paulmundane

General and somewhat random story things

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Khell 07

Sprogs and Cogs piloted the Copper Cicada up to one of the long wooden walkways that jutted from the side of Fobiah. It looked like an ordinary dock to Khell at first, only there was no water holding up the wooden docks. Instead they seemed to float out in the open air.

Several other ships were docked at Fobiah as well. There was a huge steamer that Khell thought looked like a Mississippi riverboat; complete with a giant paddlewheel. There was a large black square of a ship that leaked orange light from its seams in a way that made the whole ship look hot to touch. There were a pair of ships that looked like clockwork swans, and another that looked like a lopsided house built onto its own small island. Compared to most of the other ships docked at Fobiah, the Copper Cicada was quite small.

Sprogs waved over the deck of the Cicada to a group of green men with long strong arms, short stout legs, and sharply pointed noses. They waved back to Sprogs, before they used gaff sticks to pull the Copper Cicada closer to the deck, and tying the ship down.

Khell watched the whole of the docking with unhidden awe. The floating docks were amazing, and should have been impossible. The same was true of the ships around them.  Fenway fluttered up behind Khell, and placed a paw on her shoulder.

“You’ve never been on a Beetle class ship during closing, have you kid?”

“No,” Khell admitted. “I don’t even know what that is.”

“Yeah, I thought that might be the case,” Fenway said. He motioned for Urrah to join them. “She’s never been part of a ship closing,” Fenway told the large bear-man.

Urrah gently picked up Khell by the shoulders and moved her to the center of the deck. “Do not move,” he told her. “Is safe if you stand still.”

Cogs pulled some final levers at the bow of the ship, and made a sharp steam whistle noise. The wood under Khell’s feet rumbled as machinery below deck came to life. The rigging went taut, and was reeled in by wheels hidden beneath them. The sails groaned, and pulled in towards the deck.

Khell stood rigid as spars and sails folded around her. She watched as the crew of the Copper Cicada preformed an intricate dance between the moving parts. They pushed, pulled, and lashed down the sails as they folded into the ship; all with practiced ease. Finally, the copper plates from the side of the ship latched overhead, and clicked down over the Copper Cicada’s body like a carapace.

Cogs whistled again, this time a series of short toots. The grinding machines in the bowels of the Copper Cicada stopped. Cogs dropped open a door that doubled as a gangplank, and gave an almost sarcastic salute as he stepped aside.

Khell was the last to get off of the ship. She stepped gingerly onto the dock, uncomfortable with how it bobbed under everyone’s weight. Behind her, Cogs pulled the gangplank closed from inside the Copper Cicada.

“Cogs has to stay on the ship,” Sprogs told Khell sharply.

“Oh,” Khell replied. She hadn’t thought to ask about Cogs really. She wasn’t thinking about much more than getting off the dock and on to solid land.

“C’mon kid,” Fenway offered, leading the way. “We’ll show you around.”

Fobiah was a farming town, Fenway explained. He pointed to the fields of wheat that grew along the edge of the floating island, and told Khell of the orchards of fruit that dominated the other side of town.  The first thing that Khell noticed was the tower in the center of town. It looked somewhat like a windmill, with a giant fan spinning slowly in Fobiah’s breeze, but with huge copper pipes jutting at random intervals from the body of the tower, and vanishing into the ground. The windmill was the tallest building on Fobiah, towering high over the timber and plaster houses that made up the town.

Even from the docks, Khell could already see life on Fobiah.  A bear in overalls shoved a plow in the field, while another, wearing a sundress, watched some cubs running nearby. Three flying pugs chatted with a raccoon boy as he did maintenance on some farm equipment. A pair of giant lizard men stalked past the crew, wings wrapped like cloaks around their shoulders. They spoke in their own hissing language, and laughed as they purposely shoved past Urrah.

Khell watched the lizard men pass, and waited till they’d made a good distance before she spoke. “What are they?” Khell asked.

“Slaadas,” Urrah replied, rubbing his shoulder with annoyance. “Is not always most friendly people.”

Fenway nodded his agreement. “It’s not nice to judge a whole people but, yeah; the Slaadas are a piece of work.”

