Notes for Game 4
(played out on July 11, 2006)
The party was witnessing a ritual sacrifice. The townspeople and the party sang and danced all night long, and then marched through every house in a line, eventually throwing Lane into the boiling mash to drown.
Malthus experienced a sharp pain when Lane was killed. He doubled over in pain, tears rolling down his face.
The sun was beginning to come from behind the eclipsing moon, giving a little bit of light. A cool breeze blew through the humid mist of dark day. Islanders fell down in the midst of their dancing, exhausted from the long ceremony, many having been working the ceremony for more than two days. The party was exhausted as well.
The bard headed off to have a drink at the sugar rum hut and fall asleep in the shade, and Sagesse and Malthus decided to go to their own huts. The Prince and Marqsam headed to their own hut as well.
The Prince addressed the gruesome sacrifice, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen that.”
Marqsam replied, “Make sure we don’t have any of the stew,” immediately lightening the mood. The prince turned his attention back to the coded message as they all traveled back to the their huts in a loose group. He mentioned that the message was a mystery, and Malthus interjected “I thought it said to stay on the island.” This drew the prince’s reply, “But I think the coded message is telling us to come back.” “Cryptically” Sagesse began to support that notion, “Something would probably have to happen, and then we could go back.”
“We should probably reread the message” Aiden offered, rejoining from a quiet discussion with Roscius about iambic pentameter. The bard insisted “That’s probably all that the iambic pentameter comment meant, is that it could be read in that method.”
They walk for about 20 minutes before reaching the sugar-rum hut. Roscius asked Aiden to go ahead and keep his bag in his hut since he had nowhere to safeguard it for the time being. They parted ways at the broken, pirate sacked sugar-rum hut where Roscius’ other items were concealed under tarps. The town was as exhausted in total.
Marqsam addressed Malthus, “I was wondering something. How did you get on this island anyway?”
Marqsam “But how? It was blockaded at the time.”
Malthus “We got by” Malthus said simply.
Marqsam “Which side of the island did you come in on?”
Malthus ”I’ve been turned around by now; I’m really not sure. The pirate ship is no longer there.”
Marqsam “It is no longer there, no. I was just curious where you landed. Did you not see the pirate ship along the island?”
Malthus “We quietly got by and landed” was Malthus only explanation.
Aidan turned the conversation back to the coded message, and Sagesse pointed out that they needed “the key.” The monkey queen was brought up. The two priests realized a deeper mathematical meaning to the inscription on the outside of the message, perhaps the key itself: something about a rule of five by two. But both required more rest to study the message further. Aidan found Roscius bag where he had stuffed under his mattress during some drunken hour the day before, and moved it to a spot that would not prevent his being able to sleep.
The priests continued to be concern themselves with the coded message that was seemingly from the Cardinal, falling asleep quickly in their exhaustion. Sagesse was up just a few hours later, and as the recently eclipsed sun sank behind the horizon, Sagesse walked through the dark to the sugar-rum hut to work on compiling the information he had gathered on the island.
[* New Day – It is the 8th Day of Farris*]
A much brighter sun greeted them all that achy, overslept morning. Aidan was still preoccupied by the letter that morning. Finishing off his morning dregs from last night’s cup, Roscius hauled his old bones off of a gritty bench and headed to the prince’s hut. Arriving at the hut, the bard held the flimsy door in one hand so that he could knock on it with the other. Entering the prince and Marqsam’s company, he said, “Good day young prince!”
Aiden “Good Morning.”
Roscius “I came today to see if we were perhaps going to book passage on the first ship out.”
Aiden “I’m still not sure what to do, but that’s probably the case.”
Roscius “I think, after last evening, we’ll find out what to do in another place. In the mean time, you still have my bag.”
Aiden “I do.”
Marqsam “You’re for traveling, are you not?”
Roscius “I am,” the bard replied.
Marqsam “Do you know of other islands where the women walk around with their breasts bare?”
Roscius “There is rumored to be that in the new world.” Aiden doubted the bard’s sincerity and could not hold in a chuckle.
Marqsam “In the new world?”
Roscius “They are rumored to be larger there.”
Marqsam “The women or the breasts?”
Aiden tried once more to turn their attention to the letter, saying, “I’m more confused today than I was yesterday about this letter, so I’m not sure what to do.”
The bard grabbed his bag and placed it under his outer shirt for counting later. He looked in and saw enough gold to widen his eyes and increase his desire to investigate its contents. He began to pick through it, making a pile of counted out gold on the table before him. Soon he came across some contents that he did not at all expect.
Meanwhile, Aiden and Marqsam continued their conversation.
Marqsam “How much do you have to book passage on the ship?” , but seemed almost to be directing his question more toward Roscius.
Aiden “Well, when’s another one coming by? Which brings me to another point; we get paid for staying here.”
Malthus arrived at the door, saying, “You’re supposed to stay here, I believe.”
Aiden “One of the things that the letter tells us is to trust in the wisdom of our priest. You’re one.”
Malthus “Priests are often thought to have wisdom.”
Aiden “What are your thoughts on this?”
Malthus “I have been thinking since last night… One is not a prime number.”
Aiden “Oh really?” The prince seemed shocked. But the whole message made sense! How could he have been wrong? Perhaps the extra prime number made no difference, though it seemed unlikely.
Just then, Marqsam noticed a startled expression of pallid horror on Roscius’ face, and saw him try to palm something that was glinting, red on white, and slide it into his pocket. The old bard tried to go on counting calmly. He saw, however, that he had been seen.
Roscius “I would say that I am going to stop counting now and go talk to Sagesse. In the mean time, between what you have and what I have received, we should be able to book passage.”
Marqsam “And how much is that?” asked bluntly.
Roscius “I seem to have enough. I don’t know exactly; I haven’t finished counting, but suffice it to say that we seem to have plenty.”
Marqsam “And what was that red and white shiny thing you tried to hide in your pocket?”
Roscius “That is what we must see Sagesse about.”
Marqsam “Can I see it?”
Roscius felt very tried by this incessant questioning, “I don’t know that you would wish to at the moment. You’ll have to trust me on that.”
Back at the sugar-rum hut, Sagesse was transcribing his history and anthropology of Bay Town. A few townspeople were milling around the hut, and Gerron returned to his duties there. The word “Understathe” was given the number one, and there is discussion of the fact that without it, the message has the same meaning. Syllabically, the message was not working into the iambic pentameter.
Gerron offered to speak with Roscius about commissioning a home on the island with his newfound wealth, and they set a meeting for later that day “when the sun is highest.” The little entourage gathered under a stand of trees that was down the shore a way and out of earshot and sight of passers by. The bard opened with Sagesse, saying, “I have some questions for you.”
Sagesse “All right…”
Roscius “In reference to the questions you asked me.”
Sagesse “What questions were those?”
Roscius "You wanted to know about my bag.”
Sagesse “Ah yes…”
Sagesse “Well, mainly because if the pirates come back, you will have to part with it or part with your life.”
Roscius "There’s more. Tell me more.”
Sagesse “Well… It actually has some of the Source about it. It has an energy.”
Roscius “There’s something that you should hear. I opened it in the morning when it should have been empty, and when I decided to go through it, I found this.” The bard tossed out onto the sand before them, a nicely manicured finger, cut neatly from its body, wearing a very nice silvery ring with a large square-cut light blue gemstone set in it.
Sagesse “What gruesomeness is this?” Sagesse said, taking a reviled step back, and then ironically leaning forward in curiosity.
Roscius “There’s more,” the bard revealed, emptying the large sack onto the sand. Hundreds of gold pieces flooded forth, accompanied by a small, neatly bleached skull, one too small to be of a human. It looked to Sagesse like the skull of some intelligent creature, not human though. But the only intelligent creature known to the young priest was man.
Marqsam “You collect odd things, bard!”
Roscius “Again, the bag was empty, and when it was no longer empty these were in it.” Roscius replied.
Sagesse was dubious, “How did you honestly come by this bag?”
Roscius “I actually gave you the truth.”
