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The slow, rhythmic winching of the cincher cables felt like the winding of a clock. As the airship settled on the floor of the chasm where it would be protected from the pelting sand, the crew moved about the bridge: gears in a well-maintained mechanism, with the Captain as mainspring. She directed them with the easy confidence that comes with unshaken faith.
I tried to keep out of the way, which was, I realized, my usual approach. Even my decision to leave home was designed to minimize any effect it might have on the people around me. For a month I played the earnest paramour, the dedicated sister, knowing that Jonath and my brother were leaving with a trading caravan to barter tools and supplies for raw salt.
I boarded the Jade Dragon six days after they left, with a letter from the Academy and a trunk full of clockwork bagatelles. Already the four hours I had been aboard the Dragon stretched longer than the four weeks I spent planning to leave.
Outside, crewmen rushed to secure the ship at the base of the anchor station. Dim gas lamps cast eerie shadows on the walls of the chasm. Lieutenant Nioben conferred with another man, lifting his lamp high and gesticulating toward the tower where the emergency beacon ought to have been. Finally, the Lieutenant signaled the Captain.
“That’s it, then,” she said. “Let’s go find out what happened to that beacon. Marouk, let the passengers know they may disembark, but they should stay by the ship for now.”
I followed the Captain down the gangway. I had heard about anchor stations, knew they were built for just this purpose, but had never expected to see one.
The man with whom the Lieutenant had been speaking turned and smiled.
“It’s about time,” said Jonath, my erstwhile lover. “We were expecting you yesterday.” The intervening weeks and days and hours collapsed in on themselves and I found myself caught in the coils of the past.
This post is part of the Jade Dragon series. Though I try to make these installments enjoyable as individual pieces, I highly recommend that you read the series from the beginning to really get what’s going on.
This post was written in response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge weekly prompt:
You should write a creative response using the given word. You must use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly. Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words. This week’s word is:
1a : the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues : duration
b : a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future
c : leisure <time for reading>
2: the point or period when something occurs : occasion
3a : an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end <arrived ahead of time>
b : an opportune or suitable moment <decided it was time to retire> —often used in the phrase about time <about time for a change>