A/N: Because really…would Jorg miss an opportunity like this?


"I want that one," I said, pointing to the metal behemoth in the distance.

It was a great mountain of a ship, iron-clad and hulking. It sat low in the water, a menacing figure glaring out over the port. It put me in mind of Rike's face - big, mean, and ugly, fierce enough to scare off any would-be attackers with a single glance.

I knew exactly what I would name it.

"Let's go down and take a look," I said. "Perhaps the good Shipmasters of Conaught will be so kind as to give their new king a tour."

I turned my horse towards the dirt path and nudged it to a walk. Behind me, Makin, Rike, Grumlow, and Red Kent fell into line.

The grassy hill we'd been riding on sloped down into the valley below, giving us a view of the dull, grey sea reflecting the gloomy clouds above. The port of Hombug spread out below us, filled to the brim with ships. Hombug was rumored to be the busiest port in all of empire, and the stories didn't lie. It was a bustling, crowded place, even from a distance. Tall, three-masted caravels from the Drowned Isles and Arrow wound their way past merchants' galleys from Florentine. Smaller cogs from the Spice Isles slipped between them, filled with barrels of exotic herbs and bolts of shimmering cloth. At the quay, rough men with callouses for hands and leather for skin scurried around, loading and unloading their cargo, hoisting anchors, throwing mooring lines ashore.

The city itself was nearly indistinguishable from the port. A sprawling market tumbled down the hills into the valley below, pushing up against the shore where the waves lapped at the rocky beach. The stink of it permeated the air even a few miles off. Dead fish, rotting cabbage, human waste, and horse shit all combined into a rancid perfume that drifted up the hill on the chilly ocean breeze. As we rode into the city, it only got worse.

It seemed that every fishmonger and his wife had a fish market stall – and his brother, and his mother, and his third cousin twice removed. As my brothers and I ventured down into the stink of Hombug, we must have passed by at least a hundred fish stalls. I have no idea how many fecking fish a man can eat in a day, but I swear to the God of Roma, the god of Maroc, and all the gods of Afrique that there must have been five hundred fish for every man in that city. I have no idea how the Hombugers managed to get rid of them all. If there weren't fish being hawked by unattractive fishwives at the port, then there were fish being thrown into barrels, shoved into boxes, chopped into pieces, and packed into salt cellars. There were fish pecked at by screeching seagulls, stepped on by cart horses, stolen by stray cats, torn apart by street dogs. Every pub inn, and boardinghouse had a different way of serving fish. One would serve them battered and fried with potatoes, another would serve them raw with rice, still another would present them on a sizzling plate paired with vegetables. One particularly questionable establishment named The Long Rod served them live and wriggling in a bowl of water.

"Dear Jesu," I muttered as we passed through the warehouse district. "If I didn't need a navy so fecking badly, I'd have steered clear of this city altogether."

"One of the perils of being king is that you don't get to choose your subjects any more than they get to choose you," Makin replied wisely.

"I can pick and choose my subjects at any time. All I have to do is conquer the ones I want and kill the ones I don't want." I said. "The only peril about being king is that I have to visit the fecking place first to decide which one it's going to be."

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't kill all the ugly fishmongers and burn the city to the ground the way I wanted to. I needed their ships and expertise too badly. Hombug was the biggest port in all of empire, and it, along with Conaught, had so gracefully fallen into my lap after I dispatched Egan of Arrow. Hombug was renowned for its master shipbuilders and centuries of seafaring knowledge. Legend had it that Hombug had been a great port city even in the time of the Builders, and before that, back when the city was still inland instead of perched on the coast. I'm not sure how the Builders managed to make a port in a dry city, but then again, the Builders could light a thousand suns at one time, so perhaps making water flow inland was nothing to them.

My tattered retinue finally made its way past the grungy canals and backwaters into the port proper. We looked a dangerous lot, I must admit. Travel-stained and battle-worn, we received many a suspicious glance from a passing fishwife, or a hostile glare from a merchant tending his stall. It was not, perhaps, the finest way to enter the capital of one of my new kingdoms, but I am a road brother at heart, and finery for the sake of finery does not suit me.

We made our way onto the quay. At the end of the quay was my new warship. The iron-clad sat high in the water, towering above the other ships by a good fifty feet. It was a dull, flat gray. Large pieces of iron were welded together across its surface. Deep rivets connected one piece of iron to the next, forming an ugly sort of scale pattern across the breadth of the ship.

Here was a ship that didn't care what the world thought of it. It was blunt, it was ugly, and it was scarred. I had a feeling we'd get along beautifully, since we clearly had so much in common. A wide grin split my face, twisting my burn scars up into something truly frightening.

"That, gentlemen," I said, pointing to the warship, "will be the Spitting Nellis."