Theodore Emelior Beem reflected on the chain of events that brought him into his current dilemma. It all started innocently enough with a sightseeing trip into the Istoki Desert.
“The desert is not a place for tourists,” muttered Val, a Vibranni woman who had befriended Theodore after the librarian had saved her life. Nevertheless, Theodore was not a man easily dissuaded from making poor personal choices. Even the fact that a famed explorer Captain Desmond had recently disappeared into the desert didn't discourage him in the least. Although Val was outspoken in her disapproval of his travel plans, she insisted on joining Theodore if only to keep him out of trouble. For his part, Theodore was happy to have the company, but as a concession, he agreed to leave his cat Captain Fox behind in Gearford.
Their trip took its first turn for the worst on the third day when they were blown off course by a large sand storm. Unfortunately, the sand fouled their engine and they now could only make one quarter speed. The only reason they weren’t completely lost was because of Val’s skilled navigation. According to her best guess, they were in the farthest southwestern reaches of the desert. Despite their poor luck, though, Theodore tried to show a sunny disposition, which only further annoyed his friend
“If you tell me one more time, about having a grand adventure," grumbled Val, "I'll feed you to a sand worm.”
Finally on the tenth day of their journey, they saw a sign which pointed northwest to a town called Oasis.
“This might be a boon for us, and allow us to repair Excelsior, but it'll also take us further off-course,” counseled Val.
“It’s called Oasis,” reasoned Theodore, “It can't be too bad and we dreadfully need to make repairs ”
That was three days ago. When they landed at Oasis, they found a small but seemingly prosperous town. Most importantly, there was water. The people were a mixture of settlers from Antiford and Prush. Most had wandered to Oasis after being stranded in the desert. The settlers seemed friendly and quite excited about having a working airship fly into town.
“We don’t have many visitors, “explained the town's mayor, a loquacious red headed woman named Lawson, “You can count on our help repairing your ship. When you're done, we'll have a feast in your honor.”
Theodore for his part, was pleased by the assistance offered by the citizens of Oasis. They provided him with all of the tools and parts necessary to make repairs. The only condition made by Lawson, was that Theodore share how he built this most magnificent craft, a request that pleased him immensely, since he loved sharing the story of how he built Excelsior.
Nevertheless, despite the hospitality, Val remained suspicious. The kindness of Lawson and the others seemed unnatural.
“Why do they keep bringing us food? Nobody is this nice,” thought Val.
“I understand the Vibranni have historically been ill treated by people, but not everyone is awful,” said Theodore. Yet, despite the reassuring words, Val remained unsettled.
Three days later, as they sat down for their last supper with the town’s citizens, Val conceded that she may have been wrong. The repairs on the Excelsior were completed. They were also seated at a banquet, with an enormous side of venison at the table. This was all the more impressive, since the people at Oasis ate very little meat.
“A fine table you've set, Mayor Lawson!” exclaimed Theodore.
“We're very pleased to have such fine guests,” remarked Lawson with a wink, “We're only sad that your visit will be cut short.”
“Yes, I'm sorry to be leaving as well,” hiccuped Theodore. Although, he was generally not a good judge of such things, he wondered whether Mayor Lawson was flirting with him. Unfortunately, as Theodore continued drinking the fermented cactus juice, he became increasingly intoxicated and his judgment became less of a sure thing.
“We'll now serve our main course!” shouted Mayor Lawson, to the cheers of the townsfolk.
As the venison was served, Val's nose twitched at the smell. Having been circumspect about not drinking the cactus juice, something seemed dreadfully wrong.
“Excuse me mayor, what is this venison? It smells...different.”
“Aww," laughed Lawson, "It’s Crawfood.”
Val’s eyes widened as she offered a wane smile. As the plates of meat were brought to their table, Val squirmed uncomfortably as she looked at Theodore, who seemed all too happy to dive into his meal.
"The food will taste better if you cleanse your palate," said Val insistently handing a glass of water to Theodore. This was the last thing that Theodore remembered.
When he woke up, Theodore was on the deck of the airborne Excelsior with a terrible hangover.
“What happened and why does my head feel so damned awful” moaned Theodore.
“We just escaped Oasis,” answered Val who was at the helm.
“Escaped? Those fine people? What do you mean?” croaked Theodore.
“Those ‘fine people' are what your people call 'cannibals,' and unless I'm mistaken, they meant to make us their next meal.”
And so Val explained what happened. The smell of the meat alerted her finely honed Vibranni sense of smell. Then when Mayor Lawson mentioned the name of the venison, "Crawfood" Val had a terrible realization, when she recalled the name of the recently vanished explorer Captain "Crawford" Desmond. Apparently, this was his end. He had become the main course at a meal in their honor. The spare parts they used to repair Excelsior were also likely scavenged from his wrecked ship. If it weren’t for Val’s quick thinking in drugging Theodore and dragging him out of the banquet, they likely would have become the next course on the menu. It was an escape by the narrowest of margins.
Upon hearing the full story, Theodore threw up.