Friday, 15 July 2016

#whimword - An Uncommon Proposal, a palatial story

“I’m not marrying him,” she said, barely resisting the urge to stamp her feet.
“Why not?” asked her father, clearly perplexed. “Anora, he’s a good match.”
“I’m not marrying him because I’m in love with his sister!” she said.
Her father spluttered into his moustache, muttering words like “preposterous” and “highly irregular” as his face turned red. Anora sighed; she’d known her father would take it badly but she couldn’t hide the truth from him any more. Maybe of she was lucky she’d get disowned and then she and Elise could run away together…
“Princesses don’t marry princesses,” were the first truly coherent words her father managed after his coughing fit.
“Not traditionally no, but–”
“But nothing,” said her father. “You’re marrying Prince Zechariah and that’s final.”
Anora saw red. “No that is not final. This is my life we’re talking about and I will not be forced into a match I do not want.”
Her father opened his mouth to protest but Anora cut him off.
“Surely the most important thing is that we make an alliance through marriage that will help keep our kingdom, and our people safe?”
“Well, yes. I suppose…”
“And that can be achieved just as easily by me marrying Elise as Zechariah.” Anora could see that her father’s brows were creased; he was thinking about it, which meant she had a chance.
“What about heirs?” he asked after a few moments of thinking. “Unless I’m very much mistaken you and Elise can’t have children together.”
Anora rolled her eyes. “I figured we’d worry about that later.” Her father looked ready to explode again. “Look, I have siblings, Elise has siblings. There’ll be heirs, father, even if they’re not my children. The important thing is we leave the kingdom in the hands of the person most suited for the throne, yes?”
Her father grumbled his reluctant agreement. “What about Prince Zechariah?”
“He knows. He’s known from the start and he would much rather I marry his sister than him.”
He went quiet for a long time after that. Anora held her breath, waiting.
“You’ve given me much to think about,” he said, and Anora could tell she’d been dismissed.
She left the room and stalked through the palace to her chambers where Princess Elise was waiting for her. She looked up at Anora with a smile.
“So, how’d it go?” she said.
“He’s ‘thinking about it’,” Anora replied, flopping onto the bed. “We might be in luck but I don’t know.”
Elise scooched over and pressed a kiss to Anora’s temple. “We still have the option of speaking to my father. If it’s clear he supports the idea maybe yours will come around.”
She didn’t look convinced. “Maybe. Can’t we just elope?”
Elise gave her an indulgent smile. “No, our kingdoms need us.”
Anora grumbled back.
“I want to marry you, Anora, but I want to do it properly. Have some patience.”
Anora rolled over. “I love you,” she said softly.

Elise smiled and kissed her.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

#whimword - The Battle of Sun Pass, a Dirigible story

The airship shuddered beneath her feet.
“Hold her steady!” yelled Captain Amris. The retort of cannon fire filled the air around her, threatening to shake her ship apart. “Stay your course.”
The battle was going badly. Fifteen Imperial airships were burning already, and the stench of gas and charred flesh filled Amris’ nostrils. She needed to do something, and fast, or many more men and women were going to die here today.
“Drop altitude,” she cried. “Get as close to the mountain as possible.”
“You have a plan, sir?” asked her second-in-command, Commander Ratch, as her orders were relayed about the ship.
“I have an idea,” she replied. “The gods alone know if it will work.”
The Skyshadow dropped altitude like a stone sinking into the sea. The hull of the vessel hugged the tree line, prow skimming the new green growth of spring.
“Four enemy airships in pursuit,” came the shout from the crow’s nest.
“Dump the fuel,” Amris said to Ratch. “Throw it all overboard; the gas balloons, the oil, everything.”
“Sir?” said Ratch, raising an eyebrow.
“Just do it,” she said, sprinting down the stairs onto the main deck, the long tails of her uniform coat streaming out behind her. “When I give the word cut loose the ballast. We need to gain as much altitude as we can as quickly as possible.”
She saw understanding dawn on Ratch’s face.
“Enemy ships still closing, sir!”
Amris drew her sword and prayed to the gods this would work. The seconds slipped away, tense as a piano wire, the wind hurtling by as their opponents steadily gained on them.
“Steady,” she said. “Steady.” When the rebel airships were almost on top of them she cried “now!” and cut the ballast.
“Ignite the fuel,” yelled Ratch.
The forest went up in flames beneath them, swallowing the other airships whole. Amris’ ship only just avoided the raging inferno, rising rapidly back into the sky.
“Ready the cannons, full spread.” As the Skyshadow returned to the same altitude as the rest of the battle Amris gave the command to fire. Gunpowder and sulfur stung at her mouth and nose as the sound of a dozen controlled explosions sounded in her ears.
“Three ships down,” called Ratch above the ringing in her ears. She watched the other airships go crashing down into the burning forest below.
Cheers went up from her crew; the tide of the battle was turning in their favour. The Imperial Navy had a chance of winning this. Another half dozen enemy ships went down as the Imperial forces rallied to Captain Amris’ side.
They could end this now, Amris knew, bring the rebellion to its knees in the skies over Sun Pass. With the blessings of the gods they would have victory in the Holy Empress’s name and the Empire would be safe again.
Her family would be safe again.

“Bring us about,” said the captain. “Take us to the enemy flagship and prepare to board. Let’s finish this.”