Tag Archive: cauliraptor


Bloomsday, 8 Pollinary

Earned 32 / Spent 4

Savings 18,794

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There is a pagan holiday that comes every Pollinary.  The day falling the weekend immediately following the appearance of the first buds on the bonyik tree.  The next Budsday is a bank holiday, and all the shops and shutters of Kernel close to the cool morning and people fill the streets with banners. 

The long weekend was welcome, but today it was back to work as usual.  I awoke surprisingly easily, a few minutes after dawn, but only reached a low plateau of consciousness as I washed and cleaned and set out down Capital Hill to the thoroughfare.

The sun was low in the cloud-scuffed sky, drawing long shadows from my drakeroot-infested feet.  The golden needles are helping keep the ‘root at bay, and I can feel that it’s almost gone from me now.  But it only takes a single sight or smell to remind me of the shadow cast by the Disc in the heavens, the presence of which draws out the thrashing tendrils of root from my hard and cracked shins. 

A semi-feral xylem crossed the road in front of me.  The pint-sized tree-man moved stiffly but quickly through the dried mud from last night’s rain, climbed up the kerb, and turned its faceless head to the sun to photosynthesise for a moment.  Then it ran on, past my legs with a rustle of twig and tiny leaf, and around a corner.

They’re simple creatures, kept as pets by some and tools for the maréchaussée – trained sniff-hounds and translators for the suspicious goons behind the helmets.  The sight of a wild one going about its business, a small and scurrying shape as alive as I am, brings a twinge of darkness and pain to me from the psycho-sympathetic drakeroot inside me.

It’s Pollinary but not yet Spring, with the month of Frost still too recent a memory.  But this week comes with the traditional Pollinary showers; the clouds dump their heavy loads during the night, flooding the thoroughfare and making a mire of the mud and woodchip beneath the stilted huts of the Den.  Close by the jungle you can hear it beat the upper canopy like the tattoo of a furious water god. 

On all sides of Kernel the jungle is coming alive again (not that it ever stays still).  Flora big and small flourishes in the fast and frequent downpours.  A path I took on Skeinsday was overrun by thick, twining vines by Fallsday, impassable.  The trunks of the biggest bonyiks literally groan as they fill and distend. 

On Fallsday I heard of a caulirator that rampaged through the township.  Flushed with rainwater, scales bright red and green about its snout, it swept down alley and street in a delirious frenzy brought about by the storm influx.  Only the gods know what would have happened if that had been a full-grown vegesaur, which are no doubt soaking up the moisture in saturated fugues in their dens somewhere deep in the forest.

My jog took me past Anchor Point, as it does every morning, and I saw where the rotormen were frantically trying to keep the jungle at bay with their immense machinery.  They’d felled a massive sprouting bloodwood that had threatened to infect that part of the forest, and I had a clear view over the lowlands to the coastal hill.  The Castle in the Mist remained as impassive as ever, overlooking the harbour’s construction in its serene air of permanence.  I realised that a path was being cut to join the harbour to Kernel – more work for the rotormen, who were now entering their busy period.

Guitarróns twanged nearby, but I couldn’t tear my gaze from the Castle.  Even so enthralled and moved, I knew that I would see even grander sights once I left with Foist for our trip around the world.  Who knew what grand landscapes we’d see on the majestic Umber Plains, or the wonders we’d witness in the Regency of Golden Statues? 

I’ve yet to tell Grouter that I’ll be taking a long leave of absence. I dread the day that I have to tell him, but that day is a few months away yet.  There’s yet to be a twang of doubt in me about the trip, but as though I needed to steel my nerves I came across eight members of the Chaiyya on a pilgrimage from the Castle.  There these spiritual leaders of the braves operate and maintain the Castle’s lighthouse function, turning the mirror every second of the night whilst a fellow devotee tends its eternal flame.  Two of these travellers plucked at guitarróns, whilst another pair sang in low, ululating voices. 

The leader pulled back his green hood and smiled at me. ‘Are you on your way to better things, my son?’

‘I hope so,’ I said, and I meant it.

— RSR

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Budsday, 19 Torp

Earned 18 / Spent 8

Savings 17,445

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A typical Budsday – back to work, back to running, back to being out in the cold, back to chaos.

