It was just after noon on Thursday that Sven caught his first sight of the port of Stonesea. It lay at the edge of a small bay surrounded by cliffs. The road led right up to the cliff edge and stopped by an A frame crane leaning out over the cliff.. Sven dismounted and looked over the edge.
Far below him was a ramshackle hut and a platform attached to the crane by tarred ropes. A badly written sign next to a old ship's bell held prices for men, horses, cattle and other goods and the instruction to ring the bell long and hard. Sven complied and a few minutes later a small bucket was hauled to the top of the cliff with the words 'Pay Here and Ring' painted on it. Counting out the coins he dropped them into the bucket and rang the bell again. The bucket rattled its way down and then with an alarming creaking and groaning the A frame flexed as the main rope began to move. Finally the platform reached the cliff top and after hooding the horses and tethering them on the platform he rang the bell again and endured a slow swaying descent to the port below.
The rest of Stonesea was as decrepit and decayed as the means of descending the cliff. The town had most certainly seen better days. Perhaps a more reassuring means of getting into the port would have helped. The tavern he was seeking was the only one in town and sited right by the docks. A single twisted Narwhal tusk above the door was its only sign. Inside though it was warm and welcoming with the scent of beer, pipe smoke and roasting meat. Sitting at one of the tables Sven spied his old professor and a small group of men in travelling clothes.
He was warmly greeted and arrangements were soon made for a room for himself and stabling for his horses. With a welcome pint of ale in his hand and plate of meat and bread inside him Sven learned as much as he could about the previous expedition and what plans had been made for this relief trip to Fomalhaut. Sven's companions on this trip numbered four. From the university there was the professor, John Quatremaine and also Gyliam Leyne a mycologist. Hy'sa ibn Sa'ni al-Taqri, whose family originated from Fomalhaut and knew of their local customs and could act as interpreter. Finally there was Hrafni Haflison who was the designer, owner and captain of their transport ,the 'Skíðblaðnir'.
John seemed quite smug when Sven asked more about the transport that had been arranged to get them to Fungus Forest and led him over to a small window overlooking the harbour. There was something decidedly odd about the ship that John pointed out. It seemed very lightly built and rather than sails it had what looked like windmills mounted on short masts and two very large bulbous piles of cloth on the fore and rear decks. As Sven watched the piles of cloth grew slowly larger until he recognised what he was seeing. It was an air ship !
Hrafni explained, the name of the ship 'Skíðblaðnir' was from Norse mythology, it was the name given to the best of all possible ships that belonged to Freyr and it was said it could be folded up to fit in a pocket. While his ship was not that small it did get larger when the gas bags were inflated and was the fastest and safest way to get to the Fungus Forests over land and sea and above the heads of any Fungus Hunters who might try to block their way. They could also search the forests from above for signs of the missing expedition.
After a toast of hot mulled wine to the success of their expedition Sven headed to his room to get some sleep before they departed at first light. This might turn out to be a very amazing expedition.