Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cannot Tame the Wind Chapter 2

Acanthio, or Thio as he liked to be called, was tethered to the port side of the ship when he saw Eletheria slide and tumble over to the other side of the ship when it dived. He recognized the white puffs of smoke from the other ship as cannon fire and tried to shout out a warning. About the same time that she dropped to the deck he also dropped down. He stayed down while the Vol Mortem moved to try and avoid incoming projectiles. When the cannonball hit the side of the ship near Eletheria, he grew worried. Splinters or bits of wood being hurled after a hit often killed as many as the ball did.

As soon as Thio saw Eletheria being dragged off the ship, he unclipped his tether and started running towards her. He had made it two steps when she disappeared over the edge. Her eyes looked a little out of focus. He wondered how hard she hit the deck. He did not slow his movement as the ship turned and dipped while trying to maneuver into a good firing position for its cannons. With no time to spare, he quickly grabbed a couple of packs that were kept near each mast. Once he had them both in his hands he started running towards the side of the ship where Eletheria was dragged overboard. The place where the railing used to be was now a jagged scar marked by broken bits of wood. A quick glance verified she wasn’t hanging on either of the support arms that connected the weapon pontoons to the main ship. Even though they were somewhat far away, Thio had hoped she hadn’t fallen completely. Two more previous seconds wasted as he looked for her dark skin against the painted black hull of the Vol Mortem. Looking downwards there is a little speck of brown below. Without thinking further, Thio dove off the edge of the airship.

For a brief moment, terror filled Thio. While he had practiced jumping from an airship, this was his first try. At first, fear filled him but he was able to gain control of it as he started falling. It seemed though with each second passing he was picking up speed. The air went from a breeze to roar as he fell. The wind also made every movement a struggle as he worked to secured a pack to himself. Tumbling through the air, Thio realized he should have put the parachute pack on before jumping. Once the pack was secure and the belt bucked across his chest he held the other one tightly against his chest. Then, as every airship sailor is taught, he held himself straight as a board. As he picked up speed he smiled and used one hand to pull his goggles over his eyes. He had remembered his training well and hoped he would be able to catch Eletheria as Windmistresses, even the ones in training, were too valuable to lose. Especially one as pretty as her, he thought with a smile.

He gripped the leather pack as close to his chest as he could. Memories of the third mate from the Rattling Can instructing him how to save an overboard crew member or how to exit a no-longer-flying ship came back to him.

“Make yourself like an arrow, use your feet to steer where you want to go. Remember, you only have to the count of 20 before you open your chute. If you do not have the crew member by then, leave them. Better to lose one than to lose two.” The third mate always treated the cabin boys nicely and in some ways Thio did miss the Rattling Can. He shook his head as he focused back on falling towards Eletheria. The count of 20, he forgot to start. Although, they were higher up than usual; would a count of 30 work as well? The sea below was still pretty far away so he started his count now and hoped it would be enough. Eletheria was still a small speck below him; the only way he could tell it was her was her hair flying all around as she tumbled towards the sea.

The wind roaring in his ears and his focus on what was below made the combat above him disappear from his senses. It was due to this tunnel vision that he was extremely surprised when he was hit by an object falling from above. His first thought and worry about a piece of debris that hit him and could possibly hit Eletheria, so he twisted around to locate the object. Thio started to twist but something had grabbed onto a belt of his and swung him around. The momentum of him being hit and swung around by his belt made him feel a bit queasy. A fist hit him in the stomach; both the force of the fist and momentum of his swing made him loose what little lunch he had. Bits of it went on the shoulder of the sailor in black. The act of continuously falling removed any evidence but the sailor in black kept Thio at arms length now.

“Give me the pack!” the sailor in black yelled at Thio as they tumbled in the air, his statement barely louder than the roar of the wind. The sailor started to say more but his next punch to Thio’s head made him lose consciousness for a moment. When his arms went limp ,the sailor grabbed the pack Thio was holding onto and left him the one that he was wearing. With a pack in hand the sailor hit the limp Thio in the face before letting go. The punch and the Thio not being in control of his descent allowed the sailor to quickly put some distance between them as he secured the pack to himself.

