Monday, August 26, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 2 Part 1

Well-a-day once more, yet more Economous. I have a whole chapter to deliver but split it in two to keep to the 1000-1500 word limit I set myself. This limit is entirely arbitrary so if you would like more words at once just say.

More importantly, thank you for your words, comments, encouragements - I have not been responding much in the comments but I am definitely reading each one gratefully.

I have been thinking about the apparent "slow" start, the "info dump" of it and in part think that yes it does perhaps need review; yet when I consider the classics I have enjoyed find that many of these can begin in such a fashion, that such a start is consistent with the form of style and cannot help but wonder if it were in an actual book format whether it would feel nearly quite so "info dumpy" as it does in this electronic format, where expectations are different...? Hmm.

Anyway, on with the show.

© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 2
A thing that ought not be
part 1

word ~ definition …………

All night Economous lay upon his tandem-chair, wondering, steadily doubting that he had seen what he had seen, dreaming of rabbits leaping from bushes and alleys. In the morning he rose unwilling to return to the Moldwood, just as he had been unwilling to go back into the doubly-forbidden hearthwood of Lo when he was small. Yet as the day progressed, he could not shake his fascination nor quash the steadily increasing need to seek a repetition of the encounter and resolve what in his intellectuals – his thinking – he held as unlikely yet his wind – his soul – held as certain. By mid afternoon he found himself ambling upon the opposite walk of South Arm, past the shabby park’s east gate, glancing at the iron-bound entrance and the dark trees beyond repeatedly through the bustle of carriage and handcart. Up and back he went, almost toppling into several well dressed day-strolling folks many times in his inattention to his actual path.

For its part, the Moldwood was as quiet and inscrutable as ever.

Surely what he had witnessed yesterday was an imaginary figmurement?

The dark treetops swayed in the freshening breeze of the afternoon pipistrelle – so common in Spring – and seemed to beckon the would-be fabulist within.

Finally Economous dared to cross to the gate side of South Arm but as he approached the black-wrought portal he spied the same water-caddie of the day before standing beneath a red lamppost not two hundred yards further down past the gate, crying, “Goose a gulp!”

As if prompted by the regard upon him, the fellow turned and regarded Economous closely, an amused wisdom growing clear on the forward fellow’s mien.

With a small start and thinking himself observed in his absurdity, Economous refused to lets his cheeks redden but with a tug on his neckerchief and a touch to his hat, hurried past the gate, the park and the water-caddie and made for the long miles back to his garret.

As the sun hid himself behind the Branden Downs – the low hills northwest of the great city – in a blaze of storm-promising orange, Economous footsore and ill-humoured finally found home. Shaded Rafters was its unlikely name: a narrow four storied tenement nigh identical to all its long row of neighbours on this close lane in the down-at-heel suburb of Merry-the-boon – dank, ill-repaired and necessarily affordable.

Scarcely up the first flight of uneasy stairs when a bang and bustle of the front door opening in the vestibule where he had just been below gave Economous a happy jolt for anticipation of Asthetica’s return. Yet the arrival was too bustling and too loud to be her. Rather it was Mister Bidbrindle Gleens – violin maker, neighbour and one of Economous rivals for fair Asthetica’s regard – returning from his working shop in fine suburb of Risen Mole.

“Hullo hullo!” Mister Bidbrindle called with unusually elevated cheer the very instant he spied Economous peering at him from the landing atop the first flight. Though he must surely have reckoned that Economous was a competitor in wooing, the violin-maker always spoke with great civility to his younger opponent. Clearly itching with some great tale, Bidbrindle waved Economous to remain even as the would-be fabulist tried to turn and retreat at last to the bless-ed gloom of his garret.

With a silent sigh, Economous gave the older man respect and did as he was bidden.

“You would not credit what was granted to me to heal this week, sir,” Bidbrindle declared excitedly, perching himself between the second and forth step.

“I would if I could, sir,” Economous said, nodding a polite bow and – his tricorn off and wedged beneath his arm – touching his crown.

Needing scant encouragement, the violin-maker continued with but a breath. “I was strolling this very morn up Baker’s Lane to start my daily labours,” he said in the rehearsed manner of someone who has told certain information many times already that day, “when upon nearing my humble workshop I spied a pavillion and six – six horse, sir! – drawn up at the very door. The Signals know how often such fine fits come for that sleuthing fellow who occupies the entire top floor space above my own humble workshop. But today – today! – the fine carriage was for me, sir. Can you credit it!”

