Back Again and Gone Again

(Look, Dear Reader! I am beginning at the beginning!)

We arrived at the academy quite late last night. The driver helped carry our things to the building, then left us at the front door. We knocked only once before being let in by a very sleepy-looking little chambermaid, making me think she had been quite near the door to answer so quickly. When we told her our names she woke up in a hurry. "Stay right there," she stammered. "Don't move." She scurried off, leaving us in the chilly front entrance. After a moment, we put our bags down.

"Do you suppose she has gone to fetch Mrs. Dogwood?" I asked Zebediah in a whisper, wondering why the housekeeper herself had to be brought down to show us to rooms with which we were already familiar. He only shrugged and took my hand, for which I was glad.

We heard footsteps a minute or two later, but the person who appeared in the doorway was not the chambermaid, nor the housekeeper, Mrs. Dogwood; it was Professor Eberhart. "Follow me," he whispered. "Don't make a sound." He turned back around without waiting for an answer. Bewildered, Zebediah and I had no choice but to pick up our bags and comply.

He led us past our former rooms and all the way up to his office. Once we were both inside, he shut and locked the door, then gestured for us to sit. Rather than shake a lamp to light it, he lit a single candle and placed it on his desk, giving the room an air of mystery. He sat down behind his desk, wrapped in a green velvet dressing gown with an odd little cap on his head. I suppose it was fashionable, for a man of his stature and age. His expression was still as stern as ever, though, and his mechanical eye whirred quietly as he looked back and forth between Zebediah and I. His gaze stopped for a moment on our clasped hands, which rested on the arm of my chair, but he did not remark upon it.

"You must go as soon as I have told you why," the professor said in his low, Germanian accent. "It is no longer safe here, for either of you." I suppose I must have looked as though I would protest, because he added, "I know you are tired. I know you have experienced much hardship, and you shall tell me all, in time. I, too, shall fill in the blanks with which I shall leave you tonight."

He studied us a moment more, then his expression changed. "Ach. Forgive me, you must be hungry and thirsty after your journey. You came all the way from Johnstown this morning, yes?" I nodded, wondering how he knew, or if he had only guessed. "Forgive me," he said again, and went to the rope on the wall to, presumably, ring for tea.

"And now," he said, returning to his chair behind the desk. "Mr. Troxill wired me the night before last to say you were coming." That would explain the speedy answering of the door. "I knew you would only have to flee again once you arrived, but thought it better I tell you so in person. Let you see a familiar face before becoming fugitives once more, yes?" He nodded, answering his own question. "He told me a little of what had transpired whilst you were at his home, and once you left it and returned." He gave us a calculating stare. "Very interesting. But more on that at a later time.

"I must presume that the reason you never returned to the academy after going into Madison that day is because you saw the Erebos." I nodded. "It is a wonder they did not catch you in town. Captain Belleclaire sent several men into the city to search you out, yet somehow you evaded them. I knew you intended to purchase clothing, so I told them you were in search of paper products and food, so that they would begin their hunt at the wrong end of town. I believe that may have helped you."

"We didn't see anyone while we were there," I told him. "Not that I noticed, anyway." I looked at Zebediah, but he just shook his head, still looking a little bewildered.

"Good, good," the professor murmured. "To continue: once they had thoroughly searched the school for you and caused quite an uproar, the dirigible left along with its crew. They sent a couple of men into the forest to search for you, thinking it most likely you fled there, rather than across the fields or back into the city. It appears they were unsuccessful, however, as you are both still here."

"They... were unsuccessful in capturing us, sir," I said slowly, "but... we did come across one of them."

"Oh?" the professor asked, and leaned toward us.

"Yes, sir." I felt Zebediah's fingers tighten around mine, giving me strength to go on as well as drawing comfort from me for himself. "Mr. Miller... took care of him."

"You mean he killed the man?" His voice sounded neither accusatory nor triumphant; he simply seemed curious.

"Yes, sir," I said in a very small voice. I hoped that he would not ask for any more details, and thankfully he did not.

After a pause, he said, "I am glad you are both alive and well," and left it at that.

The young maid appeared again with a tray in her hands, a pot of still-steeping tea and three cups upon it, as well as a couple of cold sandwiches and some slices of apple. She was a very efficient, productive little thing, I thought, to bring this so quickly. She left the tray on the desk and disappeared silently, and Professor Eberhart continued with his tale while Zebediah and I ate and drank.

The Erebos had only been gone for a day before another airship approached the school. This one did not even take the time to land, only let down a handful of men from ropes dropped over the side. They slid down and entered the school during lunch time, trapping everyone in the dining hall, and sent out a couple of the men to bring anyone who was elsewhere into the dining hall as well. They said they were searching for any children who were Illuminated, which was, of course, met with both shock and disbelief. There had been no one truly Gifted at the academy, or anywhere else, for more than two centuries! Or so everyone believed. Still, the men were insistent. They had some sort of device with which they tested all the students, who submitted to it tranquilly under the orders of the professors.

To everyone's great surprise, there really was a group of Illuminated students at the school, though I had known about it since that night one of them interrupted my lesson with Professor Eberhart. Once the men had all of them separated from the rest, they intended to subdue them and take them aboard the airship which was still hovering nearby. However, before that could happen, Professor Eberhart gave a signal, and the Gifted students lashed out with all the force they could muster, knocking the unsuspecting men unconscious. There was, understandably, a great commotion, students and teachers alike running about and shouting, confused, frightened, in shock. But the professor said they had been prepared for this for some time. All of the Illuminated students gathered a few things from their rooms and fled in the confusion. A cave high up in the mountains had been set aside for just such a time as this, and it was to this place they all went. A few of the especially talented ones were able to create an illusion so the crew of the airship above would not be able to see them as they hurried into the forest.

"And that is where you must go now," the professor said to me. "I have a plan which will enable me to join you all there after the Yule holiday, but until then, you are to follow all orders from Lucas Jenkins and Ivy Means, do you understand?"

I nodded, and recalled that Lucas was the boy who had interrupted one of my lessons, what seemed like ages ago. And if I remembered correctly, he had said something about a girl named Ivy. "What are we to do there?" I asked.

"They will tell you the rest of the story, I am sure, and answer any of your considerable amount of questions which they are able," he said with a slight smirk. I felt he was mocking me, but I knew how curious I could be, and how insistent with my questions, so I did not mind.

I finished my tea, then said, "I suppose you should tell us how to get there, then."

"Us? Miss Gardener, you must go alone."

The shock of hearing my true name after hardly thinking about it for several weeks delayed my answer by a second or two. "Alone? No, sir, that I cannot do." I took Zebediah's hand again, firmly set on the idea that he would accompany me.

"He is not Gifted, Miss Gardener. He will be of no help to the group in the mountains, and, forgive my bluntness, but I believe he will be a distraction to you as well."

To that, I did take offense. "He saved my life in the forest, killing the man that had been sent after us," I said with a frown. "He will not be of no use. He is... the most useful person I know!" The professor opened his mouth to protest, but I went on. "We are promised!" I declared. "To... to each other." It was unnecessary to add that last part, but it made me feel a little better, making it so clear. And it was the first time I had said it aloud. I gave Zebediah a small smile, which he returned, and my heart felt a little lighter.

Zebediah squeezed my hand once more, then gestured to the professor, asking for paper and a pen. It was procured and handed to him, and Zebediah scribbled hurriedly: YOU CANNOT KEEP ME FROM HER. I GO WHERE SHE GOES. BESIDES, I ALREADY KNOW ALL THE SECRETS: ABOUT HER ILLUMINATION, AND THAT OF THE OTHER CHILDREN. I HAVE SKILLS THEY DO NOT. I CAN HELP AND PROTECT THEM ALL.

Professor Eberhart sighed, his mechanical eye scanning the paper once more. Then he looked up and nodded. "So be it," he said. "But take care, Mr. Miller." Zebediah nodded solemnly, and it seemed that was enough for the professor.

He sketched us a map, telling us of landmarks which would help us along the way: large stones, oddly-shaped trees and the like. The trek through the forest would be relatively easy, as it followed a path for most of the way, but we would certainly slow down as we climbed the base of the mountain. The cave was partially hidden by shrubbery and rocks, but he told us what to look for in order to find it. Then he bid us farewell, and we went on our way, back into the dark and the cold, crunching over days-old snow until we reached the forest.

The journey was uneventful but for one time we got a little turned around. Zebediah soon set us straight, however, and we made it here a couple of hours before dawn. I shall describe the place and the people tomorrow. For now, I am too exhausted and excited at once to continue in any coherent manner.

AUTHOR POST: Ugh, too busy

See the Twitter feed in the sidebar there? If I have something small to tell you about, I will put it there instead of making a full Author Post.

Right now, it's saying that my day was too full and busy, and I am too tired to finish the entry for Sunday, so it will go up before noon on Monday. Sorry! :( I hate doing this, but I'd rather be a little late and give you something good to read than force it and post utter tripe.

To recap:

*Check the new Twitter feed for any news and updates from here on out (though bigger/major things will still have their own blog post).

*Read Sunday's post by noon on Monday.


Faith Betrayed and Peace Found

Dear Reader, I am at once in raptures and sick to my stomach! Perhaps I am sick to my stomach in part because of how happy I feel, if that makes any sort of sense. Perhaps I still feel guilty for my happiness, though I am trying not to. But I have come to accept--

Oh, bother! Here I am, starting in the middle or, worse yet, at the end, again. Let me try once more.

Zebediah and I arrived at the inn last night still without having spoken a word to one another. Mr. Troxill had arranged for separate rooms, of course. (Our driver slept with the other drivers, I believe. I am not sure how these things work because I have never had someone "beneath" me and serving me, but the man seemed to know where to go perfectly well, and reappeared as soon as we were ready to leave this morning. I am glad someone knows what they are doing in this!) Once Zebediah and I had put our few belongings in our room, we went down for a late supper. The dinning hall was mostly empty, as everyone else was either in the adjoining parlour, or already in bed. The near-silence made it very obvious that we weren't speaking.

I could hardly eat, and I had not eaten much all day because of how awful I felt. I didn't want Zebediah to go, not really, but it was only right and proper! And though I knew he understood that, too, he refused to let me be. All day I had been thinking about how I could dissuade him, but was too nervous to speak of it lest he do something else to try and convince me, as he had in his room at Mr. Troxill's.

After pretending to eat for perhaps ten minutes (which felt like ten hours), I pushed my plate away and began to move my chair back, but Zebediah reached across the small table and touched my hand. I jerked it away as if burned, but I did look up at him. "Bernice," he said with no sound.

