Mar. 14 – 29th, 1867: Nothing work-wise to report. Emily and I continue our courtship, and are enjoying our time together immensely. We especially enjoy our combined efforts in educating our ward; she is reading the Bible and the various works of Mr. Dickens (with some difficulty). From where she was a year ago to now is quite a transformation! We have procured a dress for Jenny for the upcoming party; she does not know that she is going yet!
Mar. 30th: Elizabeth Cullen strolls in for breakfast. Cyrus has been called away on urgent business; members of his old regiment have been called in to work on a incident in west England involving the death of several prominent members of the peerage. As it was steeped in ‘weirdness,’ they called their old buddy Cyrus out of retirement for a spell.
(NOTE: Cyrus is going to laugh a LOT if it is what I think it is!)
We catch her up on what we have been up to. She is suitably jealous of our adventures (especially the dragon), but also worried over the same issues that we are. Storm clouds on the horizon, if not for us, then for our allies.
A knock on the door. Always when we are eating! But a pleasant surprise; our favorite Pooka haberdasher, Mr. Caning has come a-calling! And with him is a pleasant enigma; a 6’5" Japanese man in traveling peasant clothes, carrying a set of warrior’s blades. He met this man on the way to work, and, as he had a CH card referring him to us, decided to lead him our way.
Fate, now delivered fresh to your door!
We chat up Mr. Caning a bit; I have a headdress that he had been waiting for, and Elizabeth invites him to her party. He is thrilled, twice. He met the samurai on a crossroads, and these things have a special significance to his people; his duty done, he takes his leave.
The samurai is one Oda Saicho. He mentions that it is customary to present a host a gift on entry, so I take his shoes. I noticed them on his entry; they have almost disintegrated from hard walking. I will have him some new ones made from Raoul in the Fae Market, then find a reason to gift them to him. Sergei magic-eyes his blades; the long blade (a katana) is demonic in nature, and the wakizashi is angelic. Oda is quick to his story:
He was a up-and-coming swordsmith in his land; a position of some renown. Once, when starting work on a new katana, he was overcome in some sort of crafter’s trance; when he finished some days later (exhausted from working a few days straight), the katana he carries was the result. It is his greatest work, and is also possessed by the “Demon of Pain.” This weapon possessed him, forcing him to find battle wherever he could to satiate its bloodlust. He became a soldier, killing ‘a thousand men’ with said blade with little thought of anything else.
One day the wakizashi was delivered to him, and the merest touch of its hilt in his hand was enough to snap him out of his bloodlust. Within it lies the recently deceased soul of the Emperor of Japan (who died mere days ago). It is the Emperor’s desire to see Oda’s blade purified, and Oda’s honor restored. Why? Who knows; he is some mystical oracle quest-fellow. But it does keep Oda in check, and that is good. The Emperor is now guiding Oda in his journey (one form of control for another, but with less mutilation). Oda took a boat to China, hoping to find some way to cover expenses for his trip as a laborer (he has no concept of money, or the modern world). Instead, he found himself on a long road (made of magic, probably). At a crossroads (you have heard this story, right?) he meets a weird little guy who agrees with his Emperor that his journey should take him to visit folks at the Munster House in jolly ole England.
Well, when your talking cutlery and the mystic hobo you just met on a Chinese mountain path are in agreement, who are you to argue?
A brief walk later (MAGICAL GOAT PATH!), and he bumps into one Archibald Caning. Explaining his mission to the Pooka, he shows him the card (which imprinted itself with our House’s letterhead at the previous owner’s request, according to Oda) and is walked here.
Well, at least none of that is WEIRD…
Needing an expert in Eastern magical whatsits, I send for Mr. Ling. I assumed (correctly) that he HAD to get in on this craziness! He said that the card belonged to a friend of the CH, one Kano. A Londoner born of Chinese descent, he left years back for China, and send wayward folk back along the mystical roads from time to time. Like my dear Emily, he has a knack, and his is in mystical thoroughfares. Handy, that!
Oda is amazingly compliant; it is obvious that all of this is about as strange as a buffalo on a bicycle, but he accepts what he must for his quest. Admirable focus! As he has no clothes suitable for walking around as a homeless person in London, much less going to a party, we endeavor to take him shopping.
(NOTE: To be fair, we were going shopping, anyway. Emily and I told Jenny she was invited to the party if Mrs. Cullen said it was OK, and since Elizabeth was delighted at the thought, we are going to take Jenny shopping and let her pick out a hat for her dress. I love shopping with my girls!)
We hit the Fae Market, meeting with all of our now-familiar friends among the shops and stalls. How weird is it that being surrounded by trolls, elves, pooka, and the like feels more natural than a walk in Piccadilly? Oda, once again, just takes us at our word on what he should wear. Aldo realizes that, along with his new attire, Oda will require a new sword-belt for his blades. He and Sergei get to work on that after we return from our trip, triumphant. Sergei has the brilliant idea to hire Oda on as a ‘security consultant’ at the practice; Oda galled at the idea of loafing around for free, so we will help him with a spot of occasionally-blade-dependent employment.
