Admiralty Protocol; Charmagne Estate – Planet Justia
There was little room to move as the four of us were crammed in the carriage. The Commander beside me, Ensign Maury’s boots interlocked with mine as horses cobbled and carried us along, I look through papers and folders to make sure I have everything. The Captain made Maury, poor bastard, hold all of our hats as we rode along – appearing more a tailor’s boy than Fleet Naval Officer. Yesterday we arrived on Planet Justia in support of a Defense Ministry Consortium, our job being split between representing planet Thera and acting as attaché to Admiralty officials – which is what I would do.
Outside the weather had a nipping bite, coats and gloves being drawn for the swift onset of the season. This early morning was blanketed with a thick gray fog that clung to the windows. Cavalrymen from the Therean Royal Guard trotted along with us, more a show of tradition than anything, their heavy hooves clapping on the road with riders adorned with tricorn hats, sabers, pistols, and shined knee high boots. The Guard was definitely an impressive bunch.
“No sense of the destination, Sir?” I ask while shuffling through papers, making sure I’ve got the information right. I hated referring to paperwork in front of commanders and officials, so I did my best to memorize it before we arrived.
“Nothing” the Captain says, steadying himself as we bump along. “The Admiral’s aides should arrive tonight. You’ll have tomorrow to receive and brief the Admiral on his schedule and roles during the Consortium. Just let the Ministry know if there are any issues, Clay.”
“Aye, Sir” I reply, putting the papers in order before bumping against the Commander –again. Maury does his best not to crush our hats, using elbow and head to brace himself when we hit the bumps. “I love traditions” I say, “but no one loves them more than Maury.” This gets a chuckle from the Captain and Commander.
‘Mmm’ Maury grumbles in a sound of discontented misery.
The carriage slows to turn along a gravel road lined by trees and hedgerows. We strain to peer through foggy windows, but ahead is a large estate building flanked by fountains and statues. Three stories tall with balconies and pillars – it’s an impressive residence. The Commander lets out a low whistle as we, minus Maury, get a good look. “Lucky…Dog” the Captain says, “and I volunteered you for this mission, Mr. Wade. Damned foolish.” There was no one outside, but a single light illuminated from the ground floor.
Pulling up to the entrance, the footmen open the door as I squeeze out, a footman snatching my hat from Maury while he protests with a ‘Hey…’
“We’ll be back on the second morning to pick you up” the Commander says, “Call if you need anything – and good luck, Leftenant.” My bags unloaded, hat on straight, a nod from a cavalryman. The sound of a quick ‘Hya!’ carts the Captain, Commander, and Maury off to their destinations.
Grabbing my bags I make my way to the door before it is promptly opened by the butler. I introduce myself and he sees me in, some of the guests having already arrived. I look around, but I appear to be the only military on site. Hat under my arm and ‘thanks’ to a footman taking my bags, I admire the bright architecture, decorative woodworks, and scenic paintings along the walls.
Bags on the bed, I open double doors leading to a balcony overlooking open fields and gardens. The sun was coming over orange and red trees, turning leaves into bright and burning colors mixed with yellow rays of sun and dew covered grass. It was perfect. Bags away, hat under my arm, I make my way downstairs to see what I could find.
Grabbing a bite from the kitchen, I carry coffee and saucer amongst a few guests enjoying the morning. In the drawing room are those lingering, sitting, talking, some of them seeming to know one another. Along the walls are waist high pillars, most of them displaying objects of white marble – an open book, church, telescope, bouquet, equestrian helmet and crop. They were such random objects that it was hard to look away. Slowly turning without noticing, I bump into someone who had apparently done the same. My coffee spills on my saucer and hand, a gasp and ‘Oh!’ from the woman with a quick fumbling before we stop moving altogether.
“My apologies, Ma’am” I say, keeping coffee dripping hands away from her and myself.
“That was all me” she says, seeming to have escaped the hot liquid, “I’m so sorry. Here, allow me.” She walks away a moment, a towel from a footman who comes to assist.
“Sorry about that, Sir” the footman says, wiping the hardwood and my boot, “I’ll grab you another.”
“No, that’s ok” I say, but it’s too late. He’s already away on his task. Thanking her for the cloth, I set the cup and saucer down to dry my hands. She keeps apologizing, but she was just being polite. Her name was Arabella, truly a gorgeous woman with natural beauty – long and dark hair, light brown eyes gleaming softer in the early morning light, a comfortably fitted auburn sweater with slacks and heels – she was no stick figure model, possessing the right shapes and curves a woman shouldn’t be without. Her presence put me at ease, though I feared her absence would have the opposite effect.
“So these are yours, then?” I ask, referencing the marble creations along the pillars. She smiles and nods, talking a few points about one or the other. “That’s impressive” I say, “so this place is…yours.”
“I’m a mistress” she says while turning her attention to somewhere in the room. Hands behind my back I turn my head to her, hearing the footman returning with coffee.
“Sorry for your wait, Sir” the footman says, helping me with sugar and cream. I thank him and he leaves, returning my attention to Arabella.
