The Winding Way
This fragile-looking airship drifts along, crewed mostly by the sturdy (if simple-minded) horse-like Rhians. The gas-filled envelope supporting it bears a symbol of the Golden Serpent, indicating its ownership by a segment of the Nagai Empire.
It is now nighttime, the airship continuing along its mostly northerly course … at least, when it can. What should not have been a terribly long trip has been delayed again and again by the unfavorable weather indigenous to this region. The ship has had to change course to avoid storms, and sometimes has even had to land and batten down to wait through bad weather it could not outpace or rise above. For now, though, the skies are mostly clear.
The moonless sky for Sinai has no moon is littered with a scattering of stars, and also the twinkling band of the Procession that stretches from horizon to horizon, east to west. The air is crisp and cool, the horse crewmembers' breath misting in clouds.
Fetiss pulls his cloak closer around himself. Being not too warm blooded he really needs the warming comfort of the fur trimmed clothing. He pulls the hood a little further in front of his head, to keep the wind out.
Bassai is standing on the deck, watching the pteras fly through the chill air. He has an extra long coat on over his usual robes, but is still feeling the temperature. Beside him stands Tekki, his fur ruffling in the wind, who is not as badly affected by all this.
Fenter ambles across the deck. His robes replaced with oversized clothing from the crew. The raccoon walk along, seemingly fascinated by his feet.
"I would ask the captain to fly lower, but he iss already burdened with too many course changes." The archeologist hisses, perhaps just to hear himself speak. His eyes are not as shiny as usual, but still sharp. "Fenter! Mind the edge."
Fetiss slides along the middle of the ship. Feeling a little airsick himself. Being more used to the firm ground under his belly.
"Oh piffle. I've never fallen off of an airship yet. And if I do I'm sure that the pteras will eat me before I fall too far." The raccoon responds, still transfixed by his feet. ( Wow… I can see them! )
Tekki looks over the railing at the rolling hills, and the occasional spots of light that appear in breaks in the wispy clouds, indicating settlements far below. As the clouds part some more, he looks forward and to the side to watch the cluster of lights that spread out like a glittering, jeweled necklace on crumpled velvet, mostly clustered in a small place a city, a fortification, surrounded by outlying farms and homesteads.
Fetiss pulls the hood of his cloak even tighter around his head. Not so much for the cold, but rather for the fact that he do not want anyone to see his eyes, slightly unfocused by his dizziness. Knowing that showing a weakness can prove fatal.
"Cities are very beautiful from the air, I wonder which one that is." The archeologist hisses, then looks around the deck. "Navigator! What are we passsing by?"
The reptilian pteras shriek and cry as they weave about, their movements tugging the airship forward, the jolts being considerably diminished by the shock-absorbing frameworks of the craft, so that it's only a light bob on the deck. A horse looks up from his station at Bassai's call, whinnying, "We are over Gallis."
Fenter walks to the edge of the deck and peers down over the rail.
As he glances around, Bassai notices the other Naga, standing near the middle of the deck, and also heavily bundled. "Interessting. I thought only the chef was from home." He hisses, then replies more loudly to the Rhian, "Thank you." The archeologist slithers towards the unknown Naga.
Fetiss rises his head and observes the one of his kin approaching. Tasting the air to see if it reveals anything of importance to him.
Fenter pulls a piece of crumpled paper out of his pocket and chunks it over the side at one of the lighted villages. He has a very small chance of hitting someone, but it still feels good.
"Greetings" He says as he nears Fetiss, also flicking out his tongue. "My name is Bassai, I did not anticipate seeing another Naga besidess the chef for this trip. Who are you?"
Fetiss crosses his arms over his chest and bows to the other Naga. Then realizes his hood shrouds his vision completely. But takes care of that by pretending to waving away some imaginary bug from his nose. Not leaving Bassai unwatched for long.
Tekki looks up, hearing his master's voice. The cheetah slave pads across the deck, standing quietly behind Bassai.
"Greetingss yoursself." is the hissing reply, in a somewhat more crude dialect of the common language. "I wass told my ssch'illss wass needed for ch'iss travel. I am Fetiss, a healer and ssurgeon by trade."
