Saturday, September 12, 2020
Welcome to another episode of The Delta Pearl, my chuckaboos.
This weekend I’m celebrating two days that have personal significance for me. I can’t discuss them, so let’s just say that they are big parts of a personal transformation. That is so true for September 13th that I call it my “rebirth-day.”
As you know, along with this re-write of The Delta Pearl, I’m “bookizing” a previous serial to a dieselpunk novella, and still working on the novel I started last November. I’ve realized that novel is going to be more than one book. So, maybe I’m not proceeding as excruciatingly slowly on that as it feels.
Today’s episode of The Delta Pearl was very labor intensive. We’ve gotten close to the original ending. That means sharing it with you here has added the “middle” I felt the story was missing. However, not too long ago, I suddenly knew what the ending of the story should have been all along. Combine all that and it made this episode difficult to research and match it up to the present point in the story + lead into the old ending (which I’m keeping, it’s just not the end) + and match both to the new ending. Okay, if that was hard to follow, imagine how my brain feels actually doing it.
Random Reader Things. Last weekend, I was beleaguered by obstacles from my Internet and from WordPress. I didn’t manage to leave a link for Resa McConaghy for her “thing” Gibson Girl hairdo. But what’s a Victorian setting without several of those? So I used it again today. I also used one that Pat at eQuips left, Cartouche. That added a little more intrigue — read on to learn what.
When we were last aboard the Delta Pearl, Obsidian Durango was to make sure Victor Topaz Elam made it to Agate, the Cook so that she could look after him. The Captain had come back aboard, and successfully retrieved our favorite suffragettes, Eliza Needleman, from police custody. While the Captain and the Dealer were about to a serious conversation, the Captain sent Émeraude to check on Mrs. Needleman. I wonder if she’ll remember to change out of her nightgown first…
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 48 — Left
Movement in the sky caused me to rush to the window as soon as I entered my cabin. The lace curtain billowed in a breeze, despite the calm day. A chill went down my spine, and it wasn’t caused by the wind. The window had been closed when I left my cabin.
I leaned out, trying to find the source of the movement that caught my eye. A sooty brown cloud moved across the sky at an unnaturally quick speed.
That cloud again, I thought worriedly. There’s always something awful when it appears. It must hide something horrible.
Then I spied an object swinging from a thin tether. Whatever held it was obscured by the dark cloud. The thing itself was tiny in the distance. I had no idea what it could be. However, just the fact that something could hang from it reminded me that the cloud truly did hide something.
First it concealed something large and deadly enough to wage a brief attack on the Delta Pearl during my sweet sixteen party, interrupting that right of passage to adulthood. Though I found it impossible, the Dealer had believed that I was the object of that attack.
Then the cloud came back while the Needlemans, Victor, and I were ashore in Cairo, Illinois. That time it dropped a net that captured me and almost carried me away.
Seeing the nimbus again left me cold with fear. The fact that the cloud beat a quick retreat wasn’t much consolation. I wanted to tell the Captain, but I couldn’t rush back to the boiler room and interrupt when Jaspe had said he needed to talk with him privately.
The senior crew were like parents to me. Despite my coming of age party, they still didn’t genuinely recognize me as an adult. So, I didn’t want to go running back to the Captain and the Dealer like a frightened child.
I closed and latched the window.
Taking a deep breath, I decided that getting dressed would give me a moment to collect myself. Agate would remind me that more than enough people had seen me in my nightgown. Besides, I needed to resume my duties.
Crisp white poplin drew my gaze when I looked at my wardrobe. A double row of ruffles flounced at the gown’s hem and it had leg of mutton sleeves. The fabric was covered with delicate ivy leaves embroidered in my signature emerald green.
As I brushed my hair, I noticed my cameo necklace lay on top of the jewelry box. My hand froze. I always put the cameo away if I wasn’t wearing it.
The necklace was the most expensive thing I had ever bought myself. It was also just like the cameo the woman in the beguiling portrait wore, all the way down to the bluish-purple color of the exotic shell from which it was carved.. I had to have it even though it cost me a month’s wages.
Beside the cameo was a strange pendant. It was a narrow oblong shape that surrounded a stack of odd little symbols. I picked it up and examined it closely. It was made of gold.
A light knock came to my door. I called out a “Come in,” expecting that the Cook had sent one of the maids to check on me.
The door opened a crack, and I saw a tawny Gibson Girl hairdo for a moment before I realized it was Eliza Needleman.
