Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chapter Eight: Guns and Arrows

Kallista Pendragon

  "Well... I think it's too nice to be a villain's house. It's too... shady..."

We were standing nearby sixty-six 6th Avenue Melbourne, Australia. The sun was struggling up, and there was a fog, which was to our benefit. Still, I was peeking at the house over the top of a newspaper so to appear far less suspicious, especially since an early-morning jogger had already passed by and glanced at us curiously.

"Not all villains hang out in abandoned factories and castles..., I suppose." Raven murmured.

  The house was fancy, two stories, set a little apart from the rest of the houses. The backyard was enclosed within a rather tall, white fence, but the front yard was open and exposed for observation. Grass, which was a vibrant green, even in the dimness and fog, was pedicured to perfection, and an enormous oak tree dominated the yard, providing shade, even when there was very little sunlight to shade from. Flowers and shrubbery decorated the area.

  "Hmm..., ok," said Israel, "I'm going to make a phone call. In the meantime, Raven, why don't you look around for the best vantage point to see and maybe shoot from." She nodded. "And Kal? Browse the perimeter, see if there aren't any backdoors or sidedoors or trapdoors- alternate means of entry and escape. But be careful, ok?"

"Sure thing, boss! 'Careful' is my middle name you know. That's me! Kallista Careful Pendragon!" I saluted- a habit I'd recently picked up. Israel gave me the eye and nodded.

"Well, ok... And Jericho!" Jericho raised his eyebrows in question. Israel sort of waved his hand vaguely, "You go... do your..., you know, your thing..." Jericho crossed his arms, amused but saying nothing. Israel shrugged and took out his phone.


"What?" I asked.

"My phone broke." He showed us the cracked screen. "And I just got a new ringtone too. It was epic." I patted his shoulder sympathetically.

"Probably broke from your skydive and crash landing." Raven said. "Here, borrow mine." She tossed him hers.

Israel caught it and stuffed his phone back into his pocket for later examination. "Thanks."

Raven shrugged and turned, walking down the street to examine potential vantage points. Israel turned around also, typing in a phone number as he walked in the other direction.

  Jericho looked at me, a glint in his dark blue eyes. I tilted my head, wondering what he had in mind, but he was silent striding past me. He crossed the street. Into our subject's front yard. I murmured "Sacre Bleu," as he rang the doorbell, and I slid behind a Japanese magnolia blooming with pink petals as the door opened. I looked back and forth at Raven and Israel, but they hadn't seen. I crouched and looked around the base of the tree. A very typical butler was standing in the open doorway of Sixty-six 6th Avenue. Jericho pulled the rifle he had at his thigh from its holster and, a moment later, nodded. The butler nodded. Jericho entered the house, and they closed the door behind them.


Jericho Matteus

  "This is a Model 1887 sawn-off shotgun." I looked down at it admiringly, "It's my very favorite gun." I glanced back up at Harris-the-butler. He was watching me hesitantly, and by his expression, most likely wondering if he should attempt slamming the door in my face and hobbling away as fast as possible. "Do you really think you can outrun the twitch of a finger?" He didn't reply. "If you don't want to be shot, nod- like this-and let me in." Harris nodded.

  I smiled, entering. I was some kind of parlor with a couple of sofas, a coffee table, and a clock on the wall. There were two doors, both closed, one on the right, and the other on the left. Harris turned to me skeptically. "Take me to your master." Harris paused again, nodded again, indicated the left door, and opened it. The next room was big and open with a grand staircase sprawling upwards. Harris ignored it and walked past to a door.

"Shall I announce you?"

I waved the shotgun, "Why not? Jericho Matteus. He should be expecting me."

The butler didn't reply. He closed the door, and I heard unintelligible conversation for only a moment or two before he returned and opened the door wide enough for me.

  This room was obviously a study. Bookcases lined the walls to either side, and a window with a curtain pulled only half-way across was a behind a desk with neatly stacked papers and a statue of a man holding up the world on his shoulders. Behind the desk was a young man, smug, greedy, cruel- I could tell with just one look at him. He wore a white shirt and a vest with slacks, and his booted feet were propped up on one corner of the desk.

"Will you be requiring anything else, Master Curtis? Coffee? Wine? Police?" Harris asked from the door.

The man behind the desk laughed and shook his head, "No, thank you, Harris. I have been expecting this man..., as well as some others." Harris-the-butler half-bowed and left the room, closing the door behind him.

