The Other Way Around -7-

Okay same as usual. In need of polish...
Hopefully readable anyway.
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Landfall.

The inn whom the Coxswain led us to was a small ignoble one and smoky inside, the smoke from the two fires made it hard to see, but the smell of meat roasting made Puss mouth water. As people saw him coming they moved aside, all the way to a small table in the corner. The serving girl came over to take our orders, however she was somewhat intimidated by the aspect of Puss. ‘Don’t worry Girl’ said the Coxswain, he’s just a pet.’ We ordered a flagon of beer with some roast and bread. When she came back the Coxswain leaned over and in a low voice asked her ‘Is Crator here to night? I would like a word with him if you care my pretty’ She looked at him for a moment, then nodded. Vanishing the half crown that so magically had leapt into her hand, she said. ‘maybe’ and then vanished herself. Puss growled contently to himself as he laid under the table, enjoying the beer and the roast. ‘Listen now Master Laurel, let me do the talking. It will be cheaper, and safer to. And please don’t talk about any inheritance.’ I nodded and watched as a formidable mountain of a man was making his way to our table.

There was as much fat as there was muscles on him, his cheeks bulged and hung as upon a bulldog, and to my eyes at least, it was a wonder that he could move at all. ‘Ahh, Pilot Pillars, wanting to do me some business perhaps’ the man inquired genially as he sat himself carefully down on a chair that loudly protested under his weight. The coxswain nodded, leant forward and asked. ‘Any boats for Chmeer, Crator?’ The big man looked him over as he was some kind of newfound novelty. ‘One want’s to go away, then? Running from a wife perhaps? Or is it the law that finally caught up with you, Pilot?’ A smile broke out on the otherwise so stern Coxswain’s face. ‘It’s been a long time, you shrunken old bastard. But I’m no Pilot any more, just a simple Coxswain.’ ‘What happened Pillar? Last time we meet you were well underway to getting your own ship?’ ‘Ahh, it’s along story, friend. Let it suffice to say that there was a disagreement between the owners and me. I’m afraid they got the better of me too. But it’s all waters under the bridge now. Now, are there any ships sailing for Chmeer tonight, Crator?’

The mountain lifted his tankard and musingly stared down in its piss brown swells. ‘Well my son, there might be, on the other hand there might not. And whom might your young friend be then?’ as he turned his gaze on me. ’He’s sort of my cousin, out to see the world and make some money.’ Said the Coxswain. ‘He’s still learning to be a trader if you can believe it, I tried to talk him out of it but the young fool still believes there is money to be made in Chmeer.’ Crator studied me silently. ‘Your sort of cousin, heh? Be that as it may. And you planning to go too, Pillar?’ ‘No Crator, I just want to see him safely on his way, I don’t want him robbed or maimed before he’s steered ashore, if you see my drift. That’s why I’m talking with you, friend’. Crator becoming silent and brooding as we sat there, with the chatter and heat inside the smoky tavern almost making me sleepy, and it certainly seemed to have gotten the better of Puss who now had started to draw big sawing-logs under the table. Although there were some people looking seeming to take offense they all, as soon as they noticed the tail whip back and forth under the tablecloth and heard the low rumbling growls, fast enough seemed to find it no business of theirs.

Crator who hadn’t noticed Puss before now seemed somewhat startled. ‘Whoa, that’s a big cat you got there my young friend. I hope it’s housebroken?’ I smiled cheerfully ‘Just a pet, sir. Harmless as a mouse, I can assure you.’ Crator abruptly seemed to make up his mind. ‘Well Pillar, it so happens that there is a boat leaving to night. My own, straight on the tide, and depending on the price there just might be room for a boy and his, hmm pet. But he will have to work his way over, you hear.’ The coxswain gave Crator a hearty slap on the shoulder. ‘Good man, I knew you were the man to talk to. And you're more than welcome to try beat some sense into that thick head of his before letting him of again, if you will Crator. Maybe you succeed where I failed?’ He smiled at Crator who merely nodded as he thoughtfully studied me again, measuring me. Then they went on to discussing the price and after finally agreeing, they had a few tankards more discussing before the Coxswain at last stood up. ‘I’m leaving you in good care Laurel. Listen to the Captain now, mayhap you’ll end up a sailor, there are worse things to be, my young friend.’ I thanked him again and with that he took his leave.

