52: Another Letter
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It turned out that Joan had spent a lot of time with Ayen, who had taught her a good deal about casting magic. So, with her, Jitters, Kory, and the fae engineers, they got to work on creating cannons that wouldn’t explode.

Because yes, Jitters had been right. The containment field for the barrel had been unstable when my cannon exploded, and the whole thing had essentially disintegrated. So, that was the first thing they had fixed. Kory suggested using a clip system for the ammunition that was manually cycled by the gunner.

We also produced a set of harpoons that could be fired from the cannons, allowing us to grapple things. A crane was installed at the rear near the cargo ramp, which was capable of moving along a whole bunch of different axes if we needed it to.

All in all, the airship was coming along well. What wasn't coming along well, was any idea we had for our next course of action. We'd retrieved Joan and we had a lot of information about how the decay of the planet was progressing… but what would we do about it? The Monarch had asked us to go to the city of Destruction, but she didn't say anything about how to get there.

While everyone was busy making repairs to the ship—which despite its factory fresh smell was still dealing with the ravages of time—Bassi and I hid from the fae outside. Her parents were apparently sniffing around, and that delightful ex of hers was probably egging them on.

Most couples would've taken the opportunity to cuddle or fuck through the downtime, but what did Bassi and I do? We hid in the lounge room and sparred. I might've been deadly with my shadows and shit, but I still had a lot to learn about combat.

Plus, my gay ass couldn't pass up the opportunity to lose repeatedly to my lover in a duel. I think Bassi enjoyed the feeling of power she got from disarming me and putting a blade to my throat.

It was after one such loss that something rather unexpected happened. A letter popped into existence between us, where it fluttered down to hit the ground.

Bassi and I both stared down at it for several seconds, before she lowered her blade and gestured to it. “My love, the fact that this has happened to you twice now is beginning to get concerning.”

“Me?” I complained. “It's closer to you actually. Maybe it's your turn to get a mysterious quest delivered by spontaneous mail.”

“Spontaneous mail,” she chuckled, rolling the phrase around on her ample tongue.

“Well, are you going to open it?” I asked, flicking it towards her with a foot.

With a roll of her eyes, she bent and picked it up. Using one of her many knives, she deftly flicked open the letter and pulled the message out.

“Basilisk,” she began to read, “I hope this letter finds you, and the elderly witch we hired is more than just bluster. She comes highly recommended, however, and I have hope. We lost Whistle two weeks ago to the city guard, who've been whipped into a frenzy by the priests. The scum didn't even bother with a trial; just slit his throat right there in the street.”

My lover slowed down as she learned about Whistle’s fate, and I saw her swallow with the same unvoiced sorrow that I felt. Whistle… he was… he'd been a character. He'd made the Slate Snakes so much better with his jokes and harmless pranks. Now he’s gone…? Just like that?

“Something is wrong in the city, Basilisk. The nobles and the priests are agitated and cracking down, and all the while the corrupted batter ever more forcefully against the walls. They have been gathering the homeless and the destitute, criminals and hustlers, anyone who does not fulfil a role in their version of society. The captured are marched up to the temple of the goddess. They never come out.

Whatever it is you are doing out there, please hurry. We need you at our helm, and we need Mist as our blade, for I'm not sure we will survive without you. Loyally, Singer.”

The silence following the reading was heavy. Bassi looked up and stared into my soul with dark impenetrable eyes while I attempted to process what I'd just heard.

“We… have to choose,” I whispered.

She gave a solemn nod. “Do as the Monarch wishes, or save our folks.”

“We need to tell everyone,” I said, feeling the slightest edge of decision glint in the shadows of my mind. “But… perhaps we can fulfil our quest and give them a fighting chance at the same time.”

 

When everyone was gathered in the cargo hold, we filled them in on the situation back home, plus my little idea.

“So, can you do it Joan? Can you send another letter, or something even bigger like a full package?” I asked once I was done.

Joan nodded instantly. “Absolutely, bu—ut I have to warn you it wouldn’t be much more than a foot by a foot of space that we can send, and I’ll need help to do it, plus the right reagents.”

“What reagents?” I asked, hopping up to sit on a crate. Idly, I relished the way I was able to drape my lithe body across the crate.

