Morning light tiptoes as quietly as mice over the decks of the port where the familiar chemical smells of hydrogen and gasbags drift. A steady breeze comes from the edge of Rephidim, laced with earth tones from the bared rock beneath the flying island, and great repair docks reach out over the edge to berth the larger battleships and freighters over vertigo-inducing drops interrupted only by wide-spread cargo nets. Creaky wooden stairs lead down from the smaller land-grounded bays to the dusty flat where less expensive airships float in port. Flags and sails of all colors fill the air, announcing their allegiances to the world. At this hour, workmen stretch and yawn as they amble to their posts and merchants bellow at sailors over cargo being transferred.
The Wench of Babel waits in port, just a few minor bits of trim being done here and there to finish up the refurbishing of the sleek and spidery black vessel. Modifications have been made to bring the ship up to current standards, such as bringing the gondola up to hug the underside of the envelope more closely, and to enclose the bulk of the deck.
While this might in some minds detract from the romance of the "sailing vessel" style of gondola built like a sea ship hanging from a balloon this affords more protection for the crew from enemies and elements, and makes the deck much easier to defend against boarders.
After all, while some airships are indeed seaworthy, should the envelope fail over the ocean, the same is not quite the case with most Babelite designs. In fact, the undercarriage sports a number of strange spires and spikes that radiate outward, mostly on the horizontal plane, giving the ship a vaguely insectoid appearance.
(Purportedly, these constructions have some obscure import to mages, should the captain ever hire an Air Mage to propel the ship, or a Shadow Mage to conceal it.)
While a new day finds the captain overseeing what work remains, a Drokar-drawn carriage rolls up to the gangplank. A red-coated Kavi coachman hops down from his seat, then rushes over to set some wooden steps in front of the door in the side of the carriage. He opens up the door, and helps out a noble-looking Saluki male. The Saluki steps out, then adjusts a monocle in one eye as he scrutinizes the ex-Babelite airship before him. He nods approvingly, then begins to stride right up the gangplank.
"Hullo! Captain! Permission to board? I am Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, and I have a proposition to make," the dog barks out as he strolls along, accompanied by a Kavi servant and a Savanite slave.
Standing on the deck near the plank, a satisfied-looking Kensington stops in middle of nit-picking and kibitzing on the refurbishing of his vessel to turn around. The sight of the coach and its finery causes him some small measure of surprise, but in fair spirits, he nods genially. "Aye, granted… Welcome aboard th' Wench o' Babel. Captain Kensington St. Germain, atcher service. What kin I do fer ye?"
"I, Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire," the dog repeats, looking as if he really likes saying his own name for the sound of it, "have heard that you, sir, are a pirate."
Kensington leans on the ship's railing, and cackles. "Heh! Yell it fer th' whole shipyard ta hears, whydoncha? Aye, I been called that 'afores… but we be in regulated airspace, ye know. So I be preferrin' the term 'privateer', an' that were in th' service o' Chronotopia, durin' wartime."
"Ah … privateer, then. Well, a Chronotopian privateer, yes. Well, you see," says Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, "I hear that Chronotopian pirates er, privateers are very well-mannered. So, I would like to hire you to raid my airship."
The Korv nearly falls over the railing upon hearing this. "Ye wants me ta… " He stands upright a bit more, then rubs a wing-claw at the side of his head. "Sorry 'bout that, mate, but fer a second I thought ye said ye wanted me ta raid yer airship!"
Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, nods, smiling. "Yes, quite so! You see, we're having a party on my air yacht, and, well, some of my guests remember how exciting it was when those terrorists raided the ship of the Quartermaster Supreme, and I thought I'd try topping that … with some polite pirates, this time. No killing, please."
"Yer… yer serious, ain'tcha? I'll pluck Dagh's own nose hairs witta pair o' tweezers if ye ain't serious." The corsair looks incredulous, and grips the railing, leaning forward again. "Do ye know who ye be talkin' to? Ten years ago, I were th' most feared pirate o'er th' northern skies! Why, stout crewmen jumped o'erboard when they 'eard th' Cutlass were on th' way!"
"Really? Oh, that'd be just dandy. My guests will be so delighted!" says Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, clapping his hands joyfully, and wagging his tail.
A bobcat Khatta crew member, Rovert, wanders over, spitting a couple of beetle tacks out of his mouth, back into his hand. He leans against a post, perking his ears and listening in on the conversation.
Kensington looks astounded, not even noticing Rovert passing by. "But ye… don't ya… " he sputters for a moment, before collecting his thoughts a bit more. His beak grinds. "Lissen 'ere, lubber! We're shipmen, not showmen! It be a serious trade, an' we got some pride ta uphold!"
The Khatta butts in, "Ah … can we carry off your daughters?"
Without missing a beat, Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, replies, "Yes, but they have to be back before nine o' clock."
The Korv gapes. "Rovert! Yer not seriously thinkin' o' goin' along with this, are ye?!"
Rovert looks innocently back at Kensington. "And why not? Sounds like a golden opportunity to me. I've never gotten to carry off women-folk before."
