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Also: the story is COMPLETE. Finished. Epilogued. Done. That's never happened before, so I feel even more accomplished. So here you go, the last chapters and the epilogue of The Magical Adventures of Ladies and Gentlemen:

Chapters One and Two
Chapters Three and Four
Chapters Five and Six
Chapters Seven and Eight
Chapters Nine and Ten
Chapters Eleven and Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen


Chapter Eighteen – Who Wants Cake? (They All Do. They All Want Cake.)



When Martha woke up, she was lying on her back on the beach, and her stomach hurt. The sun was glaring in her eyes, and she blinked rapidly. It took her a moment to remember the terrible events that had taken place under the sea, and that she had been stabbed straight through the stomach by Pierre Noir.

Panicking briefly, she felt around for a gaping hole in her stomach, but found none; the wound had apparently been bandaged. She breathed a sigh of relief, and then tried to sit up. She winced; maybe she was not as healed as she had thought.

“Oh, Martha, what are you doing? Don’t move around, you’ve been very badly hurt, you know!” It was the voice of her brother. He came running up to her, and knelt down beside her. “How are you feeling? Are you all right? We got you out as soon as you were wounded.”

“I’m fine, I think,” Martha replied, rubbing her eyes, and then picking a strand of seaweed out of her hair. “But how did I survive? I should have been dead.”

“We really aren’t sure,” Frederick admitted. “We think it was the salt water that did it. Salt water is very healthy.”

“Hmm,” said Martha. She glanced off down the beach. Calpurnia was still blindfolded, and was sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest, looking forlorn. Adam was sitting beside her, talking about something. Jane was bent over Napoleon Bonaparte, attempting to re-attach his eyebrows, and Mr. Sevenson was standing beside them, supervising the proceedings.

“She’s been trying to put his eyebrows back on for the past hour,” Frederick explained. “She is sewing them on. It is slow going, but it seems to be working out well so far. Joss offered to stick them back on by magic, but I don’t think that the Emperor much trusts Joss with fine details like that – you know, the giant sea scorpion.”

“The was an honest mistake,” Martha said defensively. “He was working under a lot of stress. But Frederick, where is Pierre Noir? Don’t tell me he escaped?”

“No,” said Frederick, and grinned widely. “His own whale turned on him, and swallowed him whole. I should think that he is being digested as we speak.”

Martha was so relieved, that she sprawled back on the sand, and stared up at the sky, not caring about anything else her brother had to say. Finally, their many enemies had been defeated. Now all they had to do was find a new location for the capital of Valmell, since Bogbury has burned to the ground, and see Frederick rightfully installed as King.

“We are all going back to the estate in the country to work things out,” Frederick said, in response to her unspoken thoughts. “I have sent a letter ahead by carrier pigeon to inform the servants of our imminent arrival. Bonaparte and Joss mean to stay only one night, as Bonaparte feels that he cannot neglect his own Empire much longer, and Joss has to see to things in Ireland.”

“Oh,” said Martha, glancing back at the group gathered farther down the beach. Jane was stepping back to observe her work. Bonaparte said something, and she bent forward again to make some sort of adjustement. Mr. Sevenson was speaking, and it looked as though he were criticising Bonaparte for something.

“Yes,” said Frederick, “so everything has worked out in the end, Martha. It is such a relief! It is only a shame that so many had to die. Poor Calpurnia is quite distraught. I have never seen anything like it.”

Martha felt a twinge of pity for the other girl. Calpurnia may be silly, but she loved her brother. She could not imagine what it would be like to have Frederick killed by some madman, or madwoman, as may have been the case.

Suddenly, there was a shout, and a person appeared at the top of the bank, coming down onto the beach. They were waving, and shouting something.

“I don’t believe it!” said Frederick, standing and staring toward the approaching figure. “It’s Bamber!”

Bamber was running toward his sister, and Frederick ran after him. Reluctantly, Martha got to her feet, and followed them at a slower pace. She was still injured, after all, and she did not want to push her luck. Anyway, she was rather glad not to have to be in the midst of the tearful reunion that followed.

She arrived at the group just in time to hear Bamber’s amazing story of survival.

“I was only pretending to be dead!” he said gleefully. “And it worked, it actually fooled him! Of course, it fooled the rest of you as well, and I am rather sorry for that, as I seem to have caused you a good deal of worry. But as you can see, I am quite alive, so there is no need to fret!”

