In a Latitude of Temperance (The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance Book 5) (10 page)

BOOK: In a Latitude of Temperance (The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance Book 5)
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“Well done, Dr. Xen Xum Xng, I say. I cannot thank you enough.”

“Ohhhh, please to think nothing of it, Miss Plumtartt.”

“Uhhh. I’m, comin’, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Uhhh.”

“There is no hurry at this juncture, Mr. Temperance, please take your time. Now, my aggressive friend. I think we may have been hasty in joining combat with you. I suspect that you are of an order that does not seek the blood of the righteous. Tell me sir, do you not sense that we are of like allegiance?”

“But your association with these Counts and this WrenneFeyldde creature, I assumed...”

“Ah! You
assumed
! And here lies the crux of our problem and the solution to our quandary, do you not agree, my friend?”

“It does not happen often, but I think I may have made a mistake, lady.”

“Oh, my word, I am so delighted that we have been able to clear up this little misunderstanding. Dr. Xen Xum Xng, I think you may release our new ally and return him his sword.”

“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-h-Vhat are you doing? h-h-You can’t do this! I order you to slay that man immediately! You must return with us! This is most inconvenient! Henh!”

“No, I am sorry, Mr. WrenneFeyldde; I feel no fidelity nor loyalty to you, I am afraid. As it appears that our forces are all recovering their sensibilities and their feet, er, I say, could a few of you help Mr. Cogito to his feet, please? I am afraid his inability to stand from a position on the ground is a dreadful design flaw that we have not been able to overcome. That’s it, very good, my friends. Now then, I am sure you gentlemen will understand if we commandeer the two carriages for ourselves. We leave the injured Count Onyx’Ula to your care.”

“I am afraid this development is sour milk in our cereal, Count Sezami.”

“Ha ha! We are struck with the proverbial pop quiz for which one is unprepared, my dear Count ChauckOolaux, ha, ha. Your actions are irrational, Miss Plumtartt!”

“Heh,heh,heh, h-you can’t do theese Meess Plumtartt! Henh!”

“Oh, I am afraid that I can, I am, and I have. Toodle-loo, gentlemen.”

 

---

Chapter Seven.
Buenos Morte

“We have counted many ups and downs in this little errand we have been on, my friend Count ChauckOolaux.”

“Indeed my friend,”
mnk, mnk, mnk
“it sounds as if you have been on a roller coa-coa-coaster of adventure. I should like to confide a concern I have vith zee rest of you if I may? I vonder vhy there is a need to open zeese new academy in Argentina? Good olde ‘Transylvania U’ back in the olde country vas good enough for hundreds of years. Vhat has changed zhat vee vould move to this distant locality?”

“Ha, ha! I cannot count a single reason, my chocolate chum, ha, ha!”

“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-h-theese eez terrible! Theese eez deezaztrous! Oh, how could vee be streecken by such catastrophe? Henh? Vhat are vee to do? Vee cannot return to the master vithout our captives! There eez no room for defeat! Failure is not an option! H-h-h-hhenh!”

mnk, mnk, mnk
“It is imperative that we hurry from this city. I do not want the authorities to track a series of cereal killings back to me.”
mnk, mnk, mnk

“Why don’t you all shut up! You are all a bigger pain in the neck than this broken neck I’ve got!”

Augh. I am getting tired of holding my head up and in proper alignment, waiting on the regenerative process. Can’t these bones knit any faster? I swear, I shall have my vengeance on that traitorous vampire for this painful injury. Meanwhile, the jibber jabber of the ridiculous Counts ChauckOolaux and Sezami is giving me a splitting headache. I can no longer tolerate the endless whining of the wretched WrenneFeyldde, either.

“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-should we go out and try to find them? Perhaps it is still possible to recapture the scientists we are tasked with collecting? Henh?”

Count ChauckOolaux suddenly perks up, his long ears  trembling.

mnk, mnk, mnk
“By the tingling of my ears.”

mnk, mnk, mnk
“Something noble this way nears.”

mnk, mnk, mnk
“Be alert my friends, the game we pursue is afoot!”

“Ha, ha! Look there! Our captives return to us, ha, ha!”

Well I’ll be even more damned than I already am! The whole group is walking up the dock to stop at the foot of the
‘Stoker’
gangplank.

“Yoo, hoo! Ahoy-dilly-ho! You gentlemen there, upon the poop deck. I say, we should like to parley. What do you say? Eh?”

“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-h-parley? Be quiet and do as you are told! Get aboard this ship and behave yourself, you foolish woman!”

