Aquarius Veturus and the Terribly Important Letter

Submitted by Scrithe Mendacious to Contest #14 in response to: It kicks off on a yacht with the delivery of an important letter.... view prompt

Concerning yet another elaborate adventure of

           AQUARIUS VETURUS, Pirate Extraordinaire—


When last seen, Aquarius and his crew of the unparalleled Shining Wanderer were grum at their malsuccess in all things piratic. Instead, they turned briefly to lemon farming, given Min’s proclivity toward sour things. 

I tell you now, Aquarius and Co. achieved such success in this endeavor, in spite of snow, blights, hurricanes, cannibals, wolves, birds, auctioneers, and the ever-present windborne goblins, that they became the principle lemon-seller to all islands in the vicinity of Somewherenothereia, potentially as a result of the lemon’s nonindiginousness to the arid area.

Misters Diligence and Eccentric took particular joy in the art of grafting from wild oranges, while the Witch of Basaurus they’d picked up a while back in Anabasaurus took particular delight in the thorns they had, since her lancets for finger-pricking for incantations had not been shipped expedited, and were on backorder for the foreseeable future, according to the Conclave of the Clairvoyant, their only marketer.

Miss Solemn, on the other hand, took particular interest in the fifteen-month life cycle of lemons, and would not cease—for all of fifteen months, I tell you earnestly—from consistently pointing out the incredible coincidence of the gestation period of lemons and the gestation period of gnomes. 

(For the record, gnomes and lemons are in no way related. Even lemon-gnomes. They’re only termed thus because their cephalanaptyx makes their heads look like lemons.)

But I digress; I feel a sudden and urgent impulsion to explain what exactly transpired after this lemon-farming endeavor, and why it involved a yacht.

Granted, the Shining Wanderer was by no means an inferior vessel: the craft had weathered many winters, and not only in the southern hemisphere, and such a ship had ferried Aquarius Veturus and his crew through countless treacherous waters without being overly maimed or depressed.

Yet, following the attack of the Bellicose Aesalons, and the attack of the Wrinkly Giants (a misnomer, you must know, since all giants are wrinkly-skinned like elephants to ensure appropriate heat loss otherwise stymied by their altered surface-area to volume ratio), and the attack of the Scyrakets, and the attack of the Cauled Elves, and even the attack of the Lemon-gnomes, the Shining Wanderer was no longer in such condition to maintain its constant voyaging, Somewherenothereia notwithstanding. 

Thus, as I am sure you can imagine, the sage and daring Aquarius Veturus bid his lemon-rearing earnings toward the purchase of a mighty yacht, a work of such tremendous beauty, I shudder to think I must describe it to you.

Veturus named his new ship the Garnished Winner, because he adored anagrams, and moreover, because the craft’s planks were so varnished, its facets so fixed in gold and jade, its sails so sturdy and smooth, and its oarlocks so ornately carved that the oars would scarcely even move.  Veturus hadn’t won anything yet, but he liked to believe in the presage of names, and thus it was: the Garnished Winner.

Only, there was one problem, as Mr. Eccentric was right to immediately notice upon the craft’s celebratory unveiling. 

“You missed a letter,” said he.

Aquarius turned round sharply and gazed at the ship, eyeing the filigreed bronze emblazoning across its stern, which read thus:

GARNISHED INNER

“I suppose so,” Mr. Diligence agreed, as was his role.

Aquarius turned back to his shipmates. “They hadn’t any Ws at the market,” he explained.

“Why not buy two Vs?” Ms. Solemn inquired.

Aquarius raised his eyebrows, wishing he could raise them higher, but the sun was rather bright, as his schedule had been booked, and he needed to host the unveiling party in the middle of the day, by the water, which around Somewherenothereia was little better than a vast, oceanic mirror.

“Because that would be silly,” he said simply. “Besides, it’s ‘double-U,’ not ‘double-V.’ And Us were double price when I was shopping, on account of it being Unemunelumnus Day.”

“What are we to do then?” asked Min, forever the least irrational one.

“I suppose we’ll wait until Ws are no longer on backorder,” Aquarius said.

“I agree,” opined Mr. Diligence, wincing, as he was sucking on a lemon.

The Witch of Basaurus also winced, though not because of any lemons. Or gnomes. “That seems unwise. You know how bad backorders get. We’ll have to do without.”

Aquarius gave up on his eyebrows, and scowled, gazing out across the refulgent waves. “Well, what are we to do then?” He looked pensively at Min. “Cast a vote, Min. We must decide between, on our initial voyage, embarking on our glorious vessel, the GARNISHE DINNER, or boarding our prestigious craft, the GARNISHEER DINN.”

“Wait,” interjected Ms. Solemn. “Isn’t GARNISHED INNER already okay?”

“No, because that isn’t fun,” said Mr. Eccentric sternly. “I suggest we use the HARDENING SIREN. We’ll be the scourge of the seas, then, my captain Veturus. Imagine us with bugles and nakerys and ophicleids! What a siren we’d make!”

