Late again, but still arrived, more Economous is here.
May I just say too, how much I appreciate you all, whether you comment or not, and how much your comments encourage me to continue and aid in the creative process - it is like you are all some kind of beta (alpha?) testers helping guide the outcome of the final result. Anyway, lame similes aside, thank you all.
PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION
Chapter 9 PART 2
The Sulk & Through
The next morning, with the sun already beating with summer heat upon all uncovered pates, Economous found the lenterman sitting easy with the side-armsman and the backstepper, all sipping the best local under the shade of coachyard’s broad eaves.
“No passage today, m’hearty,” the lenterman said with a lazy tip of his already lazily tilted stovepipe hat.
The second day proved even hotter and the lentermen all the more comfortably disposed under the coachyard eaves, and the driver’s answer was the same as before.
“You’ll not make the clock wind faster,” the fan-flicking woman observed as Economous sought frustrated retreat to his small solitary bunk space.
Sat at a small round budge-table just outside the common room door, she was sipping what the young fabulist could only guess was salloop. Head now barely covered by an impractically small version of a stovepipe known as a columna, she still wore the same dark green travel cloak, satin mules of striking red poking out from beneath the viridian hem of her light cloak. But more striking yet – and catching Economous utterly off guard – were her eyes, now clear of any obscuring hat-shade, were clearest blue with orbs of solid bloody red. She was a falseman. A lie-seeing leer. A lady lie-seeing leer.
“Neither will chiding me, madam!” Economous retorted hotly, surprising himself so profoundly with his own heat that his pace quickening in shame as he sought to retreat past her and seek the solace of his hired room. Yet better nature over-ruled him the very next beat and halting abruptly, the fabulist pivoted on his heal to face his fellow traveller.
She sat up the straighter, fan clicking shut and readied as a weapon. She blinked at him with those disquieting eyes, expression pinned between dismay and self-defence.
“Uh…” he fumbled, “I – I – Sorry for my impulsiveness, madam,” he bowed as low as seven days aboard a po’lent would allow. “Please … please, allow accept my apologies.”
This woman beheld him in still silent deliberation.
“I am not of the habit,” she returned at last, “for speaking freely to one of whom I am not properly introduced.”
Economous blinked at her. “Mister Economous Musgrove, Metrician Third Table and Illuminator to Gentry.” The young fabulisto obliged his audience with a second bow: a bumbling simulacrum of the sweeping bobs Mister Bidbrindle liked to beck, if only to avoid looking into those red-and-blue eyes.
“Miss Swift, if you must,” she returned, her voice cool but her fan a-flutter tightly. “Panapolë Swift of Doggenbrass.”
“Well, Miss Panapolë Swift of Doggenbrass,” Economous halted before her – A name at last! – “Surly you find the delay tiresome?”
“I do, of course,” she said, taking a sip of salloop, “but I know better than to fret at a cause I cannot alter. Lights know I have had much practice,” she added, more to herself.
With no counter for this, Economous stood dumb, hands behind his back and cupping the bottom of his bautis-box to give them something to do, sucking in the warm air as he rocked upon booted heels and gazed up at the thin clouds drifting west.
“And how is it, Miss Swift,” he said at length, “that you are still my travelling companion?”
Regarding him for a moment with a must-thee-know stare, she finally said: “I am seeking a particular personage in Knapphausen,” she offered at last.
“As am I,” Economous returned, his last syllable going mawkishly shrill in his surprised delight.
He blinked at her and she at him, quickly turned upon both sides to gaze-averting embarrassment.
“It is hiring season then, in the Subtle Pall…” said Miss Swift as she stared fixedly at her salloop with those discomposing eyes and fanned herself with especial vigour.
“Aye,” was all of Economous’ reply.
* * * * *
Carrying Miserichord about in its box on his back, Economous took to assiduously avoiding Miss Swift, instead wandering about the village, crouching to draw the sagging wooden highhouses with their distinctive conical roofs of flax and their grim-faced denizens. At first he was a spectacle as souls stood over him to watch him make his marks, but tiring quickly of muttering wonders and beady observation, the fabulist fled east out through the gated gap in Poonemünd’s warding dyke and moat. In the windy hissing solitude of the surrounding pastures, the road actually went directly up a hill of all things, a mound really, but a genuine lifting of the earth. It was a herald – as he soon found – of much greater undulations east, the shadows of dark hills on the horizon.
Clambering over a stone fence that bordered the rutted, scarce-used way, Economous climb through dry grasses and withered thistles to the highest point of hilly mound and found it afforded a remarkably wide view of world. To the south the land fell away in a series of wooded folds running over long miles to a dark stretch along the horizon that occasionally glimmered with water reflecting the morning sun. A fume seemed to hang over that far off strip, and from even such a distance there was an obvious deep rouged taint upon it. With a queer inward leap of fascinated fright then a sinking of dismay Economous realised that he was seeing the dread Ichormeer, a vast swampland even the most closeted niavine knew as a seat of unconquered and largely undocumented monstrous power.
“So close,” he murmured in vocal amazement.
The trained metrician in him thrilled to the thought of measuring even a small portion of its unexplored precincts, report back the weird species creature he might uncover and be an ornament to his profession at last. But the rest of him just beheld it in the dread common to all everymen at such a prospect.
In the evening – warm and clear, a glory had he been in the mind to care – he climbed upon a hayloft roof as he had as a child, to lay and gaze at the meteor splendours of the unclouded night sky until Maudlin was westering and weariness forced sleep upon him.
The only wonder of the next day was the late arrival of a post-lentum from the populated west, disgorging its brood of rumpled passengers.
“Aye,” Economous’ lenterman reported with a smirk and commendable patience as he sipped a bowl of Mullhammer’s Best in the common room of the Cradle & Manger, “we have fares enough to be going on tomorrow.
“Thank you, sir,” Economous returned with a bow, taking and shaking the startled fellow’s hand happily, “Thank you, thank you.”
“A’right, mate,” the sidearmsman retorted, nodding over his own beer-bowl at this sudden enthusiastic limb-pumping. “He’ll need that arm for the harness termorrow.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” offered Economous, releasing the bemused lenterman and giving an apologetic bob. “I will see you tomorrow.” With that he ordered [FOOD GOES HERE] and retired to his room to wait the last hours of stranding.