entry point: here
Note in the personal journal of Eva Bellambi, Duchess Loch Avie.
.....now that was some interesting body language... I thought to myself as I headed back to the Constant, now docked in Steelhead for the last week or so.
The Sheriff's Office had been quite well lit and I had seen the men talking as I began my inquiries about Agent O'Toole around Steelhead City. Likely most folks felt the same way Sheriff Ortega did. Hotspur was just off on "one of his adventures". Nothing to worry about. I, however, was beginning to get some intelligence traffic about him from various places across the globe. What was true? What was not?
They had all been quite polite as usual, however, the normally easy-going manner with which my friends, Fuzzball, Lunar, and Darien, generally conversed was not there this evening. They were hiding something, and they were trying to ensure that I did not pick up on any of it. Although, I honestly think that they do not know anything about Hotspur's location or situation. What is going on then?
Looking around me I noted that the streets in Steelhead seemed awfully quiet. People were inside their homes. There was none of the usual friendly calls from front porch swings as I strolled down the lanes. I could feel tension all around me. It was nearly sparking in the air.
All those years of training with my grandmother and mother in the ways of the White Ladies - the healers of our clan - were valuable to me. While we have not be able to see great distances, those of us in my family have always had an ability to "sense", which sometimes involves visions. For me it has always been more of an impression. (You have to admit that this would be a very handy tool for an intelligence officer.) Over the years, this skill has been a great benefit to me as friends or family have needed assistance - physical or emotional; grave danger from others or from within themselves.
I shook off the personal reflection as I neared the pier.
The fog rolled in off the inlet, and there at the docks the Constant was moored. The Dockmaster and I were old acquaintances given the close ties of Steelhead and Caledon. We spoke for a time. He told me that he had not seen Mr. O'Toole for at least a week...maybe 10 days. When pressed as to whether anyone else had been seen near the Constant, he told me that he had not taken note of anyone in particular. Had he inspected her at all? "No," he said. He was used to vessels often sitting in port for days on end and had paid her very little attention, actually.
I thanked him, and told him that I would be performing my own inspection, as I now considered that my agent had either gone AWOL or there was some foul play involved.
The Dockmaster nodded and smirked just a little as he added, "Careful now, Your Ladyship. I don't reckon if I know whether O'Toole there had 'im any lady friends what paid him some visits. Not sure what or who you might find in there, ma'am."
"I shall take your warning into account, my good man. I am not a woman easily shocked. I cannot afford to be." And I left it at that.
I had examined the exterior of the gunboat as best as I could in the waning light of the late evening. There seemed to be no new dents in the 6 inch steel casemate. The smokestacks and pilothouse were intact. Of course the ship was outfitted with the full complement of 15 cannons, but the variation that MrBunwah, Justinian, and Hotspur had discussed sometime last year was placement of forward facing cannon. Most boats in this class tended to have all the guns in broadside positions.
Nothing seemed amiss as I walked through the hatch. But as my eyes adjusted, I could see that I was not the first person to come aboard the Constant in the last week. Charts, plans, and letters were all over the deck. I found the cabin lantern, lit it, and began a more thorough look through the items on the floor.
Suddenly I had the distinct impression that something was VERY wrong. The tension that I had been feeling suddenly grew into something more terrible and the words of an old Latin spell that I was taught at a very young age came to mind.
Imperiequeritis, tria pendent corpora ramis dis meus et gestas in media et divina potestas dimeas clanator sed jetas as astra levarut
I stood still and listened and remembered. My grandmother told me that this was a spell that was to be used to alleviate pain and suffering particularly after someone was tortured. An odd thought floated through my mind...something about how my father and I had discussed that this spell did not use the appropriate Latin forms. He made some joke about the Latin language as the thing being tortured in this instance. My mother and grandmother simply rolled their eyes and went on with the lessons. Grandmother mentioned that the last known use of this in our family was just after the Battle of Culloden.
I was snapped back to the present state as the impression of pain and suffering grew stronger and the words louder.
Clearly Hotspur is in great danger. This is not simply an unplanned leave from MI-5.
Just then a flash of light from the floor caught my eye.
I walked over to the corner of the chart table and found a small leather pouch, the letters SW scratched in with a knife, and a coin poking out. That's what caught my eye. On closer examination the coin was small and copper with a square hole cut in the center. Four Chinese characters surrounded the edges of the square.
The Dark Ocean Society
That has to be it. They must be behind this feeling of dread, pain, and suffering. I knew that O'Toole had made enemies in the realm years ago, but it had never been an issue for the agency...until now. This would also explain why reports of his whereabouts have been coming in from port cities en route to China. Of course I have to know more...to be sure that my theory is correct.
A plan began to formulate:
1- Get the small pouch of coins to Professor Krogstad in the Royal Society for study and forensic examination. Is there anything else this can tell us?
2- Alert our agents in the field along what is the likely path of travel. I believe that Amplebeak Tinlegs is just off an assignment. He'll have to stay out of country a bit longer.
3 - Contact one of my newer agents, now stationed in the east, Mr. Shea LeFevre.
Shea had grown up in New Orleans. His mother was an Irish immigrant and his father, Creole. When he came to me he was looking for occupation of any sort. He had been drifting around since the end of the Civil War. As he worked around the Loch, he told me of his injury in Petersburg early in 1865, and that he had been captured for a time. He seemed to enjoy learning about Caledon and her allies. His intellect was clear, though he claims himself to be nothing more than a simple, world-weary drifter. He was clearly well-read, and had healed well from his injuries. He gained my trust (after a thorough background check) and seeing his potential, I sent him on to training for MI-5.
Don't let me down in this first large task, Shea, I thought to myself as I composed the briefing to him and prepared to send across our secure communication. channel.