The stagecoach to South Kernal didn’t arrive; or rather, it arrived at the wrong terminal.  Forty people shuffled around the gaol and the post office to the second terminal; those who would have gotten the best seats stood by the hooks and pleats, helping to keep the canopy in place as gales tore at the trundling stagecoaches between The Den and the south.

The Union buzzed with activity.  Workstations were being reallocated, another attempt by the Union chiefs to save space / cut costs / irritate the members.  Gods knows how many parcels were lost in that reshuffle, which took hours.  How many couriers had their toes stepped on, meaning valuable seconds lost on deliveries this morning?

I repositioned my gear.  Carpeltea and book of contacts; delivery rota for my regular jobs; daguerreotypes of luminescent Foist and an example of her carpelwork, one of the few things I have of hers.  The chasm between seeing her last and now gets wider every day.  I like to think that in equal proportion, the time of our reunion in Metrodon gets closer.  But I see the record of my savings and think I’ll never get there. 

How long am I supposed to wait?

Another courier, Steph Jarvie, leaned in with a whiff of his rain-damp tweed and whistled. ‘Hot one, Reks.  Out of your league.’

Everyone says that Foist is out of my league.  It’s because she is.  Only her natural modesty prevents her from realising it.  I dread the day that she does, and writes me from Metrodon to explain how she’s found someone better.

The chaos settled eventually and people got back to it.  I took a few moments to rest my drakeroot-infested legs.  If I concentrate hard enough, I can will the infestation deeper into the leg, pushing it towards the cured tissue in the centre.  I take the needle every day, daring it to eradicate me of the root.  It’s a long, hard road.  And when you’re thinking about the infestation, you’re goading it to try harder.  It will fight you every step of the way. 

Not much got done.  People made a lot of noise but didn’t really get anywhere.  I think about Foist, about Metrodon, about her delicate carpelwork, about the ache between the two of us when we aren’t together.  Her letters tell me that she feels the same thing, that exact ache.  But no-one can ever be sure of what another person’s thinking.

The Union chief took us into The Den.  He wanted to know what progress we’ve made, but he isn’t my chief, he’s got nothing to do with my union.  Other couriers expected me to go and so I went.  The Den is a maze of tumbledown shacks and walkways, suspension bridges and ladders, ramps that bounce when you run up them like drumskins.  The chief worked us hard. 

One time as I ran past, my arm brushed the wet leaves of the rainforest behind the Den barrier.  I saw the yellow almond eye of a cauliraptor observing me from behind the branches.  Jerking away I tumbled, nearly fell from a walkway but caught a tattered bit of knotted rope.  The ‘raptor slunk back into the depths of the jungle with a growling purr. 

The chief watched, unimpressed, critical and domineering.  I respect people I’ve worked with who have earned that respect.  His title affords him some benefit, but that’s as far as it goes.  His habit of using cringeworthy management speak does him no favours.  Let’s get back in the game, he says; Let’s round-table this and compile a workable agenda.

Let’s not, chief.  That’s old-world, it’s pre-Displacement. 

The best thing I ever did was step away from that world, into Kernel.

Budsday, bloody Budsday.

— RSR

Bloomsday, 08 Torp

Earned 26 / Spent 13

Savings 17,310

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It’s not good business to argue with a customer, but sometimes they’re asking for it.

Today I took the jungle route to Beckon with the PMU’s negotiation package.  The path had been worn by the constant rain to a slimy brown trail between the stumps of trees.  I passed Kernel’s two rotormen, who were busy keeping the rainforest at bay: mechanised exoskeletons buzzed and licked at the thick branches.  Metal teeth burred through wood, sending showers of green leaves and droplets of sap over me as I ran beneath.

Every day we attack the edges of the unrelenting jungle; every night it regrows, pressing in on Kernel and the surrounding districts that grow beside us like secondary infections.  If those rotormen bought it I don’t know what we’d do.

Deeper into the root of the verdent archipelago I went, trying not to smell like vegesaur food.  Once or twice I thought I heard the bass clucking of cauliraptor chit-chat, and pumped my muscles all the harder to break out the other side and back to civilization.

Beckon is a wide expanse of low valley-and-hill, where rainwater from the jungle trickles into great lakes that have collected in the bowls of these rambling dales.  Where three lakes point towards the north-east, there is a country home built by pre-Displacement natives – a house, a small kirk, some stables. 

