The Paris Awakening: Water Part 7

psychadelicalbrecht

Sir John and Marie stood next to the north side of the Notre Dame admiring the gargoyles. They had sent away Miss Henderson and Morag who had both shown far too much curiosity in Albrecht. Emile had decided that he had, in his words, important things to do and had left for his apartment. His head had been shaking a lot and he had sworn a few times as he left. Since it was late afternoon in Paris none of this caught anyone’s attention.

“Albrecht!” said Marie calling up to the gargoyle, who seemed to be completely stationary.

“Albrecht? It’s us.”

The statue didn’t move and Marie looked perplexed at the situation. Sir John looked down and saw a couple looking askance at Marie.

“Is… your friend okay?” said the man, with an American accent.

“She has… had a little wine,” said Sir John. “And a little bit of brandy. Maybe some absinthe.”

“Paris!” said the woman to the man by way of explanation and they walked away,

“Pfff…” said Albrecht. “I thought they would never leave. I was caught in the most uncomfortable position when I saw them. You should be more careful.”

“I’m sorry,” said Marie. “But you wouldn’t believe what has happened to us.”

“Let me see, has your arch enemy arrived in Paris and begun looking for a key to a formidable weapon and they have one part and you have one part and now you both seek the third?” said Albrecht.

“Yes,” said Marie, looking crestfallen. “How do you know?”

“I’m sitting in the very heart of Paris surrounded by creatures who stare all day at the city and have nothing to do but gossip. If a mermaid sneezes in the Seine then we say Bless You.”

“There are mermaids in the Seine?” said Sir John.

“It’s a figure of speech,” said Albrecht.

“No it’s not!” said Marie.

“No… it’s not,” said Albrecht, “but keep that one secret.”

“Since you know our predicament, we wondered what else you knew, like…” started Marie.

“Where are the third and fourth keys, where is the weapon, what does it do?” said Albrecht.

“Yes,” said Marie, “exactly!”

“Well…” started Albrecht. “Oh, people!”

A crocodile of school children wandered by the cathedral. The leader pointed to various interesting architectural features of the cathedral as the Jennings stood there waiting. After an age they wandered off.

“Well?” said Marie urgently.

“Well I can’t help you,” said Albrecht. “We don’t know anything.”

“What?” said Marie. “Nothing?”

“We never heard of this weapon until you came along. Like I said, we’re just getting the news and gossiping.” said Albrecht. “It’s very interesting though.”

“Is that them?” said another gargoyle. “Are they the good ones or the bad?”

“Go away Lucas,” said Albrecht to the other gargoyle.

“Look, can you help us with the location of the next key?” said Sir John. “We’re a bit stumped.”

The two gargoyles looked at each other.

“What is stumped?” said Lucas. “Is that an English dish with suet?”

“No,” said Sir John, “I mean we’re stuck, we don’t know the answer.”

“We’re looking for a garden on the river, which has seen great happiness and sadness and witnessed a lot of death,” said Marie. “And where something was caged.”

“Hmm…” said Lucas, “I can’t think of one place.”

“Me neither,” said Albrecht.

“Apart from the Jardin des Plantes,” said Lucas. “Remember Albrecht, during the siege?”

Mon Dieu,” said Marie and went white.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 6

Statue

Emile and Sir John looked up at the statue of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Tulieries garden.

“Wasn’t he at sea for a bit?” said Emile.

“I think so,” said Sir John, “but that seems rather a tenuous link. I sort of imagine something more…”

“Obviously aquatic?” said Emile. “Yes I agree, I don’t think this is it. How many have we seen now?”

“I’ve rather lost count,” said Sir John, “along with enthusiasm.”

He looked around the park at the multitude of people walking about, picking out two women with a dog.

“I don’t think the others have had any success either,” he said.

Emile sighed. “Next one then?” he said.

“You know, I wondered if I might, if I could,” started Sir John. “I mean to say, well I notice you haven’t been at the church so much recently.”

“I have been… busy,” said Emile. “I have an institute to run you know?”

