Friday, August 3, 2007
The Journey to…the Mysterious Island - Amber's Prologue - Installment Two
After what seemed like forever, Millie ambled in, her shuffling gait making the floorboards squeak in an odd fashion. Scowling at her, I snatched the martini and took a swallow, immediately spewing the contents out. Thankfully she was in the path of the liquid projectile, sparing my wallpaper and carpet a mess she would have made worse in her pathetic attempts to clean. And as she always seemed filthy anyways, the martini now dripping down her face might actually be the closest she would come to a bath in months.
"Goddess, Millie! This is awful! What did you do to my drink?" I angrily exclaimed.
She immediately began her nervous foot-hopping, hand-wringing routine again, head hanging down as I glared at her. Elijah perched on one hip, my hand on the other, I tapped my foot impatiently, awaiting an answer. In a way, I felt sorry for the half-witted wretch, but this just will not do. My patience was already strained to its limits for the morning. All I wanted a simple martini.
"I...I..I'm sorry, m...m..m'lady," she stammered, "but we are out of gin and vermouth....I...I...improvised."
I arched an eyebrow. "Improvised?"
"Yes, m'lady, I used cooking sherry and pine oil."
I was flabbergasted. The day was already getting worse, if that were possible. "Why didn't you go to the pavillion and get some Uisge Beatha?"
"I did go, m'lady," she replied in a whisper, "Your guests drank it all last night."
I sighed aloud. "No matter. We have something important to do. Gather up Elizabeth, and let's go find Sean, and have him hitch up the carriage." We would have to take the babies with us, as my last nanny, Bessy, upon hearing that gambling was now banned everywhere, went into a state of mental depression so deep she became catatonic and I had to commit the poor lass to the Tamrannoch Sanitorium, and I daren't trust Millie to the babies alone.
As she shuffled to the stables, I made a detour to the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of cooking sherry. By the time I reached the coach, I already had half the bottle empty. Sean gave me a bright salute and cheery smile, as he held the door open for me and assisted Millie and me up into the carriage. I told him to go to the Cay, and set my mind on brooding while I rocked Elijah.
It seems that I was not the only person headed to the Cay. Indeed, it seemed as if all of Caledon, and a good portion of Steelhead, New Babbage, both Tombstones, Neufreistadt, Neualtenburg, and Deadwood/Yankton were crowding in the port village. Sean had a difficult time manuevering around the milling curiosity-seekers. There was quite the festive atmosphere, and apparently some intrepid mainland former casino owners had set up stalls everywhere, selling all sorts of "Phillip" items, and taking side-bets on how long Caledon would last. Admitedly I was quite confused. At last I saw Sir Alex in the crowd, looking for me. I had Sean stop the buggy, and I alit from my seat. I felt like I was in the middle of a carnival. Apparently there was this huge volcanic island poking out of the Middle Sea. Every now and then it would belch forth magma balls, and the crowd would "ooohh" and "aahhh" as if there were a fireworks show in process. Sir Alex came up to me, and humbly bowing, stated he was glad to see me well. Seeing a "Lava-Lager" venodr nearby, I sent Sean to pick me one up, as I had by now finished the sherry. Sir Alex filled me in on some of the details of the recent events as we awaited Sean's return. Now at last I knew who "Phillip" was, a massive inhabited volcanic island in the Middle Sea, about to destroy life as we know it. When Sean brought back my lager, I ordered him to stay with the carriage while I and my small entourage made our way to the docks.
There, Countess Kate Nichols and the entirety of the Royal Society for the Advancement of Knowledge in the Natural Sciences were gathered and seemed to be in quite a state of panic and dismay. The Duchesses Carntaigh and Loch Avi were milling about, agitated as well. From what snatches of conversation I could get, it seemed the end of the world (or Caledon, at any rate), was at hand, and the Society had no funds to send an expedition to stop the event. I began to grow concerned, and fishing in my reticule I found my last seven Lindens, (the rest having been spent on parcel rents, SLRFL, and tipping the DJ's at my ball last night), and offered them to the Society. Lady Kate stared at me blankly for a moment, then sweetly smiled and thanked me but suggested I could better help the Society if I donated my prim hat. Always wanting to help charities, I gladly gave it to her, and told her I had more back at that manor.
At that point, I saw Lord Bardhaven approach. He flashed me a smile, then turned a cool gaze on Millie. She cringed and hissed and made the sign of the cross, spitting out the words "Devil!" His smile turned to ice, and sqealing in terror, Millie hid behind me, and began reciting the Ave Maria in Latin. Lord Bardhaven flashed his smile at me again, and said to me, "I am glad to see things are working out with your help." I just grunted and curtsied, as he flourished a bow, and then he proceeded to address the Royal Society.
“I couldn’t help but overhear that you are a bit strapped for operating funds, vis a vis, an expedition to dear Phillip out there. I think I could see my way clear to underwriting such important work pro bono…of course, quid pro quo, ipso facto, there would be certain…accommodations I would demand, ad nauseaum, habeas corpus, e pluribus unum.”
The Society on their part gladly accepted Lord Bardhaven's offer, though I had a deep suspicion that they were going to get a "Millie" on their hands. In the pit of my stomach I had a deep foreboding. Indeed, the day was getting worse, and my lager was empty.