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All the Heavens - Title

Chapter 16

They found a safe place to keep the prisoners in the brig on the steerage deck on the starboard side aft of the mainmast. After securing the prisoners they explored the ship. It was both fascinating and humdrum.

In many respects, it was an ordinary galleon, but of a type that was shorter than a normal galleon, a two-masted version called a short galleon. The bottom deck, called the steerage deck, contained the brig, a storage area at the stern of the ship, and the steerage hold. Once there had been small passenger cabins on it but they had been torn out to make room for more cargo. The storage area, 14 cubits wide by 7 cubits deep, was separated from the rest of the deck by wooden bars and a regular shipboard door. It held foodstuffs, clothes, ropes, spare sails, barrels of water, tools, and sundry other items. Cargo doors in the ceiling allowed large items to be lowered into the main part of the steerage hold.

Just in front of the mainmast were three intricate chests, made of platinum. The one in the middle, Elric said was called the skengine. It provided the magical power that lifted skyships off the ground.

The chest or reactor to the left of it was the life chest that provided air and gravity and the one on the right, according to the prisoners, was called the star engine. All of them were connected by platinum rods and emitted a constant low hum of power. Each had a hatch on the front but when they were opened, the Knights found themselves staring into an inky blackness, broken only by a tiny white light in the center of the chest, like a miniature star. Over each hatch was a row of 10 glowing diamonds, indicating how much power each of the reactors had remaining. The star engine had a second row of 10 diamonds below the hatch, all lit.

The next deck up was the cargo deck. Fore and aft were the crew’s quarters. There was room for eight in the forward quarters and room for six in the aft compartment. Behind the mainmast, was a short companionway. On either side of it was the galley or kitchen – Jon and Katrina were still having their argument about it – on the other side was the pantry. There were big cargo doors in the ceiling that allowed large loads to be lowered to the deck. Directly below them were another set of big doors to allow cargo to be lowered further down to the steerage hold.

The main deck had an open area 30 cubits long and 20 cubits wide. Forward, there two flights of stairs, one on either side of the ship, going up to the forecastle, sometimes known as the fo’c’sle. In the middle of them was a stairwell going down to the cargo deck. Between all the stairs were two doors, one each on the port side and the starboard side. Behind each door was a large cabin. Each cabin could sleep two people but one of them was stuffed with shelves holding star charts and other navigation equipment, leaving only enough room for one bunk.

Aft of the mainmast were four sets of stairs, two going up to the aft castle deck, or sterncastle deck, and two going down to the cargo deck. In the middle was a door leading to a short companionway. There were three doors, one at the far end leading to the Captain’s quarters, and a door on either side, leading to two large cabins. At random intervals throughout the ship were small storage closets, shoe-horned into whatever space was available.

skyship-wheel-with-gemsThe sterncastle deck held the ship’s wheel. At first glance it resembled an ordinary ship’s spoked wheel, spinning around a central hub but in this case, the central hub was larger than normal and had five gems mounted on it. In the center of the hub was a pink sapphire. Around the edge of the center hub were the other four, in a diamond pattern. At the top was a white diamond, at the bottom was a black onyx, on the right was a blue sapphire, and on the left was a green emerald. All the gems were round, about two finger width’s in diameter.

The column the wheel was attached to appeared to be set on spring-loaded gimbals, allowing the column to be tilted forward and backwards, as well as side-to-side. When it was released, the springs slowly returned it to it’s upright position. There was also a pedal on the desk near the base of the column that would lock the column into whatever position it happened to be in when the pedal was pushed. Pushing the pedal a second time released the catch and allowed the column to move again.

Finally, there were two long handles on either side of the wheel. Each one had a spring-loaded hand release up near the top. The one on the left was surmounted by a green emerald globe a bit larger than the emerald on the wheel. The handle on the right had a blue sapphire globe on it. The handles were locked in position until the hand release was squeezed and held, then they could move forward and backwards. The handle with the blue sapphire on it had a much greater range of motion than the one topped by the emerald.

In front of the wheel column was a long panel made of platinum mounted on the railing ahead of the wheel. It was angled so the pilot had a perfect view of it. It had three large dials on it and two long sliders under the dials. To the right of the dials was a red button. The wheel column, the control handles, and the panel were all connected with woven platinum cables.

All in all, they concluded, it was a remarkable ship, and in excellent condition at that. It took them several hours to fully explore it and by the time they were done, it was getting dark. Elric had discovered several books and maps in the Captain’s quarters. He and Aaren were huddled together over them intently. The only other item of note was a great, two-handed sword of unusual quality they found under the bed in the Captain’s quarters. Using their Sight, Aaren and Elric announced at once that it was magic. Aaren cast an informational spell to learn more about the magic and learned it was a true sword of power. Its presence there was a mystery but Horace laid claim to it at once.

After drawing lots, kitchen duty fell to Jon and Katrina, who were still continuing their galley argument. The pantry on board was well stocked and they were able to put together a veritable feast. Just as they were preparing to eat the ship was hailed from shore. They tumbled out to the main deck and peered through the evening gloom.

Standing on the bank was Marak and his remaining guards. They had put together a team of unwounded, or lightly wounded horses and followed the Knights. They were forced to move at a crawl and were just now completing a journey the Knights had covered in less than half an hour.

Marak saw them and waved. “What in blazes is that thing?” he bellowed across to them.

“A ship,” Horace shouted back.

