WIP: A Nightingale’s Wing Chapter Two: The Commodore’s Council

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you have not already done so, or just want to refresh your memory of the past, you can read chapter zero of this WIP right here, and chapter one here. Otherwise, enjoy the next chapter!]

There are a few things in life that when you run across them, you feel that they require being sent to hell immediately. Now, there are minor things, like having a left-handed roper coiling your deck ropes, or having to clean the salt out of your pipeworks when you run salt water through them. Those types of things are a hassle. They slow down your progress and make things more difficult as a general rule. However, there are other things, greater and darker things, that truly need to be sent to hell straight away, those things which have absolutely no redeeming traits. Even a left-handed roper can be useful in a pinch, or saltwater can mean the difference between fulfilling your orders or being caught by a mad captain.

However, these infernal ascots, thought Sylver, are the devil’s handiwork and their creator deserves a special place in hell for his role in my suffering.

Adjusting her attire once more, she stood in her quarters in front of the large mirror, mindful of her appearance in her dress uniform. Reporting directly to the Commodore’s Council is unusual, even for completing a payroll run. She was curious as to why they wanted to speak with her the moment she docked in New London. After ditching Good Captain Robert in the ocean, she honestly expected to be given a day of unloading (and furlough for the majority of the crew) and to get her new orders in the morning. Instead, the ship was boarded by a very stressed-looking lieutenant delivering a message to her confirming that she would be addressing the council before noon today.

Shifting and straightening the tassels on her shoulder epaulets, Sylver reached into her cabinet and retrieved her dress sword and attached it to her waist. It was always the last thing she did, for she hated wearing it. It wasn’t that it was unbearable to look at; the smiths that forged the blade had done a remarkable job. To her, however, it was the object that you have to use when you have failed your crew as a captain. She had always felt, not unlike her father, that her crew should never need to fight upon their own deck; that very scenario is what a captain was there to prevent.

Taking one last look in the mirror and retrieving her hat from her bunk, she made her way out to the main deck. All of the ropers that were not lucky enough for shore time were out there today untangling the very ropes that were used with the barrels and coiling them properly. They looked up at her arrival.

“Top o’ the mornin’, cap’n,” said Habram, one of the larger ropers she had under her employ. “I didn’t know they be holdin’ balls this early in the day.” He flashed her a toothless smile.

“I’m certain that you’ve heard the rumors about the commodores, haven’t you, Habram?” replied Sylver, with a bit of a grin on her face as she donned the hat and adjusted its tilt. Turning, she walked to the connected ramp and stopped. Over her shoulder, she yelled back to the open door that led to the boilers.

“Maarc, the ship is yours!”

It was not an uncommon occurrence for her to leave the ship in his care while she was not on board. Normally, this honor and responsibility would fall to the first mate of the ship, usually a commander appointed by the admiralty. In her case, however, the only person that she ever offered that position was Maarc, who immediately turned it down flat. Because of this, she had no first officer. This fact had always seemed to be another sore spot with the commodores on the council, one that they had brought up more and more frequently.

After she left the deck, one of the newer ropers looked up at Habram and asked, “What are the rumors about the commodores?”

Habram smiled a large, toothless smile again and proudly announced, “Commodores are always sittin’ ’round in meetings, holdin’ their balls!”

******

Making her way from the piers, Sylver was met by a carriage driver holding a sign that read, simply, “Nightingale”. The driver watched with more than a little confusion as she walked right past him, moving into the streets that she called home not too long ago. Moving quickly, the driver jogged to catch up to her.

“Nightingale? Are you Sylver Nightingale?”

She continued her pace, not slowing in the least. “Do you think that is who I am?” she asked the driver without looking at him.

“Yes, yes I believe that you are.”

“Were you sent by the commodores to take me to the Fortifillios for a meeting with them?”

“Yes, yes I was, ma’am.”

