An Ocean of Clouds: High Adventure

Unrelated stories that take place in a setting besides Star Wars...

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Auladan
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An Ocean of Clouds: High Adventure

Post by Auladan » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:35 pm

Hazel eyes, looking out over the top of the earth, were captured in fascination. The dark of night had nearly conquered the four corners of the northern hemisphere and stolen away from it all but the last of evening's light. A full and brilliant moon, accompanied by great assemblies of sparkling stars, polished the rolling heights of a massive sea of cumulus; their thick, cottony surfaces that stretched on forever in every direction were haloed silver, and churned like the patient breath of the world.

Those hazel eyes, glimmering teal in the twilight and belonging to an exceedingly curious and awe-struck Loakan, a boy almost twenty years old, could see through the empty, cloud-carpeted firmament to the faraway western horizon with naught between them but hundreds of leagues of beautiful emptiness. Just beneath him, cut gently apart before the wide bow of the skyship Star Hopper as she made her peaceful sail, was spread high above the ground a vast ocean of clouds that palmed the vessel's rosewood keel and seemed to lift her through the heavens, the same that the celestial host painted platinum.

The Star Hopper's voluminous hull, hand-fashioned out of various woods and uninspired iron workmanship, parted the peak of one of countless clouds and split its vaporous crown. While her frame was lackluster, missing even a mediocre bust, her tall white sails were proud, tied to a trio of sturdy masts that rose high above the ship and billowed full of a gentle, cold and reliable wind. They were opened up with the current of a slumbering sea that aimlessly carried the Star Hopper over her immaterial terrain.

Sailing West, the Star Hopper chased the last vestige of daylight that had not yet been swallowed by the growing envelope of night. On the very fringe of the ship's wayward horizon, from which Loakan's wonderstolen eyes and all of his attention could not be averted, rested a dazzling fingernail of waning, royal pastels. The sun had set only moments ago and its marvelous light reached far enough still to show off a reminder of its majesty in the disparate faces of the clouds, turning them every shade of amethyst.

The front of the Star Hopper, just as the nebulous current on which it journeyed, was bathed in feathered twilight, and her massive sails and web-like rigging cast patches of ghostly shadows over her decks. Soft tendrils of cloudpuffs rolled over the ship's crimson railings, misting every surface they touched. The quiet whipping of cloth and creaking of joinings were the only sounds that trespassed on the silence. The whole of the world around the skyship was asleep, but Loakan, eyes lit with the furling bloom of daylight swiftly disappearing as he drank in its immeasurable beauty from a perfect vantage, was not yet ready to join them.

This was the first time he had ever sailed on the backs of clouds.

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Post by Pryde » Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:56 pm

Somewhere in the belly of the Star Hopper amongst a scattering of crates, cannon balls, powder kegs and things a lone barrel shook suddenly as its occupant carefully shifted their weight. The space inside the barrel was cramped, naturally, which didn't allow for much room to maneuver so it came as no surprise that the barrel accidentally tipped over, spilling its occupant on the floor.

"What was that," someone said from somewhere in the hold and his footsteps could be heard coming closer.

Quickly scrambling to his feet the young boy who had until recently been occupying the empty barrel hurried away from the sound seeking a new hiding spot. As he turned to run, though, he could hear the footsteps even closer now and a voice calling after him.

"You, boy! What are you doing here?"

In a panic the boy quickened his pace seeking the exit only to find it blocked by a large portly man carrying a barrel on his shoulder.

"Ye're not supposed to be here, boy," the man said, dropping the barrel and grabbing the boy by his arm.

"Let me go," the boy cried and the sailor noticed that his voice sounded bit high for a man his age, at least seventeen if not older.

The sailor ignored his pleas and carted the boy up on deck by the arm. Helplessly the boy allowed himself to be pulled along while his free hand held the tricorne adorning his head firmly in place.

"Call the Captain," the sailor shouted to the others, "We got a stow-away on board!"

