At the end of Leviathan , our heroes Alek and Deryn were aboard a mighty air ship heading toward Constantinople to deliver a secret package. Read more...
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Date: Oct 2010
From the book
Alek raised his sword. “On guard, sir!”
Deryn hefted her own weapon, studying Alek’s pose. His feet were splayed at right angles, his left arm sticking out behind like the handle of a teacup. His fencing armor made him look like a walking quilt. Even with his sword pointed straight at her, he looked barking silly.
“Do I have to stand like that?” she asked.
“If you want to be a proper fencer, yes.”
“A proper idiot, more like,” Deryn muttered, wishing again that her first lesson were someplace less public. A dozen crewmen were watching, along with a pair of curious hydrogen sniffers. But Mr. Rigby, the bosun, had forbidden swordplay inside the airship.
She sighed, raised her saber, and tried to imitate Alek’s pose.
It was a fine day on the Leviathan’s topside, at least. The airship had left the Italian peninsula behind last night, and the flat sea stretched in all directions, the afternoon sun scattering diamonds across its surface. Seagulls wheeled overhead, carried by the cool ocean breeze.
Best of all, there were no officers up here to remind Deryn that she was on duty. Two German ironclad warships were rumored to be skulking nearby, and Deryn was meant to be watching for signals from Midshipman Newkirk, who was dangling from a Huxley ascender two thousand feet above them.
But she wasn’t really dawdling. Only two days before, Captain Hobbes had ordered her to keep an eye on Alek, to learn what she could. Surely a secret mission from the captain himself outweighed her normal duties.
Maybe it was daft that the officers still thought of Alek and his men as enemies, but at least it gave Deryn an excuse to spend time with him.
“Do I look like a ninny?” she asked Alek.
“You do indeed, Mr. Sharp.”
“Well, you do too, then! Whatever they call ninnies in Clanker-talk.”
“The word is ‘Dummkopf’” he said. “But I don’t look like one, because my stance isn’t dreadful.”
He lowered his saber and came closer, adjusting Deryn’s limbs as if she were a dummy in a shop window.
“More weight on your back foot,” he said, nudging her boots farther apart. “So you can push off when you attack.”
Alek was right behind her now, his body pressing close as he adjusted her sword arm. She hadn’t realized this fencing business would be so touchy.
He grasped her waist, sending a crackle across her skin.
If Alek moved his hands any higher, he might notice what was hidden beneath her careful tailoring.
“Always keep sideways to your opponent,” he said, gently turning her. “That way, your chest presents the smallest possible target.”
“Aye, the smallest possible target,” Deryn sighed. Her secret was safe, it seemed.
Alek stepped away and resumed his own pose, so that the tips of their swords almost touched. Deryn took a deep breath, ready to fight at last.
But Alek didn’t move. Long seconds passed, the airship’s new engines thrumming beneath their feet, the clouds slipping slowly past overhead.
“Are we going to fight?” Deryn finally asked. “Or just stare each other to death?”
“Before a fencer crosses swords, he has to learn this basic stance. But don’t worry”--Alek smiled cruelly--“we won’t be here more than an hour. It’s only your first lesson, after all.”
“What? A whole barking hour … without moving?” Deryn’s muscles were already complaining, and she could see the crewmen stifling...