Archive for October, 2012
At mid-morning, Captain Anthony Hunter descended the stairs from the main deck to the crew bunks and armory after inspection of the Morning Watch. The captain had quietly put the crew on alert. They were to go about their day, routinely reporting their location to the officer of the watch, and to always move about the Griffin in pairs.
Both actions were meant to curb any attempt by RiBeld’s men – if he was involved – to slip aboard and cause mischief. Durante Marino had continued to make overtures as to his good will and the good intentions of his Brotherhood of Mulciber. So, while they were likely no longer a threat, Captain Hunter still planned for the moment they might wish to stop being so helpful. They had attempted to scuttle the Britannia, after all!
Is RiBeld actually involved? The captain wondered quietly to himself. He isn’t above this by any means. I lack concrete proof. The thought irritated him like an open sore. Could it be someone using the duke’s reputation? If so, who? Again, no proof!
Hunter briefly nodded in greeting to the two guards posted at the armory door. “Any arrivals?” Hunter asked.
The taller of the two guards, Little Tom, stood straighter at the captain’s approach. He folded his knotted arms over a broad chest and stroked his beard idly. “Aye, Cap’n. They’ve appeared as you asked ‘em to. Doc Llwellyn, Moira, that Mr. Mason from the Britannia, your brother, and Miss Salgado.” The man hesitated for a moment. “Cap’n? The lady’s lookin’ a bit vexed. I’d watch my course.”
Captain Hunter considered the warning a moment. He genuinely was not surprised. “I see. Thank you, Tom. I’ll bear it in mind. No one else is allowed in unless we’re under attack, or you hear from me.”
Tom folded his arms over his chest. “Understood, Cap’n.”
The captain then stepped between the guards, opened the door, and walked inside the armory. The door shut behind him with a heavy sense of anticipation.
Dr. Thorias Llwellyn, who had been engrossed in writing a series of notes in a small, leather-bound journal, smiled when he saw his old friend. “I see you’re learning to be fashionably late.”
A small, bemused smile turned the corner of Captain Hunter’s mouth. “Everything in its proper time, Doctor, you know that. A good morning inspection of the watch takes time.”
Moira Wycliffe’s curiosity, already set to simmer, practically boiled over. It was not often her captain resorted to theatrics of this nature. “Beggin’ ya pardon, Cap’n, but why here?” She fidgeted in her seat. “Odd place ta meet.”
“It’s for safety, Moira.” The captain crossed over to the locked safe on the far side of the room. “The armory is guarded, and difficult to approach.” He waved an arm around as if to punctuate his explanation. “The accommodations are not the best for a meeting, I’ll grant you that. We can, however, be assured that the risk of being overheard is lower here.”
Mr. Mason’s back stiffened noticeably. The implication that the Britannia was insecure had been made painfully obvious by Durante Marino and his Brotherhood. Greg Mason still stung from that revelation. The captain regretted the statement only in that he did not have any more gentle a means to phrase the response.
At Greg Mason’s stony glance, Captain Hunter braced himself for the onslaught of irate objections. He had meant no harm with the comment, but Greg Mason had proven himself to be extremely sensitive with regards to many things so far. The captain was pleasantly surprised when the torrent did not appear.
The first officer of the Britannia gave a curt nod, then clasped his hands behind his back. He studied a stack of ammunition crates for a moment in his search for a reply. His voice was brittle, but polite. “A wise precaution, Captain.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mason. Hopefully, it will turn out that I’m simply being overly cautious.” Captain Hunter’s eyes lingered on Adonia. Her frown spoke volumes. Anthony had met briefly with Adonia earlier that morning about the daggers, the hidden map, and revealing any of this information to anyone. To say their conversation went poorly was generous. In fact, ‘stormy’ might have been a fairer assessment.
The captain turned away from Senhorita Salgado’s sharp stare and instead toward the safe. He quickly unlocked it. A moment later, he withdrew the long, dark wooden box from the safe and placed it in full view on a crate. He carefully opened the lid and removed the daggers. One by one, he set them outside the box.
“You are all familiar in one way or another with these daggers,” Captain Hunter said flatly. He glanced around, and saw at least two nods of affirmation. He did not wait for anyone to add further comment. “All together, they are ancient, forged from a magnetic metal, and the source of our current troubles.” The captain picked up a pair of the daggers that he knew would interlock together. He held them up for the group to see them clearly. “However, there is one aspect to which I must draw all of your attention.”
