10.7 Good to be a Lion

28 April, 2013 by katelaity

Airships & Alchemy CoverGustave’s vigorous waving drew them across the crowded avenue, where the three of them now saw he sat atop a carriage wedged behind another one delivering barrels of ale to the taverna on the corner.

“Transportation,” the poet shouted as he continued to beckon. “We will get there much faster in a vehicle.”

The alchemist clapped his hands together with delight. He had run much further that day than he had for many years and it was not something he wished to extend, however much he desired to catch up with the airship.

“I can run much further,” Eduardo said, his tail whipping about him with some displeasure. He did not get enough chances to run as it was. People were always cautioning him from pelting down the streets as he would like. Maggiormente explained muskets to him but he was certain there would be few of them in a place like Montmartre.

Surely he could dodge such crude instruments anyway.

“Will we be able to get through the avenue with such a carriage?” Alain asked, always the practical one.

Maggiormente paused in his attempt to clamber up onto the carriage with the poet. “Do you think there is too much in the way of congestion?”

The driver made a gesture of disdain. “I can get you where you need to be, messieurs. Tell me where and we will make haste. Your friend has paid me well.”

“I may need to borrow a few francs the end of the week,” Gustave muttered to Maggiormente as he settled down next to him on the seat. The alchemist nodded. That’s what friends were for.

Alain hopped up on the carriage as well. “Are you coming, Eduardo—or will you brave the streets on foot?”

“All four of them,” the lion answered coolly. It was clear he took it as a challenge now. The horses pulling the carriage clattered their hooves, anxious to put some space between them and the large cat.

“Allons-y!” the driver called with a laugh. The alchemist thought there was something he recognized in that laugh, but he could not put his finger on it and at once the carriage jolted them back and the horses lunged forward into the mêlée of the Montmartre streets.

Inside the three passengers found themselves on top of each other as the carriage bounced along. Eduardo ran through the crowds along the avenue as people jumped aside once they realised he was not a large dog and had no lead. Occasionally he slowed to allow the carriage to catch up, but it never managed to draw ahead of him, despite the nervousness of the horses yoked to the front.

Down the streets they strange pair hurtled, the lion on his feet the carriage a clatter of wheels and hooves on the cobblestones. They dodged around other carriages, a wide variety of pedestrians crossing to and fro and at one point, a most unexpected sedan chair held aloft on the shoulders of liveried footmen. The person this relic from the previous century carried it was impossible to determine, for nothing appeared between the drapery but a lorgnette clasped in a jewel-encrusted hand.

As they moved out of Montmartre and the roads widened, the congestion became much less and the carriage made much better time, rolling along at a good clip with the driver swearing much less. Eduardo found the pace easy to maintain even though the variety of smells enchanted his nose with new delights.

The tents and the pavilions of the Exposition loomed in the distance and once more the airship could be seen above the place, making a graceful arc above the area as if searching for a place to set down.

“The ship, mes amis!” Eduardo called, his tongue lolling with the effort of the long gallop through town. Despite his protestations he had acclimated to the leisurely life with the alchemist. The occasional leap after pigeons was not the same as running after game every day as the lions on the savannah did (or so the alchemist had shown him once in a painting).

The driver cracked his whip over the horses, who picked up their heels again to go even faster, weaving the carriage between other vehicles as they drew closer to the Exposition grounds.

“Look at the ship,” Alain called out, pointing into the air. They could all see it now flying slowly lower as it prepared to land in an open area beyond the pavilions. A crowd began to form as people were drawn to the excitement and the carriage had to slow once more.

“Oh, this is no good,” Gustave said with annoyance. “We must find a way to work through all these people more quickly.”

“So near and yet so far!” the alchemist said with a sigh.

All at once a frightening roar rang out. The people drew back at once, many shoving aside those who did not move quickly enough.

Eduardo grinned. It was good to be a lion.

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