There are a lot said about smugglers. That they are cruel, violent beings, only out for the profit etc etc, well, be that as it may, Crators crew was at least good sailors. We sailed on the gravitonal tide. The captain, cleverly exploiting the gravity gradients speeded us forward, as if by magic. He had me up on the bridge with him, showing me how things were done. ‘Steersman, heave away and make room. We have a new recruit here, Let’s see how well he does at the wheel.’ He said in his rumbling voice. The wheel he was referring to had the looks of different sized pins, all radiating outwards from a central spoke situated at chest height in front of the steersman. By tugging on different pins and twisting them one could control the movement and speed of the ship. I had tried it before on Emilias ship and found it being good fun. But there was a big difference between her large broadsword of a ship and this little finicky rapier. I wasn’t at all prepared for the speed with which it answered to my movements.

Still, I learnt quickly, and it seemed as if Crator became mollified as he saw my rapidly growing skill. He told me that I was to take watches with the two other steersmen hereafter, then he showed me to a small cabin looking as a refuse heap. ‘Clean it out boy, then you and your little pet can have it for the voyage’. While cleaning it out I found lots of odd things, among them a small book given to the collected teachings of Beliam. I put that one aside to read later. Puss who had been acting almost as if invisible, if that could be said of a mountain lion of his size, told me that he had listened to Crator telling the other sailors to leave us be. It seemed as if he was willing to fulfill his deal with Master Pillar. Lasted mostly with spices and sprits, we laid to at Restful were we sold most of our goods, and I succeeded in doing some good bargains to. Among them I bought a book describing magic of a kind I’ve only heard rumored before.

The book of Beliam was weird. It seemed mostly to talk about the void and the coming of the destroyer, it said that everything that was created was somehow wrong and despoiled, and only life's total destruction would make life worthwhile again. It also promised its followers great powers of magic and wealth, which I found most confusing as there supposedly would be no one living after the 'cleansing'. Puss downright refused to look at it, he said that the smell of it offended his sensibilities. I showed it to the captain after I had finished it, a big mistake. He exploded in wrath, and when I told him where I had found it he had a search party checking all cabins for similar stuff. ‘I will not have such filth on my ship’ he rumbled. ‘Any man dealing in this, I promise the opportunity for a long swim.’ To me it seemed as his crew agreed with him, and none hold it against me that I’ve showed him the book. Which was lucky for me, as I was the sole instigator.

As the weeks went on both Puss and I became acclimatized to the work. There were times when I felt like I always had stood there at the wheel, especially when riding out the big voids, seeing the magnificent bluish darkness stretch out around me, interwoven with small pinpricks of light. We worked carefully our way inwards, sneaking slowly into the quadrant of Chmeer. As we came closer to the center we started to hear lot’s of rumors of a war, and not an ordinary war either. It seemed to be fought with a new kind of magic. There were weapons used that gleamed as the brightest silver and exploded with such destructive force that it could rip a planet asunder. Untrue probably, But still, nasty rumors.

One day the Captain took me aside. ‘Listen Boy, so far we have only been doing honest trading. But now as we are nearing the battle zones things are going to change, do you understand?’ I nodded. He looked at me, hesitated for an instant, then he continued. ‘I’m satisfied with you and your mate’ here he smiled ‘sorry, pet I mean. You have both done your share and there would be no disgrace for any of you if you made the choice to leave ship.’ Hemming some, he tried to explain his thoughts again. ‘It’s a dangerous occupation what’s we're doing here son, and for some it may be this, but other call it so, you see?’ I felt sorry for him. ‘Sir, are you referring to smuggling, Sir?’ He hemmed some more, and then he said ‘I wouldn’t call it that, but for some it might be seen so, for some. As I see it we bring good stuff to people that needs it sorely. Under danger of our very lives, son. Aye, and for a reasonable profit to.’ Here he relaxed a little. ‘Tell me your decision tomorrow, son. Think it over.’

