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Upload 17 June 2012

Extracts from a diary:

by Simon Barber

Amelia, Lady Allworthy (neé Amelia Bourne-Phipps) & her friends
(educated adventuresses all, and warrior priestesses, some)
encounter the world after Songmark Academy -- beginning July 1937.

Storm Birds
by Simon Barber

Sunday July 25th, 1937

Definitely a long day. We were up before dawn in fairish weather to find Sergeant Mackenzie already at the dock, and with him a youngish skunk Constable he introduced as Renee Lafitte. The scarlet-and-blue Mounties uniform does look very dashing, being about the last conspicuous one around. Helen has muttered atavistic things about “redcoats” but admits this time she is on their side. Bright red uniforms have no future with the military, but the Mounties want to be seen from a distance – not unlike the red of a post-box or telephone-box, and for much the same reasons.

Having done the main servicing last night we were ready to depart in ten minutes – no Air Traffic control in these parts. There are quite a few floatplanes though; having more lakes than roads certainly encourages the locals to be air-minded. The sheer scale of the country keeps amazing me. I have flown across the Pacific before but somehow the continent looks bigger – there is a sameness about the open ocean, and should a passenger fall asleep for an hour it would be hard for them to notice when they awoke if the aircraft had even moved or was traveling in circles.

Sergeant Mackenzie took the time to enquire about us and our trip; naturally Spontoonie aircraft registrations rather attract attention out here. Having such a mixed team onboard is another thing that raises flags in a Police mind. Unlike the Customs furs at Rain Island he had not heard of the Allworthy family reputation, which is just as well. Unless he asked I decided not to bring the matter up.

A hundred and five minutes of uneventful flight with Miss Cabot at the stick brought us back to Lake Minnehaweetonka. We circled low, noting there was no smoke now rising from any of the chimneys. The two floatplanes we saw yesterday were still at the jetty, and in another five minutes we were tying up next to them.

Sergeant Mackenzie and Constable Lafitte asked us to stay by the aircraft while they looked around – evidently they do not want us leaving any more scent or boot prints than we already had. Helen told them the side of the settlement we had not looked at and they made a start on that side presumably looking for untouched evidence.

Better late than never, we sung Morning Song – it was not exactly sunrise when we took off, and the last thing we want is to have the Mounties asking questions about us had we broken into ritual chanting on the flight out. Miss Cabot is not “wanted” in Canada, but Police forces talk to each other and make sure known criminals even without local warrants are made to feel extremely – unwanted.

Although yesterday in the wilderness we had looked around in vain for any reaction to our Spontoonie ritual, both Helen and I felt something definitely react, and angrily. It felt rather as if one had suddenly unfurled a red flag in a Vostok street. As soon as we had finished the chant (nothing much short of incoming artillery would have made us quit half way) Helen and I warned Molly and Maria to keep their eyes and ears wide open while we investigated. I started to feel this was definitely a case for a Shaman rather than a Mountie. Still, nothing obvious happened.

In an hour, we saw the Sergeant and Constable making their way back towards us. It was hard to read the grizzled Sergeant, but Constable Lafitte was looking as nearly scared as one would expect to see one of that sturdy institution. He was carrying a report that the Sergeant says he says he is to deliver right away – the Sergeant will be staying till reinforcements arrive.

I offered to take the Storm Bird up to fifteen thousand feet and stream the radio aerial; that would give us far greater radio range than any of the “washing-line” aerials in Three Claws. But the report is sealed and confidential, and the Mounties are not equipped with scramblers on their radio telephones (and neither are we.) So we gladly accepted Constable Lafitte back onboard, topped up from the fuel pumps and left some more cash to cover it, and in ten minutes were waving farewell to Three Claws.

Maria commented that if we had not been unexpectedly delayed in Sealth City, we would have been in Three Claws when whatever happened to it happened. Ever cautious, Helen picked up the thread and wondered aloud if it had been meant for us.

Although I admit it is rather a coincidence that a pair of Warrior Priestesses who can detect such things happened to be passing by almost at the time, I really cannot think of any way that would work. We told nobody of our exact route plans, and there are a dozen equally likely routes we could have taken from Sealth, the last time we were “noticed” by the outside world. Had we escaped icing and managed to get over the main ridges rather than the pass we would not have been here at all! Plus there is the sheer scale of it – it is rather using not just a sledgehammer but an artillery barrage to crack a nut. And we and our fragile aircraft were still missed, despite it needing little more than an extra shove of a hundred feet to have piled us up against the rocks of the pass.

