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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 7:57 pm 
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"We need to get scouts in the air so we can find the exact location of the Bismark and send it to the bottom," said Nathan. "Or if they're already in the air, a bloody report from them."

"Loaders," bellowed Frostfell, with a voice that carried damn near the full length of the carrier. "I need torpedoes and an appropriate harness for them and I need them yesterday! Move!"

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:22 pm 
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Frostfell's roar shook the deck of the ship, and made Judith swallow convulsively. "Jeb... iffen they wan' scouts aloft, Vol'untear... get me offa this ship.."

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 9:04 pm 
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The crew of the Ark Royal was evidently used to having large dragons shouting angry commands at them, if perhaps a Wendigo was a slightly different matter. The crew chiefs belatedly began to respond, before the scout dragon that had been descending towards the flight deck landed between the crew and the Tangmere squadron, and ushered them away before turning back to the RAF dragons.

The man aboard the Winchester was in his mid-50s or so, and wore the inevitable bottle green of the RAF, but with the crossed harpoon insignia of the Naval Dragon Arm, the dragons and crews permanently assigned to sea berths. Saying something to his dragon out of the hearing of even the dragons present, he then tucked his hat under his arm and approached the Tangmere squadron, his violet and brown dragon (distinctly large for a Winchester) marching alongside him.

"Thank god," said the man in a pronounced Yorkshire accent. "We were about to send search parties out for the lot of you."

Captain Rankin dismounted Æquitas as his crew scrambled to unlimber the Malachite Reaper of the load it was bearing, as the other dragons' crews no doubt were doing as well.

"Captain Michael Rankin, on Æquitas" said Rankin, using the usual style of greeting that most Royal Aviators employed. He extended his hand, and the older man shook it.

"Captain Cedric Hollin," said the naval aviator, "on Elsie. I'm the flight commander aboard Ark Royal, and I can't say how happy we are to see you lot. We've got revetments prepared for the night, and we're hoping some of your lights can supplement our own for scout work.

"Of... course," said Rankin as he watched Captain McClung sprint for the side of the ship, or at least a bucket. A glance back at Frostfell told him that the white monster was impatient to get flying, but then none of them wanted to be here longer than they had to."

Captain Hollin had noticed as well. "No chance of that," he said to Frostfell. "Bismarck's still outside strike range, steaming east-south-east at 16 knots. It appears Hood or Prince of Wales managed to plug her one before she broke off. She doesn't seem to be able to make best speed. We'll be in range of her by first light tomorrow. That's when you'll strike."

Rankin looked around the empty deck, large enough to carry five times the dragonweight Tangmere had deployed here. "Where's the rest of your formation?" he asked.

It was the Winchester that responded. "Malta," she said in a voice that sounded more than a little annoyed. "At least except for the ones hurt down below. Why we didn't get to go with them is beyond me."

"Because they needed someone to stay with the Ark," replied her Captain in what was clearly only part of a very long argument. He turned back to Rankin and shrugged. "Jerries hit us hard going and coming back. We managed to pull the ship out, but most of our squadron had to rebase to Malta or was torn up too badly to fly. I'm afraid you and yours will have to provide the weight for this one. You up to tackling a battleship?"

Rankin nodded grimly. "I suppose we're about to find out," he said, and then with a nod, he turned back to oversee the offloading of the remaining gear.

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Last edited by General Havoc on Tue Sep 08, 2009 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 9:25 pm 
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"Æquitas?" Jebediah couldn't carry the loads Frostfell and the larger dragons could, so he had been quickly stripped of his supplies and could move within conversation distance. "Judith an' Ah are still good fer flight," he said, although his gaze slid to Judith as a well-meaning seaman offered her a drink of water. Jeb knew that wouldn't stay down long.

"It'd do her better'n stayin' here," Jebediah sheepishly admitted. "She t'was lik' this all th' trip ta En'land... flyin' she's fine."

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:29 pm 
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Upon hearing that they were looking for scouts, Kunja's wings began to flap in earnest, showing he still had quite a bit of kick in him. Jake was apparently about as eager to get back in the air and off this horrible rocking ship.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:25 pm 
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With the Bismark out of strike range for the moment, the crew of the aircraft carrier were briefly spared from Frostfell's imperious demands. The great white beast prowled the deck unhappily. claws clacking on the metal.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:46 pm 
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Judith eyed Frostfell, wishing that for just once someone else would get as sick as she did on the damned ships. Flying, she had no trouble with motion sickness, even when she was learning some of Jake and Kunja's little tricks. But put her on a dag-blasted BOAT...

"........ uuuhllll ..." Judith swallowed hard, to keep the water down, using what was left in the glass to swish out her mouth. Absently she wondered if climbing on top of Frostfell or Hermeticus would help. After all, they were BIG dragons. Surely their movements would cancell out the movement of the........

The ship hit a swell, and Judith lost the water in her stomach. She hated-Hated-HATED being out on the ocean!!

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:04 pm 
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Unloading land-based dragons unused to the roll and sway of ships was a job that was nigh-impossible, to say nothing of exceptionally dangerous. Even dragons used to water had a difficult time of keeping their footing aboard ship if unused to such conditions, and a midweight or heavyweight that suddenly slipped or fell could easily crush half a dozen men to death. So it was that the crew of Ark Royal took over the unloading jobs, as the dragonmen and officers of the Tangmere squadron busied themselves in finding billets inside the ship, save for a handful who loitered upon the deck, either to see to their dragons, or to avail themselves of the side.

