The Let's Play Archive

Sunless Sea

by Black Wombat

Part 24: The deep South

Journal entry 23 – The deep South

From The Journal of Captain Petra Blackwood,

June 5th, 1888

We departed Mangrove College into the unknown in the late evening – Our departure was temporarily delayed by the arrival of a pirate vessel to the Melting Isles.

They were likely hoping to find some poorly-armed merchant ship, or a crew of scientists and philosophers hoping to attend courses at the College. Instead, they found us.

Unlucky, that.

June 6th, 1888 - Morning

We could tell we were approaching Varchas hours before we arrived; the whole city shines like a beacon in the Neathy darkness. Everyone's heard stories of the place, of course, but so far, I've not let stories stop me from doing things. The crew didn't seem eager to set down, however, and I am not surprised I wound up entering the city alone.

In fact, as I started to depart my ship, a group of zailors waiting for their own captain – by the looks of things – was eager to try to dissuade me from entering. I couldn't say why – perhaps they were worried their own captain wouldn't come back, and if I went in, maybe I wouldn't, either, and then both ships would be without a captain. At least if I didn't get rendered into candles by mirror-cultists I could zail us to safety?

But that's nonsense. The only candles made from people on the Zee are mourning candles, and everyone knows those come from willing donors.

I spoke to the guard before the mirrored gates, and she was the first one to give me a sliver of insight into Varchas' culture. I may be permitted to enter – perhaps even welcome – but I should always remember that the people here will not consider me an equal. But they seem hospitable enough.

The city is radiant in a way I find difficult to put the paper. It burns the eyes to simply be here; even now, in my room at the inn, the light fills every space. But the city itself is grand, built in a style I cannot quite identify – although it is vaguely reminiscent of Karakorum. I wanted to learn as much about this strange place as I could, so I spoke to as many people as I could before venturing inwards.

Upon arriving at the city center, the first place I wanted to visit was the main temple complex. These people have gone so far out of their way to include their faith in so many aspects of their lives, I must imagine it will be a cornerstone of society.

I was not disappointed, in a way. The people here seem to be, well, in denial. Their city has Fallen, but all their work seems to be an effort to convince themselves that they have lost nothing for it, or that someday their city will rise. I don't think that will, or even can, happen. But if it gives them comfort, I suppose there is no real harm in it – so long as they don't render outsiders down into candles.

With my curiosity satisfied, it was time to meet with the Jewel-Turbaned Youth.

He had, without really telling me, invited me to some kind of radical salon. It wouldn't be my first, I suppose, although I reckon I should be careful about fraternizing with such elements in a city where I don't even have a name. All the same, I wasn't going to deny them a request to tell them a story – an activity which I learned afterwards there is a local prohibition against. Which seems like a preposterous law, and makes me think that they only reason they haven't waged war on Shepard's Wash is because they can't figure out how to light boats all the way from here to there.

With that done, I continued my tour of the city by visiting the local military guard post.

The soldiers here are well-trained, although I can't imagine for what. I don't think anyone would try to invade the Elder Continent, and anyone coming here would just need to bombard the city from a distance and smash the mirrors. Half the population would probably throw themselves over the walls with grief.

By then, 'evening' had arrived. I was instructed to go to the inn, where I could stay the night. I think I was the only visitor. It was a pleasant enough place, in any case – The food was excellent, and I found a man I had been looking for, earlier in the day.

I am about to turn in for the night. I will return to my ship early tomorrow morning, since that is the rule of this place. We'll then head west, and follow the coast. There's certain to be more to see.

June 7th, 1888

We've arrived at Apis Meet, the dock of Adam's Way, the settlement on the Zee maintained by the kingdoms of the Presbyterate.

The price of admission past the gate of Apis Meet is a story from another place on the Zee, something I happen to know rather well. I was quite eager to enter, as well - I have heard, as many people have heard, that the Presbyterate is a perfect, timeless, unchanging kingdom of limitless wealth and abundance.

But if Adam's Way is any indication, we might not be missing much. Busy, hot, humid, loud – it's like Wolfstack during false-spring. But there is much to be learned; I started in the most obvious place, by learning some of the stories of the Presbyterate.

They spoke of few things from farther inland, but hearing what they think of us is illuminating in its own way – and of more interest to the Admiralty, I wager. While listening, I heard that a broker that employs Zee-captains was looking for a new face – although, on reflection, it is good I did not use that term when I met him.

