I haven’t posted here in ages, but my Altered Ego, the Ark, did a post over here
about sailing off the edge of the world and during a further conversation it brought this to mind.
From the fantasy novel, The Nine Amendments.
Undertaker, Isack Knewtun is having dinner with Captain Blithely. He is sailing to Sunniclimes….
Isack, who fastidiously avoided most things to do with the Church, didn’t seem to think excommunication sounded too bad until Captain Blithely explained that although they were only planning to throw him out of the church, it was the six-storey drop from the bell-tower that would have been the problem.
‘Ah, I see your point. What about the prayer and the circle thing?’
‘You prob’ly know that when the wardens mark you for excommunication they make the sign of a cross, like an ‘X’. Three crosses and that’s a strikeout. The sign of the circle, or nought, ‘spossed to counteract it. Mr. Winky’s little prayer is sort of forun. Means, Please keep me out the sh—’
‘I think I understand,’ Isack interjected. ‘We were talking about your brother, Captain.’
‘Oooaargh that we were. Well then. ‘Parrantly one of their lot had come a cropper while convertin’ the ‘eathens up in the jungles of Wethafkarwee. Are you familiar with the place in question, Mister Knewtun?’
‘I know of it, but have not visited the country.’ Isack’s idea of well-travelled was having visited all the cemeteries in and around Port o’ Bill.
‘Visited. Right. Doubt it’s the type of place you’d choose fer a visit. Those what ‘as visited, as it were, didn’t return to tell the tale, oooaaargh. In fact, none that I’m aware of even had chance to send a postcard.’
‘Yes, I had heard it to be rather foreboding.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t know nothing ‘bout bodin’, Mister Knewtun, I’m only a simple ship’s captain. What I do knows is that it is a very portentous place where they ‘ave very interestin’ culinary ‘abits. Sometimes involvin’ visitors.’ Blithely pulled on his pipe in a sagely manner and finished the draw with his familiar phrase.
‘Good gods, cannibals!’ Isack exclaimed. He was aghast.
‘Aye, caninballs, Mister Knewtun, caninballs. So’s you can p’raps understand the C-word’s urgency on settin’ off on their rescue mission.’
‘I can indeed, Captain. What an awful business. Very rum,’ Isack added for maritime effect.
‘Oh, sorry, Mister Knewtun, where’s me manners. Pour us all a drink there, Mr. Winky, if y’please.’
Winky got up to oblige.
Isack had never drunk rum from a tankard before and certainly not one that was full to the brim.
‘Don’t worry about it, Mister Knewtun. There’s plenty. Wonderful cleanin’ properties. Removes encrusted salt and loosens up the barnacles a proper treat, it does. On the ship too, fer that matter.
‘Where was I? Anyways, they was in such an ‘urry they wouldn’t let any of them poor sales-ladies off the boat ‘afore they set sail. Said that although this was a rescue mission, the girls would be able to help the C-word with other positions of missionary work. They also took with ‘em several tools of their trade, includin’ one hundred fully armed and caparisoned soldiers. My brother was not an ‘appy man, I can tell you, Mister Knewtun.’
‘Doesn’t seem as though he had much choice, Captain,’ said Isack sympathetically.
‘Oh, ‘e ‘ad choice all right. There’s always that, Mister Knewtun. The choice ‘e was offered was, relinquish control of your ship to the servants of the Mighty, or swing. So he relinquished. For a while, at least. Well, the ship landed at Wethafkarwee and they found their warden. Some of ‘im, anyways, so I ‘eard. But the wardens of the C-word reckoned that as they was already there they might as well do some convertin’. Can’t say fer sure what they converted them Fkarweans into but it was probably similar to the conversion undergone by that unfortunate T-word warden.’
Isack noticed a look of disgust and contempt on Blithely’s face when he said C-word. A look suggesting that while not condoning cannibalism, it had even less respect for the Church.
Although Blithely didn’t ‘hold none fer foruners’, at least the Fkarweans didn’t invade Judysear and force everyone to worship their god, which just happened to be a five-toed sloth called ‘OO-OO.’ And of course, they had to eat something, he supposed.
‘They set sail shortly after their convertin’ and ‘eaded ‘ome. But what Fkarweans was left was proper…you know, like when you ‘as too much to drink.’
‘Er…drunk?’ Isack suggested.
‘The other word.’
‘Ah,’ Isack nodded, eyeing his own drink cautiously.
‘So they sets off in pursuit and gave chase, forcing my brother to alter course. Those little canoes o’ theirs can go right fast with enough motivation.
‘Well, my brother pointed ‘is ship at the horizon and hoisted ev’ry sail ‘e ‘ad, believing they wouldn’t give chase to the edge of the world, like. But they did. Meanwhile, them wardens was screamin’ blue murder, knowin’ full well that my brother was set on sending ‘is ship off the edge, if necessary, rather than fall into the ‘ands of the Fkarweans. ‘E wasn’t about to let anyone make a whore’s derves outta ‘im.’
‘But that’s an old wives’ tale. Surely your brother knew the world is round?’
‘Not ever ‘avin a wife, young or old, ‘e was in two minds about what shape the world is. Flat or round, made no difference to ‘im, long as the water didn’t fly off.
‘But the Chur…sorry, Mr. Winky, the C-word, knows it’s flat and they’ll sail right round t’prove it. That’s about the time they got all the sailors t’mutiny and key-holed me brother, Mister Knewtun.’
‘I’m dreadfully sorry, Captain Blithely. Truly I am,’ said Isack.
‘S’okay, Mister Knewtun, Fkarweans got all but one of ‘em anyways. Found the poor wretch washed up on a beach a ways up the coast. Tha’s ‘ow we was able t’piece together the story. Died shortly after, ‘e did. Boat drifted ‘ome on its own a few days later, and at least my brother was already diced.’
©Douglas Pearce 2013