Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Maker's Wars ~ Chapter Three and Chapter Four

Yes! I'm giving y'all a two-fer for March.  Chapters three and four were ready(-ish) so I went ahead and posted both. Of course, now I need to work on polishing following chapters.... I think I need to get 'hold of Professor Aether, he has something I think his 'Alternate Universe' self will have need of in the fifth one and I need specifics.... (heeee)

the Seeing)

Both Aether and Theller winced at the high pitched squeal that nearly shattered their ears from half way across the small Commons in the middle of the Sight Maker’s College. A moment later, brown cotton skirts flying high enough to allow a peek of the white lace petticoats and semi-sensible brown leather half boots, their blond haired youngest sister threw herself first at Theller and then at Aether all while bouncing in an excess of excitement.
“You’rehereyou’rehereyou’rehereIwasrightyou’rehere!” She gabbled almost too fast to understand.

“Fourth Level?” Aether raised a humorous eyebrow at Theller. “Are you sure about that?”
Putting on his best Disapproving Master look, Theller shook his head. “Not at the moment, no.”

Pulling back and screwing up her pert little nose, Merither stuck her tongue out at them. “Phooey!” She snorted. “I was right and now I’ve passed my mid-levels.” She informed them with all the haughtiness of a sixteen year old little sister as she straightened her under-bust Turkish vest and fluffed the lace at the throat of her short sleeved burgundy pinstriped cream blouse.
Theller finally released a fond smile, proud of his youngest sister. “Got it right, eh?” He gave her a hug. Merither was normally very aware of her family heritage when in public but she was, as the youngest, spoiled by all her siblings.

“Did you also get the whys and wherefores of it?” Theller added.
With a sigh, her face fell and her shoulders slumped slightly. “No. I Saw…” she paused and shuddered and the two men glanced at each other.

“What did you See, Merither?” Theller asked gently.
She seemed to focus inward, her hazel eyes darkening to a moss green and a haunted look entered them before she shook her head. “Doesn’t matter.” Her gaze cleared and she forced a smile. “I got most of my Sight Making right, so I Passed.” Then her smile turned mischievous. “I also get bonus points for Seeing you’d ask about my Sight. And the timing.”

Chuckling, Aether tugged one of her glossy, sun-colored ringlets. “Fine, fine. We’re proud to know you’ve passed your mid-levels.” He then gestured toward a bench under a pair of coastal Sequoia’s and they moved that way.
The siblings seated themselves, Merither in between her brothers, and she and Theller turned to Aether who worked to keep from grinning at the expectation on their faces.

“Meri, our brother Selinger has asked me to find a certain Brass Maker. Theller tells me she changed Colleges and came here to complete her education. I need to know about her, but I also need to go find her. Can you tell me if I have the time to stop with the Sight Grand Master or do I need to move on?”
Meri looked at Aether a long moment, then her eyes focused somewhere in the middle distance and began to change color from hazel to a light sea green to milky white as she Called a Seeing. The two men sat relaxed and quiet so as not to interrupt her concentration.

“There comes from within an enemy that will strike at the very heart of our world.” She began, her normally sweet voice vibrating in an odd way so as to sound like her words echoed at the same moment they were spoken.
“The heart will be torn asunder and our world be destroyed except you find the one, a Brass Maker, who opens portals and binds the Others to do the will of those she binds them to.

“They See not as we, but their fearsome Sight must be learned if our World is to survive. Find the one you need in the Deep Murk Forest so she can bring Sight beyond our Sight.”
As her words ended, Meri’s brothers waited with quiet intensity to see what else might occur or what she might need. After a moment, Meri’s eyes cleared back to her normal hazel and she blinked furiously for several heartbeats before she drew in a deep, steadying breath as she cleared the last of the Calling from her mind.

“I think, brother,” she turned her worried eyes to Aether. “You’d better seek her out now. I got the sense of time being shorter than you believe.”
“What else, Meri?” Aether prodded. “You said the enemy comes from within. Are our people betrayed by one of our own?”

