Monday, September 30, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 5 Part 1

Survived and enlarged of property, what will Economous do now with his entry into a wider wilder world? What great heights of confidence and action will he now achieve from such wondrous happenstance?

I like that you get to see my "working in progress": the blanks and spaces that must occur until things are fully fathomed. Writing happens by layers, I have found, rather than some great single largely correct out-pouring - or maybe that is just my limitation. Ah well, as long as it gets writ, I do not mind.

It was noted some posts back that the tree in the Lapinduce' court in Factotum was a walnut, but that I had got it wrong in this story as an olive: I have, alas, been too subtle it seems, for my intent in this was to highlight that we were in fact in a different region to the one Rossaümund found himself - that the Lapinduce has more than one court. Indeed, tho not stated, my thinking was that Economous was met in a more "public" area whilst Rossaümund had been granted entrance into the deeps within the great Cunobillin's parkland realm. I have surely dropped the ball at times, but not in this case I hope.

I am also very gratified to learn that the tale (up to now at least) has not perhaps taken any presumed routes: I hope I might continue to keep you guessing (for your entertainment, of course, and not just for the sake of it or to some how fell "cleverer").




© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 5 PART 1
Wretched Obscurity

concometrist ~ definition …… Properly the Amicable Fraternity of Athenaeus, a great and learned father of history, said to be the last great scholar of Phlegm and the first king of the Attics …………MORE………

The chase lead him back and about through trees, the over-sized rabbit called Ogh proving every bit as fractious as its twin, leaping on and on, pausing just in view then springing away when Economous hurried near only to halt once again and wait to be pursued. Fumbling and faltering, hands reaching grasp for his stolen satchel if ever he was near enough to Ogh to try, Economous was unwittingly drawn to the very gates of the Moldwood. Here before the very foot of the now closed park gates, the rabbit-thief simply dropped the satchel and job done, leapt away into the dark before Economous could do another thing.

Frame heaving as he caught his breath at last, the would-be fabulist jogged to a halt and snatched up his bag, looking up at the black-iron gate – now shut at days end – as he did. A sly smile twitched at the corners of Economous’ mouth as he considered that the gate was likely locked and that he was held within the park for the night, forcing the Duke of Rabbits to play host again, at least until morning. He gave the wrought frame a single testing tug and found with a start and sinking wind that it came open. Someone is not doing their duty, he thought with a sharp look to the cheerily lit windows of the gatekeeper’s cottage built into the very stone wall of the park.

Hurrying home as full night took hold, Economous was glad it was dark. For, if it was day he was certain all could read upon his face that he possessed the wondrous, outrageously damning knowledge of a monster found in the inner-most precincts of the city; a nicker-lord dwelling undetected behind the many rings of curtain wall raised over centuries to keep such dread things out. Uncomfortable feelings leapt up painfully from long unheeded wells of childhood memory. His fellow townsfolk of Lo had regarded him with perplexing caution after his survival from the harthwood savaging, and he was certain all the nameless city-living souls passing now about him on the slate-cobbled walks were casting the same sceptical – almost accusing – looks his way.

Somehow found his way home. Up the tight stairs, door opened then locked again against all the suspicions, he lay abed his soul and mind animated by perplexing combination of relief to be off hostile streets and a low aching kind of grief at so brief a time with a king of monsters so abruptly concluded. Agitated and sleepless, he took out the mystic black elder calibrator – his fee for services rendered – from is bag. The instant he grasped the mystic wood a buzzing – quick, almost alive – transmitted into his palm and up his arm. What was this thing he had been paid, this object of the monster world? Was it everyman-made, or monster-made? Did monsters even make things? The Lapinduce would surely have the answers – if only Economous had thought to ask such wonders before he had been so suddenly ejected.

“That does it,” he said in a flash of clarity to the steep, thickly beamed ceiling.

He would make good on his declaration to return fully equipped to the Lapinduce’s lair to paint a proper, wall-worthy daub of the great creature, something to even begin to approach some small beginning of parity with so extravagant overpayment.

Thus resolved, Economous closed his eyes and remembered nothing more until morning.

                                    *          *          *          *          *

Again and again, Economous returned with easel, paints, brushes and canvas to seek the Rabbit Duke out, searching far into the trees, spending whole days on nothing else, trying to retrace those steps on that wondrous day that had lead him to the monster-lord. Yet every time he was certain he was on the right trail, it just deposited on the far side of the Mouldwood – by the street known as the Dove – or simply lead him back where he had begun. At other moments on promising trails he found the threwd about him grow so heavy and daunting that he actually staggered under its invisible, formless pressure and weeping with frustration, was forced to withdraw. This at least was some small confirmation in the midst of his growing self- rebuking doubt that something dread and intelligent dwelt in the park.

For an entire week and into the next Economous employed himself in this fruitless hunt, careless of washing, of changes of clothes, of eating, missing his single, precious weekly meeting with Asthetica in his obsession. It was a great outpouring of effort to round out the year and it produced nought: he never saw the Lapinduce again, nor even once glimpsed either of the over-large buck-rabbits that were the urchin’s servants.

Yet it was a letter found forced under the jamb of his garret door that finally brought him to sense. It must have been hand delivered, for all official post always came by the intermediary of Missus Everrest, his patient yet scornful landlady. The hand that had written his name so elegantly upon its facing fold was unmistakably that of his beloved. It read:

Mister Musgrove
You are missed.

It was concluded by a stamp of the ellegant manu propa – the personal sign – that Asthetica had formed for her at no small fee by the notable manua proscripta writer, Blandus Sandle.

That was the entirety of the message, but its effect was like a blow.

Taking a hold of himself, Economous left his garret, went down and sat outside upon the stony bunkhouse step to write a reply to leave with Madam Grouse. Being the middle of a Solemnday – indeed, the second to last day of the year – he knew well enough that his beloved would not be at her home but working as all the most modern lectry-class girls did these days. Stylus hovering above a blank letter page, he blinked up at the sky, a dazzling stripe within its frame of steeply peaked half-house roofs and many many jutting chimnies.

