There is no light in the hold, but they can tell from their watches that it is a little after dawn when they hear the sound of activity coming from above. They can hear more voices now and signs of other activity. It sounds as if the gunboat has entered some kind of port.
A short while later and the doors opens. Again they are greeted by shotguns as they are urged to follow them. The party members emerge from the dark hold, blinking against the bright sunlight as they see that the gunboat has docked with a vast floating raft town, which must cover around a square kilometre. The town is floating on a large mass of greenmat – matted seaweed – which is covered by a platform of wood, upon which shanties are built. There are around half a dozen gunboats similar to the one that they arrived on moored to the side of the floating town. The town itself is moving, propelled by tens of sails and several steam paddles.
The party members are escorted off the vessel at gunpoint and led through the narrow streets of the floating town. They seem to have attained celebrity status already as there are crowds at every street corner all staring at them.
They are led towards the largest building on the raft – right in the centre. Unlike the other shanties that they have passed, this building is constructed well, its timbers featuring ornate carvings. Jie tells the others that this is the Elder’s Building.
They are forced into the building and left in an antechamber for well over an hour, still guarded by the shotgun bearers. Eventually the doors open to the main chamber and they are urged inside.
Sat along one side of a long desk are the Elders, dressed in blue robes. The party members are forced to stand in the centre of the room, the guards standing behind them.
Jie starts to address the Elders. They look disdainfully at her but don’t interrupt while she speaks. Although the others don’t understand a word of what she is saying but, from the body language of the Elders, it is obvious that it’s not going down too well.
Realizing that she is just making things worse the more she speaks, Jie falls silent. The Elders gabble among themselves. The other party members can make out the word Seaharvester coming up a lot.
“What’s goin’ on?” Max asks. “What they yatterin’ on about?”
“They think that we are spies from Seaharvester,” Jie says nervously. “They are just deciding what our fate should be.”
Max sighs deeply.
“Bleedin’ ’ell, girl,” Max says. “Remind me to give you some bullshittin’ lessons one of these days.”
“Let me ’ave a go now. You just translate.”
Max launches himself into a wonderful tale about how they are from an international aid organization who were despatched in order to send gifts to the nomads and to interview them about the activities of Seaharvester as Will is a top lawyer who is planning on prosecuting the organization for exceeding their quotas. He tells them that the desalination rig that they brought with them is a gift from the organization to thank them for their help.
Jie diligently translates and then everyone waits to hear their reaction. The reaction is definitely better, but still the Elders are not completely convinced by Max’s story. They debate the pros and cons among themselves for the best part of an hour, but cannot all agree one way or another. The Elders are totally split, with three believing Max’s tale and the other three still thinking that they are spies.
Eventually the most senior of the Elders makes his casting vote. Jie tells the others that they intend to test the party members’ mettle to see if they are worthy of standing at the side of the Callios. They will take part in the next daghadsi hunt, whenever they next spot a herd.
Jie thanks the Elders profusely and then they leave.
The guards usher the party members out. They are relieved to see that they aren’t pointing the shotguns at them any more.
The girl who originally discovered them is waiting outside for them. She leads them to her shack and offers them some space inside it and some food. It’s not much, but definitely better than the night that they spent in the open dinghy at least.