Liz looked at the fat dealer with a snicker “Oh, you’re still here talking nonsense Big G? Haven’t you got your cabbages already? The staff these days… FINNLEY!” she shouted to the gaping muttering maid. “Snap out of this silly trance, will you! Get the man his cabbages, and show those drug-dealing gentlemen out. Can’t be here all day with the cement to set, I have a wedding to plan now.”
She turned at the window, looking for Godfrey who had temporarily left her, “what on Earth is he doing talking to that devilishly handsome fellow. Those rubberducks give me an idea for the wedding dress though. Golden yellow for the colour. With gorgeous yellow shoes. I’m feeling ages younger today… Oh, sweet love.”
“But cabbages will do” a desperate fat dealer said, wishful to promptly exit the mad house.
Readjusting to Earth had not been as easy as John had thought.
At the beginning, everything seemed overwhelmingly bright and noisy. The huge blue sky was a wonder to behold, but his eyes couldn’t look at it for long time periods.
Within a few days, the shock was wearing out, and the gradual realization started to settle, that there was no going back to that place where they were. That moment in space and time was so eerily starting to dissolve in his memory, feeling more and more like a distant fairytale, some story of the past, nothing more than an illusion.
Yet, it was that place where all his experiences were had. Where he had forged his character, had played, laughed, dreamt, feared, loved.
It all was almost meaningless. People were looking already at making movies and more distorted illusions of it for pure entertainment.
So, readjusting himself wasn’t going to be easy, if at all possible.
They’d released them in the end, not without giving them new identities. Seemed to be a fad these days, not only for protection of international security secrets, but also as a way to escape your irrevocable internet trail. Everything that was documented since your birth, since before you could even give your consent, and realize what was done. More and more were those who wanted a fresh start. What better solution to recycle a bunch of Mars stranded migrants into the fray of life itself.
After a few days, Quentin had had enough already of the food. Pickles, pickles, and more pickles. Pickled cabbage, green or red, gherkins and all sorts and sizes of pickled cucumbers, pickled onions and eggs… There was only variety in the type of thing that weird hostel family was able to think of pickling. Even his beard started to smell of pickles. It was slowing driving him nuts.
That, and the strange random cackling at all hours of day and night, which he’d hoped to leave behind after being a refugee from that dreaded town. It had started again. And it seemed to come from the huge framed pea above the mantelpiece. He smirked at the thought that the only reason that pea was framed was that they didn’t find any fitting jar to pickle it.
He was still waiting for an appointment with Aunt Idle, who apparently had forgotten him altogether. That was no small wonder, as he passed in front of her door with the half-unscrewed sign on her door that said “management”, he could smell she was into another kind of pickling altogether. With moonshine rather than with apple cider vinegar.
It was a quiet day in the mines.
Godfrey’s teams were operating at less than 10% of the usual. Most of the Indian guys who worked there had taken unpaid leaves for the observance of the Ganesh festival.
It was all a bit silly, come to think about it, for so many reasons.
One obviously, was that the dates were aligned on Earth’s calendar, for supposedly practical reasons, but which had nothing to do with the environment they were living in now. What good was a lunar calendar when Mars had two main moons, the lovely named Fear (Phobos) and Dread (Deimos), and of course completely different day times and years.
Anyhow, that wasn’t the least of the incoherences. You’d normally have to find a natural body of water to immerse the elephant clay statues. Good luck with that on Mars. But there was no stopping the rituals to find ways to survive. He’d heard an artificial pool would be temporarily erected at the Matrimandir to allow for the ritual to be performed.
A waste of good water, if you asked him.
The only good thing about it was that there was more calm than usual, mostly robots diligently carving the walls, and harvesting the yellow stones.
The day before, there had been an unusual ruckus after a heated speech by the Head Nutter of the Religious Nuts, the old wrinkled as a prune Mother Shirley. She spoke of dread and doom, and having to repent and all. Gosh, did she put on a show.
