Though hung-over, I awoke early. I knew I had to be in the Cay before Bardhaven's rented ship set sail. I knew it was called the Arranax...or was it Arrownocks, maybe it was the Adirondacks...goddess, I didn't know, and could really care less what it was called, I just knew to look for the only ship willing to set sail in broiling waters. I decided to dress in something naughty, something that drew attention to my buxom bossom...Goddess knew I had reason to do so (one of the reasons to read my "serious" intermission above). Then I went to the stables to see to it that Sean would get the carriage ready for the trip.
Well, that was a lesson in futility. Apparently Sean and Bernie drank too much the night before, and not only were both lads passed out stone cold from the Uisge Beatha, but somehow managed to break the rear axle of the carriage. Which managed to tilt over and crash upon my cask of Uisge. Sucking what little of the whiskey I could off the straw in the stables, I growled and cursed Sean and Bernie, and gave them each a kick, but they just stopped their loud snorings long enough to roll over and mutter deprecations in their sleep, before snoring louder than before.
Grumbling curses under my breath, I returned to the manor in no less than a foul mood. when I arrived there, there was a post from Dr. Darien Mason....a letter post-marked from the Caledon Regency Hospital....stating his search for Qli's mother Lucien, formerly known as Sumalee, from the Bloodtail Neko Tribe, and his desire that I would seek clues concerning her whereabouts! Apparently he believes there may be a connection between the various volcanoes of the world. He included this dagguerrotype:
Hot ash was floating everywhere, and there was crazy old Gott out in the pavillion yard with his hydrogen blimp, getting ready to make flight. Well, that in and of itself wouldn't bother me, because if the blimp exploded with him on it, that would be one less problem with which I had to deal. But the fact was, the fool wanted to take my babies for a ride. After a brief argument, I got the idiot to see that he could actually kill them. At which point he began to cry, and begged my forgiveness, and abandoned his plan.
Sighing deeply, I entered the manor, and there was poor old Millie, still hopping about like yesterday. Goddess, why is good help so hard to find? "Millie!" I exclaimed. As she did not know I was standing behind her, she veritably leaped in the air as if Bardhaven himself where there (and not a bad leap for an arthritic, hunchbacked, club-footed woman).
Trembling, she turned to look at me. "Oh m'lady, m'lady, m'lady...I had a horrible dream that Phillip would try to eat you!"
Again I groaned inwardly, "Goddess, why is good help so hard to find?"
"Millie," I said as patiently as I could, which was very little, actually, "Go to my room and pack my clothes. And my weapons. And while you are at it, scour every inch of my properties for any ounce of alcohol!"
"What clothes would m'lady desire?", she murmured.
I pondered a moment. I hadn't thought about that. But my musings were for just a breif flash in time. "Why all of them, of course, " I exclaimed, as if explaining to a child why it had to urinate IN the chamber pot, and not all around it, "I never will know what social circumstances will arise, and I rather have the appropriate wear and not need it, rather than not have the right outfit and need it."
She looked at me puzzled-like, not understanding my explanation. "Just pack the bloody clothing, will you Millie?! ALL of it!!" I exclaimed, "And ALL my weapons!....and, and....alcohol, every drop you can find!"
As I figured there were alot of "responsible" adults going with us, they would bring an abundant supply of all the other necessities, and I could always "glom" or buy it off of them. No sense in my bringing something someone else was going to bring anyways. Besides, it helped cultivate the idea that I was a sot that had no clue to the realities about me. But then I suddenly recalled that their food tastes might not be mine. "Oh yes, Millie! Don't forget to pack the Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, and Cantal cheeses! For that matter, all the cheeses!" One never knew if one of the Duchesses decided to have a cheese and wine tasting event along the way.
"Oh! And pack alot of bones as well!" I suddenly exclaimed (just another reason for my gentle readers to peruse the boring and "serious" backstory I wrote above).
Millie looked at me puzzledly, and asked, "Is Braveheart going as well?"
"Yes, ermm, I mean no, I mean....bloody hell, woman, it's not your job to question my orders! Just do it!"
