Day 69: Everyone was fairly hung over this morning, but that didn’t stop us shipping out at the crack of dawn. Gus was back, like he’d never been gone. I tried to talk to him, but the dragon was making everyone crazy, and no one had time for anything but work.
The hunt was absolutely terrifying. I never want to go through something like that again! We started off in the direction that Murphy had spied the dragon before, and it was soon quite obvious we were on the right track. Great swathes of trees lay splintered and burned beneath us.
“More Steam!” Murphy roared, affixing one of the Jupiter’s Fancy stones to the hollow in the wheel I had noticed before. We kept moving forward, so I guess it was more for luck this time. And it was sitting there in plain sight, so I guess the existence of the devices isn’t really a secret. At least we didn’t change worlds.
The crew hustled to follow his orders, and the ship leapt forward. As we followed the trail of destruction, I thought about this world. Now that I knew we were not on Earth, I wondered about it even more. There was a Steampunk sensibility about it, with all the airships and clockworks. I wonder if it has something to do with that time I saw Murphy at DragonCon. He seemed very taken with Steampunk.
The trail became even more obvious the further we went. Some of the trees were still smoldering, and I think that I saw a hut on fire. The dragon was burning villages. Lots of people have died, according to rumors in the taverns. I wasn’t feeling as dragon friendly at the moment.
“There she blows!” cried the lookout. The metaphor was a bit mixed, but we could see the dragon in the distance. My god, it was huge!
I’d never seen one as large. The sun glittering off its wings was breathtaking. Light splintered into prisms like a million rainbows.
The gold dragon roared defiantly when he saw the Lady Jean, and dove toward us. His wingspread was wider than our hull length.
It just reared back and let out a gout of flame. Even at our distance, I could hear screams. There was a village beneath it—and now, it was a garden of fire.
“Set the harpoons!” Murphy growled.
Andrew was already in position across the deck, working the winches to aim the harpoons. There were four of the things, sharp and deadly, which could be fired in rapid order. Each was attached to a large spool of steel cable. Each one would normally have been manned by two pirates, but we no longer had that big a crew. While Andrew worked to get aim on the perfect “kill” spot—the belly of the creature—our biggest man struggled to point the other harpoons at the beast, until all four were set. The harpoons would be plenty strong enough for any of the dragons we’d fought so far…hopefully they were enough for this one.
Murphy continued shouting commands from his position behind the wheel, pointing here and there to bring the harpoons to bear.
“Fire!” Murphy bellowed, and Andrew gave a sharp nod to his man. Four arrows of death flew toward that golden behemoth, trailing cables that seemed as thin as gossamer strands as they unwound from the spools.
I saw at least three hit, the Lady Jean bucking against the strain of it. The dragon let out a scream of its own—a high-pitched keen of pain and fury as it fought to free itself of the barbed weapons. The harpoons were designed with extending barbs that deployed when they hit. When the point dug deep, the barbs ripped and tore at the scales around them. The lovely golden scales bloomed with red flowers, and shreds fell like confetti.
The dragon took off, soaring straight upward. The Lady Jean followed, like an owner pulled along by a runaway dog.
“Muskets!” Murphy barked, and a barrage of musket balls sped upwards. The men at the harpoons were working hard to reel in the dragon. Because of that, I could see every contact that the musket balls made. Its sides were more red than gold now.
The Lady Jean rose after the creature, and a second round of musket fire went off. The cables were singing in the wind, taut between the two combatants. Andrew hit a control on her pedestal, and the barbs on that harpoon retracted. The point subsequently tore loose, leaving a gaping wound in the dragon’s side that sent a rain of blood pattering down around us. The dragon roared in agony, and my soul cried in sympathy. The deadly arrow snapped back toward the ship.
For a moment, I held my breath, sure that it was going to rip a hole in the envelope, but it just slammed into the side of the ship, quivering. I let out the breath in a rush—just in time for a second harpoon to let go and skewer one of the crew.
The rest of the crew sent another volley of musket fire directly into the gaping wounds. The dragon’s roars took on a high-pitched keen of pain.
The final line snapped with a crack like a whip. The dragon banked and flew off toward a distant mountain.
“After that beast!” Murphy’s eyes were blazing like diamonds. The crew scrambled to comply.
“And get that body off the ship,” he ordered, jerking his head at the corpse on the deck. The pirates dumped it over the side like so much dirty laundry. The matter-of-factness of it made my blood run cold.
It wasn’t hard to trail the dragon. The wounds in its sides were definitely taking their toll. A fine mist of blood rode the breeze. As we neared the mountain we could see a cave behind a substantial ledge. The dragon was making straight for it.
A lair! A real life dragon’s lair!
What treasures would be inside? We’d found a few small hoards in our hunts, but nothing big. This cave looked like it might rival the hoards of legend.
The giant wings were beating slower as the dragon struggled to reach the cave. It stumbled as it hit the ledge, and then it was inside. Would we have to follow?
I’ve managed to sneak a bit of pencil stub from the ship’s doctor, and a few scraps of paper from the cook. I’m recording my thoughts with them so I can reveal Black Jack Murphy’s infamy when I finally return to civilization.
There’s a universal truth about pirates. They hunt treasure, and they don’t care who they have to rob to get it.
There’s a universal truth about dragons. They hoard treasure, and they really don’t like for people to try and take it.
I was kidnapped by the infamous air pirate Black Jack Murphy and his crew of the airship The Lady Jean. They wanted me to chronicle their dragon hunts. Little did Murphy know where my sympathies lie! So, this journal — and the resulting CD, coming soon from Mage Records “Pirates vs. Dragons” — tell the true stories of Pirates vs. Dragons. The CD combines rousing sea shanties about pirates being pirates with songs about the majesty of dragons, and the journal details the privations I suffered. There’s a little something for both sides here–and I bet you find a new favorite or two.