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The Adventures of Solaire, Part IX: The Archive Ship i

Updated: Feb 28

The Incredible Yet Accurate Adventures of the Dread Pirate Captain Solaire Ravenheart

Otherwise known as…

The Adventures of Solaire


Part IX:

The Archive Ship i


There is a common phrase amongst the people of the Zyrgian Federation: “to burn one’s ships.” Its origins date back close to a century ago, when the explorer Hattan DeMassi set sail for the mythical Jungle of Bones, a land notorious for the hostility of the environment and the violence of the flora and the fauna located there. Hattan was hoping to map the entirety of the island and receive the generous reward of one million gold pieces promised to the first explorer to accomplish such a task. And being an ambitious individual, the first act Hattan did upon landing and unpacking his supplies was to burn his ships, sending a clear message to his men: if you want to go home, we will have to master and subjugate this land.


Had Hattan’s expedition been successful, the phrase “to burn one’s ships” might have meant “to courageously propel yourself into danger and thus secure success,” but as the only survivors of Hattan’s crew picked off of a homemade raft were his journal of the events, a coconut decorated like a face, and a suspiciously well-fed housecat, the phrase “to burn one’s ships” instead means “to idiotically destroy your means of retreat, thereby dooming yourself.”


However, when most people say “to burn your ships,” they don’t literally mean “set fire to your sailing vessels.” Then again, most people aren’t Solaire.


***


“You wanted to see us, sir?” Tomo asked.


Wiess turned around to face the group. Once again, they were located in Wiess’ interrogation chamber, that small cramped room lined with a long mirror, each member responding to their “employer’s” presence in their accustomed manners: Austin and Tomo standing to attention, Willaby and Skyler glancing nervously at each other, and Solaire twirling a dagger around his fingers with all the enthusiasm of a man reading the dictionary.


“Yes,” Wiess replied. “Ze second piece of my armor has been located. It’s on an automated schip approximately 50 miles away. I vill supply a small fessel, bearinks, and compass. You climb aboard and retriefe it.”


“What is it?” Willaby asked.


“A chesht piece, similar in style to the gauntlet.”


“Is it defended?” Skyler questioned.


“Undoubtedly. As to how, I am not schure. Zis construction vas made by my rifal. It’s design is unknown to me.” Weiss turned to Solaire.


Solaire yawned.


Weiss frowned. “Vell, if zere are no more queshtions, shoo!” He waved at the group, prompting them to file out of the door. “Come back vith my armor or don’t come back at all!”


Once the gathered adventurers had left, Weiss smiled and looked over to Winthrop, standing behind him and ready for order. “Vinthrop, I vill be in my quarters shtudyink zat exoshkeleton from ze top deck. I’m gifink you temporary command.”


Winthrop shifted from one foot to the other. “Permission to speak frankly, sir?”


Weiss raised an eyebrow. “Granted.”


“I don’t agree with how lenient you are being with Solaire and the others.”


“Lenient?”


“Yes sir. Since he’s been here, you have treated Solaire special, separated from the normal disciplinary measure of the crew. There was no punishment for threatening the others, none for damaging the ship while escaping back to it, none for his chosen method of capturing the poisoner, and even none for the intentional damage done to the top deck when subduing the attacker.” Winthrop’s shoulders sagged slightly, as if a long-standing weight was being lifted from his shoulders. “Giving him this much freedom is sure to have repercussions.”


“Repercussions?” Weiss replied. “Solaire’s repercussions hafe allowed us to sell a mermaid for one million gold. And ze exosuit…” Weiss stopped. “Exosuit, I like zat… anyvay, ze exosuit he brought down contains an enticink new engine, one that runs on raw Elysium! Once I referse its engineerink, we can power ze Emperor for a zousand years vith one rock.”


Winthrop shook his head. “I won’t deny that his short term results are excellent, but there are long term consequences to think about. The attacker’s confidence was no doubt partly fueled by the fiasco Solaire caused on his first day here. And the guests have been complaining about the delays caused. If we don’t rein him in soon…”


“Shhhh!” Weiss placed an index finger on Winthrop’s lips. “Please, Vinthrop, hov many times hafe you doubted me?”


