Monday, 22 June 2015

The Quest for Verdisc (part 10)

The Unexpected Morale towered over the Black Addison, leaking it's shadows like ink onto blotting paper. The men at the front pointed down their six barrelled machine guns and began to turn the crank shafts to their side, spinning the six barrels and drawing large holes into the metal plating of Nexelspire. "Get down!" Davelron screamed, running towards the rack of turbines at the Addison's rear.
Nexelspire's Sherifs were rolling down the windows of their offices, forcing cannons that spent most of the year lying dormant out into the snap of the crisp air. Marcus' ears shuddered as they exploded, driving the platoon the Sherif's office was floating on down slightly before it bobbed back up. The cannon balls made no indentation on the metal hull however, except to alert the powder monkeys inside the hull. They opened flaps in the hull, dislodging waiting barnacles, and revealing their own cannons. Except these didn't fire cannon balls.
"Oh my Thinker!" Emilia cried. "They're- they're-"
"Serpenmechs!" Davelron finished. "I haven't seen those monsters in decades!"
The Serpenmechs were fearsome mechanical dragons, forged from the reptilian clockwork of the Further Reaches. They were reputed to be able to rip open a building in the same manner as a human being: very easily. From bionic beaks, patterned with jagged metal fangs, were blown billowing clouds of furious bright orange fire. The clouds caught the sherif's office and ignited the barrels of gunpowder used to power the cannons. Large chunks of wooden debris propelled suddenly through the air, splattering the water and the deck of the Black Addison. A shard of metal sliced through the air towards Marcus but the Mechanical Wizard cast a forcefield spell, dissuading the shard away.
Screaming sea merchants and panicking shop vendors hurried from their floating wooden venues and began to wind the cranks which reeled in the anchors far beneath. The sound of creaking gears were loud against the howling winds but no louder than the explosions of cannons and guns on top of the Unexpected Morale.
The mass of Trident Holders who had been shopping in Nexelspire prior to the attack were now armed with crossbows and three barrelled machine guns. Bullets and bolts sliced through the air and bumped off metallic hull, but some hit the pin prick dots that were the Unexpected Morale's crew and the Morale's crew dropped. "Marcus, Emilia, arm yourself! It's our duty to protect these waters and we sure as Hell aren't going to run scared now!" Davelron cried, spinning the grand oak wheel and pointing the Black Addison away from the Unexpected Morale. There was a cluster of other Trident Holder vessels packing tightly together, allowing the blue coated guardians of the sea to run from one boat to another, rearming and reaiming their crossbows. Emilia leapt from the Black Addison and onto the Sky Tale, grabbing a cross bow and a leather quiver of bolts. Most of the Trident Holders were running from their ships and onto the Black Addison. As the newest ship to join the cluster, it was the closest to the Unexpected Morale, but it was becoming too crowded. She wasn't exactly talented with a bow but she knew she was going to need more space to fire if she was going to have any chance of winning.
There was a ship on the middle row of boats, equidistant from the Unexpected Morale and the docks of Nexelspire, and Emilia clambered up the drainpipe on the side of it's step covering shed and onto the roof. She stood on it and aimed the crossbow at one of the hatches on the side of the Morale. She pulled back the drawstring, winding a lever to stretch it back, and then loaded a stubby bolt from his back into the firing chamber. Her finger felt heavy against the trigger and she waited, pointing up at the hatch, ready to fire when she got the chance. Something unclear flickered in the hatch and her finger jerked at the trigger, releasing the bolt. It shot through the air, cutting a clean path, and then raced directly into the mouth of the flickering shape itself. It was a fully gas bellied Serpenmech and the bolt sliced directly through it's open mouth, smashing the igniter where a normal creature would have tonsils and erupting the gas tank in it's stomach in a grand ball of fire. Shards of metal raced through the air, propelled by a rippling cloud of orange flames.
"Good shot!" Cried a green jacket junior, watching in awe as Emilia ducked the burning wreckage of the Serpenmech.
"That was nothing." She replied. "I helped take down a real sea serpent a few months back."
"Duck!" The green jacket cried.
Emilia turned and saw another Serpenmech roaring towards her, it's metallic wings carving back and forth through the air. It opened it's mouth, a shrill bell screeching a shrill scream quickly followed by a ever flowing scream of orange flames. Emilia turned and leapt off the shed, rolling through the air. She hit the side of the ship as the Serpenmech's fire burst through the space she was only moments earlier stood in but before she could grab hold of something, she was in the water. It was shockingly cold, bubbling goosebumps across her arms and legs. She tried to ration the fleeting breath she'd taken before entering but it was beginning to choke her. A fraction of water was swelling her cheeks but she knew if she tried to spit it out, it'd only invite in more.
She tried to remember what Thaddeus had once taught her at the docks at the bottom of Vincent's Triple Helix. The water there had been so much warmer, so much inviting, except from when she'd begun to sink lower and lower beneath it.
"Push outwards with your arms." Thaddeus had lectured her. "Push inwards with you legs."
"That's not what the swimmers do up at the swimming events in the castle!" Emilia had shouted back, sinking beneath the water and then coming back out again, spouting water from her lips when it seeped into her mouth.
"You're a seven year old, Emilia! You're not a professional swimmer yet!"
Emilia said a quick prayer to the Blessed Thinker and then pushed her arms outwards, push inwards with her legs. She moved forwards and grinned with glee. It was working! The iron chains that were slowly pulling up the anchors beneath the platoons were getting closer and closer and then suddenly there was a gigantic explosion. Speckles of wood and iron raced into the water around her. Plumes of bubbles clung to her as she curled up in herself, avoiding the falling debris. It sunk around her as billowing clouds of orange flames curled through the air above the water. In front of her, the platoon collapsed down, the chain falling and the wooden building entering the water. Burning bodies fell from the sides, floating towards her. She closed her eyes and kicked them away, edging further and further towards the platoon. Her limited breath was beginning to run out, she needed to breathe soon.