Mar. 31st: We help Elizabeth prep for the party. Due to the growing list of people invited, it is being held in the National Museum, which is good; we know that place, the people there know and respect us, and if it burns down, Cyrus and Elizabeth still have a bed to sleep in.
April 1st: The day passes quickly into evening. Jenny is about to bounce out of her dress she is so excited! We get dressed up; the ladies are stunning (Emily, Zoe, and, as we see when we get there, Elizabeth), and the men dapper. Mary and Marcus will not be making it; the last I heard, they were tracking down a lead on a possible child slavery issue in town. It is probably for the best; Marcus would have NEVER decided what to wear, and Mary would have melted from the sheer dandy-ness of everyone at the party!
We hit the party, and are introduced all properly at the door. I am actually pretty excited myself; this is the first public party that Emily, Jenny, and I have gone to, and with her father in attendance as well!
Mr. Birch, the head of the museum, comes over to say hello. He has used Sergei and I to check security on occasion, and we like working with him. Mr. Braddock introduces us to his business partner, Mr. Finch. He is kind of a withdraw, quit kind of fellow. Sergei recognizes him as having a slight Slavic accent, the kind he has probably spent years trying to wean himself off. I imagine he is in worse shape than Mr. Braddock on the ‘new rich’ scale; at least Mr. Braddock is British. Sergei also catches Mr. Balin (of Her Majesty’s Shadow Men) in attendance. Faint, polite nods from across the room all around.
The party starts off wonderfully. Elizabeth is radiantly happy, and charming the socks off of everyone. If her mother-in-law could be any prouder, I cannot see how. They are schmoozing, hob-nobbing, and whatnot. Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Aldous Huxley all make the scene. This is truly shaping up to be the party of the year, and the donation pledge box for the orphanage is filling fast enough that we will probably have to empty it a bit before night’s end!
And then the band started playing, “Here Comes The Queen.” Or whatever that song is called.
Wow! Elizabeth’s party is so awesome that THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND is making an appearance! She strolls in (definitely the best dressed now!), Balin and other official functionaries get ready in case of bad things. Well, as ready as they can be when taking a knee.
Just like everyone else is.
(BEGIN EXTENDED NOTE:)
As much as I try to keep these entries about important events, here is a little nugget of information about me, for posterity’s sake.
I am a child of three nations. My mother was Apache, my father is Cherokee, and I fought for a portion of America (under protest, but still). Of those three, I identify most with my Apache heritage; I was raised with my mother for 12 years, before her passing, and then went to live with my father (who did his best to ‘civilize’ me). I loved my time with my mother and my family there; it was exciting, a bit scary (because we were always at war and on the move), and simple.
Apache do not kneel. And, though it would have made so many of my peers (including my betrothed) much more at ease, I refuse to dishonor my mother by doing so now, even for such a personage as Queen Victoria. I do bow my head, respectfully. But that is the limit I am capable of doing.
And, lo and behold, a 6’6" Indian standing alone in a field of kneeling-folk tended to stand out to Her Royal Majesty. And, not coincidentally, to everyone else in the room.
Well, Elizabeth thought that there was about to be a war right then and there. I could see the “BEST PARTY EVER” draining from her face. Emily was too stunned to speak; I think that she alone understood why I did what I did, but never thought it would be an issue, especially on so grand a stage. I think Sergei was thinking of hamstringing me, but decided to let it play out.
Now, I have seen many wonders in my young life. I have been blessed with an extraordinary life, and have met extraordinary people because of this. But, as the monarch of the most powerful nation on earth strolled over with her guards directly to me, I was preparing myself for several possible outcomes; fighting, incarceration, and maybe the most talked-about hostage situation in history. I was not ready for what happened:
The Queen acknowledged me and asked if I was James, son of Stand Watie of the Cherokee Nation. When I answered in the affirmative, she smiled, greeted me, and asked how my father was doing. She then took her leave of me and circled the room once, saying her hellos, before leaving.
In doing this, she left me keep my pride. She acknowledged me, in front of her people, as my father’s son. Sure, my Dad and I do not have the best relationship. But I love the old goat, and he is the chief of the Cherokee nation, as recognized by the United States. She recognized me as a visiting dignitary, and gave my breach of etiquette her approval. She made it public that she welcomes me to her nation in a way that people who are now called my ‘brothers’ (re: GM Montague) cannot do in the House. She accepted me, savage though I am, in front of the type of people who live off of scandal.
Suffice it to say, Queen Victoria is the classiest Lady I have ever met.