Given the general emotion in the room, all were interested in where he was going with his demonstration, even the disgruntled Adonia Salgado. However, Dr. Hunter was the only one not surprised when Captain Hunter brought the two weapons neatly together lengthwise. The “runes” along each blade clicked together like a pair of metal puzzle pieces.
The room was stone silent while the captain connected two more to the first pair of daggers. It was enough that a sculpted topological map began to take shape. The captain set the half-finished sculpture down in plain view of the group. An unmistakable image almost seemed to rise out of the very metal itself, complete with detailed markings for trees, caves, and even a coastline complete with a reef.
“I am convinced this is actually what Durante Marino and his Brotherhood of Mulciber are trying to protect, along with where it might lead,” Captain Hunter said sternly. “Sirrah Marino stated this was a quest for ‘knowledge and truth’. I haven’t discerned what that precisely means, yet. However, I doubt it means base riches. Likewise, bear in mind these weapons were forged during the Roman Empire. Creating this invention at that time in history was an extreme step if you wished to hide something. Therefore I can only assume its ‘value’ is nearly priceless, and dangerous.”
Thorias slowly closed his small journal. His eyes studied the portion of the metal sculpture in front of him with no small amount of interest. “That’s bloody well clever, given when these were made. Is that what I think it is?”
Miss Wycliffe’s eyes shone with interest. “It be a map! One carved right from the metal once the pieces are together!”
Mr. Mason rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Could this be what the assassins are after?”
Positioned between the doctor and the engineer, Senhorita Salgado’s green-brown hair tendrils coiled and uncoiled. It was a strong sign of irritation. She had been against the captain’s little dramatic show. The senhorita was convinced it put the relics at unnecessary risk. After all, one of Marino’s Brotherhood had ambushed them before in this very armory. There was no reason it could not happen again.
Despite that, she could not take her eyes off the sculpted map that now appeared out of what had only been unusually engraved daggers a moment before. Eventually, the excitement of discovery won out over irritation … although, it was not entirely replaced.
Senhorita Salgado shook her head, eyes narrowed. “I very much doubt it, Senhor. How would they know? These daggers have been studied for many years. To the best of my memory, no one has discovered their secret.” The senhorita leaned forward to peer at a location where two of the “runes” interlocked. “Until today. It is brilliant! This is why the engravings could not be translated into a language. There was no language to translate!”
The clockwork engineer shook her head in amazement at the sculpture. She crossed her arms. “Hard to be thinkin’ that no one tried puttin’ them together before now.”
Captain Hunter picked up the last two daggers. He considered the partially assembled sculpture, then settled on where to place the last two magnetized weapons. However, the very moment the blade came into contact with the others, the entire stack tore itself apart! Daggers toppled away from each other as if pushed apart by an invisible hand. The metal relief sculpture of some unknown shoreline abruptly ceased to exist. In its place, the individual daggers were scattered across the top of the crate away from each other.
“Most unexpected,” Dr. Thomas Hunter said thoughtfully.
“They are magnetic, yes? Are you certain you didn’t have one of them turned the wrong direction so they repelled instead of pulled?” Dr. Llwellyn asked curiously.
The captain scowled at the daggers. “Quite certain.”
Dr. Hunter stood with his hands clasped behind his back. He looked at the daggers sagely. “Well, well. ‘The seventh dagger is the cornerstone’. He meant that literally, not figuratively.”
It was Mr. Mason’s turn to scowl. “What? Surely you don’t believe a word he says?”
Moira Wycliffe looked excited enough for two people. It was plain by the expression on her face that some image had solidified in her head around how all seven daggers might connect. “It has to be! Oh, just come off it and open yer eyes. If some push and some pull, then it only stands the raised parts on the seventh be meant to hold it all together. Like a lynch pin! If it be me, I’d even be making it so that the one side of the seventh knife attracts and the other side pushes. That way it lines up better.” She looked around the room, only to stop at her captain’s deep scowl. “Beggin’ the Cap’n’s pardon, if I spoke out of turn.”
Captain Hunter shook his head slightly. “No, no, you’re quite fine. In fact, you’re brilliant.” His eyes sought out the Senhorita’s. He gave her a quick, suspicious look.
Her features stiffened sharply. The senhorita returned Captain Hunter’s look with her own, filled with a mix of alarm and urgency. She had reached the same terrible conclusion.