"Tsk! Ye don't know what yer missing, lad. I… " The Korv pauses in mid-sentence, then claps his beak shut before starting anew. "I mean… 'ave some pride, Rovert!" He lifts a wing to the air, gesturing out at the broad expanse of sky, his head tipped back slightly to focus on some point in the distance. "We be airmen! Sailors o' the clouds! Fearless flying soldiers o' fortune what earn th' awe o' any poor land-bound slob what looks up from time ta time… "
"Oh! That's simply wonderful. You know all of the pirate jargon, don't you?" queries Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire. "I want my guests to have the full, authentic experience, after all. Which reminds me … can you do some walking off the plank? For winged guests only, naturally."
Kensington snorts haughtily! "Me dignity be worth more ta me than … silver!"
"How about gold, then?" offers Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire.
The Khatta looks hopefully in Kensington's direction.
This gives the Korv a moment's pause, and he stands there, rubbing the bottom of his beak. "Rovert… go ta me cabin an' brings me th' ledger."
The Khatta is gone in a flash!
"And, of course," adds Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, "part of your pay will be in booty gained from the guests. Why, if we paid you it all ahead of time, then I'd risk you robbing me blind without … robbing me blind! Oh! Ho ho! I do believe I just made a funny!"
Ternigan's Savanite slave and Kavi manservant politely applaud.
The Khatta dashes back. "Here you are, Captain. Oh, and these lines are in black, but that's only because we ran out of red ink."
Kensington drums his wing-claws on the railing impatiently, eyeing Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, until Rovert returns. Taking the ledger into his claws, he reads it over. "Hmmm… mm-hmm… docking fee… refurbishment… threat t'collect me next o' kin… well!" The book closes with a snap. "Ye be in luck, lubber. I 'appens ta thinks actin' be a fine tradition anna upstandin' occupation… if it be done well enough, o'course."
"Methinks it'd take someone o' me own dashin' and rugged good looks ta plays such a role right," the Korv adds, brushing his spiky crest over the back of his head.
"Well, don't call it acting," flutters the dog. "I, Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, would prefer to think of it as … just giving a little helping hand to fate and chance. I mean, after all, you are real pira privateers, are you not?"
Kensington fidgets, tilting his head to one side. "Aye, well… hmm. Th' Gallisians be on th' move again, ain't they?"
"Why, yes, I hear they are," replies Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire. "But we'll just be a little jog away from Rephidim. Shouldn't be anywhere near the trouble zones. Besides, Sylvania would be horrible to fly over this time of year."
"Oh! I almost forgot!" says Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, slapping his cheek. "Can we have a little bit of swashbuckling? No blood, though."
The corsair throws his wings into the air, rolling his eyes and sighing. "Aye, I be guessin' the lads know how ta swings from ropes an' wave swords 'round. We kins be makin' a party o' it. I wouldn't be much o' a pirate iffen I didn't takes advantage o' such a stu er… such a opportunity, aye? What's yer ship's register?"
"Oh! It's the Lady's Glove," says the dog. "Owned by Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire. That would be me."
"An' ye gots proof?" asks Kensington, folding his wings. "'Cause I ain't gonna be 'appy iffen ye 'ave yer fun, an' Rephidim tries ta stuffs th' Intimidator down me throat."
"Oh! Yes … that's what all the paperwork is for, now isn't it? Jeeves, would you be so kind?" barks Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, with a flip of his gloved hand. A writing quill is put in his hand, and the Kavi produces several sheets of paper covered with legalese, with a large "X" next to every spot to be signed.
The Khatta squints at the paper. "Ah … You'll have to read that, Captain. I'm not strong at letters."
Kensington glances the sheet over. "Hmm… mumble, mumble… Party o' the first part, 'ereby known as th' Victims secures blah, blah, blah… bah, I ain't a lawyer. I'll makes someone else be readin' it in due course. Let's skips t'the money!"
"Oh yes… " Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, flips a few pages. "Here we go." He points out a multi-digit figure in shekels. "Plus expenses," he points out.
The corsair's eyes widen slightly at the sum, and he whistles. "Well! I'd say ye earned th' wrath o' th' Cutlass!"
Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire looks slightly taken aback at the exclamation, then puts his hand to his breastbone. "Oh my! You are pleased, then? Or, shall we say, properly insulted? Or whatever?" He titters, dandy-like.
"Aye! We'll show ye a lootin' th' likes o' which ye never seen," laughs Kensington, reaching out a wing to give the canine a friendly jostling. "Me boys'll be just fine about not 'aving their blood spilled, methinks, so I be supposin' they ain't gonna miss roughin' nobody up much."
"Splendid, simply splendid! Now … we have to sign here, here, here, here … " Ternigan Troy Terano flips a page. "Here and here … oh, and don't forget to read this part carefully. Temple taxes, and all. And here and here and here. And this part here needs to be filled out so you can qualify for a tax break under the new regulations… " Ternigan Troy Terano, Esquire, rattles on at a kilometer a minute.
Not bothering to really keep up with the saluki, the Korv just scribbles his name wherever directed, too busy thinking about the financial boost that'll get his ship into the clouds. "The crew'll swallow a li'l playin' around fer their grog rations… what th' 'eck, could be fun!"