[Editor's note -- this starts with a brief recap of the events in the first episode from the point of view of Amos.]
I don't know what went wrong and who was to blame. I suppose it doesn't matter. Lord Bleys isn't holding any of us responsible, but I was on the team to provide for his protection; therefore, I must accept some blame for it.
Corwin and his men ambushed us to attack Lord Bleys. We lost many men that day. Things were a blur and my last memory of it was a bowman aiming at Lord Bleys. Instincts took over and I called out to my lord. I leaped to place myself between the bowman and Bleys. Lord, I could see the shaft released and flying; as if time had slowed for me. I watched the arrow as it pierced my left shoulder. I felt the impact and electrifying jolt and I thought I had given my lord my all. He smiled at me and I returned it as bravely as I could; his gesture made my sacrifice worth it. I knew I would live to serve him again, and that he would live to make these assassins pay for their cold blooded attack.
After taking the arrow for Lord Bleys, things went black. When I regained consciousness, Bleys was gone and members of his elite guard were poking around the area. There were only a few survivors, we sustained various injuries. I was treated for the arrow wound and returned for duty as soon as possible. Lord Bleys kept busy since the attack, interrogating his new prisoner, Lord Corwin. That was good news.
I was rewarded for my bravery by getting an assignment with his elite force. He was aware of my skills and gave me the opportunity to use them where they were best suited. I left the hospital within days of the incident, because I couldn't wait to start. Besides, there may be another attack and I couldn't stand being stuck in a bed another moment.
The doctor provided me a chit for some medicine and I promised him I would get plenty of rest. The injury was healing quite nicely and I stopped at the hospital to have bandages changed when required. It also kept the doctor off my back. I'm right handed, but it's surprising how much an injured left arm can slow someone down.
I kept lifting to a minimum and used a makeshift wheeled cart for moving heavy objects. It has a metal frame and pulley. It turned out to be the smart approach, because others began using the cart for other 'heavier' things. I am a mechanic and a pilot. I tend to 'invent' things as I go. After I invent something, others tend to find other uses for them. I rarely get credit for it, but I constantly find things that I put together, that have been duplicated and adapted for other uses. I find satisfaction in just knowing it.
The team I was assigned to, is an unusual and impressive bunch. Our ship and two planes are owned by Philippe. Like myself, he is a pilot and technical expert, who invents new gadgets. He is rather sensitive to criticism. Well, he views it as criticism, I just offer suggestions on improving things. He was rather upset when he found out I was inspecting the planes. Just a standard thing that a professional mechanic would feel obligated to do. His design on the tri-plane was incredible and made perfect sense.
I was pleased that the planes were in excellent condition and in top flight shape. I made some minor adjustments and tested the adjustments, noting what I did and the results. I think I improved the engine efficiency by a few percentage points and this should improve overall performance. As I said, I was impressed in the quality of his work on the engines. Any further improvements are unlikely, without completely redesigning the engines.
I returned to my quarters to toy with some designs to the body of the plane to improve the armament. A pulley and trapdoor system, controlled by a few levers, could deliver some small payloads; say, caltrops or ball bearings. It is something that should be easy to retrofit into the design of the plane, without adding too much weight.
I ran into Philippe after a morning of inspecting the rigging and plane release systems on the ship. I greeted him and told him he had a wonderful ship and beautiful planes and I was looking forward to serving with him. He was rather upset with me tinkering with his planes. Even after I showed him the results of my work, he told me not to mess with them without his permission. I agreed but was disappointed in his short sightedness.
We were summoned to an early morning meeting by Lord Bleys, just two weeks since the attack. A favored lady of Bleys, Queen Kelly, was captured. She is a warlord of a small county in Ireland. Her land was invaded, her castle was secured, her people were enslaved, and she became the prisoner of the foul invader, O'Sirideain. It was known that she was under Bleys' protection and the invaders do not expect that anything will be done to stop them. It was agreed that those of us in attendance will rescue the fair Queen Kelly. Bleys tells us that she is expected to be put to death at noon, tomorrow; so we must hurry.