“I just realise that we haven’t really spoken about… what happened,” said Sir John. “When you found out about Marie.”

“Oh God no, you don’t want to talk about my feelings, do you?” said Emile smirking. “We’ll be here all week while you navigate around the topic.”

“Well,” said Sir John, a little deflated. “It seemed to, change things. I know what it’s like to have that surprise. When I first found out it was… things were… there was some awkwardness.”

Emile rolled his eyes.

“You’re English,” he said, “there is awkwardness when you buy of cup of tea in a cafe.”

“Yes but,” continued Sir John, going increasingly pink, “well, it seemed to, erect a sort of barrier between us as friends and, and…”

“You are concerned about my erection now?” said Emile earnestly before bursting into laughter. Sir John went bright red.

“Oh mon Dieu, I’m sorry my friend,” said Emile, wiping his eyes. “I’m being cruel to you. Yes it was a shock, and yes I felt a little hurt that you didn’t tell me. But I understood why. It’s not you two, or even Sabine that’s keeping me away. It’s all of you. It felt like everyone had special secrets and I, whose job is to find special secrets, not only had none, but had no clue about any of yours. It felt… like I had no purpose, I think.”

“You’re my friend,” said Sir John, “You don’t have to have a purpose.”

“Hmm,” said Emile and looked back at the statue. A little smile crept on his face. He lit a cigarette and fell silent.

“We have not seen a single statue with merde on it,” said Miss Henderson, arriving at the scene.

“That’s mer, Miss Henderson,” said Marie, holding the lead with Morag on it.

Emile turned away to stifle a laugh as Miss Henderson looked up at the statue.

“Good Lord!” she said, “Have none of these artists heard of undergarments?”

“It’s not here, is it?” said Morag. “This isn’t the place.”

“I think not,” said Sir John. “We’re back to the drawing board.”

“You know, I can think of someone who might be able to help,” said Marie. “We are not far, why don’t we go speak to Albrecht.”

“Albrecht?” said Emile.

“Ah yes,” said Sir John, looking guilty. “The, er, talking gargoyle.”

Emile threw his arms up in despair.

“What have I ever done to you,” he said to the sky, “to deserve this?”

 

*Theseus fighting the Minotaur by Étienne-Jules Ramey (French, 1796–1852). Marble, 1826. Original photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 5

water 5 mono pp

“A moondial?” said Sir John.

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous excitedly, “just like a sundial tells the time during the day, this does at night. Although it only seems to work well when the moon is full like this evening. It has a compass so you can find out where north is.”

“That’s fascinating I’m sure,” said Sabine, “but we have more pressing….”

“This little green stone shines too,” said Phlebotomous indicating the centre of the compass. “Actually, that seems to happen no matter what phase the moon is in. In fact, if anything it seems to glow more when the moon is waning.”

“Indeed,” said Sabine, “but Mr Bosch…”

“What kind of green?” said Marie, pulling out the necklace her uncle had given her. “A green like this?”

“Yes!” said Phlebotomous. “I think so. Let me bring it over.”

The vampire brought the moondial and compared it to the necklace. As he held the device close to the jewellry the compass needle started spinning wildly.

“That’s strange,” said Phlebotomous. “It didn’t do that before.”

“Ladies, Gentlemen,” said Sabine. “And… other creatures. Surely we must focus on the task in hand? We need to compare the words of the oracle to the potential location of the key piece.”

The slurping sounds from the end of the table stopped and Sir John looked up.

“I rather think Sabine has a point,” he said.

“Yes,” said Marie. “Of course. I’m sorry.”

She absently took off the necklace and left it next to the moondial on the table. The compass needle began to settle down.

“Phlebotomous, Osvold,” said Sir John. “We need your help in deciphering what we learned, well sort of learned, from the Oracle. Tell me, of the potential locations where the next key piece might be, are any of them in a garden? A garden that’s on the riverbank?”

Osvold shuffled over to Phlebotomous and whispered in his ear. Phlebotomous started to speak but Osvold pulled on his coat sleeve and whispered some more.

