Friday, March 29, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 11

< Chapter 10                                                                                                   Chapter 12 >
Martin has told our hero that Rupor, crown prince of Tarteg and supposed future husband to Princess Callan, has escaped from his custody!

Before I could respond to Martin's pronouncement, the voice of Tristan Agrilla, better known as the Desert Doctor for his work among the southern desert tribes, called, "Martin!  I need stretcher bearers for the wounded." His eyes focused on me for the first time.  "Good to see you, lad!  Could you nip off and arrange a room for the wounded?"

"Of course, Mighty Healer!" I sketched a bow.

"Bah!  You sound just like that scamp, Nist," Tristan replied.  "Begone, boy!"

"We'll talk once the wounded are taken care of," I said to Martin, then dodged through the crowd to find Garrett.

Moments later, a line of stretchers was headed into Garrett's palace.  Callan and I watched, our worst fears realized when Tal and Sarn, two friends from our adventure in Faroon, were carried off.  Both were unconscious and very pale.  Bringing up the rear came Milo, his head bandaged, and his wounded sister, Kim.  Milo gave us a smile, but concentrated on helping Kim.  Finally, Martin joined us and we went to Lord Garrett's sitting room.

Garrett frowned when he saw Martin.  "I wish you'd let me clap this kidnapper in irons, Callie!  How can you even speak with the devil after what he did?"

"He took Faroon back from the trogs, uncle," Callan said, "saving the lives of thousand of Mordanian citizens, and his ships are the only ones currently searching for my parents.  In fact, he's the only commander in Mordan I trust!"

"That's an insult to-"

"Get over it, uncle," Callan said.  "I want to rescue my parents and I need Martin to accomplish that.  Now, Martin, tell us what happened."

"That's simple," Martin said, "my ship was attacked by Raoul and Ardhan Windslow!"

How could the Spare Prince and the disgraced, former Mordanian royal guard commander have attacked Martin's ship?  Find out in Chapter 12, coming Monday!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 10

< Chapter 9                                                                                                    Chapter 11 >
Lord Garrett's patrol ships have shot a gaping hole in the gas envelope of Martin's Banes airship!

"Nist, get me to Martin's ship!" I cried, rushing to a coil of rope on the Pauline's deck.  "Garrett, call off your patrol ships!"

"How?" Garrett demanded.

"Shout.  Jump up and down.  Wave your arms.  Just do it!" I said, looping one end of the rope through a docking cleat.  "Nist, does the Pauline have enough lift to help Martin land safely?"

"Not at the rate he's losing gas," Nist replied, "but the patrol ships do."

When Nist piloted the Pauline between two patrol ships, they finally noticed us.  Garrett -- waving, jumping, and shouting -- got their attention.  They broke off the attack as Nist dove toward Martin's flailing ship.

"This is as close as I can get right now," Nist called to me. 

We were twenty feet above Martin's deck and ten feet from its railing.  Clutching the rope, I took a running jump from the rail.  A drop of eight hundred feet yawned beneath me, then I crashed onto the deck of the stricken airship.  Crewmen rushed to tie off my end of the rope.

Through all the commotion, I could hear Garrett shouting orders to his ships.  Maybe they had some kind of procedure for aiding damaged ships, something better than what I had done?

Half a minute later, I had my answer.  Patrol ship crewmen began jumping to the deck, each holding the end of a rope.  Lines were tied off and our descent began to slow.  It finally stopped about a hundred feet from the ground.

Martin was kept busy directing all five of the ships during the flight to Pingor.  Only when his ship was docked, did he come talk to me.

"I've got bad news, David," he said.  "Rupor has escaped!"

How did Rupor escape from an airborne airship?  Find out in Chapter 11, coming Friday!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 9

< Chapter 8                                                                                                    Chapter 10 >
Martin Bane's badly damaged airship limps towards Pingor, Lord Garrett's capital city!

"What's a damaged Tartegian warship doing here?" Garrett asked.

"That's not a Tartegian ship," I said.  "It belongs to Martin Bane."

