Jeneyeru and Peino thanked Ionas Farseer with gracious bows on behalf of the group, but when the cabin door was shut after him, their expressions turned grim.
“Mr. Farseer cannot know how much of our strange adventures during that voyage he may experience himself if we fail to secure the Daemon Arcana,” said the wizard, and the prince merely nodded, his lips set in a firm line.
The log books of the far-flung voyage in pursuit of a certain pirate, which had resulted in the discovery of and passage through the Vortex Zone by the famous Ereonis brothers, had been published in a rather successful single volume several years ago, but as outlandish as the recorded events were, barely the half had been told. For while sensational accounts of strange, un-magical lands dominated by eormen ignited hot debate about aura and electromagnetic fields and lost worlds and Aeldreth’s own past, the book glossed over the details of other places. Part of this was by decree of a power none would challenge — the Keeper of the Gateways, the goddess Caillech, Queen of the Dead, who had forbidden certain entities from entering her realms and extended that prohibition to their works as well. In their return to Aeldreth, the brothers had inadvertently violated Caillech’s rule by carrying certain artifacts of those enemy creatures. And the items were not all the brothers had carried. Dark memories of dice cast and wagers laid, of agreements and betrayals, of glimpses into the inner darkness, and of business unfinished to this day, had also followed the voyagers home from foreign seas.
Those memories now turned Prince Peino’s face as dark as the storm clouds that grew even heavier over the city, as if preparing for their departure, and caused the flamboyant Lord Jeneyeru to withdraw behind pursed lips and fussing with the accommodations.
“Captain Lafitte is most generous,” he said, opening and closing the footlockers. “Why this is practically a state-room. He has given up his work room to us.”
“I wonder if we shall have to yield it in our turn to the ballistas,” said Peino, referring to the installation of two medium ballistas under the flooring of the captain’s cabin on the Marsh King’s Daughter, which necessitated the folding away of the furniture and the opening of the floor and walls so the weapons could be raised in battle. It was, in fact, quite common for a captain’s bed to be overturned for heavy weaponry. It was even a source of ribald humor in some quarters. But Peino could not see immediately where the Calinda’s ballistas might be hidden in this space. “Personally, I think I shall keep my effects on my person, rather than use the lockers. A sailor’s bag makes a good enough pillow, and a footlocker makes a serviceable seat.”
Jeneyeru nodded, but then resumed his customary manner. “Well, then, let us get settled and then go and see this exotic vessel set sail. Myself, I am eager to see how it all works. Come, my cockles, top or bottom?”
“Bottom,” said Peino, tossing his hat into one of the lower bunks. Four bunks had been installed in this cabin, in vertical pairs, with the lockers on the floor beside them, the desk in a corner, and the lantern swinging from the ceiling in the center. Fairly standard for such persons as officers and better-class passengers. After a brief thought, Jeneyeru took the second bottom bunk, and Thimble — perhaps a little territorial? — claimed the one above his employer.
In short order, the group had settled themselves in as they wished. Jeneyeru instructed Thimble to go and investigate the galley and other accommodations and Lotye to keep her eyes open and wits sharp, while he and Peino headed to the upper deck to observe how the Calinda would take off.
“As with any mission of a delicate nature, we shall go over the details of our plan after we are out of port,” Jeneyeru said. “I have some points I wish to discuss and some items I wish to distribute later, in private.”
With that, they stepped out into the rain and wind on the main deck of the airship.