Scritta con: Liz
Personaggi: Kurt, Dave, Blaine, Jesse, Rachel, Santana, Brittany, Sue, Shuester, Puck, Lauren
Genere: Avventura, Romantico
Avvisi: AU, Slash, Femslash, Threesome, Lemon
Rating: NC-17
Capitoli: 1/6
Note: Threesomes are always good things, everybody knows that. But we wanted to kick it up a notch, so we started talking about pirates. And battletrains. On tracks up in the air. With alchemy. You can't get any cooler than that. Except for dinosaurs. We'll be working on that next time.
With that said, we really, really had fun writing this, creating this world from scratches and having it masterfully drawn by kironomi who not only got exactly what we had in mind but delivered it in the best way possible. You will find her beautiful drawings inside the story, enhancing some part of it.
As usual, we tried to write as well as we could, but nothing changed from our last fic and we're still Italian. So, even though we hope we're getting better and better with every fic we write in English, grammar mistakes and horrors are bound to be there. Have patience.
~ reviews will be cherished, criticisms are welcomed, but please be gentle.

Riassunto: Since Queen Sue ascended to the throne of the Iron Lands, the war against the pirates of the Floating Lands got worse and worse with every year. The pirates claim the Midlands as their own, but the Steam Army of the Queen conquered them, and they're not going to let the pirates take them back again.
History seems about to change when Burt Hummel, a scientist living in the Midlands, works out a device that transmutes common dirt into iron. That way, it shouldn't be necessary to fight for the Midlands anymore, and the war could finally stop. Queen Sue asks him to bring the device to the Iron Palace, so that she can see it at work and, once it's proven working, stop the fighting. Burt, though, would be an easy target for anybody who wanted to steal the device, considering that he's very well known for having worked for the Queen for years.
For that reason, he sends his only child Kurt to the Iron Palace with the device, hoping that it could be safer with somebody who's not as well known as he is. Kurt accepts the mission and departs on his fiancée Blaine's train. He's one of the heads of the Steam Army, and his battletrain survived countless fights.
That's why Kurt feels safe.
Unfortunately, he's wrong.

Jesse brought the scooter as close to the train as he possibly could, and then, taking advantage of how slowly the Warbler was moving – in a desperate attempt to stay closer to the place where Kurt had been abducted, he guessed – he jumped on it, landing with a graceful roll.

Once he was sure he could stand on his feet, he stood up, combing his hair so to try and erase the effect of the wind on his mane, and then he watched the scooter get smaller and smaller as the train put more and more distance between them.

He waited until it disappeared, and then he opened the trapdoor a couple of steps away from him, easily passing through it and landing on the carpeted floor of the train, slightly flexing his knees to soften the effect of his jump.

Nobody noticed him until he decided to made himself known. He discretely slipped inside the head cabin and waved his hand at Blaine. “Hello, commander Anderson. You seem troubled and that’s doing nothing good for your wrinkles.”

“Where the hell are you coming from?!” Blaine almost screamed in rage, flailing his arms in the air.

“A bit here, mostly there,” Jesse shrugged, retrieving the maps secured to his hips, “Why is it even a problem?”

“Because I didn’t even see you coming in!” Blaine screamed once more, but then Jesse frowned and he tried to calm down, breathing slowly in and out. “I’m sorry. I happen to be in a very delicate moment.”

“That much I guessed,” Jesse nodded, “May I ask why?”

Blaine sighed desperately, as if saying it out loud – and therefore admitting his failure – was even harder than simply dealing with the whole situation as it was.

“Somebody kidnapped my fiancée, Kurt,” he said, letting himself go on his seat behind the wheel, “Hummel’s son.”

“No!” Jesse answered, his voice and face a perfect imitation of surprise, “Who dared?”

“Those damned pirates!”

“You don’t say!” Jesse went on, eyes opened as wide as he could, “How could they possibly break the Warbler’s safety system?”

“We have no clue,” Blaine sighed, passing a hand over his face and then through his hair with another desperate sigh, “But you can bet we’re going to hunt them down and make them pay with their blood.”

“Now, now,” Jesse said, sporting a peaceful smile, “Try and think straight. You can’t just go and chase down flying pirates with your clearly non-flying train, can you? You don’t even know where they’re going. Yet,” he smiled, opening the maps right under Blaine’s eyes. “You’re lucky, though, because I happen to have accomplished the mission you paid me for.”

“You got them!” Blaine jumped up, grabbing the maps and looking intently at them. At first he was smiling kind of dumbly, but then his smile broke, and eventually it disappeared completely. “This makes no sense whatsoever,” he said, clearly disappointed, “Are these fake, St. James?!”

“You insult me, dear commander,” Jesse answered, making an outraged face, “They’re just encrypted. Of course pirates encrypt their maps.”

“Damn it,” Blaine hissed, turning towards his orderly, “Go call Sergeant Berry.”

The orderly saluted him with a “yessir” and ran out of the head cabin and down the train, one wagon after the other. It took him five minutes – five minutes Jesse spent curiously watching commander Anderson nervously walking up and down the cabin, muttering angry words at himself – to come back, this time not alone.

