Saturday, June 26, 2021
Welcome back, my chuckaboos. I hope you’ve had a lovely week. The Delta Pearl is here. This riverboat first left dock on July, 27, 2019. It’s been two years, and 77 installments! Yes, this is the final chapter. I’m grateful to everyone who has been a part of this story, whether you left “random reader things”, or just left friendly comments. Your participation has meant the world to me.
Today I have a truly long episode, but I didn’t want to parcel out the ending. For those who only want to read a little, I’ve divided it into “parts” to make it easy for you to find a stopping place. I’m serious about it being long… Without further ado…
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 77 — Bond
Cécile produced an ornate brass box. It looked identical to one from The Delta Pearl. At the base of the filigree adorned box, was a small hole. The clockwork butterfly detached herself from Cécile’s shoulder, allowing the mambo to take the short gold rod which was the key. She inserted it into the box and turned. Then she reattached it to Peridot.
The brass box opened to reveal tuning forks, also like the ones in the matching box on the riverboat. However, there were only five, rather than six.
“The sixth fork belonged to Malachite. When the Delta Pearl banished him, she kept the tuning fork… and the key. So, the Geostrophic Pearl has never held the level of magic that belongs to the riverboat. But it could not anyway. It is but an appendage of the riverboat,” Cécile explained.
“You mean the airship was always a part of the Delta Pearl?” I asked and she nodded.
“Ma moitié — That is why I say the Delta Pearl is my other half,” she murmured.
At a light whistle from Cécile the clockwork owl came forward. His tiny top hat was about to fall off, and she fixed it for him.
“Onyx, mon choupinou, please see Peridot safely down to the Captain. Make sure they get the key,” she instructed and the two clockworks flew out of the airship.
As I watched the two leaving, a reaction to the trauma of the struggle with Malachite caught up with me. My hands started to shake. The view outside only added to my distress.
When the wind, or perhaps the Voodoo queen’s magic, blew the airship inland, it took us farther than ever away from the riverboat. It looked so small, far below us. However, the Delta Pearl was leaving a wake behind her as she sped at an impossible pace to catch up with the air ship.
“You told me I had to save myself,” I began in a defeated voice. “I’ve done a poor job of that. Blue John and the clockworks are what saved us. Maybe Malachite was right. I’m not worthy to be the Delta Pearl’s heir.”
“Nonsense. It isn’t over yet. There is still much saving to be done,” Cécile told me in a sardonic tone I had not heard her use before.
“Émeraude, the bonding needs to be sung,” Blue John wheezed from where he lay.
“But that takes six voices. There are only the three of us!” I told him, unable to keep my fear in check.
“It has to be done,” Blue insisted weakly.
Abruptly I remembered that Victor told me to use the telectroscope when the bonding was sung, so everyone’s singing could combine. I went to the device and fiddled with the knobs. Suddenly the screen was filled by a close view of Victor’s nose.
“Ah! There you are, my chuckaboo!” he exclaimed and backed away so that he looked normal. “Émeraude remember, turn on the volume. It’s the dial on the lower left.”
I twisted the dial this way and that, and did everything my inventor recommended. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make them hear us.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry. Something must have come loose inside the machine when it was transported. The rocket wasn’t exactly a smooth way to move it. We can still hear what’s happening up there, and we’re getting closer by the minute. Hopefully that will be enough,” he tried to reassure me.
Victor moved aside and the Dealer’s face came into view. I almost cried, just for the relief seeing him gave me. If it had been Agate’s sympathetic face, I would have blubbered uncontrollably.
“Jaspe, what can we do? We don’t have six voices. The bonding will never work and Cécile says the singing of it will heal Blue John!” I asked, already forgetting that I wouldn’t be able to hear what he said.
The Dealer moved his lips, but I couldn’t read them. Then the screen flickered. The image of Jaspe’s face was distorted. The transmission stopped. I started to cry.
I heard Cécile murmuring that foreign song again. She was bending over Blue John. I was so upset that I didn’t think about it. In a foggy part of my mind, I remembered him saying that he didn’t want her to do any Voodoo on him.
“Em, we have to sing,” Blue John said softly, suddenly beside me.
Startled, I jumped. He still looked awful, but he had gotten across the room. Blue grumbled a complaint to Cécile about magic.
“Cher, it was only a teeny trickle of power. Just enough so that you don’t drop dead right now,” the mambo told him unapologetically. “You are still your normal self. Émeraude needs you… and so do I. So does the Geostrophic Pearl.”
