Story: “Cap’n Swizzle’s First Sails”

“Cap’n Swizzle’s First Sails”

by Alyson Grauer

 

Carrington Elloway Swizzle had been a sailor since the day he was born. His father, Bunratty Swizzle, had been a captain before him, aboard a vessel privately owned by the Weather Guild, and he and his lovely wife Tarnessa had been taking their own little skiff a turn over the city of Ammingrad when she – enraptured by the wind and the sky and the heights – went into labor and within a few hours, laughing, their son Carrington Elloway was born. As Brownies, the Swizzles were a merry sort, enjoying good food, good drink, good company, and good adventure. Bunratty and Tarnessa both had been born to parents who were of a squirrelly, chipmunkish nature, and their son Carrington Elloway was born the merriest of all: as a quokka-featured Brownie, his attributes were rounded, plumped, and his furry patches were a warm chestnut brown, and eternally upon his lips was the most cheerful and earnest of smiles, making him instantly well-loved by all who met him.

Bunratty taught Carry everything he knew about ships, the weather, skies and winds, stars, and the mechanica and arcanica that made it all possible. By the time he was a young man, Carry knew everything there was to know about flying an airship, and he’d even done quite a bit of sailing, rowing, and pontooning on the city canals and lakes, as well. Boats were not just a business, they were a passion. The Swizzle family had done fairly well for themselves in Ammingrad: some were bakers of iced cakes (such as Drizzle Swizzle), some were mixologists at various upscale nightclubs (such as Stirran Swizzle), and some, like Bunratty, were sailors of the air for fine companies and high ranking families of fey society.

The day came, of course, when Carry was ready for a commission of his own after years of serving under his father, and through various interviews and called-in favors, Carry found himself standing at the helm of the crystal yacht of House Sareine: the Silent Shimmer.

Oh, she was a beautiful thing to behold! Through extravagant feats of magic and mechanics, the Silent Shimmer appeared to be cut entirely of faceted glass, or perhaps quartz of some kind. She was lean and slender, with decadent chambers and party rooms within, and a broad open deck for entertaining guests. She was certainly built for luxury and leisure, infinitely more so than the Weather Guild vessels his father flew, but Carry didn’t mind. Such a heavy, decadent piece of art could never fly, one might think, but oh! The Silent Shimmer did fly, and fly beautifully at that. The Silent Shimmer was not quite entirely silent, despite her name, but it did not bother Carry Swizzle in the slightest. He rejoiced in the sounds of the mechanica whirring, the wind whipping past the artful sails, the spinning of the propellers, the whole symphony of sounds that accompanied him every time he flew her. Now, the Silent Shimmer did not creak and groan and squeak like other ships he’d served on did, but she had her own quirks which he learned to love over time.

When Captain Carry Swizzle was first made the commander of House Sareine’s crystalline yacht, he kept the vessel in excellent condition, dusting and cleaning her walls and portholes himself, overseeing every fine detail with pride and honor. However, he was much disappointed to find that in the first span of becoming her commanding officer, there was not a single scheduled outing on the calendar. Not even one! He rushed to the docking tower each and every morning, excitedly awaiting the ever-looming possibility of a non-scheduled flight, but none took place. Not even once did a member of House Sareine even come to the docking tower to take a look at the most beautiful airship Captain Swizzle himself had ever seen. It was like the entire family had forgotten the ship existed!

“Cap’n Swizzle,” said Angler, one of the halfgene Naiadi that served as his boatswain, “You’ll have to learn patience, sir. House Sareine isn’t a family that likes flying a great deal.”

“But how can that be?” Captain Swizzle demanded, slamming his small hairy fist into his palm in a characteristically adorable manner. “Such a fine, expensive vessel and they don’t even use her?”

“Now, now, Cap’n. You’ll see. They’ll put us to use soon. Soon we’ll fly her out.”

“I hope so, Master Angler.” Captain Swizzle brooded, his hands behind his back as he faced the window toward the sky, but Angler said nothing. Angler had to excuse himself quietly from the room to keep from audibly reacting to how cute the captain was.

Angler the boatswain had been right, as it turned out. A few more days passed, and then, at long last, a teal-liveried Pixie from House Sareine came with orders that they were to fly that very day.

“Cast off at noon,” the orders read. “And return at sundown. Make no stops unless it is an emergency. Report back after docking.” It was stamped with House Sareine’s official stamp, but no signature was attached.

“Mister Forbright!” Captain Swizzle called from his captain’s cabin. He waved the orders in his hand, flagging down his first officer, a full-blooded Naiadi fellow named Arvin Forbright.

“Yes, Captain Swizzle?” Forbright trotted over, his green eyes bright with curiosity. “What is it, sir? Orders?”

“Yes, orders, but dash it all, Forbright, what do you make of this?” He slammed the papers into Forbright’s orange-speckled palm and turned away dramatically. Forbright read the orders and tried not to smile at the captain in return.

“Well, sir! This is your first outing with the ship, isn’t it? I’m delighted for you, sir. Congratulations.”

“No, no, no, no, no!” cried Captain Swizzle, turning back to face him, his round ears twitching. “Not at all, Forbright, not at all the thing!”

