Saturday, August 4, 2007
The Journey to…the Mysterious Island - Amber's Part The First
As I moodily contemplated the future of Caledon, I watched a band of urchins thronging about Lord Bardhaven, their grasping, grimy hands grappling about him while he batted them them away with disdainful disgust. A manged mutt of indiscriminate breeding, with threatening growls attempted to bite the lord in defense of its little master, only to be the recipient of such a glare that suddenly whimpering, it tucked its tail between it legs and tried to escape, but not before Bardhaven's boot caught it solidly in its rump, sending it yelping and tumbling floppy-eared head-over-tail several yards, uncermoniously skidding into a sickening thump against a Phillip plushie toy vendor stall, knocking it over and scattering little toy volcanoes across the market square, which where soon lost in a wash of hands. One of the little buggers managed to snatch a copper from the gentleman of Three Graces(which term I at times thought questionable to apply to the Baron, but always kept such musings to myself), just as lady Eva urged her powerful steed Bucephalus into the crowd, scattering them. The frightened little thief sped toward my direction, cluthing his ill-gotten possesion tightly, and as he passed by me, with Fey speed and strength I grabbed ahold of his scrawny wrist, and applying pressure, forced him to open his palm. Thrashing with wild futility, he stared at me with wide eyes while I calmly plucked his treasure from his grip.
"I'll take this, thank you lad...that is, unless you want the law involved", I growled, while pointing my eyes toward a pair of bobbies striding toward the disbanded mob of cutpurses.
With tears in his bulging eyes, the youngling immediately lost all fight, and relinquishing any claim on the pence, slunkered away in defeat. When I turned my eyes back towards Bardhaven's direction, he was already in his carriage, speeding away to Three Graces, leaving the crowd to find its own means of avoiding his hasty departure. "Oh well, I'll return him his copper later," I thought to myself, and handing it to Sean, directed him to get me another lager.
Sir Alex having taked his own steed on to attend to the business of forming my household cavalry, Sean drove Millie, the babies and I back to my country manor. The ride back to Bauerhoff in the Moors was unevently, filled with the usual inanities and insanities of Millie muttering to herself, going on and on about "that Devil" and "Phillip", occasionally mumbling a Noster Pater or an Ave Maria regarding either problem to herself. Seeing that I was in a foul mood, she averted her eye from mine the entire trip. My second lager long since empty, I directed Sean to stop at the Pavillion. I had hoped to find maybe one more drop of liquor left. To my great aggravation, I discovered Millie was only partly correct in her assessment of my lack of alcohol. Indeed, two of the bottles of Uisge Beatha were empty, but the cask was quite full. Filling up one of the used bottles from the barrel, I stalked back to my carriage fuming, taking several calming sips. I ordered Millie to carry the cask back to the buggy as punishment for her inability to properly foresee what my needs would be. Even though she was scrawny, she had amazing wiry strength. Besides which, her humpback proved a perfect location for porting heavy items such as casks, and crates and what-not, which might be said to be the only advantage of her services to me, which I would soon all-to-well discover. I sent Millie back to the Pavillion to clean up the mess from the previous evening's Lughnassad festivities, while I decided to direct Sean to the manor.
Upon our arrival I regretted leaving Millie behind at the pavillion, as I still had to unload the cask from the hansom. But Sean, bless his bright-eyed heart, had a steady hand, and quite some strength for a strapling young man of 18 summers, and he cheerily offered to unload it. I promised him that after he attended to his normal duties, as well as a special task I had for him that afternoon and evening, that he could later invite his friend Bernie over and share a bottle's worth of the Uisge. He grinned immensely, and being a bright lad, quickly went about his duties. I informed him that first he had to baby sit the children for me, which he didn't mind, as he liked to often play with them, and besides me, he was the only person Elijah would never bite.