“Slaadas,” Khell repeated. “What about the green guys that helped at the dock?”

“Those were Gooblyns,” Fenway said. “Good workers; really know their way around a dockyard, but you’ve got to watch your wallet around them.”

“Now who is judging whole people?” Urrah chided.

Khell just nodded. Slaadas. Gooblyns. The world may not have had a name, but the people did. Khell looked at her companions. “So, what is everyone else?”

Everyone shared a look as though Khell had asked them to eat a kitten. For a moment, Khell thought they might not answer her, and she considered apologizing for what might have been a rude question.

“I’m a Pupkin,” Fenway said with an awkward smile, starting everyone off.

“We were called Borras,” Urrah added, pointing to himself. “But we changed it after we lost our home.” Urrah raised his chin proudly. “We are Crueshians now. We will never forget.”

Fenway and Urrah both looked at Sprogs. Sprogs just stared daggers back at them. “Sprogs is an Arcune,” Fenway explained, never taking his eyes off her. “They’re not known for their manners.”

Sprogs gave an annoyed chitter. “Why are you humoring her Fenway?” she snapped.

“I’m not humoring anyone,” Fenway replied. “Khell asked a question, and I answered it.”

“Khell asked a stupid question,” Sprogs corrected.  “She’s asked hundreds of them, and you’re acting like it doesn’t faze you.” Sprogs sucked her teeth at Fenway. When she spoke again, it was with a perfect mimicry of Khell’s voice. “Where are we? Who’s the King? Where’s the ground? What is everyone?”

Khell’s anger at Sprogs’ comments was overwhelmed by her amazement of hearing her own voice come out of Sprogs’ mouth. “How are you doing that?”

Sprogs pointed both hands irritably at Khell as though she’d just proven Sprogs’ point.

“I’m not from here,” Khell snapped. “Why can’t you get that?”

Sprogs snarled and advanced on Khell. Khell hadn’t noticed Sprogs sharp canines before, but she sure noticed them now. “I can’t get what you’re playing at, that’s what I can’t get,” she growled.  “Where could you possibly be from that you don’t know what the Cogwork-Kingdom is?”

Khell tried to step back, but Sprogs just kept up, and kept face to face with Khell. “I’m from Canada,” she started, already sure this wouldn’t mean anything to Sprogs. “My dad and I just moved to Quarry Town a few days ago; so I guess I’m from there.”

Sprogs shook her head. For a moment, her anger was replaced with shock. “You’re not from Quarityn,” she accused uncertainly.

“Quarry Town,” Khell corrected, “and, yes I am.”

The fury returned to Sprogs’ features. “No you’re not!”

Fenway flew between the girls, and made Sprogs to take a step back. “Yes, she is,” he stated calmly.

Sprogs stared a mix of shock and surprise at Fenway. “So that’s what this is about?” She threw her hands in the air. “You think she’s actually…”

“You didn’t see what I saw,” Fenway interrupted with a growl. “You don’t even see what’s right in front of you.”  He pulled down Khell’s hood. “What is she Sprogs? You have all the answers.”

Sprogs stared hard at Khell. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “She looks a bit like an Alfyn I guess.  Ears are too short, and way too round but…”

“She’s not an Alfyn,” Fenway interrupted. He tugged Khell’s hood, causing her to stumble a step closer to Sprogs. “Look harder,” he ordered.

Khell tugged the hood from Fenway’s paws. “I don’t know what an Alfyn is,” she said. “I’m human, ok?”

It felt weird to say out loud. Khell couldn’t have imagined before being a place where she’d have to tell people she was human. Her declaration was met with a moment of silence; broken suddenly by Sprogs sharp bark of a laugh.

“You’re a Yuman?” Sprogs declared with disbelief. She looked incredulously at Fenway. “Is that what you believe?” Sprogs looked back at Khell. “You. A Yuman from Quarityn.” Sprogs stood on one paw, and shoved the other at Khell’s face. “Go on,” she said, still laughing. “Pull the other one; I’ve got two.”

“I am human,” Khell replied hotly. “Why would I lie about something like that?”

