Monday, November 18, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 7 Part 3

Alas, with Supanova Adelaide now done I have the post con blues, but such trifles are not enough to stop Economous from pushing on!

To those who are seeking to guess what is happening next, it may come as some surprise to you that if my stories have plot twists these are not nor have ever been intentional, and though some authors might (certainly tv script writers seem to anyway), I am not sitting at my keyboard rubbing cunning hands and playing some kind of guessing game with you all. 

If their are "twists" they are instead simply artefacts of me seeking to be true to my characters and to the Half-Continent most of all, and because the H-c is a foreign land with forces driving it different from our own, "twists" occur, it seems. Was this how you were reading the MBTs? Trying to fathom ahead how things were going to turn out? 

(I do not do this myself, so I find the practice strange - I have always thought a story best enjoyed if each moment is savoured and I leave the telling and what is ahead to the director/author/whoever.)



© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 7 PART 3
Opportunity Unlooked For

In the bright cheer of a warm Estor morning promising a hotter day, Economous – dressed in full coat, high shirt collar and neckerchief despite the waxing heat – finally set a step outside the warren of his garret. With many a wary glance to left and to right he hurried his way to the harbour where the many commutation offices were, eschewing common paths in favour of an obscure route less likely to be patrolled by those not local living. His way took him to seaward precincts of the harbour’s edge where the closer to the powerful stink of the palid, acrid waters of the harbour the city drew, the more tumbledown it became. For the more well-to-do souls were, the further back from the reek they sought to dwell and to work – most of the city’s peers living in the hilly suburbs beyond the first curtain wall – as if to escape the bitter reality of the hostile waters. Even the Brandendirk – the Archduke’s palace and the cities chief seat of government – was built well inland. Economous had read once that it was the reverse in Gottland: that for their noble classes it was considered a sign of the strength of their breeding to live as near the sea-stink as possible, building out even over the smashing waves that were a feature of those distant waters.

It was the reverse for comutation agents too.

Proximity to the sea was prized for its convenience to the very vessels for which each agent acted and all the best crowded the main strands that ran along the very rim of the city’s many elevated stone pace – great structures of stone, brick and mortar lifting the sea-side districts safe from the monster-infested waters. Consequently it was in lanes and walks the tunneled off from these high strands that the cheaper – and generally shabbier – commutation agents were to be found. And, as a seldom contradicted rule, the shabier the agent, the shabier the vessels they represented.

 As for himself, Economous had grown well used to the smell by now, and standing now on the stoop of [AGENT NAME & ADDRESS], found in a dingy perpendicular alley, he drew in a lung-full of the odour before entering the file. He still remembered vividly his own very first proper smell of the vinegar seas; stinging, over-sweet yet caustic at once, bringing back a time in childheood when his father had spilt embalming douse all over the kitchen floor. The reason for such an expensive mishap in so incompatible a location remained vague yet disquieting even to this day, though Economous well recalled that at the time he and his mother – under her tearful insistence – spent a goodly long time living in the kinder-smelling hospitality of their next door neighbour’s tiny back room.

Purchasing the cheapest commutation ticket possible – twelve whole sequins or a week’s labouring wage – from a blandly mannered clerk, Economous was set to depart on the least costly receiving vessel warping a course to Boschenberg very early in two mornings’ time.

“The Douse Fish is the vessel’s gazetted name,” the commutation clerk intoned. “Its master one Mister Patefract.”

“Is it a good vessel?” Economous asked before he thought. “Sea-fit or whatever the saltdogs call them?”

The clerk regarded him with a mixture of required patience and barely vieled scorn. “I cannot say, sir,” he said and added meaningfully as he collected the fee. “I believe in our line you get what you pay for.”

With nought else to offer, Economous passed over on of the dazzling new coins of his down-payment.

“What is this, sir?” the clerk arched a brow at the glittering geld.

“It is… gold, sir,” Economous returned mildly, thinking fast. “Surely you do gold?”

“It is also not proper tender, sir,” the man blinked long-sufferingly at him. “Sous, oscadrils, staters, grassus, hours, Hergott doubles, Turkic lots and even Sebastian imations we do, but that” – he continued to regard the coin as if it were nothing more than a slip of paper with the word money writ bold upon it – “we do not. Find a benchman and git this changed into something useful… Or better yet, take it to one of those learn-ed wiseacres at the Pike Athy who could buy it off you to put on wondrous display,” the froward fellow concluded in a tone that spoke of anything but wonder. “On either course, no ticket will be issued without genuine denominations.”

Economous had thought the gleam of genuine gold would move folk to be far more willing, but it appeared that the avoidance of bureaucratical tribulations was prized higher. Half the district, two thirds of the day and four benchmen later, Economous at last found some one willing to do more than snort or sniff or scowl at his alien billions.

