Chapter 1: The Sea and the Port
Location: Barnacles' Bar, Seaport
Timeline: early evening
As the light leeched out of the sky, Theristis realized with a start that he'd been in his room for almost six hours straight doing nothing but reading. "That won't do," he told himself. "I ought to get some food or something."
So he descended the rickety staircase from the bedroom he'd rented for the moment down into the hall. It was a good hall, he felt. Big and loud and full of the smells of cooking, the sounds of people talking merrily or arguing. Everything, in fact, that a great big hall should be.
Scanning the crowd for an empty table, he found he could not find one. Checking his pocket watch with some dismay, he noticed that, yes, indeed, this was the dinner hour. No wonder. He'd come right smack in the middle of the rush.
There was a table with only one person at it, though. A skinny man, who had a nautical look about him. He made his way over to the table. The man looked familiar...had Theory seen him before? As he was considering the question, he said, "Excuse me, do you mind if I sit - Oh! You're with that ship that's looking for a crew!" Theory beamed, having placed the face, though he still couldn't remember where he'd seen the man himself before.
He added, "Are you taking passengers?"
Chops McGinty stared up at the stranger with unusually wide eyes. He didn't like being away from the Steamhawke like this even if it was just for a couple of hours. The old man was already starting to feel a bit funny in the head. Images washed through his mind of what could be going wrong in his absence. McGinty could just see that grubby little girl with her coal-covered fingers, making a mess of the equipment in the hold. "NO!" he shouted suddenly, loud enough to quieten the raucous chatter in the bar.
All eyes were on the crazy old man who seemed to realise again where he was. "I mean..." he spluttered at the stranger. "Yes!" he was trying to rectify the situation and quickly stood up and grinned at the man with a mouth full of rotten teeth. After clearing his throat for slightly too long he began his prepared speech.
"Whether it's advemture yer lookin' for or be it treasure yer seekin', the Steamhawke's the place to be. Excitememt every day, guaramteed! Sign up today!"
But then he looked the man up and down and stroked his wild grey beard, and his frown returned. "But you dom't look like no pirate t' me. Too well dressed fer one thing. But what did you say? Passenger?"
"Ah, yes, indeed," Theory said, eying the man in some alarm. "I'm looking for transportation on a skyship- I can pay. Are you all right? I'm quite sorry if I disturbed you." He briefly considered trying to find another place to sit and forgetting the whole idea, but the opportunity was just too great. Actually running into a crewmember of a ship, right there? It was too convenient to think of passing by.
McGinty was scratching his head and looking curiously at the stranger. "You'll have t' make a deal with the Cap'm. Stranger things have happened at sky that a pirate ship takin' passengers on board. But the Steamhawke's no passenger liner mister fancy pants. It might not be the kind of luxury yer used to. And we'll be gettin' into trouble more's than likely! Are ye sure you've thought this through?"
"I'm positive," said Theory, firmly. "There are certain circumstances present upon a pirate ship that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else. I'm an alchemist, you see. I wish to travel and to study at the same time. And, well, as to trouble...very little has happened to me that is in any way exciting. I'm rather looking forward to it." He stood up as straight as possible, in order to make himself look both older and more aware of the ways of the world, and added, "I have thought it through, I assure you."
"Aye, alright then. If yer've got the coin then there's a cabin with yer name on it." Chops glanced at the timepiece on the wall, his eyes growing wide again. By the position of the brass balls rotating around the centre he could tell it was already 5 o'clock. "You come with me fancy pants, I'm heading back t' the ship. The Cap'm will be expecting me."