I shook my head and stood up. "Goodnight," I whispered, and fled to my room, telling myself it would be better tomorrow, once we had reached the academy and I had a definitive plan. I read what I had written in the coach, reliving it again. I saw the hurt in his eyes as I told him he must stay behind, and held my hand out before me, remembering the touch of his lips on my palm. I went to bed soon after that, and thankfully gave into the oblivion of dreamless sleep.

When I opened my door in the morning to go down to breakfast, Zebediah was waiting for me in the hallway, leaning against the opposite wall with his arms crossed. As soon as he saw me, he stood up straight, then nodded toward the room behind me, asking if he might come in. "We... we should eat and prepare to leave," I stammered, but he was already walking toward me and I had no choice but to back up and let him in. He shut the door behind him, and while I did not particularly like that, we were in a public space and if we were to argue again, I did not fancy the entire rest of our floor hearing it.

"Do you love me?" he asked with hand gestures as soon as he door was closed.

His question caught me off-guard, to say the least. "Excuse me?" I asked, stalling for time to think. How could I answer that truthfully while still convincing him to leave me alone?

"Do you? Tell me! Say it!" If he had been able to speak, he would have been nearly shouting, I am sure.

"Zebediah, I... I cannot really..." I was cut off by my own shock when he stepped forward and took my hands, then took another step toward me so I had to stumble back in order for him not to run into me. Looking up into his eyes, I fell silent for a moment. He stared intently back at me, and I knew it was time to say what I have been feeling for days.

"I do not... I do not know, for sure, that I love you," I whispered, very aware of the pressure from his fingers, of every slight movement of his thumbs on my knuckles. "You are really the only man I have ever... ever known, ever been close to. What I feel is likely... infatuation. How should I know what love is? I, who had never even left my little town until a month and a half ago, who had never known anything but teachers and other girls all my life. I... I cannot know for sure if I love you because... you are the only man I have known since becoming a young woman. I think that, if I love you, it is only because... you have been here. I think... another man in the same situation would provoke the same feelings from me."

"You love me out of necessity?" he asked, using gestures and spelling.

"I think so," I whispered, and something made me feel as if I had heard those words before.

"Adelaide loved Arthur of necessity," he told me. I let go of his hands, gasping, and stepped back.

"You have read my diary!" I cried, for I knew I had not told him about Adelaide's feelings for her father's assistant on the train.

"You told her to love him regardless," Zebediah went on as if I had not just accused him of theft and betrayal, pulling my hand toward him when I at first refused to give it him to spell on. "Perhaps it is not necessity but fate."

I yanked my hand away and glared at him, tears stinging the backs of my eyes. "I cannot believe you would betray me like this," I whispered. He said nothing, but took my little diary from his pocket. My eyes flicked to the desk where I had left it last night; he had come in while I slept and taken it to read.

As I would not give him my hand now, he held the diary toward me and spelled on its cover. "I am sorry. I had to know. I cannot let you leave me. I love you." Almost reverently, he placed the book back on the desk, then turned toward me again. "I will marry you," he told me, touching the ring finger on his left hand for this new word which we had never spoken of together. "I'll go with you. Anywhere."

I let out a strange sound, half-sob, half-laugh. A marriage proposal before breakfast, I thought, a little hysterical. I felt a bit faint and reached out for the bed post to steady myself. "Marry me?" I echoed. He nodded, nothing but earnestness and longing in his eyes. "Why?"

A sad smile crossed his face, and he looked both confused that I would ask such a thing, and amused that I had. "I need you." He came nearer now, to spell on my palm when he had to. "I need... a normal life. Family. You do not see me as a murderer, an evil man. Nor as a mercenary, nor as a servant. You see me as... just a man."

Strangely, I thought then of dear Maggie, and our talk on my last morning at Saint Anne's. She was convinced I would find myself a handsome husband soon after I left her, and I promised that I would return for her if I did, to keep her with me always. And here was that dream, beginning to come true. I could hardly believe I was allowing myself to consider it, but this is what I had longed for since I was young. Having no relatives, I wanted a family of my own. I just did not think the opportunity for one would come so soon!

"I cannot... This is..." I felt even more light-headed, and quickly rounded the end of the bed to sink down onto the edge of it, trying to catch my breath.

Zebediah knelt before me and took my hands in his. It was just like a scene in a love story! "You do not have to answer now," he spelled on my palm, merely wanting to touch me, since he could have used gestures to communicate. "Know that I love you, and will not leave you." He bent his head to kiss the back of my hand, then stood. Looking at me for a moment as if to memorize my face, he gave me a small, secretive smile, then left me.

Instead of going down to breakfast, I recorded all that happened here, too fluttery with nerves and (yes, I dare to write it now!) love to see him so soon. I am still a little angry with him for reading my diary, though now I think of it, I would probably have told him all of it eventually. Now I must pack quickly so we may leave.

I am loved, Dear Reader! Not only that, but I return that love in equal part, and I know now that I shall always have a friend at my side, no matter what. Why have I denied it all this time? It is more wonderful than anything I have ever known!


Zebediah is asleep in the corner of the coach, and it is lovely to watch him. He is leaning his head against the curtain which we have pulled across the window, and his mouth is open just slightly. His breaths are long and slow, and when I extracted my hand gently from his in order to write this, he stirred slightly as if he knew I was getting further away from him, and did not like it. We are nearly to the academy now, and have sat on the same seat holding hands nearly all the way. It was lovely, lovely, lovely.

I must write Maggie as soon as I am able.


A Question Finally Answered and A Very Silent Coach Ride

Well, that did not go at all to plan. I am writing this in the coach, and we are bumping along terribly, as the road is pitted with holes full of half-melted snow, and covered in pebbles and grit brought onto it with runoff. My handwriting is atrocious, but I must do something else I go mad, alone in here with Mr. Miller.

Yes, Dear Reader, my plan failed. And it was because of my own stupidity and weakness that it failed. I shall tell you how it happened.

As I had intended, I waited until breakfast was finished and Zebediah and I returned to our rooms to gather what little we had with us in order to meet the coach downstairs and begin the journey back to Madison. Instead of packing my own things, however, I waited a minute, then went next door and knocked on Zebediah's door. He answered it shortly and invited me in, though he left the door open.

I closed it. That, I think, was my first mistake. "I must speak with you," I said, and his expression became very grave. I suppose it was obvious from my face that my stomach was churning with nerves, and he could probably tell by the way I fidgeted that something was very wrong. "Might we sit down?" I asked. Another mistake, for whenever someone says you "must talk" and then invites you to sit, good news almost never follows.

He motioned to the pair of simple, serviceable armchairs near the barren fireplace; as he was supposedly leaving in half an hour, there was no point in keeping the fire burning. I sat in one chair, and he took the other once I was settled and looked at me with an expectant, slightly worried expression.

I had thought and thought of what to say, but seeing him before me, every word flew right out of my head. "I... I do not think you should go back to Madison with me," I blurted.

His surprised showed on his face, and he leaned forward, eager for me to continue, though he looked as though he would argue if he could.

"It isn't... I mean, you don't..." Goodness, I didn't know how to go on! "You've done so much for me already, and I know I can never repay you for... for saving my life and protecting me and..." I clamped my teeth together to stop the words, at least for a moment so I could gather my thoughts. It was easier if I didn't look at him, so my gaze fell instead upon the black ash that had previously been dry wood burning bright with heat and light. "What I mean to say is... is that... you needn't follow after me any longer. You... I mean, you never should've got mixed up with me in the first place. I'm on this quest to find my family, and I must learn all I can about Illumination in order to help... the cause, or the country, or whatever, and you're... you're not tied to me, nor I to you." My fingers tangled together, weaving up then down, then down and up. I couldn't stay still. "We're--we have been good friends, and I am very glad of it, and will have... f-fond memories of our time together." At this point, it became a little difficult to speak, and my vision blurred with a slight sheen of tears. "But we're... we're just not... r-right together, I mean, we shouldn't b-be together, and... Not that I th-think we're together, but we've been... close. Too close. For propriety's sake. Some of that was... was circumstances, couldn't be helped, but I... we..." I looked up at him, not thinking, and the tragedy I saw stole the breath from my lungs.

He looked as though I had taken his most treasured possession and dashed it on the ground. As though he had held out his hand to shake and I had burned it with a hot iron. As if... I had broken his heart. And seeing that look in his eyes broke mine as well.

"Oh, don't!" I cried. "Please, don't! This is for the best, you must see that! We can't go on... adventuring like this, traveling around together, alone! Not alone," I corrected, "but... together." Surely he had to understand how it must look.

For what seemed like a very long time, Zebediah sat and said nothing, looking at the floor. But then he nodded slowly, and sat up a little straighter.

I stood up, taking that as his agreement that he would stay behind, whether or not he meant it that way. "I thank you, then, for all you have done for me," I said, my hands clenched in fists at my sides. I nearly choked on the next words, but eventually I got them out. "Goodbye, Zebediah."

I hadn't taken two steps before he was on his feet, blocking my way. "You can't go alone," he said with hand gestures. "Dangerous," he spelled on my palm.

"I am going back to the academy, to Professor Eberhart," I told him. "It's safe there."

"It wasn't last time," he told me.

"Then I shall go somewhere else! The Professor will know what to do, and if he doesn't, then... I'll figure it out!" I said stubbornly. "I got this far on..." But I trailed off. I hadn't done any of it on my own. From the minute I stepped off the train in Sun City, decisions had been made for me; other people had either forced or helped me along.

"I won't leave you," said Zebediah.

"You're staying here," I insisted. "I'm the one that's leaving." I started toward the door again, but he moved quickly to block my way again. "Move!" I shouted, shaking by now from nerves and a sick feeling deep in my stomach.

He took my hand again and I yanked it back, but he grabbed my wrist with one hand, prying my fingers open with the other. Furious, but unable to pull free, I moved as far away from him as I could with his fingers wrapped around my wrist, and looked away. I didn't have to watch his fingertip as he spelled letters out on my hand. I understood as plainly as if he had spoken aloud.

"I love you."

Tears stinging my eyes, I still did not look at him, too angry and upset to risk it. But from my peripheral vision I saw him bend over my hand, then I felt his lips touch my fingertips. Then my palm, snowflake-soft. "Zebediah," I whispered, my voice shaking. The door was closed, and I was alone with a man in his bedroom. This is how so many "dreadful" copper novels begin, with the quiet, gentle seduction of a naive young girl. It was highly inappropriate. But I couldn't make myself pull my hand away even after he loosened his grip on my wrist.

When a tear spilled down my cheek, he let me go at last. I did not even dare to look at him, but hurried to the door, threw it open, and nearly ran down the corridor to my own room. I cried as I packed my things, and found him waiting at the front door when I returned downstairs, just as I had expected and feared.

