Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Pirates

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Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Pirates

Postby Sareth » July 5th, 2011, 3:23 pm

"But I'm 23! I'm past my prime already!" The maid sitting at the end of the counter buried her head in her arms atop the bar. "I'm an old maid! I'm never going to marry."

The barkeep quietly continued to polish glasses, the brass color of his metallic skin glinting under the lights of the lounge. He was a decent enough sort, as barkeepers go. Quiet, conscientious, very good at mixing over 1000 different drinks, and capable of destroying entire armies without messing his dapper vest and undershirt ensemble. He was also an excellent listener. He wasn't nearly so good at actually talking, having a vocabulary limited to describing the list of drinks he could serve, but you can't have everything.

A glass clinked next to the maid. Sarsaparilla was the answers to the poor barmaid's woes, he thought. Well, in as much as he could think. He at least seemed to have enough mental capacity to realize that if she was this maudlin on fizzy soft drinks, real alcohol was probably out of the question.

"He was so charming, though! And I didn't really mind that he was just a longshoreman! We could have settled down, had a nice little cottage overlooking the cliffs, and a dozen children. He could have worked at the airship docks, and I could have kept house for him, and then he'd come home to dinner, and we'd watch the airships go by sitting in the garden. It would have been wonderful! Like a dream!" The girl swept up her glass of sarsaparilla and downed it in a shot, then hiccupped as the bubbles went straight to her diaphragm. "Maybe I shouldn't have accepted this position."

"Ms. Jessup," a stern voice spoke from behind her. Alfred Jeeves, the Chief Butler, had materialized behind her with all the silence and unobtrusiveness that a long line of British Butlers had spent nearly a millennium developing. "I couldn't agree more. You shouldn't have accepted this assignment. However, Captain Morgan insisted on securing you a position on this ship, and I shall abide by his decision."

Even without turning around, Violet Jessup, 1st class maid aboard Her Majesty's Air Ship Mungo Park could tell that the little vein in Alfred's forehead was throbbing. She'd worked with him before, when Captain Morgan had captained another ship she'd been aboard, and the encounters between her and his personal Butler (with a capital B ) had been memorable. She jerked upright, face making an "Oh!" that went unvoiced, eyes wide with fear.

Alfred continued on, his voice slow, metered, and cutting. "Ms. Jessup, I am going to leave aside for now the fact that you are here, in the lounge, enjoying a little relaxation instead of attending to your duties. The reason for that would be that I have larger concerns. To wit, the contraption I discovered in Ms. Airheart's quarters. it has all the signs of being one of your addle minded schemes, and I desire an explanation."

Violet nibbled her lip for a few seconds. The Chief Butler had presented himself to the passengers roughly three minutes ago. In order for him to have made it into Ms. Airheart's, locate her latest invention, and then return, he would have only been able to analyze it for about forty-five seconds. Naturally, this means he would not have been able to sufficiently watch it to realize that this time it was actually working as she'd intended, and that, in fact, she was still accomplishing her duties while having a little refresher.

"It's an automated dusting machine, sir," she answered, still not turning about. She placed her hand demurely in her lap, and began to recite her work for him. "I combined a feather duster with a spring motivator and a rocker arm, then attached wheels to the side that are driven by the same spring and cog assembly as the feather duster. Then I put a squeegee and a tank of varnish on the back. All you have to do is wind it up and set it in an area needing dusting, and it will do the work twice as fast as a person could. I figure next I can give it a pair of arms so that it can move vases out of the way an"

"MS. JESsup..." Violet winced as the Cheif Butler's voice momentarily spoke at a level slightly above circumspect (though still not enough to turn the heads of any of the guests.) "I find the dubious value of your interest in these contraptions to only be exceeded by the advisability of letting you actually indulge this interest. I will not have you continue to endanger this vessel and Captain Morgan's reputation any further. There will be no more 'inventions' from you, do you understand me?"

Violet rose from the stool and turned primly towards Alfred, her face lowered as befit her station. "Yes, si..." Her voice trailed off as she took in the appearance of what she could see of him from her submissive position. He was covered in a fine, gray powder, with a particularly large dust bunny clinging to the back of one knee of his neatly pressed trousers. Several stains were visible, making the black of the cloth even blacker. "What..." she gasped.

