Raikou

Art of the Supernatural

Musings

A collection of writings that inspired or were inspired by art and artists

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Imagine

Posted on January 14, 2012 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I saw a swallow skipping through the breeze

and I imagined a fairy where the swallow might have been

 

Today I saw a dog that was sleeping in the trees

and I imagined a dragon there, sleeping in the green

 

Today I saw a fish that leapt amid the stream

and I imagined it was a nymph that laughed in waters agleam

 

Everything that I see, I see as if in a dream

Now can you imagine the things that I have seen?

 

Today I saw a war that raged throughout the globe

and I imagined peace and neverending hope

 

Today I saw suffering on the face of every man

and I imagined happiness that spread throughout the land

 

Today I saw the face of death, it was terrible and grim

I imagined what it could be like if it was kind and peaceful instead

 

All these things I imagined and though they're fantasy I knew

Just imagine what it would be like if all these things were true

 

So you may laugh and call me a dreamer or a fool

you may think it naive for you to see the things that I see too

 

To see magic and peace where there is pollution and war

but I will dare to dream of all of this and more

 

So join me if you like, or not it's up to you

but whatever it is you choose, I will imagine that you do...

 

Tir NanOg

Posted on January 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

In eldritch fens on the ancient loams

Where ne’er a Christian footfall sounds

Past fey mists are the standing stones

Where the gods of old can yet be found

 

Here was I taken by magic and mists

By a fleeting fancy was I led astray

Here the ancient powers bend and twist

To the whimsy of the Fey

 

And once I reached that secret grot

Did meet with a raven haired youth

The blue dyes of old his visage besot

And his ancient eyes were pools of truth

 

Come child of Eyre and I will show thee

The lofty mysteries that herein dwell

The gods of old will doubtless know me

And of them there is much to tell

 

He took me by the hand and led me

To the solemn, secret stones

And when he got to where I could see

Began to tell me of the gods

 

Atho, who is king, here sits upon his throne

Who at ev’ry harvest dies and at winter is reborn

 

And a lady fair sat beside her lord and gently laid her hand

Softly upon his arm, and then I knew, here was lady Dan

 

Opposite him a terrible god at whom I trembling looked

And shudderingly I heard him say, there is Crom Cruach

And I beheld Ulster’s hound, a thousand men had he slain

A mighty man whose tales abound, the goodly Cu Culainn

 

And wise Nuada, silverlocks, who teaches magic to men

Wounded in battle where the fomorians claimed his hand

 

Sly Mannanan there sits, with spear and sword at arms

The sacred swine on which they sup are raised upon his farms

 

His father Llyr upon his left is master of the mighty seas

The swans are all his children, changed for a thousand springs

 

The men there are death, in the summer and in the cold

Arawn and Hafgan, and when one falls the other takes his hold

 

And presently we were discovered

And great Atho gave pause his speech

And as gently as to his lover

Beckoned us forth, and did beseech

 

Good Merlin, why dost thou hide

At the outskirts of our feast?

You and your companion may abide

And trade thine friendship for meat

 

So I and my guide did go

And revel amidst the gods of men

And song and wine and ale did flow

As freely as the rain

 

And bitterly I wept

When it was my time of leaving

And Merlin my guide close kept

And uttered a single warning

 

Take care, for your time here

Is measured by the fey

And liberally do they adhere

To the count of hours and days

 

So when you go forth be not afraid

Though much has doubtless changed

In the company of gods you have stayed

And from men are you now estranged

 

And he wrapped his cloak about me

And sent me on my way

And though the path was hard to see

I was not led astray

 

But how I balked on emerging

And how bitterly I feared

For from the time of my diverging

Had passed a hundred years

 

But soon I did forget

For not much was lost by me

And well I remember yet

Of the glorious godly feast.

CROM CRUACH

Posted on January 14, 2012 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

In a blackened field that runs with blood

Where sunlight never deigns to gleam

Where bones are sowed and souls are reaped

There, on a stone, is carven a name

The name of CROM CRUACH

And further more is written there

though it chills my blood to speak the words

It tells of a day when the sun grows cold

When the trees all die and grass won’t grow

And the light that falls little more than glows

In the days of CROM CRUACH

Then shall he ride through the smitten land

And drink his fill of the blood of man

And no beast shall roam the earth again

And all belongs to CROM CRUACH

So live your days as best you can

Give love and friendship to your fellow man

And heed the turning of the land

For the time draws ever nearer

When the days foretold will be at hand

Heed the call of CROM CRUACH

The Ballad of Badon Hill

Posted on January 12, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Men of Britain loud their cry

their banners held upright and high

Their pennants flare against the sky

On the road to Badon

Paint your faces Britain’s children

Sing your songs of battle

The foemen come to take your homes

And burn your lands and cattle

So take your sword

And sound your cry

Give your word to fight or die

And breach the line as arrows fly

To Victory at Badon

The Saxons hordes are all arrayed

In all their mail and arms displayed

Their hands hard on their swords are stayed

On the hill of Badon

So paint your faces Britain’s children

Sing your songs of slaughter

The foemen come to take your homes

And slay your sons and daughters

So take your sword

And sound your cry

Give your word to fight or die

And breach the line as arrows fly

Take the hill of Badon

The bodies hewn lie on the ground

The surviving few gather round

Of Saxon voices there is no sound

Upon the face of Badon

So gather your dead Britain’s children

Sing your songs of sorrow

Your brothers dearly bought the day

But comes a new tomorrow

So take your wife

And hold her dear

And live happily throughout the years

Britain is free so forget your fears

But remember always Badon

Chapter Two: Voodoo Moon

Posted on September 23, 2011 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

**Joseph Mathias O’Connell**

Ambrose dripped iced water methodically onto the sugar cubes suspended over two glasses, "Blast it, Captain, can’t we just drink it?" Joseph finally blurted out after fifteen minutes of this ritual.

Ambrose lifted his eyes for a moment then went back to dripping the water, "Any halfwit can guzzle liquor, the preparation and consumption of absinthe is an art." He said, observing the quality of the cloudiness in the liquid he called louche. He passed the glass to Joseph who downed it in one gulp wiping his mouth on his sleeve. Ambrose shook his head sadly, "Fine things are waste on the likes of you, first mate O’Connell." He said sipping out of his own glass.

"That was pretty good," Joseph belched, "let’s have another."

They had been in the Captain’s quarters for hours, having drinks and playing poker which Joseph abandoned when he lost almost all of the money he’d made on the trip to New Orleans. Ambrose was explaining about how the different watches on a ship were marked by the bells and how he’d have to memorize the pattern by heart and he’d been trying to get the Captain to tell some tales of life on the Serenity but he was strangely close lipped about it. Joseph had already surmised that the Captain was a pirate or something similar, but he hadn’t been hard pressed to reveal that he’d made enemies in nearly every country and few friends and that the marks were stolen so he wasn’t sure what about it that he was hiding so he changed tact, "Who are we meeting in Port-au-Prince."

"He prefers to be called Papa Midnite. He’s rounded up my old krewe from my running days."

"So you were a rumrunner? I thought they didn’t live long."

"Well one of them didn’t." Ambrose said bitterly.

"Who?"

"Earnest Caughlin." Ambrose almost spat the name into his glass, like it were white hot with hate and burning the inside of his mouth.

"What happened to him?" Joseph asked, curiosity causing him to abandon his first instinct and let the issue drop.

"He walked the plank."

"Like at sea?"

"Yes except here you’re two thousand meters up with nothing to stop you but the cold hard ground and a bullet from the captain in the back of your head to encourage you."

Joseph was shocked at the thought of his body plummeting and breaking on the ground below, "Who was the captain then?"

Ambrose grimaced finishing his cloudy green absinthe, "I was." He set the glass down and walked towards the door.

