Voyage of the Hildegard

Chapter Two

As the sun rose over the horizon, the port of Azure, capital of the Coral Archipelago became visible in the distance. Its docks stretched for several hundred metres, able to house well over one hundred ships of sizes ranging from fishing boats to the few great trireme tenders, floating docks which keep the war fleet supplied during combat. Docks line the waterfront, manned by a veritable army of dock workers, ready to unload any cargo, or assess the bounty to be paid to the Sea Lord. The ship sails into an open pier, and soon after Cid sets foot on the wharf, he is met by a cheery, well-off harbourmaster. After some small haggling, they come to an agreement that, in exchange for the ship being repainted, and christened the Hildegard 4, Cid would deliver cargo for the Guild to Onyx, capital of Skullstone, land of the dead. Thus, the Guild would pay the Painter's Confederation, and everyone would be satisfied. Including the smiling man with the unusually sharp teeth, who was seen and recognised by Kiss of the Waves Red Maw, as he went about his business.

Soon after disembarking, Haven set off in search of ale, food and thugs, searching for that little piece of Nexus which he imagines exists in every city. The ale was stale, the food was dry, and, he was bemused to find that his former niche in the artefact trade was unfulfilled. But alas, he also found that the West is short on for Scavenger Lords, and as such, a protection racket would be short on for clients. The search exposed him to a local myth, about a cache of artefacts kept by a being called the Keeper of the Way, who lived in the uninhabitable areas of the Coral islands. Though legends say that such a being held a treasure trove of such items, there was little information on what such a being did with the items, or where he (or she) still existed, the legend being over two hundred years old. Having collected all this information, Haven returned to the crew.

Meanwhile, Cid was busy reacquainting himself with his home town. Now, with a ship, he could engage in the aggressive merchant trade (known to most of the world as piracy) for which Coral is so famous. A short visit to an old friend later, he was the proud bearer of a Letter of Masque, authorised by the Sea Lord, to engage in hostile shipping practices against those not under the protection of Coral, and obliged to mercilessly punish those attempting to defraud the Sea Lord by bearing forged papers. Mindful both of his divine calling, and the urgings of Tadaal, Cid sought to weave his way through the military bureaucracy of Coral, acquiring their intelligence reports on the shipping of slaves, both through his own considerable talents, and the newfound gifts of the Unconquered Sun. Guided by essence, he found a critical junction in the network of spies and officials, in the form of Cavas Sidar, a plump, overdressed man, through whose desk a vast array of manifests and destinations flowed. Particularly appealing about Cavas, from the perspective of anyone seeking to acquire such information, is his interest in the breed of shellfish found on the northern islands of the Wavecrest Archipelago. To receive such a delicacy fresh is a greater gift (or more egregious insult, if that was what you wanted to do) than the wealth of jade coins available to Cid.

Returning to his companions and crew, Cid revealed the deals which had been struck for their benefit. There was particular alarm at the notion of travelling to Skullstone, with Kas expressing his personal dislike of the dead. Greater discussion, however, ensued over the announcement that the Hildegard 4 would be sailing towards Wavecrest, with Kas expressing extreme alarm at the possibility of being recognised by either the crew of the Sweet Danaa'd, or anyone they had spoken to about the desertion of the proreus and proreus' man, after the fire in their quarters and the Anathema sighting. Kiss' unique perspective lightened the mood when she objected to going to fetch shellfish for a "fat man in a box."

Later, Kas made a personal request of Haven, seeking information on House Mnemon. Though the information on Kas' interest in the house was sparse to non-existent, Haven obliged, and made inquiries of the local attitudes towards House Mnemon. Naturally, these investigations were discreet, assuredly so, as Haven stroked his sword hilt suggestively to each informant. So far, no one has misinterpreted his actions as an invitation to test out the size or strength of his sword.

Two days later, the crew gathered at the docks to inspect painting which had been partially done, and to discuss further matters. It was at that stage when Tadaal, taking stock of the crew's capabilities, realised that there was vacancy in the position of Sailmaker, an essential position if the ship was excepting to see situations where the sails may be damaged. Much discussion ensued, as there was agreement in the importance of the position, but disagreement in how to find a person suitable for mending sails on a ship crewed by four Anathema, and a rogue Terrestrial. Reaffirming her role of providing challenging and unique perspectives, Kiss offered two suggestions which caused some debate. The first was that sails should be simply taken from the vessels of their enemies. In the event that unexpected damage occurs, then any slaves they had recently freed could be forced to man the oars, and row the ship to safety. Objections were taken to the idea of forcing the newly freed slaves to work, as well as concern at the prospect that the ship would not be well suited to being rowed. The second viewpoint was even more unique. She suggested that the sails be made from the skins of their enemies, and that she was confident she could fashion together skins in the appropriate shape. After extensive discussions, Kiss was left rather confused why her travelling companions seemed to be so concerned to respect the inferior burial customs of their enemies. In annoyance at the inherently negative attitude taken by others, she set off in search of a suitable sailmaker. Shortly afterward, the remaining Exalts realised that Kiss had left, and made vigorous efforts to find a sailmaker before she did. Though kidnapping was ruled out as an alternative means, despite Haven having no particular concern about angering the Sailmaker's Union.

Though disadvantaged by a lack of knowledge about civilised society, and town layout, Kiss managed to find the crafts section of town. After several false starts, which included an carving store, a carpet weaver and an armoury, she was found by Kas, and the two of them continued looking together, with Kas somewhat alarmed by his "companion's" behaviour. Meanwhile, Tadaal and Haven searched through various sailmaker's stores, but their own uncertainty about the personality traits they were looking for severely hindered their efforts.

In contrast to Tadaal and Haven, Kiss had a very clear idea of the type of person she was looking for. A young, idealistic boy, looking to improve his position in life. Fulfilling this description, she found Bados Seaspray, son of Nen Seaspray, a sailmaker who, due to failing health, stayed on land. Though Bados ideally would like to join the Coral military, he is still too young. Willing to see the world, he shoed himself to be somewhat insolent, refusing to give unquestioning loyalty to anyone. When the group attempted to ascertain his religious beliefs, they were assailed by a tirade of curses, such that only a sailor or a sailor's son could know, about the laziness and maliciousness of the gods. Though Bados certainly couldn't be described as an atheist, as he admitted the existence of the gods, he was certainly opposed to that fact, and would rather it wasn't so. Pleased to find someone who might be willing to accept their divine nature, and with Cid's approval, Bados was appointed sailmaker, and within the week, the ship set sail for Onyx.