We head for Philippe's ship. Bridget and Lorianne goes to inspect the ship and make preparations for departure.
Jayne recruits troops for her Sharks. From what I've heard of it, it is a group of suicidal zealots who hope for Jayne's affection - as Jayne hopes for Bleys' affection. She lost many in the last two weeks, but recruited another fifteen. Quite impressive. The lady 'is' worth it, but I wish to stay alive - I plan to fly one of the planes.
The new recruit, Lewis, joined Jayne to become a Shark. Poor lad. I don't know where his talents lie yet, or if he will survive long enough to continue using them.
Jayne asks me to join her Sharks. I graciously decline her 'generous' offer, but my duties lie elsewhere. I must inspect the planes and make sure they are ready. From what I have heard since my tenure in the Elite Guard, I am the 'second' best pilot, second only to Philippe.
Philippe is a pompous ass, but that goes with being a pilot. He decided to establish the pecking order early. "What are you doing near the plane? Come help with zis cannon."
I reply. "Cannons are too simple to work with, the planes require more attention."
He drops the cannon he is carrying. "You will pick zis up and take it to the ship. You are a failure and you will prove yourself in Lord Bleys' service!" He turns, picking up some parts and began walking to the cannons, expecting me to follow.
I comply - for now. After all, it is 'his' ship and 'his' planes.
His words hurt, because they are true. I `was' on the team that was on duty when Lord Bleys was attacked. My gesture of sacrifice meant little to Philippe. I followed to the starboard side to help with maintenance on the cannons. Since my injuries have not healed yet, I decided not to press the situation - yet. I loaded the items into the small cart, more than he was carrying and quietly followed, pulling my burden.
We spent the day preparing all the cannons. Fairly routine, hardly requiring much thought or imagination. I would much prefer working on the planes. One day, I will have my own plane.
Everything on the ship has been checked and double checked by the crew and maintenance personnel. I inspected all movable parts on the ship, above the water. It is too soon for me to be swimming in salt water. We are loaded and ready, with enough fuel to last for days of flying. Several boxes of caltrops were loaded, at my request. Then we set sail for Ireland.
Idle hands on a ship makes for a bored crew. Philippe and Lorianne keeps them constantly busy. Apparently Lorianne is the captain of Philippe's ship There can only be so many things done on a ship, so work must be invented at times.
My next step is retrofitting my design onto the bi-plane. I showed my idea and design to Philippe. He liked the idea and allowed me to fit it into the reserve plane, but I was to leave 'his' plane alone. I agreed and spent the last few hours of daylight, working on the modifications. It is a unique experience moving from the ship to the plane, by the tow ropes, while the ship was in motion. One misstep and you're in the drink. Carrying the tools and material, made it even trickier. I had to invent a carrying basket and rope to pull the material along the tow rope. With this, a crewman could pull the basket back to the ship and load or unload anything needed easily. Once done, we just remove the basket and ropes and hang them from a nearby support beam; it can be used for either plane.
We have a working plan. The tri-plane will have ropes, mounted below the cockpit, secured to the frame. When Queen Kelly is taken to the place of public execution, Philippe will fly the plane to dive in and carry her away by the ropes. Jayne's Sharks will infiltrate the area and attack the guards and free the queen. One of them will grab the ropes and the queen, pulling her to safety.
I took some liberties. I also attached ropes to my bi-plane, to be the backup in case Philippe misses. I rigged up the trap doors to release caltrops. The other person in our planes will shoot flaming arrows and I will throw fire bombs at any ship we encounter.
Philippe and I spent the evening planning and making fire bombs, with the help of others. It was rather irritating that he constantly referred to me as Amos the Failure. He was upset with the notion that 'he' might miss and a backup may be needed, but 'allowed' it. We couldn't use plane fuel or brandy to make the fire bombs. We were developing napalm, with nails for shrapnel.