Sagesse “I did not sense as much.”
Roscius “What you sensed was that I knew secrets about it. And I give you secrets in the place for secrets, not in front of a village.”
Sagesse chuckled, recalling Roscius’ revelation that the pirate vessel was sorely undermanned, not at all in the place for secrets. But Roscius’ loyalties were at question there. The young priest examined the bag and the items that had appeared in it more closely.
“While you’re looking at it, please remove the pirate’s name from it if you can,” Roscius asked. Sinclaire’s name was embroidered in a silver metallic thread, perhaps real silver, into the inside of the purse. The skull and the finger did not appear inherently, but they seemed to Sagesse to reveal the faint residue of having been affected by trifling with the Source’s energies. The ring looked unlike anything the men had ever seen in their faraway homelands. But perhaps Roscius recognized the style from his travels to Puerto DosMundos. The skin tone seemed entirely wrong for that area, but perhaps it was so light for having no blood in it. It was unnerving that it was so freshly severed, not old bones, but from a probably still living woman somewhere it seemed.
Sagesse “Well… I have no answers for you.”
Roscius “It was told to me that when the bag would be emptied, the money that I needed would be there. But in all honesty I expected that to be false. The man was good. I had need of money, and between the two of them he was the one that seemed least to be trying to rip me off. He seemed to be honest, if not misled. So now I find myself with a bag that not only creates gold coins out of thin air, but comes with…” Roscius suggested putting a couple of gold coins in the bag “so that it won’t bring us any more body parts. Before yesterday I thought that all tales of magic were fabrications of the church.”
Aiden (In response to some unheard comment) “Well I haven’t been drinking today.” He notices a glass rum flask in tucked into his belt. “How did that get there?” It was taunting him. He decided to throw it with a great force against a tree. There it shattered, spraying alcohol every direction.
Marqsam “I could have drank that”
Sagesse “Then you might have thrown it out to sea.”
Marqsam (Laughing) “He was afraid he might have been able to find it later.”
The group’s attention was drawn to a small ship that had sailed into the bay, a sailboat.
Sagesse “You may all help yourselves to as much as you can of the coin on the ground.”
Roscius attempted to put as much as possible in his own pockets, dividing the rest between Marqsam, Aiden, and Malthus. Sagesse was following the path of Linus, and chose to honor his self-imposed vow of poverty. The sum was about three hundred gold all told. They would have approximately 75 gold each, but Marqsam’s was supplemented by his previous gambling winnings. Malthus added that to the fifty gold he already carried, which was given to him by the Cardinal, and Aidan had not yet counted the gold from his allowance, later to be found about 250. All told, the party was very wealthy at this point. Sagesse had only a small sum of money (if any?) the pirate’s purse, the skull, the finger and its ring.
Marqsam “Is it possible that the last time you looked in that bag, you failed to notice?”
Roscius “Three hundred gold pieces?”
Marqsam “No, the finger laying in the bottom of the bag.”
Roscius “Were you not there when I emptied it out, turned the bag inside out on the table at the sugar-rum hut?”
Marqsam “Maybe the captain put it in there without you seeing.”
Roscius “I emptied it out personally. I’d have seen it since.”
Marqsam “Have you been drinking?”
Roscius “Well, many times, but nothing that would influence…”
The rest of the party took some time also examining the small skull. Marqsam surmised that it could be the skull of a baby gorilla. He had seen such animals once at a fair.
Marqsam “If we can stop looking at skulls and fingers, we really came out here to ask ‘the wisdom of the priest(s)’”
Aiden “It says here that we are to ‘bear first in mind the wisdom of our priest,’ or at least I think that’s what we have cracked out of this code. So a couple of key points here that I find… ‘And you shall seek infinity through truth’? Does that bring anything for either one of you?”
Marqsam “What does that mean?”
Aiden “And also ‘the patience of the queen is knowing the key leads the wandering exile back…’ Infinity, key? Wisdom?”
Marqsam (bluntly) “Do we leave or not?”
Malthus “It is not whether you leave or not, for eventually you will have to leave. But it is where your destination lies…”
Roscius “Is it a musical key?”
Aiden “It… could be. It could be.”
Malthus (disdainfully)” Maybe you should play the musical scale next to the note and something magical will happen.”
Sagesse “As far as infinity goes, infinity is a problem I had with passing my test. It comes up many times in mathematics.”
Aiden “So how do you find infinity?”
Sagesse “Well for me, it is to find the solution to my own problem. But beyond that… I know that we have not actually exercised the iambic pentameter in that. There may be a second message within it… may have to start at another place based on the iambic pentameter.”
Roscius “Infinity could be another word for the Source itself. Perhaps it means simply ‘Seek the church.’”
Malthus “But it already says to listen to the priests. That would be somewhat redundant.”
Sagesse “Well, to seek our wisdom…”
Aiden “What does infinity mean?”
Sagesse “What does infinity mean? Never ending… goes on forever…”
Malthus “We still have to decide where to go.”
Marqsam “Back home.”
Malthus “It specifically states in the message that we should not wish to return home.”
Marqsam “But the real message—“
Aiden “In the first message it says don’t return home, but in the message we think we decoded—“
Sagesse “I don’t think your father would have dropped off a bunch of gold for you just recently if you were meant to come home soon.”
Roscius “How else was he supposed to pay for his passage, since he’s spent all his gold on rum?”
Aiden “Maybe just maybe I’m so important that whoever is screwing with my dad wants to keep me here.”
Malthus “OR! Well… that may be possible…”
Marqsam “Did your dad ever say what would happen to us if we returned without his permission?”
Malthus “Political rumor said that you would be killed.”
Marqsam “Well not me! I’m not actually exiled.”
Aiden expected imprisonment at the very least and probably death.
They walk back to the sugar-rum hut.
Gerron “Oh you are back early! This is good. My cousin is come now very soon. You pretty sure you ready to build now, huh?”
Roscius “I am not so sure any longer.”
Gerron “Uh oh.”
Roscius “But I’d like to pursue the idea.”
Gerron “Well that’s good, because he’s looking forward to it. Ah here he come.”
Another black man, looking not much different than the rest of the island men, approaches. A discussion ensues of Jimbaya’s building abilities, recent marriage, relationships with other islanders, and need for money. They offer three different plans, new hut, old hut, or new stone hut. Rental becomes part of the vocabulary. It is mentioned that Roscius brought the pirates, and negotiations come to a stand still for a while. The price for the used hut is 180. Roscius claims, falsely, not to be able to afford it. The islanders seem disappointed that he now only wants to rent, and they admit that the roof leaks in the old hut. Roscius buys a round for the whole group and a little mumbaye as well. In the mean time, the rest of the group continues to consider the problem of the mysterious encoded document. They agree on 10 gold a day, though Rosius’ old ears fail him, believeing that he is agreeing to only 2 gold a day.
Roscius “Jimbaya pointed out that he likes to make the religious sign for infinity (over his chest). He related it directly to the ocean. If we are supposed to seek the truth in infinity, could our fate lie over the ocean.”
Aiden “If that boat’s name is Truth, then we’re on it. We also don’t know from where these message’s actually come. And whoever the scribe was had ulterior motives. But why would there be a numerical code or equation at the bottom of the letter to me?”
Malthus “If you were supposed to come back you would think that they would have told me to tell you to come back.”
Aiden “Maybe it’s all clandestine, and no one is supposed to know I’m coming back.”
Malthus “Since we will be coming back with you, I would find that out at some point I would assume… unless I stay on the island as I have been told to do.”
Aiden “It’s up to us to figure this out.”
Marqsam “What are you (Malthus) supposed to do; just stay on the island?”
Malthus “I am to assist with the (chronicling of) native rituals.”
Marqsam “Oh… That sounds like fun…”
Roscius “Couldn’t you get the information from men who have stayed here for three (actually two) years?”
Sagesse “I’ve already done the writing; he has to make a second entry.”
Marqsam “Don’t you think there’s something going on, a little bit? Between the Cardinal and the King?”
