Teysa's visit with Uncle has concluded productively, and she is returning from the mansion district to the city center. She says farewell to the ancient solifuge golem Pazapatru who guards the bridge, but as she steps off its edge and her messenger thrulls approach, something ripples. She trips on her bad leg and briefly loses sight of her surroundings.
Not taking a tour seems like a very wise decision.
"Indeed. Lead the way."
As they walk to the engine, the Captain explains, "We're likely headed to the House of Rods and Chains on business next. It's bad manners to leave someone stranded without recourse but I admit to a bit of apprehension regarding your... Friends. On the other hand, Pan is a place where truth telling could be worth the fare and more, if I had some collateral or similar to hold on to."
"A fair concern. They can't go against my orders, and they could stay in a crate with cargo if you'd prefer, if that's reassuring. For collateral... I imagine zinos aren't worth face value here, but the metals are still good."
"Metal is metal. Silver? Gold? You don't mind if I do some tests with scales."
"Electrum, gold, and platinum. I assume you'll want to test the gold." She digs into her purse by feel, pulling out gold coins worth about a week's wages for a common laborer, or the minimum five-minute bill for herself.
"Two weeks' wages are fifteen, twenty Sovereigns. Or thereabouts."
The Bearded Captain shows her into a small cabinoffice and does various things to the coins.
"...These are worth thirty five Sovereigns by weight in total. Thirty, for the inconvenience, and my passenger fare direct to Pan is thirty in this case."
"Gold's especially rare here, I take it? Then I suppose I don't need to work my way. Any conditions you generally require?"
"Common sense? I'm not going to pry into your affairs but no fell shrines, no murder, no stargazing, and the creatures get a cage for the duration unless they evince signs of being people. Oh, wait, if you have any papers from the shattered library, we can't have those aboard. They attract scrive-spinsters."
"Stargazing, hmm? Not known to be dangerous where I'm from. I'll avoid it. How much in the way of signs do you want - they're more people than a clever dog, though less than a particularly stupid elemental or ogre. Bephel can talk, but if I let him he never stops asking for permission to kill."
"Sounds like critters. It's a spectrum, for sure, but we're not exactly nuanced philosophers out here. If you're not concerned for their comfort I'm not. And yes, the light of stars is bad for sanity. Hence all the stained glass. Are you from Earth?"
"Rather further than that, I expect. But from the name, that's somewhere where sky is only found above you, so probably more similar to there than here. Ravnica is an city that covers its whole planet. And there isn't anything like this," she gestures to the clouds both above and below them, "anywhere on the plane. We'd know."
"Hmph. I try not to get too involved in Powers' games... At any rate, even Old London and Paris and New York barely covered an island or two. I don't suppose you have a landscape handy? Either way, welcome to the High Wilderness, and to the Steady Haul. Let's show you the passenger cabin."
"I doubt anyone's actively involved. One of the ten guilds of Ravnica is the Izzet, who engage in quite a lot of extremely wild experimentation. Traveling planes is supposed to be impossible, but if they accidentally accomplished the impossible, don't have any idea of what they've done, and will never manage to repeat it, that wouldn't even be the first time this year."
"Reassuring to hear that they're far away from me, then."
He has a crewman fetch a sturdy wooden crate for the Thrulls, then shows her through cramped corridors with exposed piping, past a drab galley, to a cabin with enough room to stand up in and a fold-out bunk above a small chest (empty), with a steel radiator and a porthole and another fold-out desk with a chair.
"It'll do, thank you. Can I get to the cargo from here? The thrulls can't complain, but I'll rest easier knowing where to retrieve them if someone turns violent."
"It's just to the rear, between the engineering space and here. I'll make sure it's labeled. Do they need food? Anything to take care of before we set off? We leave within the hour."
"Not much, and slops will do. I'm ready to leave at your convenience."
