Archive for November, 2011
High above the battlefield, William Falke ran his hands through his constantly tousled brown hair in frustration while he puzzled rapidly over a set of medical recipes written in Dr. Llwellyn’s spidery handwriting.
“What? Use whiskey?” the young man said to the weather-beaten leather journal, giving it a perplexed frown.
Abruptly, a loud bang – like that of a giant hammer striking wood – erupted right before the Brass Griffin pitched hard to starboard. In that moment, everything in the small closet of a room was tossed about – from the smallest piece of paper to items as large as an empty chair. William yelped in alarm as he, too, careened into the far wall!
The young man managed to turn in mid-air before he struck, ramming his left side against the wall and adding another bruise to his already growing collection. With a grunt, he collapsed to the floor. Parchments and books of various kinds – formerly stored in a neat rows on the shelves above – rained down on him.
“Bugger me!” William swore aloud; using his left arm to shield his face, he batted the falling books aside with his other hand while scurrying to safety a few feet away. Free of the avalanche, he sat heavily on the floor and leaned back against a wall with a loud sigh.
Five feet from him, the ship’s opti-telegraphic came to life in a burst of mechanical static interspersed with the broken fragments of conversation! William jumped with a start.
“Emergency Call to Brass Griffin. Come in Brass Griffin,” Angela Von Patterson’s voice finally emerged from beneath the static.
William lunged for the device, turning the crank instinctively, even though it obviously had enough stored power to receive messages since it was attached to the ship’s boiler-fed generators. He tapped a pair of keys used to indicate ‘message received’ and ‘incoming reply’.
“Angela? Ya all right? Are ya hurt? Has the Doc made it to ya?” the young man asked earnestly.
“Sirrah Falke!” Angela replied; relief and a touch of anxious stress fueled her jumble of words. “Mother would say we’re ‘managing’. It’s very bad, though. Everything seems on fire. Mother is hurt but still keeping everyone in line. I hurt, but not badly. Mostly I’m very tired. Oh! Doctor Llwellyn! Yes! He is here with me.”
“Brilliant! Put him on!” William asked quickly. “The battle up here – with what I’ve heard is the Revenge – it’s a right proper scrap. The Cap’n had us duck down to the trees, then we came about and stung the Revenge smart along her underside. Several are hurt from flying debris, though. I need ta find a recipe for a type of poultice the Doc makes. It’s for infection. I can’t make good sense of his notes.”
“I … I would,” Angela stammered, “but he’d rather I spoke. He’s hurt ever so badly, though he’s far too stubborn to admit it. Moira’s wrecked, too,” the girl’s voice caught in her throat a moment before she could enunciate her thoughts, “she’s burned pretty bad. The Fomorians have been given a sound beating down here; but we’ve all paid dearly for it.”
“What?” William replied in alarm.
“Wait, wait! Just listen!” Angela blurted out before the young man could say anything more. “The Doctor wanted me to say: ‘the Revenge is fully loaded with gas munitions. They thinned the mix of the gas. Trust nothing that does not explode. Make sure the Captain knows.’ ” Angela hesitated before she asked, “Mr. Falke, the Doctor won’t explain it and right now he’s not coherent. What does it mean ‘they thinned the mix’? Does it mean it’s weaker?”
William Falke shuddered involuntarily; he suspected what Dr. Llwellyn meant. He had seen the effects of the gas first hand at the emergency hospice on Port Signal. William had likewise heard what this ‘mustard gas’ actually did to its victims, and had heard the doctor’s theory about how a thinner amount was not less deadly, just more difficult to detect.
He swallowed nervously at the thought of a gas-filled artillery shell landing mid-deck aboard the Griffin; worse yet was the thought of it missing the ship and plummeting to land among the wounded on the ground below. The Griffin shuddered around him once again from another volley of cannon-fire, almost as if it shared his thought.
“No,” the young man said with a tight voice, “no, it doesn’t. Ya just may not know if ya walk into a cloud of it – until it eats ya from the inside-out later.”
“Oh,” Angela replied in a small voice.
“Angela, I’ve got to warn the Cap’n,” William said quickly, “find some cool water and gently run it over Moira’s burns. Then wrap ’em loose in some bandage cloth. Loose, do ya understand?”
“I understand,” Angela replied while explosions echoed in the background somewhere near her, “I think I know where I can get some water.”
“Good, other than that, help Doc Llwellyn,” William instructed, as the Griffin shook violently from another impact. “We’ll be down to get ya as best we can.”
Only static replied.
Panic-stricken, William tapped madly at the receive keys. There was no response. He shook the device until the gears rattled faintly.
“Bloody hell, work!” William snarled. He frantically tapped the polished black wooden keys, sending the telegraph device into a fit of clicking. “Angela?” William said desperately. “Angela?”
Suddenly, the room shook again, knocking more cans and rope from the shelves. The young man blinked in surprise; there had been no crackle or thunder this time.
“That wasn’t a lightnin’ cannon,” Will mused aloud. “Something solid hit us!”
“Looks like a shell didn’t go off, Cap’n!” a muffled voice shouted over the din of combat outside.
“Shove it over the side,” William heard Captain Hunter reply. “We don’t need the dead weight.”
He leaped to his feet, ignored the shooting pains that radiated out from his bruises, and raced to the cabin door to yank it open. Outside a fire blazed bright, searing the air in front of him. William covered his face with one arm, instinctively shielding himself from the flames before he took a step back.
“I gotta warn them!” William muttered, staring into the blazing wall in front of him. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. Letting it out slowly, William fixed his eyes ahead, and leaped into the flames!