Mr. Troxill had packed enough food for four people in the coach, and the driver stowed our meager belongings in a little enclosed space above the seating area. Our host came to the door shortly after I arrived there to bid us farewell. "Thank you again," he said as he shook our hands. He could not explain the reason for his gratitude in front of the coachman, but I knew he referred still to the way we returned his wife to him.

"Do not mention it," I murmured. Surely he must have noticed my reddened eyes and blotchy face, but he did not say anything about it. Zebediah stood stiffly and was very careful not to look at me even from the corner of his eye. Our host must have known something was the matter, and my cheeks burned with shame, as if he had seen my weakness in Zebediah's room.

A minute later Zebediah and I were both inside the coach, but just as Mr. Troxill turned to go back into his house, I called out to him, remembering that I had wanted to ask him something at the last second. He came up to the window, which I managed to lower after fiddling with the crank for a moment. But when I opened my mouth, I realized how stupid my question was. "I... I apologise, it was nothing," I mumbled.

"Are you sure, my dear? You may ask me anything you please, though I cannot promise I shall answer it." The ghost of a smile flitted across his lips.

"I..." How could I ask something about his dead wife so soon after her passing? But again I remembered his cruelty and selfishness, which was ultimately the cause of her (second) death. And I remembered that he would've sold us to men who could have killed us or worse! So I asked it. "Why... if I may ask... did Violet stutter? Was it... a natural affliction, or something brought about by her... unique situation?"

He looked very puzzled for a moment, but he had agreed to answer anything he could. "It was a side effect of using clockwork parts," he told me after moving closer so the driver could not hear. "In my presence, when I concentrated the Illumination on her, she was better, but away from me, away from the crystal, the parts... skipped, I suppose is the best way to put it."

Hearing him mention the crystal reminded me of another thing I had been wondering about. "Why did you not imbue your wife with the Gift, if you had the ability?" I asked.

His expression grew very sad at that, and I almost felt sorry for asking it. "I tried," he said softly. "But it did not work. I think... I think that it was because... she was no longer fully human, after her return."

I had not thought of it like that, and his answer banished any further interrogations from my mind. "Farewell, sir," I said softly, and he nodded. After checking behind on both sides, the driver whistled to the horses, and we lurched forward. I cranked the window back up and watched Mr. Troxill disappear behind people and cabriolets and street lamps as a light snow began to fall.

Now I am scribbling away in my diary by the light of a lamp, at least an hour from reaching the inn where we are to stay, and doing my best not to touch, look at, or speak to Zebediah. I am not sure if I am angry with him, or disappointed in him, or disappointed in myself for allowing him to accompany me still. But I have not spoken to him since I left his room this morning, nor has he "said" anything to me. My only solace is that tomorrow, we shall be at the academy. Perhaps Professor Eberhart can talk sense into him.


AUTHOR POST: Christmas week

Ahh, the holidays! My update schedule has been a little crazy the last couple of weeks, and I apologise for that. Today's make-up post just isn't going to happen. I have to think really hard to even hit the right keys while I'm typing this, so another whole entry would just be a disaster, if I attempted it. I woke up feeling yucky this morning, so I slept a little more and went in to work two hours late. To make up for it, I stayed an hour later, then did some last-minute stocking-stuffer shopping, then when I got home, I went out to dinner with friends. Busy busy busy day! (And a little stressful, with all the snow that's been dumped on us. I HATE driving in the snow!)

The make-up post will be coming tomorrow (Tuesday). Since Christmas Day is Thursday, I'll be taking that day and Friday off, then updating Saturday and Sunday; not make-up posts, since it's a holiday. After New Year's Eve, I should be able to update pretty regularly on my Thurs-Sun schedule, barring out-of-town travel or natural disasters. Hang in there another week, and things will get better!

And I just wanted to say again that you are very welcome to use the comments to give me feedback, tell me about typos, discuss characters or plot or world stuff with me or other readers, talk to the characters directly, or whatever you want! (Though preferably keep it relevant to the story or writing in some way.) I would love feedback, and I would love for you, Dear Readers, to get involved in discussions with me and with others!

Come back tomorrow to see how Bernice fares in the next leg of her adventure.

Two Days Spent Quietly and Feelings Realized

If I counted correctly, I believe it took us seven nights and eight days to get from the academy to where we are currently. We took quite a mad route, however, backtracking a little, and of course trekking through the forest slowed us down rather a lot. Apparently the journey from here to Madison should only take two days and a night by coach and on a proper road.

Let me back up, Dear Reader. I do have such an awful habit of starting things in the middle, don't I? I shall try to do better in the future.

I saw little of Mr. Troxill for the remainder of the day yesterday. Trays were brought to my and Zebediah's rooms for lunch, but we dined together in my room for company. When we saw Mr. Troxill at supper, he looked more exhausted than he had in the morning, but his overall air seemed somewhat improved. I asked him about returning to Madison, and he agreed immediately, saying he would hire a very trusted coach driver to take us there, and arrange for every comfort on our journey, including the inn we were to stay in at the halfway point. It was the least he could do, he said, after the great favour we had done him.

I feel not at all as though we had done him a favour. We snuck out of his house in the middle of the night with his wife, then wandered for a couple of days before bringing her back. You know, now that I think about it, I believe Violet wanted to stay near to her home. I think she knew her health would deteriorate if she was away from Mr. Troxill's Illumination and the power of the Crystal shard, and she knew she would want to return home when at last she could go on no longer. I think that is both very, very wrong, for causing such pain to her husband, and very, very tragic, for the terrible situation in which she was placed against her will.

In addition to his cruelty to Violet, I have to remember that Mr. Troxill was going to turn us over to Belleclaire and, ultimately, Mr. Bergstrom, all for mere money. It does not matter how human and frail he seems when speaking or thinking of his late wife; he is still a greedy, power-hungry man, and only swore to keep us safe when he felt he owed us something. Recalling that, I do not feel bad at all, taking advantage of his hospitality now, and accepting his coach and his money for our journey tomorrow.

After supper last night, I read aloud to Zebediah for a while in the library (sans Mr. Troxill, as he had retired). He closed his eyes soon after I began to read, which I have come to realize is not out of boredom or tiredness, but contentment. When I finish a chapter or a set of poems, he is always able to discuss them with me if he wishes, so I know he has been paying attention. I suppose I should be glad that he feels so comfortable in my presence.

But that is a problem, too. (Goodness, look at me, beginning sentences with conjunctions! Miss P___ would be ashamed!) At times, I think perhaps Mr. Miller and I have become too comfortable with each other. It is not proper for a young man and a young woman to have such a close relationship, or at least, I think it is not. We are not betrothed, nor will we ever be, so there is no excuse. I can tell Mr. Troxill thinks we are odd for behaving as we do, and not just because of the hand gestures and spelling. He looks at us with disapproval and the sort of curiosity which gossip-mongers exude, as if he longs to ask about our interactions, but is too polite to ask. Even before we ran away and then returned, he gave us that look when he thought I could not see him.

I can make all the excuses I want for my closeness with Zebediah--our companionship on the airship, the nights and days spent in the forest with no one else for company, him saving my life that awful night--but the truth is... the truth is... (I hate to even write it) we are all wrong for each other. Ill-matched in almost every way. Yet despite it all... I shall say it here and now (or, I suppose, write it): I am in love with Zebediah Miller. I am not sure how it happened, or exactly when. Perhaps it was the night he slept between my bed and the door, in that cold attic room the kind housewife allotted us. Maybe it was when he held me as I sobbed and sobbed, the night he killed that man in the forest. More likely, it has been so gradual that I have not noticed it. I hope he has not noticed it.

I am afraid I have got off-track from my original intent of recording the events of yesterday and today. But writing all of this, and having so much time to think in the past two days, has made me realize what I must do. Tomorrow morning before we leave, I must convince Zebediah not to accompany me to Madison. It is not his place; I am not his charge or his fiancée, he is not obligated to protect me. I am to return to a friend and a place where I will be safe, so he needn't worry about me. Tomorrow we must part ways, for both our sakes. Mine especially, as romantic entanglement is the last thing I need while I am on the run from pirates and loyalists, and hoping to expand my Gift in order to help save the country.

Yes, I must. I shall tell him tonight. Except that he is probably already asleep. Morning it is, right after breakfast. That way he will have no time to argue with me, as I must leave immediately after. Oh, Dear Reader, wish me luck!


A Love Story and A Captive Freed

I woke early and pulled on the lovely dressing gown which was still in my room in order to hurry down the corridor and use the water closet, and found Zebediah asleep in front of my door, his dirty coat pulled over him as a blanket, and a pillow filched from his bed beneath his head. He woke the moment I opened the door and looked up at me confused for a moment, then he sat up and looked around a little wildly, perhaps somewhat disoriented. "What are you doing here?" I asked him.

He blinked and rubbed his eyes, then stood up and gathered his coat and pillow. "Did not trust Troxill," he spelled on my palm.

"Zebediah," I chided. "He gave us his word."

"As he did last time," he spelled.

"I suppose you have a point," I muttered. "Why did you not come inside? I hardly think the same rules of propriety apply to us, after all we have been through, all we are still going through."

"Did not want you to worry."

"Now I am worried in... retrospect," I said with a little smile. "So it did not work." He returned my smile to a lesser degree, though he did seem a little ashamed of himself. "Do you think we should stay?" I asked.

He shrugged, looking a little worried.

"I do want to know all about Violet and Mr. Troxill. I never would have dreamt they were married!"

"Curiosity," he spelled on my hand, "killed the cat."

"Hmm, yes. I suppose it has nearly killed me a time or two."

For this, Zebediah could use hand gestures. "But here you are," he told me.

I began to reply with something or other, but suddenly realized I was standing before him barefoot and in my dressing gown. "Forgive me," I muttered, squeezing past him through the doorway and shutting the door behind myself, then scurrying down the corridor to the WC.

I didn't see him again until we were both seated at the dining table downstairs for breakfast. As usual, I was the last to arrive. Mr. Troxill looked as though he hadn't slept at all, though he had at least combed his hair. Indeed, the knot in his tie looked so sharp and tight it had to be almost painful. His collar was as crisply starched as I had ever seen a collar be. Everything about his appearance, other than his expression, was absolutely perfect. Perhaps the small habits of personal grooming gave him some peace in this difficult time so soon after his beloved wife's death.

"I suppose I owe you an explanation," he began once the food had been set on the table. He moved to pour himself a cup of coffee, but noticed neither Zebediah nor I touched a thing. "It is safe, I swear to you." I looked at Zebediah and he looked back at me, then I glanced at Mr. Troxill, still a little uncertain, though I wanted to believe him. "I swear... on my dear Violet's life and death," he said, looking unutterably tired.