  "So..." I said.

"Indeed!" replied the man. "Please, please, have a seat, Mr. Matteus."

"I'm comfortable standing, thank you. Besides, I find it's easier to shoot someone while standing. You know, better view and all?"

Mr. Curtis smiled and shook his head. "You're not going to shoot me."

"Oh, no? You know, I've heard that one before, and the fellow didn't live very long afterwards. You have every right not to trust me- after all, I did come barging in with a shotgun at the head of your butler- but believe me when I say I have no qualms shooting a man when I deem it necessary."

"I have no doubt! But you have no reason to do so, do you? You don't even know my name!"

"Judging by your previous statement, I think you have do have some doubt, or, as it were, false hope. I don't have any reason to shoot you yet unless that smirk of yours stays put for very much longer, and I know you're called Mr. Curtis… Care to elaborate?"

"Timothy Curtis. My name is Timothy Curtis."

"Well, at least we've made some progress, ay?"


Nights Raven

  "You're joking. This is a joke. It's one of those jokes when I know you're joking." I was aghast. Surely Jericho wouldn't have sauntered up to the front door and rung the doorbell without even surveying the area?

  No..., wait, this was the man who had told Kallista and me to "Push that big red button and point down" before strapping on a parachute, shouting, "Pick us up at ground level!" and leaping off a flying ship in thirty seconds flat. Was I really surprised he'd "jumped in" without preparing? No..., I just couldn't... believe it. I facepalmed.

"I'm telling you!" Kallista's voice was a notch above its usual octave. "He pulled his shotgun on the butler and waltzed right in. I couldn't believe my eyes either, Raven."

Israel hadn't spoken, but now he laughed. I stared at him.

"What?" he asked, "I would have done the same thing under slightly different circumstances! I just wish I could have seen his face!"

Kallista laughed, "It was a mix between disbelief and 'Oops-I-left-something-in-the-oven! You-just-wait-right-here-while-I-go-get-that.'"

  Kallista pulled an expression supposedly like the butler's, and I couldn't restrain the laugh anymore. "Ok... Ok," I said, "You're right. It's brilliant! But seriously! What are we going to do now?"

Israel grinned. "Check out the backdoor maybe? Raven, have you found a nice view of the back of his yard?"

"No, but I suspect that house over there has potential." I nodded to the one I meant.

"Alright, Kal and I are going to get a ground-level look. Why don't you get an overview? Check if you can see through any of the windows." He shrugged, "Maybe we'll get lucky and find out how Jericho's doing."

I nodded, "'K,”and turned back.

  I crossed the street and into the shadows of the house next to the one I needed to be on. Nearing the back, I heard voices behind a window and paused, back against the wall. I peered through and saw a woman and young boy eating breakfast. They were looking in the opposite direction. Easy-peasy, I slipped by unnoticed and, re-adjusting the bow and quiver slung over my shoulder, shimmied up the convenient vines sprawling all the way to the top. When I got there, I glanced back to see if Kallista and Israel were where I left them. They weren't, and the fog was still abounding, curling about. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see them if they were there so, crouching behind the pinnacle of the house, I padded across it to the edge. The distance between the houses was a few yards at least, and my head did a see-saw thing when I was estimating whether I could make it or not. I decided I could. 

  I backed up a few paces to get a running start and boosted myself with power of wind. My feet slammed down harder than I would have liked, and I took two steps before I could freeze. I flinched, ducking low again. Nothing. It was silent. After a few minutes and no curious voices echoing up, I scurried across a house for the second time that day and found the best vantage point I could, and it was actually quite a good one with a full view of backyard and all potential windows.

  I wished I had binoculars. Oh well, I could still see the backyard through the milky fog and the backdoor as well. There were… I counted… fifteen windows in the back, seven downstairs and eight above; nine windows on the side of the house I could see. A curtain twitched. My eyes caught the movement. There was an older man in a suit dusting downstairs. The butler. Again, my eyes fogged over, looking at nothing in particular and everything at once to catch some motion behind the few uncurtained windows. Nothing. Then something, but it wasn’t in one of the windows. Kallista was sliding down the fence into the backyard of sixty-six 6th Avenue. What was she doing? And where was Israel? There, this side of the house, walking towards the backyard, his head moving back and forth. He didn’t know where Kallista was. She must have slunk off again, and Israel didn’t know. Back to the yard, Kallista was down low, standing by a tree and looking into a window. She crouched down all of a sudden, and a moment later, slipped back to the fence, slinging herself up and over with her wind again.

