Part 18: Monkey businessJournal entry 17 Monkey business
From The Journal of Captain Petra Blackwood
March 11th. 1888
It has been an awful long time since I had allowed myself to relax so long, in fact, that I think I'd forgotten how important it is to give the body and mind a chance to rest. Perhaps it is why I have been successful as a zee-captain, but it was dangerous as well. I feel remarkably well, now, but will try not to push myself so hard in the future.
On the last day of my recovery, when my wounds had all healed nicely, I spent some time simply out and enjoying myself. While out, I encountered a most remarkable gentleman.
We had a very good time.
However, all good times have to come to an end. I've spent this morning getting my affairs in order; I had several things to do, after all. My first stop was at the Brass Embassy, where I had a letter to deliver from a certain deviless.
They were highly interested, but also suspicious. Which is in their nature, I suppose I don't trust the woman, either. It wouldn't be wise to really take her into my confidence. They want me to check on her information when I return, but given that I cannot even get past the front door of her home, I'm not sure how I would do that. Perhaps an opportunity will present itself.
I made the normal stops At the Admiralty office and the Department of Marine Acquisitions, and the Wolfstack Exchange. I am preparing for a trip south, now We will visit the Iron Republic, for the Gunner's ambitions, and then turn east and visit several ports-of-call of interest to us.
As I was making my preparations, a woman came running up to me and asked to be a member of my crew. She said she didn't care where we were going so long as she could be at zee again. She had a slightly unhealthy glint in her eye, but I was not going to ask questions. I could use as many willing hands as I could get.
I'm going to update my roster I've had many comings and goings since last time. It feels good, however, to finally be once more at zee.
March 13th, 1888
We arrived today at one of the safest places in the 'Neath The Cumaean Canal.
The massive structure that connects the surface with the 'Neath, it's the surface world's only connection to this bizarre and wondrous place. Nobody wishes it closed. And even if someone did, it has just about the heaviest artillery protecting it of anywhere in the 'Neath.
It's a busy port, but not one that is of great interest to me. The idea of venturing to the surface isn't something I relish, and don't plan to do it lightly. However, those below are mostly still interested in the goings-on up above, so it doesn't hurt to keep an ear out.
With a small collection of information for my time, we departed, continuing south for the Iron Republic. Not far out of port, we encountered a Jillyfleur.
We made short work of it, but now, with the things I know of the Neath, the face that stares up from the rainbow-colored slick looks much more familiar Much more like Flourishing-of-Years.
I don't think anything else of interest will happen between here and the Iron Republic. Which is for the best. Enough interesting things will happen there.
Unfathomable longing for wool
We've entered the lands of the Iron Republic. I knew about six hours ago, when my tea started singing a song.
The Iron Republic itself is a strange place; it's filled wi h unusual devices and machines f ever sort. Eve the m nufact ring distr cts of Lon on have n th ng i .
Th re a m ch to do i the s o t time I wa ed to sp nd he . I'd he d m ch about t e fab d m rk s of the Ir n R blic, where t y sa ou can b y a thi g, but n t at ny gi n t me. I'd n r h ard of pl e th in cts r n.
My at pts to rec r wh t wa ha en ng f r t Adm ra ty ba k in Lon w s l gel f il th e i so mu go g on t at sim y ca ot be rec d d.
We got lucky here! Taking a port report in the Iron Republic randomly chances a stat by anywhere from +2 to -2. I don't do it too often.
W h e m k t v te , a d f n e m e, m t e Can on r w t and soug o t hi o fri d. T er, w a en w t a be s p n A v .
I t i , h w r, e w e l l w n w s t k t Zee.
Sitting at the bottom of each of pages featuring the Iron Republic are jumbled messes of letters. If one picks up and turns the journal, they slide around the page, making a noise like dry leaves. If one presses down on one with one's finger, it stays in place, but will eventually make a piteous whimpering noise and attempt to squirm away.
