Kilnday Thirdweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

Son of a bitch. Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Keddle. That rot-damned moaning sack of crap. All he ever did was complain and grumble, in between the odd bit of semi-competent navigation. He wasn't the best, by any chalk, but he did his job. I thought that finally, after all these years, I'd found a navigator I could stick with. One that was sensible enough not to get shot, strong enough so that he wouldn't die of some unknown illness, unambitious enough not to betray me, unromantic enough not to desert for the love of some random whore. By the warty bowels of the Allsoul, I've had shitty luck with navigators. But Keddle... damn it, I really thought he was going to be a stayer.

Turns out he isn't. Turns out Silo was getting suspicious about all those engine parts going missing. So when we set down in Jander's Maw, a half-day from Scarwater and our meeting with Macarde, Silo decided to hide out in the engine room and see what happened. Saw Keddle rifling through the spares. Followed him all the way down to the workshops in the town, where he saw Keddle selling them off to a craftbuilder. After that he came back to get me.

Keddle screeched to the high skies when we turned up at the tavern where he was drinking. Course, he said he was innocent, but if Silo says otherwise then there's no question. We dragged him back to the Ketty Jay. Me and Malvery were pretty angry, to tell you the truth. We probably didn't conduct ourselves too glamourously as we were kicking the stuffing out of him. I came close to shooting the bastard, but in the end Silo stopped me. Sure, it wasn't a lot of money, but he was stealing! From me! I mean, damn it, there are limits!

Well, I had to get him out of my sight, so I put my boot in his arse and shoved him off the cargo ramp, hands tied behind his back. He went down pretty hard on his face, but he can count himself lucky I didn't put a bullet in his back.

After that, we took right off. Couldn't stay there a moment more. Figured we might as well go overnight to Scarwater. It was close enough that I could find it myself.

It's almost dawn now. We've put down in Scarwater, waiting for the place to wake up. Later today I'll go see about ripping off Macarde. Later today I'll get looking for a new navigator. After that, I'm gonna get roaring drunk and get into some kind of fight. It just feels like one of those days.

Why me, Log?

Why me?

Transcriber's note:
At the time of writing, this was the final entry in the Logbook Of The Ketty Jay. Darian Frey was never known for his diligence, and he apparently forgot about writing in the logbook after this date. Considering what happened afterwards, however, he can perhaps be excused. The affair which followed has been luridly recounted by various pulp biographers, but I direct your attention to the only official and unbiased account of the tale, written by this humble scribe, which bears a title as honest and straightforward as the words within: Retribution Falls, available now in bookshops all over Vardia.
Daggersday Secondweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

So here's the plan. We need aerium, badly. The last lot we got hold of has pretty much run dry. Lawsen Macarde wants aerium too, but he doesn't want to pay full price for it. I don't even have enough to buy it for cheap, and if I could find some I'd keep it for myself.

There is, however, a way around this.

I'm not too proud to go trawling round junkyards for aerium. See, abandoned ships are not that uncommon, and plenty get shot down. Scavengers just strip what they want and leave the rest, but the higher-ups don't like to leave wrecks rusting all over the place. So sooner or later the big haulers turn up and take them off to the junkyards. Thing is, what a lot of people don't realise is that good aerium can be run through the engines four or five time before all the gas is released. Sure, by the last couple of times your craft flies like a whale and you're liable to drop out of the sky in a storm, but many's the time I've ended up flying on recycled aerium, and I'm not dead yet.

If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for Macarde. So we've been haunting the junkyards, siphoning tanks, and we've got twelve canisters all sealed up and ready for deliver. We're going to flog them to Macarde and use the money to buy three or four canisters of the real stuff from a legit supplier. The supplier will charge and arm and a leg, of course, but I'll pay this time. If you cut corners, you might get some seedy bastard delivering you a load of useless aerium, after all.

All this will mean two things. One, we'd better make ourselves scarce before Macarde finds out what we've done. Two, we're never coming back to Scarwater. I'm fine with both. Macarde's probably not that desperate for aerium that he'll immediately fuel up with the stuff we give him, and Scarwater's a dump anyway.

One more enemy to add to the list. It gets difficult to remember them all, sometimes.
Queensday Firstweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

Got round to picking up my mail today, and there was something interesting inside. I've got mail drops all over Vardia. People I trust, as much as I trust anyone. They hold the letters for me. I stay on the move a lot, and this is the only way I stay in touch. Normal people use the post office for the same thing, but I trust the post office even less than the barmen and low-lives I pay to be my points of contact. Some of the parcels I get are questionable, to say the least. Wouldn't like to turn up asking for it and find myself staring down the business end of a Navy revolver.

What I got this time was a message from a guy called Xandian Quail. He's a whispermonger that lives over in Marklin's Reach. He says he has a proposition for me. Me in particular. A proposition that might make me very rich. And that's all the detail he gave, other than I have to be there by the end of the month. That's two weeks away. Twenty days. Can't hardly stand the suspense, to tell you the truth, Log.

