Vilya Sul and Balijan bid farewell after delivering their parting wisdom and gifts.
“Look alive men! Stand at the ready! Never-mind what just happened, you all know the Deep Sea Current is full of surprises”, I shouted to the crew. The crew looked terribly frightened, practically peeing themselves, by the fact that ship had just transmogrified around them into a harder, better, faster, and stronger ship in a blink of an eye. I don’t blame them, things have been pretty crazy since we arrived, but Slate was getting away. I shot a look of futility to Lorenz for help, the crews’ morale had run aground and we had to give chase.
“Snap out of it men! Do not be afraid of the miracle that you just witnessed! It was to our benefit!”, Lorenz called out capturing the crews’ attention with his powerful voice. He surveyed each scared face, took a deep breath, and gently smiled. Solemnly he remarked, “Together, we have come farther than anyone has ever dreamed. Together, we have sailed the endless sea above and beneath the waves, discovered lost lands, and witnessed the unimaginably. Together, we have been to hell and back again. And now, together, we are going home”. To a sailor “home” has a powerful meaning and their panic dissipated. Lorenz had them in the palm of his noble hand and he knew it. Lastly he exclaimed at twice the volume, “It is time to rally! It is time to put your trust in us, for we trust each one of you with our lives! It is time to heed your captain’s orders! It is time to go home!!!”. The crews’ mood completely changed and they cheered wildly. Lorenz is a force of nature when he gets like that.
Pov exuberantly asked, “How do we get home from way up here?”.
“That’s simple, we’ll just go straight down”, I said with a plain face. Pov chuckled, looking at me for signs of jest, then crooked his head in disbelief when he realized I was dead serious. The cheers from the crew stopped as my remark circulated, but before they could get all panicky again I barked, “Weigh anchors, batten down the hatches, furl the sails, and stow away the cargo. On the double!”. I warned, “Don’t forget to tie yourself down unless you want to be swept away by the wind”, as everyone frantically scurried around with renewed purpose.
Master Goethe dug deep into his spell book to help out. He webbed the crew together in a cabin to prevent them from being bludgeoned to death from the fall. It was going to be cold as hell after we left Dragon Heaven so Goethe took care of that for us with his magic. “Don’t worry, I know the perfect spell to steady the ship once we get near the ground. Trust me, nothing can go wrong”, Goethe stated with confidence.
I gave the order to the Deep Sea Current to give chase to Slate. The elemental was happy to be leaving the sky and shook the ship with excitement. Myrrh tied each one of us down with ropes around the helm since Vilya warned of severe winds. “So any idea on how to deal with Slate?”, Aven questioned. Oddly that was the last time I heard Aven speak, but more on that later. Naturally, I took the lead as captain, “Isn’t it obvious? We parley”. I hailed Slate from afar which he obliged. He looked astonished to see us so soon, “How in the heck did you get here so fast? You and your ship seem different too”.
“We have decided to join you Gray Son. Lets be allies once more. It proved to be quite profitable in the past”, I said. I am not a good bluffer but luckily the two best liers I know were picking up what I was putting down.
“Why yes Gray Son, lets sign another contract in holy triplicate”, Lorenz added. Slate was not sure what to make of it. “If you join me many Dragons will die”, Slate decreed, “Are you okay with that Captain Reskafar?”. I was flustered about to babble out a crude response but was thankfully saved by Myrrh.
“Like I always say, kill them all and let the Gods sort them out”, Myrrh said without a quantum of solace, he looked like a stone-faced killer. Slate approved, “Very well, meet me below in Sedeq, at my villa. We have much to discuss. Not all Gray Agents approve of my methods but I only answer to my father”. He continued, “Now leave me be, I plan to enjoy the fly down to the surface”.
“Screw that, you only live twice! Lets have some fun and make a wager! If we beat you to the sea then you introduce us to your father”, I said taking a chance that his inner pride beast would not allow him to say no. The others were alarmed by my offer but did not protest. Slate looked over the new ship, scoffed, and nodded in agreement. The race to the sea was on!
I gave the Deep Sea Current the order to drop the port and starboard rapid deploy sails. Instead of the sails raising up, Aven and I had modified them to stretch out over the air to act like gliding wings. We could control the winds easily with our makeshift wings and sped by Slate. He roared in frustration but could not keep pace. He was so angry he fired a line of lightning at the ship from his maw. The lightning looked like it was going to miss but at the last second Slate reared his head and extraordinarily the bolt arced across the hull. I cursed him for harming my precious. I also noticed a look of intense concentration on Goethe’s face like he was trying to keep the fires of hell from possessing him. Suddenly, we must of breached the edge of Dragon Heaven because all the air in my lungs was sucked out by the frigid cold. Luckily, Goethe magic absorbed the biting cold but did nothing to fill my lungs with oxygen. I was dazed and exhausted from gasping for air which allowed Slate to catch up with us. He did not look to be struggling at all.
“Hahahaha”, Slate laughed, “You guys are always full of surprises! Lets raise the stakes once morrr…”. SPLAT! CRASH! BOOM!
It is hard to explain what happened but it looked like Slate slammed into the bottom of a deep pit in midair. I saw Goethe waving his finger like a smoking gun in Slate’s direction. The look on his face was utter ecstasy like he had been waiting for that moment since his conception.
