Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 6 Part 2

Hmm, will testicles be grown at last?

By way of apology for the delay in posting I give you a bumper issue.



© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 6 PART 2
Bless-ed Anonymity

“Return that purloined item to me this instant,” the saviour of the city purred, “and all shall be forgot. I shall see that the property finds its… rightful home, and you shall go on your worthless way knowing that you owe your continued breath to the mercy of your highers and betters.” He finally looked Economous in the eye to see that the import of his false claim had made it home.

False in fact, but true by station, went the term – the loftier classes were right by right, regardless of truth or actual wrong. The higher a soul stood in society, the “righter” they were.

“Come, Mister …………, Madamielle Cantaline, Mister ……………,” the fat fellow purred to his spurns. “Learn this ill-read brute a just and fitting lesson that he might not re-offend and  a small jink of justice be done in this most unjust place.”

All too willing to obey, the three bravoes stepped around their master and made to encircle Economous, the two men brandishing their heavy cudgels suggestively while the lady skold took a caste of dangerous chemistry from  one of several digital containers at her belt.

Economous backed away clumsily, colliding thigh and buttock with a stone-post, arresting his retreat just long enough for the trio of sturdy roughs to gain and surround him. How did I get here! his eternal inward observer wailed, slow to believe and therefore truly comprehend his danger. Habits formed through training served him now as the imagineer was thoughtlessly leant back into the eighth primary stance – held best when facing sundry foes. Miserichord buzzed like a hive of wasps in his twitching grasp.

“You do not have to do this,” he said in druken fright, he mouth speaking without reference to his working mind.

“’Tis a mite late for mewling, lad,” the largest of the spurns – Mister ………… appeared to be his name – returned with fixed determination.

“You wouldn’t attack a concometrist would you, not in such open view,” Economous tried again.

“I would!” barked the youngest spurn – so named Mister ………… by his master. Clearly thinking he had easy prey plumping in his clutches and all too eager in his inexperience, the brazen youth closed directly with Economous.

Even through his drunken daze, Economous recognised the lads mistake but found himself unwilling in that instant to exploit it for fear of making a bad situation worse. His limbs however, did not apparently share such quibbles and without knowing what his own arms were at, Economous suddenly struck out with Miserichord, lashing the youngest spurn across the unwary fellow’s cheek. It was a mighty blow: a perfect sinidextrous ortus capat – upper-cutting left-to-right strike to the head –that instantly drew gore spluttering from the foe’s nose, sending the spurn reeling back clutching his stricken face, to collapse scarce sensible upon the flags. With only the slightest sense of risk behind, the calibrator whipped back faster than Economous knew was within his own ability, foiling a wicked turbus capat aimed purposefully at his head by Mister ………… seeking to exploit the younger spurn’s error.

“Oh-ho, it seems this one knows what he is about,” the lady skold – one Madamielle Cantaline – chortled grimly as the older spurn span away from so skilful a defence to think again upon his next assault.

Wide-eyed and amazed at himself, Economous stared now at the skold, fathoming full well that her fumes were his greatest threat. In the very motion of that thought, the woman flicked her arm with that peculiar twisting flourish of a skolds-throw and Economous knew he was in strife. Even as he futilely swung his priceless black calibrator to prevent at least being directly struck by the bursting of the caste, he knew his only real hope was that the potive flung was nothing more than a choking fume and not some deadly mordant or blasting fulminant. Eyes shut against the inevitable engulfing chemistry, he was amazed to feel a small yet satisfying chock! as Miserichord deftly connected with the tiny fragile caste. However, rather than shattering the tiny delicate vessel with its foul concoction, the intervening strike sent it directly back at the skold to burst with a flash of orange and purple upon its very originator. With several startled yelps, people passing near scampered clear of the fume, pulling unwary neighbours with them. Flailing her arms as she sought to douse the dire fizzing  so abruptly and  unexpectedly turned against her, Madamielle Cantaline promptly dropped to her knees and flopped forward on face and stomach, overcome by her own makings.

Her employer – several feet to Economous’ left – flapped his own limbs in impotent rage at this mishandling of his staff.  “HOW DARE YOU, SIR! HOW DARE YOU! THEY COST ME SIXTY SOU PER ANNUM EACH! SCOUNDREL! HELP! HELP! I AM ATTACKED!” – a cry to  which no one paid the smallest attention.

