Wiggy Undertone’s pace quickened as he neared the port. His spirits lifted as he inhaled the salt-scented air deeply and heard the waves lapping at the dock piles. Turning the corner, he saw his destination. In fact, one could scarcely miss it. A vast wood ship tied to the far dock dwarfed the other vessels. Her dark hull, spattered with barnacles near the water line, rose high above the docks. Three tall masts from her decks raked the clouds. The name painted on her bow: The Ligeia.
A few moments later, Wiggy stood on the dock beside the vast hull. “‘Hoy on deck! A moment of your time?”
Wiggy Undertone paused, hands still cupped about his mouth, as his eyes searched the topside rail of the vast wood ship far above where he stood on the Port Babbage dock. His hail was shortly rewarded with the appearance of a figure in a heavy coat on the deck. The sailor leaned over the rail and looked down. He examined Wiggy with narrowed eyes set deep in a bronzed lined face.
“‘Hoy yourself. State your purpose.” said the sailor.
“I’ve received an order for wiggyfish from a vessel named The Ligeia.”
“Aye. This is Ligeia, and I am her first mate. Who be ye?”
“I am the proprietor of the Wiggyfish Cannery, and I’m here to discuss the order.”
The sailor’s weathered face split into a huge grin. He chuckled and said “Well, come aboard then Mr. proprietor!”
Wiggy walked up the steeply inclined ramp onto the large hardwood deck. Soon he stood face to face with the amiable man. Formal introductions were exchanged, and then Wiggy addressed the first mate:
“It says here the order is for five thousand pounds of wiggyfish.”
“Aye.” the sailor replied.
Wiggy’s brow furrowed. “Five thousand.”, he repeated.
“Pounds. Not cans, but pounds of fresh fish.”
“Please understand sir, that is a most unusual order for me. Would you not prefer canned fish? It keeps marvelously well, and is quite nutritious. I could…”
“We won’t be eating it.” the mate interrupted.
Wiggy’s brow furrowed even further, his forehead resembling a freshly plowed field. “May I ask, what do you want with all that wiggyfish then?”
“Bait.” replied the mate.
It was obvious from Wiggy’s expression that he was very confused. “Bait?”, Wiggy replied skeptically, “What fish requires five thousand pounds of bait?”
The first mate rocked back on his heels and motioned toward the expansive deck. “Know you not the purpose of this ship?”
Wiggy peered around the first mate’s shoulder and studied the topsides. The thick oak deck was worn, but scrubbed very clean. The Ligeia was a square rigged barque with three masts. Twin small airship gondolas rested in cradles on either side just abaft her mizzen mast. Thin shroud lines from the gondolas trailed down like lazy spiderwebs to folded gas envelopes that were ready to be inflated from nearby filler pipe and valves. The fragile gondolas are little more that open framework supporting a few seats and a powerful harpoon cannon.
Wiggy’s face lit up in sudden recognition. “Ah ha! This vessel fishes for Air Kraken! Does it not?”
“Aye! It does indeed!”, the first mate replied happily. “The Ligeia is the scourge of the leviathans! Are you a fisherman yourself?”
“I am. I have fished the Vernian for many years, and know it better than most.”
“Oh hoe now!”, the sailor jeered, “Next you’ll be telling the captain himself a better way to hunt the Kraken!”
Wiggy bristled. “I may not have fished for flying Kraken, but I do know boats. You were the one who inquired; I did not sound my own horn first!”
“Now, now. Calm yourself. I inquired because I am short a few hands. If ye be as handy as ye say, then there is a berth aboard. If ye be not sound of timber and weathery of eye, then never ye mind.” The first mate grinned as he spoke.
Wiggy grinned at the mate’s taunt and replied, “Hmmph. I can’t fathom why I would be so inclined to join the crew of such a rotten bucket.”
“Very wise of you! Who indeed would want to spend endless weeks on end bobbing about on a rolling sea under a broiling hot sun, only to leap to frantic action when the call goes up that the leviathans are spotted, and then when one of the great beasts are felled by a harpoon, to break your back cutting the beast up into strips, standing shoulder to shoulder on a slippery deck and knee deep in the oily flesh, slashing away for days at risk of life and limb from your fellow sailors who also slash away beside you, only to feed those strips into the boiling pots, choking and coughing from the thick black smoke, and then decant the resultant oil into barrels, store those hundreds of heavy barrels into the hold, scrub every inch of the deck clean, finally after days and nights without rest, to at last wash yourself free of the stench and grime, at long, long last laying your head on your hammock for much deserved rest, only to hear the call that the beasts have been spotted once again and to start the whole miserable business over again. Who indeed would be such a fool to burst his heart for such poor wages?”
“How much?” Wiggy asked.
“I’ll bring you on at one three-fiftieth of the total take. Not bad wages for a newcomer to Kraken fishing. What say you Wiggy fisherman? Will you sail with the Ligeia?”
Wiggy paused for several seconds. At last he said, “Aye. I’ll ship out with you.”
“Come inside and sign the papers then. Quick, before ye come to your senses!” Laughing, the two men walked toward the ship’s after cabin.
Emerging from the cabin a few minutes later, Wiggy shook hands with the mate and said, “I shall return home briefly to put my affairs in order and get my seabag.” Wiggy started down the gangplank.
“Don’t forget the wiggyfish!” called the mate after him.
[OOC] Wiggy’s typist will be traveling for several weeks on business and on vacation. Stay tuned for posts on Wiggy’s adventures at sea!