“Several,” he admitted.


“And hov many times vas I vrong?”


“None.”


“Zen hafe a little faith. Besides…” Weiss’ eyes twinkled a bit, “once ve hafe all zat armor, ve von’t need ze Emperor, or ze guests, or anythink at all. Ve vill hafe eferythink ve vill efer need.”


“All right sir,” Winthrop said, the doubt in his eyes still visible.


***


“THAT’S supposed to be a sailing vessel?” Solaire shouted.


The vessel in question was a small wooden dinghy, no more than twenty feet wide, with a rough canvas cloth acting as a sail, two splintered oars attached to the side, and a warped piece of wood serving as the handle for the rudder control. The boat was attached to the side of the Emperor with a long rope and the act of the larger monstrosity tugging the smaller object was reminiscent of the way a child might drag a rolling toy.


“Yes,” Tomo answered.


Solaire rolled his eyes. “There is no way that we will be able to catch another boat in that piece of garbage.”


“On the contrary,” Tomo replied, “we will most likely be just able to catch that boat. Wiess has an exceptional ability when it comes to making judgement calls on speed and bearings, and each time he furnishes us with a boat, it is his aim to provide one that will just barely be able to get us there and back, with no opportunity for escape or detour.”


“His generosity knows no bounds,” Solaire muttered. He grabbed the side of the railing, swung himself over it, and latched into the carved ladder steps in the side, descending the rungs two at a time.


Skyler and Tomo followed, each repeating Solaire’s steps, albeit slower. Within a minute, all three men had boarded the vessel.


Willaby looked down the side. “Er…”


Austin sighed and scooped up the man with one arm and slung him over his shoulder like a strongman carrying a barrel. Then he used his free hand to help descend the steps until he managed to shakily step into the boat, causing it to rock for several seconds before it calmed down.


“Right,” Solaire shouted, “who here has sailed a boat besides me?”


Everyone returned an empty stare.


“Typical.” Solaire untied the line from the vessel, jammed the sail into a new direction, and moved back to the rudder controls. “Compass” Austin handed the requested object to Solaire. He opened it and stared at the spinning dial. “What bearing?”


Tomo removed a paper from inside of his armor. “176⁰ South by South East.”


Eyes still glued to the compass, Solaire twisted the rudder and forced it to bolt off away from the Emperor, rising and falling over the wake of its larger counterpart and spraying foamy, salty water over the occupants inside with each crash. As he did, he moved the rudder handle this way and that until the majority of the waves had been sailed over, then held it steady as it glided over the relative smoothness of the sea.


“How far away is it?” Solaire asked, breaking the silence of the empty air.


“Unknown,” Tomo answered, “but this bearing should bring us on a direct collision course with it. We will be able to see it coming.”


Solaire hmphed and sat down in the bottom of the boat, hand still glued to the rudder.


Skyler glanced at him. “So… you’re pretty good at sailing, huh?”


“Runs in the family,” Solaire responded.


“The Ravenhearts?” Skyler continued.


“Yes.”


“You don’t talk about them much.”


“No I don’t,” Solaire confirmed.


An uncomfortable silence settled into the boat, broken only by the lapping of waves against the side of the wood.


Skyler sat down next to Solaire. “You know, my parents…”


“Stop,” Solaire commanded.


The silence resumed.


“Fine. Willaby,” Skyler turned to the baker-turned-sorcerer. “Where are you from?”


“Hm? Oh! Killkenny, in Dinas,” Willaby answered. “Small little city on the Southern edge.”


“And you had a bakery?”


“Yeah, burned down.” Willaby’s face soured, then turned thoughtful. “You know, it is a little odd that Tess was asking if we had insurance for…”


“Heads up!” Austin shouted, pointing into the sea.


