This one is a little rough. I need to better understand how the ship evolves from 'just a floating brothel' to something more. My mind is fighting me on it!
One of the most wonderful things about the Palace for a man like Connor Graves was the lack of a definite itinerary. The ship went where it was needed and changed plans on a moment’s notice. Clients determined the ports of call, and those of senior social status overruled those of lesser position. It was for this reason that they were currently crossing the North Sea on the ragged edge of winter, bound for the coast of Norway.
Connor strode down the promenade warmly encased in his bearskin coat. The telegraph from King Oscar II crinkled in the breast pocket. Queen Sophia was stranded at a spa near Stavanger when her own ship was wounded in a terrible storm. Although Connor relished the thought of testing his ship against the notoriously violent waters of the North Sea, he was admittedly nervous about welcoming the equally notorious old-fashioned Queen on-board.
Sophia was pious, conservative, well-read, and commanding. What would she think of his ship, his employees? Should he attempt to hide the nature of business he conducted? Moreover, if he did, what would the reactions of his other passengers be? Sophia would outrank the Duke, the Laird, and the two New Scotland industrialists aboard, but was that reason enough to change their entire operation?
Lost in the circular logic of his problem, Connor failed to notice the fluttering flakes of snow that began to drift from the sky. He paced the promenade, alone with his conundrum, as the snow built in intensity, coating the upper decks in a blanket of white. The ship slowed, and the change of her motion finally caught Connor’s attention. He looked around in surprise at his transformed ship. Every inch of deck wore a mantle of sparkling snow, marred only by the footprints of his pacing.
Realization dawned. Blanketing the ship in snow did not change the ship herself. She looked different, but underneath, everything continued the same. What they needed was different entertainment! They needed code-words and costume changes. The Goddesses and Gods would have to retire. Instead, they would create a salon of intellectual philosophy, a gathering of minds. They would pattern their evenings after the greatest gatherings of the Enlightenment, the salons of Paris! If at the end of the night some of the guests chose to retire together, who would question it?
Connor grinned, an expression that would sit well on the face of a wolf. Queen Sophia would think his ship a delight. Gentlewomen would not fear to sail with them. Not only that, but imagine the philosophical ramifications of mixing royalty, merchants, and sex-workers into a stew of philosophical intent. What leaps in human understanding they could make. His ship would become more than a floating brothel, it would become an embodiment of the Second Enlightenment! Connor rushed down the promenade to the business offices to find Rita and Just. He would need their help in getting the employees ready for their new roles. They had two days to create all new clothes, practice intellectual discourse, and remake his dream yet again.
The Palace had no definite itinerary, but she always had a destination.