That night, Ruby dreamed.
In her dreams, she wandered through Chichen Xoxul. The city was deserted, the jungle silent. The great pyramid loomed against a twilit sky.
In the plaza, she found Belacazar, wearing shining armor. He was surprised to see her. “You know how to do this too?” they said to each other at the same time.
“The queen showed me how to do this,” said the conquistador. “I will never return to Spain, but in my dreams I can go there and walk the streets of Mérida. Sometimes it looks very different. Are there flying birds of metal where you are from?”
“I used to own one. It was beautiful, a beautiful machine.”
“They seem to be loud and noisy and smell bad.”
“Not on the inside.”
“If I’m ever eaten by a large metal bird I’ll keep that in mind. When did you learn how to speak Castilian?”
“My husband taught me.”
“Hrm, well he doesn’t seem like a hidalgo…but wait, when you thought of your husband just then, he looked like someone else. Are you unfaithful? And if so, why not with me?”
“No…what we have been through is even more complicated than what we are doing.”
“Very well. What are you here to do now? Perhaps I can help. I can take you on a tour of Mérida, best place to get sopa ajo, so good…”
“How far forward or back can you see?”
“I don’t know how to control it. The queen only taught me a few tricks.”
Ruby tried to concentrate on Queen Morning Star…Mérida Echevarría…but she ran headlong into a wall of spacetime.
[3 point Stability loss.]
She swung her attention to Queen Evening Star. She found her meditating on top of the pyramid.
“Who are you? Only gods and demons come to me in dreams. Which one are you?”
Ruby unfolded two visions of the future: one where the Queen helped the visitors from the future, and one where they didn’t. She made sure the second one was horrific.
“Well,” said the Queen, finally. “We were going to have a quintuple sacrifice in the morning. But all right. We will help you.” She woke up, and vanished.
Ruby stood alone on top of the pyramid. “Belacazar could visit the future…and Millicent walked out of the dreamtime…maybe it is possible to visit 1911 that way…”
She waited until her friends were asleep. Fortunately that was in dream time, so it took not a moment.
As for the others, the Xoxul had graciously provided soporific drugs for everyone, just in case the sacrifice was still on in the morning. As they drifted through sleep, they seemed to be moving through a fluffy white cloud, toward the sound of music.
Gradually they became aware of their surroundings. They were seated at the bar of what looked like the saloon of a steamship. A band was playing gentle waltzes quietly at one end of the room. They were wearing evening clothes: dinner jackets for the men, and a dress with a narrow skirt and a bustle for ruby. She had trouble catching her breath; she was wearing a corset.
“Would you like another drink, madam?” said the bartender. She looked at him. He looked exactly like Charlie, except for the missing tattoos.
“Thank you,” she squeaked.
“Very good, Miss Ruby.”
“Jimmy, Dr. Orange,” whispered Ruby, “you are our resident getting in trouble people. You go investigate the various rooms. Geronimo and Millicent will case the place. Then you can go find trouble.”
“Why should I go looking for trouble?” said Jimmy.
“Because you’re Jimmy Wright.”
“I don’t look for trouble, trouble finds me.”
“Then we’ll help it along.”
Ruby turned back to Charlie. “Have you seen the Echevarrías? We have an appointment with them.”
“Ramón and Mérida? They’re on the ship. They fight a lot. You can find them in First Class.”
“Shall we?” said Ruby to Geronimo. He took her arm and they went off in search of a purser.
“What,” said the First Class purser. “Terrible, second class people coming up here…”
“I would like for you to hold on to my necklace, if you may,” said Ruby, beaming and fingering the enormous diamonds suspended from her neck.
“Fine. I don’t know why you didn’t store them when you boarded, or why you’re taking it off before dinner…” He wrote her out a ticket and stalked off in front of the ship.
Millicent slipped out of the shadows and followed him up the companionway. She watched him enter a room marked “Crew Only” and heard the door lock behind him.
Fortunately it wasn’t locked in any serious way.
Ruby and Geronimo entered the First Class dining hall. After a few whispered words to the maître d’ about how much they enjoyed the food and had met the most charming couple the other night and couldn’t he just seat them over there with them, she so liked the way people treated them on the ship…they found themselves seated at the same table as the Echevarrías.
[Flattery spend by RP.]