“Is it not the thing, sir?” Forbright’s eyebrows shot upwards.

“No, not at all!” Captain Swizzle shook his head. “There’s a great wealth of information missing from these orders, Forbright, don’t you see?” He tapped the papers impatiently. “Where are we to sail to? How high or low is it preferred that we sail? How many passengers are there to be, and who will they be? What do they want for luncheon, or tea, or supper? How are we to serve them if we cannot know the details, man! It’s all in the details!”

Forbright sighed, nodding his head. “I see, sir. Well, sir, I believe I can answer your questions.”

“You can?”

“I can, sir, yes.”

“But do you mean to tell me that you can divine the wishes of our lords and masters of House Sareine without direct indication from them in writing?”

“No, sir, not at all, sir.” Forbright straightened. “It’s only that I’ve seen this manner of orders before, sir, and I feel I am prepared to advise you should you require such advice.”

Captain Swizzle calmed himself, settling both feet firmly on the deck, and clasped his hands behind his back. “Very good, Mister Forbright. I am all ears.” He wiggled them absently. Forbright pursed his lips momentarily to prevent himself from smiling.

“Very good, sir, as you would have it. I’m afraid we won’t be taking any passengers for this first trip out, sir. And as such, we won’t need to prepare luncheon, tea, or supper for them, as they shan’t be with us. As for the trajectory of our flight, sir, that’s quite up to you and the helmsman, sir. We can fly as high or low as you please, sir, and go wherever you wish to fly. At your leisure, so to speak, sir.”

Captain Swizzle opened and closed his mouth in confusion several times. His brow furrowed deeply. “And this is a familiar set of orders to you, Forbright?”

“Indeed sir.”

“How familiar are they, would you say?”

“Well, sir… if I had to venture a guess, I might say that they were a regularity.”

“A regularity, you say?”

“Indeed, quite so, sir.”

“Forbright,” Captain Swizzle said, as calmly as he could, “How regular would you consider this type of set orders?”

“Captain,” answered Forbright, “I should daresay that prior to your assumption of command, we performed this type of set orders a few times every month, sir, irregularly. He doesn’t send a schedule, sir, but… well, sir, we have a theory on it.”

“A theory!” exclaimed Captain Swizzle. “Forbright! Do you mean to say you do not know why this type of order comes irregularly from House Sareine?”

“Indeed I do, Captain. I’m afraid we’ve never had Lord Lutado explain it to the likes of us, sir, but we’ve a theory in mind. Myself and the other folks of the crew, sir.”

“Well, out with it, man! Don’t be stingy to your captain! Tell me what in dair’s name it’s for!”

“Sir.” Forbright considered how best to phrase it. “We believe that these orders come to us from Lord Lutado himself, that we may take the Silent Shimmer out on a turn about the skies, so that others might see this magnificent crown jewel of a vessel in flight and marvel at it, and consider to themselves how very fine and grand Lord Lutado Sareine himself is for owning it.”

Captain Swizzle processed this, and his brown eyes narrowed.

“Forbright. Do you mean to tell me that Lord Lutado Sareine of House Sareine likes to send his servants – us! – Out to fly his boat without anyone on it simply so that other people will see it and be jealous of his lifestyle and wealth?”

“Captain Swizzle, sir, that’s precisely it. As we see it. Sir.”

Captain Swizzle stroked his neatly-combed brown beard with one hand as he stood in deep thought, reflecting on the implications of this narrative. “Hmm,” he said, at length, and then “Hmmmmm,” again. Every fibre of his being felt the injustice of such a fine lord owning such a fine vessel only to waste it on passengerless flights of fancy simply so oglers might ogle and daydreamers might daydream of what a fine gentleman that lord must be. Now, although he’d been raised on Weather Guild ships with his father, Captain Bunratty Swizzle, he had nothing against flights for pleasure and fun, as he himself felt joy each and every time he flew. But the thought of such an excellent ship being utterly wasted this way was nearly impossible to comprehend. It was then that Captain Carry Swizzle felt the first pricklings of dislike for his lord and master Lutado Sareine, though never in a thousand years would he have voiced it then.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Forbright?”

“Shall we make sail, sir? It’s nearly noon.”

Captain Swizzle paused. Then he straightened, his bearing noble as he turned to look at his first mate. “Mister Forbright. Make ready for sail. We leave at the very stroke of noon.”

Forbright saluted sharply. “Yes, sir, very good, sir.” And he went out of the cabin again, shouting orders as he went with long strides across the deck.

Captain Swizzle drew a deep breath and adjusted his teal uniform jacket, his fingers tracing the embroidery for House Sareine over the lapel. It didn’t feel right, but dash it all – this was his duty, and his duty would be done.

He trotted out after Forbright, donning his captain’s hat at a smart angle, and prepared to oversee the launch of the vessel from the docking tower.

“Prepare for a nice leisurely turn about the southern wards,” he called to his helmsman in a proud, clear voice. “Let’s stretch her legs, shall we?”

A few of the listening crew members gave a hearty cry in response, and Captain Swizzle smiled to himself. At least, he thought, he was proud to have a crew that loved to sail as much as he himself did. Perhaps, over time, he could convince some of the family of House Sareine of the same joy.

Perhaps.

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