Sylver stopped in the street and turned a hard gaze on the older, balding man. The abrupt stop caused him to stumble just a bit. “Tell me, driver, do you refer to the commodores by their first names and surnames only?” she said through gritted teeth.

“N..no..no ma’am..I mean, Captain…Captain Nightingale.” His realization of his etiquette faux pas was too late, and he knew it.

“Then drive back to the commodores, let the council know that you looked everywhere for some woman named Nightingale but did not see her, show them your sign, and then relay to them that you did see a captain from the H.M.S. Indefatigable leave her ship and wander into New London toward the direction of the Golden Fortifillios.” Turning from the pale visage before her, she continued her way into the city.

It only took a few moments for the horseless carriage to pass her by heading into the center of the city, the same direction that she was walking. Stopping by ‘Honey & Spice’, her favorite bakery near the library, she purchased two boxes of chocolate biscuits; she bought one large for her friends up ahead and one small box for herself. Moving onward, she stopped at the alley by the bakery and handed off the large box to a group of children she had noticed playing in the shade of the buildings.

Moving onward, she began to nibble on the only sweets that she was able to tolerate. When Sylver was young, her mother had spent many coin in search for a sweet that her daughter could tolerate; as a child, Sylver did not like sweets. Her mother wanted her to fit in with her friends and have something to be able to have with her tea and share with her classmates. The chocolate biscuits from ‘Honey & Spice’ were the only ones that Sylver didn’t hate. It wasn’t the flavor or texture. As a child, she told her mother that she liked them because she was tired of seeing her mother disappointed. Back then, she tolerated the small chocolate biscuits for her mother. Over time, however, they grew on her.

As she passed by the National Gallery, its presence reminded her of her near proximity to the Fortifillios. Looking upwards, she took in the sight that lay before her. The Golden Fortifillios had a very intimidating feel to it on first impression. The dark granite walls and the lofty, polished brass trim on the spires that gleamed almost like gold in the sunlight lent it the appearance of a castle from older times.

A few hundred yards later, Sylver made her way through the security gates and ascended the steps to the building before removing her hat and heading inside. There were a few pleasant-sounding hellos and how-are-you-doings passed to her as she made her way towards the back of the main hall to the lift. Looking into the lift itself, she saw the shiny parts of an automaton; a construction of gears, steam, green matter and difference engine structuring that allowed an assembly of mechanical parts to do very simple jobs that most people didn’t want to do, like operate lifts.

“Which floor, captain?” it asked in an unnatural, metallic-sounding voice.

“I’ll be taking the stairs,” she replied, curtly. Thinking for a moment, she handed out the empty biscuit box to the lift attendant. “Here, this is trash. Do something with it.” Turning quickly on her heel, she headed towards the stairway.

She hated those machines. She wasn’t sure just what it was about them that made her feel so uneasy. Maybe it was the dead look in their eyes, the horrible, metallic sounding voice, or their jerky movements. She wasn’t certain what it was about them that she despised so much, but she had always hated them. So today, she thought, I will take the stairs.

******

Fletch made his way quickly under deck to the boiler room, with a writ in hand from the dock master. Entering the soot-smelling room, he quickly stumbled his way through the sea of workers to Maarc, who was currently threatening to beat one of the workers to death with his oversized wrench.

“Maarc,” said Fletch, “I’ve got a – “

“Fletch, unless you have a magical elixir that can magically sweep all of the salt from the mainlines, I don’t want whatever it is that you have!” he yelled, pointing a large wrench in his general direction. The worker in duress, having been looked away from, slipped away from Maarc quietly, never looking up. “Give it to Jeipferahn! He can read!” Turning back, he looked around for the missing worker and then boomed, “Where did you go, Jonx?!?”

Fletch nodded and, turning his head, looked up and about for a moving shadow. Spotting Jeip hanging from the upper part of the steamworks system, he walked over and called out to him. Looking curious, Jeip made his way down to Fletch.

“Yes, Fletch?”

