It’s not often that you walk into the dining room on a lavishly appointed airship gondola to find a seven foot steam-powered cyborg dressed as a butler. It’s even less common to do so while finding him holding an irate German by the scruff of the neck in one hand and someone in an oil-stained white lab coat in the other.
As I had been expecting a simple breakfast on entering the room, I hope I can be excused for being a little surprised and raising my voice in consternation. My name is Abernathy Fitzroy, of the Chelsea Fitzroys, and I’m Lord Farnsworth’s quartermaster for these little expeditions.
Barnes slowly lowered his two captives to the ground and released his grip, wide gauntleted fingers spreading wide. The two men stumbled away from each other and their erstwhile captor, and immediately began levelling accusations against each other and poor Barnes. As the butler was showing every sign of wanting to bash their heads together I thought it best to step in. I banished Orson to the workshop, while Herr Machen stormed off unprompted to his rooms.
Harp mimed applause and returned to the paperwork in front of them while the lethally polite ladies from the Finishing School pretended to ignore the whole thing while feeding each other morsels from their plates and cooing over a catalogue of hats. If I hadn’t seen Lady Alexa skewer a wirewolf with its own severed tail two nights ago, I wouldn’t have credited just how much my employer valued their presence here.
Barnes and I nodded to each other. He smoothed the front of his shirt and pulled out a chair for me. He was always sure to go that extra mile for me, knowing his maintenance relied on my being able to negotiate for and procure essentials for him.
“My dear Abernathy,” said Harp, “how lovely to see you this morning. Do try the black pudding, it’s lovely and moist – where on earth did you dig some up from out here?”
“Aren’t I allowed to have some secrets? A good quartermaster makes these things look simple.” I did help myself to a good size portion along with everything else. It was going to be a long day, even if Lord Farnsworth hadn’t told anyone yet what was in store.
Harp smiled in that secretive way they always did. The notes and map fragments on the table were soon tidied away for safety, and Harp’s eyes fixed on mine. “We should reach Talefirth by midday.” Harp pronounced. “It should be quiet enough to rendezvous with Lord Farnsworth’s coach without drawing too many prying eyes.”
The ladies had turned to listen. Miss Bellingharm smiled and leaned closer. “I take it this will be a short layover – or do we need to break out arms from the locker?” Alexa sipped her cup of tea and affected nonchalance.
“If Lord Farnsworth has beaten us there, then we should just need a few hours to take on more coal, isn’t that right Mr Fitzroy?” Harp seemed to need no more than confirmation, so I nodded through my breakfast. “Otherwise we may have to tell the crew to set a watch, but we really shouldn’t be in any danger.” Harp concluded.
“I really hope those words won’t come back to bite any of us.” Alexa quipped. “Though goodness knows an attempt on the ship might be a good warm up for the main event, don’t you think?”