“Avis, grab her!” the beak-nosed man cried out, and suddenly a chunky mound of a man blocked her exit, his pot belly exposed by a tiny, filthy vest. Unable to stop, Hataru slammed into him, his flesh jiggling so much that she would never be able to eat gelatine again without vomiting. The man’s beefy hands held her in place, preventing her body from bouncing off his pudgy tummy.
“Take this brat,” the first man spat, his face covered in red splotches, “and lock her away somewhere until the Master returns to collect us.”
“Where?” Hataru could feel the deep vibration of the potbellied man’s voice, a stark contrast to his companion’s squeaky tone. The parrot fluttered down onto the large man’s shoulder, and forcefully nipped at Hataru’s ears with its scuffed, pointed beak.
“In a closet or something! I don’t care. Master said he’d be back in four days, and if we didn’t have the girl by then, we’d be sorry. So lock her up and don’t let her escape!”
Stoically, the man called Avis ─ along with his pet bird ─ led the princess down the hallway of her father’s ship and tossed her in a small storage room, slamming the door behind her. Enclosed in complete darkness, a sudden wave of drowsiness washed over the girl as her anemia beckoned her to the land of dreamless sleep.
~ ~ ~
When the door opened again, the light revealed a rather different girl than the one who had been thrown into the room. The curls in her mousey hair were frizzy, as if a rat had tried to make a home in it but decided that it was too tangled to mess with any further. Her lips chapped, her fingernails broken, and her knuckles bloody from scratching and pounding at the door, she blinked in the dim light of the hallway ─ so bright to her after days of pitch black solitary confinement. The skirt of her dress, she noted, was so wrinkled that any one of her chamber maids back home would weep profusely at the thought of having to iron it. Hataru wanted to weep, too.
“Out with you. The Master will be arriving soon,” Avis said, his parrot cawing in agreement from its perch on his shoulder.
“I will not be leaving with your master,” she muttered defiantly.
“You’ll learn soon that the Master always gets what he wants. No matter what.”
“Hmph. We’ll see about that.”
As soon as the end of the corridor was in sight, the princess gathered her wrinkled skirts and dug the thick, curved heel of her shoe into his toe with all the force she could muster and charged at the burgundy oak door that opened to the main deck. Unfortunately, having had no nutrients since the cup of Earl Grey in her bedroom three days ago, her body was weak and stars began dancing frantically in her vision. Don’t give in! You just need to get to the brig and radio for help, she told herself as her feeble fingers fiddled with the doorknob.
At last, the door sprang open, and she stumbled out into the sunlight; temporarily blinded by its brightness, she squinted her eyes to find that help had already come. Hataru spotted another airship suspended beside her own caravel. Compared to the Sky-Bender’s three sails and single jet engine at the rear, this flying frigate took the cake, the ice cream, and the party balloons with fourteen sails and six advanced turbofan engines aligned in two rows across the back of the stern, and not to mention the eighteen cannons lined around the main deck.