Joseph knew the Captain to be intensely clever, sometimes maliciously cold but somehow he didn’t believe he would do something so…cold blooded; or would he, perhaps his image of Ambrose in the war, cringing as each shell from the Serenity killed dozens of Confederate soldiers, unwillingly forced to kill by the Union on pain of death, was completely wrong. Joseph knew he shouldn’t ask another question but he had to know one more thing, "What was his job?"

"He was our Gunner…" he said, then just before he shut the door, "and the First Mate."

"You know if, I didn’t know better I’d say you’d planned on me joining up from the start, Captain." Joseph accused following him outside into the strong wind.

"What would you think if I said you were right?" Ambrose asked slyly.

"I’d think you were a dangerous, crazy son of a bitch…" then, because it had come out harsher than he’d meant it he added, "Captain."

Ambrose winked, "Well, think nothing of the sort, it’s nonsense. You joined on your own."

"Well just don’t go throwing me off of this thing like that traitor."

Ambrose went all stiff and rigid and rounded on him with a look in his eye like he hadn’t seen before, for a moment Joseph thought he was about to get hit again. "Don’t ever talk about things you don’t understand, O’Connell! Earnest Caughlin was the best man I ever knew, do you understand me?"

He didn’t wait for an answer which was good because Joseph wasn’t sure he could’ve given one. What kind of captain would make the best man he’d ever known walk the plank, what possible reason could he have? Joseph wasn’t sure but he made a mental note to ask someone in private when he met this old krewe. Once again Joseph was forced to confess that he really didn’t know anything about the man with whom he’d just signed up.

**Papa Midnite**

Papa Midnite was a tall, thin man with skin as black as the new moon. He had ritual piercings and scarification on his face and arms but he wore a deep purple waistcoat with gold buttons and pinstriped pants. He sat at a cherry wood desk at the end of a wide Chinese-décor hall as the heady clove-scented smoke wafted around the hall. His attendants shambled around the hall their eyes milky with cataracts. They were his creations; flesh preserved with the venom of the pufferfish and animated by a matrix of salamanders, his zombis.

Papa Legba needed priests and bokor in his service, but also needed generals and businessmen, Midnite understood this and so he was all things. A shuffling thrall brought a folder of intelligence gathered by one of his agents in the field near Munich. He accepted it, rifled briefly through it and placed it in a cabinet, he scrawled a note on a piece of parchment and handed it back to his revenant, "To the door." He commandedin a voice as deep as night and smooth as silk. The creature shambled off. No living person had ever seen Midnite’s face, like Papa Legba connected all roads between the Lwa and the world of people Midnite connected the separate and often feuding worlds of criminality so it wasn’t safe for him to be seen.

Almost before he could resume his work the novel clip of boot-soles on his tile floor alerted him to something amiss, since the zombis all moved with shuffling footsteps he knew at once that it must be an intruder. He drew a double-barreled coach gun from a hidden compartment beneath the desk.

"Midnite, where are your manners?"

Midnite dropped his weapon, "Airship Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant," he said gripping the well-spoken Brittanian’s outstretched hand, and grabbing his chin in his large ebony fingers he examined the aeronaut’s battered visage, "It is good that we meet again. Your road has been long and hard coming here but Papa Legba has watched your path."

"Well I’ll leave it to you to thank him for me, though you might tell him that paths can be short and easy as well as long and hard. Your chronofax said that my krewe would be dropping in today.

"Indeed. I will take you to them presently, but first I must address this one." He looked past Ambrose to the confederate man behind him who had previously been gazing around in wonder at his hall.

"Me?" he asked.

Midnite nodded solemnly, "We have much to discuss about your future."

The confederate looked helplessly at the aeronaut who urged him forward and he followed through the curtains at the back of his hall into an earthen chamber. Midite instructed him to sit in a chair at a small table that was the sole ornamentation of the room and had the sign of Papa Legba carved into it. "My gifts of determining the future are not as apt as those of the Captain Trant but they are more readily accessible."

"So the Captain buys into this stuff?" the man asked then quickly added, "No offense."

Midnite considered him carefully, if Ambrose had chosen not to reveal that information then he most likely had his reasons and Midnite would respect them. He traced his finger over the veve and the ceremony began.

**Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant II**

It had been years since they had been together and yet it was like no time at all as they quickly depleted Midnite’s stores of brandy and recollections and stories passed like the bottle between them growing grander and more lurid with each telling. Hours passed and the night began to lighten to day when Midnite and Joseph finally joined them.

"Joseph, how kind of you to join us, you haven’t met the krewe yet. Boatswain Harkness!" He yelled the last command so loud that everyone in the room jumped, a broad man with a sort of good natured roughness about him pulled on a chain around his neck producing a boatswain’s pipe which he blew on creating the familiar, shrill, three-pitched whistle. The krewe jostled for position in the lineup and the man who’d blown the pipe took place at the head of the line. "This is Boatswain Jack Harkness," He indicated the man who’d blown the pipes who nodded back at him. "our Engineer Christopher Shane Macpherson," He announced as he strode by a thin short man with long wiry arms and legs, "we call him ‘monkey’," it wasn’t hard to see the comparison, Joseph thought privately, "and then we have our Horn-Operator Newt Caine Ferns." The man was also short but not quite as scrawny, he wore over one ear an inconceivable array of wires gears and antennae and he saluted sloppily, "and then Albert ‘Cookie’ Houlihan Flannery our ship’s cook." A tall, thick ginger man bowed graciously as though he’d just been announced to receive an award. "Our Physician, Dr. Alphonse Werner Brechart." He indicated a thin, slick, painfully German man with thin rimmed spectacles who tipped his bowler politely but somehow still made the gesture feel cold and mechanical, "Try not to fall ill." He whispered to Joseph privately, "Our Wrenchman, figuratively speaking, among other things, Selina Longworth Duplais." A pretty young lady dressed in men’s work clothes blew Joseph a kiss and he blushed.

"I thought it was supposed to be bad luck to have women aboard." Joseph commented.

"She’s pretty good luck if you have the right coin." The ginger cook, Albert said raucously.

The crew laughed heartily and Selina, far from being offended curtseyed to the cook batting her long eyelashes at him. "Finally, our Deckhand Samuel Colohan McNally and his bastard Collin Gilligan, our cabin boy." Both man and boy saluted when their names were called. "Krewe of the Serenity, this is Joseph Mathias O’Connell our new first mate, let’s make him feel welcome boys!" a cheer erupted in the witchdoctor’s hall and Joseph was engulfed in alcohol scented warmth and half shoved, half carried to the plush cushions surrounding the room and handed bottles of brandy and rum.

Alphonse watched him go smiling drunkenly, "You think it is good that he does not know what lies in store for him?" the shaman asked once they were out of earshot.

"Yes, Midnite, I think it is very good and I shall be very cross if you told him anything." Ambrose returned haughtily.

"I did not."

"It is for the best, Midnite."

"As you say, Ambrose Trant, as you say."

 

**Joseph Mathias O’Connell**

Joseph had never been made to feel so completely part of a group in such a short amount of time. Drink after drink was pressed into his hand and countless toasts were raised in his honor and to Midnite whose spirits they drank and the Captain. The morning passed in an alcohol and clove-stained haze and when they boarded at dusk he was still feeling a little dizzy. He wondered if every day was going to be like this and he thought that he would die very young and happy if it were. The first watch was his and at eight bells he had never been more thankful to see a bed in his life, he passed the boatswain Harkness, who had firstwatch and grumbled in reply to his half hearted wave.

Joseph descended into the crew quarters, which was just an open room with thick wooden beams supporting the deck above and bunks lining the wall. Selina, the girl engineer, tossed a lumpy pillow at him as he made his way to his bunk. "How was your watch, bunkmate?"

"Bunk-what?" Joseph stuttered beginning to blush again.

"You deaf?" she grabbed him by the collar and planted a lingering brandy flavored kiss on his lips, "I haven’t welcomed you properly yet, Mister Gunsman O’Connell." She kissed him again the smell of alcohol on her breath making him dizzy.

"Belay that welcome, Wrenchman Duplais."

