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Old 11-10-2004, 04:08 PM   #223
The Perilous Poet
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Heart of the matter
Posts: 1,096
Rimbaud has just left Hobbiton.
Deep water: Shrimp on the Horizon

These thoughts and more rushed like greased rabbits down a glacier through Soregum’s mind as he went to stand at the bow, ever looking forward. ‘Onwards and upwards’, as their newly met fresh-faced rodent chum was prone to mutter. Something took his attention then.

“A bird! A big white bird!” he shouted.

“Arrr!” said Kuruharan, approaching absent-mindedly, desperately scanning the nearby deck. He was a coin short after the affair with the melodious monster.

“Perhaps it’s an albatross,” suggested Vogonwe, more usefully as he neared. The Itship gathered around them, leaving the crew peering round ropes and halyards to look at them. By now, they were all looking at the darting white shape, swooping below the dark clouds and riding the strong winds.

“A bit small, really,” said Pimpi, doubtfully. “I thought albatrosses were the big ones.”

“Bad luck, anyway,” muttered Oragarn Two.

“Aye,” said Vogonwe, readying an arrow.

“No!” cried Kuruharan. “It’s only bad if you harm them.”

“Oh. Well how do you know?”

“It’s a long story,” said the merchant. “I heard it from this wizened sailor in a pub, a few years back. Ayn Chunt Marrinar was his name. Fool shot one of these albatrosses, anyway. Next thing you know, some band had written a dirge about it that stayed at Number One for ages. Nightmare.”

“Frogmorton Mac,” nodded Orogarn Two. “I heard rumours. A nasty business.”

At this moment, they sailed into a patch of calm, and the winds slackened. As the waves fell away around them, they caught sight of the oddest boat on the horizon. Curved and carved at the bow and stern to resemble a giant shrimp, it had a full sail, but was barely long enough to be termed a ship. It looked fundamentally implausible, and certainly not sea-worthy, but it was making strong progress towards them. Through a gap in the cloud, sunbeams poured now, sparkling on the wave tops. The strange non-albatross swooped to seat itself on the rail of the ship, nearest Merisuwyniel. The pure white bird fixed her with an eye that can rather predictably be termed beady.

In fact, as Merisuwyniel gazed back at their new acquaintance, she realised that beady was a more apposite term than she could have imagined. One of the bird’s eyes was indeed a carved blue bead. Their feathered omen was only partially sighted! Peering closer, she saw a nametag around its snowy neck. Fetherfled the Unsteady… Curiouser and indeed, more curious.

As they sat, now becalmed, drying in the sun, they watched the progress of the shrimp-shaped vessel, as it tacked to and fro, almost comically awkward on the water, like a skittish water beetle approaching them. Their new avian pal said little, being a bird, but seemed cheerful enough.

The reason for his name was becoming apparent, as the decking below his new perch, was liberally strewn with thick white down. Yet the shedding seabird seemed to remain thickly feathered. Questions arose in Kuruharan’s mind, bubbling to the surface like a miasma of capitalism. A never ending supply of white feathers…Boy, would his cousin dwarves Bawlin and Snorin, with their dwarf bedding superstore be pleased with that…!

As she watched their would-be rescuer approach, Merisuwyniel felt her heart leap, like a limber young salmon with a sight of upstream water, into her mouth. They could make out a figure at the tiller. A tall, broad-shouldered familiar figure, with a thatch of what appeared to be Gormlessar hair. She gasped. It couldn’t be…? A rush of memory engulfed her, a feeling of intense exasperation, and astonishment at someone else’s stupidity…

Their hospitable captain now came forward with Mister Neemoi.

“Madam, should we let the vessel approach?” ventured the latter, levelly. “We could still outrun them, even with our increased warp factor.”

“Warp factor?” questioned Orogarn Two.

“Yes,” replied the taller, arching an eyebrow, then squinting in pain.

“Are you alright?” asked Merisuwyniel, a little too quickly for her own liking.

“Fine,” muttered Mister Neemoi, rubbing the eyebrow in question. “Cramp. Since we’ve been at sea, we’ve suffered some warping of the timbers. This affects our speed through the water. Through a complex system of mathematics, we’ve been able to calculate the exact effect of this ‘warp factor’ as we…”

Vogonwe, who had rather switched off after ‘complex’, shouted over him, “Too late now! Here it comes!!!”