There was a girl with him, and the minute Jesse laid his eyes on her his world stopped spinning, and then started again, twice as fast.

Among the uncountable talents Jesse knew himself to have, love could hardly be called as one. Sure, he was charming, sure again, he was gorgeous looking, but he had never thought about using those gifts from the Gods to conquer the heart of a lady. The life he had chosen for himself wasn’t a life for a wife, children and a family. He was a mercenary, and even before that came his lust for robbery. He was what one could call a common criminal that had learned how to put his wicked talent to his clients’ use, but still that was what he was, deep inside himself: a robber, a trickster, even a killer when killing was needed, and he loved it.

He loved his way of life so much he honestly thought there wasn’t enough room in his heart for anything else, but it appeared he was wrong about it.

Somehow, the only thing he could think about in that very moment was that Rachel was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen in his entire life, and that nothing, not even the biggest and shiniest diamond he ever had the chance to put his hands on, could compare to the fierce light in her chocolate brown eyes or the gorgeous wave of her dark hair, falling in gracious curls on her tiny shoulders.

“Commander Anderson,” she saluted Blaine, looking straight at him like every good soldier was taught to do during training, “My orders?”

“Here, Rachel,” Blaine walked towards her, handing her the maps, “Decode these marine charts. St. James just brought them from a pirate flagship. It will help us find them, and probably Kurt.”

Rachel only looked at Jesse for a second when her commander mentioned him, but to feel her gaze upon himself was the most exciting feeling Jesse had ever felt in his life. More than the pleasant shiver that usually ran up and down his spine when he was breaking into secret places to rob items of value, more than the deep and natural joy he felt every time he fenced with somebody, more than anything else. To be graced by a look from such a divine creature was giving him thrills beyond compare.

“Commander,” the girl said after a quick look at the charts, “I may be a good cartographer, possibly even the best out there,” she smiled without the smallest trace of modesty, which made Jesse’s heart beat faster, “But even with that, these charts are not only encrypted, but also describing a place I don’t know at all. Whatever path or coordinate I could make out of it would always be altered because of my poor knowledge of the Floating Lands. I’m sorry.”

“Fuck,” Blaine growled between his teeth, turning around and nervously walking away to try and calm down, “You’re telling me these are totally useless?! Even if we didn’t want to use them to find Kurt but just to trace the pirates’ trajectory as we wanted to do in first place, they’d be useless because there’s nothing we can do to understand them correctly?!”

“Wait a moment,” Jesse said, trying to hide how eager he was to talk, “You just need help. You need somebody who knows the Floating Lands as well as pirates does, and lucky for you, you have such a wonderful person on board right now.”

“What are you even talking about?!” Blaine barked at him, frowning, “We’re all Iron Lands people! There’s nobody who’s ever even been to the Floating Lands among us!” he said, but he stopped talking when he saw Jesse suggestively arch his eyebrows and smile at him. “Nobody except you, of course.”

“And, lucky for you, I’ve just decided to free my agenda and dedicate all my time to the resolution of your problem,” Jesse grinned, “Of course, given you reward me adequately.”

Blaine growled again, clutching his fists down his sides. “You son of a bitch,” he hissed.

“Now,” Jesse said, putting on a clearly mockingly disappointed face, “Is this how you treat your friends, commander Anderson?”

“You’re not my friend,” Blaine corrected him, breathing in and taking a moment to regain his composure, “But you’re right, and I’ve got no other options. We’re going to head straight to the Capital and ask the Queen for a flying ship to chase the pirates down, and you,” he said, pointing his finger at Jesse, “You’re going to help Rachel decoding those charts.”

“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Jesse said cheerfully.

It was probably true he didn’t have a talent for love. But sure as hell he could use every other talent he had to get to it.


Captain Karofsky looked at the line of the horizon, the only thing that didn't change during the day, and hoped they were really going in the right direction. Without his marine charts, he could only count on his memory and the good eyes of his men to navigate safely through the Floating Lands. It weren't the huge rocks that worried him – they moved slowly and a good helmsman such as the ones the Fury and the other ships of the fleet had would be able to turn their ship and avoid them in time – it was the danger they had to take, following alternative routes. He had split the fleet and some of it was preceding them to Titan by normal routes to play as a decoy if Anderson was – as the captain thought – going to follow them, but he still had more than half of it with him and it wasn't easy to manoeuvre a great number of ships when you didn't really know your surrounding.

Centuries of navigation through the Lands had made the pirates aware of certain patterns in the migration of the rocks. It wasn't true that they were never in the same place twice. It was just that most of the times, their route were so convoluted that they went back to the start only after hundreds of years. Some of the rocks had yet to go back for the first time, and some others wouldn't come back at all. Along the paths that they followed there were certain places that all the rocks would reach, sooner or later, moving in that specific direction. Nobody knew why. The pirates had made their charts based on those hot spots. Every Captain knew a few by heart but not all, and anyway only the major routes were charted.