Of course, you can no doubt tell by my jaunty pen-strokes that I'm kidding. This whole thing is suspicious as Pinn's imaginary girlfriend. I've sold a few titbits to Quail in the past and he always pays fair, but he's a big-money information peddler. Never been able to afford to buy anything from him.

So why me? What do I have to do with anything?

The sensible part of me is telling me to ignore it. Anything too good to be true usually is. Thing is, my sensible side doesn't have the stamina that my stupid side does. It'll be tired in a few days. I might as well give up now and say I'll be going. Just to talk. I can't think of any reason why Quail would want to kill me, but he could well be working for someone that does.

Still, though. What it'd be to be rich, eh?

I also got a message from an old acquaintance, some horrible bastard called Lawsen Macarde. He's the dominant smuggler in Scarwater these days. One of the fellers I pegged to make it to the top, so I never screwed him too badly on a deal. He's in the market for some aerium, if I can get my hands on any. I could do with some myself; we're getting a bit low. I'll maybe head over to Scarwater sometime soon, see what I can do.

Desperately trying to think of anything I've done to wrong Quail. Can't.

What's it all about?
Dyersday Firstweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

Things have calmed down a bit lately, and I for one am happy for some peace. Seems like everyone's forgotten about the freighter debacle, anyway. I should steer clear of piracy for the time being, I reckon. Sometimes a man has to accept there are things he's not good at.

What I am good at is ripping off low-level criminals and getting away with it. See, it works like a cycle. You get a small port, middle of nowhere, sooner or later the bad men move in. They swagger about a bit, running the place down, and sooner or later they get shot by even badder men or the Coalition Navy go in there and sort 'em out. Either way, they've got short lifespans, then they're replaced and it all begins again.

Way I figure it, as long as I don't revisit any town where I've stolen from the local crime-boss for a few years, chances are he'll be gone by the time I go back. Clean sheet for me. Then I rip off the next feller. The trick is to spot the ones that have got too big for their boots, the ones who are gonna get 'emselves killed soon. Once or twice I met fellers who were just dangerous enough to make it into the big leagues. Those, I left well alone.

You might call it a bit risky, making enemies like that, but it's only because my memory is so bloody patchy that I keep on stumbling across folks that want to settle a score. I should keep a list, or something.

This one was a straight theft. I persuaded this feller to let me haul a load of rare glassware for him. Top quality stuff, which he'd no doubt robbed off someone else. We were all smiles as we loaded it on, and then we buggered off out of there, never to be seen again. Made a tidy profit selling it on the other side of Vardia. Would've made a tidier one if I hadn't smashed half of it with a slightly clumsy landing. I didn't think we came down that hard, though I suppose it did make Malvery fall down the stairs into the cargo hold. I blame my mysteriously damaged hand.

The passenger's settled in well enough. He's a bit plummy but otherwise a good sort. No idea what his deal is, and more than once I've caught him glancing over his shoulder in public places, like he thinks he's being followed. Still no sign of whoever it is, though. Malvery seems to like him. Keddle likes him as much as he ever likes anyone, the moaning little bastard. The only one Crake can't get on with is Pinn. Not that that's a bad thing. Anyone who doesn't think Pinn is an idiot is an idiot themselves. I've met smarter furniture.

Bess gave us all a shock last night. Someone tried to get into the ship. Most of us were out, and I suppose Silo and Harkins were asleep. Harkins says he got woken by this roaring noise in the hold that scared him silly. Silo went down - Harkins wouldn't, obviously - and found Bess trying to put some poor bloke's limbs and head back on, like he was a doll she was playing with. At least Silo was considerate enough to clean it all up before I got back (I wasn't back till this afternoon, by the way - entertaining a lady, if you know what I mean).

Better make sure Crake has that thing on a lead, in case she thinks about doing the same thing to us. Crake assures me she won't, but nobody's convinced.

Note to self again: Silo is still after a bunch of spares for the engines. I swear I bought some in the last port but they aren't there now. I don't know if the cat's eating them or something, but we only ever seem to have just enough to keep the Ketty Jay halfway running. Can't think where they're going but it's getting on my nerves.
Scaleday Thirdweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

You'll forgive me, Log, if I haven't written in you for a while. I do have a good excuse, though. My right hand has been out of operation for some time. As to how it actually happened... well... your guess is as good as mine.

We picked up the freighter. I mean, we actually did. That poor guy I beat the information out of was dead on. It came cruising over the Splinters with two piddling little Caybury Interceptors as escort. They crossed at night, following a course between the mountaintops, trying not to be noticed. Probably it's worked up till now. But we knew their route, it was a clear night and we had the moon.