Ramón was easy to recognize from the several photographs they had seen of him: a dark Latino man, with a formidable charisma and a strange aura of power. The woman…
They recognized her features. They had seen them in pictures of a poor singer who had become a monster in Mexico City, in the cheekbones of Xoxul queen, and in the portrait a lovesick hidalgo had hanging in his sitting room.
She had black hair and black eyes. There was an air of indefinable sadness hanging around her, despite the fact they were both having a very loud and angry discussion.
“Your plan is insane!” she said. “You should—”
“No, No! But you don’t understand! We must do this, in order to achieve what we have hoped for so long…pardon me, senor. Darling, there are some other guests. We will discuss this later.”
Ramón stood up and kissed Ruby’s hand, then bowed to Geronimo. “I am Ramón Echevarría. This is my wife. At your service, señor.” They all sat down.
“I am Geronimo Cuevas. This is my wife, Ruby Fitzgibbons.”
“Enchante, madame. I detect a Spanish accent, señor?”
“Yes, I am from Aragon.”
“I recently returned from Spain.”
“I have not seen it for many years. I have been spending my time in the Americas.”
“What is your line of work? I can tell you are a man of business, not a gentleman of leisure.”
“I am a jewel merchant,” said Geronimo casually.
“Fascinating trade. My family grows sisal. It is a remarkable source of wealth. You are traveling to New York?”
“Yes. We were celebrating our honeymoon.”
“Congratulations, señor. Madam, you have a remarkably attentive and attractive husband.”
Mérida shot her a look like daggers.
“May I beg you the pleasure of a dance?” said Ramón to Ruby.
“Of course,” she said smoothly.
“And may I ask señora Echevarría for a dance?” said Geronimo.
“Con permiso,” said Ramón.
It took a few minutes, but Millicent was able to force the lock into the storage room. Most of what she saw was routine items—mail, supplies for the crew, that sort of thing. In the back however, she found a large safe.
She spread out her tools and went to work.
Jimmy found the purser and tried to bribe him to find Ramón’s stateroom. Fortunately he remembered that his money—either because of magic, or an overly literal mind—would be suspiciously out of date.
He tried offering his watch.
“Who wants to wear a watch on their wrist?” said the purser with a snort. “It’s too big to give to my wife.”
[Wristwatches for men didn’t become fashionable until WWI.]
“How about these cufflinks?”
“Hrm…all right, I can take you there and forget that I did. Of course, if you’re discovered, I’m going to rat you out.”
Ramón Echevarría was, unsurprisingly, an excellent dancer. He led Ruby expertly through a slow Viennese waltz. She chatted him up about her travels around the world.
“Have you ever been to Siam? It’s to die for.”
“I have never been. But I have long wished to go there,” said Ramón. “I have recently returned from Ethiopia.”
“So many beautiful things there as well. In Siam, we heard that there was a place where men kept tigers as pets.”
“That seems a foolish extravagance.”
“A true man of power would not need to make such displays. The polite thing, if he were a man of culture as well as power, would be to not display it at all. You would not be aware of his power.”
Not far behind them, Geronimo danced with Mérida. “What do you think you are doing?” she hissed at him. “My husband will of course know who you are.”
“What do you mean?”
“You did not board this ship in Havana, did you? Whatever it is you intend, be careful. My husband is a jealous and violent man.”
“Why do you continue to be with this man, who treats you so? You deserve a lot more respect.”
“I do not in fact know myself sometimes. But we share a bond that is particularly strong.”
“I guess you know your own heart…but you should treated with more—”
“You did not come alone. I don’t mean your wife. I should have sensed this sooner. Whatever you’re doing, I suggest you get out of here very soon.”
“But we are enjoying this dance so.”
Most of the Echevarría’s stateroom was taken up by their clothes, of course; Ramón was vain, and he dressed Mérida in a manner befitting his magnificence. But then Jimmy found the books.
“Again with the books,” he said, showing them to Dr. Orange.
“Jimmy…I think those books were some of the ones we found in Trammel’s place, back in 1937. Maybe we should…”
“Keep them? and change history? Don’t fuck with the timeline.”
“Don’t forget, the ship is going to sink. Maybe we’re the ones who rescue them.”
He recognized some of the books. He had read some others. But the ones that were written in Coptic, that were clearly of Ethiopian origin, those intrigued him. But not as much as Ramón’s diaries.