“Ha, ha! Please excuse and ignore this stupid man, ha, ha! Yes, Miss Plumtartt, vee vould very much like to parley vith you, ha, ha! Let me count the ways for which vee are vanting you and your esteemed colleagues back aboard this ship! Ha, ha! You, WrenneFeyldde, shut up you unthinking fool before I dispatch you in a swift subtraction from our numbers, ha, ha!”

“How very wise of you, Count Sezami. I was hoping that I could count upon your rational sensibilities.”

“Ha, ha! When you put it in mathematical formulation, Madame, how am I to resist? Ha, ha! Vhat do you bring to the parley table?”

“Many items for you to enumerate, Count. Three, in fact, my constantly counting Count. Firstly, it is increasingly obvious that we are embroiled in a fearsome plot, yes?”

“Ha, ha! Obviously Madame, this I concede willingly. Please, I eagerly await question number two, ha, ha!”

“Certainly. We are, I am afraid, unclear as to what the particulars of this ‘Count’ intensive conspiracy might be. We were wondering, just what in Victoria’s bustle are you devils up to?”

“Ha, ha! I vould gladly tell you my charming woman, but none of us are privy to the nature of this mission. We pride ourselves in our unflinching loyalty to our master. We are commanded and we obey. To question the motives is tantamount to treason.”

“And your master’s name? Eh, hem?”

“Ha, ha! You have all received a summons directly from him! His initial is enough of an identification. However, as a gesture of goodwill, I vill confirm that it is indeed his true initial! Ha, ha!”

“How very generous, Count Sezami. So, we look forward to meeting this ‘Count ‘D’’ as he has uniformly denoted himself in each of our correspondences.”

“Now you just hang on there a cotton pickin’ minute. I don’t know ’bout y’all, but I’m a mite suspicious that there is some sort of foul and insidious plan being a’formylated. The way I reckon things, we got some particularly skilled scientists and engyneers getting’ rounded up for a pretty potent pow-wow. We got Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn and his work with hydro engineering. Mr. Pol Steele and his cutting edge electrical engineering skills. Dr Zen, er, I mean Dr. sck-c-c-, er, I mean, we got Dr. X and his chemystry background. I am known to be a fair tinkerer myself. I would add that I think maybe all of our engineering skills have been enhanced by the passing of the ‘Revelatory Comet’. With all that in mind, what do you think this ol’ Count D is a’cookin’ up down there on the Patagonian island of Tierra del Fuego?”

“Maebae the gloomy gorp bae hah whuntin’ te rooole the Wearld bae thraeat oof eh great and powerfuhlle freezing rhey ghunne.”

“Ya know what, Pol? I think you might be onto something, or something like it. I betcha if we all applied our various skillsets, maybe we could come up with something like that. ‘Count Freezy Dee and his ‘Freeze-O-Beam’’, maybe? I don’t know, though. Even to my lesser than most sophisticated mind, that sounds like a pretty thin batch of pancake batter to go on. Besides, down in Tierra del Fuego, everything is pretty much frozen over anyway. A ‘Freeze-O-Beam’ seems kinda redundant.”

“Si, Senor Tempseranci. This hardly would seem to be the likely actions of this sickly brood. I feel, however, that you are on the right track of his having some diabolical device in mind for us to build for him.”

“Thanks, Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, but now that I think about it, I also received a letter from a friend of mine. His name’s Professor Christopher DiddleFudde. He is an eminent theoretical physicist. He is involved in this project, also. I wonder what it could all add up to? Now, Count Sezami, you’ll confirm that we are in fact, bound for Tierra del Fuego, won’t you? That’s a big ol’ island of Patagonia, ain’t it?”

“Ha, ha! Yes, Temperance. I freely admit that Tierra del Fuego is our destination, ha, ha!”

“Thanky, sir. Since you so freely have shared with us, I’ll do the same with you. You all got our curiosity up, something fierce. We are now amenable to being willing passengers on this boat. We are not your prisoners. We shall not submit to being locked in our quarters or barred from leaving the ship at any time.”

“Ha, ha! We agree to your terms! Ha, ha! Now please hurry aboard; dawn approaches and we wish to be under way. Ha, ha.”

“Yessir, that’s another point that you all should be aware of. We’re wise to y’all’s peculiar taste in liquid imbibement. We have taken a number of precautions.”

“Numbers! Ha, ha! What is this number? Ha, ha!”

“Three, Count. One: We are all wearing great heavy leis of garlic. The bulby clumps of cloves are worn as big necklaces around our necks. Not only that, but we have been eating this stuff as if our lives depend on it, which, I suppose, they do.”

“Two: We have all opted to supplement our Palm Leaf Crucifixes with blessed silver ones. Everybody hold up their silver crucifix so these boys can see we ain’t funnin’ ’em.”

