Chapter 1: Chapter 1
‘Call me Prendergast. Some time ago– fifteen minutes, actually– my rider and I, having no fish to eat for Fish and Chip Friday, thought we would sail down the Reamare and see the watery part of the world. It would be a way, we hoped, to correct our lack-of-fishiness…’
“Prends, what the Day are you talking about?”
‘N-nothing!’ Prendergast stammered, shoving a voice recorder into his enormous feathery bulk.
"Well, you can work on your Great Solerican Novel later. Rain jacket or poncho?"
“Rain jacket,” Angelica replied, emerging from behind a clothes rack with several in her arms. “They’re the superior waterproof wear for the adventurer on the go. Also, pockets.”
"Oh, yeah. That's very important."
Prendergast sat patiently outside the shop as the two women ooh-ed and ahh-ed over their selection of stylish, yet functional raincoats. The Prior matriarch was too busy organizing the Spring Equinox Festival to come along on the trip, but she could at least help them prepare for the journey.
And what a journey it would be! The fisherfolk said it was a sea monster what was eatin’ up all the fish, so naturally, Decima had to be the busybody and check it out for herself. If Prendergast had learned anything from he and his rider’s past adventures, they’d have to be prepared for anything.
"Whaddya think?" Decima said, doing a little pirouette in her chosen jacket.
Angelica nodded approvingly. "It suits you. The waxed leather keeps water out, while maintaining a full range of movement. We'll take it," she called up to the clerk, who bustled over at once.
Now, while they were paying at the counter, Prendergast saw his chance. He stood up, pulled his voice recorder out again, and began to stroll down the boulevard, careful to keep the shop within sight.
‘In spring time, this city is sweet to see; full of fine magnolia– long avenues of white and gold.’
And that wasn’t just the prose talking: Sol really was breathtaking this time of year. To his left, the quayside shops were bursting with colour: every window box was full of flowers, every shopkeeper was dressed in their brightest spring outfit. To his right, the famous Oneiros Quay, abuzz with ships docking and unloading and leaving again. The clang of their ship’s bells and the shouting of dockfolk filled his ears. For a moment, things felt almost back to normal. But then he saw the glaring absence of fishing boats, and how every fishmonger on the waterfront was shuttered and silent. There was a certain tension in the air, with a touch of weariness: Another crisis, so soon? Couldn’t this city have a moment’s peace?
‘And the people of Sol, they bloom like their own white magnolias. But magnolias only bloom in spring; whereas their spirit is evergreen as its leaves.’
The city would weather this disaster, as it always had.
“Prends? Where did– oh, there you are.”
The casua stuffed his voice recorder back into his fluff and jogged back to the shop, where the two women were emerging with their purchases bundled under their arms. Prendergast lowered himself down so Decima could pile the jackets into his saddlebag.
‘I thought you only needed one.’
“I do, but Day knows what ridiculous series of events could happen out there.”
Their next stop was the ship’s chandler. Decima had already chartered an honest-to-Day privateer ship, complete with crew and captain, on the condition that she provide all of her and Prendergast’s food and supplies. It was essential for sailors to choose a quick, reliable chandler to suit their ship’s unique needs, which is why they just walked into the first one they saw.
“Ah, welcome, welcome!” cried the chandler, an orc wearing a strange combination of a Solish tunic and a western-style pair of trousers. “You seek sail-cloth? Fine Nostranci-made oakum? Guarantee 10 times stronger than the next human brand…”
“Just food and essentials, please. For one human and one runner.”
“Yes, certain. I have many canned foods, fruits for scurvy, calamine lotion. Perhaps you would try the cecevia? Very popular with the Gsarchus seafarers back home.”
‘Phew!’ Prendergast gasped, as the chandler opened a nearby basket and scooped up a handful of greenish nuts. ‘Smells like old cheese.’
“Yes. When my kind came to your city, we said that cheese smelled like cecevia.”
“I’ve heard of these!” Angelica said, popping one in her mouth. “Back in the Cradle, they’re called ginkgo nuts. Some cunning-folk prescribe them for cough. Not sure if I’d prescribe them for a voyage at sea, though.”
Seeking respite from the foul smell, Prendergast pushed deeper inside the shop. As expected, most of its shelves were filled with canisters of pitch and caulk, loops of rope, and various tools for use aboard a ship. There were also a few racks of waterproof clothes, but they were made of cheap oilcloth, nothing like the ones they’d bought at the first shop. But one article in particular stood out to him: a tricorn-like hat with intricately-ridged edges, adorned on the front with a white cockade like a blooming flower.
‘How about this?’ he said, picking it up in his beak and trotting back to Decima.
“Looks neat,” she said. But the chandler’s eyes lit up.
“Ah! A Gsarchus tricrown. Three pieces of scute leather cut in the shape of cecevia leaves, stitched together with a bokeram brim. Shields from sun, spray, shark.”
‘Wait, what was that last one…?’
“We’ll take it,” Decima said. “I’ve always wanted to know what I’d look like in a hat.”
A little more back-and-forth later, the three of them finally worked out the right ratio of canned food, dried fruits, and barrels of water to last them a little over a month out at sea. Throw in a bottle of calamine lotion (“For hairless human skin”), a waterproof sack, and a few shell-in cecevia nuts (because why not?), and they were ready to pay.
“I will deliver your purchase to your ship. What is the name?”
“The Fruiterer’s Fancy.”
“Ah, the pirates.”
No one had said anything about pirates! Angelica looked just as surprised as they did. The tax records (which Decima had looked up 100% legally back in the urban cohorts’ office) listed them as privateers.
“Yes. The captain patronises our Blacke branch often. Fence cargo, also. But no fear. They are honorable folk. Mostly.”
“Uh huh, sure. Hey, is that a cutlass over there?”
“Yes. It is Rgali make, of fine sky-iron–”
“We’ll take that, too.”