That was enough for me, so I took some toast and some sausage, though when I looked up to reach for the coffee pot, I saw that Zebediah had already taken a few bites of his bacon and toast. As he sipped his black coffee, he subtly held up one finger, meaning I should wait a little bit before eating anything; he was (possibly) sacrificing himself for my sake, should Mr. Troxill be lying. I took my time buttering my toast and adding cream and sugar to my coffee, though once that was done I had become so lost in what Mr. Troxill was telling us that I began to eat without even thinking. No harm did come of it, though, thank goodness.

"I was rather young when I married Violet," Mr. Troxill said to start his story. (I have put it down here in as close an approximation of his wording as possible. One thing I can say about this diary is that it has improved my powers of memory greatly.) "I was only twenty-four, and she eighteen. About a year after our wedding, she was crossing the street while doing her week's shopping, and was trampled to death by the horse pulling a cabriolet. I was a broken man, for I was very much in love with her. We were very happy." He paused a moment, and I realized he had taken only a bite or two of his breakfast, and had not touched his coffee. If my beloved spouse had died--for a second time, apparently--I do not think I could eat, either.

Then he took a deep breath and continued. "I say I was a broken man, but only for a few days. Once the worst of the shock had worn off, I was angry. Furious. How could fate allow such a terrible thing to happen to two young people so much in love? My grandfather and my father had told me stories about how Illumination used to be in the old days, and I had done some reading on it in my youth. So I got it into my head that I would find the Gift for myself, and use it to bring back Violet.

"I searched everywhere. I read everything, talked to everyone who might know even a shred of information about Illumination, or its history, or famous figures who were Gifted. I traveled far from home for months on end. I shall not go into detail of how, nor, I think, do I have the time just now, but I did eventually come upon a sliver of an ancient Sacred Crystal. I had by that point learned much of the theory of Illumination, so it was only a matter of training myself to make use of the new powers with which I was imbued. I did so on my journey back home.

"Violet was... not in the best condition when I returned. I had done all I could to preserve her mortal body, but certain things... needed replacing. I had been counting on this, given the length of time I had been away, and thought the best course of action, before bringing her back, would be to replace her insides, to put it very simply, with mechanical parts. While I built these parts, I used Illumination to keep her body... in stasis, shall we say? For years. I had much to learn, still, before I could rebuild to perfection what Violet needed to survive."

Here he paused and smoothed his mustache and beard, staring at nothing, deep in thought. As I had begun eating some little time ago, I paused as well so as not to make undue noise with my utensils. But then he continued: "She was disoriented, to say the least, when at last she awoke. Copper-novels may have you believe that one must wait for a lightning storm, and throw a great switch, and cackle madly, but I assure you, nothing of the sort happened. One moment she was cold and dead, the next, due to my efforts and determination... she was alive. Looking at me, sitting up." Mr. Troxill seemed to live the scene again, to imagine himself a young man greeting his wife for the first time in years, having brought her back from the dead.

"For a while, all was well. I told her of all I had seen and done since she left me, and while she never seemed... quite the same... she did express her gratitude for her new life. As I said, we had been very much in love, and were overjoyed to be together again.

"But soon enough--too soon--things grew worse and worse. I should have seen it coming, but I was foolish and rash, selfish. Of course Violet could not venture out of the house, for if she did, there would be an uproar! I would have to explain how I brought her back, and if people knew I was Gifted with Illumination, as well as possessed a piece of a Crystal... You can only imagine." It was for the very reasons Professor Eberhart warned me against making my Gift known. It could be used for ill, I could become a target. To actually have a shard of a Crystal endangered Mr. Troxill tenfold! "So she was required to remain indoors," he went on, "away from the windows, locked up. She could not visit her old friends, she could not go shopping, she could not accompany me to dinners and balls. I had given her back a life, yes, but not her old life. It was... but a half-life. And as you, no doubt, realized... she came to resent me for it.

"I did my best to make her life here as comfortable as possible. All manner of private amusements were brought in, and anything she wished for, she had only to ask. But what I think she really missed... what she really desired but could not have... was companionship. She had been quite the social butterfly in her former life, and that had been torn from her. She was never the same after I brought her back. And perhaps I resented her as well. I had a beautiful, forever-young wife, but I could never show her off in society, I could never enjoy her company outside the confines of our home. I was not even allowed to act as though I had a wife.

"So you see...." He paused to rub a hand over his chin. In all this time, he had not looked at either Zebediah or me, merely stared at whatever happened to be in front of him without really seeing it. "You see... this was a prison, to her. And when at last I finally allowed her to die... it was a relief. It was... what she had been wanting for quite some time. I was simply... too blind, too selfish, to realize that it was what was best for her."

All was very silent for several long moments. I dared not even set down my fork for fear of the noise it would make against the china. After what seemed an age, Mr. Troxill picked up his coffee cup and took a sip, and that broke the tension somewhat. Zebediah finished his eggs, and I took another bite of sausage.

"I am very sorry for your loss," I murmured, looking down at my plate but glancing up briefly at our host.

"Thank you," he replied softly. Then, at last, he looked at me. "Do you understand, now, why you may trust me? If you had not brought her back to me... indeed, if she had never run away with you in the first place... I would never have had a chance to say goodbye to her. She could have died alone in... in an alley. Or in the middle of the street, and then where would that leave us? No, my friends, my dear, dear friends." He looked between us, back and forth. "You saved my heart from a more terrible grief than what it is presently enduring. And for that, I owe you... anything you might ask of me."

I was not quite sure how to respond to such heartfelt gratitude, so I merely nodded and thanked him again. We ate in silence another minute, then a half-stifled sob burst suddenly from Mr. Troxill's mouth. "Excuse me," he breathed, his hand over his mouth, tears in his eyes, and hurried from the room.

I am in my bedroom now, and contemplating our next move. I think I shall ask Mr. Troxill, once he is feeling a little better, if he would be able to arrange a discreet conveyance for us so that we might return to the academy soon. I feel sure that Professor Eberhart will know the best course of action, though I dearly hope he decides we should stay at the school for a while. I am quite ready to remain in familiar settings, and I would so dearly love to keep the same bed for more than five or six nights in a row!


AUTHOR POST: Late post

I just cannot get Friday's post up tonight! We're closing at work later and later the closer it gets to Christmas, and even though my body is mostly awake, my mind is pretty much done functioning for the day. I'll have "Friday's" update posted by Saturday afternoon, and there will be a post on Sunday, too. If at all possible, I'll make up the missed day on Monday. I set a schedule and I'm going to do my best to stick to it, even during the holidays!

Thanks for your patience and your continued readership. And if you like reading about Bernice's adventures, and know of someone who you think would like it, too, please share the link to this blog! I don't think I'll ever get famous on the web for this odd little thing I'm writing, but the more the merrier! Share the love! Etc.

See you Saturday afternoon!


A Loss and Back Again

I have found out that surprisingly, we are still very near to Mr. Troxill's house. Violet said she only knows the city from looking at maps in his home, but apparently her memory is very good, for she has been leading us on a careful circuit of the blocks surrounding Mr. Troxill's house. Her logic was that he would expect us to flee as far and as fast as possible, and so would ignore the area nearest him in searching for us. Other than the close call yesterday, her plan has worked well thus far.

We are currently in another park, smaller than the last. Most of the snow has melted, so we have been trudging through slush all day. We are now avoiding the busiest streets since Zebediah got splashed with freezing muddy water and half-soaked as a cabriolet flew past and hit a puddle. He said several times that he was fine, but I noticed how he shivered for quite a while afterwards. We are all cold, of course, but being hit with a wall of water that had been ice just a few hours before would make the chill even worse.

In the quiet hours when I cannot sleep these past couple of nights, I have been reading back through this diary to keep my mind off of all the fears that threaten to overwhelm me and have realized (again), that for the past several weeks, life has been alternately terrifying and dreary. At least when things were boring at Saint Anne's, I always knew what to expect. I had the same schedule every day of waking and dressing and eating and lessons. Weekends were for chores with a little recreation, church on Sundays, and trips into town now and then on Saturdays.

I had such high hopes for excitement when I left the orphanage! I simply knew that when I left Saint Anne's on my eighteenth birthday, wonderful, splendid things were bound to happen. And indeed, things did happen, but it wasn't the kind of excitement I would have willingly welcomed into my life. Kidnapping and battles, gunfire and "gliding," lectures and terrible truths learnt. Some good has come of all this, I admit. I am very glad to have met Captain Jack Winters, even if he was not quite what I expected. I am happy to have finally learnt about my parents--where they came from and what they did--though it is more tragic than I ever imagined, even if they died heroes. And of course Zebediah's friendship has been invaluable, and I have thought often how very many times I would surely have given up if he had not been by my side.

And then there is my Gift, wonderful and terrible at once. Violet knows about it, of course, because of the posters, but she has not asked for a demonstration and I have not offered one. I am nervous about using my Illumination unless there is great need, as there was in the forest when I needed it to make a fire at night, and when at last I remembered that I could draw water from the earth. When I was taking lessons from Professor Eberhart, I knew he was near and able to either correct me, or help me if anything went terribly wrong. But now I am without a tutor!

All in all, the last month and a half has been very full and very exciting, and I find myself now wishing for some normality! Which is something I never thought I would do, after longing for adventure all my life. Miss P___ always said to be careful what you wished for....


Oh dear, Violet is doing very badly. I noticed she had been walking more slowly all day, and not long ago when we sat down to another awful supper of lukewarm chicken soup (which contained no chicken) she hardly ate at all. Now we are crammed into a corner upstairs from a third soup kitchen (it would be unsafe to visit the same one twice, as we are on the run) and her breathing is laboured. Her face is frighteningly pale, and she seems to be drifting in and out of consciousness. Zebediah went to get her a glass of water while I sat with her, but she drank only a sip before pushing it away. She will not speak, and I fear that if she tried, we would not be able to understand her for stuttering, as it has grown steadily worse all day.


Oh, Dear Reader! Terrible news! Violet is gone, dead! I was not even particularly fond of her in life, but now that she is gone, I feel so very sad and empty. I feel that I have witnessed too much death lately: in the battle on the Erebos, in the forest with the attack, and just tonight, here at Mr. Troxill's. Yes, we are back.

As I do not think I will be able to sleep for a while, I shall now related what happened.

Not long after I last wrote here, Violet begged us to take her back to Mr. Troxill. It took some time to understand her, since her voice was so weak and she stuttered so badly, but eventually we became aware of her wishes. At first I tried to dissuade her, saying that we could find her a doctor, but she was insistent and said that only Mr. Troxill could help her now.