“Because there’s no such thing as Yumans!”  Sprogs snapped.  Her shout caught the attention of some passing Pupkins, but Sprogs shot them a look that caused them to quicken their pace. “There’s no such thing as Yumans,” she repeated with forced calm.

“And yet, here she is,” Fenway added. He lit a cigar and inhaled deeply. “The question is; what do we do now?”

“We get rid of her,” Sprogs answered quickly. She looked at her companions, surprised that it wasn’t as obvious to them as it was to her.

“Is not answer,” Urrah said. He shrugged his huge shoulders. “Maybe is Yuman, maybe is not. But we do not sell people, not to client, not to anyone.” He looked down at Sprogs. “And we do not turn back on people that need help.” Sprogs crossed her arms angrily, but muttered an agreement under her breath.

“I don’t get understand,” Khell admitted. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

Fenway turned a smile to Khell, ready to answer. Sprogs cut him off with an angry chitter. “Fenway thinks you’re the Yuman from Quarityn that’s supposed to bring a vaguely explained big change to the world. Because of the prophecy.” Sprogs snickered like she was sharing some inside joke. No one else laughed. “He’s hoping that you will somehow stop the Cogwork-Kingdom.”

Khell looked from Sprogs to Fenway. She shook her head in disbelief. “Me?”

“You,” Sprogs agreed with a roll of her eyes. “Our great Yuman savior.”

“Me?” Khell repeated. She had about as much belief in this as Sprogs had.

Fenway shot Sprogs a dirty look. “What we do or don’t believe doesn’t change our afternoon does it?” He pointed to a small café. “We’re meeting our client there, and he’s going to be expecting us to have the merchandise.”

“You,” Urrah verified for Khell. “Is good sign that he believes the prophecy, no?”

“Or a good sign that you guys were wrong,” Sprogs offered, “and she’s not what you were supposed to retrieve.”

“Guess we’ll find out,” Fenway finished. He flew towards the café, expecting everyone to follow.

Khell stood still, and shook her head when Fenway looked back at her. “Who is he?” she demanded. “Who is the client?”

Sprogs made an amused noise. “Oh, go ahead and tell her Fenway,” Sprogs insisted. “It’ll be great.”

Fenway huffed. “Alright,” he relented, motioning for everyone to keep their voices down. “We were hired by Principal Valen to find something off in The Library; all very hush hush.”

Sprogs smiled and motioned to Khell. “Well, go on,” she urged.

Khell bit her lip. She knew what Sprogs wanted to hear, but she had to ask anyways. “Who’s Principal Valen?”

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Khell 06

Khell did not get the answers she wanted. Not right away at least. It wasn’t that the crew of the Copper Cicada didn’t try to answer her questions, but instead it seemed that the answers weren’t there in a way that Khell would like.

When she’d asked where they were, Fenway told her quite straightforward that they were on the deck of the Copper Cicada. He even mentioned that they’d just left The Library; in case Khell had somehow forgotten. When Khell pressed further, he told her that they were on their way to a small village called Fobiah, on a floating rock with the same name.

At first Khell was frustrated with Fenway’s vague answers to her question, thinking that he was purposely being aloof. She wanted to know where they were in general; and no one had a name for that. Each floating island had its own name, and the earth below them was simply called the ground. There was no name for the whole of the area, or for a country. No one knew what a continent was, much less what it would be called.

“Everything is owned by The King,” Fenway offered finally. “I suppose if it makes you feel better, you could say you’re in the Cogwork-Kingdom.”

Khell nodded. The Cogwork-Kingdom did feel more solid. Still, she couldn’t help notice that the whole crew of the Copper Cicada soured at the name. “What’s the Cogwork-Kingdom?” she asked. “Who’s The King?”

There was a solid moment of silence as the crew stared at Khell. “How can you not know who The King is,” Sprogs finally asked with a snort of disbelief. “Everyone knows who The King is.”

“I don’t,” Khell retorted. “I don’t know who The King is, and I don’t know what the Cogwork-Kingdom is!”

“Ok kid, settle down.” Fenway flew between Sprogs and Khell. He looked about as though someone might have overheard Khell, and spoke with a lowered voice. “The King is… Well he’s The King. I’ve never met him; doubt I know anyone who has.”

