Rayna leaned back on her arms and pressed her palms against the cool plank boards of the armory floor. The turbulent journey was beginning to plague her with nausea she couldn’t shake. Freya bowed her head, and nudged her side. The dog had become spoiled as of late, and demanded attention when it was not immediately turned over to her.
"Captain!" A deep voice bellowed.
Rayna wiped at the stray beads of perspiration on her forehead. She pushed herself into an upright position, and climbed the hollow wooden stairs that led into her bed chamber. As quick as she could without thwarting the nausea, she made her way into the hall, where the newest member of the crew awaited her. "Hello Lou," She greeted warily. "What is it you need?"
The large man winced. "The navigator, believes you gave him the wrong coordinates. He doesn’t know where to land now, hence the circling. Uh, Captain, are you ill?"
Rayna shook her head. "Of course I'm not ill! What an asinine question. I've only stepped out a mere ten minutes, surely Arcebus hasn't gotten us lost since then. North, that was my only order before I left the quarterdeck!"
The sharpshooter arched an eyebrow. "You should come take a look at this."
Rayna sighed with agitation and pushed past him to see what all of the commotion was about. The moment she stepped out on deck, an icy wind ruffled her clothing. She pulled her deer hide cloak tightly about her form. Outside the visibility was reduced to zero, and the words "perpetual white out" didn't even begin to describe the conditions outside. A raging blizzard reared its ugly head, causing the ship to teeter from side to side, and the sails to thrash against their restraints. The outer decks became slick with a heavy snow.
Without warning, Arcebus turned the wheel sharply with one hand, and gravity pushed Rayna back against the exterior wall. Enclosed in his other hand was a small copper spyglass. He opened his palm and extended it. "What are you doing, shouldn't there be two hands on the wheel right now?" Rayna fretted.
"Aye," Arcebus agreed, and with a nod in her direction, he added, "Pinch hitter, you're in!"
"What!" Rayna shrieked as the navigator abandoned his post, leaving her no choice, but to grasp the idle wheel. "Lou!" She beckoned.
The sharpshooter arrived a moment later. "My name is Lee, Captain. I'll answer to no other name from this point forward!"
Rayna rolled her eyes. "Fine, just take the wheel!"
With that Rayna left to pursue Arcebus. She caught up to him in the galley and grabbed the collar of his jacket. "Mind telling me where the hell you're going? Now is not the time to be taking a break!"
Arcebus spun around. He carried a set of heavy winter boots, and a thick wool cloak. "Before we can land, I need to get a clear view of the ground. I can't make out the contours of it from up here, not in this weather. I'll climb down for a better view, from there I'll signal with a flare when its safe to land. Who is at the wheel?"
Before Rayna could respond, the ship was knocked sideways by another gust of wind, causing them both to slam into the wall of the galley. Rayna pushed off from the wall, once the ship had become level again. "Lee," She said, recalling his proper name.
"Didn’t you tell him to counter steer?"
Rayna shook her head. "I'll go down, you stay with the ship. You're the only one qualified to land us."
Without any protest Arcebus offered a curt nod. He silently handed her his flare gun. She took the gun and slipped it into her boot holster. A minute later, Arcebus lowered the Asterius as close to the ground as he dared. Rayna descended one of the ship’s many rope ladders into the snowy expanse. She squinted as she reached the ground. The snow drifts were deep, and grazed the top of her thighs. She bit her lip to keep her teeth from chattering.
Trudging through the snow proved to be more difficult than she imagined. Her heavy cloak and boots slowed down her efforts, awkward as they were. She kept her arms wrapped around her body for warmth, which threw her balance off, until she decided to sacrifice herself to the exposure of the biting wind by holding them outwards like propellers.
