Arnett was awoken by a drop in the distance. Opening his eyes, he was he was on the floor of his landship. He was hanging upside down out of the cockpit on the steps. His head ached. Through the windshield in the cockpit light trickled through.
Spinning on his stomach, Arnett lifted himself from where he lay. He looked out the cockpit. Desert sand and dirt everywhere. It looked like his ship was resting in the wasteland. He checked the gauges. Dead, all of them.
“Crap,” said Arnett, looking back into the ship, “Looks like they hit me harder than I thought. How long have I been out?”
Arnett made his way into his engine room, following the sound of the dripping. Oil was dripping from a lubrication pipe. Damaged in the fray. He cringed, such a leak could ignite and ruin his day. Fetching his tools, he managed a patch for it and tried to mop up what oil had already leaked to the floor of the engine room. Draining the oil into a bucket, he looked around, before dumping the contents back into the oil tank.
“Can’t waste expensive lubricant,” said Arnett through his teeth.
When he was done, he grabbed more coal and threw them in the furnace. The fire was beginning to die. His brow furrowed. How long had he been out?
The ship was still not roaring to life. Leaning down, he looked under his boilers for the pilot light. The lights were out, failing to be lit from the boilers. He rolled his eyes. Of course.
Searching for his matched, Arnett found they had been knocked down from their home, and were currently scattered out of the box, covered in a layer of oil. Ruined. Arnett sighed, shaking his head. This was not his day.
He checked his revolver and grabbed a rifle. Making his way to the bulkhead, Arnett knew he had to figure out where those Bandits were and in what condition he was in. The sun would be setting soon and he had to hurry, or was it already rising? He grabbed the bulkhead wheel and shoved it, turning it hard and opening the door. Light flooded the inside of the landship and blinded Arnett. Arnett reached down and grabbed his tinted goggles, placing them over his eyes to help against the blinding light. He stepped out into the desert.
The Landship Scorpios II was resting into the dirt. All around them was sand and dirt. Some cacti and brush could be seen not too far away. Arnett could spot the wreckage of an airship not far off. He smiled.
“Got you after all, you bastards,” smiled Arnett.
Arnett jumped, bringing his rifle up and slamming his body against the bulkhead door. Looking next to him he spotted it. A lone sand owl. His large, orange eyes staring down at Arnett. The owl has a smooth, creamy color to it, like light coffee or grey sand. It was perched on a lantern holder, it’s tiny talons shifting nervously. It bobbed it’s head ever so slightly, looking at Arnett.
Arnett sighed, “Hello, you.”
“Whoot, Whoot,” said the Owl.
“Aren’t you supposed to say ‘Who’,” said Arnett stepping out and closing the bulkhead, “Whooo. Whoo!”
The owl leaned back, blinking, before leaning forward again and bobbing. Arnett chuckled to himself looking towards the downed airship.
“Blame them, Hootie,” said Arnett, “I was just doing my job.”
Peering around the area, there was no sign of the caravan he was escorting. Tracks lead away from the debris over the small hill. They must’ve gotten away during the firefight, but it doesn’t look like they stayed to make sure he was ok.
“Well, I need some matches,” said Arnett, stepping pass the owl to head off his ship, “So it was a pleasure, whoever you are.”
Hanging over the side, Arnett dropped onto on of the Scorpios II’s legs and leapt onto the dirt from there. He only took a few steps before he saw the shadow of a figure next to him. Looking, he barely caught the end of the owl’s flight as he landed to the ground and began to hop along the ground next to Arnett, watching him closely. Arnett chuckled to himself.
“Hey, owl… ie, if you’re gonna stick around we better get acquainted. I’m Joel Arnett. And you would be?”
“Whoot,” said the Owl, tilting its head.
“Uh, huh,” said Arnett.
The sound of wood hitting the ground snatched Arnett’s attention. He raised his rifle, scanning the Airship wreckage. The owl’s head snapped the same, it’s feathers furrowing.
Arnett made his way, cautiously, to the Airship wreckage. A fire burned somewhere inside the damaged hull, smoke still filling the balloon, allowing it to continue to lightly float in the light wind. The hull was shattered and smashed. The stern of the airship wide open, access to the lower deck and the Captain’s quarters equally available. Arnett decided to search for survivors.