“Maarc said that you would be taking care of this,” he replied, holding the rolled up writ to Jeipferahn in his outstretched hand. Taking the writ, he unrolled it and studied it carefully. He smiled.

“I will take care of this immediately.”

******

Sylver entered the office leading to the Commodore’s Council Room, expecting to wait as she always had in the past. She approached the desk to let the secretary know that she was there for a meeting. Behind the desk was a secretary, an ensign by her shoulder rank. Her face held a polite smile that Sylver assumed came with the job.

“Captain Sylver Nightingale, H.M.S. Indefatigable, reporting to the Commodore’s Council per their direct request.”

The secretary never missed a beat. “The commodores have assembled and are waiting for you in the main chamber,” she said with a gesture towards two large, ornate oak doors. Sylver turned from the secretary and made her way to the closed entrance. Taking a deep breath and adjusting the hat tucked under her arm, she opened a door and entered.

The dark woods and stained glass ships of the room, even the general aesthetics of the design, were placed exactly and intentionally to be intimidating for anyone passing through those doors. The designers should be proud to know that in over one hundred and twenty years since its construction, this room has endured and its intimidation hasn’t changed in the least. Scanning the room, she counted seventeen commodores in the room, with another hundred or so people, officers and not, sitting in attendance in the outer gallery area. In the center focal point of the room, on the floor, was a red marble disk.

Walking to and standing upon this center-most point of the room, Sylver raised her eyes to Admiral Wallace. When the votes came in from all admirals, he was the only one that voted to not give her a ship. Wallace believed that she wasn’t ready for command and that the other admirals were only giving her the position and the ship because of her father’s legacy. Two months after she got her ship, he became the Chief Admiral of the Commodore’s Council.

The chatter from the commodores, as well as the gallery, stopped. She cleared her throat quietly and began.

“Sirs! Captain Sylver Alexandria Nightingale of her majesty’s ship H.M.S. Indefatigable reporting as ordered.” she announced, her eyes on the admiral. It was not a common occurrence for an admiral to be present for most meetings, at least not from what she had heard from other captains of the fleet. Most of the captains she had spoken to in the various sky lounges said they didn’t even know what he looked like.

They would have been disappointed. The admiral that sat above her was small in stature; his small frame caused the uniform he wore appear as if it had been fashioned for an older, larger sibling. His fingers, currently drumming to display his impatience at her, were short, fair-skinned, and free from any callouses. If she saw a man with hands like that trying to get work aboard her ship, she would probably decline and offer advice to try to find an “abbess” in town and acquire gainful employ at the local broth-

“At ease, Captain,” muttered Wallace. Shifting his positioning in his chair, he looked to his left and gave a slight nod. Turning her gaze, Sylver saw a lieutenant stand then turn and face the people in the outer gallery.

“By order of Admiral Wallace,” announced the lieutenant, “due to the sensitivity of the subject matter to be discussed, we must regretfully inform everyone in the gallery that you are all dismissed at this time. Also, to be clear, this does include all of the scriveners in attendance!” Those in the gallery stood and, as quietly as they could, exited the area. Only the scriveners for the local papers complained as they left, and they did so under their breaths.

Moving her eyes back forward, they locked with Wallace’s steady, unnerving gaze. His size might not fit the chair in which he sat, but the eyes spoke volumes and re-enforced the authority of his position. He did not look pleased with her. This would probably not bode well for her meeting.

With the gallery finally cleared of spectators, the lieutenant continued. “Everyone will now stand for Her Majesty, the Queen!”

Everyone not already standing quickly stood and turned their attentions to the eastern door. As it opened, two of the queen’s elite guard stepped through and surveyed the room. The larger one of the two looked back through the open doorway and nodded. In just a moment, the Queen herself walked into the room.

Sylver had only seen the queen two previous times in the past. Her first glimpse of the queen was a parade that she was helping with as a child, and the second was during the christening of the Indefatigable. On both occasions, she was very far away, far enough for her imagination to fill in many of the gaps that her eyes could not see.