Even in the gathering darkness, they could see Marak’s disapproving look. “I can see that,” he returned. “What’s it doing here?”

Mira felt an insane desire to yell back, ‘Floating!’ but she stifled it with a mighty effort.

Horace shrugged, “It’s kinda hard to explain. Why don’t you come aboard?”

Marak cocked his head. “I’d like to, but there’s one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“I can’t swim!”

Horace looked down at the rowboats tied up by the ship. “Oh,” he said sheepishly. “Uh, we’ll be right over.”

*     *     *     *     *

By the time everyone had been ferried to the ship, there turned out to be more of them than the Knights had anticipated. Including the wounded guards, there were twenty people on the ship, not counting the two prisoners. Jon and Katrina had to pull another shift in the kitchen, which their prisoners confirmed was called the galley, to ensure there was enough food on hand to feed everyone.

After dinner, all of them pitched in washing dishes and cleaning up. After that they retired to Captain’s quarters, the biggest room on the ship, inviting Marak and his chief guard, Taanen, for drinks. Taanen was a whipcord thin man with pale, blue eyes and weathered skin.

It took almost an hour to bring Marak up to date on the events of the day. The Knights recounted the chase and the battle on the shore, the fight on board the ship, and Blanrus’ astounding escape.

“But there weren’t any sails on the canoe?” Marak asked.

Aaren shook his head. “None.”

“I thought you said these ships required sails,” he pressed.

Elric nodded. “That’s right. But there’s still a lot I don’t know so right now I don’t have an answer for you.”

“The point is, he got away,” Aaren concluded. “We have to assume he made it to his destination in the Pebbles.”

Marak sighed deeply. “And my daughter?”

They exchanged guilty looks and then stared intently at the floor. Mira finally met his eyes. “He took her with him,” she admitted. “We couldn’t stop him.”

“Aye,” he said heavily. “I thought so.” He slumped back in his chair despondently.

A long moment passed. The oil lamps on the wall flickered fitfully and the shadows danced over them. Aaren finally leaned over and whispered to Mira. She listened, shook her head, listened some more then finally nodded hesitantly.

Taanen noticed and nudged Marak, drawing his attention to their whispered conversation. “Do you have an idea?” he asked.

Aaren straightened up and nodded. “Yes, but I’m not sure how much you’re going to like it. I’m not even sure how much we’re going to like it.”

“Somewhat ominous,” Marak replied. “But then whatever Blanrus has planned for Illene is probably worse. Go on.”

Aaren nodded to him and stood up to address the whole group. “Mira and I were discussing the possibility of using this ship to pursue Blanrus and your daughter, with the goal of rescuing Illene and putting his head on a pike. Bear in mind, however, that none of us have ever seen a ship like this one before, let alone flown one. The planets are separated by incredible distances with very few landmarks to guide the journeyer, so getting lost is not only easy but very likely. On the other hand, the ship’s pantry is reasonably well-stocked so we wouldn’t be in any danger of starving for several months. Elric and I have been going over Blanrus’ journals and books; we’ve have learned a lot from them and we’re willing to take a stab at it if you are.” He paused to look around the room at his companions. “Well?”

There was a moment of silence, broken only by the distant creak of a rope rubbing against something. Horace finally spoke up in measured tones. “We said we wanted adventure,” he began slowly. “Well, this would be an adventure on a scale few of us ever dreamed of, not to mention the reward Marak offered us. If it still stands?” He looked questioningly at the ex-caravan master. Marak nodded emphatically. “In that case, I say yes!”

Katrina strummed her lute idly. “I haven’t had much time to practice my music,” she mused. “Onboard, I’d have plenty of time, plus I might even write a new song or two. Sure, why not? Let’s do it.”

Jon shook his head in mock despair at her illogical reasoning. “I’ll go along with it on one condition; I don’t care who the Captain is but I’m going to be the First Officer, First Mate, whatever you call it.” He gazed defiantly around the room.

Mira shrugged in confusion. “I don’t see why anyone would object to that but, why?”

“The First Mate is in charge of keeping things shipshape,” he replied quickly. “He sets the watch and makes sure that everything runs on time.”

“Ah,” she breathed understandingly. “Rules, regulations, law and order. I should have guessed. Sure, go ahead.”

He nodded his satisfaction. “In that case, count me in.”


Aaren’s voice caught the young mage by surprise and he jerked up from the book he was reading. He looked around the room in faint surprise. “Of course, I’m going. A chance to try out a ship like this? I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

Aaren smiled at his eager expression. “Fine. I’m in favor of going and so is Mira.” He turned to Marak and Taanen. “What about you? Will you go with us or wait here for our return?”

Taanen shrugged complacently. “I go where Marak goes.”

They all turned to him. He cocked an eyebrow at them and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “My caravan is destroyed,” he said slowly. “We salvaged most of the cargo though. On the other hand, I don’t feel like waiting around this village if I can help it; there’s not much here.” The others nodded their agreement. The village consisted of little more than a few houses and the mill. “Going with you could mean death or worse, but not going would leave me too much time to worry.” He thought about it for another few moments then came to an abrupt decision. “I’ll come with you.”

Horace sat forward. “What about your men? Will they come too?”

“I don’t see why not,” Marak returned. “Part of the cargo we salvaged was the pay box. As long as they’re getting their wages I don’t see any reason for them to refuse.”

Aaren smiled. “Well then, it looks like we’re heading for the stars.”

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