At that very night we made landfall at Chariot, a small planet residing just outside the battle zone, in a small Harbor of Shmell, hidden from view by high mountains and overhanging cliffs. It seemed to have been an old navy deposit. We discussed our prospects Puss and I, but we couldn’t make a decision, the only thing we agreed on were to sleep on it. Before falling asleep I far spoke Emilia, we were now so far apart that it was a real effort to talk with her. She asked me to try and contact her in the morning, as she needed time to discuss our situation with some good friends. She also seemed very concerned over the rumors about those new weapons we heard about. ‘Don’t forget now, Laurel.’ was her last words. ‘First thing in the morning, promise.’

Smugglers Cove

The first thing I did the following morning was to try to contact Emilia, but somehow I couldn’t connect with her. As the morning moved on we realized that we had to make our decision without her guidance. I was young, so was Puss, and here there were danger! The decision was easy. ‘Captain, Sir, we, I mean I have decided to stay on, if you want us’ I told him. I thought that he would like that, but instead he only seemed troubled. ‘If that is your choice boy, so be it. You are entitled to a share of what profit we may reap. But you will from hereon also be bound by free-runners rules’. With that said he gave me a much-thumbed leaflet to read. In it was the codex for the ship. It was very simple, obey and keep quiet, or else. It also told about the share distribution and what was expected of one self. All in all, a quite enthralling reading for a boy in my age, Puss liked it to, especially that part of ‘allowed to eat as much as one would want’ as long as there was something to eat of course, we both kind of missed that part.

The Captain was busy in town the whole of that day, so Puss and me just wandered around. The doors were all closed and there were no children to be seen. It gave me a feeling of a ghost town. At long last we found a tavern, it was good coming into the noise from the cold and deserted streets. The Mountains that ringed in the harbor had made me feel as if they constantly were on the edge of over toppling. ‘Now, what have we here!’ I heard a rough voice. ‘Get that dog out!’ It was the Proprietor of the place. ‘Can’t you read?’ He pointed to a big sign saying ‘No dogs or cats allowed’. I looked at him, ‘Puss is no dog Sir, neither is he a cat. He’s a mountain Lion. Sir’ The man backed away a little as he saw the size of Puss. ‘I don’t care!’ He said, his face going livid. ‘Get him out of here.’ I was now getting rather tired of this Harbor. I went to the bar counter and asked the barkeep for two tankards of their best ale, then I turned to the landlord and said. ‘You’re welcome to try Sir. But, I wouldn’t. Puss is very sensitive to foul language.’

Puss hunkered down over his ale while alertly watching the Proprietor. After drinking his due he walked over to Proprietor who now was turning white as a sheet. Then Puss slowly opened his mouth, and burped, right in the face of that poor man. I called him back ‘Puss, that’s impolite.’ I said. The Proprietor now slumped in the corner in a dead faint, two barmaids were bent over him, desperately trying to resuscitate him. ‘Lovely town.’ I said loudly to no one in particular, ‘all those happy youngsters running around, And that warm welcoming one gets here. You know what, Puss! Let’s do it again!’ With that said we finished our beers and went back to the ship, but before going to sleep I decided for one last try with Emilia. To help my focus I used my memories of her combing her hair that first time I so furtively had peeped into her suite. I don’t know how I did it, suddenly I was there again.

Not remembering it, but being back there, in person. But this time, as she turned around in a flowing chemise, it wasn’t Emilia at all. It was my Mouse, I wanted to rush forward to embrace her, but she didn’t seem to recognize me. ‘Guards!’ She hollered. ‘An intruder.’ ‘Mouse' I called out. ‘What’s wrong? It’s me, Laurel. I’ve missed you so much girl.’ She took a closer look at me as I stood before her, not daring to touch her, as if she was just an image in a pool, shattered by the slightest touch of my trembling finger. At the same time as we stood frozen, staring at each other, there were two ruddy looking guards crashing in, grabbing hold of me.