“Hey doc, do you speak Spanish?” he asked.
“I’m going to let you read that. I don’t want the book bound in human skin.”
Jimmy sighed, and borrowed Spanish from Millicent. Most of the book was about Echevarría’s travels, or Chichen Xoxul, which he had visited many, many times (after all, it was in his backyard.) There were also many pages describing the Liar, and how to summon It, and the Mouths, and what you could with Nectar.
And of course notes on the First Mouth.
Jimmy found himself reading on despite himself. He found himself fascinated by Ramón’s damaged character, his desperate pride, his moments of grave self-doubt, the private triumphs that he could never share with other people. I know this guy, he thought, without irony or self-awareness. And I can use that to fight him.
[I gave JP a 3-point “Fighting Ramón” pool in exchange for a 1-point Evidence Collection spend.]
Millicent gave the dial a final spin and pulled open the safe door. Inside she found a great deal of money in both gold and paper currency, some very elegant jewelry, and several large tablets made of gold, covered with Mayan style hieroglyphs. She found a suitcase left by a passenger in the storage room, emptied it, and dropped the tablets inside. She dragged the suitcase out into the companionway and closed the door behind her. Then she walked toward the saloon, lugging the suitcase with it.
The music ended and the couples made their way back to the table. Ramón tried to say something to Ruby, but Mérida angrily cut him off. “I don’t want you talking to that girl anymore!”
“Let’s discuss this outside,” snarled Ramón, seizing her by the arm and dragging her through a pair of double doors and out onto the deck.
Ruby and Geronimo went back to the saloon. They could see the Echevarría’s still arguing outside as a fog bank rolled in. Ramón seemed to be alternatively demanding and pleading. At one point he said something to Mérida that caused her to recoil and push him back from her.
She took a handkerchief from her reticule and held it aloft.
Ruby shook. Even from this distance she could smell the delicate scent of Nectar, the sweet smell of Mexican Nectar that was already beginning to erode her resistance…
Something large began to loom out of the fog.
“That’s the Farragut,” said Ruby as Jimmy, Dr. Orange, and Millicent burst into the saloon. As the ship began to shudder in the bow wake of the approaching steamer, Ruby concentrated on waking up
……and the rising sun bathed them in the humid heat of a Yucatan jungle. The cries of jungle birds singing at the break of day were all around them, shrill and piercing. They were lying on some palm frond pallets, under a lean-to near the pyramid of Chichen Xoxul.
Next to Millicent was a suitcase. When she opened it, gold flashed in the red rays of dawn.
They brought the tablets to Queen Evening Star. “Your mother told us to return these to you,” said Millicent.
“You are very interesting…strange alien devils,” said the Queen.
“Gods,” said Geronimo.
“Fine. What can I do for you, ‘gods’?” said the Queen, making the Xoxul equivalent of air quotes.
“If we can depart the way we came with what we brought with us?”
“Ah, the arquebuses. The very small arquebuses. Belacazar was shooting them before.”
“So amazing,” said the Spaniard. “You can shoot them twice or more! I found that out by accident!”
“So did he,” muttered Ruby, looking at a Xoxul with a bandage wrapped around his leg.
“We should police that brass,” said Geronimo.
“No, leave it,” said Dr. Orange. “There’s some research grant money in that, in five hundred years.”
“Please allow us to leave, as your mother wished,” said Geronimo.
[Reassurance spend by GP; the queen was still distrustful.]
“Very well. Oh, you,” said the Queen, pointing at Jimmy. “One of my warriors wants you to have this war club. He said you fought reasonably well with him yesterday.”
“Thanks,” said Jimmy, fingering his battered nose. “It was worth it.”
They were taken to the top of the pyramid. The Xoxul priests opened up the trap door using some human blood, which they happened to have lying around.
“Water works just as well,” said Dr. Orange.
“No, it has to be blood, for the psychic energy!” the priests said.
“Doctor, stop insulting their culture,” said Ruby. “You know what happened when Germans started insulting other cultures…”
They climbed down into the secret chamber. Dr. Orange went to the controls and studied the stone dials. He took out his notebook and consulted it while fiddling with the dials and levers.
“I think it’s set to 1926,” said Dr. Orange.
Millicent studied it, looking on with borrowed knowledge of physics. “Yes,” she finally said. She grabbed the lever and pulled it down.