Stepping into the ship and climbing to the second floor, he made his way through the captain’s quarters. Besides a handful of ciams and some cool knick knacks, Arnett found nothing of interest. Although grabbing a back, he did start looting the room of cash and some more expensive artifacts. Turning, he saw the owl on the desk.
“Man, these pirates knew what they were doing, Owliver,” said Arnett.
The Owl’s head tilted without a word, prompting Arnett to frown and shake his head. Although, Arnett’s attention was stolen by an elaborate smoking pipe broken in two on the ground. Arnett checked the Captain’s desk and around the ground for anything smoking related. He did end up finding a pouch of tobacco, but he couldn’t find any sign of matches. Arnett shoot his head.
“Damn, can’t find a light to save my ass,” said Arnett, who unlocked the Captain’s cabin door and braced himself against it, “You coming, Owl….bert.”
The owl turned its head in reverse, peaking out of the broken ship. He turned and hopped off the desk, gliding back into the sunlight. Arnett rolled his eyes.
“It wasn’t that bad of a name. Owlbert…”
Opening the door, Arnett scanned the next room with his rifle before entering. It appeared to be a map room, with an overturned table and a small armory. Rifles and pistols appeared to be missing from the racks, and Arnett only spotted a few older, more worn weapons lying around. A few swords still lay waiting to be used. Arnett rummaged through some of the drawers and cabinets. A few spare bullet shells and a rifle bullet, but no matches. Arnett did find, what appeared to be, a ship’s cannon lighter.
“Damn, this ship has no matches. What are the damn odds,” said Arnett.
Walking to the shattered door of the room, he carefully checked around on deck. Easing back out into the blazing sunlight of the desert, Arnett saw the deserted deck. Boards seemed dangerously broken and uneven, and crates, cannons, and debris laid about. Arnett scanned it with his rifle before stepping out.
Arnett looked up the banister to the left and saw the owl, staring down at him from above. Arnett nodded as if taking his word everything was safe, and he made his way onto the deck. Looking around, Arnett frowned.
“Where are all the bodies?” he said allowed, turning to the owl, “There should be dead or injured people. I can understand the survivors legging it, but shouldn’t there be more bodies? Where is everybody?”
He began to look over the wood and the area. There was sign of human life, even an effort to fortify some of the debris in the direction of the Scorpios II. Arnett shuttered looking at two cannons that had been painstakingly brought to bear and armed at the Scorpios. Upon further inspection he shuddered, realizing they had been loaded with cone shells designed to break into heavy armor or shatter shielded glass.
The Owl had glided it’s way onto a nearby cannon. Arnett noticed it was making its way closer. Arnett shielded his eyes from the hot rays from Dimitrious. The sun appeared to be setting.
“Well, what do you think? They started to prepare an attack and then… left?” Arnett eyes back at the airship deck and the darkness below, “Or are they still here, hiding?”
The owl turned its head, looking into the distance and bobbing its head. Arnett left it looking there and headed into the bowels of the ship. Meeting a barricade, he tried to claw and move some of the junk blocking his entrance down. blood was smeared on the final steps and on the other side of the barricade. Arnett brought his rifle to bear.
Stepping through the galley, he found himself in an open storage section of the ship, with much of the area taken up by either cannons or bunks. Making his way through he eyes everything carefully for movement. He took careful steps. A broken door towards the from of the boat had flashing light and smoke coming from it. It must’ve been the source of the fire and it looked like a doorway to hell.
Arnett heard the little Pat Pat of feet down the stairs behind him. he turned quickly in time to see that same owl coming down and following him, its eyes scanning the inside and spotting Arnett. His large eyes seemed to glow in the new dusk of the ship.
“Did you do this?” asked Arnett, “Help me find some matches and I can leave.”
The owl hopped into the darkness before appearing on a bed. It continued to watch as Arnett rummaged through some personal effects of the crew, pocketing some loose change and some interesting knick knacks. However, Arnett still couldn’t find a match.
“What do you think?” Asked Arnett to the owl, before he gasped, “Are you a girl Owl? Owlivia?”
The owl’s eyes narrowed and it turned its head backwards, looking behind it. Arnett shared a short chuckle to himself, “Come on, that was pretty good. Owlmelia? Huh?”
Arnett spotted the door to the stern of the ship, and an idea struck him. Heading toward the back, Arnett went into the kitchen and smiled. Pots and pans were everywhere and food was strewn about. however, they had several stoves and small burners that burned wood.
