Part 23: ZafariJournal entry 22 Zafari
From The Journal of Captain Petra Blackwood
May 7th, 1888
As we departed from London today, I gathered the crew on the deck and made an announcement.
It was time to stop being scared of the Zee.
We'd handled some of the worst I feel it can throw at us. The Unfinished is a tested ship, with exceptional equipment and a crew that's seen more than a zailor would running to the Tomb Colonies for fifty years. No longer are we going to be diverting our course for every half-bit pirate or fifty-foot-long eel. The Zee has taken much from us, and we are going to start taking things back.
The reaction was mixed. Jones was excited, Grandalt nodded appreciatively, and SM looked faint. But we set out with a fire in our hearts. There would be no turning back and we would need that fire, for the course I have plotted is the longest we've ever zailed. There is much to be done and I won't be returning to London until I've done it.
May 8th, 1888
We arrived in Venderbight without incident. I had my crew bring the Fluke Core from the depths of the ship, load it onto a cart, and was driven across town with it. We turned more than a few eyes, or at least sockets where eyes used to be.
My memories of the remainder of the visit are... Hazy. I think it was a result of the Irrigo I was exposed too.
I remember exploring Venderbight, vaguely. And finding a place of peace and comfort.
My stay was short, but I was rewarded richly for my visit. Now, more than ever, I am certain that this expedition will go very well. I am more calm than I have been in months, and we are heavy with supplies and fuel.
May 9th, 1888
As we went north from Venderbight, a snowstorm came upon us, and the lookouts sighted a Lifeburg one we've avoided several times. But not today.
I ordered the gunners to open fire on it while we tried to keep the beast at range; fortunately, the snow hampered it as much as us.
Ultimately, it was unable to close the distance before our guns smashed it to bits.
Within the floating shards, we uncovered several unusual stones. They resemble Mt. Nomad, and the material the Avid Horizon is constructed from. They seem to have been buried at the very heart of the beast. Well, now they are mine for what they are worth. Enough things like this, and maybe Benthelic will be able to uncover the secrets of the Horizon.
May 10th, 1888
We arrived in Whither today; I had several bits of business to attend too.
My first stop was outside the city itself, at the House of the Question, where one can pray to the gods of the Zee.
I wanted to earn Salt's favor I knew I would be paying a visit to the Salt Lions soon, and not for something as simple as picking up stone. Whatever it was the coral mind needs me to do there, I feel it would be prudent to have Salt's blessing before I do it if he exists.
I cannot say that I feel blessed. But I've never been one who knew what that would feel like, I suppose. I felt a little silly, in fact, going through with it all. I mean, it's not like I've ever had a solid encounter with the being but I've certainly felt the presence of something at the Salt Lions, and it never pays to be cautious at Zee.
After leaving, on the way back to my ship, I found someone who obviously wasn't from around there selling meat.
I asked him to provide me with some rare and delightful vitals, and he was able to provide! What a unexpected delight. Our trip continues to go excellently even if I cannot afford the mutersalt I hoped to purchase. Next time.
May 12th, 1888
I took a northerly course, avoiding Codex, from Whither I was hoping to find another Lifeburg we had once sighted in the area, but we found someone else.
A group of corsairs, who had harried us several times. I had us approach with our light extinguished, and got into a prime striking position.
By the time we unveiled ourselves with a barrage of cannon fire, they were in no position to escape us.
Their situation wasn't helped when they panicked and collided with one of the heavy buoys in the area. They never even fired on us before the infernal contraption powering their ship exploded, rending it apart and doubtlessly claiming all lives aboard.
Which is why it seems awfully unwise to accept experimental outfitting from someone who isn't going to be aboard your ship with you.
The cargo we recovered was miraculous. Surface fruits, ripe and succulent. It seemed impossible that such things could be down here, but increasingly I am convinced that almost nothing is impossible in the 'Neath.
May 13th, 1888
We arrived at Mt. Palmerstone today. There is no longer much to be done here, but I must admit, my curiosity got the better of me. With the Deviless in London, what's guarding the way to the peak?
I sort of wish I hadn't found out. It's a terrifying swarm of insects, black-carapaced bees the size of a man's fist. I suppose I won't be paying that cottage any more visits.
On my way back down to the Unfinished, I stopped by the marketplace. I purchased a little fuel, and an unusual trinket that caught my eye. It will look fine on my mantle.
A normal visit to Frostfound omitted.
May 15th, 1888
We encountered another Lifeburg today, under less adverse weather.
The encounter ended predictably.
