Mother Goose Chase
Chapter 18: Pride, Prejudice, Pudding and Pie
Markel lies on the floor, looking a bit greenish. Salimar dowses to
double-check, and finds that the coin hasn't been moved, and that there
isn't anything wrong with it. Oh, "good," he has just collapsed because
he did his dowsing wrong.
We dither for a few minutes, caught between duty and temptation, then give into temptation and order ten large breakfasts and hot baths. We rationalize that it's very early, the coin isn't going anywhere, and we'll be much more effective when we're fed and rested. Jetlag has nothing on timelag.
Markel revives enough to crawl into bed and collapse for five hours. The others eat and bathe before hitting the horizontal. Kate uses her patharchic sleep skill, and awakens after only two hours, fully revived. She organizes leftovers for the dragonrider, and gets the rest of the food taken away. She twitches around, tidying up, and then just waits for the others to wake up.
When they do, it's still early afternoon, so we wander out in the general direction of the last coin. We find some nice pastry shops (We had noticed that we were moving upscale as we headed coin-ward.) and Daphne glues her nose to the window of one of them. We give in and go inside. We have some nice pastries and a few pots of hot tea. As we watch the pixie pack away the cholesterol and calories, we try to triangulate in on the coin.
Salimar produces a fine third sight, and we all follow it to the large, handsome house that seems to contain our target. People are buzzing around it, and it seems that there are more people going into it than are coming out. Kate quickly spots that most of these people are house servants and tradesmen. Since there are a lot of flowers going in, Kate deduces that there will be a large party here soon, probably tonight.
Kate asks the lady serving the tea where we can get a newspaper. The nearest printshop is back the way we came, some two blocks. Robbie is given a little money, and easily finds the shop. At our direction, he browses through it first, but finds no Jane Austen first editions or anything else of lasting interest. He chats with the proprietor, and buys all the social newspapers. He also asks some odd questions, such as "How do you gather your information?" and "Who do you send to report on parties?" Kate redirects her attention to him, and gives him a mental thwap to shut him up and get him to return.
When he comes back, we order more tea, and settle in to peruse the newsheets. Gannar accesses his database at our urging, and turns up an early nineteenth century map of London, with street names. It turns out that the grand house is in Grosvenor Square _ but it is not The House in Grosvenor Square (see Literary London log 13 and Destine logs 74 & 75) , nor will it become it. Gannar scans the newspapers. Ah. A Lady Pembroke (Grosvenor Square) will be hosting a ball tonight, starting at 9 o'clock. There's a partial list of invitees, with titled persons at the top.
We finish our tea, and stroll closer to Lady Pembroke's little cottage. By triangulating from the front and from the servants' side entrance, we are able to determine its approximate position on the ground floor. Robbie does a second sight into the area, and learns that it is a library. With a little mental maneuvering, he locates the coin behind a row of books.
Salimar goes invisible, and heads around to the front of the building. The rest of us lounge here and there; Markel locates a nice alley; Daphne plays around the wrought iron railing that fences in the front of the mansion. Salimar slips in the front door when a pair of footmen march out to decorate the walkway with flowers and garlands. She knows that the library is towards the rear of the house, but there is no central hallway leading there. She tries a small room on her left. She crosses it, aiming for a second door that might lead into a cross hall.
As she approaches it, she hears a warm, cultured voice say, "Thank you so much for coming early to assist us, Miss Oakley."
Oakley? Our alien has to see this, without being seen. She slips quietly to the door, and extrudes an eye past its edge. Her angle is not the best, but she can see a nicely-dressed middle-aged lady, trailed by a nicely-dressed Tintilasea, walking slowly down the hall that she must traverse to get to the library. Equally curious, Robbie moves his second sight into the hallway, and sees the pair coming towards him. Kate warns him about timelock, and elves' ability to see invisible and even impalpable things. He draws his viewpoint back into the library.