Helen conceded that, but points out that any equivalent to the Spontoonie priestess’s “seeing through fire” would have shown where we would have been whether or not we knew it ourselves beforehand. I could hardly agree with the rest of her argument; - anyone capable of wielding that much power at a distance (and how could we have upset anyone in Canada yet?) would surely have been able to get the timing right.

I will keep an open mind on that and await developments. The only Priestesses we have been annoying to my knowledge were half the world away in Kuo Han, and the ones we met there are decidedly dead. I agreed that it looked more a matter for shamans than Mounties, but Canada has a solid “no-nonsense” religious tradition, and is very conservative on these lines. According to what little I have heard, they are less than keen on supporting Archbishop Crowley’s Church reforms, though indeed a modern Crowleyan Reform vicar seems to be more in tune with what we found at Three Claws.

The return to Lapowata was uneventful, permitting Miss Cabot to put a few more hours in her logbook. We dropped Constable Lafitte off at the jetty and he hurried away towards the Mounties station, his huge two-tone tail bobbing most energetically.

Miss Cabot commented that he was most handsome, despite the aroma (which is of course nothing he can do much about.) None of us argued with that. It must be a fair trial being in such a rugged outdoor profession where there are parades and high standards of dress to maintain, with tailfur like that to keep clean. I know that squirrel Miss Nancy Rote in the first year has all sorts of problems, as has the Persian feline in her class. The sight of those two after rescue classes in a Main Island mud-hole cheered most of the girls who saw it immensely. White-furred Persian cats and crawling through swamp do not go together too happily.

It was still mid-Afternoon, and a fairly calm Sunday one at that. After a quick “Chinese Parliament” we decided to see if the Mounties still want us urgently, and if not to head out further East first thing tomorrow. There was nowhere in town open apart from the church – after three years on Spontoon I had almost forgotten what “Euro” standards were like, even this far from the big cities. Still, we have no shortage of supplies with us.

Helen joked that if in years to come Interpol have a guide to how to spot a Songmark girl, one test will be to look in her pockets. Other adventuresses may have the pocket tool kit, First aid kit and iron rations in the bush jacket, but the Songmark girl is guaranteed to have four or five separate caches of toilet paper well waterproofed. If nothing else, it is handy to light a fire with. The “water carrier, elastic, emergency” may just possibly be put to other uses as well. As to the innocuous claw file, if it is daintily designed and appears to carry the mark of a Parisian fashion house, few investigators would spot it is made of brazed industrial diamond and capable of taking on any bar or padlock ever made, given time and effort. Beryl was (I believe) the only one of us who arrived at Songmark so equipped, but of course she had come from a “school of hard knocks” that famously nurtured the thornier breed of English Rose.

One thing we will do our best not to get into general knowledge is our emergency cash supplies. I am sure many wise travellers have a few golden British guineas or pre-Depression gold American dollars sewn into their clothing inconspicuously, but it would not do for the facts to be too widely known. That could get Songmark graduates a lot of trouble.

Arriving at the Mounties’ post (easily identifiable from afar by the Canadian maple-leaf flag flying proudly on its pole outside) we found it rather busier than we had left it. The civilian registered Short Cockle we had noticed on the far side of the jetty had flown in a dozen Mounties an hour ago, and they were getting ready to leave in force. Our statements having already been taken, we were thanked for our help and assured we were free to proceed.

Though it is the major “bright lights” indeed of the area, there did not seem to be any hotel as such in Three Claws. There were places advertised as “Lodgings” and “Bunkhouse” no doubt still half full of half hung-over trappers and lumberjacks after last night, but nothing that much tempted us to check in. A stroll around the town and lakeside for fresh air, two hours maintenance and cleaning the Storm Bird and a fine meal cooked in the galley occupied us till the evening. There may be no shops open, but the Native fishermen are active whenever they feel like it and were glad to sell us some exceedingly welcome lake trout.

After the various shocks to our systems of the past two days, nobody complained about an early night tonight!


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