Tales Post 12 continues The Story of Ameryl as Ameryl has joined the social elite of the cloud city Ampersand. She has founded Cloud Break Reserve wine, which has become the most popular drink amongst the rich nobles. To create it she had to break through the clouds and have buildings destroyed to get light to shine down on her orchards, resulting in 'The Grape Hole'. At one of her parties she is entertaining many guests, including her two protégés, Marianne and Suzanna de Myste. Marianne is the smarter of the two while Suzanna seems quite clueless on most things. They go to speak with the mysterious grigori man that always sits in the corner of parties and he is revealed as Gadreel. He tells them he is a spy and then refutes his own claim, over and over, to confuse them. He is interested in the social habits of the newly High Empire elite. The party is interrupted by Kaptin Kwanza and his crew of thieves.
The Story of Ameryl
Ameryl takes a sip of her cabernet sauvignon[Ext 1], labelled Cloud Break Reserve (which Ameryl sarcastically remarked to be 'ingeniously named'), and glances from her guests towards the cloud city of Ampersand beyond the long window. Her manor was built downwards from the cloud above so that her house hangs above the lower manors below. On the other side of her cloud would be the wine fields where her cabernet sauvignon are grown. A special break in the clouds had to be cleared (demolishing several middle class homes in the process) so that a beam of light would strike down onto the vineyards. The topmost cloud layer of the city has the same gap in their hardened clouds, but here the cloud is allowed to lightly coat the hole to moderate the amount of light and heat being shunted downwards. The paupers and workmen of the top layer have been calling it 'The Grape Hole'. Yet another ingenious title. The people of Ampersand outdo themselves.
Before Ameryl came along, the rich people of Ampersand had been drinking something called cloudberry juice, which was sweet, pink and looked like something a twelve-year-old teeny-bopper would chug. Now everyone is clamouring for Ameryl's refined alcoholic beverage that would set them a class above the rest.
Ameryl had never intended to reside in the sky city, perched on the solidified clouds of a world created entirely of gases, but once she'd been inducted into society she found herself relaxing into the role of the foreign socialite. Constantly the centre of attention and the focus of many a conversation. Her exciting new ways titillated the younger women and her refinement grasped the eye of the older gentlemen. This was much better than being princess in her own lands.
Although everything was hollow and meaningless, in that she realised she didn't have to rebuke indulgence. If all is meaningless, then refuting and avoiding pleasurable experiences was also meaningless. She might as well enjoy the trivialities of life since they exist. Partaking in ignorance would be a crime. Partaking while in absolute awareness just proves how aware you are!
Ameryl: "At least I think it does..."
She mumbles to herself.
Marianne de Myste: "So you believe--"
Ameryl holds up a finger.
Ameryl: "I do not believe. I know..."
Marianne de Myste rolls her pink-coloured eyes.
Marianne de Myste: "You are telling us that nothing is real. So everything we do is meaningless... but knowing that and doing meaningless things is okay? But not knowing it's meaningless and doing meaningless things is bad."
Suzanna de Myste: "I think I'm confused."
Marianne de Myste: "You spend your life confused, dear sister."
Suzanna de Myste: "And you spend your life being a knowitall. A lady has no business knowing things. A lady has more important duties. Let men do all of this thinking."
Ameryl: "Oh dear. It sounds like you come from a culture I'd not like very much..."
Marianne de Myste: "But if nothing matters, if it's all meaningless, why should you like or dislike anything?"
Ameryl: "Touché. But like I say, being aware of nothing just means you are aware. Since it is in our nature to care, then we may as well care. There's no reason why not."
Marianne de Myste: "Okay, now I'm confused. And I'm not as stupid as she is."
Suzanna de Myste: "Hey!"
Ameryl glances from her protégés to the gaggles of people at the cocktail party. Ladies and gentlemen from throughout the city are standing and gossiping about the affairs of husbands and wives, or the interstellar stock exchange, or the wars being fought on distant worlds. The the young women were extremely useful to Ameryl. Their wide-eyed curiosity always makes Ameryl appear wondrous to everyone else in the room and they supply her with a route into the minds and affairs of the other noble folk.
Living here in this tiny bubble of the Multiverse now seems just as vibrant and important as travelling through it with Reimi Soulstar. The grandosity of the Multiverse is like a lot of mindless noise. But here she feels alive. Here nothing matters and yet that makes it all the more interesting. The aimless lives of these people. Their indulgences, their first-world problems, their pointless existences, to Ameryl, have become a subject of absolute fascination.
