I would suggest the following is NOT a good way to get out of a hole.
I am finding folks theorums and ponderings about who is what very entertaining and helpful. Please, keep the thoughts coming.
PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION
Chapter 6 PART 1
casque ~ a hinged slat of wood with holes for neck and wrists and a heavy lock to secure it shut; used as the most basic form of civil punishment by many cities of the Soutlands, seen as more humane than lashes with a cane that was for many generations the usual mode. MORE…………
Half-blind in drunken dismay and utterly shocked with himself, Economous part jogged, part staggered down the To-Market, determined to put as many strides between him and the disarray behind him as he could in an evening. So rough was his exit that he fully expected to be chase down and accosted, hauled back to Lord Fold to apologise with great show: but no pursuit followed him in his rapid, unsteady retreat. With a confused notion of replenishing his vanished stock of cheap claratine, Economous bumped through his fellow downside citizens agitated with anticipations of the year’s turning. About him folks made ready all manner of cauldron-bells, clutter-bottles, ratchet weasels, pots, griddle pans, cutlery, tom drums, tin horns and speaking trumpets: a great collection by which to make a great din of noise to see out one annum and bring in the new.
Once, long ago in less urbane times, such clamour was universally held to frighten off monsters prowling at the foot of village walls. And though the custom was thoughtlessly continued in most cities of the Soutland city-states, such simple-headed ideas were largely forgotten or scoffed over. Yet any rustic parish neighbour, especially those under very present threat from nicker and bogle out on the sokelands at the fringe of human habitation – such as Economous’ native town of Lo – knew better. As much as he relished city life, Economous had always thought the name of “naïvine” for an urbanite who had never encountered a monster acutely apt. City folk loved to put on knowing manners and pretend to themselves that they were supreme over all the threats of nature, but he had only met a few who fathomed fully the dread and danger that country souls called normal. And the higher the rank, the deeper this ignorance commonly went: such as Lord Fold. Economous sorely doubted if the Reive of Lot-in-the-hole – despite his country purview – had ever been dial-to-dial with even a mildly mischievous bogle, let alone a ravening nicker and survived.
Resolved on finding some small species of satisfaction in this dyphr-wreckage of a day, the frustrated illuminator hurried onto wider way of the Prandial Street, a dual carting way fancy enough to possess stone-posts and its own row of street lamps at the regulation twenty-five yards, paid for by subscription of the local shopkeepers. Such glorious enlightenment – normally only found in middling or high-station suburbs – made this thoroughfare popular in the darkling hours and its merchants and markets and walk-in bazaars remained open well after all other sellers had retired for hearth and bed.
As the sun westered, the day-light traffic of cart and drey and the rare private lentum was replaced by handsome, open-top dyphrs, park-drags with teams of six and fare-charging takenys coming from all wards of the city. Under the frowning wood embellishments leaning from the salt-stained façade of every structure to crowd the vacancy above the Prandial, the usual throng continued without pause: water-caddies, crossing-sweeps and wandering tray or barrow sellers, moll potnys, sharps with their cheap tricks and grab-cleats lurking, looking for easy prey. But now these were joined by early revellers, a great many of whom – by evidence of their fine clothes – were not native to the Grand Liberty of the Alcoves. With all these hurried a unique sight in this modern age: dollymops by the dozen in their high white bonnets and aproned stomacher dresses. Like lowly pantry maids they went with clear purpose from grocer’s stall to shambleman, from tallow-puff to dispensurist and all domestic shops between, forced by their work-a-day hours to buy their food and necessaries at such an unseemly time.
Among it all Economous wove a worming way until he spied the shuffling figure he sought: Chancer Pigfeet – a convicted pinch-dough baker only recently returned from prison, back to scratch his scant living from the admirably forgiving or those of his neighbours too poor to afford grudges. Employing a tallow barrow as his stall, crying: “Loafs for the loathely! Bread for starving souls!”, Chancer Pigfeet also sold the cheapest claratine this side of the Spokes.
Sight fixed on the pinch-doughman, Economous bustled through a small collection of fine-looking folk out of place in their well-cut cloth and gathered so carelessly and obstructively in the very midst of the Prandial’s walk.
“Oi!” came a rough retort.
Ignoring exclamations and goodly manners – such as his own parents had taken pains to inculcate in him during his awkward, lonely boyhood – the aimless imagineer pressed on to his goal of small, stony loaves and thin wine. Yet when he approached [BAKER NAME] the fellow looked past Economous, paled, turned and hurried his meagre goods to some other vantage on the bustling street.
