Saturday, December 12, 2020
Welcome back to the steampunk riverboat, my chuckaboos! I hope all of you are staying safe and well. I invite you into my sanctuary, a place free of politics, religion, self-righteousness, and all the things that bring judgement with them.
Many of you know that I deal with the effects of PTSD (anxiety, agoraphobia, and whatever else pops in) day-to-day, minute-to-minute. Yesterday I read something that “triggered” me in a huge way. The ending was a huge sucker-punch, at least for me. That’s on me, not the writer of the piece. I take accountability for my personal shortcomings. Regardless, I was so undermined by it that I’m prompted to make a promise to you. My stories are like this sanctuary — a safe place for the imagination. My idea of “happily ever after” is not normal, but I will never kill off an important character for any reason. Particularly not just for the sake of hearing you gasp when the sucker-punch hits your gut.
Random Reader Things
I’m pretty sure that at some point, someone left “gas mask” as a random reader thing. Although I don’t have it in my notes. Or maybe it’s just that I used it when Randall sacrificed his own health to rescue Émeraude from the airborne net… At any rate I hope you think this one is a gas!
Previously on The Delta Pearl
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 58 — Seek
Victor screamed. I think I did too.
“It’s got my leg!” my inventor yelled.
Only then did I realize that my ankle was held fast. Just as she had done back in Cairo, moments before I went ashore with my potential sweetheart, the Delta Pearl grabbed onto me. The wood of the deck encased both of my ankles. Similarly, it snaked up around one of Victor’s calves.
Lightning quick, the Dealer appeared on the deck. The instant he took hold of Victor, the riverboat released her grip on his leg. Jaspe had the inventor back inside before he had time to stop screaming. A heartbeat later, Jaspe darted back to make sure I got inside safely.
“Did you really have to pick me up like a sack of flour?” I complained as the Dealer let my feet down to the plush carpet in the gaming area.
“Cher, you were bending over. That was the most expedient way to pick you up,” the Jaspe replied with a shrug. “Besides, it’s not ladylike,” he added with a wink.
Liberty bell machines whirled madly as the Delta Pearl reacted to the temporal rift. I wondered whether the reels of the slot machines would stop on a jackpot or a dud.
I accidentally dropped the thing I had bent to retrieve from the deck a moment before. The broken malachite scarab landed on the deep red carpet. The carpet never showed any sign of wear. The clockwork, however, appeared to be dead — if such a term could be applied to it.
My knees bent as I began to stoop, as femininely as possible, to retrieve the clockwork beetle. Thinking better of it, I cast a rebellious glare at Jaspe and bent down, rather than stooping, to retrieve the mechanical creature.
The riverboat continued to vibrate. A tone I could barely hear set my teeth on edge. I imagined Eliza’s little fluffy dog was howling in their stateroom. However, there was no time to seek out my friends, the Needlemans.
Obsidian Durango skidded to a stop at the door that led to the kitchens. He collided with Jet Fischer, who had followed the Cook earlier. From what Jet had said, he thought Opal was having a heart attack. Agate pushed past the two men, a vial of medicine in her hand.
“The Captain says to get your herbs into the drinks and the air vents, pronto. Um, if you please, Agate,” Sid added awkwardly.
“Does he now? As if I didn’t already know what to do when the riverboat takes it upon herself to jump to another time,” Agate told the Cadet calmly, but the look in her eyes was dangerous.
“Garnet?” the Cook yelled just as the man came around the corner. “Chief Porter! Oh, sorry, dear. Yes, thank you for getting the porters to help the kitchen staff distribute the special tea. But could you tell ‘em this is no time for cupboard love?” Agate added with an arch look at the sound of giggling that came from down the hallway. “Once they’re finished, you know how to pump the herbal concoction into the air vents. Don’t forget to close all the staff doors tightly and make sure they all have their breathing apparatus.”
“You heard the lady. Get moving,” Garnet Redford pitched his voice so that his English accent could be heard down the kitchen hallway.
The Chief Porter headed to the kitchen to make sure everything was done. A moment later, Coral rushed out with a tea tray. She gave a saucy wink to Sid as she passed. Then kitchen staff and porters streamed out of the hallway.
The Cadet handed Agate a breathing apparatus. The Cook gave him a withering look.
“The Captain said that last time you thought about everyone else before yourself. He’ll have my hide if I don’t give you this… this plague doctor, masquerade-looking, gas mask thing,” Sid stammered, defending himself.
“What about Opal,” Jet insisted.
“I’ll look to her right now,” Agate promised, and checked the vial she held. “This should help. Although, it’s not like our Librarian for anything to upset her so. Are you sure it was her heart?”
“She put her hand to her chest as she fell,” Jet said. “I came for help immediately.”
Agate staggered as the riverboat gave a particularly violent shudder. Jet put his arm around her so that she didn’t fall. Then they hurried toward the library.
“What was all that talk about herbs?” Victor asked me.
He gave a distracted yip when a mostly black cat darted toward us. The cat leapt into the air, and Victor drew back in surprise, shielding his face with his hands. However, the cat didn’t jump for Victor. He landed squarely on the Dealer’s shoulder.
The black cat had a white spot above one eye, that I thought looked like a monocle. The odd markings had inspired me to call him Sir Reginald La Felin, or Reggie for short. He belonged to Jaspe, who was unexpectedly behind us.
“Ça va? Are you worried there’s a gris-gris on this riverboat, young Topaz? Crazy goings on, colored lights in the sky, and a black cat? It’s hard to say if the temporal rifts are attracted to the Delta Pearl, or if it is she who seeks them out, but it is a thing of time shifting, not of the voodoo,” the Dealer said.
Jaspe paused to stroke the cat on his shoulder.
“Ah, pauvre ti bête… Poor Reggie. It’s alright. You naughty minou. Why aren’t you in our cabin?” the Dealer cooed in his Cajun accent.
“Once the passengers drink their doctored beverages, and after the Cook’s herbs fill the air… And after the Delta Pearl begins to make the right tones, the passengers will have no fears. They won’t remember any of what has happened. Instead, they will remember whatever sweet dream they have while sleeping,” the Dealer added.
Jaspe’s mouth tightened almost imperceptibly. For him, that was a worried expression. He turned his eyes to the etched glass doors, and the blue and green sky beyond.
“Although, it’s usually the Mate who cajoles the Pearl to make those musical tones. She likes to sing with him, as it were,” Jaspe commented.
I took a steadying breath. Blue John Boulton’s safety was already at the front of my mind. Was everyone’s wellbeing also at risk, and tied to the Mate’s fate?
Abruptly, Jaspe drew his head to one side, to better see the cat on his shoulder. His brow furrowed.
“Reggie, silly minou. Have you something in your mouth?” the Dealer asked his cat.
Reggie responded with a muffled meow.
End Chapter 58
Dash my wig. I do hope Opal is okay. She looks so fragile. And what does that cat have in his mouth? Mee-noo, minou makes me think of the sound of a cat’s meow. Jaspe (ZASH-pah) is, of course Cajun. Here’s a fun post about the lingo of that part of Louisiana.
In other news
I’m offering the service of “designed & ready” book covers. (Thanks to Dan Antion for suggesting that term.) These covers are for sale, on a new page at this blog. Click here to see my entire portfolio. Here is one example.
Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos.
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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