Philippe's private tri-plane "Marta", is the only known tri-plane in existence. As I said earlier, it is one he designed and built, and is rather impressive. The other is a standard bi-plane, but also impressively built. That is the one I will fly. I christened her "Cassandra".
Jayne is planning to teach her Sharks how to avoid fire bombs, by throwing bottles on them. After Philippe and I are done, I plan to sleep in the plane tonight; probably the safest place to be.
Philippe and I experiment with the napalm. We soon come up with a good quality of napalm mixture and bottle them. The bottles are put into cases, which we load into the planes. Between us, we have 12 napalm bombs, 20 molotov cocktails, and plenty of flaming arrows. Lewis makes a large bomb for himself to take along on the raid.
By morning, the ship is anchored miles south of the castle to let Bridget, Lewis, Jayne, and the Sharks off to move into the area as wandering peasants. They will find and acquire horses to ride into town, a 15 mile ride. We wait until it gives them time to move into place. We time it so we can rendezvous at the time of the execution. We are in the planes and get them ready to take off when the ship moves. Shortly, we set sail again, northward.
Our plan of attack from Cassandra is simple. Tom, my passenger, will fire flame arrows and I will toss the napalm and molotov cocktails - lighting them with my lit cigar.
The sky is clear and the winds are calm. Perfect weather for flying.
We see an enemy plane overhead. We have to stop him before he warns others. Philippe takes off first, getting better lift with the tri-plane. I take off shortly after. Philippe is trying to gain altitude over the enemy. I maneuver my plane in the pilot's way to prevent his escape. Philippe throws a molotov cocktail into the pilot's lap. He throws it superbly and the plane bursts into flames and falls into the sea. I fall into formation with Philippe. He calls out. "There are ships in the harbor!" I nod, seeing them beyond the castle.
From our ship, we are signaled to land. They don't know about the other ships yet. We still have an hour and a half before the schedule rescue. We land to refuel our planes and let the others know about the other ships in the harbor. We take off again, closer to the proper time. I have 6 napalm bombs and 10 molotov cocktails to use on the ships. Tom has a large quantity of flame arrows. Adequate for the task. I am also looking forward to using my newly fitted gadget.
Within minutes, I have a good view of the countryside and the sea beyond the castle. There are two corsair ships. My mission is to do as much damage as possible to the ships, to prevent them from firing upon the crowd and my compatriots. Then I will follow Philippe in, if there is a problem. The ships are flying the colors burgundy and purple, the colors of Pierre Savate.
I line my flight path so I can strike both ships in one pass. Tom shoots arrows at the sails and I drop napalm on the sails. We try for maximum damage, to disable the ships. I repeat the pass dropping more napalm. The sailors are running around trying to put out the multiple fires on the ships.
My next pass is the nasty one. I drop the napalm and pull a lever, it releases a batch of caltrops that sprays them over the deck of the ship. I repeat it on the other ship. The caltrops are scattered around the decks and the smoke from the fires obscure the visibility of them. Crewmen are falling like flies as they step on them, trying to put out the fires.
The caltrops are nasty and effective. Crewmen typically are barefoot or wear light boots. The caltrops easily disable the sailors and the fires blaze out of control. I make several more passes, dropping as much napalm and molotov cocktails as possible. I hear some explosions on land. I see Philippe soaring over a flat area that is smoking. It looks like a landing field. Good man, keeping any planes from taking off.
Soon, Tom's flaming arrows are the only weapons remaining. There is a battle in progress in the square. I head for the square, my payload spent. I'll be there in minutes.
Philippe is diving for the square. The plane near the ground, someone grabs for the ropes, holding onto someone who must be Queen Kelly. The plane gains altitude, slowly banking to the street, and barely clears the building. I bank my plane and head for the square to see if I am needed for help. Beyond the castle, Philippe loses altitude and his erstwhile passengers drop from the ropes into a pond. He pulls the plane up again, without his burden.
There is a huge explosion. A huge smoking hole appears in the side of the castle.