Economous shook his head dutifully.

“Out steps the personal servant of a body of the highest consequence – a body who I am undertaken with the solemnest of promises to always hold secret – to summon me away. No sooner was I aboard than we are hurtling to a location I am equally sworn to never divulge, where amongst great opulence, this body of consequence shows to me a viol passed to him from some obscure relative, saying it was in sore need of repair and that I I! – was the only artisan he would trust such delicate work to. Oh, how my eyes poked from their seat when I beheld the instrument…” He paused in the gravity of imminent revelation.

Economous blinked.

“It was a Cordialis,” Bidbrindle declared with delighted solemnity. “A Cordialis!” he repeated when his listener’s only replied was a blank mein. “It is old as a still tuneful viol can get, m’boy! It is so old and so precious its neck and tailpiece are fashioned of black elder.”

At this Economous was final moved to genuine excitement.

Held to possess wondrous properties and highly prized by carpenters and habilists alike, black elder was so rare as to be almost mythic. The  common soul on the street would scarce know what to make of the stuff – just some dark pretty wood – but to the connoisseur and the learned who had even an inkling of its manifold qualities it was highly prized as the rarest and the best of woods. Only the lumber of the even rarer almug-tree was held in greater esteem. Economous had seen some once – and only once in the hallowed vaults of Athingdon Athy where Master [……NAME……] had shown the anthenaeum’s single precious item – a small saltbox made from the stuff, a beautiful little item, Yet, what had most impressed him at the time was the rare wood’s spicy sweet perfume.

“Oh!” Mister Gleens went on in pompous satisfaction at this reaction in his listener, “if only I could show it to you, you would marvel, sir, marvel! But alas, its owner will never suffer to have such a precious heirloom leave the safety of their palatial halls. Well for me it is not this wood that needs mending – not that it should, black elder is always true – for there is nowhere I know to get more without recourse to deals with the black habilists and their dark partners. Be that as it is, what work does need to be done has had me sending to far away Turkmantine for the finest rosewood they po…”

The quiet thump of front door opening once more instantly captured Economous attention away and it was quickly transmuted to joy as he first heard the swish and soft step that were oh so sweetly familiar to him and then beheld the subject of his longing.

“Asthetica!” Mister Bidbindle proclaimed, springing with admirable alacrity in an older man from his step to the vestibule. “All the flowers of Arbustrum have flowered in one!

Before them was revealed a vision to render the desire for such paltry things as black elder or fine viols suddenly base and common.

Hair the raven-black of deepest coolest midnight, wide eyes grey like storm-tossed sky; face an ideal oval of pure marmoreal pallor; the rose-buds of her Hamlin-bow lips dented so perfectly in the middle and dimpled so prettily at the cheeks, often expressing gorgeous little “O’s” of wonder; lithe of limb and of form, her every action quiet and considered: this was Asthetica Grouse. Clad in a simple stomacher skirt of sombre grey to match her gleaming often solemn eyes, with a black bonnetbow holding back her equally raven tresses, Asthetica was dressed almost as drably as a servant, yet her radiance remained undiminished. For this epitome of beauty, this exemplar of femanine wonder, was also a member of those most modern of modern innovations: a dollymop – a girl-at-work – fetching and filing for an underclerk to a lesser secretary of a minor responsibility at Fribbles Determined Franchisements. What Fribbles Determined Franchisements actually did, Economous had never been able to fathom, but they certainly employed a great many young middling station women to help them do it. Flustered and dishevelled, to Economous she was a vision of Atopian Dido herself.

 “Good evening, Mister Gleens,” she said, bobbing ever so slightly as she spoke with a fine address that told of the expensive day-school education her mother and long dead father had striven to afford her. “Good evening, Mister Musgrove.” She smiled at him with that smile he liked to imagine he never saw her give to another.

“Miss Grouse,” Economous returned, bowing low in his turn and wishing he could just seize her up in his arms.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 1 Part 3

Well-a-day to you all and welcome to a new week and the proper beginning of my intent to regularly post the continuing tale of Economous Musgrove, illustrator, some-time concometrist and would-be fabulist, and  citizen of Brandenbrass. It must be said that I cannot promise that this will succeed as a story, but I am willing to try if your are willing to go with me come what may. 