The queen that was walking to her seat above the admiral wasn’t what she had imagined. She was very lithe, almost frail in her appearance. Her walk was one that looked rehearsed, both regal and flowing. The crown she wore was smaller than the day she saw her at the christening of her ship, obviously more suited for daily wear than formal occasions. As the queen took her position sitting above and behind Wallace, Sylver lowered her gaze to him again. He turned to the queen and she nodded her approval to begin.

******

Jeipferahn made his way through the now-crowded New London streets as carefully as he could. His small, lanky form, even in a Boilerworker’s uniform, looked more like a stumbling child than an adult on his way to the Golden Fortifillios. He stayed as close to the sidewalks as the flow of people would allow. He had never attempted to try and dodge a horseless carriage before, and making his first attempt in a crowded street did not seem like the wisest course of action. Moving left, then right, then pausing while a woman led a small group of noises that looked like little people into the open door of a sweets shop, he kept moving forward.

He hated crowds, people (the non-boilerworker types), noise, sunlight, and just about anything else that you couldn’t find in a ship’s boiler room. It’s not that he disliked people as a general rule, as he was just as kind of a bloke as anyone else. It was just that, throughout the course of his life, society had taught him that the larger a group becomes, the more ignorant they also became. He was pondering this thought when three young boys jumped out in front of him with masks over their faces and sticks in their hands like swords. The older and larger of the boys stepped forward.

“I am the Dread Pirate Robert, and I have come here to take what you have and claim it for mine own!” announced the young man, pointing his stick towards Jeip’s throat. “Surrender your gold now or you’ll face the wrath of me and the other pirates of the most famous pirate ship in the entire world, the Black Rats!”

Jeip smiled while trying not to laugh, took his purse from his side, leaned over and placed it in the young man’s hands. “Now, if you’re going to be going around claiming to be the Dread Captain Robert of the, um, Black Rats, then take off those silly masks,” he said, pulling down the cloth that covered the lower half of the boy’s face. “Good Captain Robert is a rather handsome fellow that isn’t afraid for the whole world to see his face.” Righting himself, he strode off with the dock master’s writ in hand, searching for his captain while knowing exactly where she was.

Stopping only a moment and looking back at the boys, he saw them running for the sweet shop as if the Dread Pirate Robert himself was on their tail. It was worth it, he thought to himself. The Black Rats, indeed.

******

“Let us start these delayed proceedings to prevent the waste of any more of her majesty’s time.”

Sylver felt the verbal punch directly on the chin. No wonder the driver paled visibly when I didn’t get into the carriage, she thought. Daring once to glance up, the queen’s eyes were upon her. She seemed impossible to read at just a glance, and with her role in politics being as it is, she was certain that if anyone in the empire could hide her thoughts behind a mask, it would be the queen.

“Captain Nightingale,” asked Admiral Wallace, “while we wait on the presentation objects to be brought into the room, would you care to brief the council on the reason why you were pursued and fired upon by the Black Mast, a known pirate vessel, and never once returned fire?” She could almost see the reflection of a noose in his eyes; he was trying to see if he gave her the rope if she would hang herself, in front of the queen no less. As clever as her idea with the barrels had been at the time, there were many factors that went into the decision to not perform aerial maneuvers and light powders with Robert, one of which was the lack of water. Wallace knew that.

Taking a deep breath, she began.

“Shortly after leaving the safe harbor of Presben Heights, the crows nest reported the initial sighting of the Black Mast, moving quickly out of a cumulonimbus cloud formation. Upon receiving the report, my orders were given to the boiler chief to bring an additional boiler online to assist with the speed necessary with the escape from a pirate’s attack on the Indefatigable.” She knew that the rest of her explanation would bring questions. “While increasing altitude and preparing for the eventuality of combat under the unlikely event that he might overtake us, our boiler chief made me aware of an issue that pressed the need for a secondary solution.”