On a hunch, Arnett propped the door open and started his search of the kitchen. It didn’t take long for his winged friend to walk its way in behind him and start poking through the kitchen. Finding some Chanka meat that hadn’t turned, yet, Arnett grabbed a piece and a butcher’s knife and chopped it up into pieces to the dismay of the owl.
Chopping up some smaller bits, Arnett tossed them to the owl, who examined the pieces before devouring them, and then jumping onto the prep table and hungrily eyeing the rest Arnett had cut. Arnett smiled, having got his attention.
Leaving the bird to peck away at the pieces of meat, Arnett continued his search for matches. Several cabinets proved to be useless as he moved around the kitchen, however he did score when he opened a drawer with multiple sets of wooden silverware and two half empty boxes of matches. Transferring the matches from one box into the other for easy storage, Arnett shook the box at the Owl before pocketing it.
“Homework bound, Hoobert,” said Arnett, “I knew I’d find some. Still no sign of the crew.”
The owl’s head shot up, and he began to turn all around the room, gazing every which way. Arnett shrugged and decided to check out the armory again. Maybe a second, less frantic look could prove beneficial.
The owl ducked down and, with wings held out, screeched. Besides giving Arnett a small start, the owl didn’t seem to notice him as he took a few steps and flew out into the broken door of the back in the kitchen and disappearing. Arnett decided to follow the Owl.
Forcing the broken and shattered door aside, Arnett found himself in a storage part of the ship, with the back end blown out and debris everywhere. Arnett recognized this as the stern where he came in, climbing up the debris into the Captain’s cabin. Arnett tried to eye some of the cargo they had stowed away, but the owl’s screech was more forceful this time.
Turning, Arnett saw the Owl looking at him, wings out. It screeched again, before looking to the distance. Arnett tilted his own head, wondering if it was trying to get his attention. He made his way out the back of the airship again and the owl took off, almost waddling away to the top of the small hill. It perched in a cactus and screeched again.
Heading up after it, Arnett looked at the owl, before looking out into the desert. At first, nothing caught his eye, until he could barely see some movement in the distance. Rummaging through his new satchel of looted merchandise, arnett found an elaborate brass spyglass he has taken from the Captain’s Quarters or the crew’s quarters.
Opening it, he looked out into the desert. At first he had trouble finding the distant objects he had spotted with the naked eye, but he could soon see some figures in the distance. Small, apelike creatures were fighting over a few carcasses. It looked as if they were human corpses. In the distance even further, several more of the creatures dragged more corpses behind them off to the distance, and more, unhindered creatures were making their way back towards the fighting group as well as to Arnett.
Arnett’s heart went cold. He couldn’t remove his gaze from the creatures as they moved around. The owl was watching them too, giving another screech.
“There’s the crew,” said Arnett under his breath, “Mystery solved. We must be just out of their territory, otherwise this place would be swarming by now.”
Almost on cue, a single Goblin’s head shot straight into the air, and he looked around. Finally resting in the direction of Arnett and the wreckage the Goblin was sniffing. Arnett’s heart seized again.
“Their eyesight is the worst. Damn, Hamiltalon, which was if the wind blowing?”
The Goblin’s mouth open and it leaned forward like a howl. The other Goblins stood straight up, almost facing the same direction. It was a delayed second or two before the horrific screech of the Goblin reach Arnett. The Goblins turned to face Arnett, sniffing the air.
The owl let out another screech. Arnett snapping the eyeglass down.
“Time to go,” he said, turning on his heels and running down the hill, “Fly, birdie, fly! They’re coming!”
He ran past the airship, almost tripping, and booked it to the Scorpios II. The whole time he refused to look back. A din had started to rise, and either it was Arnett’s imagination or truth it sounded like the screeches and howls of many Goblins. Terror had gripped Arnett ten fold.
Almost leaping onto the leg, Arnett grasped the familiar hand and foot points and scaled the leg, making his way onto the landship’s decks in a matter of a few minutes. At this point, he could almost definitely hear the patter of Goblin feet.
Arnett opened the bulkhead and turned his head. There was that owl again! Resting on the lamp holder again with its wings out and its feather ruffled, it’s head spun from Arnett to the direction of the goblins back to Arnett in rapid succession. Arnett put one foot in the Scorpios, before staring down the owl.
