Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 35

< Chapter 34                                                                                                 Chapter 36 >
As Captain Cochran begins the final prayer for his three dead crewmen, the wind brings the sound of airship engines!

Cochran fell silent for a few seconds, balancing on his makeshift crutches, listening to the sound of the airship’s engines. He gave a nod and resumed his prayer for the dead. It ended with the entire crew voicing “Amen,” after which everyone remained quiet, heads bowed, perhaps privately adding their own words to the Captain’s or simply remembering friends now gone.

Respecting the solemnity of the moment, I added my own prayer for the Wind Dancer’s three lost crewmen. When the crew stirred and the gathering broke apart, I waited while Cochran exchanged words with any member of the crew who wished to speak with him. After the last crewman wandered back to the fire, I approached the captain.

“God knows I realize just how inadequate words are at this time, Captain Cochran, but I am deeply sorry for your losses.” Unbidden, my mind brought forth images of all the men who gave their lives to save mine. I blinked rapidly to clear away the tears which always accompanied those memories.

“Thank you, Your Highness. And I’ve no doubt you know equally well that it’s the thoughts behind the inadequate words which truly matter. Your thoughts are written plainly on your face.” Captain Cochran smiled sadly, his gentle eyes meeting my own. “But much as you wish to offer comfort, I’m sure you have other matters on your mind.”

“I’m afraid you’re right, Captain. What did your nod mean after you stopped the prayer and listened to the airship?”

“I don’t know whose airship approaches, Your Highness, but it’s not the one which flies without an envelope.”

“You can tell that just by the sound of the engines?” I didn’t even try to keep the awe out of my voice.

“I’ve been sailing the skies of Aashla since I was a lad, Your Highness. I’ve picked up a trick or two during those years.” Cochran turned to the east and looked off into the night sky. “The engines on the airship that wrecked the Dancer sounded quieter than they should have. That’s because the noise didn’t echo off the envelope, as it would on any other airship. Taking distance into account, the engines driving the airship coming this way sound normal to my ears. That means it has an envelope.”

“Do you think they’ll offer their help?”

“Likely they will. This route is too lightly traveled for raiders to waste time on it and no reputable captain would refuse help to a crew in need.” Cochran looked at his family and then me, before adding, “That said, I’d prefer you and my family get under cover until we’re sure of their intentions.”

I nodded in agreement and allowed a crewman to guide Nell, William, Sasha, and me into the shelter of a mostly-intact piece of the Wind Dancer. To my relief, Captain Cochran did not put us in the same place he’d stored the Sunes. We sat quietly, listening as the engine noise grew louder. We even looked up, as if trying to see through the timbers blocking our view of the sky.

Nell remained outwardly calm for the benefit of her children. Imagining how I’d react if my own Rob and Anne were with me, I strove to match her equanimity. So intent were we upon the sounds of the airship, we both jumped visibly when a crewman poked his head into our shelter and spoke.

“Cap’n says it’s okay to come on out, ladies.”

I followed the Cochrans out into the open. Looking up into a night sky lit by the bright band of the planetary ring arching over us, I laid eyes on a most welcome sight.

Not a hundred yards away and no more than fifty feet above the ground, flew a mighty airship. Green flags bearing a golden falcon snapped and fluttered in the wind. Several officers clustered at the bow, one of them pointing my way.

Captain Jorson, naval commander of my expedition, and his miraculously-undamaged airship, the Tercel, had found us. More importantly, the intact warship indicated an intact crew—including a full contingent of marines!

What could Callan possibly want with a contingent of marines? And how did Jorson keep his airship from crashing? Find out in Chapter 36 of Scout’s Law, coming Friday!