Either way, let us get on with part 3 ...

© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 1, part 3

Breathing deeply of the tepid leafy perfume of the wooded park, he heaved a long sigh seeking to expel his fretting with that great exhalation. Curling and uncurling his bare toes in the grasses kept cropped and neat by many rabbit mouths, he allowed himself to bask for a beat or two of his humours in the dapple of sunlight touching his face as the day orb reached the acme of its meridian. Ringed about by hawthorn, the bench that was his seat was far enough in that he could almost pretend the city and its press of cares was not there. He tilted his head slightly so that the pale leaves of a stand of plane trees screened the banal sight of a chimney and a ridgecap. For this moment he let himself believe that he was out in proper woods wide, unfettered by taming walls, free of woes and weights, living each day as though it was new and unspoiled. A kind of music that was not quite music started in his soul singing of a longing for a great before when all things were simpler and bright …

With a snort and a startled blink, Economous roused himself.

“Was I sleeping?” he wondered in a whisper.

Bringing his attention pointedly to the scrawl of rabbits bounding over the open page of his numrelogue, Economous became sharply aware that the threwd of the park had thickened, became more intent, more deliberate in its watchfulness. In all the months he had been coming here such a thing had never happened before. A chill shuddering down his backbone, Economous turned first to his right, peering futilely into the wooded gloom seeing nothing but leaves, branches, trunks growing haphazard as if a true wild wood, stretching back in to the deeps of the park behind him.

“You have a commendable discernment of subject, womb-born,” came a deep, oddly purring voice over his other shoulder.

Pivoting in a twinkling he found himself peering straight into one of the queerer sights he had ever beheld. Partly thrust from thick hawthorn growth was the face of a greatly oversized rabbit – well, more the combination of rabbit and something more feline, its great ears errect and swivelling as it looked on the would-be fabulist with what to all the Alle looked like mirth. Suddenly this creature bent close and breathed upon him. Instantly his senses were overwhelmed with the thick perfume of honeysuckle and the odour of new-turned earth that brought happy thoughts of the vegetable plot at Athingdon Athy.

With a jolt, Economous remembered that he ought to be afraid. Shouting in wordless fright, he seized his calibrator and his thricehigh and sprang away, hareing barefooted down the lawn and the scant path, heedless of thorns and prickles in the lawn, leaving all the rest of his belongings to that … that thing as he dashed from that haunted parkland. Through its gate and safe out on the South Arm – the street of cloes-built half houses and merchant vendors that ran along the Mouldwood’s eastern boudary – Economous halted. His days were tough enough; he would not be deprived of his shoes and trews, nor of his numrelogue, satchel or the well-proofed frockcoat that had already preserved him from a deadly blow dealt many years ago.

Squaring his thricehigh determinedly upon his crown, the would-be fabulist steeled his milt and raced back into the Mouldwood, back up the path of his hasty flight to the hawthorn bench. He slowed for fear of the rabbit-beast. The woodland park creaked and ticked. His humours thumped in his ears. All the rabbits were gone and the weak threwdishness he new as common to this land was restored. Somewhere deeper in the park a wagtail gave voice to a tetchy call. With a lunge, Economous snatched his abandoned belongings from the hazelwood bench and dashed back to the Moldwood gates as fast as limbs and load would let him. The moment he was clear of the tree and grass and gate and out again on the long house-crowded street he halted. Bent, hand on knee, wind heaving to and from his lungs in great gulps, he leant against a stone pillaster of the park’s wall and quite unaccountably began to laugh. The clatter of lentums, park drags and pavillions running past largely swallowed the scandalous noise, but a day-strolling panderer in the lead of three fine-dressed young children was forced to step about him as he was rocked in his peculiar glee.

“How unseemly, sir!” the panderer exclaiming, her cheeks puffing self-importantly. “Not in all my born; it is scarce midday and you are as soused as a hog’s face!”

This made Econmous laugh only the harder.


If only she knew what he had just seen.