  Israel saw her, and they started arguing, I could hear murmurs on the wind from up here. Someone was going to hear them. I felt sweat on my brow and looked back at the house. The butler had stopped dusting, standing with his head to one side in consideration. He walked out of sight, and the backdoor opened. Israel had pulled Kallista behind one of trees, but he didn’t know someone was coming. They had quieted somewhat, but it wasn’t enough.

  The butler had stepped out. Was crossing the yard slowly. I cursed and pulled the bow from my shoulder, an arrow already nocked. I looked back and forth, and stood up a little taller. I took a breath, took aim, and breathed out as I released.

  The whiz-thwack of an arrow soaring and finding its mark was common to me, and I sighed a pent up breath when it did so, reverberating in the tree by Israel’s head. He was ducking down, and looking at me. I put a finger to my lips and crouched down. The butler had paused, waiting a moment… Then he shook his head and went back inside.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chapter Seven: Histories

Persephone Dove

  I chose my name when I was seven. It was my birthday, actually, and Melinda, the cook, baked me a secret cake and surprised me in the middle of the night when my father was asleep. The candles glowed and flickered like little lighthouses in a storm, or warmth in the cold. When I close my eyes- to this day- I can still see them dancing as if they were ballerinas on ice, or in this case, icing.

  That night I wished for a name, my name, the name I was born for. I shut my green eyes and wished with all my heart. When I finally opened them, I breathed in once or twice, then gulped the deepest breath I could, and blew. The flames flickered, then puffed out with a trail of smoke and a burnt scent in the air. I got them all with one breath and refused to tell Melinda what I had wished for. This was my last chance of pleasing my father, who had been demanding I come up with a reasonable name since I was old enough to do so, and I am "far too old to lack one," he kept telling me. So I laughed and ate cake, hoping I had succeeded, at last.

  My name became mine in my dreams, and I awoke whispering it to the still air.

  That year, I still remember my father eating breakfast with me, one of the few occasions he suffered my prescence, and when he asked, witheringly, if I had finally found my name, it was the first and only time I could reply, "Yes. Yes, Father, I've done it!"

  I believe I took him by surprise.

"Persephone Dove?" He murmured skeptically. Then he was silent for a few moments. "Persephone, bringer of descruction. Dove, bringer of peace. You are quite contrary, aren't you Venu- I mean, Persephone. I suppose I'll have to get used to calling you that now..." He frowned disapprovingly.

  Venus. That was my given name, and to be honest, I don't remember a surname. I don't think I had one. The servants only ever called me "Miss Venus," when Father was around, and "Veenie" when he was not, which was often.

  I remember one time when my father and I were dining, and Sally, who brought the food to the table and cleared it after we were finished, seemed to have her head in the clouds for some reason. She accidentally called me Veenie that night. Blood rushed to my cheeks in horror and fear for her, but Father only looked at her until she grabbed my finished plate and rushed to the kitchen. The next morning Melinda told me her memory had been wiped, and she was left on the street. Our new maid was named Angel. After this incident, my Father didn't see me again for three months, even though he was there for many weeks, and when he did see me, he called me "Venus" with emphasis throughout the entire meal, which he only did when he was enraged and barely containing it. I always wondered if there was someone he used to know named Venus, and I was being compared to her....

  Three months, and he was still angry at me for letting the servants call me a nick name. My father doesn't let go of things. He holds onto them forever, frowning that frown of his that says, "Why are you so imperfect? You could do better than that if you wanted to! I'm disappointed with you." The best you can hope for is that he's more disappointed with someone else than with you when in his company.

  However, what he does do, is make you strong. I knew this. Everytime he chided me or scolded me or refused to see me, I knew it was because I wasn't perfect, and I wanted to be, for my father, I wanted to be. So I obeyed and listened, but not only to my father. I also listened to the servants, who were the rest of my family. They had very different personalities than Father, and very different ideals. It seemed Father had somehow picked the sweetest, most generous people in the world, who were, in their core, opposite of their master.

  Still, I loved my father, and one night, when I wondered why I did, I realized it was because I was his daughter and because somewhere in that Scrooge heart of his, I just knew he loved me too.

