Part 21: Inexcusable companyJounrnal entry 20 Inexcusable company
From The Journal of Captain Petra Blackwood
April 15th, 1888
The trip back to London from the Mutton Islands was unspectacular. However, upon my return, I realized I had many things to do, and set about my business.
London is starting to look a lot busier than it once did!
Of course, my first destination was to stop by my home, and pay a visit to this child that's entered my life.
The introduction was surprisingly formal, in a way but that's simply his way in most things. The child, though, wasn't as bad a creature as I was concerned with. Apparently he'd already been told I was a zee-captain, and like most youngsters, had more ideas about what it mean that came from penny-dreadfuls than Naval documents.
He had so many questions! There are many things, of course, I would not tell a child or even another adult that I've seen, but I wasn't about to tell him those. I told him a story of the Uttershroom as the night drew to a close. The nicer visit, and of the tamed Blemmigans, and how Thesaya accidentally hit it with her shovel while shoveling coal and it ran around the ship acting like it was dying.
Then he asked if he could meet Thesaya, and that meant it was time for bed. I have enough problems keeping the respect of the crew without them realizing I'm someone's stand-in mother.
This morning, I set about to finish my business in London. I had much to do.
My first stop was the Forgotten Quarter, with the Magician in tow. He would defeat his enemy, or be defeated; I courageously waited for him at the edge of the quarter.
However, when he returned, something was different. The man I knew was no longer present behind those eyes. He had failed.
I would, of course, make good on my promise to him, that I would not let a dream-snake roam our world in his body. But I never said how I would lay him low.
Even here, I am reluctant to note that I have experienced certain urges of late. Ones I have been unwilling to satisfy, for doing so would be ghastly. However, one thing is clear The Urbane Magician is no longer a person. And so what I've done is not wrong.
We've had a really good run of luck so far, with Maybe's daughter and the whisper box, but it ended here. The Urbane Magician has good stats, but only one point higher than Maybe's Rival, and without the bonus engine power He's a good replacement for her if Maybe's Daughter doesn't come back from the Wicket. But failing here means I cannot make the special engine the Magician can create for you if he captures his rival, and there's no way to ever get it. So, all the resources I spent on this whole quest line have been basically wasted.
The rest of my business would require me to enter London proper, and so I brought the Clay Men I'd fetched on my last trip in with me to their fate, whatever that may be.
My next stop was the Brass Embassy, but along the way, I was stopped by a woman who said she recognized me, and was a zailor. She introduced herself as Sarah-Marie, a frightfully modern name, but insisted I call her SM. She seemed much more like someone trying to sound like a zailor than an actual zailor; I may not yet be a salty tar, but I've spent enough time around them to peg them, and I would not have pegged this woman. Still, I'm not in much of a position to be choosy; I hired her on for a trifle and sent her to the Unfinished.
With that, I continued to the Embassy.
I submitted my own findings and the Deviless' letter, and the devil seemed very pleased. He said he'd pay the woman's fair; I told him fair was very expensive on my ship, but he seemed undeterred. I'll be happy when this affair is over, and I don't reckon the crew will like having a devil on board, even if she's well-mannered.
With that done, I went to visit the Admiral, to learn where next he'd need me to collect information from and file more port reports; my next collection wasn't going to be easy. I guess they're starting to trust me more, but the last thing I need is higher expectations.
With that done, it was getting late in the day; I had an event to attend. I'd received a personal invitation to talk to the Delightful Adventuress when I was at home. She's apparently in need of a zee-captain. Well, her echos will spend as well as anyone's, even if she leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
By the time I returned to the Unfinished, the upgrades and restock I had commissioned earlier in the day were complete. I'd paid for a larger engine to be installed in the Unfinished; the duration of these trips was starting to wear on the crew. A larger engine means more speed, which translates to shorter times spent away from London and fewer frayed nerves and people throwing themselves overboard strapped to our cookware.
With this done, we took back out to zee.
Entry omitted A normal visit to Venderbight.
April 17th, 1888
The visit to Mount Palmerstone today was short. I left Grandalt in charge of dealing with the resupplying of the ship, and went up to speak to the Deviless.
