by Helen W

In the Grand Embassy of the government of His Most Magnificent and Pious Grace the Lemuel D’Artois, Duke of the Port of Glass and its territories, to the White City, things are getting a little… disconnected…

Lieutenant Ambriel Chermes knows that the Embassy compound is officially Port soil, and that White City laws don't apply there, but she's still keeping an eye on the gate guards. Some of them have been indulging their Vainglory habits to help pass the hours on duty recently, and this is not the time to be antagonising the foreigners. That De Courci woman might have been awkward, but she at least could be relied upon to respect diplomatic immunity.

Outside, some strident young city girl has begun loudly shouting on a street-corner about the Light Indivisible. Ambriel glances up at the Embassy's clock-tower, giving her five minutes. Within three, there is the sound of armoured boots hurrying down the street, and a meaty crunch. The shouting cuts off. The gate guards look to her for direction, and she signals them to stillness. Outside the Embassy compound is officially White City territory, and thus falls under the heading of Not Our Problem.

Ambriel paces the corridors of the Embassy, trying to keep a hold on things. This strange Northern architecture unnerves her, all straight lines and iron. Over the years, the brave progression of expatriates have done their best to give the place a more homely feel - brightly-stained mosaics in chipped glass, Southern plants in the solarium - but the White City's weather still creeps in everywhere, that pervasive temperate chill that no number of braziers or blankets can seem to drive out.

She is met on the stairs to the diplomatic staff's offices by an officious-looking man in priestly robes. She salutes him respectfully, trying to remember his name. One of the de Verlays, she thinks. His eyes skip over her, just seeing the uniform, and he's about to pass on when he pauses.

“Ah, Captain.”

“Lieutenant, sir.”

“Whichever. When will the mirror room be free?”

“I'm… sorry, my lord?”

“The mirror room, in the tower. Constantine has been in there for almost a week now. When do you expect it to be free? He's not the only priest around here, you know, and I need to offer my reports to Lord Arturo somehow.”

Ambriel looks at him with blank confusion and decides to play it dumb. Fifteen years of soldiering for the Port have taught her not to volunteer any more information than absolutely necessary and, if in doubt, blame someone else. “I have no idea, sir. Might you ask the diplomatic staff?”

“The diplomatic staff, lieutenant, are in the pub, and have been since the revolution. You are aware that I outrank him?”

She toys with the idea of asking which pub and joining them, but decides to play it safe. “I'm afraid I'm only responsible for security, my lord. I could have someone knock on the door…?”

They both reflect on that, and a mutual glance indicates that it's probably a bad idea. Nobody has quite forgotten the last time someone interrupted a D'Artois at his meditations in the Mirror Room; it was Lord Bartholomew that time, and the results were… lasting.

”…or I could have a messenger posted to tell you when it's free?”

“That would be more suitable, I think. Tell me, what are your opinions on this Constantine fellow?”

“Ah…” Well, I was talking to a Blood-Sorceror the other day who says that it's entirely his fault this Marius creature came to the White City in the first place, but I don't put quite as much credence to that as to the popular story doing the rounds at the Griffin and the other adventurers' taverns at the moment, which is that when the going gets tough, Constantine D'Artois gets under a table. He's very pious, which I'm sure is a virtue, but I'm not entirely sure he's quite… reliable. “Couldn't say, sir.”

“And Bartholomew?”

“Um…” What, that terrifying bastard with the eyeball-fixation? I'm immensely glad he's in the Embassy, in the same way that one is glad when one can see the snake in the room rather than just knowing it's about somewhere. Reputation with the adventuring lot, though. Not necessarily a good one, mind, but a reputation. “Haven't had much contact with Lord Bartholomew, sir.”

“What about the Duchess Caroline?”

“Defend her with my life, sir,” she answers promptly. That one's easy, not to mention true.

“Very good. Long life to Duke Lemuel.”

“Long life, sir.”

With that, the little ritual of salutation, they part ways, and Ambriel continues up the stairs. She spots one of the guards, off-duty, kissing one of the serving-wenches in an alcove, and feels a pang of loneliness. Whistling The Girl I Left Behind Me, she tries to cheer herself up as she checks the armoury; all weapons present and accounted for.

Her job might be a little easier, she supposes, if she had any official duties as such. Her brief before being sent out to the Embassy was verbal, short, and ambiguous: “Find things that need doing,” Lord Silvestre had told her, looking unusually harried, “and do them. Particularly if they're dangerous. Unless they offend the White City. Don't do anything that offends the White City. Well, except the bits we don't like. Oh, just go.” And now, she finds herself an odd-jobs fixer; one week sourcing dealers in shady taverns to match her superiors' habits, another bodyguarding visiting dignitaries around the city, or knocking someone matching a particular description over the head in an alley, all without ever asking why.

“Why” is a very dangerous question within the Embassy. Ambriel Chermes checks over the duty roster one last time, and pulls on a plain cloak over her Broken Guard officer's tabard as she prepares to leave the Embassy. There's a pub down by the slums called the Long Road, where expatriates of all nations gather and where the landlord is rather more tolerant than most about the legality of his Northern and Southern customers' habits. There's a man waiting in that pub named Orpheus, and on Orpheus' belt is a pouch, and in the pouch is waiting a packet of Vainglory, which Ambriel intends to introduce herself to.

As she walks through the streets of the city, the sound of mobs rises and the smell of smoke drifts on the air. Everything feels a little… disconnected.

misc/fiction/disconnected.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/31 20:59 by osj01
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