Pinn came screaming out of the mountain pass and blew one of the outflyers out of the sky before they even knew what had happened. Harkins was a bit slower than Pinn - he always is, but that's still quick in most people's book. Quick enough to empty his machine-guns into the other outflyer's flank, anyway.

The freighter had some guns on it, cannons big enough to do the Ketty Jay some damage. But they were occupied with the smaller craft and they didn't see us coming up on their blind side. The bigger the craft, the easier it is to sneak up on. I raked my guns across its underside, right where the aerium tanks were. Perfect shooting, even if I do say so myself. Holed the tanks and the craft started venting aerium, faster than they could pump it back in.

The art of it is to make them leak enough but not too much. You don't want to rip the tanks apart or they'll dump all the ultralight gas and drop out of the sky. But a steady leak is like a slow puncture. They start losing altitude, and the pilot has to make a choice: set down while he still can, or crash his craft hard. Most of them choose the first option. Ours did, anyway.

Once it was down, we boarded them. They were pretty cooperative, all in all. They opened the door rather than make us blast it open with dynamite. Then we were all in there with our guns, the whole crowd control routine, everybody down, show us the stuff, etc.

But there was no stuff. See, the guy I met knew the route alright. But that shit-wit, accidentally or on purpose, had me intercept them on the return route. After they'd delivered the money. We'd boarded an empty cargo ship.

The mood soured after that.

The boys were giving me dangerous looks on the way back. I really think that we got close to mutiny that night. I don't mind admitting I got a bit worried, but then I hit on an idea. I told 'em that I'd take 'em all out on the town, and I was paying for everything. So we did. At first they were still grumbling, the ungrateful bastards, and things were nasty for a while. But then Pinn and Malvery started singing, and everyone joined in, even Crake. Soon we were all best friends, at least temporarily. Soon after, we'd forgotten who we were.

At some point in the night, long after I'd lost the capability to make sound decisions, something happened to my hand. I think I got it jammed in a door, or some fat sod stamped on it, or something. Either way, it hurt like a bitch and went sort of purply blue. Taken a week or so for the swelling to go down, but I'm pleased to report that the incident with the freighter has been all but forgotten, and all is normal again. As normal as it gets, anyway.
Queensday Firstweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

Killing time 'till our date with the freighter. Crew are restless, as ever. The passenger is showing signs of thawing out. Malvery's decided to start dragging him out with us whenever he can. The Doc doesn't talk like it, but he used to live the high life once upon a time. He doesn't have a problem with Crake's accent like Pinn does. Me, I'm easy. He seems like an alright feller once you unjam that cane from his arse.

The golem is well-behaved, at least, although I do sometimes hear her charging around in the hold. I think Crake's playing ball with her. She doesn't seem violent, but I wouldn't want to get in her way while she's barrelling around. It's all a bit weird, but every time I think of kicking them off, I take out my cutlass and swoosh it around and everything's better. Pity I wasn't carrying it when I got spiked; I think I could have carved up the room blind drunk with this little wonder in my hands. It just seems to know what I want it to do.

I asked Crake if he could make any more stuff like that. He said no and went a bit funny. Mumbling about equipment this and sanctums that, but I could tell what was really bothering him. He's frightened of the idea. Seems a shame to know how to craft miracles and then not do it, but it's not my business, I suppose. Pity. I was going to ask him for a pistol that never missed, or something. Still, I'll set Malvery to pestering him, see what comes of it.

Not long till the freighter. Half the crew think the information's probably bad. The other half agree with the first half. But we've got sod all else to do, so we might as well check it out.
Kingsday Firstweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

Feel rather heroic today, actually. There's nothing to make a man feel like a man like setting right some wrongs.

Now I'm not going say I haven't pulled off a few injustices in my time, but Feckley's little trick was just low. I beat those guys fair and square at Rake, and he spiked and robbed me. It's not often I beat anyone fair and square at anything, so when I do I'm kind of precious about it.

Once I'd got out of bed and had my bowels back under control (an unpleasant-yet-strangely-satisfying side-effect of the spike) I gathered up the boys and we went down to Feckley's den.
Harkins I left to guard the Ketty Jay. He's a fine pilot but his bravery ends at the limits of his cockpit. He's not cut out for the physical stuff. Confrontations turn him into a gibbering wreck. He's likely to accidentally shoot someone out of nervousness. Quite possibly one of us.

I took Silo along this time. He doesn't often get off the ship on account of his being a Murthian and liable to get lynched when he's on his own. It's been a good few years now, but nobody's forgotten the war. Suppose the wounds run pretty deep. Me, I'm not fussed about Sammies or Dakkadians or Murthians or whoever - live and let live, that's what I think - but my guts still twinge when I think about that time in Samarla. The end to my illustrious career hauling cargo for the Coalition Navy. Still got the scars on my belly.

