Rue considered the matter seriously. “I shall coordinate stopovers for milk restocking. We would have to regardless, for the sake of the tea. I require milk in my tea every day, several times a day.”

The cook wrung his hands together. “Yes, captain.”

“And cheese – Miss Tunstell loves cheese.”

“Of course, captain.”

“Prepare a list of perishable necessities not adequately covered by our admirable refrigeration facilities – one should be timed weekly and the other once a fortnight. Let me see what are our most limiting supplies and what I would have to endure if we are only able to make bi-monthly stopovers.”

“Yes, captain, but the fuel?”

“Is not your concern. Although I understand some of the empire’s outpost aether-stations carry both coal and milk.”

The cook gave a little bow. “Aye aye, captain,” and he ran off to tend to his lists.

A massive crash above distracted Rue from her galley coordination. “Great ghosts, what’s that?” Her exclamation was met with shrugs from the kitchen staff.

Rue marched topside. The loading gangplank was down and the main deck was crawling with confused crew. An entire flock of hats had landed and were nesting near the quarter deck. A massive overturned trunk and hatboxes rolling everywhere appeared to be behind the millinery invasion.

Primrose had arrived.


Or at least Primrose’s accessories had arrived.

Rue looked over the railing. The lady in question was standing in an open-topped carriage gesticulating wildly with two parasols as a stream of footmen unloaded an entire other carriage full of baggage.

Rue waved. “Cooey!”

Prim looked up. “Oh, Rue, you wouldn’t believe the bother.”

“Why all the hats?”

Prim gave her an exasperated look, easy to see even at a distance and under the shade of a wide bonnet trimmed with silk butterflies. “It’s the only way she would let me come.”


“Gracious me, Rue. Need you ask? Mother, of course.”

“Of course. Was she terribly difficult to persuade?”

“Terribly. And she only gave me permission when I promised to bring a hat for every possible crisis, land or air, rain or shine, England or India, sweet or savoury. It was a nightmare. I was at Château de Poupes for over four hours last night. Four hours!”

“How is Uncle Rabiffano? Still upset about me stealing his form?”

“Not at all. Much better now actually, as I spent a vast amount of Queen Mum’s money at his establishment. As you can probably tell by all the hats he foisted on me. Mother should never have opened that unlimited purchasing account. Your Uncle Rabiffano takes terrible advantage.”

“Shall we stop yelling? Come aboard. I’ll give you tea. You can tell me all about your shopping woes. We’ve got this marvellous kettle tube thing, mounts above the reserve in engineering and runs directly to the galley. Allows for hot water at any time in a veritable instant, as long as the boilers are running.”

“I’m sure that’s quite a spiffing notion but can it wait? After I’ve supervised the unpacking, I really must make some calls. I’m surprised you don’t have to.”

“In that case I’ll come to you.” Rue made her way down the gangplank, almost knocked off it by two footmen carrying between them another massive trunk. “More hats?” Rue asked, not too surprised.

“Parasols, miss,” grunted one.

“Oh, dear,” said Rue.

She attained the ground safely and went to hand Prim down from the carriage, there being no gentlemen around to perform the obligation, and the footmen all occupied with baggage. Prim looked to tumble out soon, she was waving her parasols so vigorously, as if guiding a floatillah of airships into land.

“Goodness, Prim, you’ll do yourself an injury. Come down from there.”

Prim came down, fanning herself with one hand and prodding at a clumsy footman with her parasol with the other. “Careful with that, Fitzwilliam!”

“You know we are only going for two months at the very most? This is not the Taking of the Fortress of the Fashionless.”

Prim sighed. “It was much easier not to argue with Queen Mums on the subject. Besides, the more I packed, the less I’d have to go back for. Speaking of which, do you think I could stay aboard tonight before we leave? Best not to give her the opportunity to change her mind.”

“I’m surprised she let you come at all.”

Prim nodded. “You and me both. I think it helps that she doesn’t know Percy’s joined up. Both her precious eggs in one floating basket —? There will be histrionics the entire time we are away. London is going to be in for it when she finds out.”

“Aunt Ivy doesn’t know I’ve got both of you?” Rue looked uncomfortable. Prim might see her mother as mainly an annoying busybody, but Aunt Ivy was still a vampire hive queen with all the power and authority that that incurred. She could make life very difficult when she was unhappy, which London had reason to know – personally.

“He hasn’t told her. You know Percy. Could be intentional or it might have legitimately slipped his addlepated mind.”

“Oh, yes, speaking of your horrible brother, Dama’s carriage is arriving. I sent it ’round to retrieve him.”


“To be fair, I sent it to retrieve his books. Percy was bound to follow.”

Most Popular