“Marvelous,” said Martha, but she could not help feeling happy. Calpurnia was clearly overjoyed, and Bamber wasn’t so bad, really, he was just a bit of a dolt.

“There!” said Jane, and stood back to admire her work. Napoleon Bonaparte’s eyebrows were firmly re-attached to his forehead. In fact, they were so well re-attached, that there was no sign that they had ever been stolen.

Jane handed Bonaparte a small mirror, and waited anxiously. Bonaparte stared into it, and began to weep... in joy.

They only loitered on the beach for a few more minutes. Then, as a group, they began to walk back to the waiting steamboat. Martha and Mr. Sevenson lagged a bit behind the others.

“Thank you for creating that distraction,” Martha said, because she felt like she ought to say something. “It was, er, very good.”

“It was my pleasure,” he said awkwardly, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Though it did result in you getting stabbed by Pierre Noir, which I cannot be pleased about.”

Martha shrugged. “It didn’t cause me any lasting damage; I feel all right now. And Pierre Noir is in the stomach of a whale, and Bonaparte has his eyebrows back, so it all worked out in the end.”

They all got aboard the steamship, and settled in for the long journey back to the Brights’ estate in the countryside. It would take about three hours to go down the coast, and then up the river into the interior of Valmell, but luckily she was not making the trip with only Adam and Calpurnia for company this time.

“Well,” said Frederick, as they sailed off into the sunset, “we have had an interesting couple of weeks.”

“We certainly have,” Martha agreed. “And are you ready to rule Valmell?”

“Sure,” said Frederick, “how hard can it be?”


~


That night, Martha slept well for the first time in what seemed like ages. There was no Pierre Noir, no Finnegan O’Fear, no Clandestine Council, no zombies to worry her and plague her with nightmares. For once, she did not have to worry about whether she would live through the night. She supposed that something random and deadly could still afflict her, but she was too tired to prepare for such an unlikely event.

When she woke up the next morning and went downstairs, she found that her brother had been involved in tedious negotiations for hours already. He managed to clear Bamber out of the room, and then regarded her with a weary expression.

“Well, I have managed to appease the Macalbys,” he said, when she had sat down across the table from him. “Bamber is going to rule Britain.”

Martha thought that this was a decent plan. After all, he would probably do the least damage in a country completely devoid of human life. She said as much to Frederick.

Frederick only shook his head. “It won’t be completely devoid of human life for long,” he replied, “they are developing a rather enthusiastic immigration campaign. I have no doubt the island will fill up again soon enough.”

“So Bamber and Calpurnia are going off to England, then.” Martha sighed. “I wish them well, I suppose.”

“And Adam,” Frederick added.

“No – not really?” Martha said, disbelieving.

Frederick nodded. “Apparently he wants to marry Calpurnia. Who knew? Something about – actually, I have no idea, he was explaining it all to me, but I confess, I wasn’t particularly listening. I was looking out the window at some kind of bird, and no matter how hard I looked, I could not make out the species. I thought it was a cardinal at first, but it could have been a robin. That reminds me, have you ever heard the joke about the Pope?”

“Er,” said Martha.

“Oh, anyway,” said Frederick, seeming to realise that he had wandered off topic, “yes, so Adam is going off to marry Calpurnia, God only knows why, but who am I to try to understand the mysteries of love? Or... something.” He looked bemused, and Martha empathised.

“What about our own country?” she said, keen to change the topic. “Have you decided where to put the capital, or how to go about your coronation, or – “

He shook his head, cutting her off, and looked a bit ill. “I haven’t decided on any of that yet,” he admitted. “I am finding it a bit difficult to think about all at once, to be honest. The servants came to see me one by one this morning, and each of them had a different suggestion. On that note, have you ever noticed that we have extremely impudent servants? I should have them all sacked, but I won’t, because they are all lovely people, really.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” said Martha.

Frederick waved his hand dismissively, and Martha thought that he was probably practicing for when he was King. “Anyway,” he said, “now that the Clandestine Council is gone, it is safe for anyone who wants to practice magic to do so, so I thought we would establish some sort of academy for the study of that.”

“That was something that Jane always wanted to do,” Martha pointed out.

“Yes,” said Frederick, “so I want you to go and find her and ask her about it. I would ask her myself, but I am tired of talking to people, and I want to eat breakfast. Come back later and tell me what she says.”

Martha was more than happy to do this, so she rose and exited the room. She wandered the corridors of the hourse for some time, searching for her cousin. Finally, she came upon her coming down the main flight of stairs. She was dragging a suitcase behind her, as though she were going somewhere.

