Friday, November 11, 11:50 PM
The sound of boats rocking against their moorings was a rhythmic percussive chant that the young couple had long since grown accustomed to. An unusually quiet night, she thought, though it was getting late. There was no other sound save for the click of their boots as they walked arm in arm along the water’s edge. He leaned in close and whispered something into her ear. She tipped her head back to laugh before giving him a whack on the arm. He was about to escalate the level of playfulness when he suddenly stopped and nodded. Following his gaze she saw the crumpled figure of a man lying on his side.
He quickly scanned the area, searching for immediate signs of ambush as she unsheathed her sword. Slowly they approached the body. “Scottie,” Sky said in a hushed tone, “it’s Emerson Lighthouse.” Scottie continued on down the pier, checking behind the various stacks of crates, ensuring there were no lurking surprises awaiting further victims.
Sky knelt down beside Emerson. His clothes were soaked through, leaving a pooling of water around his body. Dried blood caked along the bridge of his nose and one of the lenses of his glasses was so cracked it looked as though it had been fashioned by a spider. His lower lip was swollen and split… but at least he appeared to be breathing. She noticed a package, about the size and shape of a portrait, on the ground beside him. Next to that a half-gallon mason jar with something unidentifiable and somehow disturbing, floating inside. She was about to call his name when a sudden crash came from down the pier.
Her hand instinctively returned to the hilt of her sword all senses heightened. “Everything alright Scottie?” she called out.
“Yeah, just that cider-swilling spider monkey that’s been hanging around the Port lately. Everything seems clear.” he said, still alert to potential danger as he returned to her side. Scottie glanced down at Emerson, “It looks like he was on the losing end of this one.”
“Emerson!” Sky called, “Emerson, wake-up!” She took his glasses from his face as he started to cough. Together she and Scottie helped him to a sitting position.
“Emerson, we thought you were dead.” she said when she saw he was beginning to focus. “We thought you went down in an airship crash. What happened?”
Emerson stared at her blankly for moment before he narrowed his eyes. “Sky,” he said… “Scottie…” the recognition suddenly taking hold. He started to laugh as he looked around. “What day is it?”
“November the 11th… Friday,” Scottie replied, “at least for a few more minutes.”
“I made it!” Emerson grinned and then winced as he reopened the split in his lip. “I did it!”
“That’s great!” said Sky, “Do you want to tell us what it was you did… and,” she looked around, “where is Malus? Weren’t you two travelling together?”
Saturday, October 29th, 4:30 AM
The coronation of Queen Princess, the first of her name, culminated with a party. Not your ‘grown-up, cocktail-talk, best-clothes, over-at-11:00’ kind of party, but the kind of party where you find yourself with your arms wrapped around the shoulders of total strangers as you all belt out ‘Louie Louie’ at the top of your lungs…
Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go
Almost twelve hours earlier, the young Queen, as her first official act, had commanded Emerson Lighthouse and Martin Malus to kneel before her as she bestowed upon them both the honour of knighthood. “You are now officially protectors of the realm and guardians of the Hoja del Diablo Dulce.” she declared as the crowds erupted in cheers and the kegs were tapped.
As the night stretched on into the predawn hours, the celebration showed no sign of abating. “I’m not one for pulling the tankard from anyone’s hand.” said Captain Quinn to Emerson. “but if we don’t sail with the rising of the sun, I won’t guarantee to have you back in New Babbage before the Friday after next.”
“I hate to leave a party early,” nodded Emerson, “but I will be ready just as soon as you give the word.”
“I’ll be back for you in an hour or so,” said the old Captain before draining his tankard of ale.”That ought to be sufficient time for you to make your good-byes.”
Emerson smiled as Captain Quinn made his way down the beach. He returned his gaze to the sea of revelry. Malus, his noble squire, with the stub of a Sagrada Lucia clenched between his teeth and an open bottle of wine in each hand, danced the crazy dance with the queen and her maids.
“Are you going to dance with us Sir Emerson?” Maid Marian called over breaking through his reverie with a wave. Emerson nodded, tomorrow I go home, but tonight I dance. He threw back the rest of his wine, took a deep drag of his own Sagrada Lucia, then dove into the crowd…
Fine little girl waits for me
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that ship about, all alone
Never know if I make it home
Saturday, October 29th, 6:00 AM
The pink and orange glow of the rising sun cast 5 long shadows along the beach. Queen Princess, Maid Marian and Captain Maynard Quinn, stood huddled together as Emerson and Malus, having reached the end of the quest, were about to say their goodbyes.
“The Queen has received reports that the survivors of the Henri Giffard XVI are on one of the outer islands of the realm.” said Sir Malus. We are mounting a rescue mission before they begin to cannibalize one another.”
“Martin, it has meant a lot to me, more than you probably know, having you with me these past several weeks. I know you will make a fine queen’s champion, but I’m going to miss you.” Emerson took a step forward.
“You’re not going to hug me are you?” Malus took a half-step back.
“Come here son.” said Emerson spreading his arms.
Queen Princess and Maid Marian smiled and clapped as Captain Quinn spat on the sand and said, “Well if that ain’t the damned sorriest display of awkwardness I’ve ever seen.”