About him the Brandenbrass hummed with a very tangible expectancy of Lestwich – the last day of the year – a defiant show of enthusiasm to push back the heavy expectation of sudden disaster that had gripped one and all since Winstermill’s fall. On the lane before him that went down to the markets and along the street on either hand, wreaths and withies of boxthorn – the traditional monster deterrent – festooned every transom, ledge and lintel in far greater number than Economous recalled from any previous year-sending. Intersped with these were hung small flags of empire and of city: the golden Imperial owl against a barred field of rouge and leuc – red and white, and a rabbit in ducal blue against bars of leuc and sable – black and white, flying together in heightened anticipation of the Emperor’s imminent arrival in the new year. Not normally given – like all good concometrists – to the common mania for anything Imperial, Economous found that he too held a small but certain thrill at the thought of the Emperor, Procrustès IV Clementis Rex Haacobin himself – and his grand court with him – stepping the streets of Brandenbrass. The formally stated cause for the visit was the display of yet another Imperial grandson and continuing addition to the posterity of the Haacobin line: the very child whose arrival into this vexing world had prompted the changing of the spring-time months. Yet in actual purpose it was far more their great imperial father coming, bringing comfort to them all.

Tapping stylus to chin for a further pondering moment, Economous watched the cerulean-hued sigil dancing upon the city’s flags: Con Robbart was the name common souls had for it – Cuniculus Robustus, the Stalwart Rabbit. Did Brandenbrass’ masters know just how present and apt a symbol it was? The general reckoning was that the sigil simply stood for the crowd of rabbits that infested the nooks and shadows of Brandenbrass. Had the historied founders of this grand, long-thriving city once actually known who it was that dwelt in their midst? Had they knowingly built their city about the dread monster-lord? How else could it be that the Moldwood had been so long preserved despite the centuries of ever-increasing expansion and crowding demand? Coming quickly, one upon the next, such shocking thoughts came like a blow, yet as disconcerting as these might have been, the final conclusion came with all the sting of a ringing slap:

 Do the current lords know even now?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 4 Part 2

What is it to draw something that is not meant to exist?



© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 4 PART 2
An Uncommon request

The sun achieved its apex and swung beyond unheeded by the would-be fabulist and his astounding unmoving model. Rabbits began to gather bout his feet and upon the rubble about him, all facing him as if engrossed by his process, but he scarce noticed them as he drew and drew and drew. It was movement in shadows of his vision’s corners that finally distracted him, perhaps more a shifting of threwd – if such a thing were possible – than of bodies finally arresting his attention. Looking quickly beyond the olive trunk into gloom of the deeper cellar, Economous was abruptly brought out of his creative stupor. For there he saw several bogles lurking there – small monsters mostly, many about the size of a child, each in its own bafflingly distinct form. One covered in a segmented grey shell Economous could only be likened to an over-large cousin to the pillboys that infested the danker corners of his garret. Another had the form of a swollen and distorted frog; a third maybe in shape like a pile from a nightman’s cart suddenly sprung to life. Barely discernible in the deepest cellar gloom behind these – as if aloof from such lesser creatures – lurked a taller being whose only fathomable detail was its ill-proportioned head like that of an over-sized magpie or daw. This it appeared to turn oh so bird-like one way then the next as if to get the best view of the frail, foolish vistor.

Economous entire sense of the state of the cosmos lurched and faltered.

It was one shock to find a lord of monsters allowing a city to be built up about it; yet how were such forbidden creatures able to come and go with such unhindered facility? What of the famed might of the city’s guarding war engines? What of her many rings of impassable walls perforated by bastion gates that in a moment could each become a fortress unto itself? What of the white waters of her harbours prowling with countless iron-skinned rams crewed by hundreds of hardened and vigilant vinegaroons?

Economous was so perplexed his stylus quivered in the usually steady pinch of thumb and forefinger. So terribly aware now of these watching bogles, he thought he could make out hushed but urgent conversation from the smaller kind.

“Eat the wombson, I say, and be done with its intrusion! We have talking to be done that cannot wait…”

“Aye, aye, a scrawny pink morsel for evening grubbings…”

He’ll never let us, oh no…”

In terrified dismay, the would-be fabulist ceased his drafting completely.

“TO HUSH WITH YOU!” the Lapinduce hissed with sudden vehemence over its silk coated shoulder. “I did not ask for you to follow me hence. Be still or I shall send each of you unanswered back to your masters and mistresses…”

There was a frightened tittering, a shuffling of feet – or whatever mode of appendage each beastling might have moved upon – as the squat shadows shoved and poked at each other, then quiet.

“Do not mind my other guests, Master Pen,” the lord of monsters said in tones of pointed – and strangely mundane – impatience. “They have been sent to rupture my peace and pester me to join one cause or the other of my lorded equals to the north who wrestle over some everyman fortress long known as Winstresslewe.”

The would-be fabulist suddenly felt very little and very foolish in a world brim-filled with towering behemoths older and wiser than the stones themselves, who passed so easily through the most staunch of everyman defences like these were mere cheesecloth.

“I beseech you, everyman,” the Lapinduce lifted a velvet-downed paw in supplication and smiled – a weird sight to behold in so impossible a face with a mouthful of over-sized teeth. “Continue…”

Blinking rapidly to focus himself back upon his drawing, Economous pressed on. The day’s shadows grew long indeed when finally he felt that perhaps he might have drawn as much as he could of the marvels of his dread subject. The would-be fabulist held out his numrelogue to stare at it for one long confirming squint, flicking his eyes between the final image to its likeness and back again, over and over, making an adjustment. Despite the great weight of expectation that had knotted and turned in his innards, he had produced as fine a portrait as he had ever made. Indeed in the glow of evening and in the presence of this mighty and prohibited king of beasts he was suddenly awakened to a deep sense of fittingness he had not known in a very long time. Never-the-less, in fear of the crushing of his fragile soul should his monstrous patron prove to be disappointed with the work, Economous hesitated to reveal the finished drawing.