Sometimes, when you defeat an enemy, their sprite will glitch out and remain floating over their bloodstain/wreckage. You can still collect it just fine, though.
We discovered, upon searching what was left of it, the remains of another ship. And among those remains, a bag of coffee. It feels satisfying, somehow knowing we're clearing these monsters from the zee.
May 16th, 1888
We arrived at the Avid Horizon, in pursuit of the information the Admiralty wants.
It turns out, they wanted an update on the list of convicts who have pled for clemency. I wonder how long it's been since someone came and checked this for them. I wonder if the Navigator's request was even read before he gave up and had his memories taken. Well, I suppose it matters not. I've collected the most recent additions, and we will be departing quickly.
Of all the places in the Neath save perhaps Kingeater's Castle, this place has the feeling that if something went wrong here, it would go the most wrong.
May 18th, 1888
On our way to Port Cecil, we encountered on of the eels of the Principalities.
I do wonder what draws so many of them to this place perhaps all the nooks and crannies the coral offers to hide in. In any case, they're passable eating Oily and tough, but filling and the meat seems to keep forever.
Our visit to Port Cecil was largely uneventful. I attempted to visit some of the shoals near the city, but the chess-players advised against it. I took their advice.
But all was not lost! I met a man wandering near the port who begged me to take him on as a zailor. His name was Lowell, and he said he would do me right. I wouldn't leave a man stranded out here, of course, so I brought him along.
He hadn't been on the ship ten minutes before he'd gone about setting up a place to pay homage to Salt. I understand that some zee-captains don't look kindly on this kind of thing They think the less attention they get from any of the gods of the Zee, the better but I don't think a little extra piety ever hurt anyone. If this is why he was kicked off his last ship, well, he is more than welcome on mine.
March 19th, 1888
Encountered a bound-shark.
Meeting was brief.
March 20th, 1888
I spent this afternoon in Khan's Heart; I can't say why I feel the need to visit this place regularly. The lights are starting to make my eyes ache, but I feel there must be something here to uncover if the White-and-Golds don't arrest me first.
In my wandering, I encountered a man who seemed to be in the midst of some kind of larceny. I figure that anything that causes a disturbance here, no matter how small, helps London, I assisted the man escape his pursuit.
He was very thankful for my assistance, and rewarded me with a remarkable item as he departed. I can't help but wonder what else he had in that sack of his. But, in any case, the good turn of luck put me in such a good mood I decided to learn a little more about the fallen city.
I know a bit better what happened to these people I wonder, after the Empress passes (Can she pass? Maybe not until after the Masters are done with her, or London), will she be remembered like the cowardly Khan? I wouldn't be surprised. Half the city thinks of her like that now, and she's still breathing.
God only knows what they'll think if London gets shoved out into the middle of the Zee.
Standard, fuel-restoring visit to Khan's Shadow and a fight with a rat-barge omitted
May 21st, 1888
Nuncio is a difficult place for me to come, knowing what I now know of it. But my curiosity will always draw me, I think, as far as the beach.
However, I may attempt to reign it in in the future. Sometimes curiosity kills the rat.
May 22nd, 1888
Another short visit to Aestival.
The crew who had never been here before were as overwhelmed as I was on my first visit. I'd forgotten the color, the smells, the tastes of the food that grows here. It's easy to imagine oneself getting a bit lost but there's no time to waste. I set Grandalt to overseeing a quick collection of supplies by those crew who don't refuse to go ashore entirely, a position I can understand and respect, while I collected something else.
The Fathomking wanted sunlight. I have no real desire to go to the surface so this is, I reckon, as close as I'll get. The box has the faintest little corona to it now, a glow that makes my room oh-so slightly illuminated even after lights out. I do rather hope the King opens it in front of me I want to see what happens when something him that feels the light of day, however briefly.
May 24th, 1888
I was at Irem.
Since I will be fortunate enough to find a supply of the coffee they so like here, I am trading it to the House of the Amber Sky for a chance to relax under their auspices.
Irem was so close to Parabola, that the journey of sleep is short. The Mirror-Marches will throw open their arms and embrace you. It has been unlike sleeps in London, unlike sleeps anywhere. I will have memories of the feel of Parabola-flax under my fingers, of the fluting songs of birds forgotten everywhere but in dreams.
I have awakened refreshed. I have learned new stories. I have told them to others, for goods and for admittance to the King's chambers. Stories of terror are gone. There will only be the zee in my mind.
May 26th, 1888
Aestival is incredible.
We were here scant days ago, and already the place bursts with life. Delicious, delicious life. Even fewer people were willing to go ashore, this time But I lead them personally. I am not faulting Grandalt's ability, but he is not the captain. Our hold is once more filled and we departed south.