“Oh, Jane, I am glad I found you at last,” said Martha, stopping her. “I was just talking to Frederick, and he was saying something about establishing an academy for learning magic in Valmell. He wanted to know if you wanted the job, I suppose.”

Jane looked surprised, and then embarrassed. “Oh,” she said, “that is very nice of him, but I really can’t. I’m leaving, you see. I’m going to France.”

Martha blinked at her.

“Yes,” Jane continued, “Napoleon Bonaparte was so grateful for the service I did him in re-attaching his eyebrows, that he proposed marriage. He also said I seemed young and fertile, which I thought was rather thoughtful; so naturally I accepted.”

“Jane, you madwoman!” Martha exclaimed, quite taken aback. “You really mean to go off and marry Napoleon Bonaparte? And rule France? You want to be an Empress? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

Jane looked rankled. “No, I haven’t,” she said, “and just because you wouldn’t marry Napoleon Bonaparte doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. Really, he isn’t so bad. He tells very funny jokes. Did you ever hear the one about the Pope and the cardinal?”

But Martha was hardly listening, she was so shocked by all of this sudden news. Adam was going off to England with Calpurnia, and now Jane was going off to marry Napoleon Bonaparte and become Empress of the French, just because she had sewn a pair of eyebrows back on! It was all too absurd.

“And you’re really leaving now?” Martha managed at last.

“Yes,” said Jane, “we have to go. Napoleon’s armies seem to be growing restless. Apparently they have taken up badminton, and he is sure that that will lead to nothing good.”

“Well, if you must,” said Martha, trying to smile and failing miserably. “Come back and visit sometime. Come back for Frederick’s coronation.”

“I dare say I will,” said Jane, “and with all these weddings, we will see each other often. I’m sure you will find someone else to found an academy for studying magic. Anyway, I am running late. Goodbye!”

“Au revoir, then,” said Martha sulkily, and after Jane had hurried out the door, she stalked back up to her bedroom, slammed the door behind her, and paced around in an agitated manner for three hours straight.


Chapter Nineteen – This Chapter is Dedicated to the Memory of Sir Rupert and his Trusty Valet Mr. Stratford, May They Rest in Peace, and be Grateful That They Are Not Subject to the Horrors of the Final Chapters



Martha had spent so much time locked up in her room, pacing around in confusion, that she had missed the departure of Adam, Bamber, and Calpurnia. With Jane and Napoleon Bonaparte long gone as well, the house felt rather empty.

She met Frederick, walking through the garden at the back of the house. He still looked slightly bemused, but greeted her with a smile.

“Jane and Napoleon Bonaparte – can you believe it?” were his first words to her when she had caught up with him.

She rolled her eyes. “No, I can’t,” she replied, “but Jane has made her decision. The only one who could stop her would be Adam, but apparently he has lost his mind as well. Hopefully they will be happy.” Her voice sounded doubtful, even to her own ears.

“Well, the good thing is that we will have plenty of weddings to attend, and weddings are always fun,” said Frederick, trying to put a cheerful spin on the matter. “Especially if you marry Mr. Sevenson.”

“Frederick!” Martha exclaimed.

“What?” he said, unperturbed. “Who else are you going to pair off with? You and Joss would make a capital pair, you know. Your children would be the most dangerous children in the world.”

“And you think that is a good thing?” said Martha, shaking her head.

“Joss is leaving in less than an hour, to go back to Ireland,” Frederick continued, “but he is not going to stay there for long. Depend upon it, before he leaves tonight, he’ll find you out and ask you to marry him. I know he will.”

“Certainly,” said Martha, “you will probably lock us in a cellar together or something, so there is no avoiding it.”

Frederick looked pleased at this idea. “Of course, now you will be expecting that,” he mused.

Martha could not let him continued like this. “Who are you going to pair off with, then?” she asked. “You cannot be the only one left single, it is completely unfair. We must end with everyone married to somebody else. Why don’t you marry Bamber?” she suggested sarcastically, “And consolidate an Empire.”

Frederick made a face, and thankfully said no more about marriages.

Frederick decided to turn back toward the house, so Martha walked on alone, and was left to contemplate the marriage state. She wondered whether she would really like to be married. After all, she was only seventeen; on the other hand, every other seventeen-year-old she knew seemed to be rushing off into holy matrimony, so she supposed that it was quite the thing to do. After all, if Calpurnia could do it, anyone could.