“The day waxes long, son of brevity,” the Lapinduce spoke, his rasping-rich words thrusting in on the would-be fabulist’s prevarications. “By your winkings and starings and the lack of scrawling me thinks you are complete. Come, present to me what I look like to you. Let me see how the count of centuries has tolled upon my face.”

Only now realising with a shocked blink the lateness of the hour, Economous passed his vaunted recording book to the Duke of Rabbits and held his breath half in hope, half in dread. His stomach gave a hungry lurch.

Stroking its chin with one hand while it held out its stylus-drawn portrait with the other, the Lapinduce tilted its bestial head to the left, then titled it to the right, its grey cat’s eyes squinting just as Economous’ had.

Fretting all the errors that suddenly seemed so obvious to him, Economous held his entire being in thrumming, expectant stasis.

Crickets began to call to each other; frogs took up their gurgling song too. The firmament cleared and span now with a billion stars and still the Lapinduce beheld the fresh-scrawled image. Yet as the light failed so the ruined, tree-grown cellar began to glow with bluish moss-light gleaming from the crevices between the ancient foundation stones.

Finally the Duke of Rabbits spoke.

“Such admirable labour deserves rewarding,” the creature pronounced, then clacked its wicked sharp teeth together.

At this summons two over-large rabbits appeared from the darkness beyond, together drawing a long oiled bag along by cords in their mouth. One was the very same which had served that morning as so inconstant a guide, and its aid could have been its twin.

The Lapinduce stood, stooped took up the bag. Stepping to Economous to tower once more over the everyman, it bent an elegant bow and presented the bag to the would-be fabulist. “A wage for honest labour,” it proclaimed.

Taking the yard long bag gratefully, Economous drew out the satin draws and rolled the unfastened mouth of the bag down to show its contents. Here in the wan, fungal light, he found a what was obviously a calibrator. Yet it was like none he had beheld before, fashioned from a dark wood rather than the light oak as his current one was, its graduations – of inlaid silver – not marking the usual quicks, inches or feet but some other span of measure in base five and base ten. By the smell alone Economous knew that this antique item was made from the wood of a nigh-mythic black elder. Did this Lord of monsters realise what a kingly gift he was giving for so simple a thing as the spedigraph just performed?

“I am of the understanding that you call such things wentry,” the Lapinduce observed mildly.

Wentry! Blithely items said to possess qualities beyond any mundane object of similar form. Provoked by such marvels, Economous’ athenaeum-found book-learning come back to him from libraries in his mind he did not previously believe he possessed.

“This –” his voice caught for a moment as he gripped the hallowed wood and felt a prickling sensation in his palm. “This is too much, my lord! I – I shall return again with proper pigments and a full-stretched canvas to make a truly worthy image of you!”

“You have honoured me, womb-born, so why do you refuse my own honouring of you?”

Economous suddenly felt ashamed of himself but was shocked from his chagrin by the abrupt sound tearing of untearable velum from its binding as the Lapinduce carefully but easily parted his portrait from the other pages of the would-be fabulist’s numrelogue. Come with no other equipment, he had – as was his custom – drawn it in his numrelogue, and now the folly of this dawned upon him: for in diligent service of continuity and completeness it was forbidden for any concometrist to tear even one page from their numrelogue, unless driven by direst need.

I am already under reprimand from the athy here for drawing in my log, what will they do to me now it is incomplete?

Stunned by the impossibility of the circumstance, Economous surrendered helplessly to the mutilation of his sacred tome. Perhaps being cast out from the league of metricians for such further defacement might turn to his benefit? There was nought he could do about this current crime that made such ejection likely: the truth would not be a helpful defence.

“The night’s signals pivot above us,” the Lapinduce spoke into the humming night. “It is good for you to return to your usual path of life so long to you, so short to me.”

“But –” Economous began to counter, cricking his neck to look the monster-lord in the face, if not in the terrible eye. He was not ready now to be parted from the melancholy wonder of this mighty creature. He wanted yet to be consumed once more in bliss of that sad, vital and all too brief music, to dwell for a little longer in the strangely discomforting clarity that seemed to radiate from every follicle of the monster-lord’s fur, every fibre of his silken frock-coat, every bole and craggy load of rubble. “But –”

The Duke of Rabbits raised a paw to silenced him. “Each time in its place and each place for its time, womb-born,” it said with an almost fatherly tone. “My servant Ogh will lead you out again,” it continued, the same paw now gesturing to one of the pair of rabbits who had brought the princely prize and now waited amongst the roots of the old olive. “I hope he proves a better guide to lead you out than his brother, Urgh, proved to be on leading you in,” their master added as if talking as much to the dumb beasts themselves as to Ecomomous.

One of the rabbits dropped its ears for a beat as if chastened and its fellow – the one named as Ogh – loped forward, pausing before the would-be fabulist to wink and twitch its nose at him.

Half-standing, Economous tried to formulate some cause, some excuse, some reason to remain.

Ogh seized the strap of Economous’ satchel lying at the would-be fabulist’s feet, and with a startling show of strength, leapt away into the darkening wood, dragging the bag behind.

With a stifled yelp, the would-be fabulist was properly on his feet, yet still unwilling to go his head quickly swivelled as he looked from Lapinduce, calm, silent, waiting, to his hastily departing property and back.


Catching up his hat and numrelogue, his old calibrator and the velvet bag holding the new, the would-be fabulist made a sketch of a bow. With a hurried, incoherently apologetic farewell, Economous chased after the rapidly retreating rabbit and vowed to return to paint a more fitting image of the Lapinduce, Duke of Rabbits, lord of monsters.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 4 Part 1

And here we be again, with Economous perched upon the threshold of dread and wondrous things.