"It seems, Ms. Jessup, that your little contraption cannot distinguish between the top of a writing table, and a member of this ship's complement. You can imagine my surprise when it attempted to varnish me."

"I'm terribly sorry! I was so sure I had it right this time!" Violet's fair skin was turning a particularly vibrant shade of red as she wrung her hands together before her.

"Just... go throw that thing overboard and return to your duties, Ms. Jessup. We will talk more about this little incident later. After I have changed into something presentable."

"Yes, sir."

Violet was walking back from the hold, where she had discreetly stashed her little device for later improvements when the alarm klaxon sounded. Hiking her skirts up just enough to enable herself to run without quite revealing her ankles, she hurried to the 1st class accommodations deck (idly wondering why they bothered calling it "1st class" when there was no other class aboard). After all, as one of the ship's crew, she had been trained in how to respond to emergencies.

If the ship was on fire, it was her duty to help ready the passengers to board the emergency bubbles that would be tossed overboard and then float down to the surface below. If the ship was crashing, she was to help wrap them in mattresses to pad them against the sudden stop at the end of the fall. If the ship was out of tea, well, it was her duty to try to keep the passengers from panicking while an immediate SOS was sent out. And if it was pirates...

Well, she certainly had been hoping it wasn't pirates. She'd been through two pirate attacks before. The first time, the pirates had been in a hurry, and had known exactly what they were looking for. They'd boarded, found a chest in the hold, and hauled it away before anyone really knew what was happening. The second the pirates had been in much less of a rush, but His Majesty's Airship Indeflowerable had come along and forced the pirates to flee before anything untoward had happened.

"Attention all hands!" Captain Morgan's voice called out from the brass horn mounted above a hatch in the passageway. "We are about to be boarded by pirates. Prepare to repel boarders! All noncombatants please report to your cabin at once."

As was only proper, Violet waited until she had descended two decks and closed herself within her cabin before resorting to panic. It wouldn't have done to have gone screaming down the hallways after the announcement. She was British, after all, and as such she had appearances to maintain. Once she was in her cabin, however, protocol allowed for more leeway in her behavior, which she duly began to exercise the moment the hatch swung shut.

Her companion, named Elizabeth, doubtless worried that the volume of sound would be audible three decks up, attempted to shush Violet. "Now, don't fret. I'm sure that pirates wouldn't attack a ship as important and prominent as ours! Why, it would be unimaginable that they'd be so foolish!"

"But they would, Lizzie!" Violet gasped. "Haven't you ever read any of the stories?" She leaned forward and clutched her bunk-mate's hands between hers. "They'll board, and they'll come in to loot and... to commit rapine upon us! Then they'll carry us away to their ship to be their harem-clothed pleasure slaves! I can't be a pleasure slave! I've never known a man!"

Lizzie pulled her hands away and gave Violet a cross look. "Violet, don't be ridiculous. If such a thing should occur, just remember what the Queen has said!"

"Close your eyes and think of England?"

"Violet..."

But before her fellow maid could explain which quote she had actually intended, (and divert Violet from wondering if being ravished really was as pleasant as the books made it seem, and whether or not that would make it harder to think of England) the small porthole to their room swung open and smashed against the bulkhead with a clang of metal on metal and a gust of air pressure being released.

"Ooch! I daena unnerstan wah yer thinkin, Angus!" A head poked in through the porthole, and looked around. "There's naught here but a wee cabin! We should be makin our way through the big'uns like the other clansmen!"

"Hurry oop and get yer bollux in there, Angus!" A voice came from outside, and the head suddenly shot forward as it's owner was clearly shoved from behind. As he fell to the deck, the source of the second voice popped his head in through the porthole. "We're goin in through this'aen cause all the aethers are goin' in through the baeguns. They'll all be lootin up there, and we'd have to settle with thae dregs o'whatever they didna take! But here we get first dibs!"

"Well, tha was a low thing tae do to yer kin, Angus!" the fellow on teh deck objected. "Wha did ye push me fer?"

"Because ye were blockin the way, ye great oaf! What was I tae do, Angus? Stare at yer arse all raid?"

"Wait..." Lizzie stared at the two pirates. "You're both named Angus?"

