“Okay, what is going on?” Monroe asked, looking from the captain, to the navigator, and back again. “Actually, we were hoping that you could figure that out for us.” Captain Milty gave Monroe a mild smile.
“How are your antlers?” Miltin asked, still hanging from the mast, so that his face stayed on a level with the seated Monroe and standing Captain.
“My what? They are…,” Monroe stammered. He lifted one poof to manually inspect the recently released one.
“Before you came up on deck, they were itchy. How do you feel now?” Miltin reiterated.
“Oh, right,” Monroe paused to search himself for lingering itches. “That seems to have cleared up somewhere in my adventures with the invisible,” he decided, eventually.
“I thought so. Yet, your perceptions as to whatever is going on seem to be growing clearer. I think you are adjusting to whatever happened here.” Miltin smiled at Monroe’s sour expression.
“We know something happened to the people on board this ship. She is not one of the kinds to sail herself. I think there is something about the overlapping dimensions in this space that caused their disappearance. Our Captain expressed the wish that we could turn this salvage opportunity into a rescue. I think that sounds pretty nice, too. What do you think?” Miltin added.
Monroe scowled and huffed briefly through his nose. “Well, of course, when you put it that way, I have to agree?” Then he gave up on the grumpy tone in exchange for merely tired and climbed to his feet. “I have the ship’s log. Can we start by going through that, maybe over lunch back aboard the Star Child?” The hope sat clearly written on Monroe’s face, almost as clear as the rumble his tummy gave in support of the idea.
Miltin laughed and glanced at Captain Milty before climbing down. The captain smiled. “We have been exploring most of the morning and breakfast was a long time ago. Whatever happened here seems to be over, now. We can afford time for lunch. Besides, it will give you more time to adjust and who knows what you will be able to see then.”
“We should grab our rescue kits, too,” Miltin added as he led the way back toward the temporary bridge between the two sailing ships.
The Captain and Monroe produced thick sandwiches, cole slaw, and herb roasted potatoes for lunch, while Miltin skimmed through the log and read out interesting bits to them. The mystery ship became becalmed more than a week before they arrived under mysterious circumstances. Even though the sailors could see the wind shifting the trees on a nearby island, the wind would not or could not stir their sails.
In spite of this, seeing as how there was food and fresh water available on the island, morale remained high. Even when members of the crew started disappearing, morale stayed high, as if when someone disappeared, those who remained forgot the vanished ever existed. Only when the cook vanished and the evening meal failed to materialize did they notice something amiss. A calling of the roll revealed the crew down by a third already.
Routine checks and a policy of always going about in pairs led the lost captain to believe people only disappeared aboard his ship, not on the foraging expeditions to the island. By the time the crew strength sank to half the original number, he started considering a transfer of most of the crew to the island. The calm which held the ship stayed with the people, however. In spite of his rapidly vanishing people, the captain felt no urgency about the matter. He continued to ‘consider’ the option past the point the crew fell below one quarter strength and then his turn came to disappear, ending the log.
“All the ship’s boats were still aboard, so we can assume no one escaped,” Miltin said accepting a-well laden plate from Monroe.
The three Mooses gathered with their eatables around one end of the long mess table where from Miltin unfolded the tale contained in the missing captain’s log. Milty sat at the head of the table, of course. He lifted his sandwich to his open mouth, but as he stared down the half-empty table length he slowly lowered the sandwich unbitten.
“Miltin, you sail with me on a semi-regular basis, correct?” the Captain asked, staring straight ahead and thinking hard.
“Of course, you know that I do.” The smaller Moose said with his brow furrowed, looking around for what had caught Milty’s attention.
“Can you list for me the major jobs that need doing by my crew while my ship is under sail?” The question seemed silly for such an experienced sailor to ask, but the strain on Captain Milty’s face spoke to its importance. As Miltin thought and tried to frame his answer, Captain Milty’s poof slowly drifted away from his lunch and up to rub at his antler, “Or in foul weather, how many sets of pooves would we need to properly see to the sheets, lines, and the wheel?”
Miltin’s hand slowly lifted in an unconscious mirror of his friend’s gesture as Miltin forced his mind to focus on what the captain really wanted to know rather than a simple, surface answer. All the Mooses knew that the Star Child was really alive and completely able to sail herself through the foulest weather to the remotest destination if it suited her purposes, so the captain did not need any crew at all. Suddenly, Miltin saw what caught the Captain’s attention. “This table is too long for just the three of us.”
Monroe tensed where he sat, stretching his senses and focusing his mind, “Think of how many dishes there are in the kitchen. Think of the size of the serving dishes and cooking vessels. Most of us are missing, just like the other ship. It is only because we can all turn our hands to most tasks that it took us so long to notice.” Monroe’s voice grew deeper as he spoke and he seemed to swell larger where he sat though he took up the same amount of space. “Our missing better not be hurt in anyway,” he rumbled. It is never wise to hurt a Moose’s friend, even if you wipe out all memory of them.
Captain Milty took a deep breath. “I do not think it took us long to notice. The ship’s log said the other ship was becalmed for weeks before the captain’s turn came. I think whatever is happening has accelerated and all our disappearances happened while we searched the other hull. Nothing could have stolen the Star Child’s crew from her decks, and the memory-loss effect has not touched her or she would have shifted this chamber to better suit our diminished numbers.”
Captain Milty, very calmly, forced himself to take a bite of sandwich and chew it thoughtfully before speaking again. “We shall sit here and safely shore up our strength while we figure things out. We tried rushing in to investigate, and that did not work out so well. This time we should figure out more of what is going on first. Then we can better decide how to rescue all those who have gone missing and forgotten.” Captain Milty munched a big forkful of coleslaw and thoughtfully chewed some of his potatoes before he added, “Rescue missions are better than salvage missions anyday.”
Miltin nodded his agreement, but with his own fork in one hand and his sandwich in the other he was too busy methodically working his way through the meal to comment. Monroe scowled and huffed for a bit. While he sorely wanted to rush out and do something, he did not really know where to rush or what he might do. Someone once told him that when adventuring, it is important to eat when you can and sleep when you may, for you never know when the next opportunity may come. The rest of the meal passed quickly and far too quietly.