The captain sat down looking at the yellow lens that Ms. Incantasha gave him.
“How will this lead us to the great lost treasure?” Morlock asked.
“It won’t. Not by itself but with the blue and red lenses they will paint a map pointing right to it.” Ms. Incantasha explained. She took the lens and held it up to the sunlight aiming onto a blank sheet of parchment. An image of a part of map started to appear but not enough to navigate anywhere.
"So once we get the other two lenses then we'll know where to go." Morlock said.
"That is correct Captain." Ms. Incantasha said.
"Do you know where the other two are?"
"The Red lens is still being dug up in southern Prush but first we should get the blue lens from the Commandant of the Winged Guard who will be attending the Royal parade next week in the capital city of Monte-Diamont."
The Captain scratched his beard and pondered on how to get to the target.
"This will be much harder than crashing a fancy dress party. Sainte Minan is no place to fly a ship into and the security during the festivities will be very intense." he said.
Maria pulled out a flyer for the military tournament and laid it in front of Morlock.
"And what's this?" the Captain asked.
"This is your ticket for an audience with the Royal family and all the grand commanders with whom you will introduce me to a Brigadier Nicholas Diamondton." Maria said.
"You want me to compete in the tournament?"
"I've watched you toy with an earl who has placed highly in the sabers event every year and your skill with the kitepack will place you very high in the sky diving event."
The Captain rocked back into his chair massaging his temples.
"How many events do I have to win to be granted an audience?" Morlock asked exhaustedly.
"To be certain, you'll need to make grand champion."
"And how many events to win would that be?"
"It doesn't happen often but you'll have to win all four of them"
The Captain looked at all the events and noticed that the tournament was restricted to officers only.
"And how do you suggest I compete without an officer's commission?"
"If you give me enough money I'll have connections that That can get you to the rank of Captain like you are now"
"A Captain in the army isn't the same as a… never mind. I don't think I'd want the responsibility of a colonel anyways."
"So are you going to compete Captain?"
"This is a lot of work for a piece of colored glass but yes I'll be introducing you to the high command before long."
The beginning of the next week with two days away from the Royal festival and the crew were were watching the Captain train for the upcoming tournament. He was dressed in his newly commissioned officer's uniform. Ms. Incantasha somehow got him attached to the Silver Winged Guard, a regiment of the utmost prestige. A white coat with a silver cap and helmet that was shaped like a single wing wrapping around from front to the right with a blue feathered plume that matched his pants.
The uniform wasn't too difficult to move around in but Morlock wasn't used to having a metal bucket on his head and it took some time to get the Winged salute down. Ms. Incantasha kept correcting him like a Russian ballet instructor.
"Touch the tip of wing, No not the plume, the wing of the helm. Now trace the edge with two fingers down to your eyebrow. Now remember when your saluting the crowd extend your hand upward and wave but In front of royalty you must extend downward with a graceful bow." The Diamounts sure took their acts of chivalry very seriously so any goof and the Captain would be outed as a lowly klutz that most definitely would deduct points or even disqualifying him from future events.
Two days later and the parade was upon them. most of the crew was in the audience apart from a few officers who got enlistments in the lower ranks to support the Captain. The parade deck sparkled in the sunlight, you could see gemstone embedded between the white cobblestone road. If it wasn't for all the soldiers standing guard the crowd would rip the road apart.
The music started as the Royal family came out onto their podium and the soldiers started to march out regiment by regiment. All the soldiers were so polished and march so flawlessly that you could tell that only known parade grounds and never even seen a battlefield. After the last cavalry regiment went by a troop carrying airship hovered two hundred feet above the foot of the parade grounds. The eldest princess stood tall at the center of the podium.
"My loyal subjects, today we gather here to celebrate and share the wealth that all of you have worked so diligently for. We also have assembled to honor the brave men and women that protect our land and thus we begin the grand military tournament with the Sky diving event" she announced.
The crowd roared with excitement. A Royal scribe stepped up on the edge of the podium and announced the participates.
"Lieutenant Roy Holyfield from the Red Winged Guard" the scribe shouted.
The participant jumped off the airship and parachuted onto the parade deck
Then he mounted his horses and try to appease the crowd and more importantly the Royals and nobles who were judging them.
Ten more contestants went by and it was finally the Captain's turn.
"Captain Horatio Morlock for the Silver Winged Guard," the scribe shouted.
"She used my real name" Morlock mumbled to himself.
"Alright you're clear to jump sir" said the deck officer.
Morlock took off like a gymnast during a vault with a ton of flashy flips and spins. He kept twirling until he was a hundred feet away then he let out his parachute. He parachuted smoothly until he was a foot away from his horse. He took off his parachute in midair and with a gliding motion landed on the horse like a surfboard. The crowd cheered like there was no tomorrow. Morlock drew his sword and gave a most triumphant salute to the crowd. He cut one of the long feathers off his horse head dress and caught it. Hopping off the horse he sheathed his sword and walked up to the noble section of the crowd. A small girl of six was jumping up and down with excitement. She had a lovely bouquet of flowers in her hands. The Captain knelt down before the child and put the feather in her hair. The girl mimicked him by putting a purple rose in the plume of his helmet. With a graceful walk backwards he gave a salute with a bow. The Captain must of touched hearts of every woman noble and common alike. He mounted his horse and rode the rest of the parade grounds.