“Senthisiel leaf, Amvernium ore dust, and paper made from Cersitiath bark,” she said. “The last one I already have, and the first one can be picked from up near the Monarch’s mount… but I’m not sure about the ore dust. Ayen used the last of his supply when we sent the letter to you originally.”

“Where does it come from?” I asked, expecting only a vague answer.

Instead, Bassi cleared her throat. “Prior to the Shattering, the closest source were the mines in the Xiphian mountains. Gods only know where those mountains are now.”

“Perhaps we explore in the general direction of where they used to exist and see what we find? They might be floating now,” Koby suggested.

“Probably,” Bassi agreed. “They were about two weeks' walk to the northeast.”

“Well then, if we can find them, we can send that info package so our folks can build their own airship and escape the city while we go to that City of Destruction,” Leon said, summing everything up. “Man, what a name. I can't decide if I should imagine it having tons of black marble and skulls, or if it's like one big thunderdome.”

“Things’ve been mostly fantasy themed so far, so probably the former,” Joan chuckled.

Those of us who weren't from this world laughed with her, while the others just looked confused.

“I do, uh, I do actually have a concern, though,” Koby said, raising a hand like we were still in school. “Those crystals that make the ship float, we have no idea where they came from or how they work. How will the people in Anamoor get them?”

That hauled us up short. Fuck. How would they get the lift crystals? We had no idea what they were made of, only that they were obviously what held the ship in the air.

Running my tongue over my recently overgrown fangs, I thought about it. Back in the day, they used to use helium. That is, they used helium until tensions just before World War 2 caused the United States to start restricting their export of it. Then they made the ill-fated decision to use flammable hydrogen.

“Don't suppose there's a convenient vein of helium sitting under Anamoor?” I asked, mostly as a joke.

“What is helium?” Jitters asked curiously.

“A gas that's lighter than air,” Joan explained from the position she'd taken up beside the frail mechanic. “They used to put it into huge sacks to make ships like this one fly, back in our world.”

“No helium,” Jitters said with a shake of her head. Then she frowned. “But… What about cave geists?”

“Cave geists?” I asked.

“Cave geists!” Beth said, snapping her fingers. “We met some adventuring under the city!”

I tapped a finger on the crate. “What are cave geists?”

“They're these little mushroom things, but they float,” Beth explained with a grin. “They're carnivorous, but only big enough to eat insects. They float around in caves with their glowing tendrils attracting bugs that they eat. They have these strange sacs that glow and are obviously how they stay up.”

“I took a quick peek at a book from before the collapse written by some old coot who studied them,” said Jitters excitedly. “Basically, they make these spores, asexual ones mind you, and they use ‘em to float by stickin’ them all in the sacs. Real fascinating creatures. There's a small colony of ‘em near our hideout.”

“Okay, so we tell them to fill gas bags with spores from those things, then they can fly away?” I asked, suddenly feeling very dubious about the whole idea.

Beth gave me a stern look. “Don't be so sceptical. There's massive colonies of them further down in the catacombs beneath the city. You could easily harvest enough to float a dozen airships.”

“We'll include the idea in the care package,” Bassi cut in, keeping the debate from continuing. “It's up to Singer to figure out how to get it done. We'll continue with the preparations and make for the ore, then the city. Millions will die in Anamoor if we don't stop the unbalance that's tearing the world to shreds.”

 

Hey folks! Long time no Anamoor. I've had multiple ideas for different directions to take this story ever since I stopped updating it, but either they didn't feel right, or I was already doing something similar in a different story. That is, until very recently. Like it always seems to, lightning struck in the form of an idea and I swerved from writing Kaia to put my ideas into words. I have to admit, the story was intended to go one way, and I am very much tokyo-drifting down an off-ramp in a completely different direction.

As always when I pick a story back up, things are going to feel jank because I've improved as an author and because I'm still getting the feel for the characters again. Also my note taking is atrocious. So yeah, if a character acts weird, or there's some piece of lore that doesn't make sense or it seems like I've just plain forgotten that something happened earlier in the story, let me know in the comments :D.

Now, about the direction this will be going. Here's what I can promise without too much spoilering... Mist will finally get to do some of that sneaky thieving that many of you wanted. Aside from general thievery, there will be a city of canals within a desert of glass, there will be ancient ruins to explore, and there will be sky piracy.

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