"Aye," Angus said, this Angus being the one on the floor.

"But... why?" Violet asked.

"We're scottish!" Angus replied, this one being the Angus in the porthole. Violet found this explanation to be at least as reasonable as any other she might have gotten, given the circumstances. As such she simply nodded and waited while Angus glowered at the Angus on the floor. "Angus, ye lummox! Get oop and halp me through this porthole, I'm stuck!"

"Sorry Angus!" The thinner Angus popped up, took an ear in each hand, and began tugging away at the head sticking through the port hole. As he tugged, he pondered a moment, then spoke up. "Angus, there's a pair of lassies in here."

"Aye!" Angus replied with a surprising amount of gusto for someone being pulled painfully by his ears through a hole several inches smaller than the width of his shoulders. "That's where the rapine comes in, Angus!"

"But Angus, if we take th' time to commit rapine, we won't have time tae loot!"

"Angus, ye damned fool! Tha's why we throw them over a shoulder with one hand and loot wi' th' othar! We can take these bairns back over tae our lair and make them pleasure slaves after the lootin'!"

"Oh, thaes good, Angus!" Angus said. "I have those harem clothes from that wee little Barbary Airship from thae last raid."

"See!" Violet pointed out with glee. "I told you, 'Lizzie! Rapine!"

"Is this really the time, Violet?" Lizzie gave Viole a quelling look as she reached over and picked up a very thick-glassed leaded mirror. She hefted it, then brought it down on the head of Angus (the puller) hard enough to break the glass. Angus (the puller) gave a sickly smile, then slumped to the deck.

"Ooch! Ye ought naught have done that, lassy!" Angus (the pully) stated.

"Why not?" Lizzie replied. "Am I not allowed to defend my English person from northern barbarism?"

"Ooch, Aye, ye are!" Angus commented. "But ye should ha done that before I was able to finish squeezing into this wee cabin." He smiled at her from where he now stood, trousers slightly askew from his just completed narrow entry.

"Oh. I see." Lizzie nodded sagely. "Jolly good idea, that." With a pleasant smile she turned, opened the hatch, and bolted out into the passageway beyond.

"Lizzie?" Violet gabbled, then leaned out the hatch of the cabin to stare after the fleeing Lizzie. She then turned back to face Angus. "Um... How do you do?" She gave a curtsey.

"Oh, Most faer, lass. Thankee. Now, I've thangs tae do, so if ye don mind, we'll attend tae the rapine later. For now, just bea a goo lass there an keep quiet." He scooped Violet over his shoulder and hauled her down the passageway as she screamed and kicked her heels in a way that probably exposed her pettycoats in a most unseemly fashion.

The pair proceeded in this fashion past a variety of sights. There was the Gallant Captain of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards personally dueling four pirates at once. A little further on they moved past the rather mad eccentric doctor unleashing strange energies from his latest contraption while cackling madly. (Unfortunately, he was targeting random bulkheads which would later need repair rather than pirates.) Next they encountered the poorly disguised woman-pretending-to-be-a-cabin-boy that all ships were required to have aboard in accordance with a Parliamentary Decree. And, of course, the ship drunk was proceeding to brain every pirate he could reach with his flagon as they passed through the lounge.

Throughout this panoply of scenes, Violet continued the unseemly kicking of her feet, revealing her petticoats and bloomers in a most inappropriate . Her squeals and objections went completely unanswered by the Scotsman, not that she'd have necessarily understood his answers had he given them. Underlying her objections could be heard the sounds of looting, pillaging, (no rapine, yet. These Scots seemed to have priorities) and the 1812 Overture.

As Angus ran past the entry to the linen closet, Alfred, dusting a few flecks of plaster off his shoulder, leaned out. "MS. JESSUP! Cease that horrid noise at once! You will represent this ship with some sense of decorum!"

"Yes, sir!" Violet called back, and proceeded to lay more quiescently, her hands demurely keeping her skirt well in place in spite of Angus' bouncy gait.

Angus glanced over at her at this sudden change in demeanor. "Ooch! Why dinna I think o' that?"

"You're not a British butler. It wouldn't have worked," Viola responded.