As she sees the regulars she spots a figure in the corner of the room. He is seated in a plush armchair and bathed in shadows, as though the light of the room resented him. From beneath his hood he's smoking a herb that emits a blue haze of smog around his vicinity. He's being left alone.
Ameryl: "I've seen him here before. But he never talks to anyone. Who is he?"
She turns her head uneasily towards him. Her sister groans.
Ameryl smirks. As if Ampersand is 'somewhere'. The people of Earth probably think the same thing about the rest of the Multiverse and thinks itself is the centre of all that matters.
Ameryl: "So he's a foreigner like myself."
Suzanna de Myste: "He is nothing like you, Miss Ameryl. He's a grumpy, boring loner. He really doesn't belong here, but he does possess a great wealth and one of the largest estates in all of Ampersand. He only ever attends these parties to watch people. In fact he rarely attended any at all before you came. Now he comes here regularly.
Ameryl: "Perhaps he's lonely..."
Suzanna de Myste: "If he's lonely why doesn't he talk to people!?"
Ameryl: "You don't have to talk to be in company, do you?"
Suzanna is definitely not the brightest spark. She frowns at Ameryl, not comprehending. To her being in company meant talking to that company. Being in company and not talking is incomprehensible to her. To Ameryl, however, a mysterious man that prefers his own company just reeks of tragic plot. And that makes him an object of interest.
Ameryl: "Perhaps I should talk to him..."
Suzanna de Myste: "I don't think that would be a good idea..."
She leans in and whispers.
Suzanna de Myste: "What would other people say if they saw you?"
Not concerned for her safety, just her image. Ameryl looks at Suzanna with some pity. The girl is the younger of the two. She has bright blonde hair and a cherub face; heart-shaped with a button nose. Her sister isn't quite so pretty, but she manages to be much smarter. Ameryl likes to judge the men that meet the two girls by observing which of the two they like best.
It isn't that Suzanna is a terrible person though. She is obsessed by all of the trivial things in life and cannot see the big picture, but she is pleasant and honest. Marianne is more of a show-off and enjoys attention for her accomplishments. Her music is a particular talk of the town.
Ameryl: "I wouldn't be a very good host if I didn't greet all of my guests, right?"
Marianne's eyes flash with mischief.
Marianne de Myste: "It's almost a duty! I'll accompany you, Miss Ameryl. Talking to this vagabond such be an interesting experience, at least."
The two of them set off across the room with Suzanna trailing behind them. Marianne's wide, yellow coloured dress swooshes heavily with a crisp, velvety ruffle sound. When they approach the grigori his eyes flutter up towards them but he otherwise remains unmoved. He has a long, lank face and a very angular nose. He has a smooth, clean shaven chin and bright, blue eyes. He doesn't speak, he just eyes them expectantly.
Ameryl: "Welcome to my home, Mr...?"
Gadreel: "You could call me the grigori. I'm sure everyone else does..."
Marianne de Myste: "Not everyone, Mr Gadreel."
Gadreel: "Ah. Then my mystique is ruined."
Ameryl: "Oh, I see. This elusive behaviour is all part of an act?"
Gadreel: "It's how I get all of the ladies."
Ameryl laughs lightly. Odd fellow.
Ameryl: "And how is that working out for you?"
He looks her fully in the face and she sees a twinkle in his eyes. That same twinkle of mischief that Marianne often has. Two peas in a pod, if she isn't careful to keep them apart.
Gadreel: "I have three beautiful women talking to me right now, so I would say it's working extremely well..."
Suzanna's fan whips as she opens it and starts to cool her blushing face.
Suzanna: "Mr Gadreel, you oughtn't say such overt things to a lady. It's most impertinent."
Gadreel is amused by Suzanna's false modesty but bows his head in apology, an entertained smile on his lips. For a man that sits by himself he seems a skilled conversationalist. Or at least a witty one.
Ameryl: "This enigmatic persona you maintain seems to have rendered everyone dumb about who you really are, Gadreel. They call you the watcher, this grigori, but surely that's not your profession. Why are you here in Ampersand?"
Gadreel leans back lazily in his chair. He pulls his hood from his head to reveal the mop of curly, platinum blonde hair. He gives her a cocky grin.
Gadreel: "I'm a spy!"
Marianne: "Not a very good one then!"
Gadreel: "Why would you say that?"
Marianne: "Because you just told us!"
Gadreel: "The government of Ampersand knows I'm a spy. They watch me watching them. It makes things easier for the both of us this way."
