Saturday, August 10, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 1 Part 2

Here we are with the next instalment of Economous Musgrove - a Half-Continent tale, that I hope to be releasing with regular frequency. What do folks think: twice weekly? Once? Thrice? 

Thank you everyone for your encouragements, I shall press on and let the cross-fertilisation go on.

© D.M.Cornish

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. 


Master Come Lately said...

Wow, that was a little more depressing than your other works (not including character deaths (poor, poor Sequecious!)), but it was a welcome change in pace.

Seeing the world through the point of view of an invidist (the majority of the Empire's population), the events from the books seem MUCH different, especially when it comes in the form of buzz. On top of that, Economous's hard time brings it home (to me anyway) and makes the setting that much more believable and alive.

For frequency: I recommend once weekly story updates. I don't know how busy your days are now but I imagine it's still very busy. In addition, I know full well how easy it is to get burned out on a project (even one that was started so eagerly) for working too much on it too frequently. In my mind it would also create a steady flow while allowing other priorities to take... well... priority without conflict if the need comes.

Mandy and Drew said...

First off, just wanted to say that my wife and I are big fans of the series and are having fun getting to see these first drafts.

I like the idea of the naive fabulist going off to the mounting war against the nickers to make his fortune. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

On a more general note, I wonder if there are parallels between the anti-monster wars and the current 'war on terror'. I feel like in western countries such as the US (my home country) there is a xenophobic sentiment among many people that anything arab or islamic is bad/evil. However, westerners that are close to people of that culture or have traveled to these 'evil' countries might relate to Economous where he "actually liked the feeling of threwd here, as slight as it may have been". I took this quote to indicate that Economous was unconsciously open to the idea that not all monsters are evil. Although my wife pointed out that it is ambiguous and Economous might just like the thrill of danger. Certainly, there is a possibility for either/both interpretations to be developed later on.

What will be in store for Economous if he throws in his lot with the campaign against the nickers of Winstermill? I can't wait to hear!

Alyosha said...

It’s great to visit your blog and find that you’re posting again, and expressing intent to post regularly for the time being. Regarding the frequency, I agree with Master Come Lately. Twice a week seems a bit much. If you say once a week, and then post more often, no harm is done. No expectations are disappointed.

In broad brush terms, it seems fairly clear where the story is going: good-at-heart but narrowly educated Economous is going to have his viewpoints changed about monsters, the nobility of those in high places, and probably even about Asthetica. And the “pathetically child-like bogle” that he accidentally saved will likely play some role.

But this seemingly clear path forward is in no way making me yawn and lose interest! The only kind of story where it’s important to keep the reader guessing is if the main character is a detective. Case in point, there were no mysteries for me when I read your MBT trilogy the second time, but I enjoyed it even more than the first time. I suppose that’s because the world and the characters you’ve created got a grip on my imagination, and I just liked spending time with them, and in their homes.

Speaking of getting to know characters, I think that how you’re presenting your story requires that we understand a little more about your own. Specifically, you need to educate us about what you mean by “cross-pollination.” For instance, if I suggested, “Economous seems like a good enough guy, but maybe he should get more assertive, maybe grow a mustache to make him look more manly, and then, when he meets up with Pluto Six (that could happen when he helps her fend off a bandit ambush!), she would like him better, and they could start dating…” I would, if I were a writer, consider that to go beyond cross-pollination and into annoying interference. But I’m not you. So I’ll look to your blog for occasional guidance – which I have confidence you’ll handle tactfully - about whether or not comments fall in the realm of being helpful.

Wyldeirishman said...

What I'd love to see is not a re-visitation of the "not all monsters are bad" theme that was so deftly executed in the trilogy. Instead, I'd much prefer that theme to be the initial premise, and have Economous discover that the particular monsters/threwdishness that are particular to this tale be the very thing they strive to hide with such a guise. His romantic notions of his assumed trade could be a palpable catalyst for the same sort of personal growth (albeit of a different flavor) that we saw in Rossamund.

Master Come Lately said...

It would be interesting to see Economous confirm his prejudice based on what he encounters, in contrast with Rossamund. Though if a general plot is already formed (just not fully written out yet) it would be best to stay the course rather than make a gudgeonized story from random sources.

Louis Decrevel said...

Hey DM. Great to be back in the Hc! I enjoyed this excerpt, but it was pretty heavy with exposition. For this early in the first chapter, I found it a little dense. Perhaps all this information could be brought out in a conversation he's having, or mixed up in some other style. I find that switching between narration and thought only works well in small doses. Hope this is helpful. Please don't hate me.

Wyldeirishman said...

@Master Come-Lately,

Agreed. Much of what made the initial splash into the world of the Half-Continent work for me was D.M.'s literary insistence upon his characters being full-throated and honest enough to not simply exist as two-dimensional caricatures of characters. As such, there is a sort of ambiguity present that lends itself to a myriad of interpretations regarding both status and motive, but not in any strict allegorical sense of things. It makes the characters relate-able and genuine to note both their light and their darkness.

In short, then, it's simply terrific writing. :)

Ben Bryddia said...

So now we're anchored chronologically to Factotum and we see events from that book rippling out for others.

This chap Economous also has some would-be English Major in him--surely an eye for detail and a fascination with the world befit a fabulist. Perhaps my recollections of Monster-blood Tattoo are wrong, or things changed in its earlier drafts, but it seems like Economous has a more flowery narrating voice than Rossamund. I appreciate it when POV shifts include shifts in voice.

My question is this: if he has money now from the gala at Europe's, and his reputation has gone sour in Brandenbrass, why not use the windfall to relocate to a place that hasn't heard his goof, but still has enough teratologists for business?
Oh yeah, Asthetica Grouse. That makes sense, even if it's not logical.

Looking forward to more next week.


alice said...

I am so thrilled to be reading another Half Continent adventure! I've missed this world and am excited for this new character, especially since he is an artist! It shall no doubt inspire me through my own art endeavors. Thank you Mr. Cornish for being awesome and brave enough to show us all your rough draft so we can be a part of this story as it unfolds. I genuinely enjoyed these first two parts and am excited for the next.

Ali said...

Let me be honest: I do not care about Economous if Europe is on offer.

But, then, you knew that.

WinkTabby said...

I'm catching up, I'm catching up!

Although this section was mainly exposition, it offers a heartfelt portrayal of Economous' hopes and perceived failures. The theme of a young man wanting to prove himself valuable to a woman is universally appealing. However, in our modern era when 'extended adolescence' often runs into a man's 20s or 30s and it's now pretty much accepted that most of us won't have our act together financially when we first marry (women in the workforce now takes some pressure of men), younger adult readers might not relate to why Economous feels so torn between his realization that he won't be happy in a conventional career with a steady paycheck, and on the other hand, his desire to prove himself to Asthetica and her mother. Assuming you're aiming this at a YA audience(?), you may want to more heavily emphasize throughout the story just how critical it was in Economous' culture for a man who wished to marry a "good" woman to be able to hold down a "good" job.

I agree with what Ben said about Economous having a different narrating voice than Rossamund. It works for me as a reader though. He's an older man who's experienced more of life, so it's reasonable to expect he'd have more eloquent internal dialogue. So I don't see it as a problem and I love how different he already seems than any of your previous characters.

Unknown said...

Is this before or after Rossamund?