"Mankind is divisible into two great classes: hosts and guests."-- - Sir Max Beerbohm
On board the good boat Pollywog, steaming towards the Spaniel. They hear the Spaniel before they see her. Or rather, they hear the dance band on the Spaniel. Laughter, the clinking of glasses, and could that be the sound of champagne chilling? Why yes, it is!
They come up alongside the ship. Officer: "Ahoy! How did it go? Good hunting?" Robert: "Yeah, I guess we did okay." Officer: "Excellent! Come on board." A ladder is dropped, but Robert stops to talk to the engineers first about making a new searchlight. The reflector is the trickie bit, but they'll do what they can.
Up on board, it's party time. Food, drink, dancing, merriment, little lanterns festooning the rigging. Kaeth and Geoff now have to broach the touchy subject of what to do with their prisoner. Captain: "Well, the yacht isn't really provisioned for carrying prisoners. We could put him in the paint locker." Kaeth: "No, I don't want anything catching fire." Samantha: "What do you suggest, Franz?" Franz glances up at the oriental lanterns swinging from the masts. Franz: "Hmmm...probably not." Captain: "Probably not the powder magazine...[?!]...Well, there is the flag magazine." It's very large (they have a lot of flags and banners), and mostly empty right now. It will have to do.
Robert: <to Samantha> "I would like to go back to where we found the victims." Samantha: "Well, that's very nice, but I'm not the captain. And I don't think it would be very smart to go wandering about in the dark, so we'll have to wait until morning." Robert: "No, I meant like, in the morning." They'll discuss it further tomorrow. For now they retire to their cabins to freshen up.
One of the lord's servants comes around to the party's cabins. Servant: "Lord Lindsey has heard about your return, and wishes you to join him on deck as soon as possible. He wishes to hear about your adventures. The party upstairs is celebrating the King's birthday." Oh dear, is it that time already?
Geoff's felt better. His head hurts, his vision is a bit blurry, he's got a great big gash, and it's a wonder he's mobile at all. But he's not going to miss a chance to visit with the lovely Sophie. He goes to see Dr. Jurgen to re-bandage his injury after he cleans up, Dr. Jurgen is a bit concerned about the head wound. He bandages it up, but he wants to check it out more thoroughly in the morning. Dr. Jurgen: "For tonight, I'd advise you to take it easy. No more than two glasses of champagne." Not a problem.
The group gets cleaned up and changed, and joins the party upstairs. Major Thompson and Lady Telford will sit with Lord Lindsey and Franz (who's the right sort even if he is Fredonian), Kip, and Lt. Kerrie. The latter looks somewhat preoccupied. Kip, on the other hand, is having a lovely time regaling the party with the tales of the attack on the pirates. Samantha finds it very entertaining. Kip isn't actually lying, it's more like the comic book - sorry, graphic novel version. Kip: "...brought up his pistol, took careful aim with his reptilian gaze...the smell of cordite..." and so on.
It's a clear night, with a full moon, and the Spaniel can be seen for miles. Heard for even further. Nothing bad happens. It's a miracle - call the Pope!
Sophie looks across the table at Geoff, gazing at him with um, spaniel eyes. It's so hard to focus without glasses, but she's in public. Lady Patricia keeps trying to divert the conversation over to the other, more desirable bachelors in the group. Kip definitely points out the "brave Major's" exploits, Lord Lindsey recognizes Geoff as the military man on the spot who took charge of the situation. He's applauded several times. Especially by Sophie. Lady Patricia glares at Geoff, who smiles. He has taken pains to ensure she knows he's a landowner. Pity he's not in Brook's Peerage.
Still in pursuit of his searchlight, Robert talks to some of the Spaniel's crew about it. The ship has a pilot light, but not a searchlight. That's going to be rather difficult to arrange. Especially without that electricity stuff. Robert will keep trying though, as he's looking for some way to signal to Ariana up in the ship. Hope springs eternal.
