In a world of steamships and Progress, no one who sails due south across the Wild Sea ever returns.
No one knows why.
Dale Mortensen intends to solve the mystery. With the help of an old sailor and a reformed playboy searching for his missing sweetheart, he locates a captain and crew ambitious—not to mention crazy—enough to undertake the journey across the Wild Sea.
The Infinity and her crew sail south, but the truth of what really lies on the other side of the horizon is more amazing—and terrifying—than anything they can imagine.
It’s the adventure of a lifetime—and it may just get Dale and his friends killed.
Find out how this Young Adult steampunk adventure unfolds chapter-by-chapter every Thursday! Click here to start from the beginning. Or if you want to read it at your own pace, buy the ebook for $6.99 from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords or Sony, or get it as a trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Book Depository.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HORIZON
E. R. PASKEY
EVERYONE STARED AT HAMPER, LOOKING FOR A reaction, and he did not disappoint. His skin turned ashen as the color drained from his face, making him appear a good twenty years older. “What? Dis—disappeared? My son?”
Hamper actually staggered, prompting Brian put out a hand to steady him. He opened his mouth to reassure his master, but Hawk sent him a look so hard and dangerous that he clamped his jaw shut.
Dale and Raphael exchanged glances. Hamper did not know. Sivak had not sent him a message.
“What happened?” Hamper gathered the remnants of his composure, drawing them about him like a tattered, but treasured cloak, and glared around the room. “How did you come by this information?”
“We found out how people Disappear, that’s how,” said Hawk roughly.
Caught off-guard, Hamper could only blink at him. “How—how people Disappear?”
“Aye.” Hawk’s face could have been carved from granite. “Did you know they get put out for Streamers to eat?”
What little color Hamper had regained drained away again. “Streamers? My son was…eaten…by Streamers?” A spasm of stark grief contorted his face; he seemed to be only hanging onto the shreds of his composure by his fingernails. “What proof do you have of this?” His voice rose. “For all I know, you’re telling me a pack of lies!”
“It’s not a lie, Father.” Corwin stepped out from behind the wall. “The only thing they left out was that I—we—survived Disappearing.”
For the third time in the last five minutes, Hamper looked like he was about to pass out. “Corwin?” he gasped. “Son?” With no regard for the men watching them, he crossed the room and pulled his son into a bone-creaking hug. “You’re alive!”
His joy, however, rapidly gave way to anger. “What is this? I demand to know what is going on here!” He shook Corwin’s shoulders. “Disappearances are not a joke, young man!”
“Never said they were, Father. We almost died tonight, after all.” Corwin disengaged from his father and moved over to stand by Dale, Raphael, and Hawk. The men behind him were motionless, watching the drama unfolding before their eyes with great interest. “Did you know that’s what really happens to people who Disappear? That it’s not some giant mystery, but they’re actually murdered? Quietly taken out of the way so that whatever they knew or witnessed dies with them?”
Hamper’s eyes slid to the right and then to the left, and then, quite abruptly, all the fight sagged out of him. “I knew it could not be a supernatural phenomenon.” He grimaced, passing a hand over his face. “I did not know about the Streamers.”
His son stared him down. “As God is your witness?”
“As God is my witness.” Hamper broke from Corwin to look around at all the men crowded in his mudroom. “Who are these men? What is going on here?” He looked back at Corwin, looking faintly alarmed. “He mentioned the Mountebanks—”
“Elena is fine,” said Raphael gravely, “but her father…her father is dead. He—”
“We need to sit down, Father,” interrupted Corwin. “We haven’t got much time and there are some things I need to ask you.”
Hamper was squinting at Raphael. “Avarez? What are you doing here? I thought I heard you Disappeared?”
“Father, we’ll explain everything.” Corwin tugged on Hamper’s arm. “But I do mean it when I say we haven’t much time.”
“Darling?” called a worried female voice from the top of the back staircase. “Is everything all right?”
Everyone froze—including Hamper.
“Everything is fine, Mother!” sang out Corwin. “I just have an important matter about which I need to speak to Father. Good night!”
“Good night, dear.” Mrs. Hamper withdrew, recognizing a dismissal when she heard it.
Dale and Raphael exchanged glances again. Neither of them could imagine Naya or Elena giving up so easily.