He smirked. All that was missing was a human sacrifice, and they would be irrevocably back to the good old ways of the religious fanatics…
Even his Hindu friends seemed to have been affected and shown a renewed fervour at their own rituals. After all, their Lord Ganesh was supposed to remove obstacles. Or well, truth is, He was also supposed to create obstacles for the demons. But you’d never know whether you were on his good side or not.
Maybe the unusualness of that day gave him some heightened attention, but Godfrey started to notice some other strange patterns.
The Finnleys on duty were acting glitchy this morning. Looking through the console, he’d noticed there were some logs for the past days’ activity missing, and an unusual activity around some of the old tunnels which were used for temporary storage of the sulphur’s crates.
An irrational doubt started to creep on him, enhanced by the feeling of unusually low activity inside the dusty bowels of the red planet.
There was really no reason to worry, he tried to reassure himself, but as he’d liked to repeat, better be safe than sorry.
He pushed the intercall button and called for an emergency evacuation drill.
Christmas has always been a strange tradition in our family.
Maybe because first and foremost, Christmas is all about family. Besides the twins and their bond, sometimes I wonder what makes us a family at all.
It doesn’t help that we can never get snow around this place, and dressing in red and white fluff is not going to make things suddenly magical.
It was comical to see the exterminator come with a red bonnet, panting and all red himself, as if he were some genial Santa bringing gifts of death to our yonder’s rodents residents.
He didn’t catch a rat, but got himself a fright. Thanks to Mater, when she erupted in the attic in her white hanuka honey cream face-lifter mask. I think that sneaky Finly got to her in the end.
The mystery of the strange noises in the inn is not going soon, apparently.
Bert and Aunt Idle got back from their trip in the evening. Apparently Bert had insisted to bring some sort of shrub to make a Christmas tree in the great hall (it’s not so great, but we call it that). Finly didn’t seem pleased too much with it. Raking leaves in summer, bringing pests inside… she didn’t have many kind things to say about it. So Mater sends her to cook a “festive dinner”, that’s what she said. I heard Finly mutter in her breath something about kiwi specials. I like kiwis. Hope she’ll make a pavlova… just, not with Mater’s face cream!
It seems that giving small gestures of appreciation got the mood going. Aunt Idle is always very good at decorating with the oddest or simplest of things, like rolls of TP. Sometimes she would draw nice hieroglyphs in the layer of dust on the cabinets, it gives the furniture a special look. Mater always says it’s because she’s too lazy to do some cleaning consistently, but I think it’s because cleaning is not creative enough for her. Can’t believe I just said nice things about Aunt Idle. Christmas spirit must be contagious.
Then, Devan came home with some pastries. It’s not often I see Devan these days, and usually he’s always brooding. I would too, if I had to come back home when I could just start my life away from there. Finly was all eyes on him all of a sudden. Seems nobody noticed, not even the twins, too busy being snarky while playing on their phones,… it looks like there is some strange game between these two, my brother and our Finly. I think Finly makes a lot of efforts to look younger with him, I can see when she fiddles with her hair. They would make good friends, and I’m sure Devan doesn’t mind the accent.
As always, it’s not about how pretty the tree is, or how good the food is, or how big the gifts are… It’s more about being together, for better or for worse. And Dad, and Mum are always out of this almost nice picture, but somehow, it matters less today.
There’s a good thing about that Christmas spirit. It gives you the weirdest ideas. To be nice, I asked Mater if we should invite the guests to our festive dinner, and probably lifted by the mood, she said yes, of course. When I went to the closed door to invite the guy, I thought a random act of kindnes is a perfect occasion to learn more about our mysterious resident stranger… Maybe that’s what the adults mean in church when they say you should always be kind to each other.
“Liz’, I’m sorry to interrupt,” remarked Godfrey, somewhat cautiously, “I know you’d rather forget about it, but shall I remind you that we are going to be irrevocably late for our appointment at the court, for the third time.”
“What nonsense is that again? And where did you appear from Godammfrey? I haven’t summoned you!”