Silo and Malvery are the muscle, really, so I let them go in first. Pinn next, cause he's eager. I follow him in - can't go last, that'd just look weird - and behind me comes Keddle. I'm thinking I should start getting the passenger involved in this kind of thing, maybe. An extra pair of hands never hurts. And that golem would be pretty damn useful, if slightly unsubtle. Seeing Bess walk through town would raise a few eyebrows, and I like to keep my profile a little lower than that.

We boot our way into the den, bristling with guns. Feckley's got some muscle, too, but they're slow to their weapons. 'Don't you even think it,' I warn 'em, but there's always one. He thinks he's being ever-so-sneaky as he moves his hand towards his holster. Malvery spots him and shoots him with that big lever-action shotgun of his. Takes his head off above the jaw. Nobody messes with us after that.

Card dens have a lot of money lying around, and this one was no exception. Much more than was taken from me, anyway. I figure I deserve it. Just to be nice, though, I let the players keep the money in their pockets and what they have on the table in front of them. I'd be a bit of hypocrite if I didn't. It's not their fault that Feckley's a cheating pusbag.

He glares at me all balefully as we empty out his den. I can tell he's wishing he killed me when he had the chance. I know he's thinking up some kind of revenge if he ever lays eyes on me again, so I get my retaliation in first and shoot him in the foot. That'll teach him for glaring.

After that we reckoned it was best to get out of town, so we did, and then followed the obligatory grog-soaked celebrations of a job well done. It's not often we have a genuine reason to celebrate - we usually just make one up. So this time was a bit special. Put me back to bed for a day, but it was worth it.

Where next, Log?
Flaxday Firstweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

Woke up this morning in a bin. Not one of my better starts. Since I was upside down it took me a while to get out of it, after which I stumbled around trying to work out where in buggery I was. I was covered in all kinds of vile crap, and I had one of those hangovers where I could feel my eyes throb every time my heart beat. I would have been sick, but I think I left it all behind in that bin.

I was feeling so bad I didn't realise I'd been beaten up and robbed for quite some time.

Somehow I found a street I recognised and got back to the Ketty Jay without being stopped by the militia. Barely a flicker of surprise from anybody. Only the passenger made a passing inquiry about my well-being, but I just snarled at him. The cat obviously likes my new scent: he started following me as soon as I set foot on the craft and he hasn't left me alone all day. I went to my quarters and did my best to sleep, but the hangover and three tons of cat on my chest didn't make it easy.

Took me a long time to work out what happened, but from the bits and pieces I remember, I'm pretty sure someone spiked me. Second day I went back to the den they were playing Rake, and that's my game. I was flying. Came away considerably richer, and with the promise of a game the next day. So I went back for that one, and after that...

Well, I remember I was doing well. I remember I kept taking risks and coming up good. I remember beating Wings Full with a Run to the Ace of Skulls. Poor bugger I was playing with almost broke down in tears.

After that, I lose it. Someone sat down to play. Grinning at me, front teeth missing. He stank like sweat. Bought me a drink. The owner. Feller named Feckley, as I recall. It was him that did me. Guess he didn't like my run of luck.

Well, at least they were decent enough not to kill me. They didn't know who I was. Probably thought I was just someone passing through, possibly a professional cheat. Not that they'll find me grateful. Think I'd rather they had killed me right now.

But they didn't. So as soon as I start feeling a little less bloody awful, I'm going back there. For once, I won that money honestly, and I'm damned if I'm not getting it back with interest.

Scaleday Firstweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

Got a hot tip last night. Man I met at a card table gave me the news about a freighter, loaded up and ripe for the picking. Piracy's not gone well for me in the past, but still...

It went like this. I was on fire, taking down everyone at the table. Cash betting, all of that. This guy's good but he's desperate. Turns out after I beat him that some of his stake had been in the form of an IOU he couldn't pay. Things like that make me angry. I'm not an unreasonable man, but people who bet money they don't have just burn me up. So I pulled my gun on him and things got a bit strained. He was trying to talk his way out of it for a while, but a quick pistol-whipping took care of all that. Never let it be said that I lack finesse.

Finally he started blubbing. Turns out he used to work as assistant navigator on this freighter route before they fired him. He knows the times and the places where it's most exposed. The cargo is junk, but once a month they carry a heap of ducats, part of some accounting process they have. He offered up the information in return for me not clubbing him any more.

Fair enough, I said, since I wasn't getting any money out of him anyway.

I told the boys at dinner in the mess. Harkins went grey and looked rather unsteady. Pinn whooped and started dancing about until Malvery clipped him round the head with a spoon. Keddle grumbled. Silo didn't say anything, but he hardly ever does. The passenger just looked miserable. Morose so-and-so. This cloud of gloom follows him around everywhere. I wish I'd noticed it before I took him on.