“The Cogwork-Kingdom though; it’s everywhere.” Fenway pointed up towards the clouds. “There’s a huge island up above the clouds. That’s where the Kingdom is technically; but really, they control everything. Absolutely everything” Fenway cursed under his breath.

“And you don’t like that,” Khell summed up. “Does anyone?”

“Well, I’m sure the Kingdom likes it fine,” Sprogs commented offhand. “Anyone else would be a short list. Real short like.”

“But then, why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?”

Khell’s question was met with looks of mixed horror. Fenway looked about again as though someone could have heard Khell. Sprogs actually took a few steps back to distance herself from Khell; and action mimicked by the silver Cogstable that stood with her. Urrah only shook his head, and sighed low.

“Cruesha,” Urrah said, as though the word was answer enough. “Cruesha was beautiful city. One of biggest cities ever.  It was my home.” Urrah looked off to the sky as he spoke. “When The King told us we must pay tax, we said no. When he sent his Cogstables, we threw them over the edge. And when he sent his clockwork army, we fought them.”

“Was glorious battle,” Urrah continued. “For days, they tried to take the city, and for days, we pushed them back. As word spread of our fight, of how we were stopping clockwork army, others joined. This will be where we make stand, they said. This is where we stop the Cogwork-Kingdom. A huge army; all the races, all opposed to the Kingdom. ” Urrah slammed his great fists down on the edge railing of the Copper Cicada. His shoulders slumped at the memories.

“What happened?” Khell finally asked.

Urrah looked at Khell, and smiled sadly. “Tragedy,” he told her. “We thought we had won. The Kingdom had drawn back; left Cruesha. We should have known better than to celebrate victory so soon.” He looked back to the sky. “Was over there; Cruesha,” he explained, pointing to a large gap between the floating islands.

Khell stared at the open sky. “The Cogwork-Kingdom destroyed an entire city?”

Sprogs chittered annoyance. “They didn’t just destroy the city,” she corrected. “They grounded it.” Sprogs waved over the side of the Copper Cicada. “One minute it was floating, the next minute it wasn’t.” She shook her head. “No one understands how it happened. The islands have floated where they are forever. If the Cogwork-Kingdom can make that stop, then there’s no telling what they can do.” Sprogs shot Khell a look. “That’s why no one does anything anymore,” she finished.

Khell looked down through a gap between ship and sails. “I don’t see it,” she admitted. Far below them was only green, that Khell had assumed was a field.

Sprogs followed Khell’s gaze over the side. “How would you see it?” she asked sardonically. “You can see through The Fog now?”

“That’s fog?” Khell questioned. Knowing what she was looking at, Khell could now make out the shifts and swirls in the green canopy below. It was like looking at a smooth green cloud. Being aware that it wasn’t solid land beneath them made Khell feel dizzy. “How far below that is the ground?”

“Real far,” Sprogs replied. She narrowed her eyes at Khell. “How can you not know that? How can you not know about the Cogwork-Kingdom?”

“This is a dangerous conversation,” Fenway interrupted. “It’s never a good idea to talk long about anything involving The Kingdom. You never know if, or how, they could be listening.” Fenway looked about again. “They have bugs everywhere,” he explained.

Khell at first thought Fenway meant bugging devices, like a spy would use on TV, but he motioned with his paws in a way that made Khell think of actual insects. She wondered how a bug could listen to conversation.

“Sometimes; it is bugs,” Urrah added to the conversation. “Sometimes, is Cogstables.”

“They’re everywhere too,” Fenway agreed. “The Kingdom parks Cogstables in all the cities and towns. It’s supposedly to keep the peace,” he explained for Khell. “But it’s really to keep folks in line. Those damn robots don’t do anything more than scare people.”

The silver Cogstable with the red stripes looked indignantly at Fenway.  It gave a sharp whistle noise, like steam from a kettle, and huffed off towards the bow of the ship.

“Oh, c’mon Cogs,” Sprogs called after it, “Fenway didn’t mean you.” Sprogs shot Fenway a dirty look. “You know how sensitive he is,” she snipped before following after the Cogstable.

