Monday, March 16, 2015

3-16-15 Monday Mischief
1:56 PM

3-16-15 Monday Mischief

Story © Corey Blankenship, All Rights Reserved
Characters © Jules Verne, All Rights Reserved
Brought to you by Four Fools Press: “Crazy Good Stories”

"The Avenger!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, Sir, the Avenger! A good name!" muttered Captain Nemo, crossing his arms.

The terrible specter that lay broken in the depths disappeared at intervals as we climbed toward the surface. I stared upon the Captain, changed by his mood. Fury shifted his leonine features into a masque of horror: Eyes burned white-hot with the fires of a world-engine; long rows of opalescent fangs stretched forth from a draconian snout; his viperous tail slashed in search of a victim to crush. All about him an atmosphere of brimstone and impending peril kindled. Gone was the thoughtful, lion-esque lord of the Nautilus, transformed into an emissary of a hatred either monstrous or sublime. I trembled at his transfigured presence.

Thunder pealed along the the hull. We had been struck. The Captain did not stir from the vacant portal. I rushed along the central passage; a Turu crewman leaped over me, partially flying from bat-wings or grasping ivory rungs with strong paws. My companions joined me as we entered the jets of air that led to the observation deck. The lieutenant stood at the fore, his scaled hood concealing the lean, striped hyena face. He stared through amber eyes upon the assailing vessel before departing back into the Nautilus.

Flaming tongues seared the night air. A great ship drove at us, plumes of smoke pouring from its top deck flumes. Land, in his zealous reptilian manner, gripped the rail and peered through the failing dusk at the encroaching vessel. His sleek spheres filled with luminous liquid, bioluminescent lamps from which he could peer into the distance and the depths with ease.

"A mech-of-war!" He hissed. "May it reach us; and, if necessary, sink this cursed Nautilus."

"Friend Ned," replied Conseil, "what harm can it do to the Nautilus? Can it attack beneath the waves? Can it cannonade us at the bottom of the sea?"

"Tell me, Ned?" said I, "can you recognise what Designation she belongs to?"

The Auroran's iris thinned as the glow in his ocular lanterns blazed brighter. He fixed these piercing torches upon the vessel.

"No, sir," he replied. "I cannot tell what Designation she belongs to, for she shows no colours. But I can declare she is a mech-of-war, for a long tongue of ghost flame flutters from her main mast. If she nears within a mile, I shall throw myself into the sea, and I should advise you do the same."

I did not reply to the Auroran's suggestion, but continued watching the ship. Whether Gearlocks, Hingemen, or Joules, she would be sure to take us in if we would only reach her. Lightning sparked on the foreign vessel; an azure bolt struck just shy of the Nautilus, sending up a column of steam. Afterward, a bank of scalding saline mist rolled inches from our post.

"What! They are firing at us!" I exclaimed.

"So please you, sir," said Ned, "they have recognized the unicorn, and they are firing at us."

"But," I exclaimed, "surely they can see that there are sentient souls atop the beast?"

"It is perhaps, because of that," replied Ned Land, looking at me.

A whole flood of light burst upon my mind. The races knew the supposed dire narwhal to be an elder spirit apotheosized into a living submarine vessel--more dangerous than a mere supernatural cetacean. Indeed, when we fell from the stricken Geared Emancipator, the ship's seer must have noted the overwhelming aura unique to elder beings. On every sea they were now seeking this mystical engine of destruction. Terrible indeed! If Captain Nemo employed the Nautilus in works of vengeance, as we supposed...then the races had united to hunt not a chimerical creature, but a spirit who had vowed a deadly hatred toward them. We would not be received as refugees, but skewered by merciless foes. Another blast of fatal thunderbolts flew past the waterline. My eyes recorded the sapphire light for several seconds after the volley.

The Auroran said, "Let us signal them. They will then, perhaps, understand that we are honest folks."

Land raised a webbed hand, conjuring a translucent orb of mustard hue; he had scarcely manifested it when an iron tail struck him down. He fell, despite his great strength, upon the deck.

"Fool!" exclaimed the Captain. "Do you wish to be pierced by the spur of the Nautilus before it is hurled at this vessel?"

Captain Nemo harrowed us with his voice. Much more with his presence! All flesh faded from his face, revealing a metallic dragon's skull, eye-sockets blazing with emerald fire. He held the Auroran within the vice of his calcified tail. Raising a bone claw in menace, the Captain turned upon the oncoming behemoth of the frothing mech-of-war. The lumbering amalgamation of gears and plates continued to hurl prismatic lances at the enclosing quarry. The entire Elder Creature flared a ghastly pale glow, an indication of its murderous intent. It knew its master's mood. With luminous barbs raining around him, the Captain roared in a powerful voice,

"Ah, ship of an accursed Designation, you know who I am! I do not want your colours to know you by! Look! and I will show you mine!"

Then his talon tore the air, a deeper darkness flapping in the wind. The Void unfurled, streaming as a banner from a dorsal spar. The heart-engine beneath us raged a sonorous peal that hummed through the entire vessel. An impervious bubble blossomed around us, an unshakable cage experienced before. We became helpless witnesses to the carnage. The starless banner crackled as the prow-spike surged, heedless of the wizard-weapons barraging the turbulent seas around, then above, as we dove. The Nautilus dipped beneath the liquid surface, then plunged through the mech-of-war as a needle through cloth. Cauldrons, cogs, arcs of lightning, and perilous smog swirled around, then behind, us. The mech-of-war sank, and the Captain drew the Nautilus aside the submerging vessel in its marine burial.

Jointed machines scrambled along twisted wires, followed by elves, as they clamoured for salvation. Trapped beneath the ocean, the mighty mech-of-war buckled and erupted, tossing the survivors along a violent wake. Some choked before our eyes, unable to utter a spell of warding in the suffocating waters. Grates sputtered noxious fumes as individual life-engines in mechanical bodies took on water. I began to beg clemency, when Captain Nemo commanded, "I am the law, and I am the judge! I am the oppressed, and there is the oppressor! Through him I have lost all that I loved, cherished, and venerated--kingdom, wife, children, ancestor. I saw all perish! All that I hate is there! Say no more!"
Today's Monday Mischief comes from the "Father of Steampunk," Jules Verne and his inspiring 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!

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