Anyway, that's about as close to a vote of confidence as I ever get, so it looks like some light, refreshing piracy might be on the cards. Our window isn't for a little while though, so tonight, the only thing on the cards is cards. I'm going back to win me some more ducats. Feel like I've got a roll coming.

Note to self: Silo is complaining about spares again. Seems that no matter how many times I stock up on parts, there are never any spares. I should do something about it, but it's just one more thing I can't be bothered to deal with...
Dyersday Thirdweek, Fieldfire, 147/32

Awakeners came to town today. Shame. I kinda liked this place.

Ock's Fallow doesn't have a shrine or temple or whatever they call those places where they live, so we reckoned they were all busy in the big cities where the money is. Turns out they move in squads, heading from town to town, setting up for a few days at a time then packing up for the next destination. Me and Malvery went into the square this morning hunting coffee, and there they were, tents all up and ready. Spooky how they just appeared like that.

We stayed and watched for a while. All these prim and proper folks milling around the tents, going in to see the Awakeners, asking for this and that. I confess I don't get it and I've never really wanted to. All I know is they reckon they can tell your future, and if you pay them enough, they reckon they can change it. Sounds like a scam to me, but if it is, it's the best one I ever saw. Half the country believes in this Allsoul junk.

It's something to do with the last King, the crazy one that all the Dukes ganged up on when they formed the Coalition. After they slung him into one of his palaces and imprisoned him there he got to all kinds of raving, and they wrote it all down in some book, and then reasoned that since they couldn't understand him and he was obviously important then he must be a prophet. It's the old trick educated folk pull over and over: if you don't understand it, it's 'cause you're not smart enough, not that it's incomprehensible dogshit.

Crake was nervy when we told him. I wonder if it's the Awakeners that are after him? He is a daemonist, after all, and nobody would be hanging daemonists at all if the Awakeners weren't stirring them up all the time. Still, I didn't get that impression. I don't think he's scared of them; I think he hates them. And he's been making noises about moving on for a couple of days. We've been here a while now.

It's probably time to go, anyway. Malvery, Pinn and high-end booze are a dangerous combination. They get excitable, and that usually ends up involving the militia. Always better to leave before someone kicks you out.

So, I suppose we're going. No idea where to yet, but I reckon we'll know when we get there.
Kilnday Thirdweek, Fieldfire, 147/32

Quiet few days. We're flush with aerium so we sold off a bit to some desperate merchant for a good profit. Since then we've been slopping around a pretty little nook known as Ock's Fallow. Small port off the trade lanes. The folks round here are pretty respectable. Naturally, they don't like us, but I can just about bear the way they scoff into their wine glasses when we walk in. It's worth it to see them trying to shift Malvery later when he's beached and snoring on the bar.

It's nice to drop out of the race for a while, put your feet up. I reckon those days by the lake last week don't really count, 'cause we were all mad at Pinn. Not good for the blood. We're mostly over that now, although Malvery is still bullying him with a shade more enthusiasm than usual.

Not that everything's sweet, of course - it never is. Keddle is still bitching about the daemonist. He reckons we shouldn't have taken him on. They hang daemonists, so you can bet they have a dim view of those that help them out. I think he's worrying over nothing, though. It's not like he looks different from any other aristocrat. Honestly, you wouldn't know he was a daemonist at all if it weren't for the eight-foot metal golem in the hold.

Oh, yes. The golem. That's Bess. She came on board loaded in a crate. Couldn't believe my eyes when we crowbarred it open. Why our guest saw fit to call it female is beyond me - that's a woman even Pinn would balk at, and he's rutted a hound or two in his time. I don't know what lives inside that armour and I don't care to know. But those little glittery eyes behind her face-grille give me the chills.

They're an odd pair, Crake and Bess. I gave Crake the passenger's quarters, since he paid - Harkins is doubling up with Pinn - and I've barely seen him leave them. The only time is when he goes down to the hold to check on Bess. He talks to her like she's a pet or something. It's weird, but I don't see any harm in it.

Keddle's complaints gave me something to think about, though. But I reckon for now the benefits outweight the risks. For one thing, I got me a damn fine cutlass out of it. Plus, as long as we keep that golem inside and out of sight, then the Ketty Jay has just picked up one bastard of a watchdog. Crake is just as concerned as I am about being discreet- he only told me he was a daemonist 'cause it would be pretty difficult to explain Bess and the cutlass otherwise - so I've no worries on that score. And having a daemonist around might come in handy. I should ask him what he can actually do one of these days. Beyond conjuring up massive hulking armoured bodyguards, that is.

He's running from someone, there's no doubt of that, and part of the deal was that I couldn't ask him who. Still, he only paid for his passage, not my protection. If this someone catches up to us, I'm not standing in their way. And if it's the law, I can always plead ignorance. Us dumb freebooters wouldn't know a daemonist if he bit us on the nose. The golem? We thought it was just a wondrous machine. Simple folk, we.

