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“How is it that nothing at the exhibition appealed to you in the slightest?” Count Louis de Theudubert asked, parrying another blow before stepping to the left and thrusting his rapier towards his opponent.

“What can I say?” The clash of sword against sword rang through the air as she knocked the blade away to her left. “All I managed to see were a bunch of items which applied to large vehicles or made combat easier. Not worth my time and certainly not worth my money!”

Louis’ guard had been thrown off by his opponent’s harsh returning slash and he now forced himself to hop to his right to avoid the thrust of a blade into his stomach. As he landed, his right knee failed him again and he cried out in pain, dropping onto his left knee as his body responded to the pain.

The Count’s opponent did not let up, slashing her blade towards his neck fast enough that he had no time to bring up his own blade to stop it. Instead he rolled in the same direction, the pain actually causing him to feel some kind of emotion in this battle.

Amelia Hawkesworth had certainly not been expecting that move considering she had seen him going down in what appeared to be a great deal of pain. In the past, she would not have moved, instead waiting for him to return to his feet. After a few fencing matches with de Theudubert however, she had quickly been taught that there are no rules in combat and to take advantage of any weakness exposed.

Louis came up onto the one knee again and slashed to the right, connecting with the outside of Amelia’s blade to increase the momentum of her missed hit. In a flash he had brought the tip of the blade against her chest just above her pendant.

“Very good job pressing the advantage. I was not expecting it my dear.” Louis stood, painfully, and bowed to her.

“I learned from one of the best it would seem.” Amelia replied with an inclination of the head, sheathing her sword.

Louis collected his cane from where it lay against a wall and leaned heavily on the telescopic handle, walking over to the right side of his armoury and sliding the sword into its place in the vast shelving units.

“I take it from the cold stance you are taking towards the Science Exhibition that you do not approve of the new purchases I have made?” The Count asked with a smirk, turning towards the door.

“What you do with your own money is your business Count. Had any of the money belonged to the state, however, then I would indeed have been forced to intervene!”

Louis smiled. They had returned to the formal and curt manner of speaking which so often permeated their conversation recently. It was quite amusing considering…

“Then I regret to inform you that while many of the personal additions to the crew’s armouries have been made from my own pocket, the artillery which I procured for the ship itself was made out of the very pocket of the treasury.” Louis smirked and winked as they both left the room and closed the somewhat secretive doorway. Despite his injury, he moved swiftly down the corridor and yet was caught quickly.

“What in God’s name do you mean!? Those experimental cannons must have cost a fortune!” Amelia was livid with this news.

“Indeed…but you must see this as not only an investment for the HMS Valkyrie, but also for the Royal Navy as a whole. These weapons are still in the late stages of development, by purchasing these pre-production models straight from the Royal Ordinance and Steam Weapons Research Facility we have an opportunity to conduct extensive field testing on their behalf which would benefit everyone involved. We get our fancy new cannons and the boffins in Perthshire get the data!. A truly symbiotic relationship. I do believe Admiral Tooley would agree with me!” Louis was still not facing her, but he allowed himself a small smirk of victory in any case.

“I...well, we shall see about that!”

* * * * *

“I honestly thought he was tryin’ to replace me.” Gen said, lifting a wrench to tighten a bolt on one of several new items which Louis had given her to investigate.

“I would not think that at all!” Aurora replied with a grin as she clicked something apart, her eyes widening as she had not intended to do such a thing.

“Well, I get it now. We specialise in different areas and lots of our interests overlap. We’re meant to compliment each other and work together and all that. It makes sense now! Just when I was first told you were joining…I was more than a little angry!” Gen confessed, lifting up the device to inspect it. This was a gadget which the Captain had bought for himself, so she was making sure that this was truly her best work!

“Right! And I can learn a lot from you and I hope I can show you some new things too!” Aurora smiled and dropped what she was working on, watching as a large disk-shaped object rolled off the table and under a boiler nearby. A string of Norwegian followed which Gen could not follow, but knew must have included several swearwords.

“Where is it you keep disappearing to anyway?” Aurora asked, kneeling down with a long screwdriver in an attempt to get the disk from under the boiler without burning herself.