The swell was not enormous by the standards of an 800 foot Dragon Carrier, though sheets of spray poured over the smaller ships about her. Overhead, the gray skies drizzled intermittently, as the lightweight dragons of Ark Royal flew endless circles of CAP, joined by those lightweights among the Tangmere contingent who wished to go aloft. Captain Rankin had willingly agreed to allow Jeb and Judith to take off, for sea-sickness was a private hell that none should ever need go through. Captain Kelly had taken Capricorn up as well for the same reason, though in his case it was the Venomspitter who had found his stomach unable to cope with the roll of the ship. As seasick Venomspitters could only be handled by draconarians in hermetically-sealed chemical suits, it was quickly decided to allow Capricorn to join the patrollers aloft, and presently he was pacing Jebediah, asking for what must have been the twelfth time for Jeb to "tell him about the deer" that ran wild in the Appalachian Mountains. Capricorn had never seen anything of the sort, for deer did not exist in Australia, and his time in Britain had been confined to coverts and combat.

The larger dragons remained aboard ship, free to take the elevators down to the interior revetments or remain on-deck as they chose. Æquitas, for his part chose the former, for Rankin was sequestered away in briefing rooms with the Admiral, and his crew dispersed. Fulminatus did the same, though likely for other reasons. When asked, he simply answered that he disliked being cooped up indoors. He declined to comment further.

Several hours passed without event, as the sun settled towards the horizon and the rain squall that the task force was taking cover within began to break up. The ships about and dragons overhead circled the mighty Dragon Carrier in endless, mindless loops, as the waves broke against the ship's hull.

Æquitas stood near the bow of the ship, watching the waves, attended by none, for the majority of his crew was below decks, either sheltering from the spray, or supervising the adjustments being made to the harnesses of the dragons that would be carrying heavy ordinance. He spoke not at all, sat only, motionless, watching the waves with the perpetually concerned expression that Malachite Reapers were said to be experts in.

He did not notice when Fulminatus took up a similar position nearby, only that all of a sudden, he was there. The American Reaper's varnished hardwood hide bore fresh scars from his ordeals, layered atop the ones assembled from a century of warfare. He made no sound save for the occasional grumble, like the idling of a motor.

"Problems?" asked Æquitas.

"Don't like the wet," said Fulminatus without turning his head. "Don't care for ships either."

Æquitas nodded. "Ever gone for one?"

"Twice," said Æquitas. "Manila in '98, and Port Arthur. Never one this large."

"Well your Admiral Mitchell said it was possible," said Æquitas.

Fulminatus coughed. "He's not going to be trying it," he said.

"Do I detect reluctance?"

"Only idiots are eager for this sort of thing," replied the American.

"You're still here, aren't you?"

Fulminatus didn't answer, but instead continued staring out at the sea. Neither dragon spoke for several minutes.

"Didn't know you were the contemplative sort," finally said Æquitas.

Fulminatus frowned. "I'm not," he said. "I can't figure out if that damn sound's in my head."

Æquitas raised an eye. "Sound?"

"You can't hear it?" asked the American. "Low, faint, like a pipe organ?"

Æquitas considered this for a moment. "I don't hear a thing," he said, "save the waves and such."

"Hmph," muttered Fulminatus. "Figures they didn't slap a set of ears onto you cows..."

Æquitas stopped short. "I beg your - "

"You're an inbred," said Fulminatus, as casually as if he was reciting the daily weather. "So's most of the RAF. Take a handful of dragons and recross 'em over and over until you get what you want. Wind up with a dragon can't hear a marching band sneaking up on them."

Æquitas narrowed his eyes. "There is nothing whatsoever wrong with my ears. And my pedegree is well documented back five centuries with not one hint of incest, you ornery lump of - "

"Oh give it a rest," said Fulminatus tiredly. "It ain't your fault. And it don't matter which Lordship you came from. All bred dragons have it, more or less, and you know it too."

The Malachite resettled his wings. "British dragonbreeders are the finest in Europe," he said. "They do not perform such shoddy work as that. But while I'd hardly term it 'inbreeding', yes, I do know what you mean."

"Well whatever you 'term it'," said Fulminatus acidly, "us hybrids do it the old fashioned way. Better hearing, vision, the works. Mix the blood up, see what surfaces." He scowled. "My ears ain't what they used to be, but I'll be goddamned if there's not something out there..."

Æquitas glanced about the surface of the empty sea. "Are you sure it's not the engines? A ship this size is hardly quiet."

Fulminatus shook his head. "Engines don't make that sound," he said, peering into the distance. "Not sure what does... never heard anything like it." He shrugged his foreshoulders. "Maybe I took too many to the head, but I could swear there's something - "

Fulminatus was cut off as an ear-splitting siren suddenly sounded, followed by a string of orders for the crew of the ship to stand to to battle stations. The two midweights glanced back at the conning tower, then to one another, and then to the ocean as the enormous ship slowly began to accelerate and turn to port, even as a dark shadow slowly spread over the sea before them.

*--------------------------------------------------*

"Ashanti reports firm ASDIC contact fifty yards off the port bow!"

"Bloody Hell!" exclaimed the first officer. "How did the screen let a U-boat get in this bloody close!"