  Because, you see, the day after I told my father the name I had taken, he gave to me a rapier and Theodore Moussant -a French man- as my instructor. Theodore became a wonderful friend, but the rapier became my companion, because it was the first real gift my father had ever given to me.

  I named her Flicker in remembrance of the candles that had granted my wish.

Mr. Raines
  Aphrodite Storm. I never would have thought such a perfect woman walked this earth, but then, she wasn't a woman. She was a goddess, my goddess. She was serene and beautiful, but truly, she should have chosen the name Athena, for her mind excelled her beauty many times.
  Aphrodite was the only woman I ever loved, and, indeed, loved with all my heart...
  I remember the first time I saw her. There was a ball of some sort- I don't recall what the occasion was- but when my eyes scanned the crowd and found hers, they never left. Crimson wavelets, like the red sun over the ocean, framed her face, and dark  green eyes like a hurricane in a forest were her eyes, calculating, clever. Her gown was silver like the moonlight, and cascaded down as a waterfall with laced emerald boots and a choker of a similar hue wrapped around her neck.
  She saw me then, and smiled, merely smiled. My heart stopped. Divine heaven had sent me its loveliest angel, for how could she be anything but an angel walking on this earth?
  I approached her, and we introduced one another. Her voice was like a crystal glass shattering, and when she laughed, the sky cried with joy. Just one conversation with her, only discovering the barest layers of her mind, and still, I was in love with her. We were a match made before the earth was spoken into existance.  Dramatic? No, true.

  Courtship was filled with piercing eyes and simple things, but it opened a world of beauty I'd never noticed before. Colors and aromas would burst with life like nothing you have ever seen or felt, like the dusky sky laced with indigo just after sunset, only magnified in brilliance, and the smell of something like metal in the air before a storm. Everything was beautiful, but it seemed all the flowers in the world couldn't match up to Aphrodite.

  Her favorite, however, was the purple passionflower, the ones which grew wild. I would roam the hillside searching for them, and only choose the perfect, unblemished amethyst jewels from the rest of the  unworthy ones. When I saw her, and grinned, I handed her the flowers I had carefully tied with a red ribbon- the color of her hair. Her eyes sparkled, and all the effort was worth every second.

  We were wed a month after we met.
  Our time together was always perfect, and I lived to see her smile, celebrating every breath she breathed. If I had to leave, I would return as soon as was possible, flying home to my love at all hours of the night and day, if it meant I could see her a bit sooner. Some times at night we would dance in the empty ballroom, with only the moon's light shining down on us through the glass above to light one another's eyes. She was perfect, and she was stolen from me after only a year.

  We had been married three months when she told me she was pregnant. Aphrodite was the kind of woman who rejoiced in life, and she was delighted. Her happiness was my happiness, and together, we anticipated our child's arrival. Aphrodite just knew the child would be a girl, and already she was thinking about names. One night, I was sitting near her as she murmured different ideas, "Ophelia! That's a lovely name. Or, darling, perhaps we should name her after the stars? Maybe... Cassiopeia?"

I stroked her cheek, "We should name her after you, Aphrodite, my love."

She smiled enchantingly, "But you couldn't have two Aphrodites."

"There will never be two of you, my dear." She laughed, and we discussed it no more.

  Four months later, the child was born, and my wife had died delivering her.

  I took the baby in my arms, wrapped tightly in a towel, but still grimy. The little hair that she had was more of a halo of crimson fuzz. I kissed her forehead and wept as the she wept, for... I don't know how long..., knowing neither of us would ever see our Aphrodite again...

  It was some time later, after the midwife had fed the baby and cleaned her, I was sitting dazed, staring at the ashen face of my wife. I was murmuring to her, almost in a delirium, and the midwife gently passed me the baby, watching carefully that I wouldn't drop her. I stared down at her silent little cherub face and named her. I whispered, "You will never know your mother. I am so sorry..., so, so sorry." I started weeping again, but silently this time, and I stroked the child's face. "The least I can do is give you her name. Venus..., you shall be my Venus... Because I can't have two Aphrodites anymore... even if I wanted to."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chapter Six: Skydive

Nights Raven

  I was standing at the bow of the ship, wind rushing into my face, and the mist of the rainclouds dampening my coat. I laughed into the wind, still not used to flying through the clouds. I glanced back at Jericho at the helm, and by his expression, I thought maybe he wasn't used to it either. It would always be magical, no matter how many times you did it. He leaned against the wheel slightly, turning it to the left after checking the compass in his palm, and I turned back to face the rush of air.

