She emerges from these fugues at times unpredictable to all, and the point of her emergence is now.
Luckily for the group at hand as, shocked into depression by her own execution of the Ape and the failure of her schemes, Captain Jepta Crunt is about to dive into a melancholic opium-fulled somnolence from which she will not emerge for some time.
Busla wakes in the midst of the harvest festival of Sula Phrang to find her friend, the White Ape, dead. She weeps red tears from her Iron Eyes.
Bastian Blank, the incorrigible thieving orphan, sidles up to the mercenary guards of Lord Ey-Way-Woo-O in an attempt to get close enough to steal something from him. The guards are utterly unimpressed by his childish guile and give him the butt of a Brown Bess to the head, leaving him sprawled in the muck.
On the other side of the crowd, the horribly-scarred and violently-hallucinating Barlang Rift prepares to ride his Mantis Shrimp in the key event of the festival. A mock battle in which two sides will ride towards each other at full-pelt, turn their shrimp at the last moment and hurl blunt spears at each other.
He is distracted from this by the blue tentacles spilling from the mouths of his compatriots and the manifold textures of his own hand but is eventually persuaded to mount up.
In the absence of her Captain and the death of her friend, Busla takes the young Scamp Bastian Blank and the fire Dervish Karvash Bloom under her wing and seeks out a merchant with which to trade. She is approached by one 'Megawati' who consoles her on her loss and attempts to buy the body of the Ape. Busla is shocked by this approach but, aware of her ships impecunious situation, does not fully discount the possibility.
The negotiations are put on hold as all heads turn to watch the opening bout of the mock battle.
Though besieged by visions, Barlang Rift does manage to control his Mantis Shrimp. He charges with the rest of his group to the center of the field where they are faced by young men from the stoic village of Mamboto. Both sides let fly their spears.
Barlang lets fly a little too well. His carved ivory harpoon pierces the jugular of a young man, pinning him to the ground like a collected bug. He must have been well liked as the usually-stoic riders from Mamboto ignore the shouted instructions of their own elders and charge their shrimp towards Barlang's side.
Guided by the demon tattooed on someones shoulder, the sight of a boy who turns into a moth and back and by the moon itself which seems to raise twin columns of burning light like two approving thumbs, Barlang haloos and drives his riders headlong into a now-real combat.
Observing this from the nearby hill, Megawati urges Busla to retreat with him to Gapu where they will be safe from what looks to be a nascent riot. Busla remains for a moment to watch the result of the combat.
In a shower of blood and horror, Barlang Rift leads his side to horrid victory. Screaming praises to the moon he caves in the faces of brave young men left and right, leaving their limp bodies hanging from the saddles of their maddened shrimp. The pistol cracks of shrimp claws ring out like gunshots. Sugiharto Ivan Gunawan runs towards the melee to protect his son. The festival disperses in shock. The mock combat intended to channel and assuage differences between villages has instead broken out into open war. Long buried or occluded rivalries have been remembered and the old headhunters hold their parang closer. There will be violence tonight.
Busla and Bastian accompany Megawati, they follow the dispersing crowd to Gapu.
Ultimately, the village of Maboto breaks and flees before the drug-addled beserkery of Barlang Rift. Only the village of Melolo remains. Sugiharto grasps his son Eko, weeping in relief he tells Barlang that he cannot be blamed for the Mombotons losing control, and this is technically true, accidents are expected to happen during the festival and it is the job of each side to exercise restraint, Mamboto did charge first.
Blood-splattered and delirious, Barlang seems a little too happy about the chaotic and frightening result. His shrimp is lead away with him waving madly and cackling. The ordinary people of Sula-Phrang have fled, just before he passes out he hears the dim wheezing laughter of the dead ancestors. The only people happy at this bloodshed, they are pleased that the blood spilt will go to feed the earth for the next harvest, as it did in times of old. Sugiharto's Grandfather speaks to him, the old horror is finally impressed with his descendant.
In Gapu, Busla Rant, Bastian Blank and the Dervish Karvash Bloom meet with the merchant Megawati in his cheaply attired grotto in order to discuss business.
Grinning, Megawati puffs on his opium Hookha and exhales a cloud of purple smoke. Exercising either hospitality or low cunning, he offers the pipe to each of his guests. Busla, Bastian and Karvash all partake and they seem to manage its mild high relatively well. Bastian tries to blow a gandalfian smoke shape but produces only a shapeless plume.
Busla asks whether the corpse of her friend will be accorded a place of honor. Megawati assures her that, once pickled and transported to the Yaag-Sien, it will certainly be the cornerstone of the collection of some cultivated slug, and what could be more honorable than that?
