|Shekel & Raza: copyright, 2013 by Andy Poole|
The solemn procession marched down the lonely path. Dust loomed overhead like Djinns, stirred up by moaning winds. The daughters of Ishbane, captain of the Night Jackal, came to lay their father to rest in the Necropolis, ancient city of the dead. Silent tears trailed down Raza’s cheeks as she led the procession in her sister’s stead; Shekel lay propped on a litter, fresh blood oozing beneath her bandages.
They had flown through hostile skies to fulfill their vow: “Until our father is laid to rest in the ancestral tomb, we, the daughters of Ishbane, shall not take a husband, unless Death be our bridegroom.”
They took to the skies early that morning, with a corpse for cargo and dirges for shanties. Their nimble machine had slipped past the Corsair fleet, but a lighter craft overtook them. The two ships rent the air with the lead of their guns, but cold steel decided the day.
The Corsair hooked on the Night Jackal and the flying brigands strapped on their propulsion packs to board. The swarthy crew of the Jackal each donned a crimson battle scarf and twenty-five sabres gleamed along the deck. Corsairs hurtled to the deck from their body-mounted engines; the clash of arms and human cries succeeded the rockets’ scream.
When the Corsairs boarded, the Jackal crew wavered. The pirates drove them to the rail and there would have killed them to a man when shrill voices cried, “Honour for Ishbane!” The sword of Ishbane extended from Shekel’s grip; Raza charged with her sister and plunged her khanjar dagger into the heart of a Corsair.
The sisters’ courage inspired the crew who fought with the hearts of lions. Snarls rumbled behind clenched teeth as the men of the Jackal battled back, striving to shield the daughters of the late Captain. They surrounded the young women with a hedge of sabres facing outward; the fury of the cutthroats broke on the human wall, but with their momentum spent they shattered under the counteroffensive. The last of them launched back to their own ship. The Corsair ship detached and sputtered back to its fleet.
The crewmen cheered at the backs of their foe, but Shekel collapsed in Raza’s arms. Raza laid her down and her heart chilled at the touch of her sister’s blood. She stared in horror as the scarlet flow ran down her fingers.
“Unless Death be our bridegroom.” Shekel’s voice cracked. “That was our vow. You will have to carry me there, these skies are not safe and I’ve come this far.”
The procession passed from the hot desert sands and into the cool shadow of the tomb. Shekel’s bearers lay her litter down and helped her to her feet. Both sisters tossed handfuls of dust in their long, dark locks. The walls echoed with haunting notes of the ancient death song borne on their wailing voices. But soon Raza was the only woman singing, and the song died on the lips of men as Shekel fell limp in the strong arms of the boatswain. Raza flew to her sister’s side. Shekel caressed her sister’s cheek with a weak hand. “Lay me at Father’s feet. Death is now my bridegroom.”
On the deck of the Night Jackal, Raza looked over her shoulders toward the Necropolis receding in the distance. As sand clouds cleared, the setting sun bathed the Necropolis in scarlet light.
“My Lady Raza.”
She turned to face Desh, the first mate. “Set course for Dezra. I want the ship re-outfitted to fly again.”
“You will fly with us?”
Raza shook her head. “I will run Father’s business as his sole remaining heiress, and take a husband. Father’s legacy shall live on in my children, unless of course Death is first my bridegroom.”
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