Ahoi! I hope you’ve had an utterly splendiferous week! 🙂 Ours has been a mixed bag of liquorice allsorts XD I honestly don’t understand how lock-down can have caused so much calamity XD But there has been mostly good amongst the sporadic weird – the car got fixed which was unexpected and fabulous and lots of art has happened which is always a good thing! I even got to do some arting myself so I’ve started making chibies of the Silk and Steel characters thinking that for Inktober I will paint them in tea XD
So here’s my cutesy lil half-demon librarian Edmund for you… just a basic one as I was figuring him out, I want to do one of him puffing his heart-shaped smoke rings at some point too XD … (and as with all my pics you can print and colour him in if you want 🙂 )
And here’s the next bit of Silk and Steel… still at the docks and from Xander’s perspective… I hope you all have an utterly fabulous weekend and are starting to feel a bit more ‘normal’ lol, whatever that is! XD
When Spyro gave the signal, Xander immediately looked around for Vraxi but he was nowhere to be found. Cursing, he pushed through the tide of bodies all surging to engage with the few remaining guards. He elbowed, shoved and butted people aside, not caring which side they were on, his mind filled only with horrific visions of what trouble the idiot could have managed to get himself into now.
He glanced up at the wall and saw Fey take out one guard while another jumped her from behind and locked a meaty arm around her throat, but before he could think of a way to help, an osetra sailed neatly through the air, did a fancy little flip and buried itself in the man’s neck.
Looking in the direction the knife had come, he saw Vraxi up on a nearby rooftop beside Ros and breathed a sigh of relief, before remembering he was furious with the wretch and would definitely have to murder him when they got home.
A blow to the side of his head suddenly sent him reeling, black stars danced in front of his eyes and he felt the demon surge and thrash inside him as waves of panic, adrenaline and fury pulsed through his brain.
He turned, his vision clearing in clouds of dissipating claret, seized the guard who had struck him by the hair and slammed his knee into his face, breaking his nose and dropping him to the floor where the mob trampled him blindly into the mud.
The noise and mayhem drenched his senses, like a wet curtain that he struggled to fight free of to no avail, and he lashed out blindly for a few seconds, terrified and unable to discern who was attacking him and from where.
Breathe. He told himself. Stop flailing and take control.
He forced himself to stand still, open his eyes and focus on what was happening around him.
Fey was doing well again on the wall, on the roof top Ros and Vraxi seemed to be picking off guards on the other side of the barricade.
On the ground the mob were making some headway dismantling the cart planks and lower placed pallets. There were four guards left on this side. Xander pulled his knives from his belt and went for the nearest.
Tea, Octopussies, pirates.. this is why we love living in the land of Ire 😀 Here is our last inktober offering – chibi Jack Diamond , although Penny didn’t get to finish him yet he still needs a background and some dark coffee layers building up to show off his leathers.
And if you don’t know who Jack is, here is his introduction (which follows on from the encounter with Scarlet Skarry) and again some much better artwork by Robin …
Chapter 2 – All Aboard The Chronic Agro…
Shrieks of metal against metal, the pitched song of valkyric missiles, thundering of boots on metal deck and voices at the back of all, that swelled and burst without forming into speech.
It took three attempts for Skarry to clear the thick red light from his vision when he opened his eyes. His neck ached in a particular hot-spot that screamed ‘tranquiliser dart’ to his awakening consciousness and several choice names for his sister stuck in the back of his parched throat.
He rubbed his eyes. Good. At least they were not tied up like turkeys here, at least they could…
“Wiz preserve us!” he yelled, leaping to his feet and causing the enormous cage to sway like a Watcher’s lantern. He grasped the bars, dizzied by the height at which they were now suspended, like a lure, above the deck of the Chronic Agro. Beside him, the Last Witch of Pendle lay crumpled in a heap, still cradling her brandy bottle. Mercurio was sprawled on his back a few feet away, snoring like a pig, his Botticellian curls splayed out around him, giving him the appearance of an inebriated angel. Skarry shook his head in mild disgust and the metal bars in frustration, causing the cage to sway again.