“Full of tricks, aren’t we,” Mister ………, the last spurn growled, drawing now a short, heavy straight-bladed jacksword from the folds of the pleated frocks of his proofed coat. “I have ploys of my own…”

As amazed as his thwarted attackers at the sublime and unlikely skill of his self defence, Economous blinked a little stupidly at this final opponent.

As much as any calibrator might be re-enforced against the whittling cuts of any sword, Economous well knew that in the end, blades beat cudgels in all but the best hands. As handy at harundo as he might have been – steady enough to place on the tables of Athingdon Athy’s best cudgel-players – it had been a double run of profound fortune that had saved him tonight; he did not want to chance the Lots a third – and anecdotally fatal – time.

Jacksword in one hand, wickedly knobbled cudgel in the other, the third spurn did not give him a choice, springing left then right in a zagging rush, striking first with sword then swift as a swallow with stick.

Thwack! Thwack! Economous stopped them both in a single astonishing motion, Miserichord was alive in his grasp, sending an impulse of unalloyed glee surged up the illuminator’s arm that set his wind leaping until it was all he could do to not laugh aloud for the joy of the fight.

Mister ………… leapt back with a frustrated growl, doubt shewing in his mein for the first time.

“WELL, GET HIM, MAN!” Monsiere Blanquett bawled without any care for the two ailing spurns at his feet. “I DO NOT LODGE YOU AND PAY YOUR INFLATED FEE TO HAVE YOU STAND BESIDE AND GAWP!”

At this, Economous let his queer, fizzing delight out in a coughing guffaw, a bizzare gurgling sound that gained more attention from those so studiously giving the fracas a wide berth.

“WHY DOES HE LAUGH, MISTER …………?” the false adventurer demanded. “Make him stop, this instant!”

“Aye! Aye!” Mister ………… barked angrily. Glowering pure malice at Economous, the spurn now stepped side to side now to circle leftwards about the illuminator. “You want something to laugh upon, do ye?” he snarled. “I can think of a thing or two to do it!”

Suddenly the fellow was upon him, sweeping sword and wood alike, over and over, a fury of blows that were no less shrewd and true for all their violence.

Feeling like a dumb puppet trailing at the end of Miserichord, Economous foiled every hit; he needed merely to have the slightest sense of an incoming strike before the wentry tool was whipping left, right, up or down, stopping the assault cold, the gorgeous elderwood unmarked even  by the tempered steel of the blade.

With a rough, cursing cry of frustration, Mister ………… finally over-stepped with a vehement yet fatigued flail, leaving – however briefly – himself exposed to a counter offend.

Miserichord now almost felt to pull Economous to step aside and like being lead in a dance, pivot about smartly to smack the astonished spurn hard upon the exposed gap between his tri-corned head and the proofing of his gaulded frockcoat collar. With a disconcerting Crack! the fellow was sent sprawling hand and knee to the cold hard flags. A dollymop with her nose in a long written list and more pressing concerns spinning about her thoughts, paused for only a blink to look first at the fallen soul then frown up at Economous before stepping over the prone spurn even as he arrived at her feet. More, Economous rushed to stand over the spurn, black calibrator raised and ready to smite his foe again should the fellow be lack-witted enough to try and rise.

The older spurn stayed down.

All battle-delight left Economous in a heave of weariness.

Now that the violence was done, people finally began gathering in a loose and cautious ring and Monsiere Blanquett immediately responded.

“DO NOT HURT ME! DO NOT HURT ME!” the high-blown fellow shrieked, all bravado voided like an emptying bladder in the face of such precipitous defeat. “I am dear friend to the Marchess of the Pike! I dine regularly with the Lord Prune, 2nd Estimator-General to the Arch-Duke himself!”

Empty – almost bereft – Miserichord a dead weight in his hand, Economous stepped to stand over the cowering soul and looked down on his would-be accuser with dark, uncontainably frank contempt. And I have drawn the great and true lord of this city, he seethed inwardly to counter the monsiere’s reaching claims. Not knowing what to do – never before had he been in a such a position of supremacy, and the skold, Madamielle Cantaline was rousing  – Economous left his rotund tormentor where he grovelled and hastened into the milling souls. Pausing only to buy – as he had always intended – more claratine and poor bread, he hurried far down the Prandial, seeking distance and bless-ed anonymity.

