Monday, December 28, 2009

A Rumple in the Weft

I do not often explore on my own, but I do try to be aware of the surroundings as I attend functions in the Steamlands. The most recent salon was at the Dragonlands Hotel, as the discussion was on the archetype of Asian Steampunk, or the local interpretation thereof.

The Baron & Annechen at the Aether Salon, image by P. J. Trenton

I generally enjoy the salons, but my inattention was apparent to the Baron. Standing behind my chair, he subtly tapped my shoulder as the visitors left. "What is it?"

"Hm?" I was still distracted by the... something in the air.

"You are usually very focused at the salons, what is wrong?" He kept his voice low enough to not be noted by the last of the guests conversing with the speakers.

I was unable to answer right away, as I did not have a clear answer. "Something odd here... meh." I shrugged it off as best I could, "Could be all the new people here. Something seems a bit off, though."

His eyebrows twitched, as he hates drawing out inquiries, but he has learned sometimes it is for a lack of proper shared vocabulary when an answer is not straightforward. "What sort of 'off'?" he asked.

I checked for listeners nearby and murmured, "The kind of 'off-balance' that Rengerin brought with her." He winced, as he hates that sort of complication. His eyebrows asked the question he did not want to voice. After tilting my head about, trying to hear the scent and see the sound that was distractingly on the edge of registering, I nodded to him. "I will come back when it is quieter, with some back-up, and see if it is local or a visitor."

The Baron led the way out of the hotel and back to the office on the civic plaza, "Have some of your family cross-check your findings. We do not have full authority here, so make sure of your investigation." He strode to his office to review the reports from the week.

In the following week, I did not have time to make a full investigation, but I was at least able to discern the anomaly was upstairs, not in the Dragonlady's "special" parlors below the lobby. It was disturbingly familiar, and at the same time, set my teeth on edge. I was going to need a professional investigator on this one. Luckily, there were several in the family, and one that had just gotten back from her self-imposed medical trip to Caledon.

"Hokay, so why does this crottle your greeps?" Amarantis said as she leaned against the file cabinets, her wings folded tightly against her back.

I blinked at her terminology, then shook my head, "That is not the issue. For me to sense it, without looking for a problem, it has to be strong enough to be extremely out of joint."

She shrugged, "Or it impacts you directly. I'll take a look. Might even bring Greenie in on it, she needs the training."

"No, I do not like that idea, she is too young for that sort of operation, yet."

"Meh, better she learns with backup than in dire straits." She shrugged again, and headed for the door, "I'll watch out for her."

Which meant the plan would go ahead whether I agreed with it or no. Sometimes working with family can be severely distressing, especially when there is not an official chain of command. Thinking of family, I was reminded of the newest addition to the staff.

I gathered up the last of the copies of the marriage certificates for the diplomatic courier run later this week, with the back up accounting reports and letters regarding the treaty lands, and entered the clerical office. The desk closest to my office was not tenanted by a Consulate staffer, but one sent by the Old Bat to be my magistrate clerk. Once she had settled in, Hâjdău had proven herself to be competent and willing to pitch in with duties outside the magistrate's office. However, her tendency to daydream could be irritating, even if it did not interfere with her work.

My eye caught a flash of silver on her right hand as I instructed her on what she needed to have ready for the courier pouch this week. While she was writing down the particulars, I took a closer look, and recognized the Chinese character for "heart" inscribed in the purple enamel.

So, my assistant is wearing a poesy ring. Were it another staffer, I might not bother, but she is my responsibility, not the Consulate's. It may seem antiquated here and now, but her family is one of the many sworn to the House of my father, the same as my House is sworn to serve the Heterodynes. Past time I started investigating who she is seeing.

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