"Ye ha' a point, lass." Angus nodded thoughtfully as he swept up a nice silver candelabra and a rather sharp looking tatted doily from a small table along the way. "Now, jes hold these for me for a moment." He turned sharply, dodging into a cabin. He eyed the large window, then gave a nod. "Aye, that'll do."

"Do for what?" Violet asked.

"Exiting, lass. I need ta put ye down if'n I'm ta get more loot. And since aye don' want ye to be escaping, tha means takin ye to th' lair."

"Oh! I see." Violet nodded. "Permission to scream and attempt to fight you off, sir?"

"Och! Granted lass!"

"Thank you," Violet said gracefully. Proper observances had to be kept up, after all. She then closed her eyes and began to scream and shout, kicking her feet again and pounding on Angus' back with her tiny pale hands.

"ANGUS!" a deep, loud voice bellowed. "Wha d'ye think yer doin?"

"Cap'n Angus!" Angus jumped up, dropping Violet onto her delicate feet. "I was just taken this wee bairn off t' be properly rapined later."

Violet found herself undecided as to what to do at this point. On the one hand, she was fairly certain that proper procedures required her to faint dead away at this announcement. On the other hand, doing so was very likely to result in her laying untidily on the deck, and there was no way the Chief Butler would forgive her for creating such a mess. Uncertain as to which course of action would best fit the situation she turned about, thinking perhaps seeing the visage of the Pirate Captain might help with her decision.

Captain Angus was an admittedly large man. His flaming red beard descended down his chest in several tight braids. Dark eyes peered out from under bushy read eyebrows. His nose was centered on his face, or at least Violet presumed this to be the case. The mustache above the beard was large enough to prevent certainty.

"Y' daft fool!" Captain Angus roared. "Don' ye know ye're suppose ta be taken' th' designated helpless damsel?"

Angus turned and gawked at Violet. Violet gawked back. "Helpless damsel?" she asked.

"Aye, it's required, don' ye know? Every ship is required b' international treaty to be equipped w' a helpless damsel t' be rescued. An ye ain' her!"

"But… how do you know I'm not she?" Violet asked. "I am a damsel, and rather helpless."

"Aye, that ye are, lass," Cap'n Angus replied. "But ye happen t' be a maid, an that means ye are actually useful for someat."

"Tell that to the Chief Butler," Violet muttered.

"Cap'n Angus!" another pirate dashed in. "Look ere! I found someat in th' hold!"

"My varnisher!" Violet gasped.

"Varnisher?" Cap'n Angus arched an eyebrow. "An' how does that be workin?"

"Oh!" Violet reached out and took the device from Angus (naturally). "Well, you just twist the key in it, then set it down and…"

The chaos that ensued was quite calamitous and substantial. It would be improper to described what happened, given that there are ladies who read this publication. We shall simply state for the record that automated varnishers, feather dusters, and kilts are a most unfortunate combination. In time the varnisher was destroyed, Angus (no, we're not sure which one) was properly sedated and bandaged, and Violet was tied up with an excessive amount of rope and tossed into a corner most unceremoniously. Sighing, she began looking around.

"Oh!" She gasped. Her eyes widened. A second time, louder now, she exclaimed. "OH! Oh my! Oh no!"

Heads turned.

"Would you... Oh, Oh would you look at this place? This... this mess! Oh this is... simply awful! AWFUL!"

It was true. The carpet had been trampled and was stained with furniture polish and muddy boot prints. The curtains were torn and smeared with grease. The furnishings had been thoroughly upset. And the sign beside the door reading "By order of Her Majesty, the playing of 'Frère Jacques' is forbidden upon pain of being made to eat pate." was 3 degrees off plumb. At the sight of this, Violet's lower lip began trembling.

Several of the pirates began shuffling about a bit nervously.

"Oh this is terrible. This is horrible! Why, when the Chief Butler sees this mess..." The girl began to softly cry.

"Och! Angus! What dae she sae?" one of the Scotsmen asked another.

"She saed, when th' Chief Butler sees th' mess..."

"Chief butler?" asked Angus. Another Angus. "Di she sae 'Chief Butler?'"

"Aye, Angus, tha she did," said the second.

All three pirates leaned in closer. "Er, lassy, did ye sae ye ha a Chief Butler?"