“I…” she hesitated, her brow wrinkled in worry. “I’m only a Fourth Level Sight Maker, ‘Ther. I can’t be sure I’m Seeing what I think I am. I can get echoes of the Past mixed in with the Present and Future.”
“Meri, you’ve always had an extraordinary gift at… knowing. You learned from Meirnath before you ever came to the Sight Maker’s College. Even she says you have an impressive Gift. I’ll trust what you think you’ve Seen before I’ll listen to a full-Sighted Tenth Level Maker.” Aether declared, gently rubbing her hand as he spoke.

Meri smiled faintly. “Don’t ever let the Grand Sight Master hear you. We’ll never get another Sight Maker for the Royal Family and Selinger or Daddy will kill you.”
Aether only grinned roguishly as he waited for his little sister to decide what to do. With a sigh, she shrugged. “Someone – and I don’t know who – someone from a trusted position appears to betray our family, our people, and our World. I can’t See who or from where, I’ve tried…”

“You’ve Seen this before!?” Theller cut in sharply. “How often?”
Meri gave the two men a guilty look. “Several times over the past few weeks.” She admitted in a near whisper.

“Meri!” Theller gripped her arm but Aether gave a sharp shake of his head to stop him.
“Have you told anyone else, Meri?” Aether asked gently.

Tears filled her eyes and spilled over, lips trembling as she shook her head.

“I w-wasn’t sure w-what I was Seeing. I felt it imperative to keep it to myself until you came.”

Aether nodded and handed her his handkerchief. “Dry your eyes, love. It’s okay. Even Meirnath can’t pinpoint the person or time of betrayal.”
“It’s someone close to us, ‘Ther.” Meri whispered.

“Yes, Meirnath said it’s someone trusted.” He nodded.

“You don’t understand.” She spoke more urgently. “It’s someone close to us!” she gestured from herself to her brothers. “To our family. It’s someone we know and… love.” She ended in a whisper.

Aether felt the blood drain from his face and he glanced at Theller to see he looked as ashen as he felt. Someone they knew would be the source of betrayal? May the Maker of All protect them.
“We need to let Selinger know.” Aether told Theller. “Can you get the message to him? I have a feeling I better go home, get my things, and get a move on.”

“Will you be taking an airship?” Theller frowned at Aether in concern.

“Only as far as The Chimney Rock Plateau. I doubt there’s a landing space close to where the Brass Maker lives in the Deep Murk. Let’s get a move on, brother. We don’t have time to stop longer.

He took a steadying breath.

“Time is ending and betrayal is near. We must hurry to save what we can.”

(King’s Buccaneer)

Aether shoved open the door leading onto the airship’s Observing Balcony. A stiff wind blew past but the clear glass wind shield welded into place protected those observing. As the weight of the door slammed it shut behind him the man peering through the Far Sighter that was fastened to the railing straightened and turned with a scowl on his face. When he saw Aether his features relaxed and one corner of his mouth even quirked slightly.

“Your Highness.” He bowed his head at Aether.

With a snort, Aether gave him a mock glare. “Since when, Bertold.”

“The smile hinted at earlier broke free. “Since His Majesty sent word to aid you in any way in my power.”

“Well, knock it off!” Aether growled, kidding gone. “And fill me in on what’s going on that has you so absorbed out here.”

Bertold turned back to the Far Sighter but only pointed in the direction he’d been looking. “There’s a squall brewing Nor‘east of us. Just keeping an eye on it in case it heads toward us.”

Aether glanced up at the great, gas-filled sail cloth above them. It was what held the ship in the air as the steam-powered engines in the bowels of the flight cabin propelled it. There was no untoward strain in evidence so he relaxed. When he lowered his gaze to the Captain that man had his eye back to the Far Sighter. One hand held it to adjust direction if necessary, the other hand rested on the rail and the fingers of it drummed an agitated tattoo.

"What are you really watching, Bertold?” Aether asked, leaning casually against the cabin wall.

