Silabrek to Ælim (1/5)

To my detriment, this insert to my journal will illuminate the reader to the depth of how naïve I was, between the time of my graduation from the Academy, and my present state.

This aside begins when I left my parents’ house, and came to the windy, salt-crusted docks of Silabrek’s shipping port.  Looking back it is some wonder I did not blunder headfirst into a barrel of pickled herring and find myself shipped north into the mountain redoubts of Baasir.  That would have been the logical outcome of a bookish medical prodigy stomping about in an unfamiliar world.

As it happened I spent most of that morning poking my nose into the gruff business of fishermen and whalers and river-men, none of whom (obviously, now) were the sort who transport passengers.  Many of them did spare time enough to look me over and tell me where to go; their suggestions not at all helpful, or polite, or even anatomically possible.

Finally I caught some sense and looked for the larger boats; clippers and longships and sailing ships.  I had no idea which might soon be outbound, or which had just arrived; or even which were ships of the Tabrek naval line, or cargo boats.  Or, really, which might be pirate vessels in under false flag.  For better than two hours I wandered the docks, looking over the ships (not so much their crew; I found that quickly unwise) and trying to eavesdrop conversation.

How I came to find the Bonnie Heather I don’t recall exactly.  May have been its figurehead, which bore an odd similarity to a rakshasa.  Could be that it just looked the cleanest of the fleet, and that it was obviously taking on cargo.  It was a sturdy-looking boat, two masts, and if its current state was indication, it would not sink upon touching water.  So far it met most criteria.

My draw may also have been that its captain happened to be sitting on a short barrel eating an apple, close by the thoroughfare where I paused that moment to consider this ship as an option.  On seeing me, he roughly asked, “For whence ye bound ?”  – in such a heavy Haabin accent that at first I thought he had spoken Orckish.

His tone was so coarse that I did not know if his question meant to solicit a passenger or shove me along away from him.  I told him Ælim, and he grunted.  I said if he was bound for that region I could pay in gold.  He ate another slice of apple off his knife.  I mentioned I was a doctor.  His eyes popped wide.  He tossed the knife and apple off the pier, hopped to his feet with a smile in his beard, and immediately made me his best friend.

Passengers, he railed in his heavy brogue, his arm firmly around my shoulders, were seldom worth taking on; while they took up less space than a crate, they made for a lot more trouble.  But he said he liked the cut of my jib, whatever that meant.  And besides that, a doctor was of particular use aboard ship.  I did not ask why, as I believed the answer was self-evident.  I really should have asked why.

Ushering me up the gangway, the captain, Angus was his name, introduced me to his motley crew as “our new doctor friend, lads”.  This introduction surprised the look of resentment and consideration of murder from those rough characters hard at work making ready for voyage.  The nautical business does not seem a friendly one.  Men of the sea appreciate what is useful, and hold in disdain that which drags their pace or burdens them.  If I was not the former, I would be the latter.  Sense enough I had to at least figure that out.

In fact, Angus seemed determined to take me along.  At first sign that I might have doubts about travel on his ship, he was quick to offer enticements: Not the largest, but the most rat-free cabin; a share of the crew’s rum ration; a quick and probably safe journey to my destination; fine unspoiled food and pickles that definitely did not have a body stored in the barrel.

That last statement still seems strange.  Still, I agreed to join them, just until Ælim.

It was far more important to me that I had found a ship willing to take me aboard, and deliver me to Ælim.  From a classmate who knew of maritime ways, I had heard of the informal, but strictly observed, Code of the Sea.  Which, I assumed, included a provision against the murder of meek and unassuming and paying-in-advance passengers; and which now seemed to place a higher value on passengers of high surgical skill.  If tending the occasional rope-burn or harpoon-wound for these ruffians was to be an additional fare for travel, that could be managed.  I wanted to leave that day, I had found a ship, and they seemed willing to have me aboard.

What can I say ?  I was in a mood for adventure, and the Bonnie Heather would do.  My plan was to stay the Nine Hells out of their way, if I survived the first days at sea, and wait out the cruise to Ælim.

{…more to come…}




About d20horizons

D&D player.
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