Fiction Experiment 2/17/2016

The following tidbit is the result of me trying to come up with what it might feel like to fly on a magical skyship in the setting that Mattias, Wendell, Frisbee and I came up with last Sunday.  It’s a setting that we’re hoping to use for RPGs, and at some point soon you’ll be able to enjoy it along with us!  More about that later.

For now, have fun with this…

***

The dragon shuddered underfoot, its decking quivering in a way that made Lieutenant Plum profoundly uncomfortable.

“Mate, hold your present course.  I’d better check that out before the captain decides to find out what it is.”

Lieutenant Plum strode off the bridge before the mate could even reply.  She knew he’d take care of the helm.  If they were about to fall out of the sky, Plum couldn’t think of a better person to have at the wheel.  Of course, that assumed that they still had some power with which to control the descent.  If everything went wrong all at once there wouldn’t be anything for the first mate to do.

The dragon was an elegant, finned lozenge, shaped a little like a cylinder whose top third had been shaved away to make a flat surface for the first three quarters of its length.  People who didn’t know better, people who were stuck on the ground and who’d never flown on a dragon, often tried to describe a dragon as looking like a ship.  That was most people, really.  But Plum, who’d always dreamed of serving on board one of the few remaining dragons, had grown up around seamen; the ships those sailors had served on were nothing like the Rightful Hegemony, the beautiful craft she served aboard now.

There was another quavering shake through the long craft’s hull.  Plum would swear that she had actually felt the planking rattle this time.  The crew she passed on her headlong dash towards the dragon’s prayer-chambers looked just as alarmed as she felt.  It was certainly bad decorum for her to be running like this, and it might be bad for morale too… but she was willing to risk the crew’s morale if it meant she could fix whatever was making the whole dragon thrum like a plucked string.

Plum burst into the prayer-chamber half expecting to find it broken, splintered, or maybe on fire.  Instead, she saw the nine prayer platforms, with Brother Moon and two acolytes each sitting in their proper station, their own platform, legs folded beneath them as they meditated, chanting quietly.  There was a faintly effervescent light that shimmered off of them, simultaneously rising towards the circular metal plates hanging over them and sinking towards the square metal plates that formed their platforms.  Except that one of the acolytes appeared to be snoring instead of chanting.  As the acolyte drew in a rasping breath, the whole ship shuddered in sympathy.

Lieutenant Plum felt her teeth grinding against each other, only realizing that her jaw was tense as she forced it to relax.  She strode across the chamber towards the sleeping acolyte.  She tried to ignore the woefully scanty collection of blessed cloudberries that remained in each of the monks’ bowls.  They needed to refuel soon.

She snapped her fingers, leaning down towards the sleeping acolyte.  “Wake up!”  She hissed, trying not to break the concentration of the other two monks.

There was no reaction.  Just another long snore that left the ship vibrating.

“Wake. Up.”  She tried again.  She reached out and risked grabbing the monk’s shoulder, shaking her gently from side to side.  The acolyte’s eyes cracked open, and she stared groggily up into Lieutenant Plum’s face.

“Wha—“

The acolyte didn’t get to finish.  The dragon immediately throbbed, a low pulsing wail that sounded too much like an injured beast for Lieutenant Plum’s comfort.  The lights of the prayer-chamber dimmed.  With only two platforms powering the ship, they were already losing altitude.

“Now,” Lieutenant Plum said, holding onto the platform’s edge for balance, “would be a very good time for you to wake up and meditate.”

The acolyte stared at her in horror.

“I said,” Plum started to repeat herself, raising her voice.

The acolyte clamped her eyes shut, trying to match the chant her companions were using.  Lieutenant Plum watched in grim satisfaction as the acolyte slowly started to glow once again, this time while still conscious.

They needed more monks too, not just fuel.  Plum stood and strode out of the prayer-chamber, watching the lights slowly returning to their normal warm glow.  But if they tried feeding fuel to enough monks to operate above the bare minimum, they’d run out even faster.  Lieutenant Plum pinched the bridge of her nose, leaning against a bulkhead for a moment to regain her composure.  The acolyte, she felt guilty for having forgotten her name, would just have to stay on duty until the end of her shift.  Plum didn’t like thinking too hard about the deep circles under the acolyte’s eyes, how tired she had to be.  She knew that she needed to be replaced soon, but with their current fuel situation there was no way that Plum would order that until the acolyte’s current dose of blessed cloudberry had worn off.

Plum shook her head.  She stood up straight and strode off down the corridor.  She needed to make sure that nothing had gone too far wrong during the brief excitement.  She needed to make sure that the crew understood that they were still in good hands.  A dragon always had more work to be done.

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