I’ve actually had at least the kernel of the ideas for the characters Maria-Theresa Dirigible and Francis Crossword since basically the beginning of Realmgard, but I haven’t found the opportunity to fit them into a real story.
Essentially, they both owe their existence to some fairly oblique historical jokes.
A dirigible is an airship, so basically, a blimp. The joke here is that “zeppelin” is also a for blimp, derived from the name of Graf (i.e. the German equivalent of Count) Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Hence, the joke is that she’s named for a different kind of blimp.
And Sir Francis Crossword is named in honour of — though really only tangentially similiar to — Sir Francis Bacon, an Elizabethan polymath known for his various scientific treatises and ultimately catching a fatal case of pneumonia while stuffing a chicken with snow as essentially an experiment in refrigeration. Basically, the joke with him is that Realmgard Crossword puzzles are essentially sudokus and are name after a person.
Incidentally, I’ve also heard was the thought process behind the fatal chicken-stuffing was less “cold can be used to preserve things” and more a weird Alchemical logical process of “snow looks like salt, salt is used to preserve things, similar things have similar properties, therefore snow is like salt, therefore snow can preserve things.”
But I have no idea if that’s actually true.
I’ve also had the kernel of the idea for the basis of this scene for a while — basically, I’m thinking Francis leads either a scientific or archaeological expedition and hires the Lyte Brigade plus Kat as bodyguards.
“There, there, Katherine,” Amara says, gently rubbing Kat’s back as she bends over the gunwale in the throes of seasickness. “You’re alright.”
“I hate the ocean,” Kat groans, slumping back against the gunwale.
Annie cups up from below deck and hurries over to Kat with a mug.
“Here, Kat,” she says, holding up a mug for Kat. “We made you some stomach medicine.”
Kat groans again. “You couldn’t be a little faster?” she asks.
“I couldn’t find the ginger,” Annie says timidly.
“No,” Kat says. “It’s okay. Thanks, Annie.”
“Amara,” Kat asks weakly. “Can I put my head on your shoulder?”
“Of course, Katherine,” Amara says, sitting down beside Kat.
“What’s their story?” Kat asks, looking across the deck.
“That’s Maria-Theresa, the Countess Dirigible,” Amara explains. “She’s funding the University’s expedition to the island. That man with her is Sir Francis Crossword.”
“Like the Crossword Puzzle guy?” Kat asks.
“The very same,” Amara answers. “He’s one of Realmgard’s most brilliant minds and a prolific inventor. And, of course, quite famous as he Countess’ beau. Oh, the gossip that’s always whirling around them!”
Meanwhile, across the ship’s deck, gazing out at the sunset, Maria-Theresa, the Countess Dirigible stands beside Sir Francis Crossword.”
“This is quite exciting, isn’t it, my dear Francis?” Maria-Theresa asks. “I’ve never been on expedition before. But then, I am funding the whole affair. It’s only right and proper that I’m here to oversee this business and ensure I get the most out of my investment.”
She grins at him and loops her arm around his.
“And I must say, the whole voyage is proving rather, dare I say, romantic?” she muses hopefully. “The ocean air, that beautiful sunset. The prospect of two sweethearts like us faring off into the unknown.”
He doesn’t answer.
“Are you listening, Francis?” she asks.
She scowls and lightly jabs him in the ribs with her parasol.
“I’m sorry,” Francis mutters, rubbing his jabbed ribs. “I was thinking over the logistics of of a better mousetrap. If, for example, we were to drop a tiny net on the mouse —”
He falters as he sees the look on her face.
“Ahem,” he say bashfully. “You were saying?”
“I was saying how romantic this whole affair was seeming,” she says with a pout. “But now you’ve gone and spurned me.”
“I could never spurn you,” he protests. “Surely not you, most supremely, sublimely beautiful and lovely flower of all womanhood.”
“Keep going,” Maria-Theresa says. “You’ve almost made amends.”
“My truest and dearest love.”
“Oh, Francis,” Maria-Theresa says. “I can never stay mad at you. And good thing, too. No other woman on Terrace could put up with you. I hope you realise just how lucky you are to have me.”
“Of course, my dear.”
Maria-Theresa throws her arms around Francis and pulls him close into a tight embrace.
“Gross,” Kat mutters from the other side of the deck.
Silhouetted by the sunset, they embrace for a long, silent moment.
“Francis,” Maria-Theresa says. “Are you still thinking about better mousetraps?”
Pretty much, all of Porthaven’s high society waits with bated breath for Sir Francis Crossword to put a ring on it. Maria-Theresa most of all…
Incidentally, this is the first part of Part 4 (the last full week, plus the remaining days of March) of my March 2023 Daily Writing.
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