Captain Maund ignored his XO. "Hard a-port," he ordered. "Full speed ahead. Order Hostile and Bodicea to close and prepare to depth charge. We'll snuff the bastard out. And tell Captain Hollin to watch for - "

"Sir!" shouted the radio controller, "message from Ashanti again. Reporting the target breaking up. Violent cavitations."

The Admiral paused. "Breaking up?" he asked. "Did Ashanti launch depth charges?"

"No sir," reported the watch officer. "They're requesting permission to make a pass. ASDIC shows target at 65 fathoms and rising rapidly."

"Breaking up and rising?" asked the Admiral. "That's impossible! They should be downflooding by now!"

"Perhaps it's not one U-boat sir?" asked the XO. "A squadron of Chariots perhaps?"

"Chariots a thousand miles at sea?" asked the Admiral dismissively. "That's equally impossible. That makes no damned sense unless..."

The bridge fell quiet, waiting for the Admiral to finish, but he did not do so, his face slowly draining of color. The officers of the bridge looked to one another in confusion. "Sir?" ventured the helmsman. "Sir, your orders?"

"What rate of ascent?" asked the Admiral in a hollow voice.

The radioman called back to the destroyer, and received the reply. "Extremely rapid, sir," he said. "Contacts now at 20 fathoms... 15... 10..."

"My god..." said the XO, suddenly understanding, and then all eyes were drawn to the bridge windows, overlooking the flight deck and the sea beyond, and no further words were required.

*-----------------------------------------------------*

The first sign the dragons got was the roar.

Not the atonal death of a Celestial or Stuka, this was a normal roar, but magnified as though a chorus of angry Thunderchildren had cried themselves hoarse all at once. The force of the sonic boom knocked Æquitas back a pace, as he instinctively turned his head away and swept a wing forward to shield himself. Even Fulminatus flinched, and when both midweights looked again, they found themselves staring at a dragon.

A titanic dragon.

The dragon was, by far, the largest living thing that Æquitas had ever seen. Only two-thirds out of the water, it had lunged upwards like a killer whale, bursting forth to the surface with mouth agape and let loose an angry roar so loud and powerful that the deck plates beneath Æquitas' feet quivered and shook with the raw rage of it. The dragon's head was small, its neck long, its body sleek and streamlined, its feet webbed and forelegs short and powerful, the better to propel it through the water. It hung in the air for just a moment, eyes wild and red with rage, teeth bared, mouth agape as it howled a raging cry to the storm-flecked skies, and then it snapped its wings open, huge, membranous wings, from which water ran in rivers. It beat its wings once, twice, three times, hauling the rest of its body into the air, revealing a thick, broad, fin-encrusted tail that seemed to stretch on forever. Revealed in full majesty, its scales a dull gray-blue, it kept in the air for but a moment, flying over Fulminatus and Æquitas's heads to land some fifty yards behind them, atop the flight deck of the Ark Royal. Built though she was to take the largest of heavyweights, Æquitas felt the Ark Royal shudder beneath the tremendous weight, saw the deck plates buckling under its broad feet. The dragon stood for a moment, wings still unfurled, and shook itself, casting water about in floods as the deck crew ran for their lives and alarms sounded throughout the ship. And then turning its head back and forth, as though daring any present to challenge its right to stand there, the dragon roared again, whipping the very sea about the ship into a frenzy.

And as it did so, three more dragons emerged.

Two were as large as the one on deck if not larger. The third was not, a juvenile perhaps, though even as a juvenile, it was still as large as Frostfell. All three burst into the air like flying fish, and clawed themselves aloft, circling up, up, up, screaming incoherent bellows of rage and devastation, venting wrath unimagined on the air and clouds, before turning about to the dragons of the CAP and the ships on the water, and moving after them, eyes red with the intent to kill.

Nothing, not Kampfritters, not Regal Coppers, not Jotunmeisters or Canadian Thunderchildren, not even the snapshots and grainy footage of Congolese Nightmares, nothing Æquitas had ever seen came close to the sheer scale of the dragon before him, a dragon so large that it dwarfed him, a 20-ton midweight, like a Copper towering above a Winchester. He could easily have fit beneath the enormous dragon's legs, short though they were, and as it stretched to full height, its pleiseosaur-like neck towering over him and Fulminatus, he realized that this monster could be only one thing. Tales of Loch Ness, of the Flying Dutchman, of legends from the Caribbean sea came floating back to him, excerpts from the journals of Captain Cook and Francis Drake. But above all that, he remembered the story of a dragon from centuries ago, the victor of Sluys, the hammer of Calais and Harfleur, whose very presence had undone the Knights at Agincourt, the mailed fist of the Armada, the one the Archbishop of Canterbury had called "Flagellum Dei"... the Scourge of God...

The breed name hovered over Æquitas' shock-widened eyes like a brand upon the heavens.

"Lord of the Deep..." he whispered, and then the Leviathan cried its rage out to the heavens once more, and lunged to the attack.

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Havoc: "So basically if you side against him, he summons Cthulu."
Hotfoot: "Yes, which is reasonable."


Last edited by General Havoc on Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 11:35 pm 
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Frostfell was curled up bellow decks and trying to nap when the siren went off. The dragon jerked upright like a scalded cat and rushed to the nearest elevator. "Lift me," he shouted. His fangs gleamed under the lights. Unsurprisingly crew rushed to comply. Nathan reached the elevator just as it rose.

"What's going on?" Frostfell asked.