Joseph spun around as the Captain stepped sharply towards them between the bunks, "Aw, Cap’n, you need him right now?" the pretty Wrenchman pouted.

"I’m afraid so, Wrenchman Duplais, I’ll have your bunkmate returned by four bells." Ambrose turned on his heel and Joseph followed after him.

"Thanks Captain." Joseph panted, relieved to be out of the assistant engineer’s titillating clutches.

Ambrose arched one of his eyebrows, "I thought you’d be eager to stay, she’s quite good and if she doesn’t give out many free rides."

Again, Joseph wasn’t quite sure what to think of his new captain, "S’cuse me, Captain, but am I to understand that we’re keeping a…" He dropped his voice to almost a whisper, "a whore on the ship."

"Ms. Duplais plays a critical role in the running of the Serenity." Ambrose explained blatantly, "It is often that her…services are the only source of income for the crew when the work is low." They had reached the captain’s quarters and Ambrose ushered him inside where he already had two phials of absinthe prepared. After they were seated Ambrose began by unfurling and tacking down a map, "First mate O’Connell, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that the nature of this ship is not, in the strictest sense, lawful."

"I gathered as much." Joseph said sipping his phial of absinthe as he had seen the Captain do the last time they’d drank together.

"Good, now what do you know about the situation in China?"

Joseph pondered a moment, had he been less inebriated he might’ve been able to recall a few scattered rumors but he had never been much interested in the affairs of the Far East, "Umm, nothing I suppose."

"That’s quite alright, I’ll give you the short version: The rebel Hong Xiuchuan has raised an effective empire of his own, the Chinese government have their hands tied with the Britannian invasion via India and the revolution has nearly taken over. This, on its own is none of our concern; however, the new laws implemented by this new government ban all sale and consumption of alcohol and opium in China. You can imagine this has left a sizable window of opportunity in the black market ripe for people in our position to move in on."

"So we’re smugglers?" Joseph asked, not disappointed.

"Among other things, yes." Joseph recalled when Ambrose had introduced Selina as the ships Wrenchman "among other things" and mentally noted that, with the captain, "among other things" could mean just about anything. "At any rate, that brings us to this man." He slid a darkened photograph across the table of a seedy-looking Chinaman. "He goes by Zaishen and he will be the one paying our salaries for the next few months."

"Looks like any other Coolie."

"Well he is not, he’s dangerous; eighteen dealers have had dealings with this man before us and turned up floating down the Mekong with bullets in their heads; if he whiffs a bad trade he’ll shoot us, if he feels like we’re asking one jiao too much he’ll shoot us, if he doesn’t particularly feel like paying us…"

Joseph took another sip of absinthe, "Lemme guess, he’ll shoot us."

"You understand the situation then."

"Reckon so, what do you want me to do about it?"

"We are detouring to Japan to hire extra protection for this job. There will be one man on the ground and a team of sharpshooters to stay behind on the ship, they’re crack shots, so I’m told, but they don’t have the nose for underhanded deals that I’m trusting you to have. If you think for even a moment that the deal is going to go south you shoot the man, the hired guns will take care of the rest."

"That’s it?"Joseph asked, a little disappointed that his first real duty as first mate was going to take place so far away from the action, "I reckon I can handle that Captain, anything else."

"Not at all, you can return to your bunk, First mate." Joseph stood to leave but Ambrose stopped him again at the door, "O’Connell…"

"Yes, Captain?"

"You really might want to consider getting to know your bunkmate better, just saying."

Joseph blushed, "Yes, Captain."

**Selina Longworth Duplais**

Selina missed the return of the new first mate, having passed out from too much brandy and when she woke up she was no longer in the mood for play. The engine room was calling and Christopher was certainly too damn lazy to have taken care of anything himself; barring an emergency he was about as much use as warts on a toad and it was left to her to do the major running and upkeep of the engine room. Popping up to the deck a bit to grab some fresh air first she spied the Captain manning the helm and gave a flirtatious wave, briefly reconsidering her earlier resolution to get straight to work, she decided otherwise and headed down to the engine room but it was nice to be working with the captain again. It was hard for her to find work as a Wrenchman anyway and she could have done a better job running ships than some of the boneheaded, dick-brained, sops she’d worked with since the war. There was only one Captain for her and that was Ambrose Trant.

Macpherson on the other hand, "Your work’s piling up while you slept the day away." He announced as she entered whilst sitting in a wicker chair and turning the pages of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island. She threw a wrench which clanged off the wall above his head and made a lude gesture with one of her fingers; he lowered the book, raised an eyebrow, carefully turned the next page and went back to reading. Macpherson she could’ve done without.

**Albert Houlihan Flannery**

Having nothing really to do until eight bells Albert Flannery set about familiarizing himself with the new kitchen, being just below the captain’s quarters and attached to the crew quarters and the galley the Captain had already warned him not to have any more "incidents" like the grease fire that had nearly scuppered the ship in the Indian ocean, or the burned meat pies that had sent the whole crew above deck and turned the Serenity into a billowing smoke-filled disaster. Still, he didn’t feel like any of those incidents were entirely his doing, the crew didn’t understand the rigors of cooking on a moving ship, especially one that flew with the ground countless fathoms below, it was hard work and they were lucky to have a great cook like him in charge of their food preparation even if said preparations occasionally imperiled the ship.

He squeezed off a knob of butter and threw a lump of salted pork into the pan; he’d whip up something special to break the new kitchen in and celebrate the new ship and coming back together. If it turned out good he’d make it for the whole crew. He whistled The Rocky Road to Dublin as the meat sizzled happily in the pan.

**Jack Maxwell Harkness**

Jack ran full sprint the length of the ship sloshing the bucket of water as he ran into the kitchen throwing the contents of the pail onto the billowing oven, which let out a hiss of protest as the black smoke turned white. Jack beckoned to Albert who slouched over sulkily and rammed the empty bucket down on his head, "Don’cha cause enough problems around here without settin’ us all on fire ya bleedin’ idiot!" he bawled at the cook, rapping the bucket with a ladle, "Git yer ginger arse above deck where me an’ the Captain can keep an eye on ya!"

"Oy, steady on!" the cook wailed, "It’s only the new kitchen; I hadn’t gotten comfortable innit yet."

"Oh righ’, the kitchen’s fault now is it?" Jack crossed his arms dubiously, "Like you couldn’t sink a whole bloody ship with a bent spoon, Albert Flannery, now git yer speckled arse on deck afore I ring yer bells again."

Having dealt with the cook Jack followed him onto the deck and went to find the Captain, accidentally bumping into the new first mate.

"Mornin’ sir, how’s yer night?" he asked slyly, remembering Selina offering to wait up for him.

"Busy." The man replied disdainfully, Jack guffawed, "not that sort of busy, but…what’s he doing up here." He asked pointing at Albert and changing the conversation.

Jack’s expression soured, "Bleeder tried to sink the damn ship, told him to wait up here till time for him to be cookin’ the vittles, got plenty to do without putting out fires."

The first mate looked to the cook who shrugged hopelessly, "Well, carry on I s’pose." He said and wandered off.

**Newt Cain Ferns**

Newt never fancied himself a communications specialist, the job had been the Captain’s idea and always eager to be of use, he’d accepted. The communications room was always cramped and dark with only the old phonograph playing the jaunty vaudeville stylings of Uncle Dave Macon to alleviate the monotony. When he’d run through all the items on his extensive checklist he made to retreat above deck but ran into the Captain aft the bunkroom.

"Newt, glad I caught you, the equipment’s in order I presume?"

"All shiny Cap’n, thought I’d head above deck and catch some air."

"That’s well and good, Newt but first I need you to hail the Yorimitsu tell Hayabusa we’re collecting on our debt."

Newt sighed and sat back down on his stool, he switched the wires and the gears started whirring Ambrose switched off the phonograph as a crackling voice came over the horn. The first voice was Japanese which newt wasn’t that fluent in the first place and you could barely hear it over the hiss of interference, the second was a sharpish Britannian woman’s voice, "Attention unknown vessel, you have breached a secure channel, identify yourselves." She demanded.