“The location is supposed to be somewhere where great joy and great sadness have co-existed,” said Phlebotomous.

“Sounds like half of Paris,” said Sabine.

Osvold again tugged on Phlebotomous’ sleeve and whispered to him, shooting nervous glances at the table.

“It’s also a place which has seen a lot of death,” said Phlebotomous.

“Still half of Paris,” said Marie.

Osvold again whispered to Phlebotomous.

“And where something was caged,” said Phlebotomous.

“Again it… ah wait!” said Sabine. “The Tuileries. Louis 16 was held captive there, no?”

“Was he… killed there?” said Sir John.

“No,” said Sabine, “Hmm.”

“There was a massacre there,” said Marie. “The king’s guards, when the garden was stormed.”

“So that… could be it?” said Sir John.

“There are many statues there too,” said Marie. “This thing about the sea, maybe there is one that is somehow nautical.”

“That’s it!” said Sabine. “That must be the place! We go tomorrow!”

Marie leaned back in her chair and exhaled. She glanced down at her necklace and moondial and a small frown formed on her face.

“Wonderful deduction ladies!” said Sir John. “Er, Miss Henderson, is there any more soup?”

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 4

Mononoke

Miss Henderson and Morag sat around the large table in the artists’ church, awaiting the return of the Jennings and Sabine.

“Emile isn’t joining us?” said Morag.

“I believe Mr Plan… Mr Plank… that Emile has opted to spend the evening in his own residence,” said Miss Henderson before leaning and whispering. “I think he has the hump with you know who.”

“Sabine!” exclaimed Morag.

“Yes, obviously that stuck-up…” started Miss Henderson.

“You’re back!” said Morag, standing on Miss Henderson’s foot.

“Indeed we are and what a story we have to tell,” said Sabine sweeping into the church.

Miss Henderson rolled her eyes and looked at Morag, who winked.

Marie and Sir John came in next.

“Is there any food?” said Sir John. “I’m a trifle peckish.”

“Let me see what I can find,” said Miss Henderson, “I know what you’re like when you’re ravished.”

Sabine looked briefly perplexed before sitting at the table.

“Some tea as well would be wonderful,” she said.

Morag could hear Miss Henderson mutter something under her breath. Morag was glad it wasn’t audible to humans.

“So do we know where the next key piece is?” asked Morag to Marie.

“It was so confusing, the oracle spoke in riddles. We stopped on the way back so I could make some notes before I forgot, but even then I’m not sure I have it all.”

Marie produce a piece of paper from her bag and looked at it.

“She said something about a boat on the river, that I would need help from my friends, something about the sea and a garden on Sunday morning,” she said.

“A garden on the river maybe?” said Morag. “Are there any?”

“Pfff,” said Sabine. “Hundreds. We could spend all year looking.”

“We need the list Phlebotomous and Osvold were looking at,” said Sir John. “Maybe we can narrow it down a bit.”

Miss Henderson returned with a cup of tea and a large bowl of soup. She dropped the tea in front of Sabine and then gently placed the soup in front of Sir John.

“Marvellous!” said Sir John and took a big spoonful. Sabine took a sip of her tea then made a noise.

Mon Dieu!” she said. “So strong.”

“That is how English people take their tea,” said Miss Henderson primly.

“No wonder you are all so tense,” said Sabine. “I won’t sleep for a week with this.”

“Are the vampires in?” said Marie hastily.

“I think they went out. They said they’d been waiting for a month to go out,” said Morag.

“Out, like for dinner, out?” said Marie incredulously.

“Since I’m a dog, I cannae shrug,” said Morag, “but if I could, right now I would.”

“I think I saw them on the way in,” said Sabine, “looking at the moon.”

“I’ll check,” said Sir John, pausing briefly from slurping his soup. “Er, in a bit.”

“I’ll go,” said Marie and opened the door. “I see them… Mr Bosch?”

The two vampires came in looking unusually excited.

“We’ve discovered what it is!” said Phlebotomous and everyone turned to look at them.