The night is lovely, the conversation entertaining, good food and drink, lovely music. Quite the change from the escapades of earlier. Robert has a request. He goes to speak to the bandleader, and hums the Dick Salamander theme. (Not that he's obsessive.) Bandleader: "I'm afraid, I don't know that one, sir." Oh well.
Franz: "I see a young lady unattended." He nudges Geoff, who takes the risk. Samantha: <to Lord Lindsey> "Do you think they could play something slow? Perhaps a waltz?" Lord Lindsey gestures to a servant, who takes the message to the bandleader. The music slows. Geoff trods on Sophie's toes, takes a couple of spins, turns white, and falls over. He awakes after a moment to find Sophie bending over him and fanning him. As she bends over, Geoff gets quite the view of Sophie's um, assets. Dr. Jurgen rushes over to render aid of course, and has a couple of the servants help Geoff back to his cabin. Ah well, it was worth it. Lady Patricia: "I think you've had quite enough excitement for one evening. You need your rest." She drags off Sophie, who gazes back at Geoff as long as she can, longer than is really proper.
The servants are a tad mis-informed about what's wrong with Geoff, and have leapt to the wrong conclusion. Servant: "Come along sir, you'll feel better in the morning. Shall we get you a seltzer, sir?" Geoff: "No, you dolt! I'm not drunk." Servant: "Of course not, sir." Oh, never mind.
Samantha, being a female, is privy to the discussions of the small group of generic, well-bred women: "There he is, near death..." "How romantic..." There's a great deal of fanning, near-swoons, and a few nips of a little something "medicinal". At least they're not discussing Geoff's butt again.
Franz leans back in his chair. Franz: "Our young Romeo struck down. Well, better him than me. <to Lord Lindsey> We must do something about Lady Patricia." Much nodding and humphing. Dancing recommences. The group is quite dashing (everyone says so), and gets a lot of attention. Samantha: <to Franz> "You must tell me about your adventures with the pirates. You were so dashing." Franz laughs. Franz: "And Lady Telford. Who knew that within that delicate frame lay the heart of a lion? A veritable Amazonian warrior." Apparently everyone has decided to relax a bit tonight. Nothing like almost getting killed to mellow a person.
Robert goes off by himself, and drinks a toast to Ariana, wherever up there she is.
It's not a good morning. Geoff wakes up feeling even worse than he did the night before. A few minutes after he gets up, his hand starts to tremble uncontrollably, and the doctor is sent for. Geoff ends up in the ship's infirmary. Dr. Jurgen: "Well, it's nothing serious." Giving a look to Kaeth, who's assisting, that says "This bed will be available soon."
Dr. Jurgen takes Kaeth off to one side and talks to him about the "swelling on the brain. The pressure is no doubt causing the problems and will have to be relieved." Kaeth agrees. Dr. Jurgen: "And it will give me the chance to use my new patent Trepan." He takes out a small, incredibly well-made device of stainless steel - sort of a little hand drill, but with a circular hole cutting bit on it. They do not show this to Geoff. Dr. Jurgen: "Considering his condition, I'm afraid to use ether." Kaeth: "You could use a local." Dr. Jurgen: "Yes, but he'll have to be restrained, to prevent him from moving at the wrong moment." Good point, but who's going to explain to Geoff that they intend to tie him down and cut a hole in his skull?
They take Geoff to a room with a skylight, for better natural light. Dr. Jurgen: Now, Major Thompson, we'll need to do a bit of um, debriding around the injured area, to get rid of the damaged tissue. Nothing to be concerned about " Geoff: "No debriding. You can take the bits out, but no scraping. It's my brain, for God's sake." Dr. Jurgen: "You're a military man, I won't beat around the bush." He tells Geoff what's wrong, and what they're going to do about it, in a fairly straightforward way. It doesn't sound pleasant, but the alternative is pretty bleak. Ezbeki chooses this moment to pay a cheery call on his Geoff. Ezbeki: "Hey, Geoff! What's shaking?" Geoff: "They're going to perform surgery on me. They're cutting open my head, okay?" Ezbeki: "So, what's the prognosis? Are you going to be okay?" Geoff asks the others to go outside for a moment, which they do. Geoff asks the usual from Ezbeki - if the hero is in a position where he may be left damaged in an unacceptable way (i.e., left a drooling vegetable), it is the job of the faithful sidekick to promise he'll "take care of it". Tragic hero status doesn't become Geoff though, so he'll probably be fine.