Fenway chuckled as he watched Sprogs and Cogs storm off. “Well, that’s as good a conversation break as any,” he admitted. “We’ll be docking at Fobiah soon, and we need to find you something less conspicuous to wear before then.”

Finding clothes for Khell was easier said than done. Nothing of Fenway’s or Urrah’s was going to fit her, as Fenway was too small, and Urrah was much too big. Sprogs was the only person on the ship close to Khell’s size, and she didn’t like to share. This was likely fine, Khell decided, since Sprogs didn’t wear pants anyways. In the end, Urrah was able to turn a wool blanket into a passable cloak that hung long enough to hide Khell’s clothing.

Khell gave the cloak a twirl. It was a thick forest green, and Urrah had given it a deep yellow trim of intricately corded knot-work. The hood was so deep that Khell thought she could get lost in it. Khell wasn’t sure what was more amazing; that Urrah could make such a beautiful garment with giant bear paws, or that he’d done it in under twenty minutes.

“Is not best work,” Urrah commented, pulling a few final knots along the bottom hem, “but it will do,”

“It’s perfect,” Khell argued. “I love it!”

“Great,” Fenway commented. “Glad it’s to taste kid.” He tugged Khell’s hood over her eyes as he flew past. “Now, stay under it, and stay close, ok? We’re here.”

Khell 05

Fenway’s small bombs didn’t explode as Khell expected. Instead, they burst upwards as pillars of white fire between the Cogstables. Only a few of the Cogstables were caught in the waves of heat; they toppled backwards and clattered to the floor. The others backed away from the explosions, and from their falling comrades. Fenway grabbed Khell’s hand during the confusion, and pulled her back towards the center of The Library.

“This is where we came from,” Khell protested. She heard the yell from the distance again, this time in the form of a dull roar, followed by a grinding of metal. “Are we going to your friend?”

“Nah. He’s coming to us,” Fenway replied, still pulling at Khell’s hand. “But we couldn’t stay where we were.” Fenway looked over his shoulder; the Cogstables had recovered from his attack, and were close behind. “Never let ‘em pin you down,” he explained. “Never get cornered.”

It seemed like good advice, Khell thought, though she hoped to never need it after today. She couldn’t imagine a time when she’d need to worry about dozens, if not hundreds of people trying to surround her. Khell wondered what type of world this was that made Fenway need rules about multiple attackers. The same sort of world where you take advice from flying talking dogs with bombs in their pockets, Khell decided.

Khell was shaken from her thoughts as a Cogstable closed its metal fist on her shoulder. She gave a shriek, and waved back at the robot in an attempt to brush it off. The rings on her fingers glowed white, and her bracelet spun around her wrist. There was a loud bass drum thud, and a wave of blue energy fired from her outstretched hand. It knocked back not only the Cogstable that had grabbed Khell, but all the ones behind it in a domino mess. The concussion also threw Khell forward. She tumbled to the Library floor, taking Fenway with her.

Fenway stared wide eyed surprise at Khell, though he reined it in quickly. “That was something,” he commented in strained indifference.

“Yeah.” Khell stared at her hands in shock. “I don’t know what that was,” she replied.

Fenway fluttered back into the air, and brushed himself off quickly. The closest Cogstables had been battered beyond repair by whatever Khell had done, but the others were getting shakily back to their feet. The Cogstables didn’t advance on Khell and Fenway. The gauges in their eyes wavered uncertainly as they looked at Khell, and they seemed wary that she’d bash them again.

“They won’t hold back for long,” Fenway muttered. “Whatever it is you just did Kid, you may want to do it again.”

Khell didn’t know what she’d done. The light was fading from her rings, and she had no idea how to make them flash again. Still, surrounded by grabbing robots didn’t seem the time for doubt.  Khell thrust her hand purposely towards the Cogstables and gave a determined yell.

Nothing happened. Khell tried again; this time flaring her fingers out wide. Still nothing happened. The gauges in the Cogstables eyes pointed suddenly outward like angry eyebrows as the robots stormed forward. Fenway and Khell turned to run deeper into the library, but there were Cogstables there too; blocking their escape.