  I had placed my bow down beside me, but my quiver was still slung over my shoulder. I considered a moment, and decided to put it down as well, as I preferred the real kind of arrows with feather flights, rather than those plastic things, and didn't want them to get soggy. Ok, I admit, I do use today's style of arrows on occasion, but the feather flights, in my opinion have far more adjustability and smoothness, which could be useful when you wanted to attach a grenade to one end, which I had done from time-to-time, relatively speaking...

  We had been flying for about an hour now, and the ride was considerably mellower than when we took off. I wondered how long it would take to get to Melbourne by flying ship. Hmm, I thought, I might have to take this kind of transportation more often and grinned again.

  When I leaned slightly over the edge of the Albatross, I caught, every now and then, a glimpse of land or lights of a town or city whipping by far, far below. I'd done this a few times already, but it was such a rush seeing things so far away, so I did it again. I had flown by plane before. Indeed, I had flown in a plane to get to Australia in the first place, but this was something else. This was... indescribable, amazing.

  Imagine you're a passenger on a plane, only all the walls except the floor are made of glass, and no one can see you soaring, truly, like a bird, with the wind in your face and the feathers of your wings ruffling in the breeze. It was like that, only better.
  Sensing something, I turned. Israel had come to stand next to me, and he grinned when I faced him.

He yelled, "It's great, isn't it?"

"It's wonderful! I've never felt anything like it!"

"I know! And Kallista's having a blast! She's still up in that crow's nest, but I catch what I think is her laughter from time-to-time! I can only imagine how windy it must be up there!" He frowned, "She'll be alright, won't she, Raven?"

I grinned at him, suddenly glad I'd met him tonight,   "Of course she will! This is Kallista you're talking about. She's done far more daring things if you ask me! And she does have her elemental magical power over wind to lighten the load if it gets too much, you know."

He nodded slowly, "True... but maybe I should just go ask Jericho... Be right back." I laughed and watched him walk off with a determined stride. He was about to approach Jericho when I shook my head and faced the clouds in the front of the soaring ship once more.

  I looked back and forth then straight ahead, wondering what birds would think of a flying ship in their sky if they could see her, but there weren't any birds nearby. Perhaps it was too rainy and windy tonight. The clouds were rather dark and ominous. I tilted my head, looking at a particularly dark shadow somewhere ahead and wondering why it looked like... It looked like... I gasped, grabbed my bow and quiver, and ran towards Israel and Jericho.

  Israel was by the edge, looking out at the endless mist, and he turned toward me, a quizzical expression on his face. I ignored him. "Jericho!" I shouted, but he didn't hear me at first over the wind, "Jericho!" He saw me this time, and I kept running towards him, pointing backwards to where I was standing a moment ago, "Plane! There's a plane coming straight at us!" A moment later I heard Kallista's fraught screams and looked up to see her waving her arms and pointing, and I wondered how long she'd been trying to signal us.

  Jericho's eyes widened as he saw it, a dark shape in the clouds getting bigger very, very quickly. He yelled, "Grab onto something!" and I barely managed to sling my bow and quiver over my shoulder and wrap my arms around one of the masts before he spun the wheel drastically, tipping the ship onto her side. I screamed as my arms didn't hold, and I went sliding down, frantically grabbing for something, anything. I found a rope and jolted to a halt, yelling out as the ship careened crazily through the air. The thick rope was taut, and I prayed it was tied with one of those sailor's knots Jericho had spoken to me fondly of before we'd set off.

  A roar resounded above, and I saw, as if in slow motion, the nose of the plain coming toward us. I didn't know if we could make it. It seemed like we were molasses moving through the air. Not fast enough, not fast enough, I thought. One wing of the Albatross was slanted in the air, and I thought it looked so fragile, like a paper bag about to be shredded, but the ship lurched sickeningly again. My hands slid down the rope, and I screamed out with pain and fear, glancing over my shoulder at the endless drop over the edge if my fingers slipped again. Looking back up, the wings of the plane were soaring by us, and I closed my eyes, not wanting to see the crash.