One of the engineers comes up to see the doctor. Engineer: "You sent for me, sir?" Dr. Jurgen: "Yes." Dr. Jurgen takes something out of his pocket, hands it to the engineer. Dr. Jurgen: "You have my instructions?" Engineer: "Yes sir." He runs off. Dr. Jurgen: "Now, to the patient. <to Geoff> You may experience a sensation of grating, or pressure." Geoff: "There's not much I can do about it. You may need to tie me down." There's an obvious area of injury to work with. Dr. Jurgen: <to Kaeth> "Have you ever done a trepanning?" Kaeth: "Something similar." The instruments are sterilized. Yes, they have germ theory here. The engineer returns with a bowl with a steaming towel in it. Kaeth wonders what's in the bowl, but doesn't ask yet. Dr. Jurgen offers Kaeth a turn on the trepan, which he accepts. This really makes it personal. Something terribly gritty, almost visceral about it. They clear the area, cutting away the jagged bone fragments. the dura was not penetrated. There's an obvious area of collected blood and bits, which is drained and irrigated. Dr. Jurgen pulls up the towel over the bowl and carefully extracts a small metallic object. There's still a bit of a woman's head, and a horse on the metal, but the silver coin has been beaten into a nice dome. This is placed over the area where the skull was removed, and the scalp is pulled over and stitched. Now Geoff can tell people he has a metal plate in his head.
Within an hour after surgery, Geoff regains the feeling in his left arm, and his headache's gone! Kaeth: "You might experience some memory loss, or even retrieval over the next several days." Geoff doesn't remember what happened immediately before, or after being injured, and that may or may not return. Nothing too important there. The crew, some of whom were watching through the skylight (free show!) were incredibly impressed with what they saw. The ship will be abuzz with the tale of the doctor's "amazing power of surgery", and how it "brought him back from the brink of death". Well, it's always rather impressive to see someone cut a whole in a guy's skull and not kill him. It's that last part that's tricky.
Kaeth is impressed with the quality of the doctor's surgical equipment. It might not be high tech, but it's all precision made stuff. Dr. Jurgen: "I highly recommend it." He writes down the name of the maker, a Fredonian, of course - no one better for this sort of thing. Kaeth asks about trauma treatment, and Dr. Jurgen takes him to see the rest of his tools. Such an interesting saw he has. The tools are very well made, and built to last. Real craftsmanship.
Samantha pops in to check on Geoff, who's resting comfortably. He seems to be doing okay, and even Sophie gets to poke her head in. Franz has taken Lady Patricia off for a tour of the ship. Sophie comes in to check on the gallant Major, just to do the proper thing. When Sophie thinks no one is looking, she presses something into Geoff's hand.
Lord Lindsey, at the prompting of Lt. Kerrie and Franz, has those involved in the pirate assault invited for a chat. Minus Geoff. In spite of the presence of the women, the conversation is necessary. The men want to go after the other pirates, notably the Mustache. Franz: "Risking the Spaniel would not be desired, of course." Lord Lindsey: "Naturally, but a party can be sent, men of blood and iron, while keeping the more delicate members of the crew safe." Marguerite takes exception to that, and says so. She can defend herself, thank you. And there's the question of how to do things. A frontal assault is right out, as no on is suicidal, which means sneaking in. Kaeth: "I was thinking that women are less noticeable in this society." Franz: "Were you considering putting the ladies at risk, sir?" Kaeth: "I believe the ladies are quite capable of taking care of themselves, and have already demonstrated just that." Franz: "I, more than anyone, applaud the actions of our brave ladies, but to put them deliberately in danger is unthinkable." Lt. Kerrie agrees, as does Lord Lindsey. The females are overruled and will have to stay behind. Robert: "Where do we start?" Franz: "I believe with a reconnaissance into the stronghold. If the party is small, and the opposition is too large, then we return and send the intelligence on to our respective countries for later use." Agreed. Marguerite: "Well, since you gentleman are going to discuss the art of war, I see the women are not needed. Lady Telford, if you'll join me?" Samantha: "Of course." Something's up here. Marguerite: "I believe we have some needlework to do." This should be good.