That was a monster I just found wasn’t it…? he wondered in astonishment his laughter subsiding as quickly as it had risen. Suely surely not…

He had seen a hand of nickers and bogles on the few monster hunts he had managed to join; terrifying things all teeth and claws and slavering malice Yet a monster right in the very heart of our ancient, impreganble city? This should be mpossible…

I ought tell someone of this!

The masters of the city would most certainly desire to know so terrible a revelation yet what would he say? To whom would he actually say it?

“Are ye a’right, mate?” asked a passing water caddie, permanently bent – as was a mark of his trade – under the small but substantial weight of a water puncheon.

“There’s a… there’s a…” the would-be fabulist tried between great gasps. “There’s a mon–”
Abruptly, with a swallow, Economous stopped.

Who would credit such an outrageous claim? The impossibility of a monster in the very middle of so great and safe a capital as Brandenbrass. He doubted even Asthetica would believe him… And now that he came to it he found that did not want to speak to anyone of this after all. The rabbit-and-cat beast had neither slavered nor snarled, nor had it rent him limb from trunk as all monsters were supposed to do. The worst it had done was compliment his drawing and to blow on him – odd certainly, but not violent.

Suddenly, inwardly, Economous was five years old again, just returned terrified but elated from the hearthwood copse that had grown behind the row of high-houses on the edge of his home village of Lo far out west on the fringes of the parishlands of the Page. Such coppices are a dangerous necessity in any rural setting, providing firewood easy to hand but always a potential haunt for some wandering bogle or nicker. Sure enough, little Economous had been seeking delicious bird’s eggs out in the forbidden trees with three childhood chums when a nasty slavering nicker all spines and talons had reared out from some dense blackberry thicket, snatching the little Economous in its cruel grip and sending the other boys to wild hollering flight. Still able to conjure the whirling, thought-emptying panic that had gripped him, one notion had stood clear in his little mind: this was his end. Yet in a great and tumbling violence, little Economous found himself free. Kicking and flailing to his feet, all he glimpsed before flying into the trees and home was a brown-skinned horned and bearded creature grappling with his wicked abductor, pounding away at the slavering black nicker with terrible mighty blows. Home once more and barely believing what had happened he immediately confessed to his parents of his profound fortune.

“I was attacked by a bad monster but a good one saved me!” he had cried in child’s delight and wonder, thrilled by such an astounding discovery, his humours racing at so miraculous an escape.

Yet rather than the delight that such a revelation of such a wondrous rescue of their only son, his parents had scolded him bitterly for telling such a horrid falsehood.

“There is no such thing as a good monster!” his father had bellowed.

“Never ever speak of this to anyone!” his mother had hissed in wide-eyed worry.

Not one gleam of relief that their own son was safe, just this great dread of other people’s regard, of ill-rumour – all too ready,  and of the black consequence for being found a monster-loving sedorner.

In the days after he had appealed to the witness of his friends yet none of them ever said a word in support of the truth or even of a supposed comrade.

Something had shifted inside little Economous so long ago, and it had never righted itself since…

“Jumpin’ at shadows are we, mate?”

The water caddie’s garbled voice broke into the dark charm of memory.

Tricorn tipped back on his crown to scratch at his brow, the fellow was squinting at Economous closely.

Equanimity returning, it took a beat for Economous to understand what the fellow had said through shockingly broken and protuberant teeth. “Well,” Economous began. “I –”

“She’s a curious plot of glebeland, that’s a’certain,” the fellow pressed, nodding towards the park and shrugging his shoulders against the heavy leather strap of the puncheon where it had worn the cloth of his olive-drab frockcoat to a greasy gloss. “Not willin’ to let go her threwd for no labour. I have watched ye as I amble on me common rounds, go in day on and day off like no common folk do. I caution ye: loiter a’long in that yonder park and ye are might to reckon on sights of things not prop’ly there…”

Economous frowned. “Well…” He was too keen an observer, too used to rigourously discerning what it is his eyes beheld to be duped by so simple an effect as the swiming shadows of breeze tossed branches. Perplexed now, Economous straightend and drew in the city’s pungeant air. Somehow, the creature’s breath lingered yet in his nostrils, sweet and sour and loamy at once. No, he had seen what he had seen and there was no getting around it. “Jumping at shadows.” Economous muttered, more to himself than as an answer.

However this seemed enough for the smiling water-carrier and he immediately took hold of this small opportunity. “A goose for a gulp, m’lord,” he asked.