Khell jutted her hands out at the advancing Cogstables, and let out a cry somewhere between terror and frustration. Still there was no flash. Fenway tossed a few more of his bombs into the crowd, this time making alternating pillars of fire and ice, but still more Cogstables piled towards him and Khell. There seemed to be endless numbers of the robots.

“This doesn’t look good,” Fenway admitted while shoving a small bomb through the chest grate of a Cogstable nearby. Another grabbed him by the coat tails even as its comrade exploded.

Khell didn’t reply. A Cogstable had grabbed her by the arm, and she was trying to kick it away. She agreed though. This looked pretty bad. She didn’t know what the Cogstables would do to her or Fenway, and she couldn’t find her voice to ask.

Even over the clicking and grinding of the nearby Cogstables, Khell could hear the sound of tearing metal nearby, and the inhuman roar. The Cogstable that had her arm let go suddenly; as did the one that had Fenway by the coat. All of the Cogstables looked up with wavering gauges towards the noise.

Fenway flew close to Khell. “Look, kid,” he said. “You’re going to need to put your hands at your side, and go limp when I say, alright?”

Khell nodded, but only before she thought on it a moment. “Why?”

Fenway didn’t answer. He flew above Khell and the Cogstables, and pointed down. “She’s coming with us,” he yelled.

The grinding metal noise grew louder, and Khell could see Cogstables being tossed through the air. The robots in front of her parted in attempt to clear a path for whatever was rag dolling them. Khell understood why they wanted to be out of the way.

The thing charging through them looked something between a man and a grizzly bear. He was covered with thick brown fur, and wore a hardened leather breast plate. Long rope like braids hung over his shoulders like a mane, and Fenway hung tight to one of the braids.

Fenway waved at Khell, even as the big guy batted a few Cogstables aside. “Now!’ Fenway yelled. “Now!”

Khell stood stunned in the path of the oncoming monster. She watched as it tilted a shoulder towards her without losing speed. It reminded Khell of a football player going in for a tackle. The reason for this of course is that was exactly what was happening. Khell, in her bewilderment, almost forgot that Fenway had warned her to go limp. It took everything for Khell to will her arms to stay at her sides as the beast slammed his shoulder into her.

Even with precautions, the wind was knocked clean out of Khell. She gasped for a breath as she was shoved up to the giant beast’s shoulder. Despite his size, and the fact that he was still fighting Cogstables away from the trio, the big guy had a very gentle touch.

“My name is Urrah,” The bear-man introduced with a thick accent. “Is nice to meet you.”

“I’m Khell,” Khell gasped. “Thank you for saving us.”

“Don’t thank him till we’re actually safe,” Fenway stated. He tugged Urrah’s braids like reins, and pointed at ahead. “Quick exit,” he suggested.

With the way she was held, Khell could only see over Urrah’s shoulder to the mess of Cogstables he’d left in their wake. Bigger, meaner Cogstables were joining them now; and these ones were carrying large ornate looking rifles. She was quick to mention this to the others.

Fenway nodded. “We’re almost out,” he assured Khell. He smiled as he added: “Hey, you’re not afraid of heights are you kid?”

“Heights?” Khell questioned cautiously.

Urrah shifted Khell further up his shoulder, and held her tight. “Do not listen to Fenway; he is trying to scare you.”  Urrah grunted as he shoved a few more Cogstables aside. “We are professionals,” he continued. “We do this sort of thing all the time.”

Khell wanted to know what sort of thing they were doing, but she didn’t want to distract anyone with conversation at this point. Already, the big Cogstables were readying their weapons. She could feel Urrah twist his body, as he put his un-Khell-burdened shoulder forward. There was a loud crash as Urrah smashed through the window, and leapt into the sky outside.

Khell watched as The Library flew away from them, or more correctly, they fell away from The Library. Like she’d thought earlier, it was on a floating island of rock like the ones Khell had seen through the window earlier. Chains thick as houses hung off its side to the ground somewhere far below. With the way Urrah was holding her, Khell could only see up. She wasn’t upset not seeing the ground rushing up to greet them.

Fenway held one of Urrah’s braids in one hand, and his cigar in the other. He smoked casually; as if they weren’t falling out of a flying building. “You doing ok, kid?”

“Don’t worry,” Urrah yelled over the wind. “This thing; we do this quite often.”

