The Merryweather is an outdated sky ship by most standards, having the elongated "zeppelin" envelope design and sails, yet rarely having an air mage to provide the propulsion to justify such features. The hanging gondola "sea-vessel"-style undercarriage would be an open invitation to winged boarders, according to modern air combat specialists, as well. But, somehow this ship still gets by, with patches, replacements and scars here and there as souvenirs of the scrapes it has survived so far.
The Merryweather is currently grounded in the worst possible docks available in Fauxpas, the capitol city of Gallis, in the Mongrel Quarter. The rotten and partially collapsed walkways might as well just be leveled, in order to give the airship a nice flat spot to sit on, and some ground to hammer pegs and string securing lines from. However, the Merryweather tends to do business in less-than-well-equipped ports, and it has its own gangplank for boarding, as well as a loading platform that lowers down from the deck.
It's a bit of an adventure getting back to the Merryweather by nightfall, but Willow manages to do it, with an Irish Setter/German Shepherd mix mutt by the name of Copy. The beggar is quite blind, as his eyes have been gouged out. Even though he may not be the best at fending for himself, he still proved to be at least a little useful on the way back, steering Willow away from a few "troublesome" areas. (Though, truth be told, he could have just as easily been putting on some sort of act to win points with the rat. There's no telling just how dangerous it would have been if Willow would have ignored the advice.)
Once Willow hobbles back up the gangplank with help from her Titanian-made cane, she finds that she wasn't the only one who ran into trouble. A couple of crew members are laid out on the deck a Rhian and a Khatta and it doesn't take much to figure out that they've already expired. Several more spot bandages sloppily applied in just the sort of way that Burr would do, indicating that the cheetah must have been pressed into service in Willow's absence. (Somebody must have assumed that the big cheetah would have learned something by virtue of being owned by a healer.)
Whitehead, a disagreeable-looking white Skreek, sits over near the railing, loudly chittering to anyone who will listen. "I say, it's a stroke of bad luck, it is! And I say, our luck was never this bad before that Willow signed on board. He's cursed, I tell ya Why, iffen you don't believe me, just look at his face! He's got the mark of Dagh on his face, I tell ya!"
"Where's Willow?" barks the captain. "That good-for-nothing slave Burr is an idiot. And where's Towel-Head?" He then lets loose with a near steady stream of curses at just about everyone and everything he can think of, as he rampages back and forth across the deck.
A Rhian limps aboard, and whinnies, "Hey … I heard this rich poodle fellow saying he's looking for a Skreek with a cast on one arm and one foot. And he's offering a gold."
Several conversations and complaints stop, and several eyes fall upon Willow.
"You shouldn't claim a little fur tattoo is the mark of some demon, Whitehead, unless you're just jealous that the eye above it happens to work… or did you lose yours while trying to do one for yourself?" She glares into each of the crew's faces in turn before finally looking back to the captain. "You sent me out to find business, remember? I've been following your orders, and this useless rat might have bagged you a meeting with the guy in charge of Mongrel Town. This is Copy; he knows someone with some contacts. I'll let you talk to him while I patch up who I can."
Nobody says anything immediately, though Whitehead's ears flush He evidently didn't realize that Willow was within earshot, and he'd never be the sort to be brave enough to make such accusations with her present … unless there was someone else bigger and louder making the same accusations along with him, that is.
The captain holds out a hand. "Hold on a moment. Do you know what happened to Towel-Head? Nobody can find him."
Copy, meanwhile, finds a crate to sit on, looking quite comfortable, and oblivious to any tension in the air.
"He might be dead for all I know, or on his way back now. I was jumped by probably the same folks that hit the other folks here, and fought back. The poodle probably just wants payback for his racing buddy considering that he didn't even have the decency to let us land in anything better than a filth hole, and probably didn't see us as anything more than fair game before this, I say he can take a flying leap." She kneels down next to the most gravely wounded person on the deck and gets to work. "He returned the favor for me saving his life in Titania by saving mine."