Economous paid two cobs – or four guise – and took four full swills from the communal pewter ladle that hung by a long leather cord from harness that held the puncheon high on the caddie’s hunched shoulders.

With a wink the caddie went on his way.

Returning trews and shoes and coat to their rightful stations on his frame, and taking his lank black hair up in a bow and setting his thricehigh firmly back upon his head, Economous transformed himself from an unshod, bare-headed, tree-embracing wilder to the civilised city-dwelling soul he usually played. Thus comported, he made his way south down South Arm and for home, perplexed by a muted yet definite glow of peculiar and unfounded … positivity – if that was a word – that had crept into his bosom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Onwards we go with Economous then \o/

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and reactions. I wondered too about having a more conversational start, to reveal some things about EM through chatter at an alehouse with fellow spedigraphers and other arterly types. We shall see - info-dumping is a common first draft symptom, so perhaps - if this goes to a second working - such an issue will be resolved.

I am thinking to post 1000-1500 words every Monday (Oz Monday that is, so this may vary for other parts of the world, late Sunday in the US and its neighbours for example). How does that grab you?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 1 Part 2

Here we are with the next instalment of Economous Musgrove - a Half-Continent tale, that I hope to be releasing with regular frequency. What do folks think: twice weekly? Once? Thrice? 

Thank you everyone for your encouragements, I shall press on and let the cross-fertilisation go on.

© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 1, part 2

His most recent employment at a grand gala held a month past by the Duchess-in-waiting of Naimes – in which he performed the required entertainment of spedographer – hasty portraitist – he thought he had gained a reference of the truest excellence. Yet it turned that even so exulted a recommendation as that of the Branden Rose – surely one of the great lights in Brandenbrass society – actually produced opposite outcome of spoiling the interest of patrons. 

“Oh, that’s not much chop,” potential customers would say with the same sour yet subtle sneer. “She takes on just about anyone these days…”

All Economous knew was that it had been a glorious night brimfull with swirling noble souls of the highest of high stations, each one costumed in glittering fancies of such gorgeous magnificence the would-be fabulist was certain the cost of just one could probably cover a year of his own expenses. It had been a bizarre, gleaming, all-to-brief moment to punctuate his ceaseless run of dogged days and every “customer” had declared themselves well pleased with his spedigraphs. Were it not for the first-rate sum the would-be fabulist was paid for his portraits of the gala guests – one month’s wage for a single night’s work – Economous would be pinched and starving and desperate indeed.

As it might be, geese aren’t fatted to be kept, he reminded himself with a second sigh.
Rumour – learnt only yesterday from a supercilious underwriting clerk at the Letter & Coursing House  – spoke of strange excentricities amoungst the Branden Rose’ staff and even some dark disconcerting hint of the crime of sedony, that is of kindness or an inclination of the same towards monsters. This was as grave as rumour could get, for in Brandenbrass – as in all decent societies – the monster was the supreme foe utterly bent on the ruination of the kingdom of everymen and deserving only of expulsion and destruction. To be found a sedorner – a monster-lover – was to be guilty of the worst stripe of betrayal known to all history and civilization, of which death – usually prelonged or painful – was the only just and fitting consequence. Economous had seen such poor souls exposed at the edge of Lo or on the road in to Brandenbrass languishing in gibbet-cages or strung spreadeagle upon tall Catharine wheels grown about with thorns to prevent their families from rescuing them.

No one would surely dare such a blatant and dangerous accusation with the great woman herself about, but the Branden Rose was no longer in the city and tongues were free to wag. And so her sanction proved Economous’ disadvantage, and he was back to much as he was when he first arrived in Brandenbrass two years ago.

With Lestwich – year’s end – nigh upon him, he was all too aware that even so handsome a figure as five sous would not last him longer than two or at best three months, certainly not now that his rent had been raised by the second time that year. He also knew that the steady income of steady – that is, dull and wearying – employment was not his lot. Yet without some proof of constancy and income how ever was he to impress upon Madamine Grouse, his landlady, that he was a good match for her beautiful daughter, Asthetica.

