15 September, 2013 by katelaity
“Callow youth,” her father sniffed with a superior air. Forgotten were his own misgivings and complaints about traveling in the craft. “You’ll never find a more gentle conveyance.”
Helen smiled, amused at her father’s change of heart. “Quite right. You’ll find it far superior to the bumpy ride a carriage or even curricle offers. It’s like sailing but on air.”
“Are we going to go very high up?” Despite his best attempts to look sanguine, Edmund had taken on the faintest shade of green at the thought of taking to the clouds.
“We needn’t,” Helen said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t want to give you a moment’s distress, little brother.”
Her brother cringed with annoyance, but he found it impossible to dispel his nerves entirely.
The alchemist, on the other hand, could hardly contain his excitement. At last to be experiencing the airship that this wonderful woman had designed—and for which he had begun working on the fuel. Now that he had seen the ship, the fuel was no longer just an interesting intellectual puzzle, it was an exciting reality that promised the chance of great success and very public acclaim. To see the ship reaching its greatest potential was now his wish.
And of course in large part because it was her ship.
Signore Romano climbed up first to get the engine started while Helen briefed the new crew on their forthcoming ride. “Remember not to all crowd onto one side of the gondola—it can make the ship run awkwardly if you throw off the balance markedly. It’s not dangerous,” Helen added quickly, noticing her brother’s nervous mien, “but it’s better for the ship’s speed and mechanicals if it stays on a more or less even keel.”
“No fire, either,” Her father inserted unhelpfully. “Most dangerous.”
“Just offering my experience to the boy.”
“I’m not a boy, Papa.” Edmund drew himself up to his full height, which was very nearly the same as his father’s.
Before the conversation could get more heated, the alchemist broke in. “It is alright for Eduardo to come along, isn’t it?”
Edmund looked askance at the lion. “He’s not dangerous, is he?” He had barely noticed Eduardo at first, perhaps mistaking him for a very large dog, the sort his father was inordinately fond of. Having a good look at him now, the young man seemed somewhat shocked to discover himself in the company of a lion.
Bad enough to be taking off in some sort of jury rigged balloon; to do so with a wild animal, surely the height of foolhardiness!
“Not to people he knows,” his father said coolly, “but I would suggest you avoid making any sudden moves. You’re not carrying any food on your person, are you?”
“Papa!” Helen scolded her father.
“My lion is a most civilized creature,” Maggiormente assured Edmund with all seriousness. “He would never harm anyone to whom he has been introduced. Come, Eduardo, say hello.”
The lion, who had made a show of great offense at being described as a dangerous animal (although he was secretly pleased to be thought frightening), seemed reluctant to properly greet the young man, but allowed himself to be cajoled into a solemn exchange of pleasantries. “How do you do?”
“He talks!” Edmund said in surprise, immediately captivated. “What a capital sort of lion. I am most impressed and pleased to meet you, sir!”
Helen smiled as she saw the lion preen at this praise. Her brother had more than his allotment of charm and it certainly came in handy at times. The lion bowed gravely and the delight on the alchemist’s face glowed like a second sun.
“Excellent,” Helen said clapping her hands together. “All aboard.”
The made their way up the ladder and onto the waiting ship. While Tuppence called from above, Helen arranged her crew about the gondola to maintain a balance and, she hoped, some safety for the novice passengers. While she, Romano and her father had become well used to air travel, she knew the novelty would take some getting used to for the others. Tuppence approved of the placements and thought the ship well balanced. It was difficult to tell how much slower the ship would go with a larger payload, but Helen was eager to find out.
There were so many things to discover!
“Are you all ready now?” She looked around the gondola. Her father made a show of looking as bored as he possibly could manage. The alchemist looked as excited as a schoolboy. Eduardo was all delicate elegance. And her brother did his best to cover up his nerves. He gave a curt nod.