All is Not well in the Skies above Dusk

- 19th February - The Roost - Late Morning -

Westley paced back and forth on the landing platform. Where was the girl? He had to remind himself for all that she looked like a grown woman she was still a youth. Perhaps she had had second thoughts. His wife would be remaining behind. The council had deemed it a step too far to risk a third member of the high families on this venture. The couple had been married the previous afternoon following the council meeting, all arranged by the gods damned Head of Security Services, Edward Hanton. A quiet affair with few present besides the legal witnesses and several members of the City watch should either of them get cold feet.

Captain Tully called down from the helm; “Sir, I have word from below that we have an elevator incoming. Your young lady is inside. Are we good to go when she is on board?”

“We are Captain, and with all speed.”

“The Aquamarine will not disappoint you, Sir.”

“Call me Wesley, please.”

“Very good,” Tully replied, cutting off the Sir with a visible effort. He was obviously not used to dealing with denizens of Highholm.

Westley watched as the elevator controls signalled the approaching cart as it rose towards them.
~~~~~

“Stop pulling at it, Nanny Nit.” Diana was on the elevator along with a few of her loyal men and her nanny turned personal assistant, of course.

Nit was tugging at the bottom of Diana’s shirt, trying to get it to cover the girl’s mid drift. She knew it was never going to span the purview of bare skin, but she had to try. To do otherwise would have amounted to condoning the girl’s choice of outfit for this perilous undertaking. “I don’t understand why you just couldn’t wear what you had on yesterday. You looked like a proper lady; ready in body and mind.”

“That’s why - because I wore it yesterday. Stop tugging, it’s supposed to fit this way.” Despite the support of the Council, Diana was in a bad temper. She’d been all set and worked up and ready to go yesterday, but in true bureaucratic form the Council insisted that there be additional planning and that meant delays. So the day got away from them and evening turned into tomorrow. Another day and night Serenity spent in an unjust prison. If she was even alive.
~~~~~

The elevator came to a halt and Westley stepped up to greet the newcomers. As the doors slid open he backed up a step to allow Diana and her entourage more room. He gave a slight bow remembering the etiquette of High Holm families and gestured towards the vessel.

“Good morning, Professor Corbet.” As soon as she said it, she doubted the suitability of such a greeting. Was he still a professor? Diana hadn’t done nearly enough to stay up with the current standings around town.

“Please, come aboard and…” There came a cough from behind and he turned to meet the frown of Captain Tully.

“It is tradition,” murmured Tully, “for the Captain to welcome his passengers on board.”

“Yes of course.” Westley stepped aside with an apologetic glance. Gods what was he doing, what was he thinking? Negotiating a peace treaty with the Elesians? He could not even remember basic etiquette on an airship.

“Welcome aboard,” Tully called out, offering Diana Montclaire his most winning smile. “The Aquamarine stands ready to carry you all to Morks bend and from there a train has been prepared. Quarters have been prepared below. Please make yourself at home; we should make Morks Bend by full dark.”

Diana’s eyes scanned the man and she smiled. There was certainly something attractive about the Skyrider, though he wasn’t excessively good looking nor above average in height or build. He wore brown on brown on brown, which may have been part of it - Diana did have a penchant for palates of pitchy pigmentation. As a pleasurable pastime, she painted, almost exclusively of macabre scenes in bleak colors. Her room back home, with it’s dark walls covered in her own artwork, was not a particularly bright or cheery place. She found comfort in the dark; an equalizer that brought all men and women to identic terms. And the notion that death and grisly ends could find every person alike - regardless of their station, birthright or affliction - was an eerie solace to her. She stepped forward and dipped her head slightly. “Thank you for your services, Captain. Please don’t let us become any trouble for yourself or your crew.”

Behind her, Nim flashed the girl a quick look and saw all that she needed to know. It was the gun and sword strapped to Tully’s belt that made him draw Diana’s interest. Diana even made a point fidgeting with her own small pistol at her waist, careful to arrange the handle directly in front of her uncovered naval. By the Storm, that shirt was going in the fire tonight - if Nit couldn’t dispose of it even sooner.

Diana’s small entourage - which may have been an unfair representation of them since they were loyal servants of the house and genuinely concerned about reuniting the Montclaire family - made their way onboard the Aquamarine behind Westley, Diana and Nit. All together they were only six in number, not counting Westley, but they did have packs and a few crates of supplies between them.

“Captain, will there be time do you think to tell us one or two stories of your wild adventures?” Diana was looking around the deck, never having been onboard a Skyship before. But her eyes were also taking in the crew of the ship, not entirely at ease around so many strangers.

“I am sure that can be arranged.” Tully gave the young lady a broad smile as she climbed aboard and told off several members of the crew to stow their gear.

Within minutes they were away. The magnetic anchors snapping back with a sharp crack and the vessel drifting out over the city as the steam furnaces below began to heat in order to drive the ship’s propulsion twin blades. The aquamarine surged forward then out and over the walls of Dusk. Westley came to stand next to Diana as they looked down on the building below.

“It is hard to believe that but a few months ago those walls were being rebuilt and much of the area around the Green Line station laid waste by the troubles. So much has happened over the past year that I can hardly believe it when I stop to think.”