The Mate turned his blue-eyed gaze back to me. My shoulders sagged. I had never been part of the bonding ceremonies. Those who sang had truly beautiful voices. My voice was not trained. I couldn’t read music. I knew I wasn’t a great singer. I said as much to Blue John.
“It is not the purity of pitch, cher. It is simply that you sing. It is your essence that is required,” said the Voodoo queen.
“Will the six-tone scale re-bond you to the Delta Pearl? Make you whole again?” I shifted the subject to ask Cécile.
After her remarks about being a bird in a gilded cage, I wasn’t sure if she would want to be part of the Delta Pearl. There was such sadness in her human eye when she spoke of it.
“It’s true that I am a bird in a gilded cage here on the Geostrophic Pearl. Malachite thought he protected me, but I had no freedom. But now that I am changed, an unnatural creature, I could not go about freely anywhere. If I were on the riverboat, it would not be allowed for the passengers see me. I would have no freedom there either,” she stated.
“But that is of no import right now, cher. As you know, Blue John became effected when the two ships came close together. However, that is not a temporary condition. It has progressed, perhaps because Malachite followed in this air ship for so long. Just as the two ships repel one another because of the damage Malachite did so long ago, so has Blue John been divided. However, the division and repelling, it is within his mind and soul. If the riverboat and the air ship are not re-bonded, he will never be whole. The song must be sung.”
“But we only have three voices, and the bonding calls for six. And I don’t even have a good voice, at least not the right kind of voice,” I fretted.
“It is true that the two entities cannot merge without the perfection of the six-tone scale. But Émeraude, it is not the exact notes the song must have in order to heal. They would be able to withstand being in closer proximity,” she tried to explain, but I didn’t understand.
“Émeraude, I believe she is right,” Blue began. “They can do the full ceremony on the Delta Pearl. We can sing a counterpoint, or a harmony here and create a song that complements it. It won’t have to be the exact notes or the same number of voices.”
I still didn’t fully understand. However, what the Mate said did make a certain kind of sense to me.
“I’m hoping there is also an added benefit,” Blue continued. “The changed situation would also give Cécile an amount of freedom. She has developed a sense of self over the years. If she was made part of the Delta Pearl again, she would still be a bird in a gilded cage. Her only real freedom is the Geostrophic Pearl.”
The all-seeing eye pin started to glow brightly. The tuning forks began to vibrate. They emanated a rainbow of cascading colors that shot across the room. There were no instruments, only voices.
With each line, the six-tone scale escalated one degree higher. However, the tones felt very incomplete to me. One of the tuning forks made a sour note. I could feel the song unraveling.
I remembered when Jet Fischer’s bonding very nearly went bad, because of Malachite’s copper scarab. However, when the Captain added his bass tones the process came back together.
“If only we had a bass voice,” I muttered with a hopeful look at Blue John Boulton.
Immediately I felt guilty. It was amazing that the Mate could manage to sing a note in his condition.
“Lass, even on a good day, I could never hit the deep notes that Cecil Perlog sings,” he said, almost panting with the effort of singing.
I couldn’t help thinking that all the effort and pain had been for nothing. Harmony or full song, it wasn’t going to be enough to keep Blue John alive.
The Mate muttered something unintelligible as he checked the tuning forks.
Gee-peh, the clockwork leopard gave a low growl, as if in agreement with Blue.
“There’s no need to growl at me,” I remarked to the mechanical jungle cat.
“Not to worry, cher. That is his purr,” Cécile assured me.
I looked at the huge clockwork curiously. Then I was struck by an idea. My eyebrows shot up near my hairline. I looked at Cécile.
“That was actually a pretty good bass tone. Do you think…? With a little help, maybe…?” I tried to suggest but wasn’t sure what to say.
Cécile caught my meaning. She clicked her tongue and the leopard went to her side. It placed its chin on her knee and continued the mechanical purring. Briefly she chanted foreign words over the cat. The grinding noise became more like the sound of a motor. Then the humming of the motor started to sound very much like a wordlessly intoned human song — in a rich bass tone.
Describing Blue John as looking better may have been an overstatement, but his decline seemed to have slowed. I even felt more composed. I turned a curious gaze to Cécile. The rings surrounding her mechanical eye twisted first one direction then another. A small smile played upon her lips.
The Mate looked at the light coming from the Captain’s emerald. The glow was flickering.