The captain simmers, but Barnacle wing-elbows him. The crow points at the dog. This reminds the captain, and he asks, "So … who's this fellow, then?"
"Burr… get me the blue kit in my office, along with as much gauze and thread as you can. Also the orange bottle of coagulant." Willow swallows and angles her head back to the Jupani. "This is Copy. Testy saved his life too, and got him to agree to help us get into a meeting with Suprier le Chien." She switches to Gallisian and barks at the blind mongrel, "So who is this friend of yours and how do we meet up with him?"
The mutt whurfs back, "'Friend' isn't exactly the word. Though if there's money involved, he'll be friend enough. Pierre the Poodle is his name, and not his breed. His shop is over … oh … thataway… " He points into empty space. "But I can lead you there."
Burr sprints back to the deck, bringing with him a blue kit, a bundle of bandaging supplies, and an orange bottle. A quick check shows that it's the correct orange bottle. Burr may not be a doctor, and he may have been hit on the head a few too many times, but he's not a total idiot.
"And how much will Pierre cost us to be our friend? You think some iron fresh from Abaddon might earn us the honor of his friendship?" She takes the bottles up from the cheetah and signs, "Keep your eyes open for Testament-Blaze. I'm hoping he'll find his way back here." She then starts to work on her numerous patients.
"That should do the trick," agrees the mutt with a nod.
Burr nods as well, then straightens up, keeping an eye beyond the edge of the deck.
Willow drops back into Standard, "Copy here knows someone by the name of Pierre who can get us in touch with Suprier le Chien if you pay him enough. Considering that the iron glut doesn't look to have hit this place, I'm sure that you have the means." She glances back at the other crew members. "Unless you've gotten any other leads?"
Willow is met with a couple of shrugs, a few blank looks, and a few averted gazes. "No," answers Captain Merryweather. "That would be the best lead we've gotten so far. And at the cost of two dead and several wounded, I sincerely hope it pays off. The iron ripple has reached here, but it seems that Gallis is waging war on Sylvania … so there's still quite a market for iron. Maybe Towel-Head's armor, too… " the wolf trails off, pondering.
"I want his helmet. You're not selling that." Willow frowns. "If he's dead, then it's all I have to remember the only person who ever bothered to try and save my life when they didn't have to." She moves to a less-wounded Khatta and starts cleaning out his wounds and doing what she can to stop the bleeding. "You've been getting a free laborer since Titania without wasting extra food or pay on him, and he hasn't complained once. I'd say that's worth a bit as well."
Captain Merryweather frowns. "If … if this pays off. Then I'll consider it. I'll make that decision myself." He storms off, not giving Willow a fair chance to respond to him without having to shout after him.
The gray rat shakes her head and looks back at the crew behind her. "So who here was jumped by a bunch of purebreds in carts and who was jumped by street thugs? A cart pulled by Selonas specifically."
A few hands go up.
Of course, they don't nicely and conveniently divide into groups. This isn't that well trained a mob.
"The selona cart's gone, as well as the driver. I convinced his lizards to run into a building instead of me. You can bask in revenge if you want." She pulls herself up and looks around for another patient. "As for the street thugs, quite a few of them lost some limbs under the wheels of the carriages. If any of you think of turning me over to that poodle, then you should keep that in mind. We're all mongrels to these folks, and every good mongrel knows that the best way to deal with the pampered hand that tries to push you down to die quietly, is to snap at it. It's why we're here and not filing papers or hauling garbage on Rephidim. Think whatever you want of me, but I've patched up half of you and I'll probably get to the other half before we're done. And I've never done a bad job. Nobody can accuse Foxfire of that."
"Well, that's all fine," says one of the Rhians, "but you shoulda made that speech before Whitehead ran off to ra er … tell on you."
Captain Merryweather stops in mid-storm, and throws a sharp glare at the Rhian. "He did what?"
"BURR! Get him… NOW!" Willow barks out to the cheetah. "Use those legs of yours and RUN!"
The cheetah darts off in hot pursuit of the one-eyed rat.