“I really wish I could tell you because I think you’d be an asset to what I’m doing but…the person I’m working with has sworn me to secrecy. I’ve not been able to tell the Captain what I’ve been working on…which is hard for me!” Gen did look genuinely upset by this but she sighed and put down the object she had been working on. “In fact, he’s barely had any time for me anymore! He’s always busy with something!”

Or someone…Aurora added silently to herself, sliding the disk out towards herself but refraining from picking it up until it cooled. She had only known Count de Theudubert for just over a week but already she had noticed a pattern of him either disappearing into his quarters or off the ship and returning with a glow and the scent of feminine perfume clinging to him.

“Well, he has a lot to do! He is a commodore in the Royal Navy after all and-“

“A COMMODORE!?” Gen exclaimed, standing to knock over the table. “The bastard refused to tell any of us his rank! How do you know it!?”

“He had to show his credentials to the man in the fair, to let him into the military section.” Aurora replied calmly, picking up the disk now.

“Oh…” The response was a calm one as Gen suddenly felt foolish, the pang of jealousy disappearing again as she straightened the chair and sat down. “I think I’m a fool sometimes…”

“You make it sound as if we can help these things.” Aurora replied absentmindedly, locking the disk back into place in the spring mechanism she had been working on.

“What? What things?” Gen blushed scarlet and began to randomly pick up things from the table, attempting to look as busy as she could.

“Oh, was I not meant to respond?” Aurora asked, looking up at her with a grin. “Because what you are talking about is obvious to probably everyone on this ship…well, except one it seems.”

“Except one…yeah.” Gen sighed and crossed her arms on the table before resting her head against them, pushing her cap back over her blonde, tussled hair.

“Have you ever told him? It would be far simpler! As an engineer, you should know that when you want something, the only way to get it is to act! As a scientist I know that if I wish to accomplish something, I must try!” Aurora grinned and span the screwdriver in her fingers before winking. “Right?”

“That makes sense in a way that only I would understand.” Genevieve laughed and shook her head in exasperation.

“ Cap’n! Report t’the bridge right now! Emerg’ncy telegram from London!” Skye’s voice was unmistakable as it rang over all of the speaking tubes, as Skye was unsure as to the Count’s positioning within the ship.

“I repeat, Cap’n t’the bridge!”

* * * * *

Louis had found it incredibly difficult to get up to the bridge considering the pain in his leg, but he had his cane and this was obviously important! He climbed up the ladder, pushing open the hatch which led into the bridge and stepped up onto the floor, his cane coming before either of his feet.

“Cap’n, you’re ‘ere, good!” Skye turned from the control panel and stood, bringing a small slip of paper over to him. “We got it in morse sir, sounds big.”

The Count read the note in a few seconds and crumpled it in his hand, sighing heavily as he limped over to the speaking tubes.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the HMS Valkyrie, it saddens me to inform you that despite the fact we have been grounded for a few days while the new weapons have been installed on the ship, we are forced to head directly to make port in London.” Louis sighed, shaking his head. All he wanted now was to take to the skies, perhaps spend some time partaking of a little piracy. The more he was drawn into the military, the less he actually was able to do the job he was hired for! A job which truly seemed to be his calling!

“It appears a situation has developed and the HMS Valkyrie along with all other Government Privateers are asked to return to London for briefing immediately. As the telegram was so cryptic, I cannot say any more than that, but I do offer my apologies. All crew must be ready for takeoff within the hour. Get busy!”

The Captain shook his head and released another sigh, leaning against the railing separating the control area from the helm.

“You ain’t pleased are ya?” Skye asked, standing and walking over to him.

“No, not in the least. I really was looking forward to being free from the military for at least a short amount of time. Now something massively important is happening, important enough for Admiral Tooley to call me away and break his word.” Which was the main concern for Louis. Admiral Tooley was, like the Count, a man who prided himself on keeping his word and yet he had called Louis back to service despite releasing the Valkyrie…

Something was wrong.

“I want the ship ready to leave as soon as humanly possible Tabby, we need to get back to London as swiftly as possible.” Louis slammed the tip of his cane into the floor hard in frustration before limping away.