“The location of the key piece?” said Sir John, wiping soup off his chin.

Phlebotomous looked confused.

“No, this,” he said holding up the strange device Marie’s uncle had given her.

Everyone stared at him with a blank look.

“It’s a moondial!” he said.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 3

hat-2

“Of all the rancid, decrepit, foul smelling pox holes this cursed trip has taken us,” said Clackprattle, holding a tissue over his nose, “this is the worst. Are you sure this is the place Pook, sure they came here?”

“The stone bug was very specific,” said Pook, “Marie and Sir John came to this very room, not a few days ago.”

Clackprattle looked around the dingy hotel room.

“And what in God’s name did they do here?” he said.

Clackprattle looked at the only seat in the room and the hat resting on it. He moved towards the chaise-longue and looked critically at the seat. His hand moved to the hat.

“Don’t!” snapped Pook. “Master. I believe it may be…”

He was interrupted by the appearance of some smoke from under that hat.

“Yes,” said Pook, “as I suspected.”

Clackprattle looked quizzically at his servant as the smoke gathered into a column and the hat rose. The smoke formed once more into the shape of a reclining woman, the face obscured by the hat and with a cigarette in a holder protruding from under it.

“It was twenty years ago today,” said the smoke woman.

“How did you know?” said Clackprattle to Pook.

“You say yes, I say no,” answered the woman.

“Madam, I believe that you are… an oracle?” said Pook to the woman. “Is this correct?”

“It’s the dirty story of a dirty man,” said the Oracle.

“She can tell the future?” said Clackprattle. “Tell us what will happen to us?”

“Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home,” agreed the Oracle.

“They must have come here with the key piece, asking about where to find the next one,” said Pook.

“She doesn’t make any sense,” said Clackprattle, “it’s all just nonsense.”

“Oracles are indeed most renowned for their circumlocutory manner,” said Pook. “It is believed to be a feature of their puissance, their tenuous grip on the present, that causes them to communicate so.”

“Nothing’s going to change my world,” said the Oracle.

“Well you and her should get on like a house on fire,” said Clackprattle scornfully. “She’d better be a bit more clear though otherwise she’ll get a taste of my hand.”

Pook winced.

“I think… Master, that here a more accommodating, more pleasant approach may be beneficial.”

Clackprattle snorted but fell silent.

“There’s nothing you can sing that can’t be sung,” said the Oracle.

“Madam,” said Pook with a ingratiating smile on his face. “I believe you may be able to, aha, divine what it is we need. Would you be able to assist?”

Behind Pook’s back, Clackprattle took of his glove to reveal his green tainted hand.

“You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue,” said the Oracle.

Pook winced again and Clackprattle glowered, moving forward.

“Madam, I think if any clarity could be forthcoming,” said Pook, “now would be the time.”

“Allez, allez, mettez dans vos chandail,” said the Oracle.

“Enough of this nonsense,” said Clackprattle. “Tell us or die.”

The oracle screamed loudly. Clackprattle moved forward and put his hand where her neck should be. His hand went through and he held onto to nothing. He started to curse when he saw the smoke turn green around his fingers. The roiling body of the Oracle started to turn the same green colour. Finally, and without a sound, the green smoke dissipated. The hat and the cigarette holder dropped onto the floor.

“Die then,” said Clackprattle, sounding bored. “Come on Pook.”

And they walked out the room.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 2

oracle of paris

Marie and Sir John, Sabine and Emile crowded into the tawdry room in the hotel on Rue Git-le-Coeur.

“You’re sure it is here?” said Emile, looking around the shabby room. There was little in it but a small unmade bed, an aging chest of drawers, a large mouldy armoire and a tired chaise-longue.

“Positive,” said Sabine. “There is her hat on the chaise-longue.”

They all looked at the chaise-longue and saw a splendid lady’s hat in a very modern style.

“Is she out, perhaps?” said Sir John. “Does she do house calls?”

Emile snorted.

“No, that’s impossible,” said Sabine. “She lives here. She will be here.”

Emile looked around the room and shrugged.

