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The Merchant and the Minstrel – Chapter 1 by R.R. Schultz
SUMMARY: The Merchant and the Minstrel, escape into danger.
As they climbed higher, the rope turned coarse and splintered. Their fingers were red and swollen. Her hands were well calloused, and so she voiced no complaints. His were tender and inexperienced, so each scratch became another injustice. Their pants were wearing thin, and perforations gave way to tears, which gave way to holes, which gave way to blood. The snake charmer's song was lost in the wind, but they knew he was still playing. Like a sapling peeking out of the soil, the top end of the rope manifested the strands, which braided and knotted themselves. Each push of their feet, and pull of their arms brought them closer to the wispy clouds. The rope did not sway, as the trees had. The cuffs of their clothes rippled in waves. He told her to slow down. She told him to keep up. A crowd below, swarmed together, growing and shrinking from sight. He wanted to give in, and let them catch his fall. She had listened to him whine for long enough, and each time she inched up, her hips moved with increasing angst. When he asked if she was trying to shake him off, she told him that she couldn't hear him so far below, and again he was told to hurry.
The airship was slow, but steadily it came, threatening to pass without them. It had to fight the wind, and the men at the cranks rained cold sweat upon the sands. The speed of each propeller, said much of the strength of each pair of hands. The captain sat upon the prow, beside a windsock used for measurements. He dangled a fishing rod between his knees, jigging a lure that held no bait. Two handles hung down to the height of his ears. Each one was drawn to the rudder. A pull would steer in an inverse direction. The first mate laid a hand of the fire feeder, signalling him to stop. Sparse embers were kicked away, shooting between the holes in the furnace's grate. They aged into ashes and journeyed away in the currents, never to be noticed again. The ladders were dropped, from both sides and the back, along with airy baskets, hooks and nets.
The pirate fleet had fallen behind. Each man piloted his own pairs of wings. The tiny crafts were exhausting in the headlong gales. Down below, they were known as the dragonfly thieves, but within their ranks they knew no collective name. Any person who could fly may join in their fun, as long as they wore no badge. At the tip of the hoard, two women strained with grinding teeth. Neither would let the other get there first. They practice of attack feigned of chaos, but each one knew their role. The nimble and light, would spend their strength for height, and latch on to the top of their prey. When one would cling on, they could give their peddling legs a rest, and let their weight do their part for them. The burly pirates, who wore padding and clubs, would land on the decks, in a fury. Their higher risk let them get first picks, but that incentive was hardly worth it. Those who were amiss in speed or strength, would play about as distractions. Their flyers could hold less loot, as they were weighed down with shields and slings.
The rope had blossomed like a daisy, whose petals were stiff enough to stand on.