"Bane?" Garrett asked.  He pointed toward three patrol craft moving to intercept Martin's ship.  "Then you'll enjoy this.  Since the kidnapping, my men have orders shoot Bane down on sight!  Provided they're sure Callie isn't onboard, of course."

"No!" Callan cried.

"Nist!" I yelled.  "Is the Pauline ready to fly?"

At Nist's nod, Callan sprinted toward the airship.  I grabbed Garrett by the arm, "Come on!"

"Release me!" Garrett ordered.

I pulled him toward the Pauline, "We'll explain on the way."

"Explain now or I'll have you arrested!"

"Shooting down Bane's airship could doom the king and queen!" I snarled.  "Now run!"

Garrett ran.  Nist cast off once we were aboard, bringing the engines to full power.  Nist worked the ailerons and put the ship into a steep ascent.  Over the roar of the engine, Callan repeated our story.  Only one part of it drew more than a nod from her uncle.

"Marry your bodyguard?"

"David is much more than that, uncle," Callan smiled at me.

Garrett's eyes slipped to Callan's stomach, just as Lady Michelle's had.

Callan cried, "I'm not pregnant, uncle!"

Nist called, "The ships are in firing range!"

Martin tried talking to the patrol ship captains, but they stuck to their orders and attacked!  His ship too damaged to maneuver, Martin began a rapid, controlled descent.  We had almost reached the battle when a ballista bolt hit the airship's envelope just right.  Instead of punching straight in, it ripped a gaping hole along the envelope.

Gas poured through the hole and the envelope began to crumple!

Will our hero's friends plummet to their deaths aboard the dying airship?  Find out in Chapter 10, coming Wednesday!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 8

< Chapter 7                                                                                                     Chapter 9 >
One of the kidnappers holds Lord Garrett at sword point!

Sword in my left hand, I spread my arms wide.  Taking a knee, I laid the sword down.  With all eyes on the sword, I grabbed a rock with my right hand.  Sidearm, I hurled the rock at the sentry, hitting him on the head.  He stumbled back, cursing in pain.

Grabbed my sword, I was on the sentry in an instant!  I knocked his sword away, placed my sword against his throat, and dropped Boost.

"Stay back or I'll kill him!" I snapped.  The men stopped, stunned at the sudden reversal.  "Lord Garret, please get going."

Rising, Garrett asked, "Who are you?"

"Personal bodyguard to Princess Callan," I said.  "She's waiting for you, too."

Garrett stared a second longer then started running.

"What now, gentlemen?" I asked.

The men exchanged puzzled looks.

"I'm can't waste more time on you," I said.  "There's a back way out, if you'll take it."

"You're not going to execute us?"

"I'm tired of killing people," I said, "but I'm sure Garrett's men will oblige you.  They'll be along soon."

"What about our steam drill?" one asked.

"On behalf of the trapped miners, I thank you for donating it," I smiled.  "Do you have any more stupid questions?"

They didn't.  I told them where to find the back door and they left, carrying the man with the wounded leg.

I headed after Garrett, meeting his soldiers along the way.  I told them where the kidnappers were going and they ran off in pursuit.  Callan kissed me soundly when I emerged into the morning light, causing lots of comments from those watching.  As she broke off, a smudge in the sky drew our attention.

Trailing smoke, Martin Bane's airship limped toward the city!

Has Bane's airship been attacked?  If so, by who?  Find out in Chapter 9, coming Monday!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 7

< Chapter 6                                                                                                     Chapter 8 >

Our hero must move to rescue Lord Garrett now!

I'd be silhouetted against the camp light if I charged straight ahead.  Instead, I rolled to the same side of the tunnel Garrett was on, rose into a crouch, and slipped along the tunnel wall.

The camp's sentry faced away from me, toward the entrance.  The rest of men sat talking, so I decided to try to let Garrett know what was about to happen.

"Garrett, it's rescue time," I hissed.  Garrett's face sharpened into concentration.  "Pull the rope taut, it'll be easier to cut.  Once you're free, run to the surface.  Don't wait for me."

Garrett gave a bare nod and stretched.  I moved to within five feet and quietly drew my sword.