"We've probably spotted Germans," said Nathan. "And they're too damn close."

"Funny," said Frostfell, "I have a solution for Germans who get to close. Although I'm getting really tired of going into battle without guns."

"Well, if they've been spotted by our scouts we'll have enough time to get you in-"

The deck came into view. "To harness," Nathan said weakly. "Bloody hell." The great Lord of the Deep towered above them both, dwarfing man and dragon.

Frostfell groaned. "I have a plan. Stay back."

"Why are you groaning?"

"I don't like the plan."

Frostfell fluttered his wings as he advanced to catch the Lord of the Deep's attention. Then the great white dragon rolled over on the deck and exposed his neck in a clear gesture of submission.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 7:45 pm 
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The flight had eased Judith's sickseaness as if by magic. Her crew had thoughtfully provided a little food and water for her while aloft, and after her stomach had settled she'd been nibbling at it.

Jebediah was pleased that Capt Rankin had sent them aloft as well, even if little Cap was talking his ear off. Then again, Jebediah had raised six human children, so the babble was not unfamiliar. Jeb answered the little Venom-Spitter with all the tolerance of a parent answering a toddler's endless questions. It was a slight distraction from the endless search of the waves and horizon for trouble.

When the Sirens went off and their radio started buzzing with status reports, the two West Virginians were ready for a little action. "Jeb, do'ya see an'thing?" Judith asked, her binoculars out and searching the waves for any tell-tale signs of subs.

"Ain't they' sayin' it's down deep?" Jebediah replied, joining the other light CAP scouts in forming a protective formation over the ships. Capt. Kelly repeatedly calmed Capricorn, putting the Special Weapons dragon in the middle of the formation per Standard Op. Judith noted Kunja also taking up position, Jake low on his neck as they too go ready for whatever might show up.

But in the end, no one was ready as the titanic roar announced the arrival of a truly humongous dragon breaking the ocean surface. "Hoo-lee shi..." was all Jebediah got out before the dragon's wings snapped open and it lifted the remainder of its body out of the water, settling onto The Ark and forcing the dragon-carrier to sink lower in the water.

"tha'.... tha's one big dragon..." Judith whispered, staring at the beast. Then its mates and child burst out of the water and into the sky, clawing upwards on those oddly delicate wings, water streaming off them as they passed the CAP dragons, who had scattered to avoid the rising beasts.

"Judith.. r'mind me ta tell Frostfell he ain'tint th' biggest no more," Jebediah drawled, as the three tremendous dragons, the smallest a black-gray match for the Wendigo, turned back towards the CAP. "Kunja? Capt. Kelly? Ah'm thinkin' only Cap's gonna hurt these thin's," Jebediah called over the radio. "We got orders yet?"

So intent on their own attackers, they missed the best sight of all : Frostfell cowering in front of the first attacker.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:49 pm 
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“It’s one hell of a gun captain, Captain.â€

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2009 6:53 pm 
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So intent on its prey was the Lord of the Deep on deck that it had not even noticed Frostfell's arrival prior to the Wendigo's peremptory lunge that placed itself between the Lord and its intended prey. Æquitas and Fulminatus were both crouched low, intent on springing into the air to evade the charge of the maddened leviathan, but as Frostfell lunged in, they stopped in their tracks, as did the Lord of the Deep, which quite clearly had not expected this.

But only for a moment.

Regarding Frostfell for only a moment, the Lord of the Deep suddenly lunged forward with both foreclaws. One clenched down around the Wendigo's exposed neck, holding it in place like a vice. The thirty-ton Light Heavyweight could thrash and squirm all it wanted, for the Lord looming over it was nearly twice its size and weight and held on like a mechanical digger. It held tightly, though not tightly enough to throttle, pinning the Wendigo down on its back on the deck, ignoring Fulminatus and Æquitas who stood helpless before it, unable even collectively to budge a monster of that size. The AD gunners aboard Ark Royal turned their weapons on the Lord, but were held in check equally, unable to fire so long as the Lord of the Deep held Frostfell.

But the sea-dragon ignored them all, staring down at Frostfell with reptilian eyes ablaze in anger. And slowly, with every appearance of discrimination, the dragon extended a single claw off its free foreleg, and drove it into the metal plating of the Ark Royal's deck, bare inches from Frostfell's head, and began to carve a symbol into it.

The sound of rending metal covered all nearby as the dragon tore a deep gash in the deck plate, dragging its steel-hard claw over the armored deck. The crude drawing was of nothing obvious, a simple oval, roughly four feet long by three wide, tapering ever so slightly on one end, unadorned with any further symbol of marking. Yet as soon as the dragon had finished, it jerked its clenched foreclaw, and slammed Frostfell's head to one side with enough force to shudder the entire ship, pressing him down by his neck such that the symbol was lying right in front of the Wendigo's eyes. It let Frostfell stare at the symbol for five seconds, ten seconds, a motionless, pitiless assailant imposing its will on all before it, and then without releasing the arctic dragon, it raised its head and let loose a roar.