Diana considered Westley and nodded. “Too much has happened, yet it is not enough. If I spoke only of my own family’s misfortunes I would have plenty to say and I’d be selfish in doing so. All those people down there - starving and scared. It did not happen overnight, but I cannot see how we came to this slowly and did nothing to prevent it. Every man, woman and child has the right to live and work and eat well while enjoying some comforts in a warm bed at night. Why was that never the priority?” She’d always imagined she’d love flying in one of these airships, but now that she was, she wasn’t entirely sure she enjoyed the sensation of the ship swaying beneath her feet. So she looked out at the desolate landscape to steady herself. “I’m ashamed to say my birthrank only emboldened me to strive for a greater state of nobility. I thought the Elesians were the answer to all our problems, but they have kept us down nearly as firm as we we’ve done it to ourselves.”

The Maelstrom churned over head covering the darklands in its constant shroud and as the Aquamarine cut its way through the air above the barren landscape, cold fat drops of rain began to fall and the clouds above began to rumble with the threat of thunder. They stayed atop as long as was possible, watching the world grow ever more dim around them, but soon the wind began to pick up speed and rain became constant.

“Let’s get you all below,” Tully called out, “It’s going to get rough out here.” As if in response to the Captain’s words a fork of green lightning lit up the starboard bow as it streaked towards the blackened earth below.

“Extend the lightning rods,” Tully cried out as the ship lurched sideways, ”and you two, get below now, please.”

Now that it had escalated beyond mere rain, Diana needed no encouragement to seek shelter from the storm. The sizzle of electricity and crack of each bolt as it lit the sky caused her to blink and cringe. She looked defeated, almost folded in on herself - no longer a courageous young woman, but a scared little girl drawn in close to Westley, clutching at his arm for safety. For her, the lightning brought flashes of memories that she’d tried to suppress; memories of her time in captivity, subjected to the abuse and experimentations of...nameless men. They’d used threatening machines with long needles and bright, focused bars of light. She could still feel the hiss and broil of the air as those machines charged. She could smell it now in the burnt air, laden with unchecked power.

Once below deck Nit was struck by how cramped the conditions were. Like Diana, she had entertained fantasies of flying penthouses, though why she or the girl shared ridiculous stories like that, Nit could not say. Perhaps it was just something nannies did with their young charge. And anyways, that had been many years ago.

“I told you that shirt was not appropriate,” Nit was fussing, pawing through one of the packs for something Diana could change into. “You’ve gone and got yourself waterlogged with nothing between you and the weather.”

“It’s not the rain,” Diana shivered, but accepted a canvas jacket from one of the crew. She was convinced it had once been part of the ship’s air bladder, but she wasn’t going to complain. Her hair clung to her face and she was pushing Nit’s hands away. “I’m fine now. The lightning just awakened memories from… incarceration.”

Everything went white as there was a flash and a crash of lightning so bright and so close it couldn’t possibly have missed the ship. It even felt like the vessel shook with impact. Many of the crew rushed to stations and Nit moved in closer, wedging herself between Diana and Westley. There were shouts from above and amid the chaos Diana thought she heard that ominous word - fire.

“Fire!” came a roar from above and suddenly all the remaining crew below decks were racing up to heed the call. Westley joined them and reaching the deck, was forced to throw himself to the ground as a gout of flame streamed from one of the engine vents ignited by the naked flames on deck. A hapless crewman had been caught in the blaze and was running towards the bow screaming as flames engulfed his entire body.

“Fuck!” roared Tully as he raced after the fellow who was beyond saving. With a cry of despair Tully grabbed the man in his gloved hands and lifted him bodily over the side rail and out into the storm. His screams were swept away by the wind and rain as the Aquamarine rolled to port tipping another two men overboard.

“Harness up!” Tully cried out as the ship righted itself. “Dampen those flames before they track back to the fuel lines!”

The crew were frantically outing the fires on deck and Westley joined one of them as he latched down the deckside engine vents. The acrid smell of burnt flesh and flagesium hung in the air until the wash of the rain finally drove it away.

The storm raged on for what felt like hours. Luckily there were no more strikes and the damage had been superficial for the most part. Tully was grim and silent as a sense of normality returned. Three deaths was a heavy toll to pay and one was arguably by his hands. A heavy burden for any captain to bare. Westly walked up to join him on the foredeck and placed a hand on the man's shoulder. Tully flinched at the touch, but then relaxed as he met Wesley's eyes.

“I am sorry,” Westley offered. There was little else to be said, but it was enough as Tully returned a tight smile.

“I was just thinking about Eli, and Phineaus.” Westley returned a confused look so the Captain explained,.“Skyriders like me, Captains. They always seemed so easy around death, good job really as they are both gone now. They died in the uprising.” He gestured upwards towards the Maelstrom.

“I am sure they found it just as hard to bear,” Westley replied and Tully laughed.

“You never met them. Eli saw it as the Maelstrom claiming her due, he worshipped her like a goddess. He damned near started a cult amongst the Skyriders, “courting the lady” they call it. The mad bastards. And Phineas, well if he couldnt fuck it or drink it or fly in it he didnt have time for it. Death was nothing to him.”

“They sound terrifying,” Westley murmured, but the Captain was not listening. He had snatched an eye glass from his pocket and was peering forward into the gloom.

“And there she is,” he announced as the squat grey compound of Morks Bend began to take shape on the horizon.

OOC: JP with Hobbs and Esimed

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