“Perhaps she is hiding in that armoire?” he said sarcastically.

“Er… I don’t want to bother anyone, but I think the chaise-longue has caught fire,” said Sir John.

They all looked back at the chaise-longue where smoke was starting to billow. The hat that had been sitting on it rose into the air on the column of smoke. A lit cigarette in an elegant holder appeared underneath it. Eventually the smoke resolved itself into the shape of a reclining woman, the hat obscuring the face.

“Voila!” said Sabine triumphantly. “I told you.”

Je suis lui comme tu es il comme tu es moi,” said the smoke woman. “Wait, too many, too many. And you, Madame, are too early.”

“Let’s leave boys,” said Sabine, “I believe we are confusing her.”

She ushered Sir John and Emile out of the room leaving Marie alone.

“Hello,” said Marie, “I want to ask you something.”

“Picture yourself in a boat on the river,” said the Oracle of Paris.

“I have this thing, this key part,” continued Marie, getting the wire out of her handbag and showing it to the Oracle. “It is part of a set of four, I need the next one.”

“They get by with a little help from your friend,” said the Oracle.

“Do you know where the next part is?” said Marie. “I need to find it before, before some others do. The others are bad, very bad people.”

“He one holy roller,” said the Oracle. “I’d like to be under the sea.”

“Please,” said Marie, “if you could tell me something that would help.”

“Sunday morning go for a ride,” said the Oracle. “Doing the garden, digging the weeds.”

“I… I can’t make sense of what you say,” said Marie. “Can you be clearer, can you say something that names the place?”

Suddenly the column of smoke dissipated and the hat dropped to the bed.

“Fine!” said Marie in frustration. “Just go then.”

She stood there in silence, perplexed by it all. There was gentle knock at the door.

“How is it going?” said Sir John hesitantly, through the door.

“She has gone,” said Maire.

The others came into the room. Marie looked crestfallen.

“And…” said Sabine expectantly.

“I am not sure,” said Marie, “that I know any more now than I did before.”

 

*The Oracle of Paris modified from Edouard Manet’s Nina de Callais 1873 – Public Domain

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 1

water 1

At the Artists’ Church, the Jennings and their retinue sat around a large table. It was covered with the remains of exquisite food, procured by Sabine from “an acceptable restaurant” called Vefour. Fine though the meal was, the mood around the table was a little subdued. Marie and Sir John had just finished explaining the events at the Oisienne’s lair.

“So it is like your good news, bad news, yes?” said Emile, idly toying with a petit fours.

“Indeed,” said Sir John, “it’s good we have the key component…”

“But bad that we don’t why Pook has some… special powers?” said Emile.

Marie nodded.

“One time before, in Manchester, his powers had been increased by this artifact of Mesmer.” she said. “He had Clackprattle like a puppet on a string, and mesmerised a group in a room. But these were people, not magical creatures like the Oisienne or…”

“You,” said Emile, still staring at the tiny cake.

“Yes,” said Marie. “Me. And in any event, that artefact was destroyed.”

“Definitely?” said Emile, “Maybe it could still be…”

“I ground it under my heel,” said Marie and Emile winced. “I was rather annoyed at the time.”

“So, a mystery,” said Sir John, “but one with a precedent. Maybe Mr Mesmer had other toys that we don’t know about.”

“True enough,” said Emile. “What about the part of the key? Have we found anything?”

He looked to end of the table where Phlebotomous and Osvold were bent over the little box that Marie had been given. They had opened it and been deep in conversation for a while. Phlebotomous had barely touched the glass of milk in front of him.

“It seems to be…” said Phlebotomous, “hmm… probably best described as a metallic filament of unknown metallurgic composition and around three inches long.”

Osvold muttered in Phlebotomous’ ear.

“Oh yes, very true,” said Phlebotomous. “Three and a half inches.”

The table looked confused.

“It’s a small piece of wire,” he said.

“Bird on a wire,” said Sabine, looking distant. Miss Henderson shot her a glance.

“Can we use this bit of wire to find the next piece,” the maid said.

