Endeavour’s Fall #9: DismembermentJan 15, 2017
TO allow a Witch to live I’ll ne’er conspire!
Unholy subjects suit my feeble lays:
O howl, foul Joan, I’ll tune the Lyre,
Who did, they say, Evils in her days!
She betrayed her King to invading Bands,
And soon the hope of France disappointed;
The Lily withered in her cursed hands,
‘Twas she that saw Orleans defeated.
In her, Circe poisons we may note,
Conceal’d beneath a cap and petticoat.
-La Sorcière, Frank Arouet
First Mate Boulanger scanned the horizon while fishing greasy leftover strips of fried potato out of his pocket. They only tasted worse with time, he decided. At least the Endeavour was finally underway in favorable winds. Boulanger watched the brown-orange glow of Albany’s lights float into the distance before heading below. The cold air made the plate in his skull ache.
Down in the loading bay their last recruit, a scrawny boy, was still bound where he’d been hauled aboard. His legs and feet were covered in mud. A few crew still manned the gear, and the young lookout Jack stood guard.
Boulanger held the boy near the open hatch. He pulled the burlap off his head and slashed the net in which he was bound. The blond-haired boy tumbled onto the deck and stared down into the dark empty sky.
“Well, boy, here you go! That down there is Albany where we scraped you out of the mud. If you do as you are told, I will have you beaten and fed. If you do not do as you are told, I will have you beaten and then throw you back into the mud. You might not like the landing from up here so much. Ha!”
The boy rolled over and clutched the thin boards below him, his face ashen.
“Afraid of heights are we? You will soon be over that. Get up boy, and don’t go soiling my deck.” Boulanger aimed a hard kick at the boy and connected, solidly, with something metal under his trouser leg.
“Ow! Mon Dieu! What is this?” Boulanger stooped and clutched Sam’s leg. “Jack, you imbecile, you have brought us only half of a boy and half a ton of new ballast!”
Rough laughs sounded from the crew scattered around the deck.
“What am I to do with this?”
Jack crossed the deck. “Sir, you saw him, you couldn’t tell, the way he’s all muddied up like that! He walked like he had both his legs, he did!”
The boy slid even further away from the open hatch.
“Where do you think you are going, boy? Come here!” Boulanger grabbed the boy and sliced the ankle of Sam’s muddy trouser leg up beyond the knee. He stopped only after exposing all of Sam’s metal leg and the leather straps that held it in place.
Boulanger’s eyes lit up at the sight of all of the bright brass workings. The leg was too small to fit an adult, but it might be worth something. He’d noticed a pawn shop in Albany.
“Jack, you imbecile, find a wooden peg for this boy. He cannot be carrying this metal around my airship.” With an expert slash through leather straps, the leg fell to the deck.
“That’s mine, you can’t just take it from me.” The boy said in a frightened voice.
“Peg-legged boy, I can take all of you, and I just have. You are lucky, you are now part of the greatest airship navy in the world. Your leg is too.
“The Captain will decide if it is worth the weight to keep this aboard. Most likely we will throw it over,” Boulanger said.
Boulanger aimed another kick at the boy, but he had scurried off on his hands and knees.
“Jack, see to him!” Boulanger stormed off.
In the bridge, Captain Lockhart stared at his charts, deep in thought. Boulanger saluted casually.
“Our third recruit is aboard, Captain,” he said. “Another of those infernal colonials. A young one.”
“With the few we got from that Fort, we are still short,” said the Captain. “What is that you are carrying?”
Boulanger tossed the boy’s leg in a twisted pile onto the deck.
“Our young volunteer was wearing this, Sir. We are fitting him with a wooden peg, of course. We can’t have all of that brass climbing around the gas chambers.”
“Quite right, plenty of good airmen with peg legs.”
“This one, a boy, he is brave, at least. Very little vomit on my deck.”
Lockhart idly picked at the intricate workings of Sam’s leg.
“Well this is an interesting bit of work here. Crude, but inventive alterations,” said Lockhart. “Just the type of thing the Star Chamber would be interested in.”
“We were fortunate to have avoided them,” said Boulanger. “They are not quick to forget an offense.”
“No, especially when they can dress it up in their religious nonsense. But what else was I to do? We needed guns, and those newfangled repeaters should do perfectly, regardless of what their patent permits.”
“Surely the guns will be cursed, now that we have taken them for an improper purpose. What with all the gasses aboard, such a curse would be dangerous,” said Boulanger.
“I doubt very much that there will be any trouble on that score,” said Lockhart.
“Your skepticism is a luxury I was never afforded,” said Boulanger.
“No doubt,” said Lockhart. “The Star Chamber has become much more active here in the colonies lately. Soon you will feel very much at home down there.”
“Mon Dieu, I hope not,” said Boulanger. “What shall I do with this leg, then? Shall I throw it overboard?”
“No, keep it safe. We may be able to trade it with the Star Chamber men if we cross paths again,” said Lockhart.
“Do you plan to cross their paths?”
“Of course not. But if we do, we will need every advantage we can find. On that same score, we need to find this village, soon. It won’t hurt to have that feather in our cap as well,” said Lockhart. He turned his attention to a large chart.
Boulanger joined him. He’d have to find another way to keep the brass for himself.
© J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.