The horse navigator grumbles, looking at some instruments. He looks up at the inflated envelope suspending the ship. "Hydrogen's getting low," he mutters under his breath.
Fetiss then blinks and flicks his tongue, asking "Hssach'ssaa?"
"Bless you!" Fenter says, smiling.
Fetiss arcs his head backwards and asks "Ch'assai ch'assissi ssach'a?"
The archeologist returns the bow, but a shallower one than the first Naga offered. He unfolds his arms and slides them into the folds of his cloak as he finishes his bow. "Ah yess, I did request one. I did not anticipate a healer from the empire. I trust your skills include Savanites and Rhians."
The Rhian navigator whinnies to some of the other crewmembers, then turns toward Bassai. "Honorable Bassai, we must go to the city for supplies." He points in the direction of the lights.
The Rath’ani groans something under his breath.
Fetiss eyes Fenter and says "I would lich'e to assch' you to honor our languach', if I may."
Bassai nods to Fetiss, replying in the Naga native tongue, "I am ussed to converssing in Rephidim sstandard, as I so rarely have someone who would undersstand a civilized language around. To ansswer your quesstion, low hydrogen means the ship iss less bouyant, and there will be delayss."
Fetiss asks Bassai in the hissing tongue of the Naga "Doess thiss mean we have to land?"
Fetiss continues "And to ansswer your previouss ch'uesstion. Yess, I am sskilled in helping other rach'ess ass well."
Bassai nods the Rhian, "Yess, I understand. It would be nice to see Gallis, it iss so rare for me now to be in a strange city."
"We're landing in Fleaufille." Fenter says, still groaning.
Fetiss glances over to the edge of the ship, hoping to see some more ground than he have before.
The Archeologist nods, flicking out his tongue, "That is good, I do not wissh any fatal accidents on this expedition." He looks around to check for his Savanite.
"I hope they have good bromthen pate' in Fleaufille." Fenter remarks as he peers over the edge of the ship.
The ship slowly descends, breaking through the thin wispy sheet of clouds, making the ground somewhat more visible, except for the fact that it is still night, and the light of the Procession is dim enough to only offer varying degrees of shadow dotted by the occasional light.
Tekki stands near Bassai, looking to him for direction.
"Fetch me something warm to drink Tekki, this cold is effecting me." Bassai hisses, flicking out his tongue.
Arcing backwards, Fetiss looks around and says "I musst ssai. I prefer ch'iss sside of the ch'loudss."
The Winding Way continues to glide over the rolling hills, the pteras pulling the craft ever more swiftly forward … or perhaps that is just how it seems, as the ground is not so far away now not that the ship is suddenly descending so much as there is a noticeable rise in the elevation of the ground, mountains visible far beyond.
Tekki bows, and rushes belowdecks to do his master's bidding.
Bassai says, "I have found both travel and the arrival at destinationss to be equally enjoyable."
Fetiss leans a little closer to Bassai and whispers something, in the tongue of the Naga to him.
Fenter windmills his arms as the ground looms closer. He staggers back from the decks just a bit.
Turning his head this way and that Fetiss sees how the ground comes closer. He flicks his tongue a little more rapidly, showing that he is a little nervous.
Fenter walks to one of the horses working on the ship. "So, how many crashes have you been in?"
By the time Tekki comes back abovedecks, the ship is already sailing over the outskirts of the settlements surrounding Fleaufille. The city itself is fairly small, walled, though it has since grown enough that the buildings have spilled outward, encroaching upon the nearer farmlands. The Rhians whinny to each other and to the pteras, and the large winged reptiloids draw the craft toward a large tower of complex construction, with several tiered platforms.
The archeologist stands, wrapped in his robes and cloak, watching the airship approach the tiered platform. He takes the drink from his slave and sips it, as the docks draw near.
Not envious of Bassai's drink, due to an upset stomach, Fetiss sliders a little backwards and observes the workings of the airship, as he suspects the tension will grow as quickly as the ground approaches.
Bassai beckons Fenter, waving him over, and as part of the gesture signs, "Is he secured?".