Ambrose picked up a headset from a rack on the wall and leaned over Newt’s shoulder, "Moshi moshi, Orega Trant Ambrose desu ka, Jyuusho-taisho o oshiete kudasai."

A few moments of silent static passed then there was an audible click, "Hayabusa Jyuusho desu. Ittai nani o?!"

"Ah captain, good to hear your voice again. I trust you haven’t forgotten about Singapore, how is Takeo by the way?" The Captain said in his savvy Britannian swagger giving Newt a conspiratorial wink.

"Kutabare, what do you want Ambrose Trant?"

"I want ten of your most dead eye riflemen and one bodyguard with quick reflexes."

"Will that be all?"

"Hold on one moment," He covered the mouthpiece and turned to Newt, "did you want anything? A hooker, maybe an ice cream?" Newt shook his head grinning at the furious silence on the other end, "No I think that squares it away."

"Bring what you have, we will meet in Osaka."

"Osaka in the spring, you really know how to show a lady a good time, but we both knew that already."

"Kono yar…" Ambrose flipped the switch cutting the Japanese captain off mid-curse.

**Joseph Mathias O’Connell**

Vacations weren’t something that Joseph indulged in, there had always been work to do around the town and the horses on Angus Whittaker’s farm needed caring for in the winter and summer but from this moment forward Joseph vowed to spend at least one week of spring every year in Osaka. Twisted black trunks were lost in bright pink-white blossoms that looked like shards of the sun that had broken off and stuck to the trees, white walled castles that rose above fields that were greener than Joseph had ever thought grass could be.

The Yorimitsu was tethered floating over the grounds of Osaka castle, since it was Japanese military and they weren’t and the Captain had decided not to endanger their relations with what appeared to be the only piece of land on god’s green earth that let him set foot on their soil they were forced to walk through the city to get to it which no one seemed to mind very much.

Selina took a deep breath of the sweet scented breeze and sighed whimsically, "Almost makes me never want to leave…almost."

They navigated the twisting walled walk up to the castle and boarded the Yorimitsu via a long swinging rope ladder that made Joseph slightly nervous. The exterior of the Japanese captain’s airship was armored in iron and looked very severe; the interior however looked like the finest White Star steamship, with rich red carpets gilded mahogany staircases and crystal chandeliers. The captain met them in the lavish foyer looking suave and saucy forsaking the Imperial Japanese dress code for a tailored black silk jacket and overcoat with a gold cravat and matching waistcoat holding the gilded chain leash of a magnificent snow leopard in one hand and a flourishy alcoholic beverage in the other. Joseph was forcibly reminded of a shorter, more Japanese Ambrose. "Hajime Mashite, Trant-san."

"Well enough, though not as well as you it would seem." They shook hands like businessmen at a meeting.

"The photographs Trant, let’s not linger on unpleasant matters."

"Too right," the Captain fished in one of his many pockets and withdrew a leather billfold, "and on your end?"

The other captain frowned and clapped his hands together, eleven men filed into the room and stood at attention, "Ten of the finest shots in my arsenal at your disposal." He motioned to the men in long coats and bamboo shades. "And Kazunori Ito, my sister’s husband’s brother."

A man in Imperial uniform stepped forward and bowed, "ETCHI!" the man shouted as if he were sneezing or spitting out unpleasant food. The rest of the crew snickered loudly and Ambrose frowned looking to the captain for explaination.

"He is… unique, but very capable, I will swear to it, are these men to your satisfaction?"

"I think they’ll do nicely." Ambrose handed over the billfold, the Japanese man rifled through its contents and withdrew a single photograph sliding it gingerly into his inside pocket, Ambrose raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

"What does ‘etchi’ mean?" Joseph whispered to Newt who stood beside him.

"He’s cursin’, but he don’t mean nothin’ by it, he has a sickness." The man tapped his forehead indicating the nature of the man’s disorder.

**Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant II**

His business completed Ambrose had a polite drink and swapped stories with his fellow captain but they didn’t linger long. Jyuusho was kind enough to drop them off at the Serenity which was dwarfed by the iron sided Yorimitsu, as they descended the rope ladder with their newly conscripted sharpshooters Hayabusa shouted down to them, "Bring back Ito, My sister will not forgive me and her husband also has a rather larger ship in his command."

Ambrose waved back from the deck of the serenity, "Saiyonara, Jyuusho-san."

"God speed, Ambrose Trant!" The doors on the underside of the Yorimitsu slid closed and the ship eased away, the ship’s propellers buffeting the Serenity’s envelope.

Ambrose watched the ship disappear into the bright sun, "God it is good to have good old-fashioned wood boards under my feet again; beautiful here but spring makes my nose itch." He took out a handkerchief and scratched his nose then checked a compass from his vest pocket, "O’Connel, Harkness!" he barked, "Get those airbags tight, we’re skyward bound five hours ago! Macpherson, Duplais!" The engineers snapped to attention, "I want to hear that boiler sing a song, make it a snappy tune we’ve got sky to cover!"

Joseph and Harkness jumped happily to work, Osaka had been beautiful, almost magical, but now that they were once again aboard their ship the spell was broken and Joseph could not imagine how he’d thought to abandon his life of adventure almost before it had started for a few cherry blossoms. After some clattering from below decks and loud arguing the now familiar hum of the Calgori boiler got the props flapping the tethers were reeled in and they lurched upward. Ambrose gave the wheel a spin and turned it southwest towards Saigon the boards creaked and groaned under the stress and those on deck had to grab onto something to avoid being tossed into the infinite sky. "Sally forth, into the blue!" The Captain shouted raucously as the props now rotated to propel the ship forward, within hours the glittering surf was beneath them.

Vincent and the Doctor

Posted on September 8, 2011 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (0)

First of all, I want my bias of the Doctor Who series to be obvious. It is my beleif that Doctor Who is the most brilliant series that has ever been written, whereas most sci-fi series lose the warmth and heart of other genres beneath cold technology the Doctor time and again dazzles you with its complete genuineness and compassion. The stories are so well tied together that you can go back sometimes several seasons and notice things that foreshadowed maor plot developments later in the series. To evidence this I've included quotes from one of my favourite non-storyarc episodes, Vincent and the Doctor. In which the Doctor travels back in time to Provence with his companion Amy Pond (also one of my favourite companions to date) and enters the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

Upon the killing of the episode's monster the Vincent takes the Doctor and Amy into the middle of a field at night to show them how he sees the world.

VINCENT- Look at the sky! It's not dark and black without character; the black is, in fact, deep blue. And over there; lighter blue and blowing through the blues and blackness the winds, swirling through the air; and then shining, burning, bursting through; the stars!

[The sky gradually transforms into Vincent's painting Starry Night]

VINCENT- And you see how they roar their light! Everywhere we look, the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes!

One of my Favourites-The Doctor and Amy take Vincent to the museum (where the show started) and take him to the gallery where his paintings are showcased to the world.

DOCTOR- to the museum curator knowing Van Gogh is listening- Between you and me, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?

CURATOR- Well... um... big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour the most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

NOW, if you are up to snuff on your art history you know this is a big deal. For a genius of Van Gogh's calibur to know the impact of his works on the modern world within the stretch of his lifetime. You would think it would have changed his life, however when they come back after returning Vincent to his own time they find no new paintings have been added, Vincent still commited suicide. The Doctor explains...

AMY- We didn't make a difference at all.

DOCTOR- I wouldn't say that. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good and bad things.

[Hugs Amy]

DOCTOR- The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa the bad things don't neccessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And I think we definately added to [Vincent's] pile of good things.

The Final Words of Austen A. Pickering

Posted on August 6, 2011 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

In the midst of the night's dark vault, when it seems that the the fabric of the world is at its most tenebrous, when the mist that will fall into morning dew is just rising and it is hard to beleive that there was ever any such thing as daylight or people. This is the Witching Hour.