  But it didn't come, and I opened my eyes again, wondering if we could possibly have made it. The plane's tail was sailing innocently by.

  With a lurch, I saw Jericho out of the corner of my eye, clinging to the wheel and spinning it around again. It swayed to the other side before straightening, shaking like a wild animal frightened out of its wits. I slammed onto the deck again, and reflexively curled up, hugging the quiver which slid down my arm.

  I was breathing hard, and it took me a minute to convince my hands that they could let go of the rope. My fingers uncurled so slowly.

"Are you alright?" Jericho was shouting to me, but I couldn't make my voice to work so I nodded. Suddenly I remembered Kallista in the crow's nest, and my eyes raced up, but I saw her pale face poking over the side, and ropes wrapped around her chest and waist. I sighed with relief.

  "Where's Israel?" Jericho shouted to me again. I looked up, and saw his dark eyes wide, hoping I knew the answer to that.

But my heart sunk like a brick, because I didn't.

Israel Elysium
  So now you understand. Wind rushing past my ears, coat flaps snapping and whipping, hurting, even through the pants. I was in a daze. How did I get here? Where was... here, exactly? I lurched through the air, and spun, legs bending at the knee, arms flying above my head.
  There it was. I recognized what that was, hurtling towards me... Or rather, I towards it. Earth, it was called. That was a good planet, a good name for said planet. I wondered momentarily who named it. Then I blinked, and the air rushing past me seemed to hit me in the head, and I realized what this was. I was falling, wasn't I?
  My mouth opened to scream, but the air rushed in. I couldn't manage a scream, so I shut it, and spread my arms and legs, trying, I know, futilely to slow my descent. Then I thought, hey, maybe if I turned over the coat would blow around, and slow me further, right? It was my lucky coat I was wearing today... wasn't it? Of course it was! Surely I had a chance to live. The earth couldn't really be rushing towards me that quickly, could it? No, I could do this.
  I spun.
  The coat flapped consistently, possibly more uselessly than before. Hell, I needed a new lucky jacket.
  Then I saw it. What was it? A speck, that was all. I was about to die, and I was worrying about a speck in the sky shooting towards me like a bullet. Why did I care how I died? Since I was going to anyway. Splatter on earth, hopefully not as messily as my mind imagined, or get impaled by a falling spear. That was what it was, wasn't it? No? What was it? I wondered why I retained my curiosity when I was about to die.
  But then... no, it couldn't possibly be... Was that a person? Oh, no, someone else must have fallen off. Was is Kallista? Or maybe Raven? I think I heard a scream before I fell. Or it might just have been the wind rushing past. Either way, I would have cursed just then if I could have.
  Wait, that wasn't a girl. It was Jericho, wasn't it? Hurtling towards me like a bullet. Surely he hadn't fallen off of his own ship? But what other explanation could there be? Then I got worried. He was coming towards me awfully fast. Again, I wondered why it mattered. Who cares if I died by human torpedo? No, I decided I didn't want to see, so I spun again, facing that beautiful earth below.
  Then he was there, and he grabbed me, and pulled on something on his shoulder. A sound like a fresh bottle of Coca-Cola being opened sounded, only ten times louder, and I was yanked around the chest, my legs snapping downwards if only they could. I silently thanked my joints for keeping them securely in their sockets. Then I gasped and sucked in a breath, because all of it had flown out of me when Jericho had opened the parachute strapped around his chest.
  "We're going too fast!" He shouted. "Brace yourself!"
I couldn't manage a reply, still gasping for breath. I saw something out of the corner of my eye and turned just a bit to see the Albatross coming towards us. I realized I must still be dazed, when all I worried about was being impressed at how fast she could fly. Then a small corner of my mind wondered who was driving. But that corner of my mind was crushed when I saw the land so near, and the Albatross flying over it, flying under us.
  We crashed like a ton of bricks, crumbling down and rolling across the deck. I slammed into the helm and moaned, "Ooooh, that's gonna leave a mark."
  Then I heard Raven and Kallista, both of whom, I realized, were at the helm, pestering me with questions about my health, but all I heard was Jericho a few feet away groaning, "Remember? I told you to keep all arms and legs inside the contraption, birdbrain." Then I heard another moan and a heavy footfall next to my ear. A moment later, a hand reached down, and I saw Jericho, a bruise already forming over one eye, a shark-like grin on his face.