“What was the issue, captain?” Admiral Wallace seemed thoroughly engrossed in her story, though she felt that it was for the queen’s benefit.

“We were low on water, Admiral.”

“Captain Nightingale, did I or did I not hear you say, just now, that your ship had recently left the docks at Presben Heights?”

“Yes, sir, you heard correctly.”

“And did your boiler chief not think it prudent to perhaps acquire more water at that stop while you were there?”

“Yes, sir. He went to the port master and got a writ for eight thousand gallons, and gave the writ to one of our ropers the night before to have him fill the reservoir tanks. It was our purpose in stopping at Presben Heights, sir.” Sylver could almost feel the rope tightening around her neck. Her father had always preached to her to never lie to her superiors and never tell the truth to her subordinates, unless she deemed them trustworthy. She never lied to them, but many times she never gave them the exact answer they were asking for.

“So, tell me, Captain,” continued Wallace, a slight grin on his face and almost a laugh in his voice, “why was your ship low on water less than twelve hours out from Presben Heights?” There was no chuckles in the room, as no one there saw his question amusing, regardless of the tone of his delivery.

Never lie, huh, dad? Thanks a lot. Taking a deep breath, Sylver began her explanation. “Sir, the report I received, while attempting to keep my cargo from pirate hands, was that the roper in question may have been drinking a bit before he went to redeem the writ and collect the water from the ship.”

“So, he never turned in the writ?”

“Yes, sir, he did, actually. The boiler chief and several others saw him climbing the water tower that night.”

“But he did not deliver the water to the ship’s resevoirs?”

“No sir, he did not. I was unaware of this complication until the report from my boiler chief.”

“Complication? And just where is this roper now?”

“Now, sir? Probably still drunk on top of that tower.” The words and grin came out before she could stop herself. Maarc’s words were still echoing in her head from that day, and while telling the truth, she accidentally reported a few of his no-so-tactful words. The silence in the room was deafening, at least until it was broken by a light giggle from behind the admiral.

It was the queen. Her cheeks were a little flushed, but not from anger. Apparently, she thought that the truth was funny. Relaxing a bit, Sylver continued.

“Once we understood that no safe docks lay between us and New London within our range on low water reserves, I ordered the ropers to begin making rope net harnesses to collect and hold barrels of water. I then sent a deck hand to the aft of the ship to try to provoke the Black Mast into firing on us with her deck gun so we could fake a hit and fast descent. We were safely out of range of any deck cannon, so I was never worried that the shot might hit.” She heard the sounds of the doors behind her, but she dared not take her eyes off of the situation before her.

“What did your deck hand do to provoke the captain of the Black Mast that would cause him to lose his sensibilities and open fire with a deck gun into the wind?” asked the admiral.

“I had the deck hand wash his mains.” She smiled and looked up, but noticed that the queen looked confused. “Oh, sorry, your grace, I had him piss into his sails.” There were more than the Queen laughing now.

“Captain Nightingale!” shouted Admiral Wallace, his voice booming in the great chamber. After his booming shout, the only other sound to be heard was a restrained giggle from above.

******

Making his way into the large, ornate building, Jeipferahn walked through the main lobby and made his way to the lift. When the doors opened, he was greeted by a very metallic, mechanical voice.

“Good day, sir. What floor?” It was an automaton, a mechanical man, that ran the lift today. Smiling broadly, Jeip boarded the lift alongside the mechanical servant.

“Whatever floor will take me to the Commodore’s Council.”

“Seventh floor, sir. On our way.”

The automaton flipped several switches on the wall then pulled a lever attached to the lift floor. So it not only understands my words, thought Jeip, but it also can rationalize my desire using partially abstract thought. Marvelous! As the lift began to slowly rise, he decided to try a few more things.

“So, how long have you worked here?”

The automaton turned its head in his direction. “I have been in operation for seven months, twelve days. Thank you for asking.”

