The snow crunched under Siphokazi’s feet. She was glad she’d brought a spare pair of boots. She was also glad that she’d awakened her suit in time. If she hadn’t she would have lost a lot more than her glasses. The constant blizzard that was Hat Island obscured her already hazy vision so that she was relying on the dark figures and muted shouts in the distance for guidance. The cold that surrounded her was the sort that soaked to the centre of someone’s skeleton. As she trudged onward her senses dulled under the onslaught of the blizzard. How far away had she been blown from the others? Her boot hit something solid, metallic.
It was too late for him. She closed his eyes and went on. Her fists clenched.
Eyes watched her curiously from within the blizzard. Then they approached.
“Bring him towards the heat!” Dojima shouted above the roar of the wind. Jack dragged the moaning knight toward the flame. The wreckage creaked and whistled and the blizzard threatened to pull it apart.
“Good, now get his armour off, we’ve got to see how…”
“No, Siphokazi’s still out there!” Jack yelled and ran back out into the wall of snow.
“Damn it Jack!” He knelt before the injured knight. “Where does it hurt?”
The knight pointed to his stomach where the armour was badly cracked. Dojima moved his bō with immense speed and the armour around the knight’s torso shattered. “Okay, I’m going to take a look. What did you say your name was?”
“Heart!” the knight said.
“Good, you’ll need it.” Dojima said and removed his helmet.
“Ah!” Heart breathed.
“What’s wrong? Does it hurt elsewhere?”
“To remove our helmet is to remove our vow of virtue.” Heart said. He suddenly looked very self conscious. “My voice. I’d forgotten…”
“Finally, I’ve grown tired of the monosyllabic responses. Did you see where anyone else went after the crash?” Heart’s eyes glazed over.
“Heart! Stay with me now. Did you see anyone else? Felix? Siphokazi? The Queen?”
“The Queen!” Heart moved to get back on his feet. Dojima swiped his foot out from under him and he landed with a painful grunt. “You’re in no state to go on a rescue mission.”
“The Queen was in the other part of the ship! I’d just come to bring her her dinner when the door exploded and something hit me in the gut.”
Dojima inspected the wound. “Well, you’d better send your armourer a card for their birthday.”
“Well, let’s just say if your armour was even slightly thinner you would have become twice as good at doing the splits.”
“Dojima!” Jack yelled from outside.
“Damn it Ja…” Dojima’s rebuke faded as soon as Jack stepped out into the blizzard. His shouts of Siphokazi were thrown back in his face by the cold crying wind. He went back to the mast. There was no one else. He saw a shape lying in the snow. Motionless. As he ran towards it a potent gust blew him off his feet. He flipped onto his belly and crawled onward. The lower he was the less wind he caught. When he got to the shape in the snow he pounded his fist against it in anger. It was the ship’s figurehead. The once mighty dragon stripped of its wings. He looked about him. The blizzard was too thick to see anything. He could just barely make out the part of the ship that Dojima was taking cover in, The small flame burned defiantly within. He would have to… NO! He drew his katana and looked skyward. With an almighty cry he slashed at the clouds above him. There was a thundering crack as he did so and the clouds above split in two. A ray of light shone through the crack giving Jack enough time to get a brief view of his surroundings. The clouds scabbed over the opening and the blizzard enveloped him once more. Jack, having seen the situation clearly, fell to his knees. His fists clenched.
He would need to get them out of the snow. As he approached where he had seen the closest body a shadow emerged from the blizzard.
“Responsibility!” it croaked.
“Dojima!” Jack yelled.
“Ah! An impressive move!” Felix said.
“Haha, wat kan ek sê? Ek is nie die koningin vir niks nie.” Reza smiled.
“Hmm, I will have to consider my strategy. I did not expect such a challenge.” Responsibility was watching intently. Having been beaten many times before this was as good an opportunity as any to work on his/her game of Juss. Juss was a game of strategy and tactics. It is the origin of the term “You must be Juss.” Which means you are highly skilled at games.
“I think I’ll…” Felix’s eyes grew large.
“Responsibility!” he cried.
Responsibility dove for Reza.
Felix burst through the door, splintering it into a dozen pieces, but as he went through he collided with an approaching knight.
The Queen’s dinner flew out of his hands.
A brilliant light surged towards them. Felix moved so fast he was a blur. The blur impacted with the beam. All sight and sound disappeared.
When it returned the ship had split apart. The buoyant wood did its best to remain afloat but inexorably sank towards the shifting stormy mass of Hat Island with increasing speed.
The falling clenched the air desperately for support that would never…
“Jean. Why have you stopped?” Beardface asked. “We need to keep up the pace if we’re to… Jean?”
“The fools!” Jean said through gritted teeth.
“The reticent ducks?”
“My fool cousins of Jul unleashed the Desert Flower. How could they do such a thing? Do the old treaties mean nothing?!” Jean shouted.
“Desert Flower? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“I’m sorry, Beardface. We’ll have to cut our training short.” Jean removed her weighted training gear. It landed with a loud thud. “I need to pay my cousins a visit.”