“Wait, but HARDENING RESIN makes so much more sense, and the planks on that ship are new as—”

“Or maybe GRANNIE HINDERS, just for the devastating irony!” Mr. Eccentric over-shouted. 

“Or maybe DINNERING WASHER?” Mr. Diligence suggested loudly.

“But that’s definitely got a W in it—”

“Quiet!” Veturus shouted. “I can’t think! I need to go back to lemon farming; it was always quieter, and nobody argued as much, because there’s only so much that goes into cultivating citrus fruits!” He stalked back and forth across the dockyards, taking a skip every eight paces, or seven if he came too close to the edge of the quay.

It was then that the astute Miss Critical finally realized their predicament.

“We need more windborne goblins to fight!” she announced calmly. “We’re simply not ourselves without those omnipresent brutes. As much as I detest to say it, life just isn’t the same anymore, in this enduring liminality of self-questioning and gnawing doubt and all the trivialities that erode our will to be piratic and successful and self-transcendent!”

Aquarius looked askance at her. “You want us to find more windborne goblins? I have to say, I’ve had enough of those vermin. If nothing else, the Kraken of Tolonn was a challenging novelty. And that’s it, I think.” He spun on his pirate-boot heel, his pirate-swishy-pants swishing in style. “What we need, my fellow adventurers, is an adventure.”

“I thought we needed the letter W.”

“Be quiet, Eccentric. We also need that.”

“I’ve got it!” exclaimed Critical, oblivious to the argument. “I’ve just solved all our problems.”

“Not yet, actually,” noted Eccentric. “We’re still missing the letter W.”

Critical frowned curiously at him. “Yes, but I’ve thought it. Funny—what if a meteor hit me right now, and I didn’t have time to tell you what I’d thought? There would be no solution to all our problems! Well—unless a meteor was another solution. Meteoric iron might pay enough for the letter W, I suppose—”

“Just get on with it, Bosun Critical,” Veturus said tersely.

Critical frowned curiously at him. “I can’t remember.”

“Good lords…” Eccentric moaned, as Diligence practiced his knot-tying and wondered at the practicalities of pentangles, evidently deciding that the conversation was no longer worth listening to. 

“Wait! No, I can, nevermind. I was telling myself it started with the letter W, but of course windborne goblins don’t start with the letter W!”

The Witch of Basaurus sidled over to Diligence and stuck her hand out for a piece of cord, evacuating the argument with exceptional tact.

“They start with the letter Wind, of course. Wynn! They’re Ƿ-borne goblins! Ha! I never thought—!”

Veturus sidled over to Diligence and the Witch of Basarus and stuck out his hand for a piece of cord while noisily clearing his throat, evacuating the argument with exceptionally less tact.

“Fewer tact,” Critical said. And then: “I’ve remembered! We’ll begin a windborne-goblin-breeding company! Our halcyon times of citric horticulture may be over, but there’s nothing stopping us from rearing goblins! It’ll be just like baby goats—they’ll be so cute; can you imagine? An adventure and a goblin all in one!”

Aquarius Veturus, esteemed and illustrious pirate extraordinaire, looked up from his task, half-tied cord dangling limply in his callused palms. “I’m not sure goblins are quite like goats…despite beginning with the same letter.”

Bosun Critical appraised him coolly. “Sure they are. Everyone knows goblins are an r-selected precocial species, as sure as we know that hogboons salt the land on sour farmers’ fields. Besides, they reproduce with sexual budding, growing fertilized cysts on their backs that break open to reveal goblinlings that look just like kittens! Well, maybe not just like, but they’re about the same size.”

“I think goblins do care for their young, though,” Diligence pointed out, not looking up from his endless knot. At least for the first few weeks, until the precocial expulsion. And also, they try to kill people for treasure. They don’t even eat people.” He glanced up, gloomily. “I’d be okay if they were like ghouls, but they attack people and don’t even eat them, just steal their things and run. It was like those pirates who wouldn’t take anything but your ship. Say, wasn’t that where the Shining Wanderer came from? When they swapped it with the Radiant Renegade?”

You can see now quite clearly how contentious this crew was, how befuddled by their landlocked years as lemon-farmers, cooped up indoors (and in lemon fields) when their truest calling, they all had forgotten, was in fact in the open, lemonless sea.

“We need to get out to sea,” Aquarius said sagely, “out to see the watery part of the world, as I hear it called sometimes. It’s a better part, anyway, right Min?”

Min stopped trying to balance on one foot with closed eyes and said, “Sure.”

Aquarius nodded succinctly. “Misters Eccentric and Diligence—up the gangplank. Ready the sails and send the crow up to its nest; raise the anchor from its torpor at benthic depths, and prepare to loose the mooring-ropes. Witch, head belowdecks and check the spars and timbers and weapon-racks and spare ropes and sails and molasses and lemon hoards and whatever gold we still have, and anything else, too, if it comes to mind; just check it.” He spun lithely on his heel. “Bosun Critical, find out where our acater is, and whether he’s secured us any blin-meat for this trip, and whether it’s going to be salted with parabaccha, because you know I prefer violet-coriander in my steaks. And Officer Solemn…take Min and find where all the rest of us have disappeared to. I need all mates on deck in forty. Hop to it! This splendid yacht won’t sail itself!”