THEY settled down at the large table in the kitchen. Corwin refused to tell his father anything else until he had answered a series of questions put to him by Raphael. Hamper had been disgruntled—and then rather disturbed—but he had answered. And, Dale thought, he answered honestly.
Yes, Hamper had known about Peabody and the dirigible, though he swore he had not been privy to the location Sivak had chosen for its hiding place.
No, he had not been part of the faction of the Council that wished to destroy the dirigible. He did not want to send it back through the Rift, but he did think it would be useful to explore the next island over.
No, he had most certainly not known that Sivak had staked his only son out to die.
At the end, Raphael nodded and turned to Corwin. “You will need to bring him with us.”
“Where are we going?” asked Hamper suspiciously.
Raphael looked him dead in the eye. “We are calling a city-wide meeting.”
Hamper had the gall to laugh at him. “I don’t know what you are playing at, Avarez, but they won’t come for a mere citizen.”
“That’s why you’re going to call it, Father.”
Eyes wide, Hamper shifted to face his son. “Corwin—”
“I think you will find, Mr. Hamper,” said Dale mildly, “that quite a few folk would be interested to know why their loved ones Disappeared. And since it’s well-known that my friend Raphael here is supposed to have Disappeared…” He deliberately trailed off, shrugging.
“Not to mention the existence of the dirigible,” said Hawk. “Plenty of folk would like to go back through the Rift and go home.”
“In short,” Raphael bowed slightly, “the Revolution is inviting you to cooperate with us.” He raised his good hand and turned it palm-up. “We will call a meeting regardless, but this gives you a chance to salvage your…Family’s reputation.”
Hamper was speechless. His mouth worked a few times, but no sound emerged. He looked as though it had never even occurred to him that regular, ordinary people in Rift City might not like having their lives run by the Families.
Raphael turned to Hawk. “We need to send a message back to Headquarters.”
“Tell the old man he’d best gather his troops,” interjected Dale.
Hawk grinned, his teeth flashing white against his dark beard. “It’ll be music to his ears.”
WHILE they waited for a response from Theroux—and for the night to give way to dawn—everyone gathered in the Hampers’ kitchen. Brian brewed coffee and boiled water for tea and Corwin raided the pantry for cold cuts. His father sat slumped at the kitchen table, clearly torn between pride, shock, and continued bewilderment at the turn things had taken.
Dale sipped his coffee, occasionally trading words with Hawk, Corwin, or Raphael, but mostly content to listen. The events of the last twenty-four hours had begun to catch up with him; the magnitude of what had happened was finally sinking in. We found Peabody, escaped from Streamers, and went back to rescue Peabody again, all in one night.
He could scarcely believe it had actually happened.
Part of him itched to be done with this; to find Naya and wrap his arms around her again. He still could not believe she had managed to find them in time. His eyes widened slightly over his coffee cup. Her grandmother will be waking soon—I have to let her know Naya’s all right. If the old woman was not already aware that her only grandchild had not been home all night, that is. Frankly, Dale did not put it past her.
Raphael was speaking animatedly, waving his good hand for emphasis, but every now and then a cloud would pass over his face and his hands would clench. In those instances, he looked pained and furious. Dale knew his friend was thinking about Elena—and Mr. Mountebank.
Hamper finally said something—Dale did not catch what it was—but there was no mistaking Corwin’s reaction. He slammed his coffee cup down on the surface of the table, hard enough to crack it, sloshing liquid everywhere, and glared at his father. “DEAD, Father. DEAD! And they put Elena in that water with us.”
Hamper looked very much taken aback, as though he was not accustomed to such outbreaks from his son. “But surely—”
“No.” Corwin shook his head, his voice cold. He tipped his head toward Raphael without looking at him. “She’s made her choice—don’t mention it again.”
Hawk caught Dale’s eye and raised a questioning eyebrow. Dale only shook his head; he had not heard what Hamper said. Although it sounded like it was about Mr. Mountebank.
Reaching for a piece of cheese, Dale contemplated pouring himself another cup of coffee. His eyes flicked to the clock hanging on the wall; he willed the hands to move faster. He wanted this to be over. He wanted to get back to Naya.