“There’s a reason why the Captain wears the all-seeing eye pinned to hold his puff tie in place. It doesn’t only help him attune to the Pearl. It helps him have her voice. Move the pin so that it is at your throat, not on your shoulder,” he told me. “Then sing any sound that yourn heart would speak.”
I re-pinned the brooch as Blue instructed. He and Cécile intoned rich music. The perfect pitch of the Mate’s voice always gave me goosebumps. Cécile’s voice sharp and high, but pleasant. It reminded me of tapping a crystal champagne flute. She touched the clockwork leopard with a nod, and its bass tone merged with their voices.
Then from somewhere inside the heart of the airship itself, an impossibly deep sound engulfed me. I felt the vibration in my feet as a bass surged. It was even lower than the leopard’s gris-gris enhanced purr.
“The voice of the Geostrophic Pearl,” Blue John whispered in awe.
Other music drew my eyes to the porthole. Below on the river, I could see the harmonic music, streaming up from the riverboat in half a dozen colors.
Suddenly I could hear the difference in the song from the crew of the riverboat and the music from Blue and Cécile. The two songs blended together so well that I had not realized it was more than one song.
I sang an awkward note that didn’t match either song.
Amethyst scrabbled up my sleeve and onto my shoulder. The clockwork spider only had a whispery voice, but she urged me to use mine.
Then my purple spider hopped to the all-seeing eye pin at my throat. She clamped her front feet around the black diamond that formed the pupil of the eye. A dark rainbow aura formed around Amethyst. Suddenly tones poured from my spider that were so pure they went straight to my heart.
“The voice of the Delta Pearl,” I murmured.
A tear glistened in Cécile’s eye. Smiling, she nodded and grabbed my hand.
And to my astonishment, I did precisely that.
Cécile swayed to the tune. She was surrounded by the colors of the music as she casted her spell. Then she took one of the tuning forks and carefully struck it against her eye piece.
The Geostrophic Pearl rocked and lurched. Below on the river, I saw the Delta Pearl waver and shift as well.
I remembered Victor’s description when the brown cloud that hid the airship came close to the riverboat. He said that it was like two magnets with the wrong poles, pushing each other away. The two ships could not be close together. I feared what might would happen, because something was pulling them closer, despite the unseen force that repelled them.
Auras surged wildly. The harmonic tones became so intense I could scarcely bear the sound. The music consumed me. Holding our hands, Cécile pulled Blue and me closer.
Blue John struggled to his feet. His voice held the same tone that he sung, but he spoke.
“Émeraude, Cécile… I’m glad I could see you together. It’s almost as good as seeing the Pearl made whole. I’m glad I could see you one last time,” Blue gasped out in a ragged voice, then he fell into us as we sang.
Colored light stabbed into Blue John. His back arched. He cried out in pain. Knees buckling, his body sagged. The only thing holding him up was music and light.
Rainbow auras light and dark shot wildly around the room. Colors and music enveloped the Geostrophic Pearl.
Suddenly Blue gasped hoarsely, sucking air into his lungs.
A mindless expression was on his face, but his voice rejoined the song.
The sensation of two magnets pushing one another away intensified.
“The circuit needs to be complete!” Cécile cried. “Émeraude, take hold of him again.”
With the unconscious Blue John, the three of us made a circle. The dirigible and the air around it vibrated. The sound got in my head and buzzed in in my sinuses. I shook my head hard.
Waves of auric light reached up from the riverboat to merge with those surrounding the airship. Black is the presence of all colors. Similar to the dark rainbow that came from the black diamond of the all-seeing eye, darker colors beamed out from the dirigible and down to the riverboat.
The singing from the riverboat was loud enough to easily be heard. I could hear the harmonies as a single sound, but I also heard the individual voices. Cecil Perlog the Captain’s bass, Jaspe the Dealer’s dynamic voice, Obsidian the Cadet, Opal the Librarian, Jet her apprentice, Agate, the Cook. They made the six-tone chord!
I staggered to the floor, abruptly released from the hold of the music. The Mate lay motionless. His countenance was more peaceful than I had seen him look since I was a small child.
“Is he…” I tried to ask Cécile but I couldn’t bear to say the word.
“The Delta Pearl was angry with him so the music became violent, stabbing him,” the Voodoo queen began but saw my confused expression. “Because he would leave her. He has wished to leave for some months, no? The stress of the divided Delta Pearl was too much for him. But as the song was being sung, she knew he must go, no matter how the bonding would be done, c’est tout.”
