“ART Hoo,” said Emerson with wild-eyed suspicion. “I sincerely hope you are not recording certain key words and phrases,” he paused, swallowing several times, “in my own voice,” this point he emphasized with a smack in the chest,“in order to cut and splice them into some devious form of mechanical mischief at some point later in this adventure.”
The wind-up owl just hooted and tweeted in mechanical bleeps that were really quite endearing.
“Great Gods!” Emerson shook his head. “ART Hoo! ART Hoo…” he held up his hand pausing to struggle with some pseudo-philosophical conundrum. “I must say… I am grappling with the concept that you may have some sort of…sentience in there and if you do, what does that say about…” Emerson gave a flourish with his hand, “…life?”
Tweetle-hoot was all Emerson got by way of reply.
“Dammit ART Hoo, why can’t I sleep? What exactly did those church brothers put in that so-called coffee, because don’t try and tell me this is caffeine alone! My mind is racing like a steam engine out of Bump… so much happening all at once. Look! It’s got my foot tapping in nervous energy.” Emerson’s eyes narrowed in on the flashing light on ART Hoo’s breast. “Hey!” he grabbed the bird and held it tight. “Why is that red light blinking?” he gave ART Hoo a little shake. “You did say you weren’t recording this right? Wait!” Emerson paused as if considering something. “Do I sound paranoid android?”
The owl responded with something that sounded like: ‘nah-ah’ carrying the distinct intonation of a wink.
“Listen, since we’re both still up, I might as well tell you what happened today. First, I hired Arnold back as the Major-domo.” Emerson paused to scratch his arms frenetically. “I have to pay him this time so I’m expecting a larger role from my cat friend.”
Emerson started to pace and run his fingers through his hair. “It happened early this evening, I was getting ready to attend a very important date for coffee with Brother Riddler and other church officials and I had just sparked the hookah, when Arnold walked through the front door of the clock. He was all excited to tell me about the new asylum for the insane he so thoughtfully commissioned and had built right here in the neighbourhood.”
By the way Arnold, I’m sure Breezy, Bookworm, Jonathan, and all the Wheatstone residents share with me in the hope you somehow manage keep all that crazy on the inside.
“Anyway,” Emerson shrugged, “I rehired him with some vague (but sincere) plan to pay him this time. For his first duty as the newly reinstated major-domo, I had him accompany me to my meeting with the mysterious members of the clergy from the Church of the Builder.
“It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of this meeting, ART Hoo, and how crucial it is to the potential success of the mission to save Malus. I need someone with me who, if need be, can match the skills of my young squire in both cunning and fighting talent. Someone from the church, trained in the same style could prove invaluable at the most opportune time.
“You might wonder why I should think I would need such skill behind me? I’ll answer that with a question of my own: ‘Who in their right mind wouldn’t?’” Emerson’s leg continued its staccato tap against the floor as he stared at the little ART Unit. “Right, here is what happened at the meeting.”
“Okay, Major-domo.” said Sir Emerson as he and Mr. Arnold stopped before the doors of the Mnemotechnics Institute on Perdido Street in Babbage Square, “I think we are here. How do I smell?” he asked.
“Like you’ve chain smoked narcotics for years and never bathed.” Arnold responded.
“Good,” said Emerson as he knocked on the door, “we’re on the same page.”
They looked up as the knock was answered by the young Brother Riddler. While Arnold maintained a discreet air of indifference Emerson flashed a smile in return to the brother’s welcome. It was a larger gathering than Emerson had initially expected with Father Pizzarro, Brother Lapis, Brother Scorpio, and Sister Loxley all present. Nevertheless he was grateful for the audience with such an esteemed organization.
Once the introductions had been made and the expected socially mandated pleasantries were exchanged, including the pouring of the coffee, Emerson began to relate his distressing news to the accompaniment of the rather thoughtful and melancholy tune being plucked on the guitar by Brother Lapis.
