The following is a recovered document, found by maréchaussée in outside waste recepticle near the property of RSR.


Knot, 6 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 6

Savings 19,576

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I don’t often see Papa Michelle, and although we arrange to meet every six months or so, for the last ten years I’ve probably only seen him ten times.  He’s changed in that decade though: larger, greyer, a gentler giant.  He draws in his travel-weary visitor and we sit and small-talk and eat a rich meal of braised gitten.  Late in the night, after chatter about not much at all and once the large oak table was stained by vine poteen, I retired to a bed under an array of exposed beams with the foreign stars casting their light across the room.

There is a clearwater lake not far from the chalets and first thing in the morning I hurl myself into it.  The cold depths rush to swallow me, and half a minute goes by as I let the water sting my open eyes.  They take in the mossy rocks, with long tendrils of weed caught between them like food between teeth, and the trout propelling themselves lazily over smooth pebbles.

When I breach the surface I draw warm air into my lungs and wash the hair from my eyes.  I haven’t swum in years.  The lake isn’t all that cold now, and the water soothes my drakeroot infestation.

Papa Michelle and Mama Jeanne-Stempe keep domesticated promicrocera in a hutch around the back of the main building.  We went to feed them, then took an old one that no longer laid its leathery eggs and wrung its neck.  I kept my hands away from its snapping jaws and then broke off its useless forearms and tail, which popped off like a gecko’s, and helped Michelle tie its longer back limbs to its body with twine.  Trussed up, we scraped away the scales and washed the grey underflesh, then left it in the oven for hours as we read and wished that the Disc wasn’t occluding quite so much of the sun outside.

Once the promicrocerus was done I watched him hack it apart with a cleaver on the kitchen table.  The metal tray, running with thin pinkish blood, was drained into the sink as I brought out the mincer.  We fed the pieces into the machine and turned its crank; fine meat exuded in lumpy laces from the nozzle.  We made burgers and sausages, full of herbs and fruit, which we left to ‘cure’ for a day or two before they were ready to eat.

Jeanne-Stempe does at least half the meatwork, talking in a singsong voice and enjoying this mucky business.  We chat and joke, stopping intermittently to wash our hands, until it’s time to open another bottle.

It was interesting watching Michelle work.  The great figure moved around the table unencumbered by his weight.  He tossed the creature’s fibrous bones into a bowl for burning; these and cauliraptors’ and vegesaurs’ make great firewood, especially when left to soak up fatty fuel. Not much went to waste; in his years of rural exile he’s picked up many local customs. 

Their poteen comes from a local vineyard; their eggs come from their promicrocera.  An orchard to the south, which catches most of the day’s sun, bequeaths them apples and pinenuts and valuable walnuts, which they keep for trade.

One night we sat under the ivy-choked gazebo and listened to the crickets bray, eating gitten cheese and bread and promicrocera paté – then with port, for desert, cracked open a few of the walnuts and ate them.  Each one is almost a week’s wage for a courier like me.  Michelle and Jeanne-Stempe are not rich, but they are not wanting.  Unlike most people in Kernel, they own all of their property and only pay for their fuel and heating, and to replenish supplies for the chalets.

On my last morning I went for a long walk between the neighbouring farms, stopping to pet the gittens who bleat in my wake, and stare up at the clumps of mistletoe feeding off the branches of nearby trees.  If I could have climbed up there and get some, I could have returned to Kernel a little wealthier: white mistletoe berries are as good as seeds back home.  But a weariness had taken over me, and I lay on the hot tarmac where traffic seldom comes and imagined Foist lying next to me, beautiful and young, and wondered what it would be like to age slowly in a place like this away from everything.

We ate the burgers that night, not talking much.  There was no point mentioning Kernel, or my mother, Michelle’s first wife.  Those are times long gone that don’t sting anymore, only loiter in the memory as an unseen shape seen from the corner of the eye, there but not quite there, not mindfully there, only a shadow burnt into the lining of the mind a long time ago.

Dawn came.  I awoke under the beams of my room, testing my eyes for reactions against the low morning light.  I showered, ate a quick breakfast of pastries and yoghurt, and then packed for the carriages.  They towed me the zeppelin hangars, and I caught myself looking back toward Farm Jeanne-Stempe just as I’d looked back at the carriage that brought me here.

I pondered this on the airship home, back over the farmland and out of Rureau, to the carpet of luscious green that is the rainforest between the countries, and at last to Kernel, where the shadow of the Disc follows me always.  It was raining as I dashed back into the house on Capital Hill.  The place was silent as I shook the rain off my jacket and hung it on the hook.