“Oh no, I was just on my way to see you,” I began, embarrassed that a passenger had come to me before I could fulfil my duty to visit her. “You had such an ordeal with the police. You were so brave to do what you did! Distracting the police, letting yourself be seen in your pantaloons,” I added, trying not to gush and probably failing.
“Oh, bosh. I was never in any physical danger. You, on the other hand…” she paused, seeming at a loss for words. “Émeraude, my poor chuckaboo, that had to be terrifying. Are you sure you were not harmed?”
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, a tear ran down my face. I had not taken time to let myself react to being hauled up into the air in a net, like a helpless fish. Her kind words brought out my delayed reaction to the abduction.
Eliza reached out to give me a hug, but then drew back.
“How is your shoulder? Randall said he found you injured when he sliced into that abominable net,” she asked.
“Jazpe ‘adjusted’ it ― he knows how to manipulate a joint back into place. But I admit that I fainted when he did it,” I told her with a regretful chuckle.
“What a lovely bauble,” she commented of the odd gold piece in my hand. “I have a chain that would fit if you want to borrow it.”
I looked up at Eliza, puzzled, not knowing what to say. She could tell that I was upset about the thing. Her brows knitted curiously.
“May I see it? Why it’s a cartouche. How fascinating,” she commented and looked up at me with a surprised expression. “These symbols are Egyptian hieroglyphs. They typically representing the name and title of a monarch, but I don’t recognize this as any pharaoh or queen. Wherever did you get it?”
Then I remembered that she and her husband had met in Egypt. I commented on the fact. Eliza blushed and explained that she had actually gone to Egypt with a select group of university students. She was something of an expert on Egyptian things.
“It caused a bit of a scandal when I went,” she told me with a little smirk. “But if I had not indulged in Egyptomania I would have never met Randall.”
I explained the details of how I had just found the odd piece. Curling my lips in tightly, I tried not to cry.
“So, it’s not from a secret admirer, then?” she asked.
I knew she meant to make me laugh. I turned away and wiped my eyes, but I did laugh.
“I think I saw that cloud again. It moved so fast,” I explained, sniffling. “But what bothers me most is that someone was looking at my cameo. This gold piece was placed beside it… as if it means something.”
“I admit that the whole thing gives me a bad feeling,” Eliza replied.
Oddly, I her frank response made me feel better. Her words and manner validated me. It was more reassuring than any false promise that everything was fine.
“We never learned anything about the portrait when we went ashore in Cairo. Although she looks so much like you,” she said.
“You know, Cleopatra had an emerald mine,” Eliza commented as she held the cartouche to the light. “I believe the hieroglyphs mean emerald.”
“And whoever left it, placed it next to my cameo…” I stopped in the middle of my sentence and looked at Eliza as an idea formed in my mind.
“The woman in the portrait wears a cameo that is nearly identical,” Eliza said as her eyes locked onto mine. “And the cartouche means emerald. You said a tether depended from the brown cloud? The net that captured you was being pulled up into that cloud. So, whomever―”
“Or whatever left this cartouche must have something to do with that cloud,” I interjected. “But I still don’t understand what it means. I feel like I’m being sent a message, but I don’t understand.”
Then I gasped and rushed to my nightstand. I opened the drawer and gave a sigh of relief. The little papyrus scroll was still there.
Eliza knew about my clockwork spider from when Amethyst exposed the fact that her Pharaoh Diamond had been replaced with a fake. So, I explained to Eliza how the malachite scarab had dropped the strip of hole-punched papyrus to me while I was trapped in the net, and that Victor had identified it as a template for a music box cylinder.
“Maybe someone who is connected to that cloud and the malachite scarab is trying to send me a message,” I offered.
“An innocent in need of rescue, do you think? Or is it a villain intent on taunting you?” she asked. “We need to know what notes the papyrus would play if it was a music box.”
End Chapter 48
This riverboat has a while to go before it will cruise into its final port. I could use some “steam era” appropriate random reader things. Whether you can leave a “thing” or not, stop to say hello with a friendly comment.
Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos.
This serial is made possible in spite of (not because of) the deplorable lack of Internet service from TDS Telecom. They are even worse than the government about claiming no problem exists in the face of failure. TDS Telecom meets every complaint and service call by saying they find no problem. Their technicians come to my home and refuse to do any work or replace equipment, even when their offsite managers have instructed them to do so. They brought equipment that they openly state does not work properly. They refuse to let me talk to a manager. They refuse to promise to send someone other than the previous do-nothing tech. They refuse to make sure the technicians have working hardware with them. My letters, emails, and tweets go unanswered. Dear readers, please do not comment here in response to this paragraph. Just be aware of my awful experience with this so called provider.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 and 2020 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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