From the journal of the Captain of the Virulent
February 1st, 1888
"A new month is a new beginning," says my employer, when he wishes to encourage us towards greater efforts on his behalf. His account book tallies up our labors upon the zee, yet scarcely a spare Echo makes its way into our hands at month's end. All the same, he has taught me a valuable lesson. With this new month, I shall make a new beginning. A greater beginning than he has imagined, hunched over his books of accounts and logs from our tedious excursions between Fallen London and Venderbight. No more shall I fill my ship with the bandaged rot and dusty breath of the near dead.
"My ship," I write, as if any of the vessels I zailed upon between those ports could truly be called my own. Not the first rusting steamer that I crept aboard in secret, and where I paid for my board in scrubbing those foul decks. Not the tedious ship whose spotless, impersonal decks I last set foot on yesterday, and whose decks I will never tread again, though all aboard called me captain. No, my ship is the sweet old Virulent, and she will bear me across the darkling zee to places I have never seen. She will bring me fame and fortune. Oh, how my employer will regret this month's beginning, when he sees what I have made of myself, unfettered by his bony hands! A new month, a new voyage, a new course of employment. A new book of blank pages, to keep under lock and key in my own cabin, while the crew may look in satisfaction on the quite ordinary official log I have set by the wheel.
A new debt to a certain hard-eyed woman in an elegant townhouse, who says she has no need of a ship anymore, and no heir upon which to bestow it. Very well. I will prove myself as much an heir to that canny old captain as any true daughter of hers could have been, and then what shall they all say?
[Continue to Chapter 2.]