Aug 4, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

30 July
Personal Journal Entry

I woke well before dawn to the persistant knocking at my chamber door.  It was Cairine stating that Agent Shea, whom I had not had back in the Steamlands since the Fusang affair many years ago, had just arrived by airship.  They were apparently mooring and he would debark shortly and was requesting an immediate audience with me.

Cairine heated water for me and started to lay out a day gown for me to put on.

“Gods, Cairine! I expect that I’ll be battling for my life - for the very lives of my family and clan - today.  I don’t think I’ll need the formality of the proper gown at this moment.  Just get my leather battle gear out of the wardrobe.  I put it all together just a few hours ago.”

After making myself ready, I walked down to the ballroom, where we had set up headquarters for the battle planning.  I found Admiral Beaumont, Colonel Somme, Colonel O’Toole, and Sir Tele all waiting for me around the chart table.  They had all heard the airship from their tents outside and rose to discover what was going on.

“Your Grace, “ they all greeted me nearly in unison.

Just as I was about to reply, the ballroom doors opened to reveal a very muscular young man in his regimentals entering the room confidently. His sandy brown hair cut short, but combed to the side as is the latest fashion, allowed his blue eyes to fairly sparkle. As he approached our small group his smile widened.

“My goodness, Shea, it seems that military work in the far east has been quite agreeable to you!  You look every inch the well-muscled warrior at ease.”

“Your Grace,” he said as he kissed my hand. “I’ve been traveling back to Winterfell for some time now.  Even in Fusang we were hearing rumblings of the Vulgarian violence heading your way.”

“Well, well, Shea.” said O’Toole mildly stepping forward to clap his former protégé on the shoulder.  “What news, son?”

At this prompting, Shea pulled the charts out as I made hasty introductions and showed what he knew of the Vulgarian’s circuitous route.  Based on what he told us of the intelligence he was able to gather along the way, it seems that the Vulgarians were stopping frequently and with distinct purpose - purchasing this and that, and conferring with shamans in various cities and countrysides.

“Well, “ said Admiral Beaumont, “what is clear is that they are indeed heading this way, and based on all current information they will sail into our waters sometime this afternoon or evening. What is less clear is what they have been doing along the way and whether that means anything  to us. Weapons? Time travel? Some sort of magic?”

At that moment, the sounds of running feet  came from the great room, and a young bosun’s mate stepped in and saluted.  “Ma’am.  Sirs.  I have news that a large airship is headed directly for the Isle.  It appears to be flying the Bellambi flag, Your Grace.”

“Very good.  We shall join you outside, directly,” acknowledged Admiral Beaumont.

We left the charts where they laid on the table, gratefully accepted the tea that cook just brought in on a cart and walked with our cups (do try not to be too shocked about that) outside where we saw The Protagoras coming nearer.  

“Excellent!” I exclaimed, “Kate and Adso are arriving from the Royal Society.  They were pleased to use this occasion to test their new experimental scientific instruments and weapons.”

We all grinned a little and went to the mooring dock to greet them in what may have been the last peaceful hour of the day (and the sun was just fully over the edge of the horizon).

Aug 2, 2011

The Arrival of Friends

As is often the case on the eve of battle, I was in my private drawing room reviewing charts and intelligence dispatches, and making sure my personal weapons were ready for the coming storm.  I was honing the blade of Claidheamh Flath when Admiral Wildstar knocked and entered the room with what could only be described as a school boy’s grin on his face.

“What news Wildstar?” I asked with a cautious grin spreading across my own face in response to his.

At this he opened the doors fully and my errant knights and protectors walked in en masse.  Leading the way was the ever dapper, Exrex Somme, commander of the Lancers of Skye.  Behind him was Sir Telemachus who showing the evidence of his hasty departure and rapid travel to get to me. His hair was flying wildly around him and he had what seemed like every blade he owns attached to his body in some fashion.  Just a few steps behind him came the retired executive officer of the Lancers, Hotspur O’Toole.  He nearly swaggered into the room in his linen shirt and pants - evidence that he was found precisely where we last knew he was located: a expat hang-out in the desert.  

All three gentlemen walked confidently straight through the door and over to me.  Exrex kissed my hand. Then, putting his cheek near mine, whispered in my ear, “I hope our delayed arrival did not put too much worry in your heart, Duchess Toots.”  I smiled and touched his face.  He had used his silly nickname for me, which he would never do in hearing distance of anyone else, and thereby let me know that he was genuinely sorry if he had caused any concern on my part.

“I am awfully glad for your presence, Colonel.  Have you assembled my Lancers?”

“Indeed, I have, Your Grace.  As we speak they are stabling the horses and making camp on the front lawn,” he said.

“Very good.  We are expecting that the Vulgarians will attempt to take us from all fronts - air, sea, and an amphibious assault onto the Isle.”

Next Tele came over and laid his sword in front of me as he knelt down. “I am so sorry that I was such a distance away, Your Grace.  But I am here and have brought several of my more uncultured friends.”  I laughed at this and touched his head gently.  

“Just the guests I was counting on you to bring along.”  At this I bid him rise and see his men settled alongside the Lancers.  He bowed over my hand and took his leave to do so.

“Well, I see ye’ve gotten yerself into another fine mess, Lady, “ said the linen-clad Hotspur striding across the room.  As he kissed my hand, I noted his greying red hair - just around the temples.

“Aye, it seems so,” I replied.  “I see that retirement is treating you kindly.  You seem quite relaxed and satisfied.”

“It is so, Lady.  I find myself surrounded by many others of our Wrath Fleet and a few less honorable but highly interesting friends. The weather is warm, the drinks are plentiful, and we are never at a loss for stories of old battles,” he remarked.

Touching the grey hair I wondered aloud whether he was still up to the task of battling the Vulgarians.  At this Exrex literally snorted his amusement and Hotspur gave me an exasperated smirk.  “Aye.  I’ll do.  I think I may have a fight or fifty still left in me.”

I laughed and enjoyed the easy company of my old friends and protectors. As I began showing them the charts, inviting Wildstar to join us, Cairine walked cautiously into the room.


“Your Grace, there are a group of ruffians arriving from the Ferry. They say they are here to fight for you, but......”  she nearly hissed.

Turning to the gentlemen still staring at the charts and murmuring battle plans, I said, “I believe your troops have arrived, O’Toole.”  He merely grinned.

“Cairine, see them provided with tents and blankets.  They will billet with the Lancers and Tele’s swordsmen.  Then make sure they all have food to eat.  The great battle will surely begin sometime tomorrow evening based on what we know of the Vulgarian’s movements.”