Reluctantly, I helped her into her coat and gloves, and Mr. Miller and I, supporting her on each side, got her downstairs. The man at the door said we could not come back once we had left, and though we were worried about where we would stay for the rest of the night, we simply nodded at him and went outside into the freezing cold. One comfort was that surely no one who had been following us (if, indeed, anyone had been following us), would be out at this late hour and likely to run into us.

Thank goodness (yet again) for Zebediah, since he was able to lead us back to Mr. Troxill's house. I had no idea whatsoever where we were in relation to the man's home, and Violet was, of course, unable to direct us. But Zebediah started off with determination, which in turn helped to bolster my own spirits a little. Still, it seemed that we trudged through the frozen sludge for hours, but at last the back door of Mr. Troxill's house appeared before us. Propping Violet between himself and the wall, Zebediah told me to get the key from her pocket so we could get in. I wondered why we could not knock, but he told me the servants would surely wake, and we should not bother them at such a late hour. So I searched through all of Violet's coat pockets as well as those in her skirt before finally finding the key on the blue ribbon. Once the door was open, I helped get her inside and lay her on the sofa in the library, then sat next to her while Zebediah bravely went to retrieve Mr. Troxill.

For several agonizing minutes, I sat in terror that Mr. Troxill would come out of his room armed, having disposed of Zebediah, and take me as well, since he had missed out on the bounty he would have received if he'd turned us in to Belleclaire as planned. But the man who followed Zebediah into the library looked haggard, with dark circles under his eyes and his grey and white hair standing up from his head. "Violet," he whispered, and fell onto his knees beside her, taking her frail little hand between both his own. He bent over her silently for a minute, and I stood up and crossed the room to give them some space. Zebediah looked as worried as I felt, and we stood close together.

Eventually Mr. Troxill looked up, then over his shoulder so his gaze fell upon us both. "Thank you," he said in a voice raspy with tears. "Thank you." He kissed Violet's hand and smoothed her hair back from her face, looking on her with all the love in the world.

"Eli," Violet whispered, her eyes fluttering open as if she only just noticed the man bending over her.

"Yes, my love, I am here," he replied. This shocked me greatly, for how could a woman of Violet's age have a lover of Mr. Troxill's age? And she had seemed to hate him, almost, the night we left. She had not spoken of him since, but... she had asked for him when she grew so ill. I looked to Zebediah, but he had averted his eyes from the two and I could not tell what he was thinking.

"H-hurt," she breathed, though I saw her squeeze his hand weakly.

"I know, I know, my darling. This is why I did not want you to leave me. I knew this would happen."

"W-w-wanted.... to. H-had to." It seemed as though every word she spoke cost her a lot of energy. She was so pale now that I could see a web of blue veins through the thin skin of her face.

"I am sorry, so sorry, my love. Wait, I shall return in a moment," he said. He kissed her forehead, then rose and hurried out of the room.

I ventured a little nearer, looking down at poor Violet. "Can I... get you anything?" I asked softly. She stared up at me for a moment as though she did not hear me, then her eyes focused and she shook her head slowly side to side. Biting my lip, I stepped back again, feeling terribly useless, but at least not quite so frightened that Mr. Troxill would turn us over to Belleclaire any minute.

He returned quickly with something in his hand; as he approached, Violet began to look a little less pale and a little more alert. He knelt next to her again and opened his hand; a pale blue glow emanated from whatever it was that he held. "Here," he murmured, and held it close to her face.

But Violet flinched back from it, squinting her eyes against the light. She shook her head again, though it looked as though she could speak if she wished.

"Darling, you need it."

"N-no," she said. "Please." She took several deep breaths, then lifted her hand to push his away.

"Violet, please, you--"

"No," she said again, with a little more strength in her voice. "Eli... Please." Another couple of deep breaths. "L-let me... go."

"My love, no," he said, appalled, grief-stricken. He closed his hand around the glow to comply with her wishes, but leaned closer over her. "You can't leave me, not now! I've only just got you back, and you'll see, things will be different! I swear, whatever you--"

"Eli," said Violet again. "Please. P-please, I n-need this. It has been... too long."

Mr. Troxill stared at her for a long minute. My eyes were filled with tears, even though I understood little of what was being said. It sounded like Violet was asking him to let her die, but why would she do that? This had been going on for some time, she said, but what, exactly, had been going on? And how could Mr. Troxill love her so dearly while she wanted nothing more than to get away from him?

"Violet," he whispered, and bent over her so far that his forehead rested against hers. His shoulders shook, and I realized he was crying. As I turned to look at Zebediah, he touched my elbow and began leading me out of the room, as if he had read my mind. I closed the door softly, then wandered toward the dining room, it being the only other room I was comfortable going into.

We waited only a few minutes, then Mr. Troxill opened the door, a terribly grave look on his face. "She is gone," he whispered, not even bothering to wipe his eyes as more tears fell. Inexplicably, I began to cry as well. Zebediah, who was sitting next to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and I was glad of his nearness.

We are now installed in our old rooms upstairs with Mr. Troxill's solemn promise that we would be safe here for as long as we wished to stay. He repented of his greed which caused him to (almost) turn us over to Captain Belleclaire, and swore that he would be our friend forever because we brought his beloved wife back to him.

Yes, his wife. He said he would explain all tomorrow, so I must put this away and sleep for a few hours, which now seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, since I am so exhausted


Winter Walking and A Kiss With a Purpose

As soon as the soup kitchen opened in the morning, we were all turned back onto the street, though we did get a bowl of watery boiled oats and a small cup of bitter, black coffee first. We spent the morning wandering through town, keeping to quiet side streets and places that, frankly, seemed dangerous for two young women and a young man alone. I knew Zebediah was armed and would defend us if anything terrible happened, but did not fancy a repeat of that night in the forest with the knife.

Luckily, all went relatively well, but for the cold. It had snowed all night, so all day we trudged through wet white fluff several inches deep (and, as the day wore on, the whiteness grew increasingly grey and brown, as well as slushy in some places and icy in others). I had put on my oldest set of clothes before we left Troxill's, the white ones I had been wearing on the train, then wore on the dirigibles and at the academy. The fine coat given to me on the Erebos is fine no longer, what with the burn marks and the dirt, as well as the missing button I noticed only today. I looked very much a peasant, as did Zebediah, but Violet stood out more in a gown the colour of her name (again with a high neck and very long skirt and sleeves) with amethyst-coloured lace trim and buttons of, I think, the actual gem itself. She told us she took the maid's coat in some effort to disguise herself somewhat, and wore her shabbiest dress (if that is her shabbiest, I should like to see the rest!) but even the slightly stiff way she walks draws some attention, hence the reason we stayed out of sight all day as much as possible.

I was deemed the least-recognizable of the three of us, so I was sent into a shoppe to buy lunch: cold, stale ham sandwiches wrapped in very wrinkled (and so, I think, reused) brown paper. They were terrible, but filling, so we ate them quickly as we walked the outskirts of the park.

As we ate, I noticed Violet staring about in wonder, and touching her face every so often, as if checking for something. Then she actually took off a glove to examine her hand from all angles. "Are you quite all right?" I asked as she wriggled her fingers back into the warmth of the wool.

"Quite, th-thank you," she said, keeping her eyes straight ahead.

"But is anything the matter? You seem as though... you are trying to convince yourself you are real. As though you have awoken from a terrible nightmare and want to make sure it was only a dream."

"I have woken from a nightmare," she said, her voice soft, her eyes far away for a moment. "Mr. Troxill always said I would die if I lef-left the house," she went on, "that I would be too far from him and his Illumination and I w-would crumble. But I came to a point not long ago where I d-did not care any longer whether I l-lived or died. I wanted to know. So here I am, out and about, and as well as ever. As well as can be-be expected."

How terrible an existence she must have had, to feel thusly! I wanted to know the details of it, and also wanted to ask about her stutter, but thought it would be unimaginably rude to mention either, so I kept my mouth shut as we walked on, mostly to keep warm, but also to keep moving in case Mr. Troxill or Captain Belleclaire was looking for us.

We did have a bit of a scare, actually. Not long after we left the park and returned to the shadowed back streets, Zebediah caught hold of my arm and spelled on my palm that he thought he had seen someone he recognized from the Erebos. Tense all over, I asked what we should do. "Split up," he spelled.

"What about Violet?" I whispered. By this time, she was giving us strange looks, but I ignored her for the moment.

"Go with her. I will catch up," spelled Zebediah.

I did not like this at all. I did not really like Violet, and felt much safer in Zebediah's company, but I realized that anyone who knew us would either be looking for a young man and a young woman together, or the same two with a second young woman. "Very well," I murmured, already beginning to veer away from him and toward Violet. "If anything... should happen," I whispered to him, hardly letting myself think of what could go wrong, "meet at... at the soup kitchen where we spent the night."

He nodded, then took my hand and leaned in to kiss my cheek before turning abruptly away down another street, while Violet and I continued straight.

"It was for cover," she muttered, surely noticing my bright red blush. "If we are being fol-followed, it will look as though a man was bid-bidding his wife farewell after m-meeting her for lunch, then sending her on-on her way with a female f-friend."

Of course, I thought, of course that's all it was. But it felt as though his lips were still against my skin for at least ten minutes after he had gone.

Zebediah found us again not quite an hour later. He looked the same as when he left, and spelled out "False alarm" on my hand, but something in his eyes told me differently. I did not press him in Violet's company, though.


We are above another soup kitchen now, this one marginally cleaner and better-smelling than the last. Violet is asleep nearby, and I can hear a faint ticking sound in between her breaths. I am still agonizingly curious about her, since it is said that no true clockworks have been seen since before Amerigonian colonization, but she seems to play everything very close to the chest and I do not think she would answer my questions even if I dared to ask them.

Zebediah is awake, and has just told me he did, indeed, find the man he thought was following us. He was another former crewmember, but Zebediah was able to sneak up behind him and merely knock him unconscious, for which I am sure we are both grateful. But I think the sooner we can get out of this town, the better.


Truth Learnt and Danger Avoided

Terrible news, Dear Reader! We are once again in great danger, and have fled for our lives with nothing more than what we can carry.

This morning, I found that a note had been slipped under my door, and thank goodness I found it before the maid came in to build up the fire! It was from the girl, whose name is Violet. (She provided no surname.) She told me she had found my note last night, and very much appreciated my offer of friendship. She went on to say that, if she might be so bold so early in our relationship (if it can even be called such, as we have not even properly met each other) I needed to trust her in something.