March 15th, 1888
Today I can mark the witnessing of another of the great beasts of the Neath; one second only to Mount Nomad in terribleness.
A Lorn-Fluke, massive and bristling with spikes. There are a hundred zee-stories about where the beasts come from, but all I can tell you is that they are very large, and very dangerous, and unless you are very heavily armed, you should not let them see you.
We were not so lucky.
The creature bellowed at us, causing a rippling shock wave of force to make the ship rock wildly. My crew screamed and some had to beat out small smoldering fires on their clothes; I gave orders to steam away as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, we were not far from the Fathomking's hold, and the creature let us be once we were securely docked. Even Flukes respect the Fathomking.
Once more, I descended into the Fathomking's hold. I presented him with the apple, brought back from the realm of dreams. He was disappointingly calm about the whole thing. Those apples are supposed to be one step from immortality, and he reacted as if I'd handed him a box of mid-range chocolates.
I was rewarded, of course, but I can't help but feel like I should have been given more. Hopefully he will be more generous when I complete other parts of his little trial.
When I returned to the port, I discovered the Fluke was still nearby. I had my crew simply wait at the ready until it departed.
Unfortunately, in my eagerness to avoid being spotted by the Fluke, I pulled too close to the dock and scraped along it No real damage done. And it's better than risking being charged by a Lorn-Fluke.
Whoops. You're supposed to take 1 damage when you impact things. However, if you gently scrape something, you can have it count as dozens of impacts rather than one... Resulting in damage like this.
March 16th, 1888
Another short visit to the Isle of Cats. I have little desire to stay here long; and what I've learned today doesn't really encourage me to stay longer.
I came up with the funds to pay the Isrey for the information. I've learned where the zee-captain that once owned the whisper-locked box is, but she's been harvested by Lamplighter Bees whatever that means. It sounds very, very unpleasant, and sets an unfortunate precedent for zee-captains who can't make good on their commitments. In any case, finding her is still my best chance at opening this box. Maybe she's the sort that writes her passwords down.
In any case, I took a few more perfunctory notes and moved on.
March 17th, 1888
We docked once more at the Uttershroom this morning.
I do not understand the people who live on this massive mushroom. Today was not nearly as good a day to visit as last time; thick clouds of spores drifted constantly through the air. I had Thesaya and McClay roll the firkin of honey I'd brought to trade up onto the mushroom with me, and none of us were willing to stay a minute longer than we needed too.
Even the people who live on the Uttershroom are willing to admit that it is a terrible, terrible place that, given their choice, they would not live on. Thus their desire for Honey, to see somewhere different, if only for a little while.
In exchange, they offered supplies, and a blemmigan. Its taken to sitting very, very still in a corner of one of the coal rooms, occasionally snapping its mandibles at a stoker. It has yet to cause problems, but if it does, I'll throw it overboard myself.
It hardly seems like a bonus, but I was in no mood to stay and argue. Perhaps I will find a use for it.
March 18th, 1888
We made landfall at the Mangrove Collage, today; not much had changed, since our last arrival. Well, that's not entirely true -
A dozen new philosophical schools had risen up among the scholars, each with its proponents that claim it has the potential to end all human suffering, and detractors who say it will bring about a new dark age the likes of which the world may never recover from. As they all seem divorced from anything that could generously be termed reality, I rather suspect that neither of things things are true, but they all seem convinced of it.
In order to clear my head from the chatter that I heard while getting an update on the port, I decided to go for a little walk along the beach.
While walking, I discovered a very unusual mask, just washed up on the shore. It was quite far from anyone's home, and I don't think anyone saw me pick it up. It's a wonderful peice; Unorthadox in subject, perhaps, but masterfully done. One can almost feel the fangs tearing at flesh. I think one could, if one wasn't careful how one held it.
Beachcombing is another SAY! action you can do at several ports all remote islands. Each of the three options that're always there have multiple potentials, and sometimes something more valuable will pop up sometimes MUCH more valuable.
