Adrenalyn erased the stinging in the princess' foot as she sprinted down the hallway, a three-pawed, silver-furred bear hot on her tail, its fourth metal foot clinking with every step. Razor-edged fangs protruded from its foul scented maw along with a slime-covered tongue lashing around with a mind of its own, pining for the taste of blood. One golden, bloodshot eye shone in the moonlight as the monster chased the girl onto the top deck -- the other hidden beneath a certain black eyepatch.
Yes, this beast 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 nose and jaw shifted outward to create a short, whiskered muzzle haunted Hataru's memory. She continued to vamoose, shouting for the help of any crewman that might be at hand.
“Miss!” called 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. Do not fear the fall.
“Anten-ooooor!” she slurred in panic.
“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, shining brighter and brighter, as the edge of the ship inched nearer. How can he smile like that?We are both about to die, for goodness' sake!
But then 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. For the short time she had known him, Hataru had always felt comfortable with him; he was wise and caring and... trustworthy.
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 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.
But just as her feet rose above the handrails, the princess felt a forceful jerk on her back, and she somersaulted backwards, away from the side of the ship. Dizzy, she barely caught a glimpse of the once-was captain plummeting over the edge beside her, his screeches of terror muddling her brain further still.
“What... what just happened?” Hataru whimpered, staggering to her feet and dusting off her skirts. “He... he was... he was screaming, and then he... he started shaking! And changing! And I didn’t know what to do, so I.. so I ran, but that thing was right behind me! I kept running, and then... then I jumped! And..and..!”