“So, what did you do before running a lift?” he asked, hoping to get something funny.

“I was not in operation before that time, so there is nothing to report.”

“So how many times have you taken commodores up in this lift since your service began?” he probed, hoping to test his calculation ability and memory.

The automaton looked at Jeip, then replied rather flatly, “That information would be considered confidential, therefore, I cannot relay that to a man of your rank, Boilerman.”

Well, well, well. It’s even set up for security, he thought amusingly. As the doors opened, Jeip stepped off the lift and turned to face the automaton once more.

“Well done, master of the lift. Send my regards to your family!” he said with a flourish.

“I do not have a family,” replied the automaton with a few clicks and whirs of gears, “But I will pass on your compliments to my creator.” With that , he pulled his handle once more and the doors closed.

Jeip stood there for a moment and, while contemplating his conversation with the automaton, was nearly bowled over by four men carrying a rather large, covered table. The soldiers accompanying them walked to the large doors, opened them and entered quietly. Walking into the waiting room, Jeip noticed a very lovely lady watching him, so he made his way to her desk.

“Good day, Boilerman, how may I help you?” asked the secretary politely. Her smile was perfect, but Jeip could still sense the discomfort that most normal people had around him. He had become accustomed to it and people’s reactions no longer bothered him.

“Good day, m’lady, I am here on official business from the H.M.S. Indefatigable. I am looking fo-“

“Captain Nightingale!”

He heard the scream emanate from the doors behind him. He turned and glanced at the large doors and smiled. The words were screamed with a particular ferocity, not too unlike Maarc when someone was or wasn’t doing something that he did or did not want done. Turning back to face the secretary, he grinned and whispered to the secretary, “Never mind. I found her.”

******

Sylver quickly explained the set up and how they managed to take on water while under pursuit. She relayed how Captain Robert was water-bound because of the crash into the ocean, and that since he had no longer posed a threat to the cargo, crew, or ship, she left immediately.

“Captain Nightingale,” boomed the admiral, “you had enough water after that…soiree… to make it all the way, unhindered, to New London. You had an able crew, men ready at the shot, and a pirate in the water like a sitting duck. Pray, captain, tell me why you left him there?”

“Admiral Wallace, I do appreciate your efforts to help me by testing my training periodically, being as young of a captain as I am. However, you will be pleased to know that I do remember the pertinent sections of the Rules of Engagement of Her Majesty’s Fleet that states that any ship carrying funds of the crown in large amounts must make the security of said funds of the highest priority, not shooting at crippled ships. I did send message to the Fortifillios via wire immediately once we were at the proper altitude to do so after the incident.” By giving him a way out of his last comment, she was hoping to at least decrease his aggressive nature a bit.

“Speaking of rules and regulations, have you decided upon someone to act as first officer aboard your ship?” His smile was telling. Apparently, running her through the wringer with Robert’s fiasco didn’t work as he intended, so he went for the one thing for which Sylver didn’t have a good answer. As she mentally struggled for a way to stall or avoid the question, there came a ruckus from behind her. She turned, with the others, to see Jeipferahn stumbling through the doors with a note in his hand and a secretary around his waist.

“Truly, m’lady, it is of the utmost importance that this message be delivered with haste to my captain, as the lives of many men depend on its delivery and acceptance…” Jeip struggled to undo the secretary as his belt, but the young lady was obviously unswayed by his words.

“What is the meaning of this?!” boomed the admiral, standing and pointing at the scene unfolding at the front of the room.

“Ah, Admiral Wallace, I do apologize for the intru-” Jeip stopped suddenly. His eyes glanced upwards at the queen. In one swift motion, Jeip bent his knee and knelt before his queen, taking the secretary to the floor with him.