I think I shall now go and have a look at the comments from last week.

Enjoy (oh, I sure hope you do - sorry for the maybe odd break in this weeks words, but the chapter had no easy place to sever it, so I just made shift as best I could...)



© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 4 PART 1
An Uncommon request

word ~ definition …………

In a dread of involuntary awe, Economous dropped to his knees, expecting in any beat to feel the crash of crushing violence to come down upon his neck.

It’s true! It’s true! rang with child-like astonishment in his quailing soul.

A peculiar and loud click came from the mighty creature’s mouth, like it was clashing its long front teeth together. “Do not bow to me, son of the short-lived!” it spoke with open dismay, its voice rasping yet somehow rich – a voice no human throat could make and the very same that had compliment his drawing two days gone. “Such worship is not mine to demand nor receive. Come stand again and let me behold so peculiar a creature more fully.”

Economous swallowed and slowly got back to his feet. The back of his neck pinched sharply as trembling, he dared to look the dread thing in the eye.

Is this an eating or a saving kind of monster?

It peered at him closely, almost accusingly, a stare of pale grey from eyes like nothing the would-be fabulist had even gazed into before; eyes that held secrets beyond measuring, that had watched spans of time past reckoning and witnessed calamities that would have driven lesser beings raving mad.

The would-be fabulist wanted to look away, to bow again, to not provoke this eoned creature a mite further. Yet his gaze locked with the mighty beast, he found that he could not move.

“I behold that you are a womb-born,” it spoke again, bending its face close to his so that the perfume of blossom and loam filled his senses, “who is better reconciled to what you would name monstrous things than most of your all-too-brief kind.”

It took a moment to recognise that the rabbit-beast was expecting some form of response. Economous mouth opened, but not a sound came out. He tried again, squeezing at his rebelious vocal organs. “I – I …”

This seemed enough for the creature for it continued: “It has been some time as you brief ones reckon it since an everyman has found peace and sought only gentle occupations in my wooded courts. I have enjoyed you calling on us to scribble and dream: you are a fine draughtsman, sir.”

Economous ducked his head, finding his voice at last. “Y-you are the first to say it so, my lord.” Such an appellation felt awkward in his mouth, yet to call such a magestic creature by anything else seemed profoundly unfitting.

“I am – oh son of vapour – an urchin-lord; the great undying Cunobillin you might have read on in you measurers’ library; the master of this city you Brandenmen think your own, and if I say something is so, then – Providence alone only contradict me – it is so!”

Economous had indeed read upon one named Cunobollin, a dread creature famed for terrorising the wild Piltmen – whom they called the Haraman – before Brandentown’s Burgundian ancestors came from the east to subdue them. There were many books in Athingdon’s three libraries that pronounced on many such beings and Economous had read every one, each several times, whether he had permission to or not. Most texts offered only conjecture as to the existence of any kind of recognisable heirarchy amongst monsters; the most invective refused such notions as being a signal of proper intelligence and consequently impossible. Yet here was one now, defying all common and stoutly held convention.

Refusing to fall to his knees again and incite further ire, the everyman clamped his jaw shut and vowed not to speak again before this dread urchin-lord. Yet questions were piling in his concometrist’s mind like a jam of carriages at high noon on the Spokes.

“I seldom allow any creature into my deeper sanctuaries.” The Lapinduce looked about the ruined, tree-grown cellar. “And few is the count of those whom I have welcomed into my inner courts. Most everymen fool enough to make a determined enterprise into my park find themselves upon the otherside no matter how hard press their explorations. Others come for ill reasons and seldom more than once, yet you linger in my garden week upon week and show yourself happy to do so. How curious, I marvelled to myself as I watched you quietly. But more than benign curiosity, I smell on you that you have met my frair – my brother monsters – before… and been marked by the meeting.” It clacked its teeth together and went silent, letting its observation linger.

Before a dread king of nickers, an ancient creature who so clearly fathomed far beyond the usual ken, Economous found the admission rising easier than ever it had. “Aye, when I… I was a boy, living west in L… Lo.” Even now the old reluctance tried to catch at his words.

“And you won through the encounter.”

Economous could not tell if this was a question or and observation. He answered anyway. “I was rescued by one m-monster –” was that even the right word to use before such a being? “– from – from the hunger of another.”

“And who believed such a story, I wonder…” the monster-lord’s feline eyes glittered with bitter humour.

“It was insisted that such a thing was not possible and my silence for evermore demanded of me.”

Tapping its downy, black chin with an equally swarthy fore-knuckle, the Duke of Rabbits regarded him closely. “So it has long been,” he said at last.

It seemed to Economous that – impossibilities upon impossibilities – this creature truly understood him, that in that moment he had gained the sympathy of this dread nicker-lord and that he in turn was well disposed to it. “Sir, if I may…” he dared in the encouragement of this insight. “What do you want of me?”

“I have seen you draw my little kin, son of brevity, and now I desire that you would draw me too. I would like a graphice, an imago, a spectacle de vue – a portrait – of myself, for it has been many generations as you would reckon them since the last tender soul presented themselves for the task and it pleases me to gain another. It will be a record of your passing to remind me in later centuries.”

Suddenly, Economous’ self-taught, unacademied skills seemed for the first time to him to be scant and dangerously inadequate. Yet to decline was surely worse than what ever feeble image he would produce. “If that is what you wish for, sir, then I shall do my best to grant it,” he replied with firm tone designed to bolster his own failing courage.

To this the Lapinduce perched itself upon a particularly large knobble in an oliveroot, crossed one leg upon the other, folded its long long hands about its knees and stared up into nothing like a person well suited to sitting for a portrait.

“Do – do you have a preferred side, sir?” he asked reflexively, as he did of all customers seeking a spedigraph.

“Side, sir?” the Lapinduce cocked a shaggy brow at him. “Why, my own side always.”