It was not speech, not even draconic, feral speech, for Lords of the Deep spoke in the songs of whales and could not vocalize their melodic words above water. Yet obviously the roar was interpreted by the other three dragons, likely as a prearranged signal of some sort. One flying dragon, by far the largest, turned and dove onto the deck of Ark Royal itself, rocking the ship as though a small destroyer had just been deposited atop it. Ignoring the scrambling crew and the weapons frantically being brought to bear, it strode towards one of the elevators that would admit even its thunderous bulk to the interior of the ship, though for what purpose could not be discerned. The other adult, smaller than the first two, but still larger than a fully adult Jotunmeister, turned instead on Flinder, and advanced towards the Australian middleweight with a look in its eyes that forebode no good and sent the crew of the newly attached gun looking to their Captain for orders.

The last dragon, the "small" one who still stood Parnassian-sized at the least, seemed more nimble than the others, though this was not saying a great deal, either for size or agility. It turned, not on the dragons below, but the ones above, the CAP of lightweight and Special weapons dragons that flew overhead watching the entire proceedings. For the moment it seemed to have no target in mind, but rather flew at the general lot of them, barking curt growls of meaningless sound at the harnessed dragons, and beating its wings for more and more speed, its foreclaws opening and closing as if in anticipation of seizing men and dragons and rending them to pieces.

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Havoc: "So basically if you side against him, he summons Cthulu."
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:41 pm 
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"They're looking for an egg!" Frostfell yelled. He doubted anyone was close enough to see the symbol carved into the deck. "Which explains why they're crankier than I am with sucking chest wounds and an empty kill count."

Frostfell let out a low coughing roar. He waited until he had the larger dragon's attention and then pointed at himself and made a sweeping gesture to include British ships. He then vocalized an orca call combining "no" and "child". He clawed the deck, drawing crude pictograms of a man, a dragon, and a boat. He drew another cluster of pictograms representing four dragons. He pointed at the Lord of the Deep and then to the pictograms. He carved an arrow from the Lords pictogram to the egg. He then carved another arrow from the British pictogram to the egg and then destroyed the arrow.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:33 pm 
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The entire crew watched the Lords in awe. Even Flinder gaped at the scene on the deck of the Ark Royal, forgetting to do anything but glide in a slow arc around the ship. The reverie was broken as soon as the crew realized the second Lord was coming after them and started yelling and scrambling for battle stations.

Allen turned to Bennett as Flinder started fighting for altitude. "How quickly can we bring the new gun to bear?" he yelled over the tumult.

"Immediately!" Bennett replied, and scrambled back to assist. After a moment, though, Allen's radio crackled, and the voice of one of the new gunners came through.

"Captain, the gun is secured and read--"

"Then fire, mate!" Allen screamed into the wind, watching the advancing behemoth with rapidly increasing terror.

There was a pause, then the gunner continued. "Captain, we were only going to test the rig today, we have limited ammunition on board."

Allen grabbed his radio to reply. "How many shells?"

Another pause. "Eight, sir."

Allen exhaled sharply. Eight shells, on an untested gun, against a mountain of a dragon.

His eyes narrowed as he grabbed the radio again. "Well then you'd better make each one bloody count."

The harness shuddered as they brought the massive gun around. Aiming wasn't difficult, as now a large part of their horizon was filled with snarling dragon.

All eyes were on the approaching dragon as Allen gave the order to fire when ready. All eyes, that is, except for Flinder's; he was the only one who had continued to watch the scene on the deck of the Royal. "Allen!" he yelled, "I don't think these dragons are--"

The rest of his response was cut off as the great gun fired.

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The sound of the huge gun firing was unmistakable. "Welp, tha' done fer it," Jebediah sighed, the Appalachian drawl coming over the radio. "Kunja, yer point, th' rest of ya'll form up on Kunja an' start swarmin'. This un's young, an' he ain't a good flyer, so giv' em hell an' line 'em up fer Flinder."

Judith tightened her straps, but didn't bother reaching for her guns. Neither the tommygun nor the shotgun would do much to Frostfell, much less this monster. It would be dragon claws versus dragon skin, and hoping the cannon on Flinder would do it. "Wish they'd held off shootin' til we got more dragons flyin'," she griped to Jebediah.

"Ours is not ta reason why, ours is but to do an' die..." Jebediah replied, quoting the poem that Judith had been forced to memorize in school. Military life had brought a whole new meaning to it.

"Inta th' Valley o' Death rode th' six hunnerd."

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There was no way to miss.

The dragon bearing down on Flinder was the size of a large building, filling half the sky with its thunderous, water-sodden bulk. Stable though Flinder might or might not have been, his crew was unpracticed with their new piece of artillery, and could not aim as skillfully as would make their officers happy. Yet it did not matter. The dragon was before them, and they fired into it.

It should have been a death sentence, but it was not.

The shot was as powerful as advertised, striking the enormous dragon with such force that it reacted hard, the shell driving into its chest and lodging in bone, rib or sternum. It howled, as much from surprise as from pain, its wings faltered, and in the instant without lift, it plunged downwards, striking the water as though a frigate had been dropped from altitude. Plainly the dragon was not dead, nor even crippled or seriously injured, but Lords of the Deep were simply too massive to fly with great assurance, and a second's hesitation had been enough to splash it down.

And an instant later, total pandemonium broke loose.