Godfrey couldn’t help but raise his eyes and start a rolling motion, but insisted.
“The lawsuit, darling. This scandalous libel by that rat of a critic who accused you quite unambiguously of both plagiarism and ghostwriting. You surely do remember that?”
“I’m sorry Godfrey, can’t this be dealt with without my being there. I’m not paying you peanuts to just entertain me.”
Godfrey sighed. It was already the second time they missed the appointment, and the judge would certainly no see it in a good light. A little bit of publicity around this affair wasn’t bad of course, especially with such hilarious allegations. Everyone in town knew well enough Elizabeth’s take on both plagiarism (“it’s just slight teafing”) and ghostwriting (“channeling by another name, darling”), so it was very good publicity indeed.
But having sued the critic now, it would be a pity to lose to him. If only for the money. When did she become so careless about it? Having personnel did go a little to her head…
“If you’d pardon me” Elizabeth said after a eloquent burp, “all that tea have quite distended my bladder, and I would actually quite enjoy discovering the loo of the courthouse. When shall we go?”
It had been two months since the aurora. They had started to refer to it as the Cloud Aurora, since after it, rocks had started to leak moisture in all manner of places.
Long, thin clouds had begun to appear just a month after, and the atmosphere composition seemed to alter itself as well, irrevocably.
Everyone was busy doing analysis, sending reports to Earth and extrapolating on data. But John was more interested in running more explorations and extending the area of his scouting.
Tonight, a new commercial ship from Earth would arrive. Mostly rich tourists bored with Spain or Italy, but a bit of fresh blood too, most likely winners of a stupid settler raffle. It had taken them years to arrive; it was hard for John to imagine being crammed in suspension, floating through endless void and cold space for so long.
But then, he himself was quite excited being here to monitor the inexorable changes set in motion on the red planet.
Funny thing was, none of this would be possible, if not for Liz’ impeccable release of new literary works. Despite her feigned struggles, she managed to release them like clockwork.
Prolific line-pissing writers like King had nothing to envy to her. She would document and expound on nearly every bit of news passing. As a matter of fact, most of her morning rituals were to document the press review, and make clippings out of the most absurd or mundane events, and somehow, weave enthralling tales with it.
The last past years had been the most flourishing ones, mostly focused on tales of social responsibility in magical gardens, civil disobedience in cetacean societies, and financial collapse of ayahuasca economy based Amazonian tribes.
Well, to be honest, the magic had to be left to the Finnleys. It was nor the endless cleaning nor the unnerving bluster that had them resign. It was mostly that they were literary agents in cover aspiring to more than a life of cleaning. For what Elizabeth had as gift of prolixity, all the Finnleys were hired to put it all together, while sworn to secrecy.
Of course, with each best-sellers, they had to find a new one most of the time.
“How about this one, it looks like one of them safari parks or petting zoos” said Sharon, pointing to a photograph of El Refugio in the Abalone blurb.
“Those little cabins look cosy” agreed Gloria. “And all them animals to take photos of.”
“On the coast too, the beach looks nice,” added Mavis. “Are we all agreed then? Shall I book the flight?”
“There is a secluded pocket that would be an ideal safe landing spot on the north coast of the Bay of Beliefs” was the message that Downson received from the Magi. “El Refugio; it was a private shamanic holiday camp, but it was abandoned years ago. There are empty cabins and some basic facilities that could be restored and repaired.” And it’s not too far from Karmalott, Downson thought, It will have to do, for now. At least for the first batch of evacuees.
The P’hope could be seen everywhere: leading the Builders to work double shifts to strengthen the collapsing structures of the flying City, exhorting the Magi to contain the failing beliefs of people back to virtuous resilience by ways of special masses held throughout Karmalott, and ensuring with the Sentries that all tremors of civil unrest was properly contained and the ring leaders properly admonished into good conduct.