“Aye Cap’n…” Skye said softly, not even able to argue against the fact that he had called her ‘Tabby’ once again.

* * * * *

Upon arrival in the early hours of the morning a message had been sent to the HMS Valkyrie even as they were docking, emphasising the urgency of this return home. A council of war had been called; this had been made clear, it was to take place in a large stateroom at Admiralty House in London.  Louis was to be present along with Lieutenant Davenport to represent the HMS Valkyrie for both the Navy and the Army respectively.

The room which de Theudubert and Davenport now sat in was a large crescent shape with tiered rows of ornate maroon and gold seating facing a central dais, on which was sat a large oak table. Around this, several members of Her Majesty's Government were sat and alongside the ministers were seats for the Royal Navy and the British Army's chosen representatives. While waiting for the last of the stragglers to take their places, they idly reclined in large leather backed thrones occasionally taking a sip from the glasses of water before them.

Louis and Charles were sat in the first tier of seats, very central so that they had a very good position for the discussions. The Count turned in his ornate chair to look at the sea of faces sat around him, noting that the although most of the audience wore the uniform of the various armed services, he could still pick out the face of the odd privateer he remembered from the good old days of carefree pirating.

This would not be an easy meeting, especially considering who they had chosen to include as the main representative for the Army…

The soft murmuring of the crowd fell silent as the door to the room slowly opened, creaking to echo around the large room.

“General Davenport, it is good to see you.” Admiral Tooley announced, standing as the general entered.

Louis turned his head to see what Charles made of this new development. In time to hear his stifled groan and catch the rolling of his eyes.

Joseph Davenport sneered slightly as he pushed the door closed behind him, his large body was certainly quite intimidating as he strode across the room and up onto the dais. His uniform was mostly hidden under a large red cloak, golden buttons adorning the right side to hold it closed. The blue collar was adorned with golden symbols of rank and the clattering of metal beneath the loose cloak would indicate a large collection of medals.

The creaking of leather brought attention to the new, highly polished boots on his feet. The grin on his face caused his grey-flecked moustache to curl upwards slightly and he sat down at the opposite end of the table to the Admiral, placing what appeared to be a truncheon on the table. He removed the cap and ruffled his grey, curly hair before placing the cap next to the weapon.

“And you Tooley. It has been a long time indeed since this kind of meeting has been established. We usually attempt to steer clear of you Navy people, whether you be on the sea or in the air…” Joseph’s thick British accent not only covered his speech, but when he laughed, it was a deep and thundering booming.

This man had aged well, and what was more, his appearance clearly belied his health as he was still known to accompany troops into active duty.

The Captain of the HMS Valkyrie was in quite the awkward position, as sat directly opposite him on the other side of the crescent was Captain Celeste Brislan of the HMS Hermes, the Valkyrie’s sister ship. The last time the two had seen each other, they had parted on less than positive terms, with her slapping him hard across the face and departing in anger. He had said ridiculously hurtful things to her, stemming primarily from his own anger at himself for losing crew members in an ambush.

“What’re we here fer?” She asked, placing her scimitar none too gently on the table before her as if to mimic General Davenport. The Irish Captain shook her red hair so that it cascaded down her shoulders, framing her gorgeous face perfectly.

Louis cursed himself for having pushed her away so spectacularly before. She had done all she could to help him and his crew, to the point where she had been putting herself in incredible danger and he had responded by verbally attacking her for that. The Captain pulled the top hat from his head and placed it on the table, the Telescopic Diagnostician following as he unbuckled his analogue computer and placed that down as well.

“I too am curious as to the dire situation we have all been summoned to address.”

“I am afraid it is news most dire,” Admiral Tooley began, shaking his head, “Darmania has struck against the British Empire!”

Louis, Celeste and Charles all looked shocked, their eyes widening. Louis and Celeste looked across the table at each other, her eyes filled with concern for him. She knew how this might effect him, considering it was the Darmanians who still held his mother and father captive. In that instant, her green eyes connected with his brown and both forgot any negativity felt in the past.