"Where's Emilia?" Marcus cried to the Mechanical Wizard over the roar of Trident Holders firing harpoons at the Unexpected Morale. The harpoons were grand iron hooks that cut through the air and grappled onto the top of the Morale, the ropes pulling taught. The Trident Holders pulled on the ropes and, happy that they weren't going to fall, began to climb up the hull towards the deck.
The Mechanical Wizard's vinyl disc hard drive ran through all the possible If Statements and decided that rather than print anything it would whir it's motors and shrug.
"Well, aren't you helpful?" Marcus muttered. His Trident was heavier in his hand but he carried it valiantly, locking it into the bottom of a six barrelled rifle. It was loaded and the Trident worked perfectly as a handle, a bar trigger releasing all six bullets at once. He looked up as a Trident Holder hit the water to the side of the Addison. The Morale's crew were using axes on the grappling hooks, releasing the chains and allowing the Trident Holders to fall. Marcus pointed his rifle up at the Morale and pulled the bar trigger and released the six bullets all at once. Only one hit one of the Pirates and only in the wrong shoulder. They were still able to swing their axe to the height of it's swing, scattering more Trident Holders. "Retreat!" Davelron screamed from his pose at the wheel. "Move back to a distance of tactical proportions. Blast them with the onboard artillery!"
The Trident Holders who hadn't already fallen jumped into the water and swam back to their own ships, and those on the Black Addison leapt from it and back onto their own ship. Marcus and the Mechanical Wizard joined Davelron and the previously drowning man at the wheel.
"Where's Emilia?" Marcus shouted over the roar of Trident Holder propellers.
"She went onto one of the other ships to get a better shot." Davelron cried. "Anyway, grab hold of something. Things are about to escalate."
The Drowning Man looked more alive than he had been before. "Hello." He said, offering his hand to Marcus. "My name is Pontsher."
"Marcus." The boy introduced himself. "What were you doing in the water, Mr Pontsher?"
"Drowning. I was meant to be escaping the Unexpected Morale but it didn't really work."
"Is it true what they say? About the Captain having-"
"Yes." Pontsher shivered. "It's disturbing to think about."
"Gentlemen, perhaps we can stop gabbing and pay attention to fighting the Unexpected Morale? I believe it's about to destroy another block of Nexelspire."
The Unexpected Morale careered into yet another platoon, but this one was still anchored to the others. The metal hull sliced through the platoons and the wooden buildings on top, sending showers of debris into the water. Serpenmechs continued to spout from either side, setting fire to the wooden shacks quicker than the closest Trident Holders and their massive pumps could put them out. Buildings collapsed on all sides, sinking and burning, whilst the Unexpected Morale continued it's path of destruction. A floating armourers- rare since the realisation that water can cause rust- suddenly detonated, every cask of gunpowder inside bursting at once and tearing the surrounding platoons apart. Pontsher, Marcus and the Mechanical Wizard all had to duck to avoid a cartwheeling slice of metal as it raced into the distance.
"This is chaos!" Marcus cried.
"Don't you see why it is so feared?" Pontsher cried.
The cluster of Trident Holder's boats began to part, realising the battle was lost. There was no stopping the Unexpected Morale, at least not with Nexelspire destroyed as it was.
"They'll be going to the Holder Court for backup." Davelron announced, turning the Addison around. "They won't let the Morale escape, not with the Holder blood which has been spilt. We would be best to follow them. I'm afraid our journey is going to have to be shortened."
"That doesn't matter." Marcus said. "Where's Emilia?"

Emilia had clambered through the burnt remains of Nexelspire's Sherif's Office and climbed onto the next platoon. As the Trident Holders had lain war on the Unexpected Morale, Emilia had run through the various platoons, clamping and unclamping. Whenever she got a chance she'd take a chance to fire at the approaching Serpenmechs, doing all she could to assist the Trident Holder's struggle.
She'd been taking a final shot when she felt the platoon shake under her. "They're disanchoring." She whispered to herself. "I need to get off before they float away."
Emilia raced towards the door and out onto the parting streets but then she saw that the platoons weren't disconnecting of their own accord. They were being ripped apart by the cutting brow of the Unexpected Morale. It tour through the centre of the pavement and Emilia began to run away from it as it scattered wooden debris towards her. She got to the furtherest point she could and found herself staring down into the sea. She could jump in and swim or- no. She couldn't, could she? She'd heard that story about the Captain, she shivered, she didn't want to become the subject of another.
The Unexpected Morale loomed further over her and in that moment she decided. It would be better than nothing.
There was a ladder on the front, as there were on all boats, known as the target's escape. Climb up it of your own free will and you admitted yourself one of their victims. If you didn't, you were admitting yourself a dead man walking. Emilia ran and jumped onto it, using her bony fingers to pulling herself up the cold metal bars, lumbering herself onto the deck. It took her ten minutes to get to the top. When she did, she was met with swords, pistols and sneers of distaste. "Great." She muttered to herself.

Little did she know that a green jacket junior Trident Holder was watching the events through a telescope, prepared to risk his honour to protect the girl with the amazing shot.

To be continued...

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