Thio wasn’t sure how long he had been unconscious. From his altitude, it could not have been long. A quick glance around and Thio saw Eletheria still below him tumbling in the air and above him and to the left a good distance away was the guy who attacked him. The sailor in black was now far away, securing the pack to himself leaving Thio alone. In the back of his mind, Thio was happy the sailor didn’t take both but understood why he only took one. Every airship crew member fears the day they either forced off the ship or their ship goes down. The long death it is called because the fall from such heights gives you plenty of time to face death. There are multiple stories of corpses falling to the ground due to sailors killing themselves instead of facing the long death.

Thio re-focused back on trying to rescue Eletheria. He angled himself and speed up. This time, though, he learned his lesson so he would occasionally look up to verify no one was attempting to take his last pack. Also, he could see some explosions up above as both ships were now within point blank range and firing upon each other. Part of him really wanted to watch the battle as from this angle they appeared as little model ships moving around to deny a shot to the other. The Vol Mortem, its lack of a balloon gave it better maneuverability. As it moved around placing itself in the blind spots for the other ships cannons.

Out of the corner of his vision, Thio detected movement. A black shape was moving towards him but it wasn’t at the right angle. As it got closer, he realized it was the sailor from earlier except this time he had some wooden wings attached to his back. Thio cursed silently and checked the stitching on his pack and then cursed again, but the wind covered up his obscenity. The sailor’s angle wouldn’t allow him to intercept Thio. The big issue was the pack was not a parachute as he thought, it was a glider pack. The glider packs required quan to be powered. With new resolve, he tried making himself even more like an arrow and ignored everything above him. He had to get to Eletheria or he will die as well because he did not have the power.

At a count of twenty Thio reached Eletheria. Actually he ran into her pretty hard, as he wasn’t able to slow down enough before he got to her. The initial impact of them colliding was him flying into her foot. Thio expected to hear something from her but was met with silence. When he saw her face as she tumbled he was able to see her eyes were closed as if sleeping. A pain in his shoulder rendered a curse from him that thankfully the wind covered up. Since he was moving so fast, he actually flew below her by a the length of the deck of the ship. Once he was able to overcome the pain he was able to and slow down. As he slowed Eletheria’s tumbling form came within arms reach. He reached a hand out to grab her jacket but missed. A second try with her closer and at a different angle he was able to grasp a pouch she had secured to her thigh. Briefly they both tumbled through the air until he was able to gain control. He held her body close to his with one hand and used his other hand to feel and see if there was a heartbeat or any indicators of life in her.

A faint heartbeat assured him but he needed to wake her up. Checking her for wounds he only found the blood from her nose from when her face met the deck of the Vol Mortem suddenly. A gentle shake turned into a much more vigorous shake. At least the most he could do while they were falling. Resorting to the last possible method he started gently slapping her face. When little slaps didn’t work he started to escalate them hoping one will wake her up.

In the back of Thio’s mind a voice counted, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44. As it increased his desperation grew. His slaps got harder and at one point he slapped her with everything he could muster. Angling his arm back for another swing he saw her eye lids flutter a little as she appeared to be waking up. Forty-eight, forty-nine, Fifty, Fifty One, the count continued still in his mind. Thio mused a little that the voice he heard was the third mate from the Rattling Can. His musing and motion to slap her stopped completely as her eyes widened and he could see her waking up to reality.

Eletheria put her hands to her face as if to protect from another slap. Her brow furled and she stared at Thio. A poorly attempted kick from her was nullified by the fact they were both falling and when Thio felt her foot pull back he held her at arms length to prevent the kick from doing any real damage. The hair on Thio’s arm started to raise a little and he saw her hands reaching for him. He quickly grabbed her hands and restrained them so she could not touch him.

“GLIDER! You need to use the GLIDER!” Thio yelled, hoping she would hear him over the roar of the wind. Eletheria looked a little confused and like she wasn’t going to try and kill him. He let one hand go and reached around on the pack to pull out an arm that swung around from the back to the front. Then with his free hand he took her hand gently and released the other hand. This allowed him to grab the arm from the other side of the pack. With both of them extended and between them he then took her free hand with his.

Thio put her hands upon the control yokes for the glider pack, then pulled her close and wrapped his arms and legs around her. His face was to the side of her head as he yelled, “START THE GLIDER!” They still fell and he felt her struggle to free herself from his grasp. Though he was about the same height as her, she was still coming to consciousness so he held on with his arms and used his feet to change their descent angle. Now that she was facing the fast approaching sea he again yelled in her ear, “START THE GLIDER!”

