This is a direct continuation of yesterday’s post, The Maiden’s Voyage, Part I (WIP). After this WIP there will be two more short quarter chapters before I post the whole finalized thing.
The triumphant sailor gives the unconscious cat one last kick for luck and turns his eldritch-marred face to the crowd, reveling in their cheers. Benjamin, who had been listening to the festivities below him escalate, finally decides that enough is enough and stomps his way downstairs. Upon seeing the kitty out cold, he calls upon his deity to spare the young one from dying and boldly steps in front of him, planting his broadsword into the ground. “That’s enough! This one is finished; and so are you. You are up way past your curfew – return to your cabins this instant!”
Although the aasimar’s voice is powerful, it does not manage to stifle the jeering crowd. These sailors do not accept Benjamin’s authority. Who does this landlubber think he is, ordering them around on their own ship, especially after this show of dominance?
Meanwhile, Ingvar, who had heard the unmistakable yelp of his cornered friend, had rushed to the lower deck right behind Benjamin. Although the blood grosses him out, he swoops down and heals his reckless friend as he has done so many times before. As soon the tabaxi comes to, Ingvar scratches his pal behind the ear in a familiar gesture. Though Little Ice often finds this humiliating, this time he welcomes it, letting out a careful purr. These two need no words to come to an understanding.
Riled up by the fighting, the sailors start bumping into each other, looking for a fight. The grog and the blood-lust mix together to form a concoction that easily reaches a boiling point. An all-out brawl seems inevitable, when captain Babette suddenly appears from below deck.
“What in tha Seven Hells be goin’ on ‘ere?! Back to yer cabins, ye scurvy dogs! A dozen lashes fer tha’ scoundrel that I see scurrying around ‘ere one minute from now! Tha’ goes for ye passengers as well! Back ta yer rooms!”
Aboard the Maiden’s Virtue, the captain’s word is absolute. The guilty sailors and passengers scurry back to their holes; Benjamin, too, turns to resume his post, but is arrested by Babbin.
“You. Who stared ta fight?”
“I did not see who started it, captain,” confesses Benjamin truthfully.
“Aye, aye; tha’s fair, but who were fightin’?”
“I do not know your crew well, captain, so I could no see which sailor was fighting, but I did see who he was fighting with: The tabaxi.”
“The cat, aye? Very well; resume yer post. Off with ye.”
The rest of the night is spent in solemn silence, with only the rummaging of rats and rolling of waves disturbing the quiet.
The second day dawns. Hungover sailors return to their work, as the sharp-dressed accordionist continues his routine above-deck. While Benjamin is allowed to sleep off his night-shift, the Captain has new orders for Little Ice and Ingvar. Little Ice is to man the Crow’s Nest., without food or drink, as punishment for his unruly brawling the night before; Ingvar is sent to the kitchens to help with the dishes.
Already bummed that he was split from his buddy, a sullen Ingvar moseys to the kitchens. He’s not looking forward to scrubbing yesterday’s pots, especially not knowing what was in them. He could only imagine the state the kitchen must be in.
His imagination is proven wanting as soon as he opens the door. A foul stench attacks his senses, penetrating his nose immediately, stinging his eyes and churning his stomach. He shuts the door, instantly, sealing the wicked odors in their prison. He is never getting back in there. Damn the dishes! He would just have to brave the captain’s ire.
Captain Babbette, however, is surprisingly mild. She smiles cunningly and holds up her one hand. “Aye, I understand – that’d be two gold pieces, lad.”
The full price of a ticket. That wily sea-fox! Ingvar reaches into his pouch and throws the gold pieces on the floor and storms off. At least he wouldn’t have to work for the rest of his journey.
The same couldn’t be said of Little Ice, Making his way to the top of the crow’s nest, he sees the barrelman he is supposed to relieve: A snoozing aarakocra with colorful feathers and a short, hooked beak. The whole barrel reeks of alcohol; there are empty bottles scattered all across the nest.
Little Ice awakens the roosting bird with a gentle nudge. The parrot-man wakes up with a shrill shriek, crying: “Squawk! Land ahoy! Weigh anchor! Abandon ship! Squawk!”
“Easy there, friend!” hushes Little Ice. “I’m here to relieve you.”
“Squawk? Whuzzah? You want a d-drink s-sonny boy?”
The barrelman hiccups and puts one wing around Little Ice’s shoulder, offering him his empty bottle.
“No thanks,” says Little Ice, thinking quickly. “You want to play a game?”
“Squawk! Sure! Polly loves games!”
“…your name is Polly?”
