Nightmare for a Nightingale

October 27, 2008

I stepped off the train at Carntaigh station, struggling with the many boxes and shopping bags that filled my arms. Oh I am going to pay for my shopping frenzy now...how on earth am I going to make it from the station to Coughton Court without losing one of these bags or boxes! I blew the stray strand of hair that had escaped my pompadour off of my face, took a deep breath and proceeded carefully up the cobblestone path towards my home.

I really should have asked Mr. Piedpiper or Shauni to come with me to assist with these bags..but I did not know I was going to find so many wonderful gowns for the upcoming holiday season! I smiled to myself thinking of the stunning red and black "Miss Gabrielle" that Miss Demina had completely surprised me with when I visited her shop. I would save that one for the Realm of the Roses Holiday Balls...

I was so lost in thought, dreamily imagining the Holiday Balls and simultaneously trying to keep all of the bags and boxes balanced in my arms as I made my way over the bridge, that I did not notice the group of men gathered around the front door of Coughton Court until I was practically upon them. I stopped suddenly, and one box fell to the ground.

There were 3 men, all dressed in a uniform I did not recognize. It was a very plain uniform, not at all like the wonderful variety of uniforms of the various military organizations of Caledon. This was severe plain black wool, with nothing but but brass buttons down the jacket. No other embellishments. One of the men was holding some papers. As startled as I was to see them, I smiled and spoke. "Good day, gentlemen. Welcome to Caledon Carntaigh and my home, Coughton Court. How can I assist you?"

The man with the papers stepped forward, his face breaking into a smile. I studied him for a moment. His face was round, which gave it a slightly jolly appearance, something which his almost rosy complexion only added to. I felt instantly comfortable as the jovial-looking fellow approached me.

"Well, well..Miss Riel. We wondered where you were."

I stiffened instantly. The tone of his voice was cold, cruel. The sound of that voice coming out of a man who practically looked like Saint Nicholas was jarring. And then his disrespectful form of address. The way he emphasized "Miss Riel", when he clearly knew who I was...the Lady of this House and the Duchess of Caledon Carntaigh.

The other two men smirked.

"And here I am.", I said levelly, "And who might you be sir?"

"My name is Colonel Linden, Miss Riel, and I am here to serve you with these eviction papers. We are here to ensure you vacate this property as soon as possible."

I blinked. My brain seemed to stop functioning. My arms fell to my sides and all of the packages that I had been holding tumbled to the ground.

"What?", I gasped. "Eviction..eviction?", I took a deep breath and stood up as tall as I could and looked up at the Colonel, straight in the eyes, in full Duchess mode and said cooly, "Sir, I am not sure what is going on here, but this is my land. You are standing on Caledon Carntaigh, a Duchy in the Independent State of Caledon. I care for this land for the people of Caledon, as did my father and grandfather before me. The only authority I recognize is that of Caledon's Vicereine Kamiliah Hauptmann and our Governor, Mr. Desmond Shang."

The two men that had not spoken laughed again. An ugly sound.

The Colonel responded, "We are here by the authority of the Lindens, Miss Riel. Your so called "Guvnah" does not even have the power to stop us. Although, he did give it a good try." He looked at the other two men, and this time all three laughed.

He continued, "The Lindens are implementing a new system of taxation and property limits. This sim of Carntaigh does not conform to these new laws, therefore, it's time for you to leave...Miss Riel."

I glared up at him. "I will do no such thing. I am the Duch..."

The Colonel interrupted me before I could finish, "Not any more you're not. There is no Caledon Carntaigh sweetheart." He mocked me derisively. "I bet you think you're something special here. Well, I am here to tell you that you are NOT."

"This place won't even blink an eye when you're gone. You did not do anything special in Caledon...add anything special, from what I've heard. There are plenty of other warm bodies waiting in the wings to kiss your Guvnah's ass, to pour the tea and distribute the dance cards. The people here will not miss you, you catty, cliquish high school girl. How does it feel, my dear, being expendable?"

His words hit me as hard as if he had punched me in the stomach. I could not even respond. All I could think was: "oh my God...is he right?"

He continued, "I've heard about your little music adventure too. You call it a radio station?" he laughed, "A cut rate, inconsistent endeavor. Or so people say. Caledon won't miss it a bit. It did not add any value here. Who wants to listen to Victorian music in a Victorian community? Bo-ring."