He wants me to subdue and return a Snuffer to him – I have no love for the things, so I'll do it gladly, but they're tricky little buggers. This will take some work.

I opted to spend the remainder of the day simply taking in the sights of the Presbyterate.

A nearby tent of oddities got my attention – what, after all, could quality as an oddity in the Presbyterate? Frauds, it turns out, for one thing. Or ageless roses. Each of which are very interesting in their own way, and suggest things about the Kingdoms further South.

It was time to depart, but on my way, I checked the traders down by the docks – they offer an excellent price for coffee, and are fair about fuel and supplies. I refilled some of my dwindling fuel stocks and we departed west.

June 9th, 1888

We've finally arrived at Port Carnelian, one of the few ports supposedly fully aligned with London. It seems, though, that in practice, things are not so simple.

I arrived and attempted to speak to the Governor, but it seems that this place that sees a fair number of zee-captains don't treat us quite so much like visiting conquerors as much of the rest of the Zee. His aide filled me in, however, and the situation seems unsuited for a proper Imperial holding, to say the least.

Also unsuitable are my options for tracking down a Snuffer in a place with more spies than constables. I think I will need assistance for this.

Before I departed, I took some time to visit the market – I suppose if I ever need to purchase sapphires, I know where to visit.

As we departed, we spotted another Zee-captain. We exchanged blasts of our horns as we streamed past one another.

Hey, it's a merchant ship! They're harmless, and won't attack you unless you attack them. They also have an unnerving tendency to appear and vanish with no warning. There's no good reason to attack them, either – You get treasure like you'd sunk a Pirate Frigate, but gain terror and sometimes lose crew for breaking the Code of the Zee. Ignore em'.

June 10th, 1888

Once more, I attended the Fathomking's court today.

I relinquish to him the box of sunlight I had. I don't miss it, in honest – there's something unnerving about that golden glow. I'd already moved it away from my room and instead stored it in one of the deeper parts of the hold. It's beautiful, certainly, but it doesn't feel like home.

He seemed happy with it, and offered more information in exchange – Something, this time, that felt on par with the value of what I'd given him. Let's hope that holds when I find a marvel of science I want to pass on.

June 12th, 1888

It turns out, I am not the only one who can hear the call of Salt.

The Rubbery Man I brought from the Principles did something that looked awfully familiar to me at the salt-lions. He stayed under water far longer than I did, however – and resurfaced with a chess piece, not a secret.

Is Salt a chess player? Or did he carve that out of the bedrock of the sphinx while he was down there? I doubt I'll ever know.

I accepted another commission to carry Sphinxstone, and we departed for London.
June 13th, 1888 - Morning

Between Mutton Island and London, Rick, while on watch, claimed to see something moving in the water. Never one to let a chance to learn about the deep Zee pass by, I had the crew grab nets.

The creature was quite unlike anything I'd ever seen. Sleek, certainly, and with unusual eyes, obviously for capturing every scrap of light down in the depths. I made careful notes and sketches before turning it over to Slaan.

June 13th, 1888 – Evening

We've returned to London, and were paid a prompt visit by the Special Constables. As I do not deal in red honey, I was of no interest to them, and they moved on.

I made my normal stops – I delivered intelligence and port reports to the Admiralty. I sold various odds-and-ends at the Wolfstack Exchange. I unloaded my Sphinxstone. I even, finally, had the remains of enough monsters to satisfy the Merchant-Venturer.

With business done, I retired to my Townhouse for the evening. I invited the Haunted Doctor to dinner that evening; my child had been wanting to meet one of my crew, and he seems like the kind least likely to inspire the incorrect kinds of ideas about zee-life.

It did not really go as I had hoped. My Dapper Chap was rather put off by him, even if my little rapscallion found him 'Mysterious'. In any case, I enjoyed a pleasant evening with them, after the doctor excused himself.

I told a story about the time I helped a fugitive escape justice in Khan's Heart. I may have included a few details that did not, in fact, occur, such as a squad of White-and-Golds being in hot pursuit. There may have been mention of a statue breathing fire to block our way. But the actual story seems rather banal, by comparison.

The journal ends abruptly here, as if the Captain had been suddenly pulled away.

Alright, goons, voting time – How do we deal with the homesick Deviless?