The preparations for flight are straightforward. Crew bustle about, inspecting the exterior and moving things around. Dinner is some sort of stew with purple vegetables and unfamiliar meat, with optional cheap booze. The Captain gives a short speech about how this ought to be a straightforward trip to Pan, and they'll get shore leave at Pan!
And then they're off. The engine floats through the sky mysteriously, driven forward by the power of coal and steam. A steady chugging noise and the groans and cracks of pipes expanding. The frost invades her porthole, but the radiator keeps it at bay. It'll be a few days. She's welcome to play cards and gossip with the crew, though they treat her all deferentially.
She'll drink lightly, and play cards - she loses on purpose to try to put them at ease, especially if they're making bets, though she bets conservatively (even by their standards, after the first couple hands - she's not going to be wealthy here and should get used to it). When it comes up, she asks about superstitions and stories - she suspects she's short a lot of common knowledge, and she's never met a traveler who didn't like tall tales.
When in her cabin, she dredges up long-unused training for sensing the flow of mana. It may take a lot of trying, and she's not sure how stingy she'll have to be.
They're betting pennies, tiny fractions of a Sovereign. And chores and favors when those aren't sufficient. They gossip about old friends and lovers, and places they've seen, and gawk at her a bit, treating her deferentially due to the nice clothes and probably-having-mysterious-powers. There's a lot of sky-lore to share, she's clearly getting bits and pieces only.
They gripe about cleaning the pipes in the narrow spaces, and talk in hushed tones about star-madness symptoms and how rest, comfort, and home alleviate them. They speak of Hours, 'crystallized time'. Valuable and often-used in Albion, it seems, but rare as hen's teeth out here. Of Devils who can only be trusted for cheap coal, scrive-spinsters lashing out at everyone, Douser engines who seek to bring darkness and anarchy, the semi-anarchy of Pan's many competing factions, the Crossroads that dot Eleutheria and have fey-like rules about debt and politeness. Judgements and the Correspondence mentioned only in hushed whispers- Not to be messed with lightly.
One of them makes regular sacrifices to the Waste-Waif, throwing some of his food out the hatch, to the consternation of others at the chill this allows in. But they don't say anything, or stop him.
"Devils with coal, huh? What do they look like? Ravnica's devils are... short, big horns, scaly, stupid, leave a trail of murder, fire, and property crimes anywhere they go."
"No, devils're dapper things. Polite, civilized, will absolutely knife you in the back if you trust them. Really concerned with souls. They can taste altruism and cruelty in the heart and stuff."
"Golden eyes and the smell of sulfur. That's how you tell a Devil. They buy them. Souls, I mean. For a desperate sort, it can seem worth it. I'm rather fond of mine."
"Hell only knows - heh - what they do with 'em, but they insist they don't actually eat souls. You see them on display in their offices and stuff."
"I heard they have engines that burn souls. They can make yours better, make you a better person. Carillon."
"That always sounded like something stupid rich folks do for a fad, like aquapressure or whatever stupid thing it was-"
"Well it's a real place. If the Devils can bilk rich folks, more power to 'em."
"You wouldn't believe the things ours go for. Daily ooze-bandages that are supposed to make you "attuned to the universe", ordering an angel-golem with the looks of a woman two centuries dead, made to order from pieces of a hundred corpses and animated by five mind-mages trying to pick up what you expect her to do, buy a whole mountain and strip everything down to the ruins to 'experience nature'..."
"I was a guard for this guy once, long story, and he met with an admiral or something who talked about how all his cabinets were made of genuine Senior Scrivener wood. Imagine wanting your fucking cabinets made of a thinking being."
"Yeah. It reminds me of the Bazaar buying love stories, all kinds, every-"
"Bad luck to talk about the Bazaar up here."
"Or the Mausoleum."
"Yeah, that place is ridiculous. Traitor Empress kills her husband in the first fucking place, then turns a whole mountain into one titanic tomb. What the fuck?"
"Well, damn, you've mentioned it and made me curious. Is it safe to ask about the - marketplace - in port?"