“Which yacht?” questioned Solemn. “The GARNISHEER DINN or the HARDENING RESIN?”

Aquarius ignored her.

Sometimes, he had realized, it was best not to partake in the trifling games of the crew. It was why he was captain, after all, and pirate extraordinaire. No matter the circumstances, windborne goblins or not, precocial or altricial, lemons or lemonless, Aquarius Veturus would live to sail another day. Well, at least until Morgen Week, when sailing was prohibited, or until Saint Galleon’s day, when he had an obligatory family dinner to attend, or on occasion, Rupertmas, though that was just because he preferred the landlocked games of Hock Hoansday, blindfolds notwithstanding. 

“We’ll depart tomorrow!” he announced, shouting up from the dock and hoping they could hear him on the yacht or in whatever backstreets and dark alleys their shifty provisioner was hanging out in. “Because,” he muttered, “I have a busy schedule today. And I would really like to get that letter.”

A day passed in an instant: just as the seasons do swirl through time untamed, running dauntless at the looming future; so comes tomorrow from the ashes of the night, all phoenix-like and brilliant in its enkindling the rubicund morning sun. It was a beautiful sight, for sure, the pinkening sky at dawn beheld from the bow of the ship whose name could not be spoken.

But not so beautiful as the first cry of non-bird/non-frog/non-cricket/non-crab/non-alligator/non-windborne-goblin that captain Aquarius Veturus heard that wondrous morn; ’twas the cry of Min, his forever-trusted first mate, beckoning the morning with the grandest news ever to be had onboard such auspicious decks (and not only because they were brand new).

“My captain, Aquarius,” Min said, stepping gracefully up the salt-spattered gangplank. “The arrival of your letter!”

Aquarius shot to his feet, nearly upsetting his state-of-the-art yacht-lounging-chair into the brilliant sea. “My letter! Thank every sky and river and all that’s blue and every moon to pass between the stars and stable realms! That’s wondrous, Min! My letter!”

“Here it is, sir,” Min said, handing a slim envelope to the esteemed Aquarius Veturus. “Your much-anticipated letter!”

Aquarius froze.

“My—what?”

Min froze.

“Your—letter.”

Aquarius remained frozen, locked in ice, frigid in the caliginous depths of morning, the tenebrous pits of mourning.

“You know,” said Min, gesturing with the envelope. “The one.” Min glanced at the postage. “I figured it was your invitation to the Hock Hoansday games at your great aunt’s manor house. I hope they invite me this year. But here you are, good captain.” Min proffered the letter.

Aquarius grasped it stiffly in icy calloused hands. “Aha. Mm. Yes.”

Min frowned sympathetically. “What is it, Aquarius? I thought you loved the Hock Hoansday games. Granted, I’ve never understood the blindfolding, but all the same…what’s the matter with this letter?”

Aquarius gazed out at the rising sun for many long moments, praying the searing light would wake him up, and he’d discover the whole thing had been a nasty trance inspired by some impish alp or drude or nightmare squatting on his somnolent chest and sucking out the good parts from his dreams. Alas, not so for poor Aquarius.

He turned glumly to Min. “Min, my friend, my dear first mate. When you came announcing the arrival of a letter to this yacht, my heart leapt in joy.”

“Splendid,” Min said. “I knew you’d accept the invitation!”

“Alas,” the gentle captain continued, desolate in his speech, “I had been expecting the delivery of an important letter.”

Min looked askance at him. “I’m not sure I see what you mean, captain.”

Veturus sighed; his frame nearly collapsed at the strain of it, once more grum and of tremendous malsuccess. “The delivery, dear Min, of the letter W.”

They basked in the commiseration of the early morning for several long minutes.

Finally, Min nodded. “I see.”

“Yes,” Aquarius affirmed, and nodded.

Min nodded once more. “I see.”

Aquarius nodded back. “Yes.”

Min nodded—this time, in empathy. “You can kick me off the side of the yacht if it makes you feel better.”

Aquarius’s lips cracked the barest smile.

“After all,” Min continued, grinning, “letter or no, there’s only one way to truly kick off a grand lawless adventure so worthy of us pirates extraordinaire.”

Aquarius met eyes with Min, and smiled. “Only one way indeed.”

In a flash, they both produced twin lemons from their pockets, grinning madly, the star of morning glinting off their golden teeth and golden homegrown citrus fruit.

“Three…” Aquarius counted.

“Two…!”

“One——!”

And thus concludes this small installment of yet another elaborate adventure of none other than our beloved hero and his compatriots,

           AQUARIUS VETURUS, Pirate Extraordinaire.


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1 like 1 comment

16:33 Nov 12, 2019

super fun and enjoyable!

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