Salimar spreads herself flat on the floor, and re-extrudes an eye, under the door this time. The pair walks right past her. Tintilasea seems to be concentrating on the middle-aged lady (presumably Lady Pembroke) and gives no sign that she is detecting anything odd.
Salimar slithers under the door, and reshapes herself in the corridor before slerging towards the library. Before she is close enough to consider entering, Robbie warns her that there are two maids and a footman decorating the room. The footman is being urged to place his bunting, swags, and garlands ever higher on the wall, while the maids lay a refreshment table and set out some card tables. Our invisible alien has too much self-confidence to let a mere three potential witnesses deter her; she slips under the door, and slithers along the baseboards to the bottom of the correct bookcase.
Eventually the servants are satisfied with their handiwork, and troop out the door. Salimar slerges upwards, locates the coin, and slips it into a vacuole -- just as the door opens. It's Hirgalad. Well, at least we have an idea why the coin came here. Salimar coats herself thinly over the bookcase; Robbie moves his viewpoint out of the room. And finds himself facing the back of Tintilasea's neck. He tries very hard to not-look at her.
She calls out, "Did you find it?"
Hirgalad pokes his way to a back corner of the library. "Ah!" he cries, and pulls out a gilded folding chair. With this under one arm, he works back to the hall. Robbie counts six people in the hall, and warns Salimar. He then half-sees the two elves going their separate ways before he returns his view to the remarkably busy library.
Salimar finally reshapes herself into a human-like form and, still invisible, opens the back window of the library, and exits that way. Once on the ground, she TKs the window shut and locked again. Careful not to tread on any soft soil, she makes her way around to the front of the building, where she oozes through the railings and joins Daphne. The two make their way to a dark doorway, where Salimar becomes fully human in appearance, and visible.
We take a moment to relax, then start to collect our party.
Fallataal asks, "Does it bother anyone that we've come full circle? I mean, we've just taken the coin from the people we're going to be giving them back to."
The older hands are not especially sympathetic. "It seems very right and symmetrical to me," says Kate.
"It happens all the time," says Dafnord philosophically. "You get used to it."
Back at the hotel, Salimar retrieves the coin while we avert our eyes. Kate looks at it, and finds it to have a random elvish face before popping it into the purse, which is starting to look a bit grubby. She hands it back to Markel.
We re-examine the guest list for Mrs. Pembroke's party. Ah, yes, there below the titled entries, we find "Miss Theresa Oakley," "Mr. Herald Oakley," and, for good measure, a "Miss Margaret Thorne." The last we recognize as the nom de mondaine of Megilriel, and the other two are surely Tintilasea and Hirgalad.
We decide we won't leave until after dark. Until then, what can we do? What can we get only here? A few of us go out looking for those Jane Austen first editions, but without any luck. Kate consolidates and breaks coinage at various shops, ending up with a nice little collection of shiny new coins. Daphne finds a hat shop....
We pack, we have a hearty, taste-free English dinner, and we settle our bill. At the livery stable, we find the sole, hapless stable boy, and set him to work bringing out our ponies and helping us saddle then. At least he gets a decent tip.
We head back to Regent's Park. Some of its residents must be entertaining; the gates are open but guarded. Zzizzt! and the two men are asleep. Kate tucks her sonic stunner away as we calmly enter the park. As we near Primrose Hill, we hear a drunk bellowing an unpleasant attempt at a song. "I once knew a girl / And her name was Matilda. / She hugged like a bear / And she looked like one too." After hearing this twice, Salimar puts him to sleep before Dafnord can use more direct methods to render him insensible.
Dafnord briskly rips the picnic baskets out of the ground, and we line up in our traditional marching order. We wander about ineffectively for a tense minute or two. Gannar suggests that we telepath the concept "home" to the Marcher ponies. It seems to disconcert them a bit, but they trot widdershins around the small adjacent hill (We're afraid it's Barrow Hill), the mist rises, and we enter it to the welcome strains of "Sing a Song of Sixpence."
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.