Sprogs and Cogs piloted the Copper Cicada up to one of the long wooden walkways that jutted from the side of Fobiah. It looked like an ordinary dock to Khell at first, only there was no water holding up the wooden docks. Instead they seemed to float out in the open air.
Several other ships were docked at Fobiah as well. There was a huge steamer that Khell thought looked like a Mississippi riverboat; complete with a giant paddlewheel. There was a large black square of a ship that leaked orange light from its seams in a way that made the whole ship look hot to touch. There were a pair of ships that looked like clockwork swans, and another that looked like a lopsided house built onto its own small island. Compared to most of the other ships docked at Fobiah, the Copper Cicada was quite small.
Sprogs waved over the deck of the Cicada to a group of green men with long strong arms, short stout legs, and sharply pointed noses. They waved back to Sprogs, before they used gaff sticks to pull the Copper Cicada closer to the deck, and tying the ship down.
Khell watched the whole of the docking with unhidden awe. The floating docks were amazing, and should have been impossible. The same was true of the ships around them. Fenway fluttered up behind Khell, and placed a paw on her shoulder.
“You’ve never been on a Beetle class ship during closing, have you kid?”
“No,” Khell admitted. “I don’t even know what that is.”
“Yeah, I thought that might be the case,” Fenway said. He motioned for Urrah to join them. “She’s never been part of a ship closing,” Fenway told the large bear-man.
Urrah gently picked up Khell by the shoulders and moved her to the center of the deck. “Do not move,” he told her. “Is safe if you stand still.”
Cogs pulled some final levers at the bow of the ship, and made a sharp steam whistle noise. The wood under Khell’s feet rumbled as machinery below deck came to life. The rigging went taut, and was reeled in by wheels hidden beneath them. The sails groaned, and pulled in towards the deck.
Khell stood rigid as spars and sails folded around her. She watched as the crew of the Copper Cicada preformed an intricate dance between the moving parts. They pushed, pulled, and lashed down the sails as they folded into the ship; all with practiced ease. Finally, the copper plates from the side of the ship latched overhead, and clicked down over the Copper Cicada’s body like a carapace.
Cogs whistled again, this time a series of short toots. The grinding machines in the bowels of the Copper Cicada stopped. Cogs dropped open a door that doubled as a gangplank, and gave an almost sarcastic salute as he stepped aside.
Khell was the last to get off of the ship. She stepped gingerly onto the dock, uncomfortable with how it bobbed under everyone’s weight. Behind her, Cogs pulled the gangplank closed from inside the Copper Cicada.
“Cogs has to stay on the ship,” Sprogs told Khell sharply.
“Oh,” Khell replied. She hadn’t thought to ask about Cogs really. She wasn’t thinking about much more than getting off the dock and on to solid land.
“C’mon kid,” Fenway offered, leading the way. “We’ll show you around.”
Fobiah was a farming town, Fenway explained. He pointed to the fields of wheat that grew along the edge of the floating island, and told Khell of the orchards of fruit that dominated the other side of town. The first thing that Khell noticed was the tower in the center of town. It looked somewhat like a windmill, with a giant fan spinning slowly in Fobiah’s breeze, but with huge copper pipes jutting at random intervals from the body of the tower, and vanishing into the ground. The windmill was the tallest building on Fobiah, towering high over the timber and plaster houses that made up the town.
Even from the docks, Khell could already see life on Fobiah. A bear in overalls shoved a plow in the field, while another, wearing a sundress, watched some cubs running nearby. Three flying pugs chatted with a raccoon boy as he did maintenance on some farm equipment. A pair of giant lizard men stalked past the crew, wings wrapped like cloaks around their shoulders. They spoke in their own hissing language, and laughed as they purposely shoved past Urrah.
Khell watched the lizard men pass, and waited till they’d made a good distance before she spoke. “What are they?” Khell asked.
“Slaadas,” Urrah replied, rubbing his shoulder with annoyance. “Is not always most friendly people.”
Fenway nodded his agreement. “It’s not nice to judge a whole people but, yeah; the Slaadas are a piece of work.”
“Slaadas,” Khell repeated. “What about the green guys that helped at the dock?”
“Those were Gooblyns,” Fenway said. “Good workers; really know their way around a dockyard, but you’ve got to watch your wallet around them.”
“Now who is judging whole people?” Urrah chided.
Khell just nodded. Slaadas. Gooblyns. The world may not have had a name, but the people did. Khell looked at her companions. “So, what is everyone else?”
Everyone shared a look as though Khell had asked them to eat a kitten. For a moment, Khell thought they might not answer her, and she considered apologizing for what might have been a rude question.
“I’m a Pupkin,” Fenway said with an awkward smile, starting everyone off.
“We were called Borras,” Urrah added, pointing to himself. “But we changed it after we lost our home.” Urrah raised his chin proudly. “We are Crueshians now. We will never forget.”
Fenway and Urrah both looked at Sprogs. Sprogs just stared daggers back at them. “Sprogs is an Arcune,” Fenway explained, never taking his eyes off her. “They’re not known for their manners.”
Sprogs gave an annoyed chitter. “Why are you humoring her Fenway?” she snapped.
“I’m not humoring anyone,” Fenway replied. “Khell asked a question, and I answered it.”
