Embarking Kidnapping [Vheshrame; 27 Trandary 4385]
Windigar flew Strayway to the Halflight Gate, which is much more convenient to Castle Wrong than the actual port. We trundled to the gate with seven cartsful of afterthoughts, including:
- A goodly supply of fresh fish, meat, and produce. We will generally buy food locally when we stop each night. We realized last night that we need to start doing that today, not tomorrow, or we'll be scrounging for tonight's dinner.
- A final box of Academy Bakery poptaloops: little sticky buns with a dot of sweet bean paste on top. Arfaen is a passable baker; but I will miss Academy Bakery.
- Quendry, officially there "to see the ship and say goodbye to Mommy Arfaen and Mummy Mellilot". Quendry's father was supposed to pick him up at noon precisely.
- Inconnu's clothing and personal belongings.
- Half the contents of the Ghreptic Bookstore. Hops was going to procure some books for reading while on the ship, but zie was prevented in doing so by a gaggle of Herethroy porters which zie got into some sort of silly fight with. Tingula volunteered to do it in zir place, but Tingula got rather Orren about it. So, last night, Windigar, Lithia, Kantele, Phaniet, Calla, Blenny, Zascalle, and Jyondre took a remarkably large amount money to the Ghreptic Bookstore, and returned with a remarkably small amount of money and a remarkably large amount of reading matter.
- An official apology from Hezimikkinen that zie is not coming to the bon voyage party (last night), but zie will see me shortly in any case. This is reasonable. We are reasonably friendly as Zi Ri and half-siblings in the same city go; but a few years apart will do wonders for our relationship. Also, Castle Wrong's parties are not necessarily the sort that Hezimikkinen likes to be seen at. (Zie has come to several of that sort, but in disguise. Zie may even have spent more time partaking of them than I have, since I generally don't do anything interesting at them.)
- Some clean laundry.
- Some flowering plants, in pots. It Was Decided By Those In Power (which doesn't include me) that being indoors all the time on the trip was Far Too Dismal, even though I included a great many windows, and so we Must Have Flowering Plants In Pots. So, we have Flowering Plants In Pots.
Vae, of course, met us outside the gate, in the gazebo where she has met me every third day for a century. She was an immense beast that morning, towering over the gazebo, festooned with spikes big and sharp enough to intimidate Yerenthax. She towered monstrously over Strayway. She was holding a tiny basket covered with a blue checked cloth in her left forepaw, and wearing a huge set of fuzzy earmuffs.
Me:"You don't have a lot of luggage, unless that basket is larger than it looks."
Vae:"Not a bit larger, I am afraid, Sythyry. Not so many things do I wish to bring with me. The bracelet with the sliver of Oixe's egg is here. The healing talisman you made for me is here. The pictures of Greenspikes and of Strenata are here too. And what truly matters in life, save memories of friends, and sorcerous defenses? If anything important is forgot, I shall trot back and get it."
And she can trot back and get it. I can't, nor can any reasonable person I know. She travelled further to meet with Oixe.
Me:"Fair enough! How were you planning to get into the yacht, though? You're rather larger than it is."
Vae flicked one of the doorways with her tail. It stopped being a little hole in the side of the candelabra that was somehow big enough for primes and carts to walk through, and became a little hole in the side of the candelabra that was somehow big enough for anything, no matter how big, to walk through. I stared at it nervously, but it didn't break.
Me:"I'm not sure that that's a good idea; there's a substantial Locador enchantment on that already." Which is silly to say; Vae can see such things better than I can. "If you're going to do that regularly, I'll make some alternations."
Vae:"Not again shall I do that until I return in the Strayway to my home!"
Vae curled her tail around herself, and became a six-inch-long serpent, bright blue and green striped, with four pairs of dragonfly wings, wearing a tiny set of fuzzy earmuffs. She zoomed over to me and coiled around my foreleg.
Windigar:"Vaisessasilmin, I do hereby formally invite you to come as a passenger upon Strayway, and sail the skies with us, hither and yon, trunkward and outward, rollward and roll'gainst, beneath the eyes of the creator gods, until our paths do part us."
Vae:"The I do accept this invitation, to be your guest and passenger upon Strayway, and to abide by all your orders as we fly, until our paths do part us."
Me:"You have been reading historical romance novels, have you not, Vae?" Because nobody makes a formal invitation to a skyboat anymore; it was archaic a century ago.
Vae:"The novels that you brought me over the months and years and decades are the novels that I read! The blame for my historical romances falls fully on your back, Sythyry."
Windigar:"It is a nice bit of ritual, nonetheless."
Phaniet:"Besides, it's never a bad thing to get a promise of good behavior out of the monsters. Even if they can't keep it."