They had left the last known belt of rock half an hour before and the view was completely different, already. Instead of the crystalline skies and the reverberation of the sun shining on the waterfalls, there was a dense and chilly, white fog. It was so low that it covered everything, making dangerous for them to move if they couldn't see what was ahead. The sun shined through for a while, but then it gave up. It became so dark outside that Dave got away from the window and went to sit on the desk, on which a new parchment was stretched out. He had tried to draw some rough maps based on what books said about those unknown areas, but the descriptions of people who had actually been there was vague and in most cases they didn't make any sense, speaking of things Dave had never heard about. He knew though that there were beasts in those parts of the Lands. His grandfather talked about monsters the size of three ships. Dave didn't know if that was the truth or some story the old man liked to tell to scare the living shit out of him, but one thing was certain: he didn't want to find out.

It came a gentle knock on the door, and then Brittany entered his cabin, holding the bracelet in one hand. She wore a very short, puffy skirt made of various layers of different fabrics and a tight black petticoat, matching her leather boots. It wasn't easy to have female pirates on board, especially when they were half naked all the time, but with Santana as second in command, other arrangements were out of the question. Strongly affirming that women could do exactly what men did, even better than them, she was in charge of choosing their female crew; and as of now, none of his female pirates had ever disappointed Dave. Not even Brittany, who wasn't exactly the brightest of minds but was good with swords and very athletic. She was the fencing master of the crew and she had been teaching pirates to avoid being killed since the day she set foot on board. She was still the only one who was able to double jump backward but pirates weren't required to be acrobats too, so that was okay.

“Cap'n, can I come in?” She said, standing right in front of his desk.

Dave looked up from the maps and sighed. “You're already in, Brit.” She seemed confused to be told so, so he added, “It doesn't matter. What's up?”

Brittany gave him the bracelet. “She wants to speak with you,” she answered. “Now I have to go. My armadillo escaped again.”

Dave watched her speak and leave without interruption. She had already closed the door before he could even think of what to say about an armadillo he was pretty sure she hadn't at all. He decided to not care, because he had learned the hard way that most of the time trying to comprehend what was in Brittany's mind was a waste of time. He looked at the bracelet in his hands and smiled. It was a simple leather strap with a small, square mechanical box on it, that was made of iron like almost everything else. The gear itself was unimportant but it contained a mechanical device, as big as Dave thumb's nail, that held Santana's conscience and it was all that kept her alive.

Five years before, of course Santana was a normal person.

She was the second in command and one of the best pirates out there. Dave entrusted her with the most important missions and he trusted her as he trusted himself. Sometimes she was present when Dave himself could not and it was during one of these times that she was shot. The conductors of the enemy trains all thought Dave was the one governing the ship. But when they assaulted it, they found her instead. She fought and killed a lot of them – so many that at the end the highest number of casualties was the Queen's – but she went down too.

Her current situation was very peculiar. She was not dead – because to be dead she had to die first – but now her conscience existed separated from her body. It was one of Hummel's invention that made it possible. It was a strange sort of gun that didn't shot bullets but magic – for what Dave knew – and was able to trap a person's soul inside a little device. The Queen's soldiers used it on prisoners, because souls took less space than bodies in prisons. Dave had haunted down the man who had pulled the trigger, retrieving the gun and the device. He had put the device on his bracelet, so that Santana could keep on living as freely as possible. Her body was not rotting but frozen in the last moment in which her soul had been into it. Dave kept it hidden in the heart of the ship, where only he could go, waiting for the moment he would know how to reunite the two parts she had been split into.

“You should really stop looking at her ass, you know?” Santana's voice came out loud and clear from the bracelet and startled him.

“I was not...” He blushed as he could feel Santana's eyes on him, so well she knew her. He coughed. “I was wondering about that armadillo she was talking about. She doesn't have one, does she?”

“That is a secret that shall remain concealed,” she said, very dramatically. Then she laughed. She would have been throwing her head backward, sitting on Dave's desk, if she had still her body. “So, how did it go with our prisoner?”

Dave let out a whiny moan and covered his face for a moment, ending up pinching his nose. He had spent almost two hours questioning Kurt and all he had got was a mounting headache. “It was useless,” he says. “The son doesn't know anything.”

“That's what he says,” Santana commented.

“No, I believe him. Actually, I doubt he knows something about anything in the world. He is spoiled and presumptuous. He doesn't even realize where he is and what we could do to him if he keeps acting like that. He is so sure Anderson can actually save him from this ship that I don't know if he knows something we don't about the commander or if he's just mad,” Dave shook his head. “Anyway, he said he was just bringing his father's invention to the Capital, and Anderson was escorting him. Hummel probably thought he was going to draw less attention or something. Now we have a stone that apparently can turn everything into iron, but we have no idea how to use it.”

“At least we have it,” Santana said, her voice glowing bright red. “Now they will have to come for us to get it back and we will be the ones setting conditions. We won't give this stone to them unless they give us rights to the Midlands.”

Dave nodded, but he looked sad. “Still, I want him to turn you back,” he said. “I showed that kid the gun and he said that it is useless. We need another one to reverse the process. Hummel must have it, and I want it.”

Santana managed to smile with her voice only, it was incredible how much she could express by speaking alone. “It's gonna be one of our conditions. We will exchange the kid with the gun, and everyone will be happy,” she said. “Now get us to Titan. We need to reorganize and prepare for battle.”