He gazed around in awe. Above him, the fan-like sails of the Agro towered like the wings of some ancient beast and, despite his desperate situation, Skarry couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the ingenious Tinker design work. Unlike the few other Landships he’d seen, the Agro looked like a ship – a sleek, silver vessel wrought from gleaming plates of metal, and its serpentine tail (“Oh, Wiz! It has a tail?!”) thrashed from side to side as it careered crazily down the narrow cobbled street on four ferociously clawed and scaly metal legs, mercilessly thrashing the sides of the feeble mortar dwellings, as it struggled to carve its own passage. Skarry spun around (“Then where there’s a tail, and legs, there must surely be a head? – Yes!”) The prow of the ship rose, swan-like, sculpted from more elegant silver platework, which turned at last to intricately layered scales (“No – feathers?”) forming a sleek mane around the stately head of a hook-beaked, beady-eyed gryphon.
Skarry gaped. Never in his life had he seen anything like it. Up through the deck, protruded a multitude of metal mechanisms, which thrust and pulsed like jointed limbs, connected to a structure of pin-wheel sails at both the rear and sides of the Agro. Beside these structures, towards the rear, an intricate menagerie of leather bellows, like a set of prosthetic lungs, heaved and sighed out great gusts of air which, directed through a labyrinth of copper pipework, kept the pinwheels carting and filled the sails to constant billow.
“Thisss isss insssanity Jack! Tisss dashhhed to ssssmitherinesss we will be, laddie!” The gryphon ended its sentence with a piercing metallic screech which knocked Skarry to his knees, hands plastered over his ears and cursing the day his sister was ever born.
“Scarlet! Scarlet you she-devil, where are you?” he yelled, not hoping to be heard over the racket of thundering mortar and screaming ship-beasts.
He peered back through the bars of the cage; at the helm, if it could be called such, stood an unusually slight young man wearing, quite probably Skarry reflected, the most inappropriate garb for the post of Pirate Captain purchasable within the Seven Counties: His thigh-length boots, turned down at the top, might possibly have served him well, had they not sported spindly, six-inch heels. Certainly, Skarry told himself, he must be running a risk of serious injury from opportune blade or flying missile, revealing such a vast quantity of flesh between the sparse material coverings afforded by his choice of mutilated and grossly over-embellished tail-coat. The garish garment barely reached his waist and beneath it he seemed to be wearing little more than a pair of, ludicrously short, leather breeches and some sort of vari-strapped, sleeveless leather… (for his own peace of mind, Skarry decided to call it a doublet.) His snow-white hair was streaked with riots of coloured dye, braided with an ostentatious variety of beads and trinkets over his back and shoulders, and cropped short on top so that it rose in aggressive-looking spikes like the poll some bellicose parrot. So this, Skarry thought despairingly, was Jack Diamond; captain of the, disturbingly sentient, Chronic Agro and in whose, evidently less than capable, hands their fates had come to rest.
“Pipe down, Aggie!” the captain sang cheerfully above the uproar. “Where’s my Scar? SCARLET! Where’s my first mate? Where is she?” He staggered backwards suddenly and, gasping for breath, clutched a hand to his chest, laughed manically, and made a desperate grab for the ship’s rail as he collapsed sideways onto the metal deck.
“Pipe down yer self, y’fool! I’m atcher elbow!” Scarlet bellowed, helping him back to his feet.“You, there; Biddie, fetch Rowland with his kit will yer? And some more meths, the captain’s dryin’ out!” She flung a hip-flask to someone masked from Skarry’s view within the writhes of smoke snaking like enraged cobras from the roofs of some of the thatched buildings, onto which many of the lighted gas lamps, which lined the narrow street, had fainted under the weight of the Agro’s advances.
“You’d no need fer all this, y’daft peacock!” Scarlet shrieked. “Thirty minutes, Jack! Can yer not count t’thirty?”
“Oh, thirty, ten, what’s the difference, Scar? I’ll tell you – thirty minutes, to a mind as industrious as mine, is like an eternity. Thirty minutes and you’d return to find me at the mercy of insanity. I was not made for waiting. And neither was Aggie – was you old bird? She was getting restless, wasn’t you, my pet?”
