Journey to… the Mysterious Island: Seavoyage

August 26, 2007 at 3:58 am (Caledon, Mysterious Island, original poetry/prose)

Zealot Benmergui, Baron of BardHaven, cheats at cards, even when they’re Tarot cards. No, he doesn’t do so in the conventional sense; there are no Death cards up his sleeve, and certainly he hasn’t managed to mark my own deck. But he can be very … distracting … and make a girl forget what she was about to do. Or what game is actually being played.

“Go fish,” he smirked.

“But I– I t’ought I had a straight flush!”

“I think, my dear, the only straight one on this barge is Sputnik. And evenso, he is a Commodore in the Navy, is he not? Have you ever seen him dancing with the other sailors, mmm? Perhaps before he aged so rapidly?”

“I… euh… I don’ remember…” I drew a card from the top of the deck. The Page of Swords. “Ehm… yeh may have a point…”

The Baron drew a card too, then said something that sounded like “McMulligan”, discarded his entire hand, then drew seven new cards.

“But… but I have only six…”

“My dear Darkling, surely such intimacy is not only inappropriate to disparage so, but imprudent to mention on deck, whilst in the midst of so many jolly seamen.”

I tried to ignore the snickering of the sails above us. Cheeky baseborn ninnies. “Six! Six! I said six!”

“Very well, if you wish to announce it so loudly, you cannot expect us gentlemen aboard to be able to protect your honour from their advances indefinitely.”

Spluttering would be no use, I knew that much by now. So I threw my cards down, face up, on the crate we were using as a table, and announced, “Check. And mate!”

“Didja finlly winnone, Darrklingk?” slurred the Baroness of Bauerhoff, Amber, from two crates away. I did not look at her, as she had been playing strip solitaire, and losing, for hours. Miss Terry had already caught me staring at Lady Amber’s décolletage twice and her own thrice and asked me if I was from a specific island in the Mediterranean. I laughed it off then, attributing it to her noticing my assumed surname was Greek, but had no desire to be caught staring again.

“Quite so. Another game, Darkling?”

“Hmmm…” I considered the cards on the crate. The Queen of Cups danced a taunting little dance, grinning up at me, and the Knight of Pentacles was doing unspeakable things with his sword to the Star. Her blood was like a brilliant flow of rainbows. Somehow, I managed to tear my eyes away. “Perhaps later, once the cards have cooled down a bit.”

Lady Amber then stood, gathered her own cards, wrapped them in a yellow silk scarf, and tucked them down into her generous cleavage. “Drinkie, anyone?” She raised eyebrows at us both. Lord Zealot and I shook our heads, at which my tankard gushed thanks at not being handed over to Lady Amber and filled again to the brim with firewater. I’m Irish, and even Amber’s ability to give vast amounts of alcohol a warm gurgling home astonishes me.

She drew a shawl around her shoulders (to the disappointment of the sailors looking on), then moved with surprising grace across the deck and down the stairs below. I smiled warmly at her as she passed. Lady Amber reminds me a great deal of one of my favourite sisters, now centuries gone, who had had the poor grace (and great insight) to die of alcohol poisoning in the revelries prior to her marriage to an English Viscount, thus sticking me with the odious task of marrying the lout. I’d tried to follow her, but I just can’t drink that fast.

As soon as Lady Amber was out of earshot, I leaned over the crate and whispered conspiratorially to Lord Zealot. “As I was sayin earlier… I couldn’t see teh scoolpture clearly in me vision, but I tink it was grey and smooth, like polished granite or marble. Maybe it hadn’t rezzed yet. It was definitely too big for one person to carry aloone.” And I would be staying up late with magikal needle and thread tonight, enlarging the mouth of my small beaded purse so that I could fit it inside, I added silently.

“And in your… dream… did you see any guards?” he asked intently. We had been trying to finish this conversation about my ever-increasing visions for hours, unheard.

“Nay, but there was soomtin guardin it. Soomtin nasty. T’ere were bones strewn all around on teh cave floor.”

“Indeed… and have you spoken of these visions with anyone else?”

“Nay, Zealot. I t’ought, as yeh were teh one fundin dis ting, yeh were most entitled to a, ah, return on yehr investment.”

I don’t actually lie very well. Especially to my friends. He raised an eyebrow at me, clearly not accepting my answer, silently prompting me for more.

“And. Well. Whate’er de ting is,” I admitted, “it’s bloody powerful, and I doon’t want to see it fought o’er by noblewomen who wish to redecorate our gardens, or placed in de town square by a well-meanin bohemian, or claimed ‘for scientific study’ by Oolon. If it’s as powerful as it… feels… I wanta be able to actually use it. Yeh’d share wit’ me, wouldn’t yeh?”

“Of course, when I have you to thank for leading me to it.” I believed the Baron. We’d been allies since we’d met last winter in a House of Ill Repute and Comfy Cushions. I’d been working as hostess and he was merely there to, ah, play cards. “Hmm.. that is quite intriguing, Miss Elytis.” Lord Zealot drew his revolver and polished it thoughtfully. Lady Amber then returned, carrying three tankards of ale.

“Zealot!” I exclaimed peevishly, “How many times must I remind yeh that I am not a Miss?! I am a Madame (retired), and a Lady of Caledon! Get it right, or I’ll start callin yeh ‘laddie’!” This was an old playful argument of ours, and he repeated his lines with a smile.

