's a man over board!"

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