She couldn't imagine which sort of creatures inhabited this land. Nor could she fathom living here, or being trapped in these mountains. She glanced up at the circling Asterius, and panic set in. What if they left her here? What if the crew stole her airship, and pawned all of her possessions? After all this could have been a set up; an elaborate plan to get her away from the ship, and leave her helpless in a desolate area! And what an obliging fool she had been! With that thought in mind, she picked up her pace and nervously scanned the area for even land. She had to get back to the Asterius
With her head down, to protect her from the onslaught of snow, Rayna didn't notice the figure standing there, until she nearly collided with her. An ethereal looking woman stood before her. Her golden hair swayed in the wind, untouched by snow. In her arms she carried a lethal looking battle ax, worse than that was the vacant stare in her white eyes. A small smile tugged at the woman's mouth. "Come," she whispered.
Rayna backed away slowly. Surely this was just another trick of her imagination. First Lawson, and now this creepy woman, all beings her stress induced imagination had conjured up.
She shook her head, and reached for her flare gun. Without hesitating, she aimed it in the air, and squeezed the trigger. The woman gasped as the flare erupted into the air. She vanished in an instant.
Relived that she hadn't been fooled and abandoned, Rayna gave the Asterius a wide birth as it neared the ground. The massive airship occupied a stretch of flat land, that was just barely big enough for it. "Land ho!" Came a voice from the ship.
Rayna stared out at the jagged snow covered mountains. They were arranged in no particular pattern. Sharp, angular edges stuck up from the ground much like teeth of a carnivorous animal. Mountains swept up over the Asterius, like frozen tidal waves. They engulfed the Asterius on either side, as if preparing to swallow it whole. Rayna fell into an easy trance, hypnotized by the glistening scenery. She had removed her frozen cloak, in exchange for a wool blanket. Her gloved fingers gripped the rail of the quarterdeck. Mesmerized against the beautiful torment of the storm, she allowed her mind the rare liberation of a daydream.
The only time she had ever gotten close to Blue Tiger closely preceded the death of the her parents, of their whole crew. Things could have been different, as it was rumored, Blue Tiger was to be the last mission of the former Arsterius crew, but it was not meant to end in their deaths'. Her life could have been so much different had the battle of Blue Tiger ended in victory for the Asterius. She imagined her mother would have been happy with a simple life. She humored herself at the mental image of her mother in an apron, and the wondrous smell of homemade bread baking in the oven. Banter, and laughter would have routinely carried throughout their cozy home. Her father could have been a woodcarver, a happy one at that; poor in coin, but rich in his blessings.
The corners of Rayna's mouth tugged upwards in the threat of potential smile. It quickly diminished when she pulled her thoughts back to reality. For herself, Rayna could imagine no other outcome other than pursuing revenge. The idea of living a domestic life was just too foreign to her. And so to distract herself from the sinking feeling of regret, she focused only on fact. Fact number one her parents had died in this icy hell. Fact number two, this place was still a mystery, that she intended to figure out. Fact number four, Orkson and company didn’t draw the battle here accidentally, they definitely knew what they were doing, which gained them the upper hand. "Fact number five, I'm going to kill every last one of them."
"Are you talking to yerself min kjaere? Better keep it down, fore someone hears ya."
Rayna's eyes widened and her breath died in her lungs as she stared at the millions of sparkling snowflakes that seemed to be joined together to form the outline of a man. She turned her head away in disbelief, but heeded her uncle's warning, and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Fact number six, dead people can't talk. So, I'm not going to dignify that with an answer."
Lawson let out a disgruntled sigh. "Well then...Did ya read the damn journal already?"
Rayna bit her lip, as she glanced around the deck to make sure she was alone, and even so the most she could now was shake her head. Seeing and hearing the ghost of a deceased relative once, seemed somewhat permissible, she'd often heard accounts of similar stories occurring out of stress and grief, but having reoccurring conversations with the dead, was completely unhealthy, and the last thing she needed was to be thrown in a cell with padded walls. She pressed her gloved palms against her eyes. Go away, she silently willed. A moment later the wind died down. She lowered her hands and peaked through her fingers. Lawson was gone, but the breach in her sanity felt more permanent.