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Post by Auladan » Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:09 pm

Hundreds of little bubbles reflected the quiet orange of early dawn as their flawless, soapy spheres dispersed from a solution of water that was pooled in a small pine bucket. They foamed outward as they doubled, multiplied, and then popped, only to be steadily replaced again by even more before a worn, water-darkened mop was thrust in to their sudsy midst, washing them over the wooden rim of their sanctuary and on to the deck of the Star Hopper. They slipped carelessly across the rough planks, catching and throwing back again the soft morning light.

Jola leaned on the handle end of her mop. She blew a stray lock of damp, tousled hair away from her lips, and her breath turned in to a tired sigh. She worked her mop in to the swab-pot at her side with an unnecessarily aggressive gusto; she was in a foul sort of mood despite the soothing, sherbet colored skies that lay passively waking behind her where a grandiloquent sun climbed steadily over the eastern crest of the world. Her slim, plainly clothed figure was haloed in cold, bright light; her bushy sleeves were pulled up to and cinched at her elbows and her auburn hair, damped by the the several rogue licks of water that had been inclined to eject from her pail at impressive heights – in no part due to the particularly fervent vigor with which she handled her duty, of course – was tied into a messy bun that had reliably worked its way half undone.

'... A helpin' hand on deck, no foolin'? Hah!' Contentious thoughts were physically fed in to her reluctant, even sarcastic efforts; she slapped her soggy mop-end on to the deck, lips pulled in to an unbecoming snarl and nearly barked at the flecks of water that leaped up and sprinkled her face. Practically seething, Jola shook her head in a vain attempt to remove wet hair from her sea-green eyes and focused her inflated bitterness on a particularly nasty stain she found on the maindeck and savagely began to scrub at it. Certainly the product of whatever Coggs had been chewing the whole morning prior, she nevertheless found a measure of twisted satisfaction in laying the blame squarely on the ship's newest member, Loakan. Surely, he would get his comeuppance.

'Tucked all nice and warm in the Nest, 'boy ain't helpin' nobody!' Jola whitened her knuckles on her weathered mop's coarse handle. 'Couldn't bother gettin' dirty, oh no. Best hide away from a real sailor's work!' She clenched her jaw, sour thoughts roiling with likewise features contorted in to a very ugly grimace. A smattering of fellow sailors also working the deck, men typically twice the girl's age with rough, sun-dried skin and steely faces, seemed wise enough to leave the girl well alone and very obviously avoided her.

“I hope he falls off the ship.” She murmured at last, squashing a very friendly looking bubble -- something she had no patience for.

“Morning!”

Jola jumped in to the air, yelping, and spun around to find none other than Loakan kneeling around her bucket, poking at the frothy suds. Only moments before she'd seen his aggravating little head propped up above the brass-rimmed Crow's Nest and now, suddenly, there he was, right behind her with an upsetingly dumb smile.

“Gullguts! Don't do that!” She yelled, huffing heavily with wide eyes. Loakan's smile grew.

“Where'd you come from anyway? I thought the captain had you up in the Nest bein' right unproductive?” She stopped herself short of adding, 'where you don't belong'. Duty in the Crow's Nest was Jola's favorite station, and she'd thought, when first finding that a new member was joining the Hopper's crew that she'd get at least a few more hours away from the agreeably difficult work of keeping the ship as clean as the captain demanded. So far that hadn't been the case, though her short patience had only lasted a day.

“Oh, I was. Well, up in the Crow's Nest.” Loakan started, tipping the bucket in small circles to swish the soap around, “But, and don't tell anyone, I kinda fell off the ship!” Loakan's face was almost jubilant, his voice hushed in to an excited whisper.

Jola was paused for a moment. “And yet, here you are.” Her deadpan tone was missed on Loakan who continued to return with his same, mirthful smile.

“Fortunately! What luck, eh? Tied my lifeline to the wrong bit of rigging and accidentally slipped over the rail. Zipped me right down here behind you. Can't believe you didn't hear me!”

She swallowed a very unpleasant word.