Busla reluctantly agrees and they settle on the price of 75 Shillings before proceeding to the primary trade. Busla needs food for her crew and cash to pay her sailors. Megawati drives a hard bargain and , in the midst of negotiations, he requests a pipe of a different, more 'unique' opium.
He blows out a cloud of pure white smoke and again offers the pipe. The Dervish, Karvash Bloom ties it and breaks down crying, asking "why did I do it?" before grabbing Bastian Blank and insisting that he say no to drugs from this moment on.
Busla tries the White Opium and find that it has a remarkable sharpening effect on her memory. By piecing together fragments of knowledge gained or overheard throughout the whole of her journey, she is able to make a surprisingly accurate estimation of the value of her cargo and the best terms for sale.
Unfortunately she also becomes utterly addicted to the Opium and wants nothing more than continual access to the drug.
Megawati and Busla argue back and forth. He offers her 15 Guilders (including that paid for the white ape) and 400 days worth of food for half a crate of silk and all her small cargoes.
She seems unwilling to accept this trade until Megawati offers her a large supply of the White Opium 'Tears of the Moon' as part of the bargain. She accepts immediately and guarded by a detachment of her sailors and his men, the proceed to the harbor to begin the exchange.
As they move through Gapu they see signs of incipient violence, windows are boarded, the streets are empty, a strange hum fills the air and Kingfisher House is well guarded. In the harbor the Borobudurs and Phinis are setting sail, the wind is counter-clockwise, leading out into the Phrang Sea and more than one visitor has decided that this is a good time to leave Sula-Phrang.
Barlang is slapped awake by Eko who demands to know why the Falling Star is making ready to leave. As they look down into the harbor of Gapu Barlang, blasted with horrible sobriety, cannot deny that this does seem to be the case. Eko leads the wrecked man down into the town.
On the edge of Gapu the group is accosted by some masked thugs wielding parangs. Barlang encourages Eko to start a fight, but, in the midst of a massive comedown, his charismatic powers are not what they should be and Eko is beginning to see through the deception to the shameless rogue beneath. He accuses Barlang of being a drug-addicted thief and murdering liar and orders his friends to grab the traveler.
Barlang joins forces with the thieves and together they attack the young men from Melolo, two are killed and the rest flee. Barlang pauses only to rob the corpse of another fallen young man. He finds a handmade game set, perhaps made by the boy's mother, and then sneaks off into the town, heading for the Falling Star.
He doesn't sneak well enough however. Passing Kingfisher house he is noticed by Lusanto Xia, a mercenary for Lord Ey-Way-Woo-O, who demands he come and explain his actions to the Lord.
Barlang runs away.
He reaches the Falling Star and is re-united with his comrades. As chaos engulfs Gapu and flames begin to lick the harbor buildings, they toast each other with rum on the quarterdeck. Their men are in the midst of transferring cargo between their ship and the Borobuder of Megawati (the only other ship remaining in the harbor) when Lusanto Xia emerges on the harbor wall, demanding that they send someone to speak to his Lord.
They pretend they can't hear him. Xia grabs a long canoe and takes it out to the Falling Star, he refuses to bring his men on deck and again demands that a representative be sent to Kingfisher House.
After stalling a little longer by pretending he can't read the proclamation, Barlang eventually agrees to send the ships Navigator of Nox. Will this satisfy Lord Ee-Way-Woo-O?
Xia agrees that it will.
Barlang grabs the former Vampire Slave 'Stampy' (Konepruske ken Goranan) and, alleging that Stampy has failed to distinguish himself by any useful action, forces him into a ruff and the simulation of high-status clothes. Barlang encourages 'Stampy' to take on the role of Navigator in order to fool Lord Ey-Way-Woo-O.
Again due to his harried mental state in the middle of a huge comedown, Barlangs usual charm and flair deserts him. Despite shameful assurances by Busla Rant, 'Stampy' rightly assumes that the PC's plan to abandon him on Sula-Phrang and refuses to go.
Barlang outright threatens to kill Konepruske and forces him over the side.
The ruse cannot have worked for very long but it lasts at least long enough for 90% of the cargo exchange to be made before two detachments of mercenaries arrive at the docks, holding 'Stampy' by the neck and dragging two small culverins with them.
The crew decide to make haste, they raise anchor and swing to pick up the last few sailors still transporting goods. Bastian fires on one of the cannon with his musket and Busla orders the ships catapult to suppress the second.
They are not quite successful and at least one of the cannon manages to fire on them as they sail out into the Phrang Sea, doing 4 points of damage to the Falling Star.
They have refreshed their supplies of cash and food and escaped into the open ocean. In doing so they have also fired upon employees of Kingfisher House, finally committing a verifiable, and witnessed, crime, but for now at least, they are free.
|THE BLIND EYE by Santiago Caruso|