As time wore on, however, hope and excitement began to burble up in his chest. We could go home. He closed his eyes for a second, picturing golden beaches and sunlight dancing across ocean waves. He imagined holding Naya’s hands and encouraging her to stick a bare foot in the waves, without fear of being dragged under by a Streamer. He imagined sitting with Naya on that same warm sand beneath a silver moon—with not a rain cloud in sight.
Dale came back to himself with a start as he recalled his surroundings. His cheeks and the back of his neck flushed a dull red; he hoped no one else noticed. He shook his head at himself. This is hardly the time to go day-dreaming about what could be.
He returned his attention to the debate now going on between Hawk and Raphael about whether or not to introduce Peabody to Rift City, but he could not shake the image of how well Naya would fit into his world.
“Too risky,” Hawk was saying, all former levity gone from his face. He looked grim and grave; just as he had looked months before when Dale first met him. “Can’t take the risk that somebody might try to kill him.”
“We will be keeping watch for that sort of thing,” said Raphael staunchly. “I believe we must give the people proof that he does in fact exist—” he held up a hand to stop Hawk from interrupting, “—especially since we will not be able to immediately show them the dirigible.”
That brought Hawk up short; he seemed to have momentarily forgotten that particular difficulty. “Even so,” he grumbled, “I still say it’s too chancy.”
“I’ll bet he does it,” said Dale unexpectedly.
Hawk and Raphael both turned their heads to stare at him. “What makes you say that?” asked Raphael.
Dale smirked. “Raph, remember the crowd that turned out to see Peabody take off? He only advertised the dirigible’s maiden voyage for how many weeks?”
Sudden understanding lit Raphael’s eyes. “Ah, yes. I had almost forgotten that.” He glanced at Hawk. “Dale is correct. It is very unlikely that Peabody will miss this chance to talk about his beloved dirigible.”
“Especially after being locked away for so long,” interjected Corwin, from the other side of the table.
“Still doesn’t guarantee his safety,” Hawk reminded them.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Dale.
AT dawn, a messenger from Theroux arrived to deliver a hastily penned missive containing instructions.
Hawk scanned it before reading the letter aloud. “We’re to stay here until the meeting starts at nine. He’ll have men, women, and children spreading the news all over Rift City.” He grinned. “There will be a lot of empty posts today, looks like.”
“Sivak will have a fit,” murmured Hamper. He straightened in his seat, showing obvious signs of interest for the first time in several hours. “How do you plan to deal with the Council?”
Apparently, thought Dale, it took him a while to work through everything in his head.
Hawk exchanged glances with Raphael before answering. “Depends.”
“On?” asked Hamper curtly.
“You.” Hawk tapped the letter with one blunt-nailed fingertip. “Theroux would like you to call the Chief of Police here to tell him what happened and have him arrest Sivak before the meeting starts.”
Hamper nodded slightly, as though this did not surprise him. “I will do that.” He called for Brian, who promptly fetched writing materials. “It would be best if we gave Commissioner Blackwyn advance notice of this meeting as well,” he said thoughtfully.
“Agreed, Father,” said Corwin.
Hamper dispatched Brian to deliver the message in person—he seemed unwilling to trust a third party at this point—and silence fell over the kitchen again.
After a few moments, Dale stirred with a sudden thought. He looked over at Corwin. “How long will it take people to figure you’ve Disappeared?”
With that one sentence, he gained the attention of the entire room.
Corwin looked thoughtful. He drummed his fingers against the tabletop for a few seconds before lifting one broad shoulder in a shrug. “Probably not until tonight, or perhaps tomorrow.”
“So we need not concern ourselves with rumors about your demise,” said Raphael.
“I doubt it.” A grim smile curved Corwin’s mouth. “Sivak and his men are the only ones who know—in fact, I do believe I’d like to see the look on his face when he realizes we’re not dead.”
Hamper audibly swallowed.
“I think that’s one reason why we’re to stay out of sight until Theroux gives us the signal,” said Hawk.
“He wants to see their faces,” said Dale.
“Exactly.” A wolfish grin spread across Raphael’s face. “I, too, would like to see their faces.”
Dale smiled. “We, the Disappeared, have returned.”
Find out how this Young Adult steampunk adventure unfolds chapter-by-chapter every Thursday! Or if you want to keep reading right now, buy the ebook for $6.99 from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords or Sony, or get it as a trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Book Depository.
Copyright © 2013 E. R. Paskey