Dave nodded again. He secured her to his wrist and got on deck to check his crew and tell everyone what was going to happen next.


Two days had passed without news nor changes in his conditions. Kurt was still locked in a small cell inside The Fury's prison, which lacked in a proper accommodation, let alone hygienic conditions. The place stunk of urine and wine, and in the cell next to his there was a man named Ryerson who claimed to have been there for almost six years now. He was most disagreeable and had the tendency to cling to the bars and breath on Kurt's face every time he spoke, so Kurt was forced to always stay in the farthest corner of his cell, pressed against wooden tables that had seen things he didn't want to know.

Kurt was sure that this wasn't the proper way to hold him hostage. He was not anyone. He was the son of Burt Hummel, the country's first and most famous alchemist. His father was a well known man in the most important political circles. And if this wasn't enough already, Kurt was also the fiancée of Blaine Anderson, a war hero. You don't keep a man like himself in a stinky cell, in the deep of a dirty old ship full of mice, like any drunkard. He needed a good place to sleep and wash himself, and he needed food. Real food, not the slop that had kept coming and that he wasn't eating. His necessary interrogations would have to take place in his own room and he would have been questioned gently. He would have not answered, of course, but that would have been normal because that was how things went.

Instead, Captain Karofsky had came to the cells and barked at him all the time, showing no manners whatsoever. And when Kurt had not answered – also because he actually didn't know the answer – he had gotten mad and madder until he had left the prison screaming and saying that Kurt was not going to be given food until he answered. That was totally unacceptable. Kurt was sure that sometimes, somewhere, someone had to have written some rulebook on how to behave while holding hostage someone of his calibre. And clearly Karofsky hadn't read it.

“Why be ye so still?” Ryerson asked. “Be ye dead yet?”

“No!” Kurt turned to him, arms crossed over his chest. “I'm not dead. Stop asking me that question. Why would I be dead?”

Ryerson chuckled. “'Cause wee thin' like ye never last long.”

Kurt put his nose up in the air. “I will last long enough, thank you very much,” he said. “My boyfriend is coming for me. I'll be out of here in no time.”

“Really? How come he's not here, then?”

Kurt looked away and pretended to be looking at something outside his cell, even though there was absolutely nothing to look at. “He must be searching for me in this place,” he said. “The ship is moving, it will take him some time but he will rescue me.”

“Let me be tellin' ye somethin', laddie,” the man said, pointing a grimy fingers at him. “Floatin' Lands be no place fer trains conductors. They need tracks to move.”

Kurt sighed like you would do with a noisy kid. “You don't know anything, do you? They use trains as means of transport and weapons. They move on tracks but soldiers can move from and towards them on scooters,” he explained, shaking his head. “Blaine just needs to take his scooter and a couple of his men, and he will find me. This ship is huge, after all. You can't miss it.”

Ryerson's laugh was harsh and loud. “It would be hard even if we were followin' th' routes, but we're not.”

Kurt frowned. “What do you mean?”

“We're not followin' th' same ol' routes, laddie. We're in th' wild.”

Kurt looked suspiciously at him. “How do you know that?”

Ryerson touched his nose and spoke in a low, creepy voice. “I smell it. 'Tis place stinks,” he said, spitting on the ground and making Kurt grimace in disgust. “Something's wrong around here. Th' air ain't good.”

Kurt ended up sniffing the air too. “It doesn't smell different to me.”

Ryerson shook his head and made some noise with his mouth closed. “It's rotten. Somethin' be movin' in th' fog wit' us. Somethin' bad.”

Kurt looked around as if he could see the fog and the things Ryerson was saying were hidden in it, but the prison had no portholes. Still, the air in the room seemed colder. Kurt hugged himself and cleared his throat, trying to be nonchalant about it. “Whatever. I'm not interested in your little stories,” he brushed him off. “You can't possibly know where we're headed because you can't see outside.”

“Oh, I don't need to spy wit' ye eye outside!” Ryerson said, shaking his head. “I be knowin' 'tis ship. I was helmsman 'o th' Fury fer twenty years. I be knowin' her every moan when she moves.”

There was some sort of innuendo in his words that made Kurt blush, so he ended up clearing his throat again. “So you were part of the crew?”

Ryerson nodded. “I be part 'o it. Just had a fight wit' th' cap'n but it gunna be over soon.”

Kurt thought that six years was well past soon but he didn't say anything. Pirates were horrible people, after all. It didn't surprise him that they had rules such as to live a proper member of their people rot in a cell for years with no process or any imprisonment regulation.

“Anyway, if I were ye, I would free meself instead 'o waitin' fer that Anderson guy,” Ryerson continued. “I can be tellin' ye, he won't come. At least, not alive.”

“Oh, really?” Kurt said, frustrated. “And how am I supposed to free myself if I'm locked inside this cell? I don't have any key, do I? I swear you people can be very obtuse sometimes.”

Ryerson raised an eyebrow. The kid was really lazy for one who wanted to go back home. “Maybe I can help ye,” he said, rummaging in his pocket. He fished a big, old looking key and he handed it to him through the bars. Kurt hesitated because it was as dirty as the man's hand but eventually he took it with two fingers.
“If you had the cell's key all this time, why haven't you escaped?” Kurt asked, suspiciously.