~


She came across Mr. Sevenson kicking pinecones into a large gorge. When he noticed her, he smiled and said, “Would you care to join me, Miss Bright?”

“Of course,” she replied.

They stood kicking pinecones in silence for some time, before either of them spoke again.

“We have had many amazing adventures during these past weeks,” Mr. Sevenson remarked.

“We certainly have,” Martha agreed.

They were silent again for a minute or two.

“I am not sure which was the most absurd,” Mr. Sevenson admitted. “I can scarcely remember everything that happened. I am sure that if this whole insane narrative were written out, no one would be able to follow it.”

“I quite agree,” said Martha. “I forget how it even began. I had come back to Valmell from England, and then suddenly Pierre Noir was stalking me, the Clandestine Council was trying to kill me, and Finnegan O’Fear was wreaking havoc.”

“Honestly,” said Mr. Sevenson, “I would hazard a guess that more has happened to us in three weeks than happens to most people in a month. It is a shame that so many people had to die, of course, though I cannot really mourn for my parents, or Pierre Noir. But running about all over Europe and the Middle East was very tiring. I would not wish to do it again.”

“Still,” said Martha, “it was worthwhile, for we did manage to defeat all of our enemies, and even Bamber and Calpurnia were rewarded in the end. Of course, Bogbury did burn to the ground, so now we have no seat of power... but I suppose that will all be remedied soon enough.”

“Your brother will work it all out,” Mr. Sevenson said with confidence. “He is a capable man, though I am glad that it is him and not me. I was surprised to hear that your cousin planned to marry Napoleon Bonaparte,” he said, changing the subject. “They seemed an unlikely pair.”

“Oh, yes, very,” said Martha, shaking her head, “especially when you consider what his first wife was like, though he did not get along with her very well, and now that I think of it, I suppose that explains a lot.” Martha contemplated this in silence.


~


Meanwhile, back in the house, Frederick was spying on these proceedings through a telescope, but he was not alone; with him in the room were the ghosts of Mr. Blackstone, Sir Rupert, and his trusty valet Mr. Stratford.

“Well? What’s going on?” the ghost of Mr. Blackstone asked impatiently.

Frederick glanced back at them, annoyed. “They are kicking pinecones into a gorge and talking,” he stated.

“Oooooh,” said the ghost of Mr. Stratford.

“Why are you people – ghosts – even here?” Frederick demanded. “It is very disconcerting, you know, to be spying through a telescope at your younger sister and your best friend, and trying to see if they are pledging their undying love for one another, and all the while knowing that there are ghosts floating around behind you.”

“We are not floating,” said Sir Rupert, sounding offended. “We’re just standing here. What do you propose we do instead?”

“Go into the light?” Frederick suggested.

Sir Rupert laughed dryly.

“We can’t do that yet,” Mr. Blackstone explained. “We can’t go to our final resting place until we see how it all turns out! I did think about sticking around after the fact, you know, since I was denied my dearest wish of killing Pierre Noir, but in the end, I decided that it was really not worth it. The world of the living is rather dull.”

“Well, I occupy the world of the living, and lately I have found it plenty exciting enough, thank you very much,” Frederick snapped. “In fact, it was so exciting, that it lead to your deaths, if I recall correctly. Unless my memory betrays me, and you all died of old age?”

“Yes, yes, you’re very funny,” the ghost of Mr. Blackstone said, rolling its transparent eyes. “Now get back to that telescope, Mr. Bright.”

“It’s ‘your majesty’ now,” said Frederick, glaring at the ghost of his friend, “and the last time I checked, I didn’t take orders from dead people.”

“Now, see here,” said Sir Rupert, “just because you are King, does not mean you can get all high and mighty.”

Frederick groaned. “What did I do to deserve this?”

“Well, look on the bright side,” the ghost of Mr. Stratford shrugged, “it could be worse – at least we are not zombies.”

“Yes, that is true,” said Frederick, turning back to the telescope, but hesitating, and glancing back at Mr. Stratford and Sir Rupert. “Did either of you ever have wives?” he asked.

“No,” said Sir Rupert, “why do you ask?”

“Just wondering,” said Frederick.


~


“My brother is spying on us through a telescope,” Martha pointed out some minutes later.

“Yes, I had noticed about ten minutes ago, but I did not want to be impolite,” Mr. Sevenson replied. “I suppose he wants to make sure that I ask you to marry me before I leave tonight.”

