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No Euphoria

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Ishut is young enough that he has never been to the surface. He dreams sometimes of it, though he knows he has very few concrete details of what it was like, and more fanciful ideas of what a wonderful place it must have been.

When Ishut's parents went to the Tomb-Colonies, Ishut and his brother Ashley stayed behind. Ashley was adopted by a man who said he had 'potential' and turned his nose up at Ishut, who had always been rougher and grubbier and more prone to speaking his mind. Ishut lived on the streets for a while longer before Zazarland found him and, with the persuasion of his daughter Elisha, took him in.

Zazarland had been a sailor before London fell. He tried sailing on the Unterzee just once, and quit after that; Ishut doesn't know if something happened or if he just didn't feel the same about it, since that's the only trip that Zazarland won't tell him about. He talks about blue seas, a ship called the Gloria that sailed with the wind, and water without monsters in it for sailors to fear. His stories get wilder and more animated when he's drunk.

(He's usually drunk.)

Ishut meets the man who adopted Ashley many years later, out with Zazarland at the Bazaar. Gariored, Zazarland calls him. Ishut asks where Ashley is, and repeats the question more emphatically when he doesn't answer.

The Masters don't like physical altercations at the Bazaar: bad for business, especially if goods are destroyed. If some people get angry at the very sight of other people doing their shopping, that's nothing they can help.

Gariored relents and gives an address. He doesn't go out much anymore. Terrible thing, really. Ishut gives him the stink eye as he leaves to find his brother.

Ashley is staring out the window when Ishut knocks. He's better-dressed than when Ishut last saw him, but not smiling much more; even when he lets Ishut inside and Ishut hugs him, Ashley barely reacts.

While Ishut asks a flurry of questions about how Ashley had been treated, Zazarland picks up a piece of paper left on the desk and silently hands it over to Ishut. Ishut has never seen one of these contracts before and the vocabulary is beyond his ken, but Ashley explains for him in an even tone. Gariored was in debt, so he had Ashley sell his soul to make up for it.

When Gariored returns, Zazarland is much more able to freely punch him in the face, so he does.

Ashley doesn't mind coming with Ishut after that, but Ishut figures he wouldn't mind staying either.

He eats little, and asks for less. When he's not directly asked or told to do something, Ashley spends his time staring out the windows of their home, or else reading one of the old books Elisha keeps around their home. He doesn't talk very much.

But soulless or not, he's Ishut's brother, and Ishut will make sure he's well taken care of and nobody gives him any trouble or takes advantage of him.

It comes as a complete surprise, the day Ashley walks up to the rest of the family and announces: "I want to be a pirate."

"Seriously?" Ishut asks.

"Yes. That would make me happy." Ashley's face is as passive as usual but there's something more determined in his voice than usual.

"Okay." Ishut turns to Zazarland. "We're going to become pirates. You can come if you want."

"Now wait a minute!" Elisha folds her arms. "You can't become pirates just because you thought it sounded fun! There's all kinds of danger involved, and you don't know the first thing about ships!"

Ishut shrugs and says, "We can learn."

"You're just two dumb boys! You'll get all kinds of taken advantage of if we're not there," Elisha insists.

"So come with us." Ishut grins while Elisha does a double-take.

"That's- not what I meant." Elisha looks pleadingly over at Zazarland. "We're not going to let them do it, are we?"

Zazarland looks thoughtful. "Well..."

"You're considering it?!"

"I've been away from the sea for too long," he replies. "And like you said, they don't know the first thing about ships."

Elisha sighs in frustration. "Well, if you're all going, I'm going to have to go just so somebody sensible is on board."

"Thank you," says Ashley. He smiles.

And that's how the banner of the Gloria is raised again, traveling the deep, black waters of the Unterzee.