(nodeshell rescue operation)

Chapter One of "The Catacombs of Nougat"

Gather round my children, and list to a tale of sprites and goblins so wyrd that t'will twist the very marrow of thine bones!

I was captain of a merchantman one hundreds changes of the watery star ago. 'Twas a fine barge, with mast hewn from wood so hard ye'd reckon Idalia itself had gifted't.

Yet one wintry day, as Sirius swept all sky aside with her cerulean wings, a man stumbled aboard, reeking of cheap sack.

"What be thy business on my ship, ye bed-jumpin' rogue?"

"Silence that tongue, bawcock. I have a commission for ye..."

"A commission?" I dof't my cap in what served as a moiety of veneration. "Sir, my ship be ready to sail any place East of Hudson Bay, and any place West of Pondicherry. For a price."

"'Tis not far, but trust me sir, though I am now humbled by Lady Chance, I was once a rich man. Thus it is, there will to you be some measure of... trust... I lack gold of current, but if ye can sail to the place of which I am to describe, the rewards will be... sweet, to say the least."

My greedy soul was already damned, and the hollow laugh the man uttered on these words gave voice to the gloatful humour that must have been rising in his bones...

I dolefully agreed to the fellow's request, and in the time it took me to recall my crew from their less than 'olesome exploits with strumpets and placket-sellers ashore, I had charted our course. Our ben'factor, it did semble, was yearning to return to the Isle o' Xoabla in the Southern Shores, East of Cayenne but North of the Bahia Blanca. He professed thusly his desires:

"Good cap'n, I am not from this fair city o' Southampton, though I confess I made much of my life here. My father was Earl of Aberdeen, and my mother a village wench, 'gainst which he had professed some affections. My father, whose marriage had nay been blessed with fruit, accorded on his death his title and lands to me, his eldest bastard. I were a lad o' but some seven summers then, and a title rests uneasy on an infant's head. I shan't exhaust thee with a tale of how my lands were snatched and my position taken, but suffice to say that I were pressganged into the navy by the age o' ten. It was within that service that I saw, nay, lived, the life o' the Seaman."