Economous swallowed. “Aye, of course, my lord… and… and which sphere of your face would you have me draw?”

“I think you will find this current one is as good as its twin,” the Lapinduce said with a haughty and slightly wounded air and the sat unnaturally still, chin lifted like some historied heldin from the hailed paintings of Economous' long dead mentors.

Yet the fabulist could not draw; how could he when the impossible was solid and breathing and very much possible before him? Time ceased as Economous just sat and blinked and struggled and failed, struggled and failed to comprehend his situation.

How long it was before the creature stirred could not be told but eventually the monster-lord looked sidelong to the befuddled everymen sat before him and declared dryly, “Unless you have unlocked the lost telegraphic arts of the Phlegmish goests, I do believe stylus must make contact with paper for an image to be forthcoming…”

Economous shook himself as if startled. “Oh… oh, yes - yes, indeed, sir. My apologies…” And, ears ringing and senses reeling with wonder of it all, he began to draw.

Perched upon toppled stonework, numrelogue open upon his knees, the fabulist shook his head and squinted studiously and long at his outlandish sitter, fixing the Lapinduce’ alien form into his inner eye before he dared put stylus to paper. At last – and all too aware of the oddness of his position – Economous began to draw, striving with every line to capture the full-rounded form and render it accurately on the contrary flatness of a single page. Stylus frequently hovering in pent potential mere fractions from paper as he looked long at his subject, the would-be fabulist strove to get the fineness of the glossy felt of the rabbit-lord’s silken black fur down true; to describe as precisely as he could the true relationship between the great protruding front teeth, the rabbits nose, the grand sweep of those mighty ears; to find the exact sit of the gleaming silk collar upon the shaggy neck; to find exactly how to line the profile glimpse of the mighty therian’s eon-seeing eyes.

For his part, the Duke of Rabbits made an excellent subject, sitting with preternatural stillness, never once twitching, itching, looking over to see how the portrait was coming along.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 3

Welcome to a new week, welcome to chapter 3 - the whole chapter for it is a touch shorter than its previous two siblings. 

I have made note for second draft (if this proceeds that far... ) to check for one dimensionality in Lord Fold, and for info dumping at the very start (to see if these crimes are actually so or just simply tricks of perception versus intent). That said, as you know from MBT, I have this tendency to write rather tightly from a character's point of view, we see the world much as they see it, we know what they know, we go where they go - seldom do I do third party, author omniscient cut-aways: not sure why that is - the "Sauron effect" maybe (= we never know what the antagonists are doing kind of thing...)?

Anyhoo, fascinated to know what you all make of this week's offering - keep the comments coming.



© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 3
A Fear Faced

word ~ definition …………

The next morning – and two days after the first possibly threwdish encounter – Economous found himself once more at the gate of the weird park, peering uneasily into the shadows ahead, unsure to go ahead but loath to retreat and let another day pass pinched by indecision.

It was a strangely unsettled day, low heavy clouds an unbroken pale grey, blustering winds oddly warm and unable to decide whether they were easterly or northerly – blowing down from the vast threwdish grasslands that stood between the southern city-states and their Imperial capital.

For motivations Economous did not fully comprehend, it had seemed appropriate to him to come garbed as finely as his meagre resources allowed: his shirt, longshanks and trews new washed, his neckerchief freshly pressed and tied with a full and highly fashionable gather about his throat, his coat brushed thrice and picked clean of grime. Yet he was not about to stroll naïvely into this bosom of danger. In his hand he gripped his calibrator, grateful for the five years training he had had in bastinado arts, and at his hip swung salt-pouch holding several doses of bothersalts – tiny bags of smarting chemistry to hurl at any monstrous threat. Yet, with all this preparation, all his determination, he hesitated still upon the very brink of the Mouldwood. Some echo of an upstanding citizen within fretted that he really ought tell the rightful organs of civil wellbeing about his albeit brief and increasingly uncertain discovery.

How many folk had glimpsed this creature?

As threwdish as it might be, the Mouldwood must be visited by other souls – though Economous could recall seeing anyone else.

Economous let out a short bitter bark of a laugh.

What a hoot it would be! A city full of folk holding such a shocking secret and no one telling another it for fear.

If I do tell – came the immediate counter – what then if I am believed?

The Mouldwood would surely be burned, the scorch-dead land cleared and turned into a swarming suburb or a sweltering tanning district or some other teaming cradle of filth and enginry. He for one was not about to be the cause for such despoilment.

On either turn it was all conjecture; if he had not been able yet to bring himself to even tell his beautiful Asthetica of the monstrous encounter, there was little chance of his confessing it to some starchy city master.

Some subtle movement in the gloom focused his attention and he spied a lone rabbit emerge about two score and ten yards in among the exposed roots of an age-ed olive that reached up over the single path that led so perilously – so invitingly – into the city-bound wood. A rather large specimen brown of  body and black of face and a drooping left ear, the rabbit appeared to stare boldly at Economous, almost daring the would-be fabulist to shake of his reluctance and enter the darksome park once more. Teeth Grit, Economous took one step and crossed the threshold from drab city bustle into hushed threwdish mystery, the very decision giving him momentum that took him directly to the crooked olive and its beastial watcher. As he drew close the hefty rabbit turned but rather than bounding away as Economous fully expected, it loped nonchalantly ahead with what seemed very much an attitude of haughty assurance – if a mere animal could possess such manners. Halting upon the path a little further in, it sat now to smuggly observe what its everyman guest would chose next.

What else could Economous do but follow?