“Brother Riddler, I know you and my squire, Brother Malus were close. He told me often of how you would comfort each other after the rather gruelling training at the hands of Br…. er… at some of your tutors. He wanted me to tell you how he had met a princess, helped her regain her crown, was knighted and such.” Emerson allowed this opening a moment to sink in, taking a sip of coffee under the inquisitive and perhaps critical eye of all those present. ‘A little bitter,’ he thought, glancing at his cup, dismissing the odd aftertaste as the Brother’s use of unfiltered water. His face must have betrayed him for Brother Lapis very thoughfully paused in his guitar playing long enough to slide the smaller of the two sugar bowls across the table. Emerson reached for the tiny sliver spoon resting against the lip of the small sugar bowl to sweeten things up. Had he glanced up for a moment, he might have noticed Sister Loxley’s eyes going slightly wide as he stirred in his fourth little spoonful.
“Was he brave?” Brother Riddler finally broke the silence.
Sir Squire Brother Malus was very brave.” Emerson assured him. “He was also very chivalrous. One might overlook the fact that he may have broken three hearts… a farmer’s daughter, an airship captain’s daughter and a queen… in the course of our travels as being merely examples of the exuberance of youth. Of his conduct, the church may be proud, he only turned down one marriage proposal. A rather sticky situation that occurred over a leg of lamb. Fortunately I was able to extricate us from the situation, but I digress.”
Emerson took another sip of coffee before adding another little spoonful of sugar. “A few days ago I received word via an ART unit that there may be something unpleasant happening. About a month ago Malus led a party of soldiers to a large jungle island by the name of New Nublar. This island is truly a lost world… a land that time forgot… a land of the lost. It is, in effect, the very heart of darkness. The horror… the horror of that place is unforgiving.
“Have you been to this island?” asked Brother Riddler.
“I have not.” replied Emerson.
“Then how do you know all these things?” Riddler asked.
“I am well read.” replied Emerson, impressed at Mr. Arnold’s restraint with the potential snide comments. Brother Riddler nodded, accepting Emerson’s explanation.
“I’m afraid the news turns quite dire at this point.” Emerson noticed that Brother Lapis’s song had taken on a rather sombre note. “Somehow in the course of the mission, contact was lost with Malus and his men. There has been no word since. The queen is understandably distraught and has turned to the only person she can for assistance. That, of course would be me, one of the heroes of the revolution.”
Brother Lapis missed a note.
“I have been to see Commodore Dagger to officially request the assistance of the militia, however I was declined. Something to do with jurisdictions and other such trifling legalities.”
This is hardly a matter for the Government,” said Father Pizzaro, “to rescue a single citizen half a world away…” the father paused before adding, “who left on his own volition?”
Emerson missed the rising intonation in the father’s tag, which may have been interpreted as either a question or a subtle accusation.
“As the burden of this rescue appears to have fallen to me, I come to you tonight Father Pizzaro, to most humbly request the assistance of the church in bringing Malus home. Even if you could spare but a single brother. I have already commissioned a ship and a captain. I just need some man-power to help me – preferably someone who knows how to wield a sword.”
“We are not accustomed to doing charity work.” said Father Pizarro.
“Of course not, nor would one expect such of the church.” Despite his outward composure, Emerson started to stress a little at this point in the conversation. What if the church was not willing to provide assistance?This adventure could end before it even started and it all came down to the next three minutes.
Brother Scorpio cleared his throat, “Malus left our order. We are under no obligation to retrieve him. He decided to abandon us. We are not responsible for him. Whatever his predicament may be.”
“I have no doubt that Brother Malus is staring death in the eye.” Sister Loxley bit her lip at Emerson’s rather bold statement. “Such an experience changes a man,” Emerson continued, “reorients him to what is important in life. This is a mission to save a young man so full of promise and perhaps return him to the fold.”
Brother Riddler looked to Father Pizzaro. Having presented his case, Emerson sat back in silence, holding tight to his now empty coffee cup, letting the church confer amongst themselves.
((I really enjoyed playing the Church scene out inworld. Thanks for the RP))