“Surely this is enough for us to go to war with Darmania?” General Davenport asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

“And risk a war with the allied Darmanian and German forces!?” Louis asked, slamming his fist down on the table. In reality, he was concerned with his family and the fact that, during war, they were likely to die either by friendly fire or through a quick removal effort by the Darmanians.

“You speak as though it is confirmed that Darmania and Germany have any kind of proven connection!” The General laughed and Louis gritted his teeth at the attitude he was being shown.

“Cut the act. None of us are stupid and we have seen the kind of weaponry which the Germans are now playing with. They are providing materials for the Darmanians and the Darmanians are repaying them with weapons and from what I’ve seen, possibly ships as well!” Charles Davenport had been holding his tongue in his father’s presence, but the man was pushing all of the right buttons and protocol aside, Charles was sick of it.

“I do not believe that is the correct manner to address a superior officer.” Joseph replied coolly, barely looking at his son. He pressed his hands together in front of him, the fingertips barely touching as he placed his index fingers against his lips.

“And this is not the correct way for an officer of your stature to conduct himself.” Louis added, knowing that Charles could not defend himself very well due to his damned code of conduct.

“At any rate, his chain of command runs to me now Joe, so please conduct yourself accordingly.” Admiral Tooley interjected. “It is little to no matter whether they are allied or not. The fact is, Darmania have attacked Great Britain and we are here to discuss the best course of action.”

“What exactly happened then Adm’ral?” Celeste asked, her eyes only then moving away from Louis.

“At approximately oh-four hundred two mornings ago, the Bailiwick of Guernsey received a garbled and clearly rushed message from Jersey. The message was in relation to an attack, which was at first thought impossible due to the proximity of the islands to our main shipyards on the south coast, and the fact that Guernsey had not seen or heard any heavy airship travel, Not only that, but nothing was detected visually or even from our acoustic warning station!.” The Admiral stopped to allow everyone to digest the information so far. “The message included something about people being kidnapped, literally nets falling from the sky, closing around groups of people and then them disappearing into the air once more, the message was then cut short with a panicked scream and we assume the operator was overrun. It all sounded like a cruel joke…”

“If it were a cruel joke, I suppose we’d not be sitting here.” Lieutenant Davenport commented with several other officers nodding in agreement.

“Quite,” Tooley agreed, “but at that time it seemed this was all it could be. Just to ensure the safety of both Bailiwicks, a nearby patrol ship, an Ironclad Bastion class, was dispatched to Jersey and what it reported was terrifying.”

The fact that there was a Bastion class ship patrolling around the English Channel told Louis immediately that Franco-Anglican relations were still not brilliant. The Bastion ships were really the backbone of Britain’s defence network, operating similarly to a floating fortress rather than the warship styles of vessels such as the Prometheus class, as the HMS Mjolnir was. The Prometheus ships were designed to wipe out the enemy with incredible speed and efficiency, while the Bastions were designed for endurance, heavy firepower combined with strong defences.

“The HMS Thunderchild was dispatched to the scene and immediately reported back that they were facing a large armada of ships, each horrific in style and whose weaponry was far more advanced than expected. The Thunderchild was ordered to proceed to Jeresy, intercept whatever foe was assaulting the island, and hold off the attacks for as long as possible while an evacuation of Guernsey was carried out.”

The Count sat forward, listening intently. He knew several good men who were on board the HMS Thunderchild, but had not been aware of their mission.

“From what we can gather she gave a good account for herself and bought time for a great many people to be evacuated, but according to observers based in Vale Castle, she was lost with all hands, holding the line off the east coast of the island. With the attacking force unopposed the remaining population and defences were overrun. Hundreds of people are missing from both Bailiwicks combined.” Admiral Tooley stopped and sighed.

“Farewell Thunderchild…” Louis whispered to himself, sighing at almost the same time as the Admiral.

“How d’we know tat it’s de Darmanians? How can you be sure its not the Prussians or Austria-Hungary? We been fighting off their raids for years!” Celeste asked, glancing once more in the Count’s direction.