Ryerson seemed surprised by the question. “To be off whar?” He said. “'tis be me ship. Plus, free food fer doin' nothin'. I don't wan to be off out. But ye be no people to be on a ship. Wait th' nightfall 'n then get 'o th' Fury. Get on th' deck 'n jump on th' first rock ye spy wit' ye eye before it gets really scary around here.”

Kurt looked at the key in his hands once again. He didn't know what to do because he really believed Blaine was coming. Still, it had been two days and he hadn't heard any sound of brawl coming from the deck above his head as it would have been if Blaine was really close. Eventually, he resolved to try and get off the ship by himself. Once I've reached one of the rocks, he said to himself, it will be easier for Blaine to find me.

Kurt had no idea when the night was going to fall, but Ryerson did. He told him when to open the door, an hour or so after the noise of the people on deck had subsided to peaceful snoring and the quiet, slow, pacing of the night watch. Then, he taught him how to slip on deck without no one notice. Kurt was scared to be caught, but he was more anxious to be free. So, eventually he resolved to do as he had planned and followed Ryerson suggestions.

The deck was empty, except for a couple of men, sitting and chatting. They didn't seem to stand guard over the ship very well, after all. He moved quietly, crouching as Ryerson told him and tried to take advantage of the many shadows extending everywhere on deck, thanks to an half-moon covered by the fog.

The view outside the ship was exactly as Ryerson had described. There was a thick, white fog giving the place an eerie look, but there were also a lot more rocks, moving around really close and the ship was going really slowly not to hit them, so it was going to be easy for him to jump on one of them. He tried not to think about the shadows he thought to see inside the fog. Whatever Ryerson said, monsters didn't exist and he needed to get off this stupid ship as soon as he could or Blaine was not going to find him.

He waited for six rocks to pass by before finding one that looked more welcoming than the others. It was a small one, the size of a little town with little yellow trees that looked vaguely like willows. He climbed on the ship's side and then jumped over when the rock was so close that he could have touched it by reaching out with his hand. He wasn't really the athletic type, but he managed to land safely, however rolling for a couple of feet. When he stood up, the ship was sailing away, no sign that anyone had seen him jump.

Kurt took his time to look around and see where he was and where he needed to go. He couldn't see the end of the rock because it was too big and the fog shaded half of it from his eyes anyway, but it looked deserted. Actually, it looked like no one had ever lived on it. There was a little bush of those yellow trees and little stones everywhere that glowed red and blue. Kurt didn't want to touch them, because they seemed covered in some oily substance he knew nothing about, but they were pretty to look at, even if a little creepy like the rest of the rock.

He deliberately chose to follow a path of blue-glowing stones because blue were the uniform of the train conductors and he walked for good part of an hour before reaching the edge. A few feet away another rock was floating, close enough for him to jump on it. It was as creepy as the first one, but there were no yellow trees or glowing stones to cheer up the place. A sooty air loomed over withered trees and weird-looking puddles of green water. Kurt didn't like them, so he made sure to walk away from them as much as possible, having no idea of where he was and where he was heading to.

By the time he had reached his fourth floating stone, three hours had passed and he realized in horror that he had walked in circle. The only rock he could move on next was the very first one he had been on in the beginning and, as the fog dissipated temporarily thanks to a bout of wind, he found out he currently was on a ring of rocks floating together. He was stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of moving in any direction but the one the ring was taking. The pirate ship seemed now his only way out, but the Fury was long gone.

Kurt felt discouragement rise from the bottom of his heart and squeeze it in the most hurtful of grip. He had to sit down because his head was spinning, caught in the fear of being lost to Blaine forever like the ship was to him. Suddenly, a place that was just creepy and cold became utterly scary and the wind was freezing. He hugged himself and looked around, hoping not to see those giant shadows in the fog. But here they were. Kurt closed his eyes and tried to calm down. He only needed to wait for the sun to come up. They were going to disappear, he tough. And then, with the morning light, everything would be easier.


Things were frantic on the Fury. Kurt's escape had been discovered about two hours after it happened and the whole crew had been in alarm since then. When asked, Ryerson had said the kid just vanished and Karofsky, not being in the mood to be merciful, had had him tied up to the ship's figurehead. Now, the helmsman was manoeuvring the Fury around as he tried to avoid the floating rocks to damage its flanks, and behind them at least other ten ships were having the same problem.

“I know how important he is to us at the moment,” Santana's voice said, “but how do you plan on finding him here, exactly?”

Dave was on deck, standing a few feet away from the loudly cursing helmsman and looking at the sea of fog as he tried to see something, anything, that could be of any help. “Searching for him,” he said.

Santana's light glowed quickly a couple of time, looking extremely frustrated. “That much I had imagined, Dave,” she said. “But do you really expect to find him here? This place is... unhealthy and he wouldn't survive even the safe routes.”

“He can't be gone too far, can he?” Dave asked and he didn't sound so sure about it. “He is on foot and he doesn't know how to move around here. I bet he sat down as soon as he realized there was nowhere to go without a ship.”