“My Queen, Lady Nelenna Amarisa Winterbourne, by the grace of God, Leader of the Free Regions, Protector of the Skies, Mother of the North and  Keeper of Janawynn’s Tears, I apologize for my unsightly intrusion!” Jeip’s head was bowed deeply, his black hair covering his face entirely from view. There was silence for a moment as the secretary attempted to stand and correct herself before the queen.

As Wallace opened his mouth to speak, the queen said, “Rise, good Boilerman, and be at ease for this meeting. Your knowledge, as well as your manners and etiquette reflect well upon your captain.” As Jeip began to stand, the queen shifted her gaze to Sylver. “Pray, tell me, is this the soon-to-be first officer and commander of my Indefatigable?”

Jeipferahn’s now-widened eyes moved from the queen to his captain then back to the queen once more. He wanted to say that he wasn’t ready for a command position, that he liked his boiler room just fine. He wanted to say that, but the words of his captain cut him short.

“Yes, your grace, he is.” Turning her eyes to the very angry admiral, Sylver continued, “Your grace, Admiral Wallace, and Commodores of the Council, I now present Boilerman Jeipferahn Audureon for your consideration. I apologize for the delay.” Jeipferahn looked to his captain in confusion, but all she could muster was a slight grin.

Sorry, Jeip, she thought, but I had no other choice, and you were here. “Boilerman Jeipferahn has served aboard her majesty’s Indefatigable since her christening. He has good working relationships with the crew, he is extremely knowledgeable of the internal mechanisms of the ship, and is aware of her limitations. He has not yet been thoroughly trained in the navigation and piloting skills, but I wanted to present him here before beginning his more extensive training.”

“Captain, this man that you have brought forward isn’t even an officer. He’s a boilerman, and not even your boiler chief,” growled Admiral Wallace.

“Sir, please do not let his position on board the ship deceive or mislead you. I honestly feel that Jeipferahn is probably the second-smartest person on my ship”, said Sylver.

“So your ego dictates that he is almost as smart as you?”

Sylver smiled broadly. “In all due respect, admiral, I would be third.”

Drumming his fingers across his desk, he turned to Jeip. “Audureon… Audureon… Tell me, as I am very well traveled and have never heard the surname, from whence to you hail?”

Holding his hat in his hands, gripping it nervously, he grinned slightly at the Commodore. “Yes, well traveled, I am certain, sir. Tell me, Admiral, have your travels ever taken you past the sandstorms of the west?”

Wallace laughed, “Of course not, Boilerman, no one can pilot a ship through the eternal storms. Are you claiming to be from there? For if you are, I would be truly intrigued to know how you managed to navigate an area that has claimed scores of ships, captains and crew since we took to the skies.” Wallace seemed truly interested and waited for his answer.

Jeipferahn continued to smile, and said, “Then be intrigued no more, sir, for the method that I was able to employ to cross the great eternal storm… was walking.”

Before the Supreme Commodore could reply, the covered table was brought before the group and sat just in front of Captain Sylver and Jeipferahn.

“By my rights as Queen of our Sovereign Empire, I do formally promote Boilerman Jeipferahn Audureon to the position of Commander and First Officer of the H.M.S. Indefatigable.” Looking about the room, she continued, “Captain Nightingale, if you and your first officer would do us the honors of removing the cover from the table and its contents, we will now begin the actual business of why I called you here today.”

As Sylver and Jeip walked to either end of the table, they glanced up at one another.

“Maarc’s going to kill me,” muttered Jeip.

“Maarc’s going to want to kill me,” muttered Sylver, catching her corners of the cover in her hands. Slowly, she and Jeip removed the cover to reveal a large, ornately carved topographical map of the queen’s realm. One marked point was New London; the other marked spot on the map was a very far away point in Northern Theria. Yes, she thought, Maarc is not going to be a happy boiler chief after this.

About Burt Kilgore

Burt Kilgore is an amateur writer, dispatcher, filmmaker, husband, father, and grandfather. You can find most of his work here, but he hopes that you will be able to pick up one of his stories in the future at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Audible.Com.

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