Jumping up, I sawed through the thick rope -- but not before a shout rose from down tunnel.  Two of the men reacted quickly, drawing swords and charging.  I met them, rolled under hurried swings, and cut the leg out from under one.  Coming up from my roll, I thrust my sword into the throat of the second man.

The swift brutality of my attack gave the remaining five men pause, but the sound of running feet from down tunnel told me I couldn't afford to wait.

Charging the closest three, I said, "Surrender or die!"

No one surrendered.  The three men spread out, swords ready, and I saw a fourth man angling to get behind me.  I charged the man in the middle, then planted my foot and dove left.  I swung at the man on the left from one knee, opening his belly.  Spinning, I found the other three men backing away.

"Surrender," a voice called, "or your lord dies!"

Garrett lay on the ground with the sentry standing over him, a sword at Garrett's neck!

What can our hero do this time?  Find out in Chapter 8, coming Friday!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 6

< Chapter 5                                                                                                     Chapter 7 >

Has our hero opened a back way into the silver mine where Callans uncle, Lord Garrett, is being held?

Through the thinning dust, we saw the hole was now man-height and opened into the silver mine.

"Okay, Jim, go back to the ship and head home," I said.  "Tell Lady Michelle to be waiting for me to call on the speaking tubes."

"You sure you don't need no help?  They's got ten men."

"I've faced worse and I'm still breathing."

"You be careful, son.  I 'spect that purty princess be right riled up if'n you gets hurt."

"Trust me, not riling Her Highness is one of my top priorities!" I said.

In the silver mine, I shuttered my lantern until it gave off a narrow beam of light.  Once my eyes adjusted to the near-total darkness, I started toward the main tunnel.  And tripped over a rock.  I caught myself before smashing the lantern, but reigned in my desire for haste after that.  Better to go slowly with a little light than crawl with no light.

After fifteen minutes, I heard the steam drill.  Five minutes later, I reached the main tunnel.  The engine sounds came from the right but the speaking tubes were to the left, closer to the surface.  Where would they be more likely to be holding Garrett?  I decided they'd want communication most and turned left. 

Ten minutes later, I was watching their camp.  There were seven men, the other three probably tending the steam drill.  Garrett was tied to an iron ring driven into the wall.  As I'd hoped, he was on the side farthest from the mine entrance.  With luck, I could free him before the fighting began.

I didn't have luck.  Two voices drifted up from behind me.  I'd arrived just before shift change on the drill!

Has our heros lost the element of surprise?  Find out in Chapter 7, coming Wednesday!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 5

< Chapter 4                                                                                                     Chapter 6 >

Deep in the copper mine, our hero is trying to jump across a sinkhole.

I could tell I wasn't going to reach the far lip of the sinkhole and, if the bottom of the sinkhole was closer than my rope was long, I was in for a world of hurt.  Then I saw I would reach the far side of the shaft, if not the lip.

Maintaining Boost, I drove the pick into the shaft wall and swung my legs up so I didn't crash into the wall.  I dropped Boost.

"Yee ha!" Jim called.  "You got guts, son.  Scramble on up and tie off the rope fer me."

Easy for Jim to say, but I found I could dig out hand and foot holds without too much effort.  A few minutes later, Jim pulled himself across and on we went.

Jim got talkative after my jump, filling our walk with tales of the mines and the miners.  It filled the time until Jim pointed to a tunnel.

"This here's the one you want."

"Thanks," I said.  "You head on back to the airship, now."

"Nah, I gotta see how yer gettin' through t'other mine.  'Sides, I knows where you oughta make yer hole."

I wasn't about to turn down expert advice.  "Show me."

Ten minutes later, Jim and I dug out a two foot deep hole in the tunnel wall.  Then I pulled out the Onesie.  Jim watched, curious, as I broke down the gun and set the power supply to overload.  The whine was building as I stuffed it in the hole and scooped dirt in behind it.  Grabbing Jim by the arm, I ran back up the tunnel.

The gun blew and I waited for the dust to settle.  Had we made a back door into the silver mine?

Will our hero have the backdoor he needs?  Find out in Chapter 6, coming Monday!