With the land being totally buggered there wasn’t much terrestrial real estate to consider. As a result people started turning to the seas. The first to do it were the desert dwellers from E’j. They strapped boats and buildings together and made huge barges. They travelled around on these in order to rescue their fellow desert dwellers from the threat of the approaching mist. When they completed their circumnavigation of the desert they settled and grew. A particular floating settlement was born in this time: Flotsam Town. It was a floating village/boat with multiple sections connected by promenades, piers and intricate rope-work (credited to the skillful Jojoji). It was a peaceful place and had grown exponentially in the last few months. Although it started out as a group of E’j fishermen with a crazy idea it now hosted the entirety of the desert population and a good few Head Islanders to boot. It was also the place where a fair number of the previous 50 Masters resided.
The first thing they did was head over to Zev, who was in the next house over.
“Hey!” Zev said as they walked in. “Jack! How are you?”
Jack nodded and smiled.
“It’s good to have you back, Jack. Oh, and by the way I have your sword.”
“Oh?” Jack said.
“Yes. It’s embedded in my back!” Zev laughed loudly.
“Did… did Jack cut you?” Jack asked.
“Only in half. But, don’t worry, I’m pretty tough.” Zev said and winked. “Wow, both of you. Your eyes are so red!”
“If you punch yourself hard enough you might get them too.” Jean said.
“Ah… It reminds me of those Moustache Bandits back in Southern Head Island.”
“What? How does it remind you of them?”
“It doesn’t. The author’s just trying to push the fact that we have a shared past.”
Jack sighed, realising nothing had changed.
“Now, go on!” Zev said. “I’ve got to reattach my lower body. Also, your eyes are really starting to creep me out.”
They left. “Jack, she’s just joking. She doesn’t actually blame you. She knows you weren’t in control.”
“It was still Jack.”
Further along the promenade.
“Don’t look so sad.”
“Jack’s on your back, how can you tell that he’s sad?”
“I can feel it. But, don’t fret. There’s someone here who can raise your spirits. He said he’s met you before.”
“Jean… Jack’s not really in the mood for peop…”
“Dizzy!” Jack cried. “Jean! Take me over!”
“I thought you weren’t in the mood for people?” Jean laughed.
“Yes, but Dizzy’s not people, he’s Dizzy!”
There it was: Dizzy’s Oasis, floating merrily alongside Flotsam Town. There was a gangplank they had to cross to get onto the barge that now housed Dizzy’s establishment. The smell of the sea suddenly became apparent and Jack fondly remembered the beaches of Dats Les Loco: the sand between his toes, the music in his body and of course the fantastic teas in his belly!
“Long time, long time it has been!” Dizzy said as Jean placed him on a stool in front of the Tea Bar. There was a motley crew gathered today; there to steep their sorrows, no doubt.
“So, what can Dizzy get you?” Dizzy asked with his signature creased smile.
“Right now the only thing that’ll help is rooibos.” Jack said.
“Some rooibos is what you need. Taken from Mountish mountains. To peace it will always lead. So, I prepared a fountain.” Dizzy said and ducked under the bar. What he withdrew appeared to be a regular teapot (made of Nosish porcelain). But, when Dizzy clicked his fingers a jet of tea shot out of the spout and filled up Jack and Jean’s tea cups. Jean raised her eyebrows in an I-know-right fashion. Jack was flabbergasted. He was then doubly flabbergasted when he heard the author use the word flabbergasted.
“It’s just a bit of magix. I know, I will have you know, the Head Wizard of PSAM. She comes by often to drink. She is often so forlorn. However, that won’t stop her from helping me make great tea.” Dizzy smiled.
Jack drank deeply and felt a wave ripple through his body; starting at his mouth and reaching his crown and toes.
“Ublbulbibl.” Jack catharted.
“Riiiiight.” Jean said.
“So, Dizzy, ” Jack said as another magixal tea volcano landed with surprising accuracy in his tea cup, “why did you leave Dats Les Loco?” Dizzy’s eyes shut immediately and he took his large umbrella-like hat off. He was 100% bald underneath. He disappeared behind the bar and appeared moments later with a tea pot. He brought the spout directly to his mouth and gulped hugely. Then he clunked it back down on the bar and sniffled.
“A sad sad story to tell.” Dizzy began. “I’ll give it brief, else I’ll break.
That terrible mist did come
from over the coldest sea.
We knew not of it but did
see that it was untoward.
Everything and anything
it touched grew cold cold and died
like a poor tea left undrunk.
We, being coastal, saw first
the effects of its evil.
The dancing heart grew still still.
It left us with none to feel,
or to fill our hearts with joy
but rather to foul us all
choking our heart fire coldly.