She was even more ready to leave than I was, ahead of a group called the 'Invigilators'. I'd never heard the term before, but am glad I hopefully will never have too again. I cut short the visit the few folks who'd been brave enough to get off the boat had been enjoying and shepherded them right back aboard.
Sure enough, some among the crew objective to having the Deviless aboard. They didn't say it out loud, but I could see it in their eyes. If she noticed, she was too polite to say anything about it. In any case, she'll only be here until we return to London.
A normal visit to Frostfound omitted.
April 19th, 1888
As we zailed north-east from Frostfound, towards the Avid Horizon, we encountered one of the region's Lifeburgs.
The crew, without me even needing to ask, starting to prepare to cut the lights and avoid it but I ordered them otherwise. I'm tired of running from these things. We have the largest gun on the Unterzee, it was time to pit it against a more worthy target. We fled backwards, shelling the beast as we went, and this worked well, for some time -
Until Lynneth, on lookout, spotted another one behind us. Fortunately, by then, the first one was nearly breaking apart I ordered the engines to hard forward. Our first opponent shattered just as it slammed itself against our hull, and I had the crew grab what we could for study as we steamed past.
We managed, narrowly, to avoid a charge by the second lifeburg
And at that very moment, a thick fog rose off of the water.
Salt may have been looking out for us, as the zailors say. We were badly positioned to initiate a fight against the second creature, and so I had our light turned off and our crew simply steamed away, lost in the fog. I could not have asked for a more smooth escape. It felt... Suspiciously lucky. As if something wanted us to get reach the Horizon.
I can't help but feel something bad will be waiting for us there.
April 20th, 1888
Once more, we approached the vast stillness of Frostfound.
All seems still and undisturbed; finding where to lead the Navigator was a challenge in itself. But I'd heard rumors and stories of people who came here, seeking redemption; I knew where to find his accounts.
However, when he found them, he did not take it well. He howled and laughed as a man possessed; it took Jones and McClay both to lead him back to the ship, and even they couldn't pry the papers out of his hands without ripping them which I was unwilling to do.
As we steamed away, however, he came to my quarters, having settled down a little. He wanted me to see what he'd done.
Having read his confession, I suspect he may have been being a little hard on himself. He did what a man must to survive, and his only failure was a simple mistake. All the same, he does not want kind words He wants a resolution. I shall think on the matter. Like it or not, however, he is very useful to me, and I would love to keep him aboard. Perhaps I shall come up with a method of doing so if I think long and hard on it.
However, all the same, the entire ordeal did leave me a little depressed. I extended an invitation to the Deviless to join me for supper.
She drank enough to put a third of my crew under the table, and wind up passing out in her stew. It was not the most graceful meal I've had. All the same, I'm starting to suspect this may not end when I bring her back to the Embassy, but I hope she finds the peace she is seeking there. I don't think she was cut out for standing up to the rebellion, in whatever form it took.
April 22nd, 1888
On our approach to Port Cecil, we encountered a large Moray. It was no match for our cannons, and we made our landing undamaged.
I'm really only mentioning this because the eel is showing off an ability monsters have They can submerge, as shown in the second screen shot. While submerged, they cannot charge us or be fired on And when they rise, then have a tendency to suddenly spin around, face you, and charge. Fortunately, they also move slower, so keeping out of range is trivial, so long as you've room to manuver.
We docked and I made my way ashore. I collected the recent turns in the games, and decided to spend some time trying my hand at the game once more.
I don't recall exactly how long I spent playing. It didn't feel like very long. But soon the regular players stopped playing against me. It wasn't that I was better than them, I was sure I felt it was more a sense that they knew I did not quite belong. That I knew too much about the Zee, and too little about deep strategies, and it was throwing off their careful little games.
But I discovered someone else interested in me.
Below Port Cecil, at the heart of the coral, is a cave. Within that cave dwells an entity, of some kind or another. I cannot say precisely what it is, but it seems to have something to do with the coral itself, the central mind from which the memories of scintillack come. Whatever it is, it is tired of being alive or at least, of existing.