"Stupid Skreek. Like he'll ever see that gold. He'll be lucky to end up with his one good eye left in his head." She wipes some spilled antiseptic from her hands. "The moron probably thinks he'll get more girls if he gets rid of me."
"Actually, he said that very thing," whinnies the horse, Hammerhead. He grins amusedly.
Willow rolls her eyes. "Well… I'll make sure he gets a girl when Burr drags him back. just not in the way he plans. It's about time I stopped this stupid game anyhow." She drops back to Gallisian, "Hey Copy… so when can we meet this Pierre fellow, and do you know anything besides money that might impress him? Or better to think of, anything that might tick him off?"
Copy ponders this. "Well, about now would be a good time. Bet he's not getting that much business right now … though he ought to get some in a bit, once the looters get past the guard with the pieces they pried off of that wagon. He's a fence, you see. And as for impressing him … well, he fancies himself being a poodle. Flattery will do good. And constantly reminding him of the obvious is the best way to get him upset."
A golden flash rushes past, holding a white struggling rat under one arm. It doesn't stop at the Merryweather, for some reason.
"Captain, Copy says now would be a good time to… oops!" The moment the flash reaches Willow's eyes, she drops to the deck of the ship. She's been chased enough in her life to know what someone being chased looks like, and also has a pretty good idea that the folks chasing after the cheetah are people that she doesn't want to be seen by right now.
A Drokar gallops past. "Come back! You must be that big idiot brute the rat owns, yes? I wish to employ your owner… " His voice trails off, along with the sound of the passing Drokar.
"Hmm," comments the mutt. "You know, that sounded almost like the Marquis. Or someone close enough that they start to mimic the way he yaps. Probably the latter, since he doesn't get out much, and I didn't hear the pitter-patter of guards in his wake."
Several dogs run past the Merryweather, accompanied by another couple of Drokars and riders.
After the Drokar passes, the Skreek struggles back to her feet. "Great. You'd think that they never lost folks in their carriage races before. Well, Copy, can you lead us there? And how poodle-like is this Pierre? Think he might be impressed by zolk or some nice smelling herbs for his fur?"
"Oooooo," says Copy, faking a primpish voice. He flops his hand limply and says, "Oh, he'd just die for that." He then snorts and covers his mouth, nodding as he wheeze-laughs.
"Should we bring mostly Jupani and Gallahs like Suprier le Chien prefers?" Willow brushes herself off and cautiously eyes the area outside the deck. ( C'mon Burr… you know how to lose folks. You can maneuver into tighter places than the Drokar and can outrun those doggies any day. Heh, and there's all sorts of garbage and junk for you to use in that weird way you have of fighting. )
Copy nods. "That'd be best. No Khattas."
Presently, it looks like there are no more guards or lackeys hanging around the dock near the Merryweather. As for Burr … well, there's no sign of him, either. It could be that he's led his pursuers a good distance away from the Merryweather before trying to shake them.
"Captain, as I was saying get some crew together and Copy here will introduce us to someone who can hopefully get us in with Suprier le Chien. No Khattas, and only Jupani and Gallahs if you have enough in the crew to spare. Give me half a moment while I raid my herb stores for something that might make for a presentable fake perfume. And I'll see if Misty has any cloth left from Abu Dhabi." Willow hobbles off to her office. "Back in two tail-shakes. I should go as well, unless you have someone else that can speak Gallisian here."
Pierre the Poodle's Pawn Palace
Decorated in Neo-Classical Early Salvage style, this wannabe "chateau" in the Mongrel Quarter is an eyesore collection of lame attempts at "fashion", with cobbled together bits of debris salvaged from the castaways of the well-to-do, combined with garish attempts at avant-garde paint-work. Inside, shelves are lined with items of questionable value, and dubious legality. Jewelry, weapons, a few small items of furniture, most in less-than-pristine condition.
Captain Merryweather approaches the back door of the store, with Willow close behind him, as well as their guide, Copy the mongrel. For backup, a couple of Jupanis and a bull-terrier-who-knows-what mutt crossbreed crew member follow along. (The Jupanis have made some artistic smudges on their fur to look a little less purebred.)