"Why, yes," Violet sniffled. "Of course! This is a British ship! Why, it would be horribly improper to be without a Chief Butler!"

The three men nodded sagely.

"Th' bonny thing is raeght, Angus."

"Aye, tha she is, Angus. Tis only tae be expected."

"Queen's ship an all that, aye. Why hadn't we thought of that, Angus?"

"Because ye aren' th' Cap'n," Cap'n Angus replied.

"Och! Aye," the Anguses replied. "That makes sense."

"Abou this Chief Butler," Cap'n Angus muttered.

"Oh! Yes!" Violet clapped her hands together. "And when he sees this mess..." she sniffled. "He's going to be horribly angry!"

By this point, several more pirates had crowded into the cabin. Mutters were heard. "Chief Butler..." "Terrible mess..." "Angus..." A crowd was beginning to form around Violet.

"Why, he'll... He'll scold me!" Violet sniffled again, her eyes beginning to water. "He'll scold me terribly, and tell me to clean up this mess, and the look in his eyes..." she wailed. "He'll look... disappointed!"

"No!" the pirates gasped. "Terrible..." came the whispers. "Scolded by a Chief Butler, tis a horrid faet, Angus!" "Och, aye! A Chief Butler's wrath..." "Poor baern..."

"And..." By this point, Violet was shuddering with sobs as tears ran down her cheeks. "And... He may not let me enjoy afternoon tea!"

There was a sharp in drawn intake of breaths from every pirate gathered. Even Cap'n Angus looked aghast. Or one had to assume so, given his beard. No afternoon tea? It was unthinkable!

"Och... Angus..." one of the pirates intoned.

"Aye?" the rest answered.

"D'ye think, maybe..." Angus asked.

"Aye!" Angus agreed.

"Begorah! Jesus Mary and Joseph! By faith we should help this 'ere Molly!"

The Scotsmen immediately agreed, and after tossing overboard an Irishman who no one could remember inviting to the party and which hasn't been previously mentioned in this tale, began to setting everything to rights as three of them patted the weeping Violet on the back and crooned gently to her trying to comfort and calm the maid. Tables were righted, table clothes straightened, brass polished, the carpet cleaned, and even the stacks of loot were neatened up and stacked in an orderly fashion.

"WHAT I' TH' NAEM O' ANGUS ARE YE DOING?" Cap'n Angus yelled.

"Och," Angus commented, though at this point we couldn't possibly know which Angus it was. "Well, the wea baern was weeping... an..."

"BUGGER IT!" Cap'n Angus bellowed. "I hae had it! Git back tae th' ship! I'm through wi raidin' thae English! Even when bein' raided thae ha t' be soooooooooooo proper!" He threw his hands up in disgust. "'Do forgive my blade damaging your bonnet.' 'Dreadfully sorry, old chap, but I'm afraid I've slain your first officer.' 'Pardon me, but it's tea time. Shall we resume combat in thirty?' I am sick tae death o' these knobs! Let's gae raid th' Germans again!"

"But the paperwork the Kaiser demands..." Angus cautioned.

"GET BACK TAE TH' SHIP!"

Within seconds the room was clear of Scotsmen, and surprisingly ship shape.

Violet sighed in relief. The pirates were gone, her virtue was intact, and most importantly, the compartment was pristine. Surely the worst was over.

"Miss Jessup." Alfred's voice sounded withering.

"Yes?" Violet responded meekly.

"I see you still fail to grasp even the basics of proper behavior."

"Sir?"

"About the knots of your bindings…"

Violet sighed.
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Re: Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Pirates

Postby Graybeard » July 18th, 2011, 9:34 am

That was fun. Post another one, please!
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Re: Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Pirates

Postby Sareth » July 19th, 2011, 11:53 pm

Would you like it here or in a new thread? It's the same main character but the stories are meant to be stand alone.
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Re: Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Pirates

Postby Graybeard » July 20th, 2011, 8:54 am

Sareth wrote:Would you like it here or in a new thread? It's the same main character but the stories are meant to be stand alone.

Up to you. Here would be fine.
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Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Count

Postby Sareth » July 20th, 2011, 9:34 am

Her Majesty's Misfortunate Maid and the Count

Her Majesty's Airship Mungo Park had a great assortment of almost famous people aboard. There were adventurers, explorers, soldiers, scientists, and fighters aplenty within her hull. These people were quite capable of handling anything that might come in their explorations of the world on behalf of Her Majesty. There was little conceivable that they might not be able to handle.