‘Hold him’ said she, ‘ I want to question him.’ She sat down at the couch and studied me, as if seeing me for the first time in her life. ‘How was you able to come in trough my closet?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know, Mouse’ I answered. ‘I only know that I was going to far speak Emilia and suddenly I was here. I’m so glad.’ She studied me some more. ‘Why do you call me Mouse?’ Suddenly I knew that there was something terribly wrong here. It was her all right, but a very different her, where my Mouse would have blushed this Mouse probably would frown, and where my dared to Love, this one thought.

‘I’m sorry, My Lady’ I said at last, much subdued. ‘I see now that I made a mistake. I mistook thee for someone else. You and her are so alike. Your servants humble apologies, Lady.’ I tried to bow but my captors didn’t allow it. The Lady pondered my words. ‘You must love her very much’ she said ‘To dare intrude on me like this.’ To that I had nothing to say. ‘Are you dangerous?’ she asked. ‘If I tell the guards to let you sit down, will you behave?’ ‘My Lady, I’m not, and yes, I will.’ The guards let me free and I sat down. ‘You are so alike my Mouse’ I said wonderingly. ‘So lovely, but you don’t recognize me at all, do you?’ ‘No sir.’ She said, ‘I don’t.’

Suddenly she started to fade away, everything seemed to contract. It felt somewhat like falling backwards from a height but so very fast. And then I was back in my cabin again, feeling very tired, much more so, than if I only had tried to far speak. And I knew that I didn’t dare to try again. I had to get some understanding of what had happened with me first. I knew I had read about something similar in that other book, the one describing the magic of symmetry. I determined to look it up first thing tomorrow.

The next morning as I woke up still feeling weary, there seemed to be something familiar tugging at my mind, I relaxed and let it come. It was Emilia far seeing me, ‘where have you been.’ I heard her. ‘Have something happened?’ I told her about my futile efforts to contact her and also what had happened last night, She was much concerned but the main reason for her concern was the rumors of new weaponry. ‘If it is true the whole octagonal sphere might fall apart ‘she said. ' It was right of you to choose to follow the captain, but take great care, there’s different forces ruling in Chmeer Laurel, with powers unbeknownst to us.’ I thanked her for her concern and we spoke some of the strange phenomena that had taken hold of me yesterday.

She thought that I might be right about it having to do with symmetry. ‘That’s an old and almost forgotten lore’ she said ‘Take good care of that book. I want to read it when you come back.’ If I come back I thought to myself. After last night I wasn’t so sure anymore, strange things seemed to happen around me and it made me uneasy. I gave Emilia my love and promised to kiss Puss from her and then we said goodbye.’ Hey Puss, come and get a kiss from Emilia’ I cried. Puss opened one bleary eye, then sneezed and continued to sleep. I knew that all mountain lions were supposed to be nocturnal but sometimes I thought that Puss took it to extremes. On the other hand I to enjoyed sleeping over at times. Ah well, time to check with the captain what he wanted me to do today. I went down to the mess to get me some breakfast first.

The Captain was already there having a hearty meal. ‘Good,’ he said ‘just the person I wanted to speak to.’ ‘Yes Captain?’ I want you and Puss to see the old quartermaster house in Shmell’ he continued. ‘There are some old books that you might have a interest in, and yes!' here he hemmed 'While you are there, why not try to feel out what other ships that have been sighted here.’ Now how does he know about my books, I thought? ‘Yes Captain, anything more?’ ‘No’ said the Captain. ‘Be prepared to come back before evening, we’ll be leaving at dusk.’ 'Oh oh , now the fun begins.' I mumbled to my self as I went to get Puss.