Ameryl raises a curious eyebrow while Suzanna is caught in a small choke.
Suzanna: "You mean you really are a spy!?"
Gadreel: "No! I'm just joking."
Ameryl: "You're joking?"
Gadreel: "Actully, no. I'm not joking."
The three women are dumbfounded.
Marianne: "So are you or aren't you?"
Ameryl: "Maybe it's another technique to get the ladies?"
Gadreel: "And it would seem to be working, wouldn't it?"
Suzanna: "I wouldn't say so!"
Ameryl: "If you are a spy, who are you spying for? I don't see much worth spying on in Ampersand, frankly speaking."
Suzanna and Marianne both look offended at Ameryl. Ameryl just shrugs at them.
Gadreel: "Ampersand is recently claimed by the High Empire. I'm here just to watch and see how it goes. There's a lot of resentment, especially on the top tiers. But some resent it here below too. It's a tricky one since the instigator of the takeover is a riches to rags to riches hero, anti-hero and villain all in one. Lines are drawn in the sand. Some of the poor think they'll be uplifted, liberated from poverty by the High Empire. Some think they're being controlled and denied their freedom. Some rich think the High Empire will disrupt their way of life, while some think it'll bring fresh opportunities. At least down here it's less likely to end in fighting."
Ameryl: "No doubt the Highemperor will just send in the troops to force the populace to his will. He's a man that gets what he wants."
Gadreel: "Or maybe he thinks it's what's best for these people? Maybe he wants to save them from themselves?"
Gadreel draws on his pipe. She recognises that he's just goading her but she answers anyway.
Ameryl: "Like forcing freedom and privilege on people."
Ameryl: "It's not. At least that would be misguided. He just wants to aggrandise himself. You know there's a religion that worships him?"
Gadreel: "I don't believe he started that religion."
Ameryl: "But he didn't stop it either. He revels in it. Statues of himself everywhere. He wants everyone to look at him."
Gadreel: "So, to the Highemperor, everyone is a grigori?"
Ameryl smirks at that.
Ameryl: "I suppose so! Does that make you feel less lonely?"
Gadreel: "Or maybe being just one in a crowd would make me more lonely?"
Suzanna de Myste: "How contrary you are, Mr Gadreel!"
She fans herself irritably.
Marianne de Myste: "And really, it's bad enough being in the same family, no matter how distant, to Carian Myste, without you bringing him up. We do try to avoid his existence as much as possible."
Gadreel: "I would have thought he'd be happy to help his relatives?"
Marianne de Myste: "I highly doubt it, since our ancestors stood by and watched his father go under. The man was a debter and there is nothing more shameful than a debter. Over night it was as though they had never existed. It's a shame nobody took Carian in though. He was just a boy, he could have been taken care of."
Suzanna de Myste: "Marianne! That would just draw attention to the problem! That boy would have been a constant reminder of the shame our family name had to endure because of his father. And then he became nothing but a crook. Just like his father. If our name wasn't so prestigious, I would volunteer to change it!"
Gadreel: "Such strong opinions..."
Ameryl: "No doubt this has been suitable material for your spy report?"
Suzanna de Myste: "Oh dear! I don't want to be in your report!"
Gadreel smirks from behind a veil of blue mist.
Gadreel: "Shall I label you as anonymous?"
Marianne de Myste: "I daresay it sounds like a terrible waste of time. Who cares what my sister thinks?"
Suzanna de Myste: "Hey!"
Marianne de Myste: "I meant in the grand scheme of things, Marianne! The High Empire itself doesn't even acknowledge our existence and they claim to be our new masters. So why should anyone else care?"
Gadreel taps his pipe distractedly.
Gadreel: "You three have been standing this whole time. I probably look very rude sitting here while you strain yourselves. You might want to find chairs?"
Ameryl: "Trying to avoid the question?"
Gadreel: "Not at all! I'm not sure what the question is, however."
Ameryl: "Who would be interested in the goings-on here?"
Gadreel: "Are you not interested in the goings-on here? You are quite the information gatherer yourself. I am certainly interested. Intrigue is most, dare I say, intriguing?"
Ameryl: "Oh wow. That was dreadful. And also not enough to distract me. Who do you work for?"
Gadreel: "Not sure I work for anybody..."
Ameryl: "Who do you serve?"
Gadreel: "I am no servant."
Ameryl: "Who are you spying for?"
Gadreel: "Am I a spy? I thought I told you I was just joking about that?"