“Did you tell him you were going to?” Martha inquired.

“I might have implied something of the sort,” said Mr. Sevenson vaguely.

“Oh?” said Martha.

“Well, everyone else is getting married, so it only follows that we ought to as well,” he said reasonably.

“That seems logical to me,” Martha replied. “After all, Adam is marrying Calpurnia, and Jane is marrying Napoleon Bonaparte – Mr. Sevenson, you and I simply have to get married, if only to offset the other utterly insensible matches.”

“Well, exactly,” said Mr. Sevenson, sounding relieved, “we have to do our part to help balance out the insanity. Anyway, I have to go back to Ireland directly, to make sure that all of my siblings are alive and accounted for, and to try and arrange some sort of accommidation for them; but after that, I will return, and we can get married. We can live wherever your brother decides to hold court, I suppose.”

“You don’t want to live in Ireland?” Martha asked.

“No, no,” said Mr. Sevenson, “Ireland is a terrible place. Potatoes everywhere. Strange men turning up in crates. I would much rather stay in Valmell, even if it is rather prone to outbreaks of zombies and other shannanigans.”

“Well then, I suppose it is all settled,” said Martha, feeling accomplished.

“Yes,” said Mr. Sevenson.

And then he pulled her to him in a passionate embrace!

Or something. Isn’t that usually how these stories end?

THE END but not really, because there is an epilogue.


EPILOGUE – Yeah, of course there’s an epilogue, what kind of a shoddy story did you think this was?



It was another bleak January morning. Everything seemed to be enveloped in a colourless shroud. The sun somehow negotiated its way over the horizon, and hung limply in the sky, giving off an indistinct, hazy glow, hardly enough to brighten anything.

Martha woke up. She put a pillow over her head and went back to sleep again.

A few minutes later, she was awoken by the sound of an explosion nearby; the whole building rattled. She groaned, and rolled out of bed, landing on the floor. She blinked up at the ceiling, which was still dark. She glanced at the clock on the wall: it was a quarter past seven in the morning. Far too early to be awake. Far too early for explosions.

She supposed that she would have to investigate, if only to ascertain that nobody she cared about had been caught in the blast. She dressed as hastily as the numbness in her fingers allowed, and then washed her face. The icy cold water woke her up sufficiently.

She sat impatiently while her maid combed and twisted her hair.

“Did you hear that explosion?” she asked her at last.

“I certainly did, ma’am, and I felt it too,” the maid replied. “I hope that it was not too serious. There will be no one left to practice magic, at this rate, if they continued to blow themselves up. Why, this is the third explosion this week!”

“Don’t I know it,” Martha muttered. When the maid was at last finished with her hair, Martha jumped up, and hurried out into the corridors, to try to locate her brother.

She found him in the breakfast room, drinking hot chocolate. There were dark circles under his eyes. On his head, he was wearing a smaller replica of the Crown of Righteousness.

“I hope you have the real thing locked securely away,” Martha commented, as she sat down across from him, and leaned forward to glance at the newspaper. “It would be very embarrassing if we lost it again, you know.”

“Not to worry,” said Frederick, stifling a yawn, “it is being guarded by nine giant sea scorpions in a secret location. A true secret location this time, not a tree that everyone in Valmell and perhaps the rest of Europe knows the location of.”

“Well, good,” said Martha. “I came to see if you were still alive, because I heard that explosion, but apparently you are. It must have been close, because the entire building shook. What happened?”

“Ugh,” said Frederick, “just some layabouts trying out their newfound magical ability again. Third time this week. Most inconvenient. The repairs are getting pricey. At this rate, half of New Bogbury will be destroy within the month, and we only just finished building it.”

“It seems that ever since the Clandestine Council was destroyed, every person, young or old, with even an ounce of magical ability, wants to try to impress their fellows, and ends up blowing themselves up, or setting fire to their house, or causing all the horses in the city to turn into mice,” Martha complained. “I am not proposing that we go back to a model of the Clandestine Council, but there has to be some restrictions placed on these people, Frederick, or else the whole country is going to spiral out of control, and with Napoleon Bonaparte flexing his imperial muscles again...”

“I know, I know,” said Frederick, massaging his temples. “Why do you think I haven’t slept in a week? I’ve been trying to think, but it’s hard!” He frowned. “Speaking of our dear friend Napoleon Bonaparte, Jane is coming to visit.”

Martha did not bother to hide her surprise. “Really? When?” she asked.

