Airships of Marrakesh, Part 4

Posted: April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Author’s note:  This is something that I’m putting out there in rough rough rough unedited form.  It’s a form of motivation to myself to keep writing and get somewhere.  I’m enjoying the process so far, and I hope you as the reader are as well.  I’ve started writing in a Moleskine notebook, and that seems to be somewhat productive.  This is Part 4 of the series, with the first sections to be found earlier in the blog.

 

“Wake up, boy!” hissed a voice in Ben’s ear as a hand clamped over his mouth.  Ben’s eyes snapped open, and he became aware of a sharp knife at his throat.  The mouth to which the voice belonged had atrocious breath, and Ben gagged as he strained against the hands holding him down.  A lantern flicked to light, blinding him.

“Time to get to work, little Benny-boy! We gots a lot to do and not much clock-time before dawn.” A calloused hand slapped across his cheek, hard.  “You try anything and you’ll be going overboard without the ropes and ladders, you hear me?”

Ben nodded and stopped struggling.  As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw unfamiliar faces around him, readying the airship for flight.  Two men lifted a body to the railing, and Ben recognized Len, the old Scot who’d taught him his knots.  Len’s throat was slit wide, and left a smear of blood on the rail as he went overboard.  A soft curse came up from below.

The man who’d spoken grinned and revealed broken teeth.  A scar hooked down his face from his hairline, barely missing an eye.  The stubble on his chin failed to hide or improve the wound.

“Len…” Ben turned it into a question.

“He took objection to us coming aboard, so Slyne had to show him how wrong he was,  He didn’t object long after that, I tell ye that!”  He laughed an ugly laugh, and hawked phlegm.  “And speak of the devil hisself, we gots to go see him.  Come here!”

Ben found himself lifted and dragged aft toward the captain’s cabin.  He usually slept on the deck near the bow engines, and that was where he’d been woken.  Janus’ ship, the Sky Drake, was a smaller cargo runner, built for a good mix of speed and cargo room.  The design sacrificed some cargo space toward the bow in favor of an extra set of engines for speed.  Though all the crew quarters were aftward, Ben often slept in a quilt toward the bow.  The engine noise helped him sleep.

“Where is Janus? Mellira?  What are you doing to the Drake?”  Still disoriented, Ben was having trouble accepting what he saw.  He recognized none of the faces around him, though they seemed to be preparing the Drake for flight.  One of the cargo rigs was in use, and a number of boxes were being loaded onto the ship.

“What’s it look like to you, boy?  We’re heading for open sky soon as we got everything squared away.  Slyne wants to talk to you first, though.  Last bit o’ business afore we fly.  Yer captain’s dead, I reckon.  At least, that was the plan.  You’ll find none of Janus’ men on the Drake now, well, ‘cept for you maybe.  Best behave, you don’t want to fly overboard, do ye?”

The man kept mentioning Slyne, and Ben wondered what the first mate had to do with what was happening.  It had to be some sort of nightmare, and any moment he’d wake up screaming.  He ducked as they entered the short stairwell that led to the captain’s cabin, and was rewarded with a thump and a curse as the grizzled man slammed his head on the deceptively low lintel.

“Bloody bastard! You warn me next time, you hear? Else you’ll get my fist,” he said, and lashed out with a foot that caught Ben by surprise and sent him tumbling down the last steps.  Quick to anger, but also someone who didn’t know airships.  The boy filed the information away for later.  He was pulled up by a fist clenched in his shirt, and shoved forward into the captain’s cabin.

“Oh good, you’re awake.  I hope Mr. Grange hasn’t been mistreating you.  He can be harsh in his methods.  Harsh, but effective.”  Ruther Slyne stood behind the captain’s desk, flipping through the piles of maps that accumulated in any ship, air or sea.  Tall and blond, he wore a dark blue greatcoat buttoned to his throat, the collar framing his thin face.  “How are you doing, my boy?”

“Go to hell, Slyne!”  Grange raised a fist, but a shake of the head from the first mate stayed his hand.  “What do you think you’re doing, have you gone mad?”

“Quite the opposite.  I am in full possession of my faculties as never before.  As to what I am doing, I am assuming the role of captain and taking this fine vessel far, far away from here.  You may choose to stay, or come along.  First, though, you will write a letter.”  Slyne slid a sheet of paper and pen toward Ben and gestured him forward.  “The man I hired to dispose of the captain has not returned, which I choose to see as a sign that Janus is still alive.  Not what I had hoped for, but still an event that I can work into my plans.  Now, Mr. Benjamin, if you will, the pen…”

Ben stepped closer and picked up the pen.  The first mate began to dictate, and soon Ben’s hand started shaking as he recorded what was told to him…

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