Had the squadron, or even the carrier itself been alone, the result might have been disaster, but carriers sailed in escort for a reason, and the crews of the escorts had themselves been waiting with hair triggers primed to engage the dragons. The first shot touched off a firework of biblical proportions. The Lord of the Deep moving towards the Ark Royal's elevator was caught in deflection fire by the Destroyer Hostile, and struck square in the face by a withering barrage of light ADA fire. The crew of the carrier gasped as the waspish 20mm projectiles bounced off the titan's head like bullets off the side of a tank. Yet moments later it was the dragon's turn to roar, as Hostile unleashed her primary armaments, sending 3.1 inch airfused shot bursting around the monster's head. Gouged and stung, the dragon reared back and roared, a mistake, as Hostile proceeded to put another salvo straight into its chest. Even this could not bring the monster down, but plainly it had had enough. Bleeding and howling aloud in pain, the dragon leaped forward and dove off the side of Ark Royal, seeking safety in the waters below.

As one, the other ships let loose their arsenal of firepower as well. Sussex came alive like a christmas tree, sending sheets of flame aloft while fast-charging Ashanti raced in to offer support, her propellers churning the water into foam. Yet the juvenile above was smaller and more agile than its elders, and the majority of the shipboard gunners had been aiming at his larger counterparts. Afforded several seconds to act, the Juvenile acted, lancing out of the sky straight at Jebediah, claws extended, face drawn back in a sneering growl. The dragon looked like it intended to pounce atop Jebediah like a cat landing on the mouse, entirely heedless of the fact that doing so would assuredly drive both cat and mouse straight into the ocean.

But the one target that the gunners could not aim at was the one presently pinning Frostfell to the deck, for the guns could not depress enough to target such a thing even if they had been able to fire on a beast with a vice grip on their own dragon. Indeed the dragon itself seemed to pay no particular mind to the gunshots outside. It watched, and listened, to Frostfell's crude drawings and barked words, showing no sign of whether it understood them or not. After Frostfell had finished, the dragon made only a soft growling sound, though whether it was meant as hostile or merely neutral was indeterminable. And then, all of a sudden, the dragon released Frostfell's throat, and lunged, like a coiled spring, towards the elevator.

Yet plainly, it was not trying to get inside the ship.

Men screamed and cried as the Dragon's wings shot it forward like a flying torpedo, its feet touching the deck barely once, twice, before it lunged straight at the small gaggle of men standing near the elevator. Its eyes were visibly locked however, on a single one. On Nathan Reynolds, whom it was aimed towards like a guided missile. It did not roar or bare its teeth, nor hurl wordless abuse to the skies, nor snap its jaws as if in anticipation of a meal. It simply lunged, aiming at the dragon-captain, its gaze a mask of cold calculation that belied its monstrous reputation. What intent it had was unknown.

What results it would have would be presently.

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Nathan wasn't looking at Flinder when the Australians opened fire. He heard the cannon being fired and the explode. Then the gates of hell opened.

Nathan hit the deck as shells flew through towards the nearby Lord of the Deep. He rolled across the deck and away from the massive dragon as shrapnel flew through the air and dragons roared. Instinct drove him forward, towards his dragon. There was nothing he could do against a Lord of the Deep, but Frostfell was down. He couldn't watch helplessly while another of his dragons died.

The Lord of the Deep looked directly at him and let Frostfell go. The giant dragon charged straight forward. "Bloody hell," said Nathan.

Frostfell scrambled to his feet. "Nathan!" he roared. No one, even if they be Jotunmeister or a Lord of the Deep, struck at his captain and lived. No one.

The Lord of the Deep had too much lead. He wouldn't make it in time.

The Lord of the Deep rushed at Nathan and there was no way to get below decks or that Frostfell would catch the larger dragon in time. There was only one way to dodge. Nathan took five running steps and jumped over the side.

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Quote:
As one, the other ships let loose their arsenal of firepower as well. Sussex came alive like a Christmas tree, sending sheets of flame aloft while fast-charging Ashanti raced in to offer support, her propellers churning the water into foam. Yet the juvenile above was smaller and more agile than its elders, and the majority of the shipboard gunners had been aiming at his larger counterparts. Afforded several seconds to act, the Juvenile acted, lancing out of the sky straight at Jebediah, claws extended, face drawn back in a sneering growl. The dragon looked like it intended to pounce atop Jebediah like a cat landing on the mouse, entirely heedless of the fact that doing so would assuredly drive both cat and mouse straight into the ocean.

"Tha's it, follow th' leader," Jebediah drawled as flew away from the Juvie, straight out as if fleeing for his life. "Kunja! Trick Number Five."

On his back, Judith grinned and lowered herself closer to Jeb's neck. Trick #5 was one they'd used on FrostFell more than once, so this young Lord of the Deep was going to have the same problems the Wendigo had keeping up.

The juvenile Lord followed the speeding Smoke Devil with a roar that seemed to promise horrible things should he catch the lightweight. Jebediah beat his wings, straining for enough speed. It was going to be a tight, choosing the right moment between his speed, the closeness of the pursing dragon, and the range of the fast-approaching Ashanti.

"NOW!"
At Judith's warning, Jebediah jack-knifed downward, his wings furling tight to his sides. Like a snake, the SmokeDevil barrel-rolled as he dropped altitude, going head-first into the curve of the "Split-S" maneuver. The turn completed, the blue wings unfurled with a snap, and the little SmokeDevil was now speeding back the way he'd come, several dozen meters below the pursuing Lord of the Deep.

It was the ultimate in U-Turns; one that Frostfell was still working out a good counter for. The less experienced Lord of the Deep should overshoot ... right into the Ashanti's firing range.

