Archive for October, 2008
The drake thrashed about, spitting more bolts of red lightning and snapping at the crew as the hot sting of bullets bounced off its scaled hide. When the first volley of gunfire from the crew had subsided, the drake leaned back on its hind legs to swipe with its obsidian-black, razor-sharp foreclaws. Realizing the small annoyances were outside its grasp, the beast sniffed the air experimentally, tensed, then lunged at the largest knot of the scrambling crew — only to find its left foot tangled in the steel mesh of the starboard lightning net.
Anger turned to surprise, then to panic as the drake realized it was securely caught. Frantically it jerked, tore, and clawed at the mesh, causing the metal and rope holding it in place to pop free of the ship! The drake roared defiantly. With renewed vigor, the it ran a long tongue over its fangs while it stalked forward across the deck, dragging the ruined mesh behind it.
Conrad O’Fallon knelt next to the railing on the port side behind one of the lightning cannons and reloaded his revolver. “What be the beastie after?” the Scotsman asked over the roar of the storm.
Krumer reloaded his sidearm, “If it were food, there is easier prey than a ship. However, this could be its hunting grounds.”
“Supposedly they kin be hearin’ the buzz o’ the lightning in the batteries an’ it be aggravatin’ them.” Conrad replied.
“Tall tales,” the first mate scoffed, brushing the rain from his face. “If that were true, there would be drake attacks all along the shipping lanes.”
“Either way, this beast is a threat to the crew and ship,” Hunter declared flatly. “Cannon will get rid of it, but the body would tangle up things worse. Pistol and rifle shot will chase it off or kill it eventually, but it’ll make a mess of the rigging by then.” He looked at his first mate, “Krumer, get one of those Daniell cell barrels up here.”
Krumer gave Hunter a measuring look before he spoke, “Right away, Captain.”
“Be havin’ a plan, Cap’n?” O’Fallon asked, watching William run off to ferry a box of ammunition to some of the crew near the far side of the vessel.
“That I do. It’s a bad one, more’n likely, but I’m all out of good ones.”
“Well, at least it’ll be interestin’,” Conrad said with a smirk.
Moments later, Krumer shoved one of the brass and rubber barrels up through the cargo hatch to Hunter and O’Fallon. The two men rolled the barrel to the deck while Hunter waved a hand toward a storage locker near the quarterdeck’s steps.
“O’Fallon, haul out a length of rope from storage. We’re going to use this to knock that drake loose and maybe knock some of the fight out of her.”
Hunter turned his eyes back to the drake while it shook its head angrily at another volley of pistol shot. For a moment, a stray thought nagged at him. He frowned, trying to remember what it was, but the sliver of memory eluded him. He wiped a sheen of rainwater from his eyes as Krumer emerged from below.
“Krumer, that vampire we tossed ashore, Broggins. Did anyone get a look at that ‘personal’ cargo he had?” Hunter asked, glancing across the deck to look for the drake. Towards the bow, the creature lashed out with a massive paw, narrowly missing three of the crew.
“Not I.” Krumer replied.
Just then, Conrad raced back across the deck through the driving wind and rain.
“O’Fallon!” Hunter called, “What of you? Get a look at that odd cargo we got fined for supposedly having?”
Conrad looked surprised. “Tha’ damn vampire’s? Nae so to be recallin’ it, but Ah be rememberin’ a peculiar symbol stamped on the small crate. Looked mostly smudged but Ah could be makin’ it out in part. It looked tae be a bow an’ arrow on a compass.” The Scotsman shrugged.
Captain Hunter swore viciously. “Wayfinder’s Guild. Among all else they do, they study unusual creatures, like lightning drakes.”
Krumer and O’Fallon exchanged a confused glance while Hunter shook his head in disgust. Towards the bow, the drake roared again in anger. Wood splintered, shattering as if struck by a fist. Gunfire barked in reply.
“Damn that man, I bet he did,” Hunter swore viciously. Krumer and O’Fallon gave the captain a befuddled look. Hunter waved a dismissive hand.
“Well, never mind all that, I’ll explain later. Now tie me off. I’ve got to get that barrel close to that drake,” he explained slipping the leather loop over his revolver to secure it into its holster. “Once close, I’ll cut the lines that have the mesh fouled to its leg. Krumer, hold fast the rope; and O’Fallon, shoot the barrel at one of its connections once the drake is free and the barrel close by. It’ll spark and that’ll make the drake spit lightning. That much lightning at once will blow it sky high and hopefully knock the beast free.”
O’Fallon looked shaken at the idea, but nodded nonetheless. “Aye, Cap’n.”
“I should go.” the first mate declared sternly.
“Krumer, we don’t have time to argue. I need your strength here keeping this rope secure. Of the three of us, you’re the strongest. O’Fallon is the better shot.”
The first mate turned that idea over and found he liked it no better than he did the first time. When he could not come up with an alternative, he frowned, and then lashed one end of the rope to the mast and the other end to Captain Hunter.
“Spirits watch over you, then.” Krumer said. He gripped the captain by the shoulder with a hard, calloused green hand for a moment, then let it fall away.
Hunter smiled at his old friend. “I hope so; I’ll take any help I can get.”
The sound of screams and the snapping of wood filled the air. On the far side of the vessel, the drake snapped its stained, ivory sharp teeth at the ship’s gunner, a dwarfish man named Flick. The gunner ducked under the massive creature’s bite, rolled forward into a crouch, and squeezed the triggers of his twin Colt pistols. The bullets tore past the drake’s right eye, making the beast flinch.
Again the drake snapped at the man, narrowly missing by inches; the beast’s teeth did not, however, miss the mast, which took a sizeable crack in the wood as payment. Angered at missing the small figure, the drake sidestepped and shook loose rainwater from its hide. The motion rippled along its muscular frame, just intense enough to dislodge the steel mesh from the reptile’s leg. Along the entire length of the Brass Griffin, the ship shuddered violently.
“It’s free! We’re out of time!” Hunter shouted over the wind.