“And how many times must I remind you that in Caledon, ‘Miss’ stands for to ‘Maid I’d Surely S–‘”

“Doon’t finish that!” I exclaimed, laughing and sharing a wink with Lady Amber.

“And would you like me to stop calling you Miss, then, Darkling?”

“Well… nay, not actually.”

“Good.” And then he slumped, falling instantly afk. He’s a bit narcoleptic; out of politeness, we generally pretend not to notice, only make sure he doesn’t slide off into the sea. I waited for a few minutes to see if he would wake, but as he didn’t, and I didn’t want to play strip poker with Lady Amber, I made my way below deck.

I passed by the commoner’s mess hall, where Oolon, Miss Terry, and Gnarli were still trying to choke down their hardtack rations. The poor dears. I’d suggested they all decide they were nobles from some foreign land and therefore gain access to the decent fare being served at the Captain’s table (even if it did come with the dubious honour of sitting with the Captain, who had a typical pirate’s, er privateer’s, er… sailor’s near-religious objections against bathing). Upon hearing my suggestion, Lady Amber (five sheets to the wind) had offered to knight them all within her Barony, (which, by her gestures, was located someplace to the north of her bosoms), but as of yet none had bitten the bait. That I was aware of. It would seem I could do no more to assist in feeding them, as I’d been caught twice trying to sneak them meals from the noble fare (the Captain knocking the plates to the floor with sweeping gestures as he tried to explain his rum-sotted views on social hierarchy). My trick of tempting the fish up from the sea with a siren’s song had left none of them hungry (Oolon with his fingers resolutely in his ears, Gnarli staring spellbound at his own navel, and Miss Terry pitying the fish floppingly inviting her to eat them).

I waved at them, and they waved back. I wondered for the hundredth time how to tell them about my visions, or if I should. When I imagined how those conversations would go, it never ended anywhere useful:

My inner Terry said: “Uhoh, crap, Darkling! Those visions could mean something, we should tell Oolon! What else could have caused daydreams like that… oh… what do you mean, dancing tea?”

My inner Oolon said: “Hmm, errmm, very interesting, Darkling… and you say these visions began the morning you imbibed a very strong cup of tea containing unspecified herbs which may or may not have, individually or collectively, inspired hallucinations the like of which you are already familiar, believing, as you do, you adorable younger race of mixed and partially-undisclosed lineage, to not be indicative of unreality but rather hyper-reality, in which, unbeknownst to us all, we all reside, and therefore teacups speak, teapots dance, and can’t you remember for sure anything you put in that teapot, let’s just take a blood sample, and tell me what else goes on at those late night debauches, do please assure me young Kiralette always leaves before there is any talk of corsetry or intoxicants, no, no, it’s just a little needle, a little blood, be over before you know it, now put down that probe, that’s delicate equipment… my. oh my. What a fascinating manifestation of er-ieeee!!!

I sighed at the inevitably edited eventuality. No, I quite liked Oolon, I’d rather not go there in a trip to the future.

I made my way down the hallway towards my cabin, delicately cursing the wakefulness of the Arronax since we’d boarded her days… weeks… ago. The poor cat was still in the barrel, and was getting understandably more… difficult as her appley incarceration took place. I could hardly blame her, but she wouldn’t let me place another shapechange on her, not since I’d accidentally transmogrified her stripes on vertically several nights ago. Really, it’s quite difficult aiming through a hole in a barrel. My poor wand, it had been looking rather a little… twisted lately. My usually omnipotent but slightly laggy magik just hadn’t been working the same; I was all out of sorts. Really. I should stop using the twisted thing… oh honestly, sometimes a wand is just a wand.

My inner Gnarli tapped his cane thoughtfully, then said: “There are two lifeboats attached to this vessel, and my darling Kiralette can paddle a boat. We should put her into one of them with two pengis, for protection, and supplies to get her home safe to Caledon. And a nice comfy cat bed to curl up in, with a lean-to to protect her widdle pink nosey from the sun. You think there’s what on the island? Well, you should always follow your instincts and listen to talking fish, so we should tell everyone about your visions! Starting with Oolon…”

I snerked a little and rolled my eyes. No, I’d better keep my mouth shut until I had some proof in my hands.

Passing by the Duchesses’ joined stateroom, I heard the sound of the gramophone loudly playing something crackly but danceable within. I knocked, then knocked again harder, and cracked open the door at what sounded like “auntrayz!” shouted over the din.

Peeking inside, I saw their Graces gracefully dancing in their underthings and well-matched taffeta kilts. Baroness Amber was there with them, dancing ecstatically, but she was already naked. Where… how long had I been wandering in thought? Or was Amber really that quick to find the party? Two pengis waddled to the beat near Lady Eva’s finely-shoe’d foot. Lady Gabi grinned at me and beckoned me to come inside. I smiled, relaxing. At last! A little rout.

I looked up and down the hallway and spotted two reasonably clean looking sailors. “Oiya! Gentlemen… can yeh dance?” They demonstrated that they could. “Excellent! Coom on… their Graces’ chambers are a-needin attendance.” Looking around behind me to assure none else saw, we slipped inside and shut and locked the door behind us.

Really. Sometimes a dance is just a dance.


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