15. Leap of Faith

A grisly roar and a terrorized scream later,  Hataru found herself fleeing down the hall, trying to escape the beast that tromped behind her. Short, thick, silver fur covered every inch of its enlarged body and jut out of its maroon shirt and torn brown trousers like straw the of a scarecrow  ─ a scarecrow that was meant not only to frighten away pesky birds, but to hunt and devour every living thing that came in range of its highly developed sight, scent and hearing. Razor-edged fangs protruded from its foul scented maw along with a tube-shaped, slime-covered tongue which lashed around with a mind of its own, pining for the taste of blood. Just past its short, snarling mouth, one golden, bloodshot eye shone in the moonlight as the beast chased the girl onto the top deck. Where the other eye should have been, was a bright red scar peeking out from under a weathered black eyepatch. Stubby, round ears that might have been cute on a much smaller and even-tempered animal were squashed flat against the creature's melon-sized head. Ka-thump! Clink! Ka-thump! Clink! The monster ran steadily on all fours; its single metal foot did not slow it down. In fact, the metallic paw was the same size and shape as the others, but stronger and more durable. Yes, this monster was once the honorable Captain Levi Spry. Images of the spiky hairs piercing through the greying skin on his face, neck, and hands as his nasal and jaw shifted outward to create a short, whiskered muzzle haunted Hataru's memory. She continued fleeing and screaming for the help of any crewman that might have woken up by now.

         "Miss!" shouted a familiar voice. Hataru glanced to her right to see the stout, white-bearded Antenor sprinting along beside her. He motioned for her to follow, which she did gladly. Together they ran under the star filled sky, straight toward the wooden guardrail that bordered the ship. Beyond the railing, an eight-thousand foot drop waited for them.

          "Anten-ooooor!" she slurred the last syllable into a panicked moan when she saw their fate. The only thing that kept her from stopping in her tracks was the silver beast's roar from behind.

           "Patience, my dear! You're just going to have to trust me!"

           Trust him? Who in their right mind would trust an old man enough to follow him off the edge of a boat drifting high in the sky? It was absurd! It was preposterous! Hatru didn't want to even think about such a concept. She couldn't let go of her doubts and fears, for she would surely lose her life if she did. Nothing in the world could force her to place her complete trust into the hands of another, absolutely nothing, except maybe a ferocious silver beast snapping at the tips of her flying chestnut locks.

          Inwardly sighing, Hataru glanced over at the old man. His face was as wrinkled as a crumpled paper bag, and she could see the years of happiness and days of sorrow he had lived through, tucked away into each fold of skin. The man's eyes were sagging, yet there was a spark, a twinkle of light within them, showing brighter and brighter, as the edge of the ship inched nearer. How can he smile like that? the princess wondered. We are both about to die, for goodness' sake! It was then that she realized, Antenor knows what he is doing. He had asked her to trust him. Only a fool would ask for another's trust without a plan in mind, and this aged man running beside her was no fool. From the short time she had spent with him atop the mountain, Hataru had found that he was wise and caring and... trustworthy. With this new understanding, the princess of Trellisania knew what she had to do.

           Five yards away from the railing, Hataru dismissed any remaining thoughts of doubt; she would have no regrets. Four yards away, she relaxed her body, letting all of the tension the drop from her shoulders. Three yards left, she inhaled one last, deep breath of sharp cold air that shot down her throat like icy spears. Two yards, her eyelids slipped down to shield her glossy blue eyes from the horrors beyond. One, Hataru bent her knees and vaulted herself into the air. Her hair ribboned out as she flew like a bird of freedom, exhilarated by her own weightlessness. She trusted Antenor completely as her leap of faith brought her closer still to the edge.

The End

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