The things that walk the earth at these times are not for the eyes of mortal men. They are as shadows that stride through the blackest vaults of eternity, less corporeal than the spaces between atoms, grander in scope than than the whole of the cosmos. Their exquisite nothingness graces our trifling mortality only breifly and leaves no trace behind.

I know this because I haave seen them. I tell you I have seen these things that make dieties into parodies and stride across untold realities with every step. Their aspect is...maddening, to say the least. That I have survived this encounter is nothing short of a miracle, though I often wish that I had not. As to my sanity, well, I shall let you judge for yourselves; far safer that you disbeleive, dismiss my claims as the folly of a madman for, should you choose to beleive, the only recourse is madness...madness and exquisite gnawing emptiness.

It was on a sultry night in August as a quirky summer storm discharged its fury ineptly upon the ancient timbers of an Appalachian farmhouse where my colleague and I found ourselves trapped by the sudden downpour. And, having no intention of braving the aeons shadowed roads that wound thence through unwholesome forests of those ancient mountains, availed ourselves with brandy of which the house was in good supply. We had come to seek residence in the shadow of the epoch weathered hills as the unwanted result of recent business in which the inn where we were currently staying would have been insufficient.

When the storm had spent itself in the early hours around one, we judged that it was safe to depart. However, as the August heat reclaimed the earth the rain rose once more in a thick fog which, once again, stymied our progress. We decided at length to pull over to the side of the road where a makeshift turnabout offered seclusion from the traffic of those better equipped than we to navigate the fog, though we had seen no other vehicles since our departure. It was as if we were the only two people left in the world and the others all had vanished somewhere or perhaps had never existed at all. I needn't tell you that our circumstances put us a bit on edge having been stranded in this alien landscape with no means to return to our previous shelter and no chance of continuing forward.

How I wish that I could attribute what happene next to nerves or some trick of the brandy or the mist.

It was two o' five exactly when it appeared, I know this because of my poor associates watch which fell into the stream and stopped forever, the same watch which you gentlemen recovered, the same watch I now hold here in my hand as you prepare to throw the switch that will flood my synapses with electricity and end my wretched existence. I wish that doing so would also end the horrors which I have experienced, am yet to experience, but it is not to be.

I can only tell you next what I beheld in confidence that sane and wholesome minds such as yours must instinctively doubt the truth of it, pray now that your instincts do not fail you.

Just before two I perceived a slight darkening of the sky overhead, slight though it was this gave the appearence of complete and utter darkness. In my fear and paranoia heightened state this sent deep gutteral chills throughout my being and I could not look away. Next I perceived, among us a singular presence which moved slowly and had shape only in voids between the mist. I felt that each and every hair on my body pricked up and stood on end.

Unable or unwilling to move I looked out of the corner of my eye at my colleague; I must again pause here to warn you that you should disbeleive what I am about to disclose at all costs. I looked to my colleage and saw that he turned his head and was changed by a look of monstrous transfiguring horror that came over his face. I could see that he ws looking at something just over my left shoulder but my constitution would not allow me to move a muscle. I think that that alone saved me because almost as soon as he turned the thing was upon him and I perceived, though no actual sound was made or else it was beyond human hearing, but a sensation of sound like broken glass being ground against slate. I never saw exactly what happened to my poor colleague for the thing did its work too fast and I dare not even speculate on it for my sanity could not take it. But his body vanished, and not in the wholesome, theatrical way magicians use to thrill audiences, his body had vanished but still standing beside me for only a moment before crumpling to the ground his CLOTHES AND HAT AND SPECTACLES! And worse still when they TURNED, one last time to look at me with spectacles BEHIND WHICH LAY NO FACE!

The rest you may read of in my files or hear tell in the streets, for it was well talked about. I regained consciousness in a hospital and after feverishly divulging my account was commited to a sanitarium, later charged with the murder of my colleague and now here before you.

They wait for me now, I cannot escape them. Things that devour and dissolve. I mourne the fate of my esteemed colleague which will soon be my own. But oh, if just for one blessed moment I could purge that horrible sound from my head! THAT CRUNCHING AND KEENING SCREECH HE MADE AS HE WAS CONSUMED BY THOSE HORRIBLE THINGS!