The gryphon let out another smoke-splintering shriek, “Ressstlesss, aye, firrra a smoothh drink of oil and a rub down, Jack, not a dessssent into the jawssss of the abyssss. Thisss missst playsss hell with my jointssss.”
“Nonsense! She caught the scent of the old Plunder Bus, didn’t you, pet? Her hackles went up and she was straining for the kill!”
“Insssolent whelp! Can y’not put a leashh on him, Missss. Sssskarry?”
“Save us all if I did!” Scarlet shook her head. “We need t’go back, Jackie, the Bus is blocking our exit and Bill’ll go spare if we lose one of his ships over nought but a bit o’fun. Y’understand me, Jack? Are y’listening, yer raving nutcase? We need t’back her up!”
“Retreat?” Jack cried, tightening his hold on the metal harness, which seemed to serve the function of a steering wheel, as the gryphon tossed its silver head indignantly. “Run from a stand-off? With the Brothers Crim? Never! Stout heart and onward, My Lady Fair, we will see this through to the very last!” He swayed violently on his feet again and almost pitched headlong over the side of the vessel. Scarlet made a skillful lunge, caught him by his coat tails and hauled him back.
“You’ve sprung a leak again, Jack, d’yer hear me? Yer valve is leakin and the meths is addling yer brain – y’re not thinkin’ straight! Listen t’me – we cannot go ‘onward,’ we’re out of space!”
“Bah! I didn’t come through the jaws of death still kicking, only to be thereafter subjugated by the meagre laws of so-called ‘time and space’. Fate smiles on the reckless, rewards the endeavours of the impetuous, and flings her blessings like stars to light the universe of the relentless rogues aboard the Chronic Agro!” He seized the harness with both hands, hauled himself to his feet again, and raised his voice in a sudden, boisterous burst of song above the pandemonium:
“All hands to the deck, me loves, hands to the bellows,
fill up the sails, me loves, onward we goes,
let Fate bring us home again, wither she whethers,
hands to the deck, me loves, onward she blows.
Come death to us all, me loves, I’ll not be grieving,
our Eldorado waits, heaven to me,
city of gold, me loves, waiting to welcome,
all the relentless rogues home from the sea.
All hands to the deck…”
“BIDDIE BONES!” Scarlet hollered. “Curse y’girl where are yer?”
Within seconds, the erstwhile mysterious personage that was Bidde Bones, came skidding out of the smoke-cloak across the slick metal of the deck, accompanied by two other crew members, and Skarry’s eyes widened in horror. The oddity that was Jack Diamond paled suddenly to the commonplace, when compared to these bizarre creatures, and, although he was one of the few civilians privy to the truth of the situation, Skarry found himself suddenly able to sympathise with the general public opinion that Billy Blythe and his team of Tinkers had manufactured a race of ‘tons to crew their fleet of landships.
Scarlet hurried over to them and there followed a rather frenzied discussion in hushed tones which gave Skarry time to shut his mouth and take careful note of the ‘gifts’ each Land Pirate had been bestowed by their king.
Biddie Bones herself, bore a weight of muscle that would put most men to shame. Her dark skin gleamed like polished tourmaline – plum and smoke beneath the lamplight sheens of gold – and, beneath her shirt, the contours of her femininity gloated in startling compliment to the terror induced by her obviously formidable strength. Skarry was tempted to guess that the ‘Bones’ element of her title had been earned in reference to the number of these she had managed to crush with her bare hands, both of which were prosthetic and attached to murderous-looking mechanical arms which ended at her elbows, above which her natural biceps bulged menacingly. That was fine. Just fine, Skarry thought. Prosthetics he had seen before, they were not commonplace of course, but certainly not so rare, amongst those who could afford to commission them, that the sight of them would cause a man to blanch. No. But the tail; the scorpianic tail that rose elegantly, from Wiz knew where, to curve like a grim parasol above the girl’s head, complete with three-foot barb at its tip – Skarry shuddered and moved his gaze to the next member of the group.