The captain’s voice was brittle. “You’ve found a dangerous flaw in our plans.”
“I did?” Moira looked confused.
Adonia Salgado wrung her hands in her lap, then clenched them into tight fists. Individual tendrils of her hair draped down along her shoulders, now coiled back on themselves. They appeared very much like a nest of snakes about to strike. The senhorita was angry, but only with herself.
“Yes, and with luck Duke RiBeld and his confederates have not had this very same thought. No expense was spared in creating the forged copies of the daggers.” She glanced around the room. “None. They are twins to these, sim? That way they would convince the thieves. The only difference is the forgeries are not magnético.”
Silence descended as the implications became clear.
“Therefore, someone inventive enough might find a way to connect the knives and discover the same sculpture we did.” Dr. Llwellyn said carefully. “Perhaps even to the point where the landscape might be identified.”
Mason walked quickly towards the armory door. “I’ll be aboard the Britannia momentarily. Once there, I’ll double the guards on the safe.”
“Mr. Mason, wait.” Dr. Hunter said abruptly. “That would be ill-advised. At least right now.”
The first officer spun on his heel. A shocked look plastered across his face. “Are you mad, sir? You just heard exactly what I did. Those forgeries are precise copies of the originals. If they can be connected, then our troubles are magnified! Besides, has anyone considered what the thieves might do once they have the knives, false or no? I would think they might cover their trail. If I may, we are in airships over the Atlantic. Another well-placed bomb or two would sink us and no one would be the wiser. Quite the devious method for covering up a theft, wouldn’t you say? We need those forgeries guarded as well!”
Dr. Hunter fixed a hard look in return to the Britannia’s first officer. “I do not disagree, sir, but look closer at your deduction. We don’t know if the thieves have any knowledge of the map. We do know that they’ve tried at least one bombing attempt aboard the Britannia. We have yet to fully sort out the role the Brotherhood of Mulciber has played in such events as the stabbing of Duke RiBeld, and a brief assault aboard the Brass Griffin. If you increase guards at this time, it might draw their suspicions to the knives before we are prepared! In fact, it may lead the most dullard of them to wonder ‘why now’?”
The first officer slowly relaxed, his face a mask of frustration. “Then, pray tell, what do we do?”
Thomas Hunter smiled. “I’ve not worked all the details, but it may be best to split the set of forgeries. Remove key daggers from the remaining six, so that what is left doesn’t match. This further obscures their secret map. I’ll explain more when we go, with the senhorita’s permission, to work this out aboard the Britannia.”
Senhorita Salgado did not reply right away. She considered what Dr. Hunter proposed, then gave a tentative nod of approval. “It would be appreciated to know where you plan on relocating the selected forgeries to?”
“Of course,” Dr. Hunter replied.
“Overall, it’s a capital plan, but we need to discern the whereabouts of the seventh knife as well,” Dr. Llwellyn offered.
“Just so we can be sure it’s not nearby?” Moira asked.
The Griffin’s doctor nodded. “Precisely. It removes a concern. It might also help us gain a better understanding of where that map leads.” He shrugged at the group. “In case such information is necessary.”
“Durante Marino would likely know where the seventh knife of the set is now,” Captain Hunter said flatly. “I doubt he’ll tell me, though. He’s been forthcoming with some information, but the rest? Cryptic statements and riddles designed to ‘guard the secrets of the Brotherhood’.”
Adonia Salgado smiled while an idea materialized in her mind, fully formed from the steam of inspiration. The charybdian woman’s hair tendrils writhed slowly then relaxed against each other. “It could be you did not use the correct approach for him, não? Leave him to Moira and myself. We will find out what we need.”
Moira looked uncertainly at the senhorita a moment. She grinned at her captain’s raised eyebrow. “No worries, Cap’n. We’ll handle it.”
“Capital. Meanwhile, I can confirm my suspicions around this coastline we just witnessed,” Captain Hunter replied, a thoughtful look on his face.
Dr. Llwellyn asked the obvious question first. “What suspicions? Precisely where do you think that coastline is?”
“Spain. The Atlantic coastline north of the Strait of Gibraltar. It has a rather distinctive coastline.” The captain’s frown deepened. “I can think of at least four places that are similar. One of which is a marsh. Hopefully, this one isn’t populated with reanimated corpses, or fanatics bent on wide-scale destruction and conquest.”
The Griffin’s doctor sighed heavily. “Ah, wouldn’t that be nice for a change!”