Now that the delicate females have left, the nuts and bolts of the discussion can begin. Franz: "I, as you know, have some skill as a naturalist and hunter. Mr. Shelzie has shown himself to be experienced with these waters. Since we are only going to be taking a small group, it would be good if we did our best to minimize how much attention we draw to ourselves. In fact it may be suitable to leave the larger vessel and take the motor launch instead." Robert: "And if we run into trouble, the Spaniel will not be able to support us in shallow water." Geoff: "I suggest that Lt. Kerrie stand off to in the larger of our two support vessels, in case we need assistance." Robert: "How are we going to communicate with each other?" Lt. Kerrie: "Unfortunately the heliograph went down with the Intrepid." Robert: "Does the Spaniel have a spare searchlight?" Nope. Franz: "I don't' believe it will be needed on this trip." They do have signaling flares, as it turns out. Robert: " One color for come get us, one for run away?" Something like that. Geoff and Ezbeki, will go along, as Dr. Jurgen believes Geoff has recovered enough, and that means Ezbeki will have to go. Besides, he seems to be good at that sneaking thing.
Meanwhile, in Marguerite's cabin. Marguerite: "They're loading supplies right now..." Samantha: "And you'd be thinking...stowaway?" Marguerite nods. Marguerite: "Come to my cabin, we'll try to find you something practical to wear." What would be called "mannish" clothing is acquired, for both women. Samantha speaks with Lisette, in person. Lisette understands, and will cover for the women's absence for as long as she can, using the "unwell due to female problems" excuse that should send the men running for cover. A crewmember has been bribed, and sneaks the women on board the launch. Marguerite: "Climb in." A box has been lined with soft blankets, and contains water. The plan is to come out once the ship is far enough away from the Spaniel that the men won't turn back.
Heinrich demands to come along, but Franz makes him agree to stay on the Pollywog with Lt. Kerrie, as he's the only one with experience firing the Maxim gun. Franz: "...since we can't take Lady Telford." Much amusement. And of course, there's the little issue of Ulrich. Franz: "I for one have no desire to travel in the company of cutthroats, but he is our only source of information." Lt. Kerrie: <to the Spaniels captain> "If we don't return within five days, then leave with all speed for civilization. <to Ulrich> You are to provide us with a map of the area." Ulrich: "I can't draw you a map, but I can show you." Franz: "At least by placing Captain Ulrich at the vanguard of our patrol, we won't have to worry about ambushes or traps. Isn't that right, Captain Ulrich?" Ulrich: "Of course, of course." Unhappy they may be, Ulrich will be joining the party. He'll be kept on a very short leash. Kaeth: "You expect us to be back in under five days, correct?" Lt. Kerrie: "Yes. Just to be sure, provisions for a week have been put on board." Kaeth will make sure they have medical supplies. Lt. Kerrie: "The wind is up, but it looks like we're in for a stretch of good weather, praise be. We'll take oars with us, should the need arise. There's hardtack and bully beef on board, in case we need to make for Brazzaville or another port, if we can't rendezvous with the Spaniel."
