The cabin shook from the roar of thunder. Outside, high winds beat mercilessly against the Brass Griffin’s worn wooden and copper hull while rain tapped a steady rhythm on deck. With a heavy groan, the cabin door protested at being pulled open from outside. A tall, olive-skinned figure appeared in the doorway. Standing a good two inches past six feet, he wore a loose blue shirt, brown cotton trousers and dripping wet rain slicker. Long black hair drawn back into a rough collection of braids framed a stern face. He wiped rainwater from his eyes with the back of a sleeve.
“Captain! We’ve reached the storm’s heart.”
Captain Hunter memorized the page number in front of him and closed the log book. He was a broad-shouldered human in an old leather vest, white shirt and blue trousers. Brown hair that had a hint of gray at the temple was kept short, cut in the Royal Navy style.
“Very good, Mr. Whitehorse. What sign?”
Winds thrust at the ship again, threatening to turn the vessel sideways. “Hail in the lower clouds, lightning here on high.”
Hunter nodded, setting the book aside on a small table. He stood, strapping on a pair of brass-trimmed wheel-lock pistols before he threw on a worn long coat for protection against the elements outside.
“Good. Lightning nets deployed?”
“Right before we crested the cloudbank.”
“Well done. Once we’ve refueled, we can light the furnace and process some of that ore we picked up at Chapman’s mining camp.” He paused to listen to the rage of weather outside. “Quite the storm. If we can spare a barrel or two, we could sell it on market. It’d make some blacksmith or engineer very happy.”
“Aye sir, true enough.” Krumer started to move back on deck, but paused when he noticed Hunter was not behind him. “Captain?”
Hunter flexed his artificial left hand, brass gears and clockwork mechanisms opening and closing his brass and leather fingers obediently. “Just the hand again, Krumer. Ghost aches and pains.”
“Bad omen, that. Last time a vampire had stowed away when it ached,” Whitehorse shrugged.
“I still doubt the two were related. Besides, you’re only irritated because he locked you below decks.”
“He tied me like a game bird and stuffed me in the ship’s stores! I still owe him for that insult.”
Captain Hunter ignored the phantom ache in his artificial hand and reached for a glove to tug over it.
“Fortunately he didn’t make a light meal out of your tough orcish hide. I understand your feelings however, I’d like to lay hands upon him myself. He stole my best pocket watch, not to mention a week’s worth of supplies and our best steam glider before he set out for whatever port he finally landed at. Speaking of which, how far out from a port are we?”
“Mr. Baker says no more than three days’ strong sail for Briggs’ Reach. Five for Londinium proper. Not much here, this far north over Ak’iriel Forest.”
“Not surprising, we’re off the main route a bit.”
Suddenly the ship lurched violently, knocking both men off their feet. Hunter glanced around as if he could look into the seasoned wood and copper sheets of the ship itself for any damage. Krumer always accused him of having the sense of a mystic when it came to ships. Hunter chalked that up to good-natured ribbing. He just knew his ship.
“That’s more that just a gale of wind.”
Scrambling to their feet, they raced to the deck.