He saw Bertold’s shoulders tighten and his hand still before he relaxed and glanced back at Aether again,

“Never could steam around you, sir.” He half grinned.

“Then stop trying and answer.” Aether kept his face neutral with effort. He knew what could go wrong with an airship and rarely flew in them if he could avoid it. The nerves made his skull itch on the inside.

After examining Aether for a long moment, Bertold shrugged his surrender.

“Air pirates. They love storms because they’ve gotten crazy enough to hide in the clouds.”

Aether’s shoulders jerked. “IN the clouds?! The explosion if a bolt hits the gas sail!”

Bertold grimaced. “Rumor has it they’ve found a way to turn the lighting aside, somehow.”

“That’s not…” Aether began, shaking his head, but got a calculating look in his eyes as he once again examined the gas sail.

At the same moment he cut off, Bertold cut in to finish. “Possible. I know. But that’s the rumor. And I know one of the captains whose ship was attacked well enough to believe his accounting of the event.”

“Tell me about it.” Aether said, still studying the sail bag and all its supports.

“They appear from the midst of a storm cloud. They just sail right at you like the clouds part and close behind them.”

Aether jerked his gaze to Bertold. “Like the clouds part and close behind them.” He repeated thoughtfully. After a moment, his eyes drifted back upwards.

“You’re working an idea.” Bertold accused humorously.

“I am.” Aether agreed absently, then shook himself. “There’s no way to turn aside lighting. It’s too random in its pattern to know where it will hit and the gases used to fly our ships too volatile to allow a super-heated charge even close to the sail bag. Ergo, there’s another answer.”

“Do you know it?” Bertold sounded hopeful.

“I’m… not sure. I have an idea, but…” He trailed off, his mind working rapidly.

“Any ideas would be helpful, Aether.” Bertold said dryly.

“Well, it’s always possible a Weather Maker has been discovered but I doubt it.” Aether returned with equal dryness. “You need to let me work it a bit, Bertold. Get someone up here to relieve you on the Far Sighter for a while, rest your eyes. Tell them to watch for a sparkle, like light reflecting off something. If they see anything, even the smallest suspicion, let me know immediately. I don’t care if they doubt what they saw, I still want to know. Got it?”

Bertold nodded slowly. “What are you thinking?”



A half an hour later a steward rapped smartly on Aether’s cabin door. The only thing he heard was some muttering sounds. Having been warned by the captain that this might be the case, and coached in what to do, he rapped sharply once more, three staccato raps against the wood, then opened it, staying carefully in the hallway.

“Sir? Professor Pendragon? The Captain’s complements and could you join him on the Observing Balcony immediately.”

The steward heard a strangled oath, scrambling sounds, and the Professor burst through the door. With barely time to thank the steward, Aether made a mad dash down the hall. Grinning at how accurate the Captain’s instructions had been the steward gave in to curiosity and leaned forward just enough to peek inside the room

Seeing the papers tacked to the walls, strewn across the desk, and crumpled on the floor, he gave a wide-eyed shake of his head. If the level of mess was indicative of the level of intelligence, then Professor Pendragon must be a genius of the highest order.

Carefully closing the door, the steward left to continue his duties. He only followed orders and took care of any passengers. Anything else was the concern of the Captain and his officers.


Aether hit the door to the Observing Balcony hard enough he was through before it could slam back against him.

“What did you see?!” He barked.

Bertold turned to the Fourth Steersman who stood at the Far Sighter looking both nervous and embarrassed.

“Tell the Professor, son.” Bertold encouraged. “It’s why you were on watch.”

“Yes, sir.” The young man swallowed almost audibly, Adam’s apple bobbing. “I was keeping a watch on that storm cloud, watching for any – er – unusual light flashes.” He began hesitantly, then paused.

“Yes?” Aether managed to contain his impatience and sound merely interested. “You believe you saw something?”

“Ahm, well…” the Fourth Steersman hemmed.