“That’s a Samnian knot!” this fourth benchmen – one Mister [………BRILLIANT NAME HERE………], Handler & Exchange, according to his well-polished sign on the shop’s door post – finally responded, speaking through rotten teeth and straggling greasy moustachio like the drooping wiskers of a cat. Despite these most obvious disadvatages, the fellow was finely turned out in well-cut frockcoat, his  solitaire properly tied about a pristine white collar.

 “From the lost kingdom of Samé?” Economous replied, recognising the name from his athenaeum learning.

“Aye, aye, Samé, Samnë – ‘tis all apples,” the benchman returned. “Where in the blighted here and vere did ye find such trove? Ye di’n’t steal ‘em, did ye?” he pressed with a scowl, drawing himself up indignantly. “I’m no fence for pilfer, sir!”

Economous straightened too, puffing his cheeks at the accusation, refusing the fright and the inwardly repeating scene of the fight on the Prandial with Monsiere Blanquett and his all-too-eager roughs. “It is payment, man,” he retorted hottly, “from my patroness in the far-off Undermeer.”

The benchman’s dubious expression did not shift, yet he said no more on it and agreed to five sou for each coin less his handling fee, writing up ten crackling-fresh folding notes – one for each coin.

Of a sudden, Economous found himself in that single transaction pocket-filled with an entire year’s living. Oppressively aware of the sheer weight of wealth in his wallet as he stepped in a daze from the benchman’s shop, the young illuminator hurried back to [AGENT NAME & ADDRESS] to pay the commutation fee. Receiving yet more folding notes as change from the increasingly unamused clerk and, for only the second time in his entire life in Brandenbrass, Economous hired a takeny-carriage to carry him, money and all, safe back to Shaded Rafters.

As Binbrindle so sagely predicted, Madamine Grouse was indeed displeased to be told of such abruptly final departure.

“I must be allowed time to advertise for your replacement!” she declaimed tartly from her appartment door. “How am I to make my own small way in zis ugly city wizout a full list of lodgers?” She thrust her hand at him, open and empty always wanting more.

Behind her and turned out prettily in a white summer dress all wide whispering hems of the softest, purest cloth and a broad straw bonnet – obviously a preparation for some dazzling Midwich outing with her beau –  Asthetica pottered  in the saloon and made a point of not looking at him.

But Economous felt bold now that he was going and he would show these grasping women the full stretch of his bow – as Bidbrindle was fond of putting it. “This ought cover my obligation,” he retorted with equal severity and slapped one of his newly writ one sou notes onto the cold grasping palm of his landlady. It was likely well more than was needed, but worth the loss if just once, on this last occasion, it

Astounded to silence, the Madamine just blinked and the folding money, laying so crisp and brightly printed in her grip.

This oddly strangled silence drew Asthetica’s attention. “Ma-ma?” she asked, coming now to the door.

 “You stole it!” Madamine Grouse suddenly gasped, clutching the billion to her bosom in over-drawn shock.

“Ma-ma!” Aesthetica chided.

“He stole it,” the older woman insisted, waving the note like it was an alarum flag, “and now he is fleeing zis city for fear of ze duke’s justice!”

“I did not steal it, madam!” Economous grew loud. Why are folks so keen to cry this at me? “I have a patron!”

“So you have been playing pauper all this time, have you?” the sour-souled woman shifted flank as quick as any wily ambuscadier. “Fooling this poor soul, starving my precious daughter out of her food! But now it proves you are a-wash with coin!”

“I have a patron now, Madamine Grouse!” the illuminator insisted with yet greater volume which seemed to bring him space to speak at last. “An agent for a lady of the highest distinction called only yesterday. This great personage has sent for me especially from the Subtle Pall. Her, and that” – he nictated firmly to the glittering disc snatched so securely away – “is part of a down payment to retain my service. If it proves insufficient, madam,” he pressed, keen to keep the momentum of the shock, “then you may take what rent you like from the sale of my affects. You are welcome to it. I am leaving this city, probably never to return.”

At this Aesthetica finally beheld him in full and frank surprise.

 “Never to return?” she repeated in a small, strangely strangled voice.

Economous frowned and jutted his bottom jaw obstinately. “Aye,” was all he said in overly cold reply.

Occult thoughts clearly raced behind the perplexed quickly blinking gaze of his one time fixation, and her perfect Hamlin-bow lips seemed for a moment to quiver perhaps with emotion, perhaps about to speak… Yeet Asthetica said no more.