Violet Jessup, maid, was not one of these people. While she was aboard the ship, it was certainly not on account of her being particularly gifted at anything that one might read in the literature of the day. She was aboard solely in the position of service to the gallant crew.

As such, it was no surprise that she was left behind working in the airship when the brave band of assembled adventurers disembarked in the Carpathian Mountains. She would have been able to serve in no particular capacity as they verified the maps, charts, and ethnographic data that previous expeditions had retrieved. Nor was it surprising that she had been set to rather drudgerous work in their absence.

"Ms. Jessop," Alfred Jeeves, the Chief Butler of the "Mongo" had purred. "In the absence of the illustrious members of this ships compliment, I have a task for you. I expect only the utmost of attention to it, so I do expect that you shall… refrain… from your more foolish notions?"

He was referring to her enjoyment of the art of invention. Violet Jessup, though merely a maid aboard the vessel with only such amounts of education as needed for a serving lady, found herself with a fascination for clever designs. As such, it was not unusual for her to be found tinkering away at this or that when she could, a habit that the Chief Butler had in mind as being highly inappropriate and distinctly Not British. Clearly he had figured out that she was intending to spend the time while the crew was out engineering some new device intended to ease the lives of maids the world around.

She sighed and nodded her assent. "Yes, Mr. Jeeves."

"Good!" the Chief Butler smiled in a fashion devoid of humor. "Report to the kitchen. The silverware is far too dull. I wish to see every single piece sparkling by the time the expedition returns." His smile grew. "Every single piece."

Violet Jessup felt her heart plunge within her chest. "Mongo" had over 100 individuals aboard ship. For each of those there was enough diner service to be able to provide for three meals without needing a cleaning. The typical service setting included four forks, three spoons, and two knives. Each. Then there were the serving utensils for the staff waiting on table. Ladles, forks, knives, spoons… She was facing well over a thousand individual items, each of which had to sparkle by the time she was done. And she had no doubt whatsoever that she would not be receiving assistance with the task. She would be days at the task, and she very much suspected the company would be returning within a day at most.

"Sparkling!" The Chief Butler turned away to his duties, leaving Violet to her dismay. After a few moments of wallowing in her misery, however, the girl turned and headed down to the lower decks. She had just the idea.

Some time later the Chief Butler entered the kitchen. He looked around with a critical eye, suspicion oozing out of every pore with the sort of dignity suspicion could only gain through contact with a proper British butler. However, his suspicion began to shift into a palpable (though subtle, as he was a butler, and thus not given to unbecoming displays) surprise.

Violet was sitting demurely at a table with a little polish and a good rag, working away at a spoon. Beside her several hundred more spoons were neatly arrayed in their proper containers, sparkling and flashing with every vaguery of the light. Behind her on the counter tops, knives shone with an almost perfect sheen.

"I must say, Miss Jessop, I had some reservations about assigning you to this important task. Your common flights of fancy had me worried that you might fail in this task in a fashion not only unseemly, but in fact most spectacular. Your previous history certainly suggested that as the more likely outcome. However, I own that perhaps I owe you an apology."

Violet held her breath. She dared not utter a word. She had never heard so much as a kind word from the Chief Butler. To hear him actually suggest any degree of contriteness was utterly beyond her comprehension. She feared making any sound and causing an explosion in the man to make up for the near-human behavior.

Jeeves walked over and picked up one of the spoons. "Marvelous. Look at the shine." He peered closely. "I can even make out individual eyelashes in my reflection." He held the spoon up to the light, bouncing light beams about the room. "Yes… Yes. That is what I meant by sparkling. Miss Jessup, I congratulate you. It seems you may finally be learning to be a proper ma…"

The man paused, jaw locked into place as his eyes began to boggle. The vein on his forehead began to pulse. He lowered the spoon back into its place, pausing only long enough to use a kerchief to wipe away his fingerprint.

"Miss Jessup. How did you accomplish so much in so little time?"

Violet swallowed. "Well… You see, sir… I…"

"You built a little contraption."

Violet nodded her head quietly.