The quartermaster’s house was old and decrepit looking, when I knocked there was the sound of shuffling feet and the spyhole opened to show a red rimmed eye, crowned by a bushy gray eyebrow. ‘Yes? State your business, Sir.’ ‘Ah, I happened to overhear someone saying that you might have some old books for sale. Books are a passion of mine, Sir.’ I said. The eye disappeared and I heard the key being turned. ‘Come in, sir. Ah, but I see you have a mastiff with you. Let It wait in the hallway if you don’t mind.’ I turned to Puss who studied the old man with a resigned look to his face. I bent over to whisper, ‘ can you wait here Puss, you old mastiff you.’ He growled back resignedly. ‘The old boy has the eyes of an eagle’ and then sat himself down.

The old geezer laboriously led me to a parlor, sparsely furnished but with a large bookshelf. ‘Feel free to forage' he said. As I presumed him to mean the books I went up to the bookshelf, they were old all right, crusted with mold. Mostly they seemed to bear on military matters, but there was one or two that I dearly would like to take a closer look at. I tuned to the old man. ‘Are you interested in selling those.’ I showed him the ones I picked out. He rubbed his hands together, ‘for a price, young man, for a price.’ As we haggled over the price I saw a telescope mounted at the window facing the harbor. When I asked him about it he told me that it was a small hobby of his, he then continued to shove me a ledger wherein he kept his notes of ships coming and going. I tried to memorize the last weeks, it was fairly easy as there only seemed to have been a handful of ships arriving in that time.

We shook hand on our deal and Puss and I went back to our ship. He had driven a hard bargain that old man, but not as hard as he thought. When we were almost finished he had shuffled away to come back with an handwritten manuscript ‘on the treatise of heavenly bodies’ which he actually gave me as some kind of conciliation prize over his, as he saw it, fleecing me. At first I was doubtful as to its value, but when I later happened to hold it at an acute angle, I could see strange markings suddenly popping out, arranging themselves to order. That manuscript alone was worth all my other books put together, it had to be hidden lore, probably from one of the great Masters, or maybe one of those legendary scholars whose works was almost unobtainable in our modern world. So it was in a happy mode we went back. The Captain asked me what I had found out considering the harbor and I told him what I remembered. He scratched his head, ‘Why, that’s strange? How could Scryllia have made landfall here. That ship was declared sunk with all hands over two months ago. Strange tidings?’ He muttered to himself.

Running The Gauntlet

At noon we left, silently gliding out under the enormous overhanging cliffs. One could see the stars reflecting themselves in the deep dark water. Getting free of the bay we mounted our earthbound speed finally accelerating over the edge, and at last we were free of that squalid little world. ‘You know Puss,’ I said ‘There are some interesting stuff in this manuscript, He actually believes there to be Universes completely different from ours. In fact he describes one where all heavenly bodies are in the shape of balls, if you believe it.’ Puss looked confused. ‘Wouldn’t the ones on the other side fall of?’ I nodded ‘Quite right you are. I mean, if we tried it here we certainly would fall of, but on those world sized balls that he fancies, the force of gravitation would always be directed inwards in every given object’ ‘Sounds strange to me.’ said Puss.

But it was a fascinating concept, one universal force emanating from every object that existed and radiating outbound, or should it be the other way around? As if it had it’s center everywhere and yet only being one single force. A most mystical revelation, ah well, no time for this now, here came our Captain again. ‘Laurel me lad, I want you to take the wheel tonight, we are going silent now, so be on your toes.’ Going silent were his expression of going without light or any emanations at all. He owned a sorcerous charm that would shape a wedge around our ship, hiding us within, and dampening all signals of life. Though it could lead to unforeseen tragedies, as other ships, not noticing ours, came to trying to drive straight through us. But Puss was going to be beside me, and I knew that his eyes were at least thrice as sharp as mine, and much better accustomed to the dark.

