Apologies for the delay. This update went up to Patreon updates at the end of last month and then April was insanely busy and I totally forgot to share it with everyone else. I am a big jerk.

The good news is the Chapter 20 should be up in about a week. Some big shit happens this update. Enjoy.

CHAPTER 19

Captain Drake and Minerva are above deck, leaning on the railing in a manner not unlike Charlie Brown and co. leaning on a wall. They’re discussing the hunt that is currently happening elsewhere.

Minerva asks, “So… how do you think it’s going?”

“We’ll find out one way or another if and when they return.”, Captain Drake shrugs in reply as she smokes a wooden pipe..

“But aren’t you worried? What if they get eaten by a giant monster? How are you gonna pay the crew and fuel the ship if we don’t get paid for this job?”

“I’ll find a way. I always have. And if they come back, then I’d have worried about that for nothing.”

“But they’re nice, and I like them, and how can you be so careless about if they live or die!?”, Minerva fumes.

“Look, kid. I learned a long time ago not to worry about anything that my worry won’t affect one way or another. Either they come back or they don’t, and me freaking out about it isn’t going to matter one lick. I’ve got a ship to take care of. Need to save my worries for things I can control.”

Minerva stares off in the distance. “Well I hope they make it back.”

“Me too, kid.”, Drake replies.

“It’s a good payout if they do.”, she adds after a moment.

Moments later, our heroes return victoriously! They’re hauling a massive black bird, a creature that looks like a cross between a 20 foot long crow and a dinosaur. Everyone is battered but jubilant. Toby is carrying the nervous guy on his shoulders. As they reach the airship, everyone begins regaling Drake and Minerva with their adventure.

“You wouldn’t believe it!”

“The jungle was so hot!”

“There were beetles! They tried to kill Ivor!”

“Toby smashed them!”

“There was a bird that sounds like a baby screaming!”

“That was the worst bird ever.”

“Worse than the giant one that almost killed you?”

“Point.”

“We found the Xelu bird’s cave! And it was pitch black even with lanterns!”

“It almost killed Oliver!”

“It almost killed Thorton!”

“It could have killed either of you.”

“It created night time! I couldn’t see it!”

“But Simon got it!” Toby yells as he holds Simon, formerly known as nervous guy, aloft and cheers.

“Shot it in the eye right as it was about to eat us!”

“It was a lucky shot.”, Simon says sheepishly.

“It was a good shot.”, says Goran, looking Simon squarely in the eyes.

Captain Drake yells, “Load that thing up and take to the skies! Next stop: New Miralles!”

The mood is festive, triumphant and ebulant. That changes very drastically, late that night.

It’s a quiet night over the open seas as the Defiant flies steadily onwards to the Free Islands. A handful of low clouds hang in the sky, and the full moon shines across the ocean. Most of the crew and adventurers are asleep, an unnamed helmsman pilots the ship and a skeleton crew keeps it flying. Deep within the ship, Toby snores loudly.

In the shadows, a mysterious figure climbs into a cabin shared by four crew members. The figure sneaks through the shadows to lean over Simon’s bunk. As he leans over the sleeping Simon, the moonlight reveals the shadowy figure to be Ivor, the dwarven crewmember who was previously watching our heroes suspiciously.

“I know your secret.”, he whispers to Simon, holding a gloved hand over his mouth. “I know what you’re trying to hide.”

A muffled gunshot awakes some of the crew, and sounds of burning and screaming wake the rest moments later.

Thorton and Ophelia are the first to arrive, when the cabin door smashes open, flying across the hallway and sending burning debris everywhere! A burning, screaming crew member runs out of the room, and Thorton shoots him square in the chest. One moment later, Simon erupts from the cabin. A nimbus of fire surrounds him as endless flames burn out of his eye sockets and mouth. He’s dead of a gunshot wound, but stands and moves with a horrible unnatural gait. He sees Ophelia and Thorton, stares at them with an undying fury, and the entire hallway erupts in flame.

Chapter19

TO BE CONTINUED