What was it to her that this was so? She already had her deep-pursed peer just as was always intended; Economous was free to go and do now just as winds blew and for once they were gusting his way.

“Well zen, good bye to you, sir,” Madamine Grouse returned with an abrupt stiffening of manner. “Maybe now I can get someone to pay proper rent for your room.” Reaching across her daughter to subtly yet bodily shove the confused girl back into to room, his landlady firmly shut the apartment door, gracing him with one last and peculiarly narrow-eyed glare before the portal closed with a telling final “thud”.


BrokenSphere said...

It's good to see that what used to be just a location on the map get some mention!

Anonymous said...

Was Samé ever mentioned before?

allieoopleson said...

I can't get enough of this world you've created. Entirely fascinated by it. When i met you at the brisbane supanova you asked if i had any questions. I didn't then because of my giddiness, but i do now. In a land full of monsters, how are corpses...disposed of? Burial? Cremation? Put out to the vinegar seas? Are there cemetaries? I wasn't sure if you had already written about this. Me and my morbid curiousity. ;-)

BrokenSphere said...

Samé has only appeared on H-C maps. It is north of Catalain and the Ichormeer.

A quick answer to the corpse handling question, there are cemeteries, which are visited by corsers (professional grave robbers) and necrophagi (?), monsters that consume corpses. Lamplighter, Factotum, and The Corsers' Hinge go into some detail about this.

Master Come Lately said...

Allieoopleson, you might find it interesting that while the Half-Continent does have cemeteries, the people bury their dead vertically (standing) instead of horizontally (laying) to save space. This is most likely (as you were saying) because of the work and risk required to tame land from the threat of monsters.

I'm pleased by this addition. Not only for the continuing of Economous's adventures, but also for the new bits of information about the setting and culture, primarily the currency. Also, I can empathize with Economous for his passive aggressiveness toward Aesthetica. The emotional scab he grew to cover the wound from that night numbed him and kept him from consciously realizing that Aesthetica still has feelings for him. (Sorry for showing away what little I understand of mental workings.) Also, .

Master Come Lately said...

(contd.) Also, Economous was still a jerk toward Aesthetica, despite whether or not it's understandable.

Alyosha said...

In a post a few cycles back I guessed that the Lapinduce had some ulterior motive for giving Economous the calibrator. Then, in the next sentence, I noted that I wouldn’t have thought of that if it weren’t for the week long gaps between installments. Ordinarily I would have gone along with the flow of the story. So the answer to your question about anticipating events depends on how the story is presented. Even when I’m “going with the flow” there’s a part of my mind that’s analyzing plausibility and setting up expectations; but, unless there are long lapses of time between episodes (as in your telling of this story) those conclusions stay in the background.

Regarding the latest episode – hmmm, your main characters have a penchant for sniffing out the worst nautical travel arrangements possible, even when they have other options: pre-arranged passage for Rossamund, and loads of money for Economous. The little, analyzing voice in my head is already making queasy noises about the coming voyage. But Rossamund had the pluck to turn a mistake into an opportunity. I’m eager to find out if Economous has similar pluck.

About Aesthetica, though the hints are there that she might feel something for our hero, I’m with Economous that the ball is in Aesthetica’s court. Whatever the economic pressures, if she doesn’t understand that what she’s done has deeply wounded Economous, and she doesn’t take the initiative to tell (not just hint) her feelings and her side of the story, then the future of the relationship was on rocky ground anyway. But Economous hasn’t left town just yet…

allieoopleson said...

Thank you!

allieoopleson said...

Thank you!

Alyosha said...

I take back part of what I said in the earlier post. The story reads that Economous made an "overly cold reply." And if the story says "overly cold," then overly it was. So, yes, it sounds like a touch more kindness would have made a response by Aesthetica more likely.

D.M. Cornish said...

And thank you for your insights once again; E has been cold, yes, and we can see his mistake, but (given this is drawn from if somewhat indirectly experience) he is hurt and confused about her, and has another way (out) at last; so I for one do not blame him, tho I do not commend him.

(Is that mustachio new(ish), Mr A? I have not looked very hard at your avatar in a wee while.)

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Unknown said...

A thought about attempting to read ahead and guess the plot... Oftimes when I am reading a story, I find my mind grasping on a point and wondering if it perhaps means something significant. For example, one of the Explicarium points at the start of a chapter in MBT:Lamplighter described the ancient and mythical weapons of the Heldins, and I wondered "Hmmm. Perhaps there is some external source or explanation for Rossamund's strange abilities? Perhaps he's unknowingly in possession of some kind of artefact and the hints of his unmanlike nature might be just misdirection?" And then I was delighted that this itself was just misdirection and he was in fact what he was, which was also awesome.