Chapter One: Serenity Rising

Posted on May 15, 2011 at 10:21 PM Comments comments (0)
**Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant II** Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant II made his way to the instruments in the wheelhouse which was quite a feat as he was falling with increasing velocity towards a small town somewhere below in the Confederation . He tapped the glass face of the Entropy monitor which, despite the sordid predicament, remained obstinately stationary within the safe levels. ???Completely banjaxed,??? he muttered into the whipping wind, ???have to invest in a newer model when you???re rebuilt.??? He patted the side of his airship fondly, pulling a cord which inflated his emergency envelope causing a basket to separate from the wheelhouse and leaving the disintegrating airship safely below. ???Happy landings, m???lady.??? He called as the wreckage dropped out of sight. He fetched a smaller entropy monitor from one of the several chains in his pockets. Finding it on the third try he looked at it dubiously as the needle jerked quickly to the left signifying that the ambient entropy was about to take a sharp turn for the worse, ???What now, you???re not going daft on me too are you???? He shook the delicate instrument trying to produce a change but it remained true, but before he could toss it overboard for useless scrap the sound of tearing fabric alerted him to the formation of a large and growing rend in his escape balloon, ???Oh bollocks.??? He muttered under his breath. ** Joseph Mathias O???Connell** Joseph Mathias O???Connell was a man who was deep in his resentments; a Confederate soldier he resented the continued interference of the Union even after they???d rightly won the war, he resented that the pisswater that passed for lager in this shabby bar sold for $4 Confederate and that the war had left their economy in shambles and their currency reduced to not much more than pieces of paper not worth the pictures printed on it, but mostly he resented having a Britannic Aeronaut smash through the roof of the bar, bust his table to kindling and spill his pisswater beer all over the front of his clean wool vest. The man was tangled in the deflated envelope of a small balloon and suspended about three feet from the floor, but he struggled to free his arm which he extended and Joseph hesitantly took. ???Ambrose Trant II, aeronaut extraordinaire. You wouldn???t happen to know of a physician about town???? ***** The local physician had seen the horrors of the war so some burns and broken bones were hardly a great concern and the aeronaut was set right in a day when he came calling at the bar again. Joseph was sitting at the bar, his usual table having been smashed in the aeronaut???s fall. He entered greeting people like they were old friends and came hobbling over to Joseph and took the seat beside him, ???I???ll have a scotch, and get this man another lager.??? He announced to the bartender having to reach across to clap Joseph on the shoulder with his good hand. ???No scotch, beer.??? The bartender grunted. ???Ale then.??? The bartender poured both and set them on the counter. ???I buy my own beer.??? Joseph grumbled, then he remembered how overpriced the beer was and took a sip. ???I always buy someone a drink before discussing business propositions.??? He said after downing the ale in one slug. ???What kind of business???? Joseph asked dubiously. ???I need a tracker and a sure gun; your fellows in the town laud you as the best on both counts and what I???m looking for should be pretty easy to find.??? ???So why do I have to be able to shoot???? The Aeronaut accepted another ale from the bartender and quaffed it as quickly as the first, ???I???ve been hounded for days by Wilhelm???s dogs; nowhere in Britannia is safe and the Union was no help?????? Joseph snorted into his lager, ??????never are.??? ???At any rate, I found a seller in Louisiana but Wilhelm???s dogs have caught up to me precipitating the incident from yesterday, I need you to get me to my airship and then to New Orleans by the safest route, ensure we get there, with our package and in one piece; I can pay you a hundred now and four when we arrive.??? Joseph finished his lager and stood, ???Well, much obliged for the drink but you won???t find anyone in this town or any other that???ll take you to Louisiana on those conditions for five hundred Confederate.??? He tipped his hat and turned to leave but the Brit stopped him, ???I think we have a misunderstanding.??? He tossed him a silk purse jangling with newly minted German marks. The scrape of chairs as everyone in the bar turned towards them was followed by a rapacious silence. Joseph stood holding the pouch like it was a severed head with mouth agape, even the aeronaut looked like he knew he???d overplayed his hand and wasn???t entirely sure where to make his next move. Joseph sighed, ???You???ve caused more trouble in this town in two days than Sherman did in the whole war.??? The bartender made the first move leaping to restrain the aeronaut but Joseph pulled his cap and ball revolver which let out a dry pop and the bartender slouched back against the barrel of ale with his brains running out of what remained of his eye socket. Joseph leapt and grabbed the Aeronaut by his broken arm eliciting a morbidly satisfying yelp and hurled him towards the saloon doors. ???Simmer down now, brothers.??? He said backing towards the door with both his revolvers drawn. ???You can???t shoot us all, Joe.??? A man he had known in the war spoke up. ???Reckon I can???t, Jim, but I can sure as hell shoot the first man fool enough to draw a pistol. Now who???s it going to be???? The men in the bar hesitated for a moment which was all Joseph needed to make it out of the saloon doors. As soon as he was out a hail of gunfire shredded the doors and the air where he???d been standing a moment before someone grabbed his collar and threw him to the ground. The aeronaut hit the deck pulling from his coat pocket a glass orb bound in brass with knobs and switches around its circumference he rolled it into the bar. There was a sound like an over tightened violin string twanging and the bar patrons all let out a collective howl that made Joseph???s hairs stand on end. Without waiting to see what stumbled out of the now smoking bar he wrapped his arm around the aeronaut???s shoulders and they made for the tree line at the edge of town. ???What the hell was that???? Joseph panted once they were a safe distance from the town. ???A solar emulator matrix, clever bit of Chaomancy?????? The aeronaut leaned against a tree forcing himself to breathe normally for the sake of his broken ribs, ???distilled sunlight released when you set the timer.??? ???So the men in the bar???? ???Blind, most likely.??? ???Not dead though???? ???No, not dead.??? ???I see, that was pretty quick thinking.??? Joseph complimented, rising and snapping off a branch with a ???Y??? shaped bend on the end and handed it to the aeronaut to use as a crutch. ???Name???s Joseph, Joseph O???Connell.??? The aeronaut took the crutch and grasped his hand, ???Ambrose Trant, Captain Ambrose Trant.??? ???Well captain lets go find your airship; what???s left of it anyway.??? **Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant II** Ambrose was leaning up against the tree, his leg and ribs made it slow going so by the time they had arrived Union officials were sniffing around the wreckage of the Serenity. Ambrose observed their movements through a brass spyglass with extendable lenses and crystal diapters and a salamander bound to the clockwork that was cleverly concealed along the sides of the glass so as not to interfere with the vision that allowed it to zoom and steady the image automatically. The men stood out from the brush with their deep navy suits like blue ants come to investigate the bones of a squirrel or some other rodent. The Serenity???s envelope lay like a gold and azure blanket on laid top of the trees, scorched in most places. Ambrose scanned the wreckage looking for the discernible outline of the wheelhouse. Underneath a pile of charred wood he saw the glint of the brass shell of the Nocturnium Aeropile engine which was just beneath the wheelhouse, he scanned further along and found the prize, nearly shattered against a rock outcropping. ???Doubt you???ll find anything in that mess.??? Joseph said resting against a tree with his kepi cap pulled down over his eyes. ???Just have to know what you???re looking for.??? Ambrose returned calmly surveying the area around the wheelhouse planning his approach. He motioned Joseph up to the ridge where they were hidden and handed him the spyglass and laid out his plan. He would approach the wreckage where there were the least guards when he reached a rotted log Joseph would throw one of his solar emulator matrices into the wreckage of the engine which was just below and to the left of the ridge and within easy sight and earshot of the guards they would have to distract. The soldiers, having been lured away from the wheelhouse, would most likely decide it was something mechanical in the ship burning out and go back to their posts giving Joseph time, having snuck down and grabbed their horses to make his way to the woods behind the wheelhouse where they would make their escape. ???I don???t like it,??? Joseph said after he???d finished, ???It???s too complex, complex plans always go wrong.??? ???You forget, sir, that I am an aeronaut, we make complex things work every day, trust me.??? ???And how were your complex things working when you crashed your airship.??? Joseph retorted. ???Just be ready with the solar emulator.??? He said as he hobbled down the wooded side of the ridge, surprisingly silent despite his leg, now splinted. He made the difficult way all the way down the hill thinking in his head all the curses and obscenities he would place upon his thrice damned leg when he was clear of the union. He made it to the fallen log and stayed to catch his breath before he heard the familiar twang of over tightened viol strings and he vaulted from his cover coming face to face with a union soldier holding a fiddle with a broken string, ???Bollocks.??? Ambrose muttered, easing his hands into the air. ***** When they brought Joseph into the camp he was still shaking the solar emulator matrix trying to make it go off. The lieutenant, a thuggish bulging man with an unkempt beard and a haircut that looked to be self done, snatched it from him and shoved him roughly into the vacant chair beside Ambrose and clapped his wrists in irons behind his back. ???Complex plans.??? Joseph muttered under his breath. ???Sod off.??? Ambrose bit back. ???You forgot to tell me how to activate your stupid thing!??? Joseph hissed ???You forgot to ask.??? ???You son of a?????? ???Both of you shut yer craws!??? the lieutenant shouted, ???The general???ll be in to see you shortly, be good men and answer all his questions and maybe we???ll release you with a few bruises to remember us by.??? He stormed out the flap of the tent and immediately arched his back and snapped into a salute. The tent flap swung back but they could hear muffled voices, but Ambrose was no longer interested in them he was eyeballing the desk where the lieutenant had left the solar emulator matrix. Joseph curiously watched him palm two goldmarks from his purse and slip them up his sleeve. ???I have a plan.??? He whispered. ???Because your last plan went so well.??? Joseph hissed. ???Just follow my lead.??? Joseph was about to make a scathing remark but the tent flap swung open and he stowed it for later. The general entered and removed his riding gloves dramatically and lay them on the desk, ???Well, well, Captain Ambrose Trant, I didn???t think I???d have the pleasure of seeing you again after you deserted in Washington.??? Joseph looked at them disbelievingly, ???Hello Jeremiah,??? Ambrose returned coolly, ???You???ve come a very short ways since Washington, did they not let you back in the Union after you lost the White House???? The General took the insult in stride, bemusedly accounting for the look of betrayal on Joseph???s face, ???I suppose he didn???t let on that he flew for us in the war, but then again deceit was always your greatest attribute Ambrose.??? He motioned to his large Lieutenant standing by the tent opening who approached grinning broadly and popping his knuckles menacingly and stood in front of Ambrose, nearly dwarfing the thin, wiry Brit with his bulk. ???Why don???t you tell me what package you were smuggling to the Confederacy???? the General asked with perfect decorum. Ambrose laughed, ???It???s only a coincidence I wound up here; I was being chased by Wilhelm???s dogs, I was forced to land here.??? ???And the fact that it happens to be less than a hundred miles from Washington is also just a happy coincidence???? ???Exactly, I???m glad we understand each oth?????? the lieutenant stopped him talking with a vicious right hook. Ambrose took a couple of seconds to recover and looked the lieutenant in the eye, ???I find that Americans tend to feel awkward in formal social situations; I think the words you were searching for were, ???would you like a cup of tea, sir???? The lieutenant politely asked him if he would like another cup of tea on his left cheek. ???Perhaps I should rephrase the question.??? the general stated blandly, ???What were you carrying on that airship that was so valuable that you risked capture by a battalion of Union soldiers to recover it.??? ???A picture of your wife with the blue dress, you know the one with the lace collar; she???s not in the dress though.??? The Lieutenant delivered two more hooks and wiped his knuckles on Ambrose???s pants grinding his knuckles savagely into his broken leg eliciting a yelp of pain from the Aeronaut. **Joseph Mathias O???Connell** The beating went on for several minutes until even Joseph pitied the Brit who he???d planned on killing himself for a union spy if they ever got out of this, but as the punches kept coming that was looking less and less likely. The General had prepared a phial of absinth which he sipped patiently as he listened to Ambrose???s smart mouth run without cease even after the words had long since ceased to become intelligible. He reclined back in his chair as the lieutenant stepped back from the pulverized aeronaut panting; the General took the solar emulator from the desk, turning it over with his thumb and forefinger. ???No don???t touch that!??? Ambrose