“Language is a funny thing. Ya think ya know one, ya think everythin’ all but set, and really all it takes is one big change and suddenly there are words that don’t have no use no more. But they don’t just go away. Naw, they try to survive just like you and me. Change right on along with the world, they do. That’s when you realize that language is alive. Nowadays it takes an old-timer like me, whole life spent in a book, ta even tell ya what those words used ta mean. It’s a funny thing. Course, I reckon you wantin’ ta hear is the only reason ya buying me this here drink so I suppose it ain’t all bad.
“Back before the Shift, the word “sea” used ta mean water. Loads of it. Far as the eye could see. Truth be told, all the records say there was more water than land. They said the sea was vast and beautiful. It’s almost silly ain’t it? The records talk of it spanning the wide world and yet our Sea come along an covered it right up like it weren’t nothin’. Swallowed it whole, along with most everythin’ else. They said “more water than land” like it was a close competition, and they thought that big. And here our Sea is everywhere, just outside the city lines, all directions. Pwah. Vast. They didn even know what that word meant. ‘Course, that’s the whole point ain’t it? That’s why the word done lost its meaning. Nobody ever seen that sea. The old one I mean. The water. Least no one from here. Maybe not no one from anywhere. Ain’t no point havin’ a word that d’scibes somethin’ that don’t exist.
“Now the old records, they said some men made their livings off it, on it – the water boy, the water! Pay attention now this part here is the crux of what ya askin’. These men made their livelihoods off the sea. How? Oh, through various means of course. Ferryin’ people and things across, studyin’ it, harvestin’ what lay beneath the surface. Many folk thought these men brave because the sea was fickle, or so they said. Said it could be calm but it could also rage, heavin’ and hawin’ and risin’ and fallin’ and wreckin’ the boats that carried these men. Fickle… brave… Pwah! If only these men coulda seen our Sea. The changin’ of the planes, the way it shifts without warnin’ and the crashin’ that occurs when two planes that ain’t too keen on each otha meet. The way ground beneath ya can be a wasteland of ice one moment and a pit of lava the next. The very air changin’ ta sulfur on ya while the beasts of the abyss appear just ten yards over, starin’ at ya with hungry eyes just waitin’, hopin’ for their plane to expand far nough over so they can reach ya. Hawh! These “brave” men woulda wet their breeches, I tell ya they woulda.
“Eh? Wha’s that? What’s a boat? Ahh, what’s a boat indeed! Now ya startin’ ta see the similarity, my boy. It’s the words ya see! All our words describin’ our Sea are dead words that took new meaning once their sea went away with so much of the rest of the world. They all needed new meaning see, but they’re still pretty much the same. Just relevant ta the new world. Take divers for instance. That word used to be ‘bout some of those men who lived off the old sea. They would go down inta the water when the old sea was calm to get treasure from the bottom. Nobody seems quite sure what they got down there but it don’ rightly matter. ‘Cause we all know there’s treasure out there in our Sea too. Relics from the old world. Remnants from the past. Things we can’t make now, no way, no how. And it’s all just lyin’ there in the old cities. Only difference is the old divers went down under the sea and our divers go out inta the Sea. Pretty much the same thing.
And yessah, I’m sure their divers were just as big of fools as ours. Soon as the Sea stays calm for even a day or two, settles down for a spell on one reality or another, them idiot divers come a runnin’ with gold in their eyes. And where the fools are, the grifters be right there ta meet them. Failures who once studied to be a mage or priest or some such is what most of em are. They come out, throw on some spell or other ta protect themselves, and then they take two steps out inta the Sea – furthest they ever been in their lives I tell ya! – They show off how they ain’t burnin’ up if its fire or can move if it’s pure air. They talk about how what they’re selling makes diving safe. ‘Course they pitch all this fast as can be ‘cause they know the only constant in this world is the shiftin’ of the Sea and what their really sellin’ is a big pile of crud that only keep a man safe in the current state. Every last one of em wades back in from ankle-deep fast as can be. Still, those fool divers buy one trinket or charm and suddenly think they can swim – thas another one right there, “swim”. Lot of good it does ‘em. I suppose some pull it off ‘cause goods do trickle in from the Sea but it’s still a fools errand. Takes way too much to swim propa. They all drown eventually. They might not get wet and suffocate like the divers of the past – well unless it’s the plane of water that gets ‘em of course – but whatever end they meet they’re just as dead. Only one safe way ta do it, an there ain’t no divers can afford a boat like some Pirate King. Nawh, divers only got just enough islanium ta do a quick bit of lootin’.
“Eh? Wha? Again with the same question? What’s wrong with ya boy? Ya mean ya don’t… hawh! I forget how young ya are. Ya probably ain’t never seen a boat at your age. A boat in the old world was like a carriage men built out of wood only they used it ta float on top of the water in their sea instead of ta roll over the ground. A boat today is kinda the same thing. It’s the only safe way ta traverse the Sea. Only our boats aren’t really crafts per say. They’re reality, ya see? Pockets of stable reality. Locks just a tiny pocket of the Sea inta the material plane. Then ya can just walk, ride, or what have ya through the Sea just like goin’ through town. Ain’t no sloppy risk of the planes changing around ya when ya in a boat. When one of em is coming or going or a passin’ by ya can see it driftin’ out there in the Sea, a single patch of peace amidst the chaos. All boats work on islanium. Most valuable substance in the world, that it is. Sure ain’t cheap, that’s for certain. Cities like ours are built on the few heaps of ground where reality is still permanently stable, but we still need a supply of the stuff because boats are how we trade with other cities out there in the Sea. Well, the ones we know of anyway. Hard ta get by without no trade boy, hard indeed.
“Why ya askin’ all these questions anyhow? A young man like yourself, surely ya got better things ta do then listenin’ ta the ramblin’s of an old man. Now wait just a minute, I know that look in ya eye. Ya one of the fools, ain’t ya? Hawh. And here I thought I might have found a protégé. Someone ta man the library when I’m dead and gone. Well come on diver. Buy an old man anotha drink. Ain’t like ya’ll be back ta spend that money ya got there. Might as well waste it now…"