“That makes two of us.” Jola's voice was ice. She pried her eyes away from the overzealous greenhorn and saw that he was telling the truth. Having clamped his lifeline on to the forestay, the rope that anchors the bowsprit to the mainmast, his descent would have, just as he exclaimed, brought him right down next to her on deck. She had no idea how he'd managed that particular feat, but apparently, Jola thought, she hadn't properly articulated her wish.

“So...” Loakan began after an uncomfortable silence between the two of them as Jola's flabbergasted gaze traced back and forth the maze of net and sail and rigging between him and the Crow's Nest, her head canted over one shoulder and her features relaxed in to a look of unbelief. “I've been up all night, should probably get some shut eye, ya?”

Jola didn't answer, except for a notably unfeminine grunt, eyes skyward for still another moment before turning them back on Loakan. Her brows were furrowed, but the foul look that had been cantankerously authored in to her otherwise pleasant visage since she woke seemed nearly washed away.

With a tongue-biting grin, Loakan stepped away from her water pail and started toward the entrance to the Hopper's underdecks. He walked nearly the full length of upper maindeck, receiving warm nods, welcoming gruffs and the occasional step-stumbling pat by the early crew, and had nearly reached the thick double-doors that would open up to the decks below when those very same doors were thrown wide apart from behind to permit an exceptionally burly, shirtless sailor whom held a much smaller boy by the wrist in involuntary tow behind him. Loakan stopped short and moved aside, eyes stealing a fleeting glimpse of the apparent captive's discontent face.

“Captain'! Get the captain'! We've got ourselves a li'l stow-away!” The sailor shouted, his boisterous voice wracking the quiet, pacific air like thunder. All work on-deck halted at the commotion and several mates hurdled up to the Bridge.

“D'ya know who's ship this is, lad?” Loakan heard the comparatively monstrous sailor half-ask, half-warn the boy in his grasp, though he missed the captive's nervous response. “Well, let's just be sayin' that y'picked the wrong captain t'steal from! She's a mad woman, she is. The bulldog o'the High Seas!” Loakan, with a head canted much like Jola's had been, swallowed. That certainly didn't sound like the captain whom had graciously invited his service on board the Star Hopper back home in Colottu only a night and a day ago, and it seemed that the sailor, one who's name he had yet to learn, took great pleasure in winding up the youthful, strangely familiar boy's nerves.

The sailor's eyes bored in to stow-away's, his jaw going crooked in a dangerous smirk. “The good news is, when a little rat like you accidentally falls overboard off the Hopper, at least y'don't get wet.”

“Hah!” Came the captain's commanding, yet feminine voice. “You've obviously never fallen through a cloud, Coggs.” Miss Machelain, noble and entrepreneurial captain of the Star Hopper, approached the quarter-deck's sturdy railing, a deck above the maindeck and just beside the sophisticated rudder-wheel, laid her ringed hands over one another and rested her lithe, but combative weight on her bare elbows. Her stunning, fiery scrutiny was laid wholly on Coggs, a quirky grin toying with the left corner of her red lips.

“Ah, Captain! Well, no, err... I haven't, but... Looksee what I found smuggled away below deck!” Coggs, easily the strongest man presently on-deck, effortlessly pulled the ruddy boy nearer his side as if to present the captain with a strange kind of trophy.

“Yes, yes I see. But I don't think I'll be having those sorts of threats on my ship, Mr. Coggs. No, not unless...” Her blazing attention, mantled in the wildest, most brazenly adorned head of hair Loakan had ever seen, turned fully on to the unfortunate soul who'd thought to stow-away on Machelain's ship, and narrowed intimidatingly. “... It's deserved. Speak up boy, what's the rot?”

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Post by Pryde » Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:56 pm

As frightened as she was by the prospect of being thrown overboard Jessibelle Swann tried her best to keep a brave face. She knew nothing about the ship's captain or for that matter her crew. The only thing she knew was that Loakan was leaving on this ship and she was determined to go with him. Of course, getting away without her father noticing was another matter altogether and was a large part of why she wore her present disguise. Dressed in a pair of men's trousers and a bulky cotton shirt she looked less like a girl and more like a small boy wearing his dad's clothes.