Ears a-thump with rushing humours, feeling like his five-year-old self returning at last into the forbidden, forbidding hearthwood, he played the game of come-get-me with this self-important buck-rabbit, letting himself be drawn deeper and deeper until all he was aware of was the rhythm this slow, steady chase. Of a sudden, the rabbit sprang away. In a twinkling his guide was gone, breaking the fascination sharply and leaving Economous alone in this dim park, blinking like a man just waking from a long night’s slumber. Peering confusedly about, the would-be fabulist found himself much farther than he had ever ventured into the Mouldwood before, standing in a shallow dell surrounded by low olives and not a glimpse of an exiting path to be seen. All was hushed in this wooded gloom, no ringing of clatter of carriages nor faint but unmistakable cries of moll potnies, pamphlet sellers, posy hawkers, and begging songbirds, just the whoosh and gust of the fractious wind in olive boughs. The sensation of being in some isolated setting far from walls or streets or the safety of crowding people was no longer a trick of imagination but an abrupt and very present certainty. It seemed to him that the very trees ringing him about and the ground beneath knew that he was there, marked his presence and were not entirely pleased about it.

The threwd!

He had once thought the Mouldwood untamed, yet what he previously knew was its mere fringes; here he found himself in a veritable wildwood, the darkling trees encircled so tightly – so threateningly – the warm wind clattering and  rushing in the boughs above, an ominous racket under heavy grey sky. With each disoriented step the unwelcoming watchfulness thickened, until Economous was glancing repeatedly over either shoulder and starting in fright at every twitch of branch or shadow.

Jumping at shadows…

So this all had just been a trick of rabbits after all.

Seeking to clear his overwraught mind with a violent shake of his head, the would-be fabulist regreted his descision to return to this blighted wood at all.

Think, man, think!

Though the sun was hidden fully behind the day’s dull vaporous blanket, he had a notion of finding his way out by the guide of the compass moss spread up and down many trunks. Even an ill-attentive nilyard – metrician-prentice – such as he had once been remembered well enough that such growth was to be found only on the southern side of a tree. Yet, at first inspection, every trunk seemed completely arrayed – south, north, east and west – in shaggy grey or scaly yellow. Flinging his hands up in frustration, Economous turned completely about and in the very midst of this action caught a hint carried on the boisterous wind of what might have been …


Unsure, his head cocked against the blusters to hear better, stepping forward to follow this tenuous hint. The threwd almost throbbing at every hand, the hint resolved into a queer kind of strumming, plucking music, ringing out from the very midst of the trees.

Perhaps it is someone playing from their house on the farther side?

With every stride the sublime melody filled him, setting the fine sympathies of his creative acuity ringing, drawing him into its charm. Economous quickly found his soul thrumming in sympathy, a-tremble with an ache for a lost beauty he had never known existed. His extremities to tingling, he found himself weeping that such wondrous splendour was now no more, then felt a lift of hope as he found in the melody itself both an expression and a fulfilment of a great urgency to keep even some tiny fragment of that impossible primordial innocence alive.

Oh, such soaring marvels of ecstatic enchantment!

Was it happiness?

Was it sadness?

Was it a kind of pain?

More than anything, he wanted to be at the source of that music, to behold for himself the author of such inexplicable wonder.

Then, all too quickly, the ancient soul-invading melody ceased.

“NO!” Economous could not help but cry out his dismay.

Bereft, he stumbled on, desperate now to dwell once again and forever more in that sonorous place of memory and warmth and a clear soul. Sobbing, staggering headlong, he tripped upon some obscured obstacle and collasped hands and knees to damp cool weeds, his hat all that he carried flying from him in his fall. Jarred back to something like proper sense, Economous sat back on his haunches, shamefacedly wiping the tears from cheek and jowl. Reaching out to collect his accoutrements he began to make out a more general brightness to his right, through the dim twilight. Putting his tricorn back atop his head, he clambered to his feet and went immediately for this glowing clarity, dodging about haphazard trunks and stumbling on warrenholes or crooked roots unseen in the wild grasses.

The diffusion of light proved to be a glade, a stark cavity amongst the thickness of trees in which stood a circular house on a high foundation – an ancient ruined variety of the rounded bottomholms still built by the long-conquered Pilts out in sokelands of about Lo – its mouldering bricks fallen about its feet in weed-grown piles, its windows gaping cavities. The once high-pitched roof was collapsed and gone, its several crude chimnies half toppled and sprouting yellow soursobs and purple sweetjane from their crumbling mortar. Leaves rattling and hissing in the wind, an enormous elderly olive grew from the very midst of the ruin, its venerable beams spreading wide over the crooked rim and making a new roof to shelter it.

The watchfulness felt heaviest here, though perhaps a mite less unfriendly.

The building was so decayed that the nearest side of its great foundation had tumbled open to reveal the undercrofts within. Glory-vine was spread over the cavity, its leaves glaring crimson despite the lateness of the year and among the  bright unseasonal colour, Economous spied the buck-rabbit sitting easy as if it had been waiting there for him all along. It seemed to be regarding the would-be fabulist in reproach – if such an expression was possible in a dumb animal. Unfoundedly certain that this precocious creature would ken where the beautiful, all-conquering music had gone, Economous approached the fallen down house, that unmanning desire for the intoxicating melody rising all-too-quickly again in his bosom. Clambering to the gap he entered willingly into the the cellar gloom, the rabbit retreating before him, its coal-black eyes twinkling with a mischievous gleam from the shadows of the undercroft proper. His yearning for the return of primal melody compelling him on, he followed his fractious guide deeper, ducking his head beneath the low curve of a dark tunnel like passage that deposited him in an ill-lit cavity that must have been in the very midst of the roundhouse. Here was the basal trunk of the elderly olive tree, creaking and groaning in the wind, the wild rattling of its arid, gust-torn leaves echoing and re-echoing down into cavity until it was like a hissing clattering thunder.

Somewhere the dull distant ringing of a noonday bell came with the wind, tolling into Economous’ awareness, breaking the enthralment, leaving him bereft but sensible now to the threwd pressing in on him like an ache in his head. Something else was here with him, something much greater than any over-sized buck-rabbit, something sitting oh so very still between ancient roots in the shadowy bole of the olive.

