Skull and Shackles
Feruzi 8 Rova
Oh, so much has happened today that I have to sit here a minute and get it all in order or else I will leave something out. I woke up vexed with Merrill this morning because I wanted him to get plenty of sleep but he was having none of it and he figured out that if he nibbles on my neck I lose all ability to argue with him which is not fair although I suppose losing a little sleep is not so bad but I hope he doesn’t pay for it later. Then we had to have a ridiculous long drawn-out argument with what felt like half the crew over who would and would not be coming with us on this sojourn into darkest wilderness untouched by man since the dawn of time (I read that in one of Merrill’s books and I liked it so I’m stealing it although I am not sure that’s really stealing because the person who wrote it still has it). Labella wanted to come so badly I thought she was going to start frothing at the mouth and shooting sparks out of her ears but Merrill kept pointing to what he calls the “den of iniquity” across the river and telling her that somebody has to stay here and make sure his damn ship doesn’t mysteriously wander off in the night and Labella was best suited of anyone to do that so there. Well he didn’t actually say that last part but it was implied. I think Labella is fonder of Merrill than he realizes but I didn’t say anything because it would embarrass both of them to no purpose.
We, or, I should say He because I didn’t say anything but just let them get on with it finally decided that apart from Ukele and myself it would only be Merrill and Durgrin going. I think the dwarf was not too happy at this decision but it was getting late so off we went as soon as Pinch forced Durgrin to finish dithering about what to bring along.
I found I was glad it was just the four of us because Durgrin started chatting with Ukele about sorcery and I joined in and the three of us spent the entire morning talking shop which is a peculiar thing for sorcerers because it’s all about how magic feels to you and this relieved Merrill of the need to make conversation so he was still in good spirits and not too worn down by the time we stopped for lunch. I wanted to make it a good long rest break but Merrill said this would only make the whole trip longer and he’d rather rest when we reach our destination. Durgrin told me not to worry recent events to the contrary Merrill knows his own limits quite well and sticks to them and he wouldn’t be alive now if he wasn’t as tough as he thinks he is, so we pressed on.
I had forgotten just how bad the deep jungle can be though and even with Durgrin pulling out every wand and scroll he has to make things easier on us we’d still be walking if we didn’t have the immense good fortune to run smack into a troupe of Etpe on their way to wherever it is Etpe go. I mean smack, too, because that’s the noise Durgrin made when they burst out of the trees on their huge mounts and he fell over on his rump in a stream and almost drowned because dwarfs are not very hydrodynamic (isn’t that a great word?). He also made a ridiculous squeaking noise that he claims was a grunt although I have heard mice produce deeper sounds. Durgrin says the mounts are “edmontosaurus” which I know nothing about but they are big and surprisingly fast even in the jungle so we bargained with the Etpe to take us along since we were heading more or less the same direction anyway.
At first they wanted to trade the ride for Ukele and I had to bite my tongue not to laugh she got so offended and it would serve her right if we DID sell her to them but Merrill finally convinced them to accept some food and a length of good rope instead. I was a little annoyed because Merrill can speak to them much better than I can, his crazy accent actually makes him easier to understand somehow even though I was born here. Ukele of course would not so much as look at them after their first offer and Durgrin can’t make heads nor tails of their gabble so we wound up doing this thing where I translated for Merrill and then he’d try four or five different ways of saying the same thing until the chief started nodding and smiling and jabbered at us some more. The Etpe chief apparently decided Merrill was a good sort or at least vastly amusing and gave him (Merrill) this horrible drink that they brew out of the blood of their mounts and equally horrible plants and possibly slug slime and beetle squeezings for all I know but Merrill has much better manners than I do and actually swallowed most of it before I could warn him so he got to spend most of the ride slumped over the saurus’s rump blinking very slowly like once a minute because he was too dizzy to sit up or even know who he was. I don’t dare tell him what it was now he might get sick and that would offend the Etpe even though they are generally pretty friendly as long as you don’t have anything they particularly want.
Fortunately it was hot enough that he quickly sweated off the effects and was back to his usual self. Ukele complained unceasingly about the heat and finally took her clothes off and I put off most of mine too. Durgrin turned some interesting colors at the sight of Ukele’s tits but he will have to get used to it because no one wears shirts at home or even thinks twice about it. Durgrin told me that dwarfs are so prudish that they grow all that hair so they won’t even have to see THEMSELVES naked and I am not sure whether he was joking or what but he settled down after a bit. If I was thinking I would have left most of my clothes on the Bonaventure anyway but I’ve gotten used to the custom and I’m not sure Merrill would have sat still for it prior to drugging himself insensible. So that is how we got home a whole day earlier than I expected and Father even invited the Etpe to stick around even though they are more than a little weird so they can take us back along with all our possessions and spare Merrill’s poor leg in the bargain.
I have to use those quotation mark things for this next part and I am not certain I use them correctly but it was too funny not to write exactly what they said so here goes. When we broke out of the deep jungle and came to the village clearing it was nice and quiet so I expect everyone was cooking dinner or resting out the afternoon heat but one of the children spotted us and started shrieking so everyone came running. Merrill said “Goodness, just like a beehive,” and I laughed because there are rather a lot of us and one of the middle-sized children spotted me and started yelling “Auntie Zizi! Auntie Zizi!” so all the babies started yelling and Merrill asks “are these all your nieces and nephews?” And I said “no, Ukele’s my only sister they just call all the grown women Auntie if it isn’t their mother”.
We got down from the saurus and here comes Father carrying his big spear in one hand because the other one got bit off years ago. He (Father) comes up to me and says “It’s about time you got home, I can’t do all the work around here myself!” so Merrill steps forward and says, projecting his voice like he’s giving orders on the deck, “It’s not her fault you’re a CRIPPLE.”
I don’t think I have ever fainted before really but I thought I was going to do it then. I have never seen a look on a man’s face like my father got then except maybe on Ezikial when he hasn’t shot someone for several days and everyone, even the babies, went instantly silent. Merrill had a strange look on his face too I’m not sure what to make of it but I think that man has at least a fair medium-sized devil in him and it comes out at the oddest times.
Then Father started to laugh. He laughed and laughed until he fell over wheezing and rolled in the dirt kicking his legs and Merrill stepped over to help him get up. Then he pounded Merrill on the back leaving some good bruises and laughed some more and Merrill just grinned like Asmodeus and said “Pleased to meet you, sir,” so Father said “Oh, boy, I like you, who the hell are you, anyway?” and Ukele shouted “Oh, Dede, it’s Feruzi’s HUSBAND!” sounding disgusted as can be and Father whooped and started dancing around like a fool until Mother scolded him into stopping. Then the warriors gathered up Merrill and Durgrin and paraded them down to the river to wash up while the women used the bathhouse to make themselves pretty and Mother somehow made up a feast in about ten minutes with all the other women so overall it was a pretty good homecoming I think. Father has taken a shine to Merrill although neither of them can pronounce any part of the other’s name which they both think is hilarious for some reason but they very nearly stayed up all night boasting and telling increasingly ridiculous stories until Mother said pointedly “I think you should let your daughter have her husband back Tabi” which is what she calls Father when she’s annoyed with him. So Merrill is sitting here watching me scribble although I don’t expect he intends to be patient very much longer so I will finish up now before he starts in on the neck-nibbling and I get ink everywhere.