The event ended after a few more went across the parade deck but after the Captain's performance they seemed to be like a formality at that point. the scribe announced the top five places stopping before first place to let the princess to name the winner.
"It brings me great joy to name the winner of the sky diving event. With a great show of skill and heart, I name Captain Horatio Morlock of the Silver Winged Guard winner."
The crowd roared as the Captain took his first step towards grand champion.
The next morning was the shooting competition and out of all the events this was the one the Captain was least worried about. He could shoot a huckleberry off someone's head and not mess a single hair.
The competition was simple enough, shoot down as many targets at three hundred and five hundred meters away you can. You can use any type of side you wish pistol, rifle, crossbow or even a slingshot was fair game. The Captain brought his pistol that he always carried along with his prized steam powered rifle that shot specially designed metal bolts. The upper receiver was polished white pecherfied white oak with glidden leafing. The lower receiver looked like it was put together by a master clockmaker with an ivory buttstock.
The three hundred meter stoot was easy enough that Morlock clean off all targets with just his pistol. Those who couldn't hit all ten targets dropped out of the rest of the event. The participants were thinned down to five. One cavalry officers and three Other officers all in Riflemen jackets. One of the riflemen looked at Morlock weapon with great admiration.
"That one nice looking rifle but where is your telescopic sights?" he asked.
"At this distance, why would I need once?" said Morlock.
The rifleman took off his scope and laid it on the ground.
"I'm not going to let a little birdie show up a rifleman that easily," he said.
The five hundred meters round began and only Morlock and the rifleman next to him knocked down all targets.
"Well you shoot better than any birdman I ever seen. What to shoot a smaller target?" the rifleman asked.
"What do you suggest? Apples and oranges?" Morlock asked.
"You shoot the apple and I'll shoot the orange. Sergeant, Get this fruit down range," the rifleman commanded pointing at a bowl of fruit by the servants waiting on the nobility in the audience.
Two soldiers hustled back from setting up the new targets.
"You may fire when ready" The range master said.
They both fired in unison and both the apple and orange exploded on impact.
The audience applauded their performance. The rifleman was impressed with the Captain's marksmanship.
"My word, Are you sure you're not a rifleman in birdmans clothing? I don't know what to use next." the rifleman said.
Morlock walked over to the bar and took two martinis.
"Let's shoot the olives off these cocktails without breaking the glass." Morlock suggested.
The rifleman gave Morlock an odd look.
"You can do that at five hundred meters without a scope?" he asked.
"I believe I can" Morlock answered," Sergeant could you get your men to bring these down please."
Again two soldiers hustled back and the range master gave the all clear to fire.
The rifleman shot first and it was a good shot but the glass clearly shattered into pieces.
"That's one hell of a challenge birdie, maybe a little too challenging," he said.
Morlock was calm and his grip was steady. with the slightest pull of the trigger he let out his shot. It was hard to tell if the shot hit or missed completely.
"Sergeant could you retrieve my drink please," Morlock said.
The Sergeant came back with the cocktail glass will half a toothpick and a small piece of the olive still there. The crowd was silent in disbelieve. The rifleman examined the toothpick and put it in his pocket.
"Sargent get rid of that drink. I believe that the winner deserves a better drink and I'll be happy to buy it for him," the rifleman announced loudly. The audience finally cheered and continued their social minglings.
Later that evening they were in the eastern ballroom of the palace. It was set up so that it could host the knife throwing event. Captain Morlock wasn't as confident of this event as he was the other and his slight hangover wasn't helping. Morlock knew how to throw knives but it was move his first officer Scipio's thing. They practiced a lot and the Captain was able to land a bullseye with his eyes closed but he still had his doubts. once the competition starts he nerves settled down. Almost all the others were dreadful and I made him realize how godly his first mate was a knife throwing. There wasn't much to say about the knife throwing event apart from the Captain blowing everyone out of the water.
The next day was the last day of the festival and the saber duel was scheduled for noon. Morlock was a natural swordsman and had a knack for coming at opponents at odd and unexpected angles. His first two opponents gave him little trouble but his third and final opponent was extremely skilled and dispatched his opponents with the same amount of effort. The duals were held in the western ballroom this time.
Morlock stood before his opponent a Major Archibald Piker. The captain wasn't a short man maybe a centimeter under six foot but the major had four inches over him. Morlock struggled to fend off all the quick lunges. The major didn't over extended and came to his guard quickly. Morlock pondered all the ways he was win but most of them were dirty and might lose him the match rather than win it. As Morlock thought thoroughly about his options the major caught an edge and with a swirling motion disarmed the captain. With his blade now sent flying his battle instincts kicked in. Morlock stepped in and threw a stunning blow to the wrist of the major's sword arm. His saber fell down and Morlock caught it with the point at the major's throat.
