The barge was a clinking whirring wonder of a place. Before the cataclysm, the sunken lands beneath the barge were an arid salt flat. Engineers from all over would try to outdo each other’s contraptions to see whose was the fastest…or just not explode.
The flood changed little besides the landscape as the group’s ego kept them focused on building, beating, and belittling each other.
We drifted up to the soaked dock floating on all manner of parts strung, screwed, or bolted together. Two goblins sat almost unaware of our arrival, the closer one just nodded, “just what we need, more refugees – yous goblins engineers…” looking us over, he continued, “beat it, we got-”
“Is that a samophlangic propeller system on that baby? It looks like a T-400 or a 450.”, Ras interrupted, pointing at the small boat strapped to the far side of the dock.
The goblin who gave us the welcome leaned forward with a smile, “Actually…”, he whispered, “Its a Samodyne 485 with dual magnetic coils; you know a thing or two about that?”
Ras whistled, “Yes, yes I do”, rubbing his hands together, “but, my friend here might-”
“Him? Yeah, yeah – he’s fine.”, the goblin said hurriedly and looking at me quipped, “Why don’t you go aboard.” motioning to the gangplank. Turning back to Ras I could hear him continue, “He didn’t look to intelligent anyway. Maybe he can help pump the bilge water or somethin?”
Ras looked back with a smirk and walked off getting a closer look at the racing boat. I got up onto the deck which looked more like a huge metal field. Goblins and gnomes were huddled in groups, occasionally running back and forth with armloads of tools, trinkets, and blueprints. I was invisible.
A gnomess bumped into me and barely avoided dropping an armful of cogs, belts, and a drink. “Watch out greenie! I’ve gotta bunch of engineers waiting on me for these parts. Your boys are going down again this month!”, she snapped.
I was a bit dazed when I said, “I-I was looking for a gre- no, goblin. A goblin, he’s a tailor – like me; goes by Tozzi?”
She just looked at me. Sudddenly, I was awkwardly, painfully visible at that exact moment when she giggled,”Tailor?”
The deck lit up with the glint of several dozen goggles looking up and it got really quiet.
A spanner clanked to the deck, “Oh my Kezan! Is that you Grimmie?! Such a kidder – since you were a kid.”, an older goblin laughed nervously working his way down the ramp from the second level. “He meant FAILURE, not tailor. Ha-ha! He was referencing our temporary setback from last months competition, right,” as he firmly grabbed a hunk of flesh near my side.
The gnomes began to talk then debate as the symphony of clanking, hissing, and whoosing resumed. The feisty gnomess shifted the parts in her arms and hurried along back to her crew and we disappeared amongst the goblins working on the upper deck.
Uncle Tizzo dragged me down a cramped corridor and rasped, “For real? What are you doing here Grim? It’s been what – at least two years since I’ve seen you? And you walk on a boatful of engineers and announce ‘I’m a tailor’?! I don’t know who’d have tested you for ballast first, the goblins or the gnomes?!”
Stopping in front of a door he grabbed a spool of keys still mumbling, opened it, shoved me inside, locking it behind us. He turned and Tizzo’s eyes glistened with a tear. “How are you doing Grim?”, he said crumpling me with a hug, “It’s good to see you, you…you smell like death – is that blood?”, he asked looking at the dark dried stains across robes under my cloak.
He helped me get cleaned up in his tiny room aboard the barge. After a few hours, Tizzo was able to find Ras and pull him away from his newfound engineering friends. Tizzo was helping as a fabricator for the goblin teams on the speedbarge. He’d kept quiet about being a tailor and used his herbalism skills researching engine lubricants for the racing boats.
Making a fresh pot of espresso, he set a mithril moka pot on top of a small stove. “Why now Grim? What brings you to my door all the way out in the Shimmering Deep?”
“Uncle T, what do you make of this?”, I asked pulling out the scrap of fabric I grabbed from the Pawnitarium.