The battle continues in the square. Jayne and the Sharks are fighting guards in black. The Sharks are definitely losing the battle. I can see that Jayne is surrounded and in dire straits. The black guard is joined by someone I hadn't expected to see. In the unmistakable colors, lemon yellow and maroon, Jacques Rider is closing in on Jayne, killing the Sharks that protect her. Jayne chops the head off someone at her feet, then grabs the head.
I release my ropes and go into a dive. Jayne turns her head, hearing the engines of my plane. She calls out. "Lord Shark, grab the rope!" They get some distance between themselves and Jacques and position themselves to grab the ropes.
I am starting to have second thoughts about this. This may be too much weight for a 'safe' rescue. Pulling out of this dive may be tough. As I approach them, I rev up the engines to maximum speed. I feel the impact as they grab the ropes and I pull back on the controls, banking left to the road, trying to avoid the buildings. The engine screams, the plane rocks against the added weight, and we slowly gain altitude. Very slowly. A wall is up ahead, not good. We clear the wall but not the rooftop. The pain in my shoulder is agonizing from pulling back on the controls. My passengers are bounced and scrapped along the rooftops. We clear the rooftops and we continue to climb. I didn't lose them. Good, but they are going to be in rough shape.
Jayne yells at me. "You're a real shitty flier!"
She just doesn't understand simple physics. This plane isn't designed to handle this much weight, especially when it is not distributed properly. "We have too much weight! Why did you have to bring that head along?"
"I need that head." She calls out. No comment...
Philippe heads for the square behind me. He does a barrel roll, dropping his payload of molotov cocktails upon the black guard. The courtyard explode into flames as Philippe gains altitude.
I guide it to the pond, where Philippe dropped his payload. I call out to her to bail out there. She does and lands into the pond along with her Lord Shark.
My plane climbs smoothly without the excess weight. Looking back at the courtyard, it looks like Philippe is using the remaining napalm to incinerate the square. The town is in flames. I head for our ship. I need to refuel and get further instructions. I land the plane, secure her to the ship, and climb aboard the ship. I let the others know where the pond is, where Queen Kelly and Jayne were dropped.
The ship heads for the nearest harbor to look for survivors. The opposing ships have been dealt with. They finished what I started.
When the ship anchors in the harbor, they send out some small boats to shore. The crew located Queen Kelly and some children, Bridget, Jayne, and her barely surviving Sharks, and Lewis - newly dubbed the Spider. It was 'he' that blew up the castle and was on the landing strip, trying to disable the planes before Philippe dropped molotov cocktails on them. He managed to survive as a Shark, by 'not' being with the Sharks in battle. We were all quite impressed with the new recruit.
Much later, our ship sails back, a bit slower than it did earlier. We tended to the injured, as much as possible.
Philippe was silent since his return, refusing to speak. He went to interrogate some prisoners. This involved simple torture for hours and 'only' after the prisoner begged to be asked questions, did Philippe begin questioning him.
What we learned from the interrogation was that Gustav, an old enemy of Philippe, offered assistance to the warlord O'Sirideain (now a head that Jayne kept as a prize for Lord Bleys). That is where they got the resources for the invasion. They also got support from Jacques Rider, my old enemy. The black guard was provided by Pierre Savate. The invasion was organized by Gustav, because of his dissatisfaction with Bleys. More than that, Philippe wouldn't offer. We got the impression that it was a 'very' personal issue with Philippe.
He then left to drink alone, and a lot.
Others carried on with various tasks or got some rest.
I wasn't in the mood to drink, so I went to check on the planes. We put them through a lot today and they needed some attention. I rigged the conveyor baskets to the planes and checked them out. Philippe's tri-plane first, then my bi-plane. Anyone that wants to know what happened can come see me. One of Lorianne's men stopped by and asked for a briefing, so I talked while I worked. He took notes then left.
The trip home was slow and smooth. I was too busy to notice more than that. After it was too dark to see what I was working on, I slept on the plane - `my' plane. Hopefully, Philippe will be glad that 'someone' took care of his planes. Even, if it was `only' Amos the Failure...