“So’m, why Ghost Ferry travel-thee?” asked one of the goblin crew. Alice could tell that it was a question because their voice rose in pitch a little at the end, but a more nuanced analysis of whatever bizarre lect these people spoke was somewhat beyond her.
“Um, say again?”
They stepped away from the very rickety-looking handrail to let another goblin pass at breakneck speed.
“Gob-not understand thee? Ghost Ferry ‘wise travelwards thee? Er, direction-what journey yon?”
“Oh, where are we headed?”
“Er, to the Causeway, the small one.”
“Oh aye? Realm-other travelwise thee?”
“The Library, probably.”
Their mouthparts moved in a grin-like fashion. “Library-wards ticket o’parking got’n grandmother mine! Very-thing this-” they slapped the rocky shoulder of the Ghost Ferry – “’pon’twas! Time-me’s before-was, story yet heard’ve me.”
She had to take a second to process what she’d heard before answering. “Oh, cool! This can travel between Realms?”
“Big-size Causeway ‘pon travelwise this’n, aye.”
“Right. For the, er, Gibborim, I think?”
“Ferry-is muchen-small Gibborim-like. Whence from knowest-not me, stunted one else something be-it. Corpse found’twas-been Granmine, hearts it of stoked wife-hers by, it steppen thus now-be.”
Every few seconds, the Ferry shook, rattling the scaffolds as the giant stony body of the Ghost Ferry took another dragging step. All the while, goblins scurried across precarious surfaces, pulling and tying ropes, nailing damaged planks back together and chattering in their strange cant. Irksomely, it apparently didn’t get picked up by whatever language facility Alice currently had. Given the relative ease of everything else, she didn’t feel like it was worth it to complain to whatever bizarre force was translating things for her.
“Away snapwise gets I, apologise theewards!” the goblin she was talking to chirped, scuttling off and around the corner, and she was left clinging to the railing and trying not to think of how high up she was.
It was Red who reached her first. He didn’t walk through the scaffold and across the creaky boards with the contemptuous ease of Twelfth and A Librarian, nor with the mad scramble of the goblins. He walked with the laissez-faire attitude of someone who could fly and knew it down to his bones as he approached her. It’d have been impressive, if she wasn’t too busy being jealous to be impressed. Around them, the Square’s titan cityscape slowly moved past, and even the massive form of the Ghost Ferry was childlike among the enormous buildings, treading deliberately through long grass that nearly reached its knees.
“How’re you doing?” he asked, leaning oh-so-nonchalantly against the bit of scaffold she was clinging to for dear life.
“If you’ve just come here to be smug, you can-” she began.
“Hey, hey! I’m genuinely checking on you! I think I’ve managed to convince the goblins to, er, build you a chair with a harness and stuff, so you should feel a bit more secure. Sorry about that, goblin construction is a bit ramshackle, but it tends to be good.”
She grumbled for a moment, but relented. “Okay, thanks.”
“Now…” He glanced behind him, then back at where she clung to the wooden scaffold. “Okay, it’s a short way round this way.” He gestured behind him, round the corner of the shoulder he’d emerged from. “Do you think you can manage that?”
She rolled her eyes and nodded, but still accepted his offered hand to help her stand properly, and was content to be led round the creaky walkway to where the goblins had been setting up a chair. Further up, closer to the Ferry’s skeletal visage, Twelfth was perched like a pale spider, near a perfectly balanced A Librarian, sitting by Nik and chatting away. Aidra was standing even further up, on part of the palanquin that sat on the giant corpse’s forehead, arms outstretched to either side, although he broke character for a moment to wave to her, all the way down by the neck of the Ferry.
“Seat-yon build thee, us!” one of the goblins cried enthusiastically, gesturing at the bizarre sculpture of driftwood and cables that occupied a chunk of the space in the forward-facing viewing platform at around the clavicle-level of the Ferry.
With a flourish, they pulled a lever and the ‘seat’ creaked open like a jointed wooden flower, displaying a rather moulded-looking impression of a human outline.
“Thuswise getten posterior yon, it active-make shall I!”
“And then what’ll happen?” she asked.
She could feel the goblin grinning, despite their lack of lips or teeth. They yanked the lever, and the flower snapped shut over the human-like shape.
“In-rug bugsnug be thee!”
“Um.” She turned to look at Red, helplessly. “Could I at least see where we’re going?”
The goblin counted something on their claw-fingers for a second or two. “That do-canwe, aye.”
With a few deft motions and a couple of alarming twangs, a couple bits of the contraption detached at great speed, to fly over the edge and down to the city below, barely missing a handful of moving goblins.
The adjusted seating-thing had a good deal of give to it, and was altogether an oddly comfortable way to travel. The spokesperson of the chair-building goblins gave her a very sharp knife, pointed to one of the bundles of tied cables, and said something about ‘emergency ‘pon release, aye’, which was enough of a context clue for her to have any idea what they were talking about, and Red sat on the platform next to her, made idle conversation and answered even her most braindead Realm-newbie questions with nary a chuckle.
– – –
“So, there’s three main branches on the giant family tree, right?”
“Yep,” Red replied.
She frowned. “And that’d be Titans, Gibborim and… ?”
“Hekatonkheires. While the Gibborim were part-divine, and the Titans were creatures of primordial matter, the Hekatonkheires were… like Antithetical Demons but more so. As the Gibborim theoretically were closer to the Dominions than us Lower Sentients, the Hekatonkheires were further, out the other side. They crawled out of the Void, and made war against the first creations, and then… Well, history becomes fragmented both figuratively and literally around that point and lots of detail vanishes, but they probably lost that war, because the Real still exists.”
“Do they have… a shorter name?”
“Centimanes, although that’s more a name of a subspecies. They were all things with far too many arms, scrabbling like spiders over the ashes of civilisations, or some such other poetic descriptor.” He paused a second, then squinted at the darkening landscape ahead. “Wait, I think I see the lights of Farsquare Dock. Hah! Not long now, Alice, until we’ve crossed the street.”