If, she wrote, I trusted her and wanted to remain safe and free, I should mention at lunch that I am not feeling well, then stay in my room during supper complaining of a sick headache. I was not to eat or drink anything sent up by Mr. Troxill, no matter who brought it to me, and I was to communicate all of this to Zebediah. He was to say he was catching the same illness I had, and so avoid seeing our host at supper as well. She did not tell me the reason for any of this, but swore she would come and see me very late at night.

Dear Reader, I did try to stay awake, but having eaten and drunk nothing since the little I had at lunch (playing the part, I only picked at my food), I was a bit weak, so when I lay down on my bed a little past the normal time for supper, I was soon asleep. I awoke to see Violet standing over me, though she put her finger to her lips to signal silence as soon as my eyes opened.

Obliging her, I sat up and reached over to shake the lamp on my bedside table, but she stopped my hand. "Go and retrieve your friend from down the hall," she whispered. I nodded, then slipped out of my room to tap lightly on Zebediah's. He must have been waiting for me--though I know not how he knew I would come--for he answered the door only a few seconds later. I, also, put my finger to my lips, then motioned for him to follow me back to my room. It felt a little odd, bringing him to my own room so late at night, but if things were as bad as Violet seemed to think, it was precedented.

Violet asked us to please be seated, so I took the little chair by the fire, but Zebediah remained standing after he brought the desk chair over for Violet to sit in. She refused it with a small shake of her head (and I thought I heard the whirring of tiny gears as she did so), but he stayed on his feet regardless, standing to the right of my chair and a little behind it. Violet seemed to gather her courage for a moment, then began speaking.

"I suppose I have worried you with my... cryp-cryptic note." I nodded and gave an encouraging smile to show I did not begrudge her it, wondering at her stutter. "Let me assure you it was not for nothing, my warning. My--Mr. Troxill intended to dru-drug you at supper with something put in your food. He sent you both something-something else, did he not?"

"Tea and toast," I said, nodding. "I picked the toast apart and poured the tea in the flower pot." I nodded at the half-shriveled little thing, though fear not, as it has looked like that since my arrival; it did not die just because of the drugged tea. "You didn't touch your tray, did you?" I asked Zebediah. He shook his head.

"Good," said Violet. "That, too, would have been drugged. When you wo-woke up tomorrow morning, it would have been on a dirig-dirigible already far from here. I believe you are familiar with C-captain Bellclaire."

Lightning shot down my spine and I looked up at Zebediah. He had gone suddenly pale, and his eyes were filled with worry as he met my gaze. "We... are familiar with the man, yes," I said slowly, not sure how much Violet knew and wondering if it would be wise to disclose the whole story to her.

"Mr. Troxill told me that you were ta-taken by Belleclaire several weeks ago in order to be brought to a powerful man who paid him-paid him for you. You have talents, Miss Greenwater, which may men in this c-country and others would kill for. Have killed for."

Another shiver went through me. "And he was going to turn us back over to the captain?" I asked, a bit of a tremble in my voice.

"For a share of the mon-money," Violet confirmed. "He told me this the day after you arrived. He somehow got in contact with the cap-captain and arranged the deal. It is not the first time he has d-done something like this, nor, I think, will it be the last."

At this point, I think I may have begun to panic a little. "What shall we do?" I asked. "They will come for us and take us aboard the ship even if we are not passed out from drugging!"

"I can get you out," Violet said earnestly, though there was something about her eyes that seemed cold. "I must admit, however, that I do this-this not only to help you, but out of selfish reasons. Your note last night de-decided it for me. This is my one op-opportunity to escape, and I must take it."

"Escape?" I echoed, bewildered. "What do you mean, escape? Are you not... Mr. Troxill's ward? Or...?"

She did not answer my question, only said, "If you leave, you must t-take me with you. That is my condition. Otherwise you will be handed over to Captain Belle-belleclaire within the hour."

Alarmed, I looked at the clock over the fireplace to see it was well past midnight! I had slept longer than I thought. "How do you know this?" I asked, again starting to panic.

"He was g-gloating to me earlier this evening. He spoke of all the money he-he would make by turning you in."

"I thought he was our friend!" I cried, (though quietly). "And a friend of Professor Eberhart's too! How could he do this?" The fine clothes, the wonderful food, the hospitality. All a ruse to get us to stay here and be content, to not ask questions.

"He cares more for mon-money than anything else," Violet said, and she sounded so unutterably tired when she said it that I did not press her for more information, especially since this was almost the most emotion I had yet heard in her slightly tinny voice. "Will you go, then? Or stay-stay and meet your downfall when the mercenaries arrive?"

I looked up at Zebediah again. I half expected him to be gloating over the fact that he had been right about Mr. Troxill all along, but all he looked was worried.

"What do you think?" I asked him in hand speech, since we could not have a private conversation with Violet so nearby. She watched us, her head tilted a little to one side, but said nothing.

"We must go," he replied, though he spelled the words out on my palm. "Spell words. She is sharp, could understand gestures."

That made sense, certainly. Though she had proven herself to be our friend (though for selfish reasons, but if she was truly that desperate, I suppose I cannot blame her) I still wanted to discuss this in private. "Where could we go?" I spelled back.

"Ask," he told me.

"To where will we flee?" I asked aloud, turning to face Violet.

"I have a plan. We can st-stay in the city a day or two, and then we must part. I think you-you should return to the academy. Gloating still, Mr. Troxill told me the 'old fool' had been dee-deemed harmless. It should be safe there, now."

My heart sank at the thought of more days and nights spent in the endless forest, for as "wanted fugitives," we could not take the main roads or sleep in inns, especially after escaping Belleclaire's grasp yet again. Then something else occurred to me. "They will know we have gone back to the academy," I said.

Violet only shook her head. "I cannot h-help you," she said. "I can only free you from this gilded prison."

I glanced at Zebediah once more for confirmation, which he gave with a look. "We will go with you," I said, "but first answer me one question."


"Are you a clockwork?" I asked bluntly. I know it may have been petty and silly, Dear Reader, but I felt I would die if I did not know for sure before we parted ways forever!

Hesitating only a second, Violet looked at me hard, then asked, "Do I look like a ch-child's wind-up toy?"

"That is not what I mean," I said impatiently, the need for haste finally clicking in my mind. "A clockwork. A human with machine parts, imbued with Illumination in order to retain life. Are you from that era centuries ago when such creatures were common, or--"

"I am not a creature," she said with heat in her voice. "I am..." She cast about as if searching for the right words, and seemed a little lost for a moment, but then she recovered. "I am... what you say. Mr. Troxill, if you did n-not know, is Gifted. He... made me what I am."

"How did you come to be like this?"

"If you want to make it out of here before your friend the captain arrives," she said as though she did not hear me, "I suggest you pack what you can, and quickly. Make no sound, and meet me in the little hallway that leads to the kitchen in ten minutes." She took a key from her pocket and waved it about so it spun from the blue ribbon threaded through the top, then without another word, she left us.

In truth, I had forgotten Mr. Miller was still behind my chair until he put a hand on my shoulder. I jumped, startled, but then let out a breath and apologised. "I suppose we should do as she says." I rose to begin gathering my things, but Zebediah stayed. "You must go and pack," I told him, but he hesitated still. "I am fine," I assured him, setting down the hairbrush I had been holding and crossing the room to stand near him. "We must do... what we must do. And if, in order to escape, we have to help Violet out of here as well... so be it."

He nodded with a little half-shrug to show his agreement, but stepped forward and took my hand. I thought he was going to spell something on it, but he merely held it between both his own for a while, looking down into my eyes. Then he let go and returned to his own room.

We are currently, all three, in a cramped and smelly room above a soup kitchen, where at least a hundred homeless vagabonds sprawl sleeping and snoring. I am scribbling this by the moonlight peeping in through a filthy window, and must now sleep myself. More details soon. Tomorrow we are on the run yet again, and I must be ready for it.


AUTHOR POST: Impromptu Holiday

Due to a desire for sleep sometime this week, as well as wanting to visit with my parents whom I am visiting (and I thought it would be a little rude to ignore them while I sit and type for an hour or two), I'm taking today off! Huzzah for 41 days in a row of writing.... and I'll see you tomorrow! Tune in to find out more about the clockwork girl (or is she?) as well as Mr. Troxill and, of course, Mr. Miller and Bernice.



Nothing, Nothing, Nothing, and A Note

Zebediah had not seen the young woman either, nor heard her nor seen any sign of her. He told me he would be on the lookout for her, though, and do his best to be friendly if he came across her. All the more I can think is that she is a ward of Mr. Troxill, or perhaps a niece or other relative, and she is unwell and therefore discouraged from meeting new people because of her health. Although if she is a clockwork, she should not be able to get ill... But she cannot be a clockwork! And yet the metal at her wrists and neck... I do not know!

Anyway, Mr. Miller and I both agreed not to say a word of her to Mr. Troxill. We would not want her reprimanded for something that was not her fault. Although if possible, I would like to at least leave her a message telling her I would like to be friends, and perhaps she could speak to Mr. Troxill about venturing into my company for a short time.


It is evening now, and we have all just retired upstairs. We sat in the library for a while after supper, and I made sure I was the last to leave the room. I had communicated my plan to Zebediah earlier, so he let me be.

Once Mr. Troxill and Zebediah were nearly to their respective rooms, I stooped low near the fire, as I thought it might be the girl's job to tend to it, given how I saw her last night, bent over it. I dropped a folded piece of paper in the corner, where the right wall of the fireplace meets a little overlap of the bricks that make up the front of it all. It could only be seen if one was very close to the fire, which was now nothing more than glowing embers, or if one was across the room and happened to look into that corner. I had written "From Miss Greenwater" in small script across the front, but the rest of the words were hidden inside the folds. I put down what I said before, about wishing to be her friend, and requesting she ask Mr. Troxill if she might be allowed to visit with me for a short amount of time now and then.

Once that was done, I hurried up to my room. Now all I have to do is wait, and see if the girl succeeds in convincing her uncle (or whatever) to let her see visitors, or she smuggles another note to me. I hope this will not be the end of it, as it is all very intriguing

AUTHOR POST: Update schedule

Hello again, Dear Readers! Thanks to all of you who weighed in on my Reader Poll a while back! I really appreciate the feedback, especially the hand-written (typed) comments. If you haven't yet voted and would like to, please feel free to do so! I'll probably keep the poll open through the year's end. (Just don't vote more than once, please.)

Now for the new order of business: Updates. The majority of you said you would like for me to continue updating once a day, which I've done successfully for 40 straight days now! (Woohoo! This makes me happy.) However, since the craziness of NaNoWriMo is officially over, the last ten days have just been my own personal craziness, and it's... kind of a lot.

