On time?!! How is this possible?!?!??!?
This chapter is the longest so far - 4 (!) parts to it. I seem to need to bang on with the travel bits :\
I had this small thought this morning about plotting ahead of time versus just winging it, and I think why I prefer to wing it (with a sense of direction/purpose mind) is that plotting seems to me more of a stand affar and determine from without, but I need to be in the meat with my characters, need to see and feel the tale with them in order to know/find where to go next.
Winging it is more fraught but I feel like I share the journey rather than dictating from above, as it were.
Oh, and not that this is important, but this is still the pre-written "stuff" - though the fear-facing is going on as I now start to lay track before the very wheels of the moving train.
PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION
Chapter 8 PART 4
The Sulk & Through
A thump and shout and Economous started awake in his makeshift berth, humours pounding inexplicably in his ears, sleep driven from him. He cast about wildly, thinking himself beset by some strangling violence but quickly realised his place, and the choking sensation simply his stock twisted uncomfortably in his sleep. In the strange twilight he could see a bargeman grinning at him like the foolish city lubber he must have seemed and straightening his harness, Economous pulled and settled his baldric of concometrist mottle to remind the fellow that he was not just some daft naivine.
“Weal morning,” he said to cover his own chagrin.
The fellow appeared to get the implication for he left off his idiot smirking and with an acknowledging shrug and a “Weal morning,” in reply, went back to what ever labour it had been that had most likely woken Economous in the first.
Stretching a yawn and peering ahead, Economous was surprised to see a great town – indeed a veritable city – shadowed against the eastern arc of sky ruddied by the approaching sun.
Here was Proud Sulking, great riverine trading port of the Sulk, the Idlewild and the lands beyond.
By steady cycling of the cromster’s gastrines they travelled all through the night and now arrived with the dawning, drawing to the long addit wharfing of Proud Sulking in line like proud rams-of-war treading stoutly into battle. Stretched well beyond the walls of the riverine city itself, the addit wharfs were heavy frames of swarthy wood raised on great blackened plinths of hard and slimy stone. Built at the time of the port’s foundation – so Economous recalled from his readings – each slab had been mined from the granite quarries of Exodus and brought up river on barge to be sunk into the shore until they formed a solid platform nigh as longs as the coastal front of Brandenbrass herself. There was not one stretch of the quay that was not spiny with loading sheers of various function and size, many busy even now before the day was fully dawned.
Here the Douse Fish drew to halt at the tail of yet another a line of craft awaiting their call to berth and load or unload. Here the cromster’s boat was lowered and Economous’ chest and canvases and the box that held Miserichord were brought up from the hold to be stowed aboard it. Joined by River-master Patefract going ashore for his own business, Economous was rowed to one of several score low stone hards at the foot of the wharf where he was handed ashore while his goods roughly unloaded. Patefract having said nothing on the row, said nothing now and depart upon his own business with only the shortest glance and the merest tilt of a nod of goodbye.
Walking much of the mile of the southern arm of the addit, Economous found a great fortress-like entry house with three tall uncomfortably narrow doors through which folks were already passing in crowded shuffling line. Musketeers in Imperial harness of rouge and or – red and gold – stood fast on either side of each door, eyeing all comers sternly but not impeding the progress of the arrivals. A motto carved into the heavy lintel above the doors and their wardens read:
Adveho Totus vos Defessus Hucilluctorum
Come all ye weary wayfarers.
Economous smiled wryly. “Come and do what,” he muttered to himself.
The gate-wardens in Imperial mottle and grim admitting clerks waiting at the end of the long colonnade that kept three line of souls discrete from each other were familiar enough in their bullying officiousness. His nativity patent scrutinised and reluctantly verified and his meagre collection of chatels inspected, Economous was allowed to proceed through.
Released to the street beyond, Economous blinked at the glare of sun now rising above curtain wall and roof top, shooed away the many demanding offers of help and took a moment to right himself.