I'll keep my eye on the situation. He's paid in advance, so kicking him off isn't a problem. If he gets to be trouble, he and his tin missy are out the cargo door.

Just to be sure, though, I'd better find out what they actually do to people caught aiding daemonists...
Flaxday Thirdweek, Fieldfire, 147/32

Yesterday was a very strange day.

We've picked up two new passengers. One is a daemonist, of all things. The other... well, I don't know what the other one is. I wonder if I should have allowed them on board, but they seem pretty quiet so far. Still, they paid passage for a year. A year. What was I thinking?

Oh yes. I was thinking that I'm now the proud owner of the finest damn cutlass in Vardia.

We finally made it to the cheerily named Cloud Cradle Heights after our extended layover by Lake Elden, only to find that I'd missed my contact by a day and he'd buggered off elsewhere without leaving word. So that was my infallible money-making scheme shot to shit. I won't bore you with the details, Log. Suffice to say it was brilliant and we'll leave it at that.

So while we're kicking around aimlessly in the dock wondering what to do next, this milky-looking fellow named Grayther Crake comes up to me. I make him as a down-on-his-luck aristocrat: he's shabby and smells like he hasn't bathed for a while, but he's still got the accent and a poncey way of putting things. He says he wants to get out of Cloud Cradle Heights, right now. That's no surprise - Cloud Cradle Heights isn't as pretty as it sounds, and he wouldn't be the first man on the run I've helped out, for the right price. The surprise is, he says he wants to book passage on the Ketty Jay for a year.

I ask him why. He says he wants to keep on the move. Do we keep on the move? I tell him we've been kicked out of half the ports in Vardia so we don't have much choice. I ask him what he's running from. He says part of the deal is that I don't ask.

Fine with me. Allsoul knows we've got enough secrets on this craft, and we don't ask questions about the past. So I ask him what he's paying with.

'This,' he says, and he holds out a cutlass. 'It's the only thing I have left.'

Now this is one lovely cutlass. I've never been much of a swordsman, and I don't know blades, but this is a work of art. Still, it's probably not worth a year of this bloke's company, so I kind of curl my lip.

'That?' I say.

Then he tells me that this isn't just an ordinary cutlass. He puts it in my hand and tells me to pick the best swordfighter from my crew. Nobody's any good with swords, so I pick Pinn because he's the one I'd most like to stab right now. Crake gives him an iron bar - no swords handy - and tells him to try and hit me.

Pinn obligingly does so. The cutlass sort of leaps into the parry, carrying my hand with it. Pinn tries again - I parry again. It's not even me that's doing it, it's the blade. I swear it's possessed. After a couple more times, I sort of accidentally-on-purpose jab Pinn in the arm with it. It's a beautiful thrust, just goes in far enough to hurt like hell but not enough to cause any damage. Don't want to give him an excuse not to fly - if he wasn't such a damn fine pilot, he'd be totally useless.

Of course Pinn wails like he's being murdered and Malvery drags him off to the infirmary to put some antiseptic on the cut. I make some practice swipes with the cutlass. By now I've worked out that Crake is either a daemonist or he stole this from someone who was. Turns out it's the first one.

'That sword in return for our passage,' he says. 'One year. We go where you go. We won't be any trouble.'

I'm so full of visions of swashbuckling my way into the boudoirs of various ladies that I almost miss the plural. 'Our passage?'

Well, I couldn't really say no. I really wanted that cutlass. I thought I might sell it, but I'd only waste the money. I reckon I'll keep hold of this. It's nice to have something that's not broken, dirty, patched-together or similar. Just one fine thing.

Harkins and Keddle were uneasy about having a daemonist on board. Harkins doesn't like strangers and Keddle is just a moaning so-and-so. I think he's secretly an Awakener or something - there's just a shiftiness about him that gets my back up. Thing is, the luck I have with navigators, I'm not about to go looking for a new one. Keddle might be mediocre at his job, but at least he's stuck with us so far.

Hand is cramping now. I'll tell you about Bess later. That's its (her?) name. Bess.

I really think I'm gonna live to regret letting those two on board.
Scaleday Thirdweek, Fieldfire, 147/32

Well, he came back, and quite a tale of heroism and gallantry he brought with him. The story of a plucky young pilot, eager to please his captain by returning with the necessary parts to get the Ketty Jay airborne again. A worthy quest tragically interrupted by some ruffians who mugged him and left him for dead in an alley. Robbed of all but a few shillies, unwilling to return and face the shame of failure, he gambled his last coins and won. Riding his luck, he won again. What followed was a frankly amazing display of skill that ended in our hero making all his money back, enough to buy the necessary components for his captain and save the day. On the way he won the affection of an improbably busty beauty who indulged his every sordid whim (said whims were described in gloating detail later to his crewmates).

Malvery listened to Pinn's entire story with admirable patience and then punched him.

