Friday, May 15, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 21

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David sails the sand schooner back to the mountain base of the fippers.

Just before night fell, the last rays of sunlight streaming over the mountains glinted off of something in the air far ahead of me. The object’s speed left no doubt it was the anti-grav airship now under the command of the self-proclaimed god of thunder. Considering the man had a weather control machine, I guess there was some merit to his claim. Still, his hubris rubbed me the wrong way. Since coming to Aashla, I’ve precipitated the downfall of princes, criminal underlords, and space pirates. It was time to add a pair of false gods to the list.

The desert floor was fully dark so spotting me and my sand schooner from such a distance was all but impossible. As I watched the airship speed through the darkening sky, the implications of its course hit me like one of Thor’s proverbial thunderbolts. The airship’s flight path traced back along the course the Wind Dancer’s pinnace took when Jade piloted it and its precious cargo away from the doomed merchant ship! Without Raoul—well known for his obsession with me—in command of the airship, Thor obviously set off after the pinnace. But could he catch it after all the time spent chasing the Dancer? Did Jade alter her course once her ship was out of sight of the chase?

I knew in my bones Callan would have advocated a course change to learn how the pursuit of the Wind Dancer ended. Did they end up flying right into the path of the other airship? Were Callan, Jade, and the rest of the passengers now prisoners on the very airship my eyes tracked across the sky?

The logical part of my brain interrupted this worrisome emotional train of thought. It combined what I knew of the fipper fringe mindset with what I knew about Raoul. From allowing Raoul to pursue me to abandoning and killing Raoul when he found himself unable to capture me, Thor’s actions struck me as surprisingly Raoul-like in nature. So, what would Raoul have done if he’d captured Callan and Captain Cochran’s family? Without a doubt, Raoul would have returned both to gloat and to force my surrender. Logically, that meant Thor did not hold Callan and the others captive.

Logic and emotion argued back and forth, with neither fully suppressing the other. In the end, I tried my best to push the question from my mind and concentrate on getting into Thor’s base. And that problem kept my mind busy for the rest of my ride. That ride took me past the ruins of our original airship. Though the crash happened the previous night, it felt as long ago as the morning we set out from Morda on our tour of the research stations.

I steered the sand schooner toward a patch of scraggly bushes at the base of the mountain, lowering the sail as I rolled up to it. I resisted the urge to charge headlong up the mountain and spent half an hour partially dismantling the schooner and hiding it as best I could in the bushes. By the time I finished, the schooner wasn’t likely to be spotted from the air though a foot patrol would find it easily enough. Without a backward glance, I started up the mountain.

I was most definitely not returning to the cave I visited hours ago during the morning. It was watched and was, according to Raoul, a trap just waiting for me to step into it. He told me of another entrance, one I could reach by circling around the mountain in the opposite direction from the cave. I knew nothing else beyond Raoul’s brief directions as he rushed to tell me as much as possible before dying from Boost Burnout.

Unsure what awaited me, I spiraled up the mountain, angling well away from the cave mouth. I’ll be honest, the climb nearly did me in. In normal circumstances, I’d have slept for hours after my Boosted run up this same mountain to catch up to the Wind Dancer as she passed over the mountaintop. Instead, I got almost fifteen entire minutes of rest before Callan was forced to wake me up. Since then, I’d remained on the go and even Boosted a second time for my duel with Raoul. My muscles ached and I desperately wanted to curl up under some bushes and sleep until sunrise. But I had to view this other entrance to their base before resting so I’d at least know what I was up against when I woke up.

So I stumbled and staggered up and around the mountain, past piles of boulders and more of the slippery screes which are all over this wasteland of a mountain. I found myself stopping for a rest every thirty minutes. Then it was every twenty minutes. Soon, I was resting five minutes out of every fifteen and struggling mightily to stay awake. But I finally found myself approaching the back side of the mountain and staggering toward its crest.

That’s when I heard trog voices coming from around a bend in the trail. Realizing they were coming my way, I looked about for a place to hide. In an unsurprising end to a day in which very little had gone right for me, I was caught in the middle of a large patch of barren mountainside. With trogs only a few dozen yards away, I had no place to hide!

Will the trogs capture or kill an exhausted David? Find out in Chapter 22, coming Monday!