The situation at the secret political prison known as Gazalbion was alarming. With most of the dangerous interlopers free to roam Abalone, and no walls to contain new prisoners, it could take a while to rebuild its walls, and the P’hope didn’t have the luxury of time on his side. It meant that no civil and belief dissidents could be brought there at the moment, and any spark of disobedience could spread like wildfire.
The P’hope dreaded what could happen if, despite all the efforts, the beanstalk was beyond repair. He knew his faltering belief in it could only hasten its fate, but even so, he wanted to be ready for the worst.
Considering the limited amount of rescue storks which were available off the walls of the city, it was likely that the result would be of apocalyptic proportion. Nevertheless, he refused to consider evacuating for the moment, even knowing it would take days for those on foot to climb down the bean’s tendrils.
Especially, as he was now in the perfect position to be the hero of the day.
He had been robbed of his share of light many, many years ago.
At the time, a young boy had arrived from the sea and from an outside world to Abalone. Jube, who was not yet the P’hope, was a striving leader of a group of survivors of the island. The bog’s dangerous and foggy emanations and its wild life were a threat of all instants, and he had soon realized there was strength in numbers. Many lost souls had gathered, but didn’t have the strength on their own to remain focused on a reality they wanted, a dream made reality.
He, Jube the Brave, had such strength in himself. But even so, they were only less than a few dozens of men and women in the camp, and the reach of what they could create was only good enough to sustain them for short periods of time.
But the boy named George had arrived from afar, and things had changed gradually. Jube had found out pretty quickly that the boy had the great potential to bring people together, and hold their beliefs like a mighty rope made of the thinnest of strands of hair. So he had offered to mentor him, while at the same time working his words into suggestions, and shaping the boy’s future to fit his own dreams.
That’s how the beanstalk started. The first sprouts were so tiny and frail, but the more people came and believed in the leadership of the one who was to become their King, the more it grew, and lifted them above the clouds and the fog of their minds.
Years had passed, Prince George became King Artie as another suggestion of the P’hope which had the side-effect to cloak Artie from his memories. The P’hope grew in power, always in the shadows however.
For a while, people were happy. Truly happy. But progress was inevitable, consciousness had to move and grow, otherwise their dream of a City would have been another foggy and soul-numbing projection of their feeble minds.
The first real threat happened when Abalone, in one of its inexplicable changes of time and space, drew to them a stranger. True to their principles, they had welcomed her, nursed her, and given her a place of choice in the Magi’s ranks despite her young age. But she could see clearly between the cracks and the varnish of order. Worse, she could see the P’hope’s intentions were not so pure.
So it become soon apparent to Jube that the young Gwinie had to disappear, and her followers had to be contained. For the sake of the great Karmalott, and to shield everyone from the impending chaos, the same chaos they had came from victorious many years ago.
He and his minions had struck in a very swift and coordinated movement. Gwinie was tragically lost in the bog during her rite of passage. A truce was arranged with her followers, and they were allowed a concession, with enough resources to survive. They ultimately built Gazalbion, which also became, in a mutual arrangement, a political prison for Karmalott, unknown to virtually everyone in the City. The Processor, one of Gwinie’s former followers, was glad to receive prisoners who would add to the strength and mass beliefs of his encampment. The P’hope in return, was glad to be rid of difficult problems.
That was so long ago, but it rang like a warning from no further than yesterday.
They had never found out what the old temple’s ruins were for, or by which civilization before them they were built. They were as old as the island itself, and seemed to be doomed, full of an ominous power he couldn’t and feared to harness. If anything else failed, he would go back there. Maybe that was his only solution.
The Time Seam Bar, as they renamed it, for all the efforts put in it had a slow start, but after a few weeks started to do extremely well.
Admittedly there was a bit of a public relationship boost offered (not quite completely out of generosity obviously) by the cable network. They’d been alerted of the re-purposing of the Time Sewer facility by the Queens after a routine control of their presence on cleaning duty. The report wasn’t glowing, but somehow a business-oriented member of the Board managed to get the Cable Network to lend some money and advertisement to bring the little venture to the next level.
