Try as they might, both Iyauliana and Chattsworth were powerless to convey dread and minatory sentiments to the page as Quasit read aloud of Baron Nicaise striking the deal with Necromancer Gihl.
The Necromancer smiled ingratiatingly, bowing low, his zoetic cloaks sweeping the floor as clouds blotting out the sun. "All shall be arranged," he pledged vacuously, and the two shook hands before he took his leave.
Pearl hadn't kept the note. She'd abandoned it along with the farmhouse and the ghosts contained therein. No room in her life. Wistfully, she closed the brimming arms cache and began to dress.
Sweet Pea - You're more precious to me and your mother than you can imagine. I'm more proud of you than I thought possible. I know that your mother was very proud of you too.
Your mother and I didn't always see eye to eye, especially after coming to Becca VII. Your mother never liked living in a humans only colony, nor did she always agree on the way I wanted to raise you. She thought that's what drove you away. You're more like me than she realized. But we both loved you. And I miss her.
My Sweet Pearl, Goodbye.
Shimmering words paused, showing Baron Nicaise confronted with Necromancer Gihl, stuff of nightmares. Raiment of inky cloaks, flowing as if alive. His saccharine countenance of charm instilled in a bone white body, yet eyes like covetous obsidian.
As Quasit continued, both Chattsworth and Iyauliana worriedly watched his reposed face.
Necromancer Gihl's voice dripped with sweetness, but the very air around him seemed contaminated. "Through my magic, I can assure you will get your wish to raise a baby girl. And all I ask in return, a small parcel of land, that you've promised to the eldest of your strong sons."
Pearl's time aboard Coccivora class ship was surreal, memories fractured, jagged. Aboard, felt removed, lawless. Reclusive. For this reason, didn't hear of her father's suicide promptly. Ulia Drones couldn't prenetrate the Glauketas.
She'd been on shoreleave on Roduthae XI when word reached her. She abandoned her post, took a transport to Becca VII. All that was left was the farm, its contents. Keepsakes. Among these items, a written note. Her father'd been very old fashioned; he'd hung himself.
Necromancer Gihl smiled, "You still want a daughter, a baby girl, yes? I'll make that happen for you."
"What are you proposing?"
Time passed the Province of Kurth, much as it always had. Pastoral and peaceful. Baron Nicaise still dreamed of a daughter, but the addition of another son nearly filled the hole in his heart. And he suppressed his desire as much as possible, resigned to only having sons.
The Mariri moved slowly back away, returning to silent contemplative vigil. But as soon as Quasit read the next part of the story, Iyauliana's gasp brought it back to attentive guard.
Until one day Nicaise recieved a curt insistent rapping at his door. Without stood the Necromancer Gihl, in sweeping black cloak.
Replacing the Arikanka 44 inside the arms cache, Pearl remembered just how naked she'd felt without it. Easily concealed. Slept with it. The weapon reminded her why she'd decided to train hand to hand combat with no weapon. Naked. Not even a blade. She'd been on the Juadzai skill for awhile now. But until she bested her time, wouldn't move up.
Baron Nicaise named the new boy Aranjueq, and cherished everything about him. As time passed, watching him grow, knew he'd be just as adventurous, handsome, dashing and bold as his brothers. But desire gnawed, unfulfilled, buried beneath the surface.
"Is it a girl?" Iyauliana asked, hopeful yearning in her voice. "Finally?"
For some reason, the sound caused the Mariri to stir. Fluttering its wings softly, it came closer to the Yu Qi Queen, and all four eyes of the Mariri met Iyauliana's in tacit liaison. Quasit watched the curious interaction in silence, pausing the story. Their interaction broke momentarily, and it was the Mariri itself who bid Quasit to continue.
Baron Nicaise found himself staring at another bawling baby boy. A rush of emotions seized him as he lovingly took the baby into his arms, hugging Falcaniera, joyous nonetheless.
Pearl removed an Ebon Valkyrie Arikanka 44 out of storage pod, the silver and black antimatter weapon fitting snugly in her hand. Issued to her after trial period aboard the Coccivora class ship, named Glauketas. She'd coveted the weapon for protection as she'd moved from anonymous jackanape through the ranks to salient quartermaster. Within the anomie, her deontology, charisma and casuistry won over both captain and crew.
When the birthing came upon Falcaniera, Baron Nicaise paced his castle. From courtyard to bailey to spire to barbican he paced. When word reached him, the baby had come, he rushed to see.
As the pregnancy progressed, Baron Nicaise began to gather all midwives to Falcaniera in preparation. And assembled all manner of herbalist, shaman, doctor, sorcerer, phitoness and necromancer. The clergy and the devout all flocked to Baron Nicaise like never before.
Deep within clandestine camarillian society, on Khayr IX, Pearl quickly sold the Trichogrammatidae. Half the profit she sent to her father on Becca VII. Other half, she bought indentureship on a Coccivora class ship, replete with one of the most notorious captains in the Khayr Quadrant.
Her first night aboard, she realized with icy melancholic nostalgia was her eighteenth birthday.
Quasit's cadence while he read lulled Chattsworth and Iyauliana with singsong rhythm, mellifluous intonations of each syllable, but the affect was somnifugous while soothing, like feeling safe in a storm.
Iyauliana'd taken to Chattsworth, petting his fur behind his ears absently while they listened to the bedtime story, waiting for the illustrations to appear.
Baron Nicaise's heart went a pitterpatter sometimes, he was so nervous. Anticipation growing as time marched on. Then one of his wives, Falcaniera grew large with child.
Nicaise gathered his magicians together, casting spells to divine the sex of the baby, but any attempt was fruitless.
So she'd fled Becca VII, leaving her orgillous father secluded and obscure. Aiming the Trichogrammatidae towards Khayr Quadrant, knowing that Donatien authorities would seek her. Consequently, she gave up her life of harlotry for piracy.
Pearl removed the katate-uchi that she'd used to murder Donatien from the storage chamber. Ancient weapon amid contemporary. It'd hung from his walls amid other dispendious decor. Its slightly curved blade still shone, weight and heft beautiful in her hands.
But spending time with his boys, Baron Nicaise's mind always returned to his aspirations. Preoccupied always with his wish to have a baby girl.
While Baron Nicaise awaited the results of his relations with his wives, he happily ruled his castle and grounds, watching his boys grow into wise and strong men.
Here both Iyauliana and Chattsworth paid attention to illustrations, Quasit reading the text. The Mariri continued to float, sans sound or movement.
He jousted with Joaquín. He fenced with Faranjuez. Played ashtāpada with Alaksandu. He practiced cantrips and prestidigitation with Preslḛy.
Debated politics and strategem with Stẫr. Damon showed him architectural designs. And archery with Asunción.
But Pearl'd arrived too late. Her mother'd already died peacefully in her sleep the night before.
And so Baron Nicaise began his rounds with his three delightful wives, urging them to think happy thoughts of little baby girls. Of flowers and sunny skies. Of fluffy furry baby jynis. Of playing dress up. And tï parties.
Then from Becca VII to picturesque opulent palaces on Virsai Prime, where she learned to pilot a Trichogrammatidae class ship under the tutorship of Aristocrat Donatien. When an Ulia Drone informed her that her mother was sick, close to death, sought to end her wardship, but was denied. Pearl killed Donatien with his own katate-uchi and fled in the Trichogrammatidae.
A nervous sorcerer spoke to Baron Sovereign Nicaise in halting and fearful words. "My Lord, it is done, as much as I can do. I hope the quickening takes, but the magic is weak in these matters."
Chattsworth's eyes would flicker open in sporadic intervals, listening to Quasit read the bedtime story. And each time, he expected Quasit to ruffle his coarse black fur reassuringly.
Pearl brought each weapon out of the cell, different connotative memories associated. And more. The struggles with her parents on the ranch. After she left Turri IV. Time on Becca VII training as an hetaera.
A daughter. Whom he could love and spoil and dote upon. Watch her grow and enjoy the finery of dresses and balls and music and dances and all the luxery of court.
Pearl exited sanirinse amid dissipating föllakzoid steam, dressing leisurely, feeling taut sore muscles relax further. Crossing to a storage chamber, unlocking, revealved munitions arsenal. Mostly old fashioned weapons, such as a Gauzia. Her father'd taught her to shoot, growing up on Turri IV, on the ranch. She touched the gun reverentially.
Through the dark rain, Baron Nicaise saw the sorcerer coming to him, bringing news, wringing his hands.
He had seven sons in all. Bold, dashing, handsome, adventurous sons. Which ensured the Nicaise bloodline and sovereignty would continue. But secretly, Baron Nicaise wanted a daughter. To hold and to cherish and protect.
"Time?" Pearl asked the CC, never satisfied in the interval it took to dispatch her foe. And this instance was no different. Scowling, she reached for a towel, wiping sweat from her body. She entered the sanirinse, feeling tensions dissolve in phrontifugic bliss.
And so each moonphase, Baron Nicaise would hire a sorcerer to help through magic. Help their love and union to produce a daughter.
Baron Nicaise walked his castle's causeway. Pacing actually. Pacing in the pouring rain, oblivious to the soaking. Waiting. For you see, on this night, he'd hired another sorcerer. But no matter how many sorcerers he hired, magic didn't seem to be the answer.
Pearl struck the Juadzai in the hamstring, and his leg buckled at the knee. He swung his axe wildly. Pearl exploited the opening, bringing her full weight upon his neck. The beast went limp. The BQSBots ended the simulation.
Baron Nicaise had three wives. Each more beautiful than the last. But each had only given him sons.
Divested of daily cares, Quasit interfaced with the BQSBots while Chattsworth and Iyauliana comported themselves like siblings, tussling over comforatable positioning. Quasit selected a bedtime story merely from the BQSBots recommendations.
"This is called the Baron Sovereign's Daughter," he announced, reading the shimmering words before him, "from a very old fashioned planet in the Joséphine Quadrant."
Chattsworth closed his eyes in anticipation. Yu Qi Queen snuggled up even closer.
"It began in the pouring rain," Quasit read...
It began in the pouring rain, on a bleak night in the Province of Kurth, under the rule of the benevolent Baron Nicaise.
Introspective yet extraversive, Quasit remained on the bridge long after Pearl'd departed. Running shipwide superfluous diagnostics, BQSBots running loops like cricetid in cages. His mind grinding like a smouldering fire.
Finally returning to his quarters, found Chattsworth playing Aelgoria Platonic with Iyauliana, who appeared to have a slight advantage, though the game'd just commenced.
"Did you already water the plants?" Quasit asked. Received a nod from Chattsworth. The Mariri floated near Quasit's bed, looking like some sort of bizarre automaton, switched off, discaded by an innominate ancient deity.
Without words, both abandoned the game. "Is it story time?" Iyauliana asked.
Emotion roiled beneath Pearl's exterior like antimatter liquid shadow. "We're a cargo vessel. It's what we do. It's what you signed up for. We don't ask questions. We get paid handsomely. If you're so naive as to think previous cargo was all sunshine and innocuous bagatelle, you need to bring yourself contrariwise. You, who talk of scruples. Your lascivious skullduggery landed you life at KG6 before me."
Pearl paused, elixating. Then, regaining a modicum of composure, "Let me know when your head's on straight."
About to storm out, she paused, ordered the BQSBots to raise security levels. Then stormed out.