He might have saved his own hide but what of the consequence of such a victory. No aristocratic sort would sit for long in such humiliation. Economous would be sought out, witnesses questioned, harried, made to tell. He could only hope that he had looked so uncommonly dishevelled that few of his streetside neighbours would have recognised him A battle won but the war lost, went the line.

Full of fear and mistrust, he did not return directly home, rather running in the opposite direction deeper into the Alcoves, desperate to not be recognised and pinned fatally to the fight. For a bad end was certain should he be named as Monsiere Blanquett’s attacker: in defence of self or not, conviction at the Duke’s Bench of assault by a common soul upon  a personage of elevated station was a short trip to the gallows in Coldbeam Square. Yet what else could he have done? His end was a standing before a magistrate had he submitted to Monsiere Blanquett’s false accusation.

If only I had not run out so rashly! he berated himself. What was I at! What must Asthetica make of such a childish display?

Despite such self-imprecation, he marvelled at the ease of his victory and the skill of his fighting arm – or perhaps more truly, the unheard of yet mirablic efficacy of his wentry tool, his payment for drawing a creature who itself ought not exist as it did.

Mirabilic, indeed!

The hopeless illuminator sighed heavily. Hunched and hidden in this dank nook in the fishing district of The Pot, he drank, chewed over-cooked bread, his humours still refusing to calm as he re-fought the incomprehensibly one-sided fight in his soul over and over again. How Miserichord – now still and cold like any other span of lumber – had buzzed and leapt in his grasp. Reluctant to keep hold of it, yet loath to cast it so simply away, Economous regarded the black rule like it might at any moment spring off, dragging him haplessly with it.

Could any witness tell it was the stick that fought and not its wielder? Who could credit such a thing?

Wedged between crawdod pots and shaken down butts, jumping at every rattle or bump or hint of human voice, Economous waited. As night drew on he was amazed to find an almost continuous traffic of rabbits moving about in the secluded quiet of his hiding place, constantly nuzzling the air for threats many stopping to stare at him, wretched fellow that he was.

“Tell your master he can have his stick back,” the thwarted fabulist hissed at them.

They simply winked and twitched at him.

He had read once that the blessings of monsters were a blight on all everymen, and he was now beginning to see why. He tried to shoo the creatures away and leave him free of this constant token of the Lapinduce’s presence. Failing to shift them, he took to glaring at the sneaky little beasts, until the first gleam of morning glory glowed in the eastern arc of roof cluttered sky and the rabbits scattered to deeper shadowed alleys.

Rising, Economous shook himself and returned by an uncommon route of byways, avoiding the eye of the several lamp-dousing limn-men he passed until at last he made it to his garret. With infinite care, he crept up the unsteady flights to lay a-bed at last, thought-consumed and twisted by fright, watching sun rays piercing the gaps in the slats of his garret shutters grow more acute in angle, the winking of his weary eyes growing long and heavy, until senseless sleep finally overtook him.


Ben Bryddia said...

I wait all day, and it finally is here.

The inevitable fanboy question ensues: could a spathidril cut Miserichord? More seriously though, I'm a bit surprised to find something more conventionally magical in the H-c. A self-weilding weapon also seems a bit cheap, like having a baseball bat that gravitates toward its ball. I suppose the fact that right now it brings misfortune upon misfortune rather than success helps me stomach it better.

I may be shooting amiss, but it seems that the skold is a bit more significant than the other spurns, having a name and all. I was just thinking that might show she has had more thought put into her and thus she might be important later on. But then, you seem to wind up putting a lot of thought into characters who show up for maybe a chapter (e.g. Sallow).
At least with the rabbits, Economous can be confident that the Lapinduce is looking out for him. This continued care may support theories that the monster lord has some further purpose for the fabulist and the calibrator. Of course, the idea of being a piece in the plans of an urchin wouldn't make Economous feel a whit more secure, nor would it forseeably solve his personal problems.

Alyosha said...

Ah, so the interruption didn’t stop our hero from indulging in another flask of wine after all, though I suppose that at least he drank this last one more slowly, through the hours of a long and thoughtful night.