The sight did nothing to console him. Here was a man with no arms at all. Limbs he had a-plenty but these, apart from the legs he was standing on, were all rope-like tentacles made of minute strands of ingeniously braided metal so that they coiled and writhed with perfect fluidity, giving him the appearance of a Kraken that had lost its way.
“You’ll have t’hold him down, Giddy,” Scarlet was saying, “while The Kid swaps the valves over. We’ve got to be fast this time, I’ve no idea how long it’ll be before Archie Crim realises Jack’s down and gives his crew the order to rush us.”
“I’ll hold the helm, Miss. Skarry,” Biddie growled. “They’ll not get past me n’ my boys.”
Scarlet frowned. “Good. But just th’same, we don’t want t’ fight if we don’t ‘ave to. When Jack gets his senses back he’ll want t’get straight back t’London. We’ve got what we came for, Aggie’s the fastest Land Ship in the Seven Counties and she’s got us here in good time, but if we stick around now there’ll be more of these loons showin’ up – the last thing we want is t’get hemmed in from behind.”
“An’ if any crew decides to board us, we’ll have no chance of keepin’ that wyrd web thing.” Giddy added, balling one of his tentacles into a fist and the other into a flat palm to pound it against.
“And of course, Bill made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t care tuppence who brings him the thing – the first ship back with it will get the reward. He certainly won’t be listening to argument and conjecture that it was us who risked our necks getting it out of the house in the first place.” The last shipmate in this conspiracy was a much older gentleman, with a voice like the grumbling groan of shale being churned through a spring tide. His short, curly black hair was bleaching to silver and through it Skarry could see two gleaming copper horns (obviously added to compliment that fetching pair of mechanical goat’s legs he has) Skarry told himself, fighting to retain his composure.
“Aye, Kid.” Scarlet nodded. “He’ll reward whoever puts it in his palm. An’ I’m damned if that’s not gonna be us! Right. Let’s do this.”
“Come death to…us all, me… loves, I’ll not be grieving,
our Eldorado… waits, heaven to me,
city of gold, me loves… wait…waiting… to welcome,
all the re…eh? Ah! What’s this? Mutiny?”
Jack flailed uselessly in the grip of Giddy’s tentacles as the huge man hauled him effortlessly down onto the deck and held him there.
“Sorry about this, Cap,” he said, uncomfortably.
“Sorry?” Jack replied faintly, his eyes beginning to roll in his head as he continued to gasp for breath. “Oh yes…you’ll all be sorry…worthless…bunch of…blackguards..I…”
“Oh pipe down, y’daft turkey!” Scarlet scolded, though her tone did not match the severity of her words as she stroked his forehead in an uncharacteristically maternal fashion that Skarry found very disturbing. “Rowland’s gonna fix yer valve, me love, that’s all.”
“Valve?” Jack’s eyes slid shut. “I’ll fix that old goat…I’ll fix the lot of you…”
“Get out of my way!” Rowland ‘The Kid’ snapped testily, brushing Biddie and Scarlet aside as he opened his large leather case and took out of it a thin metal implement that resembled a fountain pen. “The continuous distillation mechanism, which removes any traces of methanol that may find their way into his bloodstream, has failed due to the overload produced by the breach of the valve. Before I can attend to replacing the seal on the valve in his throat, which allows the meths to travel directly to his heart without leaking into his bloodstream, I must magnetically activate the shunt in his brain that will release the superfluous spirits into the overflow chamber and feed them back into his heart – contamination is minimal, though he may experience some fatigue for a short while afterwards, it is vastly preferable to having him vomit all over the deck.”
“JUST GET ON WITH IT!” Scarlet shrieked.
“JACK DIAMOND!” A sinister voice suddenly resonated through the miasmatic veil of smoke. “What’s wrong, Little Jack? Isn’t Billy Blythe’s pretty little parrot gonna favour us all with another song?”
“Crawl out of your stinking little hole an’ say that, Archebald Crim, you filthy bellows-rat!” Biddy roared, leaning over the rail, but her rage was met with a chorus of jeers and cat-calls from the crew of the Plunder Bus.