I wish I could update every day! I wish I could have three stories to update every day! But unfortunately I have a paycheck to earn, and when I get done doing that for the day, I have house things to do like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. Also, free time is nice, such as reading blogs, socializing with friends, and watching movies. So on days when I work (which has been Monday-Friday lately), I usually don't even start writing for Bernice's diary until 9 or 10 at night. This means I stay up past midnight, then get up early for work the next morning. And then do it all over again.

Somehow, miraculously, this has worked for the past 40 days! But I'm afraid I'm going to get burnt out if I keep it up too much longer. I'm no longer facing public humiliation now that November is over (I ended my "novel" at 590 words above the 50,000 word goal, if you're curious) so really I'm doing this just for the joy of doing it.

So it needs to remain a joy, and not a chore. Even when it was, occasionally, a chore, I still had fun with it! But I think the fun would increase if I didn't write quite so much, quite so often. I could plan a little better and a little further in the story, take my time to make each entry the best it can be for your personal enjoyment, and make the tale all together a more pleasant way to spend ten minutes of your day.

To make a short story long: I'm cutting back the updates a little. Bernice will now post 4 new diary entries per week instead of 7, and I'm going to aim at updating Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If this works for a while, I might add another day on there eventually (likely Monday), but I'm going to try Thu-Sun first and see how that goes.

Each day I post will still be one day in Bernice's life. So when I don't post Monday through Wednesday, you won't have missed three days of Bernice's adventures. Thursday's entry will pick up where Sunday's left off.

Does all of that make sense? Sorry for my long-windedness, it's late at night and I'm a little sleep-deprived, as I said. So off to bed with me! Offer feedback in the comments if you'd like. I'm very glad you're still reading this madness after more than a month of it! And I hope you'll stick with me (and Bernice) as the adventures continue. Here's to another fabulous 40 days!

A Mishap Narrowly Avoided and Someone New

Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. No word from Professor Eberhart. Nowhere we can go but the library, our rooms, and the dining room. Nothing to occupy us but reading, and sewing, on my part. Zebediah has given me his old pair of trousers so I can mend the knee. The maid got the blood stains out of his clothes most admirably (and did not mention them, thank goodness), but I begged her to let me patch them up, just for something to do. After the trousers, I shall work on the unraveling cuff of his fingerless gloves.

I suppose I may as well do that now, while the light is still good. We passed the morning with more poetry, and invented some more hand words when we lacked the gestures to discuss the poems. Now it is about one, and I shall return to the library to make use of the sunlight.


Mr. Troxill just made a very good point, as he passed by the open doorway. "Oh, my dear, you should not sit so close to the window," he said. "I would certainly hate for anyone passing by to recognize you."

I thanked him and apologised for my foolishness, then moved further into the room after half-drawing the curtains. Zebediah kindly brought a lamp nearer to me, though I did notice the glare he gave Mr. Troxill's back as our host left. I did not say anything, though, as it would only lead to another argument, which would benefit neither of us. Close quarters cause conflict, Miss P___ would say (both as advice and as a tongue-twister to make us work on our enunciation when reciting), and I do want to avoid trouble.


I have met someone new! An hour before dinner, Zebediah and I returned to our rooms, but I realized I had forgotten my pen in the library. I wouldn't have bothered, only I didn't want to leave clutter in someone else's home, so I hurried back downstairs to retrieve it. Expecting the dimly-lit room to be empty, I gave a little cry when I noticed a figure bending over the fire.

Immediately, the person stood up, and I could see it was a young woman about my age or a little older. Only when I took a second look, something seemed not quite right. There was a gleam of metal at her wrists and throat, but not of jewelry. She held herself stiffly, and when she moved, it was as though... I cannot describe it very well, but it was as though she calculated every flex and stretch of muscle to stand just so; as if she had memorized certain positions and forced herself into them. "Sorry to have disturbed you," she said almost too softly to be heard, though it seemed I was the one who had disturbed her.

As I had come for my pen, I snatched it up from the table quickly, then turned my attention back to the girl. The more I think of her face, the younger she seems to look. "I'm Bernice Greenwater," I said, and took a few steps forward so I could hold out my hand for her to shake.

She hesitated a moment, looking at my hand like it was a poisonous plant, but then she gingerly took my fingers between her own for all of a second and a half before letting go. "Pleased to meet you," she murmured in the same quiet voice, then turned toward the door.

"Are you a guest here as well?" I asked quickly. Meeting her was the most interesting thing that had happened for two days, and I did not want her to leave just yet.

"I am not to roam the house when there are strangers present," she said, and again started toward the door. As she moved, I heard a faint whirring sound, like the noise Professor Eberhart's eye made when he moved or focused it. And her movements were so careful and stiff... I realized the metal at her joints were indeed her joints! Her face and head seemed lifelike enough, and her hair, as well as her hands and fingers. But the collar of her dress covered her neck up to her chin, her sleeves were long, and her skirt covered her feet, so I could not see more. I hesitate to say she was entirely of clockwork, but she was certainly not entirely human, either. It just seems so odd, because such creatures have not been known to exist for several centuries.

"I'm not a stranger," I told her, trying to get her to stay. "I'm a guest of Mr. Troxill's. Mr. Miller and I. Have you seen him around, too?"

She shook her head. "I am not to roam the house when strangers are present," she repeated, then nearly ran to the door. When she had pulled it open, she paused in the doorway, then looked back over her shoulder at me. "Please do not tell him you saw me," she said. "Please."

There was such earnestness in her eyes, perhaps even fear, that I nodded immediately, and then she was gone. I followed her as quickly as I was able, but only saw the swish of her skirts as she went down the narrow corridor in the direction I knew Mr. Troxill's rooms to be. Of course I could not follow, and so I returned to my room, pen in hand, mind whirling.

Very, very curious. She did not say I could not mention her to Zebediah; I shall ask him if he has seen her, and if not, what he thinks of her.


Luxurious Laziness and Poems Shared

My goodness, I had such a strange dream which kept repeating itself all night! Sheep were jumping over the top of Zebediah and I where we lay on the forest floor, rattling the branches of the makeshift shelter over us. I was terrified the whole structure would crash down on us, and then the sheep (who were for some reason vicious, bloodthirsty animals) would get to us. Periodically, I would only just save myself from rolling into the fire which burned between Zebediah and I. I woke feeling hardly rested at all, and was glad to see the late morning sunlight fighting to break through the curtains. I must dress for breakfast now (in my beautiful new clothes!) and go downstairs. I hope I have not slept too embarrassingly late.

Oh, my! I have just checked my pocket watch and it is nearly ten! Must hurry!


I feel lately as though I have done nothing but wait. I waited on the train to get to Reliance; I waited on the Erebos to be rescued; I waited on the Tourbillion to arrive at the academy; I waited at the academy until my Gifts were well-developed enough to be of some use; I waited in the wilderness to be caught; and I am waiting here, now, for I know not what.

Mr. Troxill was very kind and made no mention of how late I slept when I arrived to find him and Mr. Miller in the middle of breakfast. They were more toward the end, really; I think they had been eating slowly so as to still be at table when I got there.

"Good morning, Miss Greenwater," Mr. Troxill said as a servant held my chair for me, which was to the left of Mr. Troxill and opposite Mr. Miller. “I trust you slept well?”

“Very well, sir, thank you,” I lied. The bed was comfortable, at least, even if I did not gain much rest in it. “Your hospitality overwhelms me.”

“Not at all, not at all,” he said. “I am glad to take you in for the sake of my friend the professor.”

I helped myself to coffee and toast, then sausage, then asked for a soft-boiled egg when Mr. Troxill inquired if I would like anything else. I ate heartily, as all the food was of excellent quality. Much better than hard rolls and cheese, for certain, indeed better than anything I had eaten at the academy, and definitely nicer than anything I had on the airships. If I am forced to wait here, at least I shall do so in fine clothes, in a lovely house, with wonderful things to eat!

“Your friend Mr. Miller has asked me to provide him with some useful occupation while he resides here,” Mr. Troxill said, holding up a piece of paper on which I could see Zebediah’s clear, capital letters. “I am afraid I can offer him very little to do. I have servants to bring wood, to clean and cook.”

“He is a very hard worker, sir,” I told our host, glancing at Zebediah with pride in my eyes. “He does not like to sit idle. Um, nor do I,” I added. “If there is anything I might do here, please--”

“Now now, I said last night that you should not mention it,” he interrupted. To tell the truth, I felt a little relieved, having looked forward to a day or two, at least, of leisure after all the hardships I--we--had been through.

“Still, sir,” I felt compelled to say. “If there is anything, only mention it.”

Looking bemused, he nodded. “I shall,” he said, and we resumed our breakfast.

As the plates and glasses were being cleared away, Zebediah “spoke” to me across the table, using a combination of hand speech and spelling on the table with his fingertip, which I had become quite adept at reading.

“What is that?” Mr. Troxill asked, looking perplexed. “What is he doing?”

“It is how we communicate, sir,” I told him. “As he is unable to speak, and as we have been alone together for many days, Mr. Miller and I have invented a way to communicate using hand gestures. What words we do not have hands speech for, he spells out.”

“Very curious,” Mr. Troxill said, studying Mr. Miller. “And what did he say?”

I am sure Zebediah did not appreciate being spoken of as if he was not sitting right there, but I had no choice but to answer, since he could not. “He said he would like to take a walk, but is afraid we would be recognized. Although,” I added to Mr. Miller himself, “I have had rather enough of walking as of late.” I smiled, but he frowned back at me, which I did not understand. Was he not tired of walking, as well? We had become accustomed to taking a stroll morn and eve at the academy, and on the Erebos before that, but for the past week we have done nothing but walk. I was and am looking forward very much to a bit of a respite. Who knows when we shall have to dash off again, and do who knows what for who knows how long?


Zebediah’s bad mood continued all morning. He sat with us in the library while Mr. Troxill and I conversed, though I did not reveal anything about my Illumination, or much at all about the past month of my life with the kidnapping and the rescue and all. Our host did question me, but I demurred as much as I was able without seeming rude. After a while, he got the point, and discontinued any questions but those I could answer freely, such as how Professor Eberhart was faring, and if the academy still had cricket matches every other Saturday. (The former I answered gladly, and told Mr. Troxill of his friend's good health, but the latter I did not know; I assumed the matches had been discontinued until better weather.)

The moment Mr. Troxill left us to attend to some business (I am not sure what he does, but I think it has to do with banking or investments or something similar, given the columns of numbers scattered across stacks of papers on his desk), Zebediah went into a flurry of hand words and spelling, too fast for me to understand.

