Daylight saving has just started and I have lost a hour - a WHOLE hour - from the day. Whatever will I do? Where did it go? To the place where time is killed?
Anyway, Economous presses on once more; but what is a soul to do when the aftermath of an extraordinary event is just more of the same old boring blah?
PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION
Chapter 5 PART 2
For a long time all Economous could do was blink in awed dismay at the blue sigil rabbits tossing and flicking so prettily on the silken banners while the goodly citizens they represented bustled about beneath them in complete ignorance to their true import. What if they did? What if it suddenly became wide and accepted revelation that a monster-lord dwelt in the very heart of their safety? Would the entire city suddenly rise up in revolt, invade the Moldwood, drive the Lapinduce from his warren and burn the feral park to its stumps? Would they seek to keep such terrible information from the ken of their neighbours already jealous and ever so keen to find just such a powerfully justifiable excuse to band together and wipe their chief rival from the map?
Already perplexed by his secret knowledge, his intelligence of the Lapinduce suddenly felt a ponderous weight indeed. Seeking to escape this increasing heaviness, Economous finally turned his attention to his note and shaking his head to clear it, began:
Most dear Asthetica…
He hesitated for a fretful beat… Is that too emphatic for such a note? Too intimate? His stylus hovered in uncertain hand a moment longer than scrawled on: the greeting would remain, it was how he felt and it needed to be said whatever the outcome.
How can I make amends for my carelessness! I have a profound thing to tell you and can only hope it suffices for my unaccountable absence and my cruel want of basic civility.
Please allow me to meet with you to make my excuses.
May I extend my invitation for you to join me for Lestwichnight tomorrow, that I might spend the ending of one year and the heralding of the new in your…
… While he searched mind and wind for the right word to sum his view of Asthetica’s character, Economous became aware of the twitching regard of beady rabbit eyes glimpsed in the obscurity of a footway that ran between his bunkhouse and its neighbour. Why didn’t you let me find you! he complained inwardly as he glowered at the blighted animals, as if the Lapinduce might fathom such thoughts through what were surely his furtive agents.
In a windy flapping of black wings, a pied daw dropped and landed without warning upon the left balustrade of the tenement steps to peer at Economous with its disconcertingly shrewd yellow eye. Here in the city these birds were despised as cousins of the crow: the barer of ill-news and unhappy dreams. Yet out in the parishlands about Lo such creatures were also held as signals of shifting circumstance for both ill and good.
Economous regarded the handsome bird closely and reflexively began to draw its heavy bill and beady frown upon the top left corner of the letter leaf.
With a peculiar almost word-like croak, the pied daw took wing again and rose up swiftly to disappear over ridgecaps.
Perhaps the time had come for the aimless drawer to shift his circumstance and be more forthright with Miss Grouse about his own, far truer intent; to stride out boldly upon this last path left to him…
… your excellent and steady company.
Ever in respect and admiration,
He marked this with a cartoon of a pair of cooing doves, beak to beak, there heads enclosed with a circle. About to knock upon the Grouse’ hallowed ground floor door, he thought better of it and simply left the brief missive slotted between floor and jamb as the one for him had been, to be found by the damasel on her return from the day’s duties.
To stop himself from being consumed by expectation for a reply the would-be fabulist returned to his apartment for his hat, his coat and his usual bland calibrator and stepped out. He did briefly consider bringing his prize with him instead, but it would surely not do to wander about with an entire yard of black elder in hand… and he was uncertain he wanted to feel its alien restlessness in his hand as he attempted to restore what passed for his mundane routine.
Taking the hour walk from the more salubrious northen-western corner of the Alcoves – where not everyone was an unrepentant scoundrel yet rents were low enough for some one of such inconstant means – he made his way along steadily improving streets to the grand and hectic circuit known as the Spokes. Here it was his intent to employ the afternoon within the green domed colonnades of the grand knavery of Letter and Coursing House, seeking and applying for fabulist work with whichever teratologist would have him.
From his very first day fresh-arrived in Brandenbrass, the Coursing House had served as the focus of Economous’ aspiration, a compass to which he always turned to remind him of his path when low winds threatened to cast him adrift. The Mouldwood now failing him, the knavery would have to do as a refuge.
