The maid hurried along the docks of
Port Babbage with her empty basket. She kept her eyes downcast and moved
aside with a bobbed curtsey for each man and woman that passed her, no
matter how they were dressed.
She stopped at the
Fishmonger’s stall and inspected the cod. The Fishmonger greeted her and
announced proudly that he had just received a fresh catch of Wiggyfish
She smiled and said softly, “Ah no, but thank ya kindly sir. My Lord and Lady of Argylle prefer the cod, sir. They are Caledon born an’ bred. They’ve never taken ta tha Wiggyfish.”
Fishmonger gave her a scowl the minute she mentioned the word “Caledon”
and suddenly the maid’s eyes flicked up from the ground and fixed
directly on his. He felt cowed, and yet he could not say why on God’s
Green Earth he should feel that way when dealing with a common
housemaid. Her dark brown eyes pinned him under her gaze as she said in a
light tone, “Coppers is coppers sir. I kin take mine elsewhere if ya
His demeanor changed as he apologized and
wrapped the cod, all the while feeling nervous under her direct,
commanding stare. He looked relieved when she thanked him and moved
along. He was watching her walk away and feeling utterly baffled at how
she had made him feel, when suddenly….BOOM!!
massive explosion rocked the Port. It rumbled and shook, and the
Fishmonger’s stall collapsed, as did several other less-sturdy buildings
of nondescript nature all along the docks.
Fishmonger lay stunned under a pile of Wiggyfish for a moment, and then
crawled out from under it and slowly stood up on his shaky legs. The
maid was picking herself up off of the dock about 10 feet away from him
and staring out across the water, directly at Doctor Obolensky’s
Observatory. He looked and saw, even at the long distance, smoke pouring
out of its windows.
“Ah, merde!!”, exclaimed the maid.
Then she turned and ran as fast as she could down the docks, leaving
her basket of cod behind. The baffled Fishmonger watched her disappear
into the fog of swirling plaster and stone dust.
“Merde, merde, MERDE!!”
hadn’t stopped swearing since right after the explosion. I kept running
until I reached the Fishing Trawler with the New Toulouse Fleur de Lys
on its hull moored at the pier in Clockhaven. I practically tumbled
aboard. “We can go now. Back to New Toulouse. God DAMN it.”
Breitman looked at me calmly. Luckily he is used to listening to me
vent and rant. He did not say a word as he watched me kick the side of
the boat. “No problem Miz Gabi, provided you don’t kick a hole in the
I sat down and buried my head in my hands.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry. This is just…a really big deal.” Mr. Breitman
nodded, but did not say anything. He then starting preparing the boat
Two hours later, after I had drunk
several glasses of L’Absinthe Spiritueux, I came out of the cabin and
sat by Mr. Breitman in his position at the wheel.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for agreeing to sail to New Babbage with me, no questions asked.”
welcome Miz Gabi. I figured if I needed to know, then you would tell
me,” he replied. “I know you get crazy ideas in your head sometimes,
and it’s best to just leave you alone and let you run with them.”
sighed. “I wish this were a crazy idea. But… damn, it’s just…bad.
This could cause serious problems for…someone…somewhere….”, I
Mr. Breitman impassively watched the waves and guided the Trawler with ease.
“You have lived in New Toulouse now for several years,” I said to him. “Have you ever heard the Legend of Pierre O’Toole?”
“Hmm,” Mr. Breitman pondered. “I don’t think so.”
Toulouse Oldbies are probably aware of it. It’s something that they
probably heard from their parents. Or grandparents.”, I said. I took a
deep breath and said, “I can tell it to you.”.
The Legend of Pierre O’Toole
a hundred years ago, in 1790, a man named Pierre O’Toole arrived in New
Toulouse from France. He claimed have been an assistant to the
Montgolfier Brothers in the early to mid 1780’s. It was hard to take him
seriously though, as his standard state was one of total intoxication.
Half Irish. Half French. All soused.*
anyone who would listen that his dream was to outdo Les Frères
Montgolfiers. He was going to develop some sort of super balloon, and
take it to…the Moon. It was not long before the citizens of New
Toulouse were calling him “Mad Pierre”. They laughed whenever he started
rambling about his Moon Machine and the special fuel he was trying to
develop for it. “Ben oui Pierre! Tu vas aller à la lune!”
is the routine for years. Mad Pierre gets drunk and starts talking
about his trip to the moon. Everybody laughs at him. Until…
day, nine years later, Pierre bursts into Lafitte’s in the middle of
the afternoon, sober. “J’ai le carburant! J’ai le carburant!” (I have
the fuel) He grabs the bartender, Georges Hax by the hand and starts
dancing around. Then he orders drinks for everyone and proceeds to get
rip roaring drunk. Everyone laughs at Pierre, except for Georges. He has
served Pierre for many a year, and Georges thinks he seems different
this time. Georges slips out the back of Lafitte’s while Pierre and the
Taloosters enjoy their drunken revels.