Props got a major overhaul and interior designers helped rearrange the space. They even got the Queens an impersonator of St Germain, an old has-been forgotten star who was still on the Network’s payroll and whom they didn’t know what to do with. He was actually doing a brilliant St Germain.
Amar was in the room at the back, doing some accounting while Reginald was at the bar and Cedric was managing the fat dancers and, of course, St Germain’s shows. So far, the arrangement worked well, and they were quite proud of their success. Cedric’s mother couldn’t stop her praises and rants on the website’s page, so they had to moderate it a bit, but that was basically the most trouble they were in.
“Another day gone well…” Reginald was removing his wig and make-up, with Amar still counting the last cash made for the day.
“Reg’, I’ve started to remember things from our visit at the techromancer’s hut, I still don’t know what to do of it.”
“I’ve been remembering stuff too… Some scary shit.”
The bellboy, whose name was Kevinlol, as Linda Pol had found out thanks to her e-zapper, had led the Queen of drags to the fifth floor.
The short trip down with the main elevator had been most interesting. It was designed to look like a richly decorated wooden door opening to the temple of games. The usual mirror on the walls of the cabin had been replaced by a huge screen which showed hosts or hostesses in sumptuous attires welcoming you like Ulysses sirens. Nobody coming out of the elevator, you were fully submerged by promising images of luxury and endless pleasures, endless wins. Looking at the blush on the customers faces and their fidgeting, it seemed to work well.
The use of Feng Shui seems to have evolved through time, she thought amused, from simple well being philosophy to overt mental and emotional manipulation.
A particular scent, she had already smelled in Las Vegas, made her realized that there were also chemicals released to create in anticipation that fleeting euphoria people would desperately try to recreate through the excitement of the games. Knowing it, could help you stay centered, but her heartbeat became faster and she felt the compulsion to get more, she realized it was hard to resist the temptation.
When the doors actually opened to the second floor below earth, more than half the contingent of people got out towards the casino. The sirens were here to drag you down with their smiles. Linda Pol looked at the customers, they were more than willingly sucked into the gaming world of cards and chips, ready to open their pockets and their souls to the conniving croupier.
Beware of the number you choose, she thought, the bank may not like them.
A quick look at Kevinlol showed he was totally oblivious to the sirens. His poker face was as smooth and young as ever, his pupils looked normal, and his skin tone hadn’t changed despite the chemicals.
Robot? She couldn’t help the thought.
The third floor was restaurants and bars, huge spiraling automatic stairs seemed to connect it directly with the casino, certainly to help people find their way up when they were finished refueling. The dozing effect of digestion was certainly good for business.
Then they arrived at the fifth floor. She wondered briefly what had happened to the first and fourth floors. But the doors opened to another kind of sirens, her attention shifted completely, more surely than any substance could have done. It was the kind of butts she couldn’t resist, promising firmness and endurance, set into a Imperio Dareme pair of jeans. Linda Pol had always thought that braces had the same effect on a man’s butt as a wonderbra on a woman’s breast. She blushed like a young girl discovering boys were interested in her mythical virginity.
The butt turned around and, mother f*ck*r, the face was gorgeous. Two days beard on a square jaw, the adventurer.
When the bubble of air popped open, and the veil of mist lifted, all the birds woke up excited and rushed out to taste the 2222 fishes and for some of them, to enjoy cracking macadamia nuts with their beaks shut.
Among them, Huhu the parrot felt its brain change in a weird brainwave he’d experienced before.
It knew what needed to be done next.
Surreptitiously, Huhu crept on the vines covering the floating mess that was the galleon, very slowly, in the direction of the Captain’s cabin, where the Captain’s treasures were kept. A heap of rubbish really, mostly gathered on various of Peter’s visits inland —broken shells of attractive and incomprehensible forms, shiny mother-of-pearl squiggles and brightly colored beads of various materials, former sea trash sanded down to their round form by the power of the elements, and left bereft of any hint of their man-made origin.