“This is the second time!” Fenway corrected.

“Don’t worry,” Urrah repeated to Khell. “We’ll get it right this time, you’ll see.”

“How will this be right?” Khell yelled. “We’re falling!”

“Yeah, but not as far as you think,” Fenway replied. He rolled a paw, suggesting that Urrah spin to show Khell.

Khell didn’t want to look, but she forced her eyes to stay open. Beneath them was the kilometers of open sky that she’d expected, dotted with a few low floating islands. Her view was partially blocked by a small flying boat.

The ship’s deck looked somewhat like that of a sailboat, only with sails coming out from the sides instead of from the deck. The bow was covered by a large copper plate with rounded windows. Two rounded copper shields jutted from the sides of the deck as well, covering half of the sails. In all, the ship resembled a beetle in flight.

“That’s the Copper Cicada,” Fenway introduced. “If we’re lucky, we can land right on the deck.” He gave Urrah a knowing look. “But we can’t land like this,” he added.

“No,” Urrah agreed. “We need slight change for landing,” he told Khell.

“A slight change?” She repeated. “A slight change of what?”

“Position,” Urrah replied. He gently shoved Khell away from his shoulder, letting her to freefall alone.

Khell flapped her arms madly, uncertain of what to do. She screamed at the sky around her, but that did little to help. Fenway tried to yell something to her, but Khell couldn’t hear him over the rush of the wind. She watched as he let go of Urrah’s hair, and with the help of his wings, easily glided over to Khell.

Fenway gripped the back of Khell’s shirt, and flapped his wings frantically. He didn’t stop her freefall, but he did slow Khell enough for Urrah to reach her, and scoop her to his chest like a baby. Khell gripped madly to Urrah’s chest plate. She wanted to be mad at him, but couldn’t find the energy yet.

“Ok. Next bit is little tricky,” Urrah declared, as though the last bit had been easy. “Don’t worry though,” he added for Khell’s benefit.

Khell could feel the sudden jolt as Urrah touched down feet first on the deck of the Copper Cicada. He folded himself around Khell, and rolled along the deck. It was a rough landing, and though he kept her safe, Urrah lost his grip on Khell in his second roll.

She tumbled along the deck, coming to a stop at the feet of a silver Cogstable with red piping. It looked slimmer than the ones at The Library, and pretty beaten up.  Khell backed away from it quickly, and bumped into a girl that had been sitting in the captain’s chair till recently.

The girl didn’t look to be any older than Khell. She wore a vest made entirely out of tool filled pockets, but nothing much else. Though she looked the most human Khell had seen all day, the girl was different. Her ears were long, and ended in black tufts of fur. She had thick black paint around her eyes, and black leathery lips. From navel down the girl was covered in course grey and brown fur. Her legs bent weird behind her knees; like an animals hind quarters, and ended in black over sized paws. The girl had a bushy black striped tail that swayed lazily as she stood staring at Khell.

“Range is with us,” The raccoon girl stated with a thumb jerk towards the silver Cogstable. She gave Khell a scrutinizing look. “Who are YOU with?”

“Sprogs: this is Khell,” Fenway introduced. “We found her in The Library. She seemed very out of place.” Fenway put a very heavy emphasis on ‘out of place’.

“Wait,” Sprogs contemplated. “Are you saying she’s what we were paid to find?”

Fenway rubbed his temple in aggravation. “Yes Sprogs; that is exactly what I was saying. Only I was trying to say it a bit less conspicuously.”

Urrah looked at Fenway in shock. This was news to him as well. “Is supposed to be item. Like book or something,” he complained. “Is not supposed to be little girl.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Fenway snapped. He paced, or at least he flew in a tight circle. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Fenway looked at the crew of the Copper Cicada. “What am I supposed to do here? You know what’ll happen if we don’t deliver!”

“I don’t understand,” Khell interrupted.

Sprogs smiled wide. “Fenway’s thinking about selling you,” she stated matter of fact.

“No I’m not,” Fenway barked at Sprogs. He turned an uncomfortable smile to Khell. “I’m not,” he repeated.

“Then what’s going on?” Khell demanded. “Who are you people? Where am I?”

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