Though I was not in the least surprised that something happened to keep Economous and Miserichord from being separated, how it happened was a bolt out of the blue. I had figured on intervention by some third party.

But with such a remarkable thing happening, instead, I am at a total loss about where the plot will go from here. Maybe he leaves town and runs into the wilds to join the gang at Orchard Harriet, maybe the Archduke (who seems intelligent enough to be pragmatic even in the face of an “insult” to the nobility) will find out about Economous and recognize his value to the army, maybe Europe will come back to town, take Economous onto her staff, and once again dare society to do anything about it, or maybe… the options have been so much opened up that I could go on for pages. None of which is a complaint. I’m enjoying the story.

“He had read once that the blessings of monsters were a blight on all everymen,”…. So there are other, recorded instances of such things happening, kind of like how the sad, strange tale of Biarge the Beautiful provided a historical foreshadowing of Rossamund’s origins. Are we going to get an Explicarium with this story?

Master Come Lately said...

I was also surprised at the seemingly magical qualities of the Miserichord. At first glance, it looks out of place to me in this setting, but I don't understand this type of tool yet, so I cannot form a mature conclusion.

The result of this part is most definitely a big problem for Economous! I'm beginning to wonder that if he had Miserichord with him this whole time, how did Mister Not-Quite-Dandidawdler not notice n item of high quality in the hands of what he thinks is a lesser being? It's far from a plot hole, as it could have been he was preoccupied with Aesthetica or caught off-guard by Economous' verbal advance.

I was shocked when Economous said out loud that he'd want to return the calibrator. The Lapinduce seemed offended that Economous attempted to reject the gift, so I think tactlessly returning the gift would impose trouble of the monstrous kind on top of the political kind!

Alyosha said...

Here’s a conjecture about the nature of Miserichord and magic: maybe Miserichord is not so much magically guiding E’s hand as it is channeling the threwd of the Lapinduce to help E get in touch with his own nature. The Lapinduce helped – to some degree forced - Rossamund to get into touch with his true nature. The only Archduke of the city that the Lapinduce explicitly mentions helping was the dramatic example of one who was helplessly blind and deaf - but to whom, by threwdly manipulations, was given the gift of perceiving the reality of things around him anyway, and become the effective ruler he was capable of being. It may be that the core power of this impartial, ageless, amoral, non-possessive (he could have an empire, but is satisfied with a ruin in a park) urchin is to perceive the true nature of things. And, when he sees an especially severe disconnect between true nature expression, he acts, intending neither good nor evil, but simply because he cannot tolerate that state within his realm. That said, my own feeling is that revealing the true nature of things usually ends up tipping the balance towards good.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I do think that a "magical" weapon seems a bit odd, given the setting, but on the other hand MBT has skolds and their alchemy, not to mention lugars and their strange abilities, so Miserichord may not be as strange as we perceive it to be, just new. In addition, Cornish mentions how as soon as Economous sees a strike coming, Misericord then blocks it, so it may not be "guiding itself", just allowing Economous to do what he wants to do, rather than what he ends up doing. Remember, he is a practiced stave-fighter, so Economous is an semi-experienced fighter on his own. Somehow I don't think that Misericord would be so effective in the hands of an everyman...

Unknown said...

I'd love to hear more about the mechanics of the "magic-seeming" artefacts of the Half Continent. Recall the valise that Rossamund had when he first left the Foundlingery. When he picked it up it was remarkably light despite the contents, and Rossamund had the distinct sense that it intended good things for the owner. Is this - as noted by another commenter - some kind of aspect of threwd, or what threwd itself is an aspect of? Some natural force in the HC universe? Or is it as some have suggested some kind of super-natural force in the HC universe? Given the amazing originality of the concepts in MBT, I'm guessing it's the former, not the latter. Supernatural is easy - "it's just magic ok?". Natural is far more interesting and harder to understand (and explain). Perhaps the mere contact of skin on the elderwood is enough to kick off some kind of physiological effect on the humours? "Amping up" a normal person to far greater than normal human limits of awareness, strength, and speed? Improving one's kinetic sense to the point of being able to judge a swing of a rod of wood so closely as to not break a vial of glass but instead to sling it back to the person who cast it... Wow... So cool.