“What is a womb-born doing so deep inside my borders?” a rasping deep voice spoke, coming as from all about Economous, its question like an inquiry made to the entire cosmos.

Though he had heard it but once before, the would-be fabulist knew this voice instantly: for it was surely the rabbit-and-cat creature!

By an instinct – unsteadily though it might have been – formed from four years of unceasing practice, Economous brandished his calibrator and shifted his feet reflexively to the first defensive stance.

The shade stirred. “You will not be needing sticks nor the fine tricks that go with their wielding, young everyman,” the sonorous voice crooned from one corner or another, from above and from below.

Transfixed between terror and the need to know, to properly and fully see, Economous watched eyes wide as the shade silently stood – or more truly, unfolded. Getting taller and taller still as it unbent, until it finally rose erect, towering over him on long slender shanks bent awkwardly like a rabbit’s, and ending in feet of downy rabbit’s paws. Great ears upon his head – rabbits ears, he realised, but surely two foot or more in length themselves – made it more enormous still. To Economous’ astonishment, it wore a frock-coat of rich glistening indigo – such an expanse of cloth that could have garbbed Economous three times over – embroidered on its cuffs and at its hems with curling frolicking rabbits in golden thread. He knew well enough that monsters sometimes stole and dressed in clothes, but to actually see something so alien and bestial dressed as fine as any aristocratic soul of the city was disturbing, incongruous and charming in one.

The blustering element chose its own moment to bring drama to the meeting, clouds splitting for a moment to let warm spring light upon the countenance of the monstrous thing. The face was more terrible and even more cat-like than first impressions told, the pale eyes narrowed and feline and fixing him with a sharp, shrewd gaze.

“Well-a-do, brave everyman,” it declare in that low rasping, “I am the Lapinduce, the Duke of Rabbits, true lord and master of this city.”

Monday, September 02, 2013

Economous Musgrove Chapter 2 Part 2

Hello hello, I hope you have all been well over the last week, and I hope you enjoy this next instalment.



© D.M.Cornish

Chapter 2
A thing that ought not be
part 2

Asthetica’s arrival provoked her mother, Madamine Grouse, to emerge from the ground floor door of her private sanctums. Tall and still slender despite three children and being well on the reverse slope of her prime, she bustled out with a hiss and rush of many silken skirts like a sea-born gale to throw her arms about her daughter.

“Oh oh, my wenigblüte!” she cried, her accent thick with the Gottish roll despite many years away from her homeland far across the Pontus Canis to the south-east. “My little blossom! Home to me once more. How I dread that someday it will be a skopp-boy instead to tell me that you are ground to powder under the wheels of those awful flecheschatchel and be returned to me as nothing more zan a sack of powder.”

“Mama…” Asthetica glanced the merest long-suffering glance to Economous. “You know full well I do not work with the gastrine mills, mama,” she continued her role in the game. “The worst I might suffer is to be smothered under a great pile of paper.”

These two played much the same game every time he was there to witness he beloved’s workday homecoming.

“Oh, how can you say such horrors to your dearest old ma-ma!” Madamine Grouse demanded with a pitch close to a wail. “You know how I fret myself to frays over you with untermensch – monsters – loose on every turn and circuit…”

At this a tall man entered the vestibule and graced the entire scene with a broad, knowing smile but saving his longest most oily looks for Asthetica herself. Though only a few years ahead of Econmous in age, the fellow was entire vaults filled with coin ahead in quality of dress.

It was Monsiere the Lord Sprandis Fold, Reive of Lot-in-the-Hole.

So far below the man in station that a mere word from him could have them wisked off to the Duke’s Bench, Binbrindle and Economous immediately bowed – just as they ought – offering a duet of “M’lord” as they did.

The Reive scarcely apprehended them, releasing them from their obeisance with a flick of his velvet-gloved hand.

Glossy was the only word Economous could think to describe the man as he straightened: glossy brightblack slippers, glossy silken trews, glossy plum longshanks and matching frockcoat, glossy fullbottom wig of fashionable silver, and – worst of all – betwixt glossy locks and glossy white neckerchief, a glossy unblemished smile. What woman would not be swept up by such dazzling cockery?

A pearl would be shamed to stand in this man’s presence, Economous concluded sourly feeling very drab indeed. He could not even dismiss the fellow as a high-stepping fluff; for primped and fashionable as the Reive of Lot-in-the-Hole might have been, he had not strayed into the kinds of sartorial excesses – huge bows, enormous ruffled neckerchiefs, fur-lined everything – of a vain and ludicrous dandidawdler.

“The Lord Fold has so very kindly brought me home today, ma ma,” Asthetica declared with pointed attention to her mother, yet her cheeks flushed with such pretty pleasure at such a focus of male attention.

For the merest pulse of a humour Economous was certain he witnessed an  expression of utter horror twist the mother’s face as she comprehended just who it was that stood resplendent in her shabby vestibule. However grandiose her ambitions for her daughter, it had clearly never figured in her reckonings that Asthetica would bring her exulted prize home.

“A kindness indeed, my gracious Lord,” Madamine Grouse proclaimed with a shrill display of delight, curtseying low with a cracking of knee joints and back bone. “Such more zan any others can do for my wenigblüte, I am sure,” she added with the briefest, sidelong scowl at the two lowly gents left hapless on the stairs.

“T’was a trifling, good lady.” The Lord Fold took the lowly landlady by the hand becked a genteel bow as she were a duchess of state herself.

Eyelashes fluttering girlishly fast as any bee’s wings, Madamine Grouse palid face transmuted to a scarlet hue Economous had never thought possible in such a habitually sour mien. Fer several beats her mouth made breathless “oh’s” of delight, until she finally declared, “Such handsome treatment, sir! Such handsome treatment!” Released once more, the madamine took Asthetica by the hand and drew her daughter towards the door of their ground floor apartment. “If you please, my lord, allow me und my delight some moments to refresh ourselves,” she said with a harsh and nervous laugh, bobbing and nodding obsequiously even as she retreated.