His soul soared upon misty mooning admiration for the raven-haired magnificence that was Asthetica Grouse with her flashing grey eyes, fine manners and then plummeted at the thought of her demoralizing string of suitors… The most recent and most daunting of all of these pretenders: Monsiere the Lord Sprandis Fold, Reive of Lot-in-the-Hole, man-about-town, weak of chin, so very fine of dress, heir to some fine mercantile concern and a peer of state. Though Economous could plainly see that none of her daughter’s beaus meant truly well for Asthetica – the Monsiere least of all – Madamine Grouse happily encouraged such acquaintence. For she bore high hopes that Asthetica’s fair face and fine figure would make her an eligible for a match to some gentleman of elevated station and deep purse. As properly book-learned and handy with a cudgel as he might have been, to Madamine Grouse Economous was a parish-born bumpkin, irredeemably obscure and “… poor as poorhouse rat!” as she so often reminded him.

What I need, Economous confirmed to himself with dark determination, is some great exploit to join that pays handsomely at the outset, or a wealthy patron to commision whole bodies of work like they do of the great master illuminators.

That very week Economous had gone to apply to join as an official recorder in the champaign being planned against the nickers occupying the fortress of Winstermill up north – a calamity presenting to him glittering opportuinty. Unlike – it seemed – many of his fellow citizens who had never known of the place until the report of its attack barely a month ago – Economous had some idea of the place. Serving as the main staging for a battalion of Imperial Lamplighters, it was a minor Imperial bastion much vaunted as being inpregnable, built upon old Burgundian foundations of Winstreslewe. Yet, clearly, Winstermill had been “pregged” after all, and worse still, by vicious monsters. Now its fall was all anyone ever sought to talk about: the great and dread threat of the north, the blighted nicker come to swallow the precincts of everymen at last! If so unbreechable a place had been breeched, how long could Brandenbrass several rings of lofty walls hold such a ravening at bay? The entire city was submerged under a pall of heavy and anxious watchfulness as if the entire world of monster-kind might at any moment surge upon Brandenbrass’ mighty walls and bring ruin to them too.

Much vexed by a recent Imperial Bull altering the naming of the last months of the year in honour of yet another Imperial Grandson, the sneering clerks at the grand knaving house were especially venemous as they refused him. “The Arch-duke and his supporters have imagineers enough for the purpose and are, I am sure, more concerned with fighting the monsters than scetching them!”

So, for Economous the Mouldwood had become the best of places to the escape the endless searching, the dour and frettful speculation, the demeaning clerical disdain, and forget, if but for a moment, the grim futility of his own life. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

An idea... (or: Economous Musgrove Chapter 1 Part 1)

I just had a crazy thought: I have an m/s that has not gone anywhere for a long while so perhaps I could share it with you all 500? 1000? words at a time. Perhaps feedback might get it moving? Perhaps it might be cool to let you all roam the Half-Continent again?

It will be un-edited, first-drafty (draughty - holes in it, get it?), and like un-spellchecked (not a real verb) but what do you think? Will the format of this blog make it too hard to read? 500 words? 1000 words? Any other problems? Benefits?

Here is a sample to get things rolling and see how it works... (about 1100 words, too much?)


© D.M.Cornish

1st Draft, June 2011-August 2013

1 ~ In the Park

fabulist ~ an imagineer – a maker of images by stylus, paint, charcoal or any other medium – employed by monster-hunting teratologists to go with them upon their dangerous exploits, observe their daring and make drawings and etchings of the same to prove to safe-living city folk of their praise-worthy prowess. Being a fabulist means therefore sharing all the dangers and hardships of your patron teratologist, and with it some hope of a healthy share of the accompanying rewards. For the true imagineer, however, it is not the promise of wealth that is the greatest draw, but the challenge of placing yourself in the very midst of the danger to draw a duel between patron and monster, and capture the as truly as possible at the very height and thrill of the violence.

Economous Musgrove, illustrator, some-time concometrist and would-be fabulist, sat quietly on a simple bench a little way in from the east gate of the Moldwood Park in the grand and ancient city of Brandenbrass and drew. He was well aware of the cleveland’s solemn reputation as a queer and unpleasant place, preserved by some ancient bond and stubbornly threwdish, despite centuries of encirclement by one of the world’s great cities. Indeed, surrounded by buzzing bugs and drifting pollens, he could feel a subtle watchfulness that he now called normal, brooding from the dark spaces between the olives and sycamores and black turpentines shaggy with yellowing lichens. It did not seem so unpleasant a sensation to him as most other folk complained upon. In truth – though he dare not admit it to anyone not even Asthetica, his true love – Economous actually liked the feeling of threwd here, as slight as it may have been. He found it a small but important thrill, giving him a taste of life as perhaps it ought to be: deep, perhaps impenetrable and impossibly vital – the stark opposite of the frustrating inertia that seemed to drag at his own days.