“Perhaps he’ll do a request?” someone yelled. “I’m sure we can all think of a tune we’d like to hear him squark!”
“Or perhaps he needs us to come over there and ring one out of ‘is scrawny little neck?” More whoops and jeering followed.
“Ho, Jack!” the first voice crowed “Why don’tcha flap over here, little birdie? We’ve got a very fine cage all ready and waiting for you! How’d you like the sound of that then, eh? I wonder how much old Bill would pay us out of his hoard, to stop his precious little pheasant gettin’ plucked?”
“That’s mutinous talk!” Biddy bellowed. “Threaten the Pirate King would you? You’ll regret that jest before this night is out, Archie!”
“Hurry up with that damn valve, Kid,” Scarlet muttered. “Any minute now, old Arch is gonna realise Jack’s out of action. And when he does…”
“All, right, all right!” Rowland snapped. “There, the fluid is feeding back into his system. Although this next bit will be a lot easier if he doesn’t regain consciousness in the middle of it.” He reached inside his bag again, took out a tiny brass key, and pulled back the, rakishly high, collar of Jack’s tail-coat to reveal a metal lock plate seamlessly inserted into the side of his neck. He turned the key in the hole and the little hinged door swung open. “Not long now, Captain. Just let me seal this off…ah, there it is, just as I thought, completely worn away. Still, all we have to do is replace it with this one…”
“What’s the matter Jack?” Archie boomed. “Not coming out to play today?”
“HURRY UP!” Scarlet hissed.
Jacks eyes suddenly snapped open and, even from his distant viewpoint, Skarry was amazed by the sudden shrewd alertness they reflected. “Scarlet?”
“I’m here, Jackie.”
“What happened? No. Damn that, what’s the situation?”
“We’ve got the wyrd web, Jack, the Plunder Bus is ahead of us, all guns blazing, we need to back up, me love, and set sail for home.”
“Aye.They’ve been goading us on all night, Cap. Now they’re threatening mutiny against the Pirate King.”
In a breath, the captain was on his feet. He scanned the street with a critical eye and his crew waited, with obviously bated breath, for his instructions.
“Pipe.” Jack held out his hand, expectantly, and Scarlet dutifully handed him a strange contrivance of copper tubing, which he puffed at thoughtfully before holding out his other hand. “Flask.” He took a long draught of meths from the hipflask, handed to him by Biddie Bones. Still they waited, while the steam from the pipe mingled with the smoke from the submissive rooftops. “Home?” he mused, his eyes narrowed in machinistic contemplation. “Home, yes, home with a good catch…did I hear old Archie Crim say something about a bird cage?”
“Aye, the impudent dog!” Scarlet spat.
Jack puffed his pipe again, ignoring a missile which sailed so low above their heads that the rest of the crew ducked and breathed loud sighs of relief when it struck a nearby rooftop. His gaze travelled up the mizzen mast to meet Skarry’s and he grinned suddenly and waved “Hello there! I’m sorry I didn’t realise we had guests! My sincere apologies, but I’m afraid we are going to have to relieve you of your penthouse accommodation. You see,” he turned back to his crew, “we will shortly be entertaining a far more eminent guest!” The Agronauts let out a raucous cheer, and then scrambled to keep their feet as a nearby building finally gave up its stand and collapsed into the street, sending the ship reeling to one side as the gryphon shrieked and tried to steady itself.
“Tammy Rhymer!” Jack cried, “my beautiful little siren, and Angel D’Morte, gorgonian goddess that you are, where are you both? To the podium, please ladies. Rowland, you crotchety old goat, man the treacle cannons with Tross and keep those bottles coming. Hoist up the Spratapult, and the Mangonell. I want the Chicken Trebuchet up here as well. All idle hands to the bellows, keep the sails filled and the ship steady. Scarlet, other half of my once-beating heart, kindly prepare to make Captain Crim as uncomfortable as he deserves to be.”
“With pleasure, Captain.” Scarlet growled, and stalked off into the smoke, barking orders.