Economous blinked stupidly and frowned.
“My, that’s a fine piece o’ wood you have in your hands, m’boy,” came an oily observation from close behind.
Economous turned to find a portly high-station fellow in a fine coat of cloth-of-silver brocaded with cloth-of-gold, and a high silver wig standing before him: primped, powdered, flabby cheeks rouged prettily, entire person drenched in pungent sweet-waters.
Lord Dust of Drystick, little doubt, Economous concluded and chuckled to himself.
Here was another bored and indolent person of circumstance out on “adventure” in the rough districts.
What is it about the Alcoves that attracts these overblown dastards?
At the brave “adventurer’s” back were three unfriendly looking figures, the man’s spurns, there to make the slumming adventure actually possible, all clad in heavy proofing and sour looks that served well to keep most trouble bayed. One – a woman – was marked with a twin of dark vertical stripes upon their face going from hairline, over either eye and down each cheek. A skold! – a brewer and thrower of dangerous potives designed first to harm monsters but proving ill against everymen too.
“I am myself a connoisseur – as they say it in the Patricine – of such curiosities,” the powdered fellow said smoothly, looking intently to Economous’ hand. “From whom did you steal it?”
Puzzle-headed, Economous lifted his hand and saw what grip alone confirmed, that in the heat of the instant he had fled Madamine Grouse’ Bunkhouse with the black-elder calibrator still in grasp. “It is not stolen!” he slurred angrily. “H-how dare you, sir! It was a –” … then realised with a souse-addled blink he had no fitting tale as to how he possessed it, close his mouth with an audible plop!
“Oh I think we will find it is stolen, m’boy,” the preened and powdered adventurer pressed, his regard only leaving the priceless tool to make certain he was making a fine spectacle.
By now other folk were realising something dark and portentially unpleasant was a-foot and began reflexively to skirt widely about Economous and his well-served tormentor.
“Do you see, [………NAME………],” the fat fellow continued over-loudly, talking now to a young spurn on his right: a swaggering yet rather common-looking fellow a year or two Economous’ junior and cradling a gabelung in his arms as if it were the historied Mast of Ruin itself. “This is why we do the necessary civic service of descending into this reeking place and patrolling its diseased streets. At every turn is some half-clothed blackguard such as this fellow here,” he flicked a dismissive gesture at Economous, “strolling about brazenly without neckerchief or hat or cingulum, boasting their crimes and thinking these warrens of unhealthy streets will hide them. Not while Monsiere Blanquett is on his watch! Oh no! Not while I care and dare enough to bring right and fruitful living to those most in need of the instruction.”
“Dare you seek to impeach the noble and tested character of a concometrist, sir!” Economous retorted boldly, his humours simmering with all the courage three bottles of bitter-strong vin can bring.
For a blink his rotund accuser took pause: it was indeed a grave thing to assault any of an athy’s agents by word or deed. Had Economous been wearing his baldric, sable edged in leuc – black edged in white, the unique sign of a concometrist – it would have been unlikely they would have accosted him in the first, fancy calibrator or nil.
But all too quickly the man’s expression turned shrewd.
“Ho now!” Monsiere Blanquett declared victoriously, looking the dishevelled illuminator boot to crown with open disgust. “Where is your cingulum? Your number-book? Your fitting mode of attire?” He raised a victorious finger. “For if you are a concometrist, sir,” he continued waspishly, “then you are a disgrace to that institution’s glorious dignity!”
Though Economous was about himself enough to not let it show, this judgement hit true, for it was – surely – true. “Well,” he returned with a contrived and showing lightness of tone, “allow me to hasten home and fetch it then, to prove my claim and save you embarrassment.” Realising that he was just playing into this silken bully’s game in remaining tamely to receive his lecture, Economous now turned and went on his way, already thinking how tasty even an ill-baked pinch loaf would taste at that moment.
“Don’t you walk away from me, you lousy malnourished brute!” the self-proclaimed monsiere bellowed with all the authority four spurns gained him. “Stop! STOP ! I say, or for this insult alone I shall make certain you suffer an afternoon in a casque on the public step of the Leak!"
This was no idle threat: a person of high station could indeed – upon their word alone – have any low-born soul incarcerated briefly on the charge of insolence and wilful impertinence.
Despite himself, Economous halted and turned.