So I wasn’t worried, and neither was the Captain it seemed. He smiled at Puss and then he growled something undecipherable under his breath as he went down. Puss looked at me with a confounded expression. ‘What?’ I said. ‘He just wished us a happy hunting!’ said Puss. That Captain was more than meet the eye I thought, as we went up to the wheelhouse. Standing there under the open sky I felt a certain calmness and joy take hold of me, this was the way to live I thought. Standing on your own two feet, journeying into the unknown. I don’t know how long I stood there, lost in my reveries, when all of a sudden I heard Puss Growl. ‘Ships! Lots of Ships coming our way!’ ‘Get the Captain’ I said as I strained my eyes too see what Puss had noticed. There was nothing to be seen, not even by the telescope, and I remembered Emilias warning of Wizardry. I didn’t dare reach out to feel them as that might be recognized on the other side.

The Captain and Puss were soon back, Puss showed us where he had seen them last but then growled. ‘Strange prey, they seem to flicker as if they are disappearing constantly?’ The Captain had a worried glint in his eyes as he asked me. ‘Have you seen them too, boy?’ ‘No Sir, but I trust in Puss. If he says they are out there they are.’ The Captain smiled a twisted smile for sure, but still a smile. ‘Oh Yes,’ he said ‘if one can’t trust a’ and here he growled some more. ‘One can’t trust any one.’ Puss purred at him ‘There is some strange dialect to it. But it’s beautifully pronounced, captain’ The captain looked down at Puss smiling, ‘I’ve meet your tribes before friend.’ He then wondered. ‘Which steering would you recommend to get us out of their way?’ ‘There’s to many to fight Sir. They are spread out in all directions, diving at us with great speed, Sir.’ Puss told him. The Captain muttered to himself ‘An Armada, but where to? And where from?’ He scowled. ‘ Listen. You will have to find our way through them lads. Try for the ships furthest away from each other, and then come to a dead stop between them, I will talk to the crew. Now find that place!’

With that he rushed down the stairs, and we started our search, ‘go there’ Puss said and looked to the right. ‘Sloow.’ He growled. I did as he said, then I got an idea, if I could mind speak Emilia, why not Puss? ‘Puss, I’m gonna try something’ I said ‘Don’t be scared’ and then I mind-spoke ‘ Can you hear me Puss?’ Trying only for the slightest touch. Puss examined me like I had become retarded, and then growled ‘took you some time that! Of course I can hear you.’ ‘ We have always spoken like this’ he mind-spoke back. ‘No I haven’t!’ said I surprised. ‘You have.’ he said ‘You just never noticed.’ 'Can you help me see those ships?’ I mind spoke him. Suddenly they were there, in front of my eyes, flickering in and out of existence drawn out in a crescent. And coming straight at us, but still thankfully being at some distance.

I tried letting the ship sink relative them, but their formation seemed to cover that way to. It was as if they were there trolling, with us as the fish. I started thinking about that book of Beliam I found in that cabin, could it be that we had a renegade on our ship? If so, did that armada knew about the Captains charm? As he was back again I turned to him and told him my thoughts. He squeezed his double chin with fingers big as sausages. ‘Could that be?’ he muttered. In that case I had to try something. I hastily tried to think trough what Master Twizt and Master Gradwill had taught me about countermeasures. As far as I remembered there had been none discursion about what to do when one found oneself caught in a net. On the other hand, none of them liked to fish. Perhaps I should try for another metaphor? Ahh, caught in the net? No, how about? Dropped in the kettle? Nayye. That needle in the haystack then? Awwh, shiit.

While I had been at it, thinking that is, the ships coming at us had rearranged themselves into the shape of an gargantuan trawl net. I needed a quick solution now! If we couldn’t hide, how about the opposite then? I suddenly realized that they had to be looking for us, and if they knew where we were? Could it be the Charm? It was worth a try, ‘Captain, i need your charm, quickly please. The Captain frowned, then gave it up. It was a small woven sack, it seemed old and long worn, I turned it upside down and out fell two feathers, one white and one black, an oddly shaped stone and a small blue eggshell. ‘Captain, is this correct?’ I pointed to the objects. He shook his head, ‘that shouldn’t be there!’ he said as he leaned to lift the white feather. ‘Don’t touch it’ I said sharply. I reached into my mind and created an exact facsimile of the bag but without the white feather. Then letting it drop into my hand, I without touching the feather transformed it into the new sack. ‘Could you take the wheel for a moment, Captain?’ I said as in a slightly strained voice as I tried to form the image of a small ship, sister to our own inside my mind.

