It was near the changeover for the middle watch, and the guard on duty – Esmil? – nodded at me wearily before scanning the darkness for anything unusual. It was unlikely that he would, of course – we were on a course dead under thick cloud cover for the concealment, and it worked both ways – but that was duty.
The cool, clear air did offer some refreshment, thankfully, and I leaned on the rail next to the portside pressure tank for a cursory glance myself. The watchman silently pointed out the lights of the Gasbag, which was just visible astern, and the first of the Raven’s Aeries up ahead with their distinctive blue-white magnesic flare signals. I grabbed my brass telescope and lifted it in time to see the signal stutter rapidly.
Up ahead, our own signaller unsealed the forward lantern and began the exchange of diplomatics that one had to observe when entering the Raventops. We were well known, though, and we didn’t drop from top speed as we swept past the outpost Aery and into the Raventops proper.