Malthus “No… Because the King is one of the true followers. He believes very strongly in the Source.”
Aiden “But believing strongly in the Source and believing in the Church are not always the same thing.”
Sagesse “I’ve only known the Cardinal to be a good man.”
Aiden “I’m not saying the Cardinal is not a good man—“
Marqsam “We’re not saying that he’s not a good man, but would he go against the King’s wishes… if he thinks it’s best for the Kingdom? Or could he even help the king (in some plot).”
Aiden “I don’t necessarily think that this message is the Cardinal’s doing.”
Sagesse “It has his seal on it.”
Aiden “Somebody else wrote it for him.”
(A cacophony of voices, both disagreeing and supportive, erupt)
Aiden “Nobody said that it was coded. It just said it was of prime importance.”
Marqsam “We just went through all of that just because it said it was of prime importance!”
Aiden “I’m… ha ha… I decided it was coded (chuckling).”
Roscius “Actually, I did think that the iambic pentameter thing has got to do with something with reference to a code.”
Aiden “I just told you it was code— you think that’s all it meant—“
Roscius “I think that’s what it meant.”
Aiden “You think – it doesn’t mean I have to read this in ten syllable lines… I broke it down into ten syllable chunks, if you care to read it. There’s only one sentence that stands out. It has a little star by it there.”
Malthus “The one (not being prime) changes it, depending on where you place it…”
Roscius “What happens if you start with “understand”?”
Aiden “’Undertathe?’ No. It’s not part of the message. One is not a prime number.”
Roscius “When you’re breaking it into tens, what if you start with ‘understand’”?
Aiden “Does nothing… well… if I did that… then it would be ‘Un.’
Under stathe thee the message is a HEAVY
Plea ex heir exiled to islands far at SEA
[Here wait, I think I see that Sagesse’s thumb print has rubbed something out… Looks like the word “hearted”… Heavy “hearted” ;) ]
By adding two syllables it completely thwarts this. I don’t think that where I was headed was the right direction…”
Malthus “As I do not think that returning to the mainland is the correct idea.”
Aiden “I don’t think that returning to the mainland is necessarily the correct idea, but there’s definitely something.”
Sagesse (looking over the lyrics to the bard’s song for the prince) “What is this adjective ‘apen’?”
Roscius “I think it just means ‘monkey’, the apelike king…”
Marqsam “Now with the new word, have you tried it with ‘understathe’?”
Aiden “It doesn’t count. The one, it’s right out the door.”
Roscius “Could be a zero.”
Malthus “It does not count. It is not prime. (voices of dissention) It is not prime. (more arguing) It is not… prime.”
Aiden “Well apparently he knows.”
Marqsam feels a hand on his shoulder rubbing him. He tenses up for a second, then looks over to see a black, feminine, beautiful hand there. He recognizes the islander Marita with whom he had spent many a cozy evening.
Marita “Come up to the grove.”
Marqsam “I was just and the grove. Didn’t have much fun there.”
Marita “Well you weren’t there with me.”
Marqsam (after a pause of consideration) “I’ll be right back…”
(The lovers begin to head off for some private time, which eventually becomes embarrassing)
Gerron “Hey, Marita! What you do there today now?”
Marita “I was just going to go off and pick some bananas.”
Gerron “Alright, that’s good, that’s good. I’ll be seein’ Johna later now.”
Marita “Ah yeah. He was looking for you earlier, but he’ll be off in the fields all day. “
Gerron “I know that’s right. I know that’s right.”
Marita “I’ll just go find a good banana grove I think.”
(She winks at Marqsam and then slips off down the beach. He wants to follow)
Gerron “Hey, now, Marqsam. I got a sprig o’ mumbaye looks too good to be left alone for you for free here now.”
Marqsam dallying behind, “For free now? Now you’re making me suspicious. What did you put into the muimbaye?”
Gerron laughing, “Nothin’ nothin’, I just like ya hangin’ around here. Now you buy more rum, I notice, when you smoke the mumbaye. Here ya go.”
Marita continues to walk down the beach, headed for their secret place, giving a wink over her shoulder to the dashing lad.
Sagesse approaches Gerron offering the two gold pieces from the pirate’s pouch. He requests mumbaye for himself.
Gerron “Oh, two gold pieces. You want to take that much do ya?”
Gerron “They only three silver a piece.”
Gerron “I’ll go ahead give you seven even, that’s good. Thank you, Sagesse.”
Gerron removes three sprigs from a ten pack of mumbaye, handing the remaining seven to Sagesse tied up in a bundle with a little mumbaye string (useful stuff it is). He tightens it up and hands him the seven bundle. Sagesse lights a sprig off of a nearby candle that adorns the tables for just that purpose. He returns to studying the pirate’s pouch and its contents.
There is some discussion of the difficulties of building a pier on the island and the relative difficulties of not having one.
Gerron “I think I see man… swimming in.”
Two men are seen leisurely swimming next to the boat,
Jimbaya “I don’t think they comin’ in. I think they takin’ a dip.”
Gerron “Hard to say. They pretty far from their boat, though. That’s for sure.”
Jimbaya “Hey, Marita come down here a while ago?”
Gerron “Uh, has anyone seen Marita ‘round here?”
Jimbaya “I coulda’ swear I saw her walkin’ other way.”
Gerron “She maya’ walk by.”
Jimbaya “Johna I thought was come back early to see her from the field.”
Gerron “That right?”
Jimbaya “Just saw him walkin’ past. He musta’ got done choppin’ early.”
Gerron “Could be, could be.”
Jimbaya “Hmm. Yeah, I don’t think they comin’ in to trade, I think they takin’ a dip.”
Roscius “They’re getting closer.”
Jimbaya “That’s because the ocean moves this way.”
Gerron “Let’s get that raft out there anyway – you brought the raft down.”
Jimbaya “I got the raft – look like they takin’ a dip top me all. –I’ll put the raft in.”
Gerron “We have it ready if they need.”
The ship is seen to have the dark blue flag of Oxiden, a far notrthern country. There is some discussion of what language is spoken there, but they speak Capesian just as the Alemans and Westenders.
Sagesse’s study of the bag reveals that, through an information summoning, analyze magic. A critical success, a spell which he retains, reveals that the bag has magical properties; one must spend all of the contents of the bag before it will become full again, but when this happens, it will contain 300 gold, the finger with the jeweled ring, and the skull. It seems possible that anything spent directly out of the bag may become part of the spell under the right circumstances.
[There is some embarrassing role playing between Marita and Marqsam.] He “got her to the place she wanted to be.” They got along famously. She tried to talk him into staying on the island. They heard someone approaching. Marqsam tried to roll them over under a bush to hide, and he succeeded, though his lover gave out an ignorant giggle, soliciting a “Who there?” from the passing husband. Marqsam is well enough able to hide them that there is no confrontation. The man is heard to walk away.
Two men come swimming ashore at the sugar-rum hut, white skinned fellows apparently from Occiden, wearing light weight kilt-like garments to swim in but bare-chested. The two smile and talk between themselves as they approach the sugar-rum hut. Gerron approaches them, and Sagesse addresses Roscius as the men meet with Gerron just outside the hut.
Sagesse “This is the bag of a swindler. If this bag is emptied, when it resets itself, everything that has been within it will come back. So the coin that you spend from it will return as long as it’s empty.”
Roscius “So if we were to put everything from it into my pockets, then my pockets would empty into it on their own.”
Sagesse “Mm hm.”
Roscius “Well I don’t think I like that. No wonder they wanted it so badly. How does it work?”
Sagesse slight chuckle, “I… can’t tell you exactly how it works. I didn’t enchant it.”
Roscius “So, does the silvery thread inside it have anything to do with what is required for it to work?”
Sagesse “I think that was… an after effect, that he put in there to claim it as his own.”
Roscius “So if I put other coins in there in addition to these, would those always come back?”
Sagesse “I Believe so. We would have to test it. Seems a valuable thing to have if you don’t want to lose something.”