“I thought that much myself, but where? We don't know when he got off the ship,” Santana said.

Dave thought about it as the Fury moved back between rocks that were now in a totally different position than just one hour before. They seemed to move randomly around here and the fleet was risking to get lost itself going back and forth with no idea of their route. “We've been moving really slowly. We might have covered thirty-five miles, and I'm being optimistic. He has to be around the first belt of rocks we met, after that, the look-out said there has been only single rocks, too small or too high to jump on them without ropes.”

“Rock belts never get close to any other rocks. You get stuck on them,” Santana said. “Who in his safe mind would jump on one?”

Dave never lost the habit of looking at the bracelet when he spoke to it as if he were talking to Santana herself, so he looked down at the glowing trinket. “Someone who doesn't know a single thing about the Floating Lands, Tana.” He turned around and shouted at the crew. “Make her move as fast as she can without breakin' her. I wanna be back on track before the rocks move again.”

It took them almost forty minutes and a very angry and cursing helmsman that swore to the Gods he was going to quit his job as soon as they set foot on Titan again to turn the Fury and the fleet around to get to the first belt of rocks. The fog hadn't dissolved as Dave had expected, being almost daybreak, actually it had gotten denser and the air was colder than it should have been with the sun about to rise.

“Somethin' be wrong, cap'n,” one of the men said. “Thar be bad thin's around here.”

Usually, Dave would not give credence to sailors' superstition, but for the first time in years he was almost willing to do so, because the place really was creepy. But he couldn't hope to find Hummel by looking from the deck, no matter how frightening the rock belt was. “We need to get off the ship,” he said aloud. “Three men with me. Brittany, take Santana.”

“Wait! What do you mean take me?” Santana screamed. “I wanna go with you.”

“Nope. I don't know what's out there, and the Fury needs a captain to go back to Titan,” Dave answered, securing the bracelet around Brittany's wrist. “If we don't get back by dawn, leave this place, join the rest of the fleet on Titan and pretend you have the alchemist's son. Everything must go on as we planned.”

Santana knew better than going against her captain's orders, especially if he was following the standard procedure. The ship needed a captain, and if Karofsky wasn't there to play the part, than it was up to her. Her glowing light blinked a couple of times in agreement, and then the little party left the ship and landed on the first rock of the belt.

Dave and his men proceeded slowly, carefully looking around for both signs of Kurt and possible monsters looming in the fog. The air was so cold they could see their breath. Ten minutes after their landing, one of the men was already calling the captain to show him footsteps on the ground. They showed hesitant steps, and the traces were compatible with Kurt's boots. Dave would be relieved to have a trail to follow already, if Kurt's footsteps weren't followed closely a few feet away by traces of something sliding on the ground. “Something is following him,” he said. “A serpent?”

One of the men shook his head. “Not so big, Cap'n.”

Dave didn't want to know what was that crawled and was bigger than a serpent. He just hoped not to meet it. They were lucky for another hour. Kurt had left very clear footsteps, especially around the lime pounds and dried waterfalls of the next rocks and at some point the supposed monster seemed to have lost interested in him. Then they heard the scream. It was scared and high-pitched, followed right after by the ugliest, scariest growl Dave had ever heard.

The three men stopped and looked around. For a moment, everything looked still and silent again and then the fog broke. It was literally tore apart like a paper curtain and a worm-like monster the size of a little ship landed on their rock, making it tremble and shake like an earthquake, and taking away with it one of Dave's men. The poor lad had just the time to scream before disappearing in the round teethed mouth of the worm. Dave drew his sword but the monster was gone and as the fog closed again there was no way to tell where.

Dave helped the other man up and they stood back to back, looking around for the creature. “What was it?” The captain asked.

“An Earthworm, Cap'n,” the man said. “I thought thar weren't anymore.”

“Good, I thought they didn't exist at all,” Dave said, his eyes darting from right to left at the smallest sound. “What do they do?”

“They eat.”

“Perfect,” Dave sighed at his always exhaustive crew. He knew he had to find Kurt as soon as possible but they couldn't move in a random direction if that worm was still around, so he did the only thing he could do even if it wasn't the smartest of all. “Hummel!” He screamed. “Where the fuck are you?”

“I don't think that be a great idea, Cap'n.”

“I don't have any others.” Dave raised his voice more. “Hummel, shout out if you're there. You're not going home. It's me or a giant worm ready to eat your guts, and I suggest you to choose me.”

The earthworm growled again, therefore Kurt screamed again too somewhere ahead of them. “It was comin' from thar,” the man said.

“Hummel!” Dave shouted out as he advanced in the general direction of the growling. “For Gods' sake open that mouth and tell me where the fuck you are! What's wrong with you land people, thinking that we're worse than giant people-eating monsters! Hummel!”

“I'm here!” Came Kurt's frustrated and annoyed voice. “You're being very inappropriate even during a rescue mission, Captain Karofsky. I swear to the Gods you are the most repellent man I had the misfortune of being introduced to. Besides you...”