I still didn’t understand. Then I saw that the Mate was actually breathing softly, and I forgot all about my own confusion.
“Ça c’est bon,” she murmured looking from Blue to me. “The magic… the Delta Pearl has healed his wound. She has also healed herself, and his mind too, I think.”
Thanks to Agate’s herbal potions and a bit of hypnotic suggestion, the passengers knew nothing of what really transpired. The extraordinary speed at which the riverboat had traveled to catch up with the airship had brought the Delta Pearl close to the intended port. The passengers disembarked as they normally would.
That didn’t apply to Mr. and Mrs. Randal Needleman. They of course became a part of the events that transpired on the voyage. Eliza and her husband extended their stay on the riverboat. An unexpected friendship seemed to have developed between the entrepreneur and the Captain.
I couldn’t help remembering and wondering about the future where we left at Mate will stay with the runaway wife and her lover — Alison Ritchie and Azalea Morton. The business card the Dealer secretly told me to give them, the place where someone would help them had read Cecil Perlog IV and Emerald Needleman, Attorneys at Law.
Captain Cecil Perlog regretfully accepted the resignation of his First Mate, Blue John Boulton. However, the event was not a sad one. Blue would become the captain of the Geostrophic Pearl airship. Blue John decided that the air ship, a smaller vessel than the giant riverboat, and one with no passengers, would offer him the rest his mind needed.
Cécile and her clockworks could have managed the dirigible on their own, but she didn’t want the task. No longer threatened by Malachite, she preferred to focus on her studies and magic. Suddenly having the freedom to leave, she found that she wanted to stay. Particularly if Blue John would also stay.
Obsidian Durango, the Cadet gulped when the Captain called his name.
“Captain sir, please don’t send me to that flying death-trap. I promise I’ll be more timely and more focused on my duties,” Sid pleaded.
“You’ll have to, my boy. It takes a lot of attention to detail… to be the First Mate of the Delta Pearl,” the Captain said by way of promoting him.
Jet Fischer, who already had extensive experience in library science, was to temporarily give up his position as Opal’s apprentice. He would serve, as the airship’s librarian, copying all the works of the Geostrophic Pearl, so they could be shared with the riverboat’s bank of knowledge.
When Victor finished a tour Cécile provided of the airship, my young inventor was beyond fascinated. Then he became very quiet.
Cécile gazed at Victor. Her mechanical eye clicked and whirred as the various rings around it adjusted. A spark of pink light appeared in the glass. Her chin tilted upward, and her head slightly to one side before she spoke.
“Mon choupinou Victor,” the mambo began. “You are gifted with mechanical things. With enough time to study her workings, do you imagine you could make a way to power the Geostrophic Pearl? A way that doesn’t create the vile brown cloud?”
The Captain and Jaspe were utterly silent. They looked on interestedly.
In an overly casual tone, Victor mentioned a wish to spend more time on the Geostrophic Pearl to study it. He said he believed he could create something similar to the naptha engine that powered the launch boat. Then he became quiet again.
“I know it’s not proper, but propriety be damned. Come with us, Émeraude! Marry me please,” he burst out, dropping to one knee.
I freely admit that my heart did a flipflop. The sapphire clockwork bluebird even fluttered around my head. That actually earned Victor a narrow-eyed look from me. I suspected he and the bluebird were in cahoots.
As exciting and romantic as it was, his proposal came as a complete surprise to me. I had dreamed of a “Prince Charming” or a knight in shining armor along with a beautiful fairytale wedding, just as most girls did. However, those weren’t my only fantasies.
“You’d ask for my hand,” I started bewilderedly. “Yet you’ve never managed to even steal a kiss? How can you want to marry me?”
Abruptly he stood. Pulling me into a tight embrace, Victor firmly planted a kiss on my mouth. It was followed by a softer, lingering kiss.
Seeing the exchange from across the deck, the Captain bellowed like a giant bear. The Dealer and the Chief Porter each grabbed one of his arms. Jet Fischer tried to talk calmingly to him. Sid prudently backed away.
Cecil Perlog shook them off as easily as he would take off a coat. Finally, the Cook stepped in front of him. I couldn’t hear what she said, but she punctuated every sentence by poking her finger into his chest.
He looked from the Agate to me and then to Jaspe. The Captain’s shoulders sagged, but otherwise he did not move.