And indeed, the other vessel was sliding alongside. All could see its name written in flaking pink paint below the rearing shrimp’s head at the bow. Their newly met seafarer was The Prawn Spreader.

They all pushed their questions to the back of their minds, as the other vessel nudged alongside and there was some rather haphazard rope throwing, tying and climbing that is frankly to tedious to record.

Nevertheless, the Shipborne-ship soon found themselves face to face with a shadow of the past.

“Halfullion!” gasped Merisuwyniel. “It can’t be!”

“Indeed, it cannot be,” interjected Mister Neemoi. “As you have told me, the well named Lord Gormlessar is dead. And if I remember rightly, he was a man of great beauty, whereas…”

And indeed it was so, as they looked. Although the unprepossessing man before them was of a stature with Lord Halfullion Gormlessar of The Gilded Scissor, and his hair was of the same remarkable teased colour, there the resemblance stopped. For he hunched, and he limped, as one leg was longer than the other; his hair was not the frankly mind-blowing follicle-ensemble that had been their privilege to witness astride their old companion, but an uneven straw-like thatch of tousled and knotted hair, unkempt from the wind and seawater.

His teeth, as he opened his mouth to talk to them, they noticed were slightly crooked. His voice, when he spoke, held not Halfullion’s timbre and tone. Moreover, there was a look of acuity in the grey eyes, which had been…missing from their deceased pal. Yet brothers they must be, and so it turned out.

“The half-half-elven Right Hon. Halfemption Gormlessar, son of Old Gumption Gormlessar IV, half-brother of the, admittedly self-titled, Bravest Half-Elf in the World Ever, Captain of The Prawn Spreader, at your service,” said the newcomer with an improbable number of clauses, bowing deeply, and ignoring Mister Neemoi’s slight. His voice held a slight quaver, yet despite this, there was a personality behind the words that Halfullion had lacked.

There was dead silence. This of course, wasn’t true, as the pedant in me points out. There was the sound of the wavelets lapping at the newly twinned hulls of the ships, the creaking of timbers, the slight flap of the sail, not to mention the breathing of a large assembled party, the shouts of the crew, and Kuruharan’s faint clinking as he resumed another hurried recount of his trouser-and-purse-held financial assets. Yet, in terms of direct speech between the immediate protagonists in this scene, there was a…lull for some time. It was only understandable really.

Eventually, Merisuwyniel came to her manners. “Dear sir,” she said. “Welcome to the Entish Surprise. We knew your brother well, and your appearance reminded us of him.” The It’snotaboat,it’sa-ship made their own introductions, but Gormlessar seemed not to be listening.

“Knew?” asked Halfemption. “My brother rarely has the politeness to cease accompanying people, if…” and he gestured to the motley group, “…they appear to be questing.”

Merisuwyniel swallowed. “Lord Gormlessar is…dead!” she squeaked.

Again, dead silence, (with qualifications).

Eventually – “Ah,” said the stranger. “Father will be devastated. He always preferred Halfie. You run off to fight the war, Halfie! You get the expensive haircut, Halfie! Your mother won’t miss that, Halfie, she doesn’t fit into it anyway. Et cetera, et cetera.” The Fellow/Gal-ship detected a note of bitterness.

“Are you not also a ‘Halfie’?” asked Pimpi, trying to brighten the mood.

“No, ‘fraid not,” said Halfemption. He sounded rather mournful. “The family called him Halfie, and so naturally called me Empty. I eventually got them to call me as I wished.”

“Which was?”

“Hal. And listen. If my brother died in the service of this Company, than I feel it is my obligation to succeed him and carry on his work. What help can I give you?”


“If you'll be my Company - I can be your long lost pal; I can call you Meri, and Meri when you call me - you can call me Hal,” quoth the Gormlessar man, with a grandiose flourish, if a little soft in the middle.

The quarter-elf noticed Kuruharan muttering to himself and rooting through his pockets.

“What do you think you’re doing, Kuru?” asked Hal, ominously.

“Ah!” said the Dwarf triumphantly, holding up his missing coin. “Two thousand and one!”

Last edited by Rimbaud; 11-11-2004 at 03:19 AM.
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