About sixty feet away, nestled in the deep blue waves, was a strange copper colored creation. I say creation because that is the most accurate noun that can be attached to such an object, because while it may have been called a ship, and functioned like a ship, it resembled a ship much the same way the stain on your boots resembles the ant that stain formerly was; that is to say, not at all.


The object was perhaps fifty feet long, thirty feet wide, and twenty feet tall, made out of that ruddy orange that can only be achieved with copper. Set in the back was a large paddlewheel, similar to a windmill, but rotating into the water. On top were two holes about the size of a man’s fist. The water underneath it churned like it was boiling, and it was rectangularly shaped.


That was about it.


There were no windows, no doors, or any protruding shape of any kind. It contained no markings or decorations. The large rectangle shape held no deviations; there were no protrusions where the walls jutted off to form cabins or rooms, just smooth metal tapered off to sharp points. The metal itself even contained a lack of welds and rivets; it looked like a giant box, or perhaps a metal coffin floating in the waves.


All five men watched it with wide eyes.


“What is that thing?” Skyler asked.


“Slow moving and fortified.” Solaire slammed the rudder to the side and cut across the backend of the ship, moving it up to the left side until the dingy and the object were nearly side-by-side.


A long metal tube slid out of one of the holes. “ATTENTION: YOU ARE APPROACHING DEFENDED CARGO. PLEASE LEAVE.”


Willaby moaned. “It’s a construct.”


“Of some kind, yes,” Tomo agreed.


Solaire moved the dinghy into the ship. The wooden vessel gave a soft crunch and bounced off.


“WE REPEAT, PLEASE LEAVE.”


Solaire did it again.


A short but thick metal tube slid out of the other one and continued to rise until the slightly thinner rod holding it in place cleared the metal, allowing the tube to swing free and aim at the boat, thus changing its identity from a tube…


...to a cannon.


An explosion of fire and smoke sounded not more than fifteen feet away from the party’s vessel, issuing a loud BOOM! and causing the sea around them to blast forth a gigantic wave and a spray of water, showering everyone and making the vessel rock.


“PLEASE LEAVE. NO MORE WARNING SHOTS WILL BE FIRED.”


“Cut the sails!” Solaire screamed.


Everyone looked at each other.


Solaire sighed. “Really?”


The cannon adjusted a sight inch downwards and Solaire slammed the rudder the other way, zooming away as another combustion-splash appeared where the boat had been just seconds before.


“You are the worst sailors in existence!” Solaire spat.


“I am no sailor, I am a samurai,” Tomo explained.


“Grunzen,” Austin continued.


“Er… mercenary?” Skyler tried.


“Baker!” Willlaby said.


“All useless now!” Solaire shot back, twisting the rudder to cut close to the ship as another BOOM! reported that the group had just been narrowly missed by another cannonball. “Right, we’re going to get a crash course!”


“A literal one?” Willaby said with a bit whimper.


Solaire shoved the man towards where he had been sitting and grabbed his hand, forcing him to clutch the rudder. “Port!” he shouted, pointing left, then pointing right. “Starboard! Move it where I tell you.”


Willaby nodded and looked back at the wooden handle with fear, like he was grabbing a live snake and not a rudder control.


“Skyler!” Solaire shouted, moving over to the weathered sail and grabbing a small string hanging next to it, “You see this rope?”


“Uh, yeah?” he replied.


Solaire tugged the rope all the way down, causing the sail to move all the way up. “Cut sail!” He let the rope down and allowed the sail to drop a bit, stopping every fourth of the way down. “Quarter! Half! Three Quarters! Full!”


“I know how fractions work!” Skyler spat back, grabbing the string from Solaire’s hand.


“Wonderful. Do it. You two!” Solaire pointed to Austin and Tomo.


“Yes?” Austin asked.


“Duck.”


Another BOOM! Followed by a whizzz sounded overhead, flying over the crouched heads of the men on board.


Solaire shot back up. “Port! Full sails!”