He heads for
Pierre’s house to see if there is any truth to what Pierre is saying. No
one locked their doors in NT, so he walk right in…and finds a massive
still in the middle of what should have been the Parlour. There are
bottles and bottles, stacked on barrels and barrels…and they are all
full, of something. There is also a desk covered with papers full of
notes and calculations.
Georges takes one of the
bottles and uncorks it. He sniffs it. Then he carefully takes a small
taste…and immediately feels the warm rush of a happy buzz. The drink
in the bottles is stronger than anything he has ever had before, and it
didn’t taste too badly. So he takes it, and a few other bottles back to
Georges starts serving the drink at
Lafitte’s, calling it Mad Pierre’s Moon Juice. It’s the ultimate NT
party drink! Georges doesn’t tell anyone what it is, but serves it up at
Lafitte’s nightly. NT has never seen such wild debauchery before! They
partied like it was 1799…in part because it was. Georges begins to
lift bottles from Pierre’s house daily. The inventory begins to shrink.
Pierre gets, well, mad when he discovers that Georges Hax has stolen,
drank and served at least half of his fuel stash. Pierre flies into a
drunken rage and tells everyone at Lafitte’s that he is going to hide
his fuel where no one will ever find it. he storms out while the Moon
Juice party continues. Hours later in the middle of the night, Mad
Pierre is returning from…somewhere…when he slips on the levee and
drowns in the Missedabracket.
Mad Pierre became a
legend overnight. People wondered, did he hide his Moon Juice? If he
did, where? Was there any left after Georges Hax stole so much of it?
Had it really been a special fuel, or just the best drink that the
Taloosters had ever had? Did it even exist in the first place or was
this just some bar tale? Rumors. Counter-rumors. Over the years, it
became part of the lore of New Toulouse.
Breitman remained quiet for a moment after I finished the story.
“Well,”, he said, “That’s quite a story. What does it have to do with me
sailing you over to New Babbage on some secret mission?”
sighed. “I need you to keep this part of our conversation completely
confidential. What I am about to tell you is something that only the
leaders of New Toulouse have known for the last one hundred years. Mama
Cree shared it with me. She and I are the only living people that know
“Mad Pierre’s stash of Moon Juice actually
*does* exist. Pierre was true to his word. He hid it where no one could
find it. After Pierre died, all of his notes and calculations were sent
to the New Toulouse Library. The Librarian found his map to the
location of the stash, and took it to the Mayor. The information has
passed from leader to leader ever since.”
that has passed from leader to leader, was an empty bottle of the Moon
Juice. Proof that it really did exist. I kept the bottle in my secret
safe, along with some other important personal and state secrets from
both Caledon and New Toulouse. Three days ago, I went to place something
in the safe…and I found it open. Only the bottle of Moon Juice was
missing. And on the side of the safe, a smudge of purple paint.”
knew immediately who had stolen the Moon Juice. My contacts from New
Babbage had recently reported to me that Doctor Obolensky has doused the
entire city-state in purple paint. I do not know how he even found out
about Mad Pierre’s Moon Juice, let alone how he snuck into my home and
opened my safe…”
I shivered, thinking of that evil man in my home.
had to verify that the culprit was Obolensky, as I suspected. An under
cover mission was necessary. Thus, you sailing me to New Babbage.
Unfortunately, I received the answer I was seeking. Obolensky set off an
extremely powerful explosion in the Port while I was there.”
were only fumes left in that bottle, and it caused an extraordinary
amount of damage. He must be planning something that requires VERY high
powered explosives…and he must want to know where the stash of Moon
I looked at Mr. Breitman then.
will never reveal the location of the remainder of Mad Pierre’s Moon
Juice. Ever. I do not know what Obolensky is planning, but I do know
that he intends to cause some serious damage.”
are you going to do?” asked Mr. Breitman. I looked out over the water. I
could see the lights of New Toulouse in the distance.
do not know. I will just have to remain aware and alert. I will be at
the Robber-Baron Ball this Saturday, 21 May from 6-9pm SLT, representing
New Toulouse. I will see what I can learn while I am there.”
Alert and aware. I can not let Obolensky get away with whatever he is planning.
* – credit for this sentence goes to Doctor Obolensky :-)