“That’s more good news, bad news,” said Sir John. “Technically we need the map, but if the notes that Dinard left are enough…”

Sir John glanced at Osvold, who then starting whispering in Phlebotmous’ ear. The two conversed back and forth in whispers for nearly five minutes.

“Probably not,” said Phlebotomous and paused.

“Is there a little more?” asked Emile.

“The notes identify around thirty highly probable places,” said Phlebotmous, “and around a hundred likely places.”

“Oh,” said Sir John and sank back in his seat.

“We could ask the Oracle,” said Sabine looking at her nails.

“What?” said Emile.

“The Oracle of Paris?” said Sabine. “She would likely know.”

“What? What?” said Emile.

“You keep saying that,” said Sabine. “It makes you sound foolish.”

“Well, I feel a little foolish!” said Emile. “The Oracle of Paris, what is this? What other secrets do you have?”

Sabine sighed.

“She is a… special creature, that does what all oracles do and help one see the future and perhaps find things. Although, like all their kind, she is a little opaque and capricious,” said Sabine.

“And I am a woman in Paris and have exactly as many secrets as I like.”

Emile leaned toward her.

“Why now, woman?” he said. “We have spent so much time looking for these bizarre things and only now…”

“Only now we have this key thing,” said Sabine, “so we have something to show her. Do you think we could just turn up and say oh, ‘we are looking for something and we don’t know what it is… where can we find it?’ Have you ever spoken to an oracle? The answer would be more vexing than the question. No, now, we have something concrete and we can get… a better answer.”

“I hope,” she added.

Emile threw up his hands and stood up.

“I’ll be in my apartment,” he said. “Let me know how it goes.”

“Sabine, can you tell us where this oracle is?” said Marie.

“Of course,” said Sabine, “we can go in the morning.”

Marie sat back and felt a little nudge at her shoe. She looked down and saw a small stone.

“Oh, hello little one,” she said. “You’ve come home.”

Clackprattle and Pook’s Counterfeit Current Affairs Creator

The Daily Scandal

Gentle Reader,

Whilst researching our current story, The Paris Awakening, we have come across a startling fact. It seems that the fiendish swine at the heart of the story, Messers Clackprattle and Pook, have had an alternate career before their appearance in these pages. Why,  the scurrilous swine had been busy bamboozling the good and honest folk of the British press. Can you imagine!

Their modus operandi was to invent some fictitious, scandalous tale regarding a famous personage. They would then contact members of the journalistic profession with aforementioned stories and attempt to extract money from these poor deluded souls. The details that these devils supplied were naturally as lurid as possible in order to extract the maximum payment possible. Luckily we have been able to uncover this practice and find the tool they used to perpetrate this fraud. We present it below. By choosing a sequence of random numbers one can quickly generate some fictitious “news” stories.

We can only thank the good editing principles of the more moral periodicals and hope that such a swindle isn’t visited upon other more modern forms of communication. For how would an honest chap know what was real and what was not?

Yours – in shock and horror

Mr Michael and Miss Pichette

Number Famous Personage Scurrilous Act Dubious Location
1 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Consumed a voluminous quantity of French pastries In a poorhouse
2 Dr David Livingstone Entertained a lady of questionable moral standards In the Queen’s bedchambers
3 Miss Florence Nightingale Dined with a gentleman of lesser breeding In a nunnery
4 Her Majesty Queen Victoria Imbibed a significant quantity of alcohol In the House of Lords
5 Mr Charles Dickens Participated in a bizarre occult ceremony In an opium den
6 Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel Danced around in a state of undress In a house of ill repute
7 Mr Oscar Wilde Formed a daguerreotype of a lady’s ankle In Paris
8 Mr Aleister Crowley Smoked a frightening quantity of opium In St Paul’s Cathedral
9 The Rt Hon Benjamin Disreali Drank a full pint of laudanum On the royal barge
10 Mme Marie Curie Executed a painting of a nude gentleman In the Peruvian embassy

 

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 16

Stone bug pook p

Bisset tried to stop listening to the shouting and instead tried to estimate the damage. Since Messieurs Clackprattle and Pook had returned from their disastrous attempt to retrieve the key piece, Monsieur Clackprattle had been shouting rather a lot. The focus of his wrath had vacillated from Pook, for his failure, to Bisset, for allowing him to be persuaded to let Pook participate, to the whole of Paris, for, well, existing.