What actually happened was this: Pinn arrived in Aulenfay with some money in his pocket. Within a few hours he'd spent a sizable fraction of that money on booze and whores. The next morning he presumably did some maths and realised he couldn't afford the stuff he'd been sent for. I don't know how he made up the difference and I don't want to know - he probably just stole it - but at least he got the right parts, which is no small feat for someone who is regularly outsmarted by his own shoes.

It's just exhausting listening to Pinn sometimes. Having spent the previous half hour describing all the things he'd done to his imaginary goddess - actually a ropey old slut with gout - he went into a lament for the sweetheart he left back home, declared that he hated himself for giving in to his manly urges, and then tried to drink himself into a stupor. Malvery snatched the bottle and downed it in front of him just to spite the kid.

Pinn moaning pathetically as I write this. Silo fixing the engine. I can't be bothered any more...

Queensday Middleweek, Fieldfire 147/32

It appears the cautiously optimistic tone of my last entry was misplaced. We had a fine old night on the grog by the lakeside. Silo came out and sat with us. He drinks hard as Malvery but he doesn't get any more conversational. Doesn't seem to affect him at all, in fact. Anyway, weather was scorching the next morning, everyone staggering about squinting, all of that. I had a feeling like a vicious dwarf kicking me steadily in the brain, but there's a kind of triumph to it. This feeling like you've survived. You know you're alive, even if you don't much want to be.

That was when we found out the Ketty Jay was broken.

Silo reckoned it was something to do with the heat. Something wasn't venting out properly, I don't much care, but whatever it was, something melted the something something all over the something and the upshot was we needed some new connectors that Silo didn't have. I raged a bit about carrying spares before he pointed out that we were using the spares and he'd asked me three times in the last three ports to buy some more. Can't say I remember but Silo doesn't lie so I suppose he's right.

Pinn volunteered to fly over to Aulenfay in the Skylance and pick up the bits. That kid's dumb as a raisin loaf but Harkins wouldn't go - he doesn't much like crowds and he started up with a panic attack the moment I suggested it. So I said fine, Pinn could go, and gave him a bit of money.

Three days later, we're getting pretty bored by this lake, I can tell you. Pinn better be dead, because if he's not and he's stupid enough to come back without the best damn excuse in Vardia, Malvery is going to rip a new arse in his face.

Kilnday Middleweek, Fieldfire 147/32

The great outdoors. I'm on a hillside west of Aulenfay with Lake Elmen glittering in that yellowy-setty-sun kind of glow. There's all these bright isnects around and Malv is starting up a fire even though we don't need one cause it's really nice out. Bit cooked from being out in the sun and probably shouldn't have started drinking quite so early but hey. New destnation tomorrow. Where, you ask, little Captain's Log?

Wouldn't you like to know?

Right, well you can probably tell that I'm not dead since I'm wirting this. In fact it all went pretty swimmingly, truth to tell. Everybody still here, no need to go trawling for replacements. I hate taking on new crew, I worked bloody hard to get those ones. It's not easy finding men who'll work for what I pay 'em, hahaha.

So this is what happened. Yesterday we met Gotch and his thugs in the port like we agreed, and they brought a canister of aerium and even rolled it on board for us which was pretty nice. Then they all piled into some junker and we were supposed to follow them in the Ketty Jay, Pinn and Harkins flying cover in the Skylance and the Firecrow. Plan was that we set down someway from the bad lot's hideout - which was out of town a way - and then we plough in there guns blazing and hpefully catch em on the hop. So there's twenty of us, or therabouts, me and the crew included. Not Silo though, they got all funny about having a Murthian with em. Silo couldn't care less so he stayed in the engine room which is practically where he lives anyway.

We set down, we creep up to the hideout, so far so good. Then we get there and alarm bells start ringing, cause there's something like thirty buildings there, I mean it's a whole little town. I say why don't we just fly in and machine gun the shit out of it but Gotch doesn't like that, he says they might get away. But I saw it on his face that he knew he'd screwed up but he couldn't go back without looking like a coward. Bad information, tut tut. You'd think he'd learn.

Well, someone sees us then cause to be honest we werne't hiding very well. Someone's clanging a bell, people start coming out, and already I can see there's twenty of them and half of them are still probably inside. Doesn't stop Gotch. He's all flush with the element of surprise. He jumps to his feet. 'Get em boys!' I jump up and go 'Come on, men!' or something, then all his men go charging down the hill and all my crew run the other way cause we're not stupid. We could still hear em shooting in the distance by the time we made it back to the craft and got out of there. Dunno what happened to Gotch but I reckon he'll need more than a tin ear this time.

I have a keen sense of things sometimes. Instinct, if you like. I'm good at picking sides. And one look at that lot flooding out of those buildings told me I was on the wrong one. There's gonna be a changing of the guard in Craven's Nook, if it hasn't happened already. Gotch is out. Someone I dont know is in.