"And it has been polishing the silverware."

Violet nodded again.

"And you are no doubt convinced this little… thing of yours is working splendidly?"

She was, in fact, certain of exactly that. Or she had been right up until that moment. She said nothing.

"And just where is this monstrosity," Jeeves asked with an exaggerated patience.

"I... I'm not quite certain, sir." She hung her head.

With a small sigh that, coming from the Chief Butler, might as well have been a thunderous accusation, Jeeves stepped back from the table. He walked around it to stand next to Violet. "Kindly remove it from my leg, throw it out the airlock, and then come speak with me."

Violet nodded. She carefully unhooked the little clank from where it dangled just below the Chief Butler's pocket. She tried to ignore the fact that not only was Jeeves show so shiny the black leather almost looked white with reflected let, but the cloth of his pants leg was even sparkling like a well cared for saddle. She wasn't entirely certain how that had happened, as she'd never thought cotton could be shined.

With a sigh she walked out of the kitchen, hauling the device back down to the hold. She was certain it would just need a few tweeks later, and throwing it overboard would be a waste of parts anyway.

True to expectations, the expedition did indeed return that evening, just in time for a late dinner with freshly sparkly silverware. Even with time taken to get well and truly lambasted by the Chief Butler and assigned to grease trap cleaning duty for the next week, Violet was able to capitalize in how much the machine had polished and complete all the shining. Everyone at dinner was able to enjoy good and properly reflective place settings.

Violet was too busy sulking over her latest brush with the Chief Butler to really pay attention to the conversations. While the adventurers were busy discussing the ancient tomes they had found, coffin they had liberated, and gargoyles dispatched, she was unable to tear herself away from visions of kitchen traps needing degreasing. With a sigh she carried away her half-eaten plate of food, disposed of it, and headed to bed.

The next morning she woke early and performed the proper ablutions. Clean and dressed in a prim outfit, she left the little cabin she shared with another maid and began making her way up to the kitchen. With her extra duties on the grease traps she knew she'd need to get an early start on the day or she'd never get everything done. This meant a breakfast of leftovers from the night before.

Unfortunately for the maid, she hadn't made it half way to the kitchen before arms reached out from the doorway to one of the many lounges aboard ship and pulled her inside. She started to shriek in surprise, but forestalled herself. The guests were still sleeping. It would be most rude of her to interrupt their sleep.

Pale whit hands with long fingernails gripped her shoulders. She felt herself lifted into the air and carried into the depths of the darkened room. She was lowered back to her feet, and one hand slid down to wrap around her waist, trapping her arms at her sides while the other stroked the side of her cheek.

"Vhere is this place?" The voice was low, soft, and heavily accented. It reminded her of some of the Russian guests she'd had in the past, though that wasn't quite right. Perhaps something more Lithuanian? But she didn't recall any Lithuanians being aboard. She did think that one of the stokers was Estonian, but she wasn't completely certain about that, and she was fairly sure he wouldn't have such clean or well manicured nails. Maybe it was the

"AHEM!" The voice sounded in her ear again, quiet but for the fact the lips were probably only an inch from the lobe. "Vhen you are qvuite done vith your voolgathering, I asked you vhere ve are."

"Oh!" Violet gasped. "I'm terribly sorry. That was most rude of me. Please forgive me. I get lost in thought sometimes and…"

"Meh." The voice sounded dismissive. "You are forgiven, child. But you still have not answered my qvuestion. Vhere have I found myself?"

"Well, you're on Her Majesty's Airship Mungo Park, sir."

"Count."

Violet blinked. "Um… One… Two… Three…"

"No no no!" The voice sounded a touch annoyed. "My title. I am Count Radu Constantinescu of Romania."

"Oh! I see!" Violet nodded, then thought a moment. "Shouldn't that be Conte Radu Constantinescu?"

"Vhy?"

"Well, in Romanian it's 'Conte,' not 'Count'."

"The audience vouldn't know the difference."

"Oh, good point." Violet thought that imminently reasonable an argument. "Um… You're not going to ravish me, are you?"

"Vould that I could," the voice sighed. "Alas, I cannot."