"Well, boy, say somethin'?" Someone had said, prompting an answer from her mouth.

"I--," she said quietly, "I didn't steal anything."

"What was that," the Captain asked, "I didn't quite hear it."

"I said I didn't steal anything," Jessibelle repeated only louder this time and again the assembled sailors took notice of how exceptionally strange "his" voice sounded, though most of them probably chalked it up to fright. "I just wanted to get away, but I didn't have any money."

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Post by Auladan » Tue Oct 28, 2008 5:05 pm

Jola had, by the time the frail stowaway mustered the courage to speak up before the flamboyant, pioneering captain and half her crew, let her roused curiosity bring her to within several paces of the positively exciting situation that began to unfold in the shadow of the Star Hopper's quarterdeck. Sure, she'd sailed with Machelain and her wonderful ship for several years already and, to the saturation of her proud ego, had bravely endured wilds of adventure – as she liked to remember her efforts in the captain's service -- that most other sailors only got to lie about, yet she'd never encountered a stow-away.

Such a seemingly simple thing brought a wicked thrill to the girl's faintly freckled face.

“Haven't any money, hm?” Captain Machelain mused, drawing a peculiarly manicured nail over the chipped, crimson-painted rail on which she leaned. Her luxurious, waterfall red hair spilled over her arched back, shoulders and collar and wisped in the high, cool breezes that offered the Star Hopper her leisurely propulsion. The same morning-gold light that had greeted Jola's earlier rancor bloomed the captain's trinket-embellished figure from behind in dazzling grandeur; her many jeweled and metal trinkets sewn eccentrically throughout her hair and exotic, sashed attire glinted blindingly.

Her burning stare was maintained on Cogg's high-voiced prisoner like a tortuously intelligent statue. “Well I'm certainly glad to hear you haven't been stealing from me, lad.” Machelain, after a studiously penetrating quiet, began. “Certainly, hiding my own things on my own ship would still make them mine, now wouldn't it? Mr. Coggs.” The captain flicked her eyes to Coggs, who, though he barely moved, looked to somehow further straighten the intimidating posture he'd adopted. “I doubt we're in any trouble here.” With a thin, piqued brow that lightened Machelain's bemused expression Coggs released the stowaway and took several steps back. He nearly bumped in to Jola.

“Back to yer posts, men! Looks like we've got ourselves another swabber 'till port!” Machelain shouted her plainly-arrived decision over the heads of everyone on deck and settled her stare, from which her attention had not been taken, back on the meek, visibly frightened young man. Professional sailors with all loyal hearts, they were quick to hail their acknowledgments and return to work.

Jola was swift on Cogg's heals, having remembered the vomitous stain that had stolen her appetite and whom had inarguably made it – she'd forgotten that it was supposed to Loakan's fault. Loakan, a suppressed laugh sounding in his chest, could hear the heated scolding Coggs was being served by the much smaller Jola as the pair made their way foreward on the maindeck, away from the quarterdeck. It had something to do with horrible, horrible habits and the plague.

“But...” Machelain's voice began again, softer than before and directed now at the stowaway alone. For some reason, the captain didn't seem to mind Loakan's persistent presence, though the thought didn't occur to him. “We're going to a have a little talk.”

With unintentional flair, Machelain slipped away from the deck rail and returned to her bridge. A gesture was given to Loakan just before, however, disarmingly inviting his attendance, as well, to what seemed like something not at all his business.

Loakan turned his attention to the stowaway then, a boy whom stroke him as exceedingly familiar though no particular name or person came to mind, and offered a half-wave, half-shrug.

“Heh, two birds with one stone, ya?” Amiable uncertainty was thick in his voice.

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Post by Pryde » Tue Oct 28, 2008 5:32 pm

"Um, I guess so," Jessibelle replied, half trying to hide her face from him. Loakan smiled his big smile and then stepped aside allowing her to pass. She climbed up to the bridge ahead of him and confronted the Hopper's flamboyant Captain.