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Snapping at Jebediah's heels, the Lord of the Deep lunged through the air with all the power its water-swept wings could provide it. Ungainly and clumsy in the air, it nevertheless contrived power and force and its telescoping neck extended as it snapped a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth at the fleeing dragon, aiming for where the Smoke Devil would be in just a moment.

Except the Smoke Devil wasn't there.

Juvenile that it was, the Lord closed its eyes at the last second before snapping its jaws closed, and in that split second, Jebediah suddenly shifted course dramatically. The pursuer saw nothing, not that seeing would have permitted it to compensate in the fractal seconds that were at work here, and instead of a dragon, the dragon's bite caught the better part of a 3.1 inch shell.

Ashanti, one of the prize gunnery ships of the fleet, had been steaming at 31 knots to lend aid to its charges, and as soon as Jeb moved, all guns erupted at once, deluging the young Lord of the Deep in fire. 20mm, 40mm, 3 inch and 5 inch, shot enough to knock any light heavyweight living from the skies, be they Wendigo, Parnassian, or Whirling Dervish. Shells exploded against the juvenile's hide, bullets and machine cannon tracing patterns of black bloodspatter across its greywater scales as it jerked and twisted and lost control. Spiraling downwards towards the water, it tried to dive away, its wings shot up and bloodied, and crashed instead into the destroyer's bridge, crushing it like an aluminum can, instantly killing every officer above the rank of lieutenant.

The ship rolled with a groan as the superstructure tried to support thirty five tons of dead weight landed on its highest point. The ADA turrets went into local fire mode those few with arcs able to track sufficiently high flinging desultory rounds at the struggling dragon. Meanwhile Jebediah's dive had taken him through a handful of firing arcs as he dove and turned to evade the dragon's bite.

Finally, the Lord managed to tear itself loose and plunged over the side of the ship into the water, leaving the surface dragons and the Ashanti to cope as best they could.

*---------------------------------------------------*

But the dragon on the Ark Royal was another matter entirely.

Massive, implacable, Lord of the Deep indeed, the dragon ignored Frostfell's angry bellow as it charged towards Nathan Reynolds at the edge of the Dragon Carrier, and none could contest its passing. Æquitas and Fulminatus both tried, but Fulminatus was a shade too slow, and could not make the intercept, while Æquitas, though he managed to reach the dragon's flank in time, was kicked aside like a child's toy, sent rolling and sliding across the deck to fetch up on his side against Ark Royal's conning tower. Such guns as could be brought to bear were not even close to sufficient to slow such a behemoth, let along bring it down. Men scrambled for cover as 20mm shells deflected off the armored hide of the titanic dragon, and all fled from its path, save its intended target, who dove for the safety of the waves, and its pursuer, who plainly would brave fire, ice, or leviathan itself.

As Nathan Reynolds plunged into the sea, the dragon who was lunging at him did not even hesitate. It bounded to the edge of the Ark Royal, coiled its body like a spring, and dove into the water below like a corvette dropped from altitude.

Instantly the sea went opaque as greenwater washed over the decks of the carrier, and spray topped the conning tower. All aboard lost their footing as the immense carrier listed five, eight, ten degrees, before laboriously righting itself, its propellers churning the water to whipped cream as it struggled to move aside and let the destroyers shield it from the now-submerged Lords. Below, the water was whipped into a cauldron of frenzy, as Nathan was jerked this way and that by the riptides. Yet in the end, it was not the dragon who had lunged at him that was the worry, for Nathan's peremptory dive had evaded that one, nor was it the sharks that were known to infest these waters, for the largest and meanest shark in the ocean would never dare come within five miles of a pod of Lords of the Deep. The worry was that the sea was not man's domain, but the domain of the Lords, and Nathan had no sooner surfaced, than a single fore-paw the size of a Studebaker, either from one of the dragons previously forced beneath the surface, or from some other one that had remained there, grabbed him in a grip like a python's, and dragged him underwater.

A reasonable man might have expected to be devoured post-haste. Lords of the Deep were reputed man-eaters after all. Yet the claws that snatched at Nathan did not slice, nor did teeth appear to grind him to paste. Instead there were several seconds of tugging amidst the pitch blackness of the underwater claw, and the muffled sounds of loud, acoustic noises that could only be the speech of the Lords of the Deep. And then suddenly, with no explanation as to where he was or how he had come to be there, Captain Nathan Reynolds found himself inside a small, scale-lined enclosure in pitch darkness.

And it was full of air.

Not just air, but hot air, hotter than the outside air had been by two dozen degrees. The air had a faint tinge to it, that of dragons indeterminate, but only a faint one. Though Nathan himself was soaked through, the enclosure was nearly dry, the scales lining it smooth yet strong, in the manner of dragonscale everywhere. With no light, it could not be determined where he was, yet plainly this could not be the dragon's mouth, for there was no moisture, no tongue, and no teeth. Though hot and thick, the air was perfectly breathable, and showed no signs of exhausting itself, though the enclosure was barely large enough for a single man. Faint noises, desperately faint, could be heard from outside the enclosure, sounds like ill-tuned pipe organs or like great whales heard from far far away.

Yet running through the entire orchestra was a single deep throbbing drumbeat, like those of natives in a Tarzan movie, resonant and powerful and absolutely rhythmic, pounding over and over as the other sounds faded away and left nothing but darkness and the drum.

