Yes, at last -- the new serial begins! I should also mention 'Kit Marlowe's' first publication, the Jazz Age novella The Big Splash is available from Noble Romance. Try it! And now without further ado, the steampunk-themed tale of intrigue and mysteries!
Helen Rochester ripped the goggles from her eyes and gaped at the controls. "Signore Romano, why are we losing altitude?"
The Italian whirred the wheel around with haste, grabbing for a lever above it. "I am not certain, signorina. Everything appears to be in order, I cannot explain --"
"Well, do something!" Helen leaned over the side of the gondola. The moors were yet a comfortable distance away, but this would not remain so if they continued to drop as they were. It was as if some kind of weight had landed upon them. "We're going to be upon Cringle in no time."
Pietro continued to frantically check the dials and wiggle the levers, but the airship dropped inevitably lower. Helen did her best to quash the fury that began to rise in her breast and instead listened carefully to the engines. They were chugging along as usual.
Helen's scrutiny was interrupted by a flurry of black feathers as a large raven perched on the side of the gondola and began croaking at her as if issuing orders from Odin himself. "Tuppence!" Helen cried, her irritation plain, "If you can't do anything useful, do get out of my way."
The raven continued to croak at her, flapping its wings to keep its balance on the edge of the frame. Helen looked more carefully at the bird. "Did you see anything up there? Can you see anything?"
Pietro looked up from the flight controls, a look of alarm on his face. "The raven -- she is a bad omen!"
"Stuff and nonsense," Helen said, watching the great black bird rose aloft to fly over the craft. "I've had Tuppence since I was a child. My father claims the ravens have always favoured our family. He had a pair of them when he was a boy, too." She looked over at her engineer, who did not seem comforted by this family history. "They are connected with royalty in this land, Signore. We are proud of our ravens."
Pietro did not seem immediately convinced, but that may have been because he had caught sight of Cringle Moor and Round Hill looming ahead of them as they continued to sink ever lower. "Signorina! You must make yourself safe. We cannot possibly ascend quickly enough to avoid the hills. Please!"
Helen pursed her lips, but had to admit he was correct. She grabbed the goggled that hung around her neck and put them back over her eyes. With staggering steps, for the airship's downward trajectory had begun to pick up speed, she fought her way back to the seat at the back of the gondola and used the rope to tie herself into it.
Pietro strapped a metallic hat on and wrapped goggles around his head as well. In the distance, Helen could hear the raven croaking yet, but its message -- whatever it might be -- was no use to them now as the ground rose to meet their ship. They braced as well as they could for the impact with the harsh limestone of the moor, but there was no way to really prepare.
The gondola made a horrible bounce upon contact and Helen gritted her teeth as the ship continued to make its ragged progress forward until banging against a cliff, the forward motion stopped and they floated downward to finally come to rest.
But where was Romano?!