Having accomplished said tasks, I attended the tea that late afternoon in Kittiwickshire, then hied myself to the Bookbinder's Ball (which incidently was a magnificent event...it made me proud to be a Caledonian, and greatly honoured that Sir JJ Drinkwater and the librarians had taken residence in Caledon). Lady Eva had cleansed spiritually the Primvernesse Ballroom, and there was nothing other but joy and goodwill the entire evening. Sir JJ recieved the highest honour of the Lapin d'Or, whilst the other librarians the Lapin d'Argent. After the ball, I made a swift journey through the portals left by ancient Elder Ones to Steelhead to attend another event. But I was quite anxious to return home. I was expecting a very important post, which was supposed to arrive by day's end.
When I returned, Sean and Bernie were practically bouncing on their feet awaiting my arrival. Being in a good mood after several relaxing and joyful events, I graciously gave each of the lads each a bottle full and sent them on their way to the stables, warning them to not roam the countryside afterwards. I checked in on my babes, they were sleeping peacefully. I could hear Millie's ramblings echoing up from the cellar, so I proceeded, bottle in hand, to my study, where Sean would have left any posts. After such a bad start to the day, it was ending splendidly, and if I received that for which I long-awaited, all the miseries of the morning would be quickly forgotten!
To my surprise, my study door was partly open, lit within by lamplight. I scowled, thinking about the reprimand I would give Sean in the morning. Opening the door all the way, I stormed in and stopped in shock. There was someone sitting in my chair, at my desk, with their back to me! "What is the meaning of this!" I exclaimed angrily.
Slowly the chair turned. "Tsk, tsk, what a way to greet a kinsman, my dear Amber, after being absent many months," a well-familiar mellow bass rumbled.
I never knew the bottle left my hand, till I heard it smash on the floor, each individual scintillating tinkle of shattering glass acutely heard, as I stared with open-mouthed shock into the face of Colonel Gottfried Eusebio, abdicated 15th Baron of Bauerhoff...my brother! In his hands were two envelopes...one unopened, with the seal of the house of Bardhaven, the other, opened, with the seal of the Chancery's Office...the post which I long-awaited!
"Gott," I whispered, my throat suddenly gone dry, "What are you doing here?!" At this point I deeply regretted dropping the Uisge.
His right leg draped gracefully over the other, he took a long draw from his pipe, blowing aromatic smoke rings in the air...rum-scented, to be exact, which set a craving off within me, while he regarded me steadily, his green werewolf eyes glowing softly. He seemed so much more...sane...than the last time I beheld him. I shuddered involuntarily, foreboding coming over me.
"My, my, sister dear, don't be so overjoyed at seeing me," he purred, "You don't even seem concerned about how I have been this past year. Oh, by the way, I think this is yours."
He casually tossed me the unopened envelope, with the Bardhaven seal, which, my senses returning to me, I deftly caught, but intentionally ignored. My eyes riveted on the very important envelope in his hands, the one addressed to me, the one he opened, I casually sparred back in a flat tone, "How have you been, dear brother," while in a more sharp note stated, "And I believe the other mine is mine as well."
"Ahhh, yes, we'll get to the matter of this presently," he drawled, flourishing the Chancery Office envelope dramatically. "But first, as to where I was..." His eyes grew distant, his voice softer, "I was incensed with madness, dear sister. After having abdicated the Barony to you, and forced to face the ignoble and humiliating experience of giving you my beloved blimp, my mind lost all grasp of reason. Visions and voices filled my head. I was compelled to travel to Lauk, to the land of the Itchysporkchowchow..."
At this point I was getting aggravated at his sense of the melodrama, and interrupted, "Gott, that is silly...you went to the land of the Icky-icky-icky-icky-P'tang, Zzoo-Boing, gdgdbaaoizen?!"
Suddenly coming out of his revery, he said in a decidedly patronizing tone, "Now you are being silly, sister...not the land of the Knights till have recently said 'Ni'... the land of the Itchysporkchowchow! I was in search of something quite valuable there, till the land was destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption. I barely escaped with my life, stowing away on this ship quickening to set sail from Port Lauk 'The Ruffian King'."