“I’ve been the mistress of the estate since my parents left it to me a little over a decade ago” she says, capturing and holding me hostage with light brown eyes.
“You’ve done a wonderful job maintaining it. I only wish I could be so lucky.”
“Maybe you will get lucky. Excuse me one moment” she says, turning and leaving with a hand to my wrist. I watch her leave, slightly ashamed of what exactly caught my attention as she did so, suddenly aware for myself to resume some semblance of respectable posture. I suddenly felt a little uneasy, a little lightheaded after she had gone. I turn my attention to some books on a shelf – it’s not helping.
I spent most of the day doing my job and doing it well. Receiving the Admirals attaché, making polite company, I did my best. The long day had drained the get-up from my step, finding myself running on fumes by this point. Arabella hadn’t been around, busy I’m sure, but after dinner she made an appearance in a honey colored dress while making small talk with the guests. The dip in the dress was obvious, making her necklace the star attraction.
“Mr. Wade” she says while making her way over. She grabs two glasses of wine and offers one while drinking casually. She crunches her brow a little, leaning closer. “Can I tell you the truth?” she says in a joking whisper. She inches closer, pressing herself against me a little while playing with her necklace. “So many people waste their time on idle gossip and nothingness. There’s so many better ways for me to use my mouth, don’t you think?” Before I could process, not much less respond, she is pulled away by someone else. She says she’ll be return…but never does.
That night was maddening. Laying in the bed, the moonlight peering through curtains, I tossed and turned for a good hour before feeling tired. ‘This is useless’ I tell myself, my mind now filled by edges of a dress. Walking to the window I overlook the field, the dark gardens below, with something on the edge of the woods catching my eye. I watch as the figure moves, easily walking along the rows of flowers, a fountain, and stopping just short of a bench. I try to look, but it’s difficult to see. I could swear it’s a woman – though not a dress – before I turn back inside and lay down. Necklace – that’s all I see.
At the darkest time of night, in the quietest room, I drift off with the sounds of her voice in my head. The sheet is gently tugged down to my waist, the feeling of fingertips on my back causing me to quickly turn over. Arabella’s stocking clad leg slides up over mine and onto the bed, she leaning forward with long hair falling on my chest while she plants softly laden lips on my stomach. I reach and run a hand through her hair, moving it out of the way to see that round face. Her scent was the chill of midnight, her touch the difference of skin and lace, her sound shallow breaths of anticipation. I almost resist for a moment, that feeling you get when not knowing how far some things will go, before she grabs hold of my hand and wraps my fingers in the top of her corset, allowing me time to exploit the temptation while she slides her body on top of mine. She runs my hands from her neck to waist, the soft feel of my fingers wrapping around exposed hips and tugging at the thin elastic band. She leans back and lets her body settle on mine. Denying Arabella at this point would be self-torture, knowing that if I didn’t have her I could never sleep again. Her voice filled my mind from behind closed lips……
Quickly I sit up in the bed, though alone. Heart racing, my head with a heavy pounding, a cold sweat flowing over me – I look to the balcony doors, forcing myself to stay in bed.
The next day was excruciating. I got through the day receiving the Admiral as I should, my best uniform with gold epilates, white embroidered collar, medals on my chest – I represented well, but the evening drinks were more than welcomed and long overdue. Arabella was nowhere in sight. I asked around for our hostess, the self-proclaimed mistress, but no one seemed to know.
By the time the night came I was completely drained. I had no pallet for eating. If I had a desire for any taste it was one I suddenly wasn’t able to acquire. I take my drink up with me, standing on the balcony whilst occasionally looking to my closed bedroom door – somehow hoping she would walk through. In the garden – there – a shape on the tree line. Quickly I make my way downstairs, out the back door, and into the light fog of the gardens darkness. Heavy footed, heart pounding, I reach out and touch her on the shoulder.
“Arabella” I say definitively, she turning to me in a long coat with hair over one shoulder. I stop, allowing her to reach out and touch me on the chest, pulling me closer as she nears and presses her cheek against mine. That speechless voice returns and slips into my mind…
‘Clayton’ I hear as my heart slows, though still a heavy pounding when it beats. My tastes become midnight, my breaths shallow and weak. I feel myself become heavy, arms forced to my side and legs collapsing. On my knees I try to reach out for her, but the weight of my body forces me to my back with legs contorted under me. In an attempt to scream out from the pain my heart stops, my vision fading away as I feel her hands on my face, seeming to pull me up to her with ease….
“Clayton!” the Commander shouts from outside the estate, standing next to readied carriage and mounted cavalry in the twilight of morning. They pile out and begin to look around, a single light coming from the ground floor. They walk to the entrance and open the door, the darkness inside filled with stale air. The furniture is covered with cloth. The windows are shuttered. The rooms occupied by shadow and silence. A light emits from a lamp in the hallway. “Clay!” the Captain echoes through empty halls, bouncing off bare walls and over dusty stairs. Maury walks into the drawing room and does his best to look for anything or anyone – passing by a book, a church, a crop, and an anchor.