The Unorthodox Expedition: Part Four
Captain Harmond's thunderous shout echoed from every nook and cranny on the main deck of the Contemplative Philosophies. Edwin Chum, the huge mutant Bruce, leaned into the windlass. The contraption had a five-foot diameter, and was set quite solidly on the deck. Six poles stuck out of the top in every direction for ease in pulling. The weight of the anchor for a vessel as large as Contemplative Philosophies would have easily weighed a ton.
Edwin turned the windlass as if it were nothing more than an oversized spindle.
His brother, Henry Chum, was scurrying about the masts, untying and loosening sails in accordance to the Captain's orders. Old Phil had taken the wheel. Sam and Sebastian were throwing off the line that had attached them to the harbor, while Lilith was waited for her compass to stop spinning. Elizabeth Steele was tying up an extra sail. Lucille Harmond had gone below to set up the kitchen. Professor Winthrop had accidently lost some papers to the waves. Perseus was leaning out towards the rolling water. And then, magically, the colossal ship detached itself from the harbor of Krawk Island and drifted off towards the open sea.
"Crew!" Captain Harmond called. Everyone turned towards him questioningly, with varying levels of attention.
"Yes, sir?" Henry Chum asked.
"Take yer belongin's an' come below, so ye can hear where we're headed. Old Phil, keep yer post."
Sam reluctantly pulled himself away from the stern. He had been watching the shores of Krawk Island shrink and disappear into the distance. Sam felt an odd sense of freedom, which came from a combination of a last name, an adventure, and the salty sea air. Harmond. He would have to ask Lilith how to spell that sometime. But for now, he and his Warf followed Elizabeth Steele, down some steep stairs and to "below".
The crew had assembled in a remarkably spacious dining area, lit by round windows outlined with steel. Professor Winthrop had a huge map of Neopia spread over the oak table. Everyone stood over the benches so they could lean over the table and catch a glance of the red, penciled line tracing their route. Tiny Sam wedged himself between Edwin Chum and Sebastian Duske so he could listen to the Professor.
"Krawk Island is over here, as you can see," said Cornelius, pointing to a hook-shaped landmass which Sam assumed was his home. It seemed smaller than he had expected. "And here's the route we're going to take. It’s rather short; just straight to Mystery Island, then to Brightvale."
There was quite a clamor after that. Everyone seemed to know a thing or two about Mystery Island. Sam paid little attention to the discussion, ignorant as he was in the basics of geography. His bright eyes eagerly surveyed the other lands on the map, and he slowly deciphered their names while the adults talked. The Lost Desert, Roo Island, Meridell, Moltara... he was seized with a burning desire to learn more about the shapes on the map. And, someday, to go to them himself.
"Yes, Captain?" Lilith said. They were back on deck, after everyone had deposited their belongings in their cabins. Perseus, though, had elected to stay below and take a nap in Lilith's cabin, under the pretense of "guarding her belongings".
"We'll need to hold a North-northeast course until we bump into Mystery Island. How's the wind?"
Lilith looked at him blankly. "Er- what do you mean?" she ventured.
The pirate Bori groaned. She really was inexperienced. "Miss Ferrars, that means you need to check the direction of the wind, how strong it is, how long it will last... Here, I'll show you." He pulled a ragged old handkerchief out of his pocket, lifted it high above his head, and let it fall. It drifted to a side. "Now, ye can see that the wind is blowing west, and it's strong, too. So, if we can catch a bit of the west wind in our sails, it'll steer us east. Then we have to hold North with the wheel, and we're all set to go North-northeast."
Lilith felt enlightened. She would have never thought to sail like that! "Tell me more," she implored.
"Well, girl," Captain Harmond said, "it looks like I'll have to cram ten years' worth of navigational experience into ye. For now, head to the wheel and tell Old Phil our course. And tell him to show ye how to work the steerin' wheel while you're at it."
The Captain sighed at her receding figure, eagerly heading off to learn more about ships. Well, he mused, no one said this unorthodox adventure would be easy. "Both Mr. Chums! Set the sails to catch the east wind!"
Old Phil frowned. Why did everyone have to talk so softly? It seemed like the world was much louder when he was younger. "Wot was that, then?"
A nerve throbbed in Elizabeth Steele's forehead, but her voice remained monotonous. "I asked, sir, if you had any weapons. Captain wants them all accounted for."
"Oi, girl, stop whisperin'! We en't at a fune'ral!" Old Phil was hardly paying attention to the wheel.
