Archivist note: This post is from an older recovered archive.
==The Doubts of the Protector==
((Posted by Verlia Bilavio on July 12, 2010))
It had been a few weeks since I had sent my last letter to father and I was growing with uncertain anticipation. Even with the recent formation of the Ladies Liberty League and all the work that went into our bustle burnings and pie conferences not to mention my recent move to Clockhaven and my architectural work, it was not enough to keep my mind from home.
Aranka will always be burned into my mind as the memory of sneaking through the halls of our home, as the peony blossoms outside my bedroom window in the spring, and rushing to the front door upon father’s return from one of his trips to inspect the foreign treasures he had brought for us. New Babbage could never replace those memories, and even now, Aranka would never be the same. I would always be a prisoner to my fear and doubt.
Which was exactly what I had too much of when a letter arrived for me as I was cleaning the new shop today. My heart literally leapt in my chest, and as my shaking hands tore open the envelope, I was sure that something wasn’t right.
The name signed on the letter should have clued me in first of all.
It wasn’t from father.
It was from Olivia.
It was, however, only a scant page, one that I scanned far too quickly fearing that a word such as ‘death’, ‘tragic’, or ‘burial’ would come screaming their hellish cries to further bind me to my woes. I honestly hadn’t thought of how I’d be able to deal with myself if father somehow perished. No, I reminded myself, I would not let it happen.
I took a moment to sit before I began to actually read her letter. Smoothing my skirts, I took a breath before laying out the letter upon my desk and starting at the beginning.
Father implored of me to write this on his behalf. Think it not as a gesture of goodwill but as a obligation I have as family.
He is deeply troubled by your recent tribulations in that deplorable sooty land you now call home and admitted that he has been keeping something startling from you for quite some time now. Nevertheless, he urges you to continue to stay safe no matter the difficulties. You are not to return home.
(I could just imagine Olivia grinning as she wrote that)
Father is still of the disposition that it is far too dangerous for you to even set foot in Aranka considering the secrets you keep safe. He implores that if you, by some strange design, find these secrets for yourself (his words were in, but surely that does not make sense), then you are to never reveal them. Not to your closest allies, not even to this Mr. Frakture character that father goes on about. They are far too important and trusts in you to keep them safe.
That is all,
I could feel that strange sharpness piercing me as I read those last lines and thought with great difficulty at my most recent decisions involving the House of Mureaux. As I sat, fearing my foolishness, there was a knock at my office door that shook the letter from my grasp.
"Ye…Yes?" I managed to get out between being startled by the knock and by the letter. I answered the door, half expecting it to be something related to business and wanting to turn them away.
Opening the door, I immediately took a step back. If I had not been so startled, I may have been able to hear him first. There it was, subtle and continuous, the …tick…tick. This time, however, it did not bring a smile to my face. There was a strange anxiousness I heard in that ticking marked by something solemn. It was far different from it’s usual pleasant melancholy and I feared now what words might come from his lips. "Mr. … Mr. W——," I said, half asking. I shook my head slightly and opened the door further. "Please, come in."
He did not say a word as he stepped through the door but simply took off his gloves for a moment and I could tell as I searched his face that he was looking for the right words. "It has come to my understanding that you have gained new insight into your… problem. The one we spoke of…?" He paused for a moment, looking back towards me and my heart sunk. Between Olivia’s letter and now Mr. W——‘s words, the panic had begun to set in. I had made a mistake. "I had hoped you and I could have, perhaps solved the matter rather …differently."
I sighed and sat back down in my chair, trying to hold my hands to keep them from shaking. I had made a mistake.
I had made a mistake and did not… could not assess how dire the circumstances were, nor know how I could set things right. I bit my lip slightly before letting it all out, all the while avoiding looking Mr. W—— in the eye. "I… I.. didn’t know what to do. I just thought that Moses could help. He’s done well enough before and he was so… so…eager. I assumed that surely if anyone could provide me with a bit of safety and ease my mind it would be him. I.. just… thought that maybe if this man knew something.. maybe too much, then Moses would be able to recover it for me." I struggled to say the words, trying not to think of the fate for that man, one that I had commanded.
"While I understand your apprehensions, I should think you and I could have resolved the matter better and with fewer future entanglements," He responded, and while his face was void of emotion, the ticking seemed to get louder. I shook my head reminding myself that I was imagining it.
"Simpler, yes. I just want things to be simpler. I was hoping that there wouldn’t be any…" I turned to look into the dying fire, lost between thinking of all the things that could go wrong and trying to prevent myself from doing so.
"Sadly, you may have ‘simply’ complicated things for yourself," Mr. W—— responded. I sent him a sharp glare indicated that in no way would I tolerate humor tonight.
"Moses did promise to return what was mine. Oh how I was afraid of this." I sunk further into my chair, and softened my voice to a whisper, "It seems I am afraid of most everything these days."
"Miss Bilavio, understand me, please. I mean no ill, simply to warn you in seeking your best interests. That is all." I sat silent, listening to the forboding tick…tick. I both feared it and found it oddly… familiar.
"But I fear it is too late to call him back," he said. I could feel his gaze upon me, but still continued to avoid it.
I nodded slightly, now wishing that if anything I could turn things back. I should have never asked anything of the House of Mureaux. I should have never asked anything of him. I should have never gotten mixed up in father’s business. I should have never left Aranka. I sighed, overcome with a sense of being incredibly small and worthless, as if I was still the small little girl peering into my father’s library. "Yes… I most definitely would have made better decisions in your presence Mr Wexhome. I’m sorry if it seems to have caused any harm. It only seemed like the right thing to do at the time."
He sighed briefly, before speaking, "Well, what is done is done. We can only now learn from it. Thankfully if any life was lost, it was a life that was likely a threat to yours."
I finally turned to look at Mr. W——, the fear still aching inside of me, "You.. you won’t think worse of me for it will you?"
His look softened for a moment as he turned from the fire to look at me. I thought I heard the ticking soften as well and had to remind myself yet again that it was my imagination, simply a trick of my ears. "No, Madam, I will not think the less of you for it."
I sighed, if somewhat briefly, and thought it strange to find some of my fears slightly reduced by hearing him speak those words. Perhaps my mistakes would not cost us dearly. Perhaps. At least I could hope.
Mr. W—— suddenly stiffened and then reached into his waistcoat to remove the fine white gold pocket watch that I had always admired. He clasped it in his hand, briefly closed his eyes and spoke, "You must forgive me. I have need to leave. I know it is sudden and most untimely but something begs my attentions. May we meet again to discuss this further?"
I nodded and led him to the door and as I closed it behind him, my gaze came to rest upon Olivia’s letter again. That same piercing sensation that I felt when I first read those last lines now returned.
I knew now I had made a mistake and I couldn’t take it back. Yet, at the same time, I knew that I must recover the information. I had to know what it all meant. I had to know what father had placed within me.