“She should be arriving within minutes, I believe,” Frederick replied, checking his pocket watch. “I really don’t want to talk to her, so I was hoping that you would do the honours.”

“Why do I always have to do your dirty work?” Martha grumbled, but she stood up, and went out to wait to receive her cousin, now the Empress of France, in the drawing room.

The drawing room was cold. The servants were just getting the fire lit in the grate when Martha arrived. They apologised profusely, but Martha waved them away. She had picked this room specifically because it was uncomfortable.

It was not that she disliked her cousin. Of course, they had naturally grown apart since their respective marriages, but even though Martha often wondered at Jane’s sanity, she still felt friendship toward her. It was just that, with France mobilising to invade Britain, seen as a stepping stone by many to invading Valmell, her visits had grown increasingly awkward.

A servant appeared at the door to announce the Empress of France. Jane entered, looking rather pink, either from the cold or from embarrassment, and Martha went to her and shook her hand. Then, in a fit of remorse, she offered her the seat closest to the fire.

Jane accepted this kindness thankfully, and sat down, rubbing her hands together, and then blowing on them. “You have no idea how cold it is out there,” she commented, glancing around the room. “Well, New Bogbury seems to be coming along well, although it all still smells a bit like fresh paint. Things aren’t still exploding, are they?”

“Unfortunately, they are,” said Martha. “In fact, there was a blast just before you arrived this morning. I am not sure what the extent of the damage was, but Frederick is probably looking into it now – that is why he isn’t here. He sends his apologies. He is so busy, you know.” She attempted a smile.

“Oh – yes – of course,” said Jane, wringing her hands. “And where is Mr. Sevenson?”

“Gone back to Ireland to see about his siblings again,” Martha replied.

“Are they causing him much trouble?”

“Oh, no! Not much,” said Martha. “The youngest ones are staying with some distant aunt, and the older ones are in school – I think his oldest sisters are already married – to men, I mean, not to each other. Every letter we receive implies that they are all getting along fine, but he is very paranoid, you know. But really, who could blame him? All of his older brothers died, as did Katie, and they still haven’t found Sarah – there was a sighting of her riding a reindeer toward northern Lapland around Christmastime, but we haven’t heard anything of her since.”

“How terrible,” said Jane.

“Yes, so unfortunately you just missed him, because he is due back here tomorrow,” said Martha, examining her fingernails.

“I was wondering,” said Jane, “who rules Ireland?”

“Nobody knows for sure,” Martha replied.

“Oh.”

“Well...” Martha trailed off, desperately searching around for something to talk about. “Have you seen your brother lately?”

“Er, no,” said Jane, colouring slightly, “though he does write.”

“I suppose you wouldn’t see him, would you? Since your husband is about to invade Britain, and Adam lives there with Calpurnia.” Martha raised her eyebrows. “It isn’t very nice, you know, Jane.”

Jane shrugged, and looked uncomfortable. “I know,” she said, “I have tried to talk him out of it, but he is obstinate. And you know, once he gets an idea into his head, there is no stopping him. He is dead set on invading Britain.”

“We will certainly have to declare war on France if he does,” Martha pointed out.

“I know,” Jane sighed. “It is all so tedious.”

“Try to talk him out of it.”

“I’m working on it,” Jane insisted, “but it is hard going. I’ve already convinced him to not invade Russia, and that was difficult enough.”

“Well,” said Martha, “you know that Britain has a secret weapon. Your armies would not stand a chance against it. Tell your husband that.”

Jane wrinkled her forehead. “What secret weapon, Martha?” she asked.

Martha smiled. “If you can’t remember, then I’m not telling you.”

“Fine,” said Jane. She got to her feet. She looked out of sorts.

“Are you leaving already?” said Martha, standing as well, but secretly relieved. The conversation had turned out to be even more awkward than she had anticipated.

“Yes, I must,” said Jane, looking agitated, “I really must be going. Many things to do – must get back to France before dinner time – thank you for your kind hospitality.”

“I will walk you to your carriage,” Martha replied.

The two cousins treaded through the corridors in silence, until they came out into the frozen courtyard. It was so cold, that frost had began to gather on Jane’s carriage. A servant handed her in, and then Jane leaned out to speak to Martha.

“Well, Martha, I just wanted to say that – “

She was interrupted by a shot whistling through the air. It struck the servant who had handed Jane into the carriage in the head, and he dropped to the ground dead. Jane screamed, and Martha immediately spun around, searching the dark corners and roof tops surrounding her. She half expected to see Pierre Noir slinking away, or running toward them, as it were, before she remembered that he was dead.