I left with haste and sadness,
leaving memory behind.
It’s too much to bear really. (He takes another swig from the tea pot)
But, all is not yet yet lost!
While boating our way around
we stumbled upon and found
floating village Flotsam Town.
Here I was welcomed and told
They’d like my tea to be sold!
Everyone applauded, whistled, whooped and ordered another tea.”I have plenty of them, friends!” Dizzy laughed. “And can offer them in whatever meter you prefer!”
“Haha! Do my one!” Jean said.
“Well now, the story of Jean!” Dizzy said. But, as he cleared his throat Jean slapped herself on the head. “Oh! Sorry, Dizzy I’ve just remembered I have to be somewhere. I’ll catch you later!”
“As you wish, my friend, farewell.” Dizzy said. Jean picked Jack up and ran off over the gangplank. As they got back onto the promenade they could hear Dizzy’s declamatory voice begin his tale.
“The sun will never not shine out a beam
When present is the E’ko E’ni Jean
“Where’ve you got to go in such a hurry?” Jack said. “Jack was only on his third cup of tea.”
“We have a meeting.” Jean said.
“Well… rescuing you was… kind of against the rules.”
“Against the rules?”
“Yes. You see the thing is we’re trying to save as many people as possible. So, we’re constantly launching rescue operations all over Head Island. There are so many people that need help but only so few of us. I’ve been wanting to rescue you from the beginning but when entire cities and villages need saving, people tend to neglect ‘a handful of people on some forsaken mountain’.”
“It makes sense. You can’t blame them.”
“I was done blaming them and I was done blaming myself. When I saw the comet I made up my mind. I went by myself but Zev followed me and chose… hey. Who’s that?”
Jean stopped on the promenade and looked up to one of the pier-side shelters. There was someone large on the roof.
“That looks like Responsibility.” Jack said.
“One of the one’s we found?” Jean said. “What’s she doing up there?”
“Hoe… Hoekom is ek hier? Waarvoor? Sonder haar is ek niks nie…”
“What did she say?” Jean asked.
“It sounds like she’s having an existential crisis.” Jack said.
“Ek… ek is… die laaste een.” Responsibility drew her sword from her sheathe. “Daar is net een ding om te doen.” She placed the tip of her sword on her heart. “Daar’s geen ander uitweg nie. Ek is jammer almal. Ek is jammer Reza. Ek is jammer dat ek julle teleurgestel het…” She exhaled and closed her eyes. As her hand tightened on the hilt a swift and surprising kick launched her off the building and face-first into the cold sea. Her head emerged and she looked about in confusion.
“Fool!” Jean cried and hopped down to the pier. Responsibility looked up at her with mingled surprise and anger.
“If you don’t remember them, who will?” Jean shouted. “What will people say about them now? They’ve lost their voices along with their lives. ” Responsibility looked up at her silently as she treaded water.
“The Knights of Virtue were rash fools who rushed to their deaths to avenge someone who wasn’t even dead. They ended up killing themselves for nothing and good riddance!” Jean cried.
Responsibility pulled herself out of the water and grabbed Jean by the collar.
“Dis nie waar nie!”
“Says who? Who’s going to tell them that it’s not true. Who’s going to tell their story? Who’s going to tell the Jul’s story!?” Jean knocked away Responsibility’s hand.
“Don’t you see! They survive so long as we do and they die as soon as we do.” Jean put Jack down beside Responsibility and walked off.
“Ons is nog steeds hier. Reza ook.” Jack said.
Responsibility was quiet for a long time before speaking. “…ek is nog hier.”
Jean returned with a razor. She placed a firm hand on Responsibility’s shoulder.
“In my culture, we cut off a lock of hair when we lose someone. When we lost the Jul, our cousins, I decided to shave off half of my hair in remembrance. If you like, I could do the same for you.” Jean said. Responsibility looked at the razor then at Jean. Finally, she nodded.
When Jean was done she passed Responsibility the razor.
“I’m lending you this one, for now. But, you’d better give it back.” She passed her the razor. “Thank you.” Responsibility said. “I will.”
“My name’s Jean.” She held out her hand. Responsibility grasped it firmly.
“My naam is… ” Responsibility looked conflicted.
“Bili!” Jack cut in. “Wat dink jy daaroor?” Responsibility smiled.
“Klink goed. My naam is Bili.”
“Nice to meet you, Bili.” Jean said.
“Aangename kennis.” Bili said.
“Uh… Jean.” Jack said.
“Don’t you have a meeting to get to?”
“Salvatora’s Eyelash!” Jean exclaimed. “I’m late!”
“Late?” said a familiar voice.
“Felix!” Jack cried in astonishment.
“You think you’re late? I’m only appearing in the last line of this chapter!”