It shall grace one of the shelves of my quarters while I prepare to depart.
March 18th, evening.
As we departed Mangrove Collage, I was alerted that the Sigil-Marked Navigator had awoke.
He says that he communed with the ice of Frostfound, and that his memories lay at the Avid Horizon. Well, that will not be a great difficulty. Next time we head north, we shall pay the Horizon a visit. For now, however, we continue our exploration of the south-east.
March 20th, 1888
Every lad and lass who dreams of becoming a Zee-captain has heard stories of Kingeater Castle.
They've heard stories of the petrified giants that guard it.
Of the vast place, more a temple than a castle, decorated with sculptures of hearts the size of the House of Lords.
But nothing can prepare you for actually standing there.
From the moment we entered the place to the moment we left, I think I heard less than two dozen words spoken among the crew. Even Jones kept his mouth shut There was a feeling that a wrong word could somehow change everything we knew. I was unwilling to set a single foot upon the shore without good reason But I had something that would.
The Blemmigan found the place uniquely disagreeable. We departed quickly.
March 21st, 1888
Humid air and small islands filled with lush life welcomed us to the Empire of Hands. The Empire is, of course, under quarantine, but I'm not about to let a silly little thing like naval law stop me.
Once we actually made landfall, we were also greeted by a monkey who seemed happy to see us, but not as happy as I would have expected.
I should point out here, these are not normal monkeys, but Pentacost Apes Monkeys that have ascended beyond their mere animal nature, somehow, by using human souls, permanently considered anathema in London.
I visited with the Mayor, but he had little of interest to say He made a blunt attempt to purchase my soul from me, for a pittance and a handful of flattery. I would have rather given it to the Deviless. I did not spend long in his company.
The Empire of Hands is built across an archipelago, most of which lack natural harbors, or artificial docks, sufficient for my ship to land. Fortunately, the monkeys are willing to provide me with transport to other islands. Should I survey this place, the Admiralty will probably be glad enough for the information that they would overlook some silly breech of protocol landing here.
Sovereign Island was my first stop. It is, appropriately, home to the Wildweald court, the governing body of the monkeys. It was a short trip I was certainly not welcome.
The next stop in my tour was Fountainhead Island, where the monkeys had constructed an ancient temple to honor their first Emperor. The monkey who was rowing me to Fountainhead tried to explain to me several times how they had built an ancient tomb some fifty years ago, but it was ancient, because they built an ancient tomb. Part of me wishes the world worked this way. There's a certain rightness to the view I was loath to disturb.
The ruins are certainly majestic, but exploring them is a larger task than I can undertake myself. Perhaps the university will sponsor an expedition here, when the quarantine is lifted.
The third island was Heartsake Island, where the monkey warned me a group of rather wild humans had set up shop. I would be glad to see a friendly face.
I would have, perhaps, wished it was a less terrifying face. I trust the apes more than the men who dwell there Not because of any of their proclivities, but because what kind of fool shoots without looking? I excused myself promptly.
My final destination was Ash Isthmus.
While the name calls to mind a blasted, volcanic wasteland, the island itself is actually quite pleasant, as much as any of its neighbors. I even spent some time enjoying one of the local hot springs.
It was there I met one of the locals. A young child, a HUMAN child, at that, who somehow was managing to eek out an existence out here.
However, despite being a human, she acted FAR more like a monkey.
Our encounter was overall unpleasant She played a prank on me, the nature of which I shall not elaborate on, and her execution was unfortunately flawless. I was furious with her, certainly, but at the end of the day, a man is a man and a monkey is a monkey.
Ultimately, the prank was borne to it's inevitable conclusion. And I am still mad. But I must also be, in some way, in awe of the little girl's abilities. For someone that young to be surviving on her own somewhere so hostile is remarkable.
But for all that, I hope I never, ever see her again.