“Assassins!” Jane exclaimed.

“Guards!” Martha yelled.

Before the guards could mobilise, a graceful figure had swept into the courtyard, and was pointing a pistol again at Jane. Jane ducked into the carriage and tried to cover her head.

“Who in God’s name do you think you are?” Martha asked the cloaked figure angrily. She may not be getting along very well with her cousin lately, but she certainly did not want to see her shot to death.

The cloaked figure pulled back its hood, and revealed itself to be none other than Josephine Bonaparte.

“What is the meaning of this?” Martha demanded. “Is this some kind of revenge? You never even liked your husband!”

“No,” said Josephine, “but I very much liked being Empress of France, and now this stupid little girl has taken all of my power and riches from me. And for that, she must die.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little severe?” said Martha. She wished that Josephine would just go away. The courtyard was frigid, and she wanted to go back inside where it was at least relatively warm. She wondered vaguely if her brother had saved any hot chocolate for her.

“No,” said Josephine again, “because I have been driven insane by rage!” And she began to shoot repeatedly at the carriage that Jane was in.

“STOP IT!” Martha shouted, jumping at her. She knocked her to the ground, and wrestled the pistol out of her grip. She threw it across the courtyard; it slid on a patch of ice, and was picked up by Frederick, who had come out to see what all the commotion was about.

“Josephine Bonaparte?” said Frederick, startled. “What is she doing here?”

“She is trying to kill Jane!” Martha exclaimed, punching her in the nose for good measure. “She shot at the carriage at least sixty times! Jane! Jane, are you all right?”

“I am fine, really,” came a weak voice from somewhere inside the carriage, and Jane peaked out the window. Her spectacles were slightly askew, but otherwise she seemed whole and well.

“Oh, thank God,” said Martha, trying to hold down a struggling Josephine Bonaparte. “Er, could somebody help me with this?”

Two guards appeared, carrying a large barrel. They lifted Josephine Bonaparte into it, ignoring her protests, set the lid on, and nailed it shut. Then they took it to the highest hill in the city and, with much fanfare, rolled it down. It gathered so much speed that it rolled for three miles, and finally sped straight into the ocean.

“Bonaparte will be pleased,” said Jane over the sound of the applause, adjusting her scarf. “Martha, you saved my life. How can I ever thank you?” Jane turned to her, looking sincere.

Martha could think of a few things, such as convincing Bonaparte to stop invading important countries, but she knew that Jane was trying her best. She sighed. “You don’t have to thank me,” she said, “what else was I going to do? Let you get shot by a madwoman? No indeed.”

“Still...” said Jane. She trailed off. Frederick was walking toward them, holding something in his hand.

“Er, Jane,” said Frederick, holding out a folded piece of paper. “I drew this. I want you to give it to your husband. I thought it might remind him of, er, happier times.” He glanced down at her anxiously.

“Um, thank you,” said Jane, taking the piece of folded up paper and putting it in her pocket. “I will show it to him directly.” Jane climbed back into the carriage, and waved to them as she was driven off toward the direction of the docks, where a boat was waiting to carry her back to France.

“I didn’t know that you could draw, Frederick,” said Martha, as they walked back toward the palace.

“I can’t,” Frederick admitted, “but I am so bad at this diplomacy nonsense. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I don’t expect it will work, but I had to try something.” He looked desperate.

“Oh, don’t worry so much.” Martha sighed. “Even if Bonaparte does invade, after Finnegan O’Fear, he ought to be nothing.”

“True,” said Frederick, and he seemed to cheer up a bit as he considered this.


~


Back in France, Jane found her husband bent over a map of Europe, making notations, and moving pieces around. When he noticed Jane, he stepped back, and spread his arms out toward the map triumphantly.

“Well!” he said, “what do you think of this, Jane?”

She walked forward and stared down at the map for a moment. “I am sure it is legible to you,” she said, “but I can’t make it out at all. To me, it looks like you have snakes attacking Austria.”

“Good idea!” he exclaimed, taking out a notepad and scribbling away furiously in it for a moment. “How was your visit?”

“It was all right,” said Jane. “I was shot at by your ex-wife, but we put her in a barrel, and rolled her into the ocean, so I expect that is taken care of.”

“Excellent,” said Bonaparte.

