The icy void
The cold silence of outer space enveloped the black cog as the Moon grew ever larger in Landen Donovan’s viewport (well, porthole). Yucta Axotylata stood at the prow near — but not too near — the shaman Techna and the brooding sorcerer Inuridiss. Yucta scanned the moon with his spyglass and saw an approaching vessel, a black cog like their own. Landen Donovan veered the ship ever so slightly away and those on deck wrapped their heads with turban-like wrappings, like those of the men of Leng. The other ship seemed to be fooled by this ruse but at the last minute Landen remembered the fluttering flag of the Free Human Confederacy which he had bought on the Isle of Oriab. No one was quick enough to pull the flag down, but Inuridiss shot out a skinny arm and chanted some words. A white strand shot from his hand and enveloped the flag. The strand constricted the flag into nothingness, to Landen’s dismay. The other black cog sailed by silently.
A day passed in the eerie, dispiriting quiet. The crew had been released and Tech-na had even managed to cheer them up a little. Still they stayed grumbling belowdecks.
Wreck of the Turquoise
On the third day in space, Tech-na spotted a derelict vessel, which he estimated to be about two hundred years old by its style. Its masts were snapped and its hull was pitted with meteor holes. Landen expertly guided the ship alongside, and Yucta made an expert grappling hook throw. Yucta, Tech-na and Inuridiss watched carefully as Landen tied himself to a rope and hurled himself into zero gravity between the ships. Then they followed him. The ship was mostly empty except for a few weapons and a couple of corpses. From the ships’ log (which Inuridiss studied avidly) it seemed that the ship was named the Turquoise, and it had been battered and smashed in its journey beyond the Basalt Pillars of the West, and that the crew had succumbed to the dangers of space. The log also described a magical shield called Shinjurak. Landen found the shield and discovered that saying that word would make it flash with bright light. Sir Thrakus showed him the rudiments of shield fighting, although Landen complained that the shield was heavy and hurt his arm.
Dark side of the moon
Landen piloted the cog past the light side of the moon and beyond tall jagged lunar mountains. The light became muted. Everything appeared as shades of grey tinged with sinister colours almost beyond human perception. Small stone huts appeared below and Yucta identified them as villages of the men of Leng. Ahead was a great black ocean on the surface of the Moon. “Brace yourselves!” shouted Donovan. He took the ship down with a mighty splash into that dark oily sea. No one was hurt.
Yucta took over the helm now that the ship was on water again. Another black galley approached from the north and once again passed by with no hint that anything was out of the ordinary. Beyond it was a city of grey cylindrical buildings. A horde of toadlike Moonbeasts was at the busy docks, loading and unloading crates of human and less-than-human slaves into crates in the black galleys. The foul stench of this place wafted across the water. Even Inuridiss had no desire to visit this loathsome city. Yucta turned aside.
The Mansion of the Moon
Presently a great roaring was heard and the current picked up. Landen realised there was a large cataract nearby, maybe similar to the Basalt Pillars of the West, and possibly a way to escape the Moon. Yucta steered the ship away and presently a tall crag came into view, topped by a dark mansion. Below was a wharf, with a black cog docked there.
“The Mansion of the Moon” breathed Inuridiss, “where dwells the Man in the Moon. His…library is said to be…extensive.” The old sorcerer was visibly excited by the idea.
It seemed a better destination than the city of the Moonbeasts, though whether they would find the Boatman Feroza there, Yucta could not guess. He looked up at the crag and realised the Mansion had a very good view of any approaching ships. He steered north, and Tech-na, Landen, Yucta and Inuridiss put ashore in the small boat in a cove near a scraggly fungus forest. Sir Thrakus joined them. “I did not journey to the Moon to nursemaid a cowardly crew.”