“And now, Giddy my friend, if you will accompany me to the helm, we will prepare to indulge ourselves in a spot of fishing.” Gideon grinned and flexed his tentacles as Jack moved to take the reins once more. “Gas masks on, me loves!” he cried, pulling his own, beautifully beaked, silver breathing apparatus from a small cubby to his left and hoisting it over his head. “Now, when you’re ready, Miss. Rhymer, let us show these contumelious curs why we are called THE CHRONIC AGRONAUTS!”
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o’clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o’clock and we are up to our elbows in tea! (Tea is an ink? Yes?) Yes that’s right, here is our weekly offering for inktober…
Miss. Scarlet Skarry Chibi painted using tea and coffee (apologies the photo is a little shaky).
She was built up with layers of rooibos and then rooibos blended with blackcurrant (darker brown tones) and rooibos blended with turmeric and ginger (lighter brown/gold tones) The pinky red , blue and green tones are blueberry and apple and the very darkest tones are strong brewed coffee. A huge amount of learning took place during this one!
If you don’t know who Scarlet Skarry is, well, here is an excerpt from the ‘possibly some day to be published’ novel in which she features… (with some much better accompanying artwork from Robin Eisenberg!)
Mercurio laughed and knelt down beside the thief. Gently, he lifted the white fingers from the floor and coaxed the spider-like thing out from under them. Gingerly, he turned it over and examined it, ever careful to keep his fingers clear of the needle-sharp fangs.
“Amazing,” he mused. “This is an incredible piece of machinery! It appears our young thief here, is a master of devices.” Curious, he lifted the enormous cowl, which hid the boy’s face from view, and pulled it back. At once, a cascade of crow- black hair spilled out over the floor, framing the delicate, pale features of a young woman. The area around her right eye was covered by an intricately engraved metal plate, studded in glorious designs with tiny jewels of every description. The plate fit perfectly around her eye socket, following the smooth curve of her high cheekbone, but the socket itself was empty.
“Mistress of devices,” he corrected, his voice the thoughtful glide of the barn owl above its moonlit hunting ground.
“Scarlet!” Skarry exclaimed.
The woman stirred and, as if this were some telepathic signal, the mechanical spider suddenly sprang to life once more, wrenched itself from the wizard’s hand and scuttled back to its owner. Mercurio gazed in rapt fascination as the creature clambered carefully onto the woman’s face and nestled down into the eye socket, its legs forming delicate rows of golden lashes above and below. The woman groaned softly and uttered something unprintable which caused Mercurio to grin and Skarry to roll his eyes.
“Scarlet!” Skarry hissed again. “What are you doing here?”
“John?” The abdomen of the eye-spider suddenly flew open to reveal a stunning mechanical replica of a human eye, complete in perfect mimicry of the original. The only perceptible difference was in the colour of the iris, which was a deep claret red, and the pupil – composed of a spiral of overlapping golden plates that, even now, were dilating in a curious, almost hypnotic motion as the woman leapt to her feet, glaring defiantly from one wizard to the other.
“John!” She spat furiously. “What’re you doing ‘ere? You’ll ruin everythin’! Why aren’t you in Lichfield?”
“Why aren’t you in London?”
Mercurio raised his eyebrows expectantly, “Introduction?”
Skarry gritted his teeth. “Scarlet, this is Mercurio Smith, a fellow student of magic, from Lichfield.” He turned to his friend. “This is Scarlet Skarry, my sister.”
“London?” Mercurio mused thoughtfully. “The pirate city…oh, I see!” He peered curiously into Scarlet’s face, trying to get a better look at her mechanical eye. “So it’s true then. The Pirate King, Billy Blythe, really has created a host of ‘tons to crew his Land Ships.”
“Scarlet is NOT an automaton,” Skarry growled. “Every pirate who wishes to join Blythe’s fleet is required to… sacrifice… a part of themselves. In return, the Pirate King has his Tinkers make them a new body part to replace it.”
“I see, a part which not only replaces the lost member but enhances its function through the wonders of Tinker Technology,” Mercurio mused. He chuckled, “And you gave your right eye, Miss Skarry? How very clichéd!”