Sensing that I was in a foul mood, which I have been in of late, she shuffled off in her odd, twisting gait to follow my demands. Meanwhile, I went to the kitchen, and acquired another bottle of sherry. I then proceeded to scourge all the furniture in the house, looking between and under the cushions for any lost Lindens or Caledonian pounds. Having found $53.28 L, I secured them in my reticule, then went to the stables to wake up the "boys". As they were still sleeping, I took a bucket, and scooping water out of the trough, rudely splashed them awake.
"Oh boys," I sing-sang unto them. Sputtering and cussing at first, when they suddenly saw it was me, they silenced their tongues. "Boys," I purred, in a sweetly menacing tone, "you have one of two choices." I took a swig of the cooking sherry.
"Yes, m'lady," they both stammered.
"You can either tell me why you disobeyed my orders last night, wrecked my carriage, and ruined my cask of Uisge Beatha....OR....you can follow through with the task which I am about to give you," I offered demurly, smiling as sickenly sweet as rotted melon.
They glanced at each other, then the carriage, then the ruined cask of Uisge. Finally, they stammered almost in unison, "What do you wish, m'lady?"
As I had already determined from the train station, that travel by train was imposssible because the high ash level in the atmosphere negatively affected the operation of Caledon's premier public transportation system, and as my buggy was defunct, and as all my horses except Iontaofa were completely spooked by Phillip's constant rumbling and gaseous expellations, I needed a porter system. So saddling Iontafa, I rode back to the manor with Sean and Bernie in glum tow behind me.
Millie had finished packing by then, so I then got Millie and the two lads to cart the items for me. Millie's hunched back and wiry strength proved her to be a better porter than Sean and Bernie combined, even if she did shuffle along at a slower, if yet steady gait. Kissing my babies "good-bye", and threatening Gott with DIRE consequences to his blimp if my bairns even had a scratch on them when I returned, I again leapt into Iontaofa.
Once again I headed to the Cay. After a side-stop at Aldo Stern's Falling Anvil Pub to stock up on the Guinesss, a tedious journey ensued of listening Bernie and Sean accuse each other of wrecking "m'lady's carriage", and Millie muttering "Mea Culpa's", "Noster Pater's", and "Avie Maria's", we finally reached the Cay docks. I directed my underlings to load my goods on the good ship Lolly Pop, Adirondack, Arranox, whatever it bloody well was called, and by this time was too drunk to care. I got into an argument with a vendor who claimed I was too drunk for him to sell me Lava Lager...turning my back to him, I took a swallow of my "antidote" (yet ONE more reason to read my backstory intermission), and after a minute proved I could handle my liquor. He sold me the lager I desired. My Sidhe senses picked up Lord Bardhaven's idle comment about me being the "bearded lady". After looking in my pocket mirror, and seeing no facial hair, but indeed a dab (just a small smidgeon), of lager froth on my chin, I assumed the Baron was less educated than he purported, and meant, in childish English, to say "beered" lady....now I know that is not even close to recognizable to proper usage of Queen's English, but then again, I suspect his education is not as well-schooled as he pretends. His inability to appropriately to apply the correct Latin phrases for a given situation already proved that.
Sending Sean and Bernie away home with Iontaofa, I started down the dock toward the ship (at this point I was way too drunk to care what it was called, and even more drunk than to care about its crude sailors, and garish captain, who apparently thought of himself as some Wolf Larson-Blackbeard inbred offspring, sporting an eyepatch (which from time to time he lifted up surreptitiosly and peered at any woman he thought beauteous), with a plushie-toy parrot attached to his shoulder, which he would squeeze when a Lady passed by him, and it would say to them, "Awwrackkk ... your a pretty girl!". He called himself Capt. Jacques Sparrow. He wore a hat that was a hundred years out of fashion, under which dreadlocks poked out, and had a meat-hook duck-taped around his left hand. He claimed he lost his hand to a shark, but I could clearly see several finger tips poking out from under the tape. Even though his beard was black, I could see his blonde and grey roots. It seemed he and all his sailors were all preoccupied with my bossom, and even though I had a tinkling in the back of my mind why they should, I couldn't put my finger on it (YET another reason to read my boring and "serious" intermission backstory.
