Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cannot Tame the Wind Chapter 1

Eletheria flew through the great blue sea of the sky, only a few tiny white fluffy islands sharing the sky with her. At least, that is the image she was trying to convince herself while she stood at the controls of the airship looking out the floor-to-ceiling window in front of her. After years of training and preparation, she was actually flying. A shiver of joy coursed through her as she held onto a copper-plated yoke in each hand. The front of the ship was designed to provide a large viewing area to the pilot and the various command staff stationed within the forecastle room. For a moment, she tried to ignore the people standing behind her talking, the wooden support between the panes of glass in front of her, the creaking of the airship as it pulsed with power. 

It was still beautiful up here as she could see the coastline of somewhere down below, the open sky above, and the lack of clouds. While she knew the lack of clouds was good, her imagination about flying always involved speeding through clouds and seeing them whisk by. The wind pushing the sails while Ele helped maintain their elevation over the downslope. The feeling of freedom, flying through the air, zipping through the clouds, all of these took a hold of her heart and she knew this was not something she would ever give up. If she tried really hard, she could almost believe she was flying through the sky without the ship. If there were more clouds, at least the illusion would be a little easier. The lack of nearby clouds to provide perspective as they flew by made the self-delusion difficult to maintain.

“Sir, there is a balloon on the horizon,” a voice behind Ele said from across the room. The voice wasn’t talking to her but it had already started a little worm of disappointment that was digging into her heart. “I hope it isn’t the pirate Bonnie.” The voice whispered just loud enough that everyone at the navigation table could hear it, and Ele. She turned her head to look around for the Windmaster Erus. She knew Erus would be wanting to take control of the airship back.

“Eyes forward, Ele.” The deep calm voice of Windmaster Sal Erus came from behind her. Ele immediately looked forward to watch the horizon hoping to see the other airship someone else had spotted. Seeing nothing except clouds and blue sky, she focused on the feeling of someone standing behind her. There was a sound of a clip securing to a harness and then she felt large hands covering hers. 

“Ele, I need you to let go of the power first with your right hand when I say 3. Nod if you understand,” Sal’s voice said. Ele nodded her head and then heard, “1, 2, 3.” When she heard three she dropped the power in her right hand. There was a shift in the ship’s movement but it was slight. Perhaps now I need to drop the other hand so I can move out of his way was Ele’s thought as she couldn’t remember proper trade-off procedure. She dropped her power in the left hand and the ship lurched much more this time. For a brief moment, Ele and everyone else on the ship felt it start to descend. After a second it regained stability when Sal took over power and control. 

“You released too soon, next time wait for the second count of three.” Sal told her in that ever-encouraging tone that he had. 

“Sorry, I thought I needed to…” Ele started to explain as she turned to look at Sal. His soft brown eyes that matched the color of his skin looked back at her. Ele’s face came up to the top of his chest. He was wearing the harness most pilots wear when they are expecting turbulence. The harness looked like a leather jacket that was tightly strapped to the pilot and had two ropes attached to the back. One going to the ceiling and the other to the floor. “Would we have crashed?” Ele quickly followed up, worried that she had almost destroyed the first ship she was allowed to fly.

“No, it takes more than your ability to keep the ship in the air. There is a backup but they aren’t as powerful as you or I,” Sal replied and motioned with his head for her to move out of his way. Ele took a small step to the left but stayed looking out the window. “Now I need you to go to your cabin and stay there. This may get bumpy and your parents would kill me if I allowed you to get hurt.” 

“Wait, are we going to be attacked?” Ele asked suddenly, worried there was going to be a fight. She looked towards Sal and then back out the window. She couldn’t see anything on the horizon, though she did not have a spyglass or anything to help her vision.

“Probably just a merchant, nothing to worry about,” Sal replied, watching out the front window, looking incredibly focused.

“If there is no danger then why do I…?” Ele started to ask looking back at Sal.

“One of the things you must learn is that you obey your superiors,” Sal interrupted. His tone much more serious and one of the few times Ele had every heard it lose its softness. Ele shrank back a little from a glare she knew was there but luckily she was behind him so didn’t suffer the full effect. She backed away towards the door towards the deck.

“Yes, Windmaster Erus, thank you for allowing me to see a Windmaster in action. Your will be done.” Ele said as sarcastically as she could and even threw a swift salute with her right fist with the knuckles outward to her chest. The thump was both loud and hard enough she almost gasped but kept silent. While Sal wasn’t facing her she was certain he had at least heard the salute. Turning around she saw there were several people in the room and her childish act was witnessed probably by half the command staff. She quickly left the room through the double doors that lead to the deck before Sal could reply or apologize for his harsh tone. 

Ele, though tempted, did not slam the door while exiting the command room. She wasn’t angry with the ship, just the way that Sal Erus and others treated her. With a pause outside of the door she closed her eyes for a moment realizing the irony in that thought. Such quips and mocking ones superiors will not help her achieve Windmistress. A brief thought of going back in there and apologizing came to mind. Though now was probably a bad time as he would be focused on steering the ship away from the other vessel. Since the spotter called it a balloon it meant it was flying without the use of Quantitas. The airship Vol Mortem used quantitas or quan to provide lift, requiring a Windmaster at the helm. 