“Ayiee! Enough! We get it! Please put them back beneath your collars. Ha, ha. That’s better. Now we have counted, one and two measurements of protection, but what is the number three plasma preserving precautionary predilection?”

“He’s right here.”

“No, this is too much! I refuse to allow that monster aboard this ship! He nearly killed me! If I were mortal, I
would
be dead! Somebody bring me a dueling collar to hold my head up so that I may kill this horrible beast!”

“Ha, ha! Please to calm yourself, Count Onyx’Ula. You see, Mr. Temperance, I am afraid my uncomfortable companion harbors great concerns in regard to allowing this creature on our boat. Concerns that we his associates share very much. I think we do not agree to having this dangerous man on our ship.”

“If he ain’t goin’ then we ain’t. Sun’s coming up pretty soon, Count. What’s it gonna be?”

“Ha, ha! Very Vell, vee say velcome aboard everybody! But eh, you vill at least give us your assurance as a gentleman, that you intend no funny business, yes?”

“Sure thing, Count Sezami. I pledge that as long as you and your party behaves itself, then so shall I and my companions.”

“Ha, ha! I think vee can all agree to this. Tell me my dark and dangerous new passenger, vhat eez your name?”

“My name is...”

The devil whips his dark lensed, ultra stylish glasses off to reveal burning white irises.

“...Trevor Dagger.”

 

---

Chapter Eight.
Journey’s End

“Oh, ye’ll take the high road,”

“An Oye’ll takes the low road,”

“An Oye’ll be in Tierra del Fuego,”

“a’fore-r-r-re ye’.”

“Faer Icksy and’ Persephone,”

“Thae’ ne’er will bae a’part,”

“When we crash thae blooudy
‘Stoker’
,”

“Au-ouon thae rocks.”

Ohhhh, the nights upon the ocean within this strange ship are as wild and fraught with danger as the floating stables of the Qiqihar Dragon Arena during mating season. The waves are as mountainous as the unassailable heights that surround legendary Shangri-la.

Ohhhh, but the cold, short days are as listless as last year’s Tiger Lilies. The water lies as flat as a sumo wrestler’s tatami mat, that is, for the first three days. After that, the days have held no respite from the raging storms that have taken this ship in their merciless grip. It has grown increasingly difficult to differentiate day from night. It is as if we have lost all contact with our warm and glowing personal star, and now dwell in a long, long, night. Ice collection on the rigging has outpaced the crew’s ability to dislodge it. The stormy and raging winter weather has driven us all below deck, including the hard-faced crew, and we do not have the wherewithal to face the icy, winter ocean rage. Yesterday we were entertained by the sounds of losing the ship’s rigging, as the frozen ropes and scaling nets were violently ripped from their hold on the failing boat.

Confuzi’us say:

‘He who follow in footsteps of fool,’

‘Likely step in stinky stool’.

Ohhhh, I think he is right on this one. Why did we not escape these monsters when we had the chance? Ohhhh, Confuzi’us, we really step in it this time. Ohhhh.

“Aaaahhhh!”

Almost all of the frightened huddle of passengers here below deck cry out with involuntary whelps of despair as a wooden snap shakes the ship indicating the loss of another piece from one of the masts. One and all helplessly flinch as the falling timber strikes the side of the ship as the failing
‘Stoker’
beats herself apart. Though each person had originally showed much courage and and self-control in those first few days after losing control of the ship, everyone’s strength and tenacity has been worn to nothing. Courage and fortitude are now long forgotten memories in this relentless abuse by the elements. Sea sickness has forced its presence on even the staunchest of seamen as everyone aboard has has now passed through this ordeal. Trembling with malnourished weakness, the unlucky passengers of the
‘Stoker’
await the inevitable conclusion.

 

“Oh, ye’ll take the high road,”

“And Oye’ll takes the low road,”

“An’ Oye’ll get tae Ploomtartt Manor, a’fore ye’,”

“We’re roonin’ oout o’ time,”

“Please faergive me huddy rhyme,”

“Good bye, Ocean’s surface, hello, floooor-ah.”

 

“Ooooohhhh.”

Moan we all as we are helplessly drenched again in freezing water as another titanic wave crashes over and engulfs the ship. How long can this battered ship hold together, I do not know. My background is chemistry, not structural engineering; otherwise, I would answer my own question. Ohhh.

