The Scourge of The Boar King
By Judd Richardson
“Beware Terra, some things that seem dead are only asleep.” Skipps, the first mate of the Sterling Hawk spoke with a tinge of fear in his voice.
Terra steeled her face. She despised the parent-like attitude her best friend carried. Like a child Terra stomped her foot and made a face that looked as if she had licked a lemon melon. She had been captain for hardly three weeks and had grown tired of the merchant jobs she was forced to take on.
Standing alone in the captain's quarters the two friends spoke in private conversation, despite the entire airship knowing the topic being debated. As the discussion carried on emotions began to run high. Both sides were sure their view was the only correct one.
“Skipp’s, this is not what I signed up for, I hate it. I want to become famous and no airship captain became famous by delivering silks on time. Just trust me on this one,” Terra help but allow the emotion she was feeling to tinge her words. She was tired of everyone telling her what she could and could not do. It was as if she were still with her dad.
“If we discover a lost tech in there Skipps our names would be made for a long time. I thought you wanted to explore, not act like an old granny!”
The short Foxtrot stood with his fire red tail swaying and folded his arms. It was obvious that Terra’s pleas were going unheeded. Then a flash of indecision crossed his face. Terra knew she was getting through the mental barriers he had set up. Skipps turned to look out the porthole to hide his feelings.
Skipps studied the topic of the argument, brooding over the possible danger. Outside of his porthole a colossal, dead space ship lay imbedded in the jungle that was its grave. Civilization had not seen tech like that since the Constellation Wars six hundred years ago. The Sterling Hawk, a blimp style airship, was stone aged compared to the futuristic machine. The airship that sat moored to a jungle tree looked like an ant next to the enormous ship.
Skipps threw his paws up in the air, exasperated and turned to face Terra.
“What would your father say if he saw you now Terra?” Skipps pointed at the sleeping giant, “I have heard of terrible things found in the Ship Mountains that should have been left be. It also goes without saying Terra that all the artifacts could be decayed and a waste of our time making our delivery late. Please Terra. Pass this one by.”
Skipps frustrated look melted into a face of pleading. Regardless, Terra could not do it.
“Skipps, I am the captain.” Terra folded her arms, sealing her decision. “Either you assign some of the crew to join me or I will do it myself.” Terra hated to speak to her best friend this way but like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day an opportunity had presented itself for her to explore.
Skipps looked down at the ground. He was beat, he knew it and so did Terra. His own father had been first mate to Terra’s father and Skipps knew his place. “Yes, sir.” He said defeated, “The crew will draw lots. They have all voiced that they would rather not enter but it is your call.”
Terra paused before the gaping hole filled with darkness before her. The noonday sun filtered through the jungle umbrella making the rusted metal hole all the more ominous and eerie. The eyes of her crew pierced Terra’s back. Almost silent whispers behind the captain wondered if she were brave enough to enter.
Pushing her fear aside Terra held her illumination stick up and slowly stepped forward leading two Foxtrots and a Canine hound into the gloom. Vines and pieces of scrap metal from ages forgotten littered the halls of the ship making the small company's movement slow. Terra fought to not focus on the fear that pricked the hairs on her neck by imagining the type of humans that had once roamed the halls of this dead ship. She would have done anything to walk with her own kind among the stars and to know no boundaries.
Each step into the darkness made the worried faces of the crew left aboard the Sterling Hawk fade behind Terra’s group. Soon only the darkness enveloping the small bubble of light could be seen.
Prince, the Canine whispered to Lance in tones that were to low for Terra to hear. The topic was obvious to her despite the secretive tone. They were complaining of their misfortune that they had drawn the lots to join the expedition. It did not matter to Terra. She was here for one purpose and one purpose only, to become famous. Prince and Lance lacked vision and determination. They were expendable to the captain. Terra had little more use for them than the weight they carried.
Terra’s grudge toward her crew members was only the surface of her anger. The true prod that forced Terra on in anger was her father. Being the daughter of a famous and beloved airship captain was difficult but the shadow he cast over her life was unbearable. No matter who she met the question of her lineage would arise. She despised not having a fame of her own, instead she was forced to follow her father. This fact made Terra take risks, many unnecessary, so as to fulfill her dream and step out of that hated shadow.
The four explorers moved like hunters in a viperuth den. The group only paused to open containers or drawers, searching for any forgotten treasures. Ever since the destruction of the earth through the bombs that dropped tree clouds, the human race had fallen into a technological stone age. Legend said it was that destruction that had caused ships like this to fall from the sky and nearly destroying the human race and all life upon the earth. Even with the passing of time the scars and stories from that black day were still seen and heard.