Her room was with the other guest quarters on the aft side of the deck. She glanced across the deck which was busy with people running around seemingly in chaos, the riggers in the sails securing ropes and sailors on the deck tightening things down. Ele started heading towards the door to the cabins. When she had reached the fore-mast the ship slowly started to turn starboard. Without a tether Ele could not be on the deck if the ship took evasive maneuvers. She hurried towards the aft cabins and was a few steps from the main-mast in the corner of her eye she caught the image of something in the air. With a sudden stop she turned and looked towards the dark shape in the sky above them. It had approached them from the aft side and because it didn’t use quan to provide lift it had come in high above them. It’s angle also explained why she couldn’t see it from the command room. Someone up in crow’s nest probably saw it and reported it.

Several times in the past Ele had seen drawings or at least crude representations of the G’Aequor airships. Rarely did they dock in Ascalon so she never got the chance to see them. Balloon was an apt name for them, the large canvas structure that hovered above the actual ship looked like an elongated kris fruit. She briefly thought about how heavy the long and the spherical fruit is. Even though it seemed far away it looked huge, possibly three times as long as the Vol Mortem. Beneath the giant balloon hung a ship that was not unlike hers and about the same size too. But instead of two pontoons on each side for stability it was a single shape, as if someone took a seafaring vessel and attached the large balloon and filled it with a lighter-than-air gas. 

Vol Mortem shifted a little as it angled downwards. Ele thought Sal must be trying to run from them or at least get closer to land. Since they had only announced the ship a little bit ago they were not taking a steep dive to give people time to anchor themselves to their post. Along the masts and near the railing there are hooks to connect tethers to. A tether and suitable harness were things Ele currently did not have. Even though the other ship was a good distance away she could see the ropes that connected the ship to the balloon above it. A little puff white cloud and a small flash of light appeared towards the front of the other ship. A few other puffs followed along the side of the ship. Something nagged in the back of Ele’s mind as she watched eight total puffs of white smoke appear on the other ship.

A second later, Ele realized they were being fired upon. She dropped to the deck as fast as she could. A second later the shots whizzed by. Only 1 hit the ship, tearing a hole in a sail. A second later the cracks of the cannons followed, filling the air like the rumblings of an angry god. She quickly got to her feet and immediately fell back down as the ship dove to avoid the second volley. She reached to grab a rope but it moved away as the ship turned portside and dove. As the ship dived she rolled and slid across the deck. THUMP! was the sound her shoulder made as she hit the rail. Both arms wrapped around the rail as she held on tight. A few seconds later and the pain in her shoulder was growing into a burn. Still she held on even going so far as to entwine her legs around a rope that was tied to something.

The Vol Mortem started leveling out after diving for a few seconds. Ele loosened her injured arm’s grip on the railing and tried to pull herself up. She was able to stand but between the ship leveling out or her movements her foot was caught in the rope. Bending down to loosen the knot that had developed she couldn’t complete the task with her injured arm. There was just too much pain when she tried moving her shoulder. Without knowing where the rope went she knew she had to free her foot. Kneeling down she let go of the railing with her good hand and started loosing the twisted loop of cord holding her foot. 

“LOOK OUT!” a shout went out from across the deck. With her foot free, Ele looked up and saw a young sailor looking in her direction and pointing upwards. Instinctively Ele reached to the railing with her hands and was grasping onto it as more cannonballs hit. The whizzing sound of the ball drowned out anything else the young man was trying to yell at her.

Things happened too fast for Ele to register everything. The deck where she clung on shook and suddenly she felt the railing pull away from the ship. The wood where one of the shots hit exploded, throwing chunks of wood and splinters all around. The sound of the cannons being fired upon Vol Mortem filled her ears, then was quickly replaced by the sound of the cannons aboard her ship. The deafening blasts shook her and interrupted her thoughts as the railing she was holding onto started falling away from the deck of the ship. She was almost completely off the deck when she freed her arms from the rail she had previously clung to. With a push against it she was able to slide a little further back upon the ship. She got into a kneeling position on the edge of the ship, trying to move away from the open hole that emptied out into the sea far, far below her. 

Ele was able to turn herself around and get far enough on the deck to not have to worry about falling off into the abyss. She also started working her way towards the remaining railing when she saw someone in the corner of her eye waving their hands. She couldn’t hear what they were trying to say, it was the young man again trying to warn her of something. A sudden jerk of her leg caught her by surprise as a rope that must have been secured to the part that fell off the deck. While the coil was not wrapped around any part of her, her knee and leg were resting on it as she crawled towards the rail still on the ship. The sudden jerk took her legs out from under her, causing her head to hit the deck. 

WHUMP! Ele’s forehead hit the deck with enough force to cause her to see stars. The rope kept falling off the deck and now a portion of her weight was resting upon it and it pulled her along. Dazed she reached with her hands for anything to grab onto but moved too slowly. She looked across the deck at the sailor who tried to warn her and their eyes briefly met as she was pulled into the abyss.

1 comment:

  1. Link to Chapter 2,