Suddenly, he leapt to his feet, the mad glaze back in his eyes, shouting, "If I would have had my bloody blimp, which you finagled off of me, I would not have had to do unspeakable things to mollify the captain of the ship from telling the owner of the ship, some dread Baron Bardhoffen-something-or-the-other, of my presence, and escaped on my own!!!" Spittle flew from his mouth as he ranted, and some foam dribbled down his wolfen furry chin.
I rolled my eyes at him, now definitely assured that he was still crazy. I really needed a drink. Then I recalled that in the drawer of my writing desk there was a bottle of Absinthe, one of those little complimentary types you get at hotels, which I acquired from Sheriff Thaddeus Riel while making a visit to Tombstone in search of my long-lost Laudanum-driven cousin Copal Riel, who went mad pining for her sailor husband who failed to return from his nautical voyagings for 10 years. Opening the drawer I snatched the little treasure out, and finished it in one pull. I then gave Gott the look only a mother can give to a wayward 3 year-old, or a nurse at the Tamrannoch Sanitorium gave its patients. "OK, Gotti," I said soothingly, "It's ok. You are safe now, home, with sissy here to take care of you."
As he was pacing back and forth distraughtly, my presence all forgotten, mumbling constantly "The horror, the horror," I decided to give him time to recover some semblance of normality, and opened up Bardhaven's missive. It began with the usual pompous ramblings of the self-obsessed, "The Lord Bardhaven, Lord Zealot Benmurgui, yada-yada-yada, by the grace of blah-blah-blah, under the Authority of Vicereine Kamillah Hauptmann, King Phillip Linden the First, Guv'nah Desmond Shang, The Duchesses of Carntaigh, Loch Avie, Lionsgate, and Primvernesse, and the Auspices of the Royal Society...etc., etc., etc...(interspersed with all sorts of phrases in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Edler Ones' tongue), I do hereby summon you to join this expedition to NEWLY FORMED VOLCANIC ISLAND OF PHILLIP, situated in the Middle Sea of Caledon, and so forth...."
I stood stock-still, staring at the letter. I read it again. I couldn't believe I was being drawn into what I was certain would become a debacle. Yet if the Duchesses were going, I couldn't be left behind. I couldn't refuse. What would people say? I would most definitely lose the respect of my society. Sighing deeply, I knew what I had to do.
Leaving Gott to his ramblings about being in the midst of the heart of darkness, I swiftly made my way to the kitchem and grabbing a bottle of cooking sherry downed it in one swallow. Snatching another bottle, I returned to my study, where Gott was still raving, though in a much more subdued manner. When he saw me, the madness left his eyes once again, and a dangerous cunning shone forth. He waved the missive from the Chancery's Office before my eyes, which said organs followed possesively and hungrily. I couldn't let him have that!
"Well, well, well, my dear sister, you decided to remember there are more important things than your precious bottle! Come back for this, did you?" he rumbled in a threatening tone. "Well, I won't let you have it, except on one condition!"
All my hopes settled on that one piece of paper, that ancient document, that Letters Patent dating back to April 6th, 1560, establishing the Bauerhoff Barony and its crest from Queen Elizabether the First herself. Gott had sent to the Chancery's Office his own abdication of his position as Baron under my insistence a year ago, and now it had been approved by the Crown itself, King Phillip Linden the First, and the original Letters Patent sent to me, to be in my possesion. But if Gott refused now to give me what was rightfully mine....
"What, Gott? What? What do you want?", I said almost pleadingly, tears in my eyes. "What do you wish of me?" I pulled long and hard from the sherry, to give me strength for his demands.
"I want my blimp back!" he asserted boldy, the madness clear in his eyes. "I want it, I want, I want it!!!", he began to rail like a two-year-old robbed of its toy, stomping his foot petulantly and pouting. "It's mine, and I want it back!"