Polly shrugs. “Not really, but that’s what everyone keeps calling me.”
“Well, Polly, let’s play a game – let’s be absolutely quiet until either one of us sees something interesting, alright?”
“Squawk! You got it, chief!”
Polly resumes his vigil with conviction, while Little Ice takes out his book to read.
After having to have had to endure yet another disgusting meal, Seamus and Lily decide that they cannot afford to delay any further; they must intervene, now, before any other meals can be served from that hellish place. Shortly after Ingvar had visited the kitchens, the two defenders of good taste barge in, demanding to the speak to the chef. What they saw nearly caused poor miss Petaltoes to faint.
The kitchen is a war-zone. Nobody bothered to properly fasten anything, which means that the slightest sway of the boat sends the ingredients and spices flying; leaving smudges, stains, puddles, heaps and many more identifiable smears all over the floor and walls. Sharp cutlery is left unattended, ready to ambush the unsuspecting; there is still a pot left on the lit stove, its liquid long having since evaporated, leaving only a charred bottom. Lily tries to suppress a sob. It’s all too much.
The suspected culprit – the ship’s cook – is a fat, unruly pig-man whose girth is just barely contained by a way too tightly wound apron. He’s asleep.
Seamus carefully approaches the creature and pokes him with his staff. The chef awakens, his snout snorting fiercely. “Whuzzah? Where am I?”
“You’re in the…kitchen, if you want to call it that,” says Seamus.
“Oh. Right – snort – the caboose. I’m the cook.”
“About that…would you mind not being the cook?”
“Let me introduce you to my friend, Lily Petaltoes. She is a restaurateur. She would like to assume your post for the remainder of this voyage.”
“She’s not hogging me pay,” squeels the hog-chef, rising from his slumber. “I need me pay. Who’re you to barge in ‘ere and take me job?”
“O, I don’t need the money,” Lily is quick to add, “I’ll do it for free. Gladly!”
“…will I still get payed?”
“We’ll see to that,” says Seamus. “now, be a good man and be on your merry way.”
“Hah! Whatever, suckers – free gold!”
The chef exits, leaving Seamus and Lily to deal with the culinary armageddon inside.
“I’ll see what I can salvage,” says Lily, surveying the wasteland, “but odds are I’ll have to use me own ingredients. Most of this has spoiled. We’ll have to clean up first.”
“I will leave you to it, then,” says a satisfied Seamus.
An uneventful day turns into an uneventful night. Lily, her son and his fiance have worked tirelessly to clean up the kitchen and cook up a decent supper and the results show. The whole crew – sans Little Ice, who is still stuck in the crow’s nest – is treated to a feast worthy of a halfling wedding. Gone is the uninspired gray goop; the well-polished dishes are now laden with the juiciest chicken any of the passengers have ever tasted, garnished with fresh herbs and supported with colorful vegetables and fruits. Spirits are lifted, stubborn hangovers miraculous cured and it is decided that Lily Petaltoes remain the ships chef for the rest of the voyage.
Back in the crow’s nest, a hungry kitty, now left alone while his parrot friend feasts on delicious meat, scans the horizon. With his extra pair of eyes gone he can no longer allow himself time to read, although he wasn’t getting most of it, anyway. Luckily, his feline peepers allow him to peer sharply even in the darkest of nights. He thinks sees far-off shapes swimming in the distance, but thinks nothing of it. Probably just dolphins.
Luckily, Little Ice does not have to starve, as his pal Ingvar sneaks up some supper. They spend most of the night up there together, chatting.
After enjoying an exquisite dinner, Seamus asks permission from the captain to spent the night above deck, under the stars. The sly racketeer agrees, scheduling him in for a night-shift, leaving him and her first-mate to tend the deck. Seamus doesn’t mind. He enjoys the gentle twinkle of the stars overhead, the gentle breeze in his hair and the waves crashing against the bow.
Yet, as he stares into the dark waters and opens his heart to the elements, he is filled with a sense of unease not his own. The waters are restless; the currents too strong for this usually tame sea. He swears he can see what looks like a dolphin underneath the surface – which is not strange in and of itself, if not for the fact that this shape freezes and swiftly swims the other way as soon as Seamus spots it. Dolphins are not known to be shy creatures; they have playful spirits and are more likely to approach a human than to swim away when one makes eye contact. Troubling, indeed, but not worth bothering to the first mate with.
After a few hours, Ingvar leaves his friend to his duties and goes to sleep. Seamus, too, after asking the first mate’s leave, goes below deck, getting relieved by one of the sailors. The sun rises in the east, as the boat continues sailing north, towards Kragsport.