shouted, his previously glazed eyes snapping back to alertness. From his vantage point Joseph could see him produce the goldmarks from his sleeve and began to click them together rhythmically with his bad arm. The General dropped it on the ground and backed away losing his composure for the first time. ???What is it???? he demanded, lifting the battered captain by his blood-dyed collar. ???An explosive device,??? Ambrose sputtered spitting half clotted blood with each syllable and ominously increasing the rhythm of the clicking coins, ???if you unlock my hands I???ll disable it, whatever you do to me I???d prefer to remain in pieces large enough to bury.??? The General motioned for the lieutenant who hurried over and undid the irons that bound him. Ambrose leaped at the device and began frantically fiddling with it in his good hand but only so he could keep clicking the coins together with his injured hand, though it seemed that he wasn???t actually manipulating any of its dials. ???I can???t shut it off, it???s jammed!??? he swore. The General snatched the cuffs from the lieutenant and refastened them around Ambrose???s wrists, ???The Union appreciates your service, Mister Trant. We???ll be back to scrape up what???s left of you.??? He gave a mocking salute and ran out of the tent closely followed by the lieutenant. ???Jeremiah! You dirty, craven, base-born, so on, so on, so forth?????? his frantic screams diminished to an amused murmur and he let out a wry chuckle. ???That was your plan???? Joseph accused. ???Worked like a charm, if I do say so myself.??? ???You???re a lunatic, he???ll be back in minutes!??? ???By which time we will be free and clear.??? ???And how do you plan on accomplishing that???? Joseph demanded violently. Ambrose winked, although since his other eye was swollen shut it looked more like blinking, and produced the lieutenant???s key, ???dull-witted oaf didn???t even notice when I pinched as he practically mowed me over getting out.??? ???Well hurry up, before he does realize and comes back.??? ???Avec plaisir.??? He rapidly undid his chains and then loosed Joseph???s and they snuck out of the rear flap and made for the woods. They ran until they came to the wreck of the Serenity where a few lanterns were being lit for the night guard, but no lights flared near the wheelhouse. The pair skirted around the pools of light making their way to the outcropping where the portion of the broken hull lay shattered against the rocks. Ambrose quietly began sifting through the rubble pulling free a single-edged sword, a leather knapsack, and a small wooden chest and setting them aside he then rummaged further down under the rubble and produced a leather belt with two finely crafted flintlock revolvers with ivory and brass grips, he hefted the belt and tossed it to Joseph who caught it, ???You???ll be wanting to replace your service pistols, these might not carry as many rounds but they are infinitely more reliable; a first rate chaomancer bound a simbian in the barrels just point it and it practically shoots itself.??? Joseph checked each barrel, there was still a ball in each pistol; he cocked back the flintlock and took aim at the Aeronaut???s head. ???Manners are not your forte in this area of the world, are they???? ???You???re the Blue Butcher of Britannia; you killed fifty men in my regiment and countless others in the confederacy. I should have realized when I saw your balloon.??? Ambrose gave a fake gasp, ???J???acuse! I am he, the very same.??? ???That???s all the reason I need.??? Joseph pulled the trigger and the pistol clicked ineptly. Before he could even look to see what was wrong the Aeronaut did a quick two step like a fencer and delivered a surprisingly solid punch full in his mouth, knocking him, more by surprise than by virtue of the actual punch, to the ground. ???It helps if you have these.??? He bounced two tiny flint stones in his palm; he pocketed them, then stood and offered his hand. Joseph took it begrudgingly, ???They???ll definitely be searching for us by now; we???ll continue this conversation in tempi opportuno.??? **General Brenner von Draak** Von Draak observed the two run off into the gathering twilight together through a brass spyglass, ???Lauft, meine Brittanische Schweine,??? he murmured to himself with barely contained enthusiasm, ???I will have what you stole from me soon enough.??? He snapped the spyglass shut and disappeared into the foliage. **Jean Claude Lafitte** In his hot and sweaty shack in New Orleans Jean Claude Lafitte greedily counted out his money, arranging it in stacks according to its country of origin. Jean Claude Lafitte had never done an honest day???s work in his life and he despised stagnation, If you isn???t movin??? forwards, Jean Claude, you sho??? nuff is fallin??? behind. That was what his father had always said. So when the Civil War started Jean Claude felt no need to limit himself to one side, supplying arms and airships to both sides had made him richer than he???d ever dreamed; but that didn???t mean he was satisfied. He had kids to feed, damn it! More than he could remember their names, actually; so when the mouthy Britannian had come in to his shop, all charm and wit, promising him a small fortune in goldmarks if he could get him a top of the line private airship and fit it with enough firepower to discourage the Reich and anyone else they may run afoul of, it was all he could do to keep from drooling. Jean Claude may have been greedy but he wasn???t a cheat, if he promised something he delivered it or better, that was how you kept your customers happy. The airship was a magnificent British vessel fitted with brass plated fixtures two sails and a keel, four props and twelve of the finest bronze cannons, ???an absolutely, positively first rate vessel, and the envelope simply must be blue?????? that was what he had said and they were definitely blue, both of them, for it had two, the richest azure he???d ever seen, the man he???d bought it from swore it was honest to god silk from China. It was so beautiful it made his eyes water just looking at it, but as beautiful as it was it was not nearly as beautiful as how rich he was going to be when the Brit came with his money. If he came. As it was he was two days late and Jean Claude was half his fortune invested in an airship he couldn???t fly, and he didn???t know anyone else who could afford it. He began counting his cash again, He definitely gon??? be here fo??? certain. He reassured himself, Britannians were very trustworthy he imagined, with all their manners it would never occur to them to cheat anyone or steal anything. He laughed to himself thinking of how rich he was going to be when he was paid. **Joseph Mathias O???Connell** Joseph had been dubious about the Britannian???s actual abilities as a pilot, but if nothing else he certainly seemed at home on a ship even if it was only in the water. He???d been tottering around the deck all day steadier on his busted leg than most of the crew appeared to be on two good legs, and definitely better off than Joseph who had already lost his meager breakfast to the ocean???s sway. They had stowed away on a merchant ship because it was easier to hide, and even though the Reich had few seagoing vessels Ambrose had expressed desire to also remain hidden from the Britannian Empire as well, the more he was around him the more he wondered whether or not he had any choice but to become an airship pilot as he seemed to be universally hated on land. Ambrose had nailed a looking glass to one of the masts and sat cross-legged in front of it with a water basin in his lap, using a knife to lance the swollen green and purple bruises that had been left from their encounter with the union. Come to think of it the aeronaut had thus far surprised him at every turn; he was tougher than Joseph had first credited him with, a lot more clever than even he claimed which was saying something, and he could throw a fairly impressive punch for his size which actually wasn???t saying much but it had been sufficient to catch him off guard so maybe he wasn???t crediting him enough. According to him the Union had forced him to fly for them when he was forced to land in Pennsylvania; they had threatened to turn him over to the Britannians, who would have most certainly hanged him, if he refused, so he couldn???t really hold that against him, though it still gnawed at him to some degree. He had come to the conclusion that even if everything had worked out and he???d killed the aeronaut he???d have felt terrible afterwards, in spite of himself he couldn???t help but like the strange man. By evening the lights of the city of New Orleans had peeked over the horizon. Ambrose was the first to see and politely pointed it out to the boatswain, who immediately called all hands on deck to make ready to dock. Ambrose and Joseph lingered in the city only long enough to buy what Ambrose considered ???the essentials??? which consisted chiefly of liquor and ale and very few actual amenities or provisions. They then headed out into the bayou to the man???s hovel on the water where he did his business. The little Cajun man was so overjoyed to see them that he greeted them like brothers and actually cried physical tears when Ambrose handed him the sack he???d salvaged from the wreck of his previous ship which was full to the brim of goldmarks. Joseph wondered, not for the first time, whether or not Ambrose came by this gold honestly or if it was in fact the reason the Reich was so hard after him. The man who was called Jean Claude Lafitte, as anyone who had known him for a full minute would know, as he was fond of referring himself in the third person and always said all or most of his name the way Cajuns tended to do, wrapped his arm around the aeronauts waist which was nearly as high as he could reach and offered the both of them the full tour. ???When you comes into my shop I says to myself, ???Jean Claude,??? I says, ???now here is a man who know what fine airboat look like.??? I says to myself, ???Jean Claude Lafitte, you has got to try your most hardest to be pleasin??? this fine customer here. And there she be.??? They had walked through the trees by a narrow, barely visible path to a clearing where the vessel was anchored. Ambrose gasped, even Joseph, who didn???t know all that much about airships in the first place was awestruck by the beauty and minute detail of the vessel from the cerulean envelope to the brass fittings on the prow. ???Jean Claude, you have truly surpassed my expectations.??? The little Cajun grinned proudly. **Captain Ambrose Bethal Trant II** After they had loaded all of Ambrose???s supplies he handed a blue silk purse full of more goldmarks to Joseph. ???Four hundred, as promised.??? He said curtly. Joseph took it weighing it in his hands, ???Seems good.??? They stood in silence for awhile then Ambrose pulled his sleeve back and checked one of the various instruments he kept there. ???I should be leaving while the aether is favorable.??? He walked the gangplank up to the deck of the ship. ???Right, bon voyage or whatever it is they say.??? The Aeronaut waved over his shoulder just before disappearing from view. Ambrose busied himself with checking the instruments and spun the wheel a few times to get the feel of it, pretending not to notice as Joseph climbed aboard, ???I???ve been thinking?????? he began. ???What a novel experience for you.??? Ambrose quipped. ???Well, I can???t rightly go home,??? He continued, ignoring the aeronaut, ???not after the fuss we made leaving.??? ???No, I imagine not.??? ???And you should hear the stories they tell about aeronauts back home, I???ve always wanted to be a part of an exciting story. Also I doubt you can fly this thing on your own in your condition.??? ???I???ll manage somehow. You???d better be leaving if you???re going to go.??? ???Damn it, you???re going to make me say it aren???t you???? ???Why, whatever can you mean???? Ambrose grinned. ???I was thinking???maybe you could use an extra pair of hands, or something.??? Ambrose extended his good hand, ???Glad to have you aboard the Serenity.??? He said, ???Now, hop to it man, reel in those tethers! Weigh anchor! Into the wild blue! This vessel is away!??? ???Yes sir!??? Joseph saluted and made to go to work but Ambrose gripped his hand tightly, ???That???s ???yes, Captain??? First mate O???Connell, I???ll thank you to remember it.??? ???Aye aye, Captain!??? Joseph amended, grinning broadly. They set to work Joseph quickly loosing the tethers and working the winch that pulled in the anchor which Ambrose told him was called the windlass. Then the Captain showed him the more complex duties of trimming the sails and running in the guns and stoking the backup engine with coal because the Calgori engine which was supposed to power the ship wasn???t running at full power yet. When everything was set and the props were sending zephyrs of dust and leaves spiraling into the swamps Ambrose pulled the lever next to the wheel and the envelopes which had seemed slightly deflated before billowed until their skins were taught and the ship rose clear of the mangroves. ???First mate O???Connell, give that jib-line the two six heave.??? He indicated the proper ropes near the front of the ship Joseph pulled them as he???d indicated and looped them around the stays on the bow. The sails at the front of the envelope swung out and billowed as they caught the tailwind. Ambrose pulled yet another lever and the props rotated to the rear. The Airship lurched forward and clipped along the tops of the trees gaining altitude and speed each second and soon they were over New Orleans the whole city dropping steadily away beneath them. **Joseph Mathias O???Connell** Joseph had been on an airship before but only the closed gondola type, either troop carriers in the war or travel zeppelins later, but to be able to hang over the gunwales and see the land dropping away was exhilarating, he was giddy with excitement. ???What???s next, Captain???? he asked throwing up another salute for good measure. ???We???re headed to Port-au-Prince to see a witchdoctor about a krewe.??? Joseph didn???t even question the truth of the statement. He truly believed now that when you travelled with the Captain damn near anything was possible. As Ambrose spun the wheel and the ship swung out towards the glittering sea he couldn???t help but wonder just what he had gotten himself into and what adventures lay ahead on the wind whipped aether and the wide skies.