The pteras spread out as the ship slows, and at last the Rhians pull a number of large pegs from the framework at the front of the craft, and the flying reptiles are released, soaring off in different directions, while the craft glides forward slowly on its own momentum, and the horses cast mooring lines downward. A bellowing horn alerts those in the tower to the craft's arrival, and firepots mark the place where the craft is coming to a stop.
Fenter wrings his hands and sidles up to Bassai. "Yes. Lashed him up to my bed along with lots of things to paint with. But… er… "
Trying to keep out of everyone’s way Fetiss looks at the running of an airship, finding it quite intriguing indeed.
"Continue" Bassai signs, slipping close to Fenter so his robes conceal both his gestures and the replies. He watches as the ship slides towards its berth, "There may be a sudden jolt, be ready."
"He does has a reputation for extracting himself, you know." Fenter finally signs.
A number of canines on the platforms secure the mooring lines, then operate a crank that pulls the ship down toward the platform, close enough that the loading ramps can touch down without being fully extended.
Fetiss looks around for something to hold on to.
The ship jolts violently.
Fenter staggers forward as the ship jolts. "Aieeeeee! We're crashing!" he squeals.
The ringneck Naga grabs the back of Fenter's cloak, keeping him upright.
Fetiss rolls forwards softly, letting his upper body slowly get used to the new speed.
The raccoon looks nervously back at Bassai. "Thank you. Have we crashed yet?"
Some canines below the ship make loud exchanges with the Rhians, establishing the identity of the ship and its intended destination.
Sliding over to Bassai, Fetiss asks "Sso, have we arrived yet? Or do we have to wait furch'er?"
"We have successsfully docked. The Nagai Empire does not run substandard airshipss, there iss no reason for you to doubt the crew." Bassai hisses, watching them work. "We may be allowed a short sojurn while the ship replenishess."
The platform is one of many on the oddly-built tower, which looks something like a fortress keep that was added onto several times over, the styles a bit mismatched, as if each builder decided to start anew with what decor was proper with each addition.
"Our destination is further north, surgeon. This iss merely a stopover to refill the hydrogen sac." The archeologist hisses, taking another sip of his drink. He looks at Tekki and flicks out his tongue a few times.
Fenter points toward the city. "Out THERE? But it's… it's… sooooo FLEAUFILLE out there!"
With a flutter of wings, someone or something alights on the deck, and begins twittering a greeting.
Fenter ducks behind Bassai.
Bassai looks at the new arrival
Fetiss rolls over to one side, away from the flying creature.
Fenter says, "Um… mister Bassai. Would you like me to translate what he just said for you?"
Fetiss hisses sharply and says "I would like ch'at!" his voice sharp as well.
"Yess, if you understand it Fenter." The ringneck replies.
The flying creature, standing now on the deck, looks like a humanoid with faintly avian features, the most noticeable being a pair of feathered wings sprouting out from his back, and a bird-like head. As for the rest of him, it's buried in an especially frilly and lacy outfit, topped with a ridiculously oversized hat that must be secured somehow, or else it would have fallen off during the avian's flight. A train of peacock feathers flows out from behind the bird. It's a Kujaku. A heavily perfumed and powder-wigged Kujaku with a beauty mark on his beak.
Fenter steps out from behind Bassai and clears his throat. "Ahem… he says Hello, he's heard of us, and he's never seen a Naga before."
Fetiss hisses "How appropriate. I have never sseen ani of hiss kind eich'ter." eyeing the Kujaku suspiciously.
The Kujaku smiles, bowing to the snakes, then twitters something again in that cheery tongue of his.
Fetiss slides the rest of his body backwards, so that he puts some more distance between him and the Kujaku. Not turning away from it.
The archeologist bows to the Kujaku, and says to Fenter, "Please transslate this for me. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. My kind do not often travel so far north; I am not surprised to hear you have never met us."
Fenter quickly chirps something eagerly in response, then catches himself. "Er… he's inviting us to be guests for dinner at his estate."
The raccoon chreeps a few notes to the Kujaku, translating the Naga's words.