Skyler let go and Willaby shoved the rudder left, causing the boat to turn so sharp it began looping into a circle. As it did, Tomo began to fall backwards, saved last second by the massive hand of Austin heaving him back up.


The splash of a cannonball sounded far forward as the metal ship began to pull ahead.


“Not so blasted hard!” Solaire yelled. “Three inches AT MOST!”


“G-g-got it,” Willaby answered, the cold sea water he was soaked in causing him to shake.


“Straighten us out.” Withdrawing his cutlass, Solaire stood on the front of the ship as it began to gain ground once again. “And… QUARTER NOW!”


Skyler moved the string only an inch, causing the dinghy to continue to speed forward, right towards the paddlewheel. Solaire swore and front kicked the spinning contraption, forcing the boat to scooch backwards “CUT! CUT!”


Skyler tugged it all the way up, causing the boat to stop and the target to pull away again, a distant splash sounding far behind.


“FRACTIONS!” Solaire screamed.


“I KNOW!” Skyler screamed back.


“THEN DO IT!” Solaire turned back. “Gods damn… alright, Full sails! Starboard!”


The dingy began to speed up again, now drifting slightly to the left.


“YOUR OTHER STARBOARD!” Solaire shouted.


“Whoops.” Willaby moved the handle again and the boat corrected to the right.


“Hold, hold…” Solaire turned to Austin. “You!”


Austin looked up from where he was huddled over, hands over his head. “Yes?”


“Stand up. When we get close, smack that cannon barrel down.”


“Smack?”


“Punch it so hard it points straight down!” Solaire rolled his eyes and re-readied the cutlass.


Austin nodded and stood, rolling his shoulders back.


The dingy sped on, close to the paddle wheels.


“Quarter!”


The dingy cut speed, following an inch away from the turning wheels and staying there.


The cannon began to point at the group.


Willaby fidgeted. “Er…”


“Hold straight!” Solaire insisted.


It did.


Solaire raised his sword. “Ready…”


Austin raised clasped his fists together and held them over his head.


The cannon began to hisssss….


“Now!”


Austin swung downwards right onto the cannon barrel. It issued a sharp CRACK and hung limply downwards a second before it exploded right into the back of the ship.


Once it had, the entire back half combusted in a red cloud of fire and metal. The force pushed out with a much higher wave than just the impact of the cannonball, BAMing once, twice, three times, each one followed with a new fire ball.


“Gods and demons!” Skyler exclaimed, pulling the string all the way up.


Solaire’s eye immediately darted back. He swung the cutlass and cut the string, unfurling the sail and making the boat speed back up.


Towards the burning wreckage.


Skyler looked at the sails, then to Solaire in horror. “What did…”


“Hit the deck!” Solaire shouted, diving for the floor.


Everyone followed his lead as the back half of the dingy collided with the metal object, issuing a loud crunching SCRUNCH as the smaller wooden vessel inserted itself into the larger, causing it to splinter and crack until the mast finally snapped off and the two were now stuck together as a horrible abomination against sailing itself.


Soliare stood up, looking around the copper corridors wreathed in flame.


Skyler scrambled to his feet. “WHAT THE HELL, SOLAIRE?”


“We needed a way in,” the noble explained, calmy stepping off the boat as if it wasn’t burning and/or sinking. “The turning wheel was powered, so I figured there was a fuel source of some kind, perfect for a controlled explosion.”


“YOU CALL THAT CONTROLLED?”


“Of course. If it wasn’t, we’d be dead.”


“He has a point,” Tomo said, stepping into the metal vessel.


“Don’t you dare!” Skyler warned him.


“I feel sick,” Willaby moaned, flopping off board and onto the metal ship.


Austin climbed up and over the sides, looking around the chaos around them. “Our return trip is busted. The boat we’re currently on is sinking. And on fire. We don’t have the armor, or know where it is, or know what’s inside here, and we have no way to fix any of these problems.”


“Then chop chop,” Solaire called back, running down the hallway in front of him. “Burning ships and all that.”

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