Still, I reckoned that coming away with single canister of aerium wasn't exactly fair. I mean, thanks to Gotch we could've all been killed. So we flew back to his little hideout, since just about all his men were off fighting or dead, and we robbed the rest of the arium and a bunch more besides. There were couple of guards, but we had more 'n a couple of shotguns. Anyway, they were nice enough about it once I said they could have what we didn't take.

After that I reckoned it wasn't smart to be around Craven's Nook for a while so we headed off and fetched up here. Breeze off the lake is nice. Might go to Aulenfay later, find a game of Rake. Oh, wait, I can't, I forgot. We made a plan, that's right. I'm tapping my nose with my free hand but I suppose you can't tell cause you're a book.

Okay, enough. Tonight we're having a celebration. Me, Malvery, Pinn, Harkins, Keddle. Maybe Silo will come out, not that he'll actually say anything. Even Slag might come and watch, but he won't come past the cargo ramp. Fourteen years he's never been off that ship, not since he was a teeny kitten. He can beat the crap out of rats the size of your arm but he's scared blind of the sky.

Fourteen years? Damn, shouldn't he be dead soon? That's one old cat.
Millersday Middleweek, Fieldfire, 147/32

Seems I overestimated my old friend's gratitude. Turns out Edley Gotch doesn't think he owes me a favour after all. In fact, he's actually pretty mad at me. Apparently the information I gave him last time we met - information given freely and out of the goodness of my heart, I might add - wasn't quite as accurate as I'd thought. I'd neglected to inform him about the armed guards swarming all over the warehouse he wanted to rob. Not my fault; I told him everything I knew. Can't help it if he wants to base his shabby little criminal empire on semi-reliable hearsay, can I?

Anyway, he wasn't best pleased about having to replace two of his men and one of his ears (the latter with a pretty fetching tin substitute). I suspect if the Doc hadn't been with me, I'd be missing a few exterior organs myself right now. But people don't like to mess with Malvery. Something in his manner, I suppose. You just can't be sure about a man who laughs that loud and that often. He sort of makes you feel like he knows something you don't.

A swift bit of smoothing-over later, and we had ourselves a deal, though not as favourable as I'd like, given the circumstances. He has four canisters for me - and believe me I'm gonna test them this time - but first he needs some help with a little problem he's got. Edley Gotch has some competition in town, and he's looking to drive the new gang out. Needs a few extra guns. That's where we come in.

Between you and me, Log, I don't like gunfights. They carry a high risk of making me dead. So I told him half up front, and he laughed, and then Malvery laughed and Gotch went a bit pale and offered one up front and three after. We shook on that.

The crew were suitably unenthusiastic, except for Pinn, who's too dumb to be scared of getting shot. The situation's not ideal, I'll admit, but we need the aerium or we're not flying anywhere. And I'm damned if I'll rot in Craven's Nook too much longer. This place stinks in the heat. I want to get up north where the temperature is suitable for humans.

The crew like to bitch, but they'll warm to the plan once they're drunk. I know I will.

Flaxday Middleweek, Fieldfire, 147/32

Midsummer. It's bloody hot. The days are far too long, the Ketty Jay is like an oven, and I think the ship's cat has melted. Pinn has been pining all day for his sweetheart and I can only ignore him for so long before I have to shoot him. I don't even have any Shine to take to edge off, since I just found out yesterday that my dealer has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The folks in the pub gave me a bunch of different stories as to why, but they all agreed that he isn't likely to emerge again, unless it's in bite-size pieces. So for lack of any other damn thing to do, I hereby make my first entry into the Captain's log. I, Darian Frey, proud owner and captain of the Ketty Jay, do put pen to paper. Only took me fourteen years to get round to it.

We're low on aerium. Again. The stuff I bought last month was depleted; it's not giving out the lift that it should. It's already been through two or three engines before it got to mine. No way to prove it, of course, except that I know my craft and she's flying like a leprous cow at the moment. Some days I get sick of this cut-price, breadline shit. We nearly blew up last winter 'cause some bastard sold Silo a faulty prothane injector. Just once it'd be nice to buy something with a guarantee, something proper, from a Guild-approved shop. Just once it'd be nice not to have to haggle and threaten and promise just to get what I need.

We've put down in Craven's Nook for a few days so we can see what's what. We don't have the money for straight-up aerium but I know a guy who owes me a favour. Maybe he can put me on to something. Either that or we whore out Pinn and Harkins for some dodgy small-scale courier work. Their aircraft are still running fine, being as fighters hardly use any aerium at all and they're still on the old supply. Harkins is still fretting, of course, but when isn't he?

Either way, we'd better hope that any job we get is local. We're on our last half-canister of aerium, and I don't want to leave us dry. No aerium, no take-off. And you never know when you're gonna have to run.