The Manticore

a story
2014-02-04 18:35:12,
2014-02-04 18:35:15
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Where are you? Life has been...hard without you by my side. I know in my heart, you are gone, that much has been clear for some time. The warmth you once brought to my life has gone cold. The words unspoken, the thoughts never shared. The regrets weigh upon my soul with each new dawn and the memories only bring me sorrow. I know you had your duty. I know you fought for what we all believed in, but....
            "We'll be approaching the site now Baron."
            I miss you my love.
            The jagged mountain peaks of the Hoganmar rose like spearheads into the clouds and stretched as far as anyone could see. From aboard the bow of The Arbiter, a silent statue stared unwavering towards the nightmarish crags below as the wind snapped bitterly at ends of his long coat.
            "Navigator has us right on course, he does," continued the captain, Bellefonte Grum, as he stepped towards the broad bow of the massive airship. "We ain't gonna be able to land though. Those peaks would..."
            "Yes captain. I'm sure the baron understands our inability to land safely," Commandant John Clay interrupted, drawing attention from the baron and allowing him some space. "We'll get a lay of the land and go down by ladder if we have to."
            "Aye Commandant," Grum nodded, feeling a slight embarrassed. "Don't worry baron," he said turning towards the lone figure once more. "We'll find 'er. If she's out here, we'll find 'er."
            The elaborate mask the baron wore, necessary since the accident which left his body altered and disfigured, no doubt kept his head warm, but the crew worried that without moving around the baron would likely suffer the cold regardless of his attire.
            Clay looked towards the baron, but eventually gave in that his concerns would fall upon deaf ears and instead turned back to the captain and beckoned him aside.
            "A word captain," Clay asked as he ushered Grum down onto the main deck, mostly abandoned save for a small portion of the crew. Until now, they had little need for all hands to brave the harsh winds. Their time to face the hellish cold of the Hoganmar would come soon enough.
            "I do hope you understand the levity of the situation Captain," Clay chided softly. Though it would be difficult for anyone to hear much over the breeze, Clay wasn't interested in giving hidden ears the chance.
            "I mispoke. I apologize Commandant," Grum nodded with respect.
            "The Manticore was the pride of our fleet during the great rebellion. It was a very powerful vessel, probably unmatched, and Haskell Everett was her captain."
            "And she can be dangerous in the wrong hands?" Grum guessed hesitantly.
            Clay sighed, touched his temples and shook his lowered head.
            "Captain Everett and the baron were...very close," replied Clay. There was no point in hiding the truth if Grum was to understand the situation.
            "Oh!" gasped Grum in surprise. "Ah. Okay! Yeah. Sure. Yeah."
            "Now do you understand? I believe the baron has accepted the captain's death, but now that we may have found clues in regards to the whereabouts of the ship..."
            "He wants closure," said a familiar female voice from over Grum's broad shoulders. Clay blinked in surprise.
            "," Clay began, scrambling to pick up his fallen composure.
            "I've known the baron longer than both of you combined," Samantha told them with a little smirk on her lips beneath her oversized red goggles, Grum thought they made her look like a giant insect.
            "You don't think I know his secrets?" Samantha continued. "Besides, it's pretty obvious this is personal. Why else would we be here? It's freezing!"
            "What are you doing out here!?" Clay barked quietly, this time he was the embarrassed one. 
            "Relax," Samantha replied, still grinning. "I just came up to tell you both we'll be increasing altitude soon and that you'll need air masks. The baron will be fine with his, but you both will need to put these on."
            She handed them each a mask which would cover most of their faces from the brutish wind. Clay pulled a pair of blue goggles from his jacket and placed them over his eyes while Grum retrieved something similar. That's when Samantha caught sight of the baron standing vigilant and unmoving. Even the baron’s black tail, mechanical and linked to his emotions, hadn't moved an inch since the mountains had been in sight.
            "You think The Manticore is still out there? You can fix 'er?" softly asked Grum, his own eyes soon staring at the solitary figure.
            "It's out there, but she'll never fly again," sighed Samantha. "This cold has likely destroyed most of whatever remains."
            "You're officially here to repair and return The Manticore," chimed in Clay through his mask.
            "Psh, yeah right. I know the baron might have said that, but that's not why I'm here."
            "Then why are you even here? To hand out breathers?" Clay mumbled, his gaze cutting her in half.
            "Well you two aren't exactly fine shoulders to cry on," Samantha huffed then turned and stormed back below deck.
            Grum and Clay stood there silently on the deck for a moment longer, gazing at the way the baron seemed so distant while remaining there vigilantly gazing out at the serene splendor of the countless peaks and valleys.
            "Sorry Commandant, but why so rough with 'er? She ain't hurtin' nothin'." Grum waited for an answer, but upon receiving none he eventually left to return below deck.
            Grum soon returned with much of his crew in tow and ordered them to their positions. It would take sharp eyes and keen reflexes to guide the ship through the unforgiving mountains while surveying the land for signs of The Manticore.
            They had reached the location marked upon their charts by the Yeti explorers, but only time would tell if their venture would prove worthwhile. As time slipped by, the temperature began to drop, as did the expectations of those onboard.
            "Are you alright?" Clay asked Samantha, sounding slightly annoyed. She had been sitting on the bow with her knees to her chest, her eyes on the baron.
            "Yeah, I'm okay," she replied, not bothering to look up. "The steam coming from his mask is kinda soothing I guess."
            "Aye, but he'll be better once we find The Manticore," Grum called up to themas he made his rounds about the ship.
            "You still convinced it's out there Bellefonte?" tested Clay.
            "Aye. I wasn't too sure at first, but seeing the baron like that? I know she's down there. I bet he kin smell the damn thing."
            Clay and Samantha gave Grum a pair of uncertain and slightly offended glares.
            "Just saying," Grum shrugged with a smirk. "I meant no disrespect. I should'a said 'sense,' er somethin. I know he ain’t a real fox er nothin’."
            "Well, we brought enough supplies," said Samantha. "We can certainly continue this for a few days, but I'm not sure we should..."
            Grum grabbed the girl and quickly turned her about. Samantha started to blurt out a curse, but immediately gasped in shock to see the baron's wild eyes silently staring back at the surprised trio. It was a second or so before any of them noticed the baron's extended finger pointing down to the crags below.
            "I see it!" cried out one of the crew. "There's a ship down there!"
            Half the crew leaned over the rails on the port side and stared down at the white sea. To their amazement, the frame of a very large ship jutted out like a fist into the sun.