“Hello there, gents. The name’s Captain Wat Honely, and it’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome aboard the Damaged Maiden!” Mithrandian, Theros, and Daggarhad barely stepped on board ship before being greeted by a tall, heavily scarred man with a sword at his belt. The man who had allowed them aboard the Damaged Maiden leaned in and whispered to the Captain.
“Yes, yes, Harold. I know who these men are.” He directed his attention to the new arrivals, while Harold walked past him to attend to his duties. “Lord Michael sends his regards, and asked me if I could please shove off as quickly as you are aboard. I beg your pardon, but we shall most certainly have the opportunity to become more closely acquainted during our extended voyage.
“Now, if there is nothing I can do for you this moment, Stormy will see you to your quarters?” He spoke the sentence with an upward inflection, indicating a query. Mithrandian spoke.
“Actually, Captain, I do have a bit of a question. You mentioned an ‘extended voyage’. How ‘extended’ are we talking, here?” His companions nodded. None of them knew precisely where Brandobia was. Mithrandian and Theros had certainly seen maps, but nothing grants the perception of scale quite so well as a sea voyage. Mithrandian had caught a glimpse of the vast distance they planned to travel in the Captain’s voice.
“Why, you are making about the longest sea journey you can possibly make, lads. I beg pardon Master Dwarf, as I’m sure you’re a fair sight older than I, but I am used to the vocabulary of command. I shall certainly go over our trip with you in my quarters once we are away, but I think you can expect 5 months, depending on the strength of the Northeast Tradewind, and whether it’s able to hold us to the Deadly Vortices. If we have to out the sweeps for long, Master Dwarf, it could take considerably longer. My navigator assures me, however, that the Nor’easters are weak this time of year, and that we shall be able to pull through the roughest part of our first leg fairly quickly. After that, the East Monsoon Winds will carry us quickly to our first port at Sobeteta.”
“Monsoon?” Theros wasn’t queasy about the ocean, but like any good dwarf, he certainly didn’t plan on spending any time swimming in it.
“Aye, the waters off the southern tip of the peninsula tend to be rough, but the Maiden will pull us through. She’s a little more deep-drafted than some others that ply the Reanaarian Run. There are others that might make the Run faster, but some of those won’t make it this summer. The monsoons can flip the shallow-draft ships, but the Maiden will sail right past their wreckage.”
“5 months?” Mithrandian had counted on a long trip, but this was certainly longer than expected.
“Still faster and less trouble than going overland. The mountains can be treacherous, and if you’ll pardon my saying, Master Dwarf, there is no guarantee you and your compatriot would make it through Kalamar with your necks free of the slave collar. Now, I have no truck with the slave trade, and I think the Emperor has no business trying to rule Irontop, but it’s none of my business. Only stating what is, my friends. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we really need to set sail.” At that, Captain Honely turned and began shouting orders. In the middle of what seemed a tremendous tirade, the Captain turned back to the group and shouted.
“Oh! Stormy over there will see you to your quarters! I’ll send someone for you once we’re well away from land! STORMY!”
“Yeah, well, I don’t hold with Fhokki names on my ship, so you’re Stormy until I think up something else, Bosun.” The Captain turned again to shout orders. Stormy turned to the group.
“I’m not Fhokki, friends. Just unfortunately named, I suppose. You’re this way.” The Bosun turned and led the way to the group’s quarters. The group was surprised to find they each got their own cramped, stuffy stateroom.
After they’d stowed their gear, and conferred about the Captain and the length of the voyage in Thorin’s stateroom, a deckhand appeared to escort them to the Captain’s quarters. The deckhand was silent as he turned to lead the way. Thorin and Mithrandian followed him immediately, and Daggar was soon behind, though not before turning all the candles in Thorin’s room upside-down so the wicks were not visible.
