November 2, 2008

The nation was once unified and peaceful. New technologies were promising to make life better for everyone. But corruption crept into every level of government, driving away knowledgeable officials and straining the land until finally rebellion broke out. It started under the guise of a new faith, but quickly spread and began tearing the land apart. Thus opened a new age of heroes as the old Empire crumbled. Brave warriors emerged to end the threat, but in the end they only divided the nation further. The fierce warrior Damon Cole assisted his lord in claiming the reigns of power, only to later betray him for a woman. Meanwhile, three groups began to take the stage in the background, each with their own ambitions and claims.
The warrior Janus Scott claimed direct lineage back to the emperor and sought nothing more then to restore the rightful dynasty to the throne. He brothers at arms Lauren Asher and Ren Price drew support not just from other amazing warriors, but claimed the hearts of many of the people with acts of kindness and bravery.
The Durand’s also held some claim to power, having long held a large section of border against all enemies. The patriarch of the family was an early casualty of the war, along with his first son, but the second son and his daughter still held their lands and people together, gathering men from far and wide to their banner.
And then there was Emmerich Hunter. Hunter thrived on the growing chaos and his need to control the chaos. His ambitions only ended with his family in power. He had moved early and hard against the others and excelled and playing his enemies off of one another.
When the dust finally settled after the original revolt and ensuing power struggle, the Durand’s, Scott’s and Hunter’s were left each holding a large piece of power. The Hunter’s had laid claim to a large section of land, built the largest army and held the old capital. Emmerich had laid claim to the remains of the old government and had used those scraps to re-unite the northern half of the country.
Meanwhile, Janus Scott had struggled to even find a place to base his bid to restore the former glory of the empire, but after a long struggle and with the help of the brilliant strategist Darnell Cunningham, Scott’s army found a home and held the south-west corner of the nation.

It didn’t take long for Darnell Cunningham to maneuver Janus Scott into an alliance with the Durand’s. Michael Durand was now running the family and at the behest of his advisors began pushing for an engagement between his sister Myra and Janus, to cement the alliance. It didn’t take long for things to start getting away from the alliance. Hunter was gathering a massive fleet of airships to his southern most city, preparing to invade the territory of the Durand’s. Even with their combined forces, the battle was looking to be ferociously against them. But several clever plans had been carefully constructed and were beginning to fall into place as the two armies faced off over the red cliffs bordering the two warring groups.