"I accept his invitation, we are overwhelmed by his generosity." Bassai says, "Please ask him how many may attend, we have a few more on board who might wish to experience some of Gallis' culture."
The Kujaku, still grinning, nods to the Nagas and Rath'ani, twitters some more, and proceeds to strut down the loading ramp, back down to the platform.
Fetiss opens and closes his mouth in a very lizardlike fashion as he says "I believe I will not ssare the, birdss, invitation. I will retire down below, if my sservich'e aren't needed here."
Bassai nods to the other Naga, "I believe your servicess will not be needed, I trusst their chefs to not poison us. I will see you later then Surgeon."
Fetiss's head hangs a little lower then usual, as he again moves his jaws. He waves a hand to Bassai in a whatevermotion, as he disappears down below.
Some time later, at the estate of the wealthy Kujaku, his guests are seated at a long table, laden with culinary delights.
The Kujaku is a fairly thin creature though he seems to eat well enough. He never seems to actually EAT anything, just twitter on constantly. He is attended by canines of various breeds, and his wife a Kujaku as well (and also with a peacock train, unlike the Terran equivalent), is in a voluminous gown, though she hasn't much volume to fill it.
Fenter looks greedily over the huge repast. ( I haven't seen this much food since I snuck into the faculty picnic! ) HE blinks as he hears one of the birds speak and elbows Bassai. "The marquis says that if there's anything you want that isn't on the table, just tell the chefs."
Bassai sits on a chair and coiled around it. He has removed his cloak, and is feeling much more comfortable in the heated building. He looks over the offerings, he would prefer something alive, but is willing to sample culinary delights of other cultures. His tongue flicks out, as he tries to decide.
Fenter snatches up rather large portions of whatever he can get his hands on. He picks up a large slice of… well… some kind of meat and opens his mouth to stuff it in.
The ringneck replies, "Tell him that is not necessary, I am already overwhelmed by this display, and wish to enjoy what he feels is the best Gallis has to offer."
The Kujaku starts twittering something just as Fenter's about to dig into the meat.
Fenter sits there, food dangling inches from his mouth as he looks between the snake and the Kujaku. He withdraws his prize and squawks Bassai's words to the Marquis, then says to Bassai, "The marquis wants to know where the ship is going."
Fenter opens his mouth again, preparing to tuck into his steak.
The peacock grins, twittering happily, gesturing toward some of the paintings and statues adorning the walls.
The Naga gazes back at Fenter. "We are going north, to catalogue some of the tribal carvings of the Vykarin. It is part of the Nagai Empire's preservation of primitive cultures."
As the meal goes on, the gray saluki chef brings in more fanciful entrees. For the Kujakus, there is a dish comprised of roasted seeds coated in an orange glaze with flecks of red peppers, shaped into a 'flower'. The meat portions served to individual guests are small but intricately carved and shaped, slathered with gravies, with numerous colorful vegetables on the side, so that one almost feels that one is eating a work of art.
The flop-eared canine chef looks haughtily down upon his servants as the common collies scurry back and forth. "Not so quickly be smooth, be graceful," he urges. "Our guests are refined people; they do not desire to eat food which has been sloshed about as crudely as if it were served by an ordinary mutt."
Bassai samples each dish in front of him, especially enjoying the meat. The vegetables he finds interesting. The presentation reminds him of some of Kame's food paintings, and in fact, some of that artist's actual originals decorate the dining hall.
The raccoon groans as he puts another pause on his bite. "The Marquis says he likes to learn about the outside world and collect treasures from it. He says he's an archeologist too." As he talks, he looks forlornly to the piece of meat dangling from his fork.
A cheetah suddenly dashes into the room, then skids to a halt, sliding against the wall to keep out of the way of the servants. Tekki looks over to Bassai, his shoulders slumping, then resumes looking about the room frantically.
"Indeed I… " Bassai is interrupted by his slave's arrival, "Rotted Eggs, something must be wrong. What is it Tekki?"
The Marquis looks surprised at the cheetah's entrance, then smiles and twitters something as cheery and unintelligible as the rest of his speeches.