Friday, November 4, 10:30 AM
“We will need to see a bill of sale for all three boxes of Sagrada Lucia’s.” said the rather officious looking customs official, glancing over his pince-nez.
Almost a week into their northern journey, the Leviathan’s Bane had surfaced to take on supplies and was stopped at a routine customs inspection. Captain Quinn would normally have passed through without incident, however the Sagrada Lucia’s had sent officials running. One box alone was enough to raise suspicions of illegality, three boxes were unheard of.
“But they were a gift.” explained Emerson again, “surely there must be a way we can negotiate an understanding.”
The painfully scrupulous customs officer chose to ignore Emerson’s subtle offer of a bribe. “There are procedures, but they will take a week to put into place. We must contact by wire the original owner of the cigars before we can let you depart.”
“But I must be in New Babbage by next Friday.”
“Then leave the cigars and you are free to depart.”
Saturday, November 5th, 7:00 PM
“Keep the cigars… lose the bet, lose the cigars… win the bet.” said Emerson.
“But what do you really lose if you don’t make it to New Babbage by next Friday?” Captain Quinn asked. He and Emerson were sitting in the storeroom of the Leviathan’s Bane awaiting the return of the customs official. “So you pay for your Chivas like you always did. It’s not like you’re actually losing anything at all. You still pulled off a remarkable feat and you have three boxes of the rarest and most expensive cigars ever rolled. But if you give them up just to get back within the time constraints of your wager… you may technically win your bet, but you’ve really lost because the whole point was to get these cigars.”
“Your right, I don’t have anything to ‘lose’ if I lose. But somebody else does.” Emerson thought about Arnold as his eyes absently wandered over the storeroom shelves lined with mason jars containing all manner of preserves. “What’s that?” he asked pointing to a large jar. “It looks a bit like pickled air-kraken.”
“Aye laddie,” replied Captain Quinn, “you have a good eye. It is indeed the pickled air-kraken, made from my dear sainted granny’s own family recipe.”
Friday, November 11, 11:55 PM
Through his dream he heard a friendly but concerned voice calling him back. “Emerson, wake-up!”
Am I still in the rubber dingy? His face and chest hurt. He had fallen not just once, but twice against the pier. Captain Quinn had loaned him the Leviathan’s Bane escape dingy in order that he might row the last two miles into port and claim the seven means of transportation as required in the terms of the wager. However, in his haste to disembark (after placing the carefully wrapped painting and the half-gallon jar of pickled air-kraken tentacle tips onto the pier) he had slipped, cracking his nose and glasses against the iron ladder leading up from the water.
Dazed and confused, he tried again. Clearly not one to learn from his past mistakes, the dingy shot out from under his feet throwing him again with sudden force into the iron ladder, this time leaving him with a nasty bloody lip as he slipped beneath the water’s surface… I think I’m drowning, he thought as he sank. What irony… to have come all this way, only to die falling out of a rubber dingy, practically on my own doorstep. Yet, somehow he managed to find the ladder. With great effort, he climbed to the pier where he collapsed next to the painting and the pickles…
“Emerson!” Sky called, “Emerson, wake-up!”
Saturday, November 12, 12:20 AM
“So let me get this straight,” said Sky, “You fought off highway bandits, defeated a troll, outran the town of Bump, shot down a pirate ship…”
“Slew a sea monster,” reminded Emerson.
“Overthrew a corrupt drug-financed dictatorship?” questioned Scottie.
“Yes.” stated Emerson matter of factly, “and outwitted an ancient and horrid monster that had us paralyzed in a magical enchantment.” He looked over at Sky, “I also rode a horse.”
“Now you are just making things up.” she said with a wink.
Emerson started to laugh, then winced in pain.
“You should know,” said Scottie, “there’s been a guy hanging around town asking a lot of questions about you lately.”
“Sun-glasses-at-night type, nice hair, sour breath?” asked Emerson.
“That would be him.” said Sky.
Emerson nodded, but didn’t offer any explanation.
“Listen, Wheatstone is a long way off and it’s late.” said Scottie. “Why don’t you crash at Cuff’s tonight. I’m sure we can find a blanket and pillow somewhere.”
“That would be…” Emerson paused as he was hit with a shot of emotion. He nodded with a sincere smile, “…that would be really nice and really appreciated, thanks.”
Scottie and Sky helped Emerson to his feet. Sky took the portrait, still double-wrapped in Captain Quinn’s whale intestines, while Scottie, with a slight look of disgust, picked up the mason jar.
“It is my birthday today.” said Emerson.
“Really? Happy Birthday!” said Sky. “Do you like strawberries… I’ll have Scottie bake you a Birthday pie.”
“Pie?” repeated Emerson. “I’m kind of a cake guy actually… caramel, with a butterscotch drizzle instead of icing… one candle is fine.”
“That does sound good.” said Scottie, “I’ll show you where the kitchen is and you can get right on that.” All three laughed as they made their way down the street.
“Welcome home Emerson.”
(( Thanks Sky, Scottie, and Martin Malus for all the fun with this one. Thanks also for everyone who took the time to read this adventure. I read every single comment, usually more than once, and appreciated each one))