Ode to a Haggis

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 3:24 AM Comments comments (0)

Disclaimer: I did not write this I just find it to be a very compelling poem about Haggis...

 

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 

Great chieftain o the puddin'-race! 

Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 

Painch, tripe, or thairm: 

Weel are ye wordy of a grace 

As lang's my arm.

 

The groaning trencher there ye fill, 

Your hurdies like a distant hill, 

Your pin wad help to mend a mill 

In time o need, 

While thro your pores the dews distil 

Like amber bead.

 

His knife see rustic Labour dight, 

An cut you up wi ready slight, 

Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 

Like onie ditch; 

And then, O what a glorious sight, 

Warm-reekin, rich!

 

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive: 

Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive, 

Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve 

Are bent like drums; 

The auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 

'Bethankit' hums.

 

Is there that owre his French ragout, 

Or olio that wad staw a sow, 

Or fricassee wad mak her spew 

Wi perfect sconner, 

Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view 

On sic a dinner?

 

Poor devil! see him owre his trash, 

As feckless as a wither'd rash, 

His spindle shank a guid whip-lash, 

His nieve a nit: 

Thro bloody flood or field to dash, 

O how unfit!

 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, 

The trembling earth resounds his tread, 

Clap in his walie nieve a blade, 

He'll make it whissle; 

An legs an arms, an heads will sned, 

Like taps o thrissle.

 

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, 

And dish them out their bill o fare, 

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware 

That jaups in luggies: 

But, if ye wish her grateful prayer, 

Gie her a Haggis!

Cad Goddeu-Prologue

Posted on November 19, 2010 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I am Merlin and I stand on the lands of my ancestors. Neither sunshine nor moonglow fall on the fields and fens of Annwfn, no breeze stirs ancient forests twisted by time, no rainfall disturbs air ancient as stone and laden with secrets. Only the mist, grey and formless separates the sky from the land. I come to lay rest to the king, my student and my friend, Arthur. The Knights bear the body up the rocky shoal, I have led the way to this sacred place and now I stand by and watch the procession pass. The men eye me with fear and hatred. I am unwelcome now that Arthur has passed, unwelcome because I stood by and did nothing, unwelcome because I let the King fall. None of them understand that if Arthur had lived on the lessons of Camyladd would be lost forever.

I am Merlin: bard, seer, sorcerer. I walk to the edge of the shore where waves lap over the grey stone and hurl the sword Excalipyrne into the water. A hand clad in white samite catches the singing blade from the air and, as ‘that which rises out of a cup of fire’ slips beneath the waves I vanish, disappearing from Avalon forever.

I am Merlin Emrys, and this tale is mine to tell. I will tell it because no one else can tell it in its entirety and because only I can show you how and why Arthur was slain. Because only I can gather all the threads with which to weave this tapestry of souls, swords and magic and because only I can pluck the threads and make them sing like the strings of the lute; because that is the gift which my kin, the fey, have granted me.

I am Merlin-the Immortal- and here begins my tale.


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