((Private entry, but feel free to comment.))
Mariah Lanfier stepped into the entryway of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hienrichs, sniffing appreciatively at the smell of roast chicken that wafted from the kitchen. She’d been away from Boston for nearly a month, taking care of personal business–her own, and that of Miss Bookworm Hienrichs, though Miss Bookworm didn’t know about it yet. But now Mariah was back, and ready for a quiet dinner and conversation with her friends.
Dinner conversation was occupied with news of the city and neighborhood related by the Hienrichs, as well as a few of the more amusing stories of Mariah’s travels. By unspoken agreement, they shied away from too many details of her purpose for her traveling, not wanting to bring up potentially uncomfortable details.
After dinner, Mrs. Hienrichs brought out the letters they’d received from their daughter, to catch Mariah up on New Babbage doings. But one of the first items they told her nearly made her choke on her tea.
“She’s agreed to be one of the liaisons for Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and the Europan Consulate in New Babbage,” Mrs. Hienrichs said, pride evident in her voice.
“We’re very pleased,” added Mr. Hienrichs. “It certainly sounds quite the honor!”
“Err–yes! Yes, quite,” Mariah replied a little distractedly. She hardly heard the rest of the news, simply interjecting appropriate but vague replies at times. Though she did notice that Bookworm did *not* give her parents details about the zombie plague in her last letter, which was hardly surprising, given what she’d gone through. Her attention did sharpen again at another piece of news in the last letter–the fact that Bookworm would be speaking at the Aether Salon that upcoming Sunday afternoon.
“She asked us not to come,” Mrs. Hienrichs said with a wry smile. “Said she was going to be nervous enough without us there. But she promised to send us a transcript of her talk.”
Mariah chuckled at that, and let the conversation drift away to other things. After another half-hour or so, she took her leave of the Hienrichs for the short walk home. They saw her to the door, and stood there for a moment, watching her on her way.
“She certainly was surprised at our news about Sarah’s consulate appointment,” Mrs. Hienrichs mused.
“Yes,” replied Mr. Hienrichs. “And it didn’t seem an entirely pleasant surprise. I wonder if we should be worried.”
“I’m sure she’d tell us if there was something truly wrong.”
Mariah entered her library, and went immediately for the bottle of port she kept there. After pouring herself a glass, she settled down into a comfortable chair, staring into the fire in the grate, lost in thought.
‘A consul for Baron Wulfenbach,’ she thought incredulously. ‘I can’t believe it! She *must* be unaware of some of the things he’s done. I can’t imagine her agreeing to such a thing if she knew.’ Mariah considered all she’d heard about the Baron’s rule in Europa–the wars, the deaths, the heavy-handed rule. As an ex-smuggler, she well understood expediency and violence, but she rather doubted that Miss Bookworm would.
“Hell, even *I* don’t approve of some of his methods,” she said softly. “The question is, should I tell her?” After several moments of thought, she reluctantly shook her head. She wasn’t exactly an unbiased source of information, and she had no doubt Miss Bookworm would figure that out quickly. Mariah was sure that, sooner or later, Bookworm would learn something more about the Baron’s rule of Europa, and would then have to make her own decisions.
That decided, Mariah turned to her pile of accumulated correspondence, sorting it into piles of various importance. She soon saw that Miss Bookworm had actually sent her an announcement of the upcoming Aether Salon, and her brain finally truly registered the topic.
‘Miss Bookworm…discussing heroines…in New Babbage…’ A light seemed to dawn in her mind and, tossing the remaining letters back onto the table, she swiftly rang the servents’ bell.
A moment later, Mrs. Pritchard, her housekeeper, stepped into the room. “Madam?”
“I’m leaving for New Babbage in the morning, Mrs. Pritchard. I’d appreciate your help in packing a few things.”
“Certainly, madam,” the housekeeper replied calmly, as if she hadn’t just spent much of the day unpacking for Mariah. “How long will you be gone?”
“For this, less than a week. Afterwards, though…well, we’ll see.”
“Yes, madam.” Mrs. Pritchard headed upstairs, while Mariah rooted in her desk for paper and pencil. She scribbled a quick telegram to arrange a place to stay, then poked her head out the front door and called over a likely-looking lad to be her messenger. That done, she, too, went upstairs, marveling at how soon she just might have the answers to her questions about what Miss Bookworm Hienrichs was becoming.