Up the marble steps and through heavy wooden doors, Economous strode into the cool Removing his tricorn he took his place in the shortest of the three lines before the clerking stalls and he basked for a breath in the soft blue glow of the gretchen globes that hung in rows of carbuncles from the high domed ceiling. Costly luminescent pearls each the size of a pumpkin, these gretchens were said to be formed in the gizzards of the sea-dwelling kraulschwimmen and spat up to be found by unnaturally brave meerlunkers or fortune-favoured beachcombers. In this lofty space – this house of goals achieved – it was his hope to avoid the heights of his anxiety through the shuffling of papers and arguing with the ubiquitously disdainful and obstructive knaving clerks.
A loud clearing of the throat brought Economous to abrupt awareness.
A teratologist was standing on his right, clearly insisting upon pushing ahead of Economous in the line.
It was an unchallenged custom of any knavery that the monster-hunters themselves had implicit seniority. And though no decent teratologist would ever be so rude as to push in directly, it was a given that they should be allowed ahead of any lesser soul in any queue – especially the longer sort. The best sort of monster-slayer did not stand in any manner of line, of course, but had staff – a factotum or valet or hand-maiden – to do such petty things for them.
Economous stepped back reflexively with scarce a glance at the upstart knave.
For a dark, gizzard-tumbling beat he thought it was the very teratologist he had last served with such ill result these sixteen months gone, the one whose kill he had foiled with his fascination for the small bogle they were certificated to kill.
It was not.
The fellow – a lightning-grasping fulgar with a great red diamond in the middle of his forehead – fixed him with a withering smirk before taking his enforced place at the line’s head.
Let him scowl and glower¸ Economous counselled himself. I fathom he could not stand a moment in the court of a lord of monsters. Well aware of where he was – a veritable bastion committed entirely to monster-slaughter – the would-be fabulist stifled this route of thinking lest it somehow show on his dial and sink him in to deeper strife.
With the fulgar came a servant hefting a clearly weighty bag that was most surely holding the severed trophy of a successful hunt: the necessary proof for gaining a glorious pot of prize money.
Had the creature deserved such a bitter ending?
The dangerous question flashed across Economous’ thoughts and was gone again before he could arrest it. Keeping his face from showing guilt and knowing full well how absurd he was being, he looked to left and right to see if anyone in the queues at either hand had noticed him having such a treacherous idea. No one was paying him even the slightest regard.
“One might reckon that with your soiled reputation, Master Musgrove,” came the sardonic voice of the knaving clerk in the now vacated lattice before him, “you would cease wasting our time with your continued applications.”
Too shocked at himself, Economous had not realised the teratologist had concluded their business and moved on. Seeking to shove all sedonary notions as far from his inner turnings as he could, he stepped to the stall and got on with the usual trade of finding employment. Yet, as he sparred words with the quill-licking clerks and carefully filled and filed several Certificates of Intention and Offer of Compact a notion occurred that stopped his labour short. Stylus hovering over the seventh Intent he had filled that day, he blinked sightlessly at the latticed booth screen before him.
How can I join the hunt for monsters now that I have met one of their lords?
With a defeated sigh, he put his elbows heavily on the scribing shelf of the booth and covered his face with his hands.
Surely of all souls I have to own that not all monsters ought be slain outright?
What of his ambitions now?
For the last two years he had been telling himself that teratologists only pursued the worst monsters, those who by their violence had brought such deadly attention upon themselves. In his deepest thoughts he had always known that this was a thin rationale; that in the thrill of the chase and with it wealth and glory, no teratologist made such nice distinctions. The rationale was thin, yes, but it had let him live within a society were the common opinion – the only opinion – was that all monsters were worthy only of destruction. Ever since his shaggy childhood saviour had been mercilessly and mindlessly hunted by the stoutest souls of Lo and a teratologist from the city sent for to find and properly “do the wicked creature in!” he had been schooled in this all too well. More than this, such thin thinking had let him somewhat untroubled of soul to seek an alliance with monster-hunters as their fabulist.
But now he had not simply glimpsed but spent a day in the very company of a monster – a king of monsters no less. His thin rationale was blasted; with a shock he could see that driven by selfish ambition he too had lapsed into his own kind of mindlessness, operating upon the thoughtless presumption of doing right.
A great groan of frustration roiled in his milt.
One small sour consolation was that he had participated in only three such hunts, and for the first time felt some good that he had helped that childlike bogle of the last of these to escape destruction, however unintentional it might have been. He must have unwittingly given actual voice to this inward cry, for looking up at last he found the factoti, the teratology agents, the lesser teratologists filling their own papers and other desperate souls in the booths on on either hand looked up to frown or sneer or snicker at him.
Bereft and aimless, would-be fabuilist no longer, Economous fled the Knaving House.