“Evidence left behind. We have assurances from both governments that none of their vessels were in the area at the time and our own monitoring stations support this. However, there were three dead Darmanian foot soldiers found in Jersey and an abandoned life vessel nearby, similar in design to the glider attached to the Valkyrie, but far smaller. Also wreckage of what we suspect is a Darmanian vessel has been recovered from the channel by one of our surface warships as it headed to the islands to investigate, apparently the only one the Thunderchild managed to destroy. Plus the descriptions we received from that proud ship before she went down suggested Darmanian design as I have little knowledge of any other nation whose airships can fire lightning…”

“It strikes me as odd that an entire armada was able to arrive, wipe out one of those islands, take down a Bastion, remove the other island and then vanish.” Charles added, placing his hands together in front of him, the fingertips touching gently. He looked up and realised he had unconsciously mimicked his father and his hands moved apart with speed enough to make it appear that he had just been burnt.

Lieutenant Davenport sighed and continued, “And if such an armada did manage this feat, I find it highly suspicious that they would leave behind such evidence of their presence unless-“

“Unless they were left intentionally, in which case it was an active declaration of war.” The elder Davenport finished for his son, smirking and sitting back in his chair. This did, after all, seem to follow the outcome he was hoping for.

The entire group sat in silence, mulling over the weight of the utterance which had spilled forth from General Davenport’s lips so easily. For everyone else, this was a major step to take; for him, it seemed to be his very goal.

“Why would they so brazenly commit such an act? I fail to see the logic in this!” The question was broached by an officer sat on the back row whose face Louis could not pick out in the gloom. “Even by Darmanian standards this is a most heinous and barbaric act against our nation. Surely to admit to such an atrocity is to invite utter destruction?” There was a chorus of assent from several of his neighbours.

“So, I say, let us give them exactly what it is they want! However, we shall do so on our terms! Let us bring war to the shores of Darmania!” Joseph slammed his hand down on the table with a broad grin on his face.

“You are talking extremely casually about going after a nation which is, in itself, a virtual fortress! From the closest fly-bys we were allowed we could see that they have a large wall of iron surrounding virtually their entire country save for four gates. That alone would be a difficult thing to avoid, but they also have ground to air artillery that would shred airships near instantly, we have lost several ships this way that were attempting reconnaissance.” Admiral Tooley responded with a frown, crossing his arms and sighing loudly.

“A wall of steel.”

“What?” Tooley asked, turning towards the source of the statement.

Louis stared blankly back at him and then shook his head, “It is not iron that surrounds them, but steel…which makes things much more complicated.”

One again a weighted statement caught those around the room by surprise and it was then that the General said something to shock both his son and Louis.

“What about that death ray which the Valkyrie carries?”

Louis raised an eyebrow and turned towards the Admiral, who looked far too stunned to have known that the Army held this knowledge.

“Oh don’t worry, your secret weapons are safe with me. Still, I happen to know a fair bit about this Teleforce Cannon, even if I do not know exactly HOW it works, I know what it does and what it is capable of. Melting steel should not be a problem for such a device!” The General smirked, the feeling of control intoxicating him.

“That is a point, and one I must confess I had not considered…” Tooley responded, his brow furrowed in thought.

This was bad, Louis thought to himself as he realised what Tooley was considering, after all, if a war was to break out, there would only be one chance to get his family back safely…and I was not a good chance.

“You cannot be truly considering this George!” The Count exclaimed towards the Admiral, both hands coming down hard on the table as he stood. “Such an act is clearly what they WANT from us!”

“And yet, it is something which we must do…” Tooley said to himself, sighing. “Watch what you say also Commodore, I am your commanding officer.”

“Wha’ d’ye mean somethin’ we must do?” Celeste question, cutting across something that Louis was about to say.

“They have to show the strength of the British Empire, a failure to respond to such a brash show of force will be a sign of weakness.” Lieutenant Davenport answered with unblinking confidence, staring at the table the entire time.

“What have the French said about this?” Louis asked suddenly, purposefully steering the conversation away so that the Admiral had less time to think on that fact.

“Officially? They have no idea who perpetrated this attack, nor do they have any wish to be involved in any future conflicts. However, we have their sympathies, for what that is worth!” Admiral Tooley answered, bringing a laugh from the General sat opposite him.