We didn't get far, however, before we ran into one of the more legendary creatures of the Zee.
Known as the Behemoustache, it has feelers that would make it look like it would fit in at the Parthenaeum. They are also larger and more vicious than a bound-shark. Of course, that didn't worry me.
What the stories had failed to mention, however, was how very, very fast the critters could turn around.
It slammed itself against us once, before we brought the beast down.
While butchering the beast, we discovered something odd. There's some sort of idol in the ship's hold. I consulting the log, and after looking ahead, apparently there's an entry that says we purchased it four months from now in Irem.
I suppose it's better just to take this at face value and move on with life.
Here omitted a regular return to the Chelonate, an encounter with an Eel, and another re-supply stop at Khan's Shadow.
May 31st, 1888
I learned something new about Clay Men, today. It seems that some Unfinished men have decided the best way to do whatever it is they want to do with their lives is to take to Zee. I suppose that's not a terrible idea; they don't need to eat, can row instead of burning fuel, and I imagine most zee-beasts don't like the taste of them.
Unfortunately, this group mistook the Unfinished for some poorly-armed tramp steamer. I had to destroy them. Too bad, it's that kind of enterprising attitude the Zee needs more of.
We landed at Polythreme not long after that. I was expecting a normal visit, a simple chance to get caught up with the most recent activities (which mostly boils down to how many Unfinished Men have been created lately), but it seems I have something aboard that gets special treatment here.
I'm not sure what the idol I had has to do with Stone, or Polythreme, or if I'll ever know (perhaps four months from now?), but it seems much different than it did before. So long as it doesn't start walking around, all will still be well.
June 1st, 1888
Had a short stop at Godfall, today.
Things were no different here than they'd ever been. However, I must admit, I can understand a little better the nature of this place now that I've bested so many zee-creatures. There's a natural desire to be boastful of such things. It's easy to want to tell others of your prowess.
I just wish the Brothers didn't so blatantly lie about it all.
An encounter with a pirate frigate omitted.
June 3rd, 1888
As we approached the Empire of Souls, we passed through O'Keefe's Drift, a small collection of barren islands with a lighthouse to keep zailors like us from running around. We'd seen the light many times, and I was kind of happy, deep inside, to finally see the structure it came from. But as we got near, we saw a bright light near the base of the lighthouse as well thinking it might have been on fire, I ordered the crew to approach quickly.
It was not on fire. There was a ship, resplendent with golden light, circling the base of the lighthouse. I did not know what it was, or who was manning it, but it was a much larger ship than ours and I did not want a close encounter with it.
Just because I do not fear the Zee doesn't mean I can't still treat its dangers with the respect they deserve. I ordered a quick turn-about and retreat fortunately, they never saw us. Another day, maybe, we'll investigate more closely.
June 4th, 1888
We've paid a visit to the Empire of Hands once more. I had no real intention of staying long the place is uncomfortable, the monkeys hungry, and the whole archipelago is too humid for my liking I made a small delivery to the Zeppelin, mostly to see how they planned to pay me.
I will say, I've received worse prices in my life than a handful of Drowning-perals in exchange for some crates of hardtack. Most places don't deal in these bad luck, they say. But having a few on-hand might be helpful.
I paid a short visit to the Court, as well mostly to perhaps learn a little more about these bizarre monkeys.
I got to witness a case of monkey 'Justice' today. It's more of a public spectacle. While London has its trials that certainly make headlines, I'm happy to note that we never quite degenerate to THIS level of showmanship. Just a good public hanging now and then to keep the spirits up... And I feel, in London, a hanging isn't nearly so bad a punishment as being stripped of one's souls.
When I left that scene, I was told, by a scampering little half-starved servant, that I was to be permitted to speak to the mandarins, if I wished. It was to facilitate the 'exchange of gifts between our people', which is probably code for trade. That's explicitly not permitted by the Admiralty, of course, but I took the time to see what they wanted, at least I mean, there's no harm in a few gifts.
I don't have anything they would want at the moment, anyway. But I will keep their desires in mind for return visits.
June 5th, 1888
We've arrived at the Mangrove College. I once thought this place a verdant delight but now that I've seen Aestival, it seems like just another island with so many mushrooms. Still, at least these ones are edible and rarely try to eat or poison the crew.
With our hold a little fuller, we now make for the south the deep south, where we've never before gone. I'm not sure what we shall see, but I know it will be amazing. So close to Stone, what else could be here?
I'm eager to find out.