Meanwhile, in the cozy little box. Marguerite: "Whiskey?" Samantha: <takes flask> "Thank you." Marguerite: "Not very ladylike, but what the hell." Samantha: "Who's watching?" Marguerite: "I'd offer you a smoke, but that would give us away." Samantha: "That's all right, I don't smoke." Marguerite: "Oh, but you should. Why let the men have all the fun?" Samantha: "Who says I do?"
The mission gets underway. Ulrich:" Steer for that island over there. that's the one we call the Jake. The one with that big bit that juts up." He elbows Robert in the ribs in a lascivious fashion. Marguerite and Samantha get some sleep, and wait to announce themselves.
Several hours pass. It's decided to stop for the night, and get some rest. Robert asks for a recommendation as to where he should pull in to anchor. Ulrich: "I would suggest you not pull in. There's pirates, and then there's pirates." They'll anchor, but not too close to land. Once the boat has stopped, Marguerite decides it's time to emerge, and starts trying to push the cover off, but it won't budge. Marguerite: "The damn lid won't come off. That bloody stupid sailor nailed it shut. Give me a hand, will you?" Samantha: "Why don't we just ask for help?" Between the two of them, they still can't get the lid off, so they bang on the box and call. The lid is removed, and the crew is rather surprised to find the two women, though from their clothing, who can tell? Kaeth: "Lady Roarke." Marguerite steps out and lights up, or goes to. Robert: "Put that light out." She takes a drag before she tosses it overboard, then walks up to Robert and blows smoke in his face. Robert: "Thank you for telling them exactly where we are." Franz is scandalized by the entire affair. Franz: "Didn't you realize you were putting yourself in harm's way? We must go back." Marguerite: "I can't speak for Lady Telford, but I'm risking myself, not you. If I wanted your protection, I would ask for it. I am a modern woman. A woman can make her own decisions, handle her finances, and even vote!" Franz: "Yes, I've heard they do that where you come from. However, since we are stuck with a fait accompli, and can't really afford to turn back, I suppose you'll have to come with us. <to the others> Doubtless the young ladies, after the time spent in their sarcophagus, would like some fresh air, and perhaps some food." Ulrich slyly cocks an eyebrow, but doesn't look shocked or amazed. Robert moves from the spot the cig was lit.
Food is prepared, and shared. Ulrich: "Come daylight we'll ground, then go in. But again, were I you, I would be careful. There are pirates, and..." Kaeth: "And there are pirates." Ulrich: "Some would even view a ship like this as a good target. But, as for me, I'd post a watch." They will, he can sleep.
In spite of protests, the women insist on staying up for the watches; after all, they've slept. Samantha gets to keep Franz company, not that he needs help, but he welcomes the quiet conversation. Franz: "You haven't really told me much about Kanaida. I'm curious about where you come from. My attention has been drawn to the South, and the Hinterlands. You haven't said anything about your family. " Samantha: "We're estranged." Franz: "Understandable. It happens among the better families." Interwoven amongst the small talk, Franz is obviously looking for personal information about Samantha, but he's doing it very tactfully. A striking woman such as her, from a good family, he's "surprised you haven't formed a liaison." Samantha: "There was one, but it went... badly." Franz: "I'm sorry. And now?" Samantha: <shrugs> "I don't know." Franz: "You said it went badly. I take it there was some closure?" Samantha: "Yes. <pause> What about you? Now, I mean." Franz: "After what happened with my wife and children, I'm afraid I buried myself in my work." Samantha: "Just so long as your work doesn't bury you." Franz: "Well, one scarcely has the opportunity to join in on social events while traveling the Hinterlands. Besides, I'm afraid at my age I'm beyond redemption. too old to interest anyone." Samantha: "Beyond redemption? Who says I was trying to redeem you?" Eyes meet, followed by a very lengthy pause. Franz: "It's a clear night, don't you think?" Samantha: "Yes."