“Khell asked a stupid question,” Sprogs corrected. “She’s asked hundreds of them, and you’re acting like it doesn’t faze you.” Sprogs sucked her teeth at Fenway. When she spoke again, it was with a perfect mimicry of Khell’s voice. “Where are we? Who’s the King? Where’s the ground? What is everyone?”
Khell’s anger at Sprogs’ comments was overwhelmed by her amazement of hearing her own voice come out of Sprogs’ mouth. “How are you doing that?”
Sprogs pointed both hands irritably at Khell as though she’d just proven Sprogs’ point.
“I’m not from here,” Khell snapped. “Why can’t you get that?”
Sprogs snarled and advanced on Khell. Khell hadn’t noticed Sprogs sharp canines before, but she sure noticed them now. “I can’t get what you’re playing at, that’s what I can’t get,” she growled. “Where could you possibly be from that you don’t know what the Cogwork-Kingdom is?”
Khell tried to step back, but Sprogs just kept up, and kept face to face with Khell. “I’m from Canada,” she started, already sure this wouldn’t mean anything to Sprogs. “My dad and I just moved to Quarry Town a few days ago; so I guess I’m from there.”
Sprogs shook her head. For a moment, her anger was replaced with shock. “You’re not from Quarityn,” she accused uncertainly.
“Quarry Town,” Khell corrected, “and, yes I am.”
The fury returned to Sprogs’ features. “No you’re not!”
Fenway flew between the girls, and made Sprogs to take a step back. “Yes, she is,” he stated calmly.
Sprogs stared a mix of shock and surprise at Fenway. “So that’s what this is about?” She threw her hands in the air. “You think she’s actually…”
“You didn’t see what I saw,” Fenway interrupted with a growl. “You don’t even see what’s right in front of you.” He pulled down Khell’s hood. “What is she Sprogs? You have all the answers.”
Sprogs stared hard at Khell. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “She looks a bit like an Alfyn I guess. Ears are too short, and way too round but…”
“She’s not an Alfyn,” Fenway interrupted. He tugged Khell’s hood, causing her to stumble a step closer to Sprogs. “Look harder,” he ordered.
Khell tugged the hood from Fenway’s paws. “I don’t know what an Alfyn is,” she said. “I’m human, ok?”
It felt weird to say out loud. Khell couldn’t have imagined before being a place where she’d have to tell people she was human. Her declaration was met with a moment of silence; broken suddenly by Sprogs sharp bark of a laugh.
“You’re a Yuman?” Sprogs declared with disbelief. She looked incredulously at Fenway. “Is that what you believe?” Sprogs looked back at Khell. “You. A Yuman from Quarityn.” Sprogs stood on one paw, and shoved the other at Khell’s face. “Go on,” she said, still laughing. “Pull the other one; I’ve got two.”
“I am human,” Khell replied hotly. “Why would I lie about something like that?”
“Because there’s no such thing as Yumans!” Sprogs snapped. Her shout caught the attention of some passing Pupkins, but Sprogs shot them a look that caused them to quicken their pace. “There’s no such thing as Yumans,” she repeated with forced calm.
“And yet, here she is,” Fenway added. He lit a cigar and inhaled deeply. “The question is; what do we do now?”
“We get rid of her,” Sprogs answered quickly. She looked at her companions, surprised that it wasn’t as obvious to them as it was to her.
“Is not answer,” Urrah said. He shrugged his huge shoulders. “Maybe is Yuman, maybe is not. But we do not sell people, not to client, not to anyone.” He looked down at Sprogs. “And we do not turn back on people that need help.” Sprogs crossed her arms angrily, but muttered an agreement under her breath.
“I don’t get understand,” Khell admitted. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Fenway turned a smile to Khell, ready to answer. Sprogs cut him off with an angry chitter. “Fenway thinks you’re the Yuman from Quarityn that’s supposed to bring a vaguely explained big change to the world. Because of the prophecy.” Sprogs snickered like she was sharing some inside joke. No one else laughed. “He’s hoping that you will somehow stop the Cogwork-Kingdom.”
Khell looked from Sprogs to Fenway. She shook her head in disbelief. “Me?”
“You,” Sprogs agreed with a roll of her eyes. “Our great Yuman savior.”
“Me?” Khell repeated. She had about as much belief in this as Sprogs had.
Fenway shot Sprogs a dirty look. “What we do or don’t believe doesn’t change our afternoon does it?” He pointed to a small café. “We’re meeting our client there, and he’s going to be expecting us to have the merchandise.”
“You,” Urrah verified for Khell. “Is good sign that he believes the prophecy, no?”
“Or a good sign that you guys were wrong,” Sprogs offered, “and she’s not what you were supposed to retrieve.”
“Guess we’ll find out,” Fenway finished. He flew towards the café, expecting everyone to follow.
Khell stood still, and shook her head when Fenway looked back at her. “Who is he?” she demanded. “Who is the client?”
Sprogs made an amused noise. “Oh, go ahead and tell her Fenway,” Sprogs insisted. “It’ll be great.”
Fenway huffed. “Alright,” he relented, motioning for everyone to keep their voices down. “We were hired by Principal Valen to find something off in The Library; all very hush hush.”
Sprogs smiled and motioned to Khell. “Well, go on,” she urged.
Khell bit her lip. She knew what Sprogs wanted to hear, but she had to ask anyways. “Who’s Principal Valen?”