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Frostfell dived off the side of the carrier like a swooping eagle, launching himself above the Lord of the Deep and coming swooping down to close on Nathan and snatch him away. Claws capable of gently cradling all too vulnerable human flesh or rending nearly impenetrable dragonhide closed on air and water as Nathan was snatched away from him. The Wendigo skimmed over the surface of the choppy waves, his claws empty.

Frostfell wailed. The sound was loud and piteous, cutting through the air and the din of battle like a knife, a thing of tortured anguish. He had been too slow. A moment faster and his captain would have been safe. Just one moment, one fraction of a second and Nathan would have been saved.

But he hadn't been.

The Lords of the Deep outmassed him, with the smallest being his equal in size but that did not matter. The grizzly bear yields to the wolverine because the fury of the latter is too terrible to be born. Another sound erupted from his throat, louder than the first. There was nothing of mourning and grief in it only monstrous rage and murder-lust. There was not enough blood in the world to sate his appetite for death and pain. Powerful wingbeats carried him higher into the air as he twisted around to pounce on a Lord of the Deep from above.

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Shells whistled by Jebediah as the SmokeDevil fled for safer skies. Judith winced as -something- screamed by like a bottlerocket on the 4th of July. She looked back to see the young Lordling crash into the Ashanti, and the barrage of friendly fire stopped.

"Jeb? Ya'll rite?" she asked.

"I thin' one hit me, bu' bounced," Jebediah admitted, looking down along his side, and getting a look at the Ashanti himself. "Now tha's jis' not ..."

The primal wail of loss cut across Jebediah's comment, and both dragon and rider jerked around to see the source. The Wendigo's next roar sent shivers down the spine.

"No..," Judith whispered, "Not Nathan ... God please not Nathan ...."
"If he's a-goin' fer them monsters ... Ah ain't gonna stop 'em." Jebediah said quietly. "Iffen he goes fer us ....."

"Laird-a mercy!" Judith cried out again, looking over to Kunja and Jake. Frostfell was climbing, beating the air out of his way for height and seemingly going straight for Kunja. Yet Frostfell stopped far short of any of the lightweights, twisting in mid-air and obviously preparing to dive.

"Lord Ha' Mercy," Jebediah seconded. " 'Cause th' White Devil won't."

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It appeared that the Lords of the Deep agreed with Jebediah's assessment.

Whether by their choice or not, all of the Lords were back in the water. Some had been blasted there, and others returned of their own volition. Above the waves, the Wendigo was going mad, and none of the dragons in the water (nor any without) were prepared to gainsay such a thing. A Pod of Lords might well have been capable of tearing Frostfell apart, but short of that no dragon would approach a maddened White Devil.

Instead, one by one, they left.

The ones nearest to Frostfell dove first, and dove quickly, for in their native environment, Lords of the Deep were as agile as Smoke Devils in theirs. Jackknifing and streaking down into the briny depths, the enormous dragons raced for the bottom of the ocean, vanishing from view from the surface, visible now only as ASDIC signals on the escort destroyers.

What Frostfell might do now was unknown, yet from his perspective, directly overhead one or more of the Lords, the Wendigo's eyes could just barely make out the retreating forms of the Lords of the Deep as they descended into the depths of the ocean at flank speed.

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Frostfell would not be robbed of his vengeance. He would do murder, literally come hell or high water and devil take the hindmost. Both statements were literally true in this case. The North Atlantic did not deter a dragon who considered swimming in the Arctic recreation and this White Devil was intent on killing, starting with the trailing Lord of the Deep. He immediately plunged in right after them, swimming for all he was worth.

Frostfell's crew slowly came to the edge of Arc Royal's flight deck. "God Almighty," said McKenzie.

"The skipper's gone, just like that," said Watson softly. He was new to the crew, a replacement for casualties and intimidated by the veterans he served worth. He would have rather served on almost any other dragon than a Wendigo, but at least Frostfell was a "good luck" dragon.

"It can happen quick," said Samson. He flicked his lighter and lit a cigarette. "One moment you're here and the next you're gone. Poor bastards."

"What about Frostfell?" asked Watson. "What do we do when, when you know, he comes back?"

McKenzie let out a grim chuckle. "He isn't going to come back boy. He's going to avenge his captain or die trying. There's four Lords of the Deep, heading into the deep water, and the smallest of them is Frostfell's size. No way for the White Devil to win that."

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"Jeb...?"

"Ah can't swim that, Judith," the SmokeDevil said sadly, shaking his head. "We shou' jis' land n' see wha' ken be done."

With that, the Smoke Devil turned and slowly made a downward spiral to the DragonCarrier, touching down as lightly as he could. There was nothing either he nor Kunja could do.

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The roar from the gun was deafening. Shouts and radio instructions were drowned out by the noise, and remained indiscernible for precious moments afterwards as ears rang from the concussive force. Visibility was momentarily drowned out as well, as smoke washed across Flinder’s back.

That the force of the shell was enough to knock the young Lord out of the air should have been cause for celebration, but the force of the gun was enough to almost drop Flinder into the sea as well.

Without training to compensate, he was completely unprepared for the recoil. He was thrown sideways in the air, wing-joints screaming in pain as they tried to keep the wings extended and hold him aloft. He roared in pain, but quickly regained his stability to right himself in the air.

Once he was stable, the crew exploded into action, checking the gun’s attachment to the harness and preparing to reload.

Flinder, however, had turned his attention back to the activities on the deck. “Allen!â€

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