Fifty Five, Fifty Six, Fifty Seven. The sudden jerk of their descent slowing as the wings extended from the pack would have tore the pack from Thio’s arms if he had not had it secured. It almost tore Eletheria from his arms but he had wrapped his legs around her waist. The push of a button had engaged the wings to split out from the pack. The canvas of the pack turned into the skin of the wings. Then with what Thio imagined a surge of quan the pack started to reverse it’s direction.

Glider packs were a device created by the G’Aeris, that allowed them to use their power to achieve flight. Thio wasn’t sure how it worked exactly, just that a few Windmasters could use the packs to rescue people, perform scouting missions, fly over to an opposing ship to start boarding, and many other things. What he now knew was if you engage one of the packs when falling there is a sudden feeling like your stomach will be ripped through whichever end of you is pointing downwards. Since the pack pulled upwards it left him on top looking downwards at the approaching sea. He breathed a sigh of relief that they were still over the sea, as a hard landing on ground could leave them crippled. Though he knew from tales that even the sea was like a rock if you fell far enough. Part of him wished Eletheria was wearing the pack he could see what they looked like.

Sixty, Sixty one, sixty two, sixty three. The voice still counted in his mind and he still wondered how accurate the count would be if he would have started counting from the beginning. The blue sea got closer and closer. Now he could see individual waves and even the occasionally flotsam. Sixty five, sixty six, even as he tried to concentrate on something else the voice continued in the back of his mind.

They were not falling as fast they were but their speed was still immense. Thio gritted his teeth and held on as the Eletheria used the pack to change their direction from vertical to something more horizontal. They were still aimed downwards, just not straight downwards. Every second the wings strained to their limits, creaking in protest for every inch Eletheria forced them to change. Thio’s limbs and stomach was also strained, he closed his eyes to focus on keeping ahold of Eletheria. Some point he heard some screaming as if someone was in extreme pain, he realized it was both him and Eletheria as she tried slowing them down. Sixty seven, sixty eight….

They hit the cold water fast and hard luckily the angle was almost parallel to the surface. The impact separated them as soon as they hit and skipped a few times across the surface. Thio came to rest in the water battered and tired but alive. He bobbed a little with the waves and looked around. He couldn’t see Eletheria so he dived under the waves to see if he could see anything under the water. Seeing no one he went back up for air.

“Eletheria!!” he yelled while looking all around hoping to catch a glimpse. A shiver ran through him as the water seeped into his clothing.

“Eletheria!!” he yelled again, this time he didn’t see her but felt something grab his foot. He ducked under the water and saw Eletheria trying to swim to the surface. He pulled her up and as soon as she broke the surface she gasped for breath several times. Up close he saw she was beautiful even with the faint red mark on the side of her face where he slapped her. There was even a brief indentation from where his ship ring had struck her. He decided to save the apology for later.

“Are you ok?” He asked while they bobbed in the sea.

“The ship?” She asked looking up in the sky. They were so far down though both ships would be small specks in the sky and almost impossible to see.

“We got attacked, you fell overboard,” he responded.

“Did you fall overboard too?” She asked, looking at him.

“Um, no. I jumped after you to rescue you,” he replied, his cheeks turning a little red.

“Why?” Eletheria asked, looking straight into his eyes.

“Well I couldn’t let you go for a swim alone,” Thio replied and splashed a little water. The awkward moment was avoided he hoped and they were both alive. He decided to count this as a win in his book. He removed the pack from himself and immediately regretted it. While most of the wings and the support for the wings were gone, the glider pack was made of a lot of wood so the sudden decrease of buoyancy dunked him under the water briefly.

With the pack floating now between both of them Thio was able to get a good look at it. There was two long poles wrapped in a reddish-orange wire on the left and right side of the pack. It made up part of its support and structure. The wires went into the side where they appeared to connect to the arms that one swung out for controlling it. The rest of the pack was devoted to holding the wooden and metal frame and tough canvas skin which covered the wings. From a guess Thio guessed the wingspan was about twice his height. Holding on to the pack he attempted to use it to lift himself up a little in order to see over the waves. The waves around them were high enough that he wasn’t able to see anything more than the waves. He tried to remember his training on how to signal the ship but was drawing a blank. Floating there holding on to the pack he looked at Eletheria and said, “I guess we wait?”

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