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.”

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