In fact, M Clackprattle seemed to find blame in everyone but himself. Although, he did repeatedly question why he had bothered to rescue Pook, a question that had crossed Bisset’s mind as well. Clackprattle didn’t seem the type to worry about loyalty to those who had failed him. Bisset wondered whether Pook had more influence over Clackprattle than he had assumed, wondered who was really in charge here.

Annoying though the shouting had been, the real problem had been the damage. In his anger, Clackprattle had used that cursed hand of his on any number of priceless objects. Several pieces of original Louis XIV furniture were now just rotting wood. The golden cutlery and plates that Bisset was accustomed to dining on were now a collection of leaden lumps. The Persian carpet that had once been owned by Hassan I Sabbah had been reduced to a threadbare rug. It was extremely vexing. The body of the dead servant lying on top of the rug was something of an inconvenience as well, as it would need to be disposed of. All in all, Bisset was seeing a small fortune being decimated in front of him. If he hadn’t been afraid of that damned hand of Clackprattle’s, he may have intervened.

Bisset glanced across at Pook and saw the same bland, serene smile that the creature always favoured his master with. Not a hint of nerves in spite of his failure. Was there even a small smirk at the corner of his mouth? What did he know that he wasn’t saying?

Finally, the onslaught on humanity and art that Clackprattle had mounted seemed to be coming to an end. The man leaned on his chair and looked around the table with a rheumy eye. He scoffed once.

“I shall take my rest,” he said. “On my return I will expect some answers.”

The fat man waddled out of the room leaving Pook and Bisset alone.

“Your master is indeed most perturbed by events,” said Bisset. A look of confusion and fear flashed across Pook’s face.

“He… ah yes indeed,” said Pook. “I fear he blames me for our predicament. It was indeed an unfortunate situation and one we could not have forseen. It seems that the prominent intellectual thrust of our age is not the well reasoned argument but rather the clipped, sentimental aphorism.”

“You are very lucky that M Clackprattle rescued you from the judgement of the Oisienne,” said Bisset, smiling. Pook smiled blandly back at him.

“Indeed,” Pook said. “My master is indeed most generous when need arises.”

“I hope my brotherhood will be equally generous,” said Bisset. “It is not composed of men who respect failure.”

“Well I am sure a short period of time with Mister Clackprattle will help them understand the situation,” said Pook. “He has a very persuasive manner, I find.”

“Just so,” said Bisset, “although I doubt he could sway all the brotherhood. It may be better to consider the next steps to recovering our position. They will respond better to that encouragement I feel”

“I have naturally considered these next steps,” said Pook. “I believe I understand how we may have failed and indeed have managed to secure a path to not only succeeding next time but to recovering that which was so criminally taken from us.”

Bisset tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

A pleasant smile spread over Pook’s face and he took something out of his pocket. His hand opened to reveal a small insect made of stone.

“Hello, little one,” said Pook sweetly. “From now on, you can be my friend.”

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 15

Aye

Marie sat on the floor and looked in horror at the transfixed audience staring blankly at Pook. He smirked across at her. Suddenly there was a loud banging from the dias between them.

“Order! Order!” shouted the Adjudicator. “This is unnatural order!”

The Osienne looked at Pook and pointed his gavel at him.

“This is a realm of the intellect,” the Adjudicator said. “You have no right to use glamour here. Magic has no dominion.”

“No dominion! No dominion!” parroted the audience, springing back to animation. Marie pulled herself to her feet, propelled by a surge of relief.

“Since you show ignorance of the rules of Parliament I shall explain,” said the Adjudicator. “The applicants shall debate a topic from the floor. The first one to lose three debates is the defeated and suffers the judgement of Parliament. The other is victorious and gains the boon we have to offer. You, sir, have forfeited the first debate by your skullduggery. Commence!”