“Refit and refurbish, a-hey – as the vinegaroons on the docks would say,” Bidbrindle offered with a friendly chuckle.

Backing through her domestic portal, Madamine Grouse glared at him from the shrinking gap, her eyes communicating perfectly just how inappropriate such terms were to be applied to ladies, and in the presence of gentry too!

Awkward, throat-clearing, foot-shuffling minutes commenced  and ground on. Leaving the two lesser men unreleased, Lord Fold seemed quite content to stand in silence, leaning on his silver-topped baton and staring at a yellowing patch in the green paint above the Grouse’ family door. He paid no mind at all to the other two men, yet neither Economous nor clearly the violin-maker had felt themselves unable to go on with their own small, pointless lives.

With a stout ruttle, Bidbrindle bravely undertook his marvellous tale of the black-elder viol on the Reive who looked at the violin maker in a show listening but clearly barely comprehended him nor saw the need to.

At the place in Bidbrindle’s telling where the rosewood was being ordered from Turkmantine, the Reive suddenly spoke. “You there!” he demanded of the violin-maker, stopping the poor fellow dumb. “Go out to my fit and let my bridleman know I shall be some time yet.”

“How will I know which fit is your, m’lord?” poor Bidbrindle asked, even as he moved to comply.

To this Lord Fold arched a brow and gave an impatient nod. “It is immediately outside. I can assure you, you will tell it from all others…”

Whether by strength of wind or a trained and broken soul, Binbrindle becked and humbly obeyed, stepping outside.

As the heavy front swung open then shut again, Economous caught a glimpse of two heavy set fellows without, waiting on either side of the door : the Reive’s spurns – his personal guards – little doubt, glowering at all passers and patently ill-at-ease.

Abruptly the Reive fixed his attention on Economous. “I do believe I know you, man,” he declared bluntly.

“M – me, m’lord?” Economous blinked.

“Aye indeed, man,” Lord Fold returned. “I have been puzzling on it o’er and o’er these many minutes gone, ‘Where is it that I have beheld such a distinctively lank-locked and  underfed face before? I never forget a face, you see. Once seen, it is in,” he tapped his smooth brow with a velvet-gloved finger. “And now I have it!”

Lank-locked, Economous did not hide his frown. Underfed! “And where have you seen me, m’lord?” he asked if only to divert his offended sensibilities.

“At the great gala that strutting foreign duchess-heir held at the fore o’ month: you were a scribbler there scribbling all the illustrious faces. My how you must have been agog to be surrounded by such glories, such heights of society – it’s a wonder you could draw at all. Still, my wife was well pleased with your work.

Wife? Economous’ scandalised mind lurched. Had the man meant to tell this? He was clearly careless of his company, but surely the Reive was not this contemptuous?

Lord Fold went on without a pause, as if nothing so extraordinary had passed his indulged and pouting lips. “‘Tis pity that that appalling Branden Rose dame was your first employer, m’boy, else I might have had you along as a curiosity at my own upcoming Lestwich Tide. Were she still here I would absolutely have to have you, but she is – as the papers say – run off again on some outrageous errand, no doubt to marry some monster if the buzz about certain circles is to be believed… It is a wonder the Emperor did not demand an explaining when he was with us a fortnight ago. She, of course, was not in the city – but if I were he I would have summoned her right back from where’er she is supposed to have slunk off.”

In his growing dismay Economous barely remarked any of this.  Asthetica cannot surely know that he is wed already, can she? “You said have a wife, m’lord?” he said, daring to draw out the appalling revelation so carelessly disclosed.

Yet in the very moment of utterance he was saved  what would have most likely been a dangerously withering remark and the more dangerous ire of a well placed peer by the racket of the simultaneous return of Bidbrindle back from street and Madamine and Miss Grouse emerged again from their boudoir.

Dressed in fold upon fold of glistening cloth-of-silver draped over petticoats of blood red then pristine white, Asthetica stopped all noise dead with her expensive splendour.

Gazing at her with cool yet patent hunger, the Reive crooked his arm for Asthetica to lay her hand upon, which she now did with a mannered kind of grace. He then said something he obviously found funny for he laughed loud and look-at-me drawing a shrill bray of uncomprehending mirth from the two women as he swept his beautiful companion out and away.

Dumbstruck, Economous watched them leave, utterly flummoxed as to how it was he could save Asthetica from heartbreak and shame without shaming her or breaking her heart instead.

Stamping her foot to get attention, Madamine Grouse gave a scornful sniff.

The young man and the older look at her as one.

“I have reckoned ze new rent arrears to ze start of spring,” she said with sharp tones so very appropriate to such sharp practice. “You owe me ze difference!” she proclaimed sourly without looking either man in the eye and slammed the door.

Turning and climbing the stairs to his own apartment, Bidbrindle tipped a knowing nod to Economous, as if he and the young concometrist belonged together in the same hopeless chase. “Raised rents equals fine dresses, methinks,” he said with a smirk, and retired.

Clearly too age-ed and frowsty and full of dull stories, that Bidbrindle fathomed his own cause with Asthetica to be a thin ruse was admirable self-knowledge; that he thought Economous was his fellow member in such a forlorn school was a bitter brew. Feeling thwarted and furious with himself, Economous climbed the shuddering, groaning flights to his cramped garret and lay a-bed on his tandem chair among the frames and boards and the greasy smell of seed oil, the gusting turmoil without a perfect twin of that within.

Was he to let all of his life be stymied by fear?

Was everything he reached for to be somehow snatched away as impossible?

Yet as wind battered angrily against the narrow shutters, it seemed to him that facing the Mouldwood was a less frightening prospect than exposing the blackguard Fold and laying himself soul-bared to Asthetica.

I will act then, he determined and with that, fell asleep.