“I would guarantee that they know more than they are letting on,” Tooley continued, “and the fact that they are strengthening their defences could mean one of two things…Either they are telling the truth and they are merely preparing in case they are next, or they are worried we will discover the truth. Still, this is not our concern for now. I have called you here for a purpose.”

Here it is… Louis though, knowing what was coming now.

“We are to attack Darmania in the early hours in two days time, meaning that we will be leaving tomorrow evening as the flight will be slow and laborious due to the size of some of our ships.” Admiral Tooley nodded, as if trying to convince himself that this was the right course of action.

“What size a fleet will we be taking?” A question came from one of the uniformed men sat in the pews.

“The plan is for four squadrons of large warships and three flotillas of smaller escort vessels.” The Admiral responded. “I will be heading one of the four squadrons as Admiral of the Fleet.”

The elder Davenport smirked, so Tooley had been deemed the best Admiral and promoted to Admiral of the Fleet as they now moved from peace time into war time. That was very interesting…it meant that despite his increase in rank during war time, Tooley was still an equivalent rank in the Royal Navy.

“This of course means that I, as Field Marshal, will be in charge of keeping these shores safe while the Naval fleet is away at war.” General Davenport smirked at the expression on Tooley’s face and leant back in his chair nonchalantly.

“In this vein, I am granting a brevet rank to two officers in this room. Captain Celeste Brislan and Commodore Louis de Theudubert, could you both please stand?” Tooley stood also, walking towards the pews with two small boxes in his hands.

Louis’ eyes widened in surprise and he looked across at Celeste as they both stood, each of them looking highly confused. The Admiral arrived at Louis first due to his positioning and he handed the Count the small, triangular box. He then walked towards Celeste and gave her an identical box.

“Please approach the dais.” Tooley told them, stepping back to step up onto the dais.

Louis opened the box and looked within it, finding a small medal within it sat on a bed of velvet. His was golden, ribbon of black and red leading up to a clasp with golden wings spread from the top. His eyes darted up to see Celeste pulling a similar medal from her own box, but this one was silver with blue and black ribbon. Both Privateers stepped down from their seats, slid their way past several people to get out from behind the long wooden desk and walked to the dais, stepping up on either side of the Admiral.

“Count Louis de Theudubert, until this crisis is managed, you will be brevetted to the position of Rear Admiral. You have battled with Darmanian warships at close quarters and survived, you have also dealt with Darmanian soldiers in close combat and repelled them. You have conducted yourself with bravery and valour in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, as well as this, your knowledge will be invaluable in the upcoming war and you will take command of one of the squadrons.” Admiral Tooley took Louis’ medal and pinned it to his tailcoat on the breast pocket of the left side, above his heart.

Louis lifted the medal and looked down at it, seemingly still in shock as he let go and looked out at Lieutenant Davenport. His friend was covering his face and appeared to be laughing at this sight!

“Captain Celeste Brislan, I hereby grant you the brevet rank of Commodore. You managed to track the Darmanian ships which neither of the two attacked islands nor the vessels in the area could manage. You have shown aptitude and cunning, proving yourself a credit to your ship and the Royal Navy. You too will command a squadron, leading our pathfinders. You shall be the eyes and ears of the fleet, standing sentinel so that we may not fall prey to an ambush!” Admiral Tooley lifted her medal and leant forward to pin it on her thin white dress but thought better of it, smiling and handing it to her.

Celeste laughed and took the medal, pinning it to her brown leather under bust corset at the very top so that it hung elegantly from between her breasts as almost a continuation of the chain she wore, the ring upon it only an inch or so above the medal.

“Vice Admiral Constance, I would like you to take command of the other squadron,” Tooley spoke into the crowd, causing a gruff looking man to stand and salute before resuming his position, “and then we are set. The ships are currently being fitted with transmission equipment which Commodore Brislan has been kindly testing for us.”

Celeste smirked as she looked around the faces in the crowd, several of them clearly less than pleased about this announcement.

“Sir, permission to speak?” One man asked, lifting an arm before he stood and saluted. His thin, mouse-like face clearly betraying his consternation, he was sweating and fiddling with his uniform nervously at the prospect of addressing the old warhorse.

