Here’s a teaser and a snippet from the eighth story:
October, 1815. Aboard the dirigible The Dame Fortuna, a rat problem threatens the safety of the ship and its crew. It’s up to the ship’s boy, Matthew Fisher-Swift, to deal with the problem and put an end to The Rat King.
- Preface by Dr. Cordelia Bentham-Watts
- April 8th, 1887
- Amidst my efforts to document the writings of the crew of the Dame Fortuna, there has been one author of note largely forgotten. While my dear Gregory was the most prolific writer of that crew, some others were particularly noted for their letters. At least one other member of the crew wrote nearly every day, though few of his notes have made it into my larger works. In this small collection, I attempt to correct that oversight, partially for my own amusement. While unlikely to see a much wider circulation, the daily chronicling assignments of a small boy along for a great journey provide a perspective on the trip, on the day-to-day life aboard the airship, and on the crew themselves that is not present elsewhere.
- The writings are not as broadly informative as Gregory’s accounts, nor as eloquent as the journals of Sir James Coltrane and his sister Jillian, nor as mysterious as the diaries of occultist Julietta Penn and the terse notes of the eccentric Samantha Bowe to her reclusive author father. As they were required by his aunt to help ensure his literacy, they are not even as enthusiastic about the prospect of being read as the letters home by the Coltrane’s colonial cousin, Harriet Wright. Nevertheless, they have their own charm. Matthew Fisher-Swift certainly put more ink to paper about the great war hero Edward McBride than Eddy ever did himself. A few entries by others are included to provide context. –C B-W
P.S. As in my other publications, as part of international revision, the English term ‘flingy’ has been replaced with the modern colonial colloquialism ‘slingshot’ in describing Matthew’s weapon of choice at that age.
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- From the assignments of Matthew Fisher-Swift
16th of October 1815
- Eddy says waiting is the most important part of hunting or sniping. I figured that part out for myself back during my second flight ever, when Aunt Ruth said I was allowed to start earning my keep on the ship. The rats and the mice don’t just walk up to you. It means more when Eddy says it, though. When Eddy waits, he practically isn’t even there. That’s why they call him the Battlefield Ghost. I want to get even better at waiting, more like Eddy. He says a lot of stuff about scouting out the ground and figuring out the best place to shoot from, someplace no one’s going to get to easily while he’s working. I used to just find a hiding spot, but now I’m trying to figure out how to scout a grain storage room and how one spot is better than another one. A lot of it is all about lines of sight to as many points as possible, so I’m trying to figure out how to do that, and still find a place I can sit real still and pick off pests as soon as they show themselves. Sitting still is hard, cold as it is, but Eddy’s waited in worse.
- I spent almost the whole day doing that, instead of shooting anything, but I think it’s going to make me even more useful for everyone.
- I also have to watch myself, like Eddy does on the battlefield. He can’t just shoot anybody he sees. He has to pick. I can’t let loose every time I hear something, or something shifts in the corner of my eye that might just be the ship settling in the wind. It isn’t just that I have only a few rocks. One shot, and no mouse’ll move in that bay for a while, so I have to make it count.
- I know Eddy wasn’t talking about hunting rats, since he mostly shoots at people, and sometimes deer, but I’m still learning a lot, and I think it kind of works. Seems to me those people who got hired to shoot at Eddy and Sir James and all are sort of like rats, anyway. Eddy once called them that, after Aunt Ruth stared at him whenever he started to say something else. In St. Louis, there was a lot of talk about the other airship and the crew and their weapons and such. The townspeople said they looked just like I said they looked when I saw them back in July. Mr. Watts seemed a little surprised, even though I know he wrote it all down when I said it. Sometimes I wonder how much everyone’s going to let me earn my keep.
Maybe if I can prove I’m learning from the things he was talking about, and I get better at hunting rats, Eddy’ll give me some more advice, or let me help him out more. I much appreciated getting the rifles ready for him last week when they spotted those bandits….