The second key was there, next to the window, with a faint metal shine on its brushed surface, laid in the middle of an array of strange metal objects, most of which were rusted and unrecognizable, old keys as well maybe, or virtually anything else.
On a schedule, Huhu, swiftly assessed that no other prying eye was looking his way, and that Peter’s ghost form was softly blinking in a snoring fashion, then leapt on the table, snatched the precious key, and flew out of the window to join Irina at the rendez-vous point on a particular rock off the shores of 2222, Big Island, where she was sunbathing in her mermaid costume, while Mr R was close too, in his octopus suit, and as well, on a mission…
With years of intense Happiness training, and being herself a certified Happiness Coach™ in Rainbow Unified Bliss®, Lisa was reasonably adept at dispelling the occasional bouts of frustration that the six time travelers were experiencing while familiarizing themselves with the new time frame. Learning the new languages, both the local Spanish and the common language of the village tribe, English, was of paramount importance, and Mirabelle in particular was having difficulties. A basic vocabulary was easy enough, but when it came to grammar, Mirabelle was hopeless. Thus her communications were of a very basic and rudimentary nature, and she often felt unable to express her feelings, or her thoughtful observations on the many nuances, similarities and differences and overlaps of the current time and 18th century France. Not only was she obliged to learn two new languages, but was also learning to read and write. Often it seemed like all work and no play, too much pressure to perform, to learn, to do well at her studies, and yet play breaks were always frustrated in some manner because of her difficulties in communicating clearly. The fact that the others were progressing better with the languages made her feel alone, adrift in a sea of her own unexpressed thoughts.
Adeline had a more relaxed approach to the language difficulties, less inclined to struggle with it and more likely to chatter endlessly to Boris instead, and ask him to translate when she needed some help. She had discovered an interest, and some considerable talent, in the art room, experimenting with the paints and materials, and spent many happy hours engrossed in her paintings and playful collages of mundane (but to her, bizarre) objects. She was like a magpie, collecting items that caught her eye. The bright colours and smoothness of plastic appealed to her, especially when transformed in shape by one of those odd little plastic fire making gadgets. Sunglasses were another favourite, especially the different shades of lens. It was not unusual to hear one of the villagers complaining that the lids to the tupperware containers were missing, or all the bottle tops had been removed, to find they had all been glued together, with the flyswatter, a few odd flipflop beach shoes and the mirror lenses out of someones shades. But the villagers were on the whole amused, generously indulgent, and good naturedley rolled their eyes at her creative curiosity.
Boris was practical and capable, and true to form, was learning rapidly. He had no particular desire to express vague rambling thoughts (indeed, he was not a vague and rambling man by nature) and turned his attention to more practical matters. When he wasn’t chatting to Adeline, he was watching Jack tinkering inside car engines, or playing with Pierre’s camera and had quickly learned how to upload and play with the images on the computer. Often in the evenings Adeline would sit beside him and watch drowsily as the images changed in front of her eyes on the screen.
Ivan and Igor were learning what they needed to learn while doing it ~ tending the goats and chickens, working outside on the land, or helping with various building projects. They had taken to the local bars like ducks to water, and spent the evenings downing copious amounts of beer and wine with the locals, all of them babbling and shouting incoherently, but seeming to understand each other in the camaraderie of inebriation.
Linda Paul was reviewing the leather-bound copy of the anthology of Walt van Wharff works she’d received weeks ago from an anonymous source. Van Wharff was apparently from XVIIth century in Newherland a leading authority in walvissen wetenschap or whalology as it were.
Linda wasn’t really even remotely interested in whales, but the book had picked her curiosity, or more exactly, the pink post-it on it, signed with a glitter lipstick lips mark, on which was written in some mysterious handwriting
PBWY AND BO if you see that dearie, you know what it means
She had no clue what it was about, but the antique book had some interesting qualities, and she soon had found herself inexplicably engrossed in its reading.
The theory behind it was baffling, dealing with whale sightings, aperiodic tiling and crystal diffraction, but she managed to intuit that it had to do with detection of whale migratory patterns.