(END EXTENDED NOTE)
The party goes on, and it is SOOOO much fun to see people now unsure of what to do about Emily Braddock’s arm-candy.
King Bob (VoL) and his daughter Lady Grey sashay in and make rounds. He may be a blood-sucking uber-aristocrat, but he also has style, and that counts for a lot.
Zoe catches a shifty looking fellow making for the museum’s back area. This, being a no-no, gets us moving. Fast Eddie laSalle, who crashed the party earlier, seems quizzical on this as well. He stays back (not one to risk himself for what may turn into a fun experience), while we move to investigate.
Aldo uses his gizmo to keep the darkness from our eyes, and we sneak through the eerily quiet museum halls. Well, most of us sneak. Aldo and Oda sneak about as efficiently as a Cape Buffalo covered in tiny bells rolling down a mountainside.
We scout around, when a fellow moves into view from behind us. He tries to hit our guys with some crazy phrase in French, probably a code. And, after we insinuate to him that we are NOT the people he is looking for (and the LAST people he wants to see), he tries to run. Aldo misses a trip, but this lines him up for Sergei’s Sap-of-Doom. Lights go out for our new friend.
As he drops to the floor, a large beetle runs from his sleeve and scampers impossibly fast into a storage area. I grab Frenchie and we give chase. We get in there in time to see the beetle burrow into a nearby crate. And then starts the scuttling, which gets louder and louder.
The box explodes, and out comes about a million beetles. As they have big, sharp mandibles and make a beeline (beetleline?) for the door, we decide that they are NOT allowed to crash the party, and start stomping. The mandibles are not for show, they actually cut up a few of us before we can finish squishing. Some poor janitor is going to have a NIGHTMARE after this clean-up!
After we fight, I hear a bit of box-cracking in a nearby room. We tip-toe to the door, and, lo-and-behold, there is sneaky guy #1, carrying a gigantic urn. And, since we were all just dying to know what was in the urn, he obliged us by slipping and dropping it on the floor.
Contents: dinosaur bones. Well, the were just a few bones and a lot of dust. Which rapidly reformed into just bones. Then a full-sized, animated dinosaur.
(NOTE: Elizabeth, ever the educator, told us later that it is what is known as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or “Giant Lizard with Swords for Teeth”)
As mister Fumble-fingers tried to run, Aldo sped up himself and Oda, and moved to intercept the fleeing thief. It was a good call; I had mentioned earlier that firearms were an emergency-only issue, and this, and I cannot believe that my life is so awesome so as to say this, was not yet an emergency. He immediately altered strategies into a support role, slipping on some brass knuckles and doing what was needed.
I would like to say that what happened next was a protracted fight worthy of epic ballads, but, honestly, this lizard was outclassed. The fleeing thief cast a globe of darkness on the dinosaur, which Aldo’s magic countered for us but not the beast. Make no bones about it, he was big and scary. But, after what we have been through, the Ladies did not even ruffle their dresses. Heck, Zoe just hung back and threw magic at it to keep it rattled. Trust a lady from Paris to only risk a fancy dress if she ABSOLUTELY has to! Elizabeth spent a few rounds punching and kicking it until she found one little bone in it’s spine. She poked it, and the whole thing came crumbling down.
But, as it did not turn to dust, the museum now has, instead of a urn of dust and unidentified bone fragments, a full dinosaur skeleton! HOORAY, COMBAT PALEONTOLOGY!
(Note: Seriously, Zoe and Elizabeth we not IN ANY WAY frumpled. If it is not some form of magic, then it should be!)
The now-not-fleeing Frenchie is no zealot, a bit of angry over-acting and subtle persuasion from my colleagues has him spill. A man named “Monsignor Garnier” hired the two of them; him to get the vase and his unconscious friend to take a small box (containing the beetle) to the box full of bugs. It seems like us that it is a diversion, so Elizabeth, Sergei, and Zoe head back to case out the party and send Mr. Balin back here to deal with these two.
Zoe tells us later that she recognized a French vampire named Leopold at the party, looking nervous as hell. Probably waiting for his distraction to come crashing in. He is a mamber of one of the more naughty vampire groups in Paris, and definitely not on the guest list. When he sees Zoe stalking his way, he and his crew make haste for the door and leave. Zoe, being a genius, immediately concludes that to give chase would frumple her dress, and instead says hello to King Bob, telling him and his kid the situation. He is not amused, and sends Lady Grey out to… ahem… ?speak? to Leopold?
Mr. Balin makes his way to us, with guards. We fill him in, and he thanks us for the assist. Man, I hope we can stay friends. The more friends we have, the sooner we can go hunt Marcus’s demon, and Vikki’s devil, and every Teutonic on Earth, and everyone on our list.
But, to close this entry, let me say that Mrs. Elizabeth Cullen was the belle of the ball, and her entry into polite society was assured. Well done, m’amn!