Have I mentioned that I despise ships. More accurately, I despise being on a ship. They make me ill. This trip was not as bad as some I have been on, but then again, the weather was calm (I am not sure this is typical of the Caspian Sea during Shal). Also, this ship is a sturdy one, and her crew shows confidence in operating her.
We boarded The Westering Moon, settled our gear into the two berths (I called them ‘rooms’ and got chastised, silly men and their toys – always naming things. I think it is a control issue). We then took a couple of hours to resupply for our journey. Smriti was in dire need of some new clothes, as all of hers had been destroyed the night before by the savage elf’s destructive carelessness at the Tricalista. I must say it was a joy to be out shopping again. I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.
While shopping on this small island called Midpier, our notice was drawn to a very unusual ship. It was airborne. It floated in the air, and had a crew rowing her, but instead of oars, their efforts propelled the ship forward. What kept it aloft is a mystery to me. It took a long time to approach and land, for it was moved at a snail’s pace – a flying snail I guess. It bore sails as well as the apparatus in the aft of the thing, which was attached to its rudder. We never saw it land or dock, for by then we were well on our way south, into the Caspian.
Other than my feeling a bit green during the first day, the long days have passed in fairly dull fashion. We made a stop at a backwards, isolated city by the name of Catanzaro. I was eager to stretch my legs, so I convinced our little band to come shopping with me. How they still wanted to stay aboard that tightly-built ship is beyond me. Caution can be confused for cowardice.
Never the coward I, however. So out we went. It was fun. The most amusing part of that outing was a streetwalker who approached Dorak of all people. I didn’t know dwarves could blush, but I swear he did. He refused her, which was not unexpected. I think our young Ignatius’ interest was piqued, though. I saw the sly glances he took toward the prostitute. I am guessing the boy hasn’t had much in the way of… exposure… to women. I may need to see to his education before this is all said and done. He is not an unattractive man, even if he is but an acorn of a man.
Another day’s sailing found us at Athenopolis. The colossal stature of Hephaestaus is truly beautiful at sunset. I had never seen it at that time of day, from the bay. Breathtaking.
I wish we could have stayed, or at least been able to go ashore, for I miss the grand bazaar and open markets of Ceramicus… and the Forum – oh, don’t get me started. But of course, we never left the ship, which stayed anchored in the Harbor of Paerus. I could tell the weather had turned for the better – the spring merchant ships were lined up like so many fat ducks, riding low in the waters, and the queue to pass through the gate and into the harbor itself was fairly long in both directions.
It became apparent to us, that at our current rate of travel – one day travel, another with the captain trading in the port cities – that I would never make it to the Temple high on Mt. Artemisus before the changeover from the Dionysians to the Apolloites. Smriti, bless her heart, brought it up first, and her concern for me showed plainly. I like her. Of them all, I think she and I could actually become friends. Although now that she has shaved her head, which I am still not used to, I don’t know that I’d really be comfortable in her company in a social situation. I guess, however, that there would be less attention paid her, which leaves it all for me.
Our conversation with tall Captain Sveinsson went much better than I anticipated. He has been commissioned to escort us, by the High King himself, and when we told him of our time deadline, he had no problems with accelerating our journey. So in the end, we did not stop for any extended periods of time in the port cities along the way – so far. The downside to this arrangement is that we are not making it onto shore at all now. Did I mention my disdain for ships? Ugh! Also, if I have to listen to Kumori play that twangy stringed-thing for much longer, I may jump overboard just for the relief. Its not that he is a bad player. Its just the instrument itself is grinding on the nerves, and there seems to be no melody whatsoever to the tunes. Now, I am no musician, but it seems to me that if your are going to take up an instrument, you’d play something pleasant. I suppose that where he comes from, that sort of music is considered pleasant, but not to me.
Over the next few days, we harbored or anchored at Bxaron, an unusual city-state who had laws against burning torches or lanterns during certain phases of the moons. It was a curiously dark city at night, but I found it almost fascinating. Luckily, being aboard the ship, were were not under the jurisdiction of the local law, and were able to keep our lamps burning. I could only imagine all those sailor stumbling around on a pitch-dark ship. Not to mention all the gropes us ladies would get. So far, the captain’s word has held true. The sailors have not touched us, even if I have been repeatedly violated by their eyes. I say this, the two Phthian guardsmen are certainly pleasing on the eye. I could see the three of us… ahh but I should stop this line of thought before I get myself in trouble. I’m just saying…
I’ve never been to Imperlus, on the Isle of Aethea. Still haven’t. I’ve heard about the Staois gardens there, and the legends say that dew collected from the Argondiva flower’s petals, when sipped precisely at dawn, will add ten years to one’s lifespan. The rumor also says that they charge folks an inordinate amount of money to enter the gardens before dawn, which only follows. Yet another place I will have to wait to see.
On our way to Syros, we ran amiss of three pirate vessels. Again, our northman captain and ‘Papa’, his helmsman, saved the day with their strategy and sailing skills. We outmaneuvered the lot of them, running one of them onto a hidden reef that the captain miraculously remembered being in these waters. Hermes luck was with us that day. Or perhaps it was Poseidon’s blessing. Dorak surprised me when earlier in the journey, he produced a very nice spear and sacrificed it into the depths of Poseidon’s waters, in the Lord of the Seas’ name. It never hurts to respect the gods (particularly in their digs), and I suspect that sacrifice went a long ways toward our so-far peaceful journey.
We now are anchored in Decelea harbor. It is the 26th of Shal. We have one more day’s travel to Icus, which is famed for the nearby Temple of Health, or asclepieion. It is said that this was the site where Asclepius healed the ancient hero, Kallidrates, after he defeated Diodotos at the Battle of the Wells. The temple is renowned for its infestation of beneficial snakes, favored of Asclepius, and considered holy.
Perhaps on my way back from the Temple of Dionysus, if I make it in time, I can stop by the Temple of Health. I have carried around this healing spirit for so long, I feel a very strong bond with it. It is only fitting I pay homage to Asclepius for blessing me with the touch of healing for as long as I have had it. Yes, much as I don’t like snakes, I think I must make that pilgrimage. Ships, snakes… all we need now are spiders and my life will be truly miserable.
After disembarking at Icus, we have a very long journey. We will forge on, to Eleon, through what I have heard is a truly breathtaking series of valleys, along side the pristine waters of the River Nereida. Eleon is known for its ruins, and ancient grave site on a nearby hill. Dead people don’t really do it for me, too many restless spirits, I guess. Iz’Alma might like it, though. She seems morbid that way.
More to come. I know that most of this is of little interest to you, but you get the trivial alongside the juicy stuff. Unfortunately, the juice is scarce. I think that this group might just disappoint you in the long run.