“Er,” Shyan says, looking to Cang for backup. “We don’t really know her name…”
“She’s got a retainer named Old Mossy,” Fassn adds. “His beard is like mine,” he says, brushing at the wiry grey hairs with his fingers.
“Petite grey creature,” Cang says. “Her people shoot darts from the shadows coated with poison.”
“And the poison gives you—” here Shyan catches herself, and course corrects, subtly, saying, “—gives you bad dreams.”
The flutist cocks and eyebrow. “Bad dreams?”
“Perhaps so,” says Shyan enigmatically.
“Doubt you could afford it, though,” adds Cang. He shifts in his seat enough that the jewels clink in his pocket.
“Well, we do better than we look,” says the flutist. She’s gaunt, though not excessively so, and in her eyes is the fire of a devout ascetic. “Where’s it from?”
“A little grey princess,” Fassn says with a grin. “Cang here took it right from her neck!” The glowing sphere bobs over to Cang’s shoulder as though to illustrate which of them he is.
“I would thank you not to name me,” Cang snarls.
“Royalty, eh?” says the flutist, leaning back in her chair. After a long draught of ale, she says, “Maybe we can do business after all.”
Cresting a frothy wave, Lionel B. Thretkaut salutes his crew. Black water spills into the boat, rising to the men’s knees. His forehead itching, LBT salutes again – a hasty, ill-formed thing hardly befitting the gravity of the situation – and cannonballs into the ocean’s freezing depths. He swims a few kilometres until he comes across an emissary from the Sea Queen, who guides him to her throne room.
The space around the throne is framed with undulating seaweed in a thousand different hues, and the Queen herself is flanked by liveried servants at parade rest. LBT prostrates himself and begs for the lives of his crew to be spared – “They’re but lowly dogs in your sight, O Sea Queen; show your infinite mercy by hastening their return from Your Storm, and I shall be forever your faithful consort.”
The Sea Queen shares a sneering glance with a servant at her right flipper and assents to LBT’s request. He’s shown to a cage of green copper and bends double to fit inside. Over the years he is never once sent for by the Sea Queen; nor is he ever, even once, certain that she did in fact let his crew live. LBT becomes quite skilled in meditation, and eventually wastes away due to a protein deficiency.