Given the literary quality of the book (or lack thereof) and his very confuse language constructs, its author was by no doubt dead in a state of miserable unfamousness. Notwithstanding, Linda Paul understood there was an unfinished equation that would reveal when they would appear next, which was likely to reveal a huge crystal of exotic properties.
So long as it glittered, she was already hooked onto that quest.
A few investigations and equations-solving on her ezapper later, she had found the next coordinates that she’d texted to her only current operatives, Sadie and her misfits.
She hoped they wouldn’t sabotage this one, and thus offer them all a second chance to book a full season for their adventures.
“Sorry love, I was a tad busy with the whole time travel department reorganization. Had to call HR to fire some of these incompetent nincompooptarts. Can you imagine they not only manage to send you in the wrong period but also… I’m ranting now, sorry about that sweetie pie.
“Look, there’s no nice way to put it, so I’ll cut to the chase. The show’s been canceled by the cable network big potatoes. Too darn expensive not enough audience. You know all that jazz. I tried to argue, but all they wanted was excitement, glamour and bitching and yeah, all they got was a black tunnel and some green vomit. Got to admit, there’s no amount of special effects and sewing mojo you can raise to make your bitches look great in those dresses. Face it darling, they deserve gorgeous, but they’re still as ugly as sin.
Hell, I guess those shareholders twats just couldn’t stand the marvelooks of us…, now I’m ranting again.
“Long story short, forget about the ferret, keys and whatnots and get your pretty asses all right back as fast as you can or they’ll pull the plug out of the time sewers. And you know very well what that means for ye all.”
An ominous sound effect played from the ezapper. Darn Linda Paul always had to amp up the drama.
Anna’s voice and young face trailed off as the Queen emerged from her dream. Confused for a moment, she tried to get rid off the undefinable guilt she always felt when dreaming about her late sister. You simply didn’t speak about Anna. And you couldn’t take pleasure in childish dreams.
Her guilt soon transformed into a mild irritation and she frowned as she remembered the cavagnol game of the previous night. She had lost again. The amount didn’t really matter, it was more about the principle. She always lost. But she took a momentary pleasure in thinking that Jeanne-Antoinette also lost most of her bets.
With a sigh, she looked at the big ornate windows. Someone had opened the heavy velvet curtains while she was still asleep, and it certainly didn’t help keep the air warm in that time of year. Nonetheless, she enjoyed seeing the sky when she woke up, even in winter time when it was still dark or like today, when the colours of dawn preceded the Sun. She couldn’t believe she had slept so long.
It always was a too brief moment alone. As if summonned by magic, three maids entered the room silently, two of them holding her morning dress, that they carefully deposited on a chair, and the other holding the copper basin of fresh water for the Queen’s quick morning ablution. The maid put it on top of the sauteuse chest made of rose wood and carved beautifully. One of her daughters once told her that she swore the chest in her bedroom was alive and would jump on her bed at night to play with her.
One thought leading to another, she looked at her collection of stuffed toy, unconsciously counting them and checking if they were all in order. She had two cabinets made of rose wood especially for her “friends” as she used to call them. She had begun to buy them after she almost died giving birth so long ago. At first it was just a simple gift from the King. She first thought it to be a lion, but apparently it was one of those Asian dogs. The finish was crude, it had small beady eyes and the curly tail didn’t hold very long on its bottom, but she developed a liking for it. And after a few weeks, she felt it needed a friend, so she had a lion made as a companion for her asian dog.
Her ladies-in-waiting, began to bring her new ones, little dogs (she had a liking for them), zebras, fluffy cats and dwarf goats, she even had an owl and two rabbits, one white and one cerulean blue.
Her eyes almost missed the twin ferrets, offered to her by Saint Germain after a gambling party. He had said they would bring her luck. She didn’t really liked them, they were scrawny and heavy, certainly weighted with lead.
It was time to get up, she had her weekly Polish concert to organize. One of her small pleasures.
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