Jan 27, 2023 1:16 PM
The Agile Centenarian has a bet to win, and needs a ship to sail on
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The Centenarian (also called the Wandering Hunter when she's among Elders of the Continent) has made a bet with the Banded Prince, and now he has her ship until she wins it. But she can't win it without 'zailing' - as the Londoners insist on calling it, to her befuddled amusement - and she can't be a captain either. So she's wandering the docks of Port Carnelian, looking for a ship and crew that seem adventurous or interesting or both.

Not in much of a hurry, mind you. She has years. But nothing she's seen the last few days on the docks looked promising, and she's getting a little restless to be at sea again. Is there anything eye-catching today?

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Well, there is this one ship that just docked. She's got a couple painted eyes on the hull, both a forward and a deck gun (did the deck gun just swivel into a ready position on its own?), crates stacked up at the plank, and three interesting-looking people disembarking.

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There's a woman wearing a simple orange blouse and fitted trousers who appears to be made of wood, smiling gently and talking softly to the other two as they walk down to the dock together.

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There's a short girl with half pink and half brown hair, with a white streak in the pink side, wearing snug trousers and a dark brown leather bustier over a white blouse with puffed sleeves, gesturing animatedly in the conversation but seemingly silent, walking down with a spring in her step, the handle of a knife visible to a keen eye at her hip.

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And a young woman with dark, feathery wings, and hair the deep peligin of the zee, with streaks of cosmogone, irrigo, and viric. One of the irrigo streaks changes to cosmogone as she disembarks.

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Well, they certainly qualify. Hmm, how to approach?

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She waves from a bit down the dock. "Want any help unloading those, ladies? For an interesting bunch like you, no charge."

She looks maybe thirty, but very dark skin suggests that she's actually from the deep Elder Continent. She wears salt-beaten zailor's clothes and isn't obviously armed. From closer up, several faint scars, a wiry but muscular build, and what's probably a shoulder holster suggest she's a bit more dangerous than a first impression might think.

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The apparent captain turns and smiles at the Centenarian. "Awfully kind of you, stranger. We'd be glad for the help. We've fifty-eight crates to load onto carts and into the Sapphire Exchange. Speaking of which," she turns to the tricolor girl, "fetch two carts and a bill, love?"

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The Acrobat nods, bounces up to peck the Skipper on the lips, then flips backwards off the ramp, landing nimbly on the dockside and darting into town.

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The Skipper smiles after her as she goes, then turns back to the stranger. "I'm the Truthful Skipper, that was the Silent Acrobat, and this lovely lady is the Fierce Figurehead. Come on up and introduce yourself?"

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"Happy to! I'm usually the Agile Centenarian, currently between ships. The Figurehead of the 'Heart's Handbasket', I assume?"

She quietly sizes up the crates while they talk - no sense interrupting the conversation, but she's offered to do some work and it's polite to keep that somewhat visible.

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“Just so," she says with a smile. "Is that between state one you're looking to end?"

And she steps back aboard for a moment and picks up a crate with deceptive ease, carrying it down the ramp.

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"Well, I'm not in a rush. So I've been holding out for a crew that's interesting."

She'll grab a crate as well, it's not a huge effort.

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"Interesting, you say. Well, I suppose that's a threshold we reliably meet at least," she replies, grabbing one herself as well. "What are your strongest skills as a zailor?"

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Cockily, she says, "Well, I'm competent in everything, I was already a sailor before London brought their Zeds into it. But I'm a particularly good navigator, and I'm-"

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The hitch in her voice is short, and could almost go unnoticed, except that the cockiness vanishes and she's almost subdued when she continues, "-the best gunner I've met on the Zee."

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"Well," she says, a soft smile as she sets her box down, "that sounds like a capable fit. Is there anywhere in particular you're hoping to go? We have a usual route for when we're not up to anything interesting that takes us across most of the Zee, but we have business that can be done 'most everywhere except the surface."

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"A few places. I made a bet - get back with a frozen tear from Frostfound, Waswood from Irem, and a story from Scrimshander, and I get back my ship, with improvements. But I'm not in a rush."

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"Irem is a stop on our standard route, so that's easy enough, though I don't usually step into Parabola on the average visit. It—"

She pauses briefly, a contemplative, bittersweet smile on her face, irrigo and viric briefly replaced with cosmogone before her hair settles down to irrigo and apocyan streaks in her usual peligin.

"It could be nice to visit again. It's been a while."

She picks up another crate. "As for Frostfound, that's easy enough if we take our north route, perhaps hit Mount Palmerston on the way. I don't like visiting Scrimshander, though. I went once, and got away with leaving a feather, but it took three times as long to grow back."

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"Is Parabola where you got the excitable hair? I've never gone too deep, but I will have visited from Irem plenty of times. I've only seen Scrimshander from a distance, the Stone's Song can't go under the surface. Yet, at least, when I get her back she will."

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"No, my hair is an accident from the last time I got drunk, a few years ago."

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It's about then that the Silent Acrobat returns, pushing one cart ahead of her and pulling one behind. Each cart is wide enough for two crates and long enough for four, and the front cart has a carbon-duplicate form sitting on the flatbed with a tray of three iced coffees holding it down.

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"Welcome back, dear, and thanks for grabbing these," the Figurehead calls out, setting her second crate directly onto the empty cart and starting to stack the already-dropped ones on as well.

She turns to the Centenarian while grabbing the next one and asks, "Would you like an iced coffee? It's fine either way. These two can fight over the spare if not."

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"D---, what were you drinking?," she says with a giggle. "I'd love a coffee, thank you."

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The Acrobat passes out a coffee to the Skipper and the Centenarian, sips on one herself, and then sits on the empty cart and starts filling out the basic and obvious facts about their cargo on the form.

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"Absinthe," Skipper says with a giggle of her own, "but I doubt it has as much to do with what I was drinking as what I was working on at the time. Never get drunk while doing Red Science. Neathbow hair is among the better outcomes you can hope for there."

She sets her current crate down atop one of the first ones on the cart, then takes over with the form and adds a few more details to authorize the sale, then signs it.

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