Violet found herself spun about to face her attacker. The man standing before her in the gloom was rather tall and thin. He wore long black robes over an antique double breasted waistcoat with a silver watch. Beneath black brows his eyes pierced her with their intense blue, expressing a hunger that seemed to be for something far deeper than mere dalliance, and far more urgent.

"Look at me and know despair! For I am an ancient evil, cursed by God! Vhen I look upon a voman I know not the need for her body, but only a hunger for her blood. I am the great nephew of Count Vlad Dracul himself, and like him, the only use I shall have for you is to mesmerize you vith my eyes before drinking every drop of blood from your neck and leaving you dead. This curse vas placed upon my entire family as punishment for the blasphemes spoken by my great uncle and for his depraved acts of… of…" The Count stopped, a quizzical look on his face. "Vhy are you laughing?"

"I'm not *snrfl* laughing," Violet demurred, hiding her lips behind one hand. She fought to contain herself.

"This is serious, child," the vampire chided. "You do realize that I am about to suck your blood and slay you, do you not? And then I shall go throught this vessel drinking the blood of every voman abourd, young and old, leaving their dried husks as testament to my evils? You should be terrified. You should be running avay screaming and trying to get help. Vhy vould you not be attempting to flee?" He looked a tad downcast. "The struggling makes the meal taste better, you know."

"I'm *snrk* sorry," Violet replied, trying as hard as she could to remain proper. "It's just that…"

Count Radu sighed. "It's my accent, isn't it. I vent to therapy, but I never could get it. 'If two vitches vere catching two vatches, vitch vitch vould vatch vich vatch?.' 'How much vood vould a vouldchuck chuck if a vould chuck could chuck vood?' It's terrible, I know."

Violet swallowed a chortle. "It's not that, really! I think you've done very vell. Well. You've done very well."

The vampire rolled his eyes. "Not very convincing, are you?"

"I'm sorry! It's not your accent, really! I apologize."

"Very vell. I accept." The vampire nodded graciously. "Vhat then?"

"Well," Violet demurred. "It's just that… well…"

Count Radu began to look impatient. "Get on vith it."

"You're sparkling."

There was a silence in the darkened compartment. Moments passed.

"I'm vhat?"

"Sparkling."

More silence.

"I am not sparkling."

"You are."

"I am not."

"I'm afraid you really are."

"No, I am not."

Violet nodded.

"Vampires do not sparkle."

"You do."

"Do not." "Do too." "Do NOT." "Do TOO." "NOT." "TOO." "NOT""TOO""NOT!"

Violet paused. She drew a deep breath. "I assure you, you most certainly are sparkling right now."

"Don't be ridiculous. I couldn't possibly be sparkling." Count Radu's visage looked threatening.

"I'm sorry, I know that you really don't want to believe this, but really, you are. If you went and looked at yourself in that mirror over there, you'd see."

Count Radu gave Violet a long look. "I am a vampire. We don't cast reflections in mirrors."

"You also don't sparkle."

"I am so glad ve agree on that point," the vampire said.

"And yet you are sparkling."

"I. DO. NOT. SPARKLE."

Violet pinched her nose. "I am sorry, sir. I know this must be very distressing, but you are, in fact, sparkling. It's rather obvious, in fact. I wager that, were you to cast open the blinds, you would be outright dazzling. Blinding, even."

Count Radu snarled. "Lies! I do not sparkle! I am not dazzling. And if I thrust open the blinds, I vould not be blinding?"

"Really?" Violet asked.

"Really," Count Radu replied. He stomped over to the blinds, jerked them open, and promptly disintegrated in a puff of smoke and ash as the morning sun flooded the compartment.

Violet blinked. She blinked again. She blinked a third time. "Oops. Was he a guest? Because if he was a guest I am in such trouble."

"You are indeed in trouble," the Head Butler said from behind her. She spun just in time to see him step into the compartment from the passageway beyond. He was holding up the polishing device from the day before. "Miss Jessup, do please explain to me how this device, which you most certainly threw overboard in accordance with my instructions, made it back aboard. And while you are at it, I demand to know why this compartment, the passageway I just passed through, and every inch of you is covered in ash." Before Violet even had a chance to open her mouth, Jeeves shook his head. "No, never mind. Just clean it up and then report for grease trap cleaning duty. For the next month."

Violet sighed.
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