My first encounter with the inimitable Mr. Kane.
|The morning had started at Mrs. Hudson's breakfast table. I had finished my coffee, and was carefully spreading a generous dollop of her homemade orange marmalade onto a perfectly toasted and well-buttered English muffin when she bustled in with Constantine the cat following behind her, ticking and whirring loudly. She snatched the muffin and the spoon from my hands and tossed them both into the sink. "You've no time for that, Vincent, come along!" Constantine had already turned around, and entered the parlor, taking a seat beside my usual chair. Draped on the chair was my customary travelling equipment, and Mrs. Hudson began helping me into the coat as quickly as we entered the room.
In no time at all, I was ready to travel the Aether. As I put my bell crown hat on and finished the adjustment of my goggles, my landlady reached behind the door. She brought out a long burlap-wrapped package, just over 8' long. She nodded to Constantine, and the clockwork cat floated up beneath my left hand. As I placed my hand on his head, she tossed the package to my right hand and shouted, "Good Luck!" As I caught it, we entered the Aether, directed by Constantine's unerring navigation. The mist was heavy as we traveled, and Constantine's clockwork drummed against my hand the whole trip. The burlap began to become slightly damp, and whatever it contained began to feel warm down close to my leg, and quite frigid up near my head. With a rather sudden push to the right, we exited our transit and came to a stop on a wooden deck shrouded in a dense fog, surrounded.
I didn't move a muscle as I assessed our situation. I was able to make out that what seemed to be a threat at first was not actually accurate. All the men surrounding us were faced outward, as if they were intentionally guarding our arrival spot. Having done a bit more travelling by now, I knew it was best to be silent and see what the lay of the land was before moving. I turned my head, and found we were not alone in the circle. I was standing back-to-back with a large man in a bright green sweater and a bowler hat. He whispered as I saw him, "Did Mrs. Hudson send you?" I whispered back, "Yes, she did. I assume this package is for you?" He turned slowly towards me, and I saw he had a very well-used cutlass in his left hand. He smiled broadly as his eyes fell on the burlap, which by now was steaming a little at the bottom, and had formed a thin coat of frost on the top. He nodded as he reached for the package. I handed it over to him, and he motioned for me to keep a grip on the burlap.
He reached carefully into the wrapping and twisted a little as he pulled. A very large, ornate harpoon emerged from the burlap. As the coverings fell free, the lower portion of the shaft began to glow a warm orange, while the head of the harpoon glowed a bright blue. I noted that the mist around us began to dissipate, revealing the familiar light green underbelly of the airship Pandora's lift stretching out over the deck. While the crew around us began to noticeably relax, they were still obviously concerned about whatever was out there in the billowing fog that surrounded us. A low-pitched howl sounded from the mist. It seemed to surround us, and finally trailed off into what I can only describe as a wet-sounding hiss. Taking the harpoon firmly in hand, Kane strode towards the bow of the Pandora, the mist falling away before him as the glow of the harpoon brightened even more.
As the mist rolled back away from the harpoon, a huge eye was revealed, nearly six feet across and surrounded by leather scaling that stretched away into the fog. He lifted the harpoon with a great bellow, and seemed ready to hurl it into the eye when Pandora began to suddenly rise like an express elevator. I realized that the airship must have been held in place by whatever creature had been gazing at us through that great orb, and the presence of the harpoon had caused our release. In moments, we found ourselves in the clear skies of the Aether, the aurora surrounding us like a stream of rainbows. As we re-wrapped the harpoon, the man in the bowler introduced himself as Spartacus Kane. I mentioned that I had read his action reports from the encounters with the Cloudwitch. He said simply, "That was some ugly business, and I fear it's not yet come to its conclusion." He suddenly brightened, and asked if I had had breakfast yet. I told him the short sad tale of my muffin, and he expressed a faux horror. "Well, we'll need to take care of that straightaway!" He beckoned me to follow him to the galley. As we went below, he said "There's nothing like Mrs. Hudson's marmalade, as you well know. We could surely have held that Kraken off long enough for you to have finished at least one muffin."
I found my voice as we entered the galley, "Did you say 'Kraken'?" He turned with a smile, "Certainly. They're not uncommon in the Aether, but it's pretty rare for one of them to accost an airship. Usually, that only happens with ones that are too young to know better or too old to care." I thought about that for a moment, rolling over in my head the tales of those great tentacled horrors that occupied their own special place in mythology.
"Well, which kind was that one?" I asked. He thought about it for a moment, as he fetched a large tray of freshly buttered English muffins from the warming shelf over the stove. "Pretty sure that was an old one, although he was a bit on the small side." He reached under the counter of the galley, producing a large jar of Mrs. Hudson's very own orange marmalade. He went on as he sat both on the table, "That's why I sent out the call for help, actually. His being able to tell the tale of coming away alive from an encounter with Ahab's Lance will serve him well with his brothers and sisters as he moves towards his end. It also verifies to the beasties once again that the Lance is not lost, and that's good for us." I thought over what we had just went through, and as we sat and talked I gained a new appreciation for warm buttered muffins, great marmalade, and stalwart men who would face down a Kraken with no intention of causing it harm.