“My friends, thank you for joining me for dinner. I trust you are all stowed and ready for the journey?” The group nodded. “Excellent! The meal will be served shortly. I invited your fellow passenger to dine with us, but he’s keepin’ himself to himself, it seems. He politely refused, though I expect you’ll be meeting him soon enough. This ship is not that large that months can pass without ever meeting.”
“Fellow passenger? Lord Michael didn’t mention anything about another passenger.” Theros was not anti-social, but he was slightly outside of his comfort zone on this ship, and being in close quarters with so many unknown factors was starting to get on his nerves. Having Daggar so confined on a ship of this size was also getting to all of them.
“Lord Michael doesn’t need to explain to you, me, or anyone else what he plans, but it so happens that this is my passenger. He has paid for passage on my ship to Brandobia, and he seems a decent sort. Actually, Master Cleric, he seems to be your sort. He’s not a priest, per se, but he does seem to be the religious sort. Maybe you’ll have much to talk about?”
Daggar spoke in Fhokki, “Sometimes misfortune has nothing to do with chance. Feel lucky today?” The Captain looked uncomfortable at Daggar’s mischievous smile. Daggar knew that a “religious” man did not necessarily mean one of his “sort”. He was willing to wait, however, to determine if this man might be a good candidate to meet with an accident on this voyage.
“Yes, well, let’s talk about your trip, shall we? The first leg of the journey is called the Reanaarian Run, and it could take us as long as 2 months.” The Captain stood and walked to a large map set into the wall of his cabin. “We set sail from here in Loona. We will avoid the ill currents of the Deadly Vortices as we head south around the southern peninsula of the border between Reanaaria and Kalamar. Once we pass this peninsula, the Monsoon Winds will blow us swiftly to Sobeteta. We will port there for only as long as it takes to resupply and set out again.” Mithrandian looked ready to interject. “Master dwarf, I beg your pardon, but Lord Michael said that under no circumstances were any of you to set foot in Kalamar. I think you can see the wisdom of the decision?”
“Kalamar sounds fine to me,” said Daggar, his eyes lighting up with the potential for chaos in such a draconian system of government. The dwarves looked thoughtful.
“Captain, I have no interest in Kalamar. I only seek to get a message off to Karasta.”
“But of course, Master Dwarf.”
“I am Mithrandian, Captain Honely.”
“Of course, Master Mithrandian. I can have one of my men hire a messenger at Sobeteta to send any message you like. Once we set out from Sobeteta, we will take the Merchant’s run through the Straits of Svimohzia and around to the eastern coast of Brandobia to port at Ospolen, in the land of Mendarn. I have some wool to sell there, and I do hope to pick up some wine at Sobeteta. Brandobia thirsts for Kalamaran reds these days. This leg of our journey will take slightly less time than the first leg, but could still take 7 weeks or so.
“From there, we will head across Edros Bay to port at Dalen in the land of Eldor. You may leave this ship at Ospolen or Dalen in Brandobia. Where we part company is up to you. The Maiden will ply Brandobian waters through the fall and winter months, returning to the Bay when the weather is again good for long voyages.” Throughout all of this, Captain Honely pointed to various ports and trade routes, showing the group where they would be traveling. It would indeed be a long journey, and they only had a vague notion where they would go once they reached Brandobia.
At this point, the meal came, and they all fell to eating as though it might speed the journey along. Mithrandian and Theros began speaking softly in dwarven regarding what would be in the note they sent back to their contacts in Karasta. They both knew of some rumored dwarven settlements in the mountains between Brandobia and the Young Kingdoms, surrounding a place known as P’Bapar. Perhaps they could enlist the help they sought from their cousins in the Legasa Peaks?
Daggar was speaking to himself softly in Fhokki, and thought only of the chaos that could be caused on a small ship. Sailors were a superstitious lot, were they not? As for what he spoke, well, he merely recited nursery rhymes he remembered from his childhood. The Captain appeared to be unsettled by the Fhokki language, which suited Daggar just fine…just fine, indeed.