Perilous Artifacts The Flying City
Lady Carew motioned for Olive to join her at the safety rail of the small deck. “There—see?”
“Over the river?” Olive squinted and shielded her eyes from the sun as she looked south toward the far horizon. In the haze rising over the ravine at the edge of the city, she thought she could just make out something large floating. Smaller specks swarmed around it.
As the brightly colored, amorphous mass drifted nearer, Lady Carew grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “Oh, how exciting!”
Surprised, Olive giggled.
“You don’t know them like I do, but—you will,” Lady Carew said earnestly. “Isobel–your mother and my dear, dear friend– is charming and vivacious, yet so thoughtful and kind. And David—your father—is so handsome and dashing, a born adventurer. Although,” and here the lady paused with a troubled look on her face. Olive looked her way and really paid attention. “They never wrote.
The entire time they were gone, I never had any word from them at all—until now. And I have to wonder at it, I really do.”
The hurt and pain in her voice and on her face gave Olive a new insight into this sometimes-stern and aloof authority figure who had imperiously organized her life from afar.
Lady Carew took a deep breath. “Well! I did the best I knew how with you, given the circumstances. But, I’ve felt from the first moment that we learned that you had been found wandering alone that something was terribly amiss.” She turned to meet Olive’s glance. “I felt that if this could happen despite Isobel’s best precautions—which were, let me tell you, exhaustive in scope when it came to your care and safety—then it was best if we hid you away out of sight and mind somewhere that your father’s enemies wouldn’t think to look for you.”
“So… it wasn’t all just about the question of my identity,” Olive murmured, clutching the rail. She felt a little dizzy with relief.
“It seemed best at the time to say that it was.” Lady Carew spread her hands in an appeal for understanding. “And of course, the older you grew, the thinner that excuse wore. But we did our best to keep up the pretense, those of us who worried about you. And meanwhile, I sent trusted people out to look for them, far too many of whom have also quite troublingly disappeared, never to return.”
The mass drifted closer and into clearer air, revealing a shifted bobbing conglomeration of blimps and airships surrounded by small aircraft that buzzed to and fro and sometimes landed on the decks of the outliers.
Signal flags were run up ratlines and other signals flashed from mirrors and lights in the shadows thrown by the envelopes and hulls. Olive became aware of great activity on the deck behind her and turned in time to see Pieter running up the ladder to the top of the conning tower with a signal man close behind.
When she craned her neck, trying to keep him in sight, Lady Carew grabbed her arm. “Don’t do that, dear. You’ll fall over. And look—they’re coming in to land.”
Olive turned back just in time. One moment, the craft were a unified mass and the next, they were individual entities with each captain directing his own vessel. The larger dirigibles came in first and floated up to the mast. Some rose and others descended as they were directed to separate berths and made fast. With their mooring, the smaller aircraft also landed and ceased their buzzing about. Then came the sail ships and the balloonists. Catching the breezes and maneuvering in just the right way so they cleared the edge of the Cathedral Square, they sank gracefully to rest in the Landing.
The last stragglers were still in the air when Pieter rejoined them. “We’ve heard from the Shannon Reborn: your parents should be disembarking shortly and will meet us on Deck Fifteen.”
“Should be?” Olive asked.
“Oh, they’ll be there,” Lady Carew said confidently. “Let’s go welcome them.”
“And then maybe more of our questions will also find answers.”
For the next installment (available Tuesdays), read Perilous Artifacts: New Arrivals, where Olive goes to meet her parents on Deck Fifteen.
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