“You needn’t tarlk t’me about clichés, yer mincing fool!” Scarlet spat. “What in the name o’ Wiz are yer clowning around at? Y’gonna get us all killed!”
“Dear, dear me!” Mercurio shook his head, his eyes dancing with amusement. “Which of you two was the cuckoo’s child, I wonder?”
“We don’t ‘ave time for this, John!” Scarlet hissed, her voice an urgent growl between gritted teeth. “We…”
The door suddenly opened and the Last Witch of Pendle swayed unsteadily into the room, clutching a half-empty decanter of brandy in one hand and steadying her toupee with the other.
“Oh! Oh dear, you’re all awake. Well…”
Whatever The Witch had been about to say was smothered by a sudden sound. The ominous sigh, scrape and grind of metal bulk against metal sinew, followed by the heart-stopping thud of impacting weight upon a militia of snail’s shells, which splintered and shrieked beneath it.
The old timber-framed town house shuddered to its bones in fright and released a pent-up century’s worth of stagnant dust into the air like a scream.
“What was that?” The Witch whispered, clutching the bottle like a comforter.
Scarlet rolled her eyes, “It’s the Agro,” she groaned, her fists balled in frustration. “It’s Jack. Oh the numb-skull I knew he’d never wait.” She rounded on her brother, malevolence pulsing through her aura. “Now look what y’ve done!” she shrieked. “If you witless wizards hadn’t minced in here with yer clown costumes and yer wretched Cat O’ Nine Lives, I’d have got the Wyrd Web an’ been back on the Agro in a wink. Now, look! My Jackie said he’d wait thirty minutes and if I didn’t return he’d come n get me. Blasted fool, he’s waited less than ten!”
The Witch’s eyes were wild with terror. “Th- the Chronic Agro? Pirates? Coming here? Oh no! No, no, no! A Land Ship cannot fit down this street, it will tear us to pieces!”
Now from the opposite end of the street, even as the Agro continued to make its laboured progress felt against the cobbles and the mortar, another sound struck up. This time, the whirr and fizz of high-speed motors and wind straining through a bellow of brass pipes. There was a sudden lash of air, followed by a crack and the rumble of mortar slumping into the street below. Scarlet threw up her hands in resignation. “And that’ll be The Plunder Bus!” she sighed. “They’ve been threatening trouble all night. Take down yer shield here, Lady, we’ve a fight comin’ fast upon us and we best be aboard the Agro before it kicks off.”
“But what about the crew?” The Witch exclaimed. “Won’t they… well, you know, capture us or slaughter us or something?”
“Aye, they might. But, as you’ve rightly guessed, my Jackie won’t rest ‘till he tears this place apart lookin’ for me and unless you want t’be torn apart with it, we’d best get aboard the landship quick sharp.”
“But couldn’t we just run? Run away somewhere and hide?”
“Oh sure! Y’d be caught in the cross-fire between the Agro and the Plunder Bus, and the Brothers Crim don’t take no prisoners, Lady.”
“But aren’t you all on the same side?” The Witch protested.
Scarlet snorted in disgust.
“I believe what Miss Skarry is trying to convey, is that there is ‘no honour amongst thieves,’ “ Mercurio said smoothly.
“Do you mind sparing us all these clichéd little proverbs?” Skarry growled. “They mean absolutely nothing and do even less to help the situation.”
Mercurio narrowed his eyes venomously, and muttered something under his breath.
An almighty blast shook the house once again and the exposed lintels above them began to warp and splinter in protestation.
“Guard down, Lady!” Scarlet bellowed.
“Oh!” The Witch screamed, as the floor began to tilt beneath their feet. Skarry’s boots tried for purchase on the smooth wooden floorboards and failed and he skidded into Mercurio, who clutched at him in a frantic manner which neither of them ever felt it appropriate to recall in the years that followed.
There was another crack, a flash of blue light as The Witch released the containment spell, a gleam of silver as Scarlet pulled something from her belt.
And then everything went black.