The rest was lost because Dave simply stopped listening, having no need to know what he was actually saying as long as he kept making sound he could follow. He and his man moved quickly toward the neverending noise of Kurt's complaining and they found him on the next rock, busy walking his way through a bush of what looked like raspberry, only of a very richer shade of purple. Kurt's shirt had got entangled in a sprig and he was pulling hard to get free. “This stupid bush of whatever plant this is! I bet you are even poisonous. Everything here is evil and sick or has teeth and growls!” He was mumbling non-stop. “And that poor excuse for a captain who first asks where I am and then doesn't bother to come and get me!”

“I'm here, you prat,” Dave growled unceremoniously, coming out of the fog from the other rock. “Do you think it's easy to move around here with that monster lying in ambush for us?”

“You don't need to tell me how it is around here, Captain Karofsky. I've been on these stupid rocks for hours now.”

“That's because you're stupid,” Dave replied, grabbing him by his arm. “Now come, we need to get back on the ship.”

“Wait! Don't you see I'm stuck?” Kurt said, pointing at the little bush that held him captive. “Help me free myself, please.”

Dave looked at the bush, looked at Kurt's neat white shirt and then pulled him a little stronger. The fabric tore. “Here you go. Now move, or I swear I'll kick your ass until you do.”

“You wouldn't dare!” Kurt said, outraged.

Dave gave him his best smirk. “Wanna bet, m'lord?”

Kurt huffed and glared at him, but he said nothing and moved.

The journey back was smoother than Dave was expecting, which obviously kept him in alarm. That worms had to be still around because the air was still cold and he didn't know how, but he was sure that was the worm's doing. Kurt had stopped complaining and he was now very busy pouting as he walked between the Captain and the man bringing up the rear. Dave had decided to move counter-clockwise and walk all the belt of rocks down to the first one, instead of just going back the way they had come from, fearing that the worm could be waiting for them there.

He was wrong. Or at least, he was only partially right because there really was a worm constantly moving around the first rock, awaiting for them. But there were other two of those things, crawling about and ready to strike. They attacked them suddenly, while the trio was jumping from a rock to the next one, Kurt being generally unbearable and unable to do anything in the world.

The worm was slightly bigger than the first one, that was how Dave knew they where two. He grabbed Kurt and pushed him away when the beast came out of nowhere, jaws open and ready to close around the alchemist's son. Kurt screamed as he hit the ground, while Dave crouched and pushed his sword up, hoping to cut through the worm's skin. He just scraped him but it was enough to scary him off for a little while. “We need to move,” Dave said as he offered Kurt a hand and pulled him up quickly.

Kurt was so shocked he didn't even think about dusting off his pants. “It almost ate me,” he kept repeating.

Dave didn't even listen to him. He just pulled him closer, not letting go of his hand. His man was looking around, sword in hand, listening closely to every little sound. “We're never going back, aren't we? We're gonna die here on this stupid rock!”

Dave covered his mouth with one hand, as he followed the shadows of the two worms now swimming together in the air, tails swinging and jaws making an ominous clicking sound every time their mouths opened and closed nervously. They knew their preys knew about their presence, there was no need to hide anymore. When Dave saw both the giant heads turn behind the fog, he knew they had no time to think about a more reasonable course of action. “Run!” He shouted, pulling Kurt with him.

He ran as fast as he could, feeling the hot breath of the beasts on the back of his neck, while the ground trembled under their weight. They passed three rocks before a third worm arrived, cutting across their path and forcing them to dive sideways. He hugged Kurt before they both hit a puddle of mud. He heard the shrieking scream of the man and knew they were alone now. When he looked up, the beasts were feasting on him and as horrible as it was, they needed to take advantage of it. “Kurt, now I need you to stand up and run faster than you did before,” he whispered. Kurt was already shaking his head, his eyes shut. “Listen, we don't have much time. They're gonna... be done with him soon and it's gonna be our turn. C'mon.”

Dave lifted him up and then grabbed his face with his free hand. “Kurt, look at me,” he said, sternly. Somehow Kurt felt compelled to open his eyes at the way Dave's voice sounded. “The Fury is not too far away. If we start running and never stop, we're gonna make it. Do you understand me?”

Kurt nodded but he was panicking.

“But you have to run,” Dave said, trying to be as calm as possible. “Run and never look back. I will hold your hand all the way. Are you ready?” Kurt shook his head, but Dave took it as a yes anyway. “Good. We're moving. Now!”

He stood up and started running, jerking Kurt's arm to make him move. Kurt just started running without even noticing, too scared to really think about anything. One of the worms saw movement and went instantly after them. Kurt and Dave felt the ground trembling and the wind raising up as the creature crawled faster and faster behind them, almost reaching them but never quite managing.

“He is going to catch us!” Kurt screamed, tripping.

Dave kept him from falling down. “Shut up and keep running,” he ordered. When he finally saw his ship, he was instantly relieved, even though the worm was closer and closer. At the first sign of anyone noticing him, he started shouting orders. “Keep her ready! Weapons engaged! Fleet moving in two!”

That was an impossible order because the fleet would not be able to go anywhere in such a short time, but as soon as his crew and the crew of every other ship was going to see the worm, nobody would question the captain's need to do the impossible. The deck came alive with men shouting at each other and moving from one side of the ship to the other, throwing ropes and preparing The Fury to move. The rest of the fleet, a few feet away in the fog, was doing the same.