A pretty sheepdog serving girl stops near Bassai and pours wine for him, a pretty white liquor to go with the cherry-red glazed fowl which has been decorated with 'wings' of some soft fluffy white bread, stained by glazes to give the semblance of feathers.
"The Marquis is inviting Tekki to join us." Fenter says boredly as he twirls his uneaten meat around on the end of his fork.
Tekki looks to Bassai, tail wiggling frantically.
Fenter takes the interruption as a chance to tuck into his meal. He bends his fork toward his face and BITES down.
The Naga seems incredibly disturbed by his slave's presence, "Tell the Marquis I accept his invitation, but I must instruct the Savanite on some basic manners first." He rises from his seat, and slithers towards Tekki.
"OWOWOWOWOWOwwwwwww!" the raccoon squeals.
Tekki's head lowers, and his tail sinks, as he moves closer toward Bassai, looking dejected and penitent.
The Marquis gives Fenter a most puzzled look. His wife makes an "Oh dear!" expression.
"Where?" The Naga signs, as he approaches the slave, and takes him aside to the wall. "What happened?"
Fenter rubs his mouth and tries to spear one of the little fowls with his fork instead.
Tekki signs to Bassai, "Somehow … He must have gotten through the porthole!" He relates this with wide eyes, surely fully realizing just how preposterous this sounds.
The gray saluki chef looks at Fenter after his little speech on refinement. The insides of his ears turn white. He mumbles something incoherent, then goes directly to the kitchen as other servants look mildly scandalized.
The Kujaku twitters something to Fenter, sounding concerned.
"It was impolite of you to come. The Marquis has generously offered you a place at the table, but you should not have pressumed." Bassai hisses, as he signs, "You should have stayed in the room with him. That Savanite! He makes me appreciate how well behaved you are. No matter. What to do now… "
A dish of sauce that was near Fenter seems to have emptied itself somehow. Perhaps the raccoon is hungrier than he realizes.
The Naga continues to instruct Tekki on basic manners in a low tone, as he signs, "Ignore what I am saying, I would speak directly to you, but I am not sure they don't understand Rephidim. You did not see him around the docks?"
Fenter chirps something back, a grimacing smile plastered onto his face as he brings the speared fowl to his lips.
Tekki slowly shakes his head in response to Bassai's query.
Serving girls bring in more dishes; tiny steaks cooked so finely that they melt in the mouth, cut to form the shapes of animals, next to piles of wild rice with cut vegetables suggesting flowers. A collie maid leans over Fenter's shoulder to pour red wine into a fresh glass and take away the glass from the last course.
Out of the corner of his eye … one of the little fowls appears to Fenter to move on its own, near the edge of the table, on the side opposite of the collie maid.
Bassai switches to Imperial for the last bit of instruction. A frightening series of hisses which can only be dire warnings of the consequences of disobeying his orders again; In actual fact the Naga is saying, "Well Tekki, you might as well enjoy the meal. It would be rude of me to leave early, and I don't want you to get lost searching for Kame. If we are fortunate, he may return on his own!"
Fenter squints at the bird, He picks up his glass of wine, downs it in one drink and goes back to watching it.
Tekki nods solemnly, and waits for Bassai to return to his seat before he dares slip into one of the empty chairs.
Somebody taps on Fenter's shoulder.
Fenter spins around to look in the direction of the shouldertap.
Nobody is there!
The Naga progresses back to his place, and takes a seat. He hisses to Fenter, "Tell the Marquis my assisstant will be joining us, and I am grateful he has extended his invitation so widely."
Fenter shrugs and turns around to bite a chunk from his cooked bird. He teeth clack proudly as he bites into thin air. He just sits there looking at his fork for awhile with a blank stare before translating Bassai's words. ( I think I know why these birdies are so thin now! )
Tekki only timidly samples at some of the foods.
Fenter barks something to one of the chefs, pointing to his plate.
A sheepdog maid gasps at Fenter's request. Her eyes roll up, and she swoons, falling backward.
Bassai waves at his slave, "Eat up. He will be insulted otherwise."
Tekki watches the falling sheepdog, but obediently crams his face full of randomly-selected food.