Malthus “Or you never want to give any money, you may… So if you paid me money, and the bag was not all the way empty yet, in theory I would keep that coin until the bag was completely empty, at which point it would all return.”
Malthus began to dig in his pockets and examine the pirate’s coins. He and the bard discussed the situation quietly. Sagesse immediately stood up and went out to catch Gerron and give back the six of the seven mumbaye sprigs that he bought with the pirate coin.
Gerron “You want to… sell mumbaye?”
Sagesse “I just want to give it back to you.”
Gerron “Are you sure (seeming confused)?”
Sagesse (calmly) “I’m positive.”
Gerron “There’s something wrong with it?”
Sagesse “Nothing at all wrong with it.”
Gerron “I can sell it again then?”
Gerron (pause) “You all right?”
Sagesse “I’m perfectly fine.”
Gerron dubiously examining the mumbaye, “OK…”
Sagesse “I have a feeling that the money with which I paid you will disappear. I could not take this in all good faith and honesty… if I knew that your money would disappear.”
Gerron chuckling, “You think the money gonna’ disappear… Now I know you got… strange ways with the Source. You not tellin’ me I gon’ get robbed are you?””
Sagesse smiling, “Uhh… It’s something that I discovered in the nature of the Source within the pirate’s bag. It’s been imbued with something of the Source that it forces the money that I spent from it to return.”
Gerron “Oh! It’s got bad Buru!”
Sagesse “Something like that.”
Gerron “Mm hmm. Prob’ly we gon’ see those pirates again ‘cause their bag, I guess. That’s prob’ly what you mean.”
Sagesse with a sigh, “Ahh… I have that fear.”
Gerron “Well you can keep this. You know, we can only do what we can do, and then there’s bad Buru in the world.”
Sagesse chuckles, “Well, I insist that you keep it.”
Gerron “Well I don’t mind if I take a blue for myself.”
Roscius also emerging from the hut to meet Gerron, “In light of the knowledge that Sagesse has given me, I don’t want you to wake up one day, you or your cousin, and find the money that I gave you to be gone, so if you would keep hold of it, I will return with a trade for it.”
Gerron “Keep hold the money?”
Roscius “The money that I had given you up to this point.”
Gerron “What money you give me? You mean for buyin’ the stuff already?”
Roscius “The money that I spent already. I gave you the money for the food, and the money for the rent, and the money for the drinks that I shared with your cousin.”
Jimbaya as he returns to the edge of the sugar-rum hut, “The drinks?”
Gerron “How much money you gave for rent?”
Roscius “Uh, I gave six.”
Jimbaya “Just six?”
Roscius “Six Gold.”
Jimbaya “That’s not even one day.”
Roscius “Three days, it was two a day”.
Gerron “Ten a day.”
Roscius laughing and surprised, “Oh, I didn’t catch ‘ten a day,’ I thought you said two a day”
Jimbaya and Gerron seemed unamused
Jimbaya “Read my lips. Ten a day, right here.”
Gerron “Ten. I got no problem hearin’ ten.”
Roscius “I came to you and counted ‘1,2. 1,2. 1,2.’”
Jimbaya “I was wonderin’ when you was gonna’ come back with the rest of the money.”
Roscius (laughter) “Ten a day, my my my…”
Gerron “So you want—”
Jimbaya “me to repair the sugar-rum hut.”
Gerron “Keep that ten!”
Roscius “Seems like it’s a separate deal. If it was ten a day I’m afraid-”
Malthus “Unless we go somewhere and eventually we—”
Aidan piping in, “Eventually we may come back, and then—”
Roscius “Ahhh… If it was ten a day I don’t… ah…”
Gerron “This is some strange kind a’ doin’ business that you fellows do. You know I… I’m startin’ to feel a little weird about this.”
Roscius “Oh I would as well. The important thing to note though is brought to your attention not by anyone who would [???] you anything but by us.”
Jimbaya “Except for now he wants to renegotiate the price on the rental.”
Roscius “Well I thought I had paid you for three days with the six gold. I’m sorry; my ear is just not what it used to be.”
Jimbaya “You were unable to read my lips.”
Gerron “I don’t know. You know—”
Malthus “Your mind is short lived?”
Gerron “here’s what I think we aught do.”
[mumbling among the party members]
Jimbaya “What you think?”
Gerron “Why don’t you give us four more gold, he move out tonight, you have place to stay tonight – you can put your stuff in there, we move the stuff, right? Then tomorrow you come back. We do business straight forward. No more of this changin’ things, no more bad Buru in the money.”
Roscius “So what do we do about the money I have given you?”
Gerron (pause) “That’s our money!”
Roscius “It is, but as Sagesse has told you, it may not stay in your possession, and that is something I did not know when I granted it you.”
Gerron “I think we take care of our money pretty good.”
Jimbaya “Taken care of for long time.”
Gerron “We take it to Tanwaya, she take care of it.”
Sagesse “Very well.”
Gerron “Get rid of the Buru.”
Roscius “At least it makes sense. Well I think that if you’re satisfied with the money from me, then I will give you four more from it.”
Gerron “Then tomorrow you come back, you want further days, you know, then you can pay for further days, but today we got bad business.”
Sagesse examining something newfound in the coded message, “Huh. It’s an actual rhyme, that’s nice.”
Gerron and Jimbaya discussed what the men in the sailboat were purchasing. They also discuss the nature of the money and the bad business they perceive.
Aiden revealed to the rest of the party that he was considering approaching the Occidentals about booking passage. Those men were still relaxing in the water near shore. They had not entered the rum hut, but had finished their business with Gerron before the discussion about the rent money.
Aiden “Someone needs to find out why those guys are here.”
Marqsam approaching the table, having returned from his rendezvous excursion, “and what the name of the ship is!”
Roscius venturing out on the beach toward the Occidentals, “Ahoy!”
Occiden 1 “Ahoy?”
Occiden 2 “Hey there, uh, how’s it goin’?”
Occiden 1 “Hello.”
Occiden 2 “How is it? You don’t look like you’re from here.”
Roscius approaching them more closely, “I’m not. And I’m looking to leave.”
Occidentals (together) “Really?”
Roscius “Would you be able to book passage?”
Occiden 2 laughing, “Oh oh… We don’t – we don’t really do that kinda’ thing. Just family business.”
Occiden 1 “Just small business.”
Roscius “Small businesses don’t transport people as well as goods?”
Occiden 2 “Well… It’s just dangerous, you know, we’ve got the wives on the boat.”
Roscius “And you’re worried that I would approach your wife? Surely a young man like you wouldn’t be worried about an old man like me.”
Occiden 2 “Well this is the man that own’s the boat, but…” [indicating Occiden 1]
Occiden 1 “We do not… transport people.”
Roscius “What’s the name of your boat?”
Occiden 1 “The Shining Star.”
Roscius “The Shining Star.”
Occiden 1 “This is mostly for our personal pleasures, you see. We only come by to equip ourselves. You know, what’s his name, Gerron? He is a welcome sight when we go on our cruises.”
Roscius “When you go on your cruises. This is a cruise ship? A fun ship?”
Occiden 1 “It’s for our pleasures, yes, mostly, right?”
Occiden 2 “We sell a little bit of what we trade around, but you know.”
Roscius “What are you selling here?”
Occiden 2 “Oh we’re not selling here, we’re just picking up some supplies.”
Occiden 1 “Now supplies we can move from place to place, but not people. We don’t do people.”
Roscius “I’m sorry, I did not catch your names.”
Occiden 1 “I am Varius. I am the captain of the vessel.”
Occiden 2 “Vivian.”
Marqsam also approaching, “Does that mean you go by many names? Or…”
Varius “I go by whatever name will cause me the least problems.”
Varius “the name ‘Varius’ doesn’t cause me any problems in these parts.”
Roscius “You go by other names elsewhere?”
Varius “As all do who spend time on the sea running product from place to place.”
Marqsam “Where do you travel from here?”
Varius “Mmm… We generally don’t discuss our ports. Where is your ship?”
Vivian “Where is it you guys are trying to get to?”
