I may as well preface this now by saying I don’t know when I’ll have time to update the story, so don’t expect parts of it with every update. Since we have been looking after my cousin my time is at even more of a premium than before. I will try to bring you more installments whenever I can though. In any event I hope you enjoy this new material.
“You can’t be serious!” Alina’s voice cut through the stagnant air of the chamber, rebounding off the walls. The faces of the council looked annoyed rather than startled. These outbursts had become more and more frequent of late. “This is a free city! You can’t just force people to give up family heirlooms!”
“The items will be returned once we determine if they are of any strategic, or scientific, value” Replied a dim eyed councilwoman.
“And how long will that take? Months? Years? This is all but outright seizure of property!” Alina’s voice tone was beginning to shift from incredulity to anger.
“May we remind the captain of the guard that what actions we take are not the concern of you, or your soldiers. Your concern is keeping an eye on doors and ensuring the safety of the people.”
“And what of their rights?” Alina’s voice nearly spilled into a snarl.
“The people place their faith in us to do what we feel is best for them. If that means a small reduction in freedom they know we do so with their well being in mind. If you can’t accept that we can just as easily assign this duty to the army.” The milky eyed man nodded in the direction of a middle aged man. His face was scarred diagonally across an eyebrow, and his hair was graying here and there. Alina regarded him coldly, turned without a salute, and stormed out of the room. A messenger stumbled slightly as she passed.
“She is becoming more unruly every day…” mused a dark haired councilman.
“Be that as it may,” Replied the dim eyed woman. “The people love her. Even if her position is reduced to something ceremonial we need her.”
“Madam?” Chimed in the messenger. “We have a report of airships heading this way.”
“Oh… excellent…” She replied silkily. “General?”
The middle aged man motioned to no one in particular. Two soldiers took up the positions Alina and Regalius vacated moments before, while four other followed him out of the chamber.
“You can’t keep doing things like that…” Regalius muttered.
“Like what?” Replied Alina. “Voicing valid concerns? The council has been expanding its powers so slowly that no one is taking notice.”
“I know, but…” Regalius started, but was cut across by Alina.
“Mandatory relinquishment of technological artifacts?!” She huffed. “What do they expect to find? It’s paranoid.”
“That’s not what I mean, Alina.” Snapped Regalius. “You can’t just blurt out your opinions all the time. The wheels of the council turn in darkness. If you want to change anything you have to walk in shadow as well.”
“I’m not suited to that sort of thing…” She replied. “Give me a fair fight where I can look my opponent in the eyes.”
“While you’re looking one enemy in the eye another is going to knife you in the back!” Declared Regalius. Before Alina could respond Regalius pulled her into a darkened corridor. Moments later the middle aged general strode by, entourage in tow. After they passed Regalius continued. “And that’s the man who’ll be holding the knife…”
The shopping district was even louder than usual. Word of the approaching airships had reached more than just the council. Shopkeepers were hurrying to place their best, most expensive, wares in prominent positions. Catching the eye of one of the sky riders almost always meant a huge financial windfall. They had the deepest pockets and spent gold as if it were water. There was also a slim chance of being paid in repaired gadgetry. Because of this the entire district bent over backwards for them. A huge space in the square was cleared of stalls. Enough space for 3 ships to land and be restocked.
The ships themselves did not appear to be a set. They had the look of expertly repaired scavenge. Of course no one knew how, or where, they had been recovered, but chances were high that they were exactly that. Almost all technology was scavenged and what wasn’t was handed down for generations. Working tech was so rare it was almost incalculably valuable. All the wealth in the city would scarcely be enough to afford one of the flying ships. So they were kind of a big deal.
The lead ship was deep red and looked as though it had been built for speed. Apart from having propellers where masts might have been it looked like any ship you might see on the sea. Several smaller engines lined the hull and two huge propellers drove the craft forward. However, whatever kept them aloft was a mystery. The engines were always cut long before the ships set down, and they landed as softly as a leaf might find its way to the ground.
A crowd gathered as each of the ships came to rest. Children strained at their parent’s arms for want of a closer look. As much as everyone was in awe of them they also had a healthy fear of these people. They had always set foot on land armed as if to make war and this time was no exception. A rope pulley lowered a small platform from the red ship. There were only 4 people upon it. One a short man with dark hair pulled into a long ponytail. Another very tall man with pale skin, sunken eyes, and shiny black hair. The third a beautiful, dark haired woman, in glasses, and the fourth a man whose features were all but covered by a wide brimmed hat and tall collared cloak. The assembled stood murmuring as they began walking towards a row of shops.
“Why are these people so creepy?” The short man asked the woman. “You’d think they’d be used to seeing us by now.”
“I don’t think people who live this far in the city get out much, brother.” She replied. “Or maybe Crow scares them. He has that walking corpse look to him after all.”
The tall man gave the woman a sideways glance. She grinned in reply.
“I guess…” Continued the short man. “But it’s still creepy…” With that he waved at a group of children straining to get a look at his party, and motioned towards his ship. They squealed with delight, running to get a better look at the vessel. As per usual this broke the weird tension and everyone went back to their usual business. Although many of them made a point to pass between the ships when it would have been faster to go around.
A group of merchants approached the band of travelers. Their leader, a fat man who appeared to be a butcher, addressed the little man.
“Captain, assuming our arrangement has no need of amendment, we have your order ready to load.” The captain pressed a bag of coins into the fat man’s palm.
“You’ll get another pouch of those if you can have the ships loaded before we return.” He said, ambling along his way.
The fat man nearly choked when he opened the little pouch, which was stuffed to the drawstring with very old looking gold coins.
“Of- of course, Captain Brahms!” He stammered. “Before your return!’