Join me on a journey through the first chapter of Architects of Illusion, a young adult historical fantasy series inspired by the land and legacy of Biltmore Estate, where Greek mythology meets The Book Thief and Fantastic Beasts! Look for Part Two on Friday, June 15th.
The Titan’s Trap
April 14, 1912
North Atlantic Ocean
A quiet danger slithered beneath the surface of the midnight sea. For nearly four nights the creature stalked its prey, watching, waiting, until the manmade metal beast had traveled deep into the wild depths, far from the salvation of any shore.
In truth, the ship was doomed the moment its bow kissed the tide.
I would know. I was there.
The maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic was history in the making. Considering I am History, I felt I should attend.
The creators of the Titanic did indeed make their mark in the history books, but not for the reasons they had hoped. The records of history, however, rarely reveal the entire story. They are a blend of truth and illusion, created by architects who honor but one grand design.
Those who study and document the events of human affairs never consult me directly. If they had, the actual account of the Royal Mail Ship’s fate would have taken a far darker turn.
Beneath the passengers’ false sense of safety stirred a malevolent force found only in the pages of their storybooks. In these stories, a wicked beast is defeated by the heroism of humans. But this was no fairytale. In the real world, it’s the monsters who win.
This particular monster was a cetus, a giant sea serpent called, Menkar. His serpentine body was covered in impenetrable silver scales that stretched over a hundred feet in length and weighed nearly two hundred tons. His flexible neck supported a spike-covered skull that narrowed into jaws lined with rows of bone daggers, ending in a piercing beak. Cetea were the largest, most fearsome predators of the deep. If their frightful appearance wasn’t enough to give one nightmares, their breath of deadly ice would do the trick.
It was Poseidon who sent Menkar to retrieve an ancient talisman rumored to be on board. A dangerous and powerful key—that is what led to the Titanic’s demise.
Menkar circled the belly of the ship, sniffing its seams for signs of weakness. He believed every hull built by human hands was one fatal flaw away from being breached. The iron bones and steel skin of the Titanic were no exception. Its rivets failed to fasten the metal plates of the brittle hull. The walls of the presumed watertight compartments never reached the ceiling, allowing the sea to flow from one room to the next with ease. The ship, I’m sorry to say, would not have withstood a hurricane, much less a monster who spent millennia digging graves for Poseidon.
Mortals believed the sea was theirs to conquer, no matter the centuries of storms and shipwrecks that swallowed their flesh and spit their bones upon the sand. But the sea never bent to their will, for it cannot be bound with ropes of greed, nor stilled by anchors of ambition. It was a restless and savage beauty with a hunger for arrogance.
That dark night, hubris took the shape of a ship named after a Titan, insulting the temperamental god of the sea. Humans watched the waves cower at their titan’s feet like subjects worshipping a queen. They celebrated their accomplishment before the paint on their pretentious deity was dry.
History was lined with the deaths of ignorant men.
And ignorance, I’ve found, too often repeats itself.
Sea serpents were eager to remind humans of their proper place. Though depicted as a ravenous villain, Menkar found humans to be highly unappetizing creatures with an unsavory aftertaste. He much preferred the familiar tang of aquatic life over detestable land dwellers. He did, however, relish the art of sinking the vexing souls, simply out of principle.
Menkar wasn’t born a bloodthirsty beast. It was the weight of loss that shifted him into something sinister.
A fierce guardian of a dying breed, Menkar was a formidable foe for man and immortal alike. He bore the marks of infinite battles, but the greatest scar remained unseen, carved deeper than bone, from a tragic turn of the Ethiopian tide.
Millenia ago, Menkar’s mate, Mira, was sent to punish a proud queen who had offended Poseidon. A task that led, not to the queen’s demise, but to her own. Mira’s death became legend. The cetus who fell under the sword of Perseus.
I have seen the devastating power of loss. It sharpen one’s shape until there’s nothing left but barbed edges.
Menkar’s thirst for vengeance could never be sated. It mattered little that his victims were innocent of the crimes committed in the past. He was blinded by one of the greatest monsters of all.
And so, with a heavy armor of hate, Menkar slipped through the salt, his breath leaving a trail of shards winking in his wake. He passed the nose of the ship, sparing one final glance at his prey, and darted into the distance.
With a wicked yawn, Menkar’s magical breath stretched and curled until if formed a solid mountain of unforgiving ice.
The trap was set.
© 2018 Samantha Redstreake Geary