Odosday, 3 Pullulus

Earned 0 / Spent 0

Savings 16,036

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Yesterday I was beaten with canes until I agreed to sign a waver against injury whilst incarcerated.  This is the way the maréchaussée work: a terrifying melee of activity you hope will never bleed over into your life, then coming right for you as if they had their sights on you all along.

This militia is like nothing else.  You can never see their faces.  The fineweave hemp veils that flutter from the fronts of their helmets obscure most things but the corner of an angry jaw, for all the world like the train of a seaslug undulating madly over pursed lips.  They’re armoured in solid oak, sometimes with the angry faces of monsters carved over their chests: tinelions and vegesaurs, demons like Blocker.  The officers wear sculpted masks that make them look like demiurges.

There is no rest when imprisoned by them.  There’s no surcease when they think you have something they want, or are working against them in any way.  If you look at them funny at an asparagus stand, or buy the wrong kind of news sheet.

When you’re a courier you hear about things.  You become a vector for hearsay, channelling rumour around the town.  Bits of spurious knowledge stick to you when you drop something off, are passed on when you run to the next job, never stopping, spreading the misinformation.  I’ve heard about people who die in prisons like this, under the whistling canes of the maréchaussée.

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Not long ago and I was in the south.  My second day there was vaguely dreamlike, searching back and forth for the home of the man I wassupposed to deliver Sainh’s packet to.  The streets there are warrenlike and double back on themselves, sometimes zigging off at slight angles to take you to a place you hadn’t expected, or turn out around in the blistering heat so that you feel like sitting down and giving up.

Cooled fruit stands helped me keep my balance.  Strawberries and mandarins and tchokka kept chilled in stone cabinets beneath the towering stone buildings, the newest of which was still a hundred years older than anywhere in Kernel.

I felt near-delirious in the heat, and kept imagining Foist beside me in thin clothes, willowy arms touching mine occasionally to form a sticky-smack moment of contact, like a kiss.

The name on Sainh’s packet was Picanne.  Anyone named after a nut must be rich as hell – or maybe the nut was named after him.  According to the southspeak info guide I picked up on the wagon trail, Picanne is the proprietor or manager of some kind of gallery.  When I eventually found the place it was closed, surrounded by other tourists looking equally dejected.  One was from the Jade Reefs far, far to the east.  He had his little girl with him, sucking her claw with a mouthful of tictaking parts.  Her tiny black eye looked at me steadily.  I must have appeared a total freak to her.

At the city park I found somewhere cool to run on the spot, going at a slower place.  Couriers in Kernel can’t stop running or they get out of shape.  The competition is fierce.  In the Blue Parliament if you’re smarter than someone else, you get promoted and you deserve it.  If you’re a courier you’re all as good as each other unless you keep at your absolute fittest, and chew on drakeroot most times of the day for the extra calories to burn.

From the blessed shade of fruit-bearing trees I kick up yellow sand and gaze across the park’s open space, where in a glory unknown in Kernel a green cascade pours between pillars and parakeet-laden palms.  Foreign gods blaze gold from atop a magnificent monument, and I am the smallest thing there – smaller than nickee beetles, smaller than a poppy seed.  To keep cool I wanted to jump in amongst the fountains that adorned the edges of the cascade, from which statues rose in the shapes of griffons and other long-dead creatures.

Like most people in Kernel, I come from another place entirely.  We had nothing like there, did we?  We had concrete and a grey sky, like someone had taken a pencil and coloured over my open eyes.