For his watch, Robert gets Ezbeki. Ezbeki: "So, what's your story?" Robert: "I'm just a pilot." Ezbeki: "Pilot, huh? Looks up." Robert: "Yeah." Ezbeki: "So, how are you gonna get us out of here, pilot?" Robert: "Don't know yet. Working on it." Ezbeki: "So. You ever killed a man with a knife?" Robert: "Like that one?" Ezbeki: "I'll make it easier for you to answer. Have you ever shot some one on purpose? And are you some kind of sharp-shooter, or you just use groin-homing projectiles? I just want to make sure if I'm down range. Especially where you hit people, and considering I have a lot to risk." Robert: "I generally hit what I'm aiming at." Ezbeki: "Did you have a really bad divorce? Some kind of inner anger thing?" Robert: "Nope." Ezbeki: "Forget I asked." He sits on the other side, sharpening his knives. Ezbeki: "It's a little chilly tonight, isn't it? Yeah, I'd say the turkey's done." He holds up his knife, looking over the edge to where Marguerite is sleeping on deck, on her back. Robert: <internal> "Ezbeki is an annoying little man, and he's Geoff's annoying little man, so I'm just going to grant him non-existence." But, Ezbeki has no one else to talk to. Or share his copy of Playbeing with.
Kaeth and Geoff get the engineer. He's a quiet man who lives in a society with rigid social classes, and is used to dealing with officers. He sits with his pipe unlit and in his mouth for the most part. Nothing happens. There's plenty of hot water for tea though.
Morning dawns, and everyone stirs and awakens. Ulrich: "Did I miss anything good? None of you have been up to anything naughty have you? If not, you should be ashamed of yourselves, with those two good-looking birds on board. Well, captain, are you ready? There's the inlet you want, just steer between those two logs. We'll go in about four miles, then ground and go in. We shouldn't run into anybody; it's a rare pirate who rises before the crack of noon." The wind is blowing out to sea in the morning, which is good for the reconnaissance mission, as the smoke and smell will not give them away.
They make their way through the inlet. Ulrich steers them through, and there are places that don't look like an inlet at all, what with the seaweed and grasses. Ulrich looks alert, almost expectant. Nothing happens on the trip up. Eventually they get to an open area in the inlet, where there are several ships anchored. Not far from where the boats are is a break in the jungle. That's about all from there.
Kaeth: "Do you have any enemies who would really like to see you gone?" Ulrich: "Well, you know. The life of the gentleman adventurer..." This brings a derisive snort from Franz. Kaeth: "Any political things we should know about?" Ulrich: "It's quieter than it should be." There's a smell of something burning, or burnt. The boats look like they're tied up rather haphazardly. Geoff: "Have you been here before?" Ulrich nods. Geoff: "Does anything look....wrong?" Ulrich: "Yeah, there are no people out here. And no noise." He's looking around, on edge. Geoff and Ezbeki lower themselves into the water, going on ahead to check things out.
There's a suggestion made to pull back from the area. Franz: "Surely we cannot leave Major Thompson and his corporal behind. We'll wait here for them." Now there are some birds heading in to the clearing. A few minutes later, Geoff and Ezbeki return. Geoff: "There's been a lot of rifle fire, small arms. Other than that, can't be sure. Maybe you'd better come take a look."
The party disembarks to check things out. Kaeth looks for brass, but finds none. There are thirty to forty bodies strewn around. The camp looks like it's been ripped up. Some of the bodies have arm or leg wounds, as well as wounds to the head. Like some one capped them as they were trying to crawl away? Samantha: <to Ulrich> "Do you recognize any of these people?" Ulrich: "Yeah. That's One Armed Pete. That's Red Bob over there." No gear's been taken, no valuables. All left behind. Not good.