“Er... Frederick, that is, the King of Valmell drew something for you, and he wanted me to give it to you,” Jane went on, taking on the folded piece of paper and handing it to Bonaparte.

He unfolded it, and his eyes swept over it. His expression was unreadable.

“He, er, said it might remind you of happier times,” Jane said, uncertain.

Slowly, Bonaparte grinned. “It’s – it’s beautiful,” he said. “Frederick is right. It does remind me of happier times! How soon we forget... we were all friends, weren’t we? And here I was, all ready to invade their countries? What has got into me?” He slapped himself in the head.

“Well, I have to go and tell the army to stop preparing to invade Britain,” said Bonaparte, shaking his head happily. He set the drawing down on the table, and walked out of the room.

Jane was stupified for a moment. Then, curiously, she picked up the drawing to see what had elicited such a strong reaction from her husband.

In bright red crayon at the top of the paper were the words ‘FRIENDS FOREVER’. There was a shiny yellow sun in the sky, and several stick figures standing beside a roughly drawn tree. Their names were spelt out carefully: Martha, Frederick, Mr. Sevenson, Mr. Blackstone, Sir Rupert, Mr. Stratford, Adam, Bamber, Calpurnia, and Napoleon Bonaparte, among others.

Jane smiled. He had taken care to draw Napoleon with his eyebrows on.

THE END.


Somewhere, far beneath the earth, there was a malevolent laugh...

So now I just want to thank everyone who read this, even if you only read a couple paragraphs and got a chuckle out of it or something. I especially want to give a shout out to gundamkiwi, who was like my biggest fan. XD Also, I want to thank everyone for putting up with all these posts.

That's it! It's over! And it's a relief! University calls to me again.

Date: 2007-11-30 08:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gundamkiwi.livejournal.com
This is like...epic win. The ghosts of Sir Rupert and his trusty valet made me very, very happy, as did...well, everything.

Sorry I'm so inarticulate. I hope my joyful fangirl squee'ing at everything will give you some small idea of how much I love this story. It is very high-pitched and loud, and, I imagine, extremely annoying to anyone within earshot. XD

I'm adding all this to my memories now. <3

Date: 2007-11-30 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gundamkiwi.livejournal.com
Ack! Also, congrats on winning NaNo! :D

Date: 2007-11-30 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandtree.livejournal.com
Thank you! And I'm glad you enjoyed the story so much. I enjoyed writing it. It makes it seem even more worthwhile if people liked reading it as well. :D

Date: 2007-12-01 05:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gundamkiwi.livejournal.com
:D

I didn't mention it at the time because I was just so bowled over by The Awesome, but I particularly liked the undersea duel on top of whales toward the end. It was utterly, completely absurd and yet so, so hilarious. The way everyone just took the completely mad situations you introduced them into as a matter of course was brilliant. ^^

Date: 2007-12-01 05:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandtree.livejournal.com
The epic undersea battle fought on whales was one of the only ideas that I had almost right from the beginning. There were a few other things I had planned, but most of it just developed as I was writing. But I had that whale battle planned from pretty early on, and I was so happy when I was writing it. XD

Date: 2007-11-30 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timkloske.livejournal.com
:D There is so much I could ramble on about, but I'll try and keep this as short as possible.

First off, congratulations, and a job well done! You made it. There aren't enough words to truly express how much I enjoyed reading this. So many lols. It is sooo awesome, and so ... Alison with the setting, characters, and of course trees.

I can't help but wonder if Martha was possibly (loosely) based off of yourself?

Congrats! Thanks! XD

Date: 2007-11-30 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandtree.livejournal.com
Nope, Martha is definitely not based off of myself. I never write characters based on real people (well, you know, aside from Bonaparte), but especially not based on myself. XD

Thanks!

Date: 2007-11-30 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] huinesoron.livejournal.com
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetc.

I think that conveys my amusement well enough.

I am terribly tempted to collect the whole thing in a PDF and add, you know, slightly sketchy pictures with the line they're showing written underneath (like in all those old time books, only I can't think of a single one which actually did it -- oh, I think the Oz series did)... only I can't draw. Now, if you happened to have anyone on your Friends List who /could/ draw, and could come up with that sort of picture...

Date: 2007-12-01 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandtree.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked it! I love your idea about the pictures - I know exactly what kind of pictures you're talking about - and if I had any artistic talent at all, I would draw some, but unfortunately, I am unskilled. If anyone else wants to, they're free to go ahead, though.

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