Out of the fog and into the fire
Posted on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 @ 6:44pm by Snot Rag Chops McGinty
Chapter 5: Into the Fire
Location: North of Elladia
Timeline: The beginning
Greyfeathre's ears twitched nervously. Her ears were much more sensitive than the rest of the crew, and yet try as she might the kitling couldn't hear anything except the smooth rotation of the Steamhawke's propellers as the skyship cut through the fog.
Pirates were laid, asleep or otherwise, all about the deck, as the alchemical fog through which they were sailing was depleting everyone's mental energy. It didn't help to learn that they had been looking in the wrong place for the lost treasure. Everyone's time had been wasted by exploring the fog and the crushing disappointment had affected everyone. The crew were just paying enough attention to keep the ship running in a straight line, knowing that the Steamhawke would be leaving the fog eventually but not caring just when that would happen.
Eventually one of them began to regain his senses, then another, and then the door to the captain's quarters swung open. Daenelia stepped out and rubbed her eyes. Unless she'd been drinking Nicholai's coffee again, something else must be making her feel awake. The ship must be leaving the fog! The captain stepped over the exhausted pirates, kicking a few of them accidentally, and made her way to the front of the ship. She was amazed how bright the sky was looking.
There had been no clear edge to the fog when they sailed into it, and now that they were leaving the fog it was difficult to see how much was left in front of them. But moment by moment the skies were clearing and so were the minds of the crew of the Steamhawke. One by one, other members of the crew joined Daenelia at the front of the ship. The captain was especially surprised when Ed Marketh stepped up next to her. "Ah, our resident handyman" smiled Daenelia. "It took the fog lifting for you take a step out of the workshop?" "Fog?" Ed asked quizically.
"Look over there, captain!" shouted Carol from directly behind Daenelia, scaring the captain. The pack leader was pointing directly ahead. There was a dark mass in the distance, obscured by a thick patch of fog. The object was large and clearly moving quickly in their direction. "Evasive maneuvers!" shouted Daenelia, scaring Carol. "It's heading right for us!"
The crew scattered across the deck, the sky-sailing instincts returning to the most veteran pirates while the rest of them panicked. "We need more power to the engines!" shouted Daenelia down the horn of a communication pipe. Her message echoed through brass pipes and into the engine room. Unfortunately the lack of ventilation meant the engineers were still recovering from the effects of the fog, and there just weren't enough hands shovelling coal.
The Nautikos Guard battleship plunged out of the fog, flames bursting out of cracks in the hull. It twisted as it soared above the Steamhawke, shrapnel and crew members falling out of the broken ship. The crew of the Steamhawke barely avoided injury as the deck was pelted with pieces of wood and metal. A guardsman smashed into the deck behind Daenelia, the impact cracking bones and wood alike. His dark blue uniform was burned and smeared with gore. His eyes were wide with fear, looking up at the captain.
"St..St...Stallion" was the man's last word.
Behind the Steamhawke, the Elladian ship plunged into the ocean. There was a tremendous splash and a hiss as the flames of the burning ship were doused. A moment later the battleship sank without a trace.
The Steamhawke had passed through the last dense patch of fog and ahead of them was open skies, giving the crew a clear view of the distant battle that the sunken ship had fled from. A second battleship of the Nautikos Guard was turning rapidly through the sky, its aerodynamic curves giving it high maneuverability. The opposing ship was much less graceful by comparison, an older and squatter ship. Daenelia did not recognise the Sky Tiger at first glance, as heavy steel plates had been welded to the outside of the ship. A couple of the plates were dented and loose where the Elladian ships had fired upon the Sky Tiger, but the rest of them were shiny and new. Somehow the ship was keeping afloat despite all the added weight.
It was only when Daenelia spotted Jack Stallion through her telescope that she realised what was going on. Her old superior, lover, and now the captain of the Sky Tiger, had followed the Steamhawke to Elladia. As a wanted man in all seven skies it was no surprise that the Nautikos Guard had attacked his ship. The remaining battleship was playing cat and mouse with the slower Sky Tiger, but Jack was a tactical mastermind, and could turn any situation to his advantage. The Elladian ship may have been newer and faster, but the Sky Tiger had large vertical propellors allowing it to climb rapidly. It did just that, soaring above the pursuing battleship, and listing to one side to expose the deck of the battleship to the double rows of cannons along the side of the Sky Tiger. The thundering gunfire deafened even the crew aboard the Steamhawke. Never had they seen a single ship with such firepower. The Nautikos Guard ship was blasted and battered, many of the cannonballs striking the deck from above. It spun out of control, the crew scattering about to try to keep the ship on course.
"Do we escape before somebody notices us, Captain?" asked Aelous Quetzalcoatl, the first mate of the Steamhawke. Even a pirate as experienced as Aelous was looking nervous at the sight of Sky Tiger.
"No" replied Daenelia resolutely, her voice barely loud enough to carry itself over the sound of the distant gunfire. "Jack Stallion has been hunting me for too long. Too many people have lost their lives in his quest for vengeance! We're stopping him today!"
As the second battleship fell into the water in pieces, burning and screaming crewmembers swimming for their lives, the Sky Tiger slowly turned around to face the Steamhawke.
This was to be a fight to remember.