Dave literally threw Kurt on board as soon as they reached the ship. He landed on his feet, but this time he tripped for real and it was only thanks to Brittany who grabbed him by his shirt that he didn't fall flat on his face. Dave landed on deck right after and he started shouting right away. “Fire!”

The Fury was armed with more than eighty cannons. Half them started firing toward the giant earthworms that were exiting the fog one after the other, giving the rest of the fleet time to manoeuvring and fire as well. The beasts moved quickly, taking advantage of the alchemical energies in the air as if they were currents, exactly like the rocks did. They swam swiftly among the ships, avoiding the gunshots and occasionally trying to chow the masts. One of the ships was already missing half the deck and was struggling to keep itself in the air. “Bring those things down!” Dave shouted, following with his eyes the worms that seemed to mock him by flying right over the Fury. He looked away from them only to push Kurt into Brittany's arms. “Lock him in my cabin and tie him. Make sure he can't run away again.”

In that moment, one of the farthest ships fired and hit the smallest worms right in the head. The thing started swirling in the air, as if he had lost control over its own body. Part of his head was gone and he let out an ominous, shrieking sound that forced everyone to cover their ears. It looked like a victory but they realized it wasn't when the worm died in mid-air and came crashing down on two of the ships, while the other two worms attacked strongly in revenge. The chain-reaction was devastating, the more the beasts came at the ships, the more desperate the sailors became, and despite their attempts to avoid firing when the beasts were over the fleet, when they finally got both of them, the worms managed to take other five vessels with them.

For minutes after the last screams had faded, the fleet stood still and quiet, the moans of the wounded the only sound in that horrible, creepy place. Dave was unable to take away his eyes from the hole in the formation, where those seven ships had been. In the air, planks, bits and pieces still remained but they were destined to fall as soon as the energy absorbed by the wood during the years would wear off without a stone feeding it new energy. Seven ships lost, and definitely way more men.

Dave took off his hat and held it to his heart as he paid respect to the lost companions. Everyone on the Fury and on every other ship did the same. He made it quick, though, because he wanted to leave that place as soon as possible and be in Titan by the end of the day. Funerals and rituals could wait until they got there.

He put his hat back on and started to turn to give orders when he heard it. At first it was just a hiss, a vague and distant sound, coming from beneath their feet. Then it became stronger, and it turned into an heartbreaking whine, like the cry of a whale. By the time the giant jaws of the biggest worm they had ever seen came out of the fog with too many teeth to count, the sound was an unbearable shriek, so high-pitched that the shockwave pushed everybody to the ground with their hands on bleeding ears and made the ships roll like they did during storms.

Dave managed to look up to see that this new earthworm was thrice as bigger as the three they had just killed, and it was way angrier. “It's the mother!” He shouted. “Everybody down!”

The creature flew over the Fury, breaking one of the masts and landed on the next ship, breaking it in half. Dave run to the helm and started manoeuvring his ship away from the best. “Keep firing at it!” He shouted again as his men aimed at the worm and waited for the right moment to do the less amount of damage to everybody else. “Surround it! Aim at the mouth!”

The order was shouted from ship to ship and vessels started turning around to form a circle around the gigantic beast above their head. Every time it moved it broke something, but they couldn't escape, for it was way faster than them, so their only hope was to bring it down before it brought them down first. Every single gunshot was aimed at its mouth, and every time they fired they inevitably suffered the beast revenge but it was somehow trapped because it would not escape, leaving them alive and so it stayed, taking its chances as they were taking theirs. Dave really hoped they were going to win this battle of will because he had no idea what else to do.

When the next ship sunk, Dave started to think it hadn't been a good idea. He manoeuvred the Fury to cover the spot and ordered his men to fire twice as fast. The beast was angry, bleeding and blind with pain but it kept moving, flying swiftly above them. They were hitting it more and more, but Dave wasn't sure they were gonna made it. The second of the ships left followed the first one. Santana, usually cold-blooded was alarmed. “It's gonna get us!” She shouted, glowing reddish from Brittany's wrist.

“Keep firing!” Dave clenched his teeth and turned the ship, closing in on the beast as the only other ship left did the same on the other side. They hit the worm right in its left eye, the cannonball came out from the other side, spraying blood all over the Fury's deck. The beast screeched and for the longest two minutes of their life it tossed and twirled and curled in mid-air.

“Move! Move the fucking ship now!” Dave shouted as he and the helmsman together were trying to get the Fury out of the beast's landing area. The Fury creaked and moaned, complaining loudly of being misused in such a way but eventually she moved, bringing her crew to safety right before the worm came down, dead.

Dave heard the crack loud and clear, but it was too late for them to do anything. During the operation, the other ship's helm had broke. They were stuck. Some of the men tried to get off the ship and on longboats, but they were too slow. Dave saw the beast coming down right in front of his eyes, and after it had passed by, the ship was gone too.

Brittany looked at everything in horror and hugged her own arm as she would have hugged Santana.

Dave put aside the urge to cry for all they had lost that day, he started to shout to cover the pain in his voice and one by one he moved his men, so they could go back home before it was too late.

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