She briefly considered apologizing right then and there but decided instead to put up a strong front. Standing as straight as she could she faced the Captain proudly without a hint of remorse on her face... Or so she thought. She could feel her knees wobbling and for a moment she just wanted to run and hide. She cast a side-long glance at Loakan who turned to look at her and when their eyes met she quickly looked away.

"So, what happens to me now," she asked finally, breaking the awkard silence that had fallen between them.

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Post by Auladan » Tue Oct 28, 2008 6:38 pm

"Just what I said. You'll be swabbin' decks 'till next port."

The Star Hopper's bridge was lit by a splintered court of buttergold godrays that pleasantly laid in to the surprisingly spacious room through a wrap-around wall of brass-paned windows which stretched from ceiling to floor and together formed the aft wall. There was no need, therefor, to burn candles or lanterns during the daytime hours; a thin haze of woody granules that regularly accompanied the dry workmanship of such vessels was observantly highlighted, hanging virtually motionless in the air.

The bridge served as Machelain's personal quarters. It was thrice the size of the crews' cabins and was very nearly overstuffed with a hodgepodge of miscellaneous sundries, faraway novelties, strange trinkets, and staunchly collected knickknacks that haphazardly occupied precarious places among several bloated book cases that stood betwixt piles of mismatched trunks, chests, sacks of all sorts and between corner-hung, gluttonous hammocks that lurched under dubious masses of loot.

Commanding the center of the room was Machelain's deeply glossed rosewood desk, set solidly on the center of an outlandish jasper-tassled rug. A myriad of ink bottles, the majority wax-sealed with only several opened, dotted the disheveled surface which was littered by a smattering of parchments of all sizes and an almost comical assortment of indiscernible miscellany. A collection of extravagantly feathered quills, fashioned from snowy dove tail to exotic, peacock plumage and everything in between lay bound in a fine, red silk lacing to the right end of the noteworthy mess. There was an expertly carved globe, vividly painted in an astonishing display of masterful artistry at the captain's left hand, and in the very middle, on top of all of the disorder, sat a plain, gray, unassuming little pouch that was tied off with a slender length of yellow silk. It rested almost singularly in the shadow of the captain's high-backed chair; the aft view through the windows standing tall behind it.

Machelain was sitting crookedly in that chair. She was gowned, as usual, in her flamboyantly tailored garments: hundreds of small beads and shells and tiny metal trimmings that jingled whenever she moved were tied in to her clothing; in to her red and yellow cotton belts and blue sashes they hung, threaded through the seams in her brown leather boots and also braided in to her impossibly wild red hair. She looked as though if she were to disrobe, her medley of befuddling things might fill a whole other room, and a certain sort of interest was written in to her lovely expression.

"Firstly, I like t'know the people on my ship, and I don't like lies. What's yer name, girl, and why are you on my ship?" Machelain had seen through Jessibelle's compensating disguise. Loakan, on the other hand, obviously hadn't; he, standing next to the girl whom only moments before, for all he was concerned, had been a boy, in the presence of the captain for the first time in her wondrous bridge, dropped his jaw and made a very confused noise.

Machelain's lips were smiling again, the same way they had been on the quarterdeck. Her penetrating gaze, too, was back. In fact, Loakan wasn't sure if it had ever left.

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Post by Pryde » Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:59 pm

Jessibelle stole another glance at Loakan then hung her head in shame. With a heavy sigh her shoulders slumped and she whispered, "Jessibelle Swann."

She could literally hear Loakan's jaw drop but before the boy could recover enough to say anything Jessibelle had tried to explain. "What I said was true, I did try to get away, but I chose your ship because... Because of Loakan. He and I... We're...," for some reason she couldn't put the thought into words.

Almost sadly she reached up and pulled the tricorne off her head, allowing a sea of mahogany curls to cascade down around her shoulders. Then she turned and fixed his hazel eyes with her emerald gaze. "I'm sorry, Loakan, but when I heard you were leaving I didn't want to be left behind."

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