Just outside of the clearing, is the sudden and unpleasant sound of many weapons being cocked/cycled/whatevered. Voice: "You will please be not to moving. Lay down your weapons and raise your hands into the air." The count looks over at Geoff. Franz: "It would appear that we are in an awkward position." Kaeth: "Wouldn't you ask to see the people we're surrendering to?" Franz: "Don't worry, Lady Telford. I will not allow any harm to come to you. <he places himself between Samantha and the treeline> If you wish us to surrender, show yourself!" A man emerges. He's dressed moderately well, arm in a sling, and he has a rather impressive mustache. Guess they've found him. Mustache: "If you've come to finish the job, you'll see we're better prepared." There's an interesting exchange of glances between Ulrich and the Mustache. Ulrich: "It's not the way it looks. I was bringing them here to you. This man <Franz> is a count. He'll be worth a large ransom." Mustache: "Will you throw down your weapons?" Ulrich: "I brought them to you. They'll be worth money." Mustache shoots Ulrich in the knee. Mustache: "Ladies, my apologies, but I cannot tolerate a traitor and dog." Samantha is resisting the urge to shut the very vocal, and very annoying Ulrich up. Mustache walks over and shoots Ulrich in the head. Mustache: "I could see his whining was causing you distress. I apologize that you may have had to travel a long distance with that cur." Kaeth: "You are injured, sir." Mustache: "It is nothing. Now, I assure you, provided you don't resist me, you will be well cared for." Samantha holsters her weapon. Samantha: "I think we're at a disadvantage here." Franz: "We will lay down our arms if you give us your word as a gentleman that the ladies will not be harmed in any way." Mustache: "I can't give you my word as a gentleman, but as a man of the sea, I give it." Franz: "We don't appear to have much of a choice. Mr. Kaeth? Mr. Shelzie?" Robert: <steps forward> "You're the one they call the Mustache?" Mustache: "Some call me that." He motions and people come out of the woods to relieve the party of their weapons. They're armed with a variety of local weapons. One of the men comes up to search Samantha, grinning. A glance from the Mustache stops him. Mustache: <to Samantha> "You're word that you are not armed. As a lady." Samantha hands over her obvious firearm, and her snub pistol; the latter causes a raised eyebrow from the Mustache. Samantha: "My word, as a lady." She's not a lady, but she's willing to give up the weapons that would be relatively easy to find. Marguerite has only her rifle and obvious pistol, which are both taken. Mustache: "I can't offer you the hospitality of this location, so I suggest we relocate to another. I believe you will find it more to your liking."
They walk for several kilometers, through the forest. Eventually they come to a huge limestone cave, with some tables and chairs, barrels and crates. Mustache: "Welcome to my dominion, ladies and gentlemen. First thing's first. My lieutenant's will come among you to gather information about your families, so that they may be contacted." Franz goes off at the Mustache about him being scum, and how Franz will make him pay for his cowardice and villainy, etc. Mustache: ""Yes, yes. I'm sure you will. But for the meantime, consider yourselves my guests. We are not among the more, earthy elements of this place. We are businessmen." Much nodding and agreement among the pirates. Mustache: "And who is this charming young lady over here? He approaches Samantha. Samantha: "Samantha Telford." Mustache: "Ah. A pleasure, Lady Telford. And from where do you come?" Samantha: "I come from Kanaida." Mustache: "Ah, Kanaida. The frozen North. <to Marguerite> And you, lovely lady?" Marguerite: "Lady Marguerite Roarke." Mustache: "We are not often graced by ladies of your quality and beauty. You must sit by me at dinner." The count is fuming, but not saying anything.
Mustache: "You've had a very interesting day, my friends." Kaeth: "Possibly not as interesting as yours" Mustache: "A fight over territory, nothing more." Geoff: "With whom were you fighting over territory? Someone's army?" Mustache: "My men will look into it. I will find out who was responsible, and I will see that they are brought to justice." Franz makes a disparaging comment again, and Kaeth is concerned he's going to have to pry them off each other. The Mustache just ignores it. Mustache: "In any case. You have all been hiking long, and must be tired and hungry, and I would be a poor host if I did not tend to the needs of my guests. <signals to one of his men> Please, our guest can't eat in their current condition, and I can tell that they are intelligent men who would not want to cause trouble. Consider yourselves my guests. Marks against the payment of a future...contribution." The men and women (separately) are taken to back areas where they can find appropriate clothing for dinner.