After the near destruction of earth, mother nature had allowed other creatures to crawl from the ashes and make their mark upon the land. For the first time the earth was not only under the domain of mankind. Terra lamented being human. All of the other races and breeds held some contempt for what man had done in the past. It was this fact that made her being an airship captain, a revered class, all the more difficult. Being the only human airship captain ever since her father had left was difficult and another burden she blamed her father for.
As far as Terra could see, being human and the weak daughter of a great airship captain forced her to make her mark on the world. It was not her fault that she was born to this lot, but the only way out of it was in the depths of a ship like the behemoth that she now tred in. Dead ships such as this were treasure troves that yielded up incredible tools that were sometimes impossible to recreate. There was no faster route for Terra to make a name for herself. Exhilaration filled Terra’s heart as she would hold up a strange tool or artifact, the use long forgotten, and hand it to one of her crew.
“Captain, please,” whined Prince after an hour, “can we go back to the ship? We have more than enough of these artifacts to pay our salaries for two months!” The Canine looked around nervously as if he expected a gremlin to jump out at him.
Terra ignored the whines and whimpers of the the coward. He did not understand what she was doing, no one understood what it was like being her.
The hallway suddenly opened to an enormous hanger, dark and vast. Mouth open in awe Terra entered. After several steps she turned to see her crew still at the entrance of the hanger.
“Captain, it looks like this is the end for us.” Prince spoke standing behind the Foxtrots who were even now stepping away from the dark hangar.
“Prince,” she said allowing a little of her annoyance to leak out, “we are not done until I say.” She held up her half full bag, “Can’t you see this place is a goldmine!”
Lance finally spoke his first words out loud, he seemed to cower from his own voice. “There is something evil here Captain, can't you feel it? And look,” Lance pointed at her his hand shaking, “your light does not shine as far in that room.”
Terra was amazed. These were grown adults that had faced pirates and danger and they chose to run away now? Of course the light did not shine far, the hanger was enormous. She looked over the poor souls that had been forced to follow her. Each one wore a look of mortified fear. Terra felt annoyance ignite to anger. “Leave then you blue sheep! I will return when I am ready, and I will be docking your pay. I do not reward cowards.”
And with that they were gone. The cowardly crew fled with such speed their bags were left behind, the light of their illumination sticks disappeared in moments. Terra was alone in the hangar with all of the loot. She didn’t need them. When this adventure was over she would be known as the fearless blond haired Captain Terra Skychild.
The voice of Skipps broke her train of thought warning her of the dangers that may lay inside, asleep. Skipps, despite being her friend since youth, knew nothing of exploring. He was happy with milk runs and delivering merchants cloth. Loads of money and fame was not made that way.
Being raised on an airship, Terra held no fear of the darkness but Lance had been correct. In this sector of the ship the darkness was thicker. Terras senses heightened. Anything could be in the black pitch, lying in wait unseen, watching her. The feeling was discomforting but she pressed on readying her sword for anything.
After what felt an eternity of cutting through the gloom a soft blue glow could be seen. Like a spirit floating in the night it beckoned to the captain. Setting her bearings for the glimmer, Terra was surprised to find glowing mushrooms growing on and around a long silver box. With all the caution in the world Terra crouched and examined the strange fungus. They glowed like the stars, but seemed harmless. Terra brushed off the amazement and caution. She was a cloud mariner, it was no surprise that something such as this would be unknown to her. Living in the sky all one's life did that to people. Terra turned her attention back to her treasure hunt.
The silver box had been bolted and chained to the hangar floor, all clear signs that what lay inside was valuable. Digging in her belt Terra found a tool that worked well enough to turn the hexed bolts. As she did so she forced Skipps warning out of her head by singing a tune her father had sung to her when she was young.
“...moon keep shining,
from the desert sky above”
The first bolt fell to the floor with a clang, the noise loud and ferocious in the silence. She began to sing aloud.
“Blue shadows on the trail,
Little sky girl, close your eyes and dream”
Little sky girl, close your eyes and dream”
The last bolt was almost free when the silver box burst open forcing Terra to fall back onto her behind. Confused Terra stood and approached the coffin like box greed glowing in her eyes. Beneath the thoughts of lost techs or gold Terra couldn’t help but feel a malevolent spirit in the vast room. She was not alone.
Terra stopped next to the open box and looked down and was surprised to see a swirling mist of smoke. Like a witches cauldron the mist began to swirl and bubble, spilling over the coffin edges. Alarms in Terra’s head rang out. She was not safe. That primal instinct to flee was strong but Terra had to know what she had found.
Before she could move closer two orange flames blinked to life and began to rise with the mist swirling and flowing around them. The form she looked upon was not a mist but a body standing and forming. The half formed head turned to look at her, the eyes orange abyss’s of hate and madness. For a moment Terra felt madness tug at her own mind and then she fled back the hall abandoning her bag of treasures in her haste.
Skips warning, now prophetic, rang even louder in her mind. “Beware Terra, some things that seem dead are only asleep.”