Elizabeth's sinister-looking eyes hinted that there may very well be a "fune'ral" for a certain spotted Gelert. Luckily, Lilith intervened before things got messy.
The white Lupe was a bit surprised to see Elizabeth. "Hello, Miss Steele. Having trouble with Old Phil?"
"Miss Ferrars." Elizabeth greeted stiffly. "The Captain wants all the weapons accounted for. Do you have any?"
"Oh! Yes, yes I do. There is this knife, from Shenkuu," she said, turning to display her gift, "And I have two throwing knives and a dagger." Elizabeth Steele jotted down the items on a notepad she was carrying.
"Here, now! It's mighty rude to be whisperin' while there's another bloke standin' right there!" Old Phil sounded vexed. Lilith raised her eyebrow questioningly. Elizabeth Steele's mouth tightened aggressively.
"Old Phil!" Lilith nearly shouted.
"What is it, girl?"
"Captain wants you to steer straight North!"
"Does he, now?" Old Phil immediately spun the wheel to his left.
"Don't you need to look at the compass?" Lilith asked, impressed.
"Never mind." Then, turning to Elizabeth, she asked, "Did you need to tell him something?"
Elizabeth, who had been watching the scene with no expression on her face, said, "Yes. Same question I asked you."
So, Lilith repeated the question to Old Phil, who said he had a short sword and a staff. Elizabeth Steele recorded the information in her notepad, turned sharply on her heel, and walked away without a word. "Not one to waste words, is she?" Lilith observed.
"What was that!?" Old Phil called.
Cornelius Winthrop was quite flustered.
The speckled Lenny was sitting at his small desk in his room, studying the map that the scholars of Brightvale had unearthed. The paper it was printed on was brittle, and yellowed with age. It showed Mystery Island, in ink that might once have been black but had faded to a dull shade of brown. It seemed fairly straightforward; start at the southern end of the island, and head northwest until you bump into some treasure.
That wasn’t the part that flustered him, though. It was the bit of cryptic poetry accompanying the illustration. Written in flowery text on the top margin was: Pieces of eight, pieces of ten. Wandering hermit, inhabiting no Fen. Hearken, explorer, rise and then: Pieces of eight, pieces of ten.
Whoever wrote this, Cornelius decided, was a terrible poet. But that did nothing to help decipher the verses. And what in the world was a “Fen”?
Of course, he could always ask a crew member to help him, and Miss Ferrars seemed quite intelligent, but as the presiding intellectual figure he felt it was his duty to solve the mystery on his own. He pushed aside a few other maps he had been using for reference and hunted for his dictionary.
Sam was getting sick over the side of the ship. The poor little Ogrin's face had faded from its usual grassy green to a sickly pastel shade. Lucille Harmond, the brown Acara, was doing her best to comfort him.
"Easy, now, Sam. It'll be over soon. You only get seasick once." She patted his back comfortingly, but that just resulted in more gagging. The day had faded into the late afternoon. The beginnings of a sunset painted the sky crimson.
Sam's Warf bounced about his feet, yipping occasionally in concern for its master. Sam decided that he hated ships, which was a bit of a drawback, considering his newfound enthusiasm for traveling. If only there was a way besides water travel to get to the harder-to-reach places.
"You just go and lie down, Sam. Come to dinner in an hour if you're up for it." Lucille pulled him to her chest and gave him a hug before steering him away to go to his cabin. Sam leaned heavily on the walls of the corridor as he made his way to the cabin.
The brothers Chum, Sebastian Duske, Old Phil, and Sam all shared one large room. Their belongings were all piled up next to their hammocks or bunks. Sam carefully pulled a stool out of a corner to reach his hammock, which was the highest and smallest one in the room. Edwin Chum had given him a boost into it the first time, and Sam loved the high vantage point.
Sam liked Edwin Chum. The huge Bruce looked frightening, but he was really quite shy and kind. His brother, Henry Chum, seemed shifty to Sam. He instantly liked Sebastian Duske. The shadow Kougra was funny, and didn't wince, as most people did, at the odd sound Sam made when he laughed. And Old Phil was really not that bad, but he was quite deaf and always thought people were whispering rude things about him.
Sam settled down deeper in his comfortable hammock, trying to ignore the waves pitching the world out of balance. The rocking of the ship swung his little hammock, and Sam soon fell asleep. He dreamt of mysterious islands.
To be continued...