The Albatross sailed through clear blue skies, spotted with a few fluffy hints of cloud. Captain Firecrest smiled as he stood at the ships wheel, eyes drinking in the view stretching out before him. Seagulls flew in spiralling patterns beneath, calling to each other as a fishing boat began to reel in its nets somewhere below.
Rowan stood hanging onto a rope near the bow of the ship, peering down at the birds with a wide grin. Her long, pointed ears were tucked carefully under her hair and a hat, in preparation for their arrival in Ravila, Scottie having warned them about a certain level of distrust for those not entirely human.
A rocky outcropping came into view, topped with a stone tower. Sighting through his telescope, Russ saw viewing instruments and lights were visible within the enclosed platform at the top. It appeared to be a watch tower. The Captain noted that one of the lenses was following their approach.
As the ship passed the outcrop, disturbing a flock of gulls which spiralled around the tower, Ravila came into view. A large dock spread into the sea, jetties and towers with a varied array of ships built for both sea and air tied beside them. Behind that lay buildings of a Spanish architectural style, sloping up a gentle hillside and spreading outwards towards a high wall.
The Albatross began to descend, approaching the lower areas of the eastern most airship dock. Finding an empty gantry, Captain Firecrest turned the ship and reversed her until she floated comfortably beside the dock, facing outwards ready for a quick get away. Rowan stepped onto the gantry, ropes from fore and aft held in her hands to secure the ship.
After Rowan had completed all the necessary paperwork with the port authorities, Russ putting on a pair of purple tinted glasses to read the document before signing, the pair left the tower and entered the port. The dockside bustled with mid morning activity. Fishing boats returned from overnight trips while the morning crews prepared to set off. Cargo ships loaded and unloaded, coming and going from the dock with practised speed and efficiency. A broken crate lay on the ground near the dock exit and a man by a crane was receiving a stern talking to from an angry looking foreman, whose red flushed cheeks puffed out as he spoke.
Passing many fresh fish stalls on the edge of the dock, the pair quickly spotted what Scottie had described as the merchant quarter, the entrance to which teemed with traders and travellers from many far flung lands. The shops and business were similarly diverse, providing goods and services from all over the world. A shop selling instruments and trinkets from Africa stood opposite a restaurant with a distinctly Asian flavour, and just down the road was a jewellers of clearly English origin.
Russ and Rowan walked arm in arm down what appeared to be the main street, lined with shops and crowded with people. As the pair explored, Rowan whispered in Russ’ ear and directed his gaze to an alley. In the shadows between two buildings, a group of men in long dark robes were observing goings on. As they walked further, Russ saw a group of people in clothes covering much of their bodies, faces shaded by scarves and wide brimmed hats watching the robed individuals from a distance. The body language of the two groups showed clear hostility, but they seemed to be keeping themselves deliberately separate.
Tiring of the crowds, the pair stepped into a nearby shop, a classic tourist trap place selling trinkets from both the local area and far away places. Russ paused to kiss Rowan on the cheek, then looked around the shop. Nodding to the shop keeper, the pair began to browse, admiring the various shiny objects available.
“Did you see those guys in the alley?” Russ whispered in Rowan’s ear. “With the big hats?”
“Yes I am wondering who they might be, and if we need to be aware of them.” Rowan whispered back.
“Looked like they were keeping out of the sun. I bet they’re…” Russ replied, pausing to glance around the shop. “Vampires.”
“Yes.” Rowan whispered. “It is probably a sensitive word to use here. We should perhaps have a code name for that. Let’s call them “farriers”” she grinned.
“Scottie said it isn’t widely known. People would probably laugh.” Russ spoke softly. “Why Farriers?”
“They like to shoe their horses at night.” Rowan replied with a slight giggle. “A funny old word. It popped into my head.”
Russ chuckled. “Alright, farriers it is.”
“Who were the other ones watching them?” Rowan enquired, picking up and examining a crystal sculpture of a fairy from a shelf.
“I think they are Builder monks.” Russ said slowly, thinking back to his conversations with Scottie. “There is a large church here, like the one in Babbage but much bigger. I think it controls a large portion of the city.”
“Okay, interesting” Rowan replied. “Is this place very religious?”
“There are people from all over the world here, but I think the builders have great influence.” Russ answered, eyeing a nearby collection of African wooden sculptures.
“They can tolerate foreigners then.” Rowan mused, glancing out of the front window as a man in a long, formal looking black robe strode purposefully through the crowd. “Up to a point of course.”
“It seems so.” Russ whispered back. “I think they have an affinity for numbers and calculations, but I don’t know much. I try to stay away from that side of things.”
The pair continued to browse, going quiet as some other tourists wandered in. “What do you think of this gong? Good for the living room?” Russ asked, indicating a metal disk with markings in Japanese.
“Oh yes, it would be perfect!” Rowan said, grinning mischievously. “Good for waking up Holly if she dozes off.”
Russ looked at another stand. “I think I’ll get these drums too. They’re from Africa by the looks of them.”
The pair purchased some trinkets and souvenirs and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the waterfront as they returned to the Albatross.
Just before sunset, Rowan and Russ sat at a waterfront restaurant, sipping wine and laughing about things they had seen that day. They had chosen a fairly out of the way establishment, both of them becoming tired of the constant crowds in more busy areas.
Russ joked that it would take weeks to rid the hold of the smell of wiggyfish, bringing a laugh and a spray of wine from Rowan. She added that he should request industrial cleaner be part of any future deals in the city. They both laughed heartily as their food arrived.
Rowan had ordered Cuchifritos, which arrived on an oval plate with salad and sauces of various flavours. Russ’ meal followed shortly, a garlic glazed steak, with garlic bread and garlic sauce. He grinned at the waiter, asking if they had any more garlic, to which he was told they had run out.
“Why so much garlic?” Rowan asked.
“Just making myself taste unappetising, in case my meeting with the “farrier” goes wrong.” Russ said with a grin.
Rowan giggled and threw a lettuce leaf at him, bringing more laughs. The sun dipped below the horizon, bathing the waterfront in an orange glow. After finishing their meal, the pair headed back to the docks to prepare for the nights events.