They were peculiar people, the natives: intelligent and at home in the wilds of Terrene, they evolved to Victorian-era tech long before Kernel was conceived of.  Much of the estate is steam-powered, and I heard it before I found my way out from the trees – belching steam and the clunk of turbines and wood-powered motors.

The natives were also deeply suspicious, and protective of what they had.  Escape tunnels run beneath the hills, wide enough for horse and carriage; a zepellin pad is hidden in plain sight, painted (I’m told) to look exactly like another pond.  One of the lakes is now a reservoir for Beckon and Kernel, and rumour has it that a brass microchosm sits on its bottom, complete with lounge and kitchen and bedrooms, and coral gardens on three sides.  They fear thieves and they fear invadors, though no-one from Kernal has ever shown them the slightest discourtesy.

The estate owners have been good clients of the PMU for years, but now they want another courier service.  ‘Haven’t we done our best?’ we ask, but those people at Beckon who know the answer are stricken with the moss, and are no longer involved in the running of the country house and its grounds.  They may not be long for this world.  Their replacements are harder, more akin to the ancient natives, disguised by their huge mustaches and coats of coarse gitten hair.

They speak better Context than I do native, but I had to strain my ear to understand them.  Still tired from the run from Kernel, I had to hide my panting as I offered them our negotiation package.

‘You cost too many seeds,’ said one. ‘Last year we gave you oyster pearl.’

A pearl to these people is worth a lot, equivalent to a handful of walnuts in Kernel.  They have more in common with the weird crab people of the Jade Reefs that the Kernelites, with their water-based interests and seal-skin shoes.   

Another said, from behind his walrus ‘tache, ‘We have other courier units at us.  They talk about…’

Some whispering between them as they searched for the right word in Context.

‘…Transparency.’

‘Transparency?’ I said.

‘Want to know what the fee is for.  How it … breaks down.’

The first of many little issues, niggling matters introduced by the sneaky salespeople of the other couriers.  It’s hard to look like you’re considering a matter seriously whilst running on the spot, but they’re used to couriers being like this.  And the moist air helped my root infestation, calming down the thrashing tendrils.  The greeting room was filled with steam; the brass panelling and windows dripped with condensed vapour.

After three hours I was glad to leave.  They have the package from the PMU, they have our arguments.  If they’re going to move units then we can’t stop them, only cross our fingers.

On the busy days, I forget about the Disc.  But when the sun sets and I catch a breath, I find the air heavy and warm, and I am stifled.

 

— RSR

Fallsday, 05 Frost

Earned 19 / Spent 12

Savings 16,975

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When I run, I run hard.  The drakeroot keeps me going, but some days it’s not enough.  It’s easy to stagger and fall on a long run.  The distance gets too much, your muscles try to give out on you but you won’t let them.  The union works me hard, runs me ragged.  I just chew more root, dust myself down, keep going.

Can’t keep going forever.

Am I to run for my whole life?  There’s more to existance than work, than a few seeds.  A heap of caraways and a nut or two will keep me in rent and food for a week, but what then?  Run more packages, earn more seeds, rent and food and chew more root…

Things are getting a little easier at the union.  Sometimes they make an effort, something I gave up on a while ago.  Keep things sweet and reinvigorates your work muscle, keeps things from getting on top of you.  In Kernal that’s too easy.  In the end, your nerves are frayed and it only takes a glimpse of a few feral cauliraptors to put you into full meltdown.

It’s Frost now.  The winter’s setting in.  The jungle never dies, but it shrinks.  The leaves grow small and tight.  Vines coil inward towards the warmth and security provided by the trunks.  The birds and reptiles hunker down during the cold nights and only fly close to noontime, when the sun is at its highest.  The Disc is a threat to them.  One eclipse during this time and the birds get a full day without heat.  I run past them, watching them sleep.  Lizards die clinging to branches and become like shrivelled dry leaves, orange and crunchy, ready to fall off at the slightest breath.

Am I good at what I do?  I’m not a board member of the union.  I’m not on the top Kernal league table.  People do what I do every day, running up and down Capital Hill, through the industrial districts, skirting The Den and the jungle and buzzing the stagecoaches on the lower paths.  I do the work.  I put in the hours.  I chew the root. 

—RSR