Suzanna de Myste: "Mr Gadreel, you are a nuisance."
Marianne de Myste: "If it's acceptable for people to know you're a spy, then why wouldn't you tell us who you're spying for?"
Gadreel: "Aside from the fun of the chase? Maybe you should just try to find out?"
Ameryl: "Frankly, I doubt it would take long. Not a lot of people are so interested in the High Empire that they'd spy on an unimportant vacuum like this city."
The two girls look offended again but this time Ameryl has lost sight of the world around her.
Ameryl: "They'd all be spying somewhere more significant, like a political hub or a military installation. Just going to watch the Interdimensional Arena battles would get you more information on the High Empire than Ampersand. So you must be from a major power that knows a lot about the High Empire, so much so that intrigue on the lowest levels is useful..."
Gadreel: "Well, well. You know your High Empire well."
Ameryl: "I have studied."
Gadreel: "Miss Ameryl. I feel I have done you a disservice!"
Suzanna de Myste: "Finally! You'll apologise for your mean behaviour?"
Gadreel: "I shall! I didn't do my studies well enough! I know nothing about you and now I feel I should. You're obviously more than just a wine-growing toff."
Suzanna de Myste: "Honestly."
Gadreel: "I sense something... something personal."
He slowly stands, stretching himself out to tower over the three women.
Gadreel: "Playing with these clueless nobles has made me rusty."
Marianne de Myste: "Rusty at spying?"
Gadreel: "No! I don't spy!"
Marianne de Myste: "You don't, you do, you don't, you do. This gets old, you know?"
Gadreel: "Admit nothing!"
He then points a knowing finger at her.
Gadreel: "And admit everything. Nobody will every know the truth and yet they do know the truth. They just don't know which truth is the truth!"
Suzanna de Myste: "...What?"
Gadreel: "Nevermind, young Miss de Myste. I feel your life has a higher calling than these kind of shenanigans."
Suzanna de Myste: "I daresay I agree with you this time!"
Marianne de Myste: "Like finger-painting..."
Suzanna de Myste: "Marianne! Don't insult me like that!"
Marianne is taken aback that her sister even recognised she was being insulted.
Suzanna de Myste: "You know I would never abide being so dirty!"
Gadreel: "I think I should leave for the evening. I am an early sleeper."
Ameryl: "Or a late night watcher."
Gadreel: "I promise not to peep on you."
Suzanna de Myste: "Mr Gadreel! That's much too far! Who would even consider such a thing!?"
Gadreel: "Only the most depraved monsters in the universe, young Miss de Myste. That is why I assure you, I am not of such an ilk. Even if I am a watcher, I am not a peeper."
Ameryl thinks of one certain peeping tom and cannot think of her as a monster. Depraved though... probably.
Suzanna de Myste: "Well. Fine. But I expect you can now be upgraded from watcher to talker, at least."
Gadreel gives her what appears to be a genuine smile.
Gadreel: "That's very kind of you. But I not called the watcher by title. I am a grigori. It is what I am, not what I do."
Before that statement can be puzzled upon there's a scream from the next room.
Marianne de Myste: "It sounds like Mrs Blunderbuss has found someone wearing pink and red on the same outfit again."
Ameryl can't dismiss the scream as the over reaction of a pretentious clown, however. It was a scream of genuine fright.
Ameryl: "Quickly, everyone to the rear exit!"
Nobody moves. Running scared would be very unseemly and the idea that something terrible might happen to them is inconceivable. They haven't had a real trial in their entire lives beyond choosing which tea cozy matches their crockery best.
Ameryl: "Please! There's something hap--"
The door to the next room crashes open, smashed from its hinges, and a series of rough-looking men and women pile into the room. One of them, who appears to be a literal skeleton wearing pirate garb, comes in dragging a waiter by his dicky-bow.
Kaptin Kwanza: "Alright, buckos! This is a stick up!"
The rich nobles all look cluelessly. At least one of them has the sense to, albeit with uncertainty, put his hands up. The skeleton captain tosses the waiter to the floor and waggles a very large hand cannon at the crowd.
Kaptin Kwanza: "A stick up! It means I'm robbing you! Give us all ya stuff or I'll blow a hold through your chest. And that'll really mess up these nice suits and dresses yous are all wearing, wouldn't it?"
Ameryl: "Well, this is unexpected..."
Marianne de Myste: "How exciting! I hope Mrs Blunderbuss gets shot. How ironic would that be?"