  That's when I realized I was alive.

  And I had my lucky jacket to thank after all.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chapter Five: Setting Out

Kallista Pendragon

  "Wow..." I admit it, I was impressed. But then, who wouldn't be impressed standing on a real life boat with beautiful sails stretching out like angel's wings in the night with the wind and the moon and the dark clouds above?

  The Albatross was magnificent. She reminded me of a Valkyrie warrior swooping in, dangerous and wonderful, taking the dead to their final everlasting home and leaving a memory of greatness in her wake. I grinned and spun around, drinking in the tapping wood beneath my feet and the faint aroma of the salty sea that still lingered in the air. I felt like a proper pirate and just needed to get my hands on an eye-patch and a parrot... or possibly a monkey. I smiled "Let's go! Are we ready to go? I can't wait to go!"

Jericho flashed a grin in my direction and saluted. "Aye, aye! We'll be departing momentarily." He went back to tying obscure knots I'd never heard of before, and I leaned on the mast, trying to resist untying them.

  Raven had gotten back sooner than Israel and I, which made sense when you realized her motel was right in front of Jericho's ship. She had been waiting, leaning on invisible air, her brown eyes smiling at us when we arrived. Jericho, she said, had no problem taking on the role of Captain and Commander, and he'd ordered her to shimmy down the rope ladder and wait next to it for us to arrive so we'd know where to climb up.

  I murmured, then laughed in surprise when she'd grabbed on to something I couldn't see, pulled herself up, and suddenly disappeared. Her detached voice called out, "Come on! You'll be able to see the ship when you start to climb up! I finally understand why Israel looked like a startled fish when I first saw him!"

"Oi! I have never looked like a started fish before in my life!" he replied indignantly.

I laughed and reminded him of the time I'd given him a life-size nude statue of himself for his birthday- which I still don't understand why he hides in the basement under a multitude of paraphernalia.

He shushed me, eyes darting from side to side like he was worried someone would be standing nearby and hear he had such a statue. I assumed he didn't want it stolen and patted his shoulder, nodding understandingly, before following him up the invisible ladder.

  And now here I was! Standing on a flying boat. Yeah, I was never going to get used to this.

  "Kallista!" Jericho called me, "Climb up to the crow's nest and make sure you don't see any planes or some-such headed our way! Don't want to come across something like that... again."

I grinned like a maniac, "Aye, aye, Cap'n!" and hauled myself onto the rigging. Glancing down the side of the ship, I was surprised we were so high up and hadn't even started flying yet. After another second, I shrugged and climbed, hand over hand. It was trickier than you would have thought, but I reached the top before too long and wondered for a moment how to get myself into the little bucket-like nest. "Hmmm...," but I reached my fingers up, and then I could pull the rest of myself up and over, imagining I was the great Jacky Faber, sailor and pirate supreme.

  When I was finally there, I leaned against the beam, trying to catch my breath. Then I gasped at the panorama splayed before me and all around. It was absolutely beautiful, all Christmas-y with twinkling street lights and glistening raindrops- as it had begun to drizzle once more. Houses and businesses lined different streets, and I could see for miles in all directions. There, two roads over a pair was walking, huddled together under an umbrella, and over here, something moved, and I grinned at the cat playfully attacking a ball of paper. I looked up, and the moon appeared out of the clouds, shining like a snowman's head in the sky, and I thought if I reached up, I would surely be able to touch it.


I remembered Jericho's request and scanned the horizons, but I saw nothing. I poked my face over the side and saw a little round one looking back up at me. "Coast's clear, Cap'n!"

He thumbsed-up before grabbing the wheel, and with the kind of lurch you get in your stomach before falling, seemingly to your death after reaching the height in a roller-coaster ride [although I reassured myself that one doesn't generally die whilst riding roller-coasters] I realized we were taking off.


Mr. Raines

   A knock at the door. I knew who it would be and was surprised to find I was actually happy to see her. It seemed she grew up better than most of the world after all, and for once her actions might not constantly be frowned upon, at least if I reminded myself of the rest of the world once in a while. Still, I deliberated a moment, merely to make her wait. She must always know her place. "Enter."

  A head poked through the door, and I found I couldn't restrain the sigh that escaped me. When entering- no matter where one is- he, or in this case she, should enter with confidence and dignity, even if it is falsehoods and lies. Enter hesitantly or slowly and one's personal feelings of doubt are ever apparent. How many times had I told her this, and still, she didn't listen.