Branimir Gray stood on the prow of one of the lead airships, looking across at the largest army of airships the world had ever seen. He grinned a little, noticing that the group seemed to be moving as one mass amidst the buffeting winds above the cliffs. He started crossing back toward the cabin, the armor in his coat jingling like soft bells. The long coat was a deep red, embroidered with a flock of crows across the back. It was carefully repaired, but still showed signs of previous battles. Underneath the coat he wore a simple buttoned shirt and brown slacks with a heavy belt. Over the shirt he typically wore a bandolier with three small knives slotted into it. The belt held several small explosives and other oddities. These left spaces for a heavy grapple-gun on his right hip and a short heavy cutlass and revolver on his left hip.
His dark hair was a little long and unkempt, especially for an officer, but he had proven himself in battle enough times that very few men still questioned him. The three gold hoops in his right ear were a reminder of his days as a pirate. There were whispers among the men that he still kept his old ship stashed somewhere, just in case, but he would never admit to it. He always insisted the men call him Bran and he spent as much time with the crewmen as the other officers.
Just now he was heading back to the bridge of the ship, nodding to the others on the deck. The ship was long and flat, with an enclosure about mid-ship. The top of that enclosure had several large reflector chambers to send light signals between ships. The lower decks were dedicated to the machinery that powered the repulsion systems and quarters for the men on longer voyages. The ships were made of wood, as the repulsing technology that allowed them to float would throw larger quantities of metal away, which was also why the ships carried no cannons.
Inside the bridge area the tension was thick. The preparations for the battle were going well and the plans were in place, but still, many of the men didn’t think the allied army stood a chance against Hunter’s superior numbers.
Bran flashed the men a grin, “Any word yet from the rest of the fleet?”
One of the men leaned back, “Nothing yet. But we’re keeping communications minimal so that the enemy fleet isn’t alerted to any of the plans.”
Bran nodded, “I figured as much. Hold down the ship, I’m going to go check in with our leader and see if things are about to get under way or not.”
The man gave a small salute, “Careful, sir. You know they prefer when you wait for official communications.”
Bran laughed as he turned to leave the bridge area, “Fortunately, I’ve managed to make myself useful enough that they normally will let my eccentricities slide.”
The men on the bridge laughed as Bran slipped away. He moved toward the aft-port side of the ship, unclipping the grapple gun from his belt. He picked the ship just back from the front that he knew was working as the command post for this action and fired the grapple, catching it on the edge of the ship’s bow. He settled his grip and stepped off the side of the ship, activating the reel as he fell. He let the grapple pull him to the railing, then he smoothly caught the edge of the ship and pulled himself the rest of the way onto the deck.
A guard was waiting, looking vaguely annoyed, “We do have systems in place for sending messages, sir,”
Bran took a minute to unhook the grapple from the deck and get the gun reset, “I happen to find going in person the most effective method of communication, oddly enough.”
The guard shifted a little where he stood, still obviously annoyed, but not seeing any way to vent it without just causing more problems.
Bran patted him on the shoulder, “Lighten up, if you don’t enjoy your work you’ll never do nearly as good of a job.”
“Enjoy war, sir?” said the guard.
“Conflict is a part of life. The loss of life is still terrible, but the comradery and the adventure can be great, if you let it,” said Bran as he turned and started toward the bridge. The soldier watched him go, looking thoughtful.
Bran stepped onto the bridge amidst a flurry of activity. Eldon Pierce, longtime bodyguard of Michael Durand, was at the center of it, directing things with quiet words here and there. At first, many men had scoffed at such a low-born man being given such an important role, but Michael had asked Pierce to show them the scars he had earned keeping him alive. Few men would have survived the number or severity of wounds he had, let alone done so and still managed to keep their charge safe. It had been a convincing argument.
Bran crossed over to Pierce, “It looks like that young fox managed to convince them to tether their ships. Are we preparing to launch the attack?”
Pierce shook his head, “Almost. We’re giving another moment for Darnell to get into position on the ground. Supposedly, he’s going to help shift the winds in our favor to ensure the fire spreads. But I believe Hunter will make a strike any moment on our right flank. Get back to your ship, drop low and move to intercept. That will give more room for Guy to start his run at the fleet.”
Bran nodded and turned for the door, calling back over his shoulder, “Stay safe, Pierce. Even after we win this, we’ve still got a long road to travel before this is all through.”
Pierce gave a small, wry smile, “I’m all too aware. After the battle you can buy me a drink.”
Bran laughed, “You’re on,” and took off at a quick trot, once again unclipping the grapple gun from his belt.
Just before he could fire and swing back to his own ship, the guard who originally interrupted him stepped over next to him, “Sorry, but can I ask you one last quick question?”
Bran fired his grapple and glanced to the guard, “as long as it is quick.”
“I’d like to be transferred to your unit, sir,” said the guard.
Bran quirked an eyebrow, watching the guard for a long moment, then finally nodded. “Find me after the battle and I’ll see what I can arrange,” said Bran.
The guard smiled, “You won’t regret it, sir.”
“It’s Bran. Save the sirs for people who want them,” said Bran, then dropped off the edge to return to his own ship.

Bran hit the bridge and started straight into commands, “Drop us low and swing to the right flank. Be prepared to board another ship. Things are going to start moving fast from here.”
The man moved quickly to follow his orders and Bran left them to it, stepping quickly below deck to the waiting soldiers. “Hit the deck. Squad one has my back. Squad two is on defensive. Squad three, hang back as reserve and split out as we need you. Lets move,” said Bran and lead the men back up onto the deck of the ship.
The airship moved under there feats, fairly smooth, but still some of the men had a little trouble keeping full balance as it dropped and banked to the right. Bran Gray moved like a cat on solid land, not even seeming to notice the movement below his feet. One of the men offered him a rifle and he waved it off, settling into a crouch on the front-most piece of the ship.


One comment

  1. Whee for steampunk, and good on you for doing the whole Nanowrimo thing.

    *does a little cheer with virtual pom-poms*

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