Blast! Lord Straasha seems to loathe me. Ever since Captain Ramier’s ship left the port city of Ilmar I have been afflicted with a terrible illness. The constant swaying of the boards beneath my feet induces nausea in me so terrible that I cannot even find words in Common or Low Melnibonéan adequate to convey it.
Nonetheless, I shall try to keep my bile down long enough to update this journal.
Our voyage proceeded without event (aside from the persistent voiding of my stomach’s meagre contents) for seven days. Captain Ramier proved to be a rather perceptive fellow, discerning my half-brother’s Melnibonéan blood. Fortunately, the pragmatic Jhakorian sailor seems to hold no great prejudice against my father’s kin.
In order to minimize the likelihood that we might be assaulted by raiders from vile Pan Tang, Captain Ramier planned to cut through the Pale Sea to the southwest for seven days, before turning northwest to complete the journey to Dharkor. I am grateful for the captain’s caution: I can think of no fate worse than to be victimized by the depraved minions of Hwamgaarl’s deranged Theocrat.
On the seventh day of our voyage, we encountered a very odd sight: a Melnibonéan ship adrift. The ship – a jet-black ‘hornet’ barge of exquisite beauty – floated listlessly a few hundred metres away from our own vessel. Eager for what profit might be made from the sale of such a magnificent craft, as well as whatever loot might still be aboard, Captain Ramier (after a brief conference with myself and Bōdric) decided to seize the vessel.
Alas, it turned out that the hornet barge was not abandoned entirely, and, as we approached, a massive human began firing the barge’s trebuchet at our ship. He launched various insults at us as well, interestingly in the Low Melnibonéan tongue. I attempted to communicate with the brute, explaining to him that we meant him no physical harm, but to no avail.
Thankfully, the missiles launched from the trebuchet did our ship no harm, and eventually we closed with the hornet barge. The great brute, his magnificent thews bulging, drew some of Captain Ramier’s cautious sailors into a brutal mêlée, severing the arm of one with remarkable grace. Bōdric succeeded in implanting an arrow into the brute’s leg, weakening him somewhat, but not diminishing the human’s furious, glorious defiance.
Eventually Bōdric and I boarded the battle barge, joining Captain Ramier’s sailors, and the defiant warrior recognized us as part Melnibonéan. At this point he surrendered immediately, prostrating himself before us, and apologizing profusely for his defiance in the Low Melnibonéan tongue.
It seems that the mighty brute, who goes by the name ‘Myluk,’ is a warrior-slave of the Melnibonéan noble house of Salamir.
House Salamir! The very house with which Bōdric and I had hoped to gain succour in Dhakos.
After some tedious grovelling, Myluck revealed to us the following pieces of knowledge:
· Six weeks ago the Jharkorians elected a new King, Dharmos, and he pledged to make Jharkor a free realm. Salamir sent emissaries to meet with the king and pledged peaceful co-operation in return for certain secrets, as long as Salamir could be left to run his estates as he always had. Dharmos refused, believing this to be a trick of Chaos. He gave Salamir three weeks to prepare to either leave Jharkor or defend his estates against attack. Salamir chose to leave.
· Word was sent ahead to Imrry that Salamir was returning. The Salamir reputation has never been strong in Imrryr. Salamir must have given certain assurances or made certain bargains, because Empress Sathril sent word that he would be welcome.
· In the meantime, the Dharijorians attempted to invade Jharkor’s northern territories, wanting to exploit the new king’s weakness. The fighting spilled into the estates of Lord Salamir, hastening their departure. Most of the slaves were freed and only the nine closest were kept to help sail the Barge back to Imrryr.
· Myluk does not know what happened to Salamir’s estates, but the Dharijorians would have murdered all had they stayed.
· Salamir and his retinue sailed for five days – a straight course for Melniboné. One the fifth day a dark-sailed ship appeared on the horizon, coming from the southeast. This was a pirate vessel. Salamir ordered a change of course but the small ship could not outrun the pirate galley and they were forced to defend themselves. Salamir tried to hide his family and use runes to protect them, but his magic seemed to have deserted him. The pirates boarded, fought, and captured all. Recognising the strength of their prize, they decided not to rape the women or further abuse the menfolk, as they would fetch far more in the slave market of Ryfel. Myluk heard all this discussed.
· Myluk heard several names mentioned: Malagan, Boorg, and Nhagren.
No respite for Bōdric and I from the blistering winds of misfortune, it would seem.
In light of this miserable news, and the fact that the Melnibonéan battle barge likely could be sold only in the Dreaming City, Bōdric and I decided that our best option would be to proceed directly to Imrryr. Assuming that we could gain entrance to the city – and I was confident that our news of the fate of two noble Melnibonéan families, Salamir and Yrvim, would suffice for that – Captain Ramier could sell his captured vessel, and we could make plans to journey to Ryfel to try to save Lord Salamir and his kin.
With the surprising assistance of the strange human Adralat Na-Keth (who seems perversely intrigued by anything associated with Melniboné), we managed to convince Captain Ramier of the wisdom of our proposal. Our plan changed, and we set off due south for the Dragon Island.
The prospect of returning to the heart of the crumbling Bright Empire filled me with dread. I have no great love for my father’s people, and their condescension towards ‘half-bloods’ like myself only magnifies their innate grating arrogance. I would prefer to seek new lands amongst the healthy, if vulgar and ignorant, humans, than dwell in the charnel houses of a fading civilisation. My half-brother Bōdric, on the other hand, longs for full acceptance by our father’s people. It obviously is a doomed desire, but I have not the heart to make this explicit to him.
My misgivings aside, our route seemed clear. Four days later we arrived at the exterior sea wall that protects the city of Imrryr. Since we did not have a trading permit or certificate (or whatever the Chaos-damned thing is called), we were forced to wait for two days. I have no doubt that only my mention that we had important news concerning Salamir and Yrvim to the pampered official with whom we interacted prevented our immediate expulsion.
On the thirteenth day since our departure from Ilmar, we were granted entry into Imrryr.
The journey through the sea wall maze was a trial. The blindfold made my seasickness even more troublesome than usual, despite the relative calmness of the waters within the maze’s tunnels. I refused to show any sign of illness, however, lest I be irredeemably humiliated.
At long last Ramier’s ship emerged from the maze and our blindfolds were removed. Before us shone Imrryr in all its glory! I may dislike my father’s people, but their skill at building is unrivalled. The glorious towers of the Dreaming City are without aesthetic peer in this world. Imrryr is not merely a city – it is a work of art.
Ramier and the rest of the humans on board, including our odd but adequately charming companion Adralat, were confined to the foreigners’ quarter of Imrryr. No visitors are allowed into the city proper. Of course, most visitors do not complain: the foreigners’ quarter of Imrryr is more magnificent than any human city anywhere within the Young Kingdoms.
My half-brother and I were led into the city itself by the same effete official with whom I had parlayed two days ago. Initially I was under the impression that the official and his guards were escorting us to my father’s apartments in the city. After a few minutes, though, I was informed that Bōdric and I were to be taken to Empress Sathril in the imperial palace for an audience, for she wished to hear news of the noble families Salamir and Yrvim directly from us.
An audience with the Empress herself!
I was seized with anxiety. Suddenly, my nausea threatened to return…
1. ‘Lord Straasha’ is the Elemental Lord of water.
2. Lawrence Whitaker wrote the information conveyed by Myluk (the ‘bullet notes’). Everything else was scribbled by yours truly.
3. Since these notes are written from the perspective of Edvund, some details may be incorrect and/or glossed over.