A couple of women take a fancy to Robert. He's so young looking, and clean shaven. Woman: "Soft like a baby's bottom. He's just a boy!" Woman #2: "Well, I can see to it that he's a man..." His cheek and chest are stroked, along with the occasional grab at the bits. Robert tries to feign disinterest. Woman #1: "Ooh, he has nothing to say. The best sort of man. Mustache! If no one claims this one I'll buy him. I'll give you ten Ducats for him. I could use someone to take care of things for me."
An informal banquet takes place. None of the proper manners, more like visiting a barbarian potentate. Mustache: "Tuck in!" Sort of like home for Kaeth. Franz has gone into ultra-formal mode. He will eat because his body requires it, to "maintain my strength so that I may kill you later." Mustache: "Fair enough!" There is some mention of the attack, but it's apparent that they don't want to talk in front of "guests". Kaeth: "I could take a look at that shoulder." Mustache: "You're a doctor?" Kaeth: "A medic. I tend to treat two kinds of things. People who are injured in war, and on shoreleave. " Mustache: "Perhaps later."
The host seems to take exception to non-drinkers, even though the men are trying to keep their wits about them. The ladies are entitled to sip, although Marguerite doesn't seem to be worried about over-imbibing. Mustache: "The wine is not to your taste, gentlemen? Ah! You are men who appreciate the product of wheat! Take this wine away and bring us something proper - this is a drink for women." A crystal decanter is brought out - scotch is poured into water glasses. Mustache: "To the Emperor. God protect him and his family." Franz drinks, begrudgingly. Kaeth: "To Kanaida. And all the men who sail her turbulent seas." Robert: "To lovely ladies." Much clinking and drinking, and toasting. Robert tries spilling his drinks, but the Mustache has him brought the bottle. Robert: "I'm not used to drinking." Mustache: "Come now, it will make a man of you, put hair on your chest! Look at what it did for me!!" That might be his concern.
Eventually, Marguerite is carried off grinning. Samantha is escorted to a section of cave with a real four-poster bed with drapes is. Mustache: "This is Josef. He will see that you're not disturbed." Josef is a large man with big muscles and a really big sword. Samantha: "Thank you." Mustache: "Pleasant dreams, my lady." He takes her hand, kisses it, then bows out.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Robert wakes up on some animal skin to find the bathroom, and discovers he's bracketed by two heat sources. He doesn't scream, because if it's wild animals - they'll kill him. And if they're pirates, they'll kill him. It's actually the two females who were arguing over him. He carefully gets up, noting where the weapons have been left, over by that furry hassock. Which growls. He goes to relieve himself, comes back, and gets back into bed. At this point, still slightly buzzed, he realizes that he didn't have to unzip his pants to pee. He's half naked. The bottom half. Oh. An arm, and then a leg gets thrown over him. The female may be mostly asleep, but her body remembers what to do...
Kaeth has dozed off in a corner, with a roasted chicken part stuck to his fur. Oh, man! Ezbeki is in the middle of the room, sleeping on his back in the royal position, snoring. Geoff is soundly sleeping up against the wall, oblivious. Franz is undoubtedly around somewhere. He'll be around in the morning. Samantha is in her big comfy bed, and when she looks out of the draperies she sees Josef still there. He hasn't moved a millimeter. She's not sure if he blinks.
When Samantha wakes up, she's wearing a nightgown and her clothing is neatly hung up. Hang on a second! When the hell did that happen?? The nightgown is a silky, diaphanous thing. There's no doubt she has limbs now. Among other things. She wouldn't normally call this "sleep" wear, although on this planet that's all you'd be able to do in it, since letting a man see her in it would result in a heartattack.
Robert is told, by the really, really, really plain (to be kind) women that he was "a tiger". Oh dear, what will Ariana say about this? He staggers outside to throw up. Female: "Bobby, Bobby....."