Through the Ansible [IG]

edited January 2008 in In-Game
The bow of the ship is consistently the most tolerable location in which to spend one’s day, I have found. Not only is it far from the abominable noise of the engines, but it also catches a small amount of breeze, and provides a modicum of relief from the intolerable heat. A number of passengers have found this location agreeable, and in the evenings we often have quite a party gathered here, swatting mosquitoes and laughing in the heat. Indeed, the atmosphere is most convivial. Surprising, considering the company, which is as rough as any you might encounter. There is Mr Appleby, the white hunter, who makes quite a spectacle with his native guide always silent at his side. The two seem quite inseparable. The man is quite affable, and I believe we have adopted him as our leader. Far more sinister is the German, Herr Blicken. I believe he is an ivory trader, come to make a large purchase. Apparently his wife has accompanied him on the journey, but she remains in her cabin at all times. Mrs Peeters, who is traveling to meet her husband, charms us all with her witty conversation. She has come to serve as our interpreter with the crew and the captain. Being Belgian, she has an excellent command of French and German, and her English is flawless as well. I feel my own limitations sharply in her presence. Last, there is an assortment of Belgians of the roughest type, employees of the stations along the river. These last come and go with great frequency, and I have not come to know any of them well. They speak little, and with the foulest language, even in the company of ladies.

Of the crew, the less said the better. They are without exception hideous – great swarthy natives and half-castes, sullen and brooding, their bodies over-muscled from their labour. At night they drink, and chew some kind of awful paste which stains their lips. They inhabit the stern, seemingly impervious to the noise and the heat. Their king and master is the captain, a man of Arab extraction, who exists in a permanent rage. His bellows pierce even the noise of the engines, and the whole crew seems quite terrified of him.

Today is our first day of travel upriver, and it began with a stop for supplies at a small and unimaginably filthy port town. Seething with all kinds of exotic humanity, the port was by far the most startling experience I have had since I arrived. I elected not to go ashore, though Mr Appleby offered to accompany me. From the relative safety of the ship, I saw what I can only assume was a column of slaves, bound for some foreign port. Bound by the wrists, and dressed in rags, I believe they were the most wretched human being I had ever laid eyes upon. My heart went out to their plight, and I thought of the newspapers back home, who have said so little of this affair. I believe my impressions of my journey will make quite a splash, upon my return.


  • From the Diaries of Mr. Appleby, esq.:

    Today was a glorious day, and I believe my journey is blessed to be so well under way. After weeks of laborious travel over well known waters and past ports grown so thick with the timid tremors of Europeans, today we have finally come to Tribal Lands. Bunkukwa assures me that from here on in there will have been few civilized men who have ever traveled as we travel -- mostly only colonial scouts and traders, who go far up the river in search of gold and ivory. There are a few of their little stations, which he has shown me on the map, but aside from that we finally leave the bounds of the human world and move into the blackness of the jungle.

    The town we stopped at for supply was quite the site, and I must confess I had not expected to see so many Mussilimen so far from their native Arabia. Our captain, I am assured by a rather palid little fellow from the Lakes, is an Arab -- though he looks to me to be pure Moor, so I suppose there must be some trade with the fellows. What struck me, however, was how many of the Tribals have taken to the desert religion. It seems quite out of character, to see the tall black fellows with their fine made bodies bowing themselves down in the direction of Meckha, squatting in the dust just like the squat camel merchants of the Afghani hill tribes. Some of them even still had the stark bones sticking through their thick lips, or the round black scars about their proud faces, showing the rites of their heathen tribal religions, potent in their primal virility. And yet here they were, worshiping the idolatrous god of a crumbling and decadent civilization.

    I can only assume that this is because of the poor state of those who do not bow down. Just today I saw a group of no fewer than 250 slaves -- of I think the Umangono tribe from the look of the feathers they twined into the thick, muddy braids of their hair -- being taken down away from the jungle and herded onto the squat bellied Arab boats at the dock. I must confess I knew from the Levant that such slavery was much in practice, and in the American colonies of course, but it was still a shocking thing to see so many being taken at once. Ever before I had only seen a handful of the Ethiope slaves together, and never in quite such numbers.

    One of their women spat at the feet of one of the Mullahs who had just done with their Mussiliman prayers, a man who looked misceginated betwixt Berber and Tribal, and cursed him quite profoundly. I can only speak a few words of Umangono, as it is unrelated to many of the other sub-Ethiope languages, not using much in the way of affixes, but she sounded in rage at the religion of devils and snakes. Of course, she also spat at me and cursed my gun and my cross, so it could be she was just mad from the pain of being bound about her wrists with twine that was whetted and dried until it sunk bitterly into her flesh. I have to admit I do not know what use the Arab thinks they shall have out of these slaves, who seem unused to work and to wild to ever be made to do useful work.

    The pride of the Tribal people should not be underestimated! They are not a soft and shrinking people, such as so many of the European nations who have not the tough stock of our fathers have become. Theirs is not to hide behind flag and fort, buttering soft bread with hands unused to toil. Nor is theirs to sneak on their bellies and cut throats with knives in the night such as the decadent races of the east are wont to. These are people noble and strong, who live away from civilized life and make their truck in the darkness of the jungle, coming up closer to nature than nurture, and so have a pure, if simple, strength in their souls that makes them unsuited to be work-stock. It was one thing when the civilized coastal people were taken as slaves, for they knew the hard lash of regular work, but these Tribals are men who have never known yoke or plow, and have never had to earn their food in the sweat of their brow. I think it will go poorly for the idiots that try to sell them. Especially if the Portuguese traders find out -- as they must get much of their ivory from these same Tribals. And we all know the Portuguese are not above teaching the Tribals to use firearms, and even giving them old rifles in small numbers.

    After we left the town we turned from sea to river, and moving slowly against the current, had time aplenty to take in the particulars of the jungle around us. Though we spotted no large predators, other of course than the crocodiles that gathered about the shores, the number of avians was truly striking. I think I shall take to sketching them.
  • edited March 2008

    I am telling you the story of our journey in the hopes that you will remember it long after you are born. This is the only legacy that I have to give, my voice as you grow inside me. I do not know what the future holds for us and I can only tell you of what I know. And that, baby, is very little.

    From my cabin I am lucky enough to be able to see out of the boat and into the jungle. I spend most of my days pressed up against the glass catching sight of birds and crocodiles. The colours and sounds of the birds still amaze me. If I tilt the window open I can hear their voices even above the noises of the boat we travel on. The air here seems much more alive than the salt smell of the sea. It is a pleasure for me to breathe it. The mistress leaves the cabin for most of the day and stands on deck with a white handkerchief over her mouth. Most of the other passengers think she stays in her cabin all day. But that is not true, for I am here and she cannot bear to lay eyes on me, let alone be in the same room as I am. I do not know what she thinks on, or even how she manages to stand all day in her condition, but I am glad of her absence. The cabin is spacious, and the cot I sleep on is comfortable, at least until you get much larger. But I suspect by that time, our journey on this boat will be over.
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