For Nautilus, to defibrillate his creative pump.
I took another sip from my cup of tea.
"Vanilla lemon, with honey. I find it good for the voice."
No reaction, not that it was easy to tell with that fantastical dragon's head he insisted on wearing. I eyed him keenly through the lens of my own mask.
"I suppose I must apologize for Nautilus's absence. He is a man of grand ambitions and loathe to leave anything to others."
The only reply was a civil nod, but I could feel his eyes on the Aethermeter locket around my neck. I smiled.
"You have an eye for jewelry, Monsieur Lamenter. I suppose you'd like to see its companion."
I pulled my high collar away from my neck to reveal the shining choker. The Aether receptacle gleamed roguishly. Drake uncrossed his legs. It would seem I had piqued his interest.
I nodded, "Yes, I am she. You have a vague idea of what I was doing at that party. However, that is not pertinent to your story."
The Lamenter shifted uncomfortably, "My story?"
I smiled, "Everyone has a story; comedy, mystery, irony, tragedy."
"So, what is yours?"
I looked up from another sip of tea, "Pardon?"
"How did you come to...all this?" He gestured at the elegant parlor around us. I glanced around at the room furnished with Nautilus' expensive and high-tech tastes.
I took a thoughtful sip, my mind wandering back over the years.
"Well, I suppose it began at the Academy Automicus."
The dragon started. I laughed.
"Oh, don't worry about that. I expect the incident has all been hushed up now. To cut a long story short, it ended with me in the Imperial Asylum. You know, the place where they pump your brain full of Fog and expect it to do you some good."
Drake nodded. I continued.
"I didn't spend long there before I was rescued by the Scarlet Man. I know you've heard of Him. Everyone has. The bounty on His head would make any hunter drool. Anyway, I was rescued by Him by methods I still don't fully know and soon afterwards pledged my allegiance to Him."
Drake was sitting up now. Though I could not see his eyes, I knew they were gleaming behind the mask.
"I did some....light Resistance work," I said with a shrug, "before I found my current calling in the form of a card slipped discreetly into my mailbox by what I suspect was not an Imperially authorized mailman. What followed was a series of adventures involving codewords, mechanical cats, and an Aether-based cyborg, but that's another story."
I set my teacup on a nearby table as Lamenter sank into a pensive mood.
"Nautilus took a big risk bringing the only Imperially approved performer to his secret school. Even if you are popular, there are a lot of people here under his protection. I, of course, know there is more to you than sad music and an absurd mask."
Drake brought a hand to his face defensively, "It's not absurd."
I laughed mockingly. "Yes, it is, and that's the beauty of it. You sing the most heart-rending songs with that on your head. It's no wonder you're popular, masked singer."
I raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"You say that as if it were a bad thing. I suppose it might be. You're not the first man I've met with a voice that could bring angels down from heaven." My eyes glazed over with reminiscence, "He too was masked, but he scorned the stage. He called fame and fortune a golden cage." I stared pointedly at the Lamenter, "Perhaps you agree with him, and that is why your songs are so sad."
I stood up and moved over to a desktop model of the solar system with the planets suspended on brass rods. The stars surrounded the model on thin, brass rings and a little spaceship circled the earth. I turned an ornate key in the base and the model began to move. The planets orbited the sun with their attendant moons, the stars shifted on their celestial rings, the little space ship took a daring flight around the glove. The sun in the center began to glow and spin in place. The room was soon filled by a tinkling, contemplative, tune.
"Why did you go on stage if you hate it is? Money? Opportunity? Family expectations?"
I turned around for an answer only to find him as stiff as a statue. I shrugged. I would have to ask him about the wolf another time. Such phenomenon interested me. I'd have to work on this human oyster another time. In the meantime, since Nautilus was still absent, I leaned against the wall and began to sing along with the music box.
Each life is a series of adventures
A string of journeys, quests, and curious trips
Some do all right, I guess
Gathering riches, more or less
Trying to bring the cup of joy up to their lips
They grab a little more of this
And a little more of that
They think it makes them happy
But it only leaves them flat
Searching for the secret in the strife
The key to live a truly happy life
I didn't mean to touch a nerve within you
Or bore you with my silly, little, speech
My friend, do what you will
Keep your secrets, let them spill
'Till the plate of pleasure passes out of reach
Endure a little more of this
And a little more of that
Keep trying to be happy
'Till you don't know where you're at
For soon, I fear, I must bid you adieu
Remember well this song I've sung for you
As the music box wound down, a face popped in at the door.
"Miss Coppernight, Mr. Lightblast wants to see you. It's urgent."
I took one last look at our odd guest.
"Yes, I'll be with him shortly."
The face left to deliver the message. I smiled at Drake Lamenter, sitting stiff on the couch.
"Forgive this apparent rudeness, but I'm afraid I must leave you."
With a swish of my cape, I exited like a prima donna after her aria. As I glided along the corridor, I did not fear for the school with that strange singer left alone. After all, it wasn't as if he could leave the room.