Roscius “For right now we’re just trying to leave the island, and we’ll go from there.”
Vivian “Is it that hard?”
Varius “You’re not from hear, we can tell, obviously.”
(At the same moment) Marqsam – “Born and raised.” Roscius – “Just got here.”
(Laughter from all)
Varius “I have heard stranger tales of fiction.”
Marqsam “Reborn and raised.”
Varius “So, who do you travel with?”
Vivian “How much are you guys thinkin’ to pay for…”
Roscius “Well, on second thought, if you don’t book passage, well then I don’t want to waste your time.”
Varius “Well we are—”
Vivian “Anything can be done for the right price. I’m just sayin’…”
Varius “We prefer to travel light and fast, and five would weigh down the vessel.”
Roscius “we’re five thin men, very thin men.”
Varius “Ha. Well, yes, but…”
Roscius “Small, slight of stature also.”
Vivian “We’d prob’ly have to leave behind some product to free up room too, you know?”
Varius “And you can see the vessel, the Shining Star travels fast. It’s a small vessel. It’s built for speed.”
Marqsam “How fast?”
Varius “Hmm… She can fly.”
Roscius (willing to believe anything), “She can fly? I assume you mean… figuratively.”
Varius “Well you do understand that there are blockades out there.”
Malthus “There should be no more blockades.”
Varius “Maybe not officially, but what about the pirates? So again, I’m a man of numbers—”
Vivian “You guys have trouble on this island?”
Marqsam (perhaps too quickly), “No!”
Roscius (With perhaps too much grace), “No!”
Marqsam “Well, not now.”
Roscius “Nothing that couldn’t be handled.”
Varius (slowly) “O.K.”
Vivian “We were just picking up the mumbaye and the rum. I think we’ll be…”
Marqsam “Just that fact that pirates were here two days ago.”
Vivian “Ohhh. That’s the trouble.”
Roscius “But we chased them off with no trouble at all.”
Varius “Don’t they always… It was nice to meet you.”
Vivian “You guys have a wonderful vacation, there.”
The two Occidentals wandered a way down the coast awaiting delivery of their products. The party discusses the Shining Star, mostly in name.
Back with the party in the sugar-rum hut:
Roscius “The name of the boat is the Shining Star. They don’t take on passengers, either that or they like to haggle a little stronger than… I’m afraid that my—”
Marqsam “You didn’t even try haggling!”
Roscius “I have been drinking. I’m not entirely sure that you would want to travel any routes that they would want to take.”
Marqsam “You don’t think they’re Smugglers do you?”
Aiden “I wouldn’t know why; there’s nothing illegal here.”
Marqsam “Here it’s not illegal.”
Aiden “I’ve never heard of anywhere that mumbaye or sugar-rum are illegal. Maybe just to avoid taxes I guess.”
Sagesse “‘Taxes’ from pirates.”
Marqsam “You guys need to decide whether you we’re giving up here, cause if we decide quickly, maybe we could negotiate a way to get back.”
Roscius “I wouldn’t mind leaving tomorrow.”
Malthus “It’s not like there won’t be other vessels.”
Aiden “One can hope. This is the first ship we’ve seen since the pirates left, and even last summer we only saw a few boats a week. Until word gets out that the port is safe…”
Malthus “I would think you could get a better option.”
Aiden “Depends on what we’re trying to do.”
Malthus “Ah, well, maybe we should decide what we’re trying to do.”
Aiden “That might be the best option, but we don’t know what we’re trying to do.”
(Marqsam’s eyes follow a beautiful native girl)
Roscius “All those women pawing at you. Trust me, it gets old after a while.”
Clouds rolled into the hot day with a stiff but cool breeze. The Occidentals were heard to be hastening their loading work. It seemed that rain was imminent. Bails of mumbaye began to appear on the raft and disappear into the hull of the sailboat. This did not seem to terribly threatening weather to the men, who had ridden out a couple of small hurricanes.
Marqsam (letting the girl walk off unmolested}, “What did the combined wisdom of our priests and now sober prince find out for us? Are we off to see the world?”
Roscius whispers something about the strange method of capitalizing words in the letter to Aiden.
Aiden “Yeah, that one’s the beginning of a line though. Care to read it again? Now that it’s broken down into tens, it says… the same thing.”
Sagesse (sarcastically), “Imagine that!”
Malthus “It’s cryptic. Are bards good at crypticism?”
Sagesse “But they don’t take criticism well.”
Roscius “And you shall seek infinity through truth, Why should we bow to that greater power who, coordinates every fate greatest to least, bear first in mind the wisdom of the priest, The patience of the queen is knowing the, Key leads the wandering exile back from sea.”
Marqsam “Wandering exile back. If you’re an exile from someplace and you’ve got to go back, it’s going home. We’re going to Westend.”
Aiden “But we’re not being led back.”
Marqsam “To Westend?”
Aiden “Lead me back.”
Malthus “If something would draw you there, it’s seems that you must find that something—”
Aiden “It’s a journey.”
Marqsam “A song from an errant bard.”
Marqsam “We have a secret letter from a Cardinal. A rude limerick from a bard that pointedly leads back to—”
Malthus “But you’re definitely exiled,” he says to the prince.
Roscius also speaking to Aiden, “Well you do look a little different.”
Aiden “No one’s going to recognize me for who I am unless they’re looking for me.”
Malthus “Or unless something occurs where you have to state who you are.”
Aiden “I’m not averse to lying.”
Roscius (returning to the note) “What about the last letter of each line, or the last word of each line? Read that off.”
Aiden “Plea the truth who least priest the sea…”
Roscius “Hmmm… What about the first word of each line?”
Aiden "’The ex and why coordinates… bear the…’ “The X and Y coordinates bear the key! What’s the formula at the end of the paper? This is completely making sense now!”
Sagesse “I know sobriety is difficult for you, but bear with us.”
Marqsam “But he said it’s not a mathematical formula.”
Aiden “Maybe it’s not a mathematical formula. Maybe it’s just locations on a map.”
Roscius “Several locations on a map, perhaps a path!”
Aiden “Did you guys write that down? Maybe they are some kind of…”
(Sagesse dug through his pouch for the original note, since the party had been working with their own notes and scratchings written down from the original)
Aiden “Does anyone have a map?”
Roscius “Of course not.”
Malthus “If this were true, then we could plot each X and Y coordinate because it looks like there are… Hmmm…”
Roscius “X equals, Y equals?”
Malthus “There is no such configuration. There’s X 155, Y 187… So now we have XY coordinates. Now we need a map.”
Regardless of the fact that most of the company was imbibing the rum, Aiden was able to stick to the mumbaye alone, which Marqsam shared with him.
Roscius “Well I’m sure the people on the boat have one. ‘Everythig’s possible for the right price.’”
Aiden “Are you going to be able to structure that into any kind of XY coordinates?”
Malthus “Well, it says X and there’s an annotated number next to it—”
Aiden “Great, but there are a lot of Xs on each line. Which one’s more important?”
Malthus “There’s actually only one that—there’s only one with annotation on top of it.”
Roscius “There he is,” Spotting the men floating on the barge-raft.
It was seen that the men are too far away to be summoned by voice. Only a visual signal might have called them in again. They were rushing to load their goods before the imminent storm struck.
Roscius “Perhaps I can hail a ride out there on the raft when it returns.”
Malthus “And then how will you—oh! You can purchase it with the money you found.”
Roscius “Right. If you have to spend it on something, you might as well spend it on this.”
The rain began to texture the water with droplets, and soon droplets could be seen hitting the sand just outside the hut, starting to come down hard. Roscius acquired another tarp made of thin mumbaye cloth from Gerron to cover his shoulders, planning to ride out to the boat as soon as the raft returned. When finally the raft returned…
Varius “Yes? Oh, it’s a little late to be loading people on there, I uh—”
Roscius “Oh no no. We are not ready for that. You made a quite convincing argument that your ship must be light in order to travel fast. However, I’m sure you have more than one chart or map on the boat, and I find myself in need of one, and we just don’t seem to have one here.”