If this was going to work it had to contain all that existed on our real craft. It was truly thankful I was now, to my Master Twizt thought exercises, and his cane. He had taught me with some memorable help from that cane how to build my own memory castles inside me, As I didn’t really know how a castle should look, I had made it somewhat alike a rambling structure of caves connected by small bridges. In them I stored things I found out and learnt, and there I had had stored my memories of this ship to. When the ship finally was accomplished down to the last bolt I moved the newly made sack in it. As a last finishing touch I gave it an enormous push back, that same way we had come from. The armada was still coming on, silently and deadly as barracudas, but as they perceived this little frightened fish rushing for its freedom, they accelerated past us at a dizzying speed.

It was only my dumb luck that had made me let my creation move so fast, no ordinary object was supposed to be able to move at that speed, but it sure seemed as this armada could? Afterwards I was both weary and cold. I sat down on the deck, ‘Captain.’ I said. ‘I think you owe us an explanation?’ He looked me over. ‘Good work me lads.’ He said. ‘I think we all have some explanation to do here.’ He continued. ‘But first, do my charm work again?’ I nodded. *Good. Then, let us begin with you two. Who are you really? Where are you from? And just what are your plans?’ Puss growled back ‘You took the words out of my mouth, Captain?’ The Captain started to laugh ‘Well me lads, as the poet said. What’s truth among friends. Heh? Or was it fiends he meant?’ We could hear him mutter. ‘ Ah well! Come, let’s us go down to my cabin. Halvarson, relieve the boy at the wheel and hold a steady course towards the high Northeaster for now.’

We all went down to his cabin where the Captain called for some beer and bread. Now, I needed to sleep, but I soon found out that I was hungry to. The cook had outdid himself, there were all kind of sandwiches, and fruit too. To top it all we got some of the best beer I ever had drunk. The cabin felt hot and stuffy, but Crator opened the porthole to let some fresh air in. He then took up an enormous pipe carved in the resemblance of a mermaid. He contrived to stuff it with some nasty looking herbs, put a light to it and went ‘Ahhh! A girl is nice, but a smoke is always a smoke, right me lads’ Puss slowly started to take on a greenish hue as the smoke clouds continued to thicken in the small cabin. ‘Captain?’ I asked, would it be possible to open the porthole some more? And perhaps the door to?’ he looked at me consternated. ‘What, and let all this good air to waste? Come now boy. A smoke has never hurt anyone.’ He nodded sagely to himself. Puss raised himself with a growled ‘I need my rest, talk to you later.’ And walked, for the first time I could remember seeing, out on wiggly legs. ‘Ah, me lad.’ The Captain called to him ‘Seasick, hmm. Eat some, lard and bones will help, just remember the lard, and then let it all come lad. That’s my advice. Let it come.’

Now I heard Puss trying to run up the stairs, sadly failing, instead falling back down the stairs. All in his desperate attempts to get out from the thick clouds of smoke that the captain’s pipe had generated. ‘Well me lad?’ The Captain puffed again, 'Back to business eh, lad?’ I had started to feel unwell too by now, those clouds were really getting thick. ‘Tomorrow Captain’ I said as I stood up, hastily beating my retreat. ‘Tomorrow will do just fine.’ I tried to leave with as much dignity as I could engineer, but the smoke seemed to have a life of it’s own. ‘Can’t take the sea, what’s wrong with those young ...?’ were the last words I heard as I shambled up the stairs, desperately holding my breath. As I stood on the foredeck taking deep exhilarating breaths, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had been some kind of ruse, engineered to lure us into the exact position as we were.

Once more without answers.

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