“Idiot!!! What have you done?”, screamed an exasperated Lorenz
“I taught that gray scoundrel a lesson in magic and physics”, Goethe proclaimed, “He fired the first shot so I was within my rights to defend the ship”. We all looked at him in disbelief. Tomorrow never dies but Goethe’s life depended on Slate’s reaction. What would that reaction be?
“I will tear you fucking apart Goethe!!!”, we heard Slate scream out in frenzied rage as he climbed out of the magical pit. He looked really messed up, many of his scales were smashed, blood gushed down his face, and one of his platinum horns had broken off. Slate breathed a huge amount of lightning straight up into the air in anger then power dived towards us. During his dive he wrapped his wings tightly around his body which sprung him faster like a crossbow bolt. I had no choice but to tip the nose of the ship directly at the ground. The consequence would be exchanging control for acceleration. Again I had no choice, I greatly feared what Slate would do to Goethe and us if he caught up. I imagined being hanged, drawn, and quartered would be more enjoyable than Slate’s intentions. As the nosed tipped the wind resistance faded and the ship fell like a stone towards the sea. I stared straight down at the top of clouds and I could tell the wind was going to be at a whole nother level once we reached them. I thought to myself, “You are caught between the devil and deep blue sea”, between a murderous dragon and the jet stream.
Hitting the jet stream was like hitting a hurricane of tornadoes. The wind blast was so fierce you couldn’t open your eyes or mouth. I was sailing the wind on instinct alone, but the Current was doing most of the work and taking most of the beating. Life boats, loose cannons, planking, and everything not tied down was blown from the ship. We were blown from the ship, but Myrrh’s knots held true except for Goethe’s knot. I immediately caught him with my fast reflexes, giving him enough time to shift to safely. The burgeoning wind hammered the sails hard and ripped the port wing clean off. We started to spin. Another cannon busted free from the gun deck almost taking Myrrh’s head with it. The starboard wing soon gave way to the hurricane force winds. With no wings what chance did we have? We spun like a top headed to doom.
We were spinning so fast I had to focus on the main mast to gain perspective of the situation. In the background of my vision, lightning was chaining and I could feel the intense flashes of heat. Lightning struck the ship from all angles but mostly struck Lorenz. It appeared to me the lightning was beginning to ball and take on a malign form. Its wicked face looked like a huge fiendish cat outlined in arced lightning and its body a swirling thunderball of terrifying energy. Was this the presence Vilya warned of? The mysterious lightning monster effortlessly moved in close and began speaking to us in zaps and cracks. I had no fucking idea what in the bloody hell it was saying, fortunately, Lorenz and Goethe looked to know how to communicate with it. Good enough for me, so I decided not to care about it and focused on stabilizing the ship. The last I saw of the living lightning creature, I swear, it was pointing its hand at Aven.
The winds lessen into a violent storm and we were pelted with hail and rain. We were still violently spinning on all axes out of control, faster, and faster. The whirling forces caused all the loose shit in the boat to pile up in the cargo hold including the dense clockwork dragon. An idea popped into my head, I could use that pile of shit as a counter weight. If we deployed the main sails including the moonrakers at the precise time we might be able to jerk the ship free of the tailspin and regain some control. I instructed the ship on exactly what to do with the rigging and waited for the right time to pull the trigger. The moment we plummeted through the cloud ceiling I gave the order to deploy the main sails. The ship wildly parachuted up on the main sails, we stopped spinning, and slowed. In was just in time to see Slate swoop by slashing his tail at Goethe. “We’re dead”, thoughts intensified, “Well maybe just Goethe”.
Slate continued his bone crushing tail strikes at Goethe, who miraculously looked to be holding his own. One of Slate’s slashes cut the rigging around the mizzen mast which caused a redistribution of wind force that snapped the mast off like piece of straw. The mizzen mast flailed randomly, whipped us with ropes, and shot wooden splinters in our eyes. The living daylights were knocked out of me but I somehow was able to hold on. The slack from the tangled cables went taut and pulled the boat into another wild spin. Slate disappeared not wanting to be lassoed by the flying ropes. I started shooting the tethered ropes in a desperate attempt to free the splintered mast. The mysterious elastic nature of the ropes snapped the mizzen mast back to the ship like a pile driver. If it speared through the quarter deck it would probably kill all the crew in the decks below. My desperation uncorked a surge of power bestowed by Apsu’s goldeneye, the rush of power made me fast, enabling me to sever another cord. Myrrh acrobatically cut the last tethers by swinging through the air on the jungle of ropes like a monkey. The ship was still in a deadly spin and the sea was in the offing.
In was only a matter of seconds before the ship would crash into the steel waves of the sea. Goethe appeared and said, “Don’t worry I got this and flew under the ship”. As I think about what happened again I am not convinced Goethe did anything to help.
Lorenz and I were able to stabilize the ship after re-configuring the rigging once again on the remaining main sails. For a brief moment, everything was eerily calm like in the eye of hurricane. The world had seemingly slowed to a snail’s pace which provided me with ample time to take stock of my surroundings. Goethe and Aven were nowhere to be found. Myrrh was above me, holding on to the end of a rope with his teeth, his arms held back, and face full of controlled fury. Lorenz had summoned his awkward griffon in order to make a safe getaway. The crew was screaming at the top of their lungs for the madness to stop. I knew splashdown was eminent. I took one last breath, shot a smile to the heavens, and activated the water jewel at the exact time the ship broke the water’s surface.
We plunged into the water with an epic splash. The bubble held. We were free to die another day.