Mr. and Mrs. Needleman stood nearby. Eliza smiled. Randall chuckled.
“Ataboy, Victor!” he cheered.
“Victor, I’m barely sixteen years old—” I began but Victor cut off my words.
“There’s nothing improper in that! Girls much younger than you marry. I’m easily able to provide for you. Or I’m quite happy to stay aboard the Delta Pearl with you. I know this is your home. I wouldn’t demand that you leave, or go any place that you didn’t want to go,” he vowed.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to marry you, Victor. I’m saying that I don’t want to marry anyone — not yet. I’ve lived almost all my life on the Delta Pearl. Granted I see much more on these river voyages that most girls ever see… but I’ve never seen or done anything else. I just don’t know what I want,” I finished lamely.
“Atagirl,” Eliza murmured, earning a confused look from her husband.
Cécile murmured something to Blue John. Hearing it, Jaspe glared at her, but then his face softened and he nodded. The Dealer turned to the Captain and they talked quietly. So did Eliza and Randal.
“Victor, my chuckaboo... You can’t just throw propriety to the winds,” Eliza spoke up. “But who could complain if you have chaperones? Randal and I would love to do a tour on the Geostrophic Pearl. What could be more exciting?” she exclaimed.
Neither the Captain nor the Dealer looked very happy with that solution. However, both of my father figures looked less irate. At least I didn’t think either of them was about to kill anyone.
“Oh, alright,” the Captain grumbled. “Mate— ahem… Captain Boulton, you have ninety days. At the end of that time, she’d better be brought safely back to us. Émeraude see Europe and the Far East, and any place you’ve dreamed of… but just ninety days, mind you! Eliza, I’m counting on you to keep all this new crew in line. Maybe that responsibility will keep you out of trouble too,” he muttered in an aside.
Abruptly I remembered the Captain’s all-seeing eye pin. I needed to return it to him, because I was certain that he only meant it as a loan. As I went toward him, I stopped to speak to Cécile.
“Didn’t you tell me that I had to save myself, that the Delta Pearl would not have a weak heir?” I started. “Because I don’t feel heroic. I’m not sure I saved anything, including myself. Do you think the riverboat will not accept me?”
“Ah, cher…” Cécile began with a shake of her head. “You did save yourself, and more than once. That does not come from vanquishing someone who is two times stronger than you. When you find inner strength which you never knew you possessed, that is when you save yourself.”
“Émeraude, you did save yourself. Cher, you will do so again and again,” promised the Voodoo queen.
Later, the Geostrophic Pearl drifted lazily above the river, Victor worked to repair the pink tourmaline flamingo and some other clockworks that were damaged. Randal looked on and assisted. Jet enthusiastically started going through all the books and charts. Eliza and Cécile were getting acquainted.
So, I indulged my curiosity and prowled. I found all sorts of interesting knickknacks that had been collected. In an out of the way corner, I found a tall storage cabinet. Opening it, I took out a long parcel. I felt wrong about unwrapping it, but something told me I had better look. When I moved the paper, I found a prosthetic mechanical leg. By the length and size, I knew it belonged to Malachite.
“Is he like Cécile? Is he something other than human?” I wondered.
I remembered his fall. The dirigible had been over solid ground. Surely no man could survive…
There you have it, my chuckaboos! After 77 installments the Delta Pearl has returned to dock. Her voyage has come full circle, but it’s not really an end, because as long as she travels in your imagination, the adventures continue. Plus now she has a sister ship, the Geostrophic Pearl and who knows what collie shangles will ensue up there!
To those who are relatively new to this story, it means a lot to me that you joined this crew. For those who have been aboard The Delta Pearl from the very beginning, I can’t thank you enough. You’ve kept this riverboat afloat.
While I will still be blogging, I’m taking a break from blog serial writing. Like Blue John, my brain could use a rest. However, after I recharge, I’ll be back with an all new, from scratch, “Three Things” style, pantser serial. And sets of three random things, from you will drive every aspect of that story.
Until next time, my chuckaboos!
I’m sorry, my chuckaboos. I’m having the same kind of out-more-than-up Internet problems I had last summer and fall. Because of this, I will be slow to answer comments. It also seems to cause some of my comments to disappear. Your comments mean so very much to me, and I will answer as I’m able to squeeze out a few minutes at a time of Internet “service.” (Voodoo curses upon you TDS Telecom!)
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 2021 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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