"This is it," barks Copy. He then leans up to the back door, and knocks an odd rhythm on it.
Willow pats a bottle of makeshift perfume she put together in her offices: a mixture of mint extracts and citrus oils with a few herbs and some glycerin to water it down. She always thought it smelled pleasant at least. "All set, Cap. I'll keep my ears perked for trouble."
A wooden panel slides open in the door, and a nose pokes through, sniffing. "Copy? You pathetic hollow-eyed imbecile mutt! What are you doing back? I … mmm … what is that fragrance? Oh, that is so sweet!"
"Some traders and their lowly Skreek servant who wish to make new friends," Willow squeaks, waving the bottle in front of the panel. "I know how unpleasant it is to deal with filthy rats such as myself, so I thought it would be best if I offered a gift on behalf of my master, so you would not be so disturbed by my odor." The sweet pathetic rat routine is nothing new to her. She used it quite a few times to get shekels from the tourists back in Himar. Bah, how she hated those days.
A few fingers poke through the hole, fumbling at the bottle, but not able to grab it. "One moment," replies the voice on the other side … and then several latches are undone and bolts slid away. The door opens, revealing a very powdered mutt in a poodle cut who might have some actual poodle blood in him, but there's enough color showing under the powder here and there to betray the fact that he has spots. "Come in! Come in! And what is the name of this fine fragrance?"
"Foxfire," the rat chitters. "Very rare perfume indeed. There are only two bottles in existence on this whole continent, I'm led to believe." ( Or leastwise I only have enough herbs left to make one more bottle. )
"Foxfire," repeats the not-poodle, absently leading the party into his shop. "Well, well! To what do I owe the pleasure of doing business with you this fine day?"
Captain Merryweather sniffs at the air curiously, and finds some scent to be disagreeable. Considering the poor state of the shop, and the over-abundance of perfumes in here, it's probably not one particular scent, but a poor mixture of them all.
Willow looks to the Jupani captain. "I think we've made a good impression. He liked the bottle." She drops back into Gallisian. "My esteemed captain and his crew wish to do some trading here in town. We'd been told by the fine gentleman here that you could get us into touch with someone by the name of Suprier le Chien, whom we could perhaps do business with. Surely a magnificent purebred such as yourself must know of this person?"
The not-poodle's tail wags at the overt flattery. "Oh … but of course!" he replies. "Why, I know him intimately! We're the best of friends. Why, just the other day, he was telling me, 'Pierre, I need more good friends like you.' And I just had to say, 'Oh, Suprier le Chien, you flatterer, you! You're so silly!'"
Copy turns toward a statue and coughs.
"Pierre knows Suprier le Chien intimately," the Skreek says with a grin that looks rather strained. Her naked tail wags weakly back and forth like a happy Gallah's would, before she turns her attentions back on the 'poodle'. "So could you arrange a meeting for us? We'd be ever so grateful. I have a shirt that's the latest rage in Abu Dhabi, in exchange for your help, and my captain might even be able to get you the second bottle of that perfume."
"A second bottle? Oh! Yes, that would be so … Oh! A meeting? You mean … with Suprier le Chien?" asks Pierre, his tail suddenly wagging a little less.
Willow digs a shirt from a bundle at her side and holds it out. It's a drab brown, but still zolk. "In Abu Dhabi, they're trying to imitate the colors in nature as the latest styles. This color is called 'sparkling sands of the crystal desert against the caramel rays of the fading sun'. Those Abu Dhabians can be a wordy lot. So could you arrange it for us? Please? We have iron from Abaddon, and a few fineries left from Chronotopia as well."
It's amazing what poetry can do for drab brown. Especially when the lighting is poor. "Oooo. Oh … I mustn't. I simply mustn't. Dear Suprier le Chien would be so upset with me. He might punish me. But … " He gazes at the shirt longingly. "If you insist!"
"Oh thank you, most noble of all poodles! Thank you so much!" Willow carefully folds the shirt up and hands it to Pierre before looking back to the Captain. "The meeting's on."