10.5 Dangerous Beasts

7 April, 2013 by katelaity

Airships & Alchemy CoverThe alchemist, the poet and the Venetian lion all stared with varying degrees of awe and wonder as the airship passed overhead. As the shadow passed away they noticed that others were also hanging out their windows to look up to the sky. The hubbub of excited speech filled the air.

“I want to go up in it,” Maggiormente said with decision. After all this time of fussing with formulas and explosions, it had never occurred to him that he might take a journey in the ship.

“Do you think that wise?” Gustave frowned. “I am with Mme. Gabor on this question: it just is not natural.”

“How high does it go?” Eduardo asked with a speculative look.

If the alchemist had been paying attention, he might have worried about that look, but his thoughts—so recently occupied in searching for something he had already forgotten—now turned to the future journey in the airship which he already could picture in his mind. “How high?”

“Yes, how high can it go?” Eduardo thought perhaps he could catch pigeons up there with greater facility, luring the foolish birds near and then swiping them from the sky.

“I don’t really know.” The alchemist rubbed his beard under his chin. “How high would you say it is now?”

“A furlong?” The poet suggested.

“Oh, not so much, surely.”

“How long is furlong?” Eduardo said. As usual, human measurements were useless abstractions of no practical application.

“It is less than a fathom—or is it more?” The alchemist had his eyes on the ship yet, though he attempted to focus on the question. His interest quickly slipped away and back to imagining his flight. I could fly to Italy in a trice! He sighed for artichokes.

“I think a fathom is much less than a furlong,” the poet said, “although they do alliterate.”

Eduardo chuffed with annoyance. “Is it higher than birds go?”

The alchemist paid attention to him then. “Birds? No, I think not. Eduardo, you are not planning some mischief, are you?”

“Moi?” The lion did his best to look as innocent as a kitten. It was not a successful masquerade.

“I do not trust you as far as I can throw you, mio piccolo gatto,” Maggiormente said with admirable seriousness. “And I cannot throw you very far at all.”

“I would not jump out of the ship onto unsuspecting people,” Eduardo said with a hurt air, curling his tail around his feet. “I am not evil.”

The alchemist smothered a smile. It might be amusing at that to see the look on people’s faces—but no. He should not even encourage such a thing.

“Heavens,” Gustave said with a horrified look. “What new terrors will come from the skies if we have airships full of great beasts in the sky?”

“Oh, I don’t think that will be a serious problem,” Maggiormente said. “After all how many lions and tigers can there be in France?”

This proposition seemed to alarm the poet even more. “I somehow thought there was only this one,” he said pointing at Eduardo.

“There is only one Venetian lion in Paris,” Eduardo agreed. “But other creatures—”

“What about the zoo?”

“And the circuses,” Eduardo added.

“I hear there is a nobleman with a huge menagerie of African beasts in Angoulême,” the alchemist said. “They walk the walls of the city.”

The poet staggered back. It had never occurred to him that such dangers lurked in the city of lights. He fought a sudden urge to run to the countryside. But he could not quail before his lady love! Although he might as well suggest a honeymoon in the ancestral home in Nohant, far from the dangers of the city. “Such wilderness!”

Eduardo thought it might be wise to change the subject. “Should we not try to pursue the airship? Likely they are heading to the Exposition grounds, eh?”

Maggiormente nodded. “Undoubtedly, yes. Let us go. I will take my fuel…” He looked about him for a suitable container, feeling a strange sense of déjà vu.

“We can arrange that later,” the lion said with impatience. “Perhaps they cannot use it yet anyway. Let us meet and say hello and get to know this captain. We must be certain it is who we expect it to be.”

“Ah, yes. It could be yet another ship!” Maggiormente clapped his hands together. “Let’s go!”


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