“Son, I’m not expecting a lightning bolt or a flash message. Just… something.” Aether tried to reassure the young man.

The Fourth Steersman relaxed slightly and nodded. “Yes, sir. It was definitely ‘something’ but it was so fast I don’t know what to call it. Not even sure it was an actual flash of light.”

“Where?” Aether prodded.

“Dead center of the storm mass, sir.”

A spark entered Aether’s eyes and he turned to Bertold. “How close do ships get before they attack?”

Bertold eyed the storm clouds, calculating from what he’d been told and present distance of the clouds. “Depending on the strength of the winds driving the clouds, another 30 minutes to an hour from now we’ll be attacked. If that ‘something’ was them.”

Aether gestured at the Far Sighter. “May I?”

Nodding his compliance even as he stepped aside, Bertold motioned the Fourth Steersman away. Aether stepped up and pulled a band with several lenses attached from his belt pouch. Fitting the leather band around his head and adjusting it so the lenses sat at an angle about his left eye he bent and peered through the Far Sighter.

“Is this still fixed where you saw the – ahh – anomaly?” He asked.

“Yes, sir!” The young man responded.

Pulling back just slightly from the end of the Sighter Aether lowered one of the lenses in front of his eye, then another. Some of the lenses were colored – red, blue, and green – but the ones he manipulated first were clear.

“Ah, Aether? What – ?” Bertold began.

“Clear ones are magnifiers. They add to the strength of the Far Sighter. Colored ones remove certain bands of color from the light spectrum, show things that are hard to see.” He answered Bertold’s question before it was completely asked.

Flicking another magnifier between his eye and the Sighter he paused, then lowered the red lens. After a moment of concentrated frowning he flicked down the blue lens. Bertold saw Aether’s shoulders tense and he tensed with him. When Aether straightened and turned, a wolf’s grin lit his face.

“We have thirty minutes but I believe we can surprise them. I hope you have what I need to manufacture the advantage we now undoubtedly have.”

“Aether, if we can catch or kill these pirates, I’m all for it.” Bertold returned that vulpine grin as he clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Let’s go root out what you need.”

Twenty minutes later the forward windows in the Pilot’s Cabin, the Steersman’s Bridge, and the Forecastle Cannon had a deep violet wash to them. Aether had blended some red and blue inks with a special concoction of his own that created a dark violet color which, when applied to the windows, cut out the violet band of the light spectrum. It increased contrast between darks and made similarly colored or pattered things easier to see.

“So, if it’s colored like the clouds, why can we now see it?” Bertold frowned out the Steersman’s Bridge window at the still difficult to see pirate ship riding the winds in front of the storm clouds.

“No matter how close in color two things are to the naked eye, even to the point we can’t distinguish it, it will never be an exact match. Removing certain bands of color in the light spectrum helps us to see those differences.”

 “So, why do most of the ship’s parts still seem to be invisible?”

“There’s only one way to get a perfect match.” Aether shook his head in admiration. “Someone figured out how to create a mirrored surface that doesn’t require the whole ship to be covered in heavy glass. That surface is reflecting the clouds to ‘cloak’ the ship from view. We need to capture that ship rather than destroy it, Bertold.”

“It’ll be tough, ‘Ther.” Bertold stared out at the clouds before turning back. “They won’t want to be captured.”

“True. But, we have two huge advantages. They don’t know we can see them and anticipate what is no longer a surprise attack.” Aether pointed out.

“And the second advantage?” Bertold hitched an eyebrow, half-anticipating the reply.

“We have a couple of ‘retired’ pirates on our side who are more than capable of out-thinking these young sky pups.” That wolfish grin returned.

Bertold stared at Aether a long, tense moment before an answering grin worked across his face and a laugh worked its way up from his belly. After a few moments of much needed merriment, Bertold clapped Aether on the shoulder for the second time that day.

“We’ll catch them, ‘Ther. And we have more help than you know.”
“Don’t bet on it, Bertold.” Aether murmured as they laid their final plans.

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