“In seeking answers, we seek the truth in the study of history. Yet history changes. It is mutable however we record it. Be it in written words, in the spoken word, or in art, what history says inevitably changes. Because over time languages evolve, perspectives change, interpretations, translation, and context alter what we know. In our quest we fail to to realize it is not the answers in which truth lays, rather it is the question. A question means now what it meant in the past and will mean in the future. The truth of our history laid in asking the right questions.”

Benjimir Thursby - “The Analects”

“Spill sails, engines to station keeping.” Katryn Vaunter, captain of the airship Andustar ordered quietly.

"Hands, spill sail!" the bosman echoed to the crew on the main deck as he actuated a signal telegraph on the conning bridge. It was only a symbolic order, the vessel no longer featured the enormous "bags" of corelium infused gas, nor sails. But the order set in motion actions desired.

“Con, engines answering station keeping.” The bosman responded sharply, reading the bright brass telegraph dial shifting in response to his order.

“Con Aye.” Vaunter turned to a dark clad ensign, short and bare of foot.

“Ensign, rig man ropes over the forecastle and pull in the launch." Katryn ordered the runner.

“Righty O sir!” the Lalafell chirped and scurried off to comply.

Vaunter stood watching for a moment but disregarded the utter lack of protocol, the little people were beyond making it hold. She turned to the stairs leading to the officers quarters calling out as she went, “Mister Briceln has navigational control, and the Con.”

The Andustar came to rest a league high in the night sky above the Sea of Ash within sight of Cape Deadwind. No moon gave silhouette or shadow to betray vessels mass looming over the lands below. A craft, akin to a festival luminary rose below the airship passing below it’s bow. There its passengers extended a long pole with which the lines Andustar’s crew extended could be sized and made fast to the gondola. Shrouded in a cunning design, the launch powered its firebox lifting it up until the gondola could be pulled close enough for a boarding plank to bridge the gap between the vessels. Silently in the dark of the night air a group of people, boarded the launch. They were clad alike, each with a hefty pack carrying field gear on its back. A man, Bondermir Exidines, debarked the launch and passed onto the airship and moving with haste over the main deck to the officers quarters where the captain Vaunter was waiting. They exchanged nods and the captain knocked sharply on the door. From within a voice replied, “Where away?”

“Launch secured sir, the Commander is here.” replied Vaunter.

“Very well,” the room’s occupant said. Presently the door opened and the officers snapped to attention, then Bondermir spoke.

“Sir, gear and team are aboard and secure on the launch. Our point of arrival has been reconnoitered and is secure but I do not think it wise to chance holding it long.”

“Noted.” Benjimir Thursby said and then turned to the captain and handed her a pair of envelopes along with a paper and self inking quill.

“Captain, on our departure you are to take the Andustar and rendezvous with the Entulesse at The Crown. Deliver these letters to her and take down these orders for her commander” Benjimir spoke to Vaunter.

Vaunter took the quill and paper as the Admiral dictated.

“To Commodore T'subaki, Entulesse, from Command Advocate General, Andustar. On station Cape Deadwind. Proceeding with landing. On receipt of this communique and dispatches, return to fleet station Kugane and await orders.” Finished Benjimir, patriarch of the Thursby family and commander of it's business and services in arms nodded in dismissal of the captain, turned to the hatch leading to the main deck. Bondermir fell into step close behind.

The deck crew was assembled informally on the main deck anticipating his departure. This was a moment five years in coming. They stood to attention lining the path to the launch as he passed. Each making their obedience n their own fashion as he passed. Some with a respectful greeting, others with a reserved smile and touch of their hand to their foreheads. A few Benjimir clapped shoulders of, a few others a thumb of fist on chest. In the moment they had before boarding the Bondermir spoke.

“The letters sir?”

“The usual and customary. Rights of heirs, succession orders, so forth. I wanted to send them notes before making landfall.” said Benjimir.

“A bit soon to worry about that though?” Bondermir said.

“Fate doesn’t always afford us the luxury of waiting.” replied Benjimir matter of factly.

Bondermir shook his head as they walked, amazed at the years that had passed so seemingly fast.

“My apologies sir.” he said.

“None required." Benjimir said as they reached the boarding plank to the launch and turned. “Are we ready?” he asked.

“Aye sir.” Bondimir said confidently.

“Six years now and we still do not know how?” He entreated on the younger man's judgement, not as much to an officer than to the half brother he was. He was also in truth asking several unspoken questions at once. Bondimir nodded slowly.

“You are seeking an answer, you really need to find and ask the right question.” he said.

“Ask her a question you mean.” Benjimir said as he crossed the plank onto the launch.

“Yes sir.” Bondermir stated as he stepped into the launch. 

“She accepted the commission. Raised the banner. The reports have been consistent and very plain.” Benjimir nodded slowly.

Benjimir looked out as the lines were dropped and the launch began to drift and sink toward the shore below. He cast his eyes back and looked at the undefinable mass of Andustar retreated behind them. Looking below again he could see the twinkle of lights among a scattering of settlements near to the shore. Lifting his eyes up he looked into the dark in the desert beyond, leading to the city leagues further. Bondermir looked at the men and women assembled on the launch, each also looking out on the land below. All were pondering what it was that was about to happen once they reached the land below. However Bondermir felt for a moment he understood and leaning over the railing next to Benjimir and began.
“As Commodore T'subaki would say. ‘All of this has happened before….”
 

“And all of this is happening again.” Benjimir said, finishing his sentence.

 

The launch continued in silence to the beach below.

*******

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