After his time in Brandenbrass – one of the the great cities of the not just the Soutlands but surely of the Sundergird itself – Proud Sulking seemed on the face smaller and quaint. For all its bustle and clutter; the close street and crowding evidence of great business, of lofty garner towers and eminent mercantile representations raised above domestic dwellings; all the mighty ceaseless labour of loading an endless line of barges, cromsters and prams with all the produce the old and fruitful leagues of the Sulk provided, this comparably noteworthy city lacked the ponderous feeling of ancient – dare he call it constipated – gravity that veritably throbbed from even the dunkest alley of his onetime home. Strange – perhaps even revolting – to his inculcated senses, Proud Sulking did not smell of the vinegar of the sea, rather the usual horse-soil, brick-dust and wood-smoke of urban life was permated by the loamy, moldering fug of river-ooze and ploughed field. It was powerfully redolent of childhood and of home, odours that he had almost forgotten that filled him now with nameless misgivings.
Spying a coach-host – signed The Timely Boot – located opportunely up the street adjoining that on which the admitting house was found, he left his pondering Proud Sulking’s scant wonders and made directlyfor the establishment. Through the long yard full of horse teams in harness and hurrying porters, of luggage by the stack, of pails and baled hay, he entered the parenthis and its fare booths. As fast as another queue of people allowed, he hired a seat upon a post-lentum to take him the first stretch of his great overland quest.
“Where are ye destined?” came the commutation clerk’s question.
“Knapphausen.” Economous proclaimed the name as if it were deliverence itself: the last stop before ultimate success.
The clerk regarded him narrowly for a moment, as if he had just cursed. “I can writ ye the passage to Sulking Mede and Char Soster, but ye’ll have to shift for yeself to go beyond.”
Though Economous knew well enough that the cities of the Subtle Pall were states unto themselves and independent of the loose collection that had become of the Haacobin Empire, he was surprised to find such unfriendliness to the mere mention of one of its destinations.
“Then make shift I shall,” he said in parting as he took the handful of sheafs that were his Right-to-board and Ticket-of-Passage from post to post along the Grand Trunk Road.
Alotted a number upon a slip of card – 143 – unable to find a seat in the congested commons of the parenthis, he availed himself of an untenanted nook between the left-most fare booth and a fine-looking long-clock tocking out the long wait.
Despite the sense great and ceaseless activity out in the coach yard and the steady cry of what seemed random slip card numbers, the cram of waiting passengers never seemed to get smaller. Refusing to crane his neck to watch the long-case clock beside him, the fabulist nodded from sheer boredom even as he stood, roused repeatedly yet incompletely by the tooting – loud even from within the commons of the parenthis – of lentermen’s parting horns.
Final amongst a collection of other numbers, his call came, “143!”
Out in the yard, Economous good’s were taken from him once more to be secured atop the roof of a fine looking post-lentum of deep glossy green.
“Mornin’, brother-measurer,” said the lone backstepper in winking greeting from his perch at the rear of the carriage.
“G-morning,” came Economous’ unready and fumbled reply. It was an odd quirk of society that lentermen held brotherhood with concometrists as fellow wayfarers – view that, whilst appreciated, was not reciprocated by the metricians. Regardless, it persisted.
Hauling himself into the cabin, the fabulist found with small sinking of disappointment that he was one of four passengers. He knew it was foolish to have thought it could be otherwise, but Economous felt that now he had finally arrived upon new shores his adventure was all his own, and that these three fellow wayfaring souls were only intruders on his quest. Squeezing next to a rotund fellow in surprisingly expensive coat, trying with only minor success to not knock people with Miserichord in its box, he smiled tightly at handsomely dressed lady across the barely manageable gap between knees. If he had to share his lentum then to accompany such a damsel went a goodly way to ameliorating his frustration.
Brown curls of hair caught up in a travelling shawl of deep and fashionable green beneath a gleaming black tricorn that kept much of her face in shadow within the gloom of the cabin, the lady regarded Economous silently as he fumbled aboard. At his greeting she flicked her fan smartly apparently against the already heavy warmth within the cabin but said nothing. And when the bautis-box inevitable knocked her skirted knee, she snapped her fan shut with a snap and quicker than blinking, tapped knocking the over-long bautis as if it were the source of all discomforts. She then looked away as if Economous no longer existed.
Swallowing down his embarrassment, Economous looked out the window at whatever he could fix his gaze upon, as with a toot of the cockrobin’s horn and shouts of, “As ye please, gentles, as ye please!” from the sidearms man, the cabin lurched and the lentum was away.