Vae twisted appearance around herself so we couldn't see her crying. But anyone who knows Vae knows that there were daggers of glass ripping her eyes behind that illusion.
Later, in her cabin, I asked her, for the hundreth time, "Shall I tune your earmuffs so you don't hear that sort of thing any more?"
She shook her tiny head, and denied me for the hundredth time. "Not a bit! The I barely even notice it anymore, and the tears and their healing are good for me."
Quendry and his Brothers
Quendry's father did not choose to come in person to collect Quendry. Perhaps he does not like nendrai, or skyboats, or Khtsoyis seamstresses. Or perhaps he had better things to do. So he sent two of Quendry's not-quite-brothers, Cani boys a few years older than Quendry. I am not quite sure of their names, so I will call them both Broon.
They sort of wobbled around Strayway a few times, looking for the doors. The doors are not obvious. They are not exactly concealed, but they are part of the bas-reliefs on the vase, so they are not quite obvious either. Also, they look too small for a mouse to creep through, much less a whole prime. They're actually quite easy to find -- look for the holes with the most Locador magic on them. I should probably figure out how to install locks at some point; but at least our cryptic defenses are capable of keeping out two young Cani boys.
Finally Broon, or perhaps Broon, shouted at the antelopes, "Hey! Let us in!"
Windigar, deep inside the yacht, spoke into a shell that made his words loud and thunderous outside: "Turn right, walk straight at the wall, and you're in."
So they did, and wound up in a sort of cloakroom, panelled in grey leather, with pegs on the walls and a roaring fire, and a pool of steaming water in the corner for a quick bath, and nobody around.
They called out "Quendry? Quendry? Arfaen? Consort-of-Arfaen?"
Nobody answered. This is because almost everyone was on the other side of the yacht, busy with all sorts of last-minute tasks. Only Windigar and I, in the control room, could hear them.
Broon and Broon wandered around, noses to the ground. I can't smell very well myself -- I do fine for a Zi Ri, but that's nothing compared to a Cani -- but I imagine that the smells in Strayway must have been a bit confusing. We've had a hundred workmen in here over the last month.
After a while, they were thoroughly lost. It was time to be cruel. I flew out of the control room, straight for them.
After a while, I was thoroughly lost, too. The talking furniture wasn't much help, since they didn't know where Broon and Broon were.
So I missed the actual takeoff.
A third of an hour later, maybe, I caught up with Broon and Broon. They had gotten to one of the spare pantries, and were having a quick impromptu lunch of spiced sausage and hard cider. Spiced sausage from The Farm on Ghaln-Yastrou Park, which costs three lozens a pound [$30/lb, and food is generally cheap on the World Tree. -bb], at that.
"Excuse me," I said, because one always should be polite to people that one is about to be horrible to. "You are stowaways on my ship, and you are eating my most expensive sausage. I cannot permit this." Which is all technically true, even though I knew better.
"We're not..." started Broon, or, perhaps, Broon.
"But you are, indeed, and you should not be, for you are flying away from your homes while you are doing it. You must go back home now." I said, and teleported them to the Halflight Gate. I am not so good at agressive Locador spells as Vae is, but one does not need to be.
(Our first plan was to have Vae send the supposed intruders off, perhaps teleporting them rather further away, to Daukrhame or some such. It is the sort of thing a cruel and wicked monster would do, after all. But, first of all, I don't want to train Vae to be cruel and wicked any more than her own nature and natural upbringing requires, which is rather a lot. And, second, the kidnapping is about 1/3 my responsibility, with 1/2 going to Arfaen and the remaining 1/6 being spread around the ship; and I ought to do my own dirty work.)
And that completes the kidnapping proper, I hope. We'll be some cities away before we stop again, and Quendry's father will have no idea where to find us. Arfaen has written him a letter -- I have seen a dozen drafts of it -- explaining the situation in terms that do not actually admit to any wrongdoing or admit that there is any blame anywhere in the situation. It is just an unfortunate mistake, in her letter, but one that will not be corrected. We will send it to him from somewhere or other tonight, and then keep flying.
And, by the time I got back to the control room, it did seem quite dirty indeed. Arfaen had explained the situation to Quendry -- there had been a change of plans, and he, Quendry, was going to come with her and Mellilot and me and all on a long and wonderful trip. Quendry is young, but not stupid. I could hear him howling for his father and his pack.
His father who treated him wrong, in a way that Quendry even now might never recover from. But his father who had given him a place in the pack -- even though that place was "omega", the least of all -- and Cani love their packs, even when they are otherwise awful to them.
I'm pretty sure that we did the best thing for Quendry: for his growing up as a Cani healthy in mind and spirit, and even for his treatment over the next few years. But oh, the howling!