"Open the door fully, Persephone, and stand straight! I don't want a hunchback for a daughter." She was eighteen. You'd think she wouldn't remain thus incompetent. She straightened quickly, opened the door and slipped in. "Come here." At least she knew how to obey. I examined her. 

  Red hair straight, but stringy, was pushed behind one ear but falling in front of her lowered emerald eyes on the other side. A green blouse and ironed skirt which fell to her defined booted ankles, would highlight her eyes to the servants and anyone who saw her. She knew to look everyone in the eyes- as my daughter should be confident and respectable- except me, who was above her, and therefore deserved my own respect. Her ears were pierced, but lacking earrings, and stray a hair had fallen onto her blouse. I frowned. Her recently straightened posture was the only becoming feature she displayed.

"Why have you come?"

  Her voice was small, and I demanded she speak up before she had gotten two words in. She cleared her throat and tried again, eyes flickering up, only once. "I only just heard you were home..., and Melinda told me you were going to have a meal. Is it breakfast? May I join you?"
"It is a meal." I replied ditheringly. Meals were one thing I didn't bother about a timepiece for. I have found it curious my entire life that the world has to know what time it is before eating. Why, pray tell, not eat when it is necessary? Time, in this case, is irrelevant. "And you will call the cook by her title." Persephone's eyes remained fixed on the floor, and her lips formed a frown.
"Of course, Father. I apologize... So may I join you for... the meal?"
I thought about it. I had been away from home for some weeks, but fatherly love was for the weak. However, all too recently I had nearly constantly been in the presence of fools or scoundrels. Did I want to relax alone or have the conversation of one, perhaps slightly better companion?
I frowned, noticing the stray hair on Persephone's dress once again. She was becoming far too slack without my consistent reminders at etiquette. I sighed, "Fine. But go to your room and prepare yourself more adequately. I don't want to see a smudge or a blemish. Be in the dining parlor in twenty minutes precisely, and I shall see you there."
  The girl smiled, and her eyes found mine, "Thank you, Father," and far too hastily dashed from the room.
Jericho Matteus
  Ah, taking off at last! I knew it had only been an hour or two, but it felt like years since I'd flown my beloved Albatross. Absently, I stroked the wheel and leaned in close, "Let's show these guys what we've got, shall we?" I looked up at the sky. With the cold splatterings of droplets on my face, I grinned into the night. It was going to be a good flight. I could feel it.
  With an enthusiastic rumble from belowdecks in the engine room, a vibration ran up and down the wood beneath my feet.
"What's that?" Israel yelled from starboard side below the helm, hand firmly clasping the rigging to his side.
I grinned my best shark-tooth smile, "She's taking off." My eyes located Miss Raven, then swished back to Israel. "Alright, passengers, fasten your seatbelts, and please turn off all phones and electrical devices!"
Raven gave me a withering stare, "Are you serious?"
"Actually, no, but it does sound good and official, doesn't it?"
"And, um, seatbelts?"
"Oh, yeah, I lied about those too. So you'll probably want to hold on to something." Her brown eyes widened when a tremor started up again, and she swayed, grasping onto the ledge. I flashed the smile again, "And you'll most likely want to keep all arms and legs inside of the contraption at all times, as I cannot promise life in general otherwise, you know."

"I think I can manage that... Probably," shouted Raven, stumbling to the mast and holding on to one of the ropes.

  Grumbling, the Albatross lifted off the ground, and straightened, bumping into one of the street lights and bursting it into a shower of glass and sparks, "...Oops." I turned the wheel slightly, and we moved safely away from the other frightened row of lights. We rose above the buildings, and again, I couldn't helped the smile from encroaching when I saw the awed expressions on the passengers' faces. You could see just about everything from up here, but we were going to go even higher and much, much faster.

  Attacking a series of buttons and dials near the wheel in a section I'd added to the helm, the wings on either side of my angel spread out into the open night air, and the Albatross growled appreciatively. With the drizzle still persistently sploshing onto the ship and making her gleam, and the moon peaking out from behind her cloud bank, I spun the wheel, glancing at a shiny golden compass I always kept in my pocket, and turning my ship in the correct direction. My hand clasped a lever, I yelled, "Hold on tight!" and pulled.