Thank you everyone for your encouragements, I shall press on and let the cross-fertilisation go on.
PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION
Chapter 1, part 2
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.