Shortly afterword, halfway up the dock, I ran into Lord Bad-behavin' himself (OOOPS! Did I say that outloud?), ermm, I mean Lord Bardhaven himself. He said some comments to Millie, which sent her into a frothing tizzy. Looking her firmly in the eye, I said, "Fertig Jetz!" and smacked her hard in the face. She fell to the ground, shuddered, said a Noster Pater, and looking at me with new awe in her good eye (bad one being sewed up), and rasped respectfully, "Thank you M'Lady!"
When I boarded, I heard Duchess Gabrielle ask the best question I heard all day. "Dom Perignon, anybody?"
Hastily raising my hand, and putting away my silver flask of cooking sherry, I took that which she offered. I tottered over to Gnarlihotep Abel. He was seated on an apple barrle. I knew that, as the barrel was clearly marked "Apples", even though I saw a tail swishing out of one of it more than numerous holes, more than is necessary in an apple barrel. Besides, I could smell apples wafting from it. I had determined I wanted one of his penguins. Not as a meal, mind you, as Bardhaven so clearly wanted, but as a porter. They seemed so much more deft at the task than Millie. After a prolonged wrangling bartering session, and in which he kept glancing at my bossom (in my drunken state I still couldn't figure out why), I finally convicned the young Gnarli to surrender me one of his penguins with the promise of not only a commission as a Major in my Bauerhoff Cavalry Homeguard, but the titling of knighthood, which would surely assure him of a future union with Kiralete, Bardhaven's ward. At the mention of knighthood for Gnarli, I could have sworn I heard a pleasant "mew" from the barrel.
The deal sealed, he ambled off. At this point I was hungry, and eyed the apple barrel. Looking around to ensure no one was looking, I opened the lid to pilfer an apple. As I reached in, I saw a red-headed Neko. Not Kirawell red, but Kiralette Red. The red only a good but mischievous kitty would have. She smiled sheepishishly and mewed. I smiled conspiratorily and winked back. At that point, I heard an "ahem", and quickly thrusting the lid home, turned to see Lord Bardhaven! Blessedly, I had grabbed an apple from the barrel already, and turned and smiling at him, in my most pretend drunken way (AGAIN, another reason to read the backstory!!!!!!), giggled rather inappropriately as he started at my chest continuoulsy (and laughing inside myself as I finally remmebered WHY he and everybody else was!), said most coyly, "Ahhhh, Baron Bardhaven!" He smiled brazenly, until I said in a mysterious tone, "or should I say "Dread Baron?"
He suddenly looked agitated, enough so that he didn't notice Kiralette's tail switching nervously from the apple barrel. But I did, and backed up enough to allow my voluminous gown to cover Kiralette's tail. I smiled in my most demure manner, and taking a bite from the apple, offered him a bite. He declined. I expected as much. We both often let on that we underestimate each other, but I suspected he suspected more of me than he let on, and vice versa. Finally summoning the strength to look away from my bossom (it was then I knew he had enough power to be drawn to my locket, yet had not enough power to discern why), he looked down at my trailing skirts.
"Lady Amber," he enquired as graciously as he could, "is that a tip of a tail I see peeking beneath your frock?"
Remembering the Neko blood that faintly ran through my mother's veins, I allowed my feline ears to grow just so, and pushing my luxurious raven locks out of the way, revealed them to Bardhaven. "Ahhhhhh, yes, m'lord! Did you not know I have a smidgeon of neko blood in me?"
Taken aback, the dark baron replied, "Why no, I mean yes...of course, Lady Amber...enjoy your drink....as a matter of fact, have another....", he offered, as he poured me a drink from his flagon and wandered away, more than a little confused, it appeared to me.
I whispered to Kiralette-in-a-barrel, "Your secret is mine!", as I ambled below-decks to find my cabin. On the way down, I ran across Dr. Oolon Sputnik. He seemed pleasanlty surprised to see me, and as he made small-talk finding our cabins, his gaze kept wandering to my bossom. Well, at least I know the spell works!
And at last! Just as the ship was about to set sail, Persaon jumped aboard and joined my side. He mentally gave me the report I needed to know. (AGAIN...that BORING, serious backstory needed). I glared briefly at Bardhaven conversing unsuccesfully with Captain Jaques "Cousteu" Sparrow. "The Ruffian King indeed!", I harumphed mentally!