“You got a few seconds, sir,” said Arnett, “In or out. Come on, buddy!”
Almost as if understanding, the Owl flew to Arnett’s arm before gliding down into the darkness. The sounds of screeches were muffled seconds afterwards as Arnett slammed the bulkhead closed and locked it tight.
Not allowing his eyes time to adjust, Arnett threw aside the bag of stuff and grabbed the matches. he expertly rushed through his ship, heading to the engine room. The screech of the owl was bouncing off the walls, and Arnett could barely keep in his annoyance.
Tripping into the engine room, Arnett lit the first match hastily. He navigated his way to the pilot lights using it before it burnt out. Falling to his stomach, Arnett lit the second match, which didn’t stay lit long. Angrily Arnett snapped a third trying to light it. Finally a fourth was lit and he stretched his arm to the lights. One… two… three. Three pilot lights lit. He rose and manually turned a few valves and pumped a bellow to awaken the furnace. Allowing steam to sour through the ship. Slowly the ship was beginning to hum to life.
Lighting a lantern, Arnett crossed the ship to one of the cannon’s room, the owl’s screeches following him as he did so. He looked over his small cannon room. Two (left) cannons waiting to be fired. He opened the cannons up and removed the shells from them. Looking at his collection of artillery shells, Arnett found a purple banded shell and smiled. Loading them in, he locked the cannons into place and headed to the cockpit. The owl watched him the entire way.
Stepping up the the cockpit, he sat down, priming the fuel line and revving the furnace for the boilers. He opened up some key valves, allowing steam and power to enter the legs. Looking out the windshield, he could see the hill behind the airship began to be swarmed with sniffing Goblins taking in all the scents and sounds of the battlefield and the two ships.
Arnett grabbed the throttle control and yanked the ship to life. The Landship stumbled only for a moment as it rose up. The Goblins descended on the Airship debris, making their way towards the Landship. Arnett flipped a lever to his left, and the clockwork mechanisms inside the ship opened the Cannon hatches and pushed the two cannons out.
With the push of another pedal the new dusk was alight once more with the sounds of cannon fire. The cannons fired two shells at the approaching group of Goblins. The shells spread like a shotgun and slammed into the Airship carcass and the approaching Goblins. It tossed up dirt and dust and smoke. The Airship’s fire was quick to use the destruction to rip through the ship even faster, now engulfing the majority of the hull and the few Goblin’s trapped inside.
The shot worked. The noise and confusion meant the Goblins were thrown off. The few that weren’t were soon deterred from their charge as they realized their backup was still dazed and not following.
Arnett yanked back the throttle, the mechanical legs sluggishly kicking up to speed as the boilers were still warming up and sending steam throughout the ship. Arnett took the landship out into the desert, trying to leave the Airship the the goblins far behind. The moon had fully risen before he eased up on the controls and sighed. The Scorpios II slowed to a steady walk before stopping all together. Arnett leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Grabbing his cigarette case, he put a fresh cigarette in his mouth and groped his person for matches. He couldn’t find any, and he sighed, realizing he left them in the engine room somewhere.
Arnett shot up suddenly, slinking into his seat. The owl had jumped up onto the controls, perching on a downed lever and staring out at the stars before gazing at Arnett.
“Well, you made it out,” said Arnett, removing the unlit cigarette, “How do you feel?”
“Whooeet” went the owl.
“Whoo,” went Arnett, furrowing his brow and leaning to the owl, “Whoo. Come on.”
The owl said nothing, gazing up at Arnett. Very carefully, Arnett reached out his hand and began petting its feathers lightly. They weren’t soft, like he imagined pillows and mattresses of feathers to feel like, but they were calming. The owl closed its eyes and seemed to leave into the pet. Soon Arnett was petting it without caution, smiling to himself.
“A name is important, Feathernand,” said Arnett before shaking his head, “We got to think of a good name. Beaker. Owlof. Owlfred. Hooton. McGonigowl. Owlton.”
The owl’s eyes shot open. It began to make a puffing noise. Arnett retracted his hand. It’s mouth opened wide and it began to hack. a wet, slimey pellet left its mouth and, almost in slow motion, fell to the floor of the Landship with a splat.
Arnett looked on in horror. Starring from the now normal looking owl and the glorified mouth turd on the floor next to his pilot’s chair.