A man who appeared to be no older than his mid-twenties stood at the rail of the ship looking out over the harbor. His leather armor tightly bound by the various buckles and belts that adorned it. At his waist, I could see two daggers with ornate pommels and a rapier that swayed when he turned.
“Did I tell you about how I got started with this?” the man asked as he put the pipe to his lips. He puffed on it a few times and looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “You know, this is why I like you, you’re a man of few words.”
“I just don’t understand,” I replied, looking down to the main deck. “I don’t know how I got here, or what those are for that matter.”
A massive creature worked tirelessly, pulling ropes and coiling them. It’s rotund belly swaying as it spun. The only clothing it wore was the loincloth thankfully concealing whatever hideous thing was undoubtedly between its legs and a black bowler hat that had been tied under the creature’s chin by a segment of rope. Upon its shoulder sat a small green creature with a wicked grin and large teeth. It whispered into the larger creature’s ear occasionally, and they would both laugh.
“I hardly understand myself, er, what’s your name?” the man asked, scratching his head.
“Colin Frederick,” I replied.
“Two first names, that’s an odd way to introduce yourself. You should think about a real name. I’m John Evenwood, Captain of this here humble vessel. You can call me Evenwood,” he said, running his hand lovingly on the railing. “Her name’s Sea Sorceress, by the way. Down there are my first and second mates. Craaag, the ogre, is the first, and Sprinkles, the goblin, is my second.”
“Ogre? Sprinkles?” I asked, watching the pair laugh once more as a handful of deckhands received orders from them.
“Aye,” Evenwood said with a nod, “Anyway, Craaag, used to be an average ogre, dumb as the rocks he chewed on, but stronger than most. I ran into him, as well as four others, in the mountains up north of Uthrod’s Pass while I was on a job. The people I was traveling with made quick of killing the other four before I could get them to stop. You see, a cyclops was up there making them come down from the mountains to raid a village nearby. He was starving, so I gave him some food, and when the Cyclops came ’round, I stabbed that fucker in the eye with my dagger and held on for dear life. Lucky thing I did, too. Craaag is the hardest worker on my ship.”
I watched Evenwood take another long draw off his pipe with a self-satisfied expression as his eyes drifted off toward the northeast.
“That doesn’t help,” I said, “I’m not from here. I don’t know where I am or what is happening. Ogres, goblins, none of those are real.”
“Don’t let Sprinkles hear you say that,” Evenwood said, motioning to the goblin riding the ogre’s shoulder. “He’s a feisty one, him.”
“What?” I asked, shaking my head. I had meant it more rhetorical, but Evenwood smiled and opened his mouth.
“Sprinkles showed up one day out of the blue, you see he’s something of a magic user-never much understood that myself-but one day I was just lazily letting the river take Sea Sorceress where we was going, and Sprinkles appeared with a small pop. Just in the middle of the deck, about four feet from Craaag,” Evenwood said, “At first, Craaag tried to kill him, thinking it was a rat or something on the ship. Hell, I didn’t know what was happening until Craaag had broken most of the crates on deck, trying to smash the little fucker. This was before we got the hat for him, of course, but I came out of my quarters, fearing for the safety of my ship and told Craaag to stop.
“Sprinkles took the opportunity of distraction and shot me with something magical, can’t rightly remember what it looked like, but it hurt like hell. So, I took my lucky dagger and threw it at the bastard, pinning his hand to the mast. It was at this point that Craaag moved to snuff him out, but he pleaded convincingly that he hadn’t meant any harm. Long story short, I let him work off the damages, and he liked it here so much he decided to stick around. It was actually him that found that hat at Nexus,” Evenwood finished, taking another haul off the pipe in his hand.
“Alright, buddy, maybe you’re not understanding what I’m telling you. I’m not from here,” I said, waving my arms around. “There aren’t any goblins or ogres or anything like that where I’m from. This can’t be real!”
“I’m not from Krath either,” Evenwood replied with a shrug, “Don’t make much difference. What matters is that you learn quickly, so you don’t die.”
“Can you help me get home?” I asked.
“Depends,” Evenwood said, “Where is home for you?”
“Maine,” I replied.
“Mainland?” Evenwood asked. “I was there a long time ago. It’s on the far side of the whirlpool. About forty days sailing-”
“Not mainland, Maine,” I corrected.
“Never heard of it,” Evenwood said, tapping out his pipe, “Tell you what, you stay on my ship and work, when we get to the mainland, you can go looking for your home in ‘main,’ and I’ll even throw some gold your way when we dock. It’s not the most glamorous life, but it beats the hell out of being a slave in the mines or getting scripted into the army.”
I looked at the array of people on the ship, then out to the town beyond the dock. It looked medieval. There were no cars or electricity from the looks of it. There were people selling fish without refrigeration dockside and manual cranes loading crates and cargo onto the various vessels docked.
“I don’t know anything about boats,” I said.
“Ships,” Evenwood corrected with a wink, “and you think that an ogre that couldn’t swim knew anything? It’ll be fine. You seem like a smart kid. I’m sure you’ll catch on just fine.”