Marie tried not to grin. Pook turned away as a sour look formed on his face.

“What is truth?” shouted a Oisienne to hoots of approval and the Adjudicator indicated Pook with his gavel. Pook turned back then and the smirk had returned to his face.

“Well truth is of course very closely linked to honesty and I shall enjoy hearing all about that from Mme Jennings, who is an expert in the topic.”

Marie felt herself flush and caught a glimpse of her husband. Pook continued.

“But in the end, truth is not as simple as many think. Indeed, one might argue that there are as many truths as there are mouths to feed as each must speak his own truth, which will differ one from the other. Further, one may very well argue that there are as many truths as meals to feed those mouths, for which man, woman or child keeps the same counsel from hour to hour. I posit then that truth is not one thing, but a multitude multiplying as the sum of human, and even other, opinion swells through time. You may as well hold a drop of water in your hand and ask – is this the ocean?”

There was a smatter of applause and the Adjudicator indicated Marie.

“Truth is…” she started, “truth is words that describe what is real. The rest is opinion.”

Her head lowered a touch.

“Or lies.”

There was more applause to this. The Adjudicator nodded to the audience.

“She wins!” cooed a voice. The call was taken up by the others.

“She wins! She wins!” chorused the room. The Adjudicator silenced it with his gavel and indicated to the floor.

“You said truth describes what is real,” chirruped a voice. “What is real?”

Pook scoffed.

“I think I have the measure of you now,” he said to the room. “I believe I can judge what passes for intellectual skill in these most remarkable rooms. Let me proffer then that the real is at once tangible and ephemeral. At once prosaic and poetic. At once solid and gaseous. For if we ask one person what they saw on any given day, at any given moment we can find a precise and determined account of the events that had unfolded. If we then were to ask another one, also present, to describe the self same events, we will get another certain account. And yet, if we were to compare the two, we may find ourselves surprised to see discrepancies twixt the two. We may wonder then at how we might divine what has truly occurred. We may ask a third for an opinion, and find more facts are confirmed whilst yet others agreed on are uncertain. And so on, and so on. It is, I believe then, a most scientific approach that we must take in order to be certain of the real. We must question each one, in a structured manner, on any event, and concern ourselves only with that which the majority can agree on. In this manner, must we proceed to be certain and definite on what has really occurred. The rest then is conjecture or deception.”

At the last word Pook smiled over at Marie. The room fell silent as they waited her response.

“Reality is what happens whether you believe in it or not,” she said.

The silence continued for a beat and then a shrill voice cried out.

“She wins! She wins!” it said, and the chant was picked up by the room. The Adjudicator banged his gavel.

“Let me confirm the good opinion of this Parliament,” he said. “Those who agree on the acceptance of Mme Jennings’ victory say ‘aye’.”

The room was filled by squawking and screeching. The Adjudicator banged his gavel. Pook was starting to look nervous. One Oisienne holding a small box had climbed on the stage from behind the dias.

“Those who dissent say ‘nay’,” said the Adjudicator.

“Nay,” said a voice from the back. Everyone turned round and Marie looked and saw Clackprattle.

“Then,” said the Adjudicator, “Mme Jennings receives the artefact.”

The Oisienne pressed the small wooden box into Marie’s hand. There was applause from the floor.

“And M Pook receives the judgement.”

Suddenly the room seemed full of sharp beaks and talons. Heads tilted and twisted, unblinking eyes staring coldly at Pook.

“Judgement!” shrieked one Oisienne, a chanting joined by the others as they pressed toward Pook. Sir John pushed towards Marie and gestured to her to join him. She heard screams and screeching from where Clackprattle was standing. The fat man was placing his lethal hand on Oisienne and also pressing toward Pook. Sir John grabbed hold of Marie’s hand as they met up in the melee.

“Well done!” said Sir John, “I rather suggest we flee.”

Marie didn’t argue.