Barefoot, Economous sat now – shoes under his proofed frockcoat on the bench beside him – drawing nooks and boles, birds and all manner of crawling things that came his way. Most of all though, he drew the myriad rabbits great and small that so famously and helpfully infested this city-bound woodland. Loping from shadow to shadow, ears switchin ceaselessly forward and back, they grew bolder the longer he sat there, venturing from folds of thick cabage weed to wriggle their stunt noses at him. Though never able to pay him for his trouble, these nervous restless creatures were far less self-conscious or suspicious or given to offence than the people of this fair city, and they made excellent subjects to draught.

In dull blue-grey weskit and cotton shirt sleave rolled to elbow in the late spring heat, Economous strove to get every rabbit he spied down in the very midst of motion with both the speed and accuracy required for  the drawing of teratologists and their deadly exploits. He could have sat on any street or lane in the city itself to observe these, for Brandenbrass was famously over-run with the creatures, even to the obvious and peculiar exlusion of the far more usual rat that gnawed away at other cities. But where they were furtive, twitchy and quick to flight in the common ways, in the cool calm of the Moldwood the city-living rabbits were – contrary to all cause – calm and almost tame.

Today, however, his usually quiet, long-eared companions seemed unusually restless, making themselves hard to draw as they scampered among the roots and leaves, bounding over each other, breaking out in energetic scuffles Economous had never previously witnessed. They were bolder too, some daring to graze and frolic right up by his seat, while out of the deeper shades of the park more rabbits emerged, playing all about him now in such numbers that set Economous to marvelling.

Perhaps their spring-time broods have come out to join them?

Yet he could not see any small-bodied, big-eyed, short-eared bunnies among the great variety of creatures gathered, nor even one slender leveret. They were all – as far as he could reckon it – full grown rabbits.

Economous paused for a moment, leaning back and rubbing his eyes against the strain of concentration to which they had been subject for the last two hours.

Though rigourously schooled as a concometrists at the athenaeum, he spent much of his apprenticeship drawing rather than measuring or reading or recording as he was supposed to do. And though he had at the end of his five years there been granted a numrelogue to record measurements and earned his calibrator – the thick yard long ruler that was both weapon and tool of a concometrist’s trade, much of what his exasperated masters had sought to squeeze into his intellectuals had simply gone in his ears and run out of his eyes. Little now seemed left behind of his learning but some vague reckoning of the tribes into which habilists divided all beasts, a modicum of Tutin – the language of scholarship and the Empire – and page upon page of unauthorised drawings. It had felt like a false start as he left the athy and made for the great and shining prospects of Brandenbrass and after missteps and blank leads, it still felt like it now.

For, no matter how he tried these two years gone since departing Athingdon Athenaeum, he had failed to gain any momentum as a full-fledge fabulist: drafting, etching and daubing his way from one client to the next upon the headway of an ever-increasing set of references of ever-increaing excellence. Though he had been considered many many times, he had only been on three true hunts. He had thrilled at the chase and stood astonished at the wonder and dread of the snarling cornered beasts they sought, capturing the wild things with far greater passion than he drew the exploits of his actual human patron. Unfortunately, upon the last hunt – now nigh on a year gone –in his eagerness to fully render the small, wizzened, almost pathetically child-like bogle they were chasing, he thoughtlessly got in the teratologist’s way thus allowing the little creature to win free and escape. Though they searched for a week it was never to be found again. Foiled, the hunt had returned to the city empty-handed where – deprived of his prize – the teratologist gave Economous so bad a report that it swiftly spread into an awkward reputation. This poor name went well ahead of the would-be fabulist, so bringing him to this present paucity of work. Still, Economous was not about to let himself be so simply prevented. Ever since his earliest years his way had not been as every other soul’s, and regardless of anyone else's interventions, he was not about to let one mistake ruin his own chosen course of life.