Varius “Uh… How much—”
Vivian “What would need to be on this map?”
Roscius “Why do I always need to start, surely you have a price in mind to help us.”
Vivian “We’re not selling it.”
Varius “Yeah, it’s—”
Vivian “We’ve got one map on the ship.”
Roscius “You have one map on the ship.”
Vivian “One that would navigate us where we need to go.”
Varius “What do you need to see?”
The conversation degenerates into a discussion about the differences between a map and a series of charts, modulated by the expense and relative value of high quality charts and incomplete ones. Eventually it was agreed that the bard would be willing to pay a certain price to view the sailors’ charts of the southern portion of the mainland. The map could be bought for one hundred, but a loan was offered for fifty. They headed into the rum hut for a drink, a round bought by the bard. The occidentals even sparred with him with the idea of drawing a map in the sand for five or ten gold. Splitting up the set would not budge from the price of one hundred. They came down to thirty gold for a view, but the bard preferred to buy for the full hundred.
Malthus further examined the formula, trying to discover some way to draw coordinates from the strange, nonsensical mathematical formula. He was searching for two numbers in parentheses, separated by a comma. There were items in it that met parts of that description, but not entirely. There were also Z’s, which helped not at all.
Varius “There you go, there’s your map, brother. Are you familiar with maps?”
Roscius “I am.”
Varius “Just remember sir, a map is only as good as its key.”
Vivian “That’s true.”
Roscius “Are these coordinate systems accurate? And… I sense some more bargain in your voice.”
Vivian “You can see that it’s of a very high quality.”
Roscius turned to the Bishop for a coordinate to test the veracity of the map with. Having quite some experience with both land and sea navigation, Roscius was able to determine that the map seemed quite trustworthy. The party determined that the fact that the key was missing was the main problem.
The Occidentals do not want to go out into the lightning and storm to get the map, but eventually the raft, carrying Aidan, Sagesse, and Vivian floated to the sailboat across the rolling waves. Their mission is to return with the full set of charts, only to be rented for the night. Marqsam is definitely not welcome on the short journey to the boat, on which the Occidental wives remained. Lightning was first seen striking the water outside of the bay. I stiff wind was blowing, but not strongly enough to pull the raft off course.
Back on land the conversation turned to the benefits of weaning Aiden from his drinking habit. Roscius and Marqsam spoke quietly to one another about such long range plans as the strolled to the sugar-rum bar.
Once at the sailboat, Vivian climbed up a short rope ladder to board the vessel. Aiden followed him up onto the small vessel, and Sagesse remained behind to hold the raft. Lightning was striking nearer the bay, and Sagesse began to wonder if he would have been better served by an ability to protect himself from lightning rather than proper heat or drowning. He offered a prayer to the Source for his protection from the thundersom bolts. He felt some comfort that his prayer would be effective.
Aboard the vessel, Aiden was alert to all around him. He noticed a woman who seemed to be expecting Vivian, but not any visitors. After a few whispered words from the Occidental, she hurried below deck with a suspicious glance at the visitor, obviously unaccustomed to many. Aiden and Vivian continued on to go to a more forward cabin, apparently a navigating chamber. A few charts were spread out, having recently been rifled by the auspicious sailors.
Vivian “Ok. You see anything else in here that we could use to cover these things up?”
The sailor was holding a loose piece of sailcloth that had been ripped into about a square yard piece. Looking around, Aiden spied the normal things one would expect to see in such a room, including a sextant in a nice case.
Aiden “You bringing that?”
Vivian “The sextant?”
Aiden “Well, won’t we need that?”
Vivian "Why would we need that? You use it to gauge the sun, and I’m not even sure I could see the damn sun right now… (Too many clouds … chuckles)
Aiden “I’m just trying to bring everything we need… to chart the course…”
There were other instruments present that may have been useful in more exactly deciphering the map, but embarrassed, Aiden did not mention them. Vivian gathered up all of the loose maps and tried to cover them as well as possible with the tattered sailcloth, saying:
Vivian “Stand here; I’m goin’ to try to get an old shirt or something to hold them under. I want to try to keep them out of the weather. I’ll be right back.”
While he was gone, Aiden searched the room quickly. He had only a few minutes. He looked around to see the desk, the stairway leading to this chamber, and a small couch-like piece of furniture. He chose to examine the desk only with his short time. Searching the desk, he discovered that there was a secret compartment in the back of a desk drawer, but footsteps were approaching before he could discover the method for opening the little compartment. Vivian returned.
Vivian “Come on, let’s go.”
Aiden “All right.”
On land, Malthus began to itch for his personal protection, disappearing from the hut and returning a few minutes later with his scimitars on his belt. Soon after, the little party made it back to shore. When the raft arrived back with the full set of maps, Malthus had located a few numbers that he believed would serve for locations on the map. Sagesse was less enthusiastic about the project, and took to instead sketching a rough version of the map for the party to keep. The first set of coordinates, 32, 159, was not a real number on the map. It extended only to 100 east and west. 139, 175 was even worse. The sailors agreed to let them study the maps until late at night if they wished. They would set sail in the morning.
Aiden and Roscius pored over the maps, locating the latitudes of some of the suspected coordinates, but none of the longitudes seemed to make any sense; they were far off the map. Hours passed as they tried many combinations. Marqsam and Malthus lent the occasional insight, but none of their efforts seemed to lead anywhere. All the while the rain poured, and lightning continued to spark across the sky. Sagesse began to grow uneasy. In the back of his mind, he was suspecting that the Thomas had meant the message only for Aiden and himself. Why else the encryption? Why the familiar formula full of unfamiliar numbers? They did mean something to him somehow, but not as coordinates on a map. The key with the map showed only what they would normally have presumed to find: depth levels, figures that represented forest or rough roads.
Marqsam “We just spent a hundred gold for nothin’.”
Aiden “Maybe the numbers correspond to letters or words in the letter.”
Malthus “Well we have it already numbered out.”
He pulled Aiden aside to whisper his suspicions, but the rest of the party was already onto the method. It was too late; numbers began to fly across the table. Words were coming together to form a loose sentence. As Sagesse had suspected, the numbers did apply to words in the letter. But the rest of the party was still missing part of the key. They were too close for comfort, though, if Thomas had indeed intended his message to be hidden from someone else in the group. Only Aiden and himself were addressed, so they must have been the only intended recipients. Sagesse was fairly certain that he had it.
Varius horning in, “Triskelion!”
Marqsam “Shouldn’t one-thirty-nine come before one-fifty-nine?”
Roscius “No, because it’s a sentence.”
Marqsam (pause), “fate… ‘Your father’s fate…’”
Roscius “175 is ‘the’? 276. There may be some more in there that we need to pull out.”
Roscius “OK, on the bottom, 155 was one of them that didn’t make the cut—”
Marqsam “’Your father’s deserved…’”
Roscius “187… 187…”
Sagesse “And if I might have my letter back,” (he plucked it out of Malthus’ hands)
Roscius “I’m Sorry?”
Malthus quickly attempted to memorize the letter, but could not read all the way to the all-important formula at the bottom before it was snatched out of his grasp.
Marqsam “Why’d you take that? We were reading it!”
Sagesse “I… I understand, but the message is for the prince… and should be for him alone.”
Malthus after an uncomfortable pause, “Do you not wish to share, Prince?”
Aiden sigh, “I…”
Malthus “That is your decision to make.”
Aiden “I… I don’t know what to make of it.”
Marqsam “Maybe it’s something we can solve together. We got ‘Your father’s fate…’”
Malthus “We got more than that, actually.”
[recorder file ends and new file begins]
The business at the rum hut was slow, and few patrons were passing through. The party went to their respective beds for a good night’s sleep, most of them planning to wake at dawn.
[* New Day – It is now the 9th Day of Farris *]
Sagesse, as always, was up before the rest. He returned to his private pool of contemplation to see that the sacrificial altar had been dismantled, and he wondered at what had become of Lane’s remains. He spent a short while in the sad grove before returning to his normal scribing.