"I yield" the major said.
The Captain was worried if he was still in the rules.
"I've never been disarmed before and never seen anyone recover like that before. At last someone has broken my winnings streak." The major said with a disappointed expression.
The Royal scribe was watching the final bout and start the walk up to Morlock.
"Captain Horatio Morlock, you are of the few to attempt Grand Champion and of the even fewer to achieve that title. It is with great privilege to Invite you to the royal ball this evening where you will be awarded," the scribe said handing him two invitations.
"Is this one for my lady?" Morlock asked.
"Make sure their dress complements your uniform" he said.
Morlock left the palace grounds with his tickets to the fanciest party that he could ever dream of going to.
"Took you long enough," Ms. Incantasha said waiting impatiently by the palace gate.
Morlock held up the invitations at to said we can finally start the mission. Maria looked the captain up and down.
"mmm no cut or tares but it could use a wash. Come on this way." she said while dragging him to the cleaners.
A few hours later the two were dressed as fancy as a young Captain and his date should be. They gave their invitations to the chamber attendant and entered the Royal Ballroom. The interior reeked of pure wealth. Morlock was awestruck with all the silver, gold and gemstones. Maria pulled on his collar gave him a kiss and whispered, "Yes, it is glamorous in here but you need to focus on the mission."
Morlock regained his composure and proceeded through the entrance way. The Captain and Ms. Incantasha mingled with the guests and enjoyed delicious hor d'oeuvres. A little time passed and the Royal family made their presence. Everyone stopped and faced them. The eldest princess went up to address the party.
"My loyal subjects, This ball marks the end of the festival. Please enjoy the food and music but first we have a rare award to bestow upon someone. Will Captain Horatio Morlock please approach the stage." she said.
The Captain walked through the parting crowd and stood before the princess. He gave a bow and the princess gave a nod.
"If you please Marshall Whitestone" the princess said.
A big burly man with an excess of metals upon his military jacket came up and opened a box that he was holding. Inside was a gold medal attached to a blue ribbon. The medal had sword crossed with a rifle over a set of wings and a twenty four carat diamond mounted above the wings. The princess took the medal and placed it around Morlock's neck. She then put her hand on his shoulder gently guiding him to turn around.
"With this medal which symbolizes the height of military skill, I princess Angela bestow the title of Grand Champion to you. May our rich lands rest peacefully under your watch." she said loudly for all to hear.
The ballroom echoed with the most graceful applause you'd ever heard.
The party started back up and Maria rejoin with Morlock as the nobles were separated into groups.
"You done being paraded around?" she asked.
"No, I'm guessing that you'll be doing that now," he said.
"Correct you are, now follow me." she said.
Maria took his arm and led him towards the side with all the banners. There stood their target Brigadier Nicholas Diamondton, Commandant of the Winged Guard and more importantly keeper of the blue lens.
"Let's introduce ourselves" Ms. Incantasha said aggressively.
The Captain walked up to the Brigadier and before he could get out a word the Commandant interrupted.
"Look at who it is. The man of the hour. Come Horus don't be a stranger" he said.
"Yes sir" Morlock replied.
"And who is the lovely lady with you?" Diamondton asked.
"This is lady.." Morlock being.
"Lady Audrey Crystalland," Maria hastily finished with a curtsey.
"Well my boy you've made me and our Corp proud," the Brigadier.
"Yes sir, I'm glad I didn't let you down," Morlock.
Maria walked over to the Brigadier and leaned into his personal space.
"Tell me general, Is there any dangerous missions that I need to worry about my sweetheart going on?" Maria asked with a concerned face.
"No, My lady there is one but our lad here isn't on the expeditionary force. so he'll be home safe at his garrison." Diamondton reassured.
"Thank goodness," Maria said with a sigh of relief. She started to head back to the Captain when she stumbled backwards from her high heel shoes. Diamondton was able to catch her before she fell down.
"Oh my, It's always good to have military men by your side to save you." she said.
"I'm always happy to help beautiful young lady" the Brigadier said.
The Captain and Maria talked a little more with the Brigadier than parted ways. The found a place to sit on a most extravagant sofa. There they sat, enjoyed wine and chatted to the nobles who stopped by. The hour was getting late and most of the guests were leaving so it was appropriate for them to do the same.
Morlock and Maria left the palace grounds into the streets.
"This job has been quite an enjoyable experience. I should hire you more often than." Maria said joyfully.
"I'm glad you had a good time at the ball but we still need to get the blue…" Morlock was beginning to say when Maria pulled out the blue lens with a gleeful smirk on her face.
"When did you?" Morlock asked confused.
Maria started to pantomime her falling down, "Oh my, It sure is great to have a big strong BRRRAVE military man to save little O me," she said in the most over dramatised way.
Morlock stood there unimpressed with her childish act.
"Come on Ms. Incantasha, let's get back to the Burning Duchess" He said.