When the search for a missing ship becomes a desperate race with an unknown creature across New Zealand’s untamed wilderness, how far will one man go to rein in both the monsters roaming the wild, and those lurking within himself? [27min]
Boulcott Farm Stockade, Hutt Valley, Wellington, January 1855
Sun lanced off the airship’s fittings as it descended. Kent patted the report in his breast pocket, his lips moving silently:
“Welcome to Wellington, Mister Faulkner. Morgan Kent, from the Governor’s office, to brief you on the disappearance of the HMS Kestrel. I have prepared a report…”
Faulkner was a living legend, and his despatch to the colonies vindicated Kent’s suspicions about what had really happened to the Kestrel. This was no maritime misadventure. Faulkner’s arrival was proof that the taniwha truly existed, and that there was a future for a man like Morgan Kent in searching for such elusive beasts. Impress the suspenders off Howard Faulkner and Kent might find himself on a fast airship back to England and a life of hunting real monsters, not just the myths and lore which were his stock in trade as a Royal Ethnographer.
A dozen iron harpoons loosed from Waka-a-Rangi and slammed into the earth. Internal winches creaked, drawing the airship down. Faulkner had the good sense to trust the locals, Kent noted. Unlike the British, the flyboys of Ngati Poheke were not prone to crashing their dirigibles on the Auckland-Wellington passage. Poheke were wanderers, taking to the skies as readily as their ancestors had crossed the ocean to reach this lost paradise at the bottom of the South Pacific. And just as the Maori had adopted the settlers’ weapons and improved on their battle tactics, so too had they mastered their airships of brass and steam in ways that British pilots simply hadn’t. Mercenaries they may be, but they were worth their coin.
The groundcrew secured the dirigible and a gangway folded out. Faulkner appeared, his leather overcoat snapping like the wings of some giant raptor, white hair framing a weathered face beneath his wide-brimmed hat. At his belt hung knives and pepperpot pistols, as if prepared to find himself in the midst of battle at any moment. Maybe, Kent thought, he too should carry a pistol. Steeling himself, he crossed the field.