I hated the incessant beat of this ship’s paddles, and yearned for them to cease their assault on the Ocean, but now I would gladly endure their infernal racket again a thousand times over, if we could only relight the furnace. Once that first giant wave overtook the
‘Stoker’
, swamping the strange black ship, her furnace, and every other flame was doused. That was the end of all light and heat. I calculate that to have been perhaps four, maybe five days ago, but who can tell the passage of time in this perpetual darkness of heavy storm and Sun avoiding Southern latitude?

It is said that misery loves company. I have never seen this sentiment in greater display. All thought of rank and station are forgotten in this hour of certain demise. The three aristocratic, cloaked counts are as miserable as their twelve Transyl-garian seamen. These slavic sailors have been a morose lot from the beginning of the voyage I am told, but the poor wretches reveal their humanity in this time of their mortality’s end. This once stoic and stern band of countrymen now huddle, moan and cry with each brutal assault the ship receives. The heartless wretch WrenneFeyldde clings to his horrible thread of life as much as any of the rest. The fanged warrior I disarmed at the hotel is not thrilled at the prospect of burial at sea. It is undetermined if even these longevity imbued beings would survive the ultra harsh conditions of an icy, deep sea burial.

How unfair for we poor souls that were caught up in this vampyric net. The Spaniard, so noble and proud, trembles with fear as the ship breaks apart, piece by piece, as do I and the young couple. The clockwork man suffers as much as the rest of us, I think. He is a good approximation of a human male, but is not designed for particularly rough usage. I have an impression that he is more of an intellectual companion. He shares the despair with the rest of us as his end will certainly accompany ours.

“Woah. .
Woah!
.
WOAH!”

“WOE-
O
O
O
O
O
OOO
O
O
O
OH
HH!!
!

A huge swell pushes the ship over into an extreme list. Balancing at the point of capsizing, the ‘S
toker’s’
decks hang in doubtful suspension at a perfect vertical position as she ponders whether or not to give up her battle and surrender to the temptation of a quick end to her misery. After an eternal hesitation, she rocks back, keel down.

“Hey there, Mr. Steele, if we were to capsize, is there any chance that the ship would just ‘barrel roll’ through to being right side up again?”

“Tee, hee! It’s a ‘barrel roll’ now is it? Tee, hee! Oh, Ickity, ye’ amuse me to no end me lad. ‘Barrel roll’’! Ho, ho! Tee, hee! No, m’boy, When the
‘Stoker’
does capsoize, shae’ll certainly crooosh aulle aubaeird. Thoose unloocky aenough naughtte tae bae kilt, mae stroogle innae poocket o’ aiyre fae a mooment a’foure succoombin tae the icy greeps o’ caertain daeath. Tee, hee! ‘Barrel roll’ he says! Foonny lad! Tee, hee!”

“Ha, ha. I can count nothing to find amusing. Ha, ha. Zero, zilch, zip. Ha, ha. Uhhh....”

mnk, mnk, mnk
“I think the cereal is finished, the milk is gone, and the bottom of the bowl looms ever nearer.”
mnk, mnk, mnk

“Heh,heh, hehh-h-h-why, why, why? I cannot fail my master! Henh, heh,heh,heh,”

“This can’t be happening! I could stand the thought of my existence ending in some other way, but this? This does not fit with the high standards and the idiom of Count Onyx’Ula!”

“Shut up, Onyx’Ula! If these mortals can die with dignity, than you should be able to muster as much aplomb.”

“You shut up, Trevor Dagger. You’re looking pretty green around the gills yourself, Goodnik.”

“It pains me to die in this ignoble fashion. I, Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, could have, I think, made a brave show had our end come swiftly. This slow wait upon the ship to burst into pieces is a torture that unmans me. I apologize to my friends, Senor Dr. Xen Xum Xng, Senor Steele and Senor Ichsabod Temperanci, but truly I am pained to the bottom of my great and powerful heart to show anything but the sterling courage before such a pinnacle of perfection in Senorita Persephone Plumtartt.”

“Oh, oh, oh, please do not trouble yourself, Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn. I, I, I, s, s, s say. Yes, my w-w-w-w-w-w-word sir.”

She looks to her unhappy man.

“Oh, my d,d,d,d,dear Mr. Temperance. Please don’t cry my sweet. I think I can bear anything but that.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am. I mean, those ain’t tears, that’s just water from that last wave. If they were tears, though, they would be for getting you into an awful jam, and not for myself, Miss Plumtartt.”

E
E
E
E
E
E
E
E
ER
R
R
R
R
R
RR
R
R
R
R
R
R
K
K
K
K

Groans the
‘Stoker’
.

“Ohhhhhhhhh.”

Groans the entire company in an involuntary moan of commiseration.

~ S N * A P! ~

“That distressing sound was the second section of the mainmast breaking away, my unhappy amigos. I do not think we have much longer to wait for our end to come.”

