Chapter 32:


The Songstress of Avalon

“The Embassy of Amalfi,” the man read the signage and let out a deep sigh.

He was, to look at him, a seasoned traveller. His clothes were of a Vistian cut and tailored by the finest tailors of Enza; the wax used to style his hair came from the a hive of Coventry bees, native only to the western island of Jasan. There were other, non-visible indicators too - for example, the ring on his wife’s finger was from Shombeul and his son played with Veronican toys.

But the unexpected can sometimes happen, even to a man to whom travelling has always been second nature. He had misplaced his papers, but fortunately his kingdom's embassy was but a short walk from his accomodations.

As the weary traveller ascended the steps, the wooden doors swung open and a man and woman appeared holding hands. The man, tanned and sturdily built, threw his head back and laughed in the robust manner of a soldier.

"It looks like you have a guest, Marissa."

"I'm off the clock," the woman demurred, and then flashed her best customer service smile to the traveller. "But don't you worry, sir. Our new undersecretary will take care of you."

"Is that going to be OK?" Trajan looked dubiously.

"No more whining!" the accomodating smile disappeared. "Trajan Araya, I'm not going to let you skip out on another lunch date!"

The pair disappeared down the street, still bickering about what seemed like the traveller to be mundane things. Still, vaguely reminded of his own beloved, he couldn't help but crack a smile. His spirits lifted, the traveller entered the embassy's hallway, just in time to see a young boy rushing down the stairs and dashing past him.

"Wait, Sora! Come back here!" a woman, presumably his mother, came racing down the stairs as well.

She was panting lightly and her appearance, although still lovely, could only be described as disheveled. She bowed when she saw the traveller, and offered her sincerest apologies for her son's behaviour - without even waiting for a reply, she followed the boy out the door at a frantic pace.

"It seems to me that I've walked into a veritable pantomime!" the traveller commented to himself.

At that moment, a large tentacle came slithering down the steps of the hallway's ligneous staircase. It fluttered around the feet of the first step before quickly retracting. The amazed traveller followed the course of the tentacle and saw a girl standing at the foot of the stairs, her eyes covered by comically large goggles.

She quickly scribbled something in the notepad she was holding, murmuring all the while. The only words the traveller caught were ''summoning ritual'', ''sea monster'' and ''other dimension''. 

With the tentacle in tow, the girl disappeared.

The traveller then made his way into the reception room where the secretary's desk was located; this, the traveller thought to himself, must have been the new undersecretary that the woman outside had mentioned. She was reading a thin piece of folded cardboard, and didn't notice the traveller until he was standing right by her desk.

"Oh! I didn't see you there. Welcome to the Amalfi Embassy. How can I help you?" 

"I've misplaced my papers, you see. I'm Amalfian citizen. See, I do have some identification..." he produced a card he had received from a census taker just last year.

The undersecretary stood up to her full height, and it was at that moment that the traveller caught a glimpse of her name tag. Arisa, it read; a name that he had never heard before, which was strange because he was such a seasoned traveller, and had met so many different people from so many different places. It only went to show how big this world really was.

"You'll want to see the ambassador then," she said, picking up the folded cardboard along with another piece of paper. "I was just about to take him his mail, so please follow me."

Arisa led the way to an ornate looking door, and knocked twice. I couldn't hear the person on the other side give any affirmation, but she opened the door all the same. Standing behind a grand looking oak desk, and with his broad back turned to us was a man who could only have the ambassador. 

He was staring out of the window, but turned his head slightly back at the sound of his undersecretary's voice.

"Why did you have to tell Lull about postcards?" Arisa asked. "He's sent us another one - this time from the Peloppo Sea. And you have a letter from Eisan and Rynn too - they want you to be the guest of honour at their next demonic banquet."

The traveller wasn't sure which surprised him more - the fact that a mere undersecretary would adopt such a familiar tone of voice when speaking to the ambassador, or that the same ambassador was getting invitations to demonic banquets.

"Ah, and Ay - I mean, ambassador, this man requires your assistance. He seems to have lost his papers," it was almost as though she had realised the traveller was in the room with her, and had, accordingly, adopted a more formal voice.

The ambassador smiled solicitously.

"Is that so? Well, then, you've come to the right place. Welcome to the Embassy of Amalfi."


Steward McOy