That did it. People can trash me all they want. Many do it just for sport, and I am used to it. But try that with Radio Riel? The result of innumerable hours of blood, sweat and tears from a group of some of the best people I've ever known?

"How dare you, you ignorant fool." The words came out of me calmly, coldly. "Listen to you. Nattering on about third hand information. Have you ever BEEN to an event at which Radio Riel has provided the music? Do you even know what we do?"

"No, of course you don't. If you are so into hearsay, how about talking to our clients? I'm sure they'll be happy to tell you how inconsistent we are! Especially as they consistently give us repeat business...some of them having engaged us for hundreds of hours."

"Radio Riel must be what you describe...and that would explain the clients that use us again, and again, and again... because that's what clients do when you provide poor service. Professional organizations and institutions choose us to work for them because we are such slackers! SO inconsistent!"

"And of course I am a horrible person. I'm a conniving, evil, catty, cliquish High School girl...out to destroy every narcissist with a personality disorder on the grid...because, well, you know...it's all about THEM. I have hours and hours of free time to concoct evil schemes!"

"I'm so awful that I have the same people working with me that helped me start Radio Riel two years ago! And so horrible that the people who joined the staff later are still on board! Wow, what a shrew I am! All of these people must be crazy - or I've tricked them all some how. You know, all the extra time I have to put energy towards a facade to trick everyone."

"Colonel Linden, I am a human being. I am not a cartoon. I am not "pretend". I am not perfect. I am not always at my best. I make mistakes. I hurt people I love unintentionally. However, I challenge you to speak to my staff and my clients to discover who I really am."

"For me, music is magic. Music is life. I have learned that very, very few people truly understand that. They see nothing special in what I do. They do not see that I bring my heart and my soul to every event I play, so that I can create something magical for the people that asked me to play the music. So I can put their soul into their event. Instead, they complain about the fact that they have to pay for my services. Such a travesty to pay 80% LESS than actual world rates for professional event support. Heck, why pay when you can find someone who will do it for nothing?"

"I have done what I have done in Caledon because I wanted to bring people joy though music. I wanted to help "teach" some concepts from the Victorian Era. I wanted to help provide an infrastructure for a young community that was growing. For this effort, I did not want money. I did not want favors. I did not even want everyone to like me. I did not want anyone to tell me "thank you". I did not want anyone to kiss my ass."

"The only thing I have needed...is respect for what I had done. To say that what I have done is "nothing" or "substandard" or "inconsistent" is a total fallacy. A lie. I know it. Others know it. The people that do not like me even have to acknowledge the effort I put in. The fact that you don't know this shows how totally out of touch and removed you are from the social community that is The Independent State of Caledon."

I stood as tall as my short frame would allow me to, my eyes blazing into his.

The Colonel gaped at me - in total shock that I provided this response after his attempt to weaken me psychologically.

Then, he smiled; the most evil smile breaking across that incongruous jolly face. "I had hoped you would be difficult. You have given us an easy excuse to take you into custody." The smile twisted into a leer. "I am anxious to see how high and mighty you are when I have you alone in a holding cell. Just you...and me...Your Grace." He pratically spat out the last two words.

He motioned to the two soldiers behind him. "Take her." The minions flashed great grins at each other, and then started towards me.

I stood my ground, heart pounding wildly, watching as the two men approached me. Think Gabi...think...rememeber what Eva taught you about fighting off multiple attackers. I was totally unskilled in combat, but I was NOT going down without a fight. And these fiends were going to have the wounds to prove it.

Suddenly, there came a great screaming from the sky. All of us froze in place, looking up. The shrieking turned to a mighty roar, as the large blue dragon dove straight for the Linden soldiers, who now had looks of complete terror on their faces. I began to breathe again..

Azul.

I stood very still as My Dragon swooped low, scooping me in her talons and simultaneously blasting the Lindens with a massive firestorm. I only briefly heard their screams of pain, as Azul immediately shot for the sky, holding me gently.

I was safe. But my home... My home was gone. Gone. The emotions overwhelmed me...everything I had felt during the conversation with the Colonel. Shock, grief, rage, and at the end, fear.

"You are safe now my dear Nightingale." I heard My Dragon speak the words in my head as my peripheral vision started to darken. The darkness zoomed in from all sides of my eyes, clouding my vision, reducing what I could see to a pinprick of light...and then I knew no more.

Nota Bene: From the typist...my parents nicknamed me "Sarah Heartburn" for a reason...

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