 

“Oh, ye’ll take the high road,”

“An’ Oye’ll take the low road,”

“Oye thinks Oye’ll be going, for a wee dip-sy,”

“Our ship yields tae the waves so high,”

“Tis’ good as any oother way tae diye.”

“Oy’m gettin’ a baleful aeye, fae Meester WrenneFeyldde.”

 

“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-h-shauhtte aup you Scauhttish madman! Must I die while listening to your inane squawking? Shaughte aup! Why do you insist on being so merry? Why can’t you just die in misery along with the rest of us? We are in enough agony! At least spare us your painful vocalizations!”

“Tee, hee! Oh, bhaughtte Meester WrenneFeyldde, my wretched leetle love, I wrote that leetle ditty just for you, tee, hee! Oye am afraid that Oye cannae share yoour misery though. Ye’ see, Oye’m a Edinburgh boy on a ship at sea! I cannae bae naughtte bhaughtte happy! Let me see if Oye can help you boys oout. Think of what could makes ye’ happy. Me? How ah’booots a spot o’ hot buttered rum? That always cheers mae au-up! Coount ChauckOolaux? ’ow’s ah’booots ye’ invision a mug o’ hot coa-coa? Count Sezami, you should concentrate on imagining a wineglass full of ruby marbles, and you are tasked with guessing the amount. Count Onyx’Ula, ye’ could bae contemplating choopin’ Trevor’s head ooff.”

“Thanks, Pol.”

“Nae problem, Trevor m’laddie! ye’ joost enjoy a vision o’ a repeating crossbow loaded up with sharpened woooden stake bolts that ye’ couold bae shootin’ inae the heart o’ Count Onyx’Ula.”

“Heh,heh,heh, h-I tell you, I don’t vant to hear it! Henh!”

“Come on, Mr. WrennFeyldde, Pol is our last little light of spirit on this boat. Please let him sing, even though the lyrics are just a tad bit morbid, I reckon. Say there, Mr. Steele, could I ask you a favour though? I was wonderin’ if you wouldn’t sing the original lyrics one time. Of course, only a small percentage of the world’s population is fortunate enough to call himself a Scot, but you know what? That little ol’ song of yours, somehow, it makes me feel a yearnin’ to be a Scotsman. In a funny way, that little limerick has worked its way into most every crook and cranny all over this here planet. It’s like a little connection, that is there, and you don’t even really know it. Maybe, in a small way, we are all just a wee bit Scottish, sir. If you please, Mr. Steele, I’d like to sing along with you, if it’s all right? I kinda think it might make me feel better.”

Ohhhhh. This Edinburgh Electrician. He has put up the shield of humour and wears the armour of silliness. Ohhhh. I am thinking, though, the tinker’s words affect him, for he does soften his face. I am one to observe this in the moment of lightning’s flash that at just that moment finds its way to us through the many openings that have been created in the deck over our head by falling spars from the disintegrating masts.

“Oh, Icksy, m’lad, there’s enough o’ the spirit o’ Scotland faer the Waerld, naughtte tae waerry. Fact bae true, there’s ae’nough Scot in mae alone te’ shaere generoosly with ye aulle. And there be merit in your words m’colonial cousin. Thaere aere a wee bit o’ Scotland in every lad an’ lassie when they sings thaese song.”

whirr, bzzz, clink
“And I, Mr. Steele?”

“Tee, hee! Aye, of course my tin laddie! ye’ remind me o’ when Oye was a six fooot one metal boy.”

Ohhhh. The Scot Engineer. He gets to going with his little song. One time through alone. Soft and slow, but in the tightly huddled mass, it is enough that we can all hear. The American farmboy tinker in the derby hat joins in the second time through. I think this is all they will sing, but they go for a third chorus. To my surprise, the Plumtartt woman and the Spaniard hydrolycist softly join in. There is enough lightning to illuminate a strange phenomenon I am one to think again. Ohhhh. They each seem to be slightly heartened by the words. Or maybe it is the friendship they share.

The Ru-vanian crewmen, look from one to another, as if to confirm the lyrics, and then, one by one, start to sing along in their guttural, slavic tones. I had thought these men incapable of speech, but I think they are desperate to enjoy a moment of fellowship in their last moments in this world.

“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-h-mmmWahhhh! Heh,heh,heh, mmmWahhhh! Blast eet! I vant in, too!”

In a most horrible attempt, and with a screeching voice, as that of fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard, WrenneFeyldde does indeed join in on the choral of camaraderie adrift on the ocean of oblivion.

BOOK: In a Latitude of Temperance (The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance Book 5)
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