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Endeavour’s Fall #16: Battle of the Bay

Mar 5, 2017

 

 

 

As the giants advanced upon the war party, the god of the west wind, who was lying in wait for them, swooped down upon the giants, so that they were hurled over the edge of the gulf, far down into the dark abyss below, where they perished miserably.
-The Stone Giants, Haudenosaunee Legend

Running Bear watched the mammoth British airship approach the village from underneath a tall pine tree outside the village. The old village war chief stood stiffly beside him, as did a few of the pale-faced young rebels.

“You can see why our fathers thought the airships were sent from the gods,” said the war chief in her native tongue.

“Indeed,” replied Running Bear. There was no denying the massive airships’ ability to intimidate.

Running Bear inhaled deeply and almost smiled, remembering the cold water of this bay and autumn moons many years ago. The ancient palisade still stood tall around the village, but it had been worn gray by years of rain and snow. More gray than he remembered.

“Why did you bring them to our home?” asked the chief.

“I would use my own bleeding heart as bait to capture this prize,” said Running Bear.

“There is truth to that,” said the chief. “You have always chosen to play with the greatest stakes. The gods favor it.”

“What if they stay across the bay?” she asked, after a pause. “Can their new guns strike from that far?”

“No, Mother” Running Bear replied. “They like to circle close.”

In their jabbering tongue, the young rebel leader, Norris, stated the obvious. “They are taking on ballast. Look at that large boulder, Mr. Bear.” Indeed, a line from the airship was lowered and seemed to be grappling onto a massive granite boulder.

The rebels were tiresome, but they had given Running Bear good information. They had convinced the British they were pirates. They had even shared their spy. He had to admit that they were at least partially responsible for his successes thus far.

Of course the rebels’ real value could still lie ahead. If Running Bear’s plans failed, it would be easy to direct the wrath of the British at these rebels instead of at his People.

“Perhaps they will hoist it to drop onto us?” asked Norris. “This captain seems to be full of surprises.”

“It would be no surprise from Captain Lockhart,” Running Bear said grimly in his cold, precise English. “No, if they plan to drop stones on us, it will take some time to climb high enough.”

The village chief interrupted, “Running Bear, you did not tell us of this great stone. Are you still confident of your plan?” She considered him carefully.

Running Bear simply nodded.

“Some in this village may wonder if you would risk the blood of our people so easily if you stood here by my side as you should.”

Running Bear looked away. “Let us not spoil this day of battle with fireside chatter, Mother.”

“It is a great day already. It has been many years since this old woman’s son has remembered his home. He prefers the company of masterless dogs.” The chief gestured at the rebels.

“Hush now old man. Even wild dogs have their uses.”

The village was still quiet. “It is good, Mother. Our people are following the plan.”

“Of course they are,” snapped the old chief. “They will remain silent until the very end. I hope for your sake it is worth risking their lives.”

“Look at that!” Norris and Running Bear’s mother each cried out in their own language. The airship now spun its screws to hover nearly over the village. Behind it swung the boulder, kicking up a rooster-tail spray of water. Both looked to Running Bear. He raised both hands to calm them.

“Just wait. This could very well work to our advantage.”

The boulder swung and smashed into the pirate steamer sloop below the waterline. It quickly sank.

“I guess a ship is not always safe at harbor, after all,” said Norris.

The airship followed through by dragging the heavy boulder into the village palisade. The massive log beams absorbed most of the impact, but the boulder simply swung back and passed through the opening on the bay. An unfortunate longhouse found itself in its path and exploded into splinters.

The old chief ran towards the village with weapons drawn. Running Bear just nodded.

“It is really a shame to lose that sloop though. She was a fine boat,” said Norris.

“We will more than replace that toy. Look, they are moving into position.” Indeed, the airship, after scaring most of the villagers out in to the open, had turned broadside to the village now, roughly as expected.

Running Bear looked over to where his men had readied their weapons. He raised a steel tomahawk, and saw the gesture returned.

The idea of fishing for airships was a new one, and it was his. Running Bear had thought to try it while watching the Endeavour’s new weapons at work. It seemed Lockhart liked to fire his deadly new weapons from a lower height.

As the airship dropped even lower, the young pirate lunged forward eagerly. “We are going to tear that ship apart! Remember, I have an ally on that ship as well. You promised to spare her.”

“I have no desire to lose the airship or your ally.” That much was true. “However, there is little I can do to calm the villagers. I suspect they will deal harshly with anyone they find on that airship.”

Running Bear had counted on it to some degree. He did not need any surviving witnesses to the effectiveness of his plan.

He waved his tomahawk and two giant rockets burst into the air from among the pine trees. Each was short and barrel-shaped. Each tail was tied to fine rope. The rockets worked as designed, climbing rapidly in a brief explosion and then sputtering out, so no flames burned near the airship hull.

The ropes snared the Endeavour both fore and aft.

Running Bear signaled again, and another pair of rockets fired into the air.

Endeavour’s airscrews spun loudly, but to no avail. The ropes tightened pulling her closer to the ground. Yet another volley of rockets fired.

Running Bear raised a hand. There was no reason to risk an explosion with the prize this close.

Endeavour flailed helplessly and was dragged lower and lower. It would still be a bloody mess clearing her of crew.

“Perhaps you should send your men in now, Mr. Norris. See if you can find your spy.”

As the pirates ran towards the fallen airship, Running Bear called for his scouts. The first he sent to Onandanago to report the victory. The others he sent to assist the villagers in rounding up any stray survivors. He made it clear to his men that he’d prefer them all dead.

© J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.