“Slow down,” I urged him, putting my hand atop his where he was spelling something on my palm; I only caught every other letter, he went so fast. “What is the matter?”

He pointed at himself, made a slashing motion with his hand, then pointed at the door.

“You... don’t want to go?” I asked.

Appearing even more frustrated, he repeated the gestures, then spelled on my hand: “DON’T TRUST TROXILL. LOOK.” He pointed out the Britannian flag displayed behind glass over the fireplace mantle, the talbotype of their late prime minister on the desk, and guided me to a row of books containing a history of the continent from a time before they had even called themselves Britainnians.

“You are making too much of it. I am sure they are... family heirlooms,” I said, trying to calm him down. "The war ended not two decades ago, and he seems to be from an ‘old money’ family. Of course they would have ties to Britannia.”

Zebediah shook his head, a frown etched onto his face seemingly permanently. He pointed at himself again, made the slashing motion which meant "do not," then paused, thinking. His next gesture was made by putting all his fingertips together with his thumb, then using his semi-closed hand to point at his chest. "LIKE" he spelled on my palm, then repeated the gesture to teach me that it meant that word. "I do not like Troxill," he told me.

"He is a friend of Professor Eberhart's," I sighed. "You trust him, do you not?" Zebediah nodded, though begrudgingly. "All will be well, you will see. We shall rest here in comfort a while, then probably go back to the academy when the professor says it is safe. Anyway," I said, sinking back into my comfortable chair with the little cushion I had placed just so, to support my lower back, "where else are we to go? We are wanted criminals, as far as anyone else knows."

Zebediah sighed and returned to his own seat, nodding reluctantly.

We sat in silence for a minute, then I asked, "Shall I read to you again?" When he agreed, I told him to choose a book; after perusing the shelves for a little while, he handed me a volume of poetry from a well-known author who wrote about half a century ago before dying tragically young. "I did not think of you as a man who appreciated poetry," I said, surprise loosening my tongue. "Oh! I mean... I did not mean..."

He cut me off with a wave of his hand, seeming to understand that I did not intend to insult him. "Read," he told me, and sat back down.

I went through poem after poem, sometimes offering commentary on them, or asking Zebediah his opinion. We passed the remainder of the morning that way, lunched with our host, read a little more, then retired to our respective rooms to rest for a while before supper. I am sure it drove him mad, having nothing to do, but I shall see him soon at our evening meal. I lay down and dozed for a while, then wrote this. Now I shall wash my face and hands and descend to the dining room.


A Book Shared and Fine New Clothes

Past lunch now, and still no word from Professor Eberhart. I keep thinking that our wire was intercepted by a crewman of the Erebos, or even someone else working for Belleclaire or (worse) Bergstrom, and they are on their way here to kill us or kidnap us, but when I catch myself thinking such things, I try and focus on other, better thoughts.

Mr. --Goodness! Why is it so difficult to remember to call him by his given name? Zebediah told me his shoulder is feeling almost entirely well now. Evidently the first mate, Reva, also serves as the ship's surgeon when there is call for it, and is assisted by the cook. They patched him up as best as they could, though his escape and flight shortly after the battle did no favours to the wound. It healed somewhat badly, he said, and has formed yet another scar to add to his collection. ("Add" is made by forming a "plus" symbol with both index fingers, but as we did not have a hand word for "collection," he spelled it out on the table.) My curiosity was peaked, hearing (ha, hearing! seeing) that, but I did not pry and ask what other scars he carries. I can imagine living on a mercenary dirigible for three years, one could find oneself in all sorts of trouble. I do not know if his previous master was always so violent as he was the day he slashed Zebediah's throat, but I do not like to think on that, either, and hope he bears no other scars from that man.

I am still wearing his clothes, as I will be the less easily recognizable of the two of us if I must answer the door for a message, or go out into town for anything we might need. We have been dining here, and taking everything that can be taken--that is to say, everything but the messy roast for lunch, and our cups of coffee at breakfast and lunch both--back to our rooms to eat, so there is less a chance of being spotted and recognized, but I may need to later go into town to send another wire, or buy something the inn does not provide. I do not anticipate going out into the city before we have heard from the professor, but it always does good to be prepared, as Miss P___ would say. I have loosened my stays a little bit, though my breathing is still rather more restricted than usual. Otherwise, I keep my hair pinned up and beneath Zebediah's cap, ready to answer the door at a second's notice. It still feels very odd to walk without the swish of skirts around my ankles, and for the sleeves of the shirt to be so loose and long, but in an interesting sort of way.

I feel I shall go mad if we do not hear back from Professor Eberhart soon, Dear Reader! I must find some way to occupy myself now, as writing in this diary is clearly not enough. Perhaps I can hunt down a book. Oh! Perhaps in order to amuse us both, I might read to Mr. Miller. I shall ask him what he thinks.


A pleasant couple of hours was spent in the company of a book, one full of short stories: adventures of soldiers in the war, wives waiting at home for them while sowing their Victory Gardens, and school children collecting scrap metal for bullets and the like. I do not know if they were true stories, or fictions based in fact, but all together, the tales were heartwarming and seemed to bolster my spirits a bit (though I think it would not have taken much to make me happier than I had been all day, which is to say, not happy at all).

I read aloud so Zebediah could enjoy the tales as well, though I think I must have sounded rather dull, for I noticed that he closed his eyes after the first half hour, and leaned back against the wall. Despite my boyish appearance, my voice is still very feminine-sounding, so I had to keep a low tone, as the walls in this place are embarrassingly thin. (I now know more than I ever wanted to know about our neighbours in 306! But shall not think on it further.) Perhaps the softness of my voice combined with the comfort of where he reclined on the bed and his exhaustion from the past several days caused him to doze off. I did not really mind it, however, and once I noticed he was asleep, I softened my voice even more, thinking that to stop entirely would waken him.

I was right, for moment I finished the fourth tale and paused for a few seconds, he opened his eyes and gave me a quizzical look to ask why I had stopped.

"I wanted to let you sleep," I said.

He shook his head, then gestured to the book

"All right," I agreed, and lifted it to begin reading again. He watched me for a time, where I sat on one of the hard wooden chairs which I had pulled near to the bed, then let his eyes drift closed again, but I did not stop reading until I reached the end of the book. At that point, he woke once more. I finished sewing the bag out of my black skirt, which I had started this morning, then wrote this. It is now time for supper. Still no word from the professor.


We are saved! The innkeeper asked for "George" at supper tonight, his voice booming out over the din of people eating and speaking. He called the name again, yet I didn't understand that I should answer until Zebediah nudged me with his foot under the table. "Yes?" I asked, forgetting to make the pitch of my voice lower.

"Got a wire," he announced.

"I'm George Hanson," said another man across the room.

"Wire from Eber... Eberhart?" asked the innkeeper.

The other man shook his head and sat down, but I was already halfway across the room, holding my hand out eagerly for the message. I wished the innkeeper hadn't made such a fuss about it, announcing Eberhart's name and mine (though it is false) to the entire dining room, but we are gone from there now, and safe!

I am sitting at a very pretty little writing table in a room on the third story of a house in a very nice part of town. There is a feather bed behind me, which I have already tested by (scandalously) bouncing on it! I have had a long, hot bath and was put into a luxurious dressing gown while new clothes were found for me. A maid delivered a box containing a plum-coloured skirt with ruby ruffles, and a blouse of the same deep red. I also now have a nightgown, which I have not had since I slept on the Arabella. (I wore my shift to bed at the academy, and of course have slept in my clothes the past several nights). It is of the loveliest, most delicate pink lawn with satin ribbon trim. I tried on both the day clothes and the nightgown, and am wearing the latter beneath the warm dressing gown now.

Goodness, I am getting ahead of myself! Forgive me, dear reader. The wire simply informed us to go to such and such an address and ask for Mr. Troxill, which we did with all haste. As it was rather late when we arrived, we only met Mr. Troxill briefly, then were sent to our rooms to bathe and dress for bed.

He is between fifty and sixty, I think, and told us he was an old colleague of Professor Eberhart's. He received a wire from the professor about the same time we received ours; his said only that two guests were to come to his house this evening, and Professor Eberhart would be much obliged if Mr. Troxill would take care of them for a while without asking any questions. He agreed at once, trusting his friend implicitly, and prepared two of the spare rooms for our use before we even arrived.

Upon being shown into the library, where he sat with a cigar and a glass of what I think was brandy, Mr. Miller bowed and I curtseyed, forgetting myself! But the shock on Mr. Troxill's face was for another reason. "You are..." He stared at us a moment longer. "The criminals!" he cried, "On the poster!"

"Wh-what are you... are you talking about?" I asked shakily, taking a step back. Oh, I had ruined it all, I thought! "We're not--Of course we're not--"

"It is all right, my dear," he said softly, the shock melting from his face. "Eberhart has wired me, and I have sworn to take care of you both until he sends for you, or sends word of what you are to do next. Worry not."

This relieved me more than I can say, and I let out a great breath. "Thank you, sir," I managed to say. "If there is anything we can do to--"

"Now now, let us not talk of such things. You are tired, I am sure, and could do with a good rest. Let us speak in the morning; until then, do not worry about explanations, or repayment, or anything else."

I thanked him again, and then once more just before we were shown upstairs. The house is very tall and narrow, three floors with the fourth being servants' quarters, but as there are probably hundreds of houses on this street, they all must be packed tightly together. Anyway, for as small as it really is, it seems bigger, and is very comfortable.

Zebediah refused the new clothes brought to him, or so I heard from the maid who delivered my clothes. She was confused by his hand signals, so she left the box in his room and handed me a folded-up bit of parchment on which he had written, "KINDLY SEND OVER THE CLOTHES YOU HAVE BEEN WEARING. THOSE ARE GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I DO NOT NEED FINE THINGS, ONLY WHAT IS SERVICEABLE." I suppose he has a harder time accepting charity than I do, having worked hard for what little he has, so I sent over his trousers and shirt and hat with the maid.

And now I am alone, writing this. I cannot wait to see what the morning will bring! I am a little wary of telling Mr. Troxill all of our tale, even if Professor Eberhart trusts him. There is no use informing him of something that has no bearing on our situation now, do you not think, Dear Reader? I hope he will see it that way, too, and not press us for answers.

Off to my lovely, lovely feather bed, now!


I feel rather alone. It is late, and although I am perfectly full and warm and comfortable, I have become accustomed to falling asleep with the sound of Zebediah's breathing nearby, and the feeling of his presence close to me. My little room suddenly seems vast and empty.

But there is nothing for it. We experienced an anomaly, and now things are back to normal. I suppose I shall count sheep until I fall asleep.
All content appearing on this blog belongs solely to Heather Layne, 2008.