Aiden awoke with a strong need for a drink. He fought the urge, and felt an accomplishment in the decision not to have a drink that morning. He decided to leave the cork in the ever present flask and have a morning run instead. In fact, he decided he wouldn’t have a drink all day. He ran along the beach in the direction of the grove.
The bard awoke in a very bare room, holding only his instruments and a bed of straw. The leak in the roof allowed half of the room to fill with mud and standing water, but he had slept on the dry side. He made his way that morning to their usual table at the sugar-rum hut.
Marqsam was the next to wake, and saw that the prince was gone, but an unopened bottle of rum sat on the floor where an empty one usually made its morning appearance.
Marqsam “Wow. That’s rare.”
He began to gather both his and the prince’s belongings for a trip. He was beginning to feel auspicious about leaving the island. He wanted to be ready for the first opportunity.
Sagesse ran into Aiden, who was jogging along the shore.
Sagesse “Why do you move so quickly there, Prince?”
Aiden “I’m trying…” (gasp)
Sagesse “I applaud your efforts.”
Aiden stopped to catch his breath and looked around to make certain that absolutely no one was in earshot of their conversation… [Secret time, Little help?]
The rest of the party noticed that the morning greeted them with a very strange boat visiting the bay. A giant barge-like vessel was floating heavily on the waves. It had high walls around it, and most interestingly a pair of giraffe heads were wandering back and forth in one area, perched atop their long necks. A black flag with white stripes and a gold crest flew above its enormous sails. Even the well-traveled bard did not recognize its heraldry. The beach was a very popular area that morning. Many islanders were curious about the strange ship.
Eventually they all met in the shade of the sugar-rum hut. Marqsam saw Marita standing with her husband in the crowd, and chose not to approach. Gerron was there as well.
Marqsam “Does that seem strange to you?”
Gerron “Oh yeah, yeah, certainly. We haven’t seen nothin’ like that around here before.”
Marqsam “You want to go check it out?”
Gerron “Let’s wait a while see if anyone comes out.”
The beach remained crowded for the half hour more that passed. A large section of the front of the ship began to fold forward, and a raft, decorated with large golden posts and swaging garland was disembarked into the water. It looked almost like an enormous golden sleigh to the men from the north. Two figures got onto the raft, a man and a strange, large form. Four crewmen wearing simple clothes were aboard as well.
Aiden “Is that a bear?”
Gerron “I think it might be a bear! I seen a bear before. It got an enormous head, though!”
As the party barge approached, a flamboyantly dressed figure became apparent, wearing a silvery top hat, white pans, and a black coat of tails. He had long white hair and perhaps too much flashy jewelry. Also quite a sight was a small man riding on the back of a large ape. The ape himself looked to stand about six feet tall, but its diminutive rider looked to be only about four feet tall in full.
Julius (the figure in the flashy dress), “Come one, come all! Come one, come all! I’m speaking the correct language, am I not?”
Responses from the crowd begged to know more.
Julius “We have more wonders aboard! Many things to see! And all we need is but a single gold piece from each person who wishes to board the vessel!”
Malthus holding aloft a piece of gold, “What is your next port of call?”
Julius “Next port of call? We’re not worried of that now. The next port of call is right there in the bay, ladies and gentlemen! You’re going to see all kinds of things. Not only do we have a dwarf riding a gorilla, this is the least, the least of what we have in store! (The gorilla gave a fierce growl as if on cue) He is not fierce, ladies and gentlemen! He’s well controlled, is that not correct?”
Shunk (the small man) “Aye!”
Roscius “Is that big gorilla saying that or—”
Julius “Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Yes indeed, aboard this ship, you will see a giraffe with two heads! You will see a mummy come to life! You will see an actual unicorn, in its natural state. You will see a mermaid! Lions and tigers! You’ll see a man who removes his eye from its socket, and can still see with it! Come aboard ladies and gentlemen, come aboard.”
People were reaching into their purses, and the party barge was filling up quickly. Julius stepped to the gate to take another gold and block further boarding.
Julius “That’s enough, ladies and gentlemen, that’s enough, all right. We’re going to have to (looking to Shunk for a safety count) cut it off. I say – I’m sorry about that sir (to no one in particular). Uh, make a little bit of room there, will you, Shrunk. See if… if you can scootch ‘em back. Matter of fact, why don’t you go ahead and stay on the beach if you wouldn’t mind, I’d really apprec—(As per his normal demeanor, Shunk stared menacingly at Julius). (Quietly) There will be a little something extra in it for you, if you’ll just mill around and keep everyone interested.”
Julius “We’ve got a little more room. I think we’ve got room for three more. Three more over here? Yes, you ma’am, you ma’am, with the beautiful breasts,” winking comically.
Marqsam “Well there go five more.”
Julius “And your daughter as well, yes that will do just fine. I’m just kiddin’ their, sir, we’ll get you on the next time. Allright! And we will be back! Don’t go anywhere! Plenty to see!”
The old grizzled little man on the gorilla’s back stared menacingly at Marqsam as he approached.
Shunk “Shunk is me name.”
Marqsam “I go by Marqs or Marqsam.”
Shunk gesturing toward the ape, “And this be Thunk.”
The massive gorilla thumped into him as he came to a halt in front of the beast rider.
Marqsam “He seems aptly named.”
Shunk “Yes, it comes from the sound that it makes when he swings his mighty paw thunking into human flesh.”
A large sword almost as big as the short rider was slung to his back.
Roscius “Is this part of the act?”
Shunk “We are not part of the act per se. We’re to make sure that everyone stays safely parted from their gold.”
(Aiden can’t hold in a chuckle)
Marqsam “Oh… So where are you from?”
Shunk “We are from all over the lands.”
Shunk “Well, Thunk and I are originally from Mortez. A land far away from here.”
Malthus “What is your next port of call?”
Shunk “I do not know. I simply make sure that the man stays safe. Wherever he may lead, his trail of gold I will follow… Mm, yes, Thunk – there are banana trees. (To Marqsam) You’re not bein’ from these parts then?”
(at the same time) Marqsam-“Not from here exactly.” Roscius- “Born and raised.”
Shunk “You are fair of skin.”
Malthus pointed out that his interest was piqued, saying that this would be an adventure. Children were beginning to gather around the curious gorilla.
Shunk “Easy! Young friends. I hope there not be any enemies about!” He stared them down with his constant glare, and most backed away at least a bit. “Thunk would have to wreak vengeance upon thee! Although, do not fear; I am in control of him now. But if you press too close… he may… bite… OR RIP YOU LIMB FROM LIMB!”
His glare and his harsh words scattered the little crowd, sending a few children into teary scampering.
Marqsam “So we take the next barge over?”
Aiden “Well, I think we have to see what’s out there.”
Malthus “They have a one eye-socket man.”
Sagesse "What about Mr. Curious (He turns to Marqsam)? “Can we go on the next one, can we go on the next one?”
Marqsam “I’m just asking.”
Malthus “I’m not overly… I mean it is odd… I am vaguely interested.”
Aiden “We’re going.”
Roscius “I want to see the mermaid. Was there a mermaid did he say?”
Aiden “He did say mermaid.”
Aiden “It was while I was enjoying ‘the unicorn in its natural state.’”
Shunk shifted on his apen steed. He could be seen digging a knob on his sandal into the gorilla’s hide, saying “Settle! Settle…” The pair made an ominous figure, sitting greater than seven feet tall mounted. The ape’s shoulders sagged forward as if it had been reprimanded lake a small child.
Shunk “We’ll get to those banana trees soon. But do not disappoint Julius. We’ll be there soon, and we’ll get our gold.”
Malthus “Is it common for your people to ride large apes?”
Shunk “Only those of the most noble breeding, sir.”
Roscius offering the gorilla a fresh picked banana, “So you’re an apen king?”
Shunk “No. I’m imperial, a guardsman of sorts, I guess. From which land to you come?”
Roscius “From the north.”
