A second after Walter Raleigh announced his intentions to rescue Francis Drake from Luna, whatever spell had held the room silent came to an end. Chaos erupted, as every single voice in the large chamber began offering its opinion, loudly proclaiming the challenges, the nonsense, the reason why a rescue mission should be an extremely low priority.
“When on the battlefield, we cannot think about the individual soldiers!” bellowed a large gentleman on Watson’s right, decked out in full military livery and with dozens of medals pinned to his very broad chest. His oversized white mustachios flapped with each exhalation, like streamers in the wind. “We must think tactically!”
“Yes – scouting missions! Those must come first, so we can gauge their strength!” This came from a reedy fellow, tall and lanky and without a single hair on his body, as far as Watson could see. His bald head glinted in the light from the chandelier overhead, that glint echoed in the monocle firmly affixed in his right eye. “Using the Dauntless as a model, Britain must begin constructing her own airship fleet-”
“But the model of an airship as a war platform is not-” started another man. Watson grimaced at the rising cacophony of noise inside the enclosed room, wishing that he could block his ears. He still didn’t understand what he was doing here, why Yeoman James insisted on dragging him into all of this. A spurt of pain in his old war wound forced him down into one of the chairs at the table as his face twisted in pain.
The hubbub continued for a few more seconds until, once again, James clapped his hands on the table. Once again, the muddled voices fell silent, men turning to look at James. Most of them wore expressions of distaste at being interrupted in such uncouth fashion, but they still closed their mouths.
“I think,” the short, slender officer said calmly, “that we can all agree that knowledge is our most valuable resource at this time. We know next to nothing about what we may face. It would behoove us all to listen to Lord Raleigh’s tale once again.”
Grumbles of agreement came from the other men. Yeoman James turned towards Raleigh, who stood near where Watson had dropped into a chair. “If you have the strength to tell your tale again from the beginning, leaving nothing out?”
Raleigh still looked haggard, the lines standing out in his face giving the impression that he had picked up ten years in the last six months. Watson cleared his throat.
“Perhaps a stiff drink might fortify the man, so that he could proceed?” he suggested hesitantly.
As James nodded and fetched a cognac from a bar against one wall, Raleigh gave him a thankful nod. The famed explorer, writer, and poet gratefully accepted the drink. After a long swig, some color appeared to return to his cheeks, and his voice sounded stronger.
“Ah, that does wonders. Yes, I can retell my story, although I’ll brook no interruptions.” His dark eyes surveyed the room, their gaze making the various assembled military gentleman close their mouths. “And, as it is requested that I leave nothing out, I shall start at the beginning.
As you all no doubt remember, the Dauntless set off six months ago, the first true attempt to cross the ether between our world and Luna, on the Summer Convergence. However, our plans began years before this moment, and as the good Yeoman Warder requested I start at the beginning, I must go somewhat further back.
Before this ill-fated expedition began, I knew Francis Drake by name and face, although we’d never had the chance to speak to each other. Both of us were esteemed in our Queen’s court – he was held in high regard for his naval exploits and travel, and I daresay that I enjoyed some slight favor, both for my service in Ireland and for the poems of my friend, Edmund Spenser, which I presented to the Queen herself.
As for Brahe, I knew the name, having heard it echoed as a gentleman of considerable means in Denmark who sought to advance the state of science and naturalism, but had never set eyes on the man before.
So it was quite to my surprise when a courtier delivered a letter to me – a letter bearing Brahe’s name and seal.
Within that letter, Brahe outlined his proposal to build a flying machine, one of these newfangled airships that had only recently begun to unsteadily leave Mother Earth behind, and make an audacious crossing to Luna during one of the Convergences. He wished to secure the aid (and resources, I suspect) of the British Empire, and had thus chosen both Francis Drake and myself to serve as his traveling companions.
Immediately, and perhaps still somewhat incredulous as to whether I was playing the part of a dupe in a ruse, I sought out Francis Drake. When I found him, however, he held a letter, the twin to my own, and bore a powerful glint in his eye. He recognized me immediately, and after brief introductions, we turned our attention to the subject at hand.
While I felt considerable trepidation at the prospect of such a momentous undertaking, Drake seemed ready to leap aboard such an airship at that very moment. The man practically vibrated with excitement!
“Don’t you see, Raleigh?” he cried out, nearly spilling his ale as he gesticulated to me. “This is our chance to truly carve our names in history, alongside Columbus and Magellan! Indeed, higher! They discovered new lands, traveled the Earth, but we could be the first to step out onto Luna!”
I shall admit that, although I attempted to remain impartial and logical, some of Drake’s enthusiasm must have infected me. By the time that I finally stumbled home, after several more drinks with the man, I had shifted my position.
Pending meeting Brahe himself, I was on board. My mind, touched by that conniving spectre of glory, now dreamed of the legacy that I would leave behind.
First to set foot on Luna, to make great discoveries for mankind! I imagined the resources we might find, the incredible vistas of land, untouched by Man, that we would see. I even indulged myself to believe that the majesty might aid me in creating another book of poems, as my inspiration had dwindled as of late.
Raleigh swallowed the last gulp of cognac from his glass, setting it back down on the table. The thud of heavy crystal against the redwood made several men, lulled into a half-trance by his words, jump slightly.
“Yet in my fevered anticipation of the glory and wonders I might see, in the thought of putting my own name up alongside such famed explorers as Columbus, Marco Polo, and Magellan,” he said, “I forgot the lessons of their own voyages.
“Beware the natives, for they do not take kindly to the arrival of foreign intruders upon their soil.”
So this story is continuing – but I’m not going to post all the chapters here on the blog. I want to write other stuff, after all! However, if you’d like to keep on reading more (and maybe help buy me a coffee to keep me awake as I write), check me out at Patreon! Click here for the link, and to read the rest of Planetary Reflections!