The 'Neath might be better off without an entity like this in it, so I said I would be glad to help it dissolve. It granted me someone to assist me in assisting it A rubbery man unlike any I've ever seen, capable of speech and apparently a thrall of the coral-mind.
The crew did not take to him very well when we returned to the ship. I suppose I cannot entirely blame them; I do feel slightly like a circus-mistress now. A regretful deviless, a speaking rubbery-man, a lunatic who's losing his mind because of a sigil on his face And that's to say nothing of my actual crew! But they are all helping me, in their ways. I made it clear he was not to be abused, and put in the order for us to leave port.
April 23rd, 1888
We've arrived at Khan's Heart once more. I will be trying to keep this visit brief. I have no desire to stay long enough to become of interest to the White-and-Golds. Before I went ashore, I had a few words with Maybe's rival, about some of the finer points of avoiding attention.
Keeping her tricks in mind, I entered the Copper Quarter; I spent a good time wandering before I visited the drop-box, and made my way to where I was supposed to meet my contact.
Fortunately, my contact was waiting for me. I can't help but feel like I was more lucky than skilled, but either way, I'll accept this happily. We departed swiftly afterwards.
Here omitted standard visits to Polythreme, Godsfall, and the Chelonate.
April 27th, 1888
Today, we arrived at the Empire of Hands. And the Darling Adventuress is finally leaving my ship.
This is good news for everyone. It's good for her, since she'll be closer to whatever it is she thinks she will find out here. It's good for me, because I'm due my fee. And it's excellent for the crew. She had, somehow, managed to become the most disliked person aboard even more disliked than the literal devil who I currently have as a passenger.
If she wasn't complaining about Slaan's cooking, it was Kalan's bats or the route we were taking. And I think more than a few of my older crew members disliked having a clay man walking around the halls with her bad memories, there.
Fortunately, she paid decently enough. And now she's no longer my problem. I decided to spend a little time here, in the Empire, all the same there were folks I wanted to check in on.
I went to Hearthslake Village, in order to speak to the few humans I could find here. The Treasure Hunter was very glad to see me. I sat and spoke to him a while of the goings-on of London, and gave him a few two-week-old newspapers. He was so happy about it that he, in turn, handed me some of his 'excavation supplies'. I'm not sure what to do with them, but I'm certain they'll come in handy.
I have also had time to think on the Captain's offer, and decided, today, to take him up on it. He's gruff, certainly, and his men have table manners worse than my own, but he does set a good table.
With that done, I decided I should at least see what the Adventuress was up too. It seems she'd sold her soul to the Mayor for support for her archaeology. Which seems unwise, but I wasn't about to stop her.
Fountainhead Island was as densely-jungled as ever, with only a small path from the landing to the camp. The camp itself was marginally-controlled chaos; how the monkeys managed to build this edifice when most of them are barely ascended at all is staggering to me. Or maybe they just don't like listening to humans. While there, I opted to help myself to one of the early rewards of her excavation As a bonus for preventing my crew from stabbing her in her sleep.
And I do mean early. She had not yet even breached the First Emperor's tomb. She had a lot of work to do so I departed, for now.
I went, instead, to Sovereign island, where I finally had a way to be permitted entry.
I'm not entirely sure what I'd been expecting in this place, but it was not for the Court to be, decidedly, hands-down, one of the most vile places I'd set foot. The only place I can think of being more miserable is upon the Uttershroom on heavy sporefall days. The screeching and stink and chaos bores its way into your mind in a unique and terrible way.
I had been there scarcely a few minutes when I was called to the Emperor's presence. I suppose a human willing to break the embargo is a very rare thing, here, and worthy of his attention.
I was asked to assist with helping them construct their zeppelin. I said yes, of course mostly because I did not want to say 'No' to the emperor in the middle of his court. I may or may not actually bring them what they need Frankly, I cannot imagine their wild plan working. Perhaps I will at least investigate how much they plan to pay.
But, for now, I don't have the supplies to help them. I will need to do it on another visit.
But first, I'm going to need a nice, long bath.