Shunk “North… Exactly where? Because there are many places north of here.”
Roscius “There are indeed. Aleman. Certainly you could tell from my accent.”
Shunk “That is very far north, sir. Much further north than I. I am Mortesian, and I am of the imperial guard, a member of the imperial legion, if you will. We speak on behalf of the king, we act as though we were carrying the king’s order at all times. We are nobles of our land, and as our mounts we always choose a great steed. This ape, Thunk, has been my steed for some time.”
About half an hour later, the barge was beginning to return, still full. When it reached land, the passengers were full of amazement, speaking with wild tongues, edging their friends who had remained behind toward the party barge, and insuring wondrous sights to behold.
Julius “Once again, once again, ladies and gentlemen! Now the price I believe must be going up. I see that there are more of you than I would be able to take out there today. Who is willing to pay two gold pieces to get out here and see what you have waiting upon that ship? Ladies and gentlemen who have been on the boat, is that not worth it? Sir, come right this direction.”
The people shoreside were already clambering to get aboard, even at the doubled price, and especially with the outlandish recommendations of their returning friends. Malthus begrudgingly stepped forward and pressed his gold into Julius’ hand. Roscius paid for both himself and Sagesse. Marqsam and Aiden made the group whole, going as well.
Julius “We’ve got one, two, three here, and you gentlemen, I think we can fit you on as well. And come on in, yes sir, you as well. And, Shrunk, why don’t you go ahead and come with us this time. Don’t want to give ‘em too much of a good show for free. Sorry about that, ladies and gentlemen, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep the lives-er-that is- the prices low and reasonable.”
The gorilla growled a vicious roar at the passengers who were standing, necessarily, too close for his taste. The party-barge was fully loaded, and the men from the north were surrounded by dozens of islanders as they went. Julius, now having his audience captive, quieted down considerably.
Julius “We have a gift shop. There are items available.”
Malthus “Are you the master of this ship, sir?”
Julius “That is correct. My name is Julius.”
Malthus “Julius, what is your next port of call?”
Julius “Next port of call? Well, the very next port of call is this ship right here.”
Malthus “I mean—”
Julius “I’ve noticed that you’re intent! I’ve noticed that you’re intent. We’re heading back to Jafra, southeast. We will be going quite a way south. We’ve already made our way around, all the way down from Occiden, south through Iberica, both sides of Medios, and we are now stopping by Baytown here on our way to the southern continent.”
Roscius “I’ve been to those areas.”
The little boat made its way to the ship, and the party asked him about things on the mainland. The subject of the Source came up.
Julius "Yes, seems like in a lot of places it certainly is popular. As matter of the fact (to Malthus), You’re a bishop of the Source, aren’t you?
Julius “See, popular here too (to Shunk).”
Somehow the religious men explained that they were missionaries, after Julius described them as zealots for being on an island that the described as dominated by a religion of human sacrifice. The subject of the “Giant Gorilla” came up.
Julius “I assure you, sir, this is the most massive and enormous of its kind! He’s a fantastic specimen of his sort.”
Shunk "This is the most grand king of apes. He’s quite intelligent. Hey! Thunk! Stay away from my red strings! (Red strings could be seen tied around some part of nearly every one of the little man’s possessions.)
Roscius “What is the red string for?”
Shunk “Luck. I need it.”
Julius “Right this way, folks, tight this way.”
As the group walked up the lowered gang plank, a sound like a pair of discordant trumpets was heard, an animalistic bugling. On either side of a long wall, an isle stretched out before them.
Julius “Feel free to go as you like. You do not have to follow my guided tour, but you are welcome to. And that is the best way to see everything that there is to be seen. (quietly) Keep them in line now, Shrunk.”
Shunk “They will be… in line.”
Julius “Please do not taunt any of the animals or any of the people that we have on the boat. (The ape growled.) These are people, and though at times it may, for average folk, be difficult to believe that what you’re looking at is a person with human feelings, these are indeed people. So please keep your comments and your hands to yourselves. The first thing that we come to, ladies and gentlemen, is the two-headed giraffe, straight from my own home area of Jafra. It is much like any other specimen, except that this particular specimen was born seven years ago with two heads, and has survived to this advanced stage of its life.”
The men studied the creature closely and discovered that it was a genuine medical oddity.
Marqsam “Do they ever fight?”
Julius “Well, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen them fight except maybe over food. But, uh, generally they’re able to get along.”
Sagesse “That seems odd, as they both have the same stomach.”
Julius “I’ve never seen them argue! But they have two sets of taste buds, that’s right sir (to a quiet Marqsam). Two fully, completely working sets of taste buds. This is usually the only exhibit that we do allow people to go in and pet the actual animal for a small fee of one additional gold piece. Is there anyone willing to pay that price at this time?”
Children begin to beg their parents, and Julius attracts a little more cash.
Shunk “One at a time, one at a time!”
Julius “Come on in here, son. Oh it’s worth it ma’am, it surely is.”
The animal stands complacently to be petted, and one curious child reaches up high to examine the place where the two long necks extend from the body with his hands.
Julius “OK, ladies and gentlemen, let’s go on ahead to the very next stall here, where you will find one of the most interesting sights that you will see in any place in the entire world. It is darkened in this area. Please step very close to get a good view. It’s hard to make room, but I think that we can all find a spot.”
A curtain hung over the opening, and Julius pulled a rope to open it and reveal a decorous sarcophagus.
Julius “The one and only living mummy. Still alive by I know not what means! Please remain quiet; we don’t want to startle him. These are his advanced years. This being is over a millennia old, that’s over a thousand years of age!”
A being wrapped from head to toe in a gauzy fabric began to rise. The personage rose, only about five feet tall.
Julius “In the days when this being originally lived his normal life, this would have the normal height of men of his time.”
The mummy descended from its coffin and started to walk slowly, stiffly toward the crowd.
Julius “Please try to stay at a safe distance. Don’t get too close!”
The mummy reached up to its face, completely covered in the tattered gauze. It began to unwind the stuff from its face to reveal a strange, mottled skin, disgusting to look at. People looked away in disgust and fear. A strange smell seemed to pervade the area. Old ladies turned their backs, horrified. The sight was disgusting.
Sagesse’s doubting eyes detected that this was actually a human female, a burn victim, who had survived some harrowing near-death in flames. His experience with wounds revealed that much to him. He soon realized that the odd smell was coming from herbs that were often used to soothe damaged flesh.
Julius “Ladies and gentlemen, let us head on to the next exhibit. It’s obvious, ladies and gentlemen, what we have in this exhibit: the one and only living unicorn, in it’s natural state.”
Sagesse couldn’t help but laugh at the trees painted comically on each side of the poor animal’s cubical. Hay littered the ground around it. It was a small animal, only about 3 and a half feet tall at the shoulder, with a single horn protruding awkwardly from its head.
Julius “The one and only magical unicorn!”
Sagesse detected none of the aforementioned magic about the creature. It appeared to him to be some sort of slightly deformed farm animal.
Julius “We have in the past allowed people to pet this animal, but I’m afraid that it has presented some danger because there are magical properties about this beast of which we are not well enough informed. So we must pass on ahead, unless anyone is such a brave soul… that they would care to go in spite of my warnings? And venture in… (this piqued some interest from the brave men) for the price of one gold piece.”
Sagesse “I have not the coin.”
Malthus Goading him on, “Would you like the coin?”
Julius as Sagesse consented to ‘venture’ in, “Why certainly, young man!”
His closer inspection inside the pen showed him that it was a goat that had been long been groomed for this situation. Searching through the curls of its hair, he located the short hewn stump of its missing horn, and could see by the lopsided shape of its head that some sort of harness or mechanism must have been employed for a period of years to move the horn to its current position. It seemed otherwise in normal health. Perhaps Julius himself had never inspected the animal closely enough to know all of this, or perhaps he was a bold faced liar. Sagesse leaned toward the latter assumption. The animal appreciated having its fur stroked.
Julius “Ladies and gentlemen, our next exhibit!”
Session ends, next exhibit in next session