“Speak freely, nothing you say shall leave this room.” Tooley responded, his arms moving behind his back.

“I must object to your choices in leading these squadrons sir. I could not imagine a more dangerous place for a pirate than in such a position of power! How can you be sure that these glorified brigands won't cut and run at the first sign of danger? You have long-serving, able men ready to step into these positions. Surely a simple briefing from them would provide more strategically capable men of-“

“I will stop you there Captain,” Tooley told him, raising an arm, “for the fact of the matter is, both Brislan and de Theudubert have proven themselves perfect for this kind of mission. They are specialists in hit and run tactics and both of them have shown excessive skills in combating enemies larger in stature and in numbers than themselves. These are desperate times and the Empire is in danger! I would not take such a risk unless I had complete confidence in both of them!”

Louis stepped forward as the Admiral paused.

“Believe me, I am not entirely pleased about this either. I despise the idea of being here and I detest the fact that I am now in such a high position. However, I am here for one reason only…I know the Darmanians, I can help to defeat them and in all honesty…without Commodore Brislan and myself…I can see you failing by showboating, trying desperately to maintain your brevet rank.” Scattered laughter caused the Captain to sit back down.

“We are here for one purpose only…if we do not defeat the Darmanian forces, they will take Great Britain. I care little for the Navy, the Army or the Queen, but I will be damned if I will allow Darmania to take this nation as their own!” Louis thrust one arm out to his side dramatically. “And damn protocols and international relations! Germany IS allying with them and something is heavily wrong with the way France is responding. We might have an armada on our hands that we cannot deal with, but Darmania is the one providing the hardware. Individually, we can defend ourselves against the opposing forces, but with Darmania, we have no idea what we might be up against. The only hope is to strike fast and remove the head of the snake.”

The sound of knuckles rapping against wood thundered across the room as the vast majority of the men in the pews applauded Count de Theudubert. This was something which he had not been expecting and it now shocked him to hear these men, many of whom had been in the military their entire lives, grant him such acclaim. He took a step back and caught Charles’ amused gaze before he shook his head in a “never mention this again…” kind of way.

Once the noise had died down, Louis tipped his top hat and smiled.

“In that case, I look forward to working with you…I think I shall sit down now!” Louis stepped down off the dais and walked back to his chair, sitting down and sinking low in the seat.

“Nice speech…” Charles said with a smirk.

“I would rather we forget this entire ordeal if you do not mind Charles.” Louis responded with a glare.

“I don’t know, I could think of several hundred jokes I could make regarding you being a Rear Admiral…” Special emphasis was put on the last two words which made Louis wince.

“I know I have left you all little time to prepare,” Admiral Tooley told his men, looking determined despite the fact that nothing had happened thus far, “so at this time I would suggest that we adjourn this meeting. I will want a lengthy briefing with you tomorrow before departure, but for now, you are all dismissed!”

The room began to seemingly move as one, each of them filing out of their rows and down towards the doors before leaving. Many were making their way over to the dais, only to be shoed away by Admiral Tooley who was attempting to sit down with the politicians. There would be far more secretive reasons for this war and Louis was well aware of that as he sat in his seat, running over things in his mind.

While he was stood there, showing full gusto in his speech in order to make the others accept him and Celeste as well as to raise morale, he had been faking his emotions. His thoughts lay with his mother and father, captive somewhere within that nation of steel and fire.

“I t’ought it was a damn good speech.” The Irish accent came from one of the prettiest mouths Louis had ever had the good luck to lay a kiss upon and he looked up into the emerald eyes immediately.

“Thank you Celeste.” The Count replied, smiling faintly.

“Um…I think I’ll make myself scarce. I shall relay the information from this meeting to the rest of the crew sir.” Davenport told Charles, smiling as he turned to walk away.

“Have Tabitha make the Valkyrie ready for travel Charles. This is too important for us to screw it up! Tell the crew they are free to count today as shore leave, but ensure that there is a full crew meeting scheduled in the dockyard for nine this evening. Twenty-one hundred I suppose I should call it…” Louis’ faint smile was now flashed in Charles’ direction.

“Yes sir, be careful.” Davenport could tell that Louis had no intention of returning to the ship just yet and this could either mean staying with Celeste or wandering…either way he would need to watch himself!