The Naga looks at the raccoon, "What did you just tell her, and why are you behaving so strangely?"
"Hmph." The raccoon mumbles and stabs at the closest piece of food available.
The Marquis, alarmed by the maid's fainting spell, stands up, twittering questions at Fenter.
Fenter says, "I just asked for dessert, Mister Bassai. And my food keeps being eaten without my consent."
The lower half of the peacock's attire is covered with brightly-swirling patterns … a regular work of art.
Bassai widens his eyes, examining his translator as he swallows a piece of artistically formed meat. "Try not to confuse our hosts too much." The archeologist watches carefully.
The wife of the Marquis gasps, and she stands up … revealing designs just as impressive painted across her dress. She gasps, and swoons, falling backward. Then she stops, as her husband is still just standing there. She clears her throat.
The Marquis leaps over just in time to catch his falling wife.
Fenter carefully places his fork down, rests his hands on the table and pushes himself up in a standing position.
Bassai looks at the familiar patterns, their medium, and their location. He lifts up the edge of the tablecloth beside him, and looks beneath it. "I have a suspicion."
What a perfect match! Fenter's lower body is covered with brightly-colored patterns.
Lifting up the tablecloth reveals not much of anything … except that, somehow, Bassai has escaped similar decoration.
Fenter doesn't seem the slightest bit suprised. He sits back down and loads a few more items onto his plate, intent on eating SOMETHING tonight.
The Naga is inwardly satisfied at that gesture towards his dignity, and leans to see what, or who, might be hidden beneath the table, "If you are under there Kame, please come out and join us."
The peacocks shuffle out of the dining room, the Marquis twittering orders to the maids. As soon as they're gone … the seat right next to Tekki becomes occupied with a fairly self-satisfied-looking cheetah. His ears wiggle.
Fenter drinks another glassful of wine, twittering cheerfully at nobody in particular.
Tekki lifts up the tablecloth, looking at his own legs. He lets out a sigh of relief, and goes back to eating his dinner.
Bassai lets go of the tablecloth and bows to the artist, and then to the host. "Fenter, please translate. Marquis, I would like to introduce the famed Savanite artist Kame Ikata. I see you already posses some of his more permanent works. You will forgive him some of his extravagances, it is the artistic temperament he was born with."
"I think they're going to throw us out now!" Fenter says merrily as he drinks his third glass of wine.
The Marquis, not having benefit of Fenter's translation, heads on out with his wife. The servants look quite at a loss as to how to react. Some of them start picking up plates.
"Fenter, would you translate," the Naga hisses. "I fear we are making an unfavorable impression."
"Have made, would perhaps be more correct." Bassai says, watching them leave.
Fenter drinks a forth glass and begins making a bunch of high pitched squeaking noises, loudly.
A couple of the canines yowl painfully, a couple dropping expensive dining ware and retreating to the kitchen!
The raccoon swipes up a bottle of the wine and tucks his plate under his arm. "I think dinner is over." he hiccups and stands.
The archeologist flicks out his tongue. "Very well, we should leave, and I will have to send my apologies." He slides from his seat, "Tekki, finish what you're eating and bring some if you wish, no need to let it go to waste."
Tekki gobbles down a bit more, as he was just starting to get a taste for this, and sheepishly stuffs a few morsels into his pockets.
Fenter picks up as many of the remaining fowls as he can and crams a few handfuls of finger sandwiches and bread into his own pockets. He pauses with one piece of bread, wipes it against the sauce on his shirt and munches on it as he staggers out the door.
Bassai turns to Kame, "I understand your mind is broken, but you have disgraced us. I don't know how much you understand, but I am disappointed that I was not able to discuss my work with our host, and in your behavior. If you had not been so wild, your actions would have been more easily forgiven."
The Naga waves at the raccoon and the two Savanites, "It is all smashed eggs at this point, let us go before the authorities are summoned."
Some time later, back at the Winding Way, Tekki diligently makes sure that Kame Ikata is extra-secure, while the others find their places on the resupplied airship. Leaving the glittering city of Fleaufille behind, the craft jogs on a northeastern course, toward the distant Vykarin Wastes.