Pulling on the ropes, Aaron unfurled the sails in one motion. They dropped open and caught the wind, billowing out. He tied off the ropes and headed up to the wheel and the FTL controls. Placing one hand on the smooth wood of the airship’s wheel, he touched the FTL drive’s controls, increasing it’s charge. Slowly the ship lifted up out of the water.
The sails rippled as the wind blew over them, propelling the ship forward as it rose up into the sky. The keel cleared the tree-tops and the ship was away.
Spinning the wheel, Aaron checked his compass and then set the ship on course. He gazed up into the sky searching the clouds. The white shapes seemed as if they were lowering themselves from the blue sky to welcome the ship into their embrace.
He held onto the wheel as the airship rose up through the white shapes, waiting for the ship to level out and find steady winds. The moment the sails stopped rippling and flapping with the torrent of winds pulling at them from every direction, he released the wheel and made his way across the deck to the mast. Putting his back against it, he slid down into a sitting position, crossing his legs.
Why? he thought. This morning… and then now… He pulled the gun wrapped safely in the paper from his pocket and looked at it lying in his hand. It’s presence hovered in the peripherals of him mind, less so than it had been that morning. Why?
“You definitely have some skill with this ship.”
Aaron froze, not moving his gaze from the weapon. He’ been so wrapped up in his thoughts and getting the ship prepped for flight he’d forgotten completely about his passenger.
The man, Jay, had boarded the ship with him, carrying a crate as payment for helping him unload the rest of his apple crates from his truck back in town. Aaron had made it clear that when he was on the ship, he was to not get in the way while the ship was in flight. The tall man had set his crate down and sat next to it, leaned his back against the railing of the ship, tilted his hat forward on his head and stayed quiet and out of the way while Aaron had readied the ship and taken off.
Aaron stared as the weapon unmoving. He never took on passengers and this was one of the reasons. When he was in the sky, he liked his solitude. No one praised him, no one snapped at him, and no one bothered him.
Jay chuckled softly. “Don’t worry. I’m probably going to be resting my eyes for most of the trip. I love flying, but honestly I’d rather be the pilot. Even so, I don’t have any clue as to how to fly one of these things. This is definitely quite the ship you have.”
Aaron could tell the man had a smile on his face.
“And that weapon is something else too.”
Aaron’s head snapped up and he looked wide-eyed over at the man. His tattered straw hat his his eyes from view, but Aaron could see his mouth. He was smiling. But… How could he have known? Aaron thought back to the trade house. The tightening of the muscles around the man’s eyes, the way he’d given Aaron a challenging look. Somehow he knew about the pistol even wrapped up in it’s packaging, somehow…
Reaching up a hand, Jay tipped the hat back on his head revealing his face and a few more tufts of bright red hair. His eyes were sincere. The look on his face that of interest.
“Mind if I see it?” he asked.
Blinking, Aaron was unsure of what to do. His first instinct was to say no. He knew the effects that the curse had on people who handled the pistol. In his training he’d learned that many had tried to wield the weapon and had been driven to near insanity by it’s presence. It had somehow been in a weakened state when he’d thrown it away. He dreaded to think of the state that the person that Mai had recruited to fix it up was in right now.
He’d been the only one to have succeeded in using it to it’s full potential. It had almost been as if he’d been born for the sole purpose of wielding the weapon, a birthright he despised with the entirety of his being now.
“Don’t worry…” said Jay as he got up from where he was sitting and came over to Aaron slowly.
Nodding, Aaron handed the paper wrapped weapon up to him. He watch as Jay turned it over his hands unwrapping it and gripping the hilt. The glossy black of the barrel glinted in the sunlight.
Hefting up, Jay turned it in his hand examining it. “Heavy, but with a nice balance to it.” He flipped the locking mechanism for the cylinder and the front half of the weapon tipped forward, exposing the chamber and the cylinder. He spun it with his thumb. “Seven shot, definitely interesting.” He jerked his wrist back locking the cylinder and barrel back into place. Raising his hand he stretched out his arm, taking a firing stance and aiming down the sights of the pistol toward the bow of the ship.
Aaron tensed his eyes going wide. Has the curse taken control of him?
Jay’s muscles were relaxed though, his eyes confident, his breath steady. “This thing has some incredible force to it. I have to applaud you willpower. Few people would be able to stand up to the presence this thing exerts on it’s wielder.”
He relaxed his stance and brought his arm back toward his body, spinning the weapon on his finger with a speed that blurred it as he did so. He then tossed it up and caught it by it’s body, extending his arm down to Aaron, handing it to him grip-first.
“Thank you,” he said looking Aaron in the eye.
Gingerly, Aaron took it and slipped it back into it’s paper packaging quickly, before it could assert itself into his mind. But as he touched it, it’s presence didn’t overwhelm him as it had before.
Jay sat back down next to the crate. He reached inside and pulled out two apples, tossing one to Aaron.
Aaron caught it one handed, his other hand holding the gun. The look on his face was said more than words ever could for him. How?
Jay smiled and took a bite out of his apple. He watched Aaron for a moment, chewing thoughtfully before swallowing. “You have a gift.”
Aaron snorted, broken from his thoughts and the questions that were flowing through his mind. He looked down at the paper package. “They’re not gifts.”
Jay shook his head, a thoughtful look coming to his eyes. “I don’t mean your physical abilities. It’s something you haven’t learned of just yet, but it’s there waiting for you to see it.”
Aaron looked up confused and skeptical. All his life he’d been told he was gifted. Gifted with what? The willpower to wield a cursed weapon that wrought only death. He wasn’t gifted, not with his talents or his skills. No, cursed was what he was.
“What do you know?” he snapped.
Jay smiled and then leaned back against the railing, tipping his hat forward to shade his eyes. “Quite a bit. Definitely more than I’m letting on, but not nearly enough to call me wise. But that’s enough chit-chat for now,” he finished, biting into the apple again. “Just keep that in mind,” he added around the mouthful of apple, before continuing to eat.
Aaron looked back at the weapon in his hand, swathed in the paper packaging. A gift or a curse, somehow there was something else that was at work here. He could feel it in his gut. He desperately needed a drink, but he quelled the urge and took a bite of the apple in his hand, chewing slowly.
The flavor and juiciness of the apple was perfect, like nothing he’d ever tasted in his travels.