A slow smile crossed my face, as I found a solution to two problems. As always, when Gott became like this, he became putty in my hands. Giving him my kindest smile, I purred, "Sure Gott, you can have your blimp back, on one condition..."
Malleable as ever, now mollified, meekly he murmured, "Really? I can? what's the condition?"
Now for the tour-de-force, because the only thing I could ever trust Gott with were my babes...he doted on them beyond reason, and was fiercely protective of them, his niece and nephew, heirs to the Barony, because he knew under his condition he never could have children. "Gott dear," I manipulatively intoned, "You can take care of my babies for a month, if you give me the Letters Patent. AND you can have your blimp back!" I callously failed to mention I had a better blimp, a zeppelin actually, the LS0001 Graf Luftschiff.
I didn't need his silly old blimp anymore. He suddenly melted like butter in a pan, tears of happiness rolling from his eyes. I smiled my sweetest, and reaching into my reticule pulled out the keys to his blimp, and gesturing with my eyes toward the prize I sought the most, dangled the keys before his eyes. Like a puppy at the teat, he took the keys, absent-mindedly dropping the documents to the floor, and started prancing about like a pixie in a poppy field.
Grinning, I deftly snatched up the documents, and perused them. I proudly read that venerable decree from long ago:
Elizabeth, Dei gratia Angliæ, Franciæ & Hiberniæ Regina, fidei defensor,&c.
Omnibus ad quos præsentes literæ pervenerint, salutem.
Be it hereby recognized by all, that the Crowne hereby granteth this Letters Patent,
which certifyeth that our Loyal Servant, Sir Rufus Eusebio-Palowakski, Baronet of
Bauerhoff, be hereby entered into the rolls of the Peerage, with all said privelages as pertaineth unto a Baron of the Realm, including the rights of said Title, and fiefdomme of the Barony of Bauerhoff de Caledon, and seat in Parliamente, and Coat of Arms, which shall consist of a shield tierced pallwise, on the chief a field Gules shall be a Chalice Or emblazoned with the fluer de lis Vert, on the Dexter a field Or shall be a Crowned Lion Rampant Gules facing Sinister, on the Sinister a field Vert shall be a Pascal Lamb Passant Argent, the crest being a Unicorn Head Caboshed Argent with tongue Gules, facing Sinister, and a Mantle of the colours of the Tartan Caledon. This title and and attendant privelages shall be considered in pertuata, with the especial privelage granteth by the Crowne which permitteth said holder to name his successor, be it sonne or daughter, brother or sister, but if no such heir exists, said title and lands thereby return to the Crowne.
Dat. apud Palacium nostrum de Westmonasterio, sexto die Aprilis. Anno regni nostri secundo.
At long last, my hopes have been attained! No longer just heir-apparent, acting Baroness of the Barony of Bauerhoff de Caledon, but Baroness indeed! Now only one thing remained. Well, two things. First and foremost, joining Lord Bardhaven's expedition to Phillip, to ensure that Caledon (AND, most importantly, my Barony, which was now fully and rightfully mine), were not destroyed, as well as to keep an eye on Bardhaven, which some sources rumoured that he had his eyes on my Barony anyways, as they claimed, (though I was not able to ascertain for sure), that he was distantly related to me on my great-aunt's uncle-in-law's great-grandfater's cousin's niece's husband's mother's father's side), and that he could prove it, though I doubted it. The other thing was to make sure Gott was committed to the Tamrannoch Sanitorium when I returned. Anybody who spouted off nonsense about imaginary lands called Lauk inhabited by equally ridicululously named inhabitants such as Itchysporkchowchow surely needed better care than that to which I could attain. I need to talk to my inside source there, Mr. Icterus Dagger, upon my return from this mysterious journey.
Tomorrow I shall begin packing for this venture. As dear, old, crazy brother Gott scampered off to play with the bairns, I headed to the stables to join Sean and Bernie for a drink or two or three (or 10 or 12). And maybe other fun, if I didn't pass out.