“Oh and keep them sober until AFTER the meeting would you?” Louis added with a smirk, bringing merely a nod from Charles.
This was really Chapter 12, part 1 but Deviantart deemed it too big for a single file LOL So it's being split into two as Chapter 12 and 13!

At any rate, enjoy the next chapter of what has now become a Steampunk NOVEL rather than a mere story, Flight of the Valkyrie!

The rest of the chapters can be found here;

Prose, characters, fictional locations etc. are copyright :iconsjbonnar:
Technical advisor :iconleadmill:
Count Louis de Theudubert is :iconsjbonnar:
Lieutenant Carles Christophe Davenport is :iconleadmill:
Bjorn "Swiss" Hauptmann is :iconjuggern0ught:
Genevieve til Baudfert is :iconwings-of-crimson:
Tabitha "Skye" Skylar is :iconefia:
Amelia Evelyn Hawkesworth is :iconefia:
Dr. Elizabeth Knight is :iconaliasdotcom:
Aurora Ebeltoft is :iconmtani:

The Valkyrie is no longer recruiting for main crew! HOWEVER, if you wish for a character to be written in briefly, I can do so as long as you give me the following information and express permission to use said character in the novel;
- You need a name for your character, a name which sounds quite Victorian but is also accurate. If you have a title of nobility (de, von, etc) then please explain WHY you have this title. Remember, there is no point having a British name if your character is Spanish!
- You need a brief background. How did they get where they are? Where did their skills come from? etc.
- You need some idea of how they met Count de Theudubert or got involved with the crew.
- You need an idea of how they dress and/or what they do!

Now, all of the above need only be basic as I will help you to flesh out the character more and more!
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MangaGirl232 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
A bit late as usual but I'm re-reading this ^^;
Fantastic chapter and I had to laugh at the Rear Admiral joke :XD:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Aww thank you ^_^ Catching up again!
JayGee67 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2010
"Moving swiftly through the waters
Cannons blazing as she came
Brought a mighty metal War-Lord
Crashing down in sheets of flame"
I LOVED the Jeff Wayne WOTW reference - I was enjoying this story but now I love it even more <3 xxx

Oh but only a few chapters to go T_T
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
*grins* Glad you caught it! It's one of my favourite musicals and I'd LOVE to see it live some day!

And don't worry, more are coming ^_^
JayGee67 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2010
WOTW is coming to Glasgow in October. But it looks quite dear. And it has Jason Donovan in it, FFS :(
One of your favourite musicals? There are more?
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
o_O Wow!

Yeah, I'm a massive fan of musicals LOL Phantom is probably my alltime favourite!
Glaurung-II Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Proved: Louis likes women and he's a scoundrel :lol:

Aside form that, I loved the detail about Charles mimicking his father without even thinking about it and then consciously refraining from doing so. I think all of us have gone through that at some point.

And, by the way, though Rear Admiral is a real position, it still sounds funny! :giggle:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
LMAO He's not a scoundrel! Read the next chapter!

Thank you very much ^_^ I like little details like that!

LMAO I know I know!
Glaurung-II Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
I read the first part with Celeste :aww: Wasn't able to read the rest, but I'll try :lol:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
LOL ok!
GrenadierJorinde Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009
It's a good chapter ^^ ...Rear Admiral ;)
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
GrenadierJorinde Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009
*sing song voice* It's your own fauuuuult :)
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
It's a real position and is the step up from Commodore!
GrenadierJorinde Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009
Yes yes...*shares a joke with charles*
Ladywhitetiger Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Ooo Darmania's attack sounds scary D8 *flail and flee*
But I'm glad Celeste and Louis are on speaking terms again anyways 8D
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
LOL It gets more interesting in 13!
Efia Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009
I really enjoyed this chapter :D As always I loved the different character interactions and continued development in the first half, and then the build up of excitement and drama in the latter ^_^ Although now it seems to be getting towards the beginning of the end :cries: I'm not sure if I want book one to finish too soon ^_^'
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
I'm really glad to hear that ^_^ Thank you very much! I hope you enjoy 13 as much!
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