Writer’s Note: Oh my god, you guys. This has been rrrrough, and that will probably be reflected today’s post. There’s just so much stupid exposition I’m trying to get to in a way that isn’t so god damn clunky, that I find myself avoiding it with things like sticky phone buttons. Gonna keep going, though. I may end up smoothing this entire chapter over A LOT when it comes to presenting something… publishable.
Also, you may notice I haven’t quite established the rules to Mari’s accent, except that it will get heavier with drinking and when speaking Ilya’s language.
Mari led the way past weary looking Moungren guards into the dark hallway. Ilya shrank against Cael as the recent memory of the jail closed in, and he instinctively tightened his arm around her again. Mari popped open a door the with a flourished bow and he practically carried the small woman through.
Two more of the faux antique lamps sat in opposite corners of the tiny room, perfectly performing their role as barely-there mood lighting. Ilya could just make out the naked silhouettes of two Moungren men as she was brought in. One tangled in the sheets of the bed, snoring, and a larger man collapsed in an overstuffed chair. The lamp next to his head sharply detailed the bold features of his face and the muscles in this neck and shoulder. He seemed to rouse as they moved in to the room and had the presence of mind to pick a pillow up off the floor to cover himself. Ilya couldn’t help but compare him to her Kostya and Osip. The large eyes and round, soft features of her people she thought of as refined and delicate now made her husbands childlike compared to the man sitting before her. The spark of a lighter brought a cigarette dangling from his lips made her realized she had been staring again. Ilya darted her eyes away before Cael could notice.
With nowhere else to go, they stood awkwardly between the wall and the foot of the bed. Mari knocked into the lamp by the door before bounding over the bed to sit facing the seated man. She motioned with two fingers and the cigarette was handed to her for a drag.
“Sit, sit.” Mari motioned to the empty chair as she handed the cigarette back. “Here,” she patted the end of the bed, “et appears that Frantz ghere can sleep through anything.”
Cael and Ilya exchanged a look before she climbed into the chair and he delicately nudged a foot to sit on the edge of the bed.
“Kssss yiyi?” It seemed as if the man was hissing to Ilya’s ears. However, it was a slurred, “whooo’re they?” That Cael and Mari heard.
“They arghe friends of mineh. Ghe is mah brotha, en fact.”
“Hmm,” the man mumbled noncommittally as brought the cigarette to his lips.
“So, ah, is there anything to eat?”
“Hmm…” Mari looked around the floor before bending down to peak under the bed. She sat back up with an antique looking phone receiver attached to a springy cord. Cael accepted it from her and saw that the cord ran under the end table between Ilya and Mari’s friend. Between the ear and mouth pieces was crude keypad numbered in commons.
“Dial one for thegh kitchen.”
“Ah… thank you.”
Mari leaned in to whisper something to her new friend, borrowing another drag from his cigarette.
Cael pressed the one button and heard the tone drone on as it got stuck in the phone.
“Damn it.” He worked to dig it out with his nail and heard a husky giggle from Mari.
“Ha! Ghow did jyou manage that?”
“Gah!” The phone seemed to get louder has his nail kept slipping out of the crack between the button and casing. “It was not my doing.”
“Then why es et so sticky?”
“I’m really trying not to think about that.”
He heard a tinny voice from the ear piece.“Alo!… Alo?”
“Oh! Ah, hello.” Cael tried to keep the receiver from touching his face.
The tone continued to drone through their conversation.
“Ah, yes, I’d like to order some food for room, ah… what room is this?”
Mari leaned over and yelled at the phone, “Mari’s room!”
“Ah, wi, mesy…”
Except for the sleeping Frantz, everyone was staring quietly at one another as they chewed at their beef pates, which Ilya discovered to be peppery beef patties with a crispy fried crust, and fried balls of dough. It became apparent to Ilya after a while that Mari was carrying on a private conversation in her head with Sieffre.
The bald woman blinked slowly as she surfaced from her inner world and looked at Ilya.
“You’re talking to Sieffre?”
“….Verghy ob-sergh-vant weth yourgh beg eyghes,”
“He isn’t here?”
Mari tried to suppress a grin.
“Would jyou like to talk to him?”
Cael spoke up with a mouth full of dough, “I would too, actually.”
Mari kicked up a leg and dropped her heal heavily on top of the table between the two chairs. A hidden kampdator sprung up in the center of the table and she leaned forward, leg still propped up on the table, and swiveled the boxy face toward her to turn it on. When the screen woke up it blasted light into the room, causing everyone to whimper and cover their eyes.
Mari cried out. “Sieffre, can you turn it down?”
“Oh yes! I always forget!”
The screen of the kampdator dimmed obediently.
“Zha gau! What’s this? You’re taking orders from her now?” Mari barked her own language, knocking the side of the kampdator.
Sieffre responded cheerfully in Sakhimi. “She is much nicer to me.”
Ilya snorted and took another bit of the dough to cover it.
“Fine! Talk to her then!” She wrenched the kampdator violently on its pivot toward Ilya and then sat back on the bed with her plate of food.
Ilya was greeted with the bright, smiling face of Sieffre. She couldn’t understand how he could still be so awake and energized at this end of the long night.
“Did I make her mad?” She whispered.
“She’s not really mad.”
“Iygham, thoo!” Mari replied with her mouth full.
Cael turned the kampdator towards him a little.
“Sieffre, are you in communication with the ship? … Assuming Mari still has the ship, I mean.”
“She does, or did… until we lost communication.”
Cael shook his head. “I couldn’t get through to the Zhouwen Gate earlier.”
“Yes. My signal keeps bouncing around the moon but I can’t get out. The satellites are there.”
“A gentleman in the lobby blamed it on Novafolk sabotage.”
“It doesn’t look good.” Sieffre chirped.
The naked Moungren man eating in the chair perked up.
“Novafolk bastards didn’t know dey were beat. After all da shit dey put us through dey still had to get one last dig at us, but we still won.”
“Yes, I heard the recording coming in, so how did that get through?”
“You have to ask Frantz, dat. He has to deal wit dat stuff wit Mister Rayner.”