Black Heart: Early

The sun was just peeking over the top of the mountain, bathing Douglas’ Bluff in a soft glow when Aaron stepped from the bar into the street.  Blinking, he raised his hand to block the oncoming light from his eyes.

He looked down at the empty bottle in his hand.  His head was sufficiently fogged from the effects of the alcohol in the local brew he’d picked up and after staying in the bar for most of the night, he was starting to feel like his old self again.

The pain in the back of his head had subsided finally and he’d been able to gather his thoughts, remembering the reason he’d agreed to take Mai to Douglas’ Bluff in the first place: the flying city would be passing by soon.  And he was wasting time trying to figure out vague dreams and messages given to him by an overzealous swordsman.

Sighing, Aaron set the bottle down next to the door.  He could feel weight of the pistol in his pocket, but at the moment he was ignoring it.  It was not going to get in his way this time.

Starting off, Aaron made his way through the still empty streets.  The populace of the Bluff were just starting to wake up for another day.  Already, as he gazed out over the edge of the cliff into the sky, he could see airships coming in to dock.  It would be a busy day.

Squinting his eyes, into the very distance, though the clouds, he caught a glimpse of it as the sun touched the clouds enveloping the mountain.  It was just a glimpse of shining metal and glass, the top of a spire off in the clouds.

He froze.  No, how can that be?  It’s early!  The winds must have changed for it to reach here so quickly!

It was the flying city.  He’d only glimpsed the top spire through the clouds in the far-off distance, but he knew what it was.

Taking off at a run, he sprinted through the street, dodging people just emerging from their homes and businesses.  I’ve got to hurry or I’ll miss it!  Mai had better be finished with her business by the time I get there if she doesn’t want to be left behind again.

Coming out onto the level where his ship was docked and into the thoroughfare where he’d lost control, he picked up the pace, hoping that no one recognized him from before.  Recalling that Van had told him that the men he’d fought with were out looking for him still, he flipped up the collar of his jacket and hugged it close to him.

The presence started to stretch it’s tendrils through his foggy laden mind, sending out it’s whispers of death and destruction.  Thanks to the alcohol he was able to ignore it, but he knew it would get much worse later without his stash to tide him over.

Slowing his pace, he scanned the dock where his ship was berthed.  He was still a block away, but he could see them lounging around on the docks.  Thugs.  Most looked like they spent most of their time in the mines.  Stopping short, he gave the deck of his ship a once over.  Standing leaning against the mast was the man with the implants from the other day.  Aaron could see his leg had been bandaged up.

Letting out a frustrated breath, he mentally gauged how much of a fight he would have to start to get to the ship.  He could sprint it out, but his legs and body were still fatigued from his fight with Van.  Either way, it looked like he would have to fight he if wanted to get his ship back.

He turned his attention to the curse, hovering eagerly in his mind, ready to take control.  That wasn’t a good thing, but if he could control it, indulge it just a bit, he might be able to make it to the ship and regain control if he could get in the air quickly enough.

Tensing his muscles, he readied himself to step out onto the dock.  Suddenly he felt a presence behind him and then the weight of a large paw hitting his back, right between his shoulder-blades.

He topped forward hitting the solid granite of the thoroughfare, his breath rushed from his lungs and he grunted.  The full weight of the cat came down on him and he felt a paw on the back of his head, pinning him in place.

He let out a growl, his face pressed to the granite.  “Get off me.”

“You were going to leave without me again.  And after vanishing like that, I figured I better not take my chances of you getting to your ship,” said Mai, her voice soft, but with an edge to it.

“I was only going to leave you if you didn’t show,” he growled back.

“Katha!  Off!” ordered Mai, stepping around in front of Aaron as the large cat stepped off his back.

Aaron picked himself up, brushing off his coat.

Mai studied him.  “What happened to you?”

Aaron was sure there was nothing visibly wrong with him to tip her off to what had happened, but he was sure she’d heard news of the battle.  He wasn’t about to tell her about his experience with Van though.

“I went out for a night of drinking,” he grunted.

She crossed her arms and gave him a skeptical look.

“Just shut up and help me get these thugs off my ship.  I’m leaving with or without your help.”

She nodded and pulled out her own heavy pistol, checking to see if it was loaded.  Aaron